Sarah's Scribbles

The Year of Months

The Internet is Color Blind

I just found out that one my of long time "online friends" is black. I really don't care but it got me thinking ... (dangerous, I know). I really don't care what race you are... or any other demographic related thing. Really. It doesn't matter to me. You could be purple for all I care (though you should probably see a doctor about that). However, I am not so naive as to believe that it doesn't matter to others.

But when you are on the internet, nobody can tell if you are black or white, gay or straight, short or tall, Christian or Muslim, fat or underweight, gorgeous or ugly, dirty or clean, web-toed or anything else unless you want them to know. Pretty much every website now lets you have an avatar, but you can put a picture of your dog (or cat) or anything else instead of a picture of yourself.

When discussing things like chat rooms or dating sights, this is often put in a negative light, but I think it can be a positive too. The internet is often given a bad rap. People say it's a time-waster, it's ruining face-to-face communication, blah blah. I just think the internet needs a new PR person (my sister is looking for a job!) to put the right spin on things.

My point is, you can form an online friendship with someone based solely on what they think, write and say. You can have hours of conversation of interaction and never give a thought to their skin color or geographic location. It's the perfect color-blind filter. It's pretty awesome when you think about it.

On a related note, check out this TED video about The Web as Random Acts of Kindness:

2009 In Review

2009 was a weird year for me.

I was laid off twice and have been unemployed or underemployed more than not. I moved from St Louis to Tulsa to Orlando. I turned 26, which I think is the age when you finally realize you're no longer a child. I know I still have a lot ahead of me, but there's a lot behind me too. I have had failed relationships, but it truthfully doesn't bother me that much. My grandma died in 2009. It was the first time I had seen someone close to me lie in a casket. It was also the first time I had ever seen my dad cry.

It wasn't all bad though. I finished the first draft of Miranda's Fire and have started on revisions. I met some cool new people and reconnected with some older friends. The Foundation shattered our fundraising record, despite a lagging economy. My sister and I moved in together and, though it hasn't always been peaceful, it's been fun. I spent a week in our Nation's Capitol and it was awesome. I realized I need a job where I care about the work, not just the salary.

So what was your year like? What great experiences did you have? What experiences did you have that you'd rather never repeat? What did you learn? What made you laugh? Cry?

I look forward to 2010 and the promise it holds for me.

Pet Peeves

I've been staring at this blank screen for 48 minutes, trying to figure out what to write about. Don't get me wrong, I've been enjoying my National Blog Posting Month experience, but it's getting difficult to come up with a blog topic every day that won't bore the pants off of you. I just told my sister that I didn't know what to write about today and, after asking what Monday's topic was, she said "How about Walmart not having something in their stores that their website says they have!"

I told her I didn't think I could write a whole post about that, but it did give me an idea about a topic: Pet Peeves.

1) When people put their bare feet on things like coffee tables and my vehicle's dashboard. That's just gross. If you know me at all, you know that I hate feet and you would know better to put your stinky dirty feet on things that I own, touch, or eat off of.

2) When people smoke in posted No Smoking areas. I wrote about this a week ago, so y'all know my feelings. It's bad enough when people smoke in public where there are no policies, but when you light up right under a sign that says "NO SMOKING," you are either an imbecile or an a-hole. Either way, I don't care to know you.

3) When people refuse to use their turn signals. This goes double for when I'm in the car with you and you complain that the person in the next lane won't let you over. How could they know that you want over if you won't turn on your blinker?! DUH

4) When people think I'm lazy because I sleep until 4pm. I went to sleep at 8am, genius. I work third shift; why can't you get that through your thick skull? How many hours did you sleep last night? 10? 12? And I'm the lazy one?

5) When a female main character in fiction is weak. By weak I mean, she's sitting around waiting for a man to make her life interesting, save her, etc. I want to tell her the same thing I would tell her real-life counterpart: Do something.

That's all for today. What are some of your pet peeves?

New Year Resolutions

I have never made a New Year Resolution. Nope, not once. I guess you could say that Year of Months is sort of a resolution since it's only a happy accident that November and December fall into it, but I think I might take a go at some real resolutions this year.

1. Lose weight
This is probably number one on most people's list of resolutions, but it's come to the point where I really need to start paying attention to it. My metabolism has never been that fast, so the slowing down that happens with age is hitting me doubly hard. I need to get back into doing athletic activities that I enjoy like hiking, rock climbing and racquetball because I HATE working out on a tread mill or an elliptical. It seems like you're just there, counting the seconds until you can get off.

2. Education
I want to read more non-fiction and learn more things. I've always been interested in learning new things but I somehow forget that when I'm staring face-to-screen with facebook, twitter, and computer games. Everytime I watch a Nova show I think, Why don't I do this more often? So I'm going to. And maybe look at the OC Library to see if they have any kind of informative talks coming up.

3. Miranda's Fire
I want to finish editing Miranda's Fire and make my first real go at getting an agent before the year is over. I know some people (Kayelee) that would prefer I do this with Brigid's Cross (yes, I am aware of the similar structure of my titles, but y'all voted on Miranda's Fire so that's not my fault), but I just can't focus on Brigid right now. I've learned so much since writing the first draft that I am wary of how much work it's going to be to bring it up to shape. That and I can't figure out how to end it.

So what do y'all think? Do you have any New Year Resolutions for 2010?

Some of My Favorite Books

For today's geek out, I thought I'd list some of my favorite sci-fi and fantasy books.

Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1)
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is one of my personal favorites. Ask any fan of sci-fi literature and they will tell you the same.


Foundation (Foundation Novels)
The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov is also pretty amazing, though I am relatively alone in saying that Prelude to Foundation was one of my favorites. It is different from the rest of the books in that it is a non-stop adventure, but many die-hard fans of the series don't care for it.


I, Robot (The Robot)
Sticking with Asimov, I absolutely adore I, Robot. If you saw the movie, it's really nothing like it. The book is a collection of stories that chronicle the fictional development of robotics. One of the few sci-fi books that has ever made me laugh out loud while reading.


The Hunger GamesCatching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)
The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are remarkable pieces of postapocolyptic YA fiction. I read The Hunger Games in one sitting and Catching Fire, unlike so many other highly anticipated sequels, might have been even better than the first. I cannot wait to read the third book.

Heartlight (Kate Gordon)
While it's probably not the best fantasy book out there, Heartlight by T. A. Barron was my first (that I remember, anyway). It's the first time I realized that people could write stories about stuff that wasn't real. This book is probably the main reason I became such a Speculative Fiction nut - that and my mom watching TNG and Sliders all the time after school.  It's funny how it is always compared to A Wrinkle In Time, because I really didn't enjoy that book too much.

So what are some of your favorite Speculative Fiction books? I'm looking for some recommendations!

A Christmas Story

Hello everyone! I'm going to ignore today's topic and tell y'all about something that happened a few years ago.

I had worked as a cashier at Winn Dixie in Jupiter/Tequesta one summer home from college. When I came back in town for Winter break, my old supervisor asked me to pick up a few hours while I was around. It was a couple days after Christmas and the line was pretty busy all day. People were, like they normally are just about any time they go to Winn Dixie apparently, in horrendous moods.

A guy grunted at me after I handed him change and told him to have a nice day. I glanced back at the long line of scowling faces before I turned to my next customer: a gray-haired eighty pound woman hunched over her shopping cart. She clutched the handle for support with one hand for while she slowly piled her groceries on the belt.

Milk. Bread. Cereal. Pasta. Canned vegetables. Chicken. Lunch meat. Eggs. Canned soup.

As I ran her items over the scanner, she pulled out a few crisp bills from her threadbare purse. She grasped them in her hand like a pirate grasping a treasure map. She smiled brightly, eyes shining.

"My son gave me money for Christmas, so I can buy groceries!" She fanned out the bills to reveal two twenties and a ten.

I returned her smile. I didn't know what to say. What did I get for Christmas? Toys, some clothes I probably didn't need, some candy I really didn't need. And here this woman was, thrilled to receive Christmas money so that she could feed herself.

I finished scanning the items and hit the total button. Pain stabbed through my heart. "Sixty-four dollars and eighty-three cents," I said.

"Oh." The smile vanished from her face. "I guess I will have to put some things back." She began to rifle through her essential groceries, looking for some food she would have to do without.

My heart broke for her. I wanted to help, but what could I do? I had no money on me. If I let her go for $50, my drawer would be drastically short. I seriously don't think my managers would have approved of it and I needed the job. My mind was racing, trying to find a solution that didn't involve this frail woman doing without bread or vegetables - or me getting fired.

Call it a Christmas miracle or a rare act of kindness, but the scowling face behind the old woman softened and transformed. The middle-aged woman stuck a manicured hand in her purse and slapped $15 down on the counter. "Here." That was all she said.

My throat tightened and I blinked back the tears forming in my eyes. The old woman pulled some soup and bread from a bag, not realizing what just happened. "Will this be enough?" she asked me.

I took the items from her and placed them back in the bag. "It looks like you have enough after all." I took the money off the counter and the woman turned to face her benefactor.

"Oh, thank you!" Her face beamed once more. I helped put the bagged groceries back into her cart and she shuffled off, certain of a full belly for at least a little while.

"Thank you," I said to the woman, meaning those words more than I had for a long time. She nodded, paid for her groceries and left.


So this Christmas, while you're enjoying your new video games, electronics and designer handbags, please try to remember those who are struggling just to find something to eat or clean water to drink. Also, on a related - but not really - note, please remember the men and women serving overseas this Christmas, separated from their family and friends.

Christmas Cheer!


It's Christmas Eve in the Florida Keys. It got so warm that we had to turn the air conditioner on. On Christmas Eve. Just sayin'

We have six people and eight (7 chihuahuas and Jasper) dogs. My aunt's flight was cancelled (they should arrive tomorrow night), else we would have nine people. If she was planning on bringing her dogs, that would have made ten dogs. The really fun part is that two of the dogs are Hannah's daughters, who she tries to kill everytime she sees them.

We left Orlando at 4 am this morning to drive the 5ish hour trip here. Kayelee slept.

It's my grandma's70th birthday today! She never had champagne and wanted to try it so I brought some with me. She didn't like it. Haha. But she was kind of excited when the cork shot across the room and hit the ceiling. Afterwards, she helped me put stuff together for a Foundation campaign. She can't see very well, but she wanted to help and did so by putting stamps on the letters.

The other day Kayelee was telling me about these two ladies in a Christian book store. One of them said, "Happy Holidays." The other one yelled at her because it was an insult that she didn't say Merry Christmas. Here's my view on the whole matter: I don't get upset if someone says Happy Holidays to me, but I refuse to be required to say it to others. I celebrate Christmas. To me, it still holds all the magic and meaning those Hallmark movies are about. Despite what JC Penney's and Best Buy try to tell you, it's about peace and love and sharing. That's what I'm saying when I wish you a Merry Christmas. If you have a problem with that, then you have bigger issues.

That's all I really have to say today. I hope that you all arrived to your Holiday destination safely.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Help Me Understand: Fake Dumb People

Lately I've been noticing a few people I know (in real life) who - though I know them to be rather intelligent - have this online persona that suggests an IQ smaller than their shoe size.

I've always been aware of people (especially girls) acting dumber than they are, especially when talking to boys. I'm told that they are afraid boys will be intimidated if they knew how smart the girl was. Personally, if a boy is intimidated by my intelligence, I would simply rather not talk to them - but I guess that's just me.

However, these people have taken this to a new level. They aren't pretending to be of average intelligence, but acting like they are stupid. There is no other way to say it. I'm pretty sure my dog could put together more intelligent sentences than what they post on Facebook. Why do they insist on misspelling EVERY SINGLE WORD? Are they afraid if they act like they've seen the inside of an English classroom, someone might think they aren't cool?

No, really. Explain it to me, because I don't understand.

Smokers Piss Me Off

I am upset about a number of things today, so I'm going to stick to a safe(ish) topic today.

Yesterday I went to Universal Studios. There was a guy on the moving walkway smoking a cheap cigarette, blowing it around just as casually as anything. Of course, everyone behind him was trapped in the wake of his poisonous cloud but who cares? He was happy as a lark, feeding his addiction.

If you want to smoke, go ahead. I don't care. In fact, by all means, suck in that butane, arsenic, formaldehyde, lead, carbon monoxide, ammonia, cyanide and 43 known carcinogens as fast as you can. As long as I don't have to breathe it in.

What is that you say? I should simply avoid smokers? In the famous words of Robin Williams, "F**k Off!" Really?? I should have to go out of my way to avoid your noxious fumes? I should avoid 90% of public places because you're not thoughtful enough to stick to the smoking sections (and don't get me started on smoking sections in restaurants, what a joke - thank God I live in Florida)? Are you fraking kidding me?

And now, with the prospect of nationalized health-care, I have to pay for your stupid ass when you have complications resulting from a lifetime of gulping down poisons.

That's just stupid. If you insist on slowly killing yourself there are much more pleasant ways to do it that don't affect me.

Year of Months: It's Going to Happen

Hello everyone! I can't believe Christmas is only five days away. It just got 'cold' (50-ish) today. K and I are going to Universal tomorrow - we were supposed to go today, but I didn't wake up. I have a season pass that only runs until the end of the year, so we're trying to go as much as possible until then.

I just wanted to thank everyone for voting on what I should do for my Year of Months. These are the months that won out (listed in order of popularity):

1) Photo Month (It's going to be tough for me, but I'll see what I can do. I'm no photographer)
2) Recipe Month (I guess y'all want me to share recipes, huh?)
3) Bike Month (Should help me loose some weight!)
4) Shop Locally Month (This is going to take some research before-hand!)
5) Post-card Month (I'm excited for this one! - Send me your updated address!)
6) Craft Month (Oh gosh, what have I got myself into?)
7) Walk Month (many of the great writers were huge proponents of taking daily walks, so maybe it will rub off on me a little)
8) Conversation Month (Like Paddy said, this will force me out of my comfort zone. Three years ago, I wouldn't see this as a challenge at all, but I'm a different person now)
9) Vegetarian Month (yikes, K says she won't do this with me... so that will be tough)
10) Non-Fiction Month (This was tie between Non-fiction Month, Dress Month, and Geocache month, but I chose my favorite of the three.)

So which month do y'all think I should do first?  I would go in order, but there is a chance I may be moving in April, which would make it impossible to shop locally. I plan on saving something like walking or postcards for that month. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!!
Good morning everyone! I am currently trying to prove to my sister that I am capable of making brownies that don't suck (third time's a charm, right?).

Since I switched yesterday's topic with today's, I'm talking about bookish stuff today.

My bookshelf holds these types of books:
Urban Fantasy
YA Urban Fantasy
Epic Fantasy
Hard Sci-Fi
Sci-Fi/ Fantasy
Post-Apocalyptic

and Laurie Halse Anderson.

I finally got around to reading Twisted a few days ago and it was A.  MAZ.  ING. I'm telling you, that woman can certainly write! (Speak was also great, I still haven't gotten around to reading Wintergirls) I loved this book. I read it in one sitting (at work) and kinda wanted to read it again right after.

What's funny is I don't like movies similar to Twisted - teen angst really isn't my thing - but I never thought about reading a book of that kind. The voice is fantastic. The humor is spot-on. The pacing is perfect. While I'm not interested in writing a book like Twisted, I hope to write one as well-written as this is.

I can't say enough about it. Really, I was blown away. If you're looking for a good book to read, I highly recommend anything by Laurie Halse Anderson. (link is her reading a Speak-inspired poem)

BTW, if we are friends on Facebook, you should add the weRead application which allows you to keep a virtual bookshelf, rate books, review books and recommend them to your friends. It's a lot like Good Reads, except you don't have to go to a separate website and make 'friends' all over again.

Until next time...

AVATAR, my thoughts

I am switching Friday's and Saturday's topics so that I can blog about Avatar today. I had the privilege of attending the midnight showing of the IMAX 3D of Avatar tonight thanks to an Orlando Sci Fi fan Meetup group I'm a part of (though, to be honest, this is the first event I attended). The people I met were fun to talk to. It was also the first showing in the new IMAX theater at Universal Cineplex, so that was pretty awesome (my sister loved it because she is kinda crazy when it comes to germs).

The movie was undoubtedly beautiful. I'm talking breath-taking, eye-popping, awe-inspiring kind of gorgeous. In one scene, I felt it was a little heavy on the glowing plants and it reminded me of those indoor blacklight putt putt places (my sister said the same thing), but other than that it was perfect. The detail was amazing: from the reflections of computer graphics in wall monitors to Jake Sully's withered legs (from being in a wheel chair) to every plant and animal.

The entire movie was obviously designed to be shot in 3D, as opposed to those that they show in 3D and throw a few things in as an after thought. The score and sound was amazing. It felt like the ground actually shook when the pachyderm-ish animals ran through.


Everyone pretty much knew it was going to be a very visually pleasing movie, but what most people doubted was the plot. I'm probably not the right person to talk about this (though I will try and will also try to avoid spoilers). Most people who know me, know that I'm not too discerning when it comes to movies. If it basically makes sense and cool stuff happens (like explosions or, you know, flying on the back of a BFB - Big F'ing Bird), I'm happy. There are occasional plots that make me want to throw stuff at the screen, and this was not one of them. (Glowing recommendation?)

The plot was very similar to Pocahontas, except the ending. The general idea was similar to The Sky People by SM Stirling. For those who are well versed in Sci-Fi/Fantasy books and movies, it's going to be a little predictable and cliched. I knew who the real baddie was the moment he/she appeared on the screen. I knew what was going to help the protagonists win before the fight even started.

A LOT of the characters are cliches. Like the baddie, Michele Rodriguez's character, the male almost-antagonist among the natives. I'm pretty sure that Norm guy was bi-polar (but with swings happening much quicker) and I'm also pretty sure he could have been completely removed from the movie without losing anything.

My sister thought that the movie was political, but I try not to read too much into movies when it comes to that kind of stuff. Though, I know the fact that the corporation and all the decision makers for it were American was no mistake.

In summary, the plot wasn't exactly groundbreaking but this is definitely a movie you're going to want to see in the theater. If you can see it an IMAX, do it!

Help Me Understand: Mean People

HAHA! I just realized that I did today's topic yesterday. So I'll do yesterday's today.

Can someone explain to me why people are so mean? What do they get out of being rude and mean towards complete strangers?

Are they miserable and want to make everyone around them just as miserable? Do they not realize how poorly they are treating those around them?

When I smile at people I am waiting in line with at the Post Office or pass on the way in to a store, why do they scowl at me like I just called them a bad name? Why, when people have to wait five minutes longer in line than they expect, do they insist on yelling at the poor customer service representatives who are getting paid minimum wage and doing the best they can despite the fact they can't actually change anything?

Where's the CHRISTMAS SPIRIT people??

I'll leave you with this one thought:


Jasper!

Thanks to a 12.5 hour shift, sleeping, and a long writer's group I have 30 minutes to write this post. This means, I won't get to write the post that I was thinking about, but here's another one that came up when I walked up the stairs to my apartment:

I have the cutest puppy in the world. No really. Just look (ignore the unmade bed please):





Everyday when I come home, he's sitting on the guest bed that overlooks the stairway coming up to the house. He just sits there all the time, waiting for me to come home. No matter how cranky I am, as soon as I see him, it makes me smile.

He has the most expressive eyes and eyebrows and he always listens to my ramblings with rapt attention. His ears are often crooked, which just makes him even more adorable. We say he is a 'large breed chihuahua,' because he likes to sit in people's laps, even in cars.

I'm going to stop right now just so I don't become one of those creepy people that blogs about their pets, but that's what I have for today.

Year Of Months - Choose My Fate

For those of you who subscribe via RSS or Reader, sorry for the double post today. I couldn't wait until next Sunday to post this.

On Sunday I came up with the idea (one I'm sure I will regret in the next 10 months) to do a "Year of Months." Each month I will participate in a self-imposed challenge meant to broaden my horizons and shift my perspectives. I initially came up with five ideas (in addition to NaNoWriMo in November and NaBloPoMo in December). Then people gave me additional ideas on Facebook and in my original post. Since then, I've also had ideas pop into my head.




I'll be doing all of this on top of my normal life: Work, Foundation work, working out, general responsibilities.

Some of the Months will cost me quite a bit of time, while some may actually save me time. I will blog about each month here. Some months I will have a lot to say, and some months I may have very little to say. Since I now have more than enough ideas to fill a year and you, Dear Readers, will be the ones bored or entertained by my ramblings, I would be honored if you would vote on which months I should do. (It's like a Reality Show, but in real life!)

I couldn't find an in-blog poll option that let me do everything I wanted to (multiple select, more than 10 answers), so please go HERE to vote. Just to be clear, I am counting November's NaNoWriMo and December's NaBloPoMo as the first two months. You have four days to vote!

Teaser Tuesday: Brigid's Cross: The First Attack

Before unlocking the front door, I bent at the waist to pick up Lear’s leash we had left on the door stop. I froze half-way through the motion. The door, which I had so diligently ensured was locked, was cracked open approximately three-fourths of an inch.

I quietly caught Agent Hurlock’s attention and pointed towards the open door with my head. I looked expectantly at Lear, who had previously proven so helpful in detecting any trouble in the area, but he was looking around nonchalantly with his tail waving back and forth.

Bob silently suggested that I should draw my weapon and I agreed with the sentiment for the first time in my career. He signaled for me to stay put and watch the front door while he swept the house.

A few tense minutes later, Agent Hurlock came back outside with a reservedly relieved look on his face. "Well MacKenna, there’s no one here anymore," he said. Despite this apparently heartening statement, there was still fear and apprehension swimming on the surface of Bob’s emotions.

"Anymore?" Aidan and I spoke at the same time.
"What do you mean?" I asked.

Bob’s face was apologetic. "Somebody has definitely been here, but they are gone now."

"How do you know?" Aidan asked.

"Take a look. Watch your step," Bob said. "Excuse me, I have to call Agent Truett and report this."

Aidan and I hesitated, but Lear walked right through the door as if nothing at all had happened. I followed him through the door and gasped. It looked like a tornado had spent the morning in my normally spotless house. There were shards of differently colored glass – from plates, vases, mirrors, picture frames, and who knows what else – covering the entire floor as far as I could see.

As I walked from room to room I gaped at the destruction that I wouldn’t have thought could have occurred in the short time we were out for a jog, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. The remnants of what looked like they might have been couch pillows at some point in ancient history were strewn about in every single room of the three bedroom house. I was relatively confident that I no longer owned a complete piece of clothing other than the ones I was wearing at the time. Our furniture may have been useful for firewood, but even that was a stretch. A person who had never been in the house would have had a zero chance at speculating what color the walls had been only two hours ago.

I reluctantly walked towards my room resting my left hand on Lear’s back, attempting to draw some strength from him. I am pretty sure my heart stopped completely as soon as my room was in full view. The devastation of my room made the rest of the house looked like an undisturbed haven. I wasn’t even able to identify even the material of the majority of the items layered on the floor. A municipal trash heap is more organized than my room was after the attack. However, all of these transgressions were less than nothing compared to the mural that now gruesomely decorated an entire wall of my room. A seven foot tall ebony crow was portrayed with a depiction of Brigid’s cross broken in its left claw and a snuffed out flame underneath its right claw. In the crow’s mouth was an anguished young woman whose face just happened to emulate my own. My breath came awkwardly and my heart began to race.

I heard a sharp intake of breath behind me as Aidan walked in the room and took in the scene. I was made aware of Lear standing next to me by a grumbling rumble low in his throat. I felt the foreign sensation of my own anger escalating until I believed my head might explode with the unqualified intensity of my unpracticed temper. One of the larger piles of debris on the floor spontaneously burst into flames. I vaguely registered Agent Hurlock sprinting into the room with a fire extinguisher he used to douse the flame. The next thing I was aware of was Aidan’s hands on my shoulders, ineffectively attempting to guide me out of the room.

Things I Don't Like: Laziness

Occasionally, people tell me that they are impressed by how much I do, but - to be completely honest - I don't do that much. Not compared to what I could accomplish if I was really motivated. How many hours do I waste playing games on Facebook and watching TV?

Often, I feel like most people don't do enough. They are satisfied doing what it takes to survive, to maintain their lifestyle, but never truly go above and beyond. This is what makes me angry: people who say they can't do something because they are 'too busy' when what they really mean is they are 'too lazy.' If all you do is work enough to pay the bills (unless you have to work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week to pay the bills, in which case you have other problems), you're lazy. I'm sorry, but that's the truth and I'm not going to be one of those coddling people who make a great deal out of your mediocrity.



Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I'm anything great, but the difference is I'm trying. I volunteer several hours every week to the Foundation, trying to support young female engineering students. I always have at least one Pen Pal through AdoptaPlatoon (yay! just got a new one because my last one went home). I volunteer when I can for the American Cancer Society and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I am working on writing and editing two novels, in the hopes of getting published one day. For fun I like to hike, learn and play volleyball. That's all on top of working (or applying for jobs, depending on the time of year), taking care of my dog, keeping my house clean and keeping up with all of my other responsibilities.

If you're one of those people who works your eight hours, goes home and watches TV or cruises the internet until you fall asleep every day, I have questions for you: Do you feel satisfied with your life? Are you fulfilled? I mean it, look deep down inside yourself for the answer.

My guess is it's no.

Go out and do something. I don't care if it's altruistic as long as it's something. Get a hobby. Attend a Meetup. Go for a walk on a path you've never traveled. Volunteer for a cause you care about. Learn how to make cheese. Take your dog to a dog park. Join a local sports league. Do something to enrich your children's lives.

Do something. Do anything.

A Year of Months?

As you all know, I'm doing National Blog Posting Month this month and I did National Novel Writing Month last month. Yesterday and today I've been letting an idea marinate in my head: What if I did a different self-imposed challenge every month for a year?

Why would I want to do this? Well.... why not? Each of my ideas so far serve to broaden my horizons and give me a different perspective. Given my current financial situation, I'm only planning on doing things that don't cost more money (i.e. I can't do skydiving cuz it's expensive!); this is subject to change depending on economic shifts. You could argue that I am busy enough, and you might be right. But if the Mayans are right and the world really is going to end in 2012, I don't have much time left to try everything!

Here are some of the ideas I have:
  • Vegetarian Month: no meat (not even fish) for a month. I really have no reason to do this and I love bacon, but I want to try. And I'm not going to just eat bread and cheese (though I'm tempted), I'm going to do it right.
  • Walk Month: Take a 30 minute minimum walk every day - like a real walk, no treadmills allowed. “Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Non-Fiction Month: Read at least one hour of non-fiction every day.
  • Recipe Month: Try a different recipe every day. YUM!
  • Month without TV: This may sound horrible to some and weak to others, but I really do enjoy my USA, TNT and Syfy (though I hate the new spelling, if you can call it that). And think of all the things I could do without the boob tube distracting me! 
So those five, added to the one I've done and the one I'm working on, equals seven. That means I still need five more *awesome* ideas to fill out a year. This is where YOU come in, dear readers! Please suggest month themes in the comments.

Also, what do you think of this idea? Do you think I'm silly? Anybody want to do it with me?

Nerdy Jokes/Analogies/ETC

Q: What's the difference between cats and compound sentences?
A: One has claws at the end of its paws; the other has a pause at the end of its clause.  (read it out loud)

An analogy (said to my friend Erin while we were lost in Jax and we had just passed Commonwealth Ave): Commonwealth is to Andromeda as the Federation is to Star Trek.

Two hydrogen atoms walk into a bar.
One says, "I think I've lost an electron."
The other says, "Are you sure?"
The first replies, "Yes, I'm positive..."

Little Jimmy was a chemist,
Now little Jimmy is no more,
Because what he thought was H20
Was H2SO4

Descartes walks into a bar and the bartender asks "The usual, Descartes?"
Descartes replies "I don't think.." and disappears.

Asexual reproduction is for pansies

A neutron walks into a bar and orders a drink. Upon being asked the price, the bartender responded, "For you? No charge."

Einstein, Newton and Pascal decide to play hide and seek. Einstein is it, closes his eyes, counts to 10 then opens them.
Pascal is no where to be seen.
Newton is sitting right in front of Einstein, with a piece of chalk in his hand. He's sitting in a box drawn on the ground, a meter to a side.
Einstein says "Newton, you're terrible, I've found you!"
Newton says "No no, Einy. You've found one Newton per square meter. You've found Pascal!"


Oh gosh, that last one makes me laugh so hard! That's all I have for you today! Hope you enjoyed them!

E-Book Pandemonium

Friday is Book Biz day (for December)! I decided I'd chat a little about what everyone else is talking about these days: E-books.

For those of you who haven't heard, several major publishers have chosen to delay certain electronic versions of their books for four months after the release of the hard copy. FOUR MONTHS. They think this will help them sell more physical books. It might; for books that are highly anticipated and people can't wait for them. But in the long run, I think it's going to hurt authors.

The thing is, publicity is done based on the release date of a book. So unless publishers are willing to do a second publicity push when the electronic version is launched (which I'm pretty sure they aren't), no one will have heard anything about the book for three months when it's released.

Not to mention that the whole thing will probably just piss people off, which will both give people 'justification' for pirating e-books and encourage people to buy books from other publishers.

I believe there are far better options than this, as many people have proposed. Some of which include:
  • Bundling e-books with hard copies.
  • Releasing them after hard copies, but only two or three weeks.
  • Man up and accept that E-books are happening, whether you like it or not.
  • Others
I don't know the solution to this 'problem,' but there has to be something better than this. Luckily, these publishers are allowing authors to opt out of this policy - I just hope the authors are smart enough to do it.

Just my thoughts. What are yours?

A Picture: My New Laptop!


This is a picture of my brand new shiny laptop! I know it's not a very good picture, because the laptop is so shiny that my poor little cell phone camera can't handle it.(It may also have something to do with the incredibly poor lighting where I'm sitting.)

This laptop is an early Christmas present from my Aunt Susie. She bought one for both my sister and I. Originally it was just supposed to be for Kayelee and I was happy with that because she is ALWAYS using my computer (though it's dilapidated and broken and battery-less) because she doesn't have one of her own that works.  But Kayelee told my aunt how poorly my old laptop was faring, so now we have twins!

It's an Asus laptop. We didn't need anything too crazy since neither of us are gamers and we pretty much use them for documents and surfing the internet. Kayelee, however, did want a built in webcam so that she could do video blogs a la Brigitte Dale (who often reminds me of K).

So, I'm sorry because this post is probably only interesting to me, but it's the most exciting thing that's happened to me in a while! So, here's an extra picture to ease your boredom (it's from my new webcam!):



Help Me Understand: Customer Service

Oh Gosh! I just realized I have 30 minutes to write this, so please excuse me if it's a little unorganized.

So here's something I don't understand: Supposedly, we are in a recession and people aren't spending as much money as they used to, right? It stands to reason, then, that stores would want to do everything they possibly can to retain and draw in customers. I mean, I was only have an engineering degree, but I think even I can understand this basic business principle.

So my question is this: Where the heck is the customer service? Is it just me or has it gotten drastically worse? It could be me; maybe I'm just getting cranky in my old age. I kind of expect it in larger stores where people work for minimum wage just long enough to find something better. They have nothing invested in the business, so why should they care about providing good customer service? (except, of course, basic human decency... but that's another post entirely)

However, I've found this plague has spread to the smaller privately owned businesses. These people's livelihood depends on customers buying things and returning again to buy more things, but they can't pull themselves from their private phone conversations long enough to ring up your purchases.It just doesn't make sense to me.

Here's a little lesson from my days as a Kmart cashier, where I'm sure we gave better customer service than every store I walked by in the mall today: If a customer has to search the entire store twice to find you so they can ask where something is, pointing in the general direction of the store is not an appropriate reply. Also, I shouldn't ask three people the same question and get three completely different answers.Your customers shouldn't have to bear the weight of every employee's troubles and bad attitudes.

Dear Retailers: The customer does not need you, you need them. Now start acting like it.

Teaser Tuesday: Brigid's Cross

The day was warm for it being a week into January and I tried to stick to the cool shadows as much as I could, not wanting to remove my sweatshirt and expose my Bureau-issued weapon in its holster. A long section of uncovered trail stretched out in front of us so I impulsively veered off the trail to run along the tree line in the bright green grass.

Without warning, Lear stopped running and looked anxiously into the dense patch of trees. I, having every reason to trust Lear’s instincts, searched the edge of the forest with eyes that weren’t yet accustomed to the dreary light filtering through the canopy above. I saw a figure moving about fifteen feet into the duskiness and my hand moved involuntarily to the gun hilt underneath my loose sweatshirt. A woman with softly curled light – almost blonde – red hair and impossibly blue-green eyes, wearing a green hooded sweatshirt over jeans, stepped confidently out of the edge of the forest.

I stood staring at her, frozen for some infuriating reason. Lear took off, sprinting faster than I had ever seen him run, along the forest to my left. So much for protecting me, mutt, I thought. The woman held my eyes with hers as she slowly advanced towards me. She moved with the grace and poise of a hundred legendary ballerinas and was surrounded by an indescribable aura. She was tall with just the right amount of muscles to look both dangerous and glamorous, like some sort of Irish Lara Croft.

"Bridget, I presume?" Her soft lulling voice possessed an exceedingly captivating quality to it, even if her tongue did not seem accustomed to speaking English.

"Maybe, who’s asking?" I replied defiantly. Even if I couldn’t will my body to behave, my mind and voice were still capable of the appropriate amount of rebellion. I even considered speaking with a bogus hard-as-nails Jersey accent – just for fun – but was afraid to put my tough-guy performance too far over the top.

She smiled, but it was by no means a kind or friendly smile. "Well, you are a fiery one, aren’t you?" She had said ‘fiery’ as though it held some other significance. "I am Kayleigh ó Broin, but my name is of no real importance, is it? Names are deceiving, even when furtively exposing the truth."

"What do you want from me?" I spat. "And why are you talking like you’re some character in a badly-written period movie?" I added for injury’s sake.

To my complete lack of surprise, she entirely ignored my questions as if I had not even made a sound. "Did you truly think you could hide from the Great Queen forever using this contemptible farce?" Kayleigh gestured towards me in disgust. "She who is the master of all war and death would never fall for such a charade."

"As much as I hate to interrupt your crazy time, lady," I broke in, "I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about."

"I made a mistake with the first one, but now there is no ambiguity, no doubt in my mind. The Goddess will reward me considerably once I return with your heart," she continued without acknowledging my comments.

I put on my most professional-sounding psychologist’s voice and said, "I know people who could help you with your delusions, Kayleigh. I could call in a few favors and get you in with some of the best mental health professionals in the country."

She stared at me with (what I guessed was) a curious expression on her face. "You really do not know yet, do you? Oh that is simply priceless," she said with a soft chuckle. She appeared to be pleased, in an evil sort of way, with my ignorance of her bizarre little world.

Then I realized that I shouldn’t have to be guessing at what she was feeling. I concentrated and discovered that I could not feel any emotion from her at all. Normally, if I didn’t try to ascertain emotions, I only inadvertently got the big and powerful ones but if I focused on one person I could garner every single petty emotion any person was currently experiencing. With Kayleigh, it was as though nothing but trees and bugs stood before me.

The alarm must have made its way to my face because she said, "Can you not feel my emotions? We predicted that would be the second power that would return to you so I took precautions," she touched a small charm attached to her intricate silver necklace with a spiteful smile on her delicate lips. "If your memory has not yet returned then I imagine that none of your other powers have returned either, except for maybe an insignificant and uncontrolled sliver of the third power. The benevolent Goddess has seen fit to bless me. This will be much easier than I ever dreamed," she said, taking a graceful but powerful step towards me as she began to speak in a language I did not understand (and remember, I understand eight of them).
 

There was a swift motion behind Kayleigh and a man was suddenly standing at her back, where there had been nothing but air less than a second ago. At first, my heart began to race. I assumed that she had called in reinforcements. I still was unable to draw my weapon, though I didn’t have the foggiest idea why.

He spoke commandingly in what I took to be the same language Kayleigh had just uttered. She responded to him without turning around, her voice angry and spiteful. I watched the exchange with rapt attention, knowing that my fate probably depended on whatever the two strange people were saying. The pair rotated together so that Kayleigh was facing the forest and I was staring at the man’s back. I noticed he had a small roundish stone pressed into the base of her neck. The striking woman walked back into the forest with the same exquisite grace she had exited it with.

The man turned around to reveal an easy smile on his face. "She is gone for now Bridget, so you can take your hand off your gun," he said with a laid-back and friendly voice, which was even more enchanting than that of the woman’s. "Though I don’t know why you even bothered if you weren’t going to be able to draw it," he quipped. His thick accent was unquestionably Irish, but it didn’t hold any of the harshness I remembered from my visits with my more distant kin.

Framed by the soft green backdrop of the forest, he was a spectacular figure with thick hair the color of onyx and peculiar light-blue eyes set in a chiseled face of flawless ivory. His powerful body was merely suggested at underneath a soft white dress shirt and well-fitted jeans. I wanted to say something but my mind had suddenly stopped working.

Enver Gjokaj

It's my first time writing on this topic and I've struggled for several hours to find a topic I want to write about. I've just now decided that it would be much easier to take away a word from the topic: Things I Don't Like. (See, technically I didn't change the topic so much as alter it... slightly)

I was watching USA today and Law & Order Criminal Intent came on. I like the original and SVU, but I don't usually watch this one. However, I didn't change the channel because Enver Gjokaj (En-vair Jo-kai) was starring in this particular episode.




The only really popular thing he's done is Dollhouse. He plays Victor (pictured above) and is by far the best actor on the show. I'm not just saying this because he's cute and charming either; he is truly amazing. In the most recent episode, he played an imprint (you'd have to see the show) of Topher and it was so spot-on that many people thought he had been dubbed. The voice patterns, mannerisms, everything were so completely perfect.

Why am I writing about this? Well, if you don't watch Dollhouse, there's a good chance you've never noticed this guy and I REALLY think you should. The main reason I am so disappointed that Dollhouse is not returning after this season is because I am going to miss seeing Enver on my television. So I want him to get something else, and quick. He's extremely diverse so I'm sure that won't be a huge problem, but you should really check him out on this season of Dollhouse just in case.

See? Wasn't that better than an angry rant?  Thought so. (especially with the picture!)

Sleep Deprivation and Not Being a Sore Winner

I woke up approximately 24 hours ago, watched the Gators lose the SEC championship, watched a room full of herbal supplements for nine hours and then stood at the door of aforementioned room for seven hours. Now here I am, sleep deprived, doing a blog post before I pass out because I know I won't wake up before midnight.

Can you say "dedication to a self-imposed writing challenge"?

You would think that Sunday's topic - the vague 'Personal' - would be the easiest because it is so broad and I could pretty much write about anything. But you would be wrong. Like 2+2=7 wrong. Then again, there is a chance that my sleep deprivation would make for a more interesting than normal post. Of course, there's also an equally viable chance that it will result in an inane, unintelligible and/or mundane post.

I just considered ending this post here, but writing a post just to tell you I wasn't really going to write a post really isn't in the spirit of National Blog Posting Month - and I'm a glutton for punishment.

Unless you've being under a rock out of wireless range, you know by now that the Gators lost the SEC championship yesterday (was that yesterday? I don't know what day is it anymore) to Alabama. For Florida fans this stings deeply. Not only was it sad to see Timmy (yeah, that's what I call him), who had experienced such a fantastic college football career, end it that way (ok, there's a bowl game but it's just not the same), but it had been so long since we lost a big game that I forgot what it felt like. No really, I'm not saying this to brag or whatever. Remember, I was a student at UF during the cursed Zook Era: I had forgotten how much it sucks when your favorite team loses.

But do you know what sucks more? Mean People. I'm not talking about the people who cheered for Alabama. I was talking about people who 'cheered' against Florida. I'm talking about the people who, having no other reason to cheer for Bama than they knew some poor Florida fan whose soul they wanted to crush, were rude insulting jerk-faces. I'm talking about one particular person who thought it was fun to tease my sister about the loss until she wanted to remove him from her Facebook friends. I mean... really... why? Grow up!

As much as I love Gator Football, it's just football. Channel all that energy and aggressiveness into something like this or anything here.

So there's my random sleep-deprived rambling for today. I hope to be more coherent tomorrow for my Things I Don't Like post... which I suppose this blog subject could also fall under...

Until next time...

Three Tools For Managing Your Web Presence

So this is my first Saturday: Geek Out post. To be honest, I didn't really know what I would do for this topic when I decided on it, but today I'm going to share some of my internet geekitude with you. You may have any range of knowledge of these three tools, but if you manage any kind of online presence (whether it's yours, your non-profit's or your company's) these are three weapons essential to your arsenal.

1) Bit.ly
You have at least seen bit.ly and tinyurl links all over Facebook and twitter. They grew out of the need for shorter urls with the limit of 140 characters in Twitter. Twitter uses these automatically.

However, I use bit.ly even when I don't need shorter links. Why? If you sign up for a free account, you can track exactly how many clicks your link gets. It shows you what country (using bar graphs! I <3 bar graphs!) and which program the links came from.

It will also track any twitter conversations containing your link. So if someone retweets your link, it shows up there. Also, it shows the number of shares, likes and comments on Facebook. So if you have a need (or just a desire, like me) to track how many people are clicking your links, I highly recommend bit.ly.

2) Google Reader
If you read any blogs with any sort of regularity, Google Reader is indispensable. You 'subscribe' to your blogs and they show up in a feed, much like an email inbox. Depending on your settings, it will mark each item as 'read' when you read it. *

Some of the great features include:
  • Being able to search the blog posts with the option of narrowing it down by an individual blog, among other things
  • You can follow other people. This comes into play mainly when they 'share' a post and it appears in your Reader.
  • The ability to "star" an item. I use this to mark posts that I don't want to keep unread, but would like to come back to later.
  • A subscribe button that you can drag into your web browser for easy subscription
  • Aside from blogs, you can also subscribe to any website with any kind of 'feed.' For example: Each Barnes and Noble store has an RSS feed for their events so when they post a new event, I get a notification of it in my Reader.
  • A great mobile site. Just go to reader.google.com on your phone.
  • One negative: you cannot comment via Reader. You must visit the actual site to read and leave comments.
3) Google Alerts  
You can use Google Alerts to email you whenever a certain word or phrase appears on websites, news articles or blogs. It can also be set up to feed into your Google Reader (see above).

If you are a writer, you can get alerts on your name or the title of your book. If you are tracking a certain legal case, you can receive notifications when that case is discussed online. If you're in to horse racing, you can get a notification every time your favorite horse is discussed online. If you manage the social media efforts for your company, you NEED to have a Google Alert set up for the name of your company.

TIP: If your phrase contains several common words, put the phrase in quotation marks.
  • For example: I have one set up for "Phi Sigma Rho." I initially entered it in without the quotation marks and it gave me any instance where the three individual words appeared on the same page so I ended up with a ton of useless alerts with listings of fraternal organizations and Greek spellings.

* One last tip (consider it a bonus):
If you have a blog, make sure that your blog's Site Feedsettings are set to Full, not Short. If you set it to short, only the first paragraph or so will be displayed when someone subscribes to you via RSS or Google Reader. Some people may do this on purpose because they want people to actually go to their site, but it can often have the opposite affect because it pisses your readers off. Also, if your reader, like me, reads mainly on their cell phone (Google Reader has a GREAT mobile site) they will never read your posts past the first 250 characters. To check/change your setting in Blogger go to: Settings -> Site Feed -> Allow Blog Feeds. For all other blog platforms, see the Help section.


In closing, I hope this info has helped some of you who are new to managing an online presence! Also, if you have any particular online tools that you can't live with out, please let me know in the comments section!

Book Biz Blogs and Favorite Books

Blogs!

For this edition of the Book Biz, I wanted to share some of my favorite book industry blogs.

Nathan Bransford's blog is a delightful mix of cleverness, information and entertainment. He's a literary agent and an author.

Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent, is the most positive agent blogger I've come across. She has a passion for helping authors succeed and it really shines through in this blog.

Though they always joke about her being the "mean one," Janet Reid's blog betrays that image by offering great insight to its readers. Her take-no-prisoners style is refreshing and informative.

Moonrat is an editorial assistant who writes great posts with subjects specifically of interest to writers.

Suzie Townsend is a literary assistant. Her blog has occasional insights into the publishing industry but the thing I enjoy most is her book reviews/recommendations. She also holds numerous 'contests' to win things, mainly books! If you're not a writer, but a reader, you'll find plenty in this blog to keep your interest.

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management's blog features postings from several of their agents that are very informative



Of course, I read many many more industry blogs and you can find links to these and more of my favorites on the side bar --->
The ones above are just the ones that I ALWAYS read, the ones that I'll stop working on other stuff to read when they show up in my Google Reader. What are some of your favorite industry blogs?


Books!

I also wanted to mention some of my recent favorite books. I've been reading quite a bit over the past few weeks, which makes me extremely happy. If you like to read YA and/or light Sci Fi/Fantasy (and also maybe if you don't, but like to read books) and you haven't read The Hunger Games and the sequel Catching Fire you should run out RIGHT NOW, buy it and read it. 

The third in the series comes out in August. Books are my drug of choice and Catching Fire was like pure Grade A crack. Is there something more addictive than crack? If there is, Catching Fire was that.

Just an FYI, Hunger Games was obviously written to be stand-alone while it's obvious Catching Fire was written with a sequel in mind, so the the end won't be as satisfying and you'll have to wait until August to figure out what happens to our heroes. Still way worth it though.

How about you? Have you read any un-put-downable books lately?

*This post was originally posted on December 4th, but I made small edits at 230 AM

A Picture... and A Thousand Words

Today, my sister told me that my blog posts were 'too serious' and that I needed to add some humor to them. Honestly? I can't do funny. Not in writing. I am occasionally funny in coversation, I suppose, but it is a dry humor. Doesn't translate well to the page/screen. So if you're looking for funny, I'm sorry to say you're in the wrong place.

So, my intent for Thursday posts was to take a picture sometime during the week and use that as a prompt. However, since I decided to do this approximately an hour ago, I'm cheating a little today and using a picture I've had in my phone for a while. Some might also consider it cheating because it's a picture, but it's a picture of words. Oh well. I have to work in 35 minutes (at 11pm) but I'm sitting in our lunch room typing this up. Apparently, when it comes to self-imposed National Whatever Whatever Month literary challenges, I wait until the last minute. So, without further ado...



I took this picture near the end of March last year. I was sitting at a chinese buffet place waiting for my dining partner to get done in the bathroom so that we could leave. I didn't really know why I took it (at the time) but it was sitting there in front of me and I felt compelled.

After I moved back down to Florida, I set this picture as my phone background image for a while. I vaguely remember someone making fun of me for it, but I liked it. Again, I didn't really know why.

Just yesterday, when I was browing through the pictures on my phone, I ran across this picture again. I suddenly realized why it struck such a chord with me. Since high school, I have never been one to just sit around and wait for things to happen. If something needed to happen, I took action. The biggest example of this is when I started a chapter of an engineering sorority while I was in school. I saw a need for a close-knit support group for female engineers and I took the steps to fill that need.

However, since I was laid off (the first time) I drifted away from this. I was letting my path choose me instead of the other way around and I was miserable for it. I let circumstances put distance - measured by something more substantial than miles - between me and people important to me. I let some people stay in my life too long that I should have booted. I let my writing slide to the back banner.

I'm working my way back to that person I was before, but I'm not all the way back.

Ok, so this post didn't do too much to lighten the mood did it? Well tomorrow's topic is the Book Biz so I'll see what I can do to be less emo for that. I've been reading quite a bit lately and some of the books I'm very excited about.

Until next time...

Blog Post A Day for A Month!

So, I have 23 minutes to write this or I've already screwed up on the second day of the month. Yesterday I asked on Twitter/FB what people thought about me doing a post a day for a month and if they would read.  Well, only one person said they would read (Hey Jackie!), but I figured I'd do it anyway.

My sister tried this last month, but had trouble thinking of blog post subjects, so I thought I'd structure it a little bit more... cuz I'm an organization FREAK.  Here's the plan*:

Monday: Things I Don't Like **
Tuesday: Teaser Tuesday
Wednesday: Help Me Understand
Thursday: A Picture ... and a Thousand Words
Friday: The Book Biz
Saturday: Geek Out
Sunday: Personal

I hope you'll accompany me in this month of scribbles. My main motivation for doing this is to get back into the habit of blogging. It always seems that I start a blog, write a decent amount at first and then let it fall in to disuse but I would like to prevent that this time around. There isn't a length requirement; the only requirement is that I post every day. Remember to kick my butt if I start to slack off!


* Plan subject to change at any time without warning.
** AKA "The World According to Sarah"  Inspired by my ex-coworker who said her dream was to host a talk show and when she got one she would have a weekly segment of The World According to Sarah. Also, the PG version of "Things That Piss Me Off"

My 2009 NaNoWriMo Adventure

I received many questions, Dear Adventurers, about my NaNoWriMo escapade this year so I thought I would answer them all (and more!) here. 


Last year I decided to do NaNoWriMo a day before it started. I was excited and terrified. However, it went remarkably well. I reached 50k around the 20th, I think. It helped that I was on assignment and knew next to nobody in the area so my life consisted of writing and playing with my dog.


This year I knew very well what I was getting into. I was excited for it. I knew it would be a little tougher; I lived in area with plenty of friends, my sister and my boyfriend around me - but I still thought it would be a piece of cake.


The first week went great. I had just been laid off, but was optimistic about find another job. I picked up a lot of shifts at my other on-call job. My demanding boyfriend didn't make things easy, but I still managed to stay on target with my pace.


The second week, I still made progress but it began to fall behind pace. It was nothing I couldn't easily come back from. I broke up with my boyfriend (nothing to do with NaNoWriMo, but needed to be done). I worked seven days in a row at my job and realized it was barely enough to cover expenses. The gravity of my financial situation began to weigh heavily.

The third week, I let my word count fall drastically. I maybe wrote one or two nights. I spent all my time and energy applying for jobs and pursuing another opportunity that I am not yet ready to publicize. Again, I worked seven nights in a row and barely had time for anything else

The fourth week, I didn't really work that much, but still applied for jobs. I could have easily caught up, but I just didn't want to. I was bummed about not being able to find a job and other things. I didn't get any shifts at work that week so I was worried about the money situation again.


On the 27th (in the afternoon) I finally decided that I was going to make an effort at finishing. I was at my parents' for the holidays and woke up earlier than the rest of them to start writing. I was at 30k when I decided this. I didn't think there was any way I would actually make it to 50k, but I wanted to try.


On the 29th the effort really started. I typed away on my eee until my battery died while Kayelee drove us back to Orlando. Once I got home, I buckled down and swore off everything but Twitter until I finished. I began to tweet my progress (See tweet stream regarding NaNoWriMo below. If you want to read chronologically, read from the bottom up.) I was at 36.5k at that point. Around 4am and 43k, (I was trying to switch back to my third-shift-friendly sleep schedule) I could no longer keep my eyes open. 


Around 1pm on the 30th I woke up with my mind on my mission. I was on track to definitely finish before midnight and hopefully finish before 10pm, when Castle was to come on. I stopped to eat around 6pm and my boss at Gaylord called, asking me to come in as soon as possible and work until 11. I was at 46,310 Like I said, I hadn't had any work the week before and only had one shift scheduled this week. I really wanted to finish, but I knew I needed the money more. I told him I would come in, stalked into the living room and yelled "Foiled!" at my sister. I packed a notebook (Optimus Prime) just in case I got a post where I could write. I lucked out and got a post watching equipment. The furious scribbling began. I counted the words on the first three pages and then used the average of that to estimate the rest of my writing. 


At 48k my story was over. Normally, I start a story with a situation and one or two characters in mind and that's how I started this one. It is a YA, so it should be shorter, but not that short. (Don't worry, when I go back to edit I will definitely be adding more in the way of description and characterization) So I broke one of my self-imposed rules: Don't write crap. I wrote an interview between the MC and a reporter (who was in the story) that I was positive had no place in the story. I wrote descriptions of my MC's house and room. I created conversations that didn't add to the story or characters. I realize now that it was actually beneficial. I learned a little bit more about my characters through these exercises, even if a reader will never see them. Sometimes, there are things a writer needs to write to understand their story but a reader doesn't need to read. This 'crap' included some of these things.


At around 10:40pm I reached (roughly) 50k. My hand was aching from all the hand writing but I was so relieved. Check out this graph of my progress: 





I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who supported me and sent encouraging messages, especially during the last two days. Encouragement from good friends, family, friends I hadn't heard from in a while and Twitter buddies who I've never met in person really got me through the hours when I was sure I would never make it to that 50k mark.



Now, for some of the questions



Q: Why was it so important for me to finish?
A: If you know me very well, you shouldn't need to ask this question. I wanted to finish because I said I would. When I commit to something, I stick it through, no matter how painful. 


Q: How did you validate if you wrote the last 4k with pen and paper?
A: Some people do the entire NaNoWriMo by hand. In those cases, the people who put the program on suggest that you count up your words and use something like a word generator to create a text file equal in size to your hand-written novel. So, I just did that for the part I wrote at work. I'll probably type it up later, but for now we'll go with that.


Q: What did you write?
A: It was my first attempt at a YA novel, though it is Urban Fantasy (which is what I normally write). More information can be found by clicking on the 'Novel Info' tab on my NaNoWriMo page


Q: What do you get for winning?
A: Nothing. Well, nothing that people who aren't writers would understand. You get a sense of accomplishment. FYI: Winning means getting to 50k, it's not a contest. I tried explaining this to one of my coworkers today and he gave me a look. I said, "What? Writers are all crazy, everybody knows that."


Twitter Stream


Done! I did it! #nanowrimo have to validate once i get home. i need a hand massage

350 left. #nanowrimo

1k left. I am going to do it! At work til 11. Hopefully my writing hand holds out on me #nanowrimo

1.5k to go. omg, so close. hand is cramping #nanowrimo

3k left! writing by hand is hard tho

can someone go to my nanowrimo page and tell me how many words i have? writing in notebook at work!

Weird. Sitting at work watching equipment (and writing furiously in my optimus prime notebook) when i hear bella's lullaby. (piano in lobby)

OH MY GOSH! Now I get called into work? I have to go because I desperately need the money, but this all but smashes my #nanowrimo hopes

Let's play a game called "How many words can I write in the 9 minutes while my dinner is baking?" #nanowrimo

46k and it is time to eat food. #nanowrimo my brain won't work for long if it doesn't get nourishment!

Broke 45k! Maybe I can do this? Thanks for all the support, sorry for clogging your status streams. #nanowrimo

6k left to go. 8.5 hours left. it's so close, can't stop now #nanowrimo

OK, 7k and >10 hours to go. This is getting tough

At 43k and my eyes won't stay open. will go to sleep and start again tomorrow. my goal: to finish before Castle, and watch it as a reward

I am so tired. At 45K, I will let myself sleep, though I don't know for how long. #nanowrimo

8k and 21 hours remaining. #nanowrimo I hope my story doesn't end before the words do.

break/dinner time is over. time to write 10k and win this thing. How did I let myself get so behind? #nanowrimo

yay! passed 40k! What should I eat? #nanowrimo 23 hours and 10k remaining.

when i reach 40k, i can eat. turning the tv off in 10. not my fault, @nanny_k turned it on. #nanowrimo

25.5 hours and 12k to go. #nanowrimo chugalug

27 hours and 13k to go. #nanowrimo i may be tweeting every thousand words... sorry if it's annoying...

<28 hours left and 13.5k words to go. can it be done? maybe. will i end up with keyboard face? probably. staying up all night? definitely