Monday, December 28, 2009

30 ComMINUTEments

Making and keeping goals is very important to me. And when this time of year rolls around, I become a bit introspective. Did I meet my goals? Did I try? What is new for me this year?
Sometimes my goals are unrealistic. (Like "win the lottery without buying a ticket". Kidding! Sort of.) Sometimes life throws me a monkey wrench and I have to change my goals/priorities (um... can we say new baby?!).
This year I think I know exactly what my life needs. They are not big changes, just little moments everyday that will help me move slowly to where I want to be. This year I'm committing myself to spending 30 minutes a day on things that matter to me--namely, 30 minutes on writing, 30 minutes on editing/revising, 30 minutes on spiritual growth/reflection, and 30 minutes on physical exercise. This only accounts for 2 hours of my day, something totally doable during the kids' naps. If I have time, of course I'll do more of whichever area I want, but I'm not going to beat myself up if I can't get more done. Like I used to do. (Again, I'm still working on that balance thing.)
So you tell me, what are you committing to for 2010? How did you do this year?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Grown Up Christmas Wish

In November my husband was in New York for business and stopped by Tiffany's to window shop with a couple colleagues. When he came home, I teased him a bit about going in and not buying me a thing. Now, if you know me, you know that I'm not much of a jewelry person and would never spend money on such things. (Give me a fancy tent instead! Or feed a family in need!)


But still I teased my husband, not meaning anything by it. He is fun to tease, after all. It's one of the reasons I married him.
Yesterday there was this little package under my tree. He decided I needed something from Tiffanys.com after not seeing anything that "looked like me" in the store. What do you say to such a thoughtful husband?
This:
"You mean you jogged around Central Park and didn't bring me back an agent?"
So, Steve, thanks for the pretty little earrings but next time you're in NY, can you get a book contract for me? I promise that many of those will "look like me".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Winner!


I couldn't figure out how to post the random list so you'll just have to trust me that I DID use a random method. And the winner is...


da Jones!

So Tiffany, I'll be sending you a $25 gift card via email. Merry Christmas, my friend!

As to the rest of you, thanks for stopping by and participating. Now you can go ahead and unfriend me. (Ha, ha!)

And as for the rest of the week, I'll be signing off for the holidays. I'm still not able to get out of bed from my surgery so the little energy I have will be dedicated to my kids and finishing Christmas preparations.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, HAPPY NEW YEAR and all that jazz!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Life Is Beautiful: Giveaway



Last year around this time I wrote a pretentious and self-indulgent post about how excited I was for the new year, how I thought something good would happen for me in 2009. Well, it did! In so, so, so many ways this year I have been blessed.
Here are just a few:
1. A new baby! That sweet little four month old of mine was a VERY unexpected blessing. I was nervous about having another, after both my son and I experienced health problems last delivery. Everything worked out this time. If you've followed this blog before, you'll know that I had to have shots and it was a little bit rocky, but she came--healthy, beautiful, and more wonderful than any of us could wish for.
2. Two other awesome kids. They have learned, grown, and beautified my life with wondrous abandon this year. And having their dad around has not been too shabby either. Where would I be without them? In a very selfish existence.
3. Old friends! New friends! I've made so many great friends. Thanks to all of you.
4. I've had several requests on a manuscript! I've grown so much as a writer this year. And seeing personalized advice and encouragement has been rewarding. I still don't have an agent, but that is not something I can control. I can only keep writing and keep revising. I still have to hear back from a couple, by the by.
5. While others in this world have not had enough, we have! And more than enough. Because we have been blessed, we have been able to pay it forward this Christmas and I'm so grateful for that.
There are many things I am grateful for, but these are just a few.
AND in the spirit of gratitude, I'd like to offer one person a $25 Amazon gift card. All you have to do is become a follower of this blog, if you are not already. On Tuesday, December 22nd, I'll randomly pick the winner. I have a minor surgery scheduled on Monday, so it might not be until Tuesday night that I get the results up. But I WILL get them up.
Your chances of winning are good, since my readership is small, so please try for it! I want to give something away! Besides, you can always unfollow later. (Ha, ha.)
(By the way, I did find that great pizza recipe this year. Thanks to Marcella Hazan. But if anyone else has a killer one, I'll take theirs too! And the photo? One of my favorite places in summer: Silverton, CO.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Five #4


Yeah...
Totally didn't get the post up I wanted to yesterday. Here's for a snowy weekend to blog (aka procrastinate cleaning my house)!
In the meantime, I give you Friday's Five Things On My Mind. (But since that's not very catchy, I'll just say Friday Five.)
1. I had a really cool story idea yesterday. So excited about this one. Then again, I'm always excited about a new idea. It's KEEPING that excitement all the way through that I struggle with.
2. It really annoys me how I forget type words when get going. I think because I'm slow typer. So sorry to anyone who has to read my digital hen scratch. I'm getting better... slowly.
3. My children are growing in leaps and bounds and this week I just want to squish their beautiful little selves down so that they stop. Stop, I say. The baby is now rolling over and experimenting with solids. The toddler comes up with the funniest ways to try and get into adult conversations, like, "So, Mom, what's your favowite coloh?" And the first grader has a loose tooth--her first! Apparently she told her teacher so many times that he finally said, "Yep, you told me about that. Five times ago." Gotta love the patience of elementary school teachers!
4. Christmas is almost here! Christmas is almost here! All I've left to do is send out packages to family far away and I'm done, baby. We made national news with all our snow. It's not that snow is out of the ordinary, it's just that it was all at once, within a few hours. Everywhere around us looks beautiful and Christmassy. That means I'm itching to go sledding and snowmobiling.
5. I'm continuing to do revisions on Courtesy and Patience. It's been awhile since I've revisited it and now I can see many spots where I can up the tension and pacing (thanks to Mary Kole's generous critique from the contest I won). I want to give this story the perfection it deserves. It's been on the desk of seven agents and all have passed. That's telling me something, I think (i.e. close, but not quite).
So there's Five Things On My Mind This Week. What's on your mind(s)?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Eats and Treats

Merry Christmas!
I love, Love, LOVE this time of year. The snow is falling outside and the kiddos are singing the carols with me. And watching the shows... giving me peace and quiet.
I'm an eternal kid at Christmas.
Today my Christmas thoughts are on stockings. Last year I spent a bunch of money on oddities for all the stockings, few of which actually got eaten/used. THIS year I've decided to spring for everyone's favorite things.
And my favorite things are also the things I leave at my desk and eat and drink as I write.
They are few in calories, great at sucking that stuck thought right out of my brain, and are South Beach Diet approved! Love 'em. (But only the individually wrapped ones in bag form, not roll form. Weird that they taste so different, really...)
Yep, plain old almonds are great snacks and help you ignore hunger while are still good, pure protein to help you LOSE weight. I'll be putting almonds in my stocking, yessiree.
This stuff just tastes awesome, though it's nothing more than chickory and a couple other herbs.
I have a bad habit of collecting water bottles. That's because I never find the exact ones I like. This year I found them!
Of course, I also will spring for other family member's favorites, like plain hershey's chocolate for the kids and these little beauties for the husband. But this year I'm determined not to let things go to waste.
So... what are YOUR favorite writing/desk/office treats? OR what treats do you want Santa to put in your stocking (by treats I mean food, not, you know... a whole shopping center).
....
Also, I'm going to really try and start posting better now that the baby is letting me. I plan on having something up every Thursday and Monday, so check back then!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Balance of Time

Balance. Time Management. Hmmm… this is a post long in the making. And a making that’s been out the window since I had my third child almost four months ago. Because these days I often feel like I’m on a roller coaster ride with no safety strap. (Either that or I’m spinning my wheels to stand still--it’s Choose Your Own Metaphor Day so take your pick). I WISH I could say I’ve a set schedule. I WISH I could say I’ve got my head on straight, but I can’t. Instead I’ll say how much I love my family and how they make my world go around. And they do in a very real sense because THEY set my schedule.

And as much as I’m enjoying my last baby, I also look forward to the days when the dust will settle (See? CYO Metaphor Day) from the baby chaos and I’ll find writing, exercising, and mothering routines again. A balance. A HAPPY balance.


In the meantime, I’m here to share some tips I’ve picked up over the years for making the time in your day balanced. Now a huge caveat, these are things I’ve LEARNED from other people, not necessarily things I PRACTICE. I hope they help you as much as they help me:



1. Get up early.

Try for a decent amount of sleep, but get up for those people-free, productive hours of the morning. My mother is a pro at this. (Then again, I think she's half-robot and doesn't need as much sleep as the rest of us.) I get more done in the wee hours of the morning rather than those sleepy afternoons after lunch. If you're a night owl reverse this routine and use the time when everyone else is in bed to get some things done. Don't be tempted to turn those great late night shows on and waste value productive time.


And if you have trouble getting up in the morning at your established time, try these suggestions:


Don't lay around in bed and smash the alarm for awhile. One trick is to set an alarm on a coffee pot. Since I don't drink coffee, I learned from someone (forget who) to first thing when you wake up, think about something (anything!) you are excited about that day. It perks you right up. I often think about where I am in a story I'm writing. I get so excited that my brain wakes up. If all else fails, hide your alarm. Or ask your bedmate to kick you out. With a metal bat. (Kidding!)


2. Get ready for the day all at once.

Shower and dress all the way down to your shoes. You are ready for anything then and that is an energizing feeling. (Plus it really does save time not having to make several trips to the bathroom mirror or your dresser.)


3. Take projects with you everywhere.

We spend a lot of time in our lives waiting. Take your work with you—the hairdresser, the bus stop, the Doctor’s office, etc. Having said that though, don’t neglect others with you at the expense of reading/writing just one more scene. Whatever you are doing, be in the moment. If you are reading to your child, enjoy the moment, don’t think about the dishes. It’s one of the many things I love about yoga—it teaches you to be "present". (Unfortunately, I'm still working at this one, though. I incessantly go down my mental to-do list at the expense of the now.)

4. Make dinners easy on yourself.

I’m an admitted food snob, so I’ll not tell you order McDonald’s every night. Instead, pull out that crockpot or roaster and modify your favorite recipes. Great meals can be set in a slow cooker earlier in the day. Not only do you have a meal ready when you’re ready, but the clean up is easier. One pot! You can also make extra and freeze half for really busy days.

5. Exercise and Eat Right

Anyone who exercises will tell you that they have more energy, get more done, and feel better when they squeeze in exercise. It’s not easy to do, most days I fail, but even 20 minutes every other day can make a difference. Also eating right helps. We’re only beginning to understand how much diet affects us, regarding how we feel. Listen to your body, it will help you make wise choices in eating. (And no, I didn’t say listen to your CHOCOLATE voice. LOL. Cassie....)

6. Don’t be afraid to throw out the time wasters.

Track your activities for a week and see what you spend most of your time doing. Be prepared to trim the fat in your life and take out what is not important to you (say, too much Facebook/blogging time. Hee, hee!) and put in what is, like writing or playing checkers with your child. Time is more precious than money and oddly enough, we are all given the same amount in a day. Make the most of yours.

7. Think about tomorrow today.

It helps me to sleep better when I’ve written down the game plan for the next day. That way I’m not up at night trying to remember what it was that was too important to forget. Keep a notebook by your bed. Make your list (I’m a HUGE lister!), write it down, and then let it go.

8. Along with letting go, let go of the day while you are at it.

Take a moment each night before bed to breathe, relax, and let go. Yoga and Tai Chi are great for this, but there are other ways. I use this time to recharge my spiritual battery. Again, I don’t always have time to do this extensively since the new baby, but I DO have 60 seconds to breathe. I make the most of those 60 seconds.

9. Set achievable goals and work towards them.

Challenge yourself, but be realistic. Then once you reach your goal, reward yourself fittingly. You know the saying, let the punishment fit the crime? Well also let the reward fit the achievement. An added benefit of goal-setting is that your children see you doing this and nothing teaches better than example.

10. Take baby steps.

Sometimes you can’t clean the house, write a chapter, go to the gym, paint the house, work at a job, help with the homework, make a gourmet meal, and whatever-else-I-forgot-to-mention all in a day. But you can do a little of a lot of them. Pick and choose what you can and save the rest for another day.

What I haven't said here is that what should impact balance more than anything is priority. In the end, what is really important? I may not remember the days my house was clean (or not) or that the six-year old's hair was perfect for picture day, but I DO want to remember how it felt to kiss that squishy newborn's cheek, hug a child's tears away, or write a scene that makes my adrenaline pump. Those are the things that are important to me and if I wish to achieve the proper balance, those will be foremost in my time use.

Other places to look for time managements helps: www.flylady.com; mindtools.com; and getmoredone.com

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dinner Discussions


You know you push proper grammar and vocabulary too much when your six-year old asks at dinner, "Dad, did I use the word 'like' appropriately in my last sentence?"
Poor kids... they don't even stand a chance.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Day of Thanks

May you have:
  • Plenty of elastic waist-banded pants
  • More marshmallows and butter than is good for a dish (or the elastic-banded waist)
  • Vegetables you can't find through the butter and/or sugar
  • An abundance of tryptophan in your turkey
  • More food than table room
  • Time to exercise it off in the coming weeks
  • More writing time than cooking and baking time
  • Too many friends and family surrounding you
  • A pile of dirty dishes that magically disappear
  • And good books to help you recover
  • Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wielding Words

I love words. I love unique words, words I wouldn't use in every day conversation. I love words that make me stop and think, ones I have to look up to find the meaning of, and those that stand off the page.
But when it comes down to it, these are the words I leave out of my writing because it takes away from the story for all the reasons listed above.
So that's my thought I'm sending out from Revisionland, the place I've been visiting all day today. Words are great, they just need to fit the voice/tone of the work, rather than show off your vocabulary.
My favorite word?
Oddly enough it's not some grand thing. It's a little word that needs no definition because just by the sound of it you know what it means:
WONKY.
I've always loved wonky.
And my six-year old's favorite word? Wisenheimer.
(Guess what we call her when she gets snarky?)
Now you tell me, what's your favorite word?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Last Lecture #4


ANOTHER SUBMISSION. THANKS TO THOSE WHO RESPONDED TO MY BEGGING!

The Last Lecture Project is a reoccurring feature on this blog where people (anyone!) submit answers to question on things they've learned in their lives. It is my hope to first, collect a history of people and their thoughts on life and second, to inspire not only myself but others with these stories from everyday people. Just like the late Randy Pausch in his Last Lecture, may he rest in peace. If you have something you'd like to submit to this project, please email me at jackee.alston(at)gmail(dot)com. All contributions are anonymous unless otherwise directed.

1. What is the one accomplishment or event you are most proud of in your life?

That I can have a mental illness and live a somewhat normal life. It is more of a miracle in my mind rather than an accomplishment.

2. What was the most amazing thing you have seen happen in your lifetime?

Love. When a group of people can truly love one another without judgement. When a school has camaraderie. When a friend loves you even when you mess up. When a group of people can love one another and had true concern for each other. I love seeing these things happen.


3. What is a piece of advice you wish someone would have given you early on in your life?

I got the advice: "worrying is like a rocking horse, it'll get you nowhere." Now If I could just listen and do.


4. What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your parents or guardians?

The most valuable lesson I've learned is even adults make mistakes. None of us are perfect and we all need the Lord's help in our lives.


5. Who were your childhood heroes?

I really liked fairies, unicorns and mermaids. I would always try to swim like a mermaid. I dressed up like a fairy princess for Halloween and wished I really did have magic powers!


6. What has made you happiest in your life?

Being married to a wonderful husband. He is my "bestest" friend! He has supported and loved me all our married life. I love him with all my heart!


7. If there’s one thing you could say to your great-great-great grandchildren, what would it be?

Life is hard. It always will be. But it's a lot easier with the Lord's guidance, so stay close to the Lord all your life. In Him you will find peace, comfort and love.


8. What is something you want people to remember about you?

I would like this on my gravestone: She touched the hearts of many.
I don't want to take any credit in this, but with the hope I had the Spirit with me and could be an instrument in "touching the hearts of many", with the Spirit's help.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Last Lecture #3

ANOTHER INSTALLMENT. THANKS TO THOSE WHO RESPONDED TO MY BEGGING!



The Last Lecture Project is a reoccurring feature on this blog where people (anyone!) submit answers to question on things they've learned in their lives. It is my hope to first, collect a history of people and their thoughts on life and second, to inspire not only myself but others with these stories from everyday people. Just like the late Randy Pausch in his Last Lecture, may he rest in peace. If you have something you'd like to submit to this project, please email me at jackee.alston@gmail.com. All contributions are anonymous unless otherwise directed.







1. What is the one accomplishment or event you are most proud of in your life?



Making the cheerleading squad my freshman year. Okay, maybe that sounds petty, but in eigth grade I realized how boring my life was and I really wanted to have something to tell my future children about. For a full year I used my gymnastics and ballet background to make up cheers, work on my flexibility, getting my right leg splits back, and I saved up all my babysitting money that year for the uniform. Nothing was going to hold me back. When I made the team, there were a lot of popular girls who were upset I had made the squad, and surprised I had, showing me just how important goals and planning can be in setting a future.

Being a cheerleader didn’t turn out to be the best experience of my life, but meeting that particular goal set the stage for everything that followed. I know I can do anything I set my mind to.



2. What was the most amazing thing you have seen happen in your lifetime?





Once gravity takes hold of an object on a hill, there’s no stopping it until it reaches rock bottom. The same holds for what I’ve seen of the downfall of society’s morals. I am amazed that in just one short generation, I have witnessed the reversal of so many universally held beliefs. When I was in middle school, the worst insult you could give someone was to call them gay. With the first AIDS cases being reported, and no treatment available, this was a harsh label that nobody wanted, and most people scorned the lifestyle. But with the sudden AIDS publicity also came a fight for understanding and compassion. Amazingly, this compassion then yielded to tolerance, and a reluctant acceptance of a lifestyle that just thirty years before was condemned by every religion, public school (teachers who were “outed” were quietly fired), and the majority of Americans. Now homosexuality is openly accepted, celebrated, and in many cases upheld as equal to marriage. A total reversal and shunning of popular societal and religious views.



3. What is a piece of advice you wish someone would have given you early on in your life?





Don’t just plan for the big events in your life, put some FUN in there too!



4. What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your parents or guardians?





Hard work. People notice when you do a good job, and that leads to other opportunities. A job well done also helps you appreciate the reward more, and the sacrifices made for it.





5. Who were your childhood heroes?



Wonder Woman. She was smart, had a great figure, and could lasso any man and get him to talk. No easy feat, that one. Plus, the boots were cool. Elizabeth Montgomery (from Bewitched) was a close second. I would have loved to be able to wiggle my nose and have whatever I wanted happen.



6. What has made you happiest in your life?





My family (my own and extended). We have the best times together, even when just hanging out. And it’s great that I can always count on them. But music plays a big role too. There isn’t an emotion that can’t be amplified through music, and I could fill a dozen CDs with songs that have brought me through the worst of days.



7. If there’s one thing you could say to your great-great-great grandchildren, what would it be?



Why am I still here? Just kidding. I would tell them to have all the children they can, because when they come to the age that they see how wonderful their own children are and how badly the world needs more intelligent, caring people with an unmuddled head on their shoulders, it might be too late to have any more.



8. What is something you want people to remember about you?





That woman could teach the scriptures like nobody else!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Well Blow Me Down!

I won a contest, people! It was for Courtesy and Patience's query letter. What did I win? A critique of the first 30 pages (that would be worth $50 to $100 or possibly more because she's an agent). It blows me away that I was chosen and I hope the agent will like to see more. She was one of the ones I've never queried (but wanted to) because I'd already received a kind no from one of her co-agents. (And yes, I'm still waiting on answers from the few other agents who DID say they wanted to see the whole enchilada.) Check out her critique of the letter if you want!


Gotta go, dirty diapers are calling me. As usual.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Last Lecture #2



The Last Lecture Project is a reoccurring feature on this blog where people (anyone!) submit answers to question on things they've learned in their lives. It is my hope to first, collect a history of people and their thoughts on life and second, to inspire not only myself but others with these stories from everyday people. Just like the late Randy Pausch in his Last Lecture, may he rest in peace. If you have something you'd like to submit to this project, please email me at jackee.alston@gmail.com. All contributions are anonymous unless otherwise directed.







This little project of mine hasn't taken like I'd hoped it would, so here goes... I'm entering my OWN submission. I thought I might as well tell you because I'm sure those close to me would guess anyway. I do have two others to post, but I want more. Please send them! Humor me, okay?





1. What is the one accomplishment or event you are most proud of in your life?



That's easy. I've three children who light up the world and will continue to outshine me or any of their ancestors before me because they have so much potential. So there. My one accomplishment was actually three events and involved very little effort to myself. Just childbirth. Ha, ha!

If I can cheat, I would also add on a second thing: my education. I believe so strongly in higher learning, whether you use the degrees or not. In my case I did for a few years in the work force, but in just the pure knowledge I learned, I use that every time I'm around nature. Which is everyday. And I love teaching my children about plants, animals, and the environment surrounding them. As an added benefit, my education gave me confidence in myself that I previously didn't have. I wouldn't say I was a great biologist, but I loved what I did and will return someday. If it says anything about me, I was only the second female graduate student my professor had ever taken on in a 35 year-long career. (Not for his lack of trying, they just always quit.)


2. What was the most amazing thing you have seen happen in your lifetime?



I'll never forget where I was when the Challenger exploded, the Berlin Wall came down, or when the Trade Towers fell. I've seen the Sistine Chapel and sculptures of the greats, but the most amazing thing I've ever seen happen was closer to home: it when after delivering my firstborn, I fell asleep and they took her away to weigh her. In what seemed like forever (though more like two hours), they finally brought her back. I felt my whole being swell with love for this tiny creature. That feeling was the most amazing thing I have ever felt and her face was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. Having children is truly the toughest job I've ever loved.




3. What is a piece of advice you wish someone would have given you early on in your life?




I wish someone would have told me to never care what people thought of me. A mantra to live by is you are only limited by your own insecurities. My insecurities always stemmed from what I thought others thought of me. Now I try only to just be the best that I can be in everything I do and say. Happiness invariably follows because I'm not trying to please others.



4. What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your parents or guardians?



My parent's greatest gift to me was that they never thought there was something I couldn't do. I was never told my abilities were restricted. If I put my mind to something, they supported me in it. I've tried to instill that in my own children: whether it is a talent or an action that comes naturally to them or no, I never pooh-pooh it if they're willing to try. My husband is the same way, to me and our children.




5. Who were your childhood heroes?




I was a goofy kid and because of that I think I admired people like Anne of Green Gables and Jo from Little Women. They were all girls who didn't fit in and yet came into their own. I would have been about 9-12 years old when I read and reread these books. I didn't watch a lot of TV, but obviously I was a big reader. The characters in books influenced me more than anything. A real person whom I always looked up to was my grandfather. He has a way of making every person around him feel special and I've always wanted to be like that. It really is a gift with him.



6. What has made you happiest in your life?

My marriage and my religion. From both stem my family ties that I feel will last for eternity. And who could blame me for being happy about that? My husband makes me a happier, CALMER, and more fun person. I may be his better half as I'm always told, but he makes me that better half. Besides, without him I would not have my wonderful children.




7. If there’s one thing you could say to your great-great-great grandchildren, what would it be?

Every generation has their trials and problems, the trick is to stand tall and stay true to yourself and what you believe to be important. And if ever you are sad or down, go and help someone--serve until your outside hurts more than your inside.




8. What is something you want people to remember about you?



I don't necessarily care if people remember me, I want them to remember how I made them feel about themselves. Whether that is by word or deed, it is the greatest compliment and the hardest thing to accomplish because you must always be aware of others and how you are treating them.








There it is! I'm a little embarrassed that you know this is me but I still tried to be as honest as I could. Now submit! I want to see what everyone else has to say.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. This is why:


I'll return to my regularly scheduled postings when they graduate.
Or maybe next week, if I luck out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yeah. No. Maybe.

I just have a few minutes before I pass out from sleep deprivation, so I wanted to pass on a couple of great links to contests going on.

1. Kidlit.com, hosted by Mary Kole (an Andrea Brown Lit. Agent) has a great contest for query letters for any kid's book (YA, MG, PB) until Oct. 31st.

(2. Unfortunately we just missed Nathan Bransford's first paragraph contest, but still check out the results. It was an awesome one to follow.)

3. Writer's Digest is having their Popular Fiction Contest. The grand prize is $2,500 and entries are good till Nov. 2nd.

There are more, but these were the two that interested me. Let me know if you know of others that you yourselves might try out!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quote for my day

This quote is sooo my life lately:
"Just write. If you have to make a choice, if you say, 'Oh well, I'm going to put the writing away until my children are grown,' then you don't really want to be a writer. If you want to be a writer, you do your writing. . . if you don't do it, you probably don't want to be a writer, you just want to have written and be famous -- which is very different."~ Jane Yolen
I'll have to come back to it over and over again as I hold my beauties and type one-handed.
In other news, it's looking like the agent thing just might pan out! More on that as it develops. I believe things happen when they're supposed to happen (as long as you've put the work in first). So this will happen when it will.
(But wish me luck anyway!)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Yello? Anyone out there?

Two Weeks!


I haven't posted on this blog for two weeks, though I've started plenty of posts. They just never get finished because the little people in my house call out for me and off I go. I really need to learn to type one-handed well. I have a friend who is awesome at it, maybe she'll teach me.



Here's what I've been up to since last we spoke:



1. NOT sleeping. And man I feel it. The newborn is up a lot during the night and I'm dragging and dizzy by the afternoon. I also get up early and write. I'm slowly getting back into that routine and hopefully the baby is slowly getting into the routine of not eating every couple of hours.



2. Working on a NON-FICTION book. Oh, the research! How I love it. And the exploratory writing! That is, if I can shut my anal internal editor up. I haven't set aside The Beatles' book, I just write on that one when I'm in a mood to.



3. I've heard from two agents considering Courtesy and Patience. It's a no-go, though they were kind and had a lot of good things to say about the work. I have three more full requests out. I'll let you know if anything surfaces.



4. Trying to get back into shape. Most days I fail to get the house cleaned, the laundry done and even my make-up on for that matter. But I'm really trying to do one thing every day--even if it's little--to get my body back and my energy up. More on that another time because I have a very long post in my head about balance I'll share.



5. I've had company on and off since the baby has been born. Here's a picture to prove it.





Most days revolve around the baby, the toddler, and the first grader. I'm a milk cow, a vacuum cleaner, a toy box, a storyteller, and a vending machine. Every day I glory in the three beauties that are mine. They are so healthy, smart, and beautiful that I feel so blessed. But occasionally I need a respite from them and that usually comes in book form. I've read a lot of good books lately. If you haven't already, come and friend me on goodreads! I'm not sure I like the idea of posting reviews out there for the authors of the books to see, but I do like keeping up with what I'm reading, what others are reading, and what's new. So, please, come and find me.



Also, if you read this blog only from my facebook notes (which is most of you these days), you might not know I'm trying to get a feature going called Living Legacies. People (anyone!) can submit stories/life lessons they've learned. I have a list of questions on my blog you can answer. It is my hope to first, collect a history of people and their thoughts on life and second, to inspire not only myself but others with these stories from everyday people. Just like the late Randy Pausch in his Last Lecture, may he rest in peace. If you have something you'd like to submit to this project, please email me at jackee.alston@gmail.com. All contributions are anonymous unless otherwise directed. I have three submissions I'll be posting in the next couple weeks, but I'd love to see more. They're inspiring and heart-warming. Everyone has something to say, everyone a message.


So that's it. I'm going to try and be better, but no guarantees.


What have you all been up to? Any links to wonderful posts you've written while I've been gone?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yes, I'm THAT curious...

Have you ever Googled yourself? (Please say that you have so I don't feel like some schmuck with something to prove.)
Because I just did. Google myself, that is.
And the weird thing? There was hardly anything on my name, but if I YAHOOED myself, there was a bunch of stuff.
Like I said, weird.
So does that mean that Yahoo! is more thorough??

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

09-09-09

Yep. Nothing important to say. I just wanted a headline reading today's cool date.

All those nines give a feeling of power and importance (not to me, per say, but perhaps to themselves). Makes me want to break out in The Beatle's Number Nine song (the White Album version).


And speaking of Beatles, the work in progress (with the Beatles' themes) is slow going. Darn it, first drafts are hard! And I admire anyone that finishes one, whether they be a good writer or... otherwise. It seems as if it doesn't get any easier, either--first book or twentieth. But I'm loving the story, love going on Beatle's tours vicariously through the characters, love chuckling at their quirks, and love the high it gives me to write even just a little every day. Exercise and writing, those are the things that are getting me through the moments when all I feel like is this:

Mama milk cow. (It's a good thing these babies are soooo worth it. They really are.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Too Late Now!

I've noticed a trend with my three children:
Child #1 (b. 2003): Read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy while pregnant. Read The Silmarillion immediately postpartum and Harry Potter #4 while still nursing.
Anecdotal Observation: Child #1 has pointy ears that bend out at the tips.
Child #2 (b. 2007): Read several non-fiction titles (especially books about writing) and middle-grade historical fiction during pregnancy and while nursing.
Anecdotal Observation: Child #2 and has normal, rounded ears that stick close to his head.
Child #3 (b. 2009): Read My Fair Godmother, Princess of the Midnight Ball, the Percy Jackson series, and Artemis Fowl #6 while pregnant and read Brisingr while postpartum.
Anecdotal Observation: Child #3 has pointy ears that bend out at the tips.
That proves it then: My poor parenting choices have sadly turned 2 out of 3 of my children into elves.
What have I done?!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Today's Thoughts

Just a couple of things on my mind today I wanted to share:

#1. Some days my writing time feels like I just hang out my tongue and slobber all over the computer screen. Other days it seems I crack my forehead open and bleed all over the keyboard. Since having baby #3 and trying to get back into my routine? It feels like both. At the same time.

#2. Babies poop a lot. I'd forgotten that fact. Kind of makes me wish I'd worked harder at potty training the toddler before this other one came.

#3. Either I'm older or consecutive babies make it harder for bodies to bounce back. This lumpy body is not going away fast enough. Of course, it could have something to do with making cookies and eating them all. And coffee cakes. And milk shakes. And doughnuts. Okay, maybe not the doughnuts. The husband makes the doughnuts.

#4. Why is nesting kicking in now that the baby's here? I seem to want to organize EVERYTHING this week and bring order to the chaos. Or at least a truce between the two.

#5. A writer/blogger I admire is giving away free ARCs of her book, Princess for Hire. Check out her new website to enter the contest!

#6. Agents. *sigh...* Agents. Their advice isn't the same, their tastes aren't the same and all I'm hearing from them lately is conflicting pointers. Yet I can't help believing somewhere out there is the Prince/Princess Charming of agents just waiting to take my story and make it sing to editors. There just has to be at least one. Please, just one?

That's all I got. So... what's on your mind these days?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Audrey's Debut





Audrey Skye, born 8/10/2009, 6:15 pm PT



My blogging will be sparse for awhile getting one back into school, another used to home, and the other excited about being in between. Thanks for all your support and congratulations!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chicken Brains and other thoughts on why I'm not published



Chickens are brutal and stupid. They really are. They're not cute or cuddly like people that don't have them think--they are mean and cruel and... well, you get the idea.


We have 10 chickens we raise for their eggs. Yesterday we put the two new chicks (which are now bigger than the adult chickens) in with the others and Wham! The older chickens killed one. We rescued the other, but the largest--of ALL the chickens, old or young--was stomped, pecked and bludgeoned to death. A horrible way to go. And a waste.


Ironically, we think the chicken that started the frenzy is the one with the most feathers already missing, the one that got pecked on before the "new" chickens (called pullets) joined the ranks.


My point in telling you this sad tale of chicken slaughter is this: There ARE some people who are cruel like these older chickens. (Let's call them "peckers" for fun. Ha, ha). But the peckers are few and far between. For the most part I think people have enough of a moral compass and brains (at least we hope) to understand that tearing one person down does not help them advance in status.


I've noticed this with writers.


Most writers truly wish each other well, as do agents and editors. They want to see success and jealousy is (potentially) kept at a minimum.
There are the few who give the rest of the flock a bad name, but most care deeply about their art and reaching out to readers.
When people ask me why I'm not published, I usually shrug, get embarrassed, and say that it's really, REALLY hard to get published. "Like one in a hundred thousand," I tell them.
But lately I've been thinking about what makes a writer into a published author and when I ran across a recent interview an agent gave, I realized she hit the nail on the head.
An agent or an editor can't just crush on a book. It can't be puppy love, it has to be a strong passion, a true love. It has to be something they'll stand behind--much like a marriage. And I just haven't met an editor/agent yet who feels that strongly about a book or me as an author. And that's okay. There's time. And face it, would any of us want to enter into a marriage or a business relationship that wasn't powered by enough devotion? I wouldn't. So I'll wait. And wait. And probably wait some more.
In the meantime I'll learn from my chickens how NOT to be. I'll be happy for other's successes, I'll grieve with them about the "almosts" and when people ask me why I'm not published, I'll quit being embarrassed and tell them that I just haven't met the right agent/editor who loves my books enough.
And that is enough. For now.
We'll see how it goes after I have this baby. Which is any day now. (Don't worry, I'll be annoucing it from the roof tops and you'll hear about it.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Attitude Overhaul Needed

Here’s proof that my attitude is waning at the end of this 9 month marathon...
Exhibit A. I’ve quit cleaning house. Unlike this day, I usually do still make my bed, though.
AND

Exhibit B. I’m writing a little still (Beatles’ Book), but it’s absolute suckage. Most of the time, anyway.
Exhibit C. I complain about the heat if it gets above 80 degrees. No fun at the park, no fun outside. And we don’t have A/C. Maybe I wouldn’t complain if the darn monsoons came to stay, but they seem to sweep by my house, just getting my hopes up enough to toss them in the toilet and flush 'em.

Exhibit D. The natives are getting restless. I think they’re ready for school to start again, despite what they say. That means good behavior is at an all year low.


Exhibit E. Okay, there’s nothing to hate about this picture. That boy and his sister are just CUTE! (Incidentally, if you’re ever in Flagstaff in June-August, visit The Arboretum. You’ll never see a prettier, natural garden setting.


Exhibit F. This is what I’m MOST sick of:

(The shots twice a day, not the husband.)

I’m glad the heparin injections have kept me from being on bed rest, but some days other complications keep me from doing much anyway. Two and a half weeks left, I keep telling myself, and then I’ll have my body back (mostly). And a sweet baby to show for the trouble.


What’s surprisingly not bugging me? Not hearing back from agents with requested materials. Probably because there’s enough stuff to keep me occupied right now anyway. It feels good to not obsess... at least with one thing.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Create for your soul

I so needed this quote today. Can't remember where I found it, but thanks to whoever posted it! It made my day (as does this picture).



Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow - whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don't show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward.

~Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Package Came Yesterday

Now I'm ready for a short hospital stay, baby!

I just have to refrain from reading them for 27 days is all.
Not that I'm counting or anything.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Caution: WIDE LOAD

Ever wonder what a pregnant lady looks like with 5 weeks left on her 3rd baby? It's all about the bubble butt and lack of hairstyle, really.


Picture courtesy of my friend Mari's sister, Amanda. I forgot to tell her about the cardinal rule of friendship: never, Never, NEVER take pictures of Jackee when she's pregnant. Still, I'll forgive her since this is my last baby and I have one to document how big I really get.

Characters Unleashed

Yesterday I was a bit down on myself because my WIP still isn't done. Then I looked at the calendar and became really frustrated: I only have 4 more weeks before this other rugrat comes! I need to get cracking, in other words.



To cheer myself up, last night I worked on my characters and for kicks and giggles, cast them as if the book were a movie. It cheered me up right away because it was so much fun! Here are a few:





Leena's Dad: A cross between John Goodman and Ricky Gervais.Can't picture it? Think of Goodman's hair and personality overlaid with Gervais' face. (Feel free to laugh here. It IS a weird mix.)




Leena (Semolina Pilchard): A swizzle between a new actress, Monica McCarthy, and Zooey Deshanel.








Tristan: A Dylanesque version Hugh Dancy. I would have a put a picture of Bob on here but I didn't want to scare you. Just imagine Dancy as THAT type of music/artist.




Max: He would be cast as Paul Walker if we could hide him in 12" platform heels. Max is taller than Walker, but has that blond, dumb jock stigma. And yes, Max would run around without his shirt on too (he thinks he's a model because he posed for one Kmart underwear ad).





Molly: This is really actress Summer Hagen. She looks so sweet and innocent, like Molly looks in my mind. But the sweet and innocent ends there with Molly. Really, Molly is a raging ball of hormones, which has made writing about her really entertaining, what with the contrast between her looks and actions.





There you have it, a partial cast to my latest novel. I don't know if the thing will ever see the light of day, but it's sure fun to write. Hurray for first drafts--they are entitled to suck. And hurray for babies, may this one like to sleep through writing sessions like my last one did!



Oh, and...

HAPPY FOURTH, EVERYONE!


Spend the day thinking about your personal freedoms. That's what I'm going to try and do.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Khao Moo Daeng: Thai BBQ Pork

I don't profess to be a great cook or even a good cook. I think of myself as more an experimental cook. And I love food. Good food. Real food.
My favorite cuisines are Thai and Indian and I've some great cookbooks. But usually the recipes are very involved and I'm the only one crazy enough to use them.
Then I found this recipe and HAD to share!
KHAO MOO DAENG (Barbequed Pork with Rice)
2 lb porkloin, cut into strips
SAUCE:
6 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 cup soy sauce (I used Yoshida's Gourmet Sauce instead)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp red food coloring
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup ground roasted peanuts
Once cooked, serve with:
4 cups steamed jasmine rice
1 cup cucumber slices
6-8 scallions
1/2 cup cilantro
In a baking dish, pour sauce over pork strips, let it marinate for 30 minutes then bake @ 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve pork on a rice bed, pouring residual sauce over the meat and rice. Garnish with scallions, cilantro, cucumbers, or whatever combination you desire.

Easy, eh? I thought so! Even my husband, the food snob, called the recipe "a keeper". The only change I could think of to this perfection was a dash of fresh, grated ginger in the sauce. Otherwise, this is a very sweet and tender dish.

Let me know if you like it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Latest Obsessions

I've been fixating lately on a few things I just had to share:

1. Vitamin Water:My friend gave me a bottle last week and now I'm hooked. (You know who you are and it's all your fault!) But they have no caffeine, just fructose and electrolytes. I especially love the lemonade one. Go and try some and tell me what you think!

2. Prenatal Yoga:
Can you believe the big D-day is only about 7 weeks away?! August 10th is my scheduled induction and with my body slowing down and walking not very easy with the current complications, yoga has been a life saver. My body did, however, let me walk the ACS Relay for Life for my Mother (who was just pronounced cancer-free a couple months ago). It was a great, bonding experience for our family and my favorite moment was watching my Mom walk with the other survivors, her hair the shortest of all, and my kids waving ecstatically at her as she passed. When my eyes and hers met, I admit I bawled. I'm just so grateful to have her. To have her be a Grandmother to my children.
Okay, sentimental moment over....
3. The Beatles Anthology: Both the film, the CD, and the book.

My new WIP is pressing at my head and though I didn't make my deadline to get it written (got into editing Courtesy and Patience instead), my fingers itch to get this one down before the baby comes. I love learning all the cool facts about THE BAND and having an excuse to listen to their music all day long. And for you curious few, here's a snippet out of the MC's head from the WIP:
My father often said that if you gave him a life circumstance—any life circumstance—there was a Beatles song for it. Yes, he was a fan. A huge fan. John Lennon was the idol he lowered his chest before. And with a last name like Pilchard he couldn’t resist: he convinced my mother to name me Semolina. Semolina Pilchard. As in dripping from a dead dog’s eye. Turns out he may be a big fan but an ignorant one, extracting my name from a horrid English pudding and a house cat delicacy, John Lennon’s two most hated items intended for digestion. And though he failed at baby naming, he is right in one respect—life does seem to be one endless strain of Beatles’ lyrics.