The Sweetie Chronicles

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Leaving Tomorrow!

I can't believe the time has finally arrived! Tomorrow morning at 8:05, G and I will leave for Las Vegas! Today is all about finishing the packing and double checking to make sure we have everything we need for the wedding. We were both up so late last night while I was frantically working on a bustle for the train of my dress. Yikes! I hope it looks okay! I still have some work to do on the hem. What was I thinking doing the alterations myself? I just have to sit back and remind myself that by doing that, I've saved at least $100. Let's jut hope it looks halfway decent!

I have, of course, a lengthy to-do list for today. Laundry, packing, tanning (session #2 of the mystic tan), finish the dress, finish the christmas presents,and the list goes on. The good news is, I'm actually super excited to get to it and fill our suitcases. This might be the last sweetie chronicles post until after the wedding, because i don't know whether I'll have a chance to update from Vegas. If I do, I'll probably be writing a short blog over at our wedding website. If you want to watch a broadcast of the wedding, you can do so at the Chapel of the Flowers website. Click on "Guests' at the top of the page, then enter 12/19 for the date and scroll down until you see our names... or just look for the 2:00 PM wedding in the Magnolia Chapel.

I'm so happy to finally be marrying the man of my dreams. I truly believe that we were made for each other. It's been a long journey to finding the right person, but now we are both ready to start our official life together!

The Mirage

With only 2 days left until we leave for Vegas, I have been looking at pictures of our hotel and dreaming of the fun we are going to have! We are staying at the Mirage Hotel and Casino right there in the middle of the Vegas Strip. Recently remodeled, all of the rooms are supposed to be very nice, with new beds and an ultra-modern look. When we first started looking at Vegas as an option for our wedding/honeymoon, the Mirage quickly stuck out as one of the best hotels on the strip. I read a ton of reviews and researched other hotel/casinos, but nothing seemed to measure up to the perfect location and newly remodeled rooms at the Mirage. Here's hoping it lives up to my expectations!

Lately, I have tried staying away from reviews. Mostly because I don't want to freak myself out and start worrying about the possibility that our room will be messed up or that we will have bad service from the hotel staff or anything. That's the thing with online reviews - anyone can post. You never know when someone is just in a rotten mood or is ultra-picky. Plus, any hotel that serves as many customers as a place like the Mirage in a year is bound to have some screw ups... and we all know that unhappy people are twice as likely to write a review as happy people. Instead, I've tried to concentrate on the amenities at the hotel and the things I'm most looking forward to.

At the front desk, there is a 2000 gallon salt-water aquarium with all different kinds of fish and sea-life. Inside the hotel, there are shops galore! Along with over 12 different restaurants and eateries. Several bars and a nightclub are also part of the Mirage property, along with a spa, a pool (which is actually closed this time of year), and almost 3000 guest rooms. It is my secret hope that when the front-desk finds out we are in Vegas to get married, they will upgrade us to a really nice room! I won't be sad if we don't get an upgrade, but it sure would be sweet! After all, this is supposedly one of their slower times, right? Surely there is an unoccupied suite or tower room they could put us in? We'll see!

2 days left, and at 10 am, this day is already starting to get away from me. So much to do - so little time! I'm off to keep working on my dress while daydreaming about the Mirage and our wedding trip to Vegas. One thing I know for sure - regardless of the hotel or the city or the trip itself - I am marrying the man of my dreams.

6 Days!

I realize that my blog hasn't been very exciting lately, but I have a good excuse. We're leaving for Vegas in only 6 days! The wedding and the trip are pretty much the only things on my mind, and understandably so. Never having been to Las Vegas before, I'm not totally sure what to expect... but after having loved almost every big city I've ever been to, I know I'm going to love Vegas too. This weekend G and I were able to upgrade our photo package at the chapel and every detail about the wedding is perfect according to what we wanted our wedding to be. It's really shaping up to be a great trip and a beautiful private wedding.

We decided to write our own vows, so we had to send those via email to the chapel's wedding coordinator, who then passed them on to the minister to be approved. I'm sure there won't be a problem with them. The only thing left to really do (besides finish my mother's christmas present) is the dress alterations. We have already pinned the dress at the bottom to be hemmed, but I just haven't done it yet. Honestly, I'm afraid to do it! But, it's definitely crunch time now, so I better get started this morning! Wish me luck!

6 days! Woohoo!

Mystic Tan Results

I haven't taken any pictures of my results yet, but I still wanted to blog about it. I am actually pretty excited about the way it turned out. I was really nervous to try it (especially with the wedding trip only 8 days away!). So, you might ask, why do it at all? I have these annoying tan lines from when we went to the flea market months ago. Despite some trys at sunless tanning here at home, the tan lines persist. One reason for doing a salon tan is to try to even out my tan lines. My dress is, after all, strapless!

Another reason is just that a tan can cover up all number of flaws in a person's skin. Pale white skin shows every blemish and spot, while a slight bronzed tan diminishes the look of red spots. Now, I don't normally have any real tan at all, opting to just let the blemishes show on my naturally pale skin. However, for my wedding and this trip to Vegas where there are going to be a lot of photographs taken, I wanted something a little different.

Now you know why, let's talk about how. I went to a place here in Raleigh on Creedmore Road called "Vivid Tan". I chose this place, because one of my voice students recommended it, and I think when it comes to tanning or any kind of salon, word of mouth is the best place to find a good place to go. When I got there, the owner, Carla, greeted me and answered every question I threw at her with enthusiasm and honesty. Her own tan is a Mystic Tan and she looked great. She explained how the booth works and what kind of results to expect, then she recommended that for my dark hair and eyes, I should try the medium tan. She also said that the tan lasts for a little over a week before it starts to really fade, but that they were running a special of buy two, get one free on the Mystic Tan. I decided to buy two sessions so that I could try it out for a week, then head back for another session before we leave next week. Then, I'll still have a free session that I can use anytime after this.

She showed me exactly how to use the booth and what I needed to do before I got in. I put my hair up in a ponytail, then used makeup wipes to get all of my makeup off (I was careful not to put anything with sunscreen on that morning). I put "barrier cream" on my fingernails and toenails. I thought I put it on my palms and the bottom of my feet, too, but those areas still ended up getting tan, which looks a little strange. Anyway, I put a little cap on my head, just barely showing my hairline so that all of my skin was covered with the mist. Then, I stripped down to nothing, stepped into the booth and got started.

The recorded voice told me where to place my feet as the spray covered my body. It was a little bit cold, but otherwise not too bad. I could breathe fine despite reports online that you have to hold your breath for a long time. THe spray comes up from the bottom slowly, so you can see and feel when it is getting close to your face. As it moved up, I only closed my eyes and held my breath when the spray was near my face. There were numbers on the floor of the booth and the voice told me which numbers to place my feet on as she had me turn, spray, turn, spray, etc. It was over in just a few seconds.

At first, I didn't see too much of a tan, but as the hours went by, it got darker and darker. Now, the morning after, I can definitely tell that I am tan! There's no orange tint to this tan like some other at-home sprays I have tried. It's very bronze and looks like I was really just at the beach. The only problems I had with it, honestly, are the fact that my palms and the bottom of my feet are also tan. I must not have put the barrier cream on thick enough! Lesson learned there and I will put more on next time. My tan lines that I was trying to even out are definitely better, but not totally gone. The only other con is that despite some nice smelling oil she put in the tan to help it smell better, I did feel like I smelled like a tanning oil all day. A small price to pay for such an even looking tan, though! I have not had any streaking or missed spots, no buildup on any one place or anything like that. I did not even really have a base tan when I went in, so I amazed at the results. Overall, I'm glad I went and will be going back on Tuesday of next week to do it again so my tan is fresh before we leave.

Megan and Cheyne win Amazing Race


Dang! I so wanted the brothers to win! Not because they were particular nice to each other, because they weren't, but because in my little reality show winner picks game with my sister, they are the team I chose to win it all. Last night's finale was a good one, especially since the final city on the Amazing Race was Las Vegas and my fiance and I will be traveling there in only 9 short days for our wedding/honeymoon! All three remaining teams ended up on equal footing by getting on the same flight home to Vegas. I have to say I prefer it this way, rather than one team getting way ahead or way behind right from the start. Even though the Miss America couple, Brian and Erika, were off to a solid start, they fell behind quickly and could never really catch up to the other two teams.

It really came down to the brothers and the blonds. I was on the edge of my seat as they showed both teams in the cab on their way to Wayne Newton's house, with Phil and the other teams waiting at the finish line. When the first cab pulled up, I was so hoping to see my brothers run toward the finish line as victors in the race! It would have been so awesome because my sister and I have had such a great track record on picking Amazing Race winners. Race 13, I picked Nick and Starr, the brother and sister team that won it all. Race 14, she chose Tammy and Victor,. also winners! This year, the brothers were my last hope in the reality show picks, and while they came close, it was Megan and Cheyne who walked away with a well-deserved million dollar prize.

I would like to say this, however... despite accusations online and during the game, I do not think the brothers elbowed the globe trotters or got physically dirty with the other teams. They did a replay of that run in the bog so many times, and not once did the brothers intentionally try to trip the basketball greats. It was the globe trotters who aggressively came up behind the brothers and tripped them, but it seemed to be an accident. On the other hand, they did some pretty rotten things like stealing a cab or whatever, but it's a race, right? You can't really blame them! That's all I wanted to say in their defense.

With one out of three reality shows over now, my sister and I have yet to pick a winner. This week, The Biggest Loser finale won't be any better - neither of us picked one of the people in the final four. There's still a chance that one of our picks will win the at-home prize, but we didn't guess the winner and that much is final. Survivor will be the only show left in this season of our friendly reality show picks, and I have no chance left to win that one. Erik, my pick, has been out for weeks now, but K's pick, Jaison, is still going strong. If he can manage to maneuver evil Russell's ousting, he might just have a shot at winning the million dollars. Stay tuned!

In the end, the truth is that it's just so stinking hard to choose a winner for these reality tv shows just off the opening credits or the online bios. I'm proud to have gotten as close as 2nd place. So close, but no cigar. Congrats to Megan and Cheyne. You weren't my initial picks, but you ran a good race and you deserved to win! I will definitely tune in again for Amazing Race 16 whenever it comes out.

Weight Loss Aint Easy

Ugh! I hate dieting! All week, I've been watching what I eat and exercising, but I haven't lost a single pound! I was really hoping to shed at least 2 pounds this week, but instead, I'm going to bed hungry every night with sore muscles - for nothing! I'm not trying to starve myself by any means, and I could certainly cut out a few more calories. But without choosing the right foods, I'm going to be even more hungry than I already am - which for me doesn't spell success. I don't do hunger well.

I would step up the exercise even more, but who has the time? There is so much to get done! Ack! At least I haven't gained any weight, but I sincerely was hoping for five more pounds off before we left for Vegas. Now, I'm down to only 12 days to do it in. I'm starting to wonder if it's just not going to happen.

New Critique Group

I have joined a new local critique group. No, I'm definitely not getting rid of my romance critique group. They have been invaluable to me this year. At the same time, however, I want to learn as much as I can about my own writing., The more push I receive from groups, the better. This second group so far consists of four women who are mostly writing women's fiction and paranormal fiction. As readers of more paranormal and urban fantasy type fiction, these women will be able to hopefully help me with Pandemic in ways that my HCRW group can't.

Tonight is our first meeting where we will actually be talking about someone's work. We have 54 pages of one woman's novel. I am a little nervous about tonight, because even though my comments and critiques are written across her writing to help her, I am scared I will hurt her feelings. It's so tough when you're starting a group for the first time. You don't know how sensitive certain people might be or how well they will take critique. You don't know what they know or how much writing experience they truly have. It takes time to get to know each other and to know if this group is going to be a valuable group or not.

As someone who has cried about comments made about my writing, I understand how easy it is to get your feelings hurt when someone else is critiquing your work. So I keep asking myself if I should just go super easy on this first woman? Should I tell her the positive things about the entry and just mention a few of the more broadsweeping errors I see? And they aren't even necessarily errors - just things I see as a reader that pull me out of the story or that make it weaker than it could be. I'm so scared I'll come across as a know-it-all. The good news is that I'm already learning more about how to deal with other writers and her pages have taught me more about what I want to do with my own writing. That's a good sign. I'll let you know how it goes after our first meeting.

2 weeks

Just 2 weeks until we leave for Vegas! In fact, at this time two weeks from now, we will already be on the first leg of our trip. I'm pretty sure that means a plane to Detroit. I can hardly wait! There's still so much to do before I go, but I'm working on my list one thing at a time, trying not to feel too overwhelmed. Last night, I made giant hairbows for my neice who is going to be one in January. I have never tried to make bows before, but they actually turned out exactly like I wanted them to! They are super cute, and I know that they will look adorable on her little head., Next on the list? I have to finish the present I'm making for my mother. As long as I just take it one thing at a time, everything will be fine. But in the back of my mind, everything right now is about the wedding!

NaNo Failure

Well, folks, I didn't make it. NaNo WriMo ended at midnight last night, and instead of furiously writing, I was laying in bed, reading my newly checked out copy of Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games". Am I upset? Not really. I got a good chunk of my novel down this month despite the busy season and the upcoming wedding. I'm proud of that. Now I have a better idea of how the novel is going to progress.

Is there still a lot of work to do? Absolutely. But mostly, it will wait until G and I get back from all of our wedding and holiday activities. January 1, I can sit down and write out my usual list of goals for the year, then I can get started on one of the first goals for 2010 - finish Pandemic.

For all of you out there who actually finished your 50,000 word novel by midnight... Congratulations! You worked hard and reached your goal. Whether your novel is complete at 50K or not, the key is not to stop and not to give up. There's still so much work to be done. I may have failed NaNo this year (and have to take my t-shirt back :( booo), but that won't stop me from working on this novel - nor will it stop me from trying again in 2010. Maybe by then, I'll actually have a publishing deal and be writing a book someone is already paying me to write. Wouldn't that be the coolest?

Crunch Time

19 More Days!!
It's so hard to believe that we're leaving for Vegas in barely more than two weeks. We've been planning this trip for so long, and it's so close now! Basically, though, I realized this weekend that it's crunch time. I am running out of time to lose weight and get my skin perfect and get rid of those terrible tan lines on my shoulders, etc. There is so much I want to do before we go, and even though the world won't stop turning just because I don't get them done, I really want to give my ALL to the next two weeks (16 days until we leave, technically) of preparation.

Last night in my journal, I wrote down a dieting plan. I have already been following one, and although I have lost several pounds, I want to see if I can lose another 8 pounds before we leave. Right now, I'm only 3 pounds away from being the lowest weight I've been in almost 5 years, and I know that I can do it. I have an exercise plan to work out three times a day (Jazzercise in the morning, walk in the afternoon, exercise bike throughout the day in 5-10 minute increments). Between that and the food changes, I think 8 pounds is completely lose-able.

This weekend, I did a trial run of my hair/makeup/dress. It turned out great! I still need to get a haircut and get my nails done, but the thing that really needs to get done most is that my dress needs to be altered. And yes, I'm doing this myself! I have to hem it but since it's silk and I have never worked with silk before, I'm slightly terrified. With only 16 days until we leave, I'm out of time. The dress alterations goes on my to-do list for this week! Yikes!

The sad tragedy of this month is that I did not win NaNo WriMo. It's the last day of the month today, and my manuscript for Pandemic sits at just over 30,000 words. It's sad, but it's not the end of the world. It became a matter of priorities, and the fact of the matter is that my priority this month has been the wedding and making Christmas presents for family. I can't be mad at myself for that. Pandemic will still be here when we get back!

With that, I'm off to Jazzercise!

Golden Heart Entry

Today, my Golden Heart entry goes into the mail. It has to be in Texas by the 2nd, and I'm not taking any risks by sending it any later - especially with the Thanksgiving Holiday coming up. Last night, I sat down before I printed the final copies of my partial manuscript so that I could go through the check-list, check for grammar and spelling mistakes, and make sure I ended with a "hook". At 55 pages max, the partial and synopsis need to really grab the reader, so a hook at the end can't hurt, right?

It's been just over a month since I mailed my full manuscript out to Silhouette, and I haven't even looked at it since. So last night when I printed out a copy to read through, I was mortified. "Oh my God, this sucks!" That was my initial reaction. I underlined cliche's and awkward sentences. I cringed at wording that I thought I'd changed. I was feeling pretty sure that a rejection letter was on its way from Harlequin. By about the fifth page, I stopped. The first few pages were marked to hell, and I thought, surely, I didn't send out a manuscript with this many errors or things I would want to change.

So, I went back to my computer file and looked. Sure enough, I had opened a pre-final-edit copy of my novel! Whew! What a relief!

When I found the right copy, the one I actually DID send to Silhouette, I was so happy. The more I read, the more I loved it. I was so proud of myself for the changes I'd made and the strength of my voice. The characters started to come alive. The dialog was fresh and witty. There was humor mixed with sexuality and passion, but there was also conflict and story questions. My spirits soared. It might not be a Golden Heart Finalist, and it may still receive a rejection letter, but at least I can hold my head up high and be proud of what I've written.

With a 6 page synopsis and a partial manuscript that comes in a 47 pages, my Golden Heart entry is a near-max 53 pages total. I have 6 copies printed and bound together with a black binder clip, and today they will begin to make their journey to Texas. Then, they will be sent out to the GH first-round judges. 5 different authors from around the country will read my partial, rate it, and by March 25th, I will either be a finalist... or not. Either way, I'm proud of myself for trying.

29 Days until the Wedding!

I can't believe we are now actually under the 30 day mark! I am so excited! Since our wedding is also a vacation at the same time, I know that we are going to have such a great time. And... what's even better is that our wedding is going to be so stress-free! It's already paid for (as of yesterday's call to pay the final balance at the chapel of the flowers), and we're going to be so relaxed!

One thing I love about this relationship is that we almost never argue. Sure, some people like to say that arguments keep their relationship spicy or whatever, but I'll take happiness and love over arguments any day. Most days, the closest we come to an argument is a debate about the future of publishing or some such topic that we both find interesting. When we go away to a new city, we spend a lot of time talking about the future and just walking around, enjoying the sights and the food and each other's company. I know that Las Vegas was the best choice for our wedding, because there will be so much to do and so much to see.

29 days until the wedding, but 26 days until we leave for Vegas, and there is so much we need to do still! Like my dress needs to be altered. (Yes, I'm doing it myself, which is scary.) We need to write our vows and choose our music. I have tons of Christmas presents to make. We still need to make more money so we can actually enjoy a few shows while we are there. And then there's the normal stuff like working and writing and cleaning. It's so hard to concentrate on those other things when I keep smiling about the fact that we'll be married in just 29 days. I honestly never knew love could be like this. Well, I knew because I'd seen my parents together for so long... but I never really believed I could find a love that was this comfortable, yet electric... this challenging, yet supportive... this much fun after all this time! I can be happy knowing that I've truly made the best choice of my life.

Harlequin Horizons? You've Got to Be Kidding Me

Upsetting news from Harlequin, a publisher I have idolized for so long. Earlier this week (or was it last week?) they announced an epublish division called Carina Press. I wasn't too upset about it, because it's just another way they can publish novels. No advances, fine. That's the way most epubs do it anyway. But two days ago, H announced a new endeavor - Harlequin Horizons. They are promoting it as a self-publishing venture, but it's really a misnomer. It's what most people would called a vanity press - which is a publisher who asks you to pay money for them to publish your novel. Then, when you are published, you don't actually get any distribution or help marketing your book AND they still take 50% of the profits!

It's a nasty idea, really. Self-publishing should be about empowering yourself as an author. Taking your career into your own hands and trying to be successful on your own. What Harlequin is doing with this new company is not self-publishing, nor is it empowering authors. It's a scam is what it is. A recent article on the subject in the NY Times actually read "Got a romance novel in your desk drawer? Polish it up and get ready to become a Harlequin author." Omg! Horizons has also stated that they will now include information on their new "self-publishing" option IN their rejection letters. So, basically, they will say something like "We're sorry, but we are going to pass on this project at this time. However, you have talent and you should check into this new alternative called Horizons."

I know better than to throw a couple of thousand dollars at them so that I can self-publish my own book with zero distribution, but what about the average person who submits to Harlequin and doesn't have RWA or another organization in the know to tell them any better? Harlequin is preying on the hopes and dreams of hundreds of women, basically saying that whether they can write worth a shit or not, they can be a Harlequin author! WHAT?? What's worse is they appeal to those dreams by saying that they will monitor the self-published books in order to find diamonds in the rough that they might consider pulling into their normal Harlequin imprints.

Because of this recent move into vanity publishing, Harlequin has been removed from the RWA's eligible publisher list and all of their perks for the National conference have been taken away. This affects hundreds of Harlequin/Silhouette authors who are used to book signings and various recognition at nationals. It's very upsetting to me, but imagine their authors? The ones I have heard from are PISSED. They have worked hard to get where they are and now this? It's demeaning.

As for me, I'm now dreading the rejection letter I could possibly receive any day now, telling me to consider Harlequin Horizons for my book. Ouch. As if I have $1500 to spend on thier most basic services! If I had money just sitting around, I wouldn't need a publishing deal so badly!

Is this the beginning of the end of the publishing world as we know it? Is Harlequin just trying to squeeze the last bit of money they can out of the publishing world before it all changes to self-publishing and ebooks anyway? In many ways, it certainly feels like Doomsday for one of the formerly most respected names in Romance.

The Biggest Loser's Rudy is the Biggest Jerk

Last night, I just wanted to stand up and scream at the TV during the elimination on The Biggest Loser. As if last week's argument with Shay didn't make him look bad enough, he had to attack Rebecca this week when there was absolutely no reason for it. Rudy has done extremely well on this show, setting records left and right for most weight lost ever in 10 weeks and for losing 100 pounds faster than anyone ever has before. I am sure his family is proud of him for it. But I just cannot like him, no matter how hard I try.

Last week is when my extreme dislike really started. There was a circus challenge where the contestants had to jump through a hoop onto a trampoline in order to sort of "Vote" for someone. Each person had a hoop assigned to their name and if they got 100 "Votes", they were eliminated. The winner of the challenge was given immunity, so it was a HUGE advantage. As they were standing there about to start the challenge, Rudy turned to Shay and said something along the lines of "I won't go after you until we're the last two, then we'll go after each other, kind of like a hoop alliance." Shay agreed, excited to have an agreement that Rudy wouldn't go through her hoop until they were the only ones left. Staying true to her own agreement, she encouraged her friends to not go after Rudy.

First of all, I think Rudy was being pretty sneaky when he made that fake alliance in the first place. He knew that if he was up against Shay at the end, he could definitely outrun her. Also, he never had any intention of following up on his own promise. He only wanted to make sure her friends didn't go after him first. SMart tactic, but shady to say the least. In the end, there were Rudy, Shay and Danny left. Who does Rudy start gunning for? Shay. Not Danny. Shay. With two people going through her hoop, Shay was eliminated. Danny followed, leaving RUdy with immunity. Then, he has the nerve to actually say that he never had any kind of alliance with her (Cue footage). Freaking liar.

Then, when the weigh in came around, Rudy barely lost any weight. Why should he? He has immunity. And everyone knows that if you hold back one week, you have that much more chance of losing big the following week. For Rudy, it was all game play, and it makes me really annoyed with him.

This week, after the makeovers and his speech about how his sister died of cancer when they were both teenagers, I was close to liking him again. Not quite there, but trying to sympathize with how this man became 440 pounds in the first place. Then, during the elimination, he has to say that he is voting Rebecca out because he doesn't "Trust" her. He accused her of playing both sides of the fence (which basically means she was too good of friends with Amanda and the other younger players for his taste). He even accused her of lying. What? If that happened, it certainly happened off camera. And what was his reasoning behind saying anything that would stir up negative feelings. He couldn't just say, "LIz and I have become really close in the house and I just couldn't write down her name."? Or "I respect and like both of these ladies, but in the end, I voted for Rebecca." No, he had to make Rebecca, who he knew he was sending home, feel terrible.

Rudy is cocky and underhanded. After his 4.5% weight loss, he just needed to make himself feel even better by rubbing salt in Rebecca's wounds. To me, those are the worst kind of people. THe people who have to make others feel bad just to make themselves feel good. If Rudy wins this whole thing, I think I'll puke.

The happiest thing for me was seeing Rebecca at the end of the episode during the transformation segment. She looks amazing! She's lost over 100 pounds now and was running a half marathon! I couldn't believe how great she looked! I'm glad to see she didn't let Rudy's mean comments hold her back.

With only 2 episodes left, there are five people in the running for the title of The Biggest Loser: Rudy (yuck), Allen, Liz, Danny, and Amanda. I personally don't like Liz or Rudy this season, so my votes are with Amanda all the way. I'd be happy for Allen or Danny too, because they seem like nice guys, but Rudy and Liz are too focused on the game. I don't want to see them win the 250,000 dollars. That's just my rant on TBL. Thanks for listening :).

Now, I need to get myself ready for the big ANTM finale tonight! In that finale, I'm rooting for both of the finalists! It's a win-win situation!

Christmas on a Budget

What? A Christmas post in mid-November? Well, there's no use saying it's too early. There were Christmas decorations up at the local mall well before Halloween. There's no use even complaining about it. Every year, we complain about how early the Christmas decorations go up and the music begins to play, and every year they continue to put them up earlier and earlier. My theory is that this year, they went up super early because the malls and shopowners are struggling financially. They are hoping that the wreaths and the jolly music will remind us all about the people in our lives who are expecting presents this year. They are hoping we will all run out and spend a bunch of money for the next two months so that they can stay in business. There's only one fatal flaw in this logic.

No one has any money to spend.

This year, Christmas is on a strict budget for everyone I know. People in my family (including me for the most part) are doing hand-made gifts this year instead of buying traditional presents. G and I are getting married and where my parents would usually have bought us tons of presents for the holiday and something separate for our wedding, the budget for them calls for one combo gift that will have to work for both events. Do we care? Not one bit, and I'll tell you why. We understand what it's like to be struggling right now financially, and no matter what the businesses and corporations want us to believe, presents simply are not the most important thing about Christmas. Or weddings for that matter!

The most exciting parts of the season this year for me are my wedding and spending time with my family. It's my neice, Sami's first Christmas and I can't wait to see her and spend time with her. My sister and her family always come and spend the night, and my neice Kanon is getting old enough to enjoy other parts of the holiday like baking cookies and playing games. It will be fun to spend time with all of my family over the holidays, and of course, being around G the whole time without him having to work means three full weeks of us being together nonstop. Those are the most important things this year for Christmas, and those things fit perfectly into everyone's budget.

If you are stressing out this year about affording Christmas, just step back and think about the true reason for the season. No, I'm not going to lecture you about the baby Jesus or anything. But the true meaning of Christmas is family. Love. Happiness. Not presents and debt and stress. Stop being a slave to the demands of the holiday and the expectations put on you by traditions of spending thousands over the holidays. Yes, I know that businesses need this season to survive, so go support them if you can afford it. But family comes first. Happiness comes first. If you're stressed about money, do what we're doing in my family and pare down your Christmas budget. Make presents by hand or buy less and don't worry about it. Just vow to spend time with the people you love this year and understand that for a season of joy, that's all any of us really need to be happy.

NaNo WriMo Update

We're officially halfway through National Novel Writing Month, and this week I made it to the magical 25,000 word mark. Basically, that means I've been playing with Hello Kitty markers and pencils and ribbons for the past couple of days :). By next Saturday, I should be hitting the next goal of 37,500, which sounds ridiculously close to the end!

So, how do I feel about my novel so far? Truthfully, I think there are some good parts, but they are few and far between. In the first 25,000 words of my zombie apocalypse novel, there has yet to be a single zombie. This could be a problem. Well, actually, that's not entirely true. I wrote a pack of zombies into the prologue. Yay! I had almost forgotten about that. But the time has come where I need to start writing them into the main story. To explain where they came from and how they started killing people.

In the end, I know that my novel cannot be finished at only 50,000 words. 50k is still my goal by the end of November, but the entire novel needs to be more like 65-75,000 words. I am praying that by the time I get those 75k words written, I will like my novel a lot more than I like it now. Is it normal to be less than thrilled about an early first draft? The story is good, I know that. But now I'm afraid it's too cliche or overdone. I'm committed to this story though, and I must press on. All I can hope is that somewhere in the next 12k words or so, I start to really love the way I'm writing it.

Suvivor Samoa: Russell's Second Immunity Idol

Last night's episode of Survivor completely redeemed this season in my mind. For the first several episodes, I was thinking, This season is seriously weak. Russell's diabolical mind is the only half-interesting thing. But, as often happens on Survivor, things got interesting once the tribes merged. While most of the season has been about Galu kicking ass at challenges and Foa Foa getting kicked off one-by-one, the merge last week shook things up a bit.

Eric, who sadly was my pick to win it all, went home last week in a major and honestly confusing blindside. It's Survivor 101 that when tribes merge, whichever tribe has the most people should automatically stick together and start picking off the tribe with the least people. However, Eric got cocky, barking out orders that started making people feel uncomfortable. Natalie, a Foa Foa member, and well in the minority with 8 on the other team and only 4 on hers, was actually able to talk old Galu into voting off one of their own. Eric was gone, causing me to lose my Survivor pick with my sister. (Her pick (Jaison) is one of the remaining four Foa Foa.)

This week, with Eric gone and Russell's hidden immunity idol played, it looked like Russell was the obvious target. Old Galu members decided to pick off Foa Foa one at a time, going Russell, Natalie, Jaison and Mick. Well, not one to give up easily, Russell did something no one has ever done before on the history of Survivor - he found a SECOND hidden immunity idol at camp without any clues.

The first idol he found was early on in the first or second episode. He knew there probably was an idol (because there is always an idol) and he went looking for it. He found it without trouble. When Galu flushed it out last week, he simply went looking for another one. While several of the old Galu members were off on a beautiful reward of waterfalls and brownies, Russell was making good time searching the camp for an idol. He searched by tree mail, up trees, and anywhere that looked like a landmark around camp. Then, he walked onto the bridge by the little pond, got down on his belly and looked underneath the bridge. "No way," he said. And I almost peed my pants! "Holy Shit!" I shouted to no one but myself. I couldn't believe it. He actually found another idol.

At first, he said he wasn't going to show it to anyone, but then he changed his mind. He shared the info with the only Galu who has been on the outs since day one. Shambo. Brilliant! As ditzy as Shambo can seem, she's a very valuable friend to have, and Russell is so damn smart to have figured that out. They mutually decided to gun for Laura, but damnit, Laura won individual immunity for the second week in a row! I couldn't believe how fast she plowed through that puzzle. Of course, she's only putting more and more of a target on her own back. As soon as Shambo and Russell get the chance, they'll vote Laura out in a heartbeat. (And good riddance if you ask me. Not a fan.)

Back at camp after the immunity challenge, old Galu decides it will be Russell who goes home. Little did they know, Russell was sharing his hidden idol info with the remaining members of Foa Foa and doing exactly what Shambo suggests by telling everyone to vote our Kelly. There was a little bit of a nervousness at the last minute because Russell overheard Galu talking about voting Natalie. Should he play the idol? Give it to Natalie? What? I was on the edge of my seat as the tribe made their way into tribal council.

Eric, obviously still pissed at his former tribe for turning on him (which is turning out to be a very dumb move on their part numbers wise), walked in as the first member of the jury. Galu seemed easy and confident. Their plan to vote out Foa Foa was foolproof right? They have the numbers, seven to four (thinking Shambo is stupid and is with them, ha!). When Jeff said his little speil about "If anyone has a hidden immunity idol...." and Russell stood up, the looks on Galu's faces were PRICELESS! Dave's jaw dropped to the floor. Monica put her head in her hands. They stared at Russell like he must be joking. "I'm not done playing yet," Russell said, pulling the second idol out of his pocket.

Omg, it was a Survivor moment to remember! I was literally cheering at the screen. Even though Russell was one of my least favorite at the beginning, he has gradually grown on me as the underdog with a truly devious and brilliant mind. When Jeff said that none of the votes against Russell would count, I was just praying that the old Galu voted Russell and not Natalie. When the first vote came up, I cheered again. Russell's name was pulled out of the hat five or six times. None of those votes counted. Galu was just waiting to hear whose name Foa Foa put down. Then it came. Kelly. You could see the relief on Monica's face. Thank God it's not me, she was thinking.

Galu wrongly thinks that they still have the numbers. Six to Four, right? They have no clue that Shambo has already joined the old Foa Foa, making it Five to Five. If they had kept Eric in the game, Foa Foa wouldn't have stood a chance, but they were dumb and let the underdogs catch up with the numbers. Shambo played it like a pro, acting shocked and agreeing with Laura that now Russell has stirred up some shit that he'll have to pay for. She's brilliant to play along with it, and when she turns on them, it will be another blindside. Next week, Jeff says the idol will go back into play, so it will be a race to see which side can find it first and just how it will come into play again.

For me, this was a top 3 Survivor episode of all time, right behind the Fans Vs. Favorite episode where Ozzie was blindsided and the one where that poor kid actually gave up his individual immunity idol and got voted off. Good job Russell, Foa Foa members, and Shambo. You five just made this a season to be remembered. As for me, I'm rooting for Russell to go all the way.

Deploying to Iraq

My cousin is leaving today to go to Iraq. I am not sure how long he'll be there, but I think most of these types of deployments are a year, right? That sucks. Sometimes I still can't believe we have so many soldiers in the Middle East 6 years after we started this 'war'. More than six years even...

My cousin Kevin is leaving behind a young son and his wife, and I know they are so sad to lose him when he's overseas. I am really proud of him for enlisting in the Army and serving our country, but at the same time, I get so scared when he goes over there. Last time, when he was in Afghanistan, his unit was attacked and several of his buddies were injured. Kevin was a real hero, recovering from the initial blast quickly and getting his wits about him so that he could defend their position. I am certainly proud of him for that, but I also pray that he does not see that kind of action again this time around.

My thoughts and prayers are with Kevin today. I know you won't read this before you go, but I love you, and I'll miss you.

NaNo WriMo Write-ins Rock

Tonight, I went to my second official NaNo write-in at the local Borders Bookstore. It was awesome. I met some great local writers and got over 2000 words written. I definitely recommend going. Even though I consider myself to be pretty outgoing, it makes me nervous to go to a coffee shop alone, not sure if I'll meet up with people and get along with them. But, I am so happy that I got over those silly fears and just went out. It was a great experience, and I had a lot of fun. Oh, and another bonus to going to meet with local authors is that they can help with ideas and recommendations on cool websites or books out there. Anyway, here are a couple of pictures of the group that was at the Cary Borders tonight. Unfortunately, "Shadow Birth" aka Kelly, had already left before I remembered that I had my camera. I am the one taking the picture, so I'm not in there either, but it was a fun group. If you haven't been to a write-in yet, but you are doing NaNo WriMo, GO!

In this photo: (L to R by NaNo username) magiuspendragon, Rai Yan (our fearless ML), thegreekparvula, and lynoir. Great group of people! I had fun hanging out with you guys. (**Sidenote: Notice the purple pen on the table in the left corner of the photo? Oh yeah, one of my 12,500 word NaNo rewards! Love it!)

In this photo: Rai Yan, the Raleigh area ML, holds up his beautiful sign, letting NaNo participants everywhere know we mean business. (**Sidenote: No, Rai Yan does NOT work for the FBI. I asked.)

Wedding Shoes!



Next on my wedding to-do list was a pair of comfortable, yet cute shoes that I could wear while walking around Vegas after the wedding. I don't want to wear high heels because I don't want to look too much taller than G in the pictures, so I was really looking for a pair of tennis shoes. But not clunky ones. Something pretty. Impossible, right?

Well, I remembered that my friend B bought some very cute tennis shoes that were sort of shaped like ballet slippers and might have been Sketchers. I started poking around on the internet and found some just like hers. For $60. Ouch! I guess so far as shoes goes, sixty bucks really isnt' that bad, but we're trying to save money here.

This weekend, G and I went to visit his mother for a little while and G put together a desk she ordered. While he was working, I suggested we pop over to the outlet mall really quick to see if they had any acceptable shoes. You won't believe it, but I found the exact type of Sketchers I was looking for! On the Clearance rack! And the only pair they even had was my size. It was fate. So, here are my very cute, very comfortable, $25 wedding shoes. I am so excited!

NaNo Update: First Goal Reached!!!


12,631 words so far!

Yay for NaNo! It's amazing how much you can do when you give yourself permission to suck! This month, I am not allowed to do my neurotic, change my plot a thousand times thing or rewrite the first chapter six times and then throw it all out and start over. No, this month, I have to keep on trucking, whether I like what I'm writing or not. I have to keep writing until the word count says 65,000. Yes, I know that NaNo is all about the 50,000 words in a month, but call me crazy, I'm aiming for 65K instead. I have also given myself permission to break the rules and write a little longer than one month to finish that over-50K word count, but there's no way I'm going to miss the 50K by November 30th. I must succeed!

Anyone who reads my blog or knows me personally knows by now that I need outside motivators. If left purely to my own inner desires, I will come up with excuse after excuse as to why I didn't accomplish something. That is why for NaNo again this year, I have decided to give myself little mini-rewards for each word count milestone.

And today... I won my first reward! That's right, 12,500 words in and I get the fabulous EnerGel Purple pens! Okay, so none of these rewards are fancy or expensive, but they make me happy and that's what matters. All told, I've spent about $30 on rewards, and it's money well-spent. Of course, if I don't reach a word count goal, I have to take any un-earned rewards back to the store. I seriously don't want to do that, so I'm working hard to meet my goals. Here is a little peak at my future rewards: (I already blogged about this earlier in the week, but it didn't include pictures, so here goes)

Goal #1: 12,500 by Saturday, 11/7 Reward: EnerGel Purple Pens. Okay, so this might not excite anyone else, but dammit, I love pens! Especially purple ones.

Goal #2: 25,000 Words by Saturday, 11/14 Reward: Hello Kitty Items!
Yes, Hello Kitty is my hero. I got these things at Target in the dollar bin and I am not ashamed to say that even at 32, I still love Hello Kitty and she still makes me happy.

Goal #3: 37,500 Words by Saturday 11/21 Reward: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
Since I'm writing a book about the zombie apocalypse, what better reward than a book about how to survive it? I have already read his book, World War Z and I loved it. Can't wait to read this one too!



Goal #4: 50,000 Words by Saturday 11/28 Reward: T-shirt
I couldn't resist this shirt, because it's so true! If the zombie apocalypse comes, only those who have pwned some monsters in video games will survive. Everyone else will be too shocked to know what to do! (In my idea of a perfect future, I will wear this shirt to a book signing where hundreds of fans have lined up to meet the author of Pandemic, haha! Dreams are good for you!)


Since I'm aiming for 65,000 words total, I have also added an extra little goal of reaching the 65K by December 5th. If I do that, I get to go get a Manicure/Pedicure. A fitting reward since a week later I'll be getting married!! Woohoo! (And by the way, the wedding is happening regardless of the word counts :).

I'm proud of myself for reaching my first goal a full 2 days early. I'm sure most of what I've written is terrible, but it's better than a blank page anyday. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go open my purple pens and play with them for a while!

Feeling Yucky

Basically, I just wrote a long post about how I've felt yucky all week. It's no secret. Cramps, fever, yucky. But seriously, who wants to read about that? So I deleted the post and instead, I'm leaving you with this. It always makes me feel better to hear this song. It's not the words, really. It's the beat. Awesome song.

Wedding Invitations are finished!

Last night while I watched the Biggest Loser, I finally sat down and finished putting together our wedding invitations. That basically involved attaching the vellum overlay to the floral-printed cardstock with a ribbon, then adding a little touch of sparkle in the form of a red rhinestone, and finally putting it all (along with a little card that has info about the website) in an already addressed envelope, sealing it up, and adhering a flower seal on the back. It took me almost the full 2 hours to get all sixty invitations done, but I am happy with the final result.

Hopefully people won't get them and think it's totally weird that I sent out invitations to "watch" my wedding online. I just want people to be able to go online and watch our video. Yes, it's a little bit non-traditional, but I know the people who care about us most will want to be a part of our wedding day. I plan to send these out today!

Next on the wedding check list? I have got to find some comfortable non-heel shoes to wear on our wedding day!

NaNo: Day 3

NaNo WriMo is off to a strong start. The President, Chris Batty (? did I spell that right? /shrug) gave the advice to start strong early, to pump out as many words in the first few days as possible. Why? Well, because at the beginning you have a lot of energy and are pumped up for the new story. A week in, however, you start to realize that writing 50,000 words in a month isn't as easy as you thought it would be. You start to feel tired and uninspired. That's when having a huge start can really help.

On days where you're feeling low or you don't want to write, you can simply tell yourself that all you have to write is 500 measly words. That's nothing! Barely more than a page or two! Chances are, of course, that once you're writing and getting into the story, you'll write more like 1000 or more words, but anything is better than nothing. The important thing is not to let yourself have any 'zero' days where you don't write any words at all. Keep plucking away and in another 27 days, a novel will be born!

NaNo WriMo has Begun!

It's officially that month again where over 150,000 writers from all across the globe vow to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 short days. I was counting the minutes until midnight, chomping at the bit to get started on Pandemic, my YA zombie apocalypse novel. I've been working on ideas for this book for so long that I can't believe I'm actually writing it now!

It's 1:17, but with the change in time, it's really already 2 hours and 17 minutes into November. I couldn't believe it when I looked up and I was already 2709 words and 10 pages into my novel. I'm sure it sucks, and I'm sure I'm going to need tons of rewrites at the end, but for now, it's just really fun to keep writing and not worry about editing yet.

Like last year, I have decided to work on a reward system. Only this time, instead of just the four NaNo weeks, I am actually going to write for five weeks. Why? Because I want this novel to be more like 65,000 words instead of 50,000, but I'm not quite sure I can write that many in 30 days. So, I'll aim for 50,000 by November 30th and 65,000 by December 5th. So what are my five rewards this year?

  1. If I hit 12,500 words by Saturday, 11/7, I get a 3 pack of purple Energel pens. Anyone who knows me knows I am pretty much obsessed with new pens, so when I saw these awesome purple gel pens for only $4 at Staples, I had to grab them. Amazing how motivational a silly $4 item can be, but dammit, I want those pens! If I don't hit the goal, I have to take them back, and I'm just not going to let that happen!
  2. 25,000 words by Saturday 11/15 gets me a variety of Hello Kitty items that I bought at Target last night. I only spent $5 on this reward and it includes: A pack of four HK mini-highlighters, A pack of 3 HK double-sided markers, Two packs of different designs and colors of HK ribbon I can use for hair bows or crafts, and a pack of four HK pencils.
  3. 37,500 words by Saturday 11/21 means I get to go buy Max Brooks' "Zombie Survival Guide." I just finished his book, World War Z and it was incredible. I am going to look for a copy at the used book store since we're saving all the money we can for the wedding, but even at the regular book store, it probably won't cost more than $8 or so.
  4. 50,000 words by Saturday 11/28. I bought a shirt at Hot Topic that is black and on the front in red writing it says "Video Games: Preparing Youth for a Violent, Post-Apocalyptic Future". How cool is that? I figure it totally fits into my YA zombie apocalypse theme. Plus, I love video games, so it really works for me. I plan to wear it someday when I'm doing a book signing for Pandemic after it gets published :P
  5. 65,000 words by December 5th and I get to have a manicure and pedicure in preparation for the wedding. I will make a beauty day out of it, where I can relax and be happy that my first draft is finally finished! Also, at the point, it will only be 2 weeks until our wedding!
For all you NaNo's out there, hope you are kicking ass as the month gets off to a great start. Don't give up. We can do it!

Online Surveys for Cash

Lately G and I have been taking online surveys for cash. Palm Research offers daily surveys that pay at least $1.00, and while I don't always qualify, we've managed to make over $15.00 as a couple in just the past week. Now, before you laugh and say that fifteen bucks is only a small amount of money, just think about the fact that it only takes a few minutes a day and sometimes the surveys can even be interesting. (Be sure to sign up via the link above if you're interested in doing some too.)

Plus, if there's one thing I've learned over the past few years, it's that small amounts add up quickly. Much more quickly than you realize unless you're keeping track. $1.00 here and there can be the difference between having money to go to dinner or put into savings and not. (And it works the other way too. Spending $1.00 here or there on a soda or a small trinket can have you asking where your paycheck went.) Consider that $15.00 in a week means almost $60 in a month. And we could all use an extra $60 this month couldn't we?

The other fun thing for me about taking these surveys is that they seem to always have a little box at the beginning where they ask your age. Instead of making you type it out, they usually have a set of boxes with a range of numbers and ask you to check off the box your age fits into. I just like the fact that I'm still in the 25-34 box. Thinking of being grouped with the 25 year olds makes me happy. Of course, it's going to work the opposite way when I'm in the 35-44 box, isn't it? Ouch. I just don't want to think about that right now. For now, I"ll enjoy my little bit of money earned and the fact that I'm still one of the young folks.

Zombie Dreams

It has begun. I've started dreaming about zombies now. It's no wonder since NaNo WriMo starts this weekend. I'll be starting a story that I have wanted to write for some time now. Pandemic is my title for now, and it's about a flu pandemic that gets out of hand. When a vaccine is made, everyone at the heroine's school is forced to get it in order to keep the rest of the teenagers safe from it. It backfires, of course, and when people start dying from the flu, it's the vaccine in their system that reanimates them. Then Boom! The Living Dead!

There's going to be a lot more to the story than that, but that's the bare bones of it. I'm so excited about writing it, but the thought of having to endure zombie dreams from now until December? Frightening!

Fair Is a Four-Letter Word

When we are in Kindergarten, we are taught that the world is fair. "Share your toys. Be fair." As we get older, however, we begin to realize that fair isn't really a factor in the adult world. No one really cares about being "fair". It's a foreign concept. It's a four-letter word, even. A curse.

Fair? You want things to be FAIR? Who the FAIR do you think you are?

When my mother was transferred out of the instructional technology coordinator position and forced to return to the classroom this year in her public school job, it wasn't fair. Two coordinators ended up staying in their old jobs even though my mother is the one who has had that position longest and has really always done an excellent job. She's one of those above and beyond kind of teachers. It's not fair. Do you think anyone gives a shit? Not anyone who could change it, that's for sure.

There's a contestant on The Biggest Loser this season named Abby. She has me in tears almost every episode. Why? Because just weeks after she gave birth to her baby son, her husband, baby, and five year old daughter were all killed in a car accident. A drunk driver I believe. I don't think they said, but what do you want to bet that drunk driver fucking lived? And this poor woman lost her entire family in one horrible instant. Is that in any way fair? Not even half a drop.

And what about the guy who raped at least two women over the past ten years? Well, two that came forward over the course of five years, anyway. Probably a dozen more who were too scared to tell or who had no one they could turn to. He went to prison to serve an 8 year sentence. The "fairness" of him only getting an 8 year sentence is debatable in itself. But what about the fact that he's getting to go free three years early for "good behavior"? Seriously? Sure, he's had good behavior! There haven't been any women in his male prison that he could rape! It isn't fair.

But not matter what they teach us in Kindergarten, Life isn't FAIR. That doesn't mean we shouldn't still try to treat people with fairness and try to do the right thing. But it does mean that sometimes we are going to have to learn to let things go instead of holding onto them saying, "It's not fair." Just saying those words makes it hurt more. The injustice of it. The heart-wrenching unfairness of it. Sometimes we just have to say, it may not be fair, but I'm not going to let it destroy me. I'm going to stand up and move on. I'm going to be okay.

Great Diet Site!

I recently stumbled upon a great diet site that has so many helpful tips. You can find this site at http://diettogo.com As you all know, I am trying to lose weight, and the first article I read on the site was called "5 Ways to Keep Pounds Falling Like Leaves". So much of what the author wrote really spoke to me. She talks about how it's important to realize that significant weight loss can't happen overnight. How true!

So what were her five ways? Eat right (lots of fiber!), Eat smaller portions, Exercise, Visualize yourself thinner, and read self-help books and articles that keep you focused on your goals. I love that she doesn't claim there's some miracle cure out there. We all know that doesn't exist! It's all about being good to our bodies and staying active. I have recently added Jazzercise back to my routine, and I can definitely tell a difference in the way I feel AND the way I look. I need to work on the visualize part to try to keep my self-confidence up and stay focused. Also, the eating part gets me every time. What can I say? I love chocolate cake!

Anyway, this is an awesome blog, and I recommend you all go there and check it out if you are wanting to lose weight or are planning to go on a diet. You'll find some good advise there.

Computer Troubles

To my horror, last night while I was playing Everquest2, both of my monitors just went all crazy colored. I have no idea what is wrong with my computer, but it was completely frozen and the images on the screen were barely visible beyond the colors. I turned it off, waited, then rebooted, praying it would be okay. More crazy colors.

G worked on it most of the evening, trying to get it to work, but I am scared to try to plug it back in today. Right now, I have my laptop hooked up to my keyboard, mouse, and a second monitor, and that works okay. But my laptop is somewhat limited in what it can do as well. It can't really handle much gaming. Of course, that wouldn't matter too much except for the fact that we are relying on gaming to make extra money for the wedding right now.

My sad CPU is sitting in the bedroom right now. I'm going to plug it in here in the office later this morning, but for now, I'm scared. WHat if it's toast? We can't afford to put the money into it right now. Isn't this always the way it is? When you're working hard to save for something you want to do or have, something you need breaks down and ruins the fun. My car is making strange sounds. Now my computer. Are we going to be able to afford our wedding? I can't even think about it. I'm going to try to stay positive, but I need some good things to happen today.

59 days

As our wedding count-down ticks over to 59, I find myself a little bit freaking out. Not over the marriage itself. I know without a doubt that I've got the perfect groom (and husband) for me. I just want to make Vegas the very best wedding and honeymoon that it can be.

So what am I freaking out over? Two things. Money. And Weight Loss. Making a lot of extra money is not easy, and even though I'm looking around for ways to make more money on the side, it's difficult and somewhat tedious. As for the weight loss, I'm going to Jazzercise four times a week, but that's just not enough. I've cut down on calorie intake, but I think both exercise and diet need to be ramped up a little bit if I'm going to lose the weight I wanted to lose with only 59 days left. Yikes.

At least my book is out the door and out of my hands. That's one giant hurdle overcome, and now it's just a waiting game. And who knows? 59 days until the wedding gives the editor 59 days to read my manuscript and call me to offer a fabulous contract :P Wouldn't that be a dream come true?

Wedding Invitations

Yesterday, I hit the jackpot when it comes to invitations. Since we're not doing a traditional wedding, we didn't want to spend too much on invitations or announcements. But at the same time, I want to let people know the name of the chapel and the online address so they can watch the ceremony online. Having invitations printed from an online boutique or even a discount shop means spending at least $60 on 50 invitations. Since we need at least 60, basically I have to order 100,. which was going to mean spending well over $100. Yes, I know some brides spend $500 or more on their invitations, but again, we're not working with a traditional wedding or a traditional wedding budget here.

So yesterday, I went shopping. The plan was to head to Michael's craft store and see if I could find some print your own invitations for a decent price. Before I went that way, however, I stopped by this relatively new discount store that opened near us called Ollie's. I noticed last time I was there that they had packs of 100 print your own, but they were kind of cheesy, with linked wedding bands and thin cards. But I thought, why not check it out? And now I am so happy that I did.

I got two boxes of very pretty invitations that have a vellum overlay and a ribbon accent on top of a black and white floral design for only $4.99 each. Yes, seriously! Only $5 for these invitations. It took me some time to get the printing to fit on the page exactly the way I want, and I spent a little extra buying some red accents to make them look more christmasy, but I am so excited I was able to save so much money. It was truly a happy find.

Finished: Take Two!

It's real this time. No more harsh critiques to stop me in my tracks. Just my full manuscript in an envelope, nicely printed out along with a query letter and synopsis. Today, it will go out to New York, priority mail. Then, it's out of my hands for a while.

It could be six days or six months before I hear back from them. How scary is that? Let me tell you: It's terrifying! The most I can do is pray that it's a quick turn-around with a happy result. And in the meantime, write the next book!

Zombies come next, which is a far cry from romance on Sea Island, but it should be even more fun to write. It's a new phase of my writing life that begins today. I can write with confidence, knowing that no matter what, I am capable of finishing a novel. I can actually do it. And the more I write, the better chance I have of being published someday. Let's hope it's someday soon!

Constructive Criticism

Being able to handle criticism is not an easy thing to learn. You would think that after more than 14 years of it, I would be used to it by now. And maybe back in the day when I was at Vandy, I was better at it. I can't say for sure because 10 years ago doesn't come back with that kind of emotional clarity. (At least not when it comes to criticism.) I remember being told that I was terrible as a singer, and I remember having people say things in critique like "If I sang that song, I would do such a better job." Hurtful comments that honestly were anything but constructive.

The most hurtful criticism came when I was in New York one spring during graduate school with a fellow soprano who had some serious chops. Our teacher looked at us one day and said, "If only I could have R's voice with S's passion, then I might have a singer who could make it in this business." Me being S of course. That hurt so bad. It's the kind of comment that sticks with you ten years later and still feels fresh and painful.

So how do you learn to live with criticism when you're heading into a career that will be filled with it? And, let me note, not everyone follows the constructive criticism rules. Some people will just criticize and even get downright ugly without offering a single piece of constructive criticism. It's painful. It's salt-on-a-cut kind of pain, sometimes. And other times, it's rip-your-heart-out-and-feed-it-to-the-bears kind of agony. "Develop a thick-skin" some will tell you, as if anyone really knows what that is or how to suddenly grow one. Is there a special thick-skin lotion I can apply nightly to achieve the desire results? I doubt it.

I think the natural response is to want to lash out. To explain yourself and justify your work or your ideas. But what good does that really do? Are you going to change someone's mind about their own opinion? Probably not. In the end, you'll just end up looking desperate and bitter. So, for now, I'm simply working on trying to be zen-like in my ability to 'let it go' and not retaliate with harsh words aimed to pierce back at the source of the wound. Maybe someday I will master that ability and be able to move on to phase 2: don't let it hurt in the first place.

Revisions

The ending stages of getting a novel out are much more tedious than I expected. Once the book is finished (all three drafts or however many it took), there's still the query letter and the synopsis. Not to mention figuring out the packaging itself.

A synopsis is basically a 3-5 page summary of your entire novel, but it's not that easy. It's also got to show your "voice" as a writer and make the editor or agent reading it hunger for more. Until you've tried to do it, you have no idea how hard it is to shorten a novel down to just a couple of pages. It's torture. On top of that, there's also the query letter, which has to include an even shorter synopsis. We're talking two tiny paragraphs. 10 sentences tops. More torture, because you're scared the entire time that the editor might just toss the whole thing to the side without even reading the amazing manuscript simply because your short "blurb" in the query letter is enough of "a great hook."

During the torture of trying to write these other things, one of my critique partners decides to go out of her way to proofread and polish my manuscript. Great, right? Yes, of course. Any extra polish is helpful, because after looking at the same 180 pages for weeks, even months now, a fresh pair of eyes can catch things I didn't see. Well, apparently her eyes are catching a lot of things. While her early emails about the first few chapters were encouraging, the latest one basically said that if I send this book out as is, I'll be shooting myself in the foot and ultimately wasting my first and best chance at getting published. Wow. That was hard to take. Actually, as much as I want to say I have a thick skin and can take the criticism, it still hurts 10 hours later.

It just makes me feel so defeated. I think about my manuscript and I start to think "I can't fix anything else. I'm done." I've been working on this book for more than 8 months now. The revisions have been endless, but I've done them because I knew the book wasn't good enough. But this time, I already had the entire thing printed out and ready to send when I started getting her notes. I was ready. Mentally, I'm exhausted.

But I don't want to waste this opportunity, either. Here's the question that has no answer: When do you know a manuscript is good enough to send in? There's no answer to that question, but it's the most important question in the world right now. How do you know when it's time to stop revising and changing and just take the chance? I sat down with a Desire last night before bed and read about the first 50 pages. There were long, fragments of sentences, hyperbole, all that in there. Does that mean I should have it too? Maybe not, but it also might mean that it's not as big a deal as my critique partner believes. The one thing I did notice, however, is that the author used a lot of different and creative ways to describe the character's emotions, particularly their sexual attraction. I can see going through my book to vary those things a little. That might even be fun. But changing the story again at this point? Trying to make every sentence perfect in structure? I don't know.

I'm going to spend the whole day on this and do my best to keep a good attitude. I was so ready to be done with this...

Writing My Synopsis

Writing a synopsis is not as easy as it sounds. It's so difficult to summarize the important elements of my 170 page novel into only 3 pages! Unfortunately, it's a necessary part of my submission package, so I have no choice. The novel can't go out until the synopsis is written.

I think one of the main things that makes it difficult to write is that I love my book for all the little things. All those magical little moments that come together to make my story special and different, sure. But I also love all the pages in between. I cherish every word, every scene, every single conversation. Boiling that down to the very bare bones is hard, dammit!

What I need to do today is really think about the most important parts of this book. What is it that keeps the hero and heroine apart? Not just externally, but internally as well. What walls do they have to break through and what past do they still cling to and need to overcome in order to truly accept love into their hearts? Then, rather than give a scene by scene run down of the book, I can pick out only the main parts that show those conflicts and struggles.

Today, this is my main task. I know I can do it. Once this is finished, I should be ready to send this out, once and for all, to NY.

Final Polish

I can't believe the time has actually come to do a final read-through of my manuscript. It has almost taken me this entire year to get this story down on paper, and as novels go, it's very short... a mere 49,000 words. But I'm proud of every single word, because it came from a place of creativity inside of myself that I always knew I had but never before had the courage to explore.

Writing a romance novel, specifically for Harlequin, has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I think the very first one that I read was given to me in 7th grade by a girl named Shameka McGriff, and it had the cover torn off so that teachers and parents couldn't tell what it was. I think it must have been a Harlequin Presents, and man was it sexy. I still remember what that book was about, even if I've long forgotten the name or the author. It was my first adult romance and I was hooked.

For years, I used to browse book stores for books about writing and daydream about the plots of the many books I'd love to write, but for some stupid reason, I never actually sat down to write one. I guess it was fear that kept me away. But not this year. This year, I sat down and wrote an entire romance novel from start to finish. And yesterday, I finished the second draft. It's so close now I can taste it. No matter what happens when this manuscript gets to NY, this moment is something I will always remember, and writing this novel is something I can always be proud of.

It's Amazing

Yesterday I was listening to iTunes on random when a song from the Sex and the City Movie soundtrack came on. I know I must have heard this song a thousand times, but for some reason the words never really clicked with me until yesterday. It won't let me embed the video from youtube, but here is the link, the song is called "It's Amazing".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XDxhDbtDak

Here are the basics of the lyrics. It will be obvious why they mean so much to me:

Do it now
You know who you are
You feel it in your heart
And you're burning and wishing
And first wait, it won't be on a plate
You're gonna have to work for it harder and harder.
(Chorus) And I know, cause I've been there before
Knockin' on your door with rejection
And you'll see cause if it's meant to be
Nothing can compare to deserving your dream
It's amazing, It's amazing, all that you can do.
It's amazing, it makes me heart sing,
Now it's up to you.

Patience now, frustration in the air
And people who don't care,
Well it's gonna get you down
And you'll fall
Yes you will hit a wall
Get back up on your feet
And you'll be stronger and smarter.
And I know, cause I've been there before... (repeats chorus from above)

That isn't the entire song, of course, but it's the main parts. I love that part where she sings "Nothing can compare to deserving your dream". It made me realize that it's not just about talent or wanting something with all of your heart. It's also about earning it. Deserving it because you worked hard and didn't give up despite any obstacles. I want to deserve the dream, so I am going to work for it.

Zombies

The number one movie in America right now is about zombies. I haven't seen it yet, but "Zombieland", starring Woody Harrelson is supposed to be extremely funny. Considering that my next book is going to be about zombies, I have been devouring everything I can get my hands on that has to do with zombies, so I probably will eventually get out to see the movie as well. (Only thing stopping me now is the stupid $10 a ticket when we're trying to save money for the wedding in 73 days!)

I recently finished the book "Dead Sea" by Brian Keene. It wasn't the best book I ever read, but it was decent. I certainly wouldn't call him "The next Stephen King" based on the merit of this book, but it was at least good enough that I read all the way through it. It's basically about a virus that kills people, then turns them into zombies that raise from the dead and hunger for flesh. Typical zombies really. But the story is about a black gay man living in Baltimore who is forced from his home (along with everyone who was hiding out from the zombie plague) because of fires. He smartly heads toward the harbor to find a ship, figuring that the sea is the only safe place left. It's a good premise for sure. I'd like to pick up some of his other zombie books in the future.

Now, however, I'm double reading in a way. I am reading through Carrie Ryan's young adult zombie book, "The Forest of Hands and Teeth," and as much as I enjoyed meeting Carrie Ryan and as much as I want to like her book, it's tedious. The tone of the book is so morose. Everything seems drab and dreary, with little hope that it will change. I'm about half way through, and taking a break to read the rest. Instead, I've picked up Max Brooks' "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War", and fuck it's amazing. I'm not even half-way through it yet and I'm totally hooked. It's basically told as though it were really a true oral history of a real war. As if the dead really have reanimated and we have been fighting a war with them for the past 20 years. Each little snippet of a chapter is a new oral account of what happened in a certain region. Like one doctor from China tells his story. Then a soldier from somewhere, etc. And gradually the entire history of the war is being put together through these accounts of people from all over the world. It's genius really.

I've also been watching zombie movies on netflix. "Night of the Living Dead", "Dance of the Dead", "Resident Evil: Extinction", "Shawn of the Dead", "Dawn of the Dead" etc. Mostly, I'm just gathering ideads, trying to figure out just where my own zombie story is going to take me. The possibilities are endless, and I'm excited to get started November 1 for NANO WRIMO (National Novel Writing Month). My goal is 60,000 words in one month, so for October I have to get my Desire novel in the mail and get my plot and characters figured out for the zombie book. Which, by the way, I"m calling "Pandemic".

Know any great zombie books or movies? Pass it along in comments and let me know!

Bad Start

Some weeks just get off to a bad start. And once you're off routine, it's hard to get back on it.

This week appears to be one of those weeks for me. I woke up about 6 am yesterday morning with a terrible back-ache that didn't really start feeling better until last night. As a result, my routine was totally screwed up yesterday. Then, G had a review session until 8:30 pm last night, so we didn't eat dinner until late. Rather than cooking something light, stupid me made spaghetti. Well, that pasta sat in my stomach like a bunch of rocks all night long and I just could not get to sleep.

Sometime around 3 am, I looked at the clock and just wanted to cry. I finally feel asleep sometime after that, but all in all, it wasn't a good night. I still have a stomach ache and now I'm exhausted. I'm beginning to wonder if this week is just going to be a mess.

Once you're so far off your routine like this and not feeling good, how do you force yourself back on it? There are some things that will naturally force me back into the routine, like voice lessons I can't cancel and other things where people are counting on me to be somewhere, but with my current career, there aren't that many times like that on my schedule. For the most part, it's all about my own determination to get something done at a certain time. I guess I just have to write out a set schedule and make myself stick to it, then hope that I can finally get a good night's sleep tonight.

Dangerous Curves by Karen Anders


Shameless plug here for my critique partner's new book! "Dangerous Curves" hit shelves October 1st and is book 2 of Karen Anders' Undercover Lovers series for Harlequin Blaze. Set in Hawaii, FBI agent Max Carpenter is assigned to protect the irresistible DEA agent Rio Marshall. Mostly, he's supposed to keep her out of trouble and out of the way. Their undeniable attraction, however, leads to plenty of trouble as the two can't keep their hands off each other. Here's the blurb from the back of the book:

FBI Agent Max Carpenter is assigned to protect irresistible DEA agent Rio Marshall. Babysitting duty. But for this mission, they'll be whisked away to Hawaii - for security purposes, of course - for sun, sand and plenty of hot, sweet sex...

What Max doesn't know is that Rio has been assigned a task of her own. A task that will require using every asset in her considerable arsenal.

However, when a real threat occurs, seduction is put on the back burner. But nothing - not even fear for their lives - can keep this scorching duo apart for long.
It's a great book. Very sexy, full of action and edge-of-your-seat thrills as the couple is chased through Hawaii by a very dangerous man that wants them dead. It was an honor to be one of the first people to get to read this book and help Karen revise it, and I was amazed to learn that she actually dedicated this book to me and Jennifer (the third in our critique group). It's highly recommended if you like sexy romances with a great plot and some action/adventure.

Dreams from Not Writing

For the past couple of weeks, G and I have both been having what feels like nonstop dreams at night. We both wake up every morning still tired, our brains filled with images from our dreams or nightmares. They are vivid and real and never ending.

G has a theory that we dream as a couple because of the strength of the ideas in my head. As if I have such a strong need to write that if I don't start getting a story/novel written, we will continue to dream uncontrollably from the energy stored inside of me. I have to admit, it's certainly curious that we seem to only dream on the same nights and we both wakeup feeling the same way about dreams. There's never a day where G dreams a lot and sleeps like shit and I wake up refreshed and dreamless.

Is it possible that some kind of energy exists between us as we sleep? Is it possible that my vivid dreams cause him to dream as well? Or is it coincidence? When I'm actively writing something new again, will the dreams go away? Right now I am finishing revisions on my Silhouette Desire, but thoughts of my Young Adult novel, Pandemic, are going through my head all day long. However, I haven't had a chance to really write any part of Pandemic down because I'm working on old material, trying to get it ready to send out. Is it possible that my imagination is so full of energy and ideas right now that I am causing us to have crazy dreams simply because I'm not emptying my ideas into a novel? Something to think about.

Wedding Money

Wouldn't it be sweet to not ever worry about money? Wouldn't it be so refreshing to just have enough that you never really had to think about how to pay for the things you needed or wanted? It's so easy to imagine it, but so hard to make it a reality. October has finally arrived and G and I are only 79 days away from our wedding day. It's exciting, but scary at the same time. With the bad news this week about my music job plus the fact that I won't get paid for the whole month I worked in September, we are way behind on raising money for the wedding.

So what can I try now? How can I make at least another $1000 before December 19? I could hardly sleep last night, because I was trying to run new ideas through my brain, frantically searching for an answer. I might be able to pick up some new voice and piano students that are looking for a teacher now that the academy has gone belly up. We are working together as a couple to try to make more money through the game Everquest 2. (It seems fitting that the game should come through for us because that's where we met!)

But what other things can I do? I am going to try making a few other blogs and trying to make some money using google adsense. Last night, I made a new blog about Black Friday deals. I imagine a lot of people do online research to find the best deals on the day after Thanksgiving shopping. There are no guarantees with blogging though. I should have at least another $100 from adsense just with the things I already have set up, but wouldn't it be amazing to make $300 or more by December? Yes it would.

Of course, getting my novel to New York could be a huge source of money for us, so that is always a priority. I know it's close to being finished, but the last couple of days have been rough after the news of the academy. I need to get my focus back and get that manuscript finished. The odds of hearing anything back from Silhouette before the wedding are slim, but not none, so that's something I need to do as soon as possible.

I can list some of the clipboards and wooden letters I made/painted on ebay or etsy and try to sell there. We could try again at the flea market in November, but this time with different products, like maybe custom tree skirts for christmas? ALso, there are several places online where people pay two to four dollars for short articles. MyLot and Mechanical Turk are just two of them that come to mind. Substitute teaching or a temp job would be a good source of income. Even though the public schools are still on a hiring freeze, I could possibly find a substitute job at one of the local private schools.

If anyone else has some ideas of how to make some money between now and December, let me know! I'm willing to try almost anything (except porn, ha!). I'm trying to avoid having to get a job like waiting tables, especially since I already applied so many places and didn't get a job this past summer. A seasonal job at the mall or somewhere is a possibility, but they are going to be adamant about wanting someone to work closer to Christmas and I just don't want to lie and say I will, then quit to head to the wedding and to Georgia for the holidays. But I'm open to ideas and I will try whatever I can to make this wedding fun and memorable and stress free once we get there!

Sarra Cannon

Young Adult Indie Author

I always secretly wanted to be a cheerleader. And a witch. Now, I write about both. The first five novels in my Peachville High Demons Young Adult Paranormal series are available now in ebook!

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