The Sweetie Chronicles

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

RWA National Conference Already on my Mind

It's crazy, but I find myself thinking about the RWA National Conference several times a day. And it's still something like 12 weeks away! I know from going last year that this is not a make or break event when it comes to my career, but I also know that it can open up doors that might be harder to open elsewhere. That's why I have my sights firmly set on getting this novel completed by the time I go.

7,000 words a week should do it. And still give me time to revise and polish the manuscript before I go. I guess the reason I keep thinking about the conference is because I've set a writing goal that directly corresponds to when I leave for Nashville. I know I can meet this goal, it's just going to take keeping my eye on the prize. And if I do? It will be the first time in a very long time that I've really met my goals head-on and been prepared ahead of time. That may not sound like a big deal to some of you, but for me, it's a huge deal. Epic, really.

Basically, I'm just plain excited about the conference. I check the updated agent/editor list every few days. I've looked through the workshop descriptions. I've even looked over the hotel restaurant menus for goodness sake. I'm determined to make the most of my time there this year, and I really feel that amazing things are just around the corner. Now, I just need to take that positive energy and use it to reach my goals.

Sandra Bullock's Big Surprise: A Baby!

I knew that Sandra Bullock would eventually come out of hiding. After all, an Oscar winning actress can't stay out of the public eye for too long. Well, not unless she's ready to give up her career completely. I pictured Sandra as a very unhappy, teary-eyed woman privately mourning the death of her marriage.

What I did not picture was this radiant woman who showed up on the cover of People magazine yesterday holding a newborn baby boy. How the hell did she keep that a secret? The news is that Sandra and her soon to be ex-husband had been trying to adopt a baby for four years. They were finally successful this past January when they adopted the very adorable Louis Bardo, who was born in New Orleans. She really must have been so happy at the beginning of this year. A newborn baby, all these accolades for her role in the Blind Side. Then her dumbass husband had to go and screw a bunch of ho's Tiger style.

Well, instead of sitting at home sulking, Sandra has been busy taking care of her baby, finalizing the adoption as a single parent, and filing for divorce. I am very happy for her, and I definitely like the picture of her happily spending time with her new son out of the public eye rather than being so sad over such an asshole. Of course, I am once again found wondering why I care so much about a celebrity I'll never actually meet in person, but I guess some celebrities are a part of our lives in one way or another.

Regardless of whether I'll ever know Sandra Bullock as a person, her choices have helped to shape my life, even if only in a small way through her movies or her example as a beautiful person. Even in her darkest days, she has carried herself with grace and poise, refusing to come out and badmouth a man who has so obviously done her wrong. Instead, she chose to come back into the public eye with a smile on her face and a beautiful baby boy in her arms. For some strange reason, that image gives me strength.

Weekend Mini-Vacation

This weekend G and I have decided to go on a mini-vacation. We just really wanted to get away without spending much money, so our solution is brilliant, if I do say so myself :) We are going to the zoo in Asheboro where we got engaged a couple of years ago! It's about an hour and a half or so away from here, so not too far to drive, but far enough that we don't get over there very often. In fact, we haven't been back since the day we got engaged, so this should be fun. And hopefully, it won't be as hot as it was that day since it's only April and not July :P.

We're planning to spend most of the day at the zoo (it's HUGE, I don't even think we got to see it all last time). Then, we've got a hotel room reserved in Greensboro. I've never been there, so it should be fun to sort of explore a new place. We got the hotel through Priceline, and after several failed attempts at naming my own price, I was able to get us a 3 1/2 star hotel (Marriott) in Greensboro for less than $70 for the night. The hotel has an indoor pool and jacuzzi, so I think we'll probably make some good use of that feature.

Even though we're just going away for one night, sometimes it's great to just get away and do something different together without the other distractions of every-day life. It might just be a trip to the zoo and a city that's just a few miles down the road, but we'll be spending all our time together, and I know we'll have a fabulous time. It's only Wednesday and I'm already excited about the weekend!

Book 11: The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

This was a pretty good book. It was a little bit too simple for me at the beginning, but I'm guessing that the age group listed on this book is a little bit on the lower side. Like maybe 12 and up? Not sure. But once I started to get into it, the story was actually pretty good. A young girl, Chloe Saunders, gets her first period and suddenly starts seeing ghosts. And they start talking to her! Long story short, she gets put in a group home called Lyle House, where all the other kids are 'different'. But there's more to the kids at Lyle House than she ever dreamed. I won't go into much more so that I don't give away the story, but it follows a nice story line after that.

The only that pissed me off about the book was the ending. You get used to having this big climax at the end of a book, along with a nice happy resolution that leaves you satisfied enough to close the book and get some sleep. Well, this book gives you a huge revelation, puts the protagonist right into the belly of the beast, so to speak, and promptly ends right there. It wasn't exactly a cliffhanger ending, but darn near close to it, and I hate that. I realize this book is part of a series, but seriously? There weren't any real answers in this book, only questions. At least I'm coming to it late enough that the next two books are already out there and I can pick them up and finish the story. Or, at least I hope I can. Is the third book the end? I guess I'll find out.

Kelley Armstrong is coming to the area - she'll be signing books at Brier Creek Barnes and Noble at 6 next Wed., so I'm planning to go and buy the rest of the series that night. If you're looking for something a little bit spooky to read, this is a good YA book for that.

ACT ONE Finished!

I have to admit, I had some doubts. When I set a goal of 7,000 words a week (starting last week), I had some serious doubts. But I also knew that setting that goal was the only path to finishing this novel before the RWA National Convention this summer so that I can pitch it to agents and editors. Last week was my first week to put this goal to the test, and let me tell you folks - I blew it out of the water! Go me!

I wrote more like 10,000 words last week, and to top it off, I actually finished the entire first Act of my novel! Which means I am 1/4 of the way through with this puppy! What's even more surprising is that I am actually very happy with it, hehe. Writing this novel has been FUN, especially now that I have spent the time I needed to get my mind in the right place regarding the major plot. I have a pretty decent outline that I'm following, but I'm also allowing myself to be open to any changes that might occur during the writing process. If something new and totally different comes to me while I'm writing a scene, I go with it. And I'm not spending time revising or rewriting at this stage. I'm just letting it flow, and it feels amazing.

Today is the start of my second week of 7k words. (and hopefully another 10! whee!) Act II begins, and I am very excited about it!! And proud of myself for reaching my first goal.

Writing Goals

Online talk about RWA's National Conference in Nashville is starting to heat up, and it suddenly just occurred to me that I only have 13 weeks to finish my novel and get it ready to pitch. Well, okay, so I realized this last week, but the shock and panic is still there now!

I know that the world will not end and the sky will not fall if I don't have this novel finished. But I just don't want to let the opportunity to pitch this go by. Especially when my #1 Dream Agent is accepting pitch appointments! There's no guarantee I'll be able to meet with her, but every day, I send up a silent prayer begging God to make sure there's still a slot open for me by the time I can sign up.

In order to meet my goals, I really need to stick to a very strict 7,000 words a week for my rough draft. Now, if I hadn't thrown away my NaNo WriMo version of the story, I'd probably be almost finished with this thing, but since I started all over at the beginning of the year, I'm only 20,000 words into the novel. Yikes! That's not even close to halfway yet. On a good note, I think I have most of the plotting figured out, so now it's just a matter of getting the story down on paper as fast as I can. 7,000 words should do it and still give me time to revise and polish some before the pitch.

So, how am I doing this week? As far as my goal is concerned, I decided to set a Monday - Sunday schedule, with each Sunday being the deadline for the 7k words. Since it's Friday, I only have today and two more to get the full word count down. Right now, I'm sitting at about 3500 words, which honestly isn't too bad. There's no reason I can't write another 3500 words by Sunday night, right? It's going to mean a "working weekend" , but as a writer, that's the way it should be every weekend. I'm going to work hard to reach this goal each and every week. I just have to take it one day (and one word) at a time.

What Would A Teenager Do? (WWTD?)

I'm currently hard at work on the second half of my first act, which I call Sequence 2 according to Alex Sokoloff's movie structure. As for what's going on in my story, basically the world is falling apart. This strange virus has killed millions already, and they are predicting the numbers to raise to possibly billions dead by the end of the month. The news, of course, is still not reporting the truth. They are hoping to keep people calm and hopeful that a vaccine is almost ready. In truth, no vaccine is even close and most of the people who have the knowledge to develop one are just as sick as everyone else.

Writing about the collapse of society from a teen's point of view is not as easy as I thought it would be. I am constantly stopping to ask myself, "What would a teenager do?" If they were alone and everyone around them seemed to be getting sick? Would they board up their house? Clean everything with bleach hoping not to get sick? Lay in bed with the teddy bear they used to use when they were little? I guess every teenager is different, but since I'm writing this from the viewpoint of several teenagers, I have to find a way to get into their heads and figure out how they would react. I have to make it believable.

One of my worst fears is that editors and agents will say that I don't have a voice that suits YA. I'm so scared I'll spend a year on this novel, finally get it finished, and have it turned down by everyone because it isn't true to a teen voice. It's so hard to tell about these things when you're reading your own stuff. Maybe I need to find some teenagers who are willing to read it and give some feedback when the manuscript is finished? My critique partners all think it's definitely YA, but I'm still anxious to know what teens and editors will think.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is still just a first draft. I need to focus on getting the story down in the fastest way I can. Then, I will have time to go back and fill in the gaps. Fix the voice or the reactions if they aren't totally right. I will have the chance to fill in all those little gaps and make it the best story I can write. For now, I'll just keep asking myself WWTD?

Jenny Craig Week 5 Results

Well, not as successful this past week. I didn't lose, but at least I didn't gain either. My total stays at the 11.2, which is still more than 2 pounds average a week. For some reason, I was just super hungry all week. Maybe it was partly that I was so good for a month and the "rebel" in me just wanted to eat something bad? Or maybe it was that I was being so successful in my weight loss and my writing that my inner critique said "Wait a minute! You don't deserve to be happy!" and turned my thoughts to hunger. I definitely ate more than I should have last week, but thankfully, some part of me kept it in check enough to not gain weight.

I'm back on the wagon, so to speak. My short-term goal is to lose 1 pound this week. My mid goal is to have gotten to my halfway goal by the time I go to the beach July 4th week with my family. And long term? I would love to be at my goal weight by our one year wedding anniversary in December. If I can lose an average of only 1 pound a week, all of those goals should be attainable. It feels good to be aiming towards a healthy goal. I just hope I don't screw it up.

The Black Riviera by Mark Jarman

Another one of my favorite poetry books. Mark Jarman was a professor of mine at Vanderbilt. I am not sure if he's still there, but he was great. His wife, Amy, is a voice professor. I haven't been back there lately to really know if either of them are still there, but they were young when I was there, so if they aren't at Vandy, they are probably still teaching somewhere. Anyway, both of them were great people that I feel blessed to have known.

My favorite poem from this particular book is a little bit racy, and I remember when I first read it back in college, I was both turned on by it and in love with it. I think what touched me most about it, then and now, is the honesty of it. The 'omg, I know that feeling' kind of thing. In honor of my return to poetry week, I thought I'd share.

Days of '74

What was the future then but affirmation,
The first yes between us
Followed by the first lingering dawn?
Waking below a window shaded by redwoods
(Waking? We hadn't slept-),
We found time saved, like sunlight in a tree.

Still, the house was cold, and there were shadows.
The couple in the next room
Rapped the wall to quiet us, like them,
Condescending from a bitter knowledge
That, young as we all were,
Love didn't last, but receded into silence.

Wedging our pillows back of the headboard
That clapped in time with us,
We let them think we agreed. Then, holding on,
We closed each other's mouths and felt that slowness
That the best days begin with
Turn into the speed with which they fly.

Flight was that years theme, all around us--
Flight of hunter and hunted,
The President turning inward on one wing,
And, on the patio, the emigration
Of termites, a glittering fleet,
Leaving that shadowed house a little lighter.

Within it all, above it, or beyond,
We thought we were the fixed point,
And held still as the quail lit down beside us
And waited for her plump mate to appear,
His crest a quivering hook.
The valley's reach of sunshine reeled them in.

There was wilderness around us, don't forget.
Behind the nets of fragrance
Thrown across our path by the acacia
Lurked the green man or the kidnapper
And there was the Pacific
With its own passions taking place as rain.

The sorrow of the couple in the next room
Was a deep muteness nightly.
That loneliness could come of loving was
Like news of time cored out of the redwood.
The house that we made shake,
Or thought we did, was taking wing already.

After we left, still it took us years
Before we stopped comparing
Every morning together to that first one
And every place we lived to that first place
And everything we said
To that first word repeated all night long.

Back to Poetry

No, I'm not doing anything crazy like giving up on my novel just to write poetry. Even I know that poetry is the fast train to poor unless you're a college professor or a trust fund baby. But I was thinking about it the other day, and I realized that I really miss poetry.

Ever since I can remember, I was writing poetry. Especially when it came to love :P. I have a whole book of bad poetry written for old boyfriends and crushes back in middle school and high school. God, I think I even went so far as to give some it to some of those guys. And, sadly, there were some boys in college too. Ugh. How embarrassing. But also, how awesome. I know that none of my poetry has really been mind-blowing, but that's partly because when I was writing poetry, I hadn't really been through anything mind-blowing. I was a virgin. I had never truly been hurt or wronged. Needless to say, that naivete is gone now, and I have had more experience with love, life and people in general.

I wonder if my poetry would be any good written from this perspective? The now me? It can't hurt to start writing and see what happens. At the very least, it will help me get out some aggressions or stress or feelings bottled up too deep inside. It could be therapeutic.

This week, in honor of my rekindling love for poetry, I thought I would share some of my favorites. Today's poem is by Deborah Garrison, an American Poet of my heart, who is also the Knopf poetry editor.

Happily Married

Almost home
on the longest day of the year,
I saw two birds on a telephone wire:
two beaks, two sharp-peaked ruffs,
two tails that stuck down stiff
like two closed fans
all matched up neatly,
and against the faintly
yellow pre-dusk sky
the birds and the wire
were all one color,
a fading black
or darkening gray.

Sometimes the smallest thing
brings harmony in
through the eye.
Or was it that I
on that particular day
had harmony to bring to what I saw?
That I'd even looked up
seemed a piece of marital
good luck, and that they didn't
move as I passed by--

I wondered how long in fact
they'd sit that way.

Writing Frenzy!

Yesterday, I was able to get together with my critique group and write for hours, and it was AWESOME! We went over to E's house and were all three set up in the living room with our laptops. What's so awesome about writing with other like-minded writers in the room is that when you get stuck, there's someone there to bounce ideas off of. Also, there's just that energy and the sound of little fingers clicking away at the keyboard. It gives me the desire and the passion to keep going. All in all, I wrote about 15 pages yesterday! For one day, that's huge for me.

When I got home, I was mentally exhausted, but in the best possible way. I love having friends who write (and are so good at it!). It makes me happy.

Book 10: The Stand

Last night I finished the epic Stephen King novel, The Stand. In a word? It was BRILLIANT.

I read the long version that was published something like 10 years after the original. Story goes that the publishers thought the book was too long when he first turned it in, so they made him cut about 100,000 words. Later, after the book was such an enormous success, he went back and published it in full. That is the version I read. 1138 pages.

I doubt there are many people who don't know the premise of The Stand, but I'll try to sum it up. Basically, an experimental government virus that was for some type of biological warfare gets loose and instead of locking down like they are supposed to, one worried guard grabs his child and his wife and drives out of the compound just as the doors are closing. Hours later, he crashes into a gas station, fully consumed by the 'superflu'. After contact, the flu spreads exponentially, killing billions across the world.

The story follows the point of views of many people who all become major players as the world begins to rebuild itself. The book is divided into three parts. The first part is mostly about the spread of the plague and the individual stories of death and loss. The second part is the journey - everyone who was immune and left alive begins to dream and move toward a common place. Good and Evil begin their battle to take over the world. And finally, part three is about the battle, regular people who become heroes after the plague and are willing to risk everything in order to make their stand against evil.

I LOVED this book. It once again proves to me that Stephen King is one of the finest storytellers of our time. If you haven't read it, but you are yearning to be pulled into a story that will grab you and not let go for possibly weeks, this is a good choice. Long, but oh so worth it.

Jenny Craig - One Month Results

As you know, I joined Jenny Craig about a month ago! The program has been surprisingly easy to stick to. Mostly, I attribute that to the food being so good - and also the fact that I can eat things like cheesecake and double chocolate cake that taste almost like regular non-diet foods. As of yesterday's weigh-in, I have officially lost 11.2 pounds! We also did some measurements around my bust, waist, abdomen, and hips when I first started. I won't tell you all those measurements :P, but I will say that every month they measure you again to see how many inches you've lost. And I have lost 3 1/2 inches from those four areas combined! Pretty impressive!

My weight this week was just barely above 180, so I know that if I try hard, by next week I can be in the 170's. It's been so so long since I got my weight down that far! And with two months still before my first official beach vacation, I know that I can get down to my halfway goal, which is 166 pounds. Since the food program is so easy to stick to, it's mainly going to be about the exercise in months to come. So far, all I've been doing is a little bit of walking here and there. Now, I need to ramp it up and start adding in the bike and maybe some of those aerobic videos I have. Joining a gym or something isn't really in the budget, so exercise needs to be something free, but I'm confident I can burn the calories I need to burn without spending any extra money.

So, 11.2 pounds in four weeks! I'm definitely finding success on this program, and I can't wait to see where it takes me.

Agent / Editor List up For RWA Nationals

I have already signed up and bought my plane ticket for the Romance Writers of America National Conference in Nashville, TN! I even have my room at the Opryland Hotel booked (a hotel I have always wanted to stay in!). I can't wait! The conference is at the end of July, and a list of editor and agents who will be taking appointments and pitches just went up online!

I'm sure some people will be added to the list as it gets closer to the date where people can sign up for times, but I am already extremely happy with the list. My number one choice for a dream agent is on there - Kristin Nelson, as well as the other agent from her agency. They would both be a dream come true as agents. I already feel like I'm biting my nails, praying that one of them will have a slot open for me by the time I get to sign up. There is a set order for signups, starting with current Golden Heart Finalists, then previous GH finalists and PAN members, then PRO status RWA members, and finally the general membership. I am one step ahead of where I was last year since I am now PRO, but will that be enough? I imagine Kristin Nelson is in such high demand that people will be rushing to sign up with her. I can only pray that there is still a slot or two left with either her or Ms. Megibow when it opens for PRO's.

As far as editors, there's not quite as much excitement. For the most part, the list is dominated by Harlequin editors. So far, I only see one editor that would look at YA and that is an editor from Tor Books Teen division. I definitely will be hoping to get in to pitch to her unless someone from another big house's Teen/ YA department is added. I am definitely excited to be going to Nationals again this year. Now, I just have to make sure that my manuscript is finished and ready to pitch!

500 Posts!

Yay! This is officially my 500th Sweetie Chronicles post!

I started writing this blog a few years ago as an exercise in just waking up and getting something down every day. At first, it was hard to stick with it. Now, it's more of a habit, and even though I don't always write about interesting things, I almost always WRITE. It's a good way to start my day.

That being said, I think it's time to add another habit to the mix. Now that I've gotten used to writing every morning on a random topic, it's time to start working every day to write pages in my actual NOVEL. A local author, Jenna Black, said to me at Saturday's romance writer's meeting, "You'd be surprised how fast you would finish a novel if you just sat down and wrote every single day." Seeing how she has written more than 20 novels, I'm bound to believe her.

So, in honor of this my 500th post, and my proven ability to get up (almost) every morning and write a short blog post, I vow to write at least one page in my novel every day. If I can cultivate that as a die-hard habit, I know I will be in good shape. At the very least, I would finish a novel a year in rough draft, but I know that I'll write a lot more than one page most days. Sitting down and getting started is the hard part. Once I'm sitting down and the words are flowing, one page will come easy - and then another and another.

10 Things You Find in a Typical Zombie Movie

Lately, I have been watching a lot of zombie movies. And yes, most of them are terribly bad. Cheesy. Awful, really. For example, last night I watched "Return of the Living Dead, Part 2". Yikes. It was actually one of the better ones, but it was still terrible.

Bad or not, most zombie movies have similar plot devices. Some of these you will also find in horror movies in general, as well as any movie about an outbreak of a virus or other post-apocalyptic movies. I wanted to put together a list of some typical plot devices and things you come to expect from these types of movies/stories so that I can make sure my own story stays true to the genre and yet also is fresh and original.

Here are some of the things I consistently see in zombie/horror/post-apocalyptic movies:

  1. Hospitals are all fucked up. Of course people who are bitten, injured or sick want to go the hospital. It's normally a place of healing and help. But in most zombie and horror films, the hospital is the last place you want to go. Other sick people have probably gotten there first and are now zombies - and the doctors probably are too.
  2. The Loved One. At some point, someone is going to have to kill someone they love. Their boyfriend/sister/parent is infected and will turn any minute, and of course, they have insisted that if the time comes, they want to take care of it themselves. Sometimes, this turns into the loved one eating their brains because they didn't kill them when they had the chance.
  3. Transportation Issues. This can vary greatly depending on the movie. Either they need gas, a better car, motorcycles, or whatever, but there is usually some kind of transportation issue. Possibly the keys to the car are in one of the zombie's pockets? Or once the car got rolling, they got scared and hit a tree? It's always something.
  4. Sleeper. How many times have you seen a zombie movie where someone in the group is "secretly" infected? One of the tough guys or someone's wife has been bitten or infected, but they don't want to tell anyone just yet. They slowly begin to turn, and although people notice they are different, it gets passed off for fatigue or hunger or shock. Then, of course, they turn into a zombie at the worst possible time, infecting and killing someone else in the group before they are finally put to rest.
  5. Inciting Incident. Okay, so maybe this should have been first on the list, but I'm thinking of them as I go for the most part. There is usually some inciting even at the very beginning of the movie where a barrel of toxic gas rolls off a truck or a plane crashes in the wilderness or similar. The virus gets out. The first person is bitten or chased. Then, after we see this brief moment of violence, we are pulled back to the normal world where we meet the hero/heroine in their everyday lives.
  6. The First Kill. There is usually some point where the survivors accidentally figure out how to kill the zombies. Shoot them in the head! Electrocute them! They don't like water! Etc.
  7. Killing En Masse. Of course, after they realize the best way to kill the damned things, often the hero and their group will come up with some kind of master plan to kill them ALL. They plan to pull them all together in one spot so they can blow them up or electrocute them all or whatever. This is, of course, usually the climax of the movie and it becomes a do or die scenario.
  8. The Search for Food / Electricity. Many times, the hero and his/her group will have to go out looking for food. The scene in 28 Days Later where they shop in the deserted grocery story comes to mind. (And please don't tell me that's not a zombie movie. Okay, it's RAGE, but still - this movie's infected beings are fucking zombies, so suck it.) The group eventually begins to run out of food or water and this propels them to daring feats in order to get more. This can also show itself as a search for power /electricity.
  9. Quarantine. Often the hero's group has been quarantined in an area by the military and cannot get out. In Resident Evil, it's more the building itself that has them quarantined. Someone or something wants to contain the virus/plague/infection in an area and survivors be damned. The survivors usually don't find this out or figure out that they are locked in until later in the movie, just when they finally had gotten their hopes up that they were going to find their way to freedom and be saved.
  10. One Escapes. In most movies, it turns out the quarantine was a good idea. But this band of survivors was so eager to live through the ordeal that they killed all the zombies in a huge explosion or whatever, then found their way out of the quarantine zone and off to safety. At the very end, we see one zombie go free. Or a group of them pouring out of the hero's escape hole? Usually this opens up the possibility of a sequel and leaves the movie-goer with a sense that no matter how hard you try, you cannot stop the zombie apocalypse once it has begun.
Is there anything else you would want to add to the list? This is by no means exhaustive! This is just a short list of the things I could come up with (with G's help of course) while thinking about last night.

Book 9: Think Twice

I "read" this book through audio books on my way to Georgia and back again. It was broken into two parts that I downloaded from Audible, each part about 4 or 5 hours. This book, which is currently on the NYT Bestseller lists for Hardcovers, is about a woman who is buried alive by her identical twin sister. The twin then makes an attempt to take over her sister's life and steal all of her money.

Was this the best book ever written? No. Was it decent? Yeah. There were a lot of basic, overused phrases like "She swallowed hard." "She swam hard." etc. The descriptions of emotions and feelings and even action was very sparse and cliche, but overall, the story was a good one. It wasn't life-altering or so interesting that it made me want to sit in my car to hear more, but it was entertaining.

It took a little while for me to really get into the story. Sure, the scene where one twin drugs the other and buries her alive happens pretty early in the story, but the writer didn't really make me love the character enough to really give a shit yet. I only start to care about Bennie later in the story, after she's already escaped her earthly prison and set herself on revenge. There is also a subplot with one of the lawyers who works at Bennie's lawfirm, Mary. I guess to be honest, I didn't really understand why Mary's story was so important until close to the end. And rather than coming off as one of those, wow, cool, moments where things get intertwined and you finally realize the divine purpose of everything, it sort of fell flat for me. I saw it coming for sure, and was tired of waiting for it.

This is the kind of book that is what my sister would call "Brain candy". It's not going to teach you anything about yourself, but it was fun while it lasted. It wasn't particularly well written in my opinion, because I like more description and variety and emotion that really draws you in, but it was good enough that I didn't STOP reading and put it down forever. Of course, that was solely because of the plot and wanting to know if one twin was finally going to get what she deserved. As far as recommendations, I guess I would just say pick this one up if you're looking for a decent, fast read with a little bit of thriller/suspense where you won't have to think too much. If you're looking for a book that will mean something to you or leave a truly lasting impression, pass on this one.

Book 8: The Help

At first, I was hesitant to read a book about the tensions between blacks and whites in Mississippi during the 1960's. I mean, haven't we seen enough of that through Mississippi Burning and other such movies? Don't they all end with some lead character getting beaten to death or something? No thanks.

But Kathryn Stockett's version of 1963 Mississippi is different. Beautiful in some ways. Heartbreaking in others. In "The Help", there are three main point of view characters. Skeeter, a 20-something girl who has just graduated from the University of Mississippi and moved back home to live with her parents. She wants nothing more than to get out of Miss. and be a real writer. She wants to live in New York. An editor at Harper and Rowe takes pity on her and tells her that if she can come up with a unique book idea, she'll take a look at it.

Aibileen, an older black woman who has raised 17 white babies, but whose son has recently died in an accident at his work. The woman she's currently working for is an old high school friend of Miss Skeeter's, but Aibileen sees a different side of the woman. She never pays any attention to her daughter. Never shows her love and affection, though the little girl desperately wants it. Aibileen is more of a mother to the child than her own white mother.

Then there's Minnie, a plump black woman who keeps losing her cleaning jobs with the white ladies because she can't keep her mouth closed. She backtalks and says what she's thinking, which gets her into some serious trouble. Just when she thinks she'll never find a job again, Aibileen helps her get in with Celia, a white-trash-girl who married into society and is too naive and stupid to know any better. She hired Minnie and their relationship is one like Minnie has never had with a white woman before.

All three of these main characters have their own individual stories, but they also begin to weave together as Skeeter begins to write a book about what it's like for the black help to work for the white women they serve. A book from the help's perspective. It's a dangerous project and if they are found out, they could lose everything they've worked for - and even their lives.

I loved this book in a way that I have loved very few books in my lifetime. It touched my heart, made me laugh, made me cry, and will be with me forever. Beautiful written, the characters are what make the story. I fell in love with these three women, and I feel like I know them. Kathryn Stockett shows us the truth about living in the south, and not just in the 1960's - it's complicated. There are beautiful relationships and there are some so ugly you can barely stand to see them. It's true. Those of us from the South both love it and hate it at the same time. This is a book everyone needs to read. Probably women will get more out of it than men, but if you are a woman who has not yet read it, you NEED to. One of the best books I've ever read, and that's saying something special.

Finally Home in North Carolina

Yesterday's drive was no fun. It was very long and I was oh so tired. I'm home now, but I'm exhausted. Overall, the trip was a lot of fun. I feel like I did a successful job splitting my time between my siblings, friends and parents. (A skill that must be studied and learned for many years before it can be perfected, lol.) Getting back into routine is never easy. Especially when you're this tired. Will write more tomorrow.

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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Sarra's bookshelf: sarra-s-favorites

Beautiful DemonsThe Time Traveler's WifeLoveroot: PoemsFear of FlyingWe the LivingAnthem

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