Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Something Shallow/Something Sweet

Something Shallow: Summer's winding down to its end, so Trin and I decided to have some fun with hair coloring before she's back to school and I'm back to work.  She ended up with blue streaks, and I ended up with pink (I wanted blue, but she called dibs on it first).  This should [hopefully] wash out before the first day of school, but if not, it won't be the first time students have seen me with pink hair (I tend to lose bets).

See, it's just a tiny bit, although the streaks do go all the way down the back. I'm going to miss them when they're gone.  I get bored with my normal hair color.  Same with boring car colors.  Remember how the fifties-era cars were every shade of the rainbow, from candy apple green to Pepto Bismol pink?  What happened to those days?  Now cars are all white, and black, and beige, and red.  Just standard medal colors.  I think I was comparing this to hair, but it's late and I forgot what point I was making, so moving on. 

Something Sweet:  I told my grandpa in my last e-mail that I was starting back to work next week, so now my manuscript was going to come screeching to a halt.  This was his reply:
Remember, when you return to work, keep a note pad and jot things down so they aren't lost forever.  A writer learns to manufacture time; a few minutes, at times an hour, squeezed in between your demanding activities, to keep his or her story alive and growing.  It's like being in love; always on your mind.  I'm thrilled at the possibility you may have inherited this gift . . . from somebody in the family. 
Love ya, Grandpa
I loved this response in general because he didn't let me off the hook.  He basically said, "Yeah, life's tough, now get back to writing."  But the part where he said "It's like being in love" moved the hell out of me.  I think it's because a) I've never heard my grandpa make a reference to make-your-heart-patter-type love before, and b) he understands that ridiculous passion for creating stories from a blinking cursor.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Test from Hell

I took my test, and it was so awful. I would rather have a tooth extracted with no Novocain than go through that again. Or a bone marrow biopsy. Or an ingrown toenail removed. Or a Barium enema. Or all of them done simultaneously. I don't ever want to take that stupid test again.

But I might have to...I think I bombed it.

I arrived to the Prometric Testing Center about a half hour early, so I flipped through some of my study materials and tried to quickly review some of the concepts (in my car). I walked in about 15 minutes before my scheduled time, and I felt fairly calm (no, I did not drink or pop any benzos, although in hindsight, that may have helped). I signed in, and they asked for 2 forms of identification. They had me put all of my stuff in a locker. They also had me empty out my pockets, and roll my jeans up to my calves. The lady waved a hand-held metal detector up and down my body. I wasn't throwing up or anything...So far so good.

The lady walked me into the testing section, where there were various computers and multiple intense-looking individuals already taking some test or other. There were also video cameras monitoring each person. The lady showed me my computer, and also held up some headphones and whispered, "These are for you to use if you need to block out the noise." I looked at her with confusion and said, "What noise?" (Seriously, it was so quiet that I thought I heard someone's stomach growl). She just laughed, and walked out.

I completed the tutorial, and then my test began. When the first question popped up, my heart instantly sank. It was about some obscure minority study done in the '90s. I guessed on that one, and hoped the second question would be better. But it wasn't. Out of the first 10 questions, there were 2 that only looked vaguely familiar. The good news is that my heart stopped sinking. The bad news: It was now pounded in my throat. I had this horrible feeling that all the study material I had studied for months was just WRONG. After question 12 or so, the questions began to transition into material that looked a bit more familiar, but by then, my palms were clenched, I was sweating, and my heart was pummeling out of my chest.

Sadly, even the questions I THOUGHT I knew were worded in such a way that two answers seemed correct, or none of the answers seemed correct. The test allows one to "mark" questions that they would like to review later. When I completed all 225 questions, I had 66 marked. I had only reviewed about 10 of them when I ran out of time. So yeah, I feel fairly certain I failed. I went home, locked myself in the bathroom, and cried. I was so depressed and anxious that night. All night, my brain kept ruminating over this damn test. My reaction to this was such a shock to me because I don't normally become this anxious over....anything. My Dad, husband, and Jodi all gave me very reassuring feedback, but nothing they said would resonate. I tried to sleep, but I kept spontaneously remembering questions and fighting the urge to look up the answers. At like...3am that night, I decided to cancel the dinner with Jodi and Kristyn, because I had decided I was too depressed to go, and I didn't want to bring them down.

When I woke up that morning, I was an exhausted mess. It was while I was curling my hair for work that I decided I simply needed to get over it. I even said out loud to my reflection in the mirror, "You aren't the only one who has taken this test before, so get over yourself." I figured I had already allowed myself approximately 14 hours to completely fall apart into a heaping pile of self pity, and now it was time to move on. I also decided NOT to cancel the dinner with Jodi and Kristyn.

And that's where I am at right now. I won't find out my score until the 5th or 6th of August, but I will be okay. If I failed the test, I will fork over $600 and take it again (it would be a different version, unfortunately, so any of the questions I retained are useless).

The good news: I don't have to study right now! I can actually write on this blog again. I can read a book. I can watch something on Netflix. I can go for a walk. I can parent my kids.

Just a random thing: During the dinner with Jodi and Kristyn, I found out an interesting fact about my sister that I never knew (this doesn't sound like a big thing, but when you are a twin who knows pretty much everything ABOUT your twin, it feels pretty cool to discover some novel fact). So the new thing is, my sister is "hard to sedate." This is what she was told by a doctor because she woke up in the MIDDLE of surgery. Jodi was knocked out under general anesthesia while surgeons were attempting to repair her vocal chord. Suddenly, she sits up and nonchalantly starts chattering away. The doctors experienced a moment of alarm, and quickly knocked her out again. When Jodi was told about it later, she had no memory of the incident.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Rambling Times

On my old blog, I had a tendency to talk about a bazillion different things within one post.  It was very ADHD-esque.  For this newer blog, I sort of vowed to not do that.  I wanted to keep this new, uncluttered blog ramble-free, with each post focused on one topic.

Yeah, that ends now.  Sorry.  The good news is I put headings on everything, so you can skip all the boring stuff.

Guess I'll see you in three seconds at my siggy at the bottom of the page.

So, the happenings:     

Youth Safari:  We went to this very cool thing on Saturday called "Youth Safari," which is sort of like an outdoor expo-type-thing designed to introduce kids to outdoor activities that their grandparents' generation enjoyed.  There was rock-climbing, fishing, shooting (including black powder), archery, sling-shots, falconry, kayaking, and other things I can no longer remember.  It cost $30 per family, up to six members, and all of the above activities were included in that price.  It was very cool.  I have pictures on facebook, but I'm too lazy to retrieve them right now.  I might add them in later.

Raging Waters:  We went to Raging Waters on Monday.  We had an awesome day, with only two small mishaps.  The first was Clint got physically assaulted by our last slide--purple bruises all over his legs.  That's what happens when big boys go down slides.  The second was the fact that we took about a dozen photos, and only three came out.  Something is wrong with the photo app on Clint's camera, and it corrupted his pictures.  Here's the three that made it (so sad):

Hubby's Promotion:  Clint got accepted into engineer training at his work.  Here are the pluses to his new job:  
  • It's a huge raise.  As in a we're-looking-into-installing-an-in-ground-pool-this-February-type-raise.

Here are some downfalls: 
  • His hours are going to royally suck.  
  • He has to train in Kansas for three weeks in August, and two weeks in December.
  • Training is a total of five months, and his raise doesn't kick in until after he's finished (hence the pool in February).  
  • He had to sign a contract yesterday saying if he fails his training in Kansas, they can fire him.   
  • We're trapped here in the High Desert for three years. 
  • He can't go on the cruise with me in November.  
  • I don't like change.  

So the pluses and minuses aren't quite balanced.  I wonder if all of this is worth one stupid pool?  (The obvious answer is yes, yes it is. Hello, it's a POOL).

Dinner with Kristyn:  Kristyn is visiting from Texas, and we just had a fantastic dinner at Johnny Carinos last night.  She comes up about once a year, and it's practically a tradition now for us girls (her, Shan and I) to meet for dinner and gab for a few hours.  Dinner was fun, even though my first seat tried to swallow my ass and our waiter kept calling us his babies ("How are my babies doing?").  Overall, it was our usual awesome visit and I'm excited to see her again in October.

DoT:  I'm up to almost 53,000 words, but that doesn't seem like a big enough increase to change my word meter.  My grandpa has been amazing.  He helped me to reorganize my ten chapters into fifteen, and edited my entire manuscript (what I have so far).  Damn I hope I can get the thing published in his lifetime.

New cover concept:

I really like this one, although I would modify this image to include some of the symbolic items from my story.  Such as a grandfather clock tower in the distant mist ahead, with the time "7:17" peeking through.  I would also have leaves falling around her, a rat sitting on one of those posts, and a sundial pendant dangling from her right hand.  Okay, that's a lot.  But it looks amazing in my head.  And of course, I would change the fonts--Word fonts are so dang limiting and practically shout out that the cover was pieced together by a novice.  If I do decide to self-publish, my twitter friend and fellow writer Scott Moon referred me to this site that designs book covers for a mere $99: Pro Book Covers.  They've designed three covers for Scott now, and all of them look incredible, but none of them have that "YA" look I'm going for. I might go through them, but I still plan to shop around first.

Ifeoma:  I have to mention Ifeoma at least once on this blog.  She and I met through twitter, where we discovered that we were both working on manuscripts that we had both dubbed "DOT" (hers stands for Daughter of the Twelfth--isn't that a fantastic title?).  As it turns out, Ifeoma is not only my newfound DOT buddy, but she is simply a sweetheart of a person and a talented writer.  Check her out here.

Clocks:  I didn't realize it until the kids pointed it out yesterday, but I guess I'm sort of getting obsessed with clocks and time.

Blue:  My favorite color is now blue.

Okay, I think that covers this edition of the Rambling Times.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hello Idiot, You Haven't Written a Book Yet

Summer's plugging along.  I wake up every morning and get to choose what I want to do.  Yeah, I know.  You hate me.  No worries; I'll be losing my mind with the rest of you workaholics come August.

Today I pulled out the weeds popping in around the pond and spruced up the area.  Exciting stuff (this reminds me of the time Mr. Moore challenged me to write about a super-boring day as if it wasn't boring, except for this time, it really is boring).  I also went to the movies with Clint and the kids.  I'm getting tired of going to the movies, but he loves it, so I bribed him.  I told him if he cleaned up the house (superficially), I'd go with him.  It was worth it.  I got nice buttery popcorn and my house looks great.

Yesterday was ridiculous.  I spent hours building an author's website.  The website looks awesome, with plot synopses for all four novels in my make-believe series and links to Amazon where you can buy all of them.  Except for one tiny problem:  These books don't exist.  I even included one-sentence reviews of my books from imaginary magazines like the "Station Stop" and "Tardis Talk" (that one was Trin's).  According to the Tardis Talk, my book is "easily the most intricately spun time-travel fantasy fiction novel of our generation."

Have I mentioned yet that THESE BOOKS DON'T EXIST?

It was probably one of the most ridiculous activities I've ever engaged in.  It was so addicting.  I guess some people have their Angry Birds and Candy Crush; I have my imaginary website for my imaginary books in the imaginary world where I'm an author.  The good news is around 11:00 last night I came out of my happy little cloud and realized "Hello, idiot.  You haven't written a book yet."

So there was that.

On that note, I visited my grandparents in Camarillo, and had a great time swimming with my grandma and talking shop (aka: manuscripts) with my grandpa.  He read the first eight chapters of DoT and gave me amazing feedback.  I think my grandpa would have made an incredible editor if he had chosen that route.  The last piece of feedback said this (I cut it out and pasted it into my manuscript notebook):

It might not be quite as elegant as the Tardis Talk's review, but hey, it's real.  Of course it came from my grandpa, so you have to take that with a grain of salt.  But still, I was thrilled that an 84 year old man found something worth reading in a story that I geared toward high-schoolers.  That same 84 year old man also discovered I used the word "just" in my story over a hundred times, but we won't talk about that.

One more thing before I sign off.  I'm changing the title of my book again.  "Face of Brahman" isn't doing anything for me.  I thought it might grow on me, but it's not.  And after thinking about it, it occurred to me that even I would probably walk right by a book with that title.  That's a pretty bad sign.  So now, I'm very tentatively calling Book 1 "Spiraling," Book 2 "Smoldered," Book 3 "Frigid," and Book 4 "Revived" (you can find all of these titles on my super cool website).  Other than a few obscure self-published pieces that use another tense of one of these words, the titles seem original enough.  As far as the series' name, I've reverted back to "Daughters of Time."  I can't help it.  I can't imagine the series being called anything else.

So off I go to change that sidebar name...again.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Blogger Issues

I just reread that last post, and I am laughing, because it is SO terrible! I don't know what is going on right now, but Blogger won't allow me to put spaces between paragraphs, insert pictures, italize words, add links, or basically do ANYTHING besides write a steady stream of word vomit. To make things worse, the "space bar" on my laptop isn't working properly, so I am having to go back and add the spaces beteeen most of my words after the fact. Anyway, I apologize if that last post strongly resembles a spontaneous Bipolar manic episode.

Studying for the EPPP

This is just a quick post to write about why I haven't been writing. I am in EPPP hell. EPPP is the Exam for Professional Practice in Psychology. It is one of the last and largest obstacles I have to conquer in order to become licensed to practice as a clinical psychologist.  It is a nightmare.

Like many others, I am a natural procrastinator. I have always waited until the night before to study for a test or complete an assignment, even though this meant pulling a lot of all nighters. Even my dissertation was done in several massive binge episodes (involving a lot of wine).  This test is involves SO much material, and it requires much more than a last minute cramming session...this has been quite a challenge for me. The study materials I bought for this test ("Psychprep") came with a 14 week study plan, which involve approximately 15 hours of studying a week.

That should have been reasonable, but with the kiddos and working full time (and another additional 10-12 hours a week in commute time), I have had a hell of a time keeping up with the study guide. I kept pushing my test date further and further out (I initially had planned to take it in April), and I realized I had to do something before I felt like a complete loser.

So I requested every Wednesday in July off to study, and now I am going for it. My test date is July 24th, and I am FREAKING out. The test cost $600, so if I bomb it, I will be really bummed out. On the bright side, when I see Kristyn, I will have taken the test the day before, so I will be more relaxed during our visit. My WHOLE life until the 24th is working, studying, with a little half assed parenting sprinkled in here and there. After work, I take practice tests at home. I listen to the audio CDS in my car. I read through the different study sections on my lunch breaks. That is IT. There is no entertainment. No fun. It is all pure drudgery. I realize that this blog post itself is profoundly boring. I find this to be appropriate, as this is a rather accurate depiction of my mind-numbingly, uninteresting life.

P.S. Not sure if it is a problem with Blogger or with my laptop, but I can't insert any pictures, including my siggy right now. :-( P.S.S Jodi, feel free to insert my siggy for me, Haha P.S.S.S Apparently Blogger is unable to do separate paragraphs as well (this was initially written as 5 separate paragraphs).

P.S.S. (update from Jodi)--Siggy added and paragraphs incorporated (probably in the wrong spots, but hey, they're there).  ;)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Why You Don't Want to be a Bird in My House

I'm a bit wary when it comes to taking in birds.

When I was a kid, I put my heart and soul into raising a baby pigeon that I had rescued.  Her name was Annie.  Ultimately she died.  I sobbed like a baby for that stupid bird.     

In Silver Lakes I rescued a baby duck whose mother had abandoned it on the street.  I even took that bird to my credentialing classes with me to keep up with its demanding feeding schedule.  It died.

Then there was our parakeet Lewy.  He escaped when his food was being changed, smacked head-first into the stairwell ceiling fan (which was on. Full blast), and fell two stories down.  He looked as dead as a...very dead bird (I'll work on a better simile), splayed out on the floor with his neck twisted all funky.  But as the kids cried over him, he suddenly spun his head around like something in the Exorcist, and stood up.  It was the creepiest thing I've ever seen.  He was like some sort of immortal, vampire parakeet.

A month later, our immortal vampire parakeet died of a heart-attack when the cat stared at him through the cage.

Then, three years ago, one of our chickens escaped her coop and was attacked by our dog.  I tried to save her.  She survived for three days before she got gangrene and her eyeball fell out.

Yes, her eyeball fell out.

A few months after that, the easement in our backyard was struck by lightening, and all of our remaining chickens dropped dead.

A perfect example of having your fried chicken and not eating it too.

Last year Trinity saved up her money for months so she could buy a baby, hand-fed cockatiel.  Dimples.  Remember her?

That's her memorial.  Yeah, she died on the fourth of July, her heart stopping after a particularly loud bout of fireworks.  

Then there was my personal favorite: Loki.  He was not only a beautiful pineapple conure, but he was a sweetheart of a bird.

Loki dropped dead right off his perch.  No apparent reason.  One second he was standing there; the next second we heard a thump, and he was dead.

So yeah.  I feel like I'm the unwitting Grim Reaper of all things feathered.

But I wouldn't be writing all of this if I didn't have SOME good here it is:  We finally--FINALLY--saved a bird!  Remember Brooke, the sparrow Trinity rescued?

Given our history with birds, I had zero expectations of her making it.  But she did make it!  Brooke got past that precarious baby phase, learned to eat solid foods, toughed through the fireworks, learned to fly (practicing all over our house--she gave us a scare last week when she got stuck behind the stove), and as of today, she was finally released into the great big wild. That part was sad.  Trin was super attached, but she recognized that it was selfish to keep her in captivity.     

Here's a sweet little video Trinity made of Brooke's release:

I love the song she chose, Arms by Christina Perri.

It took years and years of trial and error (aka: bird massacres), but we FINALLY got one right.  Thus if you are a bird that finds yourself in my home, the good news is you have a lofty 10% chance of making it.

(That sounds better than saying you have a 90% chance of dying a very grisly death).

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Turkey Dinner on the Epic

I've had a few untraditional Thanksgivings in the past.  There was that one year when I was little and Shan and I ate giant hot dogs in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving dinner.  Or that one year where we spent Thanksgiving with our insane aunt and her cult of talking-in-tongue worshippers who spent the day striking the movie "Backdraft" to hell because of all of the curse words.  Or that one year I spent half of the day stuck in a restaurant parking lot with a dead battery.

But this--THIS--is definitely going to be my favorite untraditional Thanksgiving up to date.

Shan and I are going on a cruise to the Caribbean!  I can't believe it's happening, because the cruise is SO expensive, and as of now Clint's not going with me.  But my parents twisted my arm.  They're going to celebrate their 25th anniversary, and they want their family there with them.  I happened to have some money in savings from working at the college last summer, so I decided to go for it.  I booked my flight to Florida from Los Angeles on Sunday night.  I got the very last seat available for that flight!  Crazy.  Since our cruise is on Thanksgiving week (which is summer weather in the Caribbean), the flights are filling up super fast.  We're traveling on a huge ship--the Norwegian Epic--as pictured above.  My mom has always drooled over this particular cruise liner, and now for her 25th, she finally gets her wish.

Jeremy, Shannon, and I are bunking together in a balcony cabin.  Yep, I get to be their little third wheel.  But it's all good, because they made arrangements for my parents to babysit me whenever they need a little--ehem--privacy (haha, like I can't come up with a thousand and one ways to entertain myself).  Sharing a cabin was actually Jeremy's brilliant idea, because with the three of us, we can afford this:

We have our own private balcony with non-stop views of the ocean.  This is a touch nicer than the little hole I slept in for our Carnival cruise five years ago.

Clint just got accepted into engineer service for his job, which means a huge raise as soon as he gets through the six months of training (training starts in August).  But it also means he can't go on the cruise with me.  Even so, he is desperately trying to think of a way he can go.  If he does decide to fake pneumonia or something, he and I will have to fly out separately since my flight is full.  In fact, LA's flights are all filling up, which means he will most likely have to fly out of Vegas.  Sort of ironic that we'd have to take off from different states to get to the same place.  Also, if he ends up going, my room gets downgraded to this:

It's a 10 x 10 studio cabin.  In other words, a hole.  Just a cute, nicely decorated hole.  That little window doesn't even face the ocean--it faces the corridor.  As in, the hallway where the people walk.  It's like an exhibitionist's dream come true, complete with shagadelic lighting:

There's blue and green, I think, too.  I can practically hear the bonky music playing in the background.

Honestly, I don't care if I sleep in the storage deck, because I'll be too busy enjoying this:

 And this (an ice bar!):


Okay, I better stop now.  This cruise doesn't even set sail for another four months.  But man it's awesome to have something to look forward to.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Face of Brahman

I'm changing the title of my book.  Which feels weird, because for at least a year I've referred to it as my "Daughters of Time" manuscript--DoT.  But now I'm running into problems with the title.  

I already knew "Daughter of Time" was used in a detective novel published in 1951, but I figured that was long enough ago that I could get away with using it again, especially since I was using it for the title of the series rather than the book itself.  But in 2011, another book was published under that same title and is now available on Amazon.  It's pretty common in the literary world to have repeat-titles, and it's not considered a death-sentence for your book if its title already exists elsewhere.  Interestingly enough, titles are not protected by any kind of copyright.  But in this case, my book would be the third novel with "Daughter of Time" within its title--a pretty big inconvenience when it comes to the world of Internet in which I would now be competing against two other novels in key word searches.

So I started scanning my chapters, searching for some sort of words or icons that somehow represent the book, and possibly future books as well.  And then I found it: The Face of Brahman.  That's the name I gave to the enormous clock tower within the story.  The thing about the clock is...well, I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I'll just say that it's important to the series.

It's a working title, so I'm still going to keep myself open to other ideas.  Who knows, with my wishy-washiness, I might declare another title by tomorrow.  But meanwhile, taking notes from Kristyn, I had a little fun last night imagining a cover concept for the novel (thank you google images):

Yeah, this makes the story seem much cooler than it actually is.  Still, fun stuff.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Brooke survived Day 2.  We tried to give her bird seed, but she looked at us like we were from another planet.  So then we tried to feed her from a syringe.  She looked at us like a haughty teenager whose parents have 'no clue,' and I swear she rolled her eyes a little.  Then we added warm water to chick-starter to turn it into mush, and Trin offered it to her on a spoon.  Like a typical Goldilocks, this was just right. 

Watching her eat is pretty freakin' cute.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pipe Dreams

Shannon's been MIA because she's in studying purgatory right now and she's not allowed to leave until she passes her licensing exam.

I've been MIA because I've been kicking ass on my manuscript.  I finished another chapter tonight and I'm now at 40,041 words.  I can't believe it.  I'm less than 10,000 words away from the required word count for a YA.   In other words, I've "almost" written a book.  But not really.  Even though 50k is an acceptable standard, I'm not even close to wrapping up the story.  Originally I thought it'd be around 75k, but now I'm worried it might be closer to 100.  Nothing wrong with that, except for it means a lot of work still left to do.

This morning I found a children's story I had written probably 15 years ago, well before I had kids.  It's called "Jacob Jax and the Watermelon Tree."  I had these big dreams of getting it published.  Ultimately I never sent it off anywhere, and I forgot all about it.  It was funny, when I double-clicked on it today, my computer didn't want to open it.  It hummed and hawed, like, "Really, you want me to pry this ancient thing open?"  But it did eventually open the document, and I read the story out-loud for the first time ever to my kids. They loved it.  They were cracking up through the whole thing.  Who knows, maybe if I get Dot published, I can beg the publishers to find a place for good ole' Jacob Jax too.

Pipe dreams.

In other news, Trinity found a baby bird that looked like it had fallen from a tree at my sister in-law's house today.  She couldn't find its mom, or its nest for that matter, so she brought it home.  The baby bird looks like your standard sparrow.   She's surprisingly hearty and doesn't seem to have any injuries.  She has all of her adult feathers, but is still pretty small, so we're not sure whether we should be feeding her with a syringe or feeding her seeds.  So far we've been calling her Brooke.  She chirps a lot and really wants to fly.  If she's still alive by tomorrow night (we have bad luck with birds), I'll take a picture of her and post it.

We're going shooting at the range early tomorrow morning with one of my coworkers and his wife.  Might as well burn dollar bills for entertainment instead--would probably be cheaper.