My Super Nephews

If you are following this blog you know I have just returned from a trip to Portugal. I am a proud Lisboeta (native of Lisbon) and I didn’t move to the US until I was an adult. Leaving behind your family and friends is not an easy thing to do but until a few years ago I was always able to go visit them about once a year. Unfortunately with the prices of airline tickets skyrocketing (pun intended), my visits have become rarer and rarer. The last time I went to visit was over three years ago and it was not under the best circumstances.

My visit this time was very short but at least, I did get to spend some quality time with my mother, sister and nephews. I even got to see some family members I had not seen in over 30 years (yes, so I am old. Live with it!). And of course, I got to eat a LOT of the wonderful (underestimated) Portuguese cuisine (more stories to come on this). My expanding waistline is here to prove it.

The best part though (besides spending time with mom and sis) was getting to re-acquaint myself with my two nephews. These two guys are great. Smart, good-looking kids that can go far as long as they don’t sabotage themselves (which I hope they don’t). Here’s my dedication to my two super-awesome nephews!

The oldest one is a self-proclaimed nerd with enormous (albeit still untapped) potential and a heart of gold. The youngest one is a self-proclaimed ladies-man (LOL) with more energy than the Energizer bunny and also a heart of gold. They are both handsome (don’t let it go to your head) and very smart and I know that they will prove their father wrong by turning into amazing men and make their fantastic mother (my sister, of course. Good genes run in the family) very, very proud.

I had such a good time teasing the youngest and talking shop with the oldest (he is an aspiring writer, as well). My heart swelled to see how they both treat their mom who has gone through hell these past three years and support their grandma. I have no doubt they will both become great successes. They just have to believe in themselves and make it happen.

I hope to see you guys again soon. Make me proud grasshoppers, make me proud!

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Flying to Europe

C17

I have been away from my blog for a little while now.  For my one and only fan (you know who you are) I apologize; I have been visiting friends and family in Europe for the past couple weeks. Because of those-who-can having upped the price of airline tickets so much, common folk can’t afford to travel anywhere further than the local IKEA anymore. So we decided to take advantage of a privilege we have earned having been in the military; space-A flights. Our family had only done this once before when my dad passed away many years ago. At the time my husband was still in active duty and because of the circumstances of our trip we were able to get a seat pretty quickly both ways. Now that he is retired we are placed on the bottom of the waiting list. In practical terms this means we have priority only over mosquitoes and other household pests. Which, kidding aside, is only fair… but a pain nevertheless.

So we drive to an air force base ripe with the hope of getting a flight out way before our vacation time is over. After 3 days of waiting at Dover,  (thank you wonderful USO volunteers. Your kindness and amazing lounge made our wait so much easier to bear) we finally got to fly out. Our luxury vessel is a C17, which for those unfamiliar with military planes is that giant cargo plane you often see in action movies that can carry whole tanks inside of its bowels and poops them out through a ramp off its tail. Here we all are sitting parachute style along the sides of the plane staring at each other across the empty cargo hull. It was great that it was empty. Most of us were able to make makeshift beds on the floor and sleep semi-non-comfortably. Families with children held whole picnics on the stretched out blankets. I chose the least comfortable style of curling myself like a snail on top of two seats. It’s a miracle I could even walk at the end of the seven hour flight.

Three days  (four if you count the night we had to spend at the hotel in Rota) already burned off our two week vacation, we drive a rental along the south of Spain and into Lisbon in Portugal where yours truly is from. We now have about ten days to make up for more than three years of apart-time. I am not complaining. Any time I can spend with my mom, my sister and my nephews is well worth it. But I do wish I could have a little more time with them (more to come of my adventures in Luso-soil).

Too soon, it’s time to leave. Another  six hour drive to Spain, another night at a hotel and -tah dah!- we actually get a flight that same day (not exactly to where our own car is parked waiting for us in the good old USA but a good 7-8 hour drive from it). This after having been checked in on another flight, taken out to the departure gate only to be told the plane is in need of TLC (who isn’t?) And we must go back to the waiting room because who knows when this plane will be ready. We decide to take another flight to a much less convenient location and here I am in another C17, this time a super full one (no more floor beds or picnics).

This is where I get to praise our amazing military men and women.  They may cuss like sailors (I know my husband used to) but they are the friendliest people in the world. These guys had actually collected goodie bags (filled with Capri-Suns, chocolate and crackers) to give the passengers who by the simple fact of being there make their job just a little harder; now, not only do they have to do their jobs, they also have to play flight attendant, give up their much-deserved sleeping spaces and watch a bunch of bedraggled people sleep with their mouths wide open. You can’t see me but I am on my feet applauding them right now.

As I write this my back is absolutely killing me, I am dizzy from the lack of sleep, and I have my Kindle on an empty seat beside me while I type on my faithful bluetooth mini keyboard. The quantity of spelling crimes I am committing makes me cringe and the nine hour flight ahead of me makes me wince in pain. But I am so very grateful to the military for this opportunity to see my family. I wouldn’t have been able to afford it any other way and the silver lining is I have got so much fodder for writing. Win-win.

Come back lonely fan of mine; I will have more stories about my amazing(ish) adventure in Europe in the next few days.

My best friend

Was it Mark Twain that said, “the more I get to know people, the more I like dogs”? I sympathize with him. I have lived over a half a century and I am here to tell you that I can claim without any trepidation that my best friend ever was my dog.

I lost my friend early this morning to congestive heart failure. He was a 12 year old black dachshund called Shorty. Like humans he was not perfect but he was definitely my best friend. He was there for me through thick and thin never asking for anything in return other than a cuddle. No matter what happened during the day, he was always happy to see me.

Nobody, no matter how big or strong, could get close to me without his approval. He might have been small but he did not lack courage and spunk. He was always my protector that I needed one or not.

Through the years our bond grew so strong I could literally understand what he was “telling” me. I knew when he wanted water, when he needed a walk, or if he was in the mood for a treat. I also knew he was hurting badly last night and that it was the end of the road for us. I had been preparing myself mentally for this throughout a long and expensive series of hospitalizations for the past few months. He always seemed to spring back but not this time…

He died in my arms in the middle of the night and I haven’t been able to stop crying since. He was more than a pet. He was one of my children and I will miss him more than I can put into words. I love you, sweetheart.

Interview with Genevieve Powell

I sat down with Genevieve Powell, the author of  Possessed by Vengeance (book 1 of the Goddess of Vengeance series), Cold Kiss Goodbye and its sequel Reaper’s Girl. I just finished reading Reaper’s Girl this week and I was very excited to be able to ask her some questions about writing in general and her books in particular. Here’s our conversation:

Q –   When I write, I am afraid I am not much of a planner. I normally start with an idea and a couple characters and I just let it develop as I write. What about you? Are you a plotter or a pantster?

A –  I am definitely a plotter, but how much so depends on the story. Sometimes I write a 5-10k outline (yes, 10k!) which is nice because it gives me confidence in the structure of the story. Other times I begin with a few key scenes in mind and let the rest surprise me because I can’t wait to dive in and get to know the characters.

I’m a big fan of a few plotting tools. One is Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering and the beat sheets other writers have developed from his ideas on structure, and the other is the snowflake method (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/). I usually use both before I start a rough draft so I don’t have to fix the structure later – although stories always come with their own surprises!

– When did you decide you would like to be a writer? Have you always liked to write?

A – I always wanted to be a writer. My earliest memories are of making up stories for other kids. By the time I was in the second grade I was plinking out stories on my family’s first computer. I taught myself to touch type so I could get the words on the page as fast as they came to mind.

Q – What book do you wish you would have written? Why?

A – Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty or Holly Black’s White Cat, both the first books in a series, both YA (and I know I’m cheating by naming two). Both these books have detailed, immersive worlds that are so lushly imagined, then peopled with memorable characters. It’s the kind of writing I aspire to.

Q – Have you written or plan to write in other genres?

A – Yes! As an avid reader, I love a beautifully wrought story in any genre. My particular weaknesses as a reader are science fiction and historical fiction, both of which I enjoy writing too. I have a sci-fi novel I’ll be querying soon with agents.

– Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

A – Racy, definitely. I think a well-done love scene can tell us much about the characters and the evolution of their relationship… but it’s hard for me to write!

Q – What’s in your reading list right now?

A – I’m currently reading Jamie Ford’s latest, Songs of Willow Frost – his debut novel, Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, is one of my all-time favorites.  I’m also reading Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Traveled, which is a wonderful book about writing poetry.

Q – When I met you a few months ago you were in the final stages of preparing your YA paranormal novel Cold Kiss Goodbye for publication. Recently you have released the sequel, Reaper’s Girl. What made you want to write in that genre and for that age group?

A – I had to write about Sam, and Sam was a teenager – she just had to be. She has this struggle with powerful grief and depression, at a time when she’s still discovering her identity, which is a really different experience from dealing with that as an adult. Sam’s story mirrors some of my own experiences as a teen. I wanted to write the story of struggle and hope that I would have loved to read as a seventeen-year-old who was just hanging on, waiting for life to get better.

Writing about ghosts was the best way I could grapple with the intensity of longing one experiences for the dead. And also, it was fun.

Q – Now, I know your books are going to be extremely successful and one of these days a big Hollywood producer is going to want to make a movie out of it. Who will play Sam and her two sidekicks?

A – Oh, I’d love for my actors to be relatively unknown. I have an obvious kinship with the struggling artist! I imagine Sam as someone with the look of Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit). For Abby, someone like Alicja Bachleda – you have to look at images of her looking pale and tense, though, not Hollywood perfect! For Ryan, Logan Leman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower).

Q – You are a mom. How do you find time to write and do you have a special place where you write?

A – I try to write at night after my kiddos are in bed, but I’m usually exhausted. I find that writing in the throes of sleep deprivation is kind of like I imagine writing drunk would be: you can really let go and be imaginative, but man, you’re going to need to edit! And, let’s be real — I also get a babysitter twice a week. You have to invest in yourself as a writer.

I have a home office. It’s definitely my happy place.  I don’t go in there during the day – I’m busy changing diapers, running around at the playground, pretending I’m a dinosaur. Then when I get to sit down at my laptop with a cup of coffee, I know I’m entering a separate place, a space of creation. Or sometimes of online shopping. It depends on the day we had.

Q – Do you have any advice to give new writers? When you first started writing for publication what were your expectations and were they met?

A – Oh, do I have advice! Three things.

My biggest piece of advice would be to join a critique group or take workshop classes and learn how to critique. Nothing will improve your work so much as thoughtfully identifying what works and what doesn’t about someone else’s story. You’ll better understand how to edit your own work effectively, how to develop your strengths and shore up any weaknesses.

Of course, read. Read widely. Don’t shy away from reading books on craft, either; they can be a shortcut to better work. My absolute favorite is Alice LaPlante’s The Making of a Story, which covers all kinds of techniques to experiment with and gives great examples from literature.

And last of all, follow the fun! Work hard on your writing, but if you aren’t enjoying it, too, then maybe it’s not the time for that project or that genre for you. Find something you love, that you want to return to every day.

Powell’s books are available on Amazon.com  http://tinyurl.com/nzx5yoq

or you can check out her author’s page at  https://www.facebook.com/genevievejpowell?fref=ts