Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fiction Fundamentals - Writing Exercise #1

For week 3 our discussion  read:
After reading Chapter 8 in The Scene Book, pick one of the examples offered in Elaborating Sentences (page 121) and write a single paragraph using descriptive language, symbolism, and imagery to communicate the deeper meaning of the simple sentence.  
I chose the simple sentence:

The attack happened in the blink of an eye. 

And wrote this descriptive paragraph:

A glitch in the system and then damage reports came flooding in; right and left hands reporting minor damage, left knee was hit hard, right knee reporting only minor scrapes, right shin is reporting high levels of pain, no word from back or any join locations. Movement in all extremities. Attempting to stand in 3, 2, 1. Stand achieved. Lower back is reporting major pain with limited movement. Humility has been depleted. Embarrassment level on the rise. All systems are functional; continue walk into house.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fiction Fundamentals - Short Story #2

Two Brothers
            Maggie sat in the crowded pub watching as Stephen and D.J. set up to play.  She didn’t know why she was even there. She hadn’t seen either of them since she broke up with Stephen over a year ago. But some how she got talked into going and watching as well as helping to transport equipment. Now she watched as Stephen set up his drums, and D.J. set up the amp for his guitar.  They started to tune up and Maggie was joined at the table by a few of their friends that had been helping to set up. 
            “So why’s Maggie here?” D.J. looked over his shoulder to talk to his brother.
            “Just felt like inviting her.” Stephen didn’t want to let his brother know the only reason Maggie was here was because he needed a ride and knew he could talk her into it.
            “She looks good since the last time I saw her.” D.J. was watching Maggie as she made small talk with the others at the table.
            Maggie looked up from her conversation and noticed both brothers looking at her, neither realizing the other was also staring at her.  D.J. stopped staring at Maggie when he saw Vanessa, his fiancée, sit down next to Maggie at the table.
            “I thought Nessy wasn’t coming?”
            “She wasn’t supposed to.” D.J. just wanted to start their set, and get his mind off of Vanessa and Maggie. “You ready?”
            D.J. announced them and their first song. While they played Maggie watched both brothers.  She loved to watch them perform, it had been one of her favorite things to do while she was going out with Stephen.  They would get together over at D.J’s place and just spend the evenings playing music. There was something almost magical about the way the two of them performed.
            They were on their second song when Maggie realized that Stephen was staring at her.  Maggie sat and watched; shifting her attention back and forth between the stage and the conversation at the table.  She couldn’t keep her attention on the conversation; Vanessa dominated with talk of wedding plans. 
            “This is for a special someone. Her favorite song.” D.J. tired not to look at Maggie when he said this.  He looked towards the back of the pub and he saw Maggie out of the corner of his eye looking up at the stage.
            Maggie’s attention was now fully on the stage.  She hadn’t listened to this song in over a year.  Everyone was making comments that it was Stephen’s way of saying he was sorry.  Maggie knew better. When D.J. sang the words they were coming from him, they had meaning to them.
         Maggie had showed up at his job upset.  She had just had a fight with Stephen and instead of driving home drove there.  Maggie told D.J. everything.  As she was talking D.J. hadn’t been able to look at her but when she started to cry he took her in his arms. Stephen tried not to think about what this song meant to him as he played it for Maggie.  But he wondered if she had thought about him this past year.  She was a very special girl and she deserved the perfect guy. 
         D.J. opened his eyes as he finished singing the song.  He stared out at Maggie and saw how she was looking right back at him.  They had kissed that night and had spent most of the night talking.  He had only kissed her once but that had seemed like enough for them.  Just being alone together had seemed like enough for them.
            When the brothers finished the song the group Maggie had been sitting with moved up to the stage to help take the equipment down and out to the awaiting cars.  Maggie tried her best to stay away from both D.J. and Stephen. Her emotions were too strong right now to deal with either one.  Just as she thought she was in the clear D.J. came out and approached her.
“Hey.” He sounded like he wanted to say more but didn’t.
            “Hey.”  She paused, “You guys sounded great tonight.” 
            “Maggie I’m sorry.”  He hadn’t meant to blurt that out. “I’m sorry for hurting you and I’m sorry for Stephen. I’m sorry for everything. But mostly I’m sorry for letting you go.”
            “I, well um, geez. What happened, happened and nothing you can say now will change that.  You made me fall in love with you and than you broke my heart.  In turn I hurt Stephen, which is something I never wanted to do. Yes I wanted to end the relationship with him, but not like that.”  She looked to make sure no one was coming and than went on. “It’s really unfair that you do this to me right now. I mean you’re getting married to Nessy in a few short months. Why are you doing this to me now?”
            “Cause I saw you and everything came back to me.  I mean damn Mags, you look amazing, you always did but when I saw you tonight you took my breath away.” He stopped talking and Maggie turned around and saw Stephen walking towards them
            “Can I have a minute alone with Mags?”
            “Sure.”  D.J. smiled at her and walked away.
            “I’ve missed ya Mags.”
            “Can’t say the same, sorry.” She shrugged.
            “Then why did you come?” Stephen looked over at his brother standing out front talking with some people.
            “I wanted to hear you guys play.  Kinda sorry looking with out the rest of the band, but you sounded good anyway.”
            “Mags, let’s try this again. I forgive you for how you ended things.” He leaned into Maggie as if he was going to kiss her. She pushed him back.
            “YOU FORGIVE ME! Did Vicky, Samantha and Shannon all forgive you?”
            “You were my girlfriend. They…they were just girls.”
            “Well maybe one of the girls will take you back.” She got into the car and slammed the door. Before she could start the engine the passenger side door opened and D.J. got in the car.
            They drove in silence until they reached the house. As they unloaded the car they only spoke a few words about the equipment.  D.J. didn’t get back in the car so Maggie walked around to him.
            “You getting in?”
            “I’m going to walk back, I think it better if you leave from here.”
            “You sure?”
            “Mags.”  He paused and cupped her head in his hands and looked at her.  He leaned down and kissed her not knowing how she would respond.
            At his kiss Maggie threw her arms around him and returned the kiss fully.  D.J.’s arms wrapped around her waits and held her tight. The kiss seemed to go on forever but really only lasted a few minutes.
            “Go princess.” He kissed her forehead.
            “I love you D and I always will.”  She kissed him hard on the lips and got into her car.
            “Love you too Mags.” D.J. said it out loud to himself as she drove off. He turned on his heel and walked back to join everyone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Writing Exercise #7

For our second meeting in April our Writers' Group prompt was:

When _____ ignored the "Enter at Your Own Risk" sign on Mr. Sedgewick's property line, she had no idea what the consequences would be.

This got me thinking about a story I had wrote years ago, so I dug around in my files and found the story, but somewhere along the line I had deleted most of it and only had a beginning and some notes. As I looked it over I realized that with some tweaking this could work as a pretty good story.  I only got so far as to edit what I already had written and this is what I presented:

Welcome to the little town of Trent Valley.  There isn't much to do here.  The kids have options limited to the bowling alley, the one screen movie theater, the Trent Diner, or Keller's Pizzeria and Ice Cream Shoppe. By the time they turn seventeen and get a driver's license they are ready to get out of town on a Friday night. Again their options are limited, to the mall the next town over.
          So when Friday night comes around they pile into a car and drive the 20 miles to the mall.  For the first few months this is the greatest place.  Then it starts to get bored with walking a circuit around the mall and sitting in the food court. One thing that works to their disadvantage is that at least two friends will be working at the mall and won't want to go hang out there.  This is okay to you because the kids from the neighboring towns are ruining your time there any way.  By the time you are a senior in high school your free nights are spent hanging out in someone's basement or living room.
          There is a need to find something to do.  You have a car, a bunch of friends who are bored as well so you go out and try to make your own adventure.  You go looking for innocent trouble and fun. Searching out old buildings and deserted areas of local towns and the surrounding communities hoping you find something interesting.For J.C., Allie, Devon and Wes this was a typical Friday or Saturday night during the summer months.  This Saturday night in June was starting out like all the others so far this summer.  They all met at Allie’s house to eat and plan before it got dark enough to go out.  Allie had pizzas and soda on the kitchen table.
          On this particular night no one could agree on where to go or if they really wanted to go out at all.  Because an agreement couldn’t be met they decided to just stay in, of course there was nothing on T.V. and nothing in the DVD rack looked all that interesting to watch.  After everyone had all announced for the hundredth time that they were bored did Devon spoke up with an idea; there was the old farm house at the back of Mr. Sedgewick’s property and it was supposed to be haunted.

Earth Day Book Recommendation - The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

I suggest this book all the time (well when the situation warrants) and I think Earth Day is the perfect day to suggest it as a must read!

Book Description from Goodreads:
In The World Without Us, Alan Weismann offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity's impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth without us.

In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; which everyday items may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe.

The World Without Us reveals how, just days after humans disappear, floods in New York's subways would start eroding the city's foundations, and how, as the world's cities crumble, asphalt jungles would give way to real ones. It describes the distinct ways that organic and chemically treated farms would revert to wild, how billions more birds would flourish, and how cockroaches in unheated cities would perish without us. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders from rabbis to the Dali Lama, and paleontologists -- who describe a prehuman world inhabited by megafauna like giant sloths that stood taller than mammoths -- Weisman illustrates what the planet might be like today, if not for us.

From places already devoid of humans (a last fragment of primeval European forest; the Korean DMZ; Chernobyl), Weisman reveals Earth's tremendous capacity for self-healing. As he shows which human devastations are indelible, and which examples of our highest art and culture would endure longest, Weisman's narrative ultimately drives toward a radical but persuasive solution that needn't depend on our demise. It is narrative nonfiction at its finest, and in posing an irresistible concept with both gravity and a highly readable touch, it looks deeply at our effects on the planet in a way that no other book has.
I first heard of the book a few Earth Days ago when it was a free (or discounted) ebook download. I figured it would be a book to hang onto in case I had nothing really to read. I wasn't big on reading non-fiction and it had to be something really good to keep my attention. I started to read the book since I had just downloaded it and soon found myself being one of those annoying people who wants to read you passages from the book their reading.  It was common to hear me go "Oh listen to this" or "Did you know...".

It was fascinating to read about how the world would possibly break down; how animals and plants would take over what are now major cities; and to think about what would remain.  Things like plants that were brought to one location from another could wipe out the indigenous plants of the region. Things like that mean that the world without us would be different than the world before us.

I highly recommend this book!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Scrapbooking Book Reviews!

Getting Started With Scrapbooking: How to Create Your First ScrapbookGetting Started With Scrapbooking: How to Create Your First Scrapbook by Phyllis Matthews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have tried to scrapbook once, and failed.  Well not so much failed as I wasn't properly equipped or prepared for the project. Had I had a copy of this book, I would have probably made a better first scrapbook! Phyllis Matthews has put together a simple yet informative book on the basics of scrapbooking.  Instead of feeling like a strict instructor is giving you step by step instructions, Phyllis's tone is more of a friend teaching you her favorite hobby.

I pulled two important lessons from this book; one I knew and one I wish I had known before.  First, Phyllis reminds the reader that scrapbooks don't have to be filled with just pictures.  Tickets, maps, information pamphlets and the like are perfect fillers for a scrapbook. I knew this going into my attempt and used post cards and other materials from my trip.

The second lesson is the plan your scrapbook before you start the actual work.  Phyllis includes a sample plan that she used for one of her own scrapbooks.  I wish I had known or even thought to have done something like this, it's a perfect planning idea. As an author I would never start a story without even the simplest of outlines, why would I go into a craft project without a plan. (I do plan my craft projects now, but when I did my scrapbook attempt I wasn't yet as crafty as I am now!)

Budget Scrapbooking For BeginnersBudget Scrapbooking For Beginners by Phyllis Matthews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm always looking for a deal and Phyllis follows up her Getting Started book with a wonderful book on how to save money.  If you have taken a walk down aisles dedicated to scrapbook in any craft store you may have seen those high prices. Well really any aisle at a craft store.  Yes there are sales and coupons, but sometimes even those don't really cut the cost significantly. Phyllis gives a number of really good ideas on where to buy supplies and how to use things you may never have thought to use in a scrapbook (or any craft).

One place she suggests (and one of my favorite craft shopping locations) is a dollar store.  While the quality of supplies isn't up to par with that found in craft stores, that isn't always an issue when dealing with crafts.  A sticker is a sticker no matter the cost and ribbon and bows are basically all the same.

I think both books go great together!

I received copies of the e-books for my honest reviews.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Club Catch Up!

Since I fell behind in my posts for March I missed posts for my various book clubs. Here's what I read and a brief review of the books.

First up here are February and March's books for Forever YA:

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this book. I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of Rainbow Rowell's work.

The Impossible Knife of MemoryThe Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy Laurie Halse Anderson's books, I think she writes some of the best YA fiction.  I enjoyed this book, but struggled a bit some of the plot.

For our last Winter Book Club* meeting in March we read:

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I could not get into this book.  I thought the plot was a great idea, but I just felt like everything dragged.

For Tea & A Book** we read:
Suite FrancaiseSuite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is in two parts with the author originally planning for the book to contain 5 parts.  I liked the first part but it took me some time to get into the style and flow of the way she wrote this section.  I loved the second part and was heart broken to reach the end and know that there was no more.  The book includes her notes and you can see where she was intending to direct the story in part 3 and I would have loved to have read it.  They are making a movie based on part 2 of this book and I can't wait to see it!

*This book club is part of the meetups of the Meetup Group - Mercer County Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and will be extended through the rest of the year.  The tags will now be MCGBC (Mercer Count Girls Book Club).

**This is the book club I run at the library and we get low turn out (1 patron).  We are going to try to switch up our meeting dates and times next month but it doesn't look like I"ll be running this book club much longer and I'm kinda upset about that.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Book Review: Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

Sous ChefSous Chef by Michael Gibney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I consider myself a mini-foodie.  I love to try new things, but I put a limit to what new things I would consider. I love watching cooking shows and I try to experiment in the kitchen.  I've read a number of memoirs by celebrity chefs and I'm fascinated with their journeys but they never talk much about what goes on inside a kitchen on a normal day.  That aspect alone really excited me about this book.

Michael Gibney takes the reader through a typical day in the life of a sous chef. It's a crazy, hectic experience, one I never see myself surviving. He does in it by writing this book in second person singular, or using 'you' to describe the action; you do this, you know that, Chef says to you. I both enjoyed this style and was annoyed at parts.

I watch a lot of the cooking competition shows and most if not all of the contestants smoke.  I never understood why, to my knowledge smoking destroys your palate.  This can be observed on the ever present taste test challenge, a smoker almost always incorrectly guesses a 'simple' flavor.  Gibney addressed my complaint in a few scenes where Chef yells at you for smoking.

This book was not purchased for my branch but is in the system. I can't wait to start recommending it to patrons.

I received an advanced eBook copy through Netgalley for an honest review.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fiction Fundamentals - Short Story #1

Last week I started the first of my fiction concentration classes, Fiction Fundamentals. We had to write a short story between 1,000 and 1,200 words long. I finished writing this one and was at about 1,400 words (and I wasn't even fully happy with the story). Here is what I submitted, but I'm keeping the longer story for my portfolio.
Maria’s Family
Maria quietly moved around the bedroom trying not to wake her sleeping child.  Santina was finally sound asleep on her parent’s bed after an hour of restlessness. She ran a hand down her daughter’s mass of black hair, saying a silent prayer that her child would feel better in the morning. Santina was looking forward to the small Halloween party her class would be having in the afternoon.  Which reminded Maria, part of her sewing for the evening was to finish the little hat for Santana’s clown outfit. Gathering her supplies, Maria slipped out of the room and quietly closed the door.
Walking down the hallway, she passed by the room her two sisters-in-law shared. Pausing in the doorway, Maria let them know she was doing some sewing if they had anything that needed to be mended. They didn’t, but they said they would come down to sit with her in a little while. Continuing down the hallway towards the stairs, Maria stepped into the small room used by her brother-in-law, Roman.  There were two work shirts sitting on his bed.  Picking them up she realized he’d have to buy some new shirts soon, these wouldn’t be lasting him much longer.
Maria walked down the steps to the living room.  She placed her supplies on the small table by her chair before turning and heading into the kitchen. The house was too quiet after the noise of a Sunday dinner with her zio’s family. In need of some sounds, she turned the radio on and turned the volume down low. There was music on and she swayed a bit as she finished putting the last of the dried dishes away. She could hear the announcer interrupting but didn’t pay much attention.
On a typical night, Maria and her husband, Carlo, sat listening to the radio, waiting for his siblings to come home. Carlo never went to bed until his siblings were all safely in the house.  Since the death of his parents a year ago, his siblings’ wellbeing was just as important as that of his wife and child. Tonight she let her thoughts wander to the joy of her family as she moved from the dishes to folding the laundry. One of the girls must have taken them down from the line before heading upstairs. Maria loved being part of the family. Finding Carlo and his family made the last years the happiest of her life.  At that thought, the baby moved and Maria put a hand on her stomach. She was hoping for a boy; Carlo wanted a son badly. Folding the rest of the laundry, Maria hummed an Italian lullaby to the active baby within her. She thought about taking the folded laundry upstairs but knew Carlo would be upset. He didn’t want her to go up and down the stairs too many times a day, he feared she would fall and hurt herself and the baby.  He’d carry the basket up for her when they turned in for the night.
Maria walked into the front room just as Torina and Cecilia came downstairs.  The sound of the radio was quickly drowned out by the sounds of the girls laughing. Maria smiled as she picked up the first of Roman’s shirts.
“Is that my brother’s shirt?” Torina sat in the other chair while Cecilia sat on the sofa.
“Sì. He has to buy new shirts soon.” She held up the shirt for Torina to see.
“I just put a new button on that shirt last week!” Torina reached over to grab it from Maria. “What does he do to these shirts?”
“I don’t think it’s him.” Cecilia said as she picked up the other of Roman’s shirts.
Both girls started to laugh and talk about their brother.  Maria could have joined in, but she was content to listen to them talk through the evening.  Each girl having taken one of Roman’s shirts started to fix the loose buttons and tear in the hem.  Maria focused on the costume for Santina. Slowly the girls’ conversation and the murmur of the radio became just background sounds to her.
“Ti, Sis, zitto!”  The girls stopped talking to see what had disturbed Maria.
She had heard something on the radio.  She couldn’t say what had caught her attention but a word or phrase had broken her focus. On the radio, a reporter was talking about something falling out of the sky near Trenton. The women all stopped their work to listen to the radio. Torina moved to sit beside her sister and listened as the events unfolded.  They were frozen in their seats listening to the horrible account of what was happening, only miles from their home.
“Mio Dio.” Maria whispered and crossed herself when the reporter mentioned a creature rising from the pit. What was happening? Was this real? Maria felt frozen in her spot; she couldn’t move from the chair. Without her knowledge, her hands had covered her stomach as if by instinct to protect her unborn child. Her child.
“Santina!” Maria stood up.
“I’ll get her.” Tornia was up the stairs before Maria could even take her first step.
“Sit Maria, Ti will get Sandy and when Carlo and Roman get home they’ll know what to do.” Cecilia helped Maria into her chair.
Torina hurried back down the stairs with a freshly woken Santina. The child was confused and on the verge of tears. She cuddled into her mother’s arms as Maria hugged her tightly. Torina was about to sit down when she saw her brother walking to the house. Opening the door, she yelled out, “Carlo, vieni rapido.”
Carlo had just placed his foot on the first step of the front porch when he heard his sister yell for him.  His first thought was Maria and the baby.  He ran up the steps and before he was even in the door, Ti was going on about something troubling on the radio. Carlo pushed past her into the living room. His women were in a panic. His daughter was crying, her mother and his sisters were all talking to him at once in a mix of Italian and English. He stood in front of them and held up his hands to stop
everyone from talking. Except for Santina’s crying and the radio, the room was silent. Carlo picked his daughter up and started to pace while he listened.  He had to only listen briefly until he realized what the women were listening too.
“It’s not real. I was at zio’s when the program started.”  Carlo started to laugh, it was a mixture of relief and humor.
“Are you laughing at us?” Torina looked up at her brother.
“We were scared and you’re laughing at us!” Cecilia said at the same time as her sister.
Before Carlo could defend himself his sisters were playfully berating him.  He handed Santina back to Maria when Cecilia started to hit him with a shirt. Roman chose this moment to walk in the door,“Did I miss something?”  He took in the scene, “Hey is that my shirt?”

Maria started to laugh; this was family.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

March Summary of Reading Challenges

Here's Where I Stand on the I Love the Library Challenge

Books Checked Out and Read:
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed (BCD)
  • The "I Hate to Exercise" Book for People with Diabetes by Charlotte Hayes, MMSC, MS, RD, CDE
  • I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (BCD)
  • My Brief History by Stephen Hawking (BCD)
  • Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie H. Anderson
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Books Checked Out and Currently Reading
  • Paris in Love by Eloisa James (BCD)
Books Checked Out and Not Read - Yet
  • The History of diners in New Jersey by Michael C. Gabriele
  • The Returned by Jason Mott
Books Checked Out but Didn't Read
  • Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick
  • Yoga XXL by Ingrid Kollak
  • I Love Coffee! by Susan Zimmer
  • Once Upon a Time by John Barth
  • House Calls with William Carlos Williams by Robert Coles
  • Made in America by Lisa Malin Steinman
  • Something Urgent I Have to Say to You by Herbert A. Leibowitz
  • The Poetry of William Carlos Williams of Rutherford by Wendell Berry
  • William Carlos Williams, Poet from Jersey by Reed Whittemore
  • William Carlos Williams' Paterson by Joel Conarroe
  • The End of the Road by John Barth
  • Three on the Tower by Louis Simpson

Here's Where I Stand on the TBR Pile Challenge

Added more books to my pile but didn't read any already on my list.