Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On Daphne DuMaurier

@BNBookClubs on Twitter had this interesting tweet this afternoon:

Daphne Du Maurier said, “Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.” Do you agree? http://bit.ly/5LpXrD

Without even reading the link, I stopped to ponder for a moment. I think that times are a-changing, and that could have been true once upon a time. But there were also fewer writers being published, and they were revered more than now. These days, especially with all of the smaller independent publishers, and self-publishing, the list of books available to read is endless. Authors who wish to make some money doing what they love must get their name out there. So, without promotion, they could very well only sell a book to their closest friends and family.

Blogs and articles are ablaze with tips on how to get yourself noticed. A common way to do so is through venues like Twitter and Facebook (where I will shamelessly plug this blog post when I have completed it). They also recommend book blog tours. A good publicist can get you onto local talk shows, and the really good ones get you on national TV, if you have a buzz about your work. As for my own writing, I am getting more readers, slowly but surely, as I send out my links and network. So, I think it does help.

But perhaps what DuMaurier meant was to not blatantly throw yourself into the public eye. Today, it would be along the lines of staying off of the reality TV shows, and don't do something stupid like Tiger Woods and get caught. Keep some element of mystery about yourself, and don't share too much about why you chose to write about anything. Sometimes that mystique adds to the appeal of your written word. Reveal yourself through your stories.

DuMaurier was a fantastic storyteller. I have read Rebecca numerous times, as well as some of her smaller, lesser known works. And one of my favorite facts is that she was the true brainchild of the story that Hitchcock made famous in The Birds. But she wasn't outspoken about everything, so perhaps you didn't know that? Perhaps all writers should reflect on that thought before they send out their next tweet or Facebook link.....

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Sister's Keeper and Julie & Julia

It's been a long, rough couple of weeks back at work, and now I have a quiet long weekend. So, I decided to rent a couple of movies. I went with My Sister's Keeper and Julie and Julia. And therefore, I broke my usually steadfast rule about reading the book before seeing the movie.

I started with My Sister's Keeper. That is the one starring Abigail Breslin and Cameron Diaz, where Abigail's character was born solely for the purpose of donating cells and body parts to her sister who is dying of leukemia. Abigail's character decides she wants to have control over her body, and sues her mother, played by Cameron Diaz. And the not-so-secret secret, of course, is that the older sister wants to die.

As I figured would happen, I did blubber the whole way through it, because that is what I do. The story was very moving, and I have to say I was on the side of the children.  While I agree that stem cell research could be beneficial when treating cancers, I don't think it is appropriate to genetically engineer one child to save the other. You're still sacrificing one life and using that one human being as a thing, with little to no regard for her being a human. Maybe I would change my mind if I were in that situation. Maybe I don't know enough about how it would work. But it just bothers me.

I love the story, though. And watching with a more critical eye, I felt that while Cameron Diaz got out the emotion, her acting abilities fell short. Abigail Breslin did well for an 11 year-old. I think the guy who played Taylor was obviously way too old for the older sister. (And when I looked them up on IMDB, it turned out that I was right.) If he was supposed to be that much older, I guess I didn't realize that, because I haven't yet read the book.

It's a movie that I may enjoy a couple more times, and will watch when it finally hits those TBS-type stations, but don't have an interest in owning.

And then there is Julie & Julia. As I am typing, I am trying to watch it for the second time. It didn't hold my interest last night, and I fell asleep. It is not holding my interest this morning, either. I have to say that I am disappointed.

I adore Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Meryl is simply classic, and Amy has potential to become classic in her own right. But the pace of the movie is slow, though the concept is interesting. I am learning a lot about cooking, but I can't help but think about my kitchen, which is current need of a big clean-up, and that I should really be doing that, instead. I do enjoy the scene where she tries to cook the lobster, and can't bring herself to kill it. I would never be able to kill my own meat - not even a lobster - not even a fish. And I admire the tenacity and determination of Julie, to maintain her pace through an entire year. I've already lost my battle to write one blog post and one article per day, simply because teaching and tutoring pays the real bills at this point.

It also doesn't help that Meryl does a relatively accurate portrayal of Julia Childs's voice, which makes me absolutely batty!! She made me crazy when I was a kid, too!

I have a feeling I won't get through the movie this time, either, and will just have to tune in when it hits the movie channels. I don't want to waste another dollar by keeping it another night from the Red Box, if I am not going to watch it. That's what the movie channel subscriptions are for. :-)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Breyer's Yo Crunch Yogurt

Always on the lookout for a healthy alternative to traditional desserts, I was ecstatic around Halloween to discover a yogurt that had Reese's Pieces in it. Even better, it was only about 140-160 calories, which is comparable to the Stonyfield Soy Yogurt that I love so much.

I decided to try it, and it did taste almost as good as a Reese's Pieces sundae, but without that sugary coating staying behind on my teeth. So, on another shopping trip, I decided to try a few more.

I don't really care for the Nestle Crunch version, but I don't really like that candy bar, either. Butterfinger wasn't too bad, and I do like the M&Ms. Oreo Cookie tastes like eating an Oreo cookie, and has only 120 calories.

Another bonus is that as yogurt, it has acidilophilus and all of those other fabulous probiotics, which my doctor is telling me to increase in my general diet.

So, check them out, and try them as a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Staying warm and being green

My house was built back in the 1920s, so it isn't exactly the most energy-efficient. I would love to do some updates, but I can't really afford to do so. Plus, who wants to get rid of those gorgeous leaded-glass windows? They don't make them like that anymore!

I also despise paying ridiculous amounts for gas and electric, so I am always looking for ways to reduce those costs. I have been replacing bulbs with those energy efficient ones whenever the other ones burn out. I try to have those bulbs in the lights that I leave on for security, as well.

I updated my furnace and air conditioner a couple of years ago, to a newer, yet used version, which dramatically reduced my heating and cooling costs. (Word of advice - though expensive, keep up on your furnace and a/c cleaning and service calls every year - saves you lots of money down the road!)

Only one room in the whole house gets a full blast from the furnace, so the majority of time is spent in there. The rest of the rooms split on two levels, which has never made any sense to me. The advantage of this is that you can close the door and retain most of that heat.

I've also become a believer in closing the doors to any area that isn't used as often, so that the heat isn't wasted going into them, and somewhat blocking the vents. Again, because they are split amongst levels, I can't block them off in the basement, as I would like, but what are you going to do?

I also play the thermostat game. For a while, I wasn't convince that it was really working. Perhaps that is more in the summer with the air conditioner? But, over time, I have finally noticed my utilities costs going down. (With the price of cable going up, this is a good thing!)

To do this, I leave the heat down at 55 when I leave the house for any period of time (unless it's literally just leaving the house for 15 min). I bump it up a bit when I get home and am cooking, then up again a bit when I decide to do other work. When it is time to go to bed, I nudge it down a bit and make sure I sleep with all of my blankets on.  I sleep with numerous blankets and a down comforter. Sleeping in the cold actually helps you sleep better. I also wear numerous layers and stay warm enough.

When it is particularly cold outside, I make sure I leave it closer to 57, to make me worry less about freezing pipes and the animals. I've even bought Snuggies for the dogs, lol, but haven't gotten to that point for myself, yet. It has been becoming a little tempting, though.....

Other ways of keeping warm have included drinking hot beverages and foods, of course. (Adding a touch of Baileys to coffee at night warms you up from the inside!) I love to cook/bake in the winter, because then the house stays a little warmer. I leave the oven door cracked open a bit for a slight bit of cheating heat afterwards. I am not sure if really does much, but it keeps the kitchen a bit warmer while I finish preparing food.

I'm curious to know what others do to keep warm........:-)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fudging the New Years Resolutions tonight

Tonight, I have to fudge the NY resolutions a little bit. Technically, I posted an article, because my latest article at Associated Content was published tonight. And then I had to slightly edit one for Suite 101 and repost it. I was hoping to actually write one piece per day, but maybe I wrote it as as posts? Like I've said before, I think that times when I over-write, like the one weekend that I posted 26 book reviews, more than make up for these slower days. :-)

I did do a blog entry this morning, on my Montessori blog at http://montessoriwriter.today.com.

I'm not slacking off tonight to be lazy. I had a full day of work and what-not, and a friend needed me. Out of respect for her family, I will not divulge details. But it was enough to warrant about an hour on the phone, strategizing and sharing.

Other than all of that, the fun news of the day is that I bought Snuggies for the dogs. I hope to actually try to get them on the boys soon, and then maybe I will post some pictures?

I have about 87,000 other thoughts racing through my brain right now, but my eyes are closing, so they will have to be shared at another time......

15 minutes late

Argh! I told ya Wednesdays would be hard! (Didn't I?) It's officially 12:14 am on Thursday, but this is serving as the Wednesday post. I had a long school/tutoring day and what-not, and had an AC article due. The outline had been in my head for days, and I jotted it down while the child was working at tutoring. But after dinner and an author phone call, I just couldn't get the words out!

Hold it against me if you want, but I'm still going to count this posting as Wednesday's blog post for the day. I forgot to include a book review in yesterday's count, so that brought me up to 5 articles and three blog posts. So, my average was at least ahead. :-)

I have to say that having Grumpier Old Men on in the background doesn't help matters any, but how can you resist this movie? I've been trying to put my favorite quotes up on Twitter as cheap entertainment. It was my hope that laughing hysterically at some of the lines, such as Grandpa's perverted Hawaii comments would help loosen the words in my head.

So, I shall now post at 12:20 a.m., crawl into bed, and will be cursing myself when the alarm goes off in less than 6 hours.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Biggest Loser, Writing, and Resolutions

The new season of The Biggest Loser premiered tonight. I am finding it amusing that my BFF and I both have namesakes on the show. I am getting a kick out of hearing Bob yell at Andrea to stop crying and to keep working. I may have to record the season, or certain clips of the show, and play them to get my a$$ in gear!

As for my personal writing challenge, I feel like I did pretty well tonight! I had to tweak part of an interview to resubmit to Associated Content, then tweaked four others to also submit. I managed to put up a piece on Montessori Examiner. This morning I did a short blog entry on my Montessori blog, and have another one that will go up in a couple of minutes when I am done with this one. My goal was to put up one blog and post one article per day. (And if I have to, then average it out for the month.)

Can I maintain without losing my mind?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tweaking those resolutions

I am a glutton for punishment, a creature of habit, and a dedicated worker. So, I am tweaking my writing resolutions for the year.  I figure that I have enough time to post at least one blog entry and one article per day, even on my busy school days. Blog entries are quite easy. And with sites like Examiner, I can easily crank out one short piece, right? Then, on those lovely days off, I can work on a slew of pieces while I relax watching TV. Yes, to me, writing a bunch of book reviews all day long could actually be quite relaxing. I'm weird. :-)

So, today I managed to put up a new piece on Suite 101, and added an entry to my Montessori blog. Then, there is also this blog entry. I'm off to a good start! lol

And it just occurred to me that on Women Who Write Online, we tried a similar task once. I think we ended up agreeing that as long as you published an average of one a day for an entire month, it was okay. My goal is to not fall behind!  We shall see.......

Saturday, January 2, 2010

NY resolutions and #writerlbsoff

I came across something interesting on Twitter yesterday. Fellow writers kept using the hashtag #writerlbsoff. Apparently, there is a movement amongst writers to band together to dedicate time to writing and to getting healthy. They sound like two great plans, and typical of New Years Resolutions. (I'll admit to having done my own writing resolutions, yesterday, following in the footsteps of @professorbeej). But actually having a plan in place is going to require more than just blinding writing out ideas on the spur of the moment. Plans such as losing weight, as well as writing more, require a great deal of thought as to how they are going to be implemented.

When I did the resolutions for yesterday, I did not blindly put those up. I have been trying to think of ways to do more writing and how to stick with it, while improving it, for quite some time now. It was just a good time to do so.

As for leading an otherwise healthier lifestyle, for right now, it's simply trying to take a daily walk with my friend. We try to head out either after AM dismissal, or after bus dismissal if we need to. I try to not eat too much crap, which is always easier said than done - especially when not at home. But both of those should be amplified, and can probably be claimed by just about everyone I know.

I wish my fellow writers the best of luck with #writerlbsoff, and will probably check in with them time to time to see how they are doing. And I will be a quiet cheerleader, on the sidelines, perhaps following along quietly.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Obligatory New Year's Resolutions

I've been putting off doing this all day, but after @professorbeej tweeted about his New Year's Resolutions on his blog, I decided I should probably do the same now.

1. Build the book reviewing sites.  I love to read. I have been reading since I was two years old. My mother just found my evaluation prior to kindergarten, which showed that at the tender age of 5 years and 1 month, I was already reading at a grade 5.9 level. My nose has been almost permanently stuck in a book ever since.

I started my two book reviewing blogs over the summer, Andi's Kids Books and Andi's Book Reviews. I also joined BookPleasures.com as another source for gaining books. I was just made the Children's Books Examiner for Rochester. The holidays and parent-teacher conferences at school in the middle of them have set me back, but I'm working at catching up.

I also just joined a new one today called NetGalley. I only requested the children's books, as those I can review much faster. To be a good writer, one must be a good reader.

2. Query my children's books.  Yes, I actually have some children's books drafted. It's time to suck it up and start querying and submitting. It's just a little scary!

3.  Focus on Montessori.  I've slacked off a bit from my Montessori postings. I have needed to be away from the classroom for over a week, so that I can rediscover what it is about teaching that I like so much. I also recently became the Montessori Education Examiner for Rochester, so, I have some work to do!

4.  Find a good writing rhythm.  I write for a ton of websites. I like all of them, and I do tend to focus on the ones that I like the best. My goal is to find a good rhythm and balance between them all, to maximize exposure and earning opportunities.

These are my four biggies. I have more, but they are a little bit more personal.

Happy New Year!