What Inspires You?

inspire – in-spire (verb):
1) to breathe life into
2) to motivate, influence or encourage

My wonderful hubby and I will shortly be celebrating 14 years of wedded bliss (just a few days shy of 15 years since the day we met). Through the years, he’s been such an inspiration to me. He doesn’t get my love for horror, but he always supports my writing. More than that, he inspires me with his generosity and faith. One of the greatest things he’s taught me is that everything pretty much comes out alright in the end as long as you keep on keeping on. This sense of trust and optimism buoys me in those times when my natural tendency to brood threatens.

And thinking of how he inspires me makes me think of all the people, places and things that inspire me everyday. My kiddos, who challenge me to grow and remind me of the simple joys in life. Coffee, especially on those mornings that come waaaaay to early. A good book. Sometimes even a bad movie.

The more inspiring things that come to mind, the more I realize that we should strive to be inspired by who and what’s around us everyday. Every single day, we must find something, however awesome or mundane,  that moves us to change the world for the better, to do something great, pass on little kindnesses or even just smile.

Big or little, extraordinary or everyday, which people, places and things inspire you?

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Legible Feasts

Delicious food and good books. My two favorite recreational drugs (Oh, and Netflix. That too). Sometimes those things come together to make for a delicious reading experience or a novel meal.

Now, while I may have run to the pantry and frantically rooted around for something – anything – after drooling on pages describing a feast at Hogwarts or King’s Landing or an impromptu meal at Kay Scarpetta’s, I’ve never actually tried to cook anything from a novel.

Until recently *blush*, I didn’t even know there were cookbooks inspired by some of my favorite stories. Much to my delight, I discovered there are quite a few tasty cookbooks, official and unofficial, born of a hungry imagination.

Here are five, for your reading and dining pleasure:

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dina Bucholz, boasting such recipes as Knickerbocker Glory, Pumpkin Pasties and Peppermint Humbugs.

The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook, also by Dina Bucholz, including recipes for Turkish Delight and Pigeon Stew with Wood Sorrel.

Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta’s Kitchen by Patricia Cornwell and Marlene Brown, with Kay’s Grilled Pizza and Lasagna  *drool*.

The Unofficial Recipes of the Hunger Games by Rockridge University Press, featuring Greasy Sae’s Badger Stew (yum?), Arena Beef Strips Gamemakers’ Suckling Pig.

And last, but absolutely not least, A Feast of Ice & Fire by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer, with Honey-Spiced Locusts (you may want to have a poison taster take the first bite), Lemon Cakes and Bowl of Brown (probably best not to ask).

The LiteraryTraveler also explores delicious reads: 7 Cookbooks Inspired by Literature.

Writing this post has left me hungry enough to eat an aurochs.

Of course, they’re extinct.

I guess I’ll have to make do with a taco.

***

What novels leave you hankering for a bite? Have you ever prepared food inspired by your favorite books?

 

 

 

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Why You’ll Never Have to Worry About a Zombie Apocalypse

…or Will You?

Have you been super duper stressed about the possibility of  a zombie apocalypse? Or maybe you don’t really believe but you watched one too many episodes of The Walking Dead and now you can’t sleep until you can shoot a squirrel off the shoulder of an undead pizza delivery guy. Well, rest assured that a zombie apocalypse is totally nothing to worry about.  Cracked.com offers 7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail (Quickly).

Zombie Birdie

Braaaaaaaaaaainzzzzzzzzz aaaaaannnnnndddd wooooooooormmmmmms…

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find the article terribly comforting and hilarious but…

You’ll also start to wonder if maybe they’re wrong after all. Maybe the undead won’t just rot away. Maybe they’ll have no natural predators. Maybe it’s not the bite that spreads the disease. Maybe it’s airborne. Maybe it’s already in us all. Aaaaaaagh!

Okay. Maybe not.

But take note, the super scientific folk at Cracked also once pointed out 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen. It’s up to you which is more convincing.

***

So what do you think? How real is the possibility of a zombie apocalypse? And, scientifically speaking (or not, it’s up to you), how do you think it would happen?

Categories: Killer Thursdays, Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why You Should Punch a Time Clock…

… Even if You Don’t Have To

Some folks are naturally organized. Their junk drawers resemble a photo from Martha Stewart’s website, they’re never late and they always remember Great-Aunt Louise’s birthday.

I am not one of those folks.

My regular drawers look like junk drawers. If I shoot for being early, I stand a good chance of being somewhere on time…usually. And I can barely remember my birthday. So, for folks like me, some kind of time-management protocol is a must. And, if you can’t afford or don’t want to hire a personal assistant, something like Toggl might do the trick for you.

Toggl

I started using Toggl for web design projects because I wanted to see how my project estimates matched with the actual time spent so I could give better estimates. Very quickly, I figured out that I could track my whole day (yep, as disorganized as I am naturally, I love, love, love lists and spreadsheets). How much time was I spending writing (or, often, not writing)? How much time did I devote to social media? How long did it take me to write a blog post? At a glance, I could see how my days broke down over the course of a week, month or even a year. I could see where I spending too much time or not enough. And I started to get a little more organized.

Now, I find myself wanting to make my daily charts look pretty and balanced. If any one element grows too far out of proportion, I can rein it in (that includes work).

And I can see, before I try to tell myself I don’t have the time, whether I really have the time or not. Like, for exercise.

You can find the time-tracker online and they have desktop and app versions. The app is one of my best friends.

All in all, very nifty.

Also, I have to give a shout-out to Jeffrey McChesney, a fellow writer, whose post Time reminded me to share the goodness that is Toggl.

***

What are your time-organizing tricks? 

 

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

What Happens When You Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone?

I’m a fiddler.

No, not the kind that inspires the Devil to bet a shiny fiddle made of gold against my soul.

I just can’t seem to follow directions, recipes or plans without giving them a little tweak. This is almost compulsive in the kitchen. I’ve only ever met a few recipes (all of them involving baking…which apparently has some “delicate” chemistry requiring one to pretty much stick to the recipe…but I often manage to still throw in a little something different) I couldn’t fiddle with a wee bit.

It used to drive my husband nuts that I couldn’t seem to follow a recipe. He’d tell me that recipes were there for a reason and that somebody else had already worked out the kinks. Fair enough but I’ve always considered recipes more as a general guide to the territory and not a strict itinerary. He’s since come to accept that I’ll probably never be able to leave well enough alone, especially in the kitchen.

And some of our best meals have come from those experiments.

Also, some of our worst. Just ask my husband about the Thai red curry incident.

But, you know, that’s how the cookie crumbles.

So, why is it that I can’t just follow recipes as is? I’m sure part of it is that I’m stubborn (I always want to have things my way…my mom always said so). But I think the biggest part is that I love to play, I love the joy of trying something new, not knowing how it’ll turn out and having it turn out beautifully. I love getting an answer to “what if” even if that answer is a ginormous “yuck.” It makes cooking and everything else fun.

Most everything, anyway.

Of course, sometimes it’s better to stick to the recipe, at least the first time around. You have to know how something’s supposed to work before you start making variations on it. This is actually something I’ve only discovered in recent years (I did say I was stubborn, didn’t I?).

All of this compulsive fiddling is probably why, as a writer, I’ve always enjoyed going at it by the seat of my pants. And, once I discovered there is a recipe of sorts to good writing, I wanted to play with it before I ever tried actually following it to the letter. However, I’ve discovered that writing is a little more like baking than making curry; there’s some delicate chemistry at work. Oh sure, there’s room for endless variations but only if you know the how the recipe’s really supposed to work.

……

Mrmph…sorry. I was thinking about curry. And brownies. I completely forgot whatever else I was going to say.

***

What about you? Do you like to follow a plan or blaze your own trail? Are there some areas in life where we simply must stick to the recipe or is everything an opportunity for variation? If you like to do things your way, what’s the funniest mishap you’ve had with that?

 

 

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

What Do You Do When You Fall Off A Horse?

A few weeks ago, my daughter was riding horses with a friend and trying to learn how to jump. After a few misses and a couple of almost-got-its, the horse had enough and unceremoniously dumped my daughter on the ground. As I saw her falling, my heart stopped, I held my breath and ran for her. But, before I could even get halfway there, my daughter popped up, said something like, “Well, that was rude,” and got back on the horse. She didn’t even dust herself off first.

She’s totally my hero.

And she did manage to get the horse to jump with her later that day.

My daughter’s a lot like me (remember how your mother used to say, “I hope you get one just like you,” and that was supposed to be a curse?). She’s persistent (stubborn), opinionated (hard-headed), passionate (moody), quick-thinking (reactionary) and tender-hearted (sensitive). Just like me…you can imagine how that goes in our house sometimes. So, it might have gone either way with the horse. She might have been discouraged, having been dumped on the ground after struggling and failing to jump the horse, and given up. She might have gotten mad and given up. She might have taken some time to consider what had happened and waited to get back on the horse. Instead, she got right back on the horse, as all the good theys say you should (as in, “they say you should get right back up on the horse after you fall off,” or “they say you should have a little hair of the dog that bit you,” or “they say you should always cut the head off a zombie to make sure it’s dead”).

Recently, I got some feedback for my novel-in-progress that was, shall we say, less than stellar. But the giver of the feedback is truly an expert and I can’t deny, as much as I’d like to, he’s on the money. It’s so tempting to give up (that’s my reactionary side talking) but I won’t (stubborn, hard-headed side). The question is will I jump right on the horse or take a little time to dust myself off?

If I jump back in, maybe it’ll ease the pain of rejection under loads of work. Then again, maybe giving myself time to mull things over would allow me to start again with a clearer head…unless that “time to mull things over” goes on forever…which, with me, it might.

I guess I should take a page from my daughters book.

Sometimes I think our kids teach us more than we teach them.

How do you deal with set-backs? Do you get right back on the horse or do you take some time to dust yourself off first? What do you tell yourself when you’re tempted to give up?

 

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

If You Could be a Kid Again…

I found this very cute video:

And it made me wonder: If I could be a kid again for one day, what would I do?

I think I’d finger paint, watch cartoons, eat a ginormous hot fudge sundae, spin on the tire swing until I tossed my cookies and take a nap with my teddybear.

Okay, maybe not the puke part.

What would you do?

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Is Your Brain Haunted?

Do spectres haunt the halls of your mind? Rattling their ghostly chains. Footsteps echoing. The doors of your memory creaking. Moaning, wailing and generally being a pain in the posterior lobe?

Baby Bird

Lovin’ you is easy ’cause you’re beautiful. Dootin dootin doo doo…

I’m haunted by movie lines, commercials and sometimes even words (like “anesthesia”…isn’t that a weird word? Just say it a couple of times. Really draw it out. There you go. Now you know what I mean.) but mostly songs. Mostly old songs but some new. They rise, unbidden, from their graves to pester me at random moments. And believe me when I tell you that many of these spirits are malevolent, hounding me until I slip up and say whatever it is they’ve been wailing about out loud.

That’s when the real horror begins.

Sometimes it’s Ice Ice Baby. While I certainly admire the man, Robert Van Winkle has become, that song…that song really needs to be exorcised from my memory. If you were around in the days when the radio stations relentlessly played that song, you know what I mean.

And it can get so much worse. [Hit Me] Baby One More Time,  Loving You, We Are Never Ever Getting Back TogetherI’m Too Sexy, Warm it Up, Call Me Maybe and, one of the most persistent haunts, Hooked on a Feeling.

Just imagine blurting any one of these out in a crowded grocery store, walking down the street or during coffee and donuts after church. *shudder*

There are other, more benevolent, haunts of course: Beethoven’s 5th (Did I really need to link to that one? Surely that one happily haunts everyone.), Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca (yes, I’m totally dancing in my head to this one right now), Layla, The Sound of Silence,  Time After Time (What? I dig Cyndi *shrug*) and White and Nerdy.

And, if the halls of your mind are too quiet and you’ve been skull-shopping, hoping for a haunted brain pan of your own, here’s something my kiddos recently forced on shared with me:

You’re welcome.

What haunts your brain?

***

Please note, no baby birds were harmed in the making of this post. The little guy (gal?) you see above fell out of his nest on a windy day. My daughter found him and our good friend, a spectacular animal whisperer, took him in and has been taking great care of him. He should be ready for release back into the wild soon.

Baby Bird 2

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

People Say the Weirdest Things

Did someone say "Pony up?"

Did someone say “Pony up?”

Have you ever stopped to really listen to some of the idioms we use all the time? Some are weird, some funny and some downright disgusting. All of them are likely to generate mental images that give you pause.

Here are a few that I’ve heard recently:

Pay through the nose.
Pay an arm and a leg.
Raining cats and dogs.
Kick the bucket.
Spitting image.
Pony up.
It’s not rocket science/brain surgery.
Lost your marbles.

And the biggest head-scratcher for me: “S–t eating grin.” While some of the others seem fairly reasonable for how they’re used and the origins are easy enough to uncover, I just can’t wrap my mind around anyone ever, ever, ever being thrilled to eat, um, turds.

Ever.

Our family has an idiom or two of our own. Our favorite is “Normally, people order rice.” The saying originated after an embarrassing incident in a Thai restaurant when my husband (then fiancé) and I were trying to low-carb it before our wedding. Apparently, Atkins and Thai cuisine don’t really mix. *shrug* Anyway, the saying is now often used whenever someone around us is doing something weird or unusual. Which, in our family, is a lot.

Perhaps it’ll one day fall into common usage.

Probably not though. And that’s probably best.

Here are a few amusing/disturbing articles on the origins of common sayings:

What are your favorite/least-favorite sayings? Any sayings you’ve invented?

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Can You Plagiarize Yourself?

Writing Tools by Pete O'Shea on FlickrRecently, while following that white rabbit known as Research through the wonderland of the internet, I came across an article with a title that stopped me in my tracks: The Ethics of Self-Plagiarism.

Even before I read it, all sorts of questions and thoughts popped into my head. The first was: how the heck can you plagiarize yourself? After all, isn’t plagiarism stealing work from someone else?

Of course, as I read the article, I realized they were talking about academic journals, research papers, etc. rather than novels or even blog posts.

Phew, big sigh of relief.

Okay, not that big. While I’ve reposted several old blog posts, I’ve always done so with a brief explanation and a link to the original article.

Even so, I had trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that you can actually steal your own work. Now, one would hope you’re not deliberately trying to pass off an old work as an entirely new one. Barring that, why would it be an issue to recall bits and pieces of an old work in a new one? Doesn’t most academic work (and creative for that matter) build on what has been done before?

But maybe I’m missing some of the nuances of the issue.

Of course, if you’ve signed away certain rights to the publisher(which, to me, strengthens the idea that authors should be able to keep all rights to their work).

Now, does any of this apply to fiction writers and bloggers? Many of us have pet ideas or areas of expertise we touch on over and over. Perhaps we’re just re-exploring the idea and not lifting any old content directly but I’m sure at least a few of us have unconsciously used the same bits of material again and again because it’s hanging around in our brain like that last party guest who just won’t get the hint to leave.

I know I don’t double-check any of my post for any reused phrases. As I said before, if I’m republishing a whole post, I always reference the original. But maybe there’s other times where I’ve inadvertently used my work again. I’d never stopped to wonder whether this might be unethical in any way. But now I am wondering, just a little.

If you’re curious, here’s a link to the original article I read: The Ethics of Self-Plagiarism. If you want to read the whole article, you’ll have to register for the site though. Note, it’s a site that provides plagiarism checking services, so it’s possible that colors their views on the issue.

Here are a couple of other links with more info:

 

What do you think? Does self-plagiarism really exist? If so, does it apply to fiction and non-fiction alike? Is there a gray area?

Photo Credit:
Writing Tools by Pete O’Shea on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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