Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Don't Make New Year's Resolutions - But If I Did...

Image Detail

I'm not a big resolution-maker.  I've tried in the past, and I don't keep them :) 

However, I did see this list on The Change Blog,and decided if I were going to make New Year's Resolutions, this would be a most excellent list of resolutions to make:



1.I will be loving towards all whom I meet.
2.I will forgive all who attempt to harm me.
3.I become what I think; therefore, I will think only thoughts of greatness.
4.I will look for ways to strengthen those who have less than I.
5.I will always seek knowledge and truth.
6.I will always be honest.
7.I will never waste what I am given.
8.I will be grateful for all that I have.
9.I will develop a spirit of optimism.
10.I will have faith in something greater than myself.

Happy New Year's to you and yours!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Special Thank You



In the past few months I've had two close family members go through major surgery.  I wanted to take a moment and thank all the people in the medical profession who do what they do every day - especially to the nurses and doctors who work miracles mending people.  I don't know if they ever get enough thank you's, so I'm sending a big one out today. 

I'd especially like to give shout outs to the doctors, nurses, and staff at Medical Center of McKinney and Methodist Hospital for Surgery in Addison. 

THANK YOU for taking such good care of my loved ones!    

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stop and Enjoy

If your life has been like mine, sitting down and relaxing is a challenge right now.  I'm working against a deadline at work.  Family members have had health issues.  The kids have activities and homework and performances galore.  Holiday parties.  Decorations.  Christmas shopping.  Present wrapping.

Sigh. 

I was debating what to write about in my blog this week, when I decided that we all might just need a break.  I invite you to pause amid all the madness and enjoy this video for a moment...  (Don't worry, everything will still be waiting for you when it's over!)


   

Monday, November 21, 2011

How Do You Spend Black Friday?

For the past six or seven years my mom, my sister, my grandmother, and I help each other decorate for Christmas on Black Friday.  We started the tradition because we didn't like decorating the trees by ourselves (our husbands don't get into it). 

My husband's family picks out Christmas trees from a Christmas tree farm every year the day after Thanksgiving.  Thus, I alternate every other year so that I can spend time with each family.  Because of these traditions, I don't ever shop the day after Thanksgiving. 

Do you have any traditions for Black Friday? 

Whatever they are, I wish you health, happiness, and minimal craziness.  If by chance you are one of those people that turns into the crazy Target Lady - go get 'em!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Deprogram Your Autobot

Humans like routine. Profound insight on my part, I know. But we really do.

Think about your mornings… I’m guessing you do the same thing every morning in the same order, with the same breakfast, leaving for work or starting work at the same time every day. (Hopefully not with the same underwear. Just sayin’.)

There is comfort in routine, in the expected, in the same faces, day after day. Even those who swear routine bores them, in some way worship their own private routines and rituals.

A couple of years ago, I worked for a company where one of the Vice Presidents challenged the leaders to step out of their comfort zone every day. That stuck with me, so much so that I used the story when making a presentation to a group of people within my own region. The purpose of the presentation was to encourage them to step out of their routine and try selling a new product line.

One of them called me out on my challenge and wanted to know what I’d done that day to step out of my comfort zone (I had hired him, that’s why he had it out for me). I quipped that standing and talking in front of a group of people was stepping out of my comfort zone, which was a lie, because while I was a bit nervous, I actually like presenting in front of people when I know the topic. I turned serious and told him what I’d done earlier that day that made me a little uncomfortable.

Okay fast forward to now. The recommendation for people to step out of their comfort zones is meant to encourage people to keep learning, keep innovating, and keep getting better.

I had the privilege of listening to Daniel Pink speak at HR Southwest recently. For those of you that don’t know Daniel, he discusses behavioral science as it relates to motivation. (He’s got a cool presentation on YouTube – click here – good stuff). Mr. Pink changed my thoughts on stepping out of your comfort zone.

An example Pink gives is the company Intuit. The CEO declared that the company wanted to go mobile. Intuit allows employees to spend what they call ‘10% time’ on their bliss. Before the company could form a team or fund a project, on 10% time employees created seven mobile apps.

How cool is that?

Now. I challenge you to deprogram your autobot. Step out of your normal routine and follow your bliss. You heard me. Follow your passion for a little while each day and see where it leads. I bet your brilliance will surprise you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Need a Hero

Where have all good men (candidates) gone
And where are all the gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules (manager)
To fight the rising odds?
Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need

I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight


I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero til the morning light
He’s gotta be sure
And it’s gotta be soon
And he’s gotta be larger than life
-Holding Out for a Hero, Bonnie Tyler
The Alpha Hero

As a romance writer, I’m a fan of the alpha hero. For those that don’t read romance, an alpha hero is self-confident, disciplined, dependable, strong, intelligent, caring, funny, handsome… You get the picture. Think Jack Bauer from 24 or Han Solo from Star Wars. Even an Alpha hero’s flaws are desirable. I love to read about them, or watch them in movies and television, and I love to write about them.

The Alpha Candidate

As a Human Resources professional, I’m often amused by job postings that advertise for alpha candidates. You’ve seen these descriptions. They are often 700 words long and read like a want ad for a person that has seen and done it all in their respective field and possesses expertise in every skill imaginable. This candidate can come in and single-handedly lead the charge to manage change, drive innovation, annihilate the competition, and fix the bottom line. Mere mortals need not apply.

Let’s be real. Even Steve Jobs – to some an innovative genius and for others Steve the Tyrant - was human.

Alpha ads make it difficult for applicants to discern what you really need and want for the position.  I suspect that alpha job descriptions are the result of harried hiring managers that don’t have the time to train someone, so they want it all – or – they aren’t clear on what would make someone successful in the posted position. They throw the posting out there and see what sticks.

When has that ever worked well?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Possibilities

Below is a repost of a guest blog I did last March.  Interestingly enough, my husband and I had a similar conversation this weekend.  I was watching the latest episode of Supernatural (my favorite TV show) and he looked across the couch at me and said he had a hard time seeing me get into that show.  Guess that tells you how practical I am in real life... 

Me (holding Netflix DVD in my hand): Do you want to ‘Inception’ with me?
Husband: What’s it about?
Me: It’s about a man who can manipulate people’s dreams.
Husband: No. I don’t want to watch that.
Me: It has action in it.
Husband (shaking his head no): “It’s not real.”

Well of course it isn’t real. That’s why I want to watch it, I think to myself.

I get tired of being in the real world, where everything is predictable; where what science has discovered casts doubt on what hasn’t been discovered; where everything is so boringly normal; and where Newton’s apple will fall to the ground every darn time you drop it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of science. I avidly read anything about the workings of the brain and quantum mechanics – but both are still fields with limitless potential in terms of what we still have to learn.

Growing up, my favorite books were No Flying in the House, A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Mists of Avalon… you get the picture. Not real  : )

My son stopped believing in Santa Claus last Christmas. I had to fight back tears when he looked at me on Christmas morning without any trace of that special gleam of excitement and wonder in his eyes, because I knew it was a step across the bridge from the magic of childhood to the practicalities of adulthood.

I love fantasy/paranormal because of the possibilities inherent in it. Every page is a new discovery. People can fly. Other worlds exist. Up is down. Mad Hatter’s hold tea parties, and hobbits, elves, and dwarves can save mankind.

That’s why I like to write paranormal/fantasy – for the possibilities.

Think about it for a minute. How exciting would it be if you dropped an apple – and it fell up? Wouldn’t the rush of amazement be similar to how it felt on Christmas morning when you were a kid? When was the last time you felt that rush of wonder?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Perfect for a Monday

I saw this on Polyvore last week and decided it was perfect for a Monday post!

We can walk together and hold hands ♥

We can walk together and hold hands ♥ (clipped to polyvore.com)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting Older - Life's Lessons

My birthday is this week, and I'm one year away from a big milestone.  It has me reflecting on the way I view life today versus when I was in my twenties.  Here's what getting older has taught me:

1)  Spend your time wisely. 

As bestselling author Anna Quindlen says, "It is so easy to exist instead of live.  Unless you know there is a clock ticking." 

Thankfully, I've never been at death's door; however, when I am on my deathbed, I don't think I'll wish I'd spent more time working or doing chores.  I have a feeling I'll wish I'd spent more time with my family and following my passions.  Ergo, the house I keep now is a hell of a lot messier than the house I kept in my twenties - and I can't blame it entirely on the kids.

2)  Follow your passion. 

I've always had stories in my head.  When I was in high school, my friends gave me a picture of the moon at an awards banquet.  They said it was because my mind was always off in outer space.  In truth, it was always off in story land.  It just never occurred to me until I was an adult with a family to take care of and bills to pay that I wanted to be a writer.

They say you regret more what you didn't do, than what you did do.  For me, I regret not following my passion earlier in life.  Now I spend my spare time with my family or writing.  Period.

3)  Nobody likes perfect people.

I used to think that if I were perfect, I would have more friends.  For anyone fighting this issue, PLEASE save yourself the heartache.  Being perfect makes it damn hard to relate to other people.  What I cherish most about my friends is that they are not perfect.  They struggle with the same issues and imperfections I do.  And I love them for it.

4)  This, too, shall pass.

I've had periods of my life where it was hard to get out of bed in the morning, where I didn't think I could go another minute, let alone another second carrying my burdens.  I pushed through, even when it was one step-drag step-drag at a time.  Eventually when I looked up, my load was lighter.

Just like runners who have to push through the pain to get the runner's high, push on and you will amaze yourself.   

5)  Spend more time with God, whatever you percieve Him to be.

I talk to God a lot more now than I did when I was younger.  Finding my spirituality has allowed me to be more loving and accepting of other people.  More tolerant.  We each have our own path to follow in life.  I want to meet Him knowing I traveled mine well, and that I helped others as best I could when our paths crossed.

I could go on about what I've learned, but those are the big ones right now.  What lessons have you learned?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Life After People


AP Photo/The Texarkana Gazette, Adam Sacasa
Wildfires.  Floods.  Hurricanes.  Heatwaves.  Earthquakes.  All have affected the U.S. within the last 30 days, taking lives and damaging property.

Texas just finished the hottest June to August on record in the United States.  We're also in the worst drought the state has experienced since the 1950's. 


So when The History Channel's Life After People show came on this weekend, I wasn't too shocked when the show stated that climate change, according to scientists, is the biggest threat to the human population. 

According to the EPA,

"The Earth’s climate is changing. In most places, average temperatures are rising. Scientists have observed a warming trend beginning around the late 1800s. The most rapid warming has occurred in recent decades. Most of this recent warming is very likely the result of human activities."

Human activities increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide traps heat in our atmosphere and without it, the earth would be too cold for life.

The fact that the climate is changing is no longer in debate.  The debate centers around how our activities are impacting the change.  Burning fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil; cutting down trees; generating waste and farming - all produce greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. 

This climate change means more natural disasters; crops are affected by droughts and pests; more energy must be used to cool homes, schools, and workplaces; sea levels rise; and wildlife dies.

Now I'm not trying to turn into Al Gore on you, but this topic interests me (might be why the hero and heroine have to battle natural disasters in my book, Entangled) and I'm curious to know how you feel about it.  Is climate change inevitable?  Are we causing it or are we just speeding the inevitable change along?  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Superstitious Much?

I watched the USA network's show, Necessary Roughness, last night.  If you have not seen it, it is about a therapist who works for a football team.  On last night's show, the therapist helped the team get over their superstitions about a curse that prevented them from getting to the playoffs for six years.  

Yes, rational adults are superstitious. 

Superstitions are so common that most people don't think much about them.  When was the last time you went to the thirteenth floor of a high rise or hospital?  Flew out of the thirteenth gate?  Walked under a ladder?  Opened your umbrella in the house?

It got me thinking - what do I do that is superstitious?  I don't walk under ladders.  I refuse to kill crickets or ladybugs since they represent good luck.  I do knock on wood when I mention good fortune.

Thanks to a scary story I heard when I was a kid, dark closets with doors cracked open are not allowed in my house.  Closet doors are always fully open or fully closed, so that you can see if someone is inside waiting to jump out at you.  When entering a closet, I always turn the closet light on and THEN open the closet door.  When I'm finished, I shut the closet door and THEN turn the lights out.  Nowadays I do it unconsciously, but I still do it.

I also don't ever, ever stand with my toes under the bed when I get in at night.  Consciously.  Just sayin.

So what little supersitions do you have that you hesitate to admit to, or they've become such a habit, that you don't realize you still do them?  Please share!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday's Sweetest Thing

I heard U2's song "The Sweetest Thing" on the radio the other day, and I decided to start posting sweet things on Thursdays.  For my first post, I found a video of a baby laughing.  What's sweeter than hearing a baby laugh??


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

greg mankiss - dog days of summer
Greg Mankiss Dog Days of Summer

Today marks the 50th day of triple digit heat in the DFW metroplex.  To celebrate the Dog Days of Summer, I thought I'd share a few summer trivia facts:

1)  The name Dog Days comes from the ancient belief that Sirius, also called the Dog Star, in close proximity to the sun was responsible for the hot weather.


2)  The Eiffel tower grows six inches every year. In the summer the metal expands to make the tower grow, and in the winter the metal contracts to shrink the tower back down.

3 )  Alaska experiences an average of 19:11 hours of sunlight in the month of July.

4)  The average American eats around 5 1/2 gallons of ice cream a year. July is the National Ice Cream month because it is the month the most ice cream is sold.

5)  A cricket’s chirp frequency fluctuates with temperature. What does this mean? You can tell the temperature (in Fahrenheit) by counting the number of times a cricket chirps in 15 seconds. Just add 37 to whatever number you reach and BAM you have an approximate outside temp!

6)  According to the FBI, the total crime rate rises about 10 percent during the summer months.

7)  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 holds the summer box office record for best opening weekend.

8)  The world's first rodeo was held in Pecos, Texas on July 4, 1883.

9)  Over 77 percent of all U.S. households own a barbecue grill and nearly half barbecue year round and use their grills five times a month.  The most popular holiday weekend for barbecuing is July 4th, followed by Labor Day and Memorial Day.

10)  Katy Perry's 2010 song California Gurls is the hottest summer song, beating out The Beach Boys, Don Henley, Bryan Adams, Nat King Cole, and Justin Timberlake, just to name a few.

Enjoy the rest of your summer.  Stay cool :)




Monday, August 8, 2011

Fetishes: Admitting it is the first step

Fetsh:  a material object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence
In effort to move into the technology age and consider the environment, eleven months ago I gave up my paper planner.  Since then I have used an electronic calendar to keep track of the kids activities, doctor appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
Yesterday I took my son to Target to buy school supplies.  While there, I fell off the wagon and bought another paper planner.  The first thing I did when I got home was transfer papers that were awry in my purse (coupons, to do lists, gift cards, etc.) and fill up my calendar for the next two months.
For thirty minutes, I was in heaven.
I enjoy writing upcoming events into my planner.  I enjoy looking at it and planning out my days/weeks/months.  It calms me.  Gives me purpose. 
I keep my planner in my purse, so no matter where I am or what I’m doing - when I need to add an appointment or I think of something I need to do - I can reach in my purse and add it.  Sounds silly, but when you’re a wife and mother with a full time job and a side career, it can save the day.  For example, you don’t schedule your son’s check up on the same day as an important meeting at work.
It happens. 
My boss loves office supplies – pens, notebooks, etc.  I have a friend who loves shoes.  My husband loves cars. 
What’s your fetish?  How does it make you feel?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Some Things Don't Change - And Some Things Do

I recently attended my twenty year high school reunion. I won’t get sidetracked by telling you how downright scary it is that twenty years has gone by. But seriously. It is.

As a small history lesson, I went to my senior prom solo. I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time, and I wanted to prove I didn’t need one to have fun. I don’t remember too much about that night, but I remember a two things. Number one, it was nice not worrying about whether or not a date was having a good time. Number two, I showed up wearing the same dress as another girl. Her date told me I looked better in the dress *grin*.

Fast forward ten years. I attended my ten year high school and had a great time. I attended that event solo, fresh off the divorce roller coaster.

Fast forward another *gulp* ten years. I attended my twenty year high school reunion solo. I am happily married, but my husband hated high school and wanted no part of a reunion, even if it wasn’t his. I couldn’t blame him.

Our reunion was located near West End in Downtown Dallas. I entered the venue’s address into my car’s GPS system and arrived to have the know-it-all GPS tell me that the location of my reunion was a piece of concrete beneath the highway called Woodall Rogers.

Since I was surrounded by highways, I figured the building couldn’t be too far away. I parked and asked a street vendor if she knew where the venue for my reunion was located. She pointed across the piece of concrete my car had identified as the venue to the other side of Woodall Rogers. In my nice black dress and new high heels, I walked two blocks across the concrete slab in one hundred degree heat.

No reunion venue in sight.

I stopped in the Hooters and asked the hostess if she knew where the venue was located. The young woman - cool behind her air conditioned hostess stand wearing her skimpy outfit - looked at me like I was crazy and said no.

I walked back across the two blocks. By then, I had blisters forming on my toes, and I was dripping with sweat.

I stopped and asked a wonderful man - I say wonderful because he said I didn’t look old enough to be attending a twenty year reunion and gave me an ice cold bottle of water for free - if he, by chance, knew where the venue was located. He didn’t, but he offered to walk with me to find it. We circled the block.

I will refrain from using any expletives to describe how my toes felt.

Finally, we found a man who knew where my mysterious venue was located. He pointed me across another parking lot, so I walked back to my car and drove to the building. Bingo.

I attended my high school reunion with badly blistered toes. Twenty years ago I would have been mortified by my late, lost, sweaty self. At this age I’m mature enough to know that my worth is so much more than what others think of me. This me didn’t care. There’s a wonderful freedom in that maturity.

I’d love to hear your reunion story. Had anything changed for you? What hadn’t?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Inheriting Insanity From Your Kids - Good Stuff

This past weekend I read "Good Stuff" by Jennifer Grant, where she shares with the world her memories of her father, film star Cary Grant.  He used the term "Good Stuff" when things made him happy.

Ms. Grant leaves the reader with an impression of a father who enjoyed the simple things.  Had a silly sense of humor.  Used silence to communicate his displeasure.  Was neither too miserly nor too lavish with his fortune.  Was generous with 'I love you's.'

Tonight I went to dinner with my husband and my children.  I'd like to report that it was a wonderful family dinner where we shared the highs and lows of our day over good food.  Alas, we rarely manage to accomplish such a meal.  Instead, the dinner was a curious hodgepodge of conversation where my husband and I attempted to share the events of our day around interruptions from the children; admonishments that one stop pouring water on her napkin with the spoon; to chew with their mouths shut; to not throw parsley across the table; and then we capped off the dinner with an argument about brushing teeth.

As we left the restaurant, I remembered a quote by Erma Bombeck:  "Insanity is hereditary.  You can catch it from your kids."

When my children look back one day and remember me, I want them to remember my love.  Having inherited insanity from them, I'm not sure I want them remembering the drool...

Now that we're home from the restaurant, my daughter is playing songs on the iPhone (in my ear) and my son is putting together legos on the floor by the bed, kicking the cord to my computer so that the screen brightens and darkens with the movement.  We have a four bedroom, three living area home, and they insist on being in the same room I'm in, even after all my insane ramblings about proper behavior at dinner.

Good stuff.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Overcoming Fear

I like to think I don't let fear rule my life. 

I used to be deathly afraid of speaking in public.  Now I might get a few nerves before speaking in front of a group, but I find I actually enjoy it. 

I challenged my fear of rejection and failure by pitching my manuscript to agents and editors.  While I did receive some rejections, I now have a published book. 

I've made decisions in my career that challenged me and took me out of my comfort zone.  Sometimes the outcome was what I wanted.  Sometimes not.  Always I learned something and grew as a person.

So do I let fear rule my life?  Prior to last weekend, I would have confidently said no.  And I'd be eating humble pie today as I changed my answer to yes.

My husband held up a figurative mirror in front of me and made me realize there was indeed a part of my life where I am letting fear rule me.  And it is making me miserable.  In this scenario, it is my health that we were discussing. 

So how does one overcome fear?

  1. Understand what fear is.  FEAR = False Expectations Appearing Real.  I used to teach a Coaching class for a company I worked for.  One of the principles taught was:  Change the perception, Change the direction.  Follow the feeling, and there you will often find the real issue upsetting someone. 
  2. After identifying the real issue, then separate feelings from thoughts and keep an objective, open mind.  Visualize the outcome you want and take actions that will get you closer to your desired outcome.  Do not let fear rule your actions.
  3. Surrender the outcome.  Trust in God or the Universe or yourself, whatever you believe in.  Nothing is guaranteed.  Believe that whatever happens, you will be okay and you will land on your feet.  Life has an interesting way of working itself out.
Back to my health issue.  My husband and I were discussing possible remedies, including surgery.  I told him that 45% of people that tried a certain surgical remedy experienced recurring symptoms within one year.

He immediately pointed out to me that 100% of people that don't try the remedy are 100% certain of having recurring symptoms within one year.

I hate it when he's right :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

4.5 Star Review for Entangled

Happy Monday!

I was contemplating what to write on my blog post tonight, when I received word of my wonderful review by SensualReads.com.  The reviewer writes:

"As Cassie awakens her abilities, Ms. Bell presents the reader with a
generous number of plot twists guaranteed to keep the pages of this book turning."

I think I'll bask in my happy glow now.  You can read the full review here.  Have a great week!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Perseverance - #Winning

per·se·ver·ance[pur-suh-veer-uhns]   –noun

1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.


This word resonates with me this week. 

On Sunday the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Championship, a first in franchise history.  It took MVP Dirk Nowitzki thirteen years to reach his goal.  Thirteen years.  That only includes his time with the Mavericks and doesn't include all the hard work he did to get into the NBA.  How many of us have ever shown that kind of diligence and drive in our lifetime? 

If I look back over the last thirteen years, the direction of my life has changed drastically.  In 2008 I decided to pursue writing as more than a hobby.  Though I am now published, my long term goal is to have my writing pay the bills so I can do it full time. 

This requires me to write a lot more books.  With a day job, a mom job, and wife job, time is not always on my side.  The last several weeks I felt like I was getting behind.  Spread too thin.  Not doing any of my roles justice.

Que the need for perseverance ~ a steady persistance in a course of action.  To quote Mavs owner Mark Cuban:

“It doesn’t happen overnight. There’s no quick solutions. There’s not a single template for winning the championship. If there was, everybody would do it.” 
There may not be a single template for winning, but I gaurantee that every template has perseverance written on it somewhere. 

My eleven year old son is preparing to test for his black belt, and now that we are getting down to the last two weeks of training, his stress level is rising and at times he wants to give up.  I'm trying to teach him perseverance ~ to keep going even when he gets discouraged.  It's a hard lesson to learn at eleven, but if learned, will serve him well all of his life.

There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.  ~Author Unknown
My hat is off to Dirk and the Mavs.  I'm thrilled for their accomplishment, and look to it as an example for both me and my son.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm Looking for Summer Reading Suggestions...

A fellow writer (shout out to Susan Isik) is hosting a #ToBeReMo June Reading Challenge.  The goal is to knock out some of your To Be Read Pile in the month of June.

I committed to 4-6 books this month and have finished two.  YAY!!

For a list of books I'm reading, check out my "currently-reading" list on Goodreads - shown on the lower left side of my blog.  (BTW, if you're an avid reader and you're not on Goodreads ~ Join!  ~ And friend me!)

What about you?  What books are in your To Be Read pile for the summer?  I'm looking for suggestions!

Monday, May 30, 2011

FREEDOM IS NOT FREE

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.

Copywrite 1981 by CDR Kelly Strong, USCG (Ret)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Micro-Tension and The Good Wife

I’m a huge fan of the TV show, The Good Wife.

For those of you that don’t watch it, Alicia Florrick (played by Julianna Margulies) is an attorney whose husband, Peter (played by Chris Noth), has cheated on her. Peter was the Cook County State’s Attorney and his infidelity was a big deal in the media. Since the series began, Alicia has stayed faithful and committed to her marriage. With Alicia’s help, Peter is reelected to the State's Attorney office. Right after Peter’s reelection, another of Peter’s infidelities came to light. Fed up and hurt, she kicked him out of their home that same night.

You can’t have a show titled The Good Wife if you don’t have some sort of temptation that might keep her from being good, right? Enter Will Gardner (played by Josh Charles), who is a partner in the law firm where Alicia works, and an old boyfriend of Alicia’s from law school. The old attraction is still there, simmering beneath all of Will and Alicia’s interactions.

Alicia’s choice to stay married to Peter not only impacts their children, but also the future of his political career and that of the advisors and politicians that support him. In turn, their interest in Peter’s success affects Alicia’s position in the law firm. As stated in the show last night, with her by his side, Peter is a Kennedy. Without her, he’s just another john who’s slept with a hooker.

One reason I love this show is because I’ve found myself rooting for Alicia and Peter at times, and then rooting for Will and Alicia at others. No clear lines. No clear motives. No clear good or bad people.

The season finale was last night. If you haven’t seen it and want to, don’t keep reading. If you have seen it, stay with me. If you don’t watch the show, you should.

At the end of the episode, Will and Alicia decide to take their attraction to the next level and rent a room at a hotel. Due to a convention in town, the only suite available for the night is the Presidential Suite, which costs $7,800.

Will they take it?

Will decides it’s worth it and pays for the room.

Next, Will and Alicia approach the elevators, and the elevator is full. They are forced to wait for the next one available.

Will one of them change their minds now?

An elevator opens up, and a little girl and her mother exit the elevator. Will enters the elevator and looks down to press the button for the floor to the Presidential Suite, and the majority of the buttons are lit up (the little girl had busy hands).

The elevator stops at all the floors. The doors open. The doors shut. Will and Alicia look straight ahead, and then glance covertly at the other. No direct eye contact.

Will one of them have second thoughts and back out?

The doors open. We see Will’s straight face. The doors shut.

The doors open. We see Alicia’s straight face. The doors shut.

What are they thinking? Will they still go through with it? Now are they having doubts?

“Will, maybe…” she says. He reaches for her hand. They kiss.

The doors open. The doors shut.

Finally, finally, they arrive at the top floor where the Presidential Suite is located. Will enters the key card into the slot and the lock flashes red.

Will he have to go all the way back down to the front desk to get the card to work? Will it give them time to change their minds and back out of such a risky temptation?

After all, Alicia’s still married (albeit separated), and Will’s still her boss.

He inserts the key card again. Again it flashes red.

She takes the card from him. Turns it over and enters the key card into the slot. It flashes green. Together they enter the suite, and the door shuts behind them. The viewer is still left wondering - will they or won’t they?

This, my friends, is what Donald Maass calls micro-tension. Micro-tension is the moment-by-moment, line-by-line, simmering-beneath-the-surface tension that keeps a reader or viewer in a constant state of apprehension about what will happen in the next few seconds of the story.

Micro-tension is what keeps people riveted on the edge of their seats. It’s what kept me riveted in mine as the elevator doors opened and closed, floor after floor, as I wondered what the characters were thinking and what they would do next.

This link has a video of the last five minutes of the season finale, including the micro-tension and the elevator.

http://www.salon.com/entertainment/tv/the_good_wife/?story=/ent/tv/feature/2011/05/18/good_wife_cbs_season_2_finale

Did you like this use of micro-tension at the end of The Good Wife? Can you think of another show or book that had memorable micro-tension in it, and you sat, gripping the pages or the edge of your seat, anxiously awaiting what came next?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Note to Self: SLOW DOWN

I've had a strange few days. 

On Saturday I watched my nephew graduate from college.  I sat in the auditorium and tried to put myself in the shoes of the parents watching their kids walk across the stage.  I imagined that the emotions ranged from "Thank God!" to "When did my baby get to be so grown up?"

On Sunday I received word that a family member may not live through the week.  He's a husband, father, grandfather, uncle, retired successful businessman, avid outdoorsman, has great dimples and a deep voice I loved to listen to when I was little. 

Both events have impressed upon me how fast time flies, and how I really don't stop and appreciate it enough.  As I've commented before on my blog, I'm usually too obsessed with my to-do list.  I suck at living in the moment.

Which is rather short-sighted of me, considering the only guarantee I have in life is right now.  With a full-time day job, a writing gig, and my family, the demands on my time aren't going to go away.  So my new mantra:  slow down and enjoy right now.

"Doing is never enough if you neglect being." - Eckhart Tolle

Monday, May 2, 2011

How Do You Define Yourself?

My day job in Human Resources requires me to classify positions for employees in the organization where I work.  It's a tough job because it impacts employee titles and salaries.  Conversations can become heavy with tears of joy or angry rants, depending on the outcome of the classification.  Personally, I believe this is because - duh - it involves money, but also because most people define themselves by their job.

What's one of the first questions you ask someone you meet?  It's usually "Where do you work?" or "What do you do for a living?"

Most people will tell you that they are a title - mom, wife, engineer, teacher, marketing rep, father, etc - but these are reflections of our external world, a condition of existence within a larger perspective.

My other job as a writer requires me to create characters by focusing on the internal.  When defining a character, I think more about personality traits and personal goals.  Cassie, my main character in Entangled, is curious, empathetic, and a little dissatisfied with her current life.  She's also loyal and funny.  These traits define her more than the fact that she is a teacher, a Texan, and a divorcee, because they determine her actions. 

Character is action.  We are what we do. 

So if someone were to look at you and say "Tell me about yourself," what would you say?  How do you define yourself to a stranger?  How do you define yourself when you look in the mirror?  How do your titles, your actions, and your thoughts and feelings impact the way you perceive your reflection?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fighting the Compulsion

I am a compulsive 'to-doer.'  I have four to-do lists going at all times.  I put things I've done on the list just to mark them off.  I know.  Sad.

With a full-time job, launching a writing career, and two active elementary-school school kids there is always something to add to my list.  Grocery store?  Check.  Soccer Game?  Check.  Find ways to market my book?  Check.

Even when I have time to relax, I have to tell myself repeatedly that it's okay to do so.  To slow my mind, live in the moment, and do something - gasp!- just for fun is not a sin.  As I write this, it's Saturday and I meant to sit down and catch up on the tv shows I DVR'd a month ago.  Now I'm watching TV and writing a blog post.  I've also wrapped and addressed a box I need to mail...

Okay, so I just might be beyond help.  Enough about me.  Tell me about you.  What compulsion do you struggle with? 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Interview with The Examiner

Happy Monday!

Today, my interview with Laura McQuillen from The Examiner is posted, where I talk about the cultural and spiritual influences in Entangled.  Click here to check it out!

Traci

Monday, March 7, 2011

Book Giveaway

Stop by Coffee Time Romance's Blog today and leave me a comment!  A random commentor will win a paperback or ebook version of Entangled.  Winner's Choice! 

Hope to see you there!

Traci

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Entangled is Released!

I'm so very excited to announce that Entangled is available as of today on Amazon!!  Even though I signed the contract back in October and have worked on edits over the past few months to polish it, I must admit that I am quite in shock!!

Kindle Version
 
Print Version 
 
Traci

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Power of a Story

My family watched the remake of The Karate Kid this weekend, starring Jaden Smith.  I won't debate whether or not it was better than the original.  My daughter, who has never seen the original, thought this one was great.  She's watched it twice now.

This movie is a good story with universal themes - perserverance, respect, friendship, and finding family where blood ties do not exist.  I don't think I'm spoiling the movie by discussing the end.  Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) is knocked down in the final round of the kung fu tournament with a horrible blow to his leg.  This is his black moment, where all seems lost.  If Dre does not get up, his opponent wins.  Watching the young man's struggle to stand, his determination to win, brought tears to my eyes, and that of my husband.  After the movie was over, my daughter asked me why we cried.

How do you explain the power of a story to a seven year old?  Isn't that something that has to be experienced, and not explained?  But her large brown eyes waited for an answer, so I did what any self-respecting parent would do when cornered with a question without an easy answer - I turned the question around and asked her how she felt watching Dre try to stand again and fight.  Her answer?  She wanted him to win. 

As a writer, I have a great respect for stories, in all forms.  I read a book a couple of years ago titled Story, by Robert McKee.  It is a book about screenwriting, and in it McKee does the best job I've read explaining why stories touch us so.  He explains:

"In life, moments that blaze with a fusion of idea and emotion are so rare, when they happen, you think you are having a religious experience.  But whereas life separates meaning from emotion, art unites them... The source of all art is the human psyche's primal, prelinguistic need for the resolution of stress and discord through beauty and harmony, for the use of creativity to revive a life deadened by routine, for a link to reality through our instinctive, sensory feel for the truth...  A story well told gives you the very thing you cannot get from life:  meaningful emotional experience.  In life, experiences become meaningful with reflection in time.  In art, they are meaningful now, at the instant they happen."  
I got tears in my eyes because Dre's struggle to stand reflects struggles I've faced in real life - to get up when knocked down, to keep going when it seems hopeless, to want something bad enough to risk emotional and physical pain for it, and the satisfaction of achieving something you've worked so hard for.

While my daugher may absorb the movie's message to get up when life knocks you down, it isn't until she experiences this struggle for herself that she'll understand my tears - and possibly experience her own - while watching or reading a story.
 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Connecting Twin Souls

If you look in the dictionary, the definition of soul mates is:  One of two persons compatible with each other in disposition, point of view, or sensitivity. 

BORING.  Here are some more interesting ideas:
  • In Ancient Greece, it was believed that humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces.  Zeus feared their power and split them in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half that would make them whole.
  • A soul mate is someone with whom a person has shared other lifetimes through reincarnation, and thus, the instant feeling that you know the other person.
  • Combine the meaning of the words "soul" and "mate" = "a spiritual companion"
  • The one eternal partner made and given by God
Some believe that if you're with your soul mate, things are perfect.  Personally, I don't buy that.  Loving a soul mate can be hard.  As humans, we have a hard time loving and accepting ourselves - so why would we expect smooth sailing when loving the other half of our own soul?

I am married to my soul mate.  Both of us are strong-willed, independent, and hard-headed, which means the seas can get real choppy.  Where he sees black and white, I see gray.  Where he loves to have people around, I tend to be a loner.

So why do I believe he is my soul mate?  Because we share the same fundamental values.  Because I love him unconditionally, and ultimately I believe a soul mate is about unconditional love.

In my novel, Entangled, the concept of soul mates is intrinsically tied to the theme of the story.  One definition of the word entangled is 'correlated, even though physically separated.'  

Jennifer Crusie said in her essay, "The Five Things I've Learned About Writing Romance from TV," that Lesson #1 was "Opposites Attract, Twin Souls Connect."  She uses Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls as examples.

Popular literary soul mates?  Romeo and Juliet.  Catherine and Heathcliff.  Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  Noah and Allie.  Edward and Bella. 

Who are your favorite literary soul mates?  Do you believe in soul mates in real life?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Supernatural Heroes

I'm blogging today at Crescent Moon Press about Supernatural Heroes.  Please stop by!

http://crescentmoonpress.com/blog/

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Symbolism in Fiction

To celebrate the release of Entangled this month, I am blogging about themes and symbols found in the book.

I drafted this article during the Super Bowl (delayed posting due to modem death), when I was bowled over (no pun intended) by a very powerful symbol - the American Flag.  It is truly one of the most powerful symbols of liberty and freedom in the world.  It evokes emotion I can't easily describe.

In literature we can't see symbols, but we can visualize them.  Symbols impart deeper meaning to a story.  They can be subtle or obvious.  Flannery O'Connor in "The Nature and Aim of Fiction" states:

"I think that the way to read a book is to always see what happens, but in a good novel, more always happens than we are able to take in at once, more happens than meets the eye.  The mind is led on by what it sees into the greater depths that the book's symbols naturally suggest.  This is what is meant when critics say that a novel operates on several levels.  The truer the symbol, the deeper it leads you, the more meaning it opens up."
In Entangled,  I use nature symbols to add depth to the story.  The two primary symbols used are water/ocean and the wind.  Water/ocean symbolize our unconscious, and wind represents chaos and helps set the mood within the story.

As a reader, what fiction have you recently read that contained powerful symbols?  As a writer, which ones have you used enhance your theme or mood?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Traci Bell's Blog: The D Word

Traci Bell's Blog: The D Word

The D Word

My romance novel, Entangled, is set to be released this month by Crescent Moon Press.  To celebrate, during the month of February I will highlight in my blog the main themes found in the book.

I'll start with destiny. 

It's a heavy word.  A lot to live up to.

Have you ever asked someone if they believe in destiny?  Chances are that the person you asked enthusiastically said yes or emphatically said no.  Ask the question at a dinner party and, most likely, it will lead to a lively discussion about fate versus free will.  (I've done it before.  Quite a lively discussion.)

Fate - a predetermined course of events that can't be changed - is final.  Very few people like to feel that out of control - like it doesn't matter what we do, things won't change.

We are all fated to die.  The real question is - what is our purpose in living?

Ah, purpose.  That's an easier word to swallow.

Destiny can be defined as that to which a person is destined.  Destine:  to set apart for a certain purpose.

Five years ago I read a book titled, The Passion Test.  It is a book that helps one discover their passions.  Follow your passion, and there you will find your life's purpose.  (If you feel dissatisfied with the direction of your life, I encourage you to read it.  But I digress.)

Destiny doesn't mean that you have to become a doctor, Mother Theresa, or even Bono.  It means you have to become more fully you.  My passions are my family and my writing.  When I ignore those, I wither.  When I work at them (and yes - as much as I love them - both are work), I flourish.  My cup runneth over.

In my novel, the hero and heroine struggle to accept their destiny/purpose, for it challenges their basic beliefs about who they are and how the universe works.

So what about you?  What are your passions?  What do you believe is your destiny?  Is it a question that intrigues you or makes you squirm?
   

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Top 5 Romantic Comedies - #1


Number one on my list of best romantic comedies is my favorite movie of all genres.  I make a point to watch it every year around the holidays. 

The Philadelphia Story (1940) stars Katherine Hepburn (Tracy Lord), Cary Grant (C.K. Dexter Haven), and Jimmy Stewart (Macaulay Conner).  The movie explores the difference in social classes, and it explores Tracy's struggle with accepting human imperfection.  It is my favorite movie because of the sophisticated, witty dialogue (excerpt below). 

The movie opens with a silent scene where Dexter puts his hand on Tracy's face and shoves her down, telling you a little about the characters and that you-the audience-are in for a real treat.  This is at the time Dexter and Tracy get divorced. 

Two years later, Tracy (from a higher social class) is about to remarry a self-made man named Kittredge (John Howard).  Dexter (also from the higher class) decides to put a kink in those plans.  His kink involves two SPY magazine reporters, Macauley and Miss Imbrie (Ruth Hussey).

Dexter (Grant):  You don't look as well as well as when I last saw you, Kittredge.  Oh, you poor fellow.  I know just how you feel...  (He looks at Tracy)  Why, you don't look old enough to get married.  Not even the first time.  And then you never did.  She needs trouble to mature her, Kittredge.  Give her lots of it.

Kittredge:  I'm afraid she can't count on me for that. 

Dexter:  No, that's too bad.  Sometimes, for your own sake, Red, I think you should have stuck to me longer.

Tracy:  I thought it was for life, but the nice judge gave me a full pardon.

Dexter:  Aw, that's the old redhead, no bitterness, no recrimination, just a good swift left in the jaw.

The Philadelphia Story received six Oscar nominations.  Jimmy Stewart won for Best Supporting Actor, and Donald Ogden Stewart won for Best Screenplay.  The film revived Hepburn's career and broke a box office record at Radio City Music Hall.

Here's the opending scene (you can't help but laugh):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpwJrEQY17U

 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Top 5 Romantic Comedies - #2

It Happened One Night has been credited for jump-starting the romantic comedy.  Produced in 1934 with only a $325,000 budget, the movie surprised everyone and won all five of the top Oscar categories - Best Picture, Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Actress (Claudette Colbert), Best Director (Frank Capra), and Best Adaptation.  This feat was unrivaled until 1975 with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

In theaters during the Great Depression, It Happened One Night allowed movie goers an escape from the troubling times.  It made them laugh.  It also inspired Friz Freleng's infamous cartoon characters - Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, and Pepe LePew. 

It Happened One Night follows Claudette's character, Ellie, as she runs away from her rich father.  She takes a night bus to New York and meets Gable's character, Peter, who is a jobless journalist.  He agrees to help her return to her husband (whom she married against her father's wishes and was unable to consummate the marriage) if she will allow him exclusive rights to her story.  The two make a deal.

And - of course - end up falling in love.

Here is the famous hitchhiking scene from the movie, where Ellie proves "once and for all that the limb is mighter than the thumb."

If you haven't seen it - or haven't seen it in a while - watch it and enjoy the escape :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wHfSb2xz2M&feature=related

Friday, January 28, 2011

Orangutan and the Hound

This video was e-mailed to me this morning. It made me smile, so I thought I would share.

Orangutan and the Hound

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Top 5 Romantic Comedies - #3

Number three on my list is a romantic comedy set in the church of baseball.  It's better known and loved as a sports movie than a romantic comedy; however, I love the romance of Bull Durham, the attraction of experience and wisdom over youth and naivete.

Susan Sarandon's character (Annie) picks Nuke (Tim Robbins) as her seasonal lover and student in her pagan church of baseball.  She picks Nuke because he is impressionable. But it is Crash (Kevin Costner) who peaks her curiosity, because he matches her on an intellectual level that Nuke can't.  He knows who he is and what he likes and doesn't like - an appealing quality in any romance story's hero, to my way of thinking.

One of my favorite oft-quoted movie lines was said by Annie:  "The world was made for those who aren't cursed with self-awareness."  (In case you are wondering - I'm cursed.)

Bull Durham is ranked #55 on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies and #97 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs list.

Here is Crash's "I believe..." speech.  Enjoy :)




   

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Top 5 Romantic Comedies - #4

"The stars awaken a certain reverence, because
Though always thought present, they are inaccessible;
But all natural objects make a kindred impression,
When the mind is open to their influence."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Though Emerson was talking about the stars, the same can be said of the moon, which influences the characters in the romantic comedy I have chosen as number four.

Wikipedia defines a romantic comedy as "a lighthearted film, with humorous plotlines, centered around romantic ideals like true love."  I would not call Moonstruck a lighthearted film.  Fear, grudges, and deception play a major role in the movie.  The comedy emerges from how the characters react to their emotions and the situation those emotions land them in.

Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage): "Playing it safe is just about the most dangerous thing a woman like you can do.  I mean, you waited for the right man the first time.  Why didn't you wait for the right man again?"
Loretta Castorini (Cher):  "Because he didn't come."
Ronny (Cage):  "I'm here."
Loretta (Cher):  "You're late."

And thus the central plot of the movie.  Loretta is engaged to Ronny's brother, Johnny.  When Ronny tells Loretta that he loves her, Loretta delivers the most famous line from the movie, "Snap out of it!"

There is a yearning in this movie that grabs me every time I watch it.  I love Olympia Dukakis's character, Rose.  My absolute favorite line of the movie is hers, when she is faced with the opportunity to invite a man who is not her husband, into her home.

Rose (Dukakis):  "I'm not going to invite you in.  Not because I'm married, but because I know who I am."

Wow. 

(I'm having so much fun revisiting these movies!!)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Top 5 Romantic Comedies - #5

Over the past month, I've spend a majority of my time studying for a professional certification exam.  I took it yesterday and passed.  (Yay, me!)  Now is the perfect time to give my fried brain cells a break and watch a feel-good romantic comedy.

I must admit, when I said I would decide on my Top 5 favorite romantic comedies, I was quite naive about how hard it would be to narrow them down.  This was tough.

#5 - When Harry Met Sally

I complained in my initial blog about recent romantic comedies having ho-hum dialogue.  Number five on my list is probably one of the most quoted rom com's on the internet.  Nora Ephron's dialogue is sharp and witty, keeping us entertained as Sally and Harry fumble through their relationship.  Even macho men admit to really liking this movie.  How many romantic comedy films can say that?

When Harry Met Sally raises the debate about whether or not men and women can be friends.  It never really answers the question, leaving us to decide for ourselves.  What it does show; however, is that you CAN be friends and lovers. 

The reason I put this movie in my top five is because of the ending.  True love is about knowing and accepting the good and bad trains of the other person, even the parts of their personality that make you crazy.

Crazy love = good romantic comedy.

"I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out.  I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich.  I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts.  I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes.  And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night."

-Harry Burns, When Harry Met Sally



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Are We in the Romantic Comedy Dark Ages?

I watched ABC's Nightline last night, which featured a segment titled, "Shaky Times for the Rom Com."  In the segment, Terry Moran states that the "current crop of romantic comedies leaves no doubt its golden age is over."

Sadly, I agree.  When I compare current romantic comedies with classics like When Harry Met Sally and Bringing Up Baby, I find current movies unable to measure up.

Rom Com's address our most common desires (love/connection) and fears (intimacy/rejection).  When a rom com works, it is because it satisfies the viewer's need to see the hero/heroine overcoming conflict through character growth.  In my opinion, recent movies seem over the top and/or they cop out to simple solutions.  The dialogue is often flat.  They may contain funny moments, but I have felt cheated by the endings. 

The fact that Hollywood cannot come up with better romantic comedies floors me, especially considering how romance novels have been selling since 2009.  Romance novels are primarly read by women in a romantic relationship, age 31-49.  I don't have statistics to prove it, but I would venture to guess that these women are also a primary audience for the romantic comedy film.  There is an audience out there.  Surely it is worth Hollywood's time and money to make good romantic comedy films.

Starting next week, I'm going to review my Top 5 favorite romantic comedies.  Stay tuned to see who is number one and why...