Friday, December 31, 2010

Best and Worst of 2010: Books

So for my second post today (gasp!  Two in one day!  The sky must be falling!) I was inspired by my friend Courtney's latest blog post ("Abducted by the Books of 2010 Survey"), in which she filled out a survey that she found on her friend's post and was originally created at this blog:  The Perpetual Page-Turner.  So I'm going to attempt to fill out the same survey.


1. Best book of 2010?  Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.  I love the whole trilogy but this one, the second one, is my favorite.

2. Worst book of 2010?  Tainted, by Brooke Morgan.  The characters were totally unbelievable, and I hated the main male character from the beginning, and I could not understand why the female protagonist was attracted to him at all.

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010?  Go, Mutants! by Larry Doyle.  It had so much potential, and I really enjoyed the way he invoked the style of bad Science Fiction movies, but it unfortunately it fell very flat.



4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010?  The Host by Stephenie Meyer.  I enjoyed the Twilight Saga but only on an entertainment level.  However, I really loved The Host!


5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010?  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I've recommended the whole trilogy to several people this year.

6. Best series you discovered in 2010?  The Hunger Games, hands down.  It's not Harry Potter, but it's really close!

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010?  Suzanne Collins and Margaret Atwood.


8. Most hilarious read of 2010?  Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?  The Hunger Games trilogy and The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown (a.k.a. the King of Chapter-Ending Cliffhangers).

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010?  Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins.



11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?  
Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  The book was okay but I loved the font on the cover and the way it intertwines with the tree.

12. Most memorable character in 2010?   I think it's a tie between Crowley in Good Omens and President Snow in The Hunger Games trilogy.  Crowley is so hilarious (especially with his house plants) and President Snow is so creepy with his blood breath.

13. Most beautifully written book in 2010?  Unfortunately, I don't really have an answer for this.  I don't think any of the books I read this year were "beautifully written."  I think that The Hunger Games trilogy was extremely well-written, as were some of the others that I read, but as far as passages that made me get excited about the beautiful descriptions, I'm drawing a blank.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010?  The Hunger Games trilogy.  I can't wait for the movies.


15. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read?  Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.  Or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  And I have so many other Classics that I still need to read.

New Year's Resolutions

Well, once again I've been absent from my blog.  I have been pretty busy, with Christmas parties and going out of town for Christmas, etc.  But I have been reading my friends' posts, and I've been pretty inspired by them.  So today I might go out of character and have a couple of new posts, since it's New Year's Eve and I have a couple of posts in that theme.

I've wanted to do a post of New Year's Resolutions for a while, and my friend Holly's post about them ("Oy With the Resolutions,") gave me the kick in the pants to write my own.  So here they are:

My 2011 Resolutions (I couldn't come up with a more clever name like Holly did, boo.)

  1. Exercise more and lose some weight.
  2. Write (almost) every day.  (I hope to write at least one blog post a week and do some other type of writing at least three times a week.  I know this doesn't quite add up to every day but I think setting smaller goals that I can actually accomplish helps me to reach those larger goals.)
  3. Finish and get through one edit of my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel.
  4. Read at least as many books as I did in 2010, if not more.  (I read 30 books this year, which is a lot for me!  But I enjoyed it so much and I have hundreds of other books that I want to read, so this resolution shouldn't be too hard.)
  5. Randomly pay for a stranger's meal.  (I heard that this happened once - someone did the whole "Pay it Forward" thing at a restaurant and for the whole day, everyone else did the same thing!  I've been wanting to do it since then, and I will do it one day, even if it's not in 2011.)
  6. Be more positive and less judgmental.
Well, that's all I can think of right now.  But I'm sure there are more things that I'd like to do next year.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thoughts on Publishing

Yes, it's been a while.  No, I haven't been writing every day - get OFF my butt! ;)  Actually, I've been taking a bit of a break after NaNoWriMo.  And since the new year is quickly approaching, I've decided to stop my Write (Almost) Every Day Challenge and begin afresh in the new year.  I plan on jumping right back into my NaNo novel at that point, editing and writing and working on getting it publishable.  


Which is what I wanted to talk about today - publishing.  My friend, Tracy, wrote a blog post a few days ago about self-publishing.  Here is a link to that lovely post:  Building A Bridge.  Go there, read it, come back.  I'll wait.








Wait!  You're supposed to come back!
Yes, I know she has a lot more posts than me.  
Yes, I know she posts WAY more regularly than I do.
Yes, I know she has a lot of witty commentary and sage insight.
Yes, I know that she shares recipes!  And, believe me, I've had her yummy food, the recipes are worth it!
But you're supposed to come back after you read that one post!  You can peruse the rest of her posts later!
Dang!


Well, for those of you that did come back, I'll continue.


Tracy talks about how she feels that experts (literary agents and professional publishers) help to make her story the strongest it can be, and she feels that self-publishing doesn't include these last few strength-boosters in your story.  I totally agree with her, and I had some other thoughts on the subject.  I thought about writing a comment to her post, but my thoughts kept getting bigger and longer and I didn't want to write a novel of a comment, so I decided to write my own blog post on the subject.


The funny thing is, the night before Tracy wrote this post, I had a dream that my husband's brother, Josh, wrote a book and had it published.  He was not self-publishing, but I was quite irked in my dream that he was having a book published.  I was jealous, of course, but I also had other thoughts on the fact that Josh was publishing a book.  Did I mention it was a BIG book?  That didn't help my jealousy.  


But seriously, I was mostly upset because Josh is not a writer.  He is an aspiring actor living in L.A.  Now, I don't mean to say that non-writers shouldn't write and have their books published.  I actually don't mind that.  The thing I mind is that non-writers who are celebrities (Nicole Richie, Hilary Duff, Sarah Palin, etc.) have an easy time publishing.  I understand why - publishing companies know that they will be able to sell a book written by Sarah Palin - they have no idea if they'll be able to sell a book by little old me.  But my point is that, in the past, publishing has been HARD.  There is a format, a process, a LONG wait, and an emotional tailspin created by thousands of reject letters.  Authors go through all of this and then when they finally get a yes they rejoice, run around in their living rooms, shouting and rushing towards the closest bottle of champagne.  Somehow I can't see celebrities doing this.  I actually imagine them kind of shrugging, like, "Yeah, I wrote a book."  (Not all celebrities - I actually can't imagine the agony that Portia de Rossi went through while writing her personal experiences with bulimia in her recent work, Unbearable Lightness.)  


But this is how I feel about self-publishing, too.  It takes away a lot of the process, the hardship, the struggle of becoming a "published author."  I also feel that it kind of takes away a bit of the power and prestige of the title of "published author."  It's like, hey, anyone can do it, so what does it matter that you're a "published author?"  Who cares?


That said, I have a friend who is in the process of self-publishing.  I do not mean to belittle him in any way. I will be buying his book and giggling like a giddy school girl, most likely telling everyone around me that "I know this author!"  The only problem is - so far, the only places to buy his book will be on Amazon, Ebay, and the Barnes and Noble website.  Which, I will admit, is awesome.  But all I know is that, if I ever get a book published, I want to be able to walk into any book store and see it on the shelf.  It's a lot of hard work to write a novel, and I'm willing to work even harder to get it published.  One of these days...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo Accomplished!; Write (Almost) Every Day Challenge, Day #56

Oh, Hello, Blogger.  And Hello, December.  


Whew.  NaNoWriMo is over, and I am a winner!!!  I wrote over 9,000 words one day and crossed that 50,000-word finish line with a few days to spare!


And boy am I glad that I finished when I did.  Because only a couple days later I caught a bug that my son had caught over Thanksgiving and I was down for the count.  I was in a lot of pain, and, well, you don't want to hear about that.  Let's just say it wasn't pretty.  And to top it off, my husband caught it, too!  The whole house, laying around on couches, moaning and sipping water all day....  We were all pretty pathetic.


And it's still not completely gone.  I have the most horrible headache of all headaches ever to be known as horrible (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but it is one horrible headache that's lasted for two days now), but everything else is pretty much gone.


Although my dizziness is still around.  For those of you who didn't know, for over a month now I have been suffering from spells of dizziness, or rather, spells where I feel almost drunk.  I have been to the doctor about it, been to the chiropractor (which seemed to help), but it's still not going away.  For a while it was constant - I'd feel the symptoms almost all day long.  That lasted about two weeks.  Now it comes and goes - mostly it just shows up once a day, and not for very long.  But since I've been sick I've felt pretty bad, although I guess being sick might make me feel dizzy itself.


But somehow I was still able to participate in (and win!) NaNoWriMo.  I guess it's because I was relatively still, sitting with my laptop and typing away.  But I am really, really excited about my story this year.  There are so many scenes I have yet to write, and so much editing to do, but I actually want to edit it.  We'll see how that goes.


Well, I can't write much more today because of that damn headache.  But hopefully I'll be back soon.  Oh, and notice how I've changed the name of my challenge to "Write (Almost) Every Day Challenge."  I just gave in - I'll still continue to try to write every day, but I now accept the times that I cannot write as vacations, not failures.  ;)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hunger Games Video; Write Every Day Challenge, Day #49

Okay, so I'm supposed to be working on my NaNoWriMo novel.  To be exact, I'm supposed to be attempting a 5,000-word day.  But, oh, the tempting internet.  How it foils my plans.  Just to be clear, I still plan on attempting that 5,000-word day, and I've already accomplished 1,447 words today.  I still have time.  But I really wanted to post this video, because OMG it made me choke up.

For those of you that have read The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, you have to watch this.  For those of you who haven't read The Hunger Games, go out there and buy it!!!  Do not check it out from your library - that's a waste of time.  BUY. IT.  Then go buy the second book in the series, Catching Fire.  Then buy the third and final book, Mockingjay.  Actually, just buy them all at once because they are that good.  And for those of you that haven't read it, and didn't listen to me when I said to go buy the trilogy, you have been forewarned:  this video contains spoilers.  [Edit:  I do not think that going to the library is a waste of time - I love my library and I go there very often.  I'm just saying that these books are so good that you'll want to own them anyway - might as well go ahead and buy them.]

Oh, and it also contains violence, so viewer discretion is advised.







Okay, so I totally choked up when she did the whole 3-finger salute.  Sure, the acting's not perfect, but it's pretty damn good.  All I can say is that the big-screen version of this movie better BRING IT, otherwise, we're better off with these fans making it!  What do you guys think of this fan-made clip?


And now, back to noveling!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Soapbox Rant - WBC Must Be Stopped; Write Every Day Challenge, Day #46

Alright, it's time for another one of Andrea's Soapbox Rants.  My friends Courtney and Holly suggested that I made this a weekly theme, like Soapbox Sundays.  I agree - but this topic is way too important to wait until Sunday.


But before I get up on my Soapbox, let's have one ray of light in this post - tomorrow I will be seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1!!!!!!!  I am SO excited!


Now, down to it.  So I've talked before about Fred Phelps,  Reverend of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas (see my post The Mantis Connection: Love Conquers Hate: Write Every Day Challenge, Day #8).  He and his followers (i.e., his family) have been protesting events for years.  They spread the messages "God Hates Fags" and "God Hates America."  Their delusional beliefs not only include the idea that homosexuals are going to hell (which I know is still a common belief and is not held only by the members of this church but by many Americans - I have also discussed this in the same post mentioned above), but that all Americans are going to hell.  (And they're American, but I guess they think that they're exempt from this.)  They have protested funerals of homosexuals such as Matthew Shepard (if you don't know about this story, go here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Shepard.  I know Wikipedia isn't the most reliable source, but this page does give a good overview), and also have been protesting the funerals of straight members of the military, because, as I understand it, the military allows gays to serve, and because the military uses IEDs, and they hate IEDs because someone planted one in their church.


First of all, let me just say, for those of you who haven't read my previous articles, that I am one of the biggest advocates for gay rights that I know.  I don't think that gay people are going to hell.  I don't think that being gay is a choice.  I don't think that gay people are any different from straight people.  I think we are all human, and we are all equal.  I also have a lot of problems with organized religion.  I believe in God, but I don't agree with a lot of what is taught in churches.  That's another story, and I am not trying to force my beliefs on anyone.  But that is what Phelps and his family are trying to do.  They are trying to force their twisted, radical, ignorant views on everyone else.


And now they're targeting my home state.  And even worse than that, they're targeting our children.


So this past Saturday, Westboro Baptist Church picketed at the funeral of Army Sergeant Jason James McCluskey in McAlester, Oklahoma.  However, while there were about six or so protesters, police said that there were over a thousand people there who were against the Westboro Baptist Church.  The church members left, and found that their tires were slashed.  They then found that most people in the town were unwilling to help them.  They ended up having a company tow them to a Wal-Mart outside of town.  (Once again, this is how I understand the story.  For an official report from an Oklahoma news station, go here:  http://www.koco.com/news/25790129/detail.html.)  


But now it's gone even farther.  Phelps and his family now have decided that, in revenge for their slashed van tires, they are going to protest the funerals of Oklahoma children.  Here is a link to this story from the same news station:  http://www.koco.com/news/25833473/detail.html.  


I personally believe highly in the freedom of speech.  I also believe highly in the freedom of religion.  And the members of this church have been protected by those freedoms.  But this is just wrong.  It was wrong when they picketed Matthew Shepard's funeral.  It was wrong when they picketed at my brother's graduation because one of the students (not my brother) who was graduating was an openly gay male who started a Gay-Straight group at the school.  It was wrong when they picketed the funerals of straight military members, simply because the WBC doesn't support the military.  (Oh, and I guess I've found the loophole in my last post - I said that everyone in America supports the troops even if they don't support the war.  These wackos don't.  They don't even support America.)  And it is wrong to protest the funerals of innocent children.  It is wrong to protest funerals, period.


And it was wrong of the people in McAlester to slash their tires.  Violence is never the answer.  I know this was a passive-aggressive form of violence, but it was violence none the less.  As one of Phelps' own children - a child of his who is no longer in contact with the rest of her family, and does not support their beliefs - said in the documentary Fall from Grace, the best thing to do when you see them is to ignore them.  I know this is extremely hard, and I know that I would want to shout lots of things at these people if I saw them.  But as the same child said, these people are pros at this.  They have been doing it for something like 15 years now.  They've heard every retort, every comment that you can think of to say to them.  They know exactly how to respond when you say something to them.  And that's what they want.  They want you to yell at them.  They want you to say something so that they can refute it with their twisted logic.  They want the attention.  So the best thing to do, and the hardest thing to do, is to ignore it.  The media should be ignoring them.  I shouldn't even be writing this post.


But the problem is, that although these people have the freedom of speech, there is something wrong with the fact that we let people purposefully hurt someone else.  No, they are not physically hurting other people.  But they are verbally abusing them.  Their protests at funerals are nothing but the loud, verbal abuse of the people who are being buried, and the people who love them.  I cannot imagine being at a funeral for someone I love, and to look up and see and hear people saying that God hated my friend or family member who has just died, and that that person is going to hell.  No, I'm sorry.  Eff you.  God says not to judge.  He's the one who is going to judge us.  And you can believe that I'm wrong all day.  You can believe that homosexuality is wrong.  It's your right.  But it is wrong for someone to be able to abuse the right to a freedom of speech to throw hateful words at someone who is grieving.  


It all goes back to this bullying epidemic.  Our country is full of bullying.  It's not just in high schools and junior highs.  People bully others simply by saying that someone else is wrong because of their race, their religion, their sexuality, etc.  Look at the recent political elections.  Politicians bullying each other in their television and radio ads, during debates, during interviews.  When has it become so accepted to be so hurtful towards others?  And we allow it, left and right.  It has become the norm.


And that is what these people, these supposed followers of Christ, are doing.  They are bullying, are verbally abusing people that have never done anything to them.  People who simply want to pay their last respects to a loved one.  And they are verbally abusing these people who have died, who often had nothing to do with the things that the WBC members don't agree with.


Something has to be done.  I am tired of these people getting away with this, simply because they have the right to freedom of speech.  Something needs to change.  And by God, if nothing does change, you guys may just see me turn into a politician.  Especially if Sarah Palin runs for and gets elected as President in 2012.  That's a whole different story.  But I can tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they're going, America definitely is going to hell in a hand basket.  But not for the reasons those WBC wackos think.  They're the reason.  Not the other way around.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans' Day and Facebook Chain Posts; Write Every Day Challenge, Day #39

Okay, this is where I might lose a few followers.  But I'm in such an irritated mood right now, I don't really care.  (No, wait.  I care.  Please don't stop following me.  Please still be my friend.  I'm just irritated and I have to vent.  I do not mean anything against any of my followers, because as far as I know, none of you have participated in these Chain Posts.  I have my opinions; everyone has their own.  And I truly apologize to my friends if the following statements make you mad.  I am not trying to be mean.  I am just venting.  We're still friends, right? ;) )


Today is Veterans' Day.  And I am all about honoring the Veterans, as well as all of our current troops here in the US or abroad.  But I have to get on my soap box.


I am a huge Facebook fanatic.  I spend a lot of time every day looking at my News Feed.  Pathetic, maybe, but that's not the point here.  The point is that I always see people posting these statements about supposed "taboo" subjects that they want people to re-post.  You've all seen them.  They're like, "Babies are a miracle.  Re-post this if you have ever had a baby, lost a baby, had to give a baby up" blah blah blah.  Okay, I've had a baby.  I've never had to give one up and I have never had to have an abortion but I think I still fall under this category.  So you've got me interested in your post.  Then it says something like "Most people won't post this because losing a baby is still a taboo subject."  Uh, really?  I know abortion is a taboo subject, and some people might not agree with putting a baby up for adoption, but are miscarriages considered taboo?  Well, maybe, but that's still not my point.  My point is that whoever (whomever? I'm not sure about this grammatical rule) wrote this post originally had the audacity to claim that they were better than others because they wrote this post, and that the tiny percentage of people who re-posted this are better than the others who chose NOT to re-post.  Well, first of all, when you exclude people in your regulations as to who is to re-post ("Re-post if you have ever had a baby, lost a baby, etc." - this particular example did not include people who have never had children to the list of those who should re-post), that means that a LOT of people won't re-post.  Then to say that "most people won't re-post this because it's such a taboo subject" is like saying "Hey, you there, reading my post.  If you don't re-post this, you're an ass and you have no feelings."  


Excuse me, but I find this ridiculous.  First of all, the audacity of this statement makes me absolutely not want to re-post.  Also, I've never liked Chain Letters.  And that's what these are.  Facebook Chain Posts.  They've simply changed "Mail this to 10 friends or you'll have bad luck" to "Re-post this or everyone will know what a heartless asshole you are."  


Okay, with that off my chest (sigh), I move on to the posts about Veterans and our troops.  Often these are also Chain Posts, but a little different.  This is one that I saw today:
"A Combat Veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life.  Regardless of personal political views, that is an honor and a sacrifice.  There are way too many people in this country who no longer remember that fact.  In honor of Veterans' Day, re-post this if you know and/or love a Veteran!"
Alright.  So this one is a bit different than the "taboo subject" ones.  But it still has that "You're an asshole if you don't re-post this" vibe about it.  I like the first sentence.  It's well-written and poignant.  But then we get to the next sentence.  "Regardless of personal political views, that is an honor and a sacrifice."  Yes, this is true.  But why do politics need to be mentioned here?  What they're trying to say here is that we all should support the troops, regardless of our political affiliation.  My point is that we all DO support the troops, regardless of our political affiliation.  Politics have nothing to do with it.  We all recognize that these men and women risk their lives for our freedoms every day.  That many lose their lives for it.  I am perfectly aware that thousands and thousands of soldiers have lost their lives so that I am free to sit here and write this little post.  I am not trying to dishonor them, or their fellow troops that are still alive, or their families.  I support them 100%.  I could not do what they do, and I have the highest respect for them.  And this is my point.  EVERYONE does.  Have you ever met an American in your life that didn't support the troops?  Sure, you may have met someone who didn't support the current war, but they always support the troops.  Every single one of them supports the troops.  


Yes, I agree that our brothers and sisters in the service deserve a better life while serving and when they return.  I saw Oprah.  I know that thousands of our female (and male) veterans are homeless.  This is ridiculous.  They deserve to be paid as well as many of the celebrities and athletes out there.  But my point is that these posts, while trying to honor the men and women in our armed services, simply make you feel like an asshole if you don't re-post.  Oh, and don't think that I don't know that when they say "Regardless of personal political views, that is an honor and a sacrifice.  There are way too many people in this country who no longer remember that fact" they are talking about Democrats.  Many Republicans seem to think that, because many Democrats do not support the war in Iraq or the War on Terrorism that they have forgotten about our troops and that they don't support them.  My point is that this is simply NOT TRUE.  We all support our troops, Republicans and Democrats.  Therefore the Chain Post's implication that we SHOULD all support the troops, "regardless of personal political views," is unnecessary.  You don't need to say that we "should" do something when we all do it already.  And I simply do not agree with the statement that "there are way too many people in this country who no longer remember that fact."  This is absurd.  Like I said above, how many people have you met in your lifetime that outwardly say that they do not support the troops?  (Remember, I'm talking about the troops, not the war.)


Okay, so obviously I'm not going to re-post this because 1) it's a Chain Post, 2) it gets its kicks making others seem like heartless asses, and 3) it's simply incorrect.


The posts I've seen today that I do like, however:



  • "Thank you to all that are/have served our country."  See.  Short and sweet, no blame or derision.  Just a simple thank you.
  • "Remembering those who have served."  Again, short and sweet and to the point.
  • "Thankful for all the veterans..."  Again.  Thankful.
  • "Happy Veterans' Day.  Thank you so much to all those who serve and have served our country."  See a pattern?
  • "[Person's name] is so thankful to every man and woman who has served our country.  Happy Veterans' Day to you! :)"
  • "Thank you to all who have served and are serving in the military.  God bless you and your families!"
These people, some of which are Republican, some of which are Democrat, have got it right.  They thank the men and women who have served their country, and they did not feel the need to re-post a Chain Post, nor did they feel the need to make others feel wrong or heartless because they supposedly don't support the troops.  Once again, this is wrong.  Everyone supports the troops.  Just because someone doesn't support the war doesn't mean they don't support the troops.

And, in conclusion, I just want to say something to the troops.  Thank you.  Thank each and every one of you for what you have done, what you are doing, what you will do.  You are all braver than I will ever be.  You are more selfless than I will ever be.  It is because of you that I am able to make this ridiculous post.  It is because of you that I am able to have these crazy opinions and spout them off whenever I want to.  It is because of you that we have things like Facebook.  It is because of you that I have friends who, regardless if they agree with me or not, will still be my friends because they realize that I have my opinions and that I mean no disrespect towards anyone.  Um, maybe that's a stretch.  But in all honesty, please believe me, troops.  I support you.  And I really believe that everyone in the US is behind you, even if they do not support the war.



And truly, friends, I am simply venting.  I do not hate Republicans or even people who re-post Chain Posts.  I do not hate anyone.  I just don't like those Chain Posts.  And I'm sorry if I offended anyone.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Write Every Day Challenge, Day #36

It's been over a week since my last blog post, but that does NOT mean that I haven't been writing!  NaNoWriMo is in full swing, and I've been writing every day for that.  But my friend, Courtney, has expressed how much she enjoys reading my blogs on a regular basis, so I thought I'd go ahead and blog today.  Too bad this blog doesn't count towards my NaNo word count!  (Hmm, that gives me an idea...) ;)


The main problem I have with this blog is that I have so little to write about.  I come up with some topic ideas, but I quickly throw them out because they just don't seem interesting.  Some random topic ideas I've had recently:

  • How track #6 on a compact disc is often the best song.  (Track #7 and #2 are often quite good as well.)
  • My take on a completely ridiculous video I saw today.  (I won't get into this one because it's so completely asinine, and the horrible fact is that some people in the world actually BELIEVE it.)
  • Comments on children's television.  (This is actually not too bad of an idea - I could review television shows aimed at children, rate them and rank them based on entertainment and educational value.)  I think I might actually do this!  But not today - I'll have to figure out my rating system, and then start watching some shows!
Anyway, aside from the fact that I just came up with a pretty good blog topic, it is actually pretty hard for me to come up with new topics all the time.  So maybe this review of children's shows will give my blog the kick in the pants it needs!

So, sorry for the lame excuse for a blog post today, but I want to get back to my NaNo novel!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"I Want" Wednesday; Write Every Day Challenge, Day #28

Okay, this is getting ridiculous.  I am horribly failing at this personal challenge to write every day.  I think I'll stick with it, though, because with NaNoWriMo quickly approaching, I will be writing A LOT.


And that's what I wanted to talk about today:  NaNoWriMo.  For the past couple of days I have been plotting my story.  I am now currently on idea #3, and I am super, super excited about this one!  Unfortunately, I have to throw out my previous characters - or adapt them into these new characters, and I have to get to worldbuilding!  My new story is Science Fiction, and I'm still not sure if I'm going to set it in a future America, or build my own land.  No space travel, so I don't have to worry about creating planets, galaxies, universes!  Or do I?  Who knows which direction my novel will take me next month!  But even if I set my story simply in America in the year 2060 (for example), I need to figure out what the world is like then - the government, the environment, society, jobs, technology, transportation, hobbies, schools, etc.  I have a lot of work to do!  I've decided that my plotting exploits count towards my Write Every Day Challenge, so Monday was Day #26 and Tuesday was Day #27.  Maybe I'll actually write every day this week!  (I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but not daring to hold my breath!)


I realized that my story is like The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter.  Which is SO me!  I think that I'm so excited about it because it's the type of story that I love to read, and so it should be a lot of fun to write!  I think I've finally found my niche, and I have no idea why it was so hard to find!  I think the adage should be not "Write what you know," but "Write what you like!"  


Oh, and it's "I Want" Wednesday again.  This time, I want something immaterial.  I simply want to continue to be this excited about my novel throughout the month of November.  Sure, there will be ups and downs, but I haven't been this excited about writing in a long time, and it's wonderful!


Back to plotting!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"I Want" Wednesday; Write Every Day Challenge, Day #25

I mentioned before that, since I don't have a major theme for this blog, I was going to try some mini-themes tied to specific days, like "Friday Five."  I still have no idea what these things are called.  I call them mini-themes, I've seen the word "meme" but that doesn't seem to be correct - I've Googled this countless ways and yet I haven't found the answer.  Anyway, so I'm starting one today that I found on thedailymeme.com:  "I Want" Wednesday.  Apparently you can write about anything you want, whether it be material or abstract.  [Edit:  thedailymeme.com lists "memes" for every day, and links to sites that use these "memes."  The site that they link to for "I Want" Wednesday is this one:  iwantwednesday.blogspot.com.]


Today, I'd like to talk about the new book that just came out yesterday that I really, really, really want.  It's called Harry Potter Film Wizardry.  It's all about the making of the Harry Potter movies, and it looks awesome!  I'm going to post some pictures on here, and hopefully I won't get in trouble for copyright infringement.  I found these photos at www.mugglenet.com, and I believe that they are copyrighted by Harper Collins.




This is the table of contents page.  Just looking at this alone makes me want it!!!




And this, of course, is a spread dedicated to the awesome Weasley family.




There are several more pictures on Mugglenet.


So it's Wednesday, and this is what I want.









Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Write Every Day Challenge, Day #24

Once again, I have missed some days.  I'm thinking this may have been a quite impossible challenge.  I haven't written in several days, but I have, however, been doing some research for an upcoming blog post.


I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games trilogy, and I see all these people online posting their "ideal" cast for the forthcoming movies.  I don't agree with most of them.  And recently I found Entertainment Weekly's picks.  Once again, I didn't agree with most of them.  So I decided I was going to make my ideal cast, using the characters that Entertainment Weekly used.  But this task is proving to be quite hard.  I'm not anywhere near finished with the list, but hopefully I'll be able to post it soon.


As for today, I have almost nothing to write about.  I simply wanted to share the fact that 9 new tv spots for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 have been released.  I have watched all of them, and they have some really funny and awesome new clips.  Go to Mugglenet to watch them!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Changing for the Better; Write Every Day Challenge, Day #23

Wow.  It's been over a week since I've posted.  I can explain, I promise!  My last blog post (Day #20 of my Write Every Day Challenge) was on October 4th.  I wrote on the side for the next two days (Day #21 and Day #22).  Then I got sick.  So I'm counting that seven days as a sick week.  People get sick weeks, why can't I?  ;)  So today will be Day #23.  I've realized over the week that I just don't have that much to blog about, since I don't have any type of theme except for my (obviously failing) Write Every Day Challenge.  I know that I will be writing (hopefully) almost every day during November for NaNoWriMo, but as far as this blog goes, I don't have much to write about.  So I think I'm going to introduce some types of mini-themes that I've seen other bloggers use, like "Friday Five," etc.  (I just found out the word for this is "meme" - at least, that's the closest thing I'm finding to answer my Google question "What do you call things like Friday Five?")  But I will start that on another day.  

Today I had planned on writing a whole rant about the MTV show Teen Mom, the spin off of MTV's 16 and Pregnant.  I was initially drawn to 16 and Pregnant because at the time of the initial airing of it's first episode, I was almost 7 months pregnant myself.  I wasn't anywhere close to being a teen, but I thought that it would be interesting to see these girls' stories and how they compared to my own.  Around the same time, the show I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant was showing it's first episodes, and I watched a couple of those, but they ended up kind of freaking me out more than anything.  (As any pregnant woman will tell you, the impending labor and delivery is the most nerve-wracking part of being pregnant - or at least that was my experience.)  So 16 and Pregnant it was.  

I saw so many things in those shows that made me cringe, made me almost cry, made me laugh.  When the spin off, Teen Mom, aired, I was excited to see the continuation of the stories of Maci, Catelynn, Amber, and Farrah, but mostly, I was excited to watch as those adorable children grew!  When the first episode aired, my son was just 3 months old, and the children on the show were several months older, but I was still interested to see their milestones, triumphs, and cute little failures.  I knew that it was the drama surrounding the young moms and dads that drove the show, but I continued to watch.  Then I started getting angry at the people on the show.  I started judging them left and right, finding faults in their parenting styles, and using not-so-nice adjectives to describe them to my husband, who does not watch the show.

With the impending season 2 finale, I found myself thinking, "I finally have an idea for a blog post!  I can voice my opinions of these people!"  I was planning on talking about each mother in turn, and rant about the things that made me crazy about each one.  In all fairness, I was going to commend each of them on certain things as well, but the main gist of my post was going to be pretty negative.  

And then I realized, this is not the point of my blogs.  Many of my previous blog posts have been about love, about equality, and, most importantly to me, about kindness.  These are the things that I believe in more deeply than anything.  And for me to write a blog, pointing out the faults and errors of others, is simply wrong.  It's not this blog, and it's not me.  But I know I'm not perfect.  I've judged a lot of people.  I've said unkind things about a lot of people in the past.  And I also know that, in the future, I'm sure I will say more unkind things.  But I will definitely try not to.  I am constantly trying to better myself - trying to be a better person.  And I will continue to try to be kind to everyone.


It's funny, because I thought about writing the ranting post a couple of days ago, thinking that I would write it after the finale.  Then, before I had even watched the finale I realized my mistake.  Then, today, I was planning on writing this blog post.  This morning I watched yesterday's episode of Ellen.  Perez Hilton had asked to be able to come on her show (she was not a fan of his - she thinks of kindness as one of the highest virtues, too) so that he could let everyone know that he is in the process of changing his blog.  He realized, in the wake of all the teen suicides, that he is a bully, and that his blog was wrong.  He admitted his errors and pledged to change, not only himself, but his blog as well, for the better.  And it made me realize how right I was to not write a blog post full of rude comments and harsh criticisms.  And I wish Perez Hilton and his blog all the luck in the world.  Maybe more people will come to realize how hateful and harmful they are being, and try to change for the better.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Reading Away: Write Every Day Challenge, Day #20

I missed a couple of days of writing (surprise, surprise), but I made up for them yesterday, which therefore became Day #19, and today is Day #20.  I should be on Day #40 by now, if I hadn't miss so many days!


I finally finished Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood.  I don't think I have enough to say about it to write a full-blown review, but I'll mention a few things.  It took me a long time to finish this book.  Of course, I had other things to do:  take care of my son, spend time with my husband, watch all the new fall television shows, write, and read Mark Reads Harry Potter (I'm so addicted to that blog!).  But, I think my slow reading also had to do with the fact that I wasn't quite into this book until I was more than halfway done.  I was interested in it, sure, but it didn't really hook me until then.  I also think it was a bit confusing.  Not only is this set in the future, after an apocalypse, but the main character, Snowman, has flashbacks to his childhood and early adulthood, which is also later than our present-day.  It is kind of interesting though, because I just read Mockingjay, where there was a type of apocalypse years before the storyline, and the present-day in those stories is a dystopia, whereas in Oryx and Crake, Snowman's childhood is a dystopia, and his present-day story is after an apocalypse.  Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I thought the end was a bit blunt.  I wanted a little bit more closure, I guess.  But I definitely enjoyed the way Atwood unraveled the events that led up to the apocalypse.


So now I'm going to start my book club's book for this month:  The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown.  I liked The Da Vinci Code, and really enjoyed Angels and Demons, so I look forward to seeing what Robert Langdon gets up to this time.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Write Every Day Challenge, Day #18

I've got a couple of things to talk about today.


First of all, I'm so sad to hear about all of these recent teen suicides that are linked with their sexuality.  I know that we may never know exactly what drove some of these teens to take their own lives, but the bullying they endured because of their sexuality had to be a major cause of their depression.  It's so horrible that things like this happen.  I know that "kids will be kids" and that pranks and bullying are a part of adolescence and childhood, but I know that I will be teaching my son that bullying is wrong, and that kindness is the key to becoming a good person.


On a much lighter (and crazier) note, if you haven't heard this story yet, go to this link:  http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2010/09/30/100-percent-chance-for-life-on-newly-found-planet/.  (Actually, I guess this isn't a "light" subject, but it's definitely not as depressing.)  First of all, it amazes me how awesome our technology is these days.  Second of all, is this not what all SF writers dream about???  There has always been ideas of earth-like planets, other planets teeming with life, and now the idea seems actually possible!  Of course, it's 20 light years away and has crazy temperatures so the idea of the life on this planet being like us is slim, and the chance of humans visiting this planet in my lifetime is even slimmer, but this is just amazing!  I have always thought that, given the fact that new species are discovered on earth all the time, we shouldn't limit ourselves to believe that we are the only planet with life out there.  But it was always a theory, an idea, a dream.  And now scientists have discovered that there's this planet out there with a high possibility of life forms on it!  I know, I know, there's no proof yet that there is life on this planet.  But to me, it just seems like life, in general, got a little more limitless.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Write Every Day Challenge, Day #17

I missed another day of my Write Every Day Challenge.  Darn, this is becoming a pattern.  So today is now Day #17 and I will write double today to make up for the missed day.


So today I think I'll voice my opinion on a recent hot-button subject:  Katy Perry's (lack of) clothing on Sesame Street.  (This photo is from the website www.thestir.cafemom.com)


So the story goes that Katy Perry did a remix of her song "Hot N Cold" with Elmo for an episode of Sesame Street.   As I understand it (and I might be wrong), they released a preview of the segment and lots of people thought that her clothing was too revealing for the show, so Sesame Street producers pulled the segment.  


I watched a clip of it online, and I have mixed feelings on the subject.  I'm not a fan of censorship, but I do have a son, and that changes my views a bit.  However, my son, who loves Elmo, is only one, and he would probably just be paying attention to Elmo and dancing to the music if he saw this segment.


But then I thought about my best friend.  She has two children:  a 4 1/2-year-old girl and a 2 1/2-year old boy.  While her daughter may be "beyond" Sesame Street, her son probably isn't.  And while her son might not do much but what my son would do, her daughter, upon seeing this, might have a different reaction.  She might begin to want to dress like that.  Yes, Katy Perry is an adult and she can do what she wants, dress how she wants.  But when it comes to performing on a children's program, she has to think of the example she sets for little girls.  I personally would never dress like she does.  And I definitely don't think it's appropriate clothing for children under the age of 18.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Questioning the Ideas Around You: Write Every Day Challenge, Day #16

A "friend" of mine (I say "friend" because he's really just an acquaintance, but we're "friends" on facebook) posted this quote on his facebook profile the other day:

We were not born critical of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness -embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television.  This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas. Howard Zinn, 2005

This made me think about the time when I began to question the beliefs around me.  I was in the fourth grade, living in a suburb in the Bible Belt of America.  I was raised Lutheran, and sometimes I would attend a Baptist church with my next door neighbors who had a daughter my age.  Stephanie and I were good friends, but I had another friend, Kelli, who I thought of as my best friend, and I think that Stephanie was a little jealous of this fact, especially since I had known Stephanie longer.  But I enjoyed spending time with both of them, and I enjoyed going to church with Stephanie and her family.


Then, one day, Kelli's dad died.  He had a sudden heart attack just after running/biking around a park with Kelli.  I remember my parents telling me about it, and my whole world view changed.  I suddenly was so overcome with grief for my friend, and so scared at what would happen to me if my father was to die.  I spent that school day with Kelli at her house.  I remember giving her a hug and watching television with her while our mothers talked.  While this was a horrible event, and it surely was worse for Kelli than for me, this wasn't the event that started making me question things around me.  


That event happened a few days later, when Kelli came back to school.  I remember being on the playground with her, and Stephanie came up to us, and I don't remember the whole conversation, or if there was even anything said besides what Stephanie said to Kelli.  She told Kelli that her dad, who had just died, was going to hell because he didn't go to church.  Now I know that Stephanie was just a kid (we were only 9 or 10), and that she probably was just upset that Kelli was getting most of my attention before her father died, and certainly was getting all of my attention since her father died.  I do not hate Stephanie for this sentence (although Kelli might), because I do not think that she was really that horrible of a person.  I'm sure, if Stephanie remembers this now, she feels incredibly guilty for saying this.  She is not a bad person.  


But neither is Kelli and she did not deserve to hear something like that.  And her father, although I did not know him well, was not a bad person either.  So this statement did not sit well with me at all.  I disagreed with the idea that not going to church meant you were headed for hell.  I also disagreed with the idea that the simple act of going to church meant that you were safe from eternal damnation.  These two ideas may seem like they are the same thing, but they are not.  People can be horrible and go to church, but this shouldn't mean that they won't go to hell simply because they attend services every Sunday.  


So thus began my questioning of the beliefs that were around me.  I started re-thinking religion.  I started re-thinking things that were important to my 9 or 10-year-old mind:  being popular vs. being a so-called dork; doing what others wanted me to do vs. what I wanted to do or thought was right; etc.  And I realized, at some point, what I now know to be the utmost important thing in life:  kindness.  I know this sounds very "make love not war" or like I'm a hippy or something, but I really believe that being kind to others is the most important thing, for me, in life.  And this affects everything that I do, every idea I have about the world, about politics, about religion, about society.  You might call me crazy, think that I'm unrealistic and too optimistic (actually, I think of myself as more of a rationalist), but I truly believe that, simply with more kindness, the world will be a much better place.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Write Every Day Challenge, Day #15

I missed three whole days of my Write Every Day Challenge!  Boy, I stink at this!  So I'm going to do what I've done before when I missed a day.  Today will be Day #15, even though I should be much farther than that by now, and I will write something for every day that I've missed.  So I have a lot of writing to do!


I thought that I might get a bit of that writing behind me since I went to the first meeting for this year's NaNoWriMo.  But I should have known better.  We never get any writing done in those meetings, especially the ones not in November!  We always have so much to talk about.  But we had fun and we've got some ideas for upcoming NaNo meetings.  This year should be a blast!


I watched the new trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:  Part 1 the other day online.  It was awesome!  It included quite a few scenes that weren't in the previous trailers.  I'm so excited for the movie!  It's less than two months away now!  Yea!!!  Head over to Mugglenet to watch the new trailer (and for all things Harry Potter, for that matter).


Anyway, I'd better get to that writing.  I think I'm going to try some more of the prompts from www.creativewritingprompts.com.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Write Every Day Challenge, Day #14

14 days down on the Write Every Day Challenge!  2 weeks, woot woot!


So I've just got some more random things for you today:


1)  Why oh why do they have to show Dairy Queen commercials on television in a state that does't even have Dairy Queens anymore?  It makes me want a Blizzard soooo bad!  Oh, wait, I'm wrong.  I just went to their site and found out that there are several in my state, just not that close to me.  I apologize, Dairy Queen gods, you have not completely failed me.  I guess next time I see a commercial for a Brownie Batter Blizzard, I'll pick my happy ass up off the couch and drive 40+ miles to get one!


2)  I am soooo loving the blog Mark Reads Harry Potter.  So is my husband.  He said yesterday that Mark can't put down Harry Potter, and we can't put down his blog!  It's hilarious.  A definite must-read if you are a Harry Potter dork like me.


3)  Speaking of Harry Potter, the new trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 goes online tonight at 9/8 central.  I'll be heading over to Mugglenet to view it.  So excited!


4)  I almost hit one of my friends today.  One of my friends!!!  I'm a dork.  I was backing out of a parking spot and yes, I looked behind me, and he must have been in my blind spot for a second, because when I looked again, there he was.  I wasn't that close to hitting him, but you get the picture.  When I realized who it was I debated whether I should say hi (he worked with me at my previous job and we're friends on facebook but we're not real close) and before I knew it, he was inside.  I'm a double dork.  I sent him a message on facebook apologizing for both almost hitting him and not saying hi.  Triple dork.


5)  I'm only halfway through Oryx and Crake  It's going sssllllooooowww.  It's not that I don't like it, it's just that it's not action-packed and I'm so interested in other things right now (like Mark Reads Harry Potter and No Plot? No Problem! and watching fall shows and taking care of my son, etc.).  I just did an automated renewal online so that I don't have to check it back into the library on Friday, but I still can't seem to want to read it instead of everything else.  Damn you, Mark, you've got me addicted to your blog!  I can't stop!  ;)  Hopefully I'll pick the book back up soon.  I guess I'll have to, or just turn it back in, because pretty soon I'll have to start reading the October book selection for my book club.


So I guess that's all my randomness for today.  See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Mantis in Me: Write Every Day Challenge, Day #13

I thought it might be time to explain why this blog is called "The Mantis Connection."  Well, first of all, when I first decided to start this blog, I wasn't sure what I was going to write about (and I still don't have any one theme, besides the Write Every Day Challenge), so I couldn't give it any kind of specific title describing the content of my posts.


As far as the mantis thing goes, I simply love praying mantids.  Yes, spell-checker, the plural is "mantids," "mantises," or "mantes," so stop it with your annoying squiggly red lines.  


I have always loved them.  One of my first pieces of writing, that I can remember, was a poem about a praying mantis that I wrote in elementary school.  My school actually put together a big book of student's work, and I remember my poem being in there.  I still want to go back and look for it and get a copy of it.


I have had 3 pet praying mantids, named Zorak (named after the awesome mantis on Space Ghost Coast to Coast), Zorak 2, and Buddha.  I also collect all types of praying mantis stuff, but I don't have much because praying mantis knick-knacks are hard to find.  Sure, there's tons of butterfly stuff and dragonfly stuff, but hardly any mantis stuff.


I always thought that if I got a tattoo, I'd get a praying mantis, most likely the praying mantis image that was used by the band God Lives Underwater (great band, btw).  This image is from the website http://www.enjoyglu.com/.  But, alas, I have always been too much of a wuss to get a tattoo.


A couple weeks ago, on an episode of Leverage, there was tons of art featuring praying mantids on the wall of character Nate Ford's bedroom.  I'm not sure if they were photographs, paintings, or what, but I want them.  I can't seem to find anything about them online, but just take my word on this, they were cool.  


A not-so-well-known fact about praying mantids:  the female does NOT always eat the male after intercourse.  It depends on how well-nourished she is at the time.  She may eat the whole male, part of the male, or none at all.  See, you learned something on my blog today.  Yea!  ;)


I shall return again tomorrow, to continue my Write Every Day Challenge.  See you then!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Still Recovering From Book Club: Write Every Day Challenge, Day #12

So yesterday I forgot to write again!  Gasp!  So I'll do what I did last time:  write this blog and then write in some other way to make up for my lost day, and today will be Day #12 (it would have been Day #13 if I had written yesterday).


Book club on Saturday was fun.  We all had a LOT to say about Mockingjay and then we played The Twilight Saga:  Eclipse Movie Board Game.  A couple of the girls in my book club are total die-hard Twilight Saga fans and they kicked our butts.  I came in fourth, but only because two girls left before the game was over.  We all brought our "last meals" (what we would want to eat as a last meal), and we had quite a spread!  I brought sushi, and the others brought ribs, chicken parmesan, salad, ice cream, and cake.  We all ate too much and drank waaay too much wine and had lots of fun!  I heart my book club!  ;)


My husband and I have been reading the blog Mark Reads Harry Potter ever since I found out about it a couple days ago.  It's hilarious!  I'm still on the posts about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but my husband is ahead of me and I keep hearing him giggle and I want to get to what he's reading!  We both think that Mark's next project should be The Hunger Games trilogy.  


I'm gearing up for NaNoWriMo, and I think I may be onto a plot.  I think we're supposed to have our first meeting this coming Sunday.  I'm excited!


I'm not sure what else to write about today, so I'll go ahead and work on my other writing task.  I'll be back tomorrow (hopefully) with Day #13 of my Write Every Day Challenge!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Few Random Things: Write Every Day Challenge, Day #11

A few random things today...


On my last post I decided that, since I had missed a day of my Write Every Day Challenge, I would write more than just a blog post on Day #9.  I looked online and found a website called Creative Writing Prompts.  I perused the different prompts and found one that caught my eye:  #4 challenges you to rewrite the ending of Cinderella so that the glass slipper actually fit on one of her ugly stepsisters.  This is right up my alley, because in high school I wrote poem that was a different take on Cinderella, and I love the books of Gregory Maguire (Wicked:  The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the WestConfessions of an Ugly Stepsister; and Mirror, Mirror).  So off to write I went.  I wrote a bit that day, and a bit more yesterday (to fulfill my quota for Day #10), and let me tell you, I had so much fun doing it!  It reminded me just how much fun I can have while writing, while making up characters and describing their actions.  If NaNoWriMo is anything like that for me this year, I'm sure to reach the goal of 50,000 words!  I also found No Plot? No Problem! at the library yesterday!  Score!


I went to see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World last night with my friend, Courtney.  It was great!  I'd like to write a review of it someday, but I think I'll watch it again first.


I was on Mugglenet the other day and they had a post about this really cool looking blog:  Mark Reads Harry Potter.  It's this guy who is reading the Harry Potter books for the first time, and posts about each chapter after he reads them.  He only knew a few things about Harry Potter before he began his quest, and he asks his readers to not reveal any spoilers within their comments (he is currently on The Half-Blood Prince).  I've only read one of his posts, but this seems like a great blog!  He uses a lot of adult language, so this blog isn't really for kids, but adult lovers of Harry Potter will get a kick out of it!  Oh, and there's supposed to be a new trailer for The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 online on Wednesday!  Sooo excited!


So tonight I have book club!  We're (finally) discussing Mockingjay.  We all love this series, so we are all going to have a lot to say!  We are also doing a kind of potluck thing this time:  only we're each bringing a dish that we'd want to have as our last meal.  We were inspired by the meals that Katniss and Peeta eat on the train on their way to their first Games.  I'm bringing some sushi.  I wanted to bring escargot (my absolute favorite!) but I wasn't sure that others would like it as much as I do.  I'm so ready for the meeting;  it should be a blast!