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I can't believe it's almost 2010 - the start of not only a new year but a new decade. The past ten years have been incredibly special for me - I graduated optometry school, moved to Georgia, began work at a practice with two incredible doctors, mentors and friends. I got married, had two children, wrote a novel and became a published author. What could I hope for in the next decade that could possbible top all that? I guess I just wish to expand on all this - be a better wife, mother, sister, friend, optometrist and writer. And mostly, I hope to achieve balance - something that is so difficult to find in such a busy world.

More specifically, for the next year, let's get serious. These are the things I need to do:

1. Stop applying makeup while driving. Seriously - set the clock 10 minutes earlier and leave the house with the lipstick on!

2. Quit caffeine. Okay, let's be realistic. Cut back on caffeine.

3. On that note, stop the daily drive through at McD's to get the 32 oz Diet Coke. But fountain drinks are so tasty... Stop whining and get over it.

4. Do something with my hair. Anything other than the ponytail which has become the daily look.

5. Stop bringing pictures of Reese Witherspoon and Heidi Klum to the hairdresser and then being disappointed that the haircut and color didn't miraculously shrink my nose and widen my eyes to look like them.

6. Stop giving my kids sugar and then complaining that they are hyper.

7. Reduce the cookies, donuts, Cap'n Crunch and cake in the house.  It's kind of hard to say no to the kids when I am simultaneously shoving said treats into my mouth.

So there you go - a reasonable list of goals for the coming year.  Do you think I'll keep any of them???

The House/Holmes Connection

Somehow through some mystical force of babysitter availability, I was able to see not one, but two movies over the holiday weekend. (Seriously, that's more than I've seen in six months.)

The first I saw was It's Complicated which I thought was hysterical and very entertaining. And even though Alec Baldwin was a bit of a snake in the grass, he was so charismatic and funny I couldn't help but love him.

The second movie I saw was Holmes. Now I've never read Sherlock Holmes so I while I was watching the movie, right from the beginning, I started noticing parallels between Sherlock and a certain doctor I know and love, Gregory House. By fifteen minutes into the movie my brain was sparking and sizzling (I'm surprised smoke wasn't steaming out of my ears) as I tallied evidence of the two character's similarities: There's the obvious - the names - Holmes, which sounds like Homes and House. The two sidekicks, Watson and Wilson. The extreme intelligence, the meticulous note of detail, the ambush of the sidekick's love life.... By the time my husband and I were exiting the theater I was bursting with revelation. My husband was equally impressed, 'nice deduction.' I felt so smart.

Of course when I plugged it into the computer about a billion hits showed up with this comparison that was noted way back from the inception of the TV show many years ago. Oh well. At least I picked up on it. Eventually.....

Does Santa wrap gifts at your house?

At one of the Christmas parties I attended this weekend, I asked a friend if she was ready for Christmas - all the gifts bought and wrapped? She answered that Santa doesn't wrap any gifts so she was done. Really? ALL the gifts are unwrapped? Interesting. When I was growing up big gifts like a dollhouse or a bike were unwrapped but the smaller gifts were packaged up and tied with a bow. Isn't that half the fun of Christmas - the anticipation - what's in this next package?

I asked my husband and turns out Santa didn't wrap much for him in his household either...so I wonder, does Santa wrap gifts under your tree?

And the doctor says...

I had a well check up for my daughter yesterday. The good news - she's in the 96th percentile for height so I hope she's inheriting my husband's tall genes and not my pipsqueak, barely over five feet stature.

The not bad, but certainly questionable news: the doctor proclaimed "well your daughter seems to be quite an exhibitionist". What - not every 19 month girl holds her shirt over her head and runs around yelling "look at my belly?"
Good Morning America is my morning staple. Not that I sit and watch it all morning because I don't. The morning is when I get stuff done around the house, but GMA is usually on in the background until the kids find the remote and Dora takes over.

It's sad enough to say goodbye to Diane Sawyer who is, in my opinion, the epitome of class. But Chris Cuomo, too? That's just unfair. Not only is he nice to look at (sorry, but it's undeniable) but he's adorable. I love how he gushes about his children. I love how he drums his fingers with nervous energy. He's just a cutie. And now he's gone. BOO!!!

Finally. THE JERSEY SHORE. Okay, I did not intentionally watch this. I was rocking Izzie to sleep one night and flipping around the channels and I catch the title and see that it's filmed at Seaside where many, many a memory have been made for me. (I still remember walking the boardwalk with my girlfriends after my boyfriend and I broke up, but I digress) ANYWAY Oh, JERSEY SHORE. Seriously? Could you be anymore stereotypical? Could there be anymore hair product and giant muscles (and muscle shirts)? Do you KNOW how hard it is to live in the south and tell people I grew up in New Jersey? Do you KNOW how many times I've heard "Don't you mean New JOISEY?" Do you KNOW how many times people ask why my hair is not enormous and why I'm not rude? JERSEY SHORE, you are not making my life any easier.

Note to TV execs: New Jersey is not all about the guidos and the Sopranos.

The new generation

I was working with an 18 year old the other day. She is very smart, completely tech savvy and learns quickly. So imagine my surprise when I asked her to mail a package and she got a deer in the headlights look. She closed up the box and stared at it for a few minutes. Another person told her where to find the address on the computer and to print out a label. So she did and then she just held the label in her hands for a few minutes.

Finally she turned to me and said, "Do I just stick it on the box, like anywhere?".

Well, kind of in the middle, I answered.

So she did and then she continued to just stare at it. "Do I put a stamp on the box?"

No, it has to be weighed.

"Weighed? How?"

At the post office. Finally I just asked. "Have you never mailed a package or letter before?" I was kind of joking but she looked at me, 100% serious, and answered, No. "We email."
Yesterday I decided to pull out the holiday ornaments and knick knacks and decorate the house. While I was digging through the boxes, my kids found a container of candy canes and unbeknownst to me, decided to gorge themselves.

Twenty minutes later, while I'm stringing tinsel and placing the angel on top of the tree, my kids begin to take the large ball ornaments off the tree and begin a competitive bowling match, using the large Santa figurine as the pin.
Naturally with their sugar rush, the ornaments were thrown with fierce abandon, knocking over Santa and thus breaking his arm off. And this of course is a tragedy and my kids are frantically waving the red sleeved arm in my face, begging for me to fix it.

Now I'm more of an artsy type rather than craftsy person so I have things like paint brushes, not glue guns, so I attempt to reattach Santa's arm with a purple glue stick. Which of course did not work. So I put down the glue stick and go upstairs to see if I can find safety pins to pin the arm back on. When I return, Izzie is using the glue stick like chapstick, smearing the glue all over her lips. For a slit second I contemplate letting the lips seal shut. Maybe I'd get to sleep through the night, I think with a smile. Then I go and get a washcloth and clean her up.

The safety pins don't work so I decide it's just time to buy a new Santa.

I begin to return the bowling ornaments to the tree and to distract the kids I put Santa hats on their heads. "HO HO HO!" I say. "Me a HO," Izzie replies. Okay, whatever. I let her sing her preschool version of "me a HO" rap song while I finish putting the ornaments on the tree.

A few minutes later, I'm stacking up the empty boxes to return to the storage closet when Sam comes over and hands me a headless baby from the nativity scene. "Izzie broke Jesus."

What would your story be?

The other day I was listening to a friend tell a story about his father. He recalled how at Christmas time his father would separate the old fashioned tinsel and place them on the tree one strand at a time. Hearing this small description reminded me of a writing exercise where you try and use one short story to completely characterize a person. In this case, I can clearly visualize my friend's father as a meticulous and extremely patient person.

It's a great exercise for creating characters that are fully fleshed out though not only dialogue and appearance but action and motivation as well. but it's tough to do. People are so mulitfaceted, finding one story to sum up all the parts is tedious.

Of course this begs the question, what story would you use to characterize yourself? It's not easy, is it?

STRUTS & FRETS

Today on the blog tour I'll be interviewing Jon Skovron, author of STRUTS & FRETS.


About Struts & Frets
More than anything, Sammy wants to play guitar in a famous indie rock band. The problem is that his front man is a jerk who can't sing, his bassist is a burn-out who can't remember the songs, and his drummer is just out to lunch. But Sammy needs this band because it's the only good thing he's got going. His father skipped out before he was born, his mother is an overworked therapist with a drinking problem, his grandfather is slowly losing his mind to Alzheimer's, and the girl of his dreams is dating his jerk lead singer.

Now that jerk lead singer has entered them in a Battle of the Bands contest to win free studio time and guaranteed radio play. Sammy has two weeks to get them to sound like a real band, or face public humiliation in front of the entire local indie music scene.

About Jon Skovron
Jon Skovron is an insatiable music geek who can play eight instruments, but none of them well. He was born in Columbus, Ohio, has lived all over the US, and now resides with his wife and two sons in Washington, DC. His short stories and reviews have appeared in publications like Jim Baen's Universe and Internet Review of Science Fiction. Struts and Frets is his first novel.

Me: Hi, Jon. Welcome. Thanks for stopping by to chat! Tell us, what competes for your time and how do you manage to give writing the appropriate amount of time it requires?

Jon I work full time as a technical writer, and I also have a wife and two kids. So i don't have a lot of extra time. I swore of video games, and almost never watch TV. Other than that, I'm just really intense about my time management. Very much a follower of David Allen's Getting Things Done model. Also Merlin Mann.

Me What is your writing routine? Do you outline or write as you go? Do you fully sketch and develop your main character initially, or get to know him/her as you write?

Jon It starts all crazy and off the cuff for about the first half of the book. And I usually have a fair idea of where I want to end up. But then at some point in the middle, I get a little lost and need to sit down and figure things out, make some notecards or outlines and really get my head around what it is I'm trying to accomplish. Sometimes that changes things drastically. Sometimes it's just reassuring me that I'm on the right track.

Me What do you particularly love about the setting you portray in your book?

Jon Columbus, Ohio is where I grew up. It's the kind of place that doesn't have a lot of personality, but in a way that can be a good thing, because it's the kind of place that allows you to decide for yourself what you want it to be. It's surprisingly open minded for a mid-sized Midwestern town.

Me "lets you decide what you want it to be" - love that answer!! What actor or actress do you imagine playing your main character in a movie or T.V. version of your book?

Jon That's funny, because at one point when Sammy is fantasizing about how famous his band will be some day, he asks himself that same question. Eventually he decides that it should be some unknown actor who makes this his breakthrough role. I agree.

Me Agreed! thanks for stopping by, Jon and best of luck with your debut. I personally am really excited for STRUTS & FRETS because I think there's a real need for books for teenage guys and I just now my nephews are going to love this one! (bought for Christmas gifts, sssh! don't tell!)

Additional Details

o Author Web site: http://jonnyskov.com/

o Bookstore links:
http://www.amazon.com/Struts-Frets-Jon-Skovron/dp/0810941740

Work in Progress

I get a lot of questions - what am I writing now? I'm always a little hesitant to answer that for a lot of reasons. First, I'm not done - I'm about 3/4 of the way through a massive revision and things change along the way so it's hard to really know how the whole story is going to turn out. And with the time issues I've had lately there's always the fear - will I finish? will my agent like it? Will I be able to sell it?

So instead of a concrete answer I'll give you a little snippet of what my work in progress is about:

It's about a college girl who is living in the shadow of her over-achieving family.

It's about entering that battlefield known as first love and first heartbreak.

It's about waking up one day and realizing, I have no idea what I'm doing with my life. Ever feel that way??

It's about taking a chance on a total redirection.

And of course it's about the wacky and eccentric sidekicks in our lives that make us laugh.

Thanks for Visiting!

Hi, I'm Jennifer Jabaley, author of LIPSTICK APOLOGY, to be released on August 6, 2009 by Razorbill. You can find out more on my website www.jenniferjabaley.com.

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