Category Archives: la joie de vivre

Readathon 2013


Books and manuscript ready for Readation 2013

I haven’ t blogged in almost a year!  Goodness. How time and life have just kept going by.  I remembered last year’s Readathon and well, that got this thing up and running!  This isn’t just something one jumps into.  It requires preparation and gathering materials so that I can really dedicated 24 hours to reading and still go on with the rest of my life.  Here’s my plan:

  • 7 am wake up get ready (breakfast, hygiene, pushups, etc)
  • 8am OFFICIAL START TIME on west coast. READ!!
  • 10:40 Head to Volunteering (I’ve got an audiobook for the car ride to and from and will have to make up the hour I spend volunteering and not reading)
  • 12:30 Head to Gym- (because movement cannot just stop) – Where I will finish my audiobook.
  • 1:30 on READ! READ! EAT! READ! NAP? READ!

I’ve even picked out where I will read to keep things interesting:  poolside, at Starbucks, on the couch, on the bed, on the couch again, maybe even back to Starbucks.  Read-a-thon weekend also marks the first weekend of PlayStation 3 for the husband, so you know, I’ll have plenty of undisturbed time to read.

Here’s my book list:

  • Human Physiology Chapters 13 and 24 (to keep things interesting and productive)
  • NW by Zadie Smith
  • Paths to Recovery
  • Art of Character by David Corbett
  • Takes One to know one by Amanda Ronan (*MS)
  • Holiday in Death by JD Robb *audiobook
  • Redbreast by Jo Hensbo
  • Fairy Tales  from the Brother’s Grim by Philip Pulman (to keep things interesting and to switch things up)
  • Lady X’s Cowboy by Zoe Archer

Some of these I won’t be reading straight through, but they will get read and that’s what’s important.


  • Nut
  • Yogurt
  • Hansen’s Ginger Ale
  • Goat cheese pizza
  • fruit!
  • oatmeal
  • Chicken Taco stew

To finish preparing tonight I need to read for an hour to compensate for the hour I’ll lose tomorrow. I also need to log into twitter, charge the ipod and the kindle, save the Dewey Readathon page as a favorite and turn off the captcha for this blog so that folks can comment!


Ten Minute Tuesday: First day of School



I went on an amazing writer’s retreat this weekend.  It was so great to hang out with my favorite group of writers  and, bonus, I got to chat it up with one of my favorite YA novelist: Jessica Brody!  I’m so thankful for the support of Writing Pad and for the guidance  of Jessica and Heather Havrilesky.  Goodness.  Just thinking about how awesome the weekend was puts me back on my the high I had just leaving there.  Returning to reality on Sunday was super difficult!

While at the retreat Jessica gave me some pointers on my opening scene and I managed to rewrite it! Its so nice to have a better idea of where I’m going and what I want.  It was also nice to get all my questions answered.  This excerpt is not part of the opening scene but it does show how neurotic Libby is. 


Most people hate the early morning.  I love it.  It is the only time the house feels the same.  Feels like it did before my parents divorced and were sleeping soundly in their bedrooms and not in two different houses across town.  

Stop it, Libby.  

I shook the thoughts out of my head, and continued to pass the straightening iron over the thick curls at my roots of my hair to the tips, flipping my wrists to add a curl at the ends so they lay nicely on my shoulders.  

Daddy’s footsteps move past the bathroom and down to the kitchen.  I unplugged the hot iron and wrap it in a hand towel so the hot plates can cool and toss my mascara and lipgloss into my purse.  Really, the best part of the early morning is having the bathroom to myself and getting readdy for school undetected.

The throb behind my eyes went away abuot five minutes into my ten  minutes of stretching and breathing.  After that a set of 50 situps, five pushups- not the girly kind either- and more stretching happen before I lock myself into the bathroom and don’t exit until every hair is in the right place and I’ve applied Dr. Brown’s 3 Step Make-Up System for Brown Skinned Girls just light enough to keep Daddy from noticing, but heavy enough to make my skin look flawless. I would marry Dr. Brown if I could find someway to fit that into my vision board.  Right now it only has space for Troy. 

“You’ve totally go this,” I told the girl in the mirror, her black hair shiny and straight, her brown skin smooth and clear.  Note to self: Three weeks without chocolate have paid off.   I slipped my mascara and lip gloss into my bag and open the bathroom door.  

Image Credit:  me

Random Thursday: at the Salon


Renee's Salon of Beauty sign

I wrote 2058 words today while at Starbucks.  I am telling you, that Blonde Roast is killer!  I shouldn’t do anything before I have a cup of that stuff!  I also just realized that my picture for the Josh post is of a young woman smiling. That’s because Josh made Libby smiling- not because Josh is a young girl. Though, that would be very interesting as well.  I’m on my first draft so we’ll see how thigns turn out during the editing phase.

I color coded my index cards list night and realized that I’ve been having so much trouble with identifying the A plot line because I didn’t really have one.  Libby hasn’t been doing much so far except responding and reacting to the actions of others.  For the rest of this week and next my writing focus will be on Libby’s actions.

this excerpt is from a scene where Libby is at a salon with her grandmother.  Its at this salon where she will have the idea of finding different ways  to cure her blindness.  That is her A plot- hunting for a cure to her blindness that doesn’t involve science and allows her to have the life she’s always dreamed of.  That’s all she wants: the life she thinks she was promised because of her faithfulness and her dreams.  Oh, Libby, if life was only that simple.


The wail of the blowdryer in my ear as she pulled the circular brush through my wet curls made eavesdropping nearly impossible.   While Adel worked on the right side of my head, out of my left ear I vaguely heard the words blind, six months.   My curiosity switched to from the women speaking foreign languages to Grandmother’s conversation with Adel.  My ears  were definitely burning and not from the heat of the blowdryer.

I strained to hear more of their conversation, clenching my teeth and offering Manuel a closed mouth smile as he ran the nail file along my nails.  His eyes moved hungrily from their conversation to me.   My frustration boiled over whenI heard the word “shame”.

“Gran!”  I turned in my seat to face her next to me.  Adel and the other stylist went still,  their hands stopped and holding their instruments in mid air.  “Why are  you telling everyone about me?”

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “Sweetheart,” she said, and everyone seemed to relax.  “I’m not ‘telling everyone about you’.  I am simply sharing with close friends my concerns for you.”  Adel smiled and the other two did the same.

“You shouldn’t have to go through this alone,”  Adel cooed, placing her manicured hands on my shoulders. I caught her eyes in the mirror and the look on her face was one of genuine sincerity.  “A girl without a mother needs a community.”

I looked away from her quickly.   I held back my inclination to shout, “I don’t need a mother or a community” but then I remembered that I needed someone to pay for this hair treatment and my manicure, so I should keep my mouth shut and let Gran talk about whatever she wanted.

“Is there some sort of treatment for this,” Gran’s young stylist waved her hands around trying to conjur from  midair the word she forgot.

“Treatment?”  The girl nodded happily at the word. “Yes,” I said,

“So, what are you doing to do about it?  When do these treat start?”  She asked.   looking away from her and all of them.  Its hard to avoid people’s eyes when there are mirrors everywhere you look.  I stared a tile on the floor.

“Leisl!” Adel reached out and sharply flicked her on the shoulder with the brush. Liesl rubbed her arm where the brush made contact and went back to hot curling Gran’s hair.

“We’re hoping for a more spiritual approach to treatment,” Gran interjected.

A chorus of “Oh’s” came from the women, even the ones under the dyers who looked as if they weren’t paying attention to the conversation.  Adel snapped a look over her shoulder that sent the women back behind their magazines.

“That’s good,” she said, patting me on the shoulder.  I smiled up at her.  If I fake it, maybe one day I’ll believe it.   She spritzed my hair with liquid from spray bottle then rubbed a serum in my hair that gave it a shine and softness that I could never achieve on my own.

Just as she clicked on the blowdryer, I said, “I wish there was some sort of magic serum you could rub on my eyes to make them go right.”  I added a chuckle to my voice and a smile to face to show that their concern hadn’t gone unappreciated.

“No need for magic, dear.  The Lord’s got this one,” Gran said.  Just as she began to settle into reading her magazine, I looked in the mirror a mysterious glance between Adel and Leisl look.

10 Minute Tuesday: Michelle



Michelle is Libby’s best friend.  In some pieces she’s Libby’s cousin, in this most recent carnation she is Libby’s best friend.  They go to the same church.  She’s Libby’s confidante, but they are as different as can be.  Or at least that’s what I think so far.  Maybe they’re more alike then I think. Don’t you hate having to get all subtextual and analytical on your first draft?  It means that I still have questions to ask and answer.  Note to self:  Start interviewing Michelle.  Also, I don’t have a picture of Michelle yet because I haven’t gotten a feel for how I want her to look. Once I nail that down, I’ll let you know.

This was inspired by a homework assignment I was given for my YA class this week.  I am to write a scene that shows the characteristics that will undergo change by the end of the story.  In trying to show Libby’s characteristics that I know will change I also managed to show how Michelle must change as well.   Here’s a piece.



“When you do that,”  I mimicked her actions, puffing my cheeks with air each time I opened and closed my lips. “You look like a fish.”

She picked up a few papers and smacked me across the arm.  “Thanks, genius cakes.  I’m glad you know what a fish looks like.”  The laughter was sucked from me.  I tried to smile but looked down at my hands.   “I was trying to say, nicely, that maybe this isn’t a bad thing.”

Looking up, I could see that she was settling in for a lesson by the way she sat up straight and waited until I gave her eye contact.  My eyes wandered onto the news clippings under her knees, resulting in a strong throat clearing.

Get it over with.  I looked up at her.  “How is this not a bad thing?  Did you hear the part where Daddy basically said that this is my fault because I don’t have enough faith?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Don’t tell me you agree with him?” I glared at her. The sounds of singing turned into muffled voices that grew loud and quiet like an argument though they were really  just passionate prayers.

She broke eye contact first.  “It doesn’t matter if I did or not.  It doesn’t matter if its true or not.  What matters is that this is your senior year of high school.  This is our last time to do and be whomever we want without major consequences.”

“Um, going blind is a pretty major consequence.”

“Exactly.  So, you’re already being punished, why not go all the way with it? Live a little for the rest of us.  Take down your hair and let it blow in the wind.”  She reached over and snatched from my hair the chopsticks that held my  bun firmly into place from. The thinning black hair fell down to my shoulders.    “God knows you have enough of it.”

“Michelle!”  My eyes went from her to the picture of Jesus, brown skinned with dark hair and eyes, staring down on us from where the picture was framed on the desk.

“Sorry, Black Jesus,” she said and bowed her head.

Random Saturday: Introducing Troy Cummings


barista at starbucks

Troy Cummings is the boyfriend of Libby Taylor, my main character.  Boy, have Troy and I come a long way.   He started out as Libby’s best friend whom she wanted to date. Recently, he transformed into being Libby’s boyfriend just so that I could be a little more sadistic to Libby.  Sorry, Libby, that’s just how us writers roll:  we must torture our main characters to get them to transform adequately by the end.  Making him her boyfriend and first love makes the conflict that much better!

Today’s prompt was inspired by Marilyn at the WellFed Muse.  Marilyn runs Writing Pad, the group from which I take all my writing classes.  For the next few Sundays I will be occupying her living room taking classes on how to write the third act of my YA project.  I love Writing Pad.   I would not be here without them.

*Funny story about this image.  I was at Starbucks (as per usual) but in a completely different part of town.  There was this very good looking and charming barista who had just the right look for Troy.   He humored me and allowed me to take a picture of him.  He even asked what my book was about.  It was the very first day that I was able to articulate exactly what my project is about.  Yeah for Starbucks and for inspiration.


“You worry too much.   We’re not doing anything bad.”  His arms around my waist, I follow his steps as he walks backwards towards his bed.  He doesn’t let go as he falls backwards.  Trying to hold myself upright as he drags me forward, I only end up bent over his body as he lays out on the bed.  I hold myself with my arms while I look down at him. “Yet,” he added and smiled up at me.

I shook my head and straightened myself up.  He moved over and patted the sliver of space next to him on his bed.  I looke back at the door, closed tightly, the sounds of the local news still managing to come through.  An explosion could go off in the back of the house and Mrs. Cummings wouldn’t notice unless it messed up her cable connection.  Troy gave me a curious look that asked what I  was thinking about.  That or what what taking so long.

What would Amber do? I asked myself.  Jesus would not be caught in this situation, alone in a girl’s room.  Alone with a girl that everyone expected you to marry or at least be having everything-but-sex with.  Amber, she’d make a decision worthy of my father and the church.

I sat next to Troy instead of laying down. I pressed my back straight against the cool wall causing the hem of my skirt to move up my thigh.  I didn’t bother to pull it down or brush away Troy’s hand when he turned over on his side and placed it there.  I eased under the heat of his hand.  He massaged the soft skin of his hand against my leg causing my breath to catch in my chest.  A tingle of energy moved through my abdomen.  The smell of christmas was stronger as he sat up on his elbow and leaned up to kiss the underside of my chin.  I smiled and leaned in to meet him halfway.  I’m conservative.  Not dead.

Speed writing: 321 Green Street


Garden Gnome

I’m pretty sure I’m the slowest speed writer ever. I get so easily distracted.  I’m siting in the Santa Monica Public Library outdoor space and its absolutely beautiful.  There is this little mote that separates the eating area from the succulents and the short palm trees that decorate the garden.  Also, I have my iTunes going and I had some pumpkin bread and there are pigeons.  I’m practically a pigeon.  Whatever.

Speed writing is just writing as fast as you can.  I’ve been here about an hour  and I’ve written 794.  For hour two I will step up my game and try for more.  Damn it. This is quite an accomplishment for me actually, because when I got to the end of one scene I didn’t just stop writing.  I kept going.  Here’s what I got.


A gnome in a painted red hat and blue overalls smiled up at me from his perch at the edge of a driveway.  HIs shiny eyes seemed to wink at me when I stopped. 321 Green, his sign said.  “So, you going in or what?”  he asked.  Or maybe it was me that asked the question.

Great, now I”m being taunted by lawn furniture.

The driveway led to a stone gate that I could see surrounded the entire property.   An intercom was next to the rail gates.  The sign across the gates said Center For the Advancement of the Junior Blind.  321 Green was a house large enough to be confused with a hotel.

The intercome came to life when I hit the talk button.  “Hello,” a more then bored woman said.

My voice caught in my throat.


Speak. This isn’t Oz.  She’s not the grand Wizard.  SPEAK.

“I can see you.  We’re not taking solicitations.  Good bye.”

“Wait, no.  Um, my name is Libby Taylor”  I didn’t get to finish speaking before the voice from the intercom spoke again.

“Oh!  Great.  We’ve been waiting for you.”  The voice became cheerful and light.  A loud buzz went off and the gates began to open away from me.   “Go through the gates and up the driveway to the front.  Josh will meet  you at the door.”

Josh.  I practically ran through the gates and up the driveway.   Josh would know just what to do.

He stood at the door in a maroon sweater that gave his golden skin a reddish glow.  His eyes examined the ground like he was looking for something he lossed.  “Josh” I waved excitedly.  He ran his hands through his black curls.  His brown eyes that turned gold in the sun.  I waited for  smile to pays his lips and reach is eyes.  It would be my sign that everything was alright.  I sped up towards him, almost running, my eyes fixed on his face, waiting.

His lips began to fold upwards, his cheeks rose, but the smile stopped there.  I caught myself before slamming into him for a hug.  “Hey, Libby.” he tucked one hand into his pocket and held out one arm for a hug.

I leaned in and pressed myself lightly into the open space between his chest and his arm.  He rested his hand on my back and held it there, holding me and half letting me go.  “Hi, Josh.”  I said, my voice coming out like a whimper.  I forced myself to hold my arms down, and waited for the fall.


Image: ‘Indiana Jones and the Disturbing Garden Gnome

NYE 2011


lotus flower

It is New Year’s eve.  2011 has been a year of growth, definitely.   I really got in to the groove of my new life as a wife and feeling like a human being, not just a worker bot.  2011 really was the year of letting go of the plan and learning to trust myself.  I really thought I knew what I wanted.  I was so sure of it when I left my job as a teacher.  But things don’t always work out the way they are planned for a reason.  One day I read a really great book, I went online and found a really great writing community in my back yard and my life has been changed ever since.  I am learning to dream and learning that dreaming and taking risks is totally worth it.  I don’t plan on setting resolutions for 2012.  I intend on being open to what comes down the hatch.  Being open has really worked in my favor.  That doesn’t mean that I will stop writing or being deliberate.  No, it means that I continue to work on being my authentic self, to listening to my body, mind and heart.  I am so grateful that all that this year has brought.  I am open and accepting to all that 2012 has to bring.  I hope everyone has a safe and happy new year’s eve!!


Image: ‘Noble Vanity