Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I finished reading Zoe Winters' "Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author" today. I found it fascinating and I feel like things will really start to happen with me. It's what I've wanted since I was nine years old, to be a writer, working for myself. It's always been the dream that has never left my side. More than acting, more than music (though I hope to always be taking voice lessons). If you couldn't tell, I'm a bit artsy. Not the zany-crazy Fame/Glee artsy, but artsy in my own way.

Anyway, in one of her anecdotes, she talked about spending her class time in high school writing, rather than listening to her teachers. I relate. When I was seventeen, I was having the hardest time in the world with algebra. I was always a math whiz until high school. For some reason, algebra and geometry escaped me. My junior year, right after winter break, I returned to school only to have my algebra 2 teacher tell me that no matter how hard I could work, I wouldn't pass the rest of the term.

She's the teacher. She knew everything, right? For the rest of the year, I sat in the back of her class, writing stories. The following year, with a new teacher, I got an A all year. Figure that one out.

The following year, I had a free period, and rather than do the smart thing and TAKE said free period, I chose to take "Senior Survival." Biggest waste of time in the entire world. I mean, sure. Some people would probably do well in a class like that, which explained how to find a job, do your taxes, write a resume. I'd been working steadily since I was fifteen, my dad worked at H&R Block during tax season and I'd practiced resume writing for kicks. Our last assignment of the year was to interview someone that did a job you wanted when you "grew up." Seeing as how I didn't know any novelists/screenwriters, and no one from the newspaper got back to me for an interview, I wrote a paper on what I wanted to be and how I figured I could get there. I even outlined why I didn't get an interview. Guess whose teacher got pissy? Apparently, you'll never get a job if you don't interview someone in a menial position on how they get through the day.

When you live in a podunk town where writers tend to be journalists who don't return emails, you do whatever you can, and it was time to put the desire to be a writer to good use. I invented someone.

What I'm basically saying here is not to let anyone tell you what you can or can't do. I knew I wanted to be either a writer or actress and I have always known that anything less would not make me happy. My adult life has further cemented that fact. It's taken a bit of time, but I've decided that I will be a professional, freelance writer, with my book(s) and potential articles or whatever as my sole source of income in five years or less.

On that note, I have a surprise. I've decided to show my book cover, designed by my former Stephens College classmate, Lindsay Shoemaker. Solidarity, Stephens Sister! (You can visit Lindsay's website at http://www.lindsay-a-shoemaker.com/)

Meet Riley Pembroke (Sugar) and Stella Gainsbourg (Spy)
Stepsisters and Best Friends

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Have you ever had one of those nearly perfect days off that made you seriously regret having to go back to work the next day? Today was just so relaxing. Woke up, watched boring TV (Nothing could hold my attention), went to see Men in Black III with my parents. It was the best one so far! James Brolin did a great job portraying a young Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), and Emma Thompson added her own brand of British sassiness to an already stellar series.

After the movie, we had lunch at Quaker Steak & Lube, where they were having deals on cheeseburgers. I chose Broccoli as my side instead of fries, still going off the fact that I haven't had a lot of veggies lately. I think I need to make a fruit/veggie pledge to myself to get more of them in a day. If I keep making my smoothies, I could probably get them in, easy.

After lunch, we took my uncle's truck back to him, and I got to see my cousin's little one, again. She's adorable and I love her. She thinks she's Rapunzel, and adores all Disney Princesses. LOL Then we went to get dessert at the most amazing place in the world. It might not seem like much to some people, but I absolutely adore Red Mango. I've only been there a handful of times since they're in Omaha, but we need to get one in Council Bluffs. For those that have never been there, they give you sample cups to try the different flavors. Today, they had Dark Chocolate, Pomegranate, Sugarcane Cola, Pineapple, Strawberry, Vanilla Bean, Cookies and Cream (I think) and Peanut Butter. Oh. My. God. The Peanut Butter. Sooooooooo amazing! I got PB and Dark Chocolate and topped it with Oreo, Reese's Pieces and cups, brownie bits and a few bits of Mango Boba. Normally when I go to Red Mango, I do the "Healthy" thing and get fruity yogurt with fruit and boba, but not today. Today was decadent and lovely, but the best part about Red Mango is that I NEVER feel heavy or sick after eating there. Even with the toppings I put on today.

When we got home, mom and I did some gardening. We bought tomato plants (grape and beefsteak) today, as well as basil, orange mint and sweet mint. My herb garden did really well last year, so we planted those in buckets again. We planted the tomatoes in the front yard. Hopefully they do well up there. They didn't really peak past the blossom stage last year. Maybe they'll actually do well in the real ground. We made good use of our basil last year, and I got so much of it that I was giving it away to friends and family, making sorbet. I'm excited to have mint this year. I love minty water. It's completely awesome stuff. Very refreshing.

In the buckets, Left to Right, Basil, Orange Mint, Sweet Mint. 
Behind, Left to Right, Steak Tomatoes and Grape Tomatoes

It was all very relaxing. I don't want it to end. :-)

Anyone else?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Good Eats

So, I just came back from camping for a couple days. It was H-O-T HOTTTTT!!!!! Also extremely humid, and we were going to stay until tomorrow, but my mom had to work today, and I had a call-in, so we decided to pack it in early. We left around 11:30, and on our way home (mom and I in my car, dad and Frisket towing the camper (yes, we're camper campers) in my uncle's truck. With the AC. My car, sadly, doesn't have air conditioning, but hopefully it will soon.

On our way home, we stopped in Auburn, Nebraska, about 17 miles from our campsite (no pics of the campsite, except this one of my other Uncle, who spent all weekend fishing (catch and release) catching the same fish. When he finally got a different fish (a bigger one!), I got a pic of it.

Anyhoo, we stopped at Sonic on our way home to get Route 44 drinks. Mom and I got Iced Teas and dad got Diet Coke. OMG. Have you ever been so dehydrated that it made whatever you drank THAT much better? Mom and I gave an equally ecstatic sigh of relief. No AC in the car+Humidity doesn't a happy pair make. Sonic made things a bit better.

After we got home, I vegged, watched "Vampire Diaries" (Dang, it's addicting! Curse you, Netflix!), followed by "Something Borrowed" (To which, I say 'Meh.' Wasn't crazy about the ending, but I won't spoil it for those that haven't seen it. John Krasinski got the shaft, though) and now Food Network Star from last week.

I've been nursing a tension/dehydration/detox headache all afternoon. Whenever I feel like this, I like to make green monster smoothies. For those who don't know, green monsters are WONDERFUL. What makes them green is putting leafy greens (I stick with Kale or frozen spinach) in them. I haven't had a veggie or fruit all weekend, except when my sis made baked apples in the firepit last night. Doesn't count.

Anyway, one thing that I've recently become obsessed with is Toasted Carob Powder. Don't ask me why, don't ask me how, but I want to say it was Angela Liddon on her blog, Oh She Glows, talked about how it has a natural sweetness that cocoa powder doesn't, and that intrigued me. Angela also introduced me to the Green Monster, as well as a fantastic chocolate torte made with avocado that I got my extended family to eat and not realize how health it was. Win!

But, I digress. Carob powder is awesome. I've used it in oatmeal (also another recipe from Angela's site. I'm not a vegan, but her recipes are awesome), coffee and now my green monster. It turned my green to brown, and gave an amazing chocolatey taste to banana, berries and spinach. I loved it.

I don't know if this will alleviate my headache (highly doubt it), but I love that I can make simple swaps to make wholesome snacks. My smoothie was a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (again, love!), 2 T carob powder, 1 T chia seeds, 2 spirulina tablets (it's a seaweed that's really great for you. Can't even taste it), 1 frozen banana (also good for making ice "cream." Vegan swaps are fun!), 3/4 c frozen cherry berry mix, and 1 cup frozen spinach. So good!

I know this isn't specifically a food/wellness blog, but when I make something I absolutely love, I like to share. Green monsters have been proven to make me (personally) a lot more alert and a lot less bitchy (according to my sister). I love to have them for my breakfast. I hear adding a scoop of protein powder makes them more filling, but that stuff is expensive, so I really couldn't say.

But, now I'm off to watch Cupcake Champions. Love that show!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why Jane Austen?

So, since the title of my blog is called "The Modern Jane Austen," and I haven't blogged in quite a few days (I'm planning a recap of my first MLB game in Kansas City VERY soon. Just a matter of loading pictures from my phone to my computer), I thought I'd explain the title.

When I was in sixth grade, I saw Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility for the first time. This was about two or three years after it had been released. Before that, the only time I'd ever heard of Jane Austen was on ABC's The Torkelson's (Fairly cute, but failed sitcom about a single woman raising five kids on a SERIOUS budget) and Wishbone (Most amazing show for kids EVER!!!!). Back in the days when TV Guide Channel was just a hazy channel with different show listings, while playing movie trailers for background noise, they showed the trailer that intrigued me, and before long, I found I could quote it (and thus my love affair with Kate Winslet began, but I digress), and just HAD to see that movie.

While shopping with my dad at Best Buy, I found the movie on tape (old school!), and gobbled it up. It became my favorite movie. I had no idea why things were so...I don't even know. I didn't know how the inheritance thing worked between the Dashwood girls and their brother, or the Ferrars brothers, I didn't know why Fanny had such a hissy fit when Lucy told her she was engaged to Edmund. I didn't get it, but I loved the romance between Marianne and Willoughby (yes. Now that I'm grown, I totally get that he was a tool, and Colonel Brandon was awesome).From there, I saw Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma (I watch it for everyone but her. I'm really not a fan, but Jeremy Northam's Mr. Knightley is the cream of the Austen Men crop). And then Colin Firth in BBC's Pride and Prejudice when I was nearing high school. I knew nothing of the secondary story of Wickham or any of that. I honestly thought he was a good guy. That's how charming he was. He had me completely fooled. In high school, I finally sat down to read the books and fell in love with them. P&P will always be my favorite, and that's where my title comes in to play.

Greatest Darcy EVER!

Sexual Tension, Austen Style

Greatest Knightley EVER!

When I got to college, around 2004, I was seriously obsessed with Pride and Prejudice. I couldn't wait for Joe Wright's adaptation of it, and being that I attended a women's college, I figured I'd have to study Jane at some point, right?

For God only knows what reasons, my classmates (notice, I didn't say friends) didn't get my obsession with Jane. She was just "Chick Lit" to them (I feel like these girls didn't want to bother with Jane). I had to wait five years to study Emma in one of my classes. I'm still convinced it was so the faculty could shut me up. I enjoyed that segment more than any other part of college. Also, I wouldn't shut up during the discussions, either. I finally had a lot to say.

Between my friends, I was the observer. I've never really dated. I've been on a few bad dates (not even kidding. One date, we started talking about canned Mac n Cheese by Chef Boyardee. Yikes!). So, while all my friends dated, I observed their habits. Jane, I believe, was an observer, and it comes across in her writing. She writes characters so well and so ridiculous that they have to be based on real observations.

Add to the fact that I could spout of the Darcy family tree at a moment's notice, and you've got me. The Modern Jane Austen.

Jane never married. She had the opportunity and people urged her to get to it. I haven't really had the opportunity, but PLENTY of people have told me to get to it, like I'm on a cosmic timeline that I'm unaware of. I know that it's ridiculous to base what you want in a man out of a character in a book, and I'm trying not to, but when all the men I meet are either married, with someone, or showing absolutely no interest, I don't believe in making a fool of myself. Also, and call me crazy, but am I the only one in the world who wants a man who can express himself well in writing? I HATE text speak. Seriously. And misspelling. I really really hate them. Is that so wrong? Family members tell me yes, but my girlfriends say Hell No!

Honorable Mention for Early Morning Tenacity. :-)

So, my two followers, what do you look for in a man? Any qualities that people think are completely bogus?

Any nicknames from college that you can't (or won't) outlive? The one I can't (and won't) outlive, is actually Beeker. My friends Kaity and Jess still call me that. LOL. Cracks me up.

I can't leave you without showing the extent of my obsession.

My cat, Jane Austen

Yes, I probably will be a crazy cat lady one day.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cart before the horse?

I need to be editing. Seriously. If I want my book to come out Memorial Day Weekend, I NEED to get on it. I find myself not wanting to work on it, though. I'm so enamored with Book two that I can't stop writing it. I keep getting inspiration in the oddest of places (who knew an analogy from a church service would work its way into a spy novel?).

Seems I've been doing anything BUT editing this weekend/week. My sis was home last week, so I hung out with her, made her cupcakes, saw The Avengers (Awesome, BTW! Worth the price of admission!), worked lots at BBW. I need to be editing, though. Really need to be doing it. So why can't I make myself? I cleaned my room this evening, but I didn't edit. There's something seriously wrong with that scenario. For seriously.

I've also been thinking a lot about vacations lately. I'd love to take another one. My last one was last September on a family cruise on the Disney Dream to the Bahamas (Not crazy about Nassau. Been there twice. I'm good with not returning).

 From left to right, My cousins, Victor, Laura, Jake, Me and my sister, Kiri, at the Pirate Museum in Nassau. Pretty awesome, and air-conditioned, to boot!

You wouldn't know it, but I did have another cousin on that vacation. She was seriously never around when we wanted to take pics. This one is at the Pirate party. Fireworks, pirate dinner menu, Pirates of the Caribbean in the theater (in 3D!). Seriously, Disney Cruises are AWESOME!!!!

The year before, My best friend, Lauren, and I made a road trip to Santa Fe. I had never been there before, and a best friend road trip was just what the doctor ordered to cure my self-inflicted depression.

I wish I could remember the name of this store and put a link to their website, because they had some WICKED awesome jewelry and they ENCOURAGE you to wear tiaras in their store. How cool is that?

Those are only two of the vacations I've ever taken. And they were both epically awesome. You can see why I want another one. But I can't take another one until the book is edited and completed. Why is that such a difficult concept for me to grasp?

I guess we all want to see the potential fruits of our labor before we actually get there. But nothing worthwhile was ever just attained. The surest way to success is at the corner of prepared and dumb luck. Or something like that. :-)

Good night, Moon.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Kiri's Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes, or Becky's Man-Magnet Cupcakes?

Today's blog has nothing to do with writing. It has a tiny bit  to do with being creative, though, which I haven't been in a really long time, it seems (despite the finished novel, which I' excited to tell you all about. But not today.)

So, aside from working long hours and being unbelievably exhausted this past week (long story short, I haven't had a day off from either job in about a month), I've had a good week for one reason. My older sister, Kiri, came home!!!! She also celebrated her birthday this week, 28 years young on this earth.

This year, my present for immediate family has been cupcakes. For my mom, I made Carrot Cake Cupcakes with homemade Cream Cheese Butter Cream

Sadly, since it was a "Healthy" recipe, they stuck to the liners like MAD! Still tasty, though. :-)
For my daddy, the Peanut Butter Love, I made PB cupcakes with a chocolate ganache and decorated with a cashew, his favorite nut.

I'm not the best artist in the world. I deal in words, not paint or colors. I could deal in flavors, if I gave it more practice, but I really don't. I don't have time with two jobs (four if you count the novel and worship team at church), but I enjoy myself when I do have time to play, like today.

For my sister's cupcakes, I gave her the choice of what kind she wanted (I know my parents' tastes better than hers, I guess). A little background on the relationship I have with my sister, though.

We are GEEKS! We love comic book movies, Doctor Who, 80's cartoons, random movies that we quote, Star Trek, Star Wars (The originals, not the blasphemy that is the latest "prequels"), etc. We get it from our dad, and our love of the Muppets and Peanuts characters from our mom.

Today, while her cupcakes were baking, we were watching last week's Cupcake Wars (Prompt: Renaissance Faire, which my sister is frequently a performer), and talking about Joss Whedon's The Avengers, which we saw on Wednesday night, her birthday.

Planning our weekend for when Iron Man 3 comes out next year, we started putting together Iron Man-themed cupcakes. We got so into it, we also put together Thor and started on Captain America. And our ideas are AMAZING! I won't be sharing them here now, because I have pics of the LOOOOOOOOONG day I had baking.

Shall we begin?

She decided on a Black Forest cupcake, which promptly changed to a Chocolate Covered Strawberry cupcake when mom came back from working the Farmer's Market with two cartons of Strawberries.

I've never made cupcakes from scratch before this year. The last two batches for my parents made WAY more than the yield said, so I was expecting that from here, too. Not so. Made exactly a dozen.

Empty bowl. Didn't make nearly as much as I thought it would. But that's okay.

Am I the only one who loves to watch cupcakes bake? Seriously. Cupcakes put me in such a mood to actually compete in a cupcake competition, but then I realize that I have so much to learn before I'm actually able to not cause myself a panic attack just thinking of it.

While the cupcakes baked, I prepared the strawberries. The recipe I had called for frozen in sugar or syrup, but all I had were fresh. Oh noes!

I'm in the minority when I say I'm not a huge strawberry fan. Yet, I love strawberry jam, which this basically turned into. This was spectacular, and I'm glad there was leftover jam for later.

Buttercream is hard to make. It's a painstaking process, especially when using powdered cocoa instead of melted bars (I didn't have enough bars for the buttercream. Just the cupcakes. Oh well. Live and Learn). It ended up a lot drier than I'd anticipated, so I added a lot of almond milk and corn syrup (per the instructions), and it still ended up a little dry.

This is my mom piping it onto the cakes. It was very thick frosting, and it was starting to hurt my hands, so she took over. She's wonderful that way.

It was her idea to add the sprinkles, and I think they added just enough pizzazz to them. Aren't they nice?

This man, our friend Lisa's husband, Aaron, actually said that if he believed in polygamy, he'd marry me over these cupcakes. That's very good information to have on hand when I want to woo a man. Now if only I knew a man worth wooing...

Lastly, the birthday girl with her cupcakes. She loved them. Lots.

Happy Birthday, Sissy! I'm glad you came home.

For recipes, view the following links:


Monday, May 7, 2012

I'm called 'The Modern Jane Austen.' Had to get a Jane review up eventually. :-)

Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To use a somewhat derogatory turn of phrase, this book popped my Jane Austen cherry.

Now that I have your attention, this really was my first Jane Austen. I was ten when I saw the movie (1995, written and starring Emma Thompson), but followed it up about two years later with the novel (I was a kid, sue me). I love this story. I love everything about it. I love the relationship between Elinor and Marianne, it sometimes reminds me of the relationship I have with my own sister, though I think our personalities are each a mesh of both elder Dashwoods.

I love Elinor's quiet adoration of Edward (and vice versa), and just how it differs from Marianne's open adoration of Willoughby. Marianne is really the only one that wears her heart on her sleeve. Even Colonel Brandon kept quiet about his own feelings for Marianne. That's what sets her young ideas of love apart from everyone else's. Elinor, Edward and Brandon are all very pragmatic about their affections. Elinor knows that if she voices her love for Edward, he could be cut off financially from his family, Edward knows that if he voices his love for Elinor (or his former love for Lucy), he'll be cut off. Brandon believes himself to be too old for Marianne, so he admires her from afar. Each person thinks about the repercussions of the object of their affection before acting. Except Marianne, and she has the hardest lesson to learn.

I love this story. It never gets old for me. I can quote it, and I'm determined my avid watching of the film is what got me the lead role in my high school production of "The Murder Room." I had the accent down pat, thanks to Jane Austen.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 4, 2012

There's not a word for how exhausted I am.

So, on top of writing, I work two jobs. One is grading customer service calls for a phone company so that the big wigs can track what their agents are doing. The other is pushing Signature collection and Delicious smelling candles at Bath and Body Works.

I worked twelve hours today. Eight hours listening to calls and four selling soap. I was planning to come home and write after job one. Get some edits done. Just relax.

Didn't so much happen.

Writing takes a lot of commitment, there is no denying that. I honestly wish that I could afford to only have one job, and be able to focus more time on my book. Especially now that I seem to be getting more hours at BBW. Sure, I could be writing now, but my mind is so fried that I'm lucky to be blogging without misspellings.

I don't think I'll have much chance to write this weekend, either. I work tomorrow, have a call in on Sunday and church revival tomorrow night and most of the day on Sunday. I want a day where I don't have to do ANYTHING. AT ALL. FOR SEVERAL DAYS. Maybe then I'd have the energy to write.


One of my favorite books. Not sure why...

The Bell JarThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is going to sound absolutely bonkers, but this is the book I go to when I'm feeling sad, depressed and unbelievably listless. I knew something was wrong with me when I thought this book ended on a happy note (I was sixteen. Deal with it).

I don't think I'm Sylvia Plath's original audience...

There's something strangely comforting to me about this book. Maybe it's the coming-of-age, no idea where my life is headed tone of the book. I get it. I'm there. I'm not doing what everyone thinks I should be doing, either. I relate to that part of the story more than I'd rather admit.

Or, maybe it's Schadenfreude: taking pleasure at other's misfortunes. I really can't say why I love this book so much. I just do.

Plath is extremely descriptive and her visions of what she saw are exactly what I think of when I think of late 1950's New York and elsewhere. The book is very sensory, which I love. I wrote a paper in college (that I wish I still had) about all the different descriptions she used.

I break this book out at least once a year, and read through it within a day. I feel like I can almost quote it. It's comforting to look back at my notes throughout the years (another reason I like reading this book), like an old journal to find where I am. Maybe I'll be able to do what Esther Greenwood couldn't and find out where I'm going.

View all my reviews

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Jenny Pox" by JL Bryan, A Review

Since this is a blog about writing, I'm also going to include reviews of things that I've read. I've been a reading fool lately. Pretty much since I got a smartphone (HTC Rhyme FTW!) with a Kindle App. My mom, dad and sis all have Kindles (two originals and a Fire), but I opted to get a phone instead. I'm enjoying this app immensely! The only thing I use more on my phone is Facebook. And Texting. Anyhoo, this book. This crazy, messed up, wonderfully addicting book. I read for about three hours straight on Tuesday evening after DWTS: Results, and forced myself to go to bed. The next day was when the book really started to piss me off. But to know why, you'll have to read my Goodreads.com review. If you like that review, feel free to friend me and follow me. I'm hoping to have a Goodreads Author page by the time "Sugar and Spies" comes out. **************************************************** Jenny Pox (The Paranormals, #1)Jenny Pox by J.L. Bryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book infuriated me. And enthralled me. I was completely mesmerized by so many different things in this book that I recommended it to three different people before I even finished.

First up, I have to say, Ashleigh as the main villain infuriated me the most (that's what villains are supposed to do, right?). As a Christian and a conservative (well, libertarian, but I digress), people like her make me so angry. She was manipulative, vindictive, creepy, condescending, two-faced *goes to find a thesaurus* vicious, vile, offensive, pernicious. You get the idea. She was genius at working things through to work out in her own favor, from manipulating her principal's words on the Abstinance is Power agenda, to getting the entire town to turn on Jenny and Seth. What scared me about her is how much power she was able to hold in her perfectly manicured claws. There was nothing forgiving about her. She was probably the perfect villain, joining the ranks of Mandy Moore's character in "Saved" and Amanda Bynes' character in "Easy A." People like Ashleigh Goodling (ironic last name) give real Christians who love God and people more than Napoleonic agendas (Ashleigh even sympathized with Napoleon while studying!) a bad name!

That said, this seems like a cautionary tale of what happens when you allow other people to do your thinking for you. Granted, the people of Fallen Oak were under Ashleigh's spell, so they couldn't do much about it, but in the real world, we're able to think for ourselves, educate ourselves, make our own decisions. I'm seriously looking forward to reading book two to see where life takes Jenny and Seth!

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All That Matters Now (Finding Neverland)

I've been a MASSIVE Peter Pan  fan since I can remember. Disney , Mary Martin version, I loved  this story. I actually have several memo...