Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday's Musings

Aack! Yet another crazy football weekend for my boys. LSU kept our hearts pounding as they fought the Auburn Tigers/War Eagles/who the heck is our mascot on Saturday night at Death Valley. There was no leaving my chair, as each play seemed vital to survival or winning, depending upon which series of downs you were watching. Back and forth, from anxiety to relief, despondency to exhiliration. Sort of like that Florida game. And yes, it came down to the last play, the last second--literally!--for my Tigers (the real Tigers) to win outright.

Down by 1, with 10 seconds on the clock at the 22 yard line, we thought they were in formation to spike the ball or make a short pass up the middle to set up the winning fieldgoal. But no, Flynn drops back and flings it to the endzone. It takes time for a ball to travel that far. Thankfully we had a receiver ready to pull it in for the winning touchdown. With one second to spare.

Yes, one second left on the clock. Coach Les Miles cements his reputation as the gutsiest coach in college football. (What was he thinking???!)

The game was so exciting that my friend Courtney from SC called in the 3rd quarter to cheer them on--I think we've made a new fan. She called back to celebrate with me after the clock ran out...I was still hyperventilating.

Thankfully the Cowboys--while it was a strange game--didn't put us through the same torment. They started slow but were pretty solid in their win over the Vikings. I'm just glad that both teams have a bye next weekend.

I need the rest.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Meet Sandi Glahn: Friend, Author, Teacher

Geaux2girl readers have heard her name before. Most recently, I bragged on Sandi because I'd just seen her newest work of art on the bookshelves at Sam's Club. You may remember this cover page:

I promised a more comprehensive discussion about this medical thriller, and now is the time. I'll give you a synopsis, but mostly I want to ask Sandi a few questions about writing. She's not only successfully hopped from fiction to non-fiction and back again--which agents and publishers say is incredibly difficult--she also teaches creative writing and mentors many of her students (ahem) who often go on to become authors themselves. Sandi shares some thoughts on the writing process, her favorite and least favorite parts of writing, and other entertaining topics. Listen in...

Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

Never. I know…I almost feel guilty saying it. I attribute that to my second grade teacher, who had me write one story a day and raved about whatever I wrote. By the time I was old enough to realize nobody’s that good, it was too late. A brain has two sides, right? The creator and the editor. And she allowed the creator to run wild without introducing the editor. Ever. And as a result I have an extravagant sense of confidence about the first draft. Then I re-read it, and it stinks. Totally. But it’s too late. It’s already out there. And nobody ever complains about editor’s block. I’m not saying I recommend her style. Surely a second-grade teacher should help a student with grammar and spelling, right? But she never mentioned it. And that approach worked for me.

What was your very first story you ever wrote?

The earliest I remember was in the second grade. Frogs on a space ship crashed into earth, survived, and invaded. I still remember Miss Fikan (she was so great) laughing out loud when she read it. Made my day! You’d think I’d be a fantasy writer after that, huh?

What is the most difficult part of writing for you or was when you first started on your writing journey?

I still struggle with expressing character emotion. I feel like I’ll insult the reader if I stop to say “the shock of the news hit like a two-by-four in the back of the head.” I figure if I tell the horrible circumstance, the reader has enough imagination to feel what any normal soul would feel. I want to say simply “His dad died in a plane crash,” and let the reader fill in the emotional blanks. Yet everybody experiences shock and grief differently. For some the room spins. For others it shrinks. For some it grabs in the pit of the stomach. Or it feels like a physical jolt. It’s part of my job as a developer of character to choose how this character will react and respond. When the emotions get intense, I need to slow down and let the reader enter the character’s head. But I’d rather get on with the plot.

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.

Once I have a germ idea, I come up with the beginning, middle, and end. Then I figure out the in-between points. Next, I create the main characters. I have four pages of questions I answer for each. About thirty percent of novel-crafting for me is the pre-writing imaginative work on the plot and character sketches. Then I choose a setting. I ask myself how I can use setting to communicate something. Where was Jezebel when she stole the vineyard? In Jezreel. Where was she years later when dogs ate her? Jezreel. The setting tells more than a place. It says something about the character of God. So I try to choose a setting that communicates on a deeper level. All the time I’m making these choices, I deliberate about the best way to tell the story. First-person? Third-person? Who will be the main POV character? Why?

After that I craft a proposal. It starts with a one-paragraph synopsis. While my agent shops it around, I develop the summary into a chapter-by-chapter outline. And then I make a file for each chapter and start dumping in ideas.

When my agent has some success, he calls.

What is your favorite thing about writing?

I love it when the muse flows and I lose myself in the world of my characters. Three hours later I’ll look at the clock and marvel at how time has flown. It’s like going to a good movie and seeing a story you don’t want to end.

Least favorite?

I loathe the page-proof stage, where I get the stack of questions or suggested changes from the publisher. I don’t mind the feedback—it’s always been great. But actually making the changes…talk about tedium. [That's why you need people like me, Sandi... :)]

How do you get ideas for stories?

Television, Wired Magazine, headlines, internet, overheard conversations, personal angst. You name it.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled book tour, what’s Informed Consent about?

Jeremy Cramer, the next Einstein of research, is a medical resident specializing in infectious diseases. While working on a way to revive water submersion victims, he makes surprising discoveries, while also living with massive guilt over incidental infections that occur (which he could have prevented). Even as his marriage teeters, his career continues to skyrocket. Then, with a few twists along the way, he finds everything he has fought for threatened by the most personal, most heart-wrenching, choices of all.

I love exploring bioethics, and this book allowed me to consider end-of-life issues, patient rights, a compassionate response to HIV-AIDS…lots of edutainment.

Go buy this book, people. It will fascinate, entertain, keep you up past your bedtime, make you think, make you cry.

If you check out Sandi's blog, you'll notice she also released two bible studies this summer. If, after you finish Informed Consent, you are looking for that next study guide for your small group, here it is. Ruth, Colossians, Esther, Judges...take your pick of these and others. You won't find a study that so richly describes and explains the significance of biblical culture and language, making God's Word relevant to you and me as she draws the truth of the text out and applies it to our lives today. Pick one up today...I mean, after you finish the novel!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

10, 20, 30

Quick, what were you doing 10 years ago? 20 years ago? 30? Some of you might not be able to go that far back, so don't try. But let's hear your stories. My friend Sandi connected me to this "degrees of separation" game.

10 years ago: I was a newlywed, still a student at DTS, living blissfully with my new DH in a garage apartment so small there wasn't room enough for a good fight :). I had recently watched in horror as the news of Princess Diana's death was announced. My step-sister was so concerned about me that she called from St. Louis to make sure I was OK. Does that say something about the level of my obsession with "Lady Di" back when I was a kid??

20 years ago: I was a sophomore in high school, enjoying what I later realized was the hey-day of my fastpitch softball career. Summer 87 found my team winning State and Regionals, then going to Nationals in Boulder, CO. I think that was my first airplane ride.

30 years ago: My mother tells me that on my first day of Kindergarten I came home crying--because they had not taught me how to read. I guess that had been one of the selling points about school--"you'll learn to read" and I thought it would happen the first day. I also spent those first few months of school waiting for my mom to marry this nice man, Mr. Rodney. That came a few months later.

So, how about you? Respond in my comments with your fun memories, or if you have your own blog tell us there. Don't forget to link to Mary DeMuth's blog--she's the one who started this little game ( This isn't to build her blog empire; it's to find out how far one blog can reach.

Have fun! Can't wait to hear your stories.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Manic Football

All that relaxing I did on the cruise was wasted about 7 hours after I disembarked from the ship. We docked in New Orleans, and my mother picked us up and drove us to her house in Baton Rouge where we all stayed through til Sunday. Lucky for me, Saturday night was the big LSU vs. Florida game right there at Tiger Stadium. Game of the year, CBS Prime Time Live game, defending national champions (them) against current #1 (us) was gonna be big!

We started off slow and got in a hole, but we stuck within 10 points of them at all times, so we never lost hope of coming back. I was glad to be in BR, amongst family and friends who truly love LSU (as opposed to my DH who harasses me about my cultish obsession and merely tolerates my enthusiasm). We screamed, jumped up, flopped down with groans, yelled non-nice things at the TV...all in a spirit of unity. It was beautiful. But our hearts were strained to the breaking point because the team just. couldn't . catch. up. Coach Les Miles kept going for it on fourth down and one, fourth down and two, fourth down and inches...and the Tigers kept converting! The drama. Then comes the announcement that USC had lost to Stanford. We screamed, the fans in the stadium roared. More incentive to win and be crowned #1 sharing that spot anymore. Or we could both lose it...

We were down to the last five minutes, still 3 points behind. Aaagh!
But then, and you all know the end result, LSU runs up the middle from the two to score the winning touchdown with about 1 minute to spare. We survived FL's ensuing Hail Mary attempt, and the stadium went crazy. My fellow fans at Mom's house slumped down in joyful exhaustion. No more! Please. Please let the next game against Kentucky not be as exciting as this one. I can't take it anymore.

So home we go with baby girl in tow, to reunite our little family and get back to a normal routine. I thought I might have missed the Cowboy game that Sunday, but they were slated for Monday Night Football on ESPN.

What a bizarre game from beginning to end. Interceptions in the end zone, tips, sacks, penalties, kick returns for touchdowns...all for the Buffalo Bills! (who?). It was a classic trap game, when a heavy favorite with no real motivation visits an opponent with nothing to lose. If the Bills' offense had been able to muster anything more than a field goal, they would have won it. Even Romo's 5 interceptions--while fruitful for the Bills' defense--wasn't enough. The two last second field goals that clinched it for Dallas (I hate that rule--the Bills' coach took notes from FL's Urban Meyer, who pulled that last second time out stunt on the Auburn kicker last weekend)...those were beautiful. And I've never witnessed a weirder game. Even my DH stayed up late to watch the end--and that's significant!

It's a great weekend to be an LSU and Cowboy fan...both still undefeated after harrowing games neither wants to repeat. Pleeeeease, let next week be more normal.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Celebrating in Style

Almost two weeks without blogging--stop the presses. Once again, I had a great excuse. This time it was a Carribean cruise, to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary. DH and I, along with a couple of long-time friends, left our children with grandparents for over a week while we feasted, relaxed, adventured, and shopped the Yucatan.

We've concluded that never before have we enjoyed food in such quantity, at such quality, accompanied by such perfect service. We were tempted to define the value of each day by the dinner experience. There is something about seafood cooked to perfection and melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon. Oh yes, there was chocolate melting cake. As often as you wanted it. It lived up to its reputation.

The snorkeling was divine. I'm not usually a big water person, but I had looked forward to this opportunity to swim with the fishes and see some colorful reefs. The most amazing part of that excursion (private boat for four, cheap price, was good too) was the large school of gray/black fish hovering at the bottom of the reef, about 15 feet below us. My DH dove down among them--what a cool sight--but they weren't bothered. He floated up carefully when he noticed the barracuda eyeing him. As he reached the top, the barracuda descended closer to the school of fish. Seconds later he made his move, dashing at them suddenly. In a flash, the black fish dispersed like a fan--they were just gone. Coolest moment in the water for us!

If you ever think of taking a cruise, consider inviting a couple of friends or more to come with you. Having pals to share the experience added greatly to our enjoyment. For instance, each night after dinner we headed to the card room for a game or two of Hearts. I had a pal to hang with on deck while we sunned ourselves and read novels. DH had a friend to hang with while the wives sunned themselves and read novels. :)

Enjoy the pics.