The ABCs of My Awesome Life

I totally stole this idea from The Magic Violinist. She has a great blog, so pop on over there (after you’re done reading my blog, of course!) So in this post, I reveal many deep secrets (or not) about myself, in alphabetical order.

Ambition: My ambition is to be a successful author. What makes a successful author? Having ten loyal fans? A hundred? A bazillion? Dunno. But I’ll start my journey of success by getting published first (hopefully by the end of this year/early next year).

Bad Habits: Sleeping late. Personally, I don’t consider this a bad habit unto itself—except that the world is run by morning people, so I wind up looking lazy by trying to sleep in till a decent hour.

Celebrity Crushes: That guy who played Hawkeye in Avengers. And the guy who played Thor. I don’t keep up with celebrities, and I’m too lazy to go look up the actors’ names. But who doesn’t like hunky superheroes?

Drink: XS Energy drink. I’m not an energy drink fan, really, but since XS is more of a nutritional drink than a standard “energy” drink, I’m all about it. Lots of flavors to chose from, too. Which is good, because I like variety.

Education: Always. I have a college degree, but I don’t think that education should be defined by the number of schools attended or the certificates on your wall. If you read, or connect with new people, or basically live life with your eyes open, you’re learning (or you should be). My education is increasing every day.

Food: Chocolate. Peanut butter. Chocolate and peanut butter. I also like fresh fruits and veggies, and hotdogs that have been cooked over an open fire and are all crispy and burnt on the outside.

Guilty Pleasures: I’ve never been quite sure what this is supposed to mean. I try not to do things that I will feel guilty about later. With the possible exception of eating cheese or ice cream. I’m lactose intolerant, but man, I love dairy. Sigh.

Hometown: Richmond, VA

Ice Cream: Love it. Except, as I just mentioned, I can’t have diary. Sigh.

Jonesing for: Ice cream, since I’ve been writing about it. Sigh.

Kryptonite: Bunny rabbits. And music. If I’m out in public and a song I like is on the muzak, then I’m pretty much ignoring my shopping or my lunch partner till it’s over.

Lookalike: Periodically, I’m informed by random strangers that I look like Meg Ryan. And a friend recently said that I look like Eivør, which I find flattering beyond words. When I grow up, I want to be as pretty and talented and famous as Eivør is…

Movies: Lord of the Rings (all of Peter Jackson’s thus far to date). Star Wars (all of them, but mostly the original trilogy). Miss Potter. Clue (y’know, that 80s movie based on the board game). August Rush. Most anything starring Will Smith.

Nickname: Don’t really have one. Some people call me “Gracie,” which is fine.

Obsessions: Music. Writing fantasy stories. And those forbidden dairy products. Sigh.

Perfume: I don’t use it.

Quirk: Which one? I’m rather quirky (aren’t all writers, really?) I’d be happy to live every day and go everywhere in sock feet. I’m borderline neurotic about checking my notifications on my phone, Facebook, etc. It bugs me to have a bunch of little icons or red flags in my notification bar.

Regret: I don’t do regrets. Sure, there are some things in the past that I wish I’d done or hadn’t done. But since I can’t change the past, I’d rather devote my mental energy to making sure that I don’t do or neglect to do something in the future.

Starbucks: Nope. I don’t like coffee. And there are cheaper places to get tea or giant cookies.

The Last Book You Read: I’m always reading 2-4 books at once. Some recent reads I enjoyed: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Wisdom by Bonnie Watson. You can always stalk me on Goodreads if you really want to know what I’m currently reading.

Vacation: I went to England and Norway a couple of years ago, and I’m hoping to go to Iceland later this year.

Wine: Don’t drink it much—maybe one glass a month. I prefer red over white.

X: X-Men. I spent my college years and most of my 20s reading nearly every X-Men comic in existence.

Years: I’ve lived a few, and I intend to live many many more.

Zen: I guess this means what brings me bliss or peace? Music. Long walks in the woods. Scratching my rabbits’ ears.

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A Mother’s Day tribute to Great Moms of Literature

Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, so I thought I’d devote this post to some of the great moms in books. I have a wonderful mother, as I’m sure you do, too. But here are my top five favorite fictional mothers.

5. Mrs. Rabbit, from Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter

Poor patient Mrs. Rabbit, who had a son who always did exactly what she told him not to do, and lost his shoes and his jacket repeatedly. Even so, she didn’t punish him harshly—she just put him to bed with some chamomile tea. For all the headaches Peter gave her, she stayed a gentle and loving mom.

4. Missis, from The Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith

Sure, we all loved Perdita in Disney’s various film versions of this story, but I’m talking about the original. In the book, Perdita was a different dog—Missis was Pongo’s wife. First off, she gave birth to fifteen puppies. Props to her for that alone. Then, when the puppies were kidnapped, Missis risked her life facing the wild outdoors and Cruella De Vil to get her kids back. And she wound up being a mother to 97 puppies by the time it was all over. Now that’s a mom.

3. Leia Organa-Solo, from The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

There are hundreds of post- Return of the Jedi stories out there, but the ones I have in mind are the Thrawn Trilogy, which basically launched the Star Wars multi-media franchise back in the 90s. In this story, Leia gave birth to her twins Jacen and Jaina Solo. She dealt with all the joys and struggles of raising two infants while traipsing around the galaxy, rescuing Luke, fighting off the remnants of the Empire, and holding a government post in the New Republic. A true super-mom.

2. Molly Weasley, from the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

Molly raised a herd of wild red-headed kids, and managed to keep a lid on things despite those kids doing things like quitting school to open a magic shop and flying their father’s car into a Whomping Willow. But she still had enough love to all but adopt Harry into her family, and she had enough ferocity to take out some Death Eaters and Bellatrix Lestrange. Another super-mom.

1. Marmie, from Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy lovingly called their mother “Marmie” when they were young, and as they grew up, Marmie stayed central to their lives. Through marriages, births, deaths, career struggles, and the general pains of growing up, Marmie kept her family together. She encouraged her daughters’ creativity and independence, wasn’t afraid of disciplining them, taught them how to be loving by showing kindness to strangers and neighbors alike, and stayed strong while her husband was away at war. Marmie was just an all-around awesome mom.

Any other literary mothers you’d like to add to this list? And don’t forget to wish your mom a happy mother’s day!

3 Reasons Why I Love Beatrix Potter

A few days ago I re-watched one of my favorite movies of all time—Miss Potter. In case you haven’t seen it, the film is a reasonably accurate portrayal of a span of several years in the life of Beatrix Potter. It covers her journey from a single woman bored with life with her parents and their pretentions at aristocracy to her life as a published author and wealthy community leader. The film stars Reneé Zellweger and Ewan McGregor (that should be reason enough to see it, with that line-up…)

Number 1: I love Beatrix Potter because she wrote some awesome stories. For a hundred years now, children have read and loved the stories about Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and all the rest.

One of my personal favorites was The Roly-Poly Pudding (or The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, depending on the edition). There was something about that story that was creepy but fun, like ghost stories around a campfire. In the story it was chillingly cool that the house was so big that Tom Kitten could get lost for days before anyone might find him and that the walls were three feet thick.

In reality, if I lived in a house where I could hear dancing and partying inside the walls, and there were rats big enough to run off with things like rolling pins, I’d move. But Beatrix Potter turned it into an adventure story, complete with the thinly-veiled moral of “always obey your mother.”

Number 2: I love Beatrix Potter because her life inspired the Miss Potter movie. Did I mention that this movie is one of my all-time favorites?

One of the things I love most about the movie is the way that the director brings the audience not just into Beatrix’s life, but into her creative process and into her mind. There are little moments—just a few, and very subtle—when Beatrix’s drawings come to life and respond to her. These moments are not long or overt and don’t interfere with the stodgy Victorian setting—they’re just little animated tweaks that let the viewer know how deeply Beatrix was involved with her characters and art. How real they were to her.

As a writer, I can readily identify with this concept. My characters are my friends; I enjoy spending time with them, and sometimes we even argue. For example, right now one of my characters (Teija is her name, and she’s normally a somewhat timid girl) is loudly banging on my mind to remind me that I left her last scene hanging much too long ago and when am I going to finish it already.

There’s a scene in Miss Potter when Beatrix is trying to cope with a sudden tragedy in her life and she stays up all night sketching—only to have her beloved Peter turn away from her as she’s drawing. Peter Rabbit, frightened by his creator’s sadness and anger, flees from her, running away through the various drawings scattered across her desk.

The pencil sketch of Peter Rabbit hides behind some flower pots in one drawing and peer out at her, as if to give her firm instructions: “don’t you dare try to paint me or tell my story until you’re in a better frame of mind.” Peter may be a troublemaker of a little bunny most of the time, but in that instance, he is giving his creator some sorely-needed guidance.

Any other writers or artists out there besides me and the movie Beatrix who have experienced this? Have you ever felt guided (or even pushed) by your characters, instead of the other way around?

Number 3: I love Beatrix Potter because she achieved every writer’s dream. No, not every author or artist wants to live on a farm in the country raising sheep, but she did that because she loved it and she was making enough money with her books to live the lifestyle that she wanted. Control over their own life is every person’s dream to one extent or another, I believe. Not everyone will achieve this dream—and not every writer will get rich with their books—but the way I see it, if even one person did it, then there’s a chance that someone else can, too.

Beatrix Potter not only gained control of her lifestyle with her books, but she accomplished what is perhaps an even deeper universal dream—she created a legacy. She wrote something worth reading long after she was gone. More than 50 years after her death, and her stories and drawings are still bringing joy to children everywhere.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Any other fans of Beatrix Potter out there? What author’s life story has inspired you?

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Some legal disclaimers, just in case…

Frederick Warne and Co owns all rights and copyrights to Beatrix Potter’s works

Miss Potter, 2006 by Phoenix Pictures, directed by Chris Noonan