Saturday, October 27, 2007

Small Town, USA

I grew up in a small town. I mean, really small, as in the Main Street is less than a mile long and has 1 stoplight. There are a few local convenient marts, but no grocery store/Walmart/movie theater until you drive 3 or 4 miles down the road, to the next, bigger town.

The high school sits across from farmland; I used to run laps for track practice and watch the cows during breaks when I was sucking in air. Almost every kid who lived in the downtown area walked to school.

A pair of water towers sits on a ridge just above the town proper. Every year the senior class sneaks up and paints their two-digit graduating class on the towers, and every year the owner of the property threatens to run the kids off.

The town itself has a green on which sit three churches and the elementary school, side by side. There is a bandstand in the middle of the green, and during the summer, the Old Timers' Band plays concerts. In the winter, the local firehouse floods the green for a makeshift ice skating rink that lasts all season long.

It is the kind of place where you can walk down the middle of Main Street at midnight and not worry about a car coming from any direction. It is beautiful, historic, safe, and far removed from any kind of city life.

This is where I grew up.

When my friends and I went to college, in bigger towns or cities, sometimes our peers made fun of us. They'd look at a map, or hear stories about what we did for fun, and think we were small-town kids. My husband still likes to tease me about it.

But here's the thing: something about this town produces smart kids. My friends and I, we went on to top schools in the country. Today we live scattered around the globe. And we are professionals with advanced degrees. We are doctors and engineers and teachers and lawyers. We are actors and musicians and corporate heads and professors.

And last week, an 11 year old who goes to this same school won the Discovery Young Scientist Challenge.

How cool is that? Competing with kids from across the US, he came in first. And he did so by creating an experiment in the stream that runs through his backyard.

In a world where I see so many kids attached to their computers, or watching TV while slowly growing obese, or convincing their parents to buy them the latest electronic gadget, there is something both humbling and inspiring about a boy who devises an experiment in his backyard in a small town in the middle of the countryside.

Let's hope there are many other Eriks out there, many other kids still playing outside and learning about the world by getting dirty and putting their hands on things.

Let's hope that maybe those who are parents and those who hope to become parents remember that there is great merit in encouraging independence in their children, in not scheduling their child's every waking hour, and in letting their children get bored sometimes. You know what? Bored kids find a way to amuse themselves. Some of them even go outside, look at a stream, and start to ask questions.

Amazing, huh?

Friday, October 26, 2007


Here's the Friday Feast - enjoy!!

Name a great website you would recommend to others.
Why, this one, of course. It's witty and personal and the journey of the next best-selling author...didn't you know?

On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 as highest), how often do you dream at night?
Probably 8.5. Yes, I do a whole lot of dreaming...always in color, by the way. Does anyone dream only in black and white?

Did you have a pet as a child? If so, what kind and what was its name?
Oh, of course. Let's see, a variety of cats, but the two from my youngest childhood were Orph and Eddie. A variety of dogs as well, though the first was Heidi, a German shepherd ("Heidi" was also my first much for Mama or Dada, right?). Had hamsters, fish, and rabbits that mysteriously multiplied, too...

Main Course
If you had the chance to star in a commercial, what would you choose to advertise?
A brilliant time management system that I came up with that will save everyone thousands of hours a year and make me enough of a billionaire so I can stay home and write full-time!

What is your favorite kind of hard candy?
Werther's Originals - oh yeah!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Laugh for Thursday

OK, my neighbors are officially insane. I mean, I don't know them or anything (we live out in the countryside, where you sort of wave to people as they drive by, and have a vague idea of who lives where, but you don't hang out on the porch and chat with everyone in the neighborhood...). However, now I am certain that the couple who lives on the corner, in the big gray house, is insane. How do I know this? Well, as of last night, their Christmas lights are up.

No, I'm not kidding. And no, the lights aren't orange, in some kind of Halloween spirit. They are 100% red, twinkly Christmas lights. Strung along the wooden fence that runs the length of their property. With a big wreath or something right in the middle. It was 70 degrees two days ago!!

I'm all for the holiday celebration, but could we maybe wait until most of the leaves are off the trees? Or until after Daylight Savings' Time changes back? Or until the calendar switches to November, at the very least??



Marianne found this yesterday, and I have to share. Especially if you're a cat person, you'll appreciate it!


By the way, you should visit Marianne's "fun page" anyway. She has some good stuff there. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Ryan O'Donnell

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday, and another author interview! I'm especially pleased to introduce today's featured author, not only because he's a local author to my area (NY's Hudson Valley), but also because he's 17 years old and just self-published his first novel! [I can barely remember what I was doing when I was 17, but it sure wasn't writing a complete novel and having the gumption and focus to get it published.]

Draw up a chair and stay a while...and please leave Ryan a comment when you're through!

Hi Ryan...can you tell us a little about your background?

My name is Ryan Michael O’Donnell and I am a senior at Port Jervis High School in New York. I’m seventeen currently, I’ll be eighteen this November. I was born in Port Jervis, New York, and during the course of my early childhood my family and I moved to Cody, Wyoming. We lived there for six or seven years before we returned to Port Jervis and we’ve been here ever since.

When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I’ve been writing for mostly school reasons for as long as I can remember. However, when I came upon my 8th grade year my English teacher at the time, Mrs. Wooley, gave our class a collaborative assignment in which we broke up into groups of two, then had to write a short story either from scratch, or based off of something we enjoy. Writing the joint story was a wonderful experience for me, but at the same time when it was complete I wasn’t satisfied. It set a goal that lingered within me. Write a novel from my mind, not from the mind of another. My fire to accomplish this task was finally kindled when was walking home from a friend’s house during the late afternoon. I had a sudden explosion of characters in my mind, along with flashes of powerful, emotional battle, all at once. These characters lacked names and one in particular received his name from a street sign I gazed at while this influx occurred: Marcus Holbrook, the mentor to the main character in Turalus. His last name taken from Holbrook Street, which neighbors my own.

How do you go about developing your characters?

Like the majority of writers I take situations, events, and people from what I have encountered, experienced, and met. The main character is myself and his friends are friends of mine whom I’ve known for an extended period of time, and whom I consider close to me. To name a few, Christian is my friend Josh Finan who graduated last year before me, Luke is John Yorke who also graduated, and Morgan is Chris Connor who is in my grade currently. A good majority of those who’ve read Turalus have asked me who Angel is as well. I haven’t had the blessing of meeting her yet.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

I believe two important things I can offer to new writers are for one, don’t be discouraged by the criticism of others. I’ve had all kinds of responses toward my novel, some positive, others, not so much. I’ve had people tell me with beaming smiles how wonderful they think my work is and how much they’ve loved it, and conversely I’ve also had people blow me off just for the sake of my age. I’ve held book signings and had people tell me that before I even consider writing anything I should read such-and-such author’s work or I’ll never be successful. Secondly, don’t rush your work. Get it down on paper if you’re like me and you have all-the-sudden ideas, but once it’s on the scrap paper don’t race to put it into the work. Nurture the idea and allow it to evolve into something more riveting than the original idea. Add whatever you feel necessary and take away what you feel won’t flow with the piece. Do what you feel is right. That is one of many beauties of literature, the variety of different conventions writers use.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

I find the most difficult thing about writing to be deciding on which way would work best in conveying your image to the reader. People are diverse and respond differently, so it’s hard for me to decide how to word portions from time to time. In writing Turalus I aimed for it to be a visual spectacle that is simply written. I’ve always admired how something could be so powerful due to its simplicity, thus I write in that manner. I feel the most exciting and rewarding aspects of writing are seeing your words come alive, but more so seeing the reader’s face in awe as they become drawn in to your own world.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

From time to time I have a writer's block. I’m in the sequence of one now actually. My methods of dealing with it are quite simple really. Let it pass is one way. I think of it like driving a car and coming to a stop at the railroad crossing. If the train is still passing, I can’t go yet. Once it’s gone, I can continue. Forcing writing out I wouldn’t encourage even though I did do it for a portion of Turalus. I feel writing is much better when it isn’t strained out. If that just doesn’t work for some, then slowly ease back into it. Continue where you left off, and go for however long you can comfortably, and then stop. There are many ways of dealing with it I can imagine; those are two that I use.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

When I’m not writing my hobbies include listening to all kinds of music, video games, spending time with friends or family, weight training and running. Pretty much the typical teenager stuff.

Thanks, Ryan! If you're interested in finding out more about this up-and-coming author, or purchasing Turalus, visit this link. (Turalus is available though AuthorHouse as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble,, etc)

Ryan welcomes correspondence from friends and fans; you can email him at

Enjoy your Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Good News and Five Things

Two pieces of good news for this Tuesday morning ~ celebrate with me!

1. I won Liana Laverentz's award-winning novel Thin Ice from the LASR website. Can't wait to read it!

2. My editor at Samhain sent me an email regarding my second submission to her, and said "Allie, I’ve read and, unsurprisingly, really enjoyed the first chapter of One Night in Memphis. If the manuscript is still available, I’d be thrilled to take a look at it. Thank you so much for the submission."

Fingers crossed for another contract!

And now, the "5 things" meme that's been circulating the last few days. Hey, you wanted to know more about me, right?

What were you doing ten years ago?
1) Adjusting to living in a brand new town
2) Adjusting to a brand new job
3) Writing a book that never got published (and probably never will)
4) Planning a cross-country trip with my ex-boyfriend
5) Listening to my best friend gush about the guy she met in a bar...who is now her husband and the father of her 3 kids

What were you doing one year ago?
1) Setting up my writing website!
2) Writing (of course)
3) Starting up my regular running habit again
4) Spackling and painting my linen closet
5) Planning a trip to New Hampshire for a holiday getaway...and to meet Marianne

Five snacks you enjoy:
1) Trail mix
2) Quaker Oat Squares (much better as a snack than a cereal)
3) Lime Tostitos
4) Dark chocolate
5) Apples - only in season! (which means right now, I'm in heaven)

Five Songs you know the lyrics to:
1) Almost anything from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical
2) "Ave Maria" ( I sang it at a friend's wedding)
3) "Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood
4) "Respect" by Aretha Franklin
5) "The Star Spangled Banner"

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1) Build a lake house on our property upstate
2) Pay someone to replace the siding on our house
3) Donate a good chunk to the animal shelter where I volunteer
4) Take a tour of the British Isles
5) Spend a month in Italy

Five bad habits:
1) Obsessing over things I cannot control
2) Speaking before I think (this doesn't happen as often as it used to, thankfully)
3) Eating too much sweet stuff
4) Spending too much time on the computer *not* writing
5) Skipping workouts

Five things you like to do:
1) Write
2) Run 10K races
3) Play my piano
4) Read good books
5) Travel

Five things you will never wear again:
1) Legwarmers (80s, anyone??)
2) High-waisted jeans
3) Leather
4) Reebok sneakers
5) A perm (oh yes, I loved the big hair of the 80s as well)

Five favorite toys:
1) My laptop
2) My cats (they wouldn't like to be called *toys*, but oh well)
3) My Ouija board (even though I haven't used it in ages ~ it used to be THE thing at sleepovers
4) This great wine bottle opener
5) The game Memory (especially played with my niece)

Five things you hate to do:
1) Make cold calls
2) Discipline students
3) Clean the cat box
4) Read badly written books
5) Lose touch with friends

Five people to tag:
1) Anyone.
2) Who.
3) Wants.
4) To.
5) Play.

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Mourning

Well, sadly my Cleveland Indians didn't get it done in Game 7 against Boston last night, so they're going home. They did play well, until the 8th inning anyway, and I'll admit I had fun cheering for them this season (as every season, until they break my heart again). I suppose when you have a $101 million dollar on your staff, the way Boston does, you'd better win big games, huh? I could wax on about the discrepancy in MLB teams' payrolls, but you can compare for yourself, here.

I think the fact that Cleveland defeated the #1 team on that list (Yankees - $200 million) and came within one game of defeating the #2 team (Boston - $144 million) speaks well for a team that comes in at #23, with $62 million. I've always admired that fact about the Cleveland baseball organization: they're willing to let top players go to other franchises because the players demand salaries that management isn't willing to spend. Of course, this also means that they're willing to let top players go...and maybe that's why I spend every post-season a little depressed. But I'm still glad they don't give in.

And now I'll be rooting for the Colorado Rockies in the World Series - even more so since they come in at #25 on the list, with a paltry $55 million. This, by the way, means their total payroll equals the payroll of the Boston pitcher who won last night - one guy!! And the Rockies are on a huge roll, so I hope they can pull it out and show that maybe, sometimes, money isn't everything and can't buy a championship title after all.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Last Chance to Make the Dance

Well, it's do or die time for my Cleveland Indians, who have to win against the Red Sox tonight (at Fenway Park) to make it to the World Series. Last night's game was, well, less than stellar...

I'm hoping they'll pick themselves up and come back tonight with a better performance. *Fingers crossed*


I'm in the middle of reading my first-ever historical romance, Halloween Knight by Tori Phillips. I chose it to review for LASR, and while it took a little while to get used to the language, I'm enjoying it. Anyone else a big fan of historicals, or have an author they'd recommmend in that genre?


And I'm stealing borrowing this from Marianne's post today, because it is so funny and true (if you subscribe to loops you'll agree 100%):

How many online messageboard/forum posters does it take to change a light bulb?
1 to change the light bulb and to post that the light bulb has been changed.

14 to share similar experiences of changing light bulbs and how the light bulb could have been changed differently.

7 to caution about the dangers of changing light bulbs.

27 to point out spelling/grammar errors in posts about changing light bulbs.

53 to flame the spell checkers.

41 to correct spelling/grammar flames.

6 to argue over whether it's "lightbulb" or "light bulb."

Another 6 to condemn those 6 as anal-retentive.

2 industry professionals to inform the group that the proper term is "lamp."

15 know-it-alls who claim *they* were in the industry, and that "light bulb" is perfectly correct.

156 to email the participant's ISPs complaining that they are in violation of their "acceptable use policy."

109 to post that this forum is not about light bulbs and to please take this discussion to a light bulb forum.

203 to demand that cross posting to hardware forum, off-topic forum, and light bulb forum about changing light bulbs be stopped.

111 to defend the posting to this forum saying that we all use light bulbs and therefore the posts *are* relevant
to this forum.

306 to debate which method of changing light bulbs is superior, where to buy the best light bulbs, what brand of light bulbs work best for this technique and what brands are faulty.

27 to post URL's where one can see examples of different light bulbs.

14 to post that the URL's were posted incorrectly and to then post the corrected URL's.

3 to post about links they found from the URL's that are relevant to this group which makes light bulbs relevant to this group.

33 to link all posts to date, quote them in their entirety including all headers and signatures, and add "Me too."

12 to post to the group that they will no longer post because they cannot handle the light bulb controversy.

19 to quote the "Me too's" to say "Me three."

4 to suggest that posters request the light bulb FAQ.

44 to ask what a "FAQ" is.

4 to say "Didn't we go through this already a short time ago?"

143 to say "Do a Google search on light bulbs before posting questions about light bulbs."

10 posters to claim the light bulb failed because of George Bush's policies.

20 to denounce those 10 and blame Hillary.

1 to say that if you were any damn good at all you wouldn't need the freaking light bulb.

3 to say that those of you talking about light bulbs aren't working and should get back to work.

1 forum lurker to respond to the original post 6 months from now and start it all over again.