Look Back, Looking Ahead

December flew by, and it’s a little hard to believe we’re already a few days into 2014. I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions anymore, other than a bit of goal setting. But I wanted to look back first and how I did in 2013 with some of my writing hopes.

I had a pretty ambitious list of things I hoped to accomplish last year, and while I crosses several things off that list, live managed, as it often does, to shorten the amount of time I had to devote to writing. Looking back, the first half of 2013 seemed to go pretty much on track with what I’d planned, but once the end of the summer rolled around, everything pretty much was dead in the water.

September is often a rough month anyway, because I always end up staying late at school trying to get beginning of the year things squared away. This year was particularly brutal in that regard. While I wasn’t technically getting home any later than usual, the change to middle school really shifted my daily routine. I mean, I’m not a morning person to start with, and having to start an hour earlier than I’m used to completely threw me for a loop. I’d say I didn’t get in to the swing of the new schedule until maybe mid-October. Beyond that, while I often have papers to grade in the evenings and on weekends, I generally can leave work at work. Not this year. With the adoption of the Common Core modules (and I’m teaching both Math and ELA), there’s a ton of prep work that needs to go into every lesson. So rather than stay at school until 6 or 7 at night, which was not out of the realm of possibility, I packed it up and brought it home to make my worksheets and SmartBoard lessons at home.

Instead of writing, unfortunately.

Thank God for the monthly Book In A Week challenges that CNYRW puts on. Otherwise I’d have nothing done.

So my writing goals sort of tanked through the end of 2013. Where does that put me now?

Currently, I have the historical fiction “magnum opus” part 1 undergoing a beta read with an online critique buddy I connected with through an RWA University class in October. I’m hoping it will be ship-shape enough to start submitting again by the end of February or March. I have a pretty good handle on where to go with it, in the event I decide to self-publish, but I still want to give it a few rounds with some small presses and agents first. I finished the chick lit romance and have that pretty well squared away. Opening chapters are currently being beta read by my good friend and fellow author Shelly Hickman. I’m hoping to sent that out for submission by the end of February. And the historical romance is about 10k words from the end of the first draft. I would love to get it wrapped up, edited, revised, and polished in time to submit it to RWA’s Golden Heart Award this year. And if the world is nice to me, I want to start revising and editing the historical fiction “magnum opus” part 2 this summer and get it out for critique.

On the personal front, there are a couple major things in the works for me and my husband. If everything falls into place, as we hope it will, 2014 will definitely turn out to be a pretty big, life changing year for us!

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Hey, America…. GO VOTE!

So it’s Election Day here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  I’m sure many of you, like me, are sick and tired of all the political ads on TV and the radio, the inundation of political posts from our friends on Facebook, and all the “Vote for Me!” signs that have been waving in people’s yards for the past three to six months.

In general, I don’t discuss politics – in person, online, anywhere.  I’ve had friends try to draw me into political debate on Facebook, and I just don’t play along.  I seem to manage to steer the comment-conversation toward, oh, I don’t know, cupcakes or something.

Politics is susceptible to cupcakes, did you know that?

I had this big long-winded message I thought about writing this morning to kind of clarify my position on the issues, but you all don’t need my input.  It’s not my job to tell you who to vote for.  It’s a personal decision, it should be based on your beliefs and values.  And regardless of party lines, you should vote for the person you think will do the best job.  Read up on the issues and look into where the candidates really stand.  Think about what they’ve said (and what’s been quoted in or out of context).  Look at the track record. And really, sometimes you have to take your gut instinct into account too.

Up until this morning, I honestly had no idea who to vote for.  To be honest, I’m still not 100% sure.  I have all day to think about it, since I won’t be able to go vote until after work.  I’m neither a Republican or a Democrat.  I’m an independent (with a lowercase I) voter.  If I have to define myself, I’d say I’m a liberal conservative.  Which basically means I’m on the fence, right in the middle, with an ever-so-slight lean toward the liberal side of things.

Who am I voting for?  Really, it’s not your business.  I just read a book to my second graders yesterday about elections, and it said right there, in that children’s book, that voting is “private” and “secret” in the United States.  Could I tell you?  Sure.  But I don’t want to.  But you can be certain it’ll be the person I think will do the best job.

But here’s what I feel very adamant about:  Voting is a precious right in our country.  Not a privilege, not something to earn. Every citizen of this country has the right to vote – and let’s face it, it’s taken literally centuries and loads of hardship to make it so EVERY CITIZEN of the United States can vote.  And while you certainly have the right to choose abstention from voting, I really think that if you don’t cast a ballot, you shouldn’t complain about the outcome of the election.

Let me clarify quickly.  I know that we’re all taxpayers, so everyone certainly has the right to complain about how our tax money gets spent.  But all our elected officials, from the President to Congress to our local and state governments, are just people.  And they have agendas and ideals and they often cling to party politics even if it isn’t in the best interests of the country.  So yeah, you can certainly complain about how those officials choose to spend America’s money, the policies put in place.  The funny thing is, people often say we live in a democracy, but that’s not entirely accurate.  We live in a democratic republic.  A true democracy would have all of us voting all the time on every bill and law and referendum.  We vote for our representatives, who in turn vote on those issues in our stead.  Because we won’t all fit in the Capitol Building at the same time.

But if you don’t cast a vote, don’t complain about the person in office.

And for God’s sake, show a little respect, regardless.  Whether you voted for him or not, the President is the President.  Whoever is elected today, whoever takes office in January, will be the person who wins the election.  And it’s really no use complaining about that in the end, because it means the democratic process works.

So my final piece of advice this morning?

Love at First Sight

It’s official. I’ve fallen in love.

Some of you may be casting rather dubious glances at me right about now, likely thinking, “Isn’t she already supposed to be in love?”

And you’re right, because I’ve been in love for about five and a half years now, with my wonderful husband.  And despite understandable things which, him being a man, can irritate me at times, I am very much in love with him.

Stop gagging.  I’m done being a mush ball now.

I’m not talking about a person.  I’m talking about a place.  A city, in fact.  A beautiful city with charm, history, and a strange, almost “tingly” aura of…..

Home.

It’s like when people are house hunting, and they walk through the door of THE HOUSE.  They sort of look around, sigh, and feel like they’ve come home.

Over spring break, Aaron and I drove to Georgia, ostensibly to visit friends but we layered the trip with an array of historical and tourist stops because, hey, that’s how we roll.  Among the four different places we “stopped” on our trip (our two mid-drive overnights notwithstanding), we spent the most time in Savannah Georgia.

I don’t know how many of you have ever driven into Savannah before.  As we came over the I-17 bridge, the “Talmadge Memorial Bridge” which crosses over Hutchinson’s Island and a sparkling river loaded with shipping traffic, as it might have been 200 years ago, the city came into view.  It’s not a sprawling metropolis like Atlanta, with sky scrapers and overpasses.  No.  Even before you come down into the heart of the Historic District, you sense that this is a place where time has slowed down. It hasn’t stopped completely – but the pace is so slow it’s almost come to a reverent pause.

And then…. then you come suddenly into the midst of the Historic District.  Liberty Street is wide, with medians filled with green areas and live oaks hung with Spanish moss.  As you drive through into the heart of Old Savannah, you see new buildings mingling with the old – and by old I mean over 150 years old.  Buildings that saw the armies under Sherman take control in 1864, buildings that remember the horrible days of slavery, even some buildings recalling the growth spurts of a new nation in the early 19th century.

The city’s many squares remind you, in a quiet, polite way, to slow down and savor the sunshine, your morning coffee, the scent of blooming azaleas and rhododendron.  Fountains sparkle and soften the rumble of vehicle traffic. You walk past bakeries, restaurants, gift shops, homes.  It all calls out, “Come here.  Come home.”

I admit, I heard the call more than just a little bit.  I’m the sort of person who hears what places say to us.  I can walk onto a Civil War battlefield and feel the heaviness of what took place there. So when I say I heard Savannah welcoming me home, it’s exactly what I felt.

Ten years ago, my family took a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, and I fell a little in love with that city too.  But not like this.  Charleston is beautiful and has it’s own sense of history and beauty.  And maybe Savannah resonated with me so strongly because it shares many of the same traits as Charleston, which I already loved.  But I saw myself enjoying quiet afternoons in a shady Savannah square, with a book or a laptop, or just my sunglasses.  I saw possibilities – roads I could venture down.  And not just on vacation.

Maybe it was the weather – sunny, warm almost to hot, no rain to speak of.   It was the perfect introduction to Savannah.  I have no idea how I’d feel in the middle of a sweltering Georgia summer, or what I’d do if a hurricane targeted the south Georgia coast. My logic reminds me of termites, cockroaches, and other creepy crawlies prevalent in the south, which we have no issues with up here in New York.

But there are exterminators.  There is central air conditioning.  I can watch the Weather Channel.

I’m not an adventurous person by nature, so I’m not about to drop everything and move thousands of miles away based on two and a half days of awesome.

But I would be lying to say a seed hasn’t been planted….