Saturday, January 31, 2009

The ART of Transformation

An act, process, or instance of transforming or being transformed.

I'm in the process of fully transforming myself into a published writer. I've just become the Philadelphia Songwriter Examiner (I'll attach the link soon), where I'll write several articles a week on songwriting and the music business locally and in general (yay! and special thanks to Amy for turning me on to the possibility) and I've been bleeding myself dry working 10-12 hours a day going over every word of my novel to the point I can practically recite all 80,000 + words by heart in an effort to make my novel the absolute best it can be. (Given I can barely remember the lyrics to my own songs, this is saying something!)

My book, Sparks Fly Sometimes is about transformation - from a little girl with a dream to a rock goddess to a domestic goddess to a rock/domestic goddess. SFS is an affirmation of dreaming dreams, keeping a marriage alive through good times and bad, surviving the teenage years (your kids, not your own - MUCH more difficult!) and resuscitating dreams you thought were dead and buried. And doing it all with a LOL sense of humor!

I'm also working out regularly at the gym for the first time since I was a cheerleader in high school, transforming my body into a stronger, thinner version of myself. (Never fear. I'll be sure NOT to post any pictures of that bygone era!!)

Transformation can be a simple act. Forgiving yourself. Forgiving someone else. Making a declaration (as in a wedding vow). It can happen in an instant, perhaps in a dream; or as you stare at the ocean mesmerized by the waves, or sit in the mountains listening to the breeze gently blowing through the trees. It can be in a transformational seminar like the Landmark Forum (which I highly recommend) or as a result of a spiritual and/or religious experience or "awakening." Or it can be a process - an ongoing decision to take action in order to move from Point A to Point B.

Recreating yourself - that is the art of transformation.

So, my wonderful blog friends - what are you doing to bring the art of transformation to your lives???;-)

Wendy gave me an award---a really sweet one, too. The Lovey Award is for "blogs that are exceedingly charming. These kind of bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to three bloggers who must choose three more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

THANKS WENDY! Now it's my turn to share the love.

I choose...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

27 Dreams / Sparks Fly Sometimes

I've been asked by some of my auspicious colleagues about my book. As I summed it up on Ray's blog, "Sparks Fly Sometimes" is about a rock goddess turned domestic goddess turned rock goddess. With a whole lot of other shit in between!;-)

My wonderful copy editor, Karen Carter, has told me to start a website featuring pictures and stories from back in the day. (Mid to late '80s.) Until I get to that, I thought you might enjoy a few photos from Jenny's, I mean my, days as a rock goddess. (I can hear you, so keep your laughter to a low roar.)

Pictures: Top - Crescent Wind (Pre-27 Dreams) Band Photo, My "Stevie" phase. My husband, Chuck is Frankenstein with suspenders in the middle.; me performing live; singing in a studio; during set-up before the Colorado People's Fair (notice Elvis on the drum!)

And, if you're curious to hear the music click here or here. (FYI: Our name is Karma Chain and my stage name is Jamie Keys.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

I Prefer Kittens & Puppies

I Prefer Kittens & Puppies
Apparently, I am cursed? blessed? with breakdowns lately. This weekend was one of the hardest of my life (not pertaining to my writing, btw). I will not name names, but suffice it to say it's been rough. Real rough. I'm trying my best to go with the flow and not "be" any certain way. I'm an unusually upbeat type. To quote my mc from my book who bares a striking resemblance to her creator: I consider myself a staunch optimist, and optimists don't think or talk about pain. We prefer happy thoughts. Flowers. Kittens. Puppies. That sort of thing. I couldn't have said it better myself (;-).

I know life has its ups and downs, ins and outs, and all those other relevant and annoying cliche's, and I know I'll make it through. But it's still pretty damn rough. Like George Harrison sang so beautifully many years ago, "All things must pass - all things must pass away..." Also, my beautiful and brilliant sister, Laurie, reminded me that the path to the light of the soul is often found through melancholy and sadness. I have one thing to say to that: "OK, soul. You can stop blinding me now!"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Are You Going to Finish Strong?

I just got this link (BELOW: Are You Going to Finish Strong?) from my brother-in-law and felt compelled to pass it along. It's right in sync with my last post: Breakdowns Lead to Breakthroughs. I hope you enjoy it. ;-)

Are You Going to Finish Strong?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Breakdowns Lead to Breakthroughs!

Breakdowns Lead to Breakthroughs!
Last night I was in a bad mood. Dark, ugly, unapproachable, cranky, and mean. If you don't believe me, ask Chuck. He said I was acting - and I quote - "like a bitch." What terrible incident invoked my horrible mood? I got a pass on a little, nothing, inconsequential website thing I'd applied to and felt like someone sliced a knife through my heart. (Not that I know what that feels like. But once a Drama Queen always a Drama Queen.) What the hell was my problem? Hormones? Misaligned stars? Lack of wine &/or chocolate? No, no, and no. The problem was my ego. Damn that thing! Why can't the universe simply revolve around me when I want it to? Is that so much to ask?

So, I e-mailed Amy and begged her to save my bleeding soul. (I know, first it was my heart, than my soul. I was a bloody mess.) She came through in flying colors. She directed me to an agent's site who was asking for quick pitches. She said, "Hurry! This special sale is only good for one day!" Or words to that effect. I clicked on the link and threw my pitch into the ring. Within an hour, the agent asked for my first 20 pages. Voila! Ego placated. Bad mood gone. I also resubmitted to little, nothing, inconsequential website for another try. (No word back on that yet.) As Ellen DeGeneres wrote, "My point, and I do have one" is that when you're feeling down, low, blue, useless, worthless, FILL IN THE DEPRESSING BLANK, that is precisely when you need to jump right back up on that beautiful, white horse and ride off into the sunset! (Can you tell I was reading fairy tales to my cousins last weekend?) REMEMBER THIS: Breakdowns often lead to breakthroughs. (Or, in more colorful language, don't let the bastards bring you down!)

BTW: I was just over on Angie's blog and promised to add a link to mine. Here it is. It's a very cool give-away. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History is Made!

History is Made!
I just got back from a small inauguration party. What a thrill to see Barack pledge to guide our country to better times. Good riddance, W! I, for one, won't miss you one, tiny, little bit.

Here are some pics of Chuck (below), Meg (our gracious hostess) and me (above) and Me! Tell me your inauguration stories.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Would You Like Some Cheese with Your Whine?

Whine and Cheese
I'm sorry, I'm going to be doing some 'splaining here, Lucy. Not EXplaining, COMplaining. Of course, I have no business complaining at all. After all, Dusty's home, mom's doing GREAT (thanks again for your magical good wishes), I'm warm, pampered, well fed and dry. Too bad about the Eagles, but I'm really a Jets and Broncos fan anyway, so I won't pretend to care. Plus, I've got way more important things to compain about...

Would somebody please step up to the plate and finish my editing for me? Thanks. I owe you.
OK, I admit it, I'm starting to be a big pain in my a**. Usually others hold that esteemed place of honor (husband? kids? woman on express lane at Target with more than 10 items?) but now I'm filling it all by myself. My wonderful copy editor suggested I resuscitate some of the "dead babies" I've relocated to my Outtakes file. Damn her. She's right, again, which just means more work for poor, little, 'ole me. The good thing is the roller coaster ride that my word count is on will, once again, be barrelling upward. The bad thing is, or maybe I already mentioned this, more work for poor, little, 'ole me. (Do you feel sorry for me yet? No? OK, how about this:)

Babysitting over 40 - Good Idea or Reason for Drinking Poison? You Decide.
Chuck and I babysat for my cousins this weekend, girls, aged 7 & 4. (They left one hour and twelve minutes ago, but who's counting?) My kids are boys aged 19 & 17. There's a teeny weeny little difference in energy levels between 17 and 4. Seventeen? "I'm spending the night at Andrew's. See you tomorrow." Four? "Weee! Watch me run around in circles until I'm so dizzy I fall down and then I'll chase the cats around the house and then I'll jump on the bed and then I'll watch a video and can I have some water? Cereal? Pop Tarts? Cake? Weeeee! Let's watch Hamster on a Piano on You Tube fifty more times! Weeeee!" Can you say exhausted?

I made Adam and Ethan promise they'd NEVER have kids as long as I'm alive. My mother was shocked when I told her this. "Debbie," she said, "you're AMAZING with kids!"
"Was amazing, mom, was."

It's true. I used to love little kids. I was the poster child for "Woman Holding Baby and Loving It." That woman, I'm afraid, is dead and buried. Not that I don't love my cousins, don't get me wrong. They're the cutest things you'll ever see, talented, brilliant, filled with unending curiosity (and did I mention, energy?) and could beat my sorry a** in a spelling bee any day of the week. However, what few kilowatts I have in this ever-aging body I need to store away for my writing. Why can't they understand that?

MLK and GWB - Two Sets of Initials that Should Never Be Used in the Same Sentence
First of all, God bless Martin Luther King, Jr., may he rest in peace. And, secondly, we must be doing something right because in less than 24 hours we'll have a president with a brain bigger than an acorn and compassion for something other than his own personal bank account. Thank God this eight-year long frat party is over!

How was/is your weekend and how do you feel about the upcoming inauguration?

Friday, January 16, 2009

One Down, 18 to Go! or Blessing in Disguise

One Down, 18 To Go!
The "pass" I received from an astute agent this week was nothing more than a blessing in disguise. (Which just happens to be the name of a song I wrote many years ago.) She said she loves the idea and my pitch, but the first three chapters didn't grab her like she wanted them to. She also said the pacing was a bit slow and felt I was telling instead of showing. And, you know what? She's absolutely right.

In response to her critique, I sent out my first chapter to some friends and family and have gotten back some more extraordinary advice. I think part of my problem stems from my addiction, and I'm not talking about wine or chocolate. Those aren't addictions, they're necessities. I'm talking about editing, remember? I took too much out. I was so caught up in making sure I didn't have more back story than necessary, that I ended up with not enough. Plus, as my dear friend, Amy pointed out several weeks back, I need to "puff up" the scenes and dialogue to keep the reader totally engaged and the story as interesting as possible.

So, now I'm going through my chapters one by one puffing them up, adding tantalizing details, and perhaps even bringing back some of the "dead babies" from my nearly 30K words in my "Outtakes" document. As you might be able to gleam from the title to this post, there are currently 19 chapters in my book. I worked all day today on number one. I will take at least a full day on each of the remaining chapters and then read the book, yet again, from front to back. Once I feel the first three chapters are as perfect as I'm going to get them (for now!), I'll send out more queries. I'll also re-contact said agent, since she was kind enough to say I could.

Like I told my sister earlier today, if I'm lucky, I'll have the book done by the time I'm 85. And, by then, I'll have many more interesting stories to tell!

Mom Update
Mom had surgery (again) today. Her last surgery was in October. She has had two staff infections since then and has never fully regained her sparkling, vibrant energy. Hopefully, this surgery (removal of expanders that were put in for reconstruction purposes) will relieve her pain, end the infections, and lead her again to optimal health. Since your thoughts and prayers worked brilliantly for the safe return of Dusty (which I'm still so grateful for I could cry) I am again requesting them for my mom. Thanks in advance. You guys rock! (Picture above is me and my mom after finishing our 5k On Deck for The Cure walk on our Princess Panama Canal Cruise last March.)

Collectively you are my angels, which made me think of a song Chuck and I wrote several years ago called, Rooftops. (Just click on the song, "Rooftops" when you get to the Karma Chain site.) When you listen to it, know it's from me to you. (FYI: My stage name is Jamie Keys.) If you'd like a free copy of the song to download, just let me know your e-mail address and I'll be happy to send it to you.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What Happens in the Backyard, Stays in the Backyard

Where Were You, Dusty???
"Mom," Ethan said as he walked into my room last night. I'd just returned from dinner and was checking my e-mail. I turned around and saw him holding Dusty. I fell to my knees. I couldn't get up. Where's the damn clap-on, clap-off. when you need it? "I found him out on our back deck next to the laundry basket!" he yelled.

I couldn't believe I was looking into the eyes of my beautiful baby again. Ethan brought him up a bowl of food and water that disappeared faster than chocolate chip cookies hot out of the oven.

"Where were you, Dusty?" I asked over and over. But he wasn't talking. "I'll be your ghostwriter. Just tell me your story!" Still, nothing. I'm not sure if he's in negotiations with Random House and thinks he's going to be the next Dewey or Marley, or if he met up with the Foxy Gambino mob with their big, red, bushy tails who warned him if he says one word about their secret outdoor life, they'd knock off our whole family one by one. All I know is he's not talking. But way more importantly, he's home!!!!!!

To all my on-line friends: I can't tell you how much it meant to me to hear your words of encouragement and support. It really did help us stay positive and keep hoping for the best. And, it snowed last night - I would have been an even bigger basket case if he hadn't come home.

On other news, I got a pass from one of the agents. I'm disappointed, but from where I stand the good news far outweighs the bad.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dusty's Home!!!!!!!!!

He's home! He's home! Thank you all for your good wishes. They paid off in spades. My baby is home!!!! We gave him a bowl of food and he ate like he hadn't eaten in weeks. Again, thank you all!!! HE'S HOME!!!!!! ):

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

True Love

Where Are You, Big D?
First of all, a heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you who has either left a message on my blog or e-mailed, or sent prayers re: Dusty's safe return. Unfortunately, we have not found him yet. Chuck took the day off from work, and Ethan took the day off from school. We put up flyers, called the local authorities (police, SPCA, vet offices) and did a lot of driving around looking. I am trying not to think about the cold weather and instead think about my beautiful cat finding his way home. We took helpful advice such as leaving food out and even our dirty laundry (a basket of towels that Dusty loves to fall asleep in). This gives a whole new meaning to airing our dirty laundry. Although we still have five cats roaming the halls of our normally happy home, it is so obvious that something is missing. Please continue to keep Dusty in your thoughts and prayers. I'll keep you posted.

Here's a great clip that cheered me up a bit. I hope you enjoy it. (Sorry about the commercial that plays first. Hang in there, it's worth it.)
Tara & Bella

It's Agent Query Time!

As far as my novel goes, I'm querying agents slowly but surely. I feel very fortunate that two have requested a partial submission, but I'm well aware it's a long way from here to getting published. Until I've secured an agent who I'm on the same page with (I know, hilarious) like Eddie Kendricks of The Temptations said, I'll keep on trucking, baby. Of course, that was in 1973, long before I was born, but the sentiment is right on. (It's OK to lie on my blog, isn't it?)

Again, please keep those Dusty prayers and good wishes coming. I hope more than anything I'll soon have good news to report. As crazy as it sounds, I'd rather have my baby back than have my book published. That, my friends, is true love.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Searching for Dusty...

It's ironic that right after my post about my beloved cats, one of them goes missing. Dusty - the one who gives apartment tours - is MIA. He's an indoor cat and is de-clawed. It's freezing outside. All four of us Schuberts are sick about it. Our collective hearts are breaking. He has a collar. I just hope and pray that he'll let someone get close enough to him to read it and give us a call. Sorry, no humor today, just sadness. Please send your prayers for Dusty's safe return...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Six Cats a Week, I Looooooove You or (If You Don't Like Cats, You Might Want to Skip this Post)

Kitties, Kitties Everywhere For as Far as the Eyes Can See!
I've been asked by several unnamed sources to stop hiding my precious cats away in a closet and share them with the world. For the record, I never put them in the closet. They go there by themselves.

When I am asked, "How many cats do you have?" I answer, "Only six." Here they are in order of appearance in our lives. Nicknames are included at no extra charge:

Brother and Sister, Dusty and Cara
Dusty (Grand Master D, Big D) likes to give apartment tours. He doesn't seem to care that we live in a house, it's all the same to him. When we say, "Show me your apartment, Dusty!" he rubs up against chair legs, walls, banisters, doors, people, and anything else he feels like including in the tour. As the tour progresses we say, "Nice, Dusty, nice apartment!" When he's done, he falls over on his back and we pet his tummy. That's the price we pay for the tour. Dusty's favorite person on earth is my son, Adam.
Caramel (CC) is a Calico. Need I say more? Yes, of course, I do. She's drop-dead gorgeous and knows it. She's very particular and loves guys, especially my son, Ethan. He is the one true love of her life. Well, Ethan and Tuna. She and Tiger Lilly do not get along.

Next Up:
Tiger Lilly and Scampy
Tiger Lilly (TL) found us at my son, Ethan's Bar Mitzvah 3 & 1/2 years ago. She was a tiny kitten, all alone, and seemed lost. She's a true red-head. She's got quite the temper. If she were a person (please don't tell her she's not) my husband would leave me for her in a heartbeat. It's a wicked triangle. Chuck adores her but she thinks I'm the bee's knees. I say, "Let's go to Happy Place, TL!" and she runs into our master bathroom, takes a few steps, waits for me to pet her, takes a few more steps, waits for me to pet her again, then jumps up on the toilette (it sounds so much better in French), rubs her head on the flusher, waits for me to pet her again, and then Happy Place is done.

Scampy (Scamp, Scampy Doodle, Uncle Scamp, Boo, Boo-Boo Bear)
Scamp is Sweden. He keeps his distance and gets along with everyone. He likes to give back rubs by sitting on your back and doing "happy feet." When TL was the odd kitty out, it was not pretty. Our friends Mollie and Keri thought she might get along with their cat, Scampy. They let us keep him to even out the playing field. We'll be forever in their debt. When Emma and Zoro joined the family, he took care of them. They loved him and called him, "Uncle Scamp!"

And finally...
Emma & Zoro!

Emma (Emmie, Emma Lou Cupcake)
She's my little gray and white tabby. If you tell the others I'll deny it, but she's my favorite. I can't get enough of her cute little squeak. She loves to play fetch with her toys that include guitar strings, ear plugs, and toy mice, and she loves music. She'll spend hours with us in the studio.

Zoro (Z, Zuzzie, Fat Ass [he weighs 17 lbs]) Zoro is the biggest cat and the biggest character of them all. He sits on Chuck's head to wake him up in the morning. He likes to lay completely on his back or stand on his hind legs. And he's loud. He's got what we call "the purr heard 'round the world."

The photo at the top I shot today while taking a break from editing my book (see last post). I asked Zoro what he was thinking and he said, "Damn, those birds look tasty!"

So, there you have it. My babies. The loves of my life. I hope you've enjoyed the "apartment" tour!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gonna Have to Face It I'm Addicted To...EDITING?

My husband thinks I'm addicted to editing. But what the hell does he know?
"Why else would you spend ten hours a day doing something?" he asked. "Either you really like it, or you're addicted."
"Look, just because you're a doctor, doesn't mean you know everything, buster. For your information, I don't like it. Well OK maybe I like it a little. But I need to do it. It needs to get done. Why's that so hard to understand?"
"It's not."
"It's simple to understand. You're addicted."

I hate the fact that he may be right. As rare as that is, it annoys me that it ever happens at all. Maybe I should join EA - Editing Anonymous. They must have a one-step program in my neighborhood. I'd go, really, I would. But I don't have the time. I'm much too busy editing.

HOWEVER... I did manage to e-mail my partial to Agent B today, and I'm sending a revised partial in the mail tomorrow to Agent A (no relation to Agent 99, at least not that I know of). So, that felt good. See, I don't spend all my spare time editing. And now I'm busy going over the rest of the book looking for changes/additions/deletions that need to be made (not to be confused with editing). And I've started compiling a list of other agents to query.

As you can see, my husband is way off base. There are many other things I do during my waking hours besides editing. I e-mail agents, snail mail things to agents, blog, look for agents to query, read other people's blogs, read agents blogs, check to see if anyone's made a comment on my blog, check to see if someone I commented to on their blog has replied back to me on their blog, and submit to on-line writer's contests. So it's not like I'm only immersed in my editing.

Oh yeah, and I eat chocolate chip muffins, play with my cats, and make sure to get plenty of minerals and nutrients in the form of red wine on the weekends. So, as you can see, I live a fully rounded, well-balanced life.

Editing schmediting.

Kudos to my friend, Amy Nathan She finished the first draft of her novel today! Yay, Amy!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Universal Growth & Evolution

"Keep on rocking, baby girl!"
Who knew that would be part of the last line to my novel, "Sparks Fly Sometimes?" I sure didn't. But, there it is. The final word count is about 74K - my goal was 72.5. I am so thrilled to be done! Of course, I've already started re-editing, but I've been pleasantly surprised at how few changes I'm making. I have one question, which I'll probably discuss with any agents who are interested, regarding whether to keep or delete my second chapter highlighting my mc's days as a high-school cheerleader and losing her virginity. Although, it's one of my favorites, I'm not sure if it should remain as strictly back story. Any suggestions?

Last night Chuck and I went out with our dear friends, Keith and Joanne. After a delicious dinner of French crepes and Chilean Carmenere wine, we stopped in at an amazing shop in Phoenixville called The Diving Cat Studio, As a gift for completing my book, Chuck bought me a silver bracelet with a Hamsa or Kabbalistic Hand on it representing a protective energy that attracts good luck, happiness, riches and good health. In the middle of the hand is a spiral reflecting universal growth and evolution. It is stunning in its simplicity and meaning. I will treasure it as a gift from my soul mate, and wear it as a way to attract good luck for my writing.

What are some of the rituals, superstitions or routines you do with regards to your writing?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Burst Pipes Ring in the New Year

Happy New Year & Burst Pipes
I just wanted to pop in and wish all my friends in the blogosphere a healthy, happy, laughter-filled 2009. We greatly enjoyed our time in Denver, even though we came home to the remnants of a burst pipe from out tub in the master bath that flooded our laundry room below and my son, Adam's bedroom and bath below that. Of course, this happened soon after we arrived in the Mile High City. Thanks to Allstate's good hands, and my dear friend, Heather's good heart (thank goodness we made up after our ugly political romp) everything is under control. Big, green fans were here all week drying out the effected areas. The bad news is I have no floor in the laundry room, or ceiling in the laundry room and basement bathroom. The good news is, Chuckie and I will be spending a romantic Friday night at Lowe's selecting paint and a new laundry room floor.

President Obama, You Snob!

In eighteen days, we'll have a new president sworn in. (Thank you, Jesus, et al) I imagine he will help steer the massive SS America into calmer seas. My parents sent me the following. The only problem with it is I didn't write it myself. Enjoy!

Obama's Stubborn, Controversial Speech:
In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.

Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama's appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes witnessed the president-elect's unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth. But Mr. Obama's decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring. According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it "alienating" to have a president who speaks English as if it were his first language. "Every time Obama opens his mouth his subjects and verbs are in agreement." says Mr. Logsdon. "If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist." The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, "Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate -- we get it, stop showing off." The president-elect's stubborn insistence on using complete sentences has already attracted a rebuke from one of his harshest critics, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. "Talking with complete sentences there and also too talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can't really do there, I think needing to do that isn't tapping into what Americans are needing also," she said.

In Other News...
I got a second nibble! ):

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