Monday, December 31, 2007

I Am Really Psyched About 2008!

I really am! I just have this feeling that this year is going to be a great one. I have all sorts of reasons why I think this, but for the purpose of this blog, I will stick mainly to talking about me. It’s my favorite topic, anyway, and I always have lots to say about it.

Here’s one of my goals for the new year… I plan to publish Book Two: The Chronicles of Anaedor ~ The Return to Anaedor. So for those of you who have been asking about the series, here’s your answer. Yes! Clarification: Yes, there is a series. And yes, I will be publishing the next book in 2008. In the meantime, while you wait anxiously for it to come out, pick up a hobby. Stamp collecting, perhaps. Or learn how to groom cats. They’ll thank you for it!

Okay, so I’m getting slap-happy. That’s just how excited I am about 2008! So what are you going to do to make this your best year ever? How are you going to make your dreams come true? I truly believe in the concept of baby steps, in taking one tiny step at a time to accomplish your goals. Before you know it, you’ll be tap dancing all over the place! Or at least, not falling as much.

When thinking about starting a project, you can’t think about it in its entirety, you have to break it up into manageable pieces, and then start with the very first little step (sometimes it’s as simple as looking up a phone number). That’s how I got through grad school. If I thought about trying to accomplish everything I had to do (4 years of classes, a thesis, a dissertation, an internship, passing the comprehensive exams, teaching, counseling, and making enough money to have a place to live and maybe some food to eat), I would never have started.

So whether you’re an author wannabe, or want to start your own business, whether you want to lose weight or make more friends, start small, but dream big!

May you have a glorious New Year, filled with success and joy…

Kristina the Optimistic

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Love the UK!

It has recently come to my attention that The Chronicles of Anaedor has been doing fairly well in the UK (for those of you thinking uck, no. UK stands for United Kingdom). Say, "hurray!" Hurray! I have never visited these countries, yet I feel as though I have. I just know I would love them at first sight. The thing is, I am your typical American mutt - no pedigrees here, you see. My heritage is a mixture of Irish, English, and Welsh (along with 4 other ethnic groups). Could it be that I have inherited this love through my collective unconscious (i.e., memories from our ancestors that have been genetically passed down)? It’s possible. I’m not sure about the Scottish part since I’m not Scottish, as far as I know. But I have watched Monarch of the Glen and loved it, so maybe there’s a hidden Scot in my ancestry just trying to get out.

Anyway, my point is that I live for the day when I can actually go to these countries rather than only visiting them in my mind or on the BBC. Maybe I could manage to finagle a book signing over there and write off the expense! Yeah, right…I’ll probably just have to go the old-fashioned way. As a stowaway, or an au pair.

What is it about these countries that inspire the romantic in us (or in some of us, anyway)? Is it the colorful characters? The moors and mountains? The endless green? The ancient houses and haunted castles? I imagine it’s all of that and more. In my American mind, I think of the UK as the land of fairies and druids, elves and magic. To us Americans, these countries offer the possiblity to find fantasy in reality. There is also something so enduring about these cultures that our country does not yet have (and may never, with all these depressing strip malls we have). I think we are searching for roots. We look to connect to something deeper and more ancient than we could ever find in our own culture.

Mostly, I think we just like the way that they speak…

I was recently asked to write a blurb for someone’s book (a cool fantasy) written by a Scottish author. He said that I didn’t need to write anything if I thought the book was utter "tosh." Tosh. What a great word! I’ve decided to steal it and make it my own. Don’t be surprised if it shows up in one my books. He also uses the phrase, "ye numpty!" in his book. Priceless! Now I can say to people, "That’s absolute tosh, ye numpty!" I can only imagine how awed they’ll be at my command of other languages.

So when you read my book and you happen across an English housekeeper and an Irish cook, a Dwarf with a Scottish accent, or some welsh-like character (I’m sure I’ve got someone in there who’s welsh-like), don’t be surprised. It’s just my inner UKer trying to express itself.

Cheerio, mates!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

This is an example of someone wimping out on her blog. It’s Christmas Eve day and I have many, many things yet to prepare for tonight and tomorrow when I attempt to make Christmas dinner. There’s so much to do - including this blog - that I even have my family helping clean. My 8-year-old is vacuuming (I hate spelling that word), my 5-year-old is dusting and my 3-year-old is giving directions. Last, but certainly not least, my husband is cleaning the toilets.

Come to think of it, I could probably crack open a bottle of wine and enjoy the day!

Anyway, I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (which is already over, but what the hey!), Happy Kwanzaa, and a Wonderful Winter Solstice (that’s over, too, I think)! Did I remember everyone? I hope so. If you don’t celebrate anything, then I wish you a pleasant end of the year, full of wonder and joy just because you’re alive.

Happy New Year, too!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Little or a Lot

It all depends on how you look at it, I guess. The other day I was doing my holiday baking. I was rushed, as usual, trying to get six things done all at the same time. While making gingersnaps, I had to measure out baking soda, among other things. I typically double the recipe, which called for 2 tsp. of the stuff. So, doing the math, I figured I needed 4. Not a lot. So far, so good.

So I go to open the drawer where I keep the measuring spoons only to find that my 3-year-old had struck again. All my measuring spoons were gone, except for a tablespoon and a 1/4 teaspoon. Have you ever had to measure out 4 tsp. worth of ingredients with a 1/4 tsp.? It’s 16 of those babies. Not to mention all the spices I had to add. It took a while.

We have yet to find my measuring spoons.

So what seemed at the time like only a little turned out to be a lot. Here’s another example: If you read my blogs, you know that we just bought a tractor. When we got it, my husband and I both had visions of clearing our driveway in half an hour, whipping around on Bobo like there was no tomorrow. That didn’t happen. We kept slipping and sliding. So we got chains, and another chance to try out Bobo. On Sunday we got a snowstorm of about 9-10 inches. Not a lot of snow, but enough to keep us busy, we thought. We went out to clean it up. Now that we had the chains, we were cautiously (or should that be foolishly?) optimistic that this day would be the day we’d be whizzing around cleaning up snow and making snow hills for the kids with the greatest of ease.

Boy were we wrong about that. What was only a little bit of snow turned out to be a lot. We were out there for 5 hours taking turns plowing and shoveling. Five very long, very hard hours. Needless to say, we went out and bought a snowblower the next day, with our sore muscles cheering us on, and very loudly, I might add.

Bobo, as it turns out, has been yet another of our very expensive follies. My husband and I seem to learn things the hard way. One time we tried to change our own oil and ended up draining the transmission fluid, which of course means that we couldn’t shift our car into drive. We had to call for a tow. That was the most expensive oil change we ever had. It seemed like such a little thing, and we wanted to be self-sufficient and save ourselves some cash. But man did it cost us a lot.

It’s funny how life can change our perspective on things. They say that all that matters is our perception of things. You can either see things as a little or a lot. Of course, it can also come down to the tools you are using. I felt like we were trying to move all that snow with a 1/4 tsp. measuring spoon. Actually, come to think of it, I think it would’ve been faster.

Monday, December 17, 2007

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

It’s true. What glitters around our house is glitter. You know, the little sparkly stuff that you can’t vacuum up. We’ve got it everywhere. But I guess that’s what happens when you let your 3-year-old play with it. And the 5-year-old, too.

I tend to be a neat freak, so when I see glitter all over the place, it makes me a little nervous. I like my house to give off the illusion of being under control. Glitter on the table, on the floor, coating chairs, in my hair, and on my kid’s faces, does not demonstrate control. It demonstrates chaos, it demonstrates anarchy. But glitter is pretty, you say. I should embrace the sparkle within, I should welcome its presence in my home.

I don’t.

As some of you might have guessed, I am a control freak. I’ve tried to evict the little turd, but it is a stubborn old goat, clinging to every available, clingable surface inside my brain. When you think about your brain, you will probably realize that there’s a lot of that sticky stuff to stick to. I’m trying, though, to be more relaxed. I don’t want to get upset about spills and messes and things going awry. If you live your life that way, you’re going to always be peeved. Especially if you have little kids. They are masters of chaos.

We do have rules, but they aren’t inflexible. My kids know that if they spill their milk accidentally, I won’t get mad. If they spill their milk because they keep leaning across the table and trying to steal their brother’s food while laughing hysterically, then I will get mad. Luckily, sometimes it’s hard to get too mad at them. My children are learning to master the art of comebacks. For example, the other day I told my oldest son to put some clothes on (he was running around in the buff) and he says, "But mom! This is my culture!" I don’t know where my children get their sarcasm from…it’s a complete mystery to me. But it’s good to be reminded of the humor in life.

I’m learning to let go of some of my neurotic baggage. I’m not old, but I wear purple. I’m learning to stand up for myself when other people are rude to me or mine. I’m starting to just leave the glitter on my face. I might get some weird looks, but it’s worth it, and it makes for good conversation, better than just discussing the weather or your latest case of hemorrhoids.

So take that bottle of glitter and sprinkle some on your head…It might do you a world of good!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Never Really Knew You At All

I’m starting to realize that I don’t share a lot about myself. Or maybe it’s just that I haven’t told many people that I’m a writer. Lately I’ve been telling people I know around town - but may not see too often - that I’ve recently published a book. Their response:

"I didn’t even know you were writing a book."

Hmmm. I thought that I did talk a lot about myself. I’m at home most of the time so my conversation is generally limited to discussions with my kids about their yelling too loud, or I’m pleading with them not to fart around me, or I’m being told how they handle stubborn boogers. So when I see an adult, the words just come pouring out. Of course, we often end up talking about our kids. At any rate, I guess my being a writer just doesn’t come up.

Or maybe I didn’t want them to know about my secret life until I’d done something successful with my work. Once people are aware that you’re writing a book, they naturally want to know if it’s been published yet. Since it took me a long time to get my first book published, I must have figured that I would soon get tired of saying, "I’m still sending out query letters." Nervous laughter. "No interest yet." More nervous laughter. "I’m keeping my fingers crossed." Then I run out of the room.

On the other hand, my family and any of my friends who are lucky enough to receive my Christmas letter, are quite aware that I’m a writer. They hear about it annually. For years, I kept writing the same thing. "Well, I’m still working on my books. Still attempting to find an agent. Still failing." It was nice this year to actually be able to say something positive.

It never occurred to me to give up on my writing. I love it too much; it keeps me sane; and I hate not succeeding. I either keep trying or change the definition of success. I absolutely, unequivocally, refuse to accept that I won’t be able to make this work. I’m kinda stubborn that way.

In sum, feel free to spread the word that Kristina Schram is a writer. I’m turning over a new leaf, my friends!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fantasy vs. Fantasy

The other day I came across a forum dedicated to discussing the fantasy genre. While perusing it, I found some interesting insights, several helpful suggestions, and a few complaints. There was one particular complaint that caught my attention: About the direction the genre is heading. I decided to check this one out.

While reading the different posts, I came across one person in particular who was complaining that all the fantasy books out there now are boring, mundane, or just plain more of the same. This individual wanted to see some more cutting edge writing, something that didn’t just follow the same old pattern. I saw his point. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something new, something different.

However, that doesn’t mean the old ‘tried and true’ has nothing to offer.

In my opinion, there are two broad categories in the fantasy genre: Classic Fantasy and Cutting Edge Fantasy. Both, I feel, are very important to the genre and its continued development.

Classic Fantasy, as you might imagine, sticks to a formula. You have your average, everyday main character who is up against fantastic odds but somehow manages to overcome these odds. I like classic fantasy. As a kid, I liked believing (well, I still do) that someone like me, pretty average and mundane with no special talents to speak of, can do extraordinary things. I think we all need to believe that on some level we are special. Classic fantasy gives us that hope. I have also learned with age that each person and each generation needs to be reminded of certain things, even though these things have already been said many times, many ways. Yes, themes repeat themselves, but it’s a necessary repetition. I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded of certain wisdoms or I find myself going astray, forgetting that I can do bigger things than I believe I can.

Cutting edge fantasy, as with all new twists, is also important. Much as I like my standards, I find that I still have much to learn about life. So when someone comes along who challenges my beliefs, makes me question what I think, I love that, as well. Cutting edge fantasy points out directions we might need to go in our fantasy worlds. It breaks through barriers we have erected with our safe, warm and cozy classic fantasies. Sometimes, we just need to be shaken up.

While I feel that what I write (at least for now) is more classic fantasy, maybe someday I will challenge myself to go beyond the old formula - maybe create something entirely different. The question is, do I have the imagination to come up with something new and groundbreaking? I’m not sure. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

Well, I was. That was before our first storm hit and we had to clear the snow with our new tractor, Bobo. We got about 8 inches this time around. Not too much - perfect for giving our new tractor its first run at plowing. We were optimistic about it, thinking how quick and easy this was going to be compared to using our snoblower. That was before the tractor got stuck several times, one time almost for good. That time my husband finally conceded that maybe I wasn’t exaggerating when I said the tractor felt like it was going to tip. Empathy always blossoms within us when we experience what someone else went through. It’s the one true way that people can understand what others feel. I felt panic; so did he. I felt like jumping; so did he.

Anyway, the problem is that we have a long, narrow driveway with not much room to manuever because there’s a bit of a ditch on one side and more of one on the other. Plus, the tires kept spinning on us. "We need chains," my husband kept telling me. "No, doy," I kept replying as I grabbed the piece of wood I had pried off one of the kid’s forts and stuck it under a tire. We were out there for 3 1/2 hours and still didn’t get the whole driveway plowed. The funny thing was, it started to snow when we were out there, giving us another inch. It was supposed to be done by the time we headed out. Someone, somewhere, was having a lot of fun at our expense.

So we ended up shoveling the rest. My husband did most of the work because he broke one of the shovels, leaving only one snow shovel and a spade, which was just about useless. This is the same husband with the injured wrist that he’s supposed to be wearing a splint-like thingie (yes, I’m a writer) on to protect it. He took the splint off before going outside and forgot to put it back on. He was supposed to wear it so that in 2 weeks, the doctor could see if it’s healed (or have to do an MRI). Well, there goes that theory. Of course it’s not going to feel any better. He was manhandling a tractor and shoveling for 3 1/2 hours. You do the math. Anyway, not knowing he didn’t have his splint on, I attempted to help with half a shovel when I should’ve taken over with the regular one. Needless to say, I’m going shopping for new shovels soon. My 3-year-old will love the half-shovel, though. It’s just his size.

What does all this mean? I really do try to relate this stuff back to my writing, though it isn’t always easy. I hadn’t expected to spend so much time on clearing the dang driveway, which means I’m not much farther along on my editing. It also means that we’re going to get tons of snow this year in New England because we don’t know how to plow without getting stuck, and I’m sure there’s something else that this is all supposed to mean, but I can’t remember what.

On a nice note, yesterday my son brought home a card signed by all the 3rd graders thanking me for coming to their class. That’s what makes this job worth it. The adulation of my fans.

Modestly yours,

author of The Chronicles of a Writer: Descending Into Madness

Monday, December 3, 2007


I just realized that tomorrow is Monday - my typical blog release day. I also just realized that I have no idea what to write about. You see, all is right with our world. We had a lovely, non-stressful weekend where nobody broke any bones or burned themselves or lost limbs. Although maybe I shouldn’t say that yet…my kids are outside right now working on their forts. I have armed my 3, 5 and 8 year old with hammers and nails.

I imagine there’s bound to be some problem…

Actually, they’re pretty good about being safe. They’ve lost about a million nails in the process of their construction - they drop one and don’t bother looking for it, just go fetch another nail. I gave them a lecture about that (I was out there taking pictures of them in their forts before the big storm we’re supposed to get hits and covers everything up), and about leaving nails sticking down through the wood in their roofs just waiting to give them a free lobotomy, and about nails sticking up through pieces of wood lying on the ground hoping to start a little tetanus. They are slowly learning to be more careful. It isn’t easy allowing them the freedom to do things, but they are proving to be pretty responsible. And it keeps them busy.

It doesn’t take long, however, for them to invade my world, asking for stuff. Usually in the form of food. My 3-year-old just came in asking for his snack - I don’t know where he puts it all because he is not very big. Ten minutes later the rest came in, along with the neighbor kid, and started a lego war. I took a second to yell at them to knock it off. Then spent several more trying to figure out what I was writing about before I had to stop and negotiate peace.

Maybe that is part of why it’s taking me so long to edit book 2 of the Chronicles of Anaedor series. The constant interruptions. But there are other reasons. There are times when I spend a half hour on one paragraph. A part of me likes this exercise in insanity; another part of me wonders why I continue to torture myself like this. If this were a race, the mighty snail would long since have passed me. But I shall carry on with my work, because I cannot think of any other way to live my life. I can be persistent and stubborn, you see. And I love what I do, despite the hurdles.

Now I have to go…the peace talks have broken down and it’s up to me to take them all out in one mighty swoop. Then I’ll get us all something to eat.