Thursday, September 25, 2014

CONTENTEDLY NEUROTIC HAS MOVED

CONTENTEDLY NEUROTIC HAS MOVED!!!

It's an exciting time for me. I've finally taken the plunge and set up my own website. 


That is my maiden name and I'm using it because well, there a bajillion other Diane Johnsons in the world. This narrows the search down by a few million.

Contentedly Neurotic is carrying over to the new site. No worries, I'm still content and I'm still neurotic.

Hope to see you on my new site!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Book Review: November Hunt by Jess Lourey


November HuntNovember Hunt by Jess Lourey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

November Hunt is my first Jess Lourey book.

Quick recap, Tom Kicker is shot by his best friend, Clive. Tom's daughter hires Mira to investigate because she believes there is more to her father's death than a hunting accident. And, being a mystery, of course there is more.

I love quirky fun reads. I love a mystery and I love a laugh, so this seemed right up my alley.

SPOILER DISCLAIMER: I don't think I really spoil anything, but I point out a few scenes and some lines.

What I Liked:
The quirky characters - I like Peggy, Julius Metzer, Jed, Mira. I think they all add fun elements.

Snazzy comments, even if they were just thoughts - like when Mira is describing a huge furnace, "My first thougth was that the witch in Hansel and Gretel would have loved it." Love that line.

And, Chuck, I want a Chuck. I want him to think "I should double-check his belly to make sure I hadn't missed a spot."

Small town lore. I grew up in a small town in Montana, and we all have thoughts about the people who are distant - emotionally. For instance, the theory that Clive murdered his wife and children and fed them to the pigs, yeah, total small town. And I loved it.

Some truthful elements: Such as Hallie not being able to hear her father's response to Clive when they argued. Let's be honest, we just don't always get the full fight. LOVED, that Jess added this tidbit. And that she didn't use the typical, something loud obscured his words. I repeat: I really, loved this, such a small element that lends big impact of credibility.

Even the story line worked for me.

What I didn't like:

The political aspect. Maybe this is brought up in one of the prior books in this series, but to me, it read as if the author was coming through and preaching. I read to escape a lot of crud I encounter daily. Sadly, the political aspect is one that drives me nuts. I have family that are far right and some that are far left. When we gather, it's round after round of "you're brainwashed," "No, you're brainwashed." After an hour I'm banging my head on a wall in an attempt to be brain dead.

I see the series won the Lefty award, but I don't see why this has to be political.

There were many moments where I was pulled from the story. Just piddly things, but still.

Inconsistencies: Peggy's book is due in a month and a few hours later it's due in two weeks.

She tells Hallie, she's her only client. However, she had just accepted payment from Peggy so no, she's not her only client.

And the author stepping into the story:
When Mira is berating her excitement while speaking with Johnny and points out she should lose the exclamation points. No, the exclamation points are for the reader, Mira shouldn't be aware of them. She should be "I need to control my voice, if it goes up another octave I'll burst his ear drum."

Things that just don't make sense:
"I rolled my eyes, but quietly." Um, I have never heard an eye roll. I've seen them roll, but even with my good hearing, I've never heard one.

"He's getting a crown on his wisdom tooth." What dentist would do that? It's a wisdom tooth, it would cost thousands less to just yank it.

And one more peeve: The whole budgeting scene. I have no idea where the Battle Lake police department shops, but I think every police station in the nation wants that number. The department needs four Kevlar vests, four communication systems, four battery units, AND two full surveillance kits. And $3700 is going to get them all that. WOW! Either they have an in with some company or I would fear for those officers using that cheap equipment.

Now, why should I point out this piddly stuff? Because I really think Jess has a good story formula. But, I want to read one all the way through without being yanked out. Those piddly things give me a reason to go wash dishes, throw in a load of laundry, vacuum, run errands, watch TV and then, just before I fall asleep, remember, "Oh yeah, I have a book I haven't finished yet."

I like being sucked in because I can't stop turning the pages. I like debating how long I can stave off my children with snacks rather than making dinner to find out why someone is hospitalized. *NOTE: My children don't starve, I love them dearly and feed them well.

View all my reviews

Monday, August 5, 2013

Words of Love

 
Boys are rough and tumble and summer is prime proof. After another doctor bill, I told my husband I needed another job. I wasn't kidding. The day before, the orthodontist told us the twins need braces. Ready for the jaw dropping news, he quoted us $5500....for one child.
 
I already have a part-time job as a merchandiser. Plus my writing. I've been scouring local job postings and Craigslist. After one fruitless day, my husband, wise man he is, says, "If you put that job hunting effort into your writing, we'll be fine."
 
Damn, I hate when he throws out those doozies. Only because he's right. And, since that revelation, I've discovered more ways to enhance my writing income.
 
What do your loved ones say to encourage you? Yes, even the Negative Nellies are giving fodder for your determination. You can't let them be right after all. So never give up, refocus and write!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Do You Ever Wonder?


I'm a curious person. I wonder about many things:

Should I have taken the first exit into this town, would that have put me closer to my destination?
Would my day have gone smoother if I was more organized?
Am I organizing these papers right?
Should I have saved that essay I received a C on in high school?
Could I have made that essay better?
I also wonder about my family:

Would he have done better on that test if I had pushed him to study more?
Am I pushing too hard?
Could I have prevented him from falling off his bike?
Am I being too hard as a parent?
Am I being too easy?
What does my husband think when the kids come to me with problems?
Why do my kids ask me to fix bikes, computers, gadgets, etc..., especially when they know I am mechanically inept?
Why do my children do this every single day, even though I have no patience and dad has more patience than the average human?

Despite all those random thoughts, I even wonder about people I don't know:
Does that mom always yell at her child, or has she just reached that final straw moment of the day?
What ever happened to the person who found the dead body?
Did they change their life course, from say wanting to be an architect to designing systems that can help locate missing people?
Do they have nightmares about the discovery?
What ever happened to the lady I heard on the phone in the store?
Did she ever get a resolution from whomever she was speaking to in regards of them spending too much money?
Was that her husband, sister, child, friend, roommate who she had the concern with?
What ever happened to the man on his motorcycle who was taking a lunch break at McD's after driving around trying to locate a car that was stolen?
Did he ever get the car back?
Did the police ever find the thief or thieves?
Did they locate any other missing items?
Yes, these are the thoughts that flitter through my mind, endlessly. When I think about them, I get story ideas:
What if a parent who has always been too easy on her children suddenly snaps and becomes super strict?
What if a mom fixes bikes in her garage and sees a burglar at the neighbors?
What if a child finds a dead body, decides to become a detective instead of a football player, and while out shopping hears a man talking about regrets he has, one which happens to include an "incident" in such and such woods in the summer of whatever year?
What if the body the man found as a child was the in such and such woods in that same year?

Go wonder. What can you create from all the thoughts bouncing around in your mind?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Part Four - Conclusion - Guided Onto The Right (Write) Path

 
 
It's dirty searching for the right path in life.
 
This is the story of how I came to write. If you missed the first parts you can find them here:  Part One Part One, Part Three.
 
Once the seed rooted in my brain, I did another thing I love to do: Research. I'm not a dive-right-in type of person, but I don't have the patience for toe-dipping, so I'm the jump-in-feet-first type of person.
 
I started brainstorming ideas and doing research on how to submit articles. I was nervous, why would anyone want to read what I write? Thankfully, God knows I need bread crumbs to prove I'm on the right path. He sprinkled a healthy dose. Within a month of deciding "Okay, I'll do this," another twin mom mentioned a new magazine coming out for parents of multiples (currently there is only one, Twins). I pulled up the information and did a completely informal pitch to the editor. Once I sent the email, I freaked. I looked back through the books I'd bought, sure enough, there is a whole section on pitching to magazines. Something much more thought out and formal than what I did.
 
I checked my email religiously for a week (which, I am now aware, is way too short a time frame to expect an answer). Nothing. I assumed it was a no-go. I kept writing. A month later the editor called me. She wanted the piece.
 
Do you remember when you met a famous person, or maybe you had a crush on someone and the first time they spoke to you, or maybe someone you really admired spoke to you? Do you remember wanting so much to sound normal, cool, calm, and collected? Yeah, that's what I wanted when I spoke with the editor, unfortunately, I squeaked out a bunch of "yes, no problem, sure, I can do that," responses.
 
What I ended up agreeing to was:
  • Writing the piece - which entailed interviewing a certified personal trainer and nutritionist.
  • Locating a photographer who would work in return for only their name listed in the magazine.
  • Locating a model who would demonstrate the moves and be happy with only their picture in the magazine.
  • Locate a location for the photo shoot
  • And, oh yes, complete all this in a week.
I hung up, freaked out and got right to work. To say I was in over my head is an understatement, it was more like I was so far under the Earth's core was burning my feet.
 
Apparently, the big guy above knows what he's doing. I completed all the required tasks and had submitted everything a day early. I figured the editor needed time to edit. The debut issue was slated for a December release. It was the end of October when I submitted. December came and went, January came and went. Emails to the editor bounced. Then, one day in February, the magazine arrived. My article was one of a handful chosen to be listed on the cover. I was giddy.
 
Sadly, the issue was the first and last for the magazine and I never received payment.
 
Knowing all I do now, I'd still do it again. I received my first byline which opened many doors for me. I jumped in to a tight deadline with many extras that most writers don't have to deal with right off the bat, and I completed all tasks. Plus it was the crumb that made me realize how much I love writing and deadlines.
 
That's not to say it's just a breeze. There is a lot of hard work and a lot of rejection, but each time I hit a down point, I find another crumb:
  • A publication has used an article
  • A scholarship won for a writing class
  • A local paper giving me a guest columnist spot
  • A contest won
Each crumb feeds my soul and pushes me to do better.
 
And that is how I found my path as a writer...despite all my stubborn traits, the Lord took the time to guide me. I'm sure he had moments of despair and frustration (possibly even considered just striking me down with a bolt of lightning), but he persisted and then lined my trail with tokens of encouragment.
 
If you keep hitting resistance in the direction you're going, look for a side door that keeps cracking open. Try the side door. Look for a peppering of crumbs, nibble and proceed. The path won't always be smooth, but the boulders may be smaller than the other path you were on.
     
 



Monday, April 22, 2013

Part Three - Home Parties, Blood, and Floods



This is the story of how I came to write. If you missed the first two here they are: Part One and Part Two

I grew weary. I stayed home with the kidlets and even though I love them dearly, I needed time off, a break, anything where people would speak to me in complete sentences. And preferably not scream and kick when I said "no."

I joined a local twins group. I arrived at the first meeting a disheveled mess. The other moms were bright-eyed and busy-tailed. They even had complete outfits. I soon learned I wasn't quite in their league, they had nannies (day and/or night ones) and babysitters they hired to play with the kids so they could run errands. We had gone from a two income household to one and there wasn't extra money to spare. I was discouraged. I used to envy and/or hate these women (depending on the day) for the relief they had. I've since come to accept there was no reason for me to scorn them. If I had the means I would have hired a sitter myself. Kudos to these women for knowing they needed help and for getting it.

I decided I should find a job, then I could meet people and make some money. But, it would have to be flexible and not coincide with the work times of my husband, that whole not-enough-moola-for-chilcare-in-the-budget thing. Not many choices in that range. I decided on direct sales. Then I did what I do fairly well: research. I scoured all the direct sales markets and looked for something that wasn't saturated in my area, but that wasn't so new all the kinks hadn't been worked out.

I found a company with a product I liked, a team leader who was on the ball, and which was new, but not too new. We'll call them ABC Parties.

*Side note: I don't attend church regularly, but I do believe in God. This was the first time I felt someone had a different agenda for my life. Or, it certainly seemed that the following play-by-play was more than coincidence.

Once I signed on with ABC Parties, I received my supplies. I carefully tucked them in a box that was portable and stuck it in front of my bookcase. One of our cats decided it made a perfect litter box. Mind you, until that moment, our cats hadn't used anything but the litter box, and no we didn't move it to make room for my box. I reordered my ruined supplies; catalogs, forms, etc...

I then cleared a shelf from my bookcase. This was a chore as I love to read. Parting with books is very difficult for me. I put all my supplies on the shelf. The next week, during one of my kid's baths, water began pouring down over the bookcase. My supplies were ruined again. However, none of my books were ruined.

Here's another thing about me, I hate admitting defeat. I had many people tell me direct sales were difficult and that many people gave up shortly after joining. I was determined not to be a statistic. I pushed. I held parties, I had one bizarre thing after another until the final showdown.

I take responsibility for not being a pushy salesperson. I just don't have the desire to convince someone they need something that they clearly don't. Which is why my parties dwindled.

My last three hostesses had the surnames: Blood, Lestat, and Graves. My theory here: the company was Dracula, he would suck out my blood, and bury me if I didn't take notice I was on the wrong path.

Once my prospects dried up I shelled out good money for a shift in a street fair tent. All the reps had great success at this fair. I signed up and picked my shift.

The day of the fair, I arrived five minutes before my scheduled shift. It was beautiful, the streets were filled with people and the rep before me had booked three parties already. Sweet! Five minutes after my shift started, black clouds rolled in and rain poured. It didn't just pour, it was a monsoon. Seriously, within minutes the tents were bowing under the weight of the water (and these were the peaked tents, not flat). Did I mention no news station or paper mentioned rain for the forecast? Um, yeah, not one mention, not even one little cloud puff on the screen.

People dove in store-fronts and restaurants, the streets emptied just as fast as the tent tops filled with water.

Five minutes before my shift ended. The rain ceased. The clouds were completely gone by the end of my shift, replaced with bright blue skies and blinding sun.

I threw in the towel on ABC Parties, literally and figuratively.

Three days after the debacle, another twin mom commented on my writing.

The seedling had finally cracked through to a brain cell.

(Yes, this debacle does tie into the whole "someone was showing me that's not where I belonged and threw me a bone to where I did belong" theme).

Friday, April 19, 2013

Part Two - The Seed Was Planted

 
This is the story of how I came to write. If you missed Part One, you can find here.

The seed was planted and I didn't even know it.

Shortly after I started college, I became pregnant. It was no big deal, all would continue as planned, except a small maternity leave. Five months into the pregnancy I had a drastic change of course.

I was dazed when I talked to my boss so I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was the equivalent of, "You remember that maternity leave we talked about? Well, it's going to be permanent." I had just discovered I was having twins.

I enjoyed my Admin. position and was devastated to leave. My husband and I had gone over the budget many times and couldn't make before- and after-school for our oldest son, plus full-day infant care times two affordable. I would have been bringing home $100 a month. And, that was before gas and wear-and-tear on the vehicle. That was not worth someone else watching my children.

My boss' faith in me never wavered, or if it did, he never showed it. There were times I went to work positive I would be fired. Sometimes, it would have been justified, other times, it would have been  bad circumstances (my oldest was sick for almost a whole year - on the plus side, he rarely gets sick now, he has an immune system of anti-bacterial steel). Yet, my boss kept me on. And it was that investment that made leaving so hard.

I didn't know it then, but this was a low point in my writing life. I hadn't thought of being a writer, so this black bubble of naivety was good.

When the twins were about a year  old I found an online twins group. We communicated frequently; guiding each other when we could and commiserating and offering prayers when we had no guidance to give.

As the boys got older, I would write detailed posts of the day's antics. Apparently, people enjoyed these tales. One of the best comments I received was from one twin mom. She would hop on the computer during her children's nap time. If she saw a post from me she had to close her door. I made her laugh and she didn't want to wake her kids.

Another mom provided water for my boss' seed. She told me I should write.

The seed my boss planted had just germinated.