Thursday, March 26, 2009

On The Road Again

Vacation. All I ever wanted.

First thing tomorrow morning I'm headed out with my family for a weeklong trip to north Georgia. Among other exhilerating items on the agenda for this vacation are: strolling around the vacant lot to which all of my parents' retirement dreams are presently attached, board games, a trip to the aquarium in Chattanooga, lots of Wii-playing (we're not totally roughing it), and eating at some place called The Barn Door that my parents swear is really good.

Most notably absent from the list of things to do up there, however, is anything to do with the internet. I'm a little scared about being without it for seven days, but at the same time I feel it's probably for the best. Sometimes you just need to be shut off from the world for a little while (though I will miss Ryan Seacrest's twittering the most...)

The best part of being technologically disconnected from the world is that I won't have anymore excuses or distractions keeping me from doing one of the four things I love the most in this world: reading, writing, listening to music, and of course, sleeping.

To that end, I've cued up a ton of new tunes on the ole iPod and packed a separate bag full of books. And because I'm in such a sharing mood, I'm going to let you in on what jams and reads I'll be enjoying over the next seven days while you're stucking doing whatever it is that you do.


"My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult: I've read about half-dozen of her books to date and though I've loved some more than others, I've yet to come across a bad one. This is one of her first best sellers and I'm really looking forward to reading it. I've picked it up a few times in the store but always wound up putting it back until today, when boisterous ladies came up beside me in the book section at Target and started raving about it. When I asked one of them if it was worth reading, she actually got choked up and was almost unable to form the words to describe how amazing it was. After that, how I could I *not* read it?

The Flynn Brothers Trilogy ("Deadly Night", "Deadly Harvest", and "Deadly Gift") by Heather Graham: My friend Jaime loaned these three to me and I'm about fifty pages into "Deadly Night." So far it's great--not something I would usually read, but I'm enjoying the characters and the setting at an old plantation house in New Orleans. 


"Keep Coming Back" - Marc Broussard: I'm a HUGE fan of Marc's bayou-blues style and I'm thrilled that he's got a new album (okay, relatively new, I've been preoccupied with Dave Barnes and Jason Mraz for the last few months) that's more like his first one, "Carencro." I've previewed a few of the tracks and I know I'm going to love this return to his original stuff after his cover album "S.O.S." which was great, but didn't satiate my craving for new music from him.

"OK Now" - Jon McLaughlin: I absolutely loved McLaughlin's debut and from the snippets of his newest album I've heard, I know I'm going to love this one too. Maybe there will be another song to knock "Beautiful Disaster" from the top spot on my iPod...

"One Cell in the Sea" - A Fine Frenzy: This is one of the MANY great artists my friend Julie has passed my way. In fact, the  majority of the new tunes I've got on my docket for this trip are recommendations from her, which means I know they're all going to be great. She brought me Adele, Dave Barnes, and Matt Nathanson so I know she's got a ear for good music. 

"All I Ever Wanted" - Kelly Clarkson: Okay, this is my guilty pleasure music for the month. I confess I absolutely CANNOT stop listening to this CD. I've had it in my car the last week and I've already worn out the title track and of course, "My Life Would Suck Without You." I can see myself bobbing my head to this way into the summer months. 

Also on the list: Ben Kweller's debut, "We Were Here" - Joshua Radin, "Spirit" - Leona Lewis (I know I'm WAY beyond on the times on this one), "On a Clear Night" - Missy Higgins, and "Happenstance" - Rachael Yamagata. Plus I'm still listening to Bruce Springsteen's "Working on a Dream" and The Fray's self-titled follow-up and Matt Nathanson's "Some Mad Hope."

When all else fails, I've got Sports Night (the complete series), Boondock Saints, The Birdcage, Steel Magnolias, my latest West Wing disc from Netflix (Season 6: Disc 5), and the two newest episodes of Lost that I spent ALL DAY downloading (thanks iTunes).

Well, I bid you all a fond farewell and best wishes for a great week! I'll catch you up on the hilarious details of my family's misadventures as soon as I get back.

Later days,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Peacemas Doctrine

After much anticipation, I'm proud to present the official Peacemas Doctrine with an exclusive pre-amble from Bailey Hamilton herself. Read on and enjoy! :-)

The Peacemas Doctrine

Although I can’t take credit for the creation of Peacemas, I am humbled and proud to be associated (by law) with the holiday’s original visionary--my stepmother, Olivia Flowers. Throughout the course of her life, Olivia’s antiquated flower-child mind has set forth a plethora of ideas with intentions of promoting world harmony in some form or fashion. However, most of those ideas fell short of global enlightenment and in several cases  landed Olivia and several of her supporters (both genuine and coerced volunteers) in jail.

Peacemas, however, could very well be the crowning achievement of my stepmother’s lifelong campaign (which is quite surprising, given Olivia’s history of aggression toward organized religions of all kinds--she is, lest we forget, the same person who once set fire to a small Christmas tree that my twin brother and I had harvested from a neighbor’s yard and adorned with handmade paper ornaments one year). 

But that was the old, more aggressive Olivia who existed before her seven-year African sabbatical with her sister Oleander in the Peace Corps. She returned a more docile woman, though still motivated by the same peace and harmony agenda she obtained during her stay in a commune as a young child. 

(She also returned with a rather large souvenir, more commonly known as my adopted African brother, Ukembe (oo-kem-bay), but that’s another story.)

At any rate, when Olivia returned from her trip just a few weeks before Christmas, we weren’t sure what to expect out of her. So the announcement of a newly proclaimed holiday was absorbed with much trepidation and a tiny bit of intrigue amongst my siblings and I. For all we knew, this holiday could include some sort of ritualistic dancing, unpalatable cuisine, and of course, the obligatory human sacrifice. 

Knowing Olivia as we do, none of those things would have been unexpected.

We were pleasantly surprised then, when she revealed her plans for a week-long celebration that would tie together the best traditions of Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanza along with a few new traditions unique to Peacemas itself.

To help us visualize and buy into her vision of Peacemas, Olivia created a document called the Peacemas Doctrine--seven simple guidelines (Olivia doesn’t like to use the term “rules”)  for the celebration of Peacemas. 

So without further ado, I present to you, the Peacemas Doctrine:

(1) Peacemas is a non-religiously affiliated holiday that will begin each year on December 18th, exactly seven (7) days prior to Christmas Day (which will heretofore be known as Peacemas Day with Peacemas Eve falling, of course, on the night before). The purpose of this holiday is to move the world toward a peaceful union through knowledge, compassion, and unity. (And where appropriate, humor.)

(2) On the first day of Peacemas Week, participants will erect a Peacemas tree inside their dwelling. Although the official tree of Peacemas will be the palm (a symbol in multiple religions of peace and victory) other tree types may be substituted where palm trees are not available. This tree is to be decorated ONLY with ornaments created from recycled materials and ONLY with LED or other energy-efficient lights.

(3) All families celebrating Peacemas will also have a seven-pronged candelabra known as the Flames of Peace. A new candle will be lit each of the seven nights of Peacemas, completing the Flames of Peace on Peacemas Eve. 

(Please note: So as to avoid a potent ional Peacemas tragedy, the Flames of Peace are to be extinguished each night after the Peacemas festivities and re-lit the following night as festivities are resumed.)

(4) Each of the seven nights prior to Peacemas Day will focus on one of the seven continents--going in alphabetical order with the exception of the continent that the participant lives on, which will always be celebrated last. For example, Peacemas participants in the U.S. would recognize Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, South America and North America in that order. 

(5) To honor each of the continents, participants will eat foods similar to what the natives eat (as supplies and stomachs will allow), write down ten (10) facts previously unknown about that continent, listen to and/or perform music indigenous to that region (except in the case of Antarctica--unless someone can produce adequate penguin songs), and select a charitable organization connected to something in that continent to receive a previously determined donation. 

(It is recommended that for the continent on which the participant resides, a contribution of time be considered over money [i.e. dishing out food at soup kitchen, visiting the patients in a nursing home, etc.].)

(6) Although the primary “gifts” of Peacemas are considered the charitable donations made to certain aid groups affiliated with each of the seven continents, additional gift-giving between family members is optional. It’s suggested that one family member be the designated gift-giver each night and should provide the rest of the family with a handmade gift related to the continent of the night. 

(7) ALL Peacemas activities are to be celebrated with ALL members of the household. Peacemas is not only about uniting the world, but about uniting families as well (even the crazy ones).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The World Keeps Spinning (With or Without Me)

**Credit to T-Pain for the blog title (terrible song, but terribly catchy).**

So did everyone enjoy celebrating my Irish homefolks' holiday, St. Patty's? Don't you feel like certain holidays--like St. Patrick's Day--should have a built in recovery day afterward that's also observed as a national holiday? I mean really, how are you supposed to give these occassions the attention and celebration they deserve when you have to get up and go to work the next day?

Fortunately, being a member of the Bitterly Unemployed as I am, I don't have that problem (being in the BU club does have its perks). I not only partied hardy for St. Patrick's Day, but for my best friend Toni's birthday yesterday and my mom's today. Gotta love two days in a row of good times with the people you love the most and good cake with the people you love for looking the other way when you grab a second piece.

I had a chance to check out the movie version of Greg Behrendt's "He's Just Not That Into You"yesterday. I was a little nervous since it got some shaky reviews (especially since it costs $8 to go to a matinee these days!), but it was pretty good. Definitely a movie that EVERY and I mean EVERY woman should see. I'm not saying it should be used as a dating bible or anything, but there were some excellent points that led Toni and I to contemplate how truly jaded (and slightly insane) the female gender is. Even if you think you aren't, trust me, you are. I'm going to pick up the book for sure.

Did anybody see American Idol this week? I admit, it's one of my guilty pleasures. I'm extremely disappointed that Alexis was sent home, of the five chicks in this year's Top 13, she was my favorite. Still, this season clearly belongs to the men folk. Danny, Matt, Anoop, Kris and Adam are incredibly talented and yet so diverse. It's a good think they've got some good, fresh talent on that show this year too because I've about had it with the cheesy BS they put us through every week. The Ford commercials and the petty fights between Paula and Simon kind of make me want to scoop my eyeballs out with a spork. Just saying...

Well, best wishes for the weekend, folks! I promise I'll have some news on "I'll Be Home for Peacemas" next week along with a possible teaser for a new short story I'm working on.

Later days!
- Shannon

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet...

In a weak effort to make up for my lack of tangible work on my first novel, Ancient City Christmas, I've been cogitating (<=my word of the week, thanks to my uncle) on it almost constantly. Many of my thoughts have focused on the book's title, which served its purpose well during the book's first run in my hometown of St. Augustine last Christmas. 

However, now that I am looking for a more national audience and (hopefully) the attention of a major publishing house, I feel that the title needs a little spice. So, without further ado, I'm happy to announce that Ancient City Christmas will now be known as:

I'll Be Home for Peacemas

To go along with the new title, I'm adding a little more about Bailey's stepmother's made-up holiday in the book. Also, I plan to retool my marketing strategy so my readers can partake in some Peacemas festivities and rituals as well.

That's all for now folks but keep it tuned to the blog for more information!

Later days,