Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why I've been such a Lame Blogger for the last 4 months or so!


St. Nicholas brought us a new baby boy! Maximilian was 8 lbs, 9 oz, AND an unexpected Breech Delivery. (He flipped sometime between the OB appointment Friday and his delivery on Sunday.)
We were incredibly blessed to have a doctor who knew how to do a Breech delivery--- baby was coming way too fast for a C-section!
Also, for the first time ever, I got to give birth at a Catholic hospital! Eucharistic ministers came around every day, there were Franciscan-style crucifixes in every room AND St. Nicholas paid us a visit!!! (He brought holy cards and candy canes! I wish my kids had been allowed to visit at the hospital--they would have died from happiness when he walked in! :) )

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cognative Dissonance and 40 days for Life

I've noticed a lot of people in favor of abortion are offended by the whole 40 Days for Life/ praying the Rosary thing.

I don't understand.

If you don't believe God exists, shouldn't you be GLAD that pro-lifers are wasting their time praying instead of doing things that might actually stop abortion?

If you believe God exists, and you think he's OK with abortion, shouldn't you be snickering? After all, every Rosary includes multiple Our Fathers, with the prayer "Thy will be done." If God's will is abortion-on-demand, then the pro-lifers praying the Rosary are praying against their own interests!

And, finally, if you believe there is a God, that he listens to prayers, and that he believes Abortion is a sin against the 5th Commandment (Thou Shall Not Kill), yet you support abortion/procure abortions/or DO abortions, isn't the problem really with YOU, not the pro-lifers?

I figure most of the angry people fall into group 3 --because if they really believed that abortion was morally good or morally neutral, why would they get so worked up about it?

BTW-- Just watched the Jaynestown episode of Firefly. I'm glad we're finally getting to watch such a fun show, but I'm irritated that there was only one season!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Special Graces

I hadn’t done a really good examination of conscience in a long time, but this Saturday the girls were playing quietly, my husband was at the store, and the toddler was napping. I decided to take the time and go through one, so that I could make a really good confession the next time I go. (Which sort of depends on when we DON’T have a major crisis at 4:30 on a Saturday, or when I can haul myself out of bed in time to make the 7AM confessions on a MWF, but maybe next week?)

Most of the books are packed up right now, so the only one I had handy was the one from the Daughters of St. Paul Queen of Apostles Prayerbook. I used to love this examination. I mean, it was so thorough! As a college kid with a busy life, it struck me to the core on many occasions.

Saturday, not so much. As I read through the list of questions, I kept thinking, “Why on earth would I even think of doing that?” and “Who would have the energy?” Basically, my whole attempt at a really good examination proved to be a complete dud. If you count my child in-utero (who is HUGE at this point, by the way), I have 4 kids under the age of 6. By the time I feed them all, clean up the mess from eating, and deal with the various bodily-fluid-related disasters that make up my days (diapers in need of washing, spitting issues, pee on the floor, wiping dirty behinds, etc. etc.), I barely have the energy to sit up in a chair and read to them (there goes another two hours over the course of the day!), much less to sin in any interesting way.

When I get the choice between an occasion of sin and an occasion of sleep, sleep wins every time.

And then I realized that I actually have something in common with Therese of Lisieux. In her autobiography, she mentions again and again that God realized how small and weak she was. He gave her a home and family that kept her safe from occasions of sin, because He knew that if she was faced with great temptations, she would fall. God, through my husband and children, has given me the same special gift!

We often hear about the special graces that come from living out our marriage vows. At this point in my life, I think one of the greatest and most helpful graces is the one that comes from accepting the children God gives us. On our wedding day, Catholics promise to accept the children God sends—if we don’t, the marriage is invalid! Once you make up your mind to accept them all, as and when they come, your life changes.

Your opportunities for selfishness decrease: The penalty for putting yourself ahead of a dirty diaper is fecal matter spread across the carpet. If you don’t feed the hungry and clothe the naked as soon as they appear, you have a house full of shrieking, tearful children and a heart full of sorrow and guilt. Suddenly, “me-time” seems less important.

Sheer exhaustion keeps you from sinning. It’s not that you’ve suddenly become holier or better than you were, but simply fulfilling the tasks that God has given you takes most of your energy. The bare minimum becomes the maximum, and you need to lean on God, St. Michael, and your guardian angel to even hit the bare minimum. A house full of children is an amazing lesson in humility, dependence, and littleness.

I’m still shopping around for a really great examination of conscience for young moms, so if anyone has any suggestions, I’d be grateful. In the meantime, I’m thankful that God has recognized how weak I am, and has given me a vocation and state in life that lets me serve him without having to deal with grand temptations and perilous situations.

The stylites and their demonic tormenters are amazing, but I’m glad that’s not where I’ve been called. This is about all I can handle right now. Well, this and the load of “leaky diaper all over clothes” laundry I’m about to throw in the washer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Your Beautiful Roses

My kids LOVE St. Therese of Lisieux. I think it's because of the gigantic statue we have in the ushers' room at church. Even the two year old happily crows "Jesus gives Therese roses!" every time he sees it.

The roses are the fruits of her contemplative vocation. Therese devoted her life to prayer and contemplation, and God showered her with wonderful gifts.

Sometimes we moms wonder where OUR roses are. I mean, we have not time for uninterrupted prayer and contemplation-- are we doomed to be ignored by God?

Therese's roses were the fruits of her vocation.... your roses are the fruits of yours.... So that toddler over there surrounded by Lego's? The one who is emitting a rather.... forceful ... odor? He's one of your roses. The little girl tugging at your leg while you try to pray because she really HAS to show you the card she just drew for a sick friend? She's a rose too.

We're not being denied Heavenly Roses because of all the interruptions in our prayer lives. The interruptions ARE our Roses, the beautiful fruits of our vocation. The time we spend on our kids - talking, teaching, loving and disciplining - is not time away from God. It's time in the service of God.

And with that, I have to run -- my roses need their morning cocoa.....

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm not Dead Yet!

But getting the house on the market is taking longer than I thought!! Monday is our hard deadline, though. We're not doing ANYTHING FUN before then, and we're going to get everything painted, decluttered, weeded and cleaned.

And then we'll wait... there are about 24 houses in the price range we'll be listing at. And at least 2 of them are great deals in awesome neighborhoods and will have to sell before ours can, I think.

But with prayer and luck, maybe we can be into the new house before winter and the baby hit? (Winter is the big problem. The walls start closing in when it gets too cold for the kids to spend a few hours a day outside..... and Ben can't be outside unchaperoned (he likes streets), and the new baby won't be ABLE to spend lots of time outside for a few months.........)

Anyway, I'm still around, and once the house is on the market I will:
1. Answer DA's question about Christian Stewardship, the Environment, and Large Families
2. Blog stuff and pictures
and
3. Actually get back to work on my novels!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Light Blogging

Sorry for the pointless, light blogging. We're trying to get our house ready to put on the market (adding a 4th child to our 1000 sq ft, 2Br house seems like madness), I've turned a corner on my WIP and am not procrastinating as much, and the gorgeous weather means we're spending a lot of time outside, away from the computer.

Plus, we're really ramping up the 'school' (started mid-July) so we can finish the first half of the year by Thanksgiving and go easy until January.....

But if I come across something interesting, I'll post it..
Long essays, probably not -- at least not until we're done painting, cleaning up, and storing things away... (and I'll lose my books until the house sells!!! Argh!!)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Worst Children's Books

Courtesy of Reason magazine.

They critique the Rainbow Fish from a political/moral point of view. I'd argue that the writing and illustrating are also...bleck. I won't let it in our house.... of course, I have that awesome Kafka children's book bopping around somewhere, so.... (No...it's awesome, really! It's a Kafka Short Story, and the illustrations are done in the style of Magritte! I'm totally pulling it out once my daughter hits six or so!)

Awesome Essay on 'Writing Time'

This essay pretty much describes my 'writing life.' And probably yours as well!

H/T Writer's Beware Blog

Friday, July 17, 2009

BTW-- A note of links to Amazon

I'm a member of the Amazon Affiliates program, but mostly so I can provide snazzy links to books I like. I've never made a dime off it, and I don't expect to. But I have friends who read this blog who like to know when a new book by our favorite authors comes out, and who like to see the cover so they can pick it up easily while they're at the bookstore.

Since there's been controversy recently about blogging for profit, I thought I should clarify. THERE IS NO PROFIT FROM THIS BLOG. It's mostly to entertain me, and to let me have a web presence. Also, it's a big help when I have an opinion that's too long to post in the comments sections of my favorite blogs, or not currently on topic anywhere! =)

The Amazon links ARE endorsements, though, since I don't bother linking to books I despise! =)

Even More Boring Than Usual

Sorry to be even more boring than usual this week....

I have a self-imposed deadline for Sunday that I'm scrambling to meet. Then, I spent two days lost in books--





and



I'd been on the waitlist at the library for months, and then they both came in at one! So that pretty much ate up all my free time this week. But both books were totally worth it....

Except I have one MAJOR beef with Ally Carter's book. She ended on a CLIFFHANGER. And she's not even done writing book 4 yet! She'd better not pull a Robert Jordan or a George R.R. Martin on us.....

I was sad to see Percy's part of the story end at the end of "The Last Olympian," but I'm glad to know that Riordan is planning more books set in the 'Camp Halfblood' universe-- I'm a sucker for heart-stopping adventure laced with references to Classics!!

Anyway, back to working on the chapter from Hades.... (This is the same one I've been working on since EA kicked my butt in critique-- But I think I finally have a handle on how to write it so that it satisfies me, and will satisfy someone who hates being plopped down into a strange situation... we'll see....)

Monday, July 13, 2009

"There's No good YA out there...."

Every few months, someone who doesn't read much YA posts on how YA is all teen angst and nothing else: Give ME A BREAK.

YA is so rich and varied, I'm not sure you can actually define "typical YA" other than that the protagonist is usually a teen........

There are LOTS of great books out there.... (Admittedly, my tastes run mostly to Fantasy/Sci Fi, but still...) If your daughter is reading angsty books, it's because she likes angst, not because there are no options....

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Culture of Contraception and Infertile Catholics

I posted this in response to A reprinted article at Inside Catholic. Well, not in response to the article as much as in response to some of the comments posted. I'm RE-posting it here (with a few edits.. yey Google spellcheck!), because I run into a lot of Catholics who think that, just because they don't contracept, they haven't bought into the contraception mentality. They're wrong. It slips in everywhere, and it shows, especially in our treatment of Catholic couples with few or no children.

-----

I think our contraceptive culture is one of the reasons why the infertile people ARE getting blown off...

The culture of contraception has definitely leaked into the church... so where once people without children were considered "barren" and were objects of prayer and sympathy, they're now considered selfish, assumed to be using contraception or NFP with a contraceptive mentality, and we heap scorn and derision on them.

Look people, being an Orthodox Catholic does NOT automatically protect you from imbibing our culture's sick attitudes. Do you find yourself thinking that that wealthy, childless couple at Mass is living in mortal sin and has no right to be receiving communion? Maybe they just don't know you well enough to give you the complete history of their long line of miscarriages, or her hysterectomy. Maybe they're struggling to accept that God's will isn't theirs--that they desperately want children, but since they're unwilling to take immoral measures like IVF, they're stuck with parenting 'spiritual children' instead.

You really can't know from the outside. But you've drank deeply enough of the culture's tainted water that deep down, you believe fertility is a mechanism that can be turned on and off at will (either by contraception or NFP) and that if someone is 'off' it must be their will, not God's.

When a couple says "We're not planning on a baby right now," it's true that they could mean they're avoiding pregnancy. But often they mean "It would take a miracle for us to get pregnant right now, so we're trying to follow God's plan for us, and our medical history is none of your business."

I really admire those women. How they can take this constant questioning of their morality and fertility without bursting into tears or smacking someone is beyond me. They're hidden saints, the Sarahs and Elizabeths among us, and most of us treat them like dirt.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bekka Cooper: Bloodhound

I just finished reading the second book in the Bekka Cooper series:




It was a fun, fast read, as we've all come to expect from Pierce. I love Bekka's character, the insight into old Tortall (and into George Cooper's family!), and the supporting cast was great, especially Goodwin and Achoo.

My one big complaint is one that I've always had about Pierce, ever since I started reading her way back in 7th grade. Pierce seems to have this uncontrollable urge to throw at least ONE gratuitous Birth Control reference into every book, and make sure that her heroines come across as sexually 'liberated.'

The problem is, these encounters rarely advance the plot. Why on EARTH did Alanna need to sleep with Liam? (Jonathon I can kind of see, as sort of an ancient form of sexual harassment...). Why do all the girls run out and get magical 100% effective birth control the moment they hit adolescence? It was so jarringly obvious when I was in Jr. High that one of my friends, who loved the series, took to calling Alanna the "Magical whore!"

Meanwhile, the birth control/sex is just a tangent to the plot. The actual act never changes the characters' relationship to each other, and after the story moves on, the characters just 'get over' any disappointment or hurt feelings and agree to be friends.

So, in Pierce's world, pre-marital sex is always physically and psychologically hygienic. It's healthy and normal. Avoiding it is a sign of instability.

BUT --if that really IS how her characters view sex, why include it at all? It effects the story no more than a quick trip to the restroom, or an uninteresting, routine meal.

As far as I can tell, Pierce, who is otherwise an EXCELLENT writer---seriously, I love her stuff, which is why I still devour her new books, twenty years later, also has an agenda. She wants to push her view of sexual relations onto her characters and readers, even when it's got nothing to do with the story. And, as with any authorial agenda, it ends up taking away from the book.

Most young girls don't view sex through a hygienic lens--they view it through a romantic one. And teens who have sex don't just move on like nothing happened. There are emotional and physical consequences, even when no one gets pregnant. And since, in this world at least, there is no "Magic Birth control," some girls DO end up pregnant, even the responsible hygienic ones.

Since Pierce's view of sex is so out of step with her readers, I think it ends up taking us out of the story for a moment. It's like your gym teacher popped up in the middle of Top Gun to give you a lecture on Tom Cruise and Kelly McGinnis's precautions. (Yes, at the age I started reading Pierce, I also swooned over Maverick.... honestly, didn't we all?)

I know at this point in her career, she's unlikely to change. And I still love her worlds, her characters, and her plots. So, like the teen I once was, I just roll my eyes at the scenes. But I wish they weren't there, so I could just drown in the stories......

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Menu Blogging

Because I'm proud I pulled it off. =)

We had - Guacamole, Spicy Bean Dip, and an Indian Cucumber Lemon Dip-- All from the Chicago Tribune Cookbook, with veggies and chips for dipping.

Eggplant with Tomato and Mozzerella -From the "Italy the Beautiful" Cookbook

Gorgonzola, walnuts and pear on homemade French Bread -From the Berghoff Cookbook

Sausage, Green Peppers and Onion - The meat was from our local, very good, butcher's shop.

German Potato Salad -- From the Berghoff Cookbook.

Later, after we all recover, we're having Eli's original recipe cheesecake (Chicago Tribune Cookbook again) and strawberries. And then, off to the fairgrounds for the fireworks!

Palin and Me

Mark Steyn has a good take on the Palin resignation. And I'm inclined to think he has the right reasoning.

I liked Palin as McCain's Vice -president... mostly because I wasn't thrilled with McCain, felt like he was TRYING to lose, and I figured the conservative shiny-factor might give him a boost against Obama, the shiniest politician in history.

(I swear most voters are like magpies, just going after whoever seems shiniest without ever looking at records or histories or beliefs. And it's not a question of intelligence or how informed a person is. Althouse and McArdle both went for Obama, and they're bright. They're also SHOCKED by what he's doing in office, even though this is the direction his resume pointed. Anyone can be taken in by shininess, if they spend too much time on appearances and not enough on the actual WORDS. But anyway....)

Palin was not my first choice for 2012 (Go Jindal! Or Even Romney!), because even though she's a social conservative, she has that nasty "punish the evil corporations and rich people--you know, the ones who actually MAKE money and employ people and finance innovation!" streak that puts me off.

But I've always liked the fact that, for a politician, she seems surprisingly normal---it always seemed like she hadn't PLANNED to run for president from the time she became mayor.... She wasn't in permanent campaign mode. So of course the media HAD to savage her and her family, because our nation will only tolerate one kind of politician --the crazy kind. Lunatics make better TV after all, and it's all about good television these days, especially if you're one of those neanderthal conservative types.

On the one hand, then, I'm relieved. I had favorites for 2012, Palin wasn't one of them, and it's good to know my preferred candidates will get a shot, and maybe be able to work to make the government less intrusive and regulatory, rather than more. (I mean seriously--if Waxman passes the Senate, I'll have to pay 30K to retrofit my 65K house before I can sell it! Why should the Feds care about the state of my home? That should be a local rule, not a national one...)

But on the other hand, I'm sad. Palin's scourging by the media, and her resignation, prove that the days of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" are forever behind us. Normal people with good ideas are automatically shut out of the political process, because normal people won't live like we expect politicians to live. So we're left with a bunch of crazy career politicians who care more about their images and bank accounts than what's right or what's best for the country. I'm pretty sure that means the death of the Republic.

No more do we have the farmer-turned president, who serves his time and then joyfully returns to the plow. Instead, we have the celebrity president, who sees the office as a stepping stone to more lucrative speaking engagements, Nobel prizes, and maybe even the Secretary Generalship of the UN. And the more centralized and powerful our government becomes, the more the president will become some sort of god-king and less of a citizen serving his fellow citizens.

Palin's resignation highlights what we, and our children have chosen to lose. We've traded in consuls for emperors. We've traded freedom and ingenuity for lax lives on the government's teat. We've traded our birthright for a mess of pottage.

Happy Fourth of July.

Monday, June 29, 2009

An Unexpected Party

My in-laws were supposed to leave Yesterday afternoon, since my brother-in-law was coming back from Iraq and they wanted to meet the plane.

Well, his flight's been delayed a minimum of 2 days, barring a miracle. So we've got unplanned-for house guests until the Army gets him home. (Note: Mechanical problems??? Delayed two days for Mechanical problems??? Why don't they just send in a replacement plane? Or are they just lying?)

I don't think I'll be getting much blogging or writing done this week......

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

For the First Time in My Life...

I am ashamed to be an American. In Iran, the slaughter of the innocents persists. Yet out government, in their finite wisdom, has responded by..... uninviting the Iranian leadership from a BBQ?!?!?!/

Wow. That's some real tough diplomacy there. Way to side with the oppressed, Mr. President.

If you'd been President during the civil war, would you have firmly told the South that, until they stopped enslaving people, you wouldn't send them a Christmas card?

And I suppose, during the Berlin airlift, you would have sent the Russians a stern note notifying them that, until they changed their ways, you would not buy any Girl Scout Cookies from their daughters????

Look, I didn't vote for you. And I don't expect you to agree with me on things like taxes, healthcare, even abortion! BUT can't we all at least agree that governments that slaughter peaceful protesters are evil?????

No??? Then you're a very scary, evil man yourself.
John Scalzi has an awesome post up on why "novelist" is a middle-aged person's came.

My thought: Ok, he says my first novel sucks. Does that mean I can quit revising it for now and put it aside? Probably not, actually. Because even if, ultimately, the revision is pointless, it helps me practice the hard work of revising.

Dangerous Heat

The National Weather Service says it's too hot to go outside today. Dangit! What am I going to do with my kids? I can't send them out to play when the heat index is 99-- they'd run around and give themselves heat stroke!

At least I can take them to swim lessons later. And maybe I'll hit free-swim at the Y tonight, too.. it will be crowded, but at least it will wear them out! The one problem is that John's working late, so it will be me with three kids. On the plus side, the girls have gotten VERY GOOD with their floaties and noodles. So as long as I follow them around the shallow end, we should be fine......

(I need to bring a camera one of these weeks, so I can record the adorableness for posterity!)

Random Coolness

I love commenting on blogs. I can't help it. It's my morning entertainment, my social activity for the day, my chance to fix some of the things WRONG on the internet.

But I always feel guilty-- I mean, isn't it a waste of time?

Well, for once, maybe not! My blog-commenting habit led to me being an 'expert source' for the following article:

http://www.faithandfamilylive.com/features/sunday_morning_scramble

Pretty cool, huh? Too bad random blog commenting won't finish my WIP, revise Yeller, and get me an agent! =) So, back to work.....

(After I put in some SERIOUS chore time (in-laws tomorrow), some SERIOUS kid time (ignored them yesterday to work on house....poor kids.), and greet the washing machine repairman with shouts of joy (we've been washerless since Sunday-- I'm drowning in dirty clothes!!!!!!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Parenting Posts at Associated Content

Over at Associated Content, I've got a couple of new parenting posts up. I figure, in a world where most people my age don't have any kids, and where most folks are going to have one or two at most, having three (with the expectation of more!) makes me some kind of an expert, right?

I mean sure, if you compare me to the CATHOLIC mommy-bloggers (Danielle Bean, Elizabeth Foss, etc.) three isn't many. But in the general population? Especially at a time when most of the folks I went to school with are just having their first?

Besides, who can turn their nose up at an oppurtunity to get PAID for advice???

In other news, Flix has turned a corner--I'm into chapter 4 of the new, improved, plot, and things are picking up. The story is starting to go forward under its own steam now. The one problem I'm having? I keep wanting to put in this awesome cool scene that DOESN'T FIT. Maybe I can save it in case I set another book in the same world? Or maybe I can stick it in, knowing it will have to be cut later, just to get it off my back?

Oh, and I'm nearly done my latest short story and my Yeller first-chapter rewrite-- of course, once I'm done rewriting the first chapter, I'll have to go back through the book and rewrite the rest, too. =) Don't worry, I DO save old drafts......

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Taking the Plunge

I'm taking the plunge and joining an online critique group-- I've really reached the point where I ought to get regular feedback, so I'm joining up with a bunch I found on Verla Kay's place.

It's kind of nerve-wracking.... I mean, you can't really tell if you'll be a good fit until you try it out, and I don't know anyone in it.

But most of my friends' critique groups are full, and I need to get better at critiquing and being critiqued.

I hope this one works out. At least their schedule seems to be pretty low-key, so it shouldn't cut into my writing too much!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Kids, Cognitive Science, and Writing

I just finished a great book:




Willingham discusses what we've learned from psychology and cognitive science, and how it applies to classroom instruction and other types of learning. His prose style is fun and understandable, and he does a great job presenting his research in layman's terms.

I originally picked up this book to help me with my homeschooling. I figured it would help me evaluate math curricula, teaching plans, and other ideas I've had. It HAS helped me figure those things out, and it's give n me hints on how to be a more effective teacher, too.

(He mentions that teachers described as great always have a strong, positive emotional connection with their students, and present material organized in a way that maximizes student retention. (he gives hints for this). I wonder if one of the reason homeschoolers are so successful is because they already meet the former qualification, and can LEARN to meet the latter.)

Anyway, I also enjoyed his chapter on how to become a better teacher because he drew parallels with the process of becoming a better writer. He had some especially helpful hints on critiquing and being critiqued. (I'd wish I'd read them BEFORE my first page came up on Editorial Anonymous-- I'd have responded in a better way, and more swiftly! As it is, it took a while for the critique to settle in, and NOW I'm slogging through the rewrite!)

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in how brains really work, parents who want to help their kids excel, teachers who want to improve their classroom, and anyone who's ever tried to learn something! It was really a quick, fun, informative read -- I'm glad I saw it reviewed at http://joannejacobs.com/ (My favorite Edublogger).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fun with Reading

I went to the library with my husband and the kids last week. Which means that, while he supervised them, I got to browse! So I had a good couple weeks of reading.

1. Cartwheels in a Sari, by Jayanti Tamm - Not technically a YA. It's a memoir of growing up in a Guru cult, and the author's eventual attempts to leave. I loved some of the details about her childhood: At one point she watches "Little House on the Prairie" and wonders where the Ingalls' guru is. Her father tells her that he only appears in special episodes that can't be picked up by their TV antennae.


Fascinating stuff, especially as she later tries to break free of the cult's mindset. There's one graphic sex scene, but I think this book would appeal to teens as well as adults---and it seems like pretty good book club fodder, too.




2. The Invention of Hugh Cabret by Brian Selznick - I had a hold on this one for A YEAR straight! Then my hold got canceled, and I forgot about it. But I finally picked it up and, yes, everyone is right. It is awesome. And totally appropriate for all ages-- I may read it to the kids, actually... they're already fascinated by the pictures.




3. Chalice by Robin McKinley - I meant to read this the second it came out, but somehow I missed it. So I read it last weekend. It's typical McKinley-- magic, mystery, a hint of romance that comes out right in the end. The world she creates, full of people deeply tied to the land, is enchanting and awesome. But, of course, if you read fantasy, there's no WAY you'd pass the new McKinley novel up, right?



4. Alchemy by Margaret Mahy - This is an older novel, but I love Mahy! This one came out when I was in my "not reading YA" stage. (I was trying to force myself to read 'grown-up' nooks.) A boy with a fairly normal life gets drawn into a world of secrets, magic, and mortal peril after a teacher catches him shoplifting. Great book, classic Mahy. I'm so glad I happened across it!



Anyway, that's what I've been reading these days. Meanwhile, my first-chapter rewrite on Yeller is nearly done (And has made me realize that I really need to rewrite, not just edit, the entire book. As in, chapter by chapter, keep the plot points, but rewrite the description and dialogue. Because my writing HAS improved in the past year, and Yeller needs to reflect that!)

Also, my WIP is humming along nicely - I think this book may be the ONE that lands me an agent. So there's the tension between time for Yeller and time for the WIP. And I have two short stories that are finally clicking and I've been writing more goofy parenting articles for Associated Content (quick cash!).

So, writing, and reading life, is good. Now I'm off to bake bread, so my husband doesn't starve at work today!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Obama and Saint Paul

Or, Why I think it’s unlikely that the President will be knocked off his golf-cart by Christ in all His Glory.

Note to readers. The following is NOT about Kidlit, so if you don't want to here me rambling about religion and politics, skip this entry. It's basically something I've WANTED to post in several comment boxes over the last few month. But such a long post would be a violation of blog-etiquette, so I'm posting it here instead.



I hear a lot of my friends talking about how we should pray that Obama has a “Road to Damascus” moment, where he’ll suddenly see the light on things like abortion, conscious clauses, gay marriage, freedom of religion, torture (since he’s now for it), human rights in developing nations, etc. While we should pray for our leaders, and we can hope that eventually they’ll decide to conform to God’s laws, I don’t think the Obama/ Saint Paul comparison is a valid one.

“But wait!” I hear you saying. “Obama is a persecutor of the Church! Paul was a persecutor of the Church! What’s the difference?” Well, frankly, to compare Obama’s position to Paul’s is really unfair to Paul.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Paul this last year, since it was the year of Saint Paul and we named our lost baby Paul. We first meet Paul at the martyrdom of St. Stephen, where he’s been looking on with approval. He clearly detests the first Christians. In fact, he wants to follow them from city to city, so he can root them out and destroy them.

But the important thing to the story, I think, is WHY Paul wants to destroy the Christians. It’s not because of power, it’s not because he wants to sin with impunity or because he thinks everyone should agree with him. Rather, he’s a Pharisee, and filled with Zeal for the Law. Paul’s not persecuting the Christians out of hate. He’s persecuting them because as far as he knows, they’re heretics, blasphemers, and idol-worshippers. And what’s worse, to his mind, is that they’re trying to lead others into the same sin.

So we can assume that Saul spent a lot of time in prayer and study, intent on knowing the will of God for his life. And when he decides to go to Damascus, it’s because he thinks he’s doing what God wants: destroying a dangerous heresy before it can lead more people astray.

I’d argue that, even though it turned out Saul was actually doing the opposite of God’s will, he was still extraordinarily open to cooperating with Grace. So, at the moment when Christ appeared and knocked him off his horse in a blaze of Glory, Paul realized that he’d been working AGAINST God’s will all along. And since he wanted to do God’s will, he accepted the moment of Grace and cooperated with it.

(A random aside—I think the way in which Paul, who excelled in Greek, went blind when he realized his sin is an AWESOME echo of Oedipus Rex. Of course, Oedipus blinded himself, and God blinded Paul, but still –I love the echo of Greekness in the event.)

Now, what does this have to do with Obama? Well, to put it mildly, the president doesn’t seem to have quite the same level of zeal that the Pharisee did. I mean, he attended a church for years, but never really noticed the sermons. And then, he happily tossed the pastor, his spiritual mentor, aside when he became a political liability instead of a political aid. He skips prayer breakfasts and works out instead of going to church. He inserted himself into what was essentially an intra-Catholic dispute at Notre Dame, and tried to declare one side the ‘winner.’ He goes back on his promises, he insults and attacks his opponents, he changes his beliefs depending on what crowd he’s speaking to.

In short, while it’s true that God can do anything, in my opinion Obama is no Saint Paul. In fact, if I had to choose a biblical leader to parallel him, I’d probably pick Ramses, or maybe Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Back to Blogging

Well, We're back from vacation (I didn't announce it in advance because I'm all security-conscious like that.)

My favorite moment from our trip to Alabama was the last day, when Grandma was trying to get a family picture. Ben, our toddler, wouldn't look at the camera. Instead, he was leaning over my shoulder, trying to throw himself to the ground, and shrieking "Cool! Cool!"

I had no idea what his problem was, but after we finally snapped a picture, I set him down and asked, "What's cool?"

He ran off into the bushes and a wild anole skittered up a tree trunk. "Cool Dagon!" he crowed.

So my son isn't actually insane, he just likes lizards. Except he thinks they're dragons. This is going to make St. George seem SO much less cool!

When we got back, we went to the ND Response Mass and Rally. It was a great day. Erin Manning, AKA Red Cardigan posted my account on her blog, if anyone cares. =)

And, finally, a warning. While I'll continue random cool-stuff, kidlit and writing-life blogging, I'm probably also going to start posting a series of longer essays. Mostly because I keep writing them in my head, my husband's sick of hearing them, and I'd like people to discuss these ideas with. Oh, and because it's rude to post page-long essays with parenthetical notes in other people's comboxes.

So, in an effort to be polite to my favorite bloggers, my blogging is about to get more frequent and more essayish--- I'll try to tag things and give warnings so people who AREN'T interested can just skim those entries!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hannah Montana Rocks!

So we took the kids to see the Hannah Montana Movie this weekend. (Hey, our first-run theatre is only 1.50 a ticket. And the baby's free. So for 6$, we all got to go..... totally worth it...)

It was really cute! With good music and several laugh-out-loud scenes. My husband and I both enjoyed it. Well, he said it made him a little sad, since it reminded him that our sweet little girls will be teenagers some day, but, other than that........

My 5 year old was totally enchanted and trying to sing along even though she didn't know the songs. My 3 year old loved the comedy (lots of slapstick, crazy situations, etc.) and the baby liked the music, dogs, and horses.

So yeah. It was totally worth the 6$. Might have even been worth 20! =)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Today's Special and a Post-Racial America

This morning I was showing my kids what children's TV USED to look like, back in the 80's, before CGI and 'Sid the Science Kid"

So I found this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cxLfIs051c

And I started wondering... Were Jody and whats-her-name the first interracial couple on children's TV? Are they one of the reasons people my age and younger think interacial dating is no big deal? Could a pretty-stupid-show-with-catchy-music have changed the racial landscape of America?

Or, to put it another way, does Barack Obama owe part of his success to Zoobilee Zoo?

And what values are our current shows teaching our kids? Will 'Sid' lead to a generation who expects their children to have awesome student-to-teacher ratios and hard-core science from a young age? (I hope so!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Fun with the Flu

Obama wants 1.5 billion dollars for swine flu. At the current rate of infection (65 cases nationwide) that's 23 million dollars per case.

Also, xkcd is as awesome as ever: http://xkcd.com/574/

Swine Flu, The CDC, and Housekeeping Hints

So, the CDC has a list of hints on dealing with swine flu. Mostly, they were run-of-the-mill flu instructions, but one of them rocked my world:

Eating utensils should be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with
water and soap.


Woah. I mean Woah. Now I KNOW this is a serious illness, because they're telling us to WASH OUR DISHES. And here I thought you could just lick them clean and use them again.

Hmmm.... Maybe I'll try that one tonight after dinner. "Sorry, honey. I'm going to bail on the dishes tonight. After all, the CDC says we don't have to wash them unless we have the swine flu."

Sometimes I wonder if government bureaucrats even live on the same planet as the rest of us.....


Friday, April 24, 2009

On previewing books for your kids

Yesterday, my husband and I made a HUGE mistake. We read the kids a picture book we hadn't previewed first.

I've been trying to introduce the concept of history to my 5 year old. And she especially enjoys learning about how kids experienced different times and places. So when I came across The Silent Witness by Robin Friedman at my library, I was excited. It's a kid's eye view of the civil war, from the point of view of Lula McLean - a girl who was at the battle of Manassas AND the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

Pretty cool, right?

Nope. Because the book features her beloved rag doll, who experiences the Civil War with her. And who gets swiped as a souvenir by a Union soldier at Lee's surrender.

And it's TRUE. My husband and I thought it was pretty cool, but the 3 and 5 year old collapsed into tears and could NOT be consoled because the little girl lost her doll forever.

Later, I asked my daughter what she thought of the book. She said, "You need to put your toys away or the evil Union soldiers might take them."

Um, no. As a proud daughter of Pennsylvania, who grew up believing that the only reason our great state was spared from the demonic hordes of confederate zombies was that they were also dumb and therefore couldn't figure out how to cross the Susquehanna, I don't WANT my kids to think the Union was evil.

But, on the other hand, they DID take the girl's doll.

Anyway, if I'd previewed the book I would probably held off on it until later.... on the plus side, my kids now have a burning desire to visit Manassas battlefield and Appomattox Courthouse. They especially want to see the doll.

(And this is an achievable goal since my Dad lives in Northern VA. They already saw (and loved) Mount Vernon. I guess Appomattox is next.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Whipped by the WIP

Well, I figured out today why I've had such a bone-breaking, soul-crushing time forging ahead on my WIP. A side plot had hijacked the whole thing, and it wasn't even a particularly INTERESTING side plot, especially when told from an MG perspective.

SO I'm starting over, at a different place with a different plot. And as for that side-plot and those other characters? Well, they were a bit too YA for the work at hand. I'm shoving them back into my "If I ever want to write YA pile" and forgetting about them for now.

Meanwhile, Flix and Vester are back at the beginning... and this time there's a lot more excitement and a lot less melodrama.... we'll see how this try goes. At least my other 20,000 words weren't completely wasted--- the plot was a mess, but the setting was awesome, so I can keep that knowledge of the world for my new story! =)

I also have a short story that's finally ready for a full first draft, and I need to write that new first chapter of Ben (Which should some of the other problems I'd had with him.....)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Busy weeks and cost benefit analysis

It's been a busy couple of weeks, what with our Easter trip, a family funeral, and all the travel preparations for both. This week, my daughter has TWO art field trips in addition to Ballet and her normal class. So odds are that I won't be home much.

Then, I don't really FEEL like writing, because I'm in the middle of a book I've been meaning to read for about 13 years (Since I picked it up at work for 4.00 minus my employee discount...): Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians. I just finished the life of Manning, and it was awesome! (Poor, poor Newman. He had such a hard life!) I'm on Florence Nightingale now.

Of course, since I'm not taking the time to write, I'm also coming up with reasons NOT to write. I mean, seriously, isn't disinfecting the whole house to cope with our annual spring ant-invasion more important than slogging through another book that will probably never get read? And with all the AWESOME children's writers and aspiring children's writers out there, is there really a reason to put myself out? Especially when I could use the same time and actually do work that MAKES money?

Fortunately, I guess, even if *I* don't believe in my chances for success, my crazy husband does. So I should probably leave the Crimean war (and the blogs) behind tomorrow, and actually get in some decent writing time.

(Though, given the size of this year's invasion, maybe I should just read "Leinigen versus the Ants" again instead-- it might inspire me to more useful pursuits...like, um.... flooding the house?)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

T.S.Eliot and Me

T.S. Eliot seems to be stalking me this week.

First, I came across his animal farm rejection, via Althouse.

Then, I was reading "The Pobble Who Had No Toes" to my kids, and came across the Runcible Cat. "Aha!" I thought. "Runcible Cat, Runcible Spoon. It's not a spork, it's Tortoise Shell!"

So I did a search for "Runcible Tortoise shell" and got pointed to this book, in which Eliot discusses the reasons that Runcible does NOT mean Tortoise shell, in a lecture on education.

The Lecture in question? The 1950 Aims of Education Address at the University of Chicago!!!!!!!

Weird, huh? A random internet search on Lear connects to The College...... and makes me miss the quads all the more. Good thing my 10th reunion is coming up, so I can play at being an undergrad again!

Monday, March 30, 2009

In springtime, a young mother's thoughts turn to...

Greek and Latin. Maybe it's because my reoccurring 'final exam and I didn't study' dreams have started up again. Maybe it's because it was around this time of year that I left Chicago and arrived in Greece. Maybe something about the longer days, the greener grass and the warmer temperatures just make me yearn for a blanket on the quads, the Middle Liddell, and Sophocles.

Maybe I'm just avoiding today's toil by yearning for yesterday's.

Hard to tell. But for the moment, I've got classics on the brain 24-7.

Ooh! Maybe it's just that the final installment of Percy Jackson is ALMOST HERE!

Did you here the one about the barber, the bald guy, and the scholar?

Roman Jokes. Though to be fair, this book is from the LATE EMPIRE. And some of the jokes she mentions remind me of Plautus and Terence. And it would make sense that the best routines of P&T were reworked and repeated through the ages-- heck, we're STILL using them!!

Minor Changes in Progress

I just looked at my blogroll this morning and realized it no longer reflects my favorite sites -- There are a lot missing! So I'll be adding to it over the next few days. (Currently my tastes run to a weird mix of politics, kidlit, education, Catholic Stuff and comics --some of which are not appropriate for kids.)

Awesome Historical Rejections

T.S. Eliot rejects Animal Farm. I especially loved his regret at having to pass, since the editor who accepted it would also get all of Orwell's future work.

And his argument IS an interesting criticism of the politics of Animal Farm. I'll have to find my copy (first american edition--woohoo! Unfortunately missing the DJ, so only collectible to me) and reread it so I can see if I agree with Elliot's take.

(I know my politics have changed considerably since I last read the book. And my view of human nature has changed too... so it will be a fun reread!)

H/T to the amazing Ann Althouse, who you really OUGHT to be reading, if you're not already. She's really got an awesome community of commenters, so her combox arguments are a great read.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I'm editing this post because it was Lame

So what shall I talk about instead?

How about "The Secret History"-- No, not the Procopius one. The trashy, Classicists gone wild novel of the same name....

I lent it to a friend and it never came back, along with the bulk of my pratchett.

I miss it, sometimes.

Critique Redux-- a week later

So a week after the now infamous "critique of doom," I have to say, she was right. The new rewrite clears up the one huge problem I was having trouble with--making the reader CARE about Ben before the action starts.

And my beloved 'waking up in a hospital not knowing how he got there' start WAS cliched. Yes, I thought of it as "Homage to Zelazny," but, really, I'm no Zelazny.

So I think my first 2 pages are stronger now. The current plan? I'm going to wait for the last couple agents from the current round of subs to reply, and then, if it's all 'no' I'm going to pull back for a while and do ANOTHER rewrite.

Then I have a list of about 5 more agents who handle commercial MG (as opposed to claiming to handle it but have never had any kids books...) and if they say no, I'll give up on the agent route for now and try editors....

Because the experience of friends has taught me that if you can't have a really good agent, you might as well have no agent. And I can always get an agent for book 2, or 3, or somewhere down the line.

(Before you tell me there are more MG agents than I would think--yes, I know. But most don't want action/adventure/sci fi stuff. They want coming-of-age stuff and lyrical stuff. Not so many explosions and helicopters and superheroes........ so I COULD submit to those other agents, but I'd probably just be wasting everyone's time.......)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Doesn't He Know that Voldemort is Gone?

This odd tidbit from a Breitbart Article on the Post Office's financial troubles (emphasis mine):


Lawmakers also raised questions regarding recent news reports that Potter
is paid as much as $800,000 a year. That is not correct, Potter said. He said
his salary, set by Congress, is $263,575. He said the news reports were counting
his retirement fund, the cost of his security detail and a $135,000 bonus that
would be paid over 10 years after he retires.


h/t The Instapundit

--As if you all didn't see it there first! =)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Amazing discovery.

Someone's willing to pay me for unsolicited advice on taking toddlers to Mass?? And all this time, I've been giving unsolicited advice away free of charge and wondering if I was ANNOYING.

Actually, I probably am annoying. But I hadn't realized that annoying = money.

Also, I find it interesting that they'll pay me for parenting articles, but not for articles on the ancient shrine of Brauron. This is what's wrong with our country-- people would rather have information on taking toddlers out in public than on Athenian rites of passage!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More self-promotion

But this time shameful, not shameless.

A while back, I submitted a first page for critique. With each passing day, I've grown more afraid, and more certain that it's not good enough.


Well, Editorial Anonymous got to my first page today. The verdict? I pretty much totally suck. So I tried a rewrite, but mostly I want to withdraw this MS from submission to agents, stuff it in the furthest, most cobwebby recesses of my hard drive, and never see it again. And just focus on my new WIP which is way better anyway. And my magazine work, since that's at least decent.

Now, excuse me while I crawl under a rock and die a thousand deaths. ..... My favorite kidlit blogger hates my writing! Arghhhhhhhhhhhh. Maybe, when I feel a bit better, I'll go weep on Verla Kay's board for a while. But for now, I'll devote myself to dishes and laundry. It's probably what I SHOULD be spending my time on anyway......

Joining the Borg

I've started writing over at Associated Content because several writer-friends assure me that it's an excellent way to pick up extra cash.

On the plus side, assignments are short and easy.

On the minus side, I worry I may be selling myself too cheaply.

But it's a way to make extra cash without leaving the house. And it doesn't seem to use the same part of my brain as my children's work does, so it shouldn't hurt my other work.

We'll see... I'm giving it a one-month trial. If the effort to cash ratio is decent, I'll keep it up....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

People I wish I could hang out with

Neil Gaiman. On Colbert. What a totally awesome guy. We should have him over for a board game night sometime! =)

I love it when the people who write good books also turn out to be the sort of people I'd like to have over for dinner!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Randomly Cool

My favorite kidlit blogger apparently enjoys a bit of G.K. Chesterton from time to time! How cool is THAT. And in a post that mentions Greek Tradgedy too!!!! I really wish she wasn't anonymous--she'd be AWESOME to have coffee with!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Moving in a fog

My daughter got a cough. Within a day it was full-blown croup, with fever and vomiting too. She's on the mend this morning.... a few minutes ago I took her temp and it was normal.

But then my other two kids started coughing...and one of them just started getting a fever....

And I'm still not recovered from the all-nighter I pulled with the first illness....

So no blog for a few days. Or writing. Or coherent thoughts......

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weird Dream

BTW-- Last night I dreamed that I submitted a children's poem to National Review and they published it! And that William F. Buckley sent me an hand written note praising me on my wit and literary ability!

And we were operating a 4 star restaurant out of our kitchen.

Talk about fantasy.

Lament, Fairies, and the moral order--a mini essay

Ok, I just finished reading Lament , by Maggie Stiefvater, and loved it. (I'm a sucker for Tam Lin retellings, and this is a GOOD one!)



It also got me thinking about the meaning of fairies ----- so I'm going to inflict a mini-essay on you. (I'm trying to move my 'first of the morning' rants off other people's blogs and onto this one. I think that's called 'establishing a presence', right? )



So:
My favorite line in Lament comes at the end of the book.
"What happens to Deirdre?"

Eleanor shrugged. "Probably an extremely boring life. Ugly
children. Midlife crisis. Bed Pan. Death."


Why do I like this line so much? Because it hammered home the meaning of fairies. It's a given that Zombies represent our fear of death and decay, right? Well, I think fairies are more complicated. They represent BOTH our fear of adult-hood, and a fear of perpetual adolescence.

They represent our fear of adulthood, because they're perpetually young and beautiful. They kidnap teens and give them an eternity of parties, dances, feasts and music. They have no responsibility or consequences. They can dance in the moonlight while drinking champagne, and they never have hang-overs. They can have bruised egos, but never broken hearts. They're forever 16, and forever the coldest, cruelest, 16 imaginable.

And what do the fairies fear? You can see it in Eleanor's reply. "Ugly children." --Having duties and responsibilities to another, coupled with the unconditional love of a parent. Suffering because you see another's suffering. COMPASSION.

"Midlife crisis" --realizing you may have been on the wrong path. Wondering if you focused on the wrong goals. Despairing, because you can't go back and start over. REGRET.

"Bed pans" -- Aging. Growing weak and ugly. Needing others to take care of your most basic bodily needs. DEPENDENCE.

and DEATH.

The fairies shun all these things, and so they're evil and destructive. And in all the Tam Lin stories, the answer to the riddle, the way to SAVE the fairy knight from his cruel fate, is to embrace these things. Janet must love the fairy knight, and want to save him from his agony. She has to wonder if she's made the right choice as she's waiting in the darkness beside the road. She has to hold onto him, no matter what happens, and she has to endure pain, suffering, and the specter of death.

***Random Lenten Adendum---ignore if you're not interested.-------******

Another interesting thing, at least to me, is that the Tam Lin story, and the fears of the Fairy Queen, also echo the Way of the Cross. (Didn't Chesterton say something about all these legends pointing towards Christ? Or was that Augustine? Oh, well, I'll look for it later.)

How does Christ save us, and the world, from Satan's dominion?

Compassion - Think of when he meets the women on the road, and tells them to weep for themselves, not for him. Or when he says 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do'

Regret - The agony in the Garden. "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?"

Dependence -- The wine-soaked sponge. Simon of Cyrene's help.

and

DEATH.

In a sense, everyone in the world is a Tam Lin, imprisoned by sin and cruelty. And Christ is Janet, riding to our rescue, so that we can finally LIVE.

****End of Lenten Rant********

Anyway, the upside of posting my morning rants on my OWN blog is that I can include religious themes if I want. The downside is no one will read them, argue with me, and call me out on my logical fallacies......

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Totally Out of My League

Looking for an agent reminds me of high school crushes.

For instance, I just subbed to someone who is TOTALLY out of my league. I mean, yeah, he IS one of the few agents who represent middle-grade science fiction.

(Aside: What is it with agents only wanting to represent the LITERARY stuff? Maybe I can pitch my novel as the tenderly written story of a young boy on a voyage of self discovery.... with explosions? No? How about a young boy learns important lessons about love and betrayal when he becomes part of an elite group of super heroes? Oh well...)

Anyway, he reps my genre, but...... but...... he has a couple big names. Really big names. Like "When I was in junior high all my babysitting money went to their books" names. In fact, I didn't even MENTION why I thought I was a good fit in the letter, because I couldn't keep from gushing and sounding like a crazed fangirl instead of a responsible, adult, author.

Then I did a search for his name plus "interview" and found out he used to represent Clarke and Dick, before they died.

I. Am. So. Not. In. This. Guy's. League.

But I subbed anyway. Because my husband said "go for it!" But I know that, deep down, he's just hoping I get a request from this guy so he can brag to his friends next time he's at Gencon.


Anyway, that's another sub out at least. And Flix and Vester are trudging along, about to break into a run now that the school visit is safely behind me!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My First School Visit

I did my first school visit yesterday. I found a few things surprising:

1. The total exhaustion afterwords. Being fresh and fun and enthusiastic for 90 first and second graders (split into 3 groups) totally wiped me out. I was asleep by 7 pm!

2. The kids favorite parts were seeing the magazines with my work in them, and the handout with places that they could send their work. They were so-so on the activity.

3. The huge range of ability levels/ages in just two grades. I'd hoped a group activity would even things out, but..... I need to rethink my activities for the next time.

4. Also, there were a fair number of kids with Aspereger's (Hadn't realized how common it was!) and they kind of did their own thing... (they did the group activity independently, and, not wanting to force things, I just treated them like groups of one. Which would have been fine, except that then a few other kids who had the ABILITY to work in groups, but not the desire, got cranky. )

So, in the end, it was a lot of fun, really hard, and I need to tweak my presentation a bit.

(Also, I realized that my idea of first graders was a bit optimistic. I assumed they would be like older, more competent, and less distractable versions of my own, super-ADHD, 5 year old..... um, no. Some of them were, some of them were actually about where she is. But some of the second graders were more like third graders so...... I don't know how early elementary teachers DO it! =) )

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cool Captchas!

So, those two word Captchas on some sites? It turns out that they're helping to digitize books!

Doodlebugs

This study just proves what I've always known-- Doodling is good for you.

I've always found that I can reconstruct and entire lecture AND my side-thoughts from a good page of doodles.

And, when I'm at my non-sleep deprived best, I don't even have to look back at my doodles to remember.

Though I've also found that on days when I doodle a lot, I have no mental energy left for writing. Hmmmm......

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Doors of my dreams....

These doors are completely AWESOME. What a great way to get more room for your books without losing wall space? And lets face it... your average door is totally useless.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Crazy Idea

It is a truth universally acknowledged that congress consists of idiots. I mean, seriously-- banning kid's books from before 1985? Demanding that all military ground vehicles should be unmanned by 2015? Stimulating the NATIONAL economy by building more office buildings... in DC??!?!?!?!

But the way things are currently set up, we're not going to get intelligent people in political offices. Who wants to uproot their family, and move to DC (very expensive) for a job that might only last 2 years, or 6 if you're a senator? Especially when you have to SPEND money to GET the job in the first place???


So here's my idea-- why does the central govt. need to be so central? I mean sure, in the days when mail could take a month to cross the country it made sense to put all the legislators in DC. But now? With the internet? They could do all their wheeling and dealing from home, and meet maybe 2 or 3 times a year to vote.

"Ah," my husband says. "But making these deals by internet wouldn't be secure. Hackers could make all their internal correspondence public!"

And I say, "GREAT!" Why not make the earmark/amendment process COMPLETELY transparent? Let the people know when their senator is trading campaign contributions for votes and pork! Let everyone see what scumbags politicians really are!

And, if the process was open and you could legislate from home, maybe we'd get higher quality legislators!

Because really, these days, the only people who run for office are those who are good at running for office--not at running things. And I'd rather have a funny-looking Senator with good ideas but poor public speaking skills than a photogenic, made-for-tv idiot.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Celebrating Cyril and Methodius Day!

Around here, we don't do Valentine's Day. I stopped celebrating it in college. I love chocolate, but it's so much sweeter at 75% off! And then you get more, too!

We make Valentines for the grandparents because they care, and because the kids enjoy it.

But, for the most part, we put all our efforts towards celebrating Cyril and Methodius, instead.

Why? Because today is THEIR feast day, too! And they invented an ALPHABET. (That's why the Russian Alphabet is called 'Cyrrillic" and looks suspiciously Greek. Cyril and Methodius created it so the Slavs could have their own translation of the Bible.)

Seriously. The guys were awesome. Look them up: Cyril and Methodius in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

So how will we Mundys be celebrating?

Greek Chicken and Potatoes. (MMMM Greek food)
Maybe a big budget classic hollywood Greek flick?

.....oh. And Pink Cupcakes. For the kids.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Words, Words, Words!

Do you ever get a word stuck in your head? For me, when I do, it's like a song I can't stop singing. Except, in this case, it's a word I can't stop thinking, that keeps trying to sneak out into my typing.

Today, I have Palimpset stuck in my head. Worst of all, I can't remember what it means! Oh well, off to the dictionary. (I have the Chambers. It's marvelous, and a gift from my husband. Every page has words I don't know! what a luxury!)

oops! I was spelling it wrong! It's Palimpsest! And it means: A manuscript in which old writing has been rubbed out to make room for new; a monumental brass turned over for a new inscription.....

Suddenly, I remember where I first heard this word. And why I love it. And why it's stuck in my head at this particular place in my WIP, which DOES involve some ancient archives. Oooh. And, in a way, the whole plot may hinge on a palimpsest! I see now!!!!!

By the way....I am sane, really. I just like words.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Two steps back

I just had to delete everything I wrote yesterday. It was dull, melodramatic and took the story in a dumb direction.

ARGH. Well, at least I can rewrite the scene and do it better this time. I hope. Maybe I should just insert a line note like: Get hero out of this situation through a combination of pluck, bravery and wit, move on to the next scene, and deal with it in the revision.

Except, since I don't work from an outline, the content of the next scene sort of depends on this one.

ARGH. Well, if I forge ahead, I guess I can always fix it in revision.

Ooh! Wait!!!! I just figured it out...... woohoo! Thank you, magic writerly blog of doom!!!!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Productive

Well I managed 450 words on my WIP today. Not bad considering that I'm sleep deprived and the kids are sick. (I've felt much better ever since I found out Pratchett is a 1200-word a day guy... and he's NOT taking care of small kids!)

Even better, I sent off my next round of queries for Yeller. Ok -- at 3 queries, it's a pretty small round. But at this point I'm only querying agents I can get excited about.

AND to top it all off, I've been working on dishes and laundry AND got a 1/2 hour of phonics in with my 5 year old.

Not too shabby, since I haven't slept for more than 45 minutes straight in nearly a week......

Slogging

Ok, so I'm a fifth of the way through chapter 3 on my WIP, and I've hit the wall. Every paragraph is a slog. I can't get the words out, they're like cold honey - hardly moving at all.

And so many tempting ideas for other books are dancing before my eyes.

But I have to ignore them and force myself to go on. I learned that with "Yeller." Otherwise, I just keep writing beginnings and never FINISH anything.

(I'll have to hit the library soon, though. Some time spent working on my NF project might give my brain the break it needs.....)

Don't believe people who tell you to only write when it's fun. If you do that, you'll never get anywhere......

(Now, off to do some dishes and see if that helps me crank out the next 100 words. So slow today!!!! )

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Swan Maiden

So, I just finished reading The Swan Maiden by Heather Tomlinson. I'm usually a sucker for "fairy tales retold" and when I saw this one on the library's new book shelf, I wondered why no one had recommended it to me.

Well, now I know. The story started off strong, with good depth of characters and an interesting and believable world. But about half-way through, something changed.

I think the author decided to cleave to the outline of the original tale. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well here, because the events that followed didn't really work with the characters she created.

Instead, it seemed like Doucette, the heroine, had suddenly turned from a good, and kind and brave princess into a spoiled, arrogant, nasty little brat. After a few chapters of this, I hoped she never reunited with her true love. I hoped she was doomed to spend eternity alone in the wilderness. Because, frankly, I rather liked the hero and didn't want to see him saddled with a nasty, self-centered shrew.

But, of course, fairy tales MUST have fairy tale endings. I'd hate to see what becomes of the poor man after a winter with Doucette, though. He'll probably end up a typical swan-pecked weakling.....

So, I can't really recommend this book. It had a lot of potential, but I think the story ended up quashing the characters. (I can imagine them as tragic figures in a curse--forced to act out this story even though it doesn't fit them. Cursing the cruel author who has given them wills of their own, then bound them to a tortuous outline.)

If you really want to see how strong characters can retell a fairy tale without having to stick to the original story, check out Robin McKinley, Elizabeth Pope, and Elizabeth Bunce. They've all written books I would read again. Swan Maiden? not so much.....

Curse you, Holly Lisle!

Or at least whoever designed your book.....

I was in the children's section yesterday and noticed that Holly Lisle had a new Middle Grade novel out! I enjoy her adult stuff, so I decided to give it a try.

Except..... the print is PURPLE. PALE purple. It gave me a headache while I read the first page.

So, Darn you, Holly Lisle! I kind of wanted to read that book, but not if I'm going to get ill from it!!!!

(Maybe when it comes out in PB, it won't have the fancy print?)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reading, Writing, and Dishes

Yesterday I finally read Westerfield's Uglies. On the one hand, it left me dying for book two (alas, there's a wait list at the library!)

On the other hand, it left me with an unquenchable desire to burn all my notebooks and pencils, delete all my files, never write again and devote my life to Webkinz and chores. Because I can't see how I'll EVER be that good.

Today I read Montmorency by Eleanor Updike. I enjoyed it and will definitely pick up the rest of the series, but it's more in my league. So I sat down and wrote 500 words on "Flix".

Meanwhile, I'm gearing up to send out the next run of queries (kind of annoying since a few of the agents want synopses, too -- argh....)

And I'm eagerly awaiting the day when Editorial Anonymous unleashed the full power of her snark on my first page.....

(It helps that it's not currently too cold to write.... when my house is 58 degrees, all I can do is play tetris.....)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Too Cold to Write

I have a warm tray of brownies. I have a fresh pot of coffee. The kids are being reasonably well behaved. Its dark and cold, and I'm not in the mood for chores.

So I opened up my WIP file and realized: This crummy, crummy, single digit, house can't seem to warm up above 58 degree weather has given me WRITERS BLOCK. And a stuffy nose.

I'm going to huddle on the couch, play Mario, and count the hours until my husband gets home. (4 or so...)

Because right now I am just too cold to move and too cold to think. And that's WITH the wool hat on!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gluttons for Punishment

Sister Mary Martha had a great post on Gluttony the other day. I was especially struck by the breakdown of the types of gluttony:


Praepropere - eating too soon.
Laute - eating too expensively (washedly).
Nimis - eating too much.
Ardenter - eating too eagerly (burningly).
Studiose - eating too daintily (keenly).
Forente - eating wildly (boringly).

And, this morning, after reading a post over at Editorial Anonymous on questionable contests, I realized that these categories also apply to WRITING. Now, I'm not saying that overeager writers are necessarily committing a mortal sin (though, based on some of EA's slush, there may be some near occasions there), but I think that avoiding these pitfalls can make us more successful writers in the long-haul.

Praepopere- Submitting too soon. Have you had your writing critiqued yet? Did you take constructive criticism? Did you at least run spell check? As I've said below, I had a year where I submitted WAY too much-- and most of it had never been critiqued and just wasn't ready to go. A critique isn't required, of course. I'm usually the only one who looks over my magazine pieces. But they're also usually 5th drafts, and I have an easier time distancing myself when it's only 800 words.

Laute- Do you think the reason you can't get published is because you need more supplies, more expensive computers, more classes, more conferences, more "how-to-write" books and more memberships? Getting too obsessed with acquiring the tools for writing can keep you from actually working on your craft.

To get published you need: Pencil, paper, a place to type and print (usually called a 'Library' for non-computer owners),envelopes and stamps. And, most importantly, a will to improve. Which costs nothing.

But new writers often let themselves get caught up in costly extras. (ooh! I just need one more ICL class. And SCBWI conferences in NY and California!!! and...and....) Don't. Just work on writing well and submitting well. As the ladies at Writers' Beware always say, money flows TO the writer.

Nimis Writing too much. At some point you need to stop writing and actually SUBMIT or you'll never be published. Also, sometimes a break, a nap, some coffee and a snack will really improve your prose quality, even if it hurts the quantity. AND if you only write but never take time out to READ good writing in your genre, how will you improve? Take the time to find some good examples. You need something to aim for! Even Rowling read Lewis. And she's nowhere as good as he is in terms of style, but imagine how bad she'd be if she was writing in a literature-less bubble!!!!!!!

Ardenter -Submitting too rashly. To make money at this, you need a strong desire to be published. But don't let the desire to see your work in print make you lose your common sense. Keep a cool head. Research agents and publishers. Don't fall for scams.

Studiose - Writing too daintily. If you want to succeed, you can't wait for the mood to strike. You have to write even when it's HARD. Even when it feels like work. If you only write when it's fun, you'll never make a profit!

Forente - eating wildly Ok. I'm not really sure how this differs from Ardenter. Anyone want to explicate it for me so I can finish the post? =)

Monday, January 5, 2009

One of those days

I just advanced my plot more by deleting 600 words than I had by adding them in the first place.

Don't have to cut the character, at least. I just realized that her story was a lot further along when my MCs story started.

Still, work is going slowly right now. The kids are still sugared up from Christmas and need constant supervision (Need to get back to whole grains and veggies!!!!), i STILL have to finish my Christmas cards, and I'm distracted by the Wii. My first draft for Flix is going to be nearly as bare as my first for Yeller, I think. The difference is that this time I KNOW where i need to go back and flesh things out, and I'm noting that as I work.

So this time around, friends will have an easier job telling me what stinks!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Some Stats on My Career To Date

2005
# of Submissions: 38
# of sales : 7

Batting Average: .184

2006
# of Submissions: 27
# of sales: 1

Batting Average: .037

2007
# of Submissions: 88
# of sales: 1

Batting Average: .011

2008
# of Submissions: 25 (counting resubmissions on revision requests)
# of sales : 2

Batting Average: .08

A few Observations:

1. Even though the first year of writing was my highest Batting Average, I've made steadily more money every year.

2. This year was my best year ever, and I made twice as much as my next best year. A big reason for this is that I shifted from writing poems in 2005, to writing short stories. And now I'm trying to move over into novels!

3. In 2007 I made a phenomenal number of submissions relative to my productivity. Why? I think it was my "Cocky Year." I'd just joined SCBWI, I thought my picture book manuscripts were awesome (they weren't) and I subbed them to every publisher in creation. I'm just glad that no one remembers the slush. Because I am seriously embarrassed for myself.

4. I've also made fewer submissions as my work becomes more targeted and I now favor certain magazines. Also my novel writing is taking up a lot of time, so I only take the time to submit a short story if I think it has a very good shot of being accepted, or at least seriously considered. After all, any time spent subbing is time NOT spent writing.

5. I expect my stats to be pretty poor this year as I'm including agent subs in the numbers, and I expect that, like other first-time novelists, I'll have to try many agents before I find the right fit.

Anyway, I thought these #s might be useful to others just starting out in the submission game. I DO think I could improve them if I was a more prolific writer. We'll see what happens as the kids get older....

Starting the New Year off Right

With a flurry of submissions!

I've decided to follow the policy of "receive one rejection, look over query letter and then send three more out" so we'll see how that goes. Though I can already tell my new book is better than the last one. I'd shove the last one in a drawer and not sub it at all, except that it IS better than 1/3 to 1/2 the MG out there, I think. So I'm trying to find an agent.

I also need to send off my Highlights entry today!!!! I hope they like it -- because I worked like the dickens on it!!!