Thursday, April 29, 2010


Oh yeah.  I seem to have forgotten that this is a writing blog. :)  So... let's get back to that, shall we? :)

I started working on my current WiP back in January, so it's going to be a WiP for a nice, long time.  I'm ok with that.  I'm not in a big, crazy hurry.  Real Job and Family certainly derail my efforts, and since both Real Job and Family center around young children, it's not hard to see why they often take priority.  That's cool with me. My WiP is like a good friend.... it understands when I'm gone, and when I return, it's like I never left.  We pick up right where we left off.  In fact, my recent necessary time away was actually well-timed, since I was coming to a point in my WiP where I was getting stuck on the same darn thing over and over, and it will be nice to look at it again with fresh eyes.

Although I've plotted out several whole novels before, this is the first once I have taken a stab at seriously writing.  I've realized about myself that when I plot and plan everything, then I lose interest in writing it.  So now I know that I need to leave some mystery for myself and let the plot drive itself sometimes and just see where it goes.   That, for me, is what keeps it fun.

But since this is my first serious effort, I am running into an issue that is new to me, and that is organization.  In past efforts, I always started at the beginning, wrote a few chapters, then it sort of began to feel forced and fizzled out.  This time, I started with a scene about a third of the way into the story, then backed up to the beginning, then a scene in between, then changed the beginning, and so on.  I realized that figuring out how to organize is going to be a must for me.  I looked at a few of the programs out there, like yWriter, but I don't like to write within programs like that.  So then I just decided to give each "chunk" (I am calling them chapters but not really sure they will all work out that way) a separate Word Document and I'm keeping them together in numbered order in a folder.  That's working as far as organization, I can find things, and I can jump around quickly and easily without losing track of anything, but it feels odd and disjointed.  Worse yet, I really like the feel of pen on paper, and I have been writing mainly on my laptop but my best work so far has been done on paper and then transcribed.  Time consuming, and then I can't help but edit as I transcribe, which is not unlike quicksand in how sucked in I get and lost in what I already wrote.  I know, save it for revisions!

So... novels are long.  How do you organize your working document as you write?

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Little Bit of Love and Joy

That title is from the Queen song "March of the Black Queen".  By Queen.  My favorite group.  Queen. :)

Anyway, after two weeks of stress and a kind of stinky weekend, it's about darn time I get to something happy.  (Thank God, Lindsey... I mean really.  Your blog was getting to be a total downer.)  Yeah, I know.  But you guys are awesome and your comments always brighten a bad day. :)

So... happy news!  I actually won two bloggy contests while I was unplugged, so a huge THANK YOU to Tynga at  Tynga's Reviews for my brand spanking new copy of NUM8ERS and to Stephanie at Hatshepsut: The Writing of a Novel for NEFERTITI, CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER, CHILD OF THE MORNING, and a Roman coin!  Both immensely cool contests by wonderfully interesting ladies whose blogs I love.  Thank you!  Getting boxes in the mail have made my days!  I also have some awards to share, but I will get to those another time.

So after all this craziness, we had to run out after school to buy some sort of stone... something... for marking Cookie's little patch of earth.  The previous owners of our home left a stone cat sleeping in the middle of the front garden patch and a stone horse head (that sounds horrible, lol) on the corner of the driveway.  So we figured why not find a new little stone friend to add to the collection.  Now that I think about it, I hope a cat and a horse head are not buried in our front yard.  Oh my.  I think that one is better left untouched. :)  So as I stopped by Sam's Club for some tasty treats for Curly Jones' preschool class for her birthday tomorrow, Handsome Hubby brought Tootsie Roll to Home Goods.  I met them there and she had already picked out a stone pegasus.
I know you're wondering what all of that other crazy stuff is in the background.  (No we weren't, Lindsey.) That's ok, I'm going to tell you anyway, because it made me smile.  So we're in Home Goods, and we haven't been there in a while, and I decide we need to find some stuff to sit on our half wall between our breakfast nook and our dining room.  Our house is very quirky in (well, in many ways) that it has these huge tall ceilings and lots of really high ledges everywhere that look strange when left empty.  The previous owners had tons of fake plants hanging down from said ledges.  They would drop fake leaves and got really dusty, so we yanked them all down and decided to find ledge fillers of our own. For example...
You can find all manner of random globes, model ships, Jamaican voodoo guys, very old books, odd little trunks, giant magnifying glasses upon these ledges.  We have a lot of fun finding strange things for decorating them and every now and then we go on little "decorate another ledge" binges because there are still many more ledges around the house that need some serious personality.  So here's what we found today for our half wall:
I love that on this crazy globe bottle, it looks like massive Switzerland rules the world.
This thing is like a pendulum!  The owls teeter totter each other and the little ball underneath swings back and forth.  I had to have it.  Hubby thought it was weird but he fell in love with it when we got it home. :)
This poor guy is missing his tail, he has to go back. :(
New owl bookends for my writing desk!

Tootsie Roll and I had a ball picking out weird stuff.  Handsome Hubby asked me at one point what I would call this decorating "style" and I said, "Weird, mismatched, Old World. Birdly."  Hehe. 

HH then parted our company and Tootsie Roll and I had a fabulous trip to Toys 'R Us to shop for CJ's birthday tomorrow... better late than never.  You won't believe what we found:
This is a set of 12 little board books all about the Disney villains.  Leave it to my sweet toddler to be more in love with the villains than the princesses. :)  She calls every one of them "The Mean" and even though she knows all of the princesses by name, she always asks for video clips of The Mean on my computer and HH's.  The girl loves her her villains.  Not that this surprises me... when TR was in pre-K, every little girl in her class dressed up as a Disney Princess.  Every one.  Except her.  She was a "pumpkin witch". 

We had plenty of other birthday success at the 'R Us as well, then went to McDonald's, just the two of us, which was fun.  She needed some one on one time.  After we got home and we wrapped presents and did homework, TR got ready for bed and I read her The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, which is a really nice story for a child who has lost a pet.  Since the torrential rain kept us from burying Cookie today, we will do it tomorrow but first we'll make a list of the ten best things about him and when it's all done, we'll put his little stone pegasus on top.

Not to leave you on a sad note, though... I told you my house was quirky, right?  When we moved in, our kitchen was painted Pepto pink.  We did change that, but one thing that remains is the very... unique... breakfast nook table.  Feast your eyes on my table of beans and glass.  That's right.  
Oh, wait, you can't see the beans?  Zoom in with me...
Yes, under the glass tabletop lay hundreds thousands of black beans.  I know.  Huh?  Kind of interesting in a quirky kind of way... although I have to say that even though this is the table we eat at at least twice a day, I have a nagging fear of children and glass tabletop.  KnowwhatImean?

While we're in fun picture mode, here is the amazing Beauty and the Beast cake my sister in law made for Curly Jones' party:
My sil put tall, sparkler candles in it when it was time to sing to her.  No, you can't have her.  But if you are somewhere near central/northern NJ, you can order a cake from her. ;)  The top tier of this one was yellow cake with banana cream filling and the bottom tier was chocolate with chocolate.  To die for!

Finally, in the spirit of spring and happiness and lightness and change, I chopped my hair.  Love doing that when it gets long.  Will post pics soon. :)  Thank you all for being so kind, for your wonderful, supportive comments over these past two weeks with everything and for your kind words about losing Cookie.  (The hardest thing is seeing your 7 year old sob).  But tomorrow we have a birthday and you know what they say - a terrible dress rehearsal means a great opening night.  Here's to a much happier May!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bad Luck Birthday Take 2

Last year, we had Curly Jones' second birthday party at our house, just family, nothing crazy.  That day, our air conditioner decided to have an internal fire that destroyed it.  It was about 95 degrees and we had no air conditioning.  $2000 later, we had a new heater and A/C... the heater was only two years old but the new A/Cs run on different coolant and they are connected - the heater couldn't use the new coolant, so we had to replace both.  The same day, my sister arrived for the party and broke her ankle going down the stairs as soon as she arrived.  So I spent a good amount of time with her in the ER, and she spent a good amount of weeks in a cast.  Also that same day, I got the terrible phone call that one of our second graders at school passed away from a heart condition that no one, even her family, knew she had.  That loss stays with all of us at school.

Today we had Curly Jones' third birthday party at our house.  Luckily, no one broke bones.  We did end up with a broken gift, but that's not the end of the world.  CJ also peed on the carpet.  Twice.  Oy.  In the middle of the party, I came upstairs to get something and looked over at Tootsie Roll's hamster's cage.  Oh, no.  Not today.  But yes... sadly.  Hubby and I were upset but we didn't want to tell her in the middle of her sister's birthday party, so we waited until everyone went home.  He hadn't passed away yet, so she did get to hold him and cry and talk to him. He's not going to make it through the night.  Other than goldfish that lived for a day, this is the first pet our 7 yr old has lost... and she still talks about those goldfish.

We have lots of good memories.  Tootsie Roll got his cage last Christmas right before Hubby and I took a 10 yr anniversary trip to Jamaica, and TR was promised that we'd go pick out her new hamster as soon as we got back.  I took her to the pet store, and she fell in love with him immediately.  She told everyone who would listen that it was "love at first sight".  Cookie went through three cages in the short 16 months that we had him.  He chewed through the lock on the first one and escaped twice.  He had some great adventures but we always found him pretty quickly chewing on beach towels in the linen closet.  The second cage was a big, crazy affair with tubes and tunnels and a huge spinning wheel that looked like a ferris wheel.   He liked to fling poop and woodchips a ridiculous distance out of that one, so onto cage #3.  He also had a very cool ball that looked like a princess carriage.  He was very secure in his furry masculinity.Sometimes we would sit in a circle, foot to foot, and let him crawl all around.  Everybody would giggle when he would try to crawl up and over our legs.

We only had Cookie a little over a year but he was part of our family, part of what we think of as "us". We love you, Cookstaroo. We will miss you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shout Out

Hey, bloggy friends!!!!  I miss you guys like mad.  AND my writing... I haven't been writing in all this unplugged time because it's been so crazy with the Real Job.  My school budget did pass, not without major major cuts and lost jobs.  My husband's did not pass, nor did our kids' (we teach in separate school districts and live in a third).  Bad news, bears.

The good news is that my bloggy exile is ALMOST over... report cards are done, classroom budget is done, annual reviews are done, reviews for my college interns are done, we are in the midst of Earth Week which is crazy busy but fun and amazingly environmentally educational for our little guys.  They are loving it and we are spending gads of time each day doing outside activities, which we all love, and which has been a wonderful stress reliever.  Now it's just conferences and then a little bit of a breather before we start placement and all the fun end of the year stuff.  Hard to believe there are only about 40 school days left!

This weekend we are having Curly Jones' birthday party so there is mucho house cleaning to be done and I have not even shopped for presents yet! :O  Her birthday is actually the 27th.  I can't believe she is already turning 3!  Time flies like... a crazy.... flying.... thing. :)  I'm so mentally fried, lol.  I will have to post pics of her cake-to-be... my sister in law is an insanely talented cake maker.  (Unlike awesome Anissa, making incredible cakes for my children's birthdays is not one of my talents).  My sil's cake talent, I swear, sprang out of thin air a few years ago - it's like... she never went through the "eh" practice cakes phase, she boinged right into HOLY WOW amazing cakes.  This one will be Beauty and the Beast themed... I only know that it will be tiered and the rest is a surprise.  I can't wait to see it myself!

Hey, by the way... I somehow snagged a few new Bloggy Miyagis during my hiatus. Welcome, new friends!  I am humbled that you decided to hop along for the ride even without me posting recently.  I will be back in regular action by  next week.  In the meantime, I look forward to catching up on everyone else's blogs soon...  and I see the light at the end of the tunnel! :D

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Owls Made Me Do It

This week, I seriously thought that pretty much nothing could wake me from bloggy unpluggedness, seeing as I just got back from a memorial service, it's late, and I need to work on report cards among other schoolish things.  I'm not grumpy, just busy.  But the one thing that could raise me from the bloggy dead appeared just now and would not be ignored: 
Yes.  That's right.  Rebecca's OWLS.
Seriously.  She is giving away 3 of them plus other fabulous Rebecca things, like bookmarks and pop up note cards and A BOOK OF STICK PEOPLE HUMOR.  You don't even know.  Go visit her right now at her awesome blog and be sure to visit on Wednesdays, too.  Because her Wednesdays are hysterical.  You can find her here and enter her contest:  Sonshine Thoughts  .  Go there and be a follower and tell her I should win. ;)  Ok, must go back into self-imposed exile for now.... but that was so worth it! :D  See you all soon... next week should be the end of the madness for a bit... :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Ok, maybe the zombies did munch on my brains just a little.  I have been pretty much unplugged this week with work madness (report cards, conferences, basic skills recommendations, annual review, classroom budget... PAPERWOOOOOOOOOOORK!  Oh and setting up for our big ol' Earth Week next week - but at least that's fun!)  We are having meetings out the wazoo to keep us posted about the budget crisis that we are in.  Right now, because of the governor's cuts, the district is cutting 50 teachers.  If the budget doesn't pass on the 20th, that numbers shoots closer to 150 and those of us left (thank god I am not being cut) will have class sizes that skyrocket from where we are now (I have 22 first graders now).  We are fighting to save jobs and programs and... well... it's a whole soapbox that I will spare you but it means a whole lot of meetings.  Next week I may be similarly unplugged with all of the same Real Job things, but hopefully after that, I will get back to my irregularly unscheduled but relatively frequent postings. :D

More on this soon, but I have to give a HUGE shout out to a few people who have made this crazy time a little easier by bringing sunshine and rainbows and happiness with awards and I have won a few REALLY AMAZING bloggy contests recently.  I can't WAIT to tell you about them because they have made me smile like crazy!!!  Thanks for checking in, guys, and I promise I will catch up with your blogs as soon as I can! :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Not Eaten By Zombies

... but feels like it, lol. :)  This has been one of those weeks where the Real Job turns into a deadly Time Succubus.  It happens.  At least the weather has been nice!

So the book chain didn't work out because there were not enough interested people.  No biggie. :)

More later, probably much later, like after the kids are in bed tonight... :)  Happy Friday, everyone!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Who Wants to Play?

The other day, I got all excited because I got a letter in the mail.  You know, a hand-addressed letter from a family member, cool!  Much better than the bills and ads that are usually in there.  (I also got my new laptop cord in the mail that day - it was a red letter day!  Pun intended.)  So at first, I was a little bummed to find something that looked like a chain letter inside.

But it's not exactly a chain letter.  It's an "informal book club".  She put the address of the person who sent it to her on the back, and I am supposed to send a paperback or audio book that I have already enjoyed (no shopping necessary!) to that person and then send the letter on to 6 people with the address of the person who sent it to me on the back.  No bad mojo.  No "if you don't...." doom and gloom.  Just "if you can't, let me know so I can give it to someone else".  So, if all goes well, the person I am sending a book to will actually end up with 36 books.  Neato bandito.  I got one of these letters when I was a little girl - it was from Marty Rush's mom, and it was on Muppet stationery.  My mom was supposed to send her a Golden Book and send it on. :)

I have no problem sending someone a book I have already read.  Makes room in my bookshelf and spreads the love.  The only problem is that I don't know who to pass it on to, because I know a lot of people don't like these things.  So I'm opening it up to you guys!  You only send one person one book, you should theoretically get 36 in return (but, hey, if I get one, I'll be happy.  Cause.... free book! And it will be a fun surprise to receive in the mail!). 

If you are interested in playing, send me an email at MaddestHatter(at)verizon(dot)net with your mailing address.  Put "I'll Play!" in the subject of the email. If I get 6 takers, I'll send the letter on to you do you can join the fun!

Here is what the letter actually says:

1.  Send a paperback or audiobook that you have already enjoyed to the person listed on the back of this sheet. (Note from me: They just used address labels)  There is no need to use a box.  A padded mailing envelope is fine.  You should receive 35 books.  It is interesting to see where the books come from and what others read.

2.  Make six copies of this letter and put my mailing address on the back of each copy. (Another note from me: She included her own address labels for me).  Put 6 of your address labels with each copy of the letter.  Your friends will then have your address label to stick on the back of their letters.

3. Mail the letters to six different people, but do not send them a book!  You will only need to send one book to the one person whose name is on the back of this letter.

If you cannot do this within a week, please let me know so that we can be fair to all of the participants  I have been told that there is seldom a drop  in the club because you only have to pay for postage for one book.  The book can be sent with media postage rate (Media Mail/Book Rate).

So... make copies, mail your book, and get ready to receive lots of books to enjoy!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?

I am an Alice in Wonderland obsessed fan.  Not the Disney Alice or the Tim Burton Alice, but the real books, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. 

When I was in third grade, I read them for the first time.  I was also in my very first school play, which happened to be Alice in Wonderland as well.  (I was the Cheshire Cat).  Valerie Dippery was Alice.  I was jealous beyond words (she really did look the part with her long, blonde, wavy hair.  I didn't, with my long, straight, brown hair.) but it was still a magical experience for me that encouraged me to continue acting throughout grade school, high school, and college. 

The books themselves are still my very favorites, almost thirty years later.  I have countless versions of them, illustrated in classical and luscious and bizarre ways, annotated, note-filled, dog-eared.  I have a copy of the original work, Alice's Adventures Underground, handwritten by Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll - the pages are photocopies of the original in his handwriting with his own sketches).  I have books about the book.  I have one that postulates that Charles Dodgson was actually Jack the Ripper.  Strange, indeed.  If you walked into my house, you wouldn't notice any Alice things, but if you looked on shelves and in nooks and crannies, you would find many figurines, packs of cards, small treasures of Alice and the other characters.

One of the reasons that I love the books so much is that the entire things are satires of the English ruling class, court system, etc.  Dodgson brilliantly wrote scathing critiques of real people into his seemingly harmless, odd, bumbling characters.  There is so much underlying meaning in them that I find something new every time I read them.  One of the pieces that has remained a mystery to many is the Mad Hatter's question to Alice, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"  Most people brush off the nonsensical question even though it is naggingly unanswered, as we shrug off many of the other absurdities.  As readers, we are now far enough removed from Dodgson's England that we don't recognize most of the satire anyway.  I'm including myself here, I know about it because I have done extensive research for papers and a writing project that may one day find its way back into working order.

So why is a raven like a writing desk?  Originally, it is thought that Dodgson had no answer in mind.  However, in an 1896 version of Alice, he offered this solution: "Because it can produce very few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar (sic: it's raven backwards) put with the wrong end in front."

Aldous Huxley wrote "because there's a 'b' in 'both' and an 'n' in 'neither' in response to the riddle.  James Michie wrote "because 'each' begins with an 'e'".  David B. Jodrey, Jr., suggested, "both have quills dipped in ink".  Cyril Pearson wrote "because it slopes with a flap".  Another answer is "Poe wrote on both".  In chapter 39 of The Shining, Stephen King wrote, "The higher the fewer, of course!"

I have also read:
They both have 2 eyes (i's)
"A dark wing site" is an anagram for "A writing desk"
They both have legs.
A writing desk is used to correspond.  A raven responds with a caw, a caw-response.
Because the raven has a secret aerie and the writing desk is a secretary. (aerie = lofty nest of a large bird)
They are used to carry on work and work carrion.

There are several other good answers out there, and many that are a stretch.  Several of these are from research I did at a zillion years ago.  Just food for thought... I wish I could be so cryptic and satirical in an otherwise silly story that people would still be researching it over 100 years later.  Literary genius.  One of my biggest inspirations!