Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Friday, December 31, 2010

By the skin of my teeth...

Kind of a disgusting image, when you think about it. Makes me want to pull out the electric brush and scrub until my gums recede.

Finished my 100th book of 2010 with twenty-five minutes to spare. Whew! Not a very thick coat of plaque between me and failure. How lame to finish the year one book short. I couldn't let myself.

Now I'll have time for long books again.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Still Counting...

Two more days, two more books.

I'm rediscovering all the great short novels in my house. Who knew the shelves held so many? I might never have remembered them without this urgent need for short books.

I reread Fahrenheit 451 last night for the first time since college, when Ray Bradbury came to speak and I soaked up every word. I still want to "graduate from the library" the way he claims to have done, but I fear I fall short.

I am astonished to think that he wrote F. 451 in 1952, never having seen ear buds and ipods and large-screen TVs; and a whole generation of increasingly obese preteens (30%) who do little besides play Nintendo and Wii; and hoards of teens who sit  in rooms full of other kids and text as if no one else exists. And nobody reads. And picture books are dying a slow death. And literary fiction is dying a speedy one. And book stores have to sell movies and music and coffee to stay alive. And anti-racist books like To Kill a Mockingbird are banned because they use the word "nigger".

Call Bradbury a prophet? Or just perceptive and imaginative?

I also learned that my guess was right, that Ray Bradbury wrote episodes of "Twilight Zone." They were so reminiscent of Martian Chronicles. I figured.

On to my next short book...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Foot Odor Lingers...

I live with foot in mouth.
When I speak, nothing comes out the way I meant. When I write, my words have a chance of approaching the outer rim of my intent.
I write to make myself feel slightly less of an idiot.

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.   --Joan Didion


Two books today.

Yeah, okay, they were only 130 pages each and written for twelve-year-olds, but I have a challenge to meet, dang it!

Four books to go...

Countdown to New Year's Eve

Six more days and six books to go.

It's 1:37 a.m. Christmas night. Just finished book number 94.

Probably should read shorter books, but I'm hooked on this series, which is priming my brain to work on the boy story again.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

This Christmas Eve...

Christmas Eve and seven days to read seven books if I am to achieve my goal of reading 100 books in 2010.

Tomorrow: the family skis, I curl up on the couch and read. I can't keep up with the slowest child on the ski runs anymore, so this works out nicely for all. My perfect idea of vacation. Theirs, too. Maybe I'll ski with them on New Year's Day, if global warming takes a break long enough to create some white powder at Sundance instead of the slush we've got now.

Wish my missing family were all here instead of on the other side of earth.

Thankful for a silly and also lovely Christmas Eve (braided beards and silky shepherd hats and four Wise Men who looked like a musketeer, a Greek warrior, and a couple of cross-dressers) with all my children under my roof again.

Merry Christmas, all, especially my sisters in Fiji and Brazil, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Trivial and Fickle

I'm tired of my old blog design, and on an unrelated note, here's some usage trivia for you.

I just got back from Alabama, where they knock the hat off your head if you're rude enough to wear one indoors. No shirt, no shoes, no take-off-hat, no service. Also, people apparently don't do anything fun there.

Us: What is there to see or do around here? Any good trails or museums or historical sites?

Hotel concierge: I have no idea.

Gas station guy: Well, you could look at that billboard over there.It might say something.

That was all right, because we were too busy driving around getting lost to have time to do anything other than run, watch other people run, and take pictures of runners. Thank goodness for GPS.

While there, I ate grits for the first time, and would have liked them, except for the artificial butter swimming all over the top. Also, I learned the correct way to use y'all. I think.

Disclaimer: I heard this from someone who is not a southerner, who heard from someone else, that this is what they teach students in English class down South. If I'm wrong, don't throw a rock at me.

Y'all is for two to three people. All y'all is for four or more.

So, all y'all (notice how I assume four or more people actually read this blog), tell me what you think of my new blog design.

Too cluttered? Ugly? Liked the last one better? Even though it was waaaay too orange. Even though I only kept it for a couple of days.

Liked the old one better? Liked the old-old one better? Should I try again?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quick Christmas Picks

This is the year I set a goal to read 100 books. By Christmas I was going to have all kinds of book recommendations.

Which I do.

I just don't have time to talk about them.

I still have (ack!) eleven more books to read in the next three weeks. Plus Christmas stuff. No problem.

But people have been asking what books to buy for Christmas, and there's not much time left, so, okay, here's the short version of my 2010 book recommendations (not all published in 2010, but all read by me this year).

Keep in mind I have a literary bias. I mean, my true favorites are always the books I feel have a real sense of the beauty and wonder of language. They must tell a great story. I have to love the characters--or hate them and then grow to love them. The character progression has to interest me. The book has to have something worthwhile to say, but never, ever beats me over the head with its ideas. And in books for kids, they have to carry a sense of hope and possibility. Because kids need books like that.

My number one picks with these qualifiers:

Middle grade boys: The Clockwork Three, Matthew Kirby. My 11-year-old son's one-sentence review: "One of the best books I ever read."

Middle-grade girls: Kate DiCamillo's The Tiger Rising, even though the POV character is a boy. Which means it's also for boys, but most good books work that way. DiCamillo has a beautiful, poetic way with words and the story is simple and lovely.

Teen girlsWolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me, Kristen Chandler. See my earlier short review.

Teen boys: Interworld, Neil Gaiman. Gaiman's language and storytelling are always perfect. This one reminded me a bit of Diana Wynne Jones's multi-dimensional worlds, but was still brilliantly creative and entirely Neil Gaimanesque in style and development.

Fantasy: Diana Wynne Jones's Chrestomanci series, and Dalemark Quartet. See my earlier short review and the Diana Wynne Jones official website for more.

Older Teens: The Life of Pi, Yann Martel. Surprising, and then you want to start over and read it again. Makes you think. And funny in unexpected ways. My eighteen- and sixteen-year-olds loved this book. Me,too.

Adults:  To be honest, I didn't read a lot of big-people books this year, besides books for research related to my novel. The 100-books-in-a-year goal didn't exactly lend itself to long, slow reads, you know. So my favorite big-people book for the year was a really short one, a novella, actually: Hadji Murat, by Leo Tolstoy, a beautifully-written, tragic book about Tolstoy's real-life experience with the real Hadji Murat. The perfect pick for your literature-lovers, since this is not well-known or widely read. Also, it's short, so they'll have time to read it no matter how busy they are.

Picture Book: Didn't read a single one this year. Sorry. Nobody that age at my house. I'll do better there next year. So I'll just throw out one of my all-time favorite picture-books, instead: Petronella, by Jay Williams, Illustrated by Friso Henstra. Out of print, like most of Jay Williams's books, which is a gross crime, but you can still get it at and amazon in time for Christmas, I'll bet. A perfectly-told perfect story. Jay Williams was brilliant. Nobody does picture books like that any more. Yes, the illustrator matters. The newer edition makes Petronella look about 40 years old with bad bangs.


More soon for the new year, when I've finished 11 more books. Plus an author interview I've been meaning to do for a couple of months now.

No, I have not completely abandoned my blog.

We survived our trip to Alabama (didn't get lost, mugged, or crash), and my daughter won second in her 5k at the National USA Track and Field Cross-Country Junior Olympics.You can go here to see the official listing and her time, in case you're interested. Notice she was only one second away from the first place girl.

Am I bragging? Yes. As if I had anything to do with her speed. Ha, ha.

How obnoxious is this blog-design? I might get rid of it soon. Very soon. It's

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


It has been so long since I blogged, I think I forgot how. I have writer's blog-block.

Let me think of an excuse, quick.


Maybe a top-ten list:

10. Didn't feel like it.
9. I was writing. As opposed to what is happening here.
8. Plans for my next post way too big. I was intimidated.
7. My house was dirty (not posting didn't change anything there).
6. Too busy being thankful.

5. Working on a freaking novel in verse. You think I have extra brain-waves left over?
4. My kids hog the internet. They claim it's homework.
3. It snowed.
2. It rained.
1. Uh....I went for a run?

10 REALLY good reasons.

Actually, what I should be posting about are the good books I've read lately that I want you to read, too, but first I have to fly to Alabama and back to watch my daughter run a race.

Newsflash: I am not worried about this trip. I am over my travel anxiety/panic/freak-out tendencies.

I promise I'll be back soon. Unless my plane gets hijacked. Or I get lost between Montgomery and Birmingham. Or we crash and die. Or I never recover from motion-sickness. Or...never mind.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Thought of That While Riding My Bike, Again...

Albert Einstein on his Theory of Relativity: "I thought of that while riding my bicycle."

It happened again.

I didn't want to exercise because my head was in my book and I wanted to be writing, and...because I was feeling lazy.

But when I finally forced myself to get on the bike, 

and the canyon breeze was blowing through the hair on my legs (probably should have shaved), 

and the smell of maple was in my nose, 

something unjammed inside my head.

The mind-wheels got turning and the story fires got burning and suddenly I knew what to do with that one character in my book that had been stuck. 

I love my bicycle.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Drawing Winner

Ok, so only two people like free books. Or (more likely) only two people read my blog.

That's ok. I'm not whining. Er, maybe I am. But what these two people have figured out that the rest of you haven't, is that when a few people enter my drawings frequently, those few frequently win free books.

But I wax alliterative. And I will shut up now.

So, the winner of September's book drawing is....are both of you ready?


Congratulations, Alyosha. Send me your address and I'll send you a book.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Two More Days to Win a Free Book

I've decided to extend the deadline on my blog contest, since I only gave you two days to enter, which wasn't really fair.

The new deadline to win Kristen Chandler's new book, Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me, is Sunday, October 3rd, at midnight.To see contest rules, go here. It's a well-told story with a satisfying romance that teenage girls, especially, will love. And it has wolves. Real ones. Best of all, it's FREE. All you have to do is enter the drawing.

Winner will be announced Monday morning, so be sure to check back.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two Books, a Free Book, and Cheers to Some Friends

I walk into Borders one day and see stacks and stacks of a new book with a blue cover and a picture of a wolf.

Not a werewolf. A real one.

That gets my attention. I love wolves.

Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against werewolves and vampires. But I'm a total sucker for real, live wolves.

The other thing that catches my eye is the author's name: Kristen Chandler. Hey! I know her! We were in a workshop together three years ago. I remember her reading a scene from this very book. A very fine scene, as I recall.

I grab my copy and head home, where I curl up on the couch and spend some really pleasant hours with the lovely wolves of Yellowstone Park, a thoroughly likable tom-boy main character, and a way hotter love-interest than either Jacob-the-Werewolf or Edward-the-Vampire. Way cuter. And he feels as real as the wolves. I finish, put down the book, and sigh in satisfaction. I know my next blog-giveaway book.

What were in those snacks they served in that class? (Too bad they didn't they rub off on me). This is the second book published in the last year from that little group.

The third book just came in the mail this very day: Matt Kirby's The Clockwork Three--a fabulous book that's getting great reviews and you should all snatch up as soon as it appears in bookstores this week. Matt's  launch party happens to be in two days: 6:00 pm Thursday, Sept. 30th at the King's English bookstore in Salt Lake.I'll see you there, hopefully, where Matt will be talking about his book and signing.

Matt's book will be my giveaway for October. Hopefully by then I'll have a signed copy to give you.

One other exciting news item: my friend Bree Despain (also from that same class),whose book The Dark Divine came out early this year, just signed a movie deal on that book with the X-men guys. Congratulations, Bree!

And then one more news-bite that nobody but me will care about: I freaking finally finished The Swarm, by Frank Schatzing. It was quite exciting. I did nothing but sit around on my behind and read all day today. So why did it take me so long?

1. Because I'm used to reading kids' books and my attention span has shrunken, apparently.

2. It's a grotesquely fat book (almost 1000 pages) and way too heavy to carry to the doctor's and everywhere. A prime candidate for the Kindle. Even I think so, and I hate the idea of ebooks.

Now I'm way behind in meeting my goal of reading 100 books by the end of the year. I foresee a lot short books in my future.

But down to business. Free Books. 

I've been slacking on the giveaways, I know. It's been a rough summer. So this will be a short contest, since I'm trying to squeeze it into what's left of September.

The info:

September's Free Book= Wolves, Boys and Other Things that might Kill Me, by Kristen Chandler.

To enter:

1. Follow my blog by clicking on the follower do-hickey to the right of this post.
2. Comment on this post and tell me you  follow; also in that comment, request to enter the contest.
3. Do it by midnight September 30th, 2010. That's in two days. Thursday.

That's all!

Next month, look for a signed copy of The Clockwork Three.

Note: if you're a freebie junkie and one free book isn't good enough for you, you might want to take a look at The Giveaway Scout , a site that searches for giveaways, free stuff, and blog contests like this one.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Laurie Halse Anderson - Speak Poem

You've probably heard the controversy over Laurie Halse Anderson's beautiful book, Speak, which is being called "soft porn" because it deals with teen rape. I leave the discussion of book banning to other blogs, since that's being amply chewed over everywhere. But I had to share this video of a poem Ms. Anderson wrote, based on letters she has received from readers of Speak. As usual, poetry says it more powerfully than regular words could ever.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Love your helmet

My new favorite object:

Ever since Monday, when it saved my husband's head.

Here's a close-up:

See the gouges that would have been in somebody's head? The helmet hit twice.

Unfortunately, helmets don't cover arms. The left arm broke and was surgically repaired.

That's ok. We're used to broken arms. We already had one of those this week when daughter #3 tripped at a football game. Just a little buckle fracture. Radius and Ulna.

This is the bike that guys like to covet and wives and girlfriends love to hate.

Yes, it was a beautiful machine. Even I can see that.

See the twisted engine guard? It's my second favorite object this week, because it saved at least one leg from getting really smushed against a car.


Love your helmet. It's a beautiful thing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Wilderness

Hiking in the high Uintas this July:

 Mountain lakes.

Backpacking in a downpour.

Watching the sparks fly up in ribbons from a massive fire built on rock.

Not sleeping the first night because there might be bears.
And the ground is just so hard.

Falling asleep the second night the instant we hit the therma-rests because we are just so tired.

Freeze-dried food

Zero time wasted on face and hair.

A mountain silence bigger than space.

A million flowers.

A billion mosquitoes.

Lying on our backs on a rock slab watching layers of cloud barely overhead.

Sunset silhouettes.

Life stripped down to the simple.

We have our peace to carry back home.

Time to get back to work.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Writerly Life: Yes, We are (All) Totally Mental

Are writers all crazy?


I mean, we (some of us) work for free.

And if we are honest with ourselves, we expect that to continue to happen for at least ten years (unless we are Stephanie Meyer).

And we all know we may never get paid a single penny, even after twenty years.

Honestly, what sane person would do that?


  • we live in imaginary worlds where dragons exist and eleven-year-olds can save the world from utter destruction;

  • we do things like spend all day deciding in what order to arrange seven words;

  • and then tomorrow we erase all seven because they were stupid.

My theory: most (all?) writers suffer from
  • ADD (what other job would zoned-out, dreamy, late, always-getting-lost people like us not get fired from?),
  • OCD (how else could we spend twelve hours a day for months working and reworking scenes and sentences if we couldn't And then act out our a compulsion to write? How many authors have you heard say they "can't not write"?),

  •  (mostly likely) SERIOUS DEPRESSION. (Well, it goes with being sensitive enough to write something emotionally powerful.)

What do you think?

It's just a hunch.

But if not, how do you explain all those people at writing conferences who have the same freaked-out OCD hand-washing ritual--involving too-many-paper-towels-and-when-you-can-turn-off-the-faucet-and-how-you- can-open-the-door--that I have? 

Yep. I believe we're ALL crazy. Musicians and artists, too.
We only do this stuff because we HAVE to. Like we have to wash our hands.


Any sane person would have quit before she'd started.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

We're Back...

I am back from Korea. Thank you all for your book suggestions.

Unfortunately, I didn't read at all.

I was too drugged out on motion-sickness medicine to read on the airplane. Or the bus.

The rest of the time we spent running between subway stops and up and down flights of subway stairs. No wonder Koreans are so thin. They are ALWAYS walking. Also, they don't know how to make edible desserts (though they do make killer lettuce-wraps). I lost weight.

And... computer is back from the repair shop. It works (so far).

It's a blooming miracle. It has only taken two months. MONTHS. Not weeks. Not days.

Moral: do not drop off your machine to be fixed by a guy who works in a wire-filled dungeon in the basement of an acupuncture clinic.

Anyway, I am writing again. At last.

Vacations are nice. But getting back to work feels like putting my head back on again after airing it out for awhile.

I knew I was missing something. Just couldn't think what.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Suggestions, Please

Help! I'm getting on a plane headed for Korea in one week. That means I have 28-plus hours of potential reading time to fill, not to mention down-time in hotels.

That is a good thing.

The trouble: I've finished everything I was reading, and I don't know what book/s to bring. My goal, as you can see if you look to the right, is to read 100 books this year anyway, so I need all the suggestions I can get, all the time.

So, tell me--what would you read if you were me? What great books have you read lately? What are your favorite reads? Young adult, big-people, middle-grade books--I'm up for anything, as long as you loved it.

Thank you!

BTW, you can tell me what you think of my new blog design, if you want, which has nothing to do with fires, or books, exactly, but I liked it anyway.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Book Winner for June

Oops! I forgot about my own blog contest, which ended two days ago. Sad. Luckily I remembered today and pulled a name out of the hat.

Winner of the book-drawing for June: Hoontah. Congratulations, Kristi! Send me your address and I'll send you a book. You know my email. :)

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Last Day for Free Book

Just a reminder: tomorrow is the last day you can enter drawing for a free copy of Sid Fleischman's out-of-print marvelous little book, Jingo Django. Go here for contest rules and for more on why you don't want to miss this little-known book. 

Also, Maria, you won a book a couple of months ago. Contact me at and let me know your address, if you still want it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

In Memorium: Sid Fleischman; and a Free Book

Sid Fleischman died in March this year. I just found out, and I am mourning. I loved his books when I was ten. Still do. He had a way with language that delighted me when I was young and awes me now as I write my own books. He wrote like a magician, which he was: with plot twists and surprises that felt like rabbits pulled out of hats and Houdini-style escapes. His characters were my friends. When I signed up for the summer SCBWI conference in L.A. last year, it was largely because Sid was supposed to be there. When he canceled last minute, I was seriously bummed.

Most people are familiar with Fleischman's Newbery-winning book The Whipping Boy. Unfortunately, few seem know the fabulous Jim Ugly, or Ghost in the Noonday Sun, or Humbug Mountain. My ultimate favorite Sid Fleishman story is one that has been out of print for years, which I consider a horrible crime: it's called Jingo Django, and I've got a copy that I'll be giving away this month.  

Jingo has a perfect first page and last page, a wonderful first line and last line, and a gripping everything in between. You couldn't ask for a more lovably-flawed main-character, or more dastardly villains--a la Charles Dickens--or a more artfully-crafted book. Pardon my adverbs. I get carried away when talking about  Sid's writing. I consider this book perfect: it's everything I love in a middle-grade story for boys. Girls love it, too. I did. I keep hoping somebody will consider reprinting, especially now, in honor of Sid's passing.

Until they do, I'm offering it free to you. Yes. FREE BOOK. I did say that.

Same rules for entering drawing apply:

a) Follow my blog.
b) Leave a comment and tell me you follow. Also, tell me you want to be entered.
c) If you're not eighteen, get permission from a parent.

Contest will be open until midnight Wednesday, June 23rd.

You should also check out Sid Fleischman's website. It has writerly tips, answers to FAQs, and you can see what else he's written, as well as read his memorial page. Sid has also written an autobiography: The Abracadabra Kid that's worth checking out.

We'll miss you, Sid. The writing world has a big hole in it without you. You got my son reading to himself in bed at age eight, and that took some real magic.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Missing the Conferences

I love writing conferences. Like the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference that's happening next week. Like the SCBWI Summer Conference that's coming up in a couple of months. 

Conferences are where you learn everything you didn't know you needed to learn about writing craft and the publishing world.

They're where you get legitimate feedback on your writing and meet the writers you already admire--like Richard Peck and Karen Cushman--and the ones who are just starting out, like you.

Conferences are where you find your writing group, your writing friends, your mentors, and even your agent or book deal sometimes.

Writing conferences give you something to blog about.

But there comes a time when you need to stop conferencing (like how I just made that a verb?) and just get to work and write your wretched books. That's me right now. I have a book that's almost done, but not quite, and never have enough hours in the day to spend on it.

So I'm missing all kinds of stuff I'd rather not.
Like hearing the friends with whom I used to sit in workshops give presentations of their own.

Like buying way too many books (oh, how can a person have too many books?).

Like hanging out with other writer friends you haven't seen in a long time.

Like feeling the energy and excitement of all those writer brains getting together into one big mass. Wow. Nothing's quite like that.

Not happening this year.

I'm not going to WIFYR for the first time in four years. I'm not going to SCBWI. I am saving money. And maybe I'll actually get this book finished.

Have fun all you conference-attenders. Attendees. Why do they call them attendees, anyway? Attending isn't something that happens to you, it's something you do, right? Attenders.

Wish I were there. Honestly.

Dratted priorities.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Out of the Office

Taking a break this week on the blog to watch my daughter run steeple-chase in New Mexico for the weekend.

I am being forced to extend my leave of absence from writing, as well. My computer is STILL being fixed. I am getting a little irritated about it. Except that it gives me an excuse to read more. How can I complain about that?

Talk to y'all next week.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book-Winner for May and I become a Woman of Steel

Winner of May's book give-away: Anthy.

Congratulations, Anthy! You now own Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid. Send your address to me at ejjube at gmail dot com and I'll get your book in the mail right away.

A bit of trivia: as of last Saturday, May 22, I am a Woman of Steel.

I have a gray rubber wrist band to prove it.

This was my second triathlon. It was an all-women race this time. 800 of us. I don't win, but I finish, and that's pretty good for someone like me. Let's just forget about all the women older than me who still beat me.

The stinky parts:

*It poured rain all during pre-race set-up and was so cold they canceled the swim and turned the tri into a bi (run-bike-run). I was mad about that. The swim was going to be my best leg and give me a head start. I am not a great runner.
*I had killer cramps during that first mile run--probably because of all the meat and fat from the Poly Plate I ate the day before. Lau Lau and triathon don't mix well. Just a bit of advice.
*The shirts they gave us were teeny. I had to give mine to my daughter.
*They wrote my age on my calf in some kind of super-indelible-never-come-off-until-you're-dead-and-maybe-even-later marker (I think they ordered it from Robert Munsch) and I can't scrub it away. 42! my leg screams. This woman of steel is forty-fetching-two years old!

The good parts:

*It didn't snow: the weather kindly waited until Monday for that.
*I finished and didn't die.
*My cramps went away on the bike.
*So did the rain.
*It was fun! I got to do it with my sister, who got second place in her age-group (yay, B!).
*I got a cool triathlon necklace out of it. And a gray rubber wristband that says I am a Woman of Steel.
*I don't feel guilty about all the chocolate chip cookies I've been eating. I think I deserve cookies.
*I can be lazy for awhile and blame it on post-race fatigue.
*It's over.

I think I'm going to take another nap. Even though the race was last week. I'm milking it, ok?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Last Day to Win a Free Book

Just a reminder: tomorrow is the last day to enter my blog book-giveaway and possibly win Rick Riordan's new book, The Red Pyramid. Go here to find out more about the book and how to enter.

Still don't have my computer back. Complications, apparently. ARGH!

Don't mind me. I'm just freaking. I NEED to write.

Monday, May 24, 2010


My computer freaked out Thursday afternoon, and I had to take it to the computer doctor.

The doctor happened to be one of two non-store-affiliated computer-repair places in the entire county (I hate Circuit City for shutting down and taking away my computer geeks). There weren't a lot of options. Even so, I had instant second thoughts about leaving my baby there as soon as I pulled up.

My new geek is located in the downstairs of a former house converted into an acupuncture clinic in one of the sleaziest areas of town.

I couldn't find it at all in the beginning, though I could see half of its sign sticking out of the juniper bushes. No door to be seen. Just the acupuncture clinic and a ramp leading pretty much nowhere into piles of junk.

I wander around for awhile, then finally give up and ring the doorbell to ask the acupuncturist upstairs (apparently it was still a lived-in house, not just a converted one). After about five minutes an old Japanese man answers the door and irritably gestures  down the ramp toward the junk.

I try again. Through a non-door, down some dark, dirty stairs, to a hallway full of wires.

A huge, smiling Japanese kid with bad teeth and bad hair steps out and immediately starts talking computer talk in an excited voice.

I take a relieved breath. I have my geek, and he doesn't look like a rapist. Yes, I am judging purely by irrational gut feeling and the fact that Japan has very little crime. Also, because he is so excited to fix my computer. He turns it on, gets my error screen, and holds it up to his ear.

Him: Hear that clicking sound?

Me: Uh, no...

Him: That's the hard drive trying to load files and it can't.

Me: I'm not going to have to replace my whole computer?

Him: Oh, no. This is easy. I will call you when it's ready, probably tomorrow.

He doesn't give me a claim paper or have me sign anything. I hope he doesn't mix up my computer parts with all the other wires and computer body-parts lying around.

That was Thursday, late afternoon. Today is Monday, late afternoon. I'm hoping my baby wasn't sold over the weekend on ebay.

I can't work today, so I mope around and read an entire book.

I am lost without my computer.

This one has no space bar (don't ask). You can't write novels on a computer with no space bar. And I cannot focus my brain when I can't write. It spins. I sometimes think my computer is my brain.

So I'm writing a blog post on the computer with a missing space bar and it's taking me forever. My brain is still spinning.

But it works well enough for me to remember that the reason I decided to write this post is that I put no deadline on my free book drawing. So, let's make it Thursday, May 27th, just for an even week.

I'll tell you when I get my brain back.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Free Book and Two Excuses for Dropping Out of the Blogosphere

This has been a crazy month.

One reason for this is that I signed up to become a Woman of Steel last December. It sounded like a good idea back then. The Woman of Steel Triathlon was months away. It would give me a training goal, help me get in shape, blah, blah blah.

Now that the race is two days away, I'm thinking it was not such a good idea. I'm not feeling like a Woman of Steel. More like--I don't know--Woman of Silicone, maybe? I'm talking about muscles, of course, not...what you thought. Well, whatever.

I blame those people who set New Year's resolutions to get in shape this year and hogged all the lanes at the pool. And the February smog that made me not want to run. And of course all the rain this spring that kept me off my bike.

I've tried to make up for all that sloppy training in the last two weeks. Except I haven't been very good.

And I'm going to sample my first Poly Platter the day before the race. This is strictly research for my Hawaiian character in my current novel. My friend, Dori's, disclaimer: "Um, I know you sort of like to stay in shape and stuff, but this isn't going to be low-fat or anything. I mean, it's Hawaiian. I thought you should have an authentic Hawaiian experience."

Do I care about my race enough to pass this up for a plate of pre-race spaghetti? No way.

I'll let you know if I die on Saturday.

Research for this character, by the way, has been a blast. My Hawaiian/Samoan neighbors have bent over backward to help me and I've been trying to think of a way to convince someone I need a writer's grant to send me to Hawaii.

I guess that's a stretch. 

But I have been scrambling to see how far I can get on this draft before my kids are out of school next week, so I apologize for dropping off the planet lately. I've done very little lately besides read, write, research, and scramble to make up for all my scanty training.

But I'm still going to give away a free book, never fear.

I'm only offering one book for May, but you probably don't have it yet, unless you were like me and counting the days until its release:

Rick Riordan's latest, The Red Pyramid.

This has only been out in book stores for two or three weeks, so it's hot off the press. More great fun for Percy Jackson fans, Pyramid is the first in a new series called The Kane Chronicles and switches back and
forth between two narrators: a boy and a girl. This time we get Egyptian gods instead of Greek. Lots of adventure and excitement, and some real info about Egyptian mythology.

Same rules as usual to enter:

1) Follow the blog. You can click on the follower link to the right if you aren't a follower yet.

2) Leave a comment and tell me you follow, and that you want to enter the drawing.

3) If you're under 18, get parent permission.

Also, if you are Maria, you might not have noticed that you won a book last time. Email me your address at so I can send it to you. :)

Happy May!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I've been thinking about what it takes to be a writer.

*Patience, everyone says. It's true the publishing world is a slow place.

*Persistence, yes, because good writers don't ever just dash off a novel in a couple of weeks if they care about their creation. And because the publishing world is a slow place.

*Perfectionism, too, because you have to want to get it right badly enough to keep working long past the point when a normal person would send the #$!%&*! book through the shredder--or it won't be any good. And maybe it won't be any good anyway.

La dee da. Whatever.

Mostly, I realized this week, being a writer takes audacity. It takes mental swaggering. To think your writing is good enough to deserve to be in print on the national market. To take a place in book store shelves next to writers like Natalie Babbit, Sid Fleischman, Karen Cushman, Lloyd Alexander.

Really? You think so?

Maybe it's true. Maybe it absolutely isn't.

But to write all day long every day, to rework a thousand times and then again, to submit and keep submitting to people who know fine literature and work on Diana Wynne Jones's books and Neil Gaiman's? Seems more than arrogant, if you ask me.

Audacious even to hope.

It's what I'm doing. My own audacity astounds me. Somebody needs to slap some sense into me. Into all of us presumptuous enough to call ourselves writers.

Except we'd be too crazy to listen. It's a writerly thing.

Pure audacity.

Monday, May 3, 2010

April Give-Away Winners

Thanks to all who entered April's book give-away drawing. My heart felt cheered to discover a few kindred poetry-loving spirits out there. Carry-on, word-lovers!

Winners (ahem...that does NOT make the rest of you losers):

1st place: Princesa
2nd place: L.T.
3rd place: Maria

Congratulations! Winners, please email me at with your book preferences in order of most- to least-wanted. First place gets first pick, second gets second pick, etc.,  in case you all want the same one.

Just to remind you, the book options are  

Smiles to Go, by Jerry Spinelli,  

Savvy, by Ingrid Law, and  

Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Vol. 1, by Diana Wynne Jones. This volume includes two books: Charmed Life, and The Lives of Christopher Chant.

Go here if you can't remember what I said I liked about these books.

If you didn't win, you still have lots more chances. I try to do a book-drawing every month.

Happy May, everyone! Read like the wind!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Welcome to my new followers (Thanks again, Alyosha)! If you haven't yet entered April's blog drawing, you have two more days to win free books. Go here for contest rules and to see the books I'm giving away.

Today is National Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day, which means you carry around your favorite poem all day and inflict it upon everyone you meet. Which is what I intend to do here.

I had a hard time choosing. Something modern and obscure? Something famous that everyone was forced to read and hated in school? Something funny and accessible? I don't have a single favorite.

I chose this, just because I love it so much. And because it was Earth Day last week. And because it's Spring. And because Hopkins really is my favorite poet. I love the sounds. I love the images. It knocks me off my feet.

God's Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
   It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
   It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
   And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
   And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And, for all this, nature is never spent;
   There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
   Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Hold Ghost over the bent
   World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free books and why yesterday's poem was stupid

I almost let the month slip away without giving away free books.

I like books. I also like giving books away. Especially really fine books, with good stories and beautiful sentences. I try not to give away crappy books on my blog. I try not to give away books I didn't enjoy myself. They aren't always hot sellers. They are always books I have read, books I know you'll like, if you love words as much as I do.

This month's picks:

1. Smiles to Go, by Jerry Spinelli, who's one of my favorite authors.

2. Savvy, Ingrid Law, which I've offered before and nobody has snatched up yet, strangely. Probably because they don't know how great it is. (Newbery winner, folks!)

3. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Vol. I, by Diana Wynne Jones. This is actually two books in one. It's also my new favorite fantasy series for kids. If you haven't discovered Jones yet, you must. Neil Gaiman is a fan, too. He says Jones is "...always perfectly magical." I agree. Just delightful fun.

 The free book drawing goes until Friday (April 30) at midnight.
Winners choose their books.
This is always a small contest. If you enter, you have excellent odds of winning, so don't get discouraged if you haven't won yet. It's probably only a matter of time if you keep entering.
Same rules as usual apply:
To enter,
1. Become a) a new follower of my blog or b) already be a follower
2. Comment on my blog and tell me that you follow
3. Be eighteen or get parent's permission to enter.

Tres simple!

My teenage daughter read yesterday's poem.

Her (voice dripping sarcasm): How is that a poem? Because the words are all lined up in columns?(eye-roll here)

 Me: (shrugging) Uh, I thought it was funny. I liked the word-play. You know: Hat/Hate?

Her: Look of scorn.

I forgot how stupid everything is when you're that age.

So today's poem has imagery and rhythm you can feel, like a drum-beat. And is short, because long is stupid.

Note: I also decided not to give away a poetry book, even though it is National Poetry Month, because apparently, nobody but me likes poetry.

This is just for torture purposes:

by Langston Hughes

We have tomorrow
Bright before us
Like a flame.

A night-gone thing,
A sun-down name.

And dawn-today
Broad arch above the road we came.

We march!

Monday, April 26, 2010

What, you don't like poetry?

The blog response to National Poetry month has been a little tepid, to say the least.

I don't blame you. Why read poetry if you aren't in school and (most of all) aren't being forced? Sigh. Because it's my blog and I like it.

You only have to suffer through five more days and then National Poetry Month will be over. I've decided to post a poem a day for this last week of Na-Po-Mo, just to torture you, culminating in Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day, where you carry your favorite poem around with you all day and force other people to listen to it, like it or not. Ha!

But even if you're not a poetry-lover like me, I think you'll like today's poem, which is by Aaron Belz from Lovely, Raspberry, published by Persea Books. It was sent to me by as a daily poem to share with others, so I assume it's ok to share here. If not, my apologies.

The Love-Hat Relationship
by Aaron Belz

I have been thinking about the love-hat relationship.
It is the relationship based on love of one another's hats.
The problem with the love-hat relationship is that it is superficial.
You don't necessarily even know the other person.
Also it is too dependent on whether the other person
is even wearing the favored hat. We all enjoy hats,
but they're not something to build an entire relationship on.
My advice to young people is to like hats but not love them.
Try having like-hat relationships with one another.
See if you can find something interesting about
the personality of the person whose hat you like.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More Na-Po-Mo

A quote for National Poetry Month:

"When in doubt there is always form for us to go on with...The background is hugeness and confusions shooting away from where we stand into black and utter chaos...To me, any form I assert upon it be considered for how much more it is than nothing....The poem is a momentary stay against confusion."
                                                        --Robert Frost

And a poem, by Sylvia Plath:

The Night Dances

A smile fell in the grass.

And how will your night dances
Lose themselves. In mathematics?

Such pure leaps and spirals ----
Surely they travel

The world forever, I shall not entirely
Sit emptied of beauties, the gift

Of your small breath, the drenched grass
Smell of your sleeps, lilies, lilies.

Their flesh bears no relation.
Cold folds of ego, the calla,

And the tiger, embellishing itself ----
Spots, and a spread of hot petals.

The comets
Have such a space to cross,

Such coldness, forgetfulness.
So your gestures flake off ----

Warm and human, then their pink light
Bleeding and peeling

Through the black amnesias of heaven.
Why am I given

These lamps, these planets
Falling like blessings, like flakes

Six sided, white
On my eyes, my lips, my hair

Touching and melting.

Monday, April 19, 2010

National Poetry Month and a poem

April is National Poetry Month.

 This happens to be fitting because I happen to be writing a poetry novel--a story written almost entirely in verse.

Why would anyone do such a thing? Besides the fact that April is National Poetry Month? (Which is sort of irrelevant, actually, since I wrote the first draft before I'd ever heard of Na. Po. Mo).

First, because my agent thought I should.

Second, because it's fun.

Third, because I think a lot of teachers kill poetry for teenagers. I got lucky and had a teacher who showed me why I should love it. I'd like to pass that on, try to make poetry a little more accessible to kids.

But that begs the question: WHY on earth would anyone want to read a poetry novel?

I don't know.

Because it's a good story, I hope.

And it doesn't rhyme, mostly. And I've tried not to be obscure.

Because it deals with real-life teenage issues and is sometimes romantic.

And because I learned when I was seventeen that poetry speaks to the heart more any other kind of writing. It can make you laugh. It can make you bawl. It can rip your heart out. It can be powerful. I hope mine will be.

So, well, here's a poem for Na. Po. Mo. No, I didn't write it. Yes, I wish I had. Here's "Pied Beauty," by my favorite poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, a nineteenth-century Jesuit priest who, as you might expect, wrote a lot of religious poetry, though you don't have to religious to appreciate what he does with language (sound, rhythm, imagery):

Glory be to God for dappled things--
   For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;

       For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
       And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
       With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                                  Praise him.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who's afraid of witches and dragons?

Sorry about the long gap between posts. I've been on vacation for a week.
I traded 30-degree weather and avalanches for 75 degrees and earthquakes. I sat on the beach and watched waves, smelled salt, read four books and started a fifth. I went to an aquarium and saw sharks and sea-horses. I ran barefoot in the sand. I got wet in sea-water. And now I'm ready to get back to my Utah spring and back to my writing.

Which reminds me of something:
Fantasy-writers can't write, somebody once told me. They don't care about quality. "And, by the way," she said, "Harry Potter's crap."

One guy I know snorted at the suggestion that Lord of the Rings books might be fine literature.

Me: "Have you ever read them?"

Him: "I can't remember."

Me: "Really?"

Him: "Um, probably not."

Another guy: "They're just fantasy. Fantasy is escapism. People should face life, not run off and pretend to fight dragons."

That's the intellectuals.

Personally, I think they're scared.

But poor Harry gets it from the other end, too. Sometimes Rowling's books get burned because they're evil. I didn't believe those rumors until the day some people came to my door, Bible in hand, preaching against fantasy fiction (see my post about it). I'm still shaking my head over that one.This is 21st-century America. Do we still need to burn our witches? Really?

Is everybody afraid of fantasy?

Ursula LeGuin has been fighting the stigma against fantasy for so many years she gets pretty annoyed. She says,
"I think that a great many American men have been taught... to repress their imagination, to reject it as something childish or effeminate, unprofitable, and probably sinful.
Now I doubt that imagination can be suppressed.  ... If it is rejected and despised, it will grow into wild and weedy shapes; it will be deformed.  At its best, it will be mere ego-centered daydreaming; at its worst, it will be wishful thinking, which is a very dangerous occupation when it is taken seriously.  ... Nowadays, with our secular Puritanism, the man who refuses to read novels because it's unmanly to do so, or because they aren't true, will most likely end up watching bloody detective thrillers on television, or reading hack westerns or sports stories, or going in for pornography...  It is his starved imagination, craving nourishment, that forces him to do so.  But he can rationalize such entertainment by saying that it is realistic--after all, sex exists, and there are criminals...and also by saying that it is virile, by which he means that it doesn't interest most women." (source:

I've noticed that plenty of women are just as scared of imagination flights, too, but it's an interesting point, and true, I think, that if imagination is repressed, it's likely to morph into something less desirable.

LeGuin's own writing is beautiful, and about as hard-core fantasy as you get. Nobody could accuse her of not caring. Her language is artistic,poetic; stunning. And, like all fine literature, realistic or un-, it makes you think:

About who you are and what sort of person you want to be in real life.
About what to do when faced with hard things, enemies, and things that scare you.
About what to do with the ugliness that's sometimes inside your own head and heart.

That's fantasy. And fiction, for that matter. It's a way of learning how to be objective about real-life issues, of stepping back and seeing ourselves completely out of context--in somebody else's story--so we can step back into reality again, ready to face our own set of problems with courage.

Like the soldier that fantasy-author Tracy Hickman said he met at a book-signing, who told of how he'd had been lying face-down on the ground with a shattered back after a surprise enemy attack and suddenly remembered a character in one of Tracy's novels. Inspired by the memory, he managed to get to his feet and save his friends' lives by warning them of the danger.

Mocking fantasy because it's escapism is like mocking vacations.

Or recess.

Or time-outs.

Or sleep.

Everybody needs to escape sometimes. As long as you come back again, escape is a good thing.

As for quality, that's a personal thing. There's plenty of realistic crap floating around out there, too. Myself, I don't enjoy slogging through any book in any genre if the writing's poor, no matter what else it has going for it. 

But I'm not scared of witches or dragons. Are you?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book-giveaway Winners and Some Thoughts on Art and Artists

We have three winners for this month's Neil Gaiman book-giveaway:  1st, Kim; 2nd, L.T., and third, SuperPi. Congratulations and thanks for following!

Normally I'd let first place get first pick between

The Graveyard Book

Odd and the Frost Giants

 And Coraline

and then the second winner would get to pick between the two remaining books, and third place would get whatever hadn't been picked by #1 and #2. But since I'm behind the ball and haven't bought any of the books yet, I don't care if you all pick the same book.

Winners please email me your choice of the above books and your address at and I'll send it to you this week, while I'm in my off-writing mode for a moment.

Here are a couple of quotes for the last week of March, which happens to be the anniversary of the deaths of Ludwig Van Beethoven and Virginia Woolf, both of whom suffered from bouts of severe depression.

I suppose it's the artist's curse to feel things more, both the beauty and the pain.

Beethoven, speaking of his awkwardness with women:
"In society I am like a fish on the sand, which writhes and wriggles and but cannot get away until some benevolent Galatea casts it back into the sea."

Later he wrote, "I would have committed suicide long ago had I not read somewhere that it is a sin to part from life voluntarily so long as one can still do a good deed. Life is so beautiful, but for me it is forever poisoned." Literally, it was poisoned; in 2005 the U.S. Department of Energy found found enormous amounts of lead in Beethoven's bone fragments. Perhaps that contributed to his depression, but I'm inclined to think it had as much to do with the composer's artistic sensibilities.

Here's Woolf:
"What a born melancholic I am! The only way I keep afloat is by working. Directly [when] I stop working I feel that I am sinking down, down."

And yet, she says, "If we didn't live venturously, plucking the wild goat by the beard and trembling over precipices, we should never be depressed, I've no doubt, but already should be faded, fatalistic, and aged."

I'd rather risk depression.

So we writers, musicians, and artists don't stay in our art-caves, don't keep our work to ourselves, but thrust ourselves and our art, such as it is, out into the world for others to thrash (one critic compared Beethoven's music to "the upsetting of bags of nails--with here and there also a dropped hammer"), with the hope that someone somewhere will also see the beauty, which gave us the urge to create in the first place, and be uplifted by that beauty, if only for a moment.

Beethoven's music does that for me, in spite of the nails.

Hopefully, we also survive.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Free books for March because I finished my novel

I finished my book. Really, this time. All the way. I'm not revising anything on it anymore, until an editor buys it or my agent tells me to. I've emailed Agent Steve and will be pushing the "send" button as soon as he answers.



Shouldn't there be fanfare or something?

You used to have to walk down to the post office and pay for postage at least. It feels so anti-climactic this way. Click. All done.

It's cheaper, I know. Fewer trees die. It's probably a good thing.

I feel like I need ceremony.

I guess I'm just going to have to celebrate by giving you Free Books. FREE BOOKS! Free Books! I have three Neil Gaiman books this month, just because everybody likes him so much, and I'm drawing three winners, so your odds of winning have just improved over last time.

Here are the prizes:

1)Graveyard Book (Newbery winner)
2)Coraline (if you've only seen the movie version, you haven't seen how Gaiman puts his words together)
3) Odd and the Frost Giants (Gaiman's newest- really charming)

To enter,
1) follow or subscribe to my blog, or already be a follower or subscriber,
2) comment and tell me so,
3) be 18 or older or have a parent's permission to enter,
4) do the  above by Saturday, March 27th at 5:00 pm.

That's all. Easy-peasy. 

Can't wait to celebrate my novel by giving you books!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy St. Paddy's Week

I am obsessed with things Celtic; therefore, I like St. Patrick's Day.

This kind of thinking is typical of American descendants of Irish people. In Ireland, St. P's is a religious holiday. In America, it's a celebration of rockin' Irish roots and cheesy green decorations.

My personal obsession with the Celts began around fifth grade with Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series

and Lloyd Alexander's Book of Three, etc.

Richard Llewellyn's How Green was my Valley helped the obsession right along. Those were Welsh Celts, and I wanted to be Welsh. I loved the sounds of those Celtic words (I studied Susan's pronunciation guide in the back of The Grey King), the landscape, the names, the folklore, the musical/poetical traditions...blah, blah, blah. I wasn't excited about the coal mining. I fell in love with the name Bronwen.

I wanted to be a bard:

Me, in my fifth-grade dreams.

Alas, no Welsh ancestry in these veins. But I did have Irish, Scottish, and Manx fore-bearers galore, so that that was all right. I had me Gaelic genes.

So, I was pondering the date and figured I owe the Celts a lot, but just because Wednesday is March 17th, let's focus on what I owe the Irish. My hair-color, for instance. My religion, since they left their green, green country to come to a brown, dry American desert for it. And lots of other things - at least six, anyway:

1) Potato soup and soda bread. I always know what to make for dinner on March 17th.

2) Pookas (see that old Jimmy Stewart movie "Harvey" for a lovely Hollywood pooka). Pookas and the sort of mind that would invent such fairy critters inspired aspects of my current WIP. 

3) Genes that keep my family's hair from turning grey (special thanks to my several-greats Irish grandma Agnes Cross, whose hair stayed blonde into late old age). So far so good on my black-Irish hair staying black. We'll see how that pans out when I'm ninety.

4) Love of the color green. Green has always been my favorite color.

5) The Celtic knot.

and 6) a lot of great poetry. Ireland has its bards, too, you know.

Here's Irish poet William Butler Yeats's The Lake Isle of Innisfree, which was influenced by American Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond, and is an excellent example of Americans and Irish getting along right fine:

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I will have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Happy St. Paddy's!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Writing Marathon

This has been a writing-marathon week, peaking yesterday and today, when I stayed in bed with my computer and only got out to do essential stuff like eat and read bedtime stories to my kid. Didn't even exercise or shower. I feel kind of disgusting. My daughter cooked dinner.

I finished another round of revisions and my book is almost ready to go to my agent again. I've given myself a final deadline of March 20th. It's almost two am and I shouldn't be posting on my blog, but I had to record somewhere that I'm done with this piece of the process--that is, until I get my manuscript back again from a last critique or two.

Now I can clean my house again, fix food again, pay my overdue bills, use soap, and put on a birthday party for my son without feeling like something's itchy in the back of my mind, undone, scratching for attention.

A short respite from the crazy dogs behind the fence. They'll be back soon, I know they will.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Grammar Day Quiz Answer Key

Sorry this is late. I promised tomorrow; I lied.

Correct the Celebrity Answer Key

1. Which album title has the spelling error?
a. “Dutchess,” by Fergie
b. “Growing Pains” by Mary J. Blige
c. “Graduation” by Kanye West
d. None of the above

2. What’s wrong with this lyric by Justin Timberlake?
“When you cheated girl, My heart bleeded girl.”

a. It’s perfect as it is. Leave Justin alone!
b. “Bleeded” is not a word. “Bled” is.
c. There should be commas before and after “girl.”
d. Both b and c are correct.

3. Circle the errors Paris Hilton made blogging about her new shoe collection. (Hint: there are at least three!)
“Don’t worry, [unnecessary comma] if you arent [aren't] in Orange County, [should be a semicolon] you can also get the shoes at Kitson,,, Bakers, Lord & Taylor and select specialty boutiques across the counrty” [country, also needs a period]

 [Alternative interpretation] “Don’t worry, [should be a semicolon] if you arent [aren't] in Orange County, you can also get the shoes at Kitson,,, Bakers, Lord & Taylor and select specialty boutiques across the counrty” [country, also needs a period]

4. Correct the following movie titles:
a. How She Move (How She Moves)
b. The Pursuit of Happyness (The Pursuit of Happiness)
c. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (Honey, I Shrank the Kids/ Honey, I've Shrunk the Kids)
d. The 40 Year Old Virgin (The 40-Year-Old Virgin)

5.Circle the error in this statement by Christina Aguilera:
Today is a very joyful and special day for Jordan and I [“I” should be “me”] as we welcome our first son into this world.

6. What’s wrong with this David Hasselhoff quote?
“I am also doing a heart-rendering set on my life and the mistakes I have made.”

a. There should be a comma after life.
b. “heart-rendering” doesn’t need a hyphen.
c. “heart-rendering” should be “heart-rending”
d. The sentence is fine as is.

7. One of Jessica Simpson’s boyfriends dumped her via text message. The related headline
contains an error. What is it?

Jessica Dumped in 118 Characters or Less.

Jessica Dumped in 118 Characters or Fewer. “Less” is for amounts you can't count individually, and “fewer” is for quantities you can count—such as characters.

How obnoxious, I know.

This quiz and its answers are courtesy of

Thursday, March 4, 2010

You know March is here because...

February brain-fog is lifting, even though the weather still kind of stinks. I had a good writing day.

It's also NATIONAL GRAMMAR DAY, March forth, er, fourth. I know you're excited.

Some Grammar Day comics for you:

Take this quiz, courtesy of the Grammar Girl website. See how you do.

Correct the Celebrity
1. Which album title has the spelling error?
      a. “Dutchess,” by Fergie
      b. “Growing Pains” by Mary J. Blige
      c. “Graduation” by Kanye West
      d. None of the above

2. What’s wrong with this lyric by Justin Timberlake? “When you cheated girl, My heart bleeded girl.”
      a. It’s perfect as it is. Leave Justin alone!
      b. “Bleeded” is not a word. “Bled” is.
      c. There should be commas before and after “girl”
      d. Both b and c are correct.

3. Circle the errors Paris Hilton made blogging about her new shoe collection.
(Hint: there are at least three!)

“Don’t worry, if you arent in Orange County, you can also get the shoes at Kitson,,, Bakers, Lord & Taylor and select specialty boutiques across the counrty”

4. Correct the following movie titles:
      a. How She Move
      b. The Pursuit of Happyness
      c. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
      d. The 40 Year Old Virgin

5. Circle the error in this statement by Christina Aguilera:
Today is a very joyful and special day for Jordan and I as we welcome our first son into this world.

6. What’s wrong with this David Hasselhoff quote?
“I am also doing a heart-rendering set on my life and the mistakes I have made.”
     a. There should be a comma after life.
     b. “heart-rendering” doesn’t need a hyphen.
     c. “heart-rendering” should be “heart-rending”
     d. The sentence is fine as is.

7. One of Jessica Simpson’s boyfriends dumped her via text message. The related headline
contains an error. What is it?
     Jessica Dumped in 118 Characters or Less

© 2008 SPOGG

Answer key forthcoming tomorrow.

What's your favorite grammar error?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Redeemed

The last week of February ends tomorrow and I admit, in spite of the rest of it, the month has redeemed itself:

First, because the sun came out and there was light.

And because snow fell all day one day and stuck to the trees and they stood around like bright-white elegant sculptures in the fog while I took the dog for a walk on the mountain twice. It looked like this:


 Also, because then the sun came out again and shone so hard and warmed up the air so much I went on a bike ride. I don't have a picture of that.


all that brightness turned on something in my brain, and I rewrote the beginning of Hepzibah again - and decided I have my final beginning. I've said that before, but I believe this time it's true.

And then, because of "Bright Star," which I watched tonight, about the poet John Keats. It was stunning. I love his poetry, loved the movie. I cried.

And then I remembered that I got to hear Manachem Pressler play Chopin a few weeks ago. Oh. Sigh. Oh. I have no words. Time moves so slowly in February, I had forgotten that was still this month.

Also, I taught a lesson on the purpose of pain and decided February exists so we can feel the joy of spring.

February, adieu: redeemed upon thy deathbed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book-Giveaway Winner and Suggestions

Thanks to everyone who joined my blog this month and/or participated in the Ides-of-February book-giveaway.

I hate this part of blog contests, because I'd love to give you all a book, just for following my blog, and I can only pick one. I'd love to give everyone in the world a book, kind of like that Coca-Cola song. Too bad.

The winner of the Ides-of-February book giveaway:

(drumroll please)


Congratulations, Pat.

The rest of you, don't give up hope if you didn't win. I'm doing another free-book contest in March, and since so many of you mentioned how much you like Neil Gaiman, I'll be sure to include him again. Also, please feel free to suggest any other books you'd like to see in future giveaways and I'll consider them.

Monday, February 15, 2010

An Ides-of-February Book Giveaway

Today is February 15th.

The Ides of February.

(Insert raised eyebrow and sinister music here).

They say the Ides of March are bad luck--what with the anniversary of Caesar's murder and all--but February is so much worse than March, I say the Ides of February must be worse, too. I expect something dreadful any day.

On that superstitious note, I say we need something to counteract the bad omen. Free books, I think. Did I say that loudly enough?


This time I'm giving you a choice:

1. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. It's a beautifully written, incredible story, with a rather disturbing first chapter, which doesn't change my opinion that this book is amazing--it just changes the age of the child I would give it to for a birthday present. When I closed the last page, I sighed and thought: That's how I wish I could write.

2. Rapunzel's Revenge, by Shannon Hale. My ten-year-old son read this in one sitting. It made him an instant Shannon Hale graphic novel fan, which is kind of funny. She's only written two. He liked the sequel, Calamity Jack, too (which was recently released), but still thinks Rapunzel is better, so that's the one I'm offering here. Nathan Hale's illustrations are perfect. The story is zany and hillarious: a wild-west Rapunzel who uses her braids as weapons. My teenage daughters love Rapunzel as well. I like Rapunzel. But we all know we need more boy books, and this is a good 'un, even if the main character is a girl.

3. Savvy, by Ingrid Law. As you can see in the column to the right, this was one of my favorites of the books I read this year. It won a Newbery, and deserved it. I love the language--poetic and beautiful--the story is well-put-together and satisfying, and the romance is cute. But don't let the romance scare your boys away. It's not mushy--it's funny. My son hates romance and he liked this book. My daughters liked it even better. I was reading it aloud to my 10-year-old, and my daughters (13 and 16) wandered in, then sat down, then wouldn't let me stop reading until I was hoarse.

Okay, there you have it: books to combat February evils. Here's what you have to do:

a) follow my blog or

b) already be a follower of my blog or

c) blog or tweet about my giveaway and

d) leave me a comment telling me what you've done. Not everything you've done. I don't want to hear if you've cheated on your spouse or anything. Just if you've done a, b or c above.

e) do it by Friday, February 19th at midnight. Also, you have to be 18 or have parental permission to participate.

Saturday, I'll put your names in a hat and draw, then announce the winner, who will need to 1) choose a book and 2) email me their info at, so I know where to mail your choice.

We will face the second half of February armed with books. Good ones. So there, Brutus! Ha!

 An update on my reading of Henry James's Golden Bowl: (drumroll, please)


And to make it count as one of my 2010 100-books, I even went back and re-read the first 100 pages I began in 2009. The amazing thing: beginning at about page 300, I started to like it, even had a hard time putting it down. I shouldn't be surprised. That always happens with Henry James. I hate the first 3/4ths, love the last 1/4th. At least I can say Henry James did not defeat me. And Mary, I'm going to rent the movie right away.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Surviving February and updates

Lest anyone has been doubting, yes, I am still alive.

I'm trying hard to survive February, my least favorite month of the year (take a peak outside if you want to know why), and the best way I know how to do that is write. Unfortunately for the blog, that doesn't mean blog posts. Sorry, readers. I'll try to do better. But sanity comes first.

I have a post about fantasy-writing I've been wanting to write forever. I have books to give away. I promise I'll get back in the swing before the month is out.

However, I figure I owe you some updates now, at least. So,

Hepzibah: The novel I started several years ago, worked on for a year, put in a drawer for another, got out again, and thought I'd finished. After a couple months' letting her rest and some helpful feedback, I'm back to revising her. So, I sat down to work and was completely embarrassed that I let my writing people read her in this state. Agh! I'm going through with a hatchet, disgusted with myself.  Anyway, she has a new name, thanks to my agent, Steve: The Story of Hepzibah Death. Let me know what you think.

My poetry novel: I thought I'd finished the rough draft at about 200 pages and 24,000 words long, but I keep adding. It's been so fun. Really different from anything else I've ever written. I've been reading Beowulf to get me in an epic-poetry frame of mind.

I was about to tell you more details, but decided a public blog isn't the right forum. Let me just say I wrote a villainelle yesterday. I feel like I'm back in my high school poetry class and having a blast, believe it or not.

My slave-boy story: is being neglected. But I have him in the back of my mind, stewing, ready to go as soon as Hepzibah is finally out of my hands and the poetry has settled down. Some books insist on being listened to first, like it or not. The boy story isn't insisting as hard as the poetry, so will have to wait.

The Golden Bowl, by Henry James: I tried (honest!) to read this for my book group and didn't manage to finish in time for the meeting. Went to book group anyway to figure out why anybody likes Henry James. After a fascinating discussion, decided to finish after all. I think I need to read it faster, let it seep into my brain instead of stopping along the way to try to uncover the meaning of sentences like these:

"He became aware himself, for that matter, during the minute Maggie stood there before speaking; and with the sense moreover of what he saw her see he had the sense of what she saw him."

Ha! So there. Don't ask me; I don't know, either.

Triathlon training: In preparation for the "Woman of Steel" Tri in May, I've been increasing my yoga to twice a week, upping my running miles. I injured my foot twisting it in the ice, so that has set me back some. Bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers shoes so I could pretend I'm running barefoot (free toes! hooray!), but my injured foot says no running in them on pavement yet. I love walking (almost) barefoot everywhere. Walked my son to school in them the other day and about froze my toes off.

It's February, duh.

I'm obviously in denial.

Playing High and Dry with Sourdough

Lately I've been playing with dough. It's become a sort of a compulsion. Maybe because I'm tired of driving all the way to som...