Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nineteen Years Later

Ohmygawd, we were babies... not REALLY. I was 25. He was 29, but MAN... time hasn't been kind. I mean not bad... he really is only gray in the beard and has a full head of hair... but he is a little jowly... I have crows feet and laugh lines... and age spots (from my sun worshipping) and gray at the temples (there might be some forty extra pounds—that was one of my leanest times)... but I digress...

So nineteen years ago today I got up earlier than I wanted. The rehearsal dinner at Alexi's had included a little more wine than was a good idea, though the image of the belly dancer draping her shawls across my father-in-law-to-be still makes me smile—he's a darling little old man—and was, even then. (truth be told, the pictures show that he was a darling little old man by about age 40—at the wedding he was 68).

We went to the hotel where my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. were all staying—you see we lived in Portland. All Mr. Tart-to-be's family was in Portland. Most of our friends were in Portland (and all the wedding party was at least in Oregon). So the decision was MY FAMILY had to travel. And other than one cousin and two of my step-siblings, they did, at least my mom's side, but that was always who I was really close to.

I remember opening some gifts at the hotel, eating some doughnuts... the day is a little vague... I know it was raining off and on... it being the end of November in Oregon and all... There were last minute prep things to handle... and then the bride's maids collected at the apartment I shared with Soon-to-be-Mr.Tart while he went... you know... I'm not sure where he went... Probably to Fat Mike's. The brother-in-law was Best Man, but fat Mike lived closer and was more likely to have an ample liquor supply... funny, after all this time that I don't know where they went. I trusted in the brother-in-law that he would be there on time...

At 3:00 we (the girls) walked to the church (yes, it was that close, and yes, this actual church, though it looks like they've done some grounds improvements since then—the building was always gorgeous, but outside wasn't this nice).

HA! second digression coming on: Mr. Tart and I are not particularly religious (in fact I have completely diverged since that time), but both of us had Presbyterian FAMILY ties. Since outside in November would be absurd, we decided to please our families... my grandma, in particular, was very pleased. /digression

We then got dressed, and then started pictures... three HOURS of pictures... My flowers were GORGEOUS—the gift of the family of my best friend and maid of honor: mom and aunts—her uncle had a florist license, helped them purchase and then they actually did them ALL—huge white lilies and lavender roses. Jessie, Marian and Martha, if you see this, you made it the prettiest wedding imaginable!

The dresses were awfully flashy, even by standards of coming off the 80s... but it was sure a gorgeous wedding party... Mr. Tart-to-be muttered “12 minutes” to me often... his goal for the length of the ceremony... I think it ran closer to twenty, but not unduly long... and then we headed... officially Mr. and Mrs. Tart, to the Laurelhurst Club for a long party...

It's never been easy, but on balance, it's been good. Mr. Tart balances my irrational optimism... ever the wet blanket of reality. He remembers we have children EVERY DAY, even if sometimes he has to vent about me forgetting it. I meet our financial needs (mostly) while he meets our tangible ones (feeding us, scheduling us, meeting our maintenance requirements...)

So I will just throw out a Happy Anniversary, Mr. Tart! I love you!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Who We Are

I've lived much of my life in an identity crisis. You know why? I'm nothing interesting. Note I didn't say I'm NOT interesting... in fact in actuality, I'm possibly a little TOO interesting (as in odd) but my group membership is... dare I say it... the norm... at least for all the places I've lived.

I am female (as are 55% of people... a percentage that only grows as the men die off at a faster rate)
I am white. (in the world, normal would be Asian, but as I live in the United States, and spent MOST of my years in Idaho (98% white—only exaggerating a little) and Oregon (90% white—I think that's pretty accurate)...
I grew up protestant (as most of my home town was)

We were poorish, but not starving.
We were small town but not rural.
I was awkward, but had friends, mostly hiding it (erm... hiding the awkwardness, not the friends).
Not bully nor bullied.
No particular talents to speak of (I might be able to write a little, but I was quiet about that)
I was smart, but not brilliant.

There is absolutely NOTHING to recommend me as interesting. I belong to no group that is exciting, outrageous, illegal, cultish, dangerous, exclusive, or secret. I am the kind of person who if I 'wrote what I know,” would put y'all to sleep.

At the same time... and from a totally different angle... I LOVE reading stories that lead me into another culture or experience.

So when my friend Lance posted this yesterday, I had to stop and pause. Be sure to watch the video (which I could figure out how to upload a video directly. humph). I know it's longish, but it is BEAUTIFULLY SAID and then I'll give some of my thoughts afterward...


On the one hand, this is PERMISSION to write stuff I DON'T know... stuff I make up. Stuff that isn't even PLAUSIBLE if I want... on the other hand, I have been soundly chastised for holding up the responsibility to OTHERS to be authentic representatives. If I'm not required to be a boring, white ex-protestant, then I need to rein in my expectations and just enjoy literature as literature.

At the same time, I LOVED that circle thing... we all really SHOULD get to know each other... The world would conspire to leave us in our own little circles, but we shouldn't content ourselves to stay that way. In our blogs and lives we SHOULD all be ourselves... break down the walls... honestly share what we are. And help each other keep our circles open.

Because the more people we know, the more we understand the diversity of people, no matter WHAT groups they belong to. There are brilliant, fabulous people in every corner of the world... sadly there are also baffling arses... Group membership does not determine this. Personality and experience do. I'm mostly a nurture gal, in the nature versus nurture debate, so I happen to think most phenomenal arses were MADE, but that's me... Our only obligation is to not judge any individual based on group membership and not to judge any group based on the individuals we happen to meet. Mix it up a little. Get to know a variety of folks. You'll see... people are people, and mostly we are just better off for knowing more of them.

Oh, and enjoy the FICTION for what it is... fiction. The writer is entitled to artistic license, in whatever form she chooses to take it.

Circle paintings were both done by my friend Kathy Croson, an artist out of the Seattle area who I went to high school with and happens to be fabulously friendly and fun in ADDITION to being talented.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


So I 'won' yesterday... that is to say, I passed my 50,000 word mark 25 words into the day... Oh, I know. I could have easily won the day before, but the last paragraph I wrote on Friday looks suspiciously like I might have had too much wine, so it's probably just as good that I stopped when I did.

Whatever the case, YESTERDAY was my second best writing day in November (5,317 words)... even though I only had 25 words TO. THE. WIN. I still had maybe 3 or 4 CHAPTERS to the DONE so I wrote and wrote and wrote—I REALLY want to actually be DONE with the end of November—not just won (I figure at the moment there is NOW just one chapter left... or one and a wind-up... I do that a lot on first draft... finish, then really finish... it s a 70/30 split on whether that extra gets expanded or dumped... the expanded more often seems right).

I have a large editing project that starts December 1. Okay, that's a lie. I have a large editing project that CONTINUES December 1. I did the read, small edit, and note taking in October, then I wrote a book (which by December 1 should REALLY be done—about 65,000 words—a solid first draft) and so it will shortly be time to write the BIG changes for LEGACY.

Before I do that though, let me talk a little about my WriMo... I shared a very little bit before I ever started... Forward on the basketball team found dead... he'd just had a very public fight with a good friend of my MC... I have a vague image in my head of the MC, but a nice solid one of her friend Paige. (yes, Erin Chambers plays Siobhan on General Hospital, but she had exactly the right look for what I was thinking, though Paige is a little taller—about 5'8”) Anyway, as the book opens, Paige is having a very public, somewhat physical fight with the guy who ends up dead, so Callie, my MC ends up in a position where she is trying to solve what happened.

Most of the story is a fairly typical murder mystery, but as I wound up my word count, I thought of an underlying mystery that should make it creepier and scarier, so that's a bonus.

And Finally... those of you participating know that once a week or so (I haven't actually paid full attention) you get an inspirational email from a fellow author to keep going. Nine times out of ten I totally ignore these. It's a matter of just already having plenty to read... but this week's was from Lemony Snicket. I COULD NOT ignore Lemony (well for a couple days I did, but I didn't delete, and eventually I found time...) VERY glad I did. Here it is.

Dear Cohort,

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it's nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies - what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.

Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately-carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one's entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient - the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.

Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours - not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they'd never understand it. Perhaps it's not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you'll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor's waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your n ovel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.

--Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket is the author of  A Series of Unfortunate Events. You can learn more about his work here.

teehee... I miss having those books be on my anticipation list. I chuckled through all thirteen (thirteen chapters each)

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Infamous List

You've all seen this… the BBC claims people have only read 6 on average. I’ve read a fair few more, in part because maybe 8 years ago I copied off a librarian list of top recommended reads. My plan is not just to tell you what I’ve read, but to advise you one whether YOU ought to or not.

I've read the ones in bold. I've read partial stuff in italicized stuff.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen I know she is a classic and all, but this isn’t my type of thing… it’s a pastoral romance and well done for what it is. What it ISN’T is exciting. To me anyway.

2 The Lord of the Rings- JRR Tolkien The rare case of the movie is better than the book. This is a pretty great story, weighed down by overly descriptive prose.

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte Worse than pastoral romance is pining for an arsehole. This isn’t my thing EITHER.

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling BEST. BOOKS. EVER.

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee This is a really good one, and not too dense. I’d recommend it, but I think everyone has to read it in high school.

6 The Bible Worth looking into. Some of it is interesting. Some of it is even important. Mostly though, I think it is important to know where some portion of our culture is basing its beliefs. I think it would ALSO be good to read the Q’uran.

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte This is my preferred Bronte. Like Jane Eyre, we have a piner, but Heathcliff is the original bad boy. At least he is worth pining for.

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell I graduated high school in 1984, so I think we all read this. This is one of those ‘you should read’ but more so you’ll sort of get the references than because it is so well done. It is sociologically important, but as a literary work I rank it about with Farenheit 452 (translation—mediocre).

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman I enjoyed these, though Lyra’s accent is weird, so reading out loud (I read them to my kids) posed some challenges.

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens Dickens has the odd distinction of having bothed loved and hated books in my book. This one falls solidly in the middle. It’s okay.

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott I loved this one, though I was fairly young when I read it.

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller—this is on my ‘intend to read’ list.

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare I prefer Shakespeare seen to read, but some of the stories are great.

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier This is that same plot as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and I stand by only Wuthering Heights pulling it off.

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien I liked this one… the style isn’t so different from LotR, but it is a little more playful or something.

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger—Also on my intend to read list.

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (movie yes… suspect, knowing me, it is the kind of story I like watching better than reading because of the central role of romance.)

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald I found this dull. I don’t know if it is my age (I was 15) or my aversion and annoyance with pretty people or some combo.

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens--I own this, but it is far down on my list.

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy This is my favorite book of all time. It is an epic, and it is denser than dense, especially as everyone has about 4 names, but I LOVE it.

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams—I am ashamed I haven’t read this.

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky I couldn’t find ANYTHING in the MC about which to be sympathetic and there wasn’t adequate redemption or understanding to make it work. I HAVE read a Dostoyevsky I liked—The Brothers Karamazov is great. Read that instead.

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck—I’ve read two Steinbeck’s, and I THINK this is the second (Cannery Row is the other) and I think everyone should read one or two, but I’ve heard East of Eden is the best.

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll I call this a partial, as I’ve read a version, but it isn’t the full, original.

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame Same story as Alice.

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy I started this a long time ago, but it is a beautiful antique book, so I can’t read it where I normally read (bath or walking), so since I started writing, I haven’t really picked it up again.

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens This is the Dickens I enjoyed most. It might be that it was the first I read as an adult. The ones I read as a teen were much harder. It’s a great story though.

33 Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis See how I did that? Daughter and I read the first 5, then she was done and I wasn’t compelled to finish… so we read most but not all.

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen This was me giving Austen another chance and confirming she just isn’t really my thing.

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis It’s a good book for reading to your elementary student. I’m not sure it merits picking up alone.

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini This is a beautifully told horrible story... meaning painful and hard to hear, but told in a way you need to read it anyway.

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden I liked this as a cultural immersion and a book, but am not quite sure it is literature... maybe it is... it's worth reading... I'm not sure what's a little off.

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown I confess to liking this, but I read it before I wrote regularly. And I LOVE conspiracy theory, especially when it shines the light on religion.

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez Read Marquez review below.

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving—In intend to read this.

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery—It's possible... probable... I started this, but I was too old for the content by that time (seems I was 15 going on 25)

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood This book is NOT enjoyable, but it IS important. I'm glad I read it.

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding Same here. I read this to both kids the summer before middle school because I wanted them to see in no uncertain terms what bullying and following could lead to.

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan all I remember of this is that I was mostly bored and then really dissatisfied with the ending. I have NO OTHER recollection of the experience.

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel This was cute until it was just too far out there. Boat with a tiger, fine. Man eating island? I think not.

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth started this and liked it but it's LONG (1500 pages) and it was a libarary book—I need to try again when I don't have a ton of conflicts.

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens This was my first Dickens and very difficult to read, but it is a good plot, and the best open and close of any book EVER.

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez I prefer this Marquez, and the two are so similar (so reading both annoyed me)--I like his stuff—just... mood, language, plot... yeah... basically the same book.

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov I adore this book because the narrator is so grotesque, yet somehow Nabokov pulls us into his head so we see BOTH that he's fairly insane (clinically disturbed) AND that he has no perception of that AT ALL. He thinks his urges are the girls' fault—always, and totally doesn't get it. It's not that he's stupid, and on some level he gets it isn't normal... I have no CLUE how an author pulls a reader into this kind of delusion (a straight mother of a teen, no less) but the writing is so sublime that he manages. Writing an unsympathetic but compelling hero is acknowledged in writing circles as a great skill—this is the strongest case of this I've ever seen.

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold Another... you should read it, even though it isn't much fun, book.

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas This is EXQUISITE plotting.

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville I was surprised I liked this—it is a little testosterone heavy, but it is better than I expected.

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens This poor book was forced on me as a freshman in high school and I just wasn't up for the language. I hated it, but I don't think I would, had I encountered it as an adult. And Uriah Heep still gives me the willies (and not the good kind)

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker I read this on a kick of old horror. It 'reads old'--it has some flawa in common with some of HP Lovecraft's stories... it has some of the same brilliant chills though, too. I think the turn of the century just wasn't a time famous for narrative style, but the tale is good. I think it's a must for anyone who likes horror—know your roots, and for anyone who thinks they like vampire stories...

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett—I should have read this. I know that. I may, yet.

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice WalkerThis was required reading for an American Lit class I had in college, and I think that is true. If you are American, this is required reading. It is told in the form of a diary of a poor black woman, grammar, spelling errors and all (nobody knows she can even read) and it is a profound, heartbreaking, but triumphant story.

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert—part of me thinks I read this, but if I remember NOTHING, that doesn't bode well.

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White GREAT kid's story. Everyone should read this as an early chapter book to their kids.

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams I loved this as a kid, but tried to read it to the son and he bailed... apparently it was good compared to what I was reading, but doesn't stand up to the modern options.

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare—I think I read this, but get it confused with MacBeth... I KNOW I read MacBeth (my high school Shakespeare teacher had a life goal of playing one of the witches in MacBeth)... and I know I read 'As you Like it' in that class... plus two more... (other years I read Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar, but there were 4 in this one semester class)--was Hamlet one? Seems it must have been...

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo This is a close second to War and Peace for best book ever. In fact I think the plot is more clever. War and Peace just has a broader canvas of engaging characters. I love the 'justice' message in the French books of this era (Count of Monte Cristo having a similar, though Dumas is the equivalent of 'commercial'--publishing serially for the masses, where Hugo was 'a real writer' *cough *

So there you have it... the list... I've read 38 completely, plus three I think I have but can't quite remember, plus six in part... I've been telling people 42... there was an earlier iteration and I remember that was my score, but I am not remembering what was THERE, that isn't HERE. (I know Where the Red Fern Grows was)

I happen to think this list needs updating. My facebook friends agree, which makes it fact...

If I were to add to it, given modern books of import, I might add the following:

The Giver (Lois Lowry)

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Drifters by James Michener (I actually prefer this to Kerouac's 'On the Road' as a Vietnam era tale... not that I've read On the Road, but I HAVE read Kerouac, and he never really gets a point across. Michener does)

The Shining by Stephen King—like it or not, King has a place in literary history and I think this is a nice, well-done, representative one.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I'd take off the couple duplicates (no need for Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe when the set is there. Same with Hamlet). I think Marques is the same from book to book, so I'd only include one. I'd probably include fewer from Austen... in fact honestly... I think there are several authors I'd include with a note of not CARING which... 'two books from Austen' seems a perfectly reasonable marker, no matter what they are.

I'm not sure what else... given time, I'm sure there would be many more.

What would you add to books everyone should read? What SPECIFICALLY would you remove?

Reader Recommended Adds

The Outsiders
Uncle Tom's Cabin
A River Runs Through It,
The Bell Jar,
The Road,
Atlas Shrugged
the Twilight Series
Huckleberry Finn (okay me, but in comments...)
The Chocolate War

Thursday, November 25, 2010


On this last Thankful Thursday, and Thanksgiving in the United States, it is time to talk just a little about what I am most Thankful for.

Hubby and I, when we were first married in 1991, seemed to take turns being ready to have kids—or rather, when his sister had her first baby when we were first engaged, he got sort of baby-excited. But I think that was because he safely knew I was in no way ready. Then in 1993 my grandpa was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma—a painful bone cancer... and I got it in my head that I wanted him to get to be a great grandparent before he died. Hubby wasn't ready anymore. In fact we really argued about it for a while, but in the end, waited a little longer, but I stayed primed, so the minute he said, 'maybe we can think about it' I started prepping and the minute he said 'okay' I was in.

You know how many times it took? Once. Maybe twice. But that first month it worked... and MAN, it maybe shouldn't have, because once it was done, we dived into a spiral of marital difficulties. See... hubby has some demons... In fact I'd venture to say his legion of them is larger than some small countries. They took a while to get into check... erm... like three years, but never mind...

NoNo was perfect. This pic is a four generation, so I love it for that, even if it isn't very flattering of anyone. I was totally paranoid when she was a baby—she was so pretty. Rosy cheeks, a little rosebud mouth... and smart. She talked early—full sentences by two, and managed synonyms if I didn't understand her (which wasn't often). I wish I had more pictures scanned—of both kids. I am lousy about pictures, and mostly have to resort to stealing from their facebook albums or I wouldn't have any pictures of them at all.

So NoNo is artistic. She has a Pisces Moon, which means she sees the world through rose colored glasses, but is pretty darned devastated when reality crashes in. She even has a creative memory, which is a little problematic. But she has charisma, humor, loyaty... she can be extremely sweet. She is gifted with words as well as having a great eye (though the redressing her mother is sometimes annoying).

When we discussed another baby, I was TERRIFIED because I didn't think it would be possible to love another person as much as I loved her.

My son was...erm... Unplanned. We wanted another, but the hubby and I had just sorted out our stuff and decided to give it a try again. I had finally finished my master's thesis and started a brand new job. We just probably would have waited six months to a year if we'd been planning... long enough I could have saved vacation time for maternity leave... long enough that hubby wasn't pissed—he was fairly angry for a while. (hello-this act takes two people).

He was too early. Both were, but the son wasn't 'cooked'. He spent his first night under lights with a feeding tube. He was jaundiced. We had to go to nursing classes because he was a 'lazy eater' so I had to learn tricks to keep him awake long enough to eat.

He was also a fussy baby... he really didn't like anyone but his immediate family. He didn't want to BE anywhere but home. He had melt-down tantrums that caused strangers to offer me help. He talked late... he really was fairly difficult until he started preschool.

But his processor is SO MUCH like mine. He's logical—the math comes naturally. As he's gotten older, it is fun to have someone whose sense of humor is so like mine—he's engaged in word play fairly automatically since he was young. He's sarcastic, but relatively good-natured.

The two don't get along particularly well... NoNo hasn't forgiven us for having another child... but they are starting to get along a little better—it has improved steadily for a couple years... about the time my daughter has been getting a little easier for ME to get along with.

Whatever the case... difficulties aside, these are my favorite people—the ones for whom I am most thankful.

And Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the States. I wish for you exactly the right amount of family and food and just a little too much fun!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Watery Tart Words

Since this will by my last Wordplay Wednesday, I thought maybe we should go through some definitions you need in order to be part of the Naked World Domination Movement... Some of these are Burrow Words.

Burrow Beliefs and Skills

Digressionism, n. A religion in which the ability to make random connections and left-hand turns into obscurity are highly-prized attributes.  If you can finish up a paragraph halfway around the world from where you started, so much the better.
Etymology: Cruella started it, and I'm a devout worshipper. 
Naked World Domination role: This is the official religion of the movement, though we are universally tolerant so long as... you know... there are no clothing-related conflicts...

Misattributing, v. Unfathomably, this is not a real word. It is the act of intentionally misunderstanding the intention of what somebody says for amusement and sport. The beauty of the word is it inevitably does what it means, especially in a sentence: "I've been misattributing again because I am really bored."
Etymology: This is my superpower. I thought it was a real word. I really did. I have been doing it since the beginning of time, as it is my favorite form of humor but apparently only recently gave it its appropriate name.

Nudify, v. To add nudity or make naked. (can be used as a spell)
Etymology:  When I channels Cruella, you get digression-y innuendo.  When she channels me, you get words like nudify (which she Googled and found), but the movement has taken off.

Procrastinakeding, v. Putting off whatever you're supposed to be doing by getting naked instead.
Etymology: BrioNI

Synonyms for NAKED: au naturel, bare, bare-naked, bare-skinned, bared, defenseless, denuded, disrobed, divested, exposed, happy, in birthday suit, in dishabille, in the altogether, in the buff, in the raw, leafless, natural, nude, open, overt, peeled, raw, starkers, stark-naked, stripped, threadbare, unadorned, unadulterated, unclad, unclothed, unconcealed, uncovered, undecorated, undraped, undressed, unprotected, unsheathed, unveiled, vulnerable, without a stitch

Synonyms for UNDRESS: denude, despoil, disarray, dismantle, disrobe, divest oneself, doff, get off, get out of, husk, peel, shed, shock, slip off, slip out of, strip, unattire, uncloak, unclothe, unmask

Activities you really should Try NAKED: abolish, achieve, act, advise, amuse, arrest, bathe, beat (as in drums or game... no violence), bite, blast, block, blog, blow, bump, bungee-jump, catch, chase, choke (but don't forget the safe word), clap, climb, clip, clutch, coach, collapse (but only after you've earned it *wink*), collar, collect, collide, command, commandeer, communicate, compile, complete, compose, compute, conduct, conserve, consolidate, construct, consult, control, coordinate, counsel, count (I LOVE NAKED COUNTING!), cram, crash, crawl, create, creep (as in sneak, not as in be repulsive), cripple (but only temporarily), critique, crouch, dance, dart (and PLAY darts, but watch the points), dash, deal, decide, deck (as in 'the halls), deduct, define, delegate, delineate, deliver, descend *cough*, describe, design, detect, determine, develop,devise, diagnose, dictate, dig, direct, discard, discover, display, dissect (better stick to metaphorically here), distribute, ditch, dive, divert, do, dodge, dominate, douse, draft, drag (you can even dress in drag if you limit yourself to accessories), drain, dramatize, drape, draw, dress, drill, drink, drip, drop, drown (your sorrows anyway), drug, dry, duel, dunk, ease, edge, edit, [seems to me there is an obvious word missing here], eject, elevate, elope, elude, emerge, endure, engage, enjoin, ensnare, enter, equip, erupt, escape, establish, estimate, evacuate, evade, evaluate, evict, examine, exert, exhale, exit, expand, expedite, expel, explode, experiment, explain, expose, extend, extirpate, extract, extricate, fade, fake (though sexually, this is rude), fall, falter, fan, fast, fear, feed, feel, fend, fight, file, fill, finance, find, finger, fix, flag, flap, flash, flatten, flaunt, flay, flee, flick, flinch, fling, flip, flit, float, flog, flounder, flout, flush, fly, fondle, force, formulate, fornicate, found, fumble, furnish, gain, gallop, gather, generate, gesture, get, give, gnaw, gossip, gouge, grab, grapple, grasp, greet, grind, grip, gripe, grope, grow, growl, grunt, guide, gyrate, hack, hail, hammer, handle, hang, hang-glide (but remember a safety helmet!), harass, haul, head, help, hesitate, hide, hijack, hit, hitch, hobble, hoist, hold, hover, hug, hurl, hurtle, identify, ignore, imitate, implement, improve, improvise, inch *cough*, increase, indict, induce, inflict, influence, inform, inject, injure, insert, inspect, inspire, install, instigate, institute, interpret, interview, invade, invent, investigate, isolate, italicize, jab, jam, jar, jeer, jerk, jimmy, jingle, jolt, judge, jump, keel, kick, kidnap, kill, kneel, knife, knit, lash, launch, lead, lean, leap, learn, lecture, left, level, lick, limp, listen, litigate, log, lunge, lurch, maim, maintain, make, manage, mangle, manipulate, march, mark, massage, maul, measure, meddle, mediate, meet, mentor, mimic, mingle, misattribute, mobilize, mock, model, molest (but only the willing), monitor, motivate, mourn, move, mumble, murder (literarily), muster, mutilate (not literally), nab, nag, nail, needle, negotiate, nick, nip, observe, obtain, occupy, offer, officiate, operate, order, organize, outline, oversee, pack, paddle, page, pander, panic, parachute, parade, paralyze, park, parry, party, pass, pat, patrol, pause, paw, peel, peep, penetrate, perceive, perform, persuade, photograph, pick, picket, pile, pilot, pin, pinch, pirate, pitch, placate, plan, play, plod, plot, plunge, pocket, poke,polish, pore, pose, pounce, pout, pray, predict, preen, prepare, prescribe, present, presented, preside, primp, print, process, prod, produce, program, project, promote, prompt, propel, protect, provide, provoke, pry, publicize, pull, pummel, pump, punch, purchase, pursue, push, question, quit, race, raid, raise, rally, ram, ransack, rattle, ravage, rave, read, realize, receive, recline, recommend, reconcile, record, recoup, recruit, redeem, reduce, reel, refer, regain, rejoin, relate, relax, relent, render, repair, repel, report, represent, repulse, research, resign, resist, resolve, respond, restore, retreat, retrieve, reveal, review, ride, rip, rise, risk, rob, rock, sail, salute, sap, save, saw, scale, scamper, scan, scare, scatter, scavenge, schedule, scold,
scoop, score, scout, scrape, scrawl, scream, screw, scrub, sculpt, scuttle, seal, search, seduce, seize, select, sell, sense, serve, set, sever, sew, shake, shape, sharpen, shave, shear, shell, shield, shift, shiver, shock, shoot, shout, shove, shovel, show, shun, shut, sidestep, sigh, signal, sip, sit, size, skid, skim, skip, skirt, slacken, slam, slap, slash, slay, slide, slug, smack, smear, smell, smuggle, snap, snare, snarl, snatch, snicker, sniff, snoop, snub, snuff, snuggle, soak, sock, soil, solve, spear, spell, spike, spin, splice, split, spot, spray, spread, spring, sprint, spurn, spy, squeak, stack, stagger, stamp, stand, start, startle, steal, steer, step, stick, stifle, stomp, stop, strangle, strap, strike, strip, stroke, struck, stub, study, stuff, stumble, stun, subdue, submerge, submit, suck, summon, supply, support, surf, surrender, survey, suspend, swagger, swallow, swap, sway, swear, swerve, swim, swing, swipe, switch, tackle, take, tap, target, taste, taunt, teach, tear, tease, telephone, terrorize (not literally), test, thread, threaten (but nicely), throw, tickle, tie, tilt, tip, toss, touch, tout, track, train, transfer, translate, trap, tread, treat, trip, trot, trounce, try, tuck, tug, tumble, turn, tutor, twist, type, understand, undertake, undo, undress, unfold, unify, unite, untangle, unwind, update, usher, utilize, vacate, vanish, vault, vent, violate, wade, walk, wander, ward, watch, wave, wedge, weed, weigh, whack, whip, whistle, wield, wiggle, withdraw, work, wrench, wrestle, write, yank, yell, yield, zap, zip (as in lock, not clothing)

(okay, so possibly that's everything... or at least almost. So sue me.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I am over at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash today being a lot more serious than I normally am, so I thought maybe I'd leave you some Tartishness here...

first... a test...

What did you see?

How about here?  Is my nefarious plan to warp you working?

Maybe it is time for some re-education...

Though it's more likely you just need a shower...

And it might even help if you helped somebody else clean up their act...

So there... that's what I've got... the perfect balance to actual content elsewhere...

Monday, November 22, 2010

*67 Top Ten

So in the course of learning the stuff that went into YESTERDAY's post, I learned something interesting about tele-com... if you press '*67' and THEN dial, you come up as calling from a 'restricted number'--there is no evidence you called... the recipient can't see who you are to screen, and the phone keeps no record of where the call came from.

Say what?

Help me here. What would be the PURPOSE of this 'service'? A service that is FREE. The conspiracy theorist in my says SOMEBODY has a vested interest in this, which is never the plain old public. So I thought maybe we'd brainstorm who this would help.

1)  Prank callers (this is in fact what my daughter said was 'the only use' she knew.
2)  Teenaged couples trying to double check their parents aren't around so they can 'sneak in'--if you know what I mean...
3)  Addled parental couples trying to double check no kids are home so they can 'sneak in'--if you know what I mean *shifty*
4)  Burglars double checking that you aren't home, so they can sneak in.
5)  Stalkers who just want to hear your voice but remain anonymous.
6)  Lovers who don't want to leave a record for your spouse.
7)  Militant libertarians who just don't think there should be ANY records. Ever.
8)  Regular libertarians who do it on principal.
9)  Spam calls telling you how to vote and the like that don't want to be screened.
10)   Tele-marketers who don't want to be screened and are trying to avoid getting in trouble because you are on a Do-Not-Call list.

Seriously... Can ANYBODY think of a VALID reason this ought to be available? At least it ought to cost an arm and a leg (payable to the recipient of the calls) so it isn't done lightly. And when we called Verizon to BLOCK restricted calls, you can't—they can block specific numbers, even if they do the restricted code--so if you KNOW who is harassing you (and their number) you can stop them, but you can't make it so you can't receive restricted calls.

Any takers on my conspiracy theory? I'm thinking of taking up a really obnoxious campaign on the matter unless somebody can give me a SINGLE DECENT REASON for the existence of this "service".

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fuzzy Lines

I will get to my Sunday Status NaNo Stuff last paragraph, but mostly this is a parenting blog, so feel free to skip ahead if my insecurities aren't a cheerful way to end your weekend.

How many of us had parents we felt were TOTALLY CLUELESS? A fair few, yes? If you didn't, chances are you had a friend or two who had them... Oh, not all were clueless—some were permissive and just let you (and them) get away with stuff. My mom had a weird radar and if she figured anything out was far LESS permissive. Oh, she could be generous in letting me bring a friend of vacation or something—but that was where we could (sort of) be watched. My friend Tam and I had a couple adventures out of town that might have gotten us into a little trouble (in fact one did—her phone number ended up in a stolen car that ended up in a river). But mostly I had to have legitimate arrangements elsewhere to get in much trouble (at least until I got my job that kept me home weekends when my parents went to their lake cabin.)

My point? I think I might be clueless.

A Pushover

I don't lie. I've been known to omit facts, but if somebody flat-out asks me something, I am a really bad liar—red-faced, shaky voiced—dead giveaways. My daughter on the other hand... has a convenient memory. I honestly think she remembers things the way she would have LIKED them to have happened. She's a revisionist, and it can be VERY hard to sort out what is what—especially quite a while later. But STILL, when she swears to me... I believe her.

A few years ago she had some trouble with some friends. I won't get into details, as it's her story, but they did 'an intervention of sorts' and she swears she reformed (and I believe her). Recently however, she was accused of doing some of the same... we've gone over all the evidence, and it looks to me like she is just an easy scapegoat. I went round and round with another mom who swears I'm being snowed, but it's something I can check a lot of the facts on, and they support my daughter. In other words, I believe me kid.

(Not my kid, just a google image to illustrate)---->

Well now some girls have been harassing her about this thing she supposedly did. It looks like bullying to me (cyber and text), and I keep wanting to take the evidence to the high school and have these girls get in trouble. My daughter just wants it to go away. She's blocked them on Facebook and we called to have their phone numbers blocked so they can't call her. She goes to a DIFFERENT high school, though she is at theirs a fair amount because that is where she does sports and her boyfriend also goes there (and it is where she catches the bus to her high school).

How do I DO this? Do I let her fight the fight when what I WANT to do is squash these girls like bugs? I know letting it 'blow over' will actually have less repercussions in the long run—but there is a part of me that really likes social justice... however, I think at least a COUPLE of these girls really BELIEVE my daughter did what she is being accused of. Still, the ganging up is lousy. And there are a couple girls involved who have NO BUSINESS. In fact one really caused a lot of it because she ACTED, when the girl who felt wronged would normally have TALKED and it probably would have been sorted quickly.

And a Related Issue

When she started getting these calls, she called and asked for me, but I was in the tub. Her dad wouldn't bring me the phone until she explained... then he asked me for more...

The trouble? He overreacts. In fact overreacting is almost always his first response. He usually eventually calms down, but my daughter often asks me not to tell him stuff. I told him... having been asked, but he was mad I HADN'T talked to him earlier.

Okay, how the hell do I draw THAT line? If I tell him, she will no longer tell ME and then nobody knows. But if I don't tell him he's mad he's out of the loop. He doesn't seem to grasp the importance of there being a parent that will take the secrets and keep them... help, but quietly... or that's how I've seen it... *sigh * It causes some trouble now and again... that I believe in keeping quiet most of the time and he thinks I should always share.

Okay, so enough of my parenting insecurities... Yesterday was a good day, Badger Bashing aside. Hit my 40K mark for NaNoWriMo, so I am down to needing an average of 974 words a day to finish—a relatively normal pace for me. When I am writing, as opposed to editing or querying, I typically write 750-1500 words a day. I DO however, want to finish the book, and 2000 words a day is possibly not quite enough, BUT if I finish with a few holes (leaving notes for the rewrite) I should manage...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting Around

So I'm not here today, but I AM HERE today, playing I Never with Ian Healy. I'd love it if you stopped by to say hi!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Deathly Hallows Part I: Review

(earlier than I thought, even!)

For those of you who have READ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this post will be Spoiler Free (have some inclusion/exclusion info, but nothing you wouldn't know to ask about) HOWEVER, I want the rest of you to be able to read if curious, so anything that is spoiler AT ALL uses invisible ink. You know the spell: “Revelio” (along with your cursor highlighter)

Set-Up for the Night

We planned to go about 11:00 for a 12:25 show, but daughter had friends going at 9:00 and honestly, when you are hanging around drinking caffeine in anticipation of a midnight show, how much DIFFERENT is it to wait at the theater? Answer: Pretty darned different. There was not a single House Elf at home. Nor did we have any Ravenclaws, Slytherins, Quidditch Players or Professors. There WAS cake, but it is lopsided, as hubby would rather grumble that our oven rack is uneven that creatively problem solve by turning one of the layers the other direction before frosting *rolls eyes*

We arrived at Showcase come Rave (meaning the former Showcase theater, now given some silly name) at about 9:30 and there were probably 100 people waiting already—sitting in their various lines, but as it happened, they were all sitting in line for movies that started earlier than ours by a bit—we were the first in line for our particular theater (which made son grumble quite a lot, in spite of having dinner out and two doses of dessert—the free one from the restaurant and the birthday cake).

It took about twenty minutes for the kids to stop complaining about me changing my mind on the 'going to get snacks at Meijer' thing—I'd planned to, but after cake, I wasn't entirely sold on needing more SUGAR and I wasn't sure how things would go... plus, when you are first in line, the sign that says 'no outside food' takes on a meaning that I normally ignore when I go to theaters.

At that point though, the theater made a more serious attempt to fill up (and entertain us). The last NON-Harry Potter show started at 10:00, so by 10:05, the only people in the lobby were kindred, and MANY were in costume. Some of the House Elves were particularly cute. There were a ton of generic student costumes (scarves like me, robes, ties, wands) and a fair number of 'specific character' costumes (a few of the Hagrids were great), but the HIGHLIGHT was the Golden Snitch, who was accompanied by Fluffy (the three-headed dog). These guys ended up sitting behind us for the movie (and gave permission for the photo) and the girl on the other side of the snitch complained that the snitch kept copping a feel with his wing *snicker*.

As theaters emptied of their other inhabitants, lines got moved INTO those theaters, so some of the lines got to go in and get their places as long as 90 minutes before the movie, but our own stupid movie that preceded us was SAW 3D and didn't start until 9:55, so we weren't let in until 11:30. An announcer came in and said that in the history of the theater, this was the first time ALL 20 THEATERS had been sold out. He declared Harry Potter fans more devoted that Star Wars fans then asked if anyone wrote cross-over Harry Potter/Star Wars fan fiction.. Someone apparently raised his or her hand, though I couldn't see who, and he promptly told them they were twisted... it made me think of Tara... (*snicker*--she has a Star Wars Parody using the Potter characters)

Movie Summary

I started crying even before the 'Harry Potter' flashed on the screen, something related to 'Hermione and how she leaves home'. The opening scenes showed the 'world' and what was happening... it was very dark and desperate, all fitting with the book—the details were a little different, but not a lot and nothing overly annoying. Harry's escape from the Dursleys was less detailed, and they didn't go to the Tonks, but these seemed like important decisions, given all the extra explanation that would be required—the highlights were all there and the one notable substitution VERY well chosen (the 'how they knew which Harry' piece). The wedding, likewise... It just seemed like given the necessary explanation, their choices for what stayed and what went were good ones.

On the run was briefer, though still a little too long, considering the low level of action, however, I just need to say, the acting range of these three kids has flourished—both the comedic timing and the sad, scared, or desperate range were really very well acted. Here, I DID MISS the portrait in the handbag—Oh, I get it... tons of explanation needed, but there are a couple plot holes without it.

The rest of the movie... the main points were all there, simplified a bit, but not obnoxiously so. Frightening, moving, gripping, as necessary...

My Assessment

Well we get to see Harry nearly naked three times, so that's always good (nine if you count that one scene had seven of him), though I confess that ONE of these scenes was the only one of the movie that I thought, 'erm... okay...'--a little too much... you'll know it when you see it.

Overall, while I still hold that Prisoner of Azkaban is the best movie for the 'non-book' set, I think this was the best interpretation of the books thus far. Probably that is because they only had to cover half a book, so they didn't have to make the substitutions that bug me or chop nearly as many important subplots. I was disappointed when it was OVER, but only because I have to wait for July to see the rest, but the stopping place made sense. I think this may be less so for people who haven't read the books—that the ending will seem abrupt and not quite satisfying, but the rest is coming... and I think I even have faith now that it will be fabulous.

Odds and Ends

So I am off today (more off than usual). I plan to write (try to make up for a pretty bad week, in terms of word count—I averaged less than 1000 words a day, so it was a good thing I was ahead as of last Friday... I may nap, but more likely I will do laundry (a mindless activity), so tomorrow (when I normally do laundry) I can write with a less tired brain than I have today. The goal is to hit 40K by the end of tomorrow, so for the rest of the month I can keep a 1000 word a day pace and make it... I am about 3500 words shy right now.

I will try to still get around the blog circuit to some degree, but will be less constantly at my computer, FYI.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter: I LUUUUURVES It!

So why would I dedicate my Thankful Thursday to Harry Potter? On my Son's BIRTHDAY, no less? How could the Boy Who Lived merit a spot with my friends and family? It's about Timing, sort of... but Identity mostly... let me e'splain...

In 2001 Thing 1 was a first grader. I was working in a relatively new city, trying diligently at my job, listening to a lot of NPR... and I heard the first hype about Harry Potter—it was related to a book release (I think Goblet of Fire) and there was some 'controversy'--conservatives wanting to ban the things for 'witchcraft'... and you know me... if conservatives want to ban them, it went on my 'I'd like to read that' list—but based on what I heard, I was thinking... maybe when she's 8 or 9... I had a couple years.

In a grand, giant coinkidink, the elementary librarian allowed my 6-year-old to CHECK OUT Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone a short time later. My memory is hazy—I don't know if short time is weeks or months. What I DO know, is she brought that puppy home in November and she and I started reading it. And then I put her to bed and tucked myself away in a bedroom and read and read and read... and then Santa went to Sam's Club and bought the first THREE, so they were waiting in the GIFT cupboard until I was forced to WRAP them Christmas Eve. That was a DEVASTATING seven hours they were wrapped and inaccessible. I was only halfway through Chamber of Secrets (having a day job and two kids to put to bed every night after I bathed them)

By Prisoner of Azkaban, I was truly and deeply in love and Goblet of Fire came to live with us.

Now Goblet of Fire was a bit harder for me to assimilate... it is more meandering, more complex... SEEMS to take more tangents. Now, after I've read them all, I know how it all fits in, but at the time I read it, that was my least favorite, and it mellowed me. I was happy to hear Order of the Phoenix came out, but I hadn't really obsessed between the two.

Order of the Phoenix however...

See, this is how I see it... in the first four books, Harry is sort of thrust into his life and experiences. Yes, there are choices he makes, but at each point, the BIG plot point is sort of thrust at Harry—it isn't his own doing. In Order of the Phoenix Harry begins to take control of his own destiny. Oh, sure, he falls into some traps set by those who would use him—he makes plenty of mistakes, but he also takes control.

And I have to be honest... I adored the angst. I've heard from people who were near Harry's age at the time, or too recently PAST those feelings in their own heads who hated it, but I felt like Jo nailed it. And as Michael so fabulously pointed out yesterday, it had a delicious villain. Dolores Umbridge is so atypical of villains—she wears a bow and a pink cardigan, speaks with a sugary voice, worked diligently and tirelessly as a civil servant.... and she is the nastiest piece of work I've ever read. I think the reason is because I am a true conspiracy theorist and evil manipulating incompetence within the government rang just a little too true circa 2003... I HATE Umbridge.... HATE HATE HATE... and how impressive is that to write a character who brings out such emotion in readers?

But now we get to the real crux... I was fully sucked in with two years to wait... so I did some searching... found some stuff... and finally settled on a site that seemed user friendly (HPANA) and started reading some posts PREDICTING the outcomes of future books. The first conversation I joined was on the Wizard War thread and was about mirrors... I came on and said something—I'm sure it was extremely intelligent... and I was welcomed warmly and introduced to the Queens... my response? “I didn't know we had a Queen. I thought we were an autonomous collective.” and I was suddenly immersed in friends for life... not a couple... MANY.

But that's not the identity part. Erm... other than maybe the Naked World Domination thing... And the Watery Tart Part.... Okay, maybe there is a lot of identify there... born right out of Harry Potter theorizing.

But that theorizing brought up some ideas I happened to think I was pretty good and nobody believed me... CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!? One of them? That Voldemort required Death Eaters to kill their fathers... just as he had... Another? That Snape's mother, Eileen Snape... had been at SCHOOL with Tom Riddle... that she KNEW HIM.

Well y'all know me by now... NOBODY TELLS ME I CAN'T! I decided on a contrary approach... I would write a story PROVING it could have happened the way I said... I would write Eileen Snape's life story...

Now this wasn't my first attempt at writing. I'd written a LOT of poetry as an angsty teen. I'd journaled for a LONG time. But my only attempt at a novel had been deserted at 250 (single-spaced) pages, but only about 60% done... (my early works were long). What I had NOW THOUGH, was AN ENDING and a TIMELINE. See... I knew Eileen had a SON eventually. But I also had my OWN ending to the story. I wrote The Other Prince.

During my early chapters I had good feedback, and one person in particular—you all know her as Rayna, suggested I could write a novel of my own. I'd had an idea dating several years back... and I was REALLY encouraged someone else thought so... I finished my story before I really got going, but THAT was where the seed was planted... and that was where my writer identity solidified. The Burrow was born there. And so really, was Hart, the writer... So I am very THANKFUL for JK Rowling and Harry Potter.

So while the movies are NOT the books... they are cute and I have a certain fondness, but I will NEVER use the term 'great movies', I am riding the wave tonight... My kids and I are seeing a midnight show (I gave in partially because it is Thing 2's birthday.

TOMORROW I will give you a review... but LATE. I can't write it until I see the movie, and I will be too tired after, and too busy in the morning... so maybe noon...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Wordplay Wednesday Wins Wonkidellica!!!!


Okay, THIS fabulous little time waster is a BLAST.  I was at Raquel's Place yesterday and I got so excited I forgot to leave a comment! *shifty*...  You copy a portion of text, paste it in under create and Wordle will make you a fabulous word cloud that tells you what you are using most. I put my blog link in and got BEER as my biggest word--I think it must have been using the main page, which is seven days worth. My NaNoWriMo though, the biggest word is the 'sidekick's name', which makes total sense, as it is told in first person, so my MCs name only appears when somebody else uses it in dialog.  In fact, across the board, character names were most frequent, followed by such things as 'detention' (which was the primary theme in chapter one--the one I pasted.  So I recommend you give it a shot. It's addictive... though I wish i could remember how to screen capture so I could share one... I had to resort to taking a REAL pic of the screen--not optimum...

Verification Words

I am borrowing this idea from Sarah, who does this each Friday (well, really, Yvie does it, but as Yvie has no thumbs, I'm sure Sarah types them up)--it is one of those things though, that I don't feel too guilty on, as 1) I only plan to do this the once, and 2) verification words are always different, so it's not as if I am stealing her words... these are MY words... (besides, there are only two--usually I get a lot of nonsense)

artomi: my art. With a pretentious French accent.
pholly: what happens to big fat elves who need pharmaceuticals to appear happy.

Save the Words!

Okay--so Jane, at Jane's Ride is on a Blogcation, but yesterday sent us all to a FABULOUS site Save the Words, where people ADOPT little used words to save them from extinction. I thought maybe it would be fun to use some of them in a little story... maybe I should make it a drabble... naw... too hard... how about just a mission statement...

 I'm surely a Historiaster, but before you have me obacerated, understand my goal is not boreism. I know my readers are not interested in plebicolar venacular. They are not foppatees. Vanmost in my mind is creating a lococession for lubency and for practicing hirquitalliency.

And you know the deal... highlight below for definitions.
foppatee --simple minded
myriander-consisting of 10,000 men
plebicolar-appealing to the common man
hirquitalliency-strength of voice
boreism-behavior of a boring person
lococession-place for giving
obacerate-to stop ones mouth
historiaster-contemptible historian
lubency-willingness, pleasure

Okay, so there you have it... and for my Harry Potter thought of the day, any parent of teens is already familiar with the Cruciatus Curse. What do they call infanticide when said infant is 15?  On a brighter note, tomorrow thing 2 turns twelve, taking him closer to his teen years... on second thought, that's not so bright... Oh wait... HERE!  Tomorrow night we get to go see the Harry Potter movie!!!!

Happy Hing Day friends!    

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Welcome Allan Russell!

Hello, fine friends! Today I have a guest who probably looks familiar to many of you—he is a fellow blogger from Australia, who shares fabulous photos (often of amazing birds—love his bird photos) and gives us some history and geography about his home (and his mother’s *wink*). I’m a bit of an AussieWannabe, so I really enjoy these, but gadabouts aside, Allan also has a recently released BOOK. His book is set across the world and decades away from his life, so he’s going to share with us a bit about that process (I don’t think there was a time machine involved, but I may be mistaken). So without any further ado, welcome Allan!

The Dangers of Research.

They say ‘write what you know’. But if you are writing about places on the other side of the world, or times in decades or even centuries past how do you ‘know’?

If you want to set a romance in the ‘Old South’ and you live in New England how do you get the hot sweaty feel just right? If a mystery set in the ‘Roaring Twenties’ is your game how do you possibly know what a flapper might do with a string of beads?

In my case I write thrillers set in Europe around the time of WWII. My recently released novel Veiled in Shadows is set against a range of backdrops including London, Berlin, the Alps and the Black Forest, and all as the war raged. Yet I am an Aussie living very much in the twenty first century and very much on the other side of the world.

Well the answer dear reader is research. But careful! It can be perilous!

Once for example, I spent hours hopelessly lost in Germany’s Black Forest all for the sake of authenticity. More of that in a moment…

Research can take many forms. In the case of Veiled in Shadows I needed information about Europe during the war. I could loosely be called a ‘history nut’ so I came to writing the novel with a better than average knowledge of the subject matter. However, it was nothing like detailed enough. So where do you start?

Well as a writer, my first point of call is usually books. History and biography are obvious starting points. I also used newspapers and magazines from the period to help set the scene. Fiction written in a period can give ideas. Drama may be caricature but if you view it analytically it can give you an idea of values of a period. And of course Google…

For extra authenticity nothing beats talking to people from the time. If I get the chance to talk to someone from my period I grab it with both hands. Over the years I have spoken with people who lived so many varied experiences. People who were soldiers, sailors, airmen, civilians, refugees. Others who were in the SS, holocaust survivors. People of so many nationalities, English, Americans, Germans, French, Russians, Poles and Hungarians to name a few.

I have been lucky in one sense in that many people who lived those times are still alive, or were until recently. But there are risks in using such material, people’s memories change over time. In any case I am a novelist, not a historian. People’s memories are just that, theirs. In my view no one who told me anything should ever be able to recognise their own story in my work. That would be a betrayal.

However, I have never been shot and wounded and had to walk for days afterwards to survive. If I want to convey something like that in a realistic way it helps if I can draw on someone else’s experience to give a feel of what such a thing might be like.

Finally, there is field work. But here there can be risks. Not necessarily danger as such. For example, if I walk through London today I would be foolish to think that the skyline is as it was in 1940 or 1850. Yet if I have done my homework, I will know that if I describe much of Oxford as it is today it will ring true for 1940 or 1850. Which brings me back to the Black Forest…

A few years ago I had reason to be in Eastern France, just across the Rhine from the Black Forest region of Germany. With part of the action in Veiled in Shadows (which I was then redrafting) involving a chase through the Swartz Wald to the Rhine the opportunity was too good to pass up. Google Earth is great for remote research, but the real thing just can’t be beat.

I crossed into Germany with no problems (after all both are in the EU). When it came to returning I ran into a problem. I had to get back to France, but I was lost. For hours this poor Aussie drove around in circles looking for a way back across the Rhine. Signs to Bavaria, signs to Freiberg and even signs to Switzerland were all in evidence. Yet a sign to France their EU partner? Not one could I find.

Finally, in sheer frustration I guessed at a road that appeared to be heading in the right direction. To my relief I had guessed right and I was finally on my way to Mulhouse.

The reason for the lack of signs? I can only guess. In my imagination I see a very proper German official: “We have tried going to France a couple of times in the past. It didn’t work out as we planned. So why would anyone want to go there again?”

Veiled in Shadows - Blurb
1937, Ebi Gausel is riding high as a member of Germany’s elite guard, Hitler’s SS.  An unexpected romance arrives in Ebi’s life in the form of the fiery Katharina. Even with Europe teetering on the brink of war their happiness seems assured.  But Ebi’s certainty comes crashing down as Katharina disappears, leaving hints of a dark secret.

In a war fought in the shadows, those who live may do so at the cost of their humanity.  Two lovers united by passion and divided by hate.

As they fight for survival, their most ruthless foe might be one another.


Allan Russell has Bachelors Degrees in Anthropology and Education, but he has also studied Archaeology and History. For over decade he has worked for charities, most recently for one that supports the homeless.

A self declared history nut, he has only just released his first novel a thriller set in WWII. As well as being mad keen on all things historical, he is passionate about wildlife and photography. Currently he lives in Melbourne Australia with his family.