Thursday, July 31, 2008

freaky green eyes by Joyce Carol Oates

I was mistaken in yesterday's post about having missed all of Oates books since 1996. I had been looking only at her list of novels for grown-ups and this book was in the list for YA. But I shouldn't have needed to see the title in that list to remember as my niece is currently reading it and we had been talking about it just last weekend. I not only read this about three years ago, I wrote this tiny review at the time. It was buried in my folder of book reviews. I may have even posted it tho without putting the title in the title of the post and thus can't find it in my archives.

freaky green eyes
By Joyce Carol Oates
Harper Tempest
© 2003
341p

Genre: Literary; Young Adult; Coming of Age; Domestic violence; Psychological abuse; Mothers and daughters; Fathers and daughters

Her mother called her Francesca and her Father called her Franky. But shortly after her fourteenth birthday she discovered an alter ego she called ‘freaky green eyes’ which came into being when she was under extreme duress. ‘freaky green eyes’ rescued her from imminent rape by an older boy who hurled the sobriquet at her after she had kneed his groin and bit, kicked and scratched her way out from under him.

She took it as a badge of honor but one for an audience of one: herself. She told no one of the incident. Not even her parents. Which was probably due, more than anything else, to the fact that just then the tensions in the Pierson household were high and she could sense that both parents had enough on their minds right then. Also her mother had started spending more and more time out of the house, timing her visits home to coincide with Franky’s Father’s out-of-town stints as a famous sports castor personality.

‘freaky green eyes’ served Franky over the next year as a wellspring of courage, as a truth detector and as a source of strength and competence she had no idea she had been capable of before. And just in time too. For Franky’s family was disintegrating in a storm of violence and deceit and crafty manipulation of the children’s emotions and loyalties. Though of course not without leaving intact the careful façade that preserved the family’s social status and her father’s prestigious career and celebrity status. Not, that is, until ’freaky green eyes’ made public the lies and spoke truth to power. Thereby loosing much that hadn’t already been wrested from her but gaining her integrity and safety, at long last, for herself and her younger sister.

Though this story has been targeted at the young-adult audience, it is not written down to that audience. All staunch Joyce Carol Oates fans will recognize the gritty plot and the smooth prose.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #97

I discovered Joyce Carol Oates in 1980 when I saw Bellefleur in book store, read the cover and the first couple of pages and then checked it out of the library as soon as I could. Over the next twenty years I read everything that came out and caught up with previous titles as they were available in the library.

Somehow, in the last ten years I let my attention be diverted and have missed most of the titles released since We Were the Mulvaneys, the last one I read, released in 1996. I believe it isn't unrelated that this was about the time the Internet came into my life. sigh So many titles of so many favorite authors have slid under my radar since then.

Oates is one of the major influences on my own writing and has long been on my short-list of (still living) dream writing teachers to study under.





13 Joyce Carol Oates Fiction Titles on my TBR list:

  1. Man Crazy (1997)
  2. My Heart Laid Bare (1998)
  3. Broke Heart Blues (1999)
  4. Blonde (2000)
  5. Middle Age: A Romance (2001)
  6. I'll Take You There (2002)
  7. The Tattooed Girl (2003)
  8. Rape: A Love Story (2003)
  9. The Falls (2004)
  10. Missing Mom (2005)
  11. Black Girl / White Girl (2006)
  12. The Gravedigger's Daughter (2007)
  13. My Sister, My Love (2008)

And then of course there are these two which will soon join the others:

A Fair Maiden (Forthcoming)
The Crosswicks Horror (Forthcoming)

And this one I've already started:

The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense (2007)

Then there is this NF which I started last spring before the library closure and keep forgetting send for again:

The Faith of A Writer: Life, Craft, Art (2003)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!




The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Volger

The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
by Christopher Volger
(c) 1998
Michael Wise Productions (www.mwp.com)
300p

From the Preface to the second edition:

In this book I described the set of concepts known as "The Hero's Journey," drawn from the depth psychology of Carl G. Jung and the mythic studies of Joseph Campbell. I tried to relate these ideas to contemporary storytelling, hoping to create a writer's guide to these valuable gifts from our innermost selves and our most distant past. I came looking for the design principles of storytelling, but on the road I found something more; a set of principles for living. I came to believe that the Hero's Journey is nothing less than a handbook for life, a complete instruction manual in the art of being human.

The Hero's Journey is not an invention, but an observation. It is a recognition of a beautiful design, a set of principles that govern the conduct of life and the world of storytelling the way physics and chemistry govern the physical world.


Volger is a story consultant who has worked with major motion picture studios, including Disney and 20th Century Fox. He has evaluated thousands of novels and screenplays and conducted workshops. He was introduced to the ideas of Joseph Campbell in film school and saw the Hero's Journey Campbell described in The Hero With a Thousand Faces, as a practical guide to the art of storytelling as time after time it helped him diagnose what was ailing a story and supply the fix.

Shortly after going to work for Disney he wrote a seven page memo laying out the principles with examples from past and current films and distributed it to executives and colleagues for feedback. He later expanded that memo into a longer essay and began teaching courses and workshops with it from which he acquired more feedback with which he continued to expand the work that eventually became this book. Long before he set out to publish it in book form for a general audience though, his memo and essay had been circulating among the insiders of the storytelling industries around the world and among those who'd attended his workshops who spread it on to their own friends and colleagues. It had attracted an almost cultish following.

I was excited to learn about this book on a web site around the first of the year and disappointed it wasn't in our library system when I checked. I put it on my ever expanding wish list. Then a few months later saw it pop up in the new acquisitions list on the libraries web site. I got in line. My turn came three weeks ago. There is, of course, a line formed behind me and my turn was supposed to be over yesterday. I'm not quite done with it so I hung on for a day or two more. I might have finished on time if not for how much time I put into the book giveaway last week.

I was so excited when I learned about it because I am already a devotee of Joseph Campbell's work. I read The Hero With a Thousand Faces in the early nineties as I was struggling with the devastating break-up of the religious community I was raised in and my own repudiation of most of its rigorous and rigid doctrines. From that experience I know personally the Call to Adventure out of the Ordinary World, the initial Refusal of the Call, the Threshold Crossings and their Guardians and so forth.

Just as important as the stages in the Hero's path are the archetypes of the various characters encountered along the way. Mentors and Threshold Guardians. Allies and Heralds. Shadows and Shapeshifters. Below I have listed the steps of the Hero's Journey and the most ubiquitous archetypical characters.

This is not a formula. It is form though; structure. It is the DNA of story and has the ability to support as many variations on a theme as does DNA. Though a better metaphor might be skeleton with infinite adjustability in size and shape and infinite variations on how it is fleshed out and dressed up. Several steps can be compressed into a single scene or a single step can take over a hundred pages in a novel. One character can be more than one archetype either simultaneously or alternately. The enemy can be the hero's own neurosis, or character flaw. The journey can be across the room or across the universe or into the hidden recesses of the hero's own psyche.

The Hero's Journey:

  1. Ordinary World--status quo
  2. Call to Adventure--the Herald can be a person or event that announces an irrevocable shakeup of the status quo.
  3. Refusal of the Call--excuses, fears, apathy
  4. Mentor--encouragement, advice and gifts needed for success.
  5. First Threshold--accepting the call and stepping onto the path
    --end of Act One
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies--acquiring the skills, tools and companions for the quest and encountering resistance and adversaries.
  7. Approach to the Inmost Cave--more thresholds with their guardians encountered and overcome on the way to the stronghold containing the most necessary thing--a person, object or idea needed for reestablishing balance and harmony in the world or the psyche.
  8. Ordeal: a high stakes challenge. Life itself or something equally precious is on the line.
  9. Reward (Seizing the Sword) the key to victory or transcendence.
    --end of Act Two
  10. The Road Back--sometimes involving the Refusal of Return
  11. Resurrection--acquiring the ability to live in both worlds though forever changed
  12. Return With the Elixir--the boon that heals self, community or world.

Archetypes

  • Hero
  • Herald
  • Mentor
  • Allies
  • Shapeshifter
  • Shadow
  • Trickster
  • Threshold Guardians

This book is still on my wishlist. I have barely scratched the surface of what it offers. But while I'm waiting for another turn or a chance to own it, I'm going to put a re-read of Campbell's Hero high on the list of my TBR for a re-read--I'll have to order it from the library. But meanwhile I can return to delve into the depths of his four volume Masks of God--an examination of story from the most primitive myth to the most modern novels. I own those and they've been languishing on the shelf because they have no due dates to goad me.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Poetry Train #56



Still

by Joy Renee

Still, after all this time,
our stories intertwine.
Tho the fibers may be frayed
by strains of distance and years,
never have we each other's
hearts betrayed,
nor scorned the other's fears.

Still, after all these years,
after a million tears
were shed for joy and sorrow,
there has never been a sign
trust had been misplaced. Our
soul's morrow
left steeping in the brine.

Still, after all we've shared
and all the secrets bared,
we could never dare behold
shadows stalking at our keels--
putrid slough off ancient wounds.
We withhold
awareness of such weals.

Still, after all we've been
through, having taken friend-
ship for granted, we embark
upon a desperate voyage
toward a luminous fate
to demark
the depth of our courage.

Still, after all, we're left--
our hearts gashed, seared, bereft--
with spirits aloft, soaring
'or the abyss of despair
refusing to abandon
or sink
our lives beneath such care.

#####
I posted the first three verses of this poem last week, saying I felt it was incomplete. I've added two more and now feel it comes around to closure.

This was inspired by and reflects some of the story and much of the theme of Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Read more...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Weekly Geeks #12 Pt 2 The Answers

Here are my answers to some of the questions I received from other WG participants in WG 12. I am holding back on all of the questions pertaining to The Historian and A New Earth as I think they both need full posts of their own and I am already working on reviews for them. I intend to incorporate my answers into those reviews and will let the questioners know when I post them.

Thanks to all who left questions and all who answered mine, some of whom I still need to visit or return to leave a comment where I stopped by to read the answers on the fly. The book giveaway ate up a lot of my time and attention this past week.

Care of Care's Online Bookclub asks:

re: The People of the Book. After reading on amazon what this is about - I wondered HOW LONG but under 400 pages is good for me. Do you feel the length was appropriate? not too long, got everything in that was needed? etc. Thx, Care

The length worked for me. I was able to read it in about five or six moderate to long sittings. But the structure of the book would allow for taking more time and taking more breaks. The protagonist of the framing story is a book conservator expert in repairing ancient books and manuscripts and preserving them from destructive elements. She can also acquire many hints about the book's history from her knowledge of the materials used in its making and the history of book making. Certain things she discovers in the ancient hagadah give clues as to where it has been in its 400 odd years. Those clues are extrapolated upon in separate stories inserted between scenes of the protagonist's 21st century story. Each of these stories read like stand alone short stories which can all be read in a single sitting. Whenever I stopped it was usually at the end of one of them. When I could resist moving ahead to the next present day scene. The framing story was a bit of a suspense story along with a tense mother/daughter relationship story and it was sometimes hard moving from a kind of cliffhanger into a brand new story in a brand new setting.

Bybee of Naked Without Books asks:

Is this the first play you've read by August Wilson? Is this part of a series? Is it a period peace? How do you feel about reading plays as opposed to reading novels?

The Piano Lesson is the first play by August Wilson I have read. As far as I know it is not part of a series. It is a period piece if you consider settings in the American depression era of the 1930's period pieces and I suppose they ought to be thought so. It is a quite different place in time with a distinct ambiance.

I am fairly new at reading plays. Other than Shakespeare that is. I have set upon the task as an exercise in learning how to write better dialog that carries its own weight in the story and how to give individual characters their individual voices.

I find all the elements of storytelling distilled to an essence just short of poetry in a play. I do think something is probably lost in not having the stage settings and the actor's voices adding pacing and nuance.

I like the quick pace of reading a play. It is a bit like watching a tennis match. I liked being able to read a complete story in a sitting too. I want to add more plays to my TBR. But I won't be giving up novels!

Alessandra from Out of the Blue asks:

I'm curious about The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman. Which was your favorite character, and why? How does the portrayal of the Amazons in this book compare to their mythological image?

My favorite character was the narrator and protagonist, Rain. But I was extremely fond of both Io her adopted sister and Deborah the priestess. As supporting cast they were well drawn and compelling.

I thought the portrayal of the Amazon culture fit well with what I remember of my encounters of them in myths but it has been awhile so I wouldn't be able to identify discrepancies or imaginary extrapolations from the 'facts' known from mythology and legend.

Read more...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sunday Serenity #66 The Joy of Giving

Announcing the four winners of copies of Jacquelyn Mitchard's Still Summer.

What could be a better example of a moment of serenity or joy than notifying the winners of a book giveaway. Thus I've no qualms at combining the two into one post.

I need all winners to email me at joystoryATgmailDOTcom with their mailing address as soon as possible. If I don't have it by noon PST Tuesday, July 29, I will draw another name. It must be a US or Canadian address. No PO Box.

First a Reminder: Joanne at Book Zombie won the first contest Monday by identifying the giveaway book correctly. I still need your snail mail.

The drawing winners:

For Tuesday:
icedream from Reading In Appalachia

For Wednesday:
Penelope from Mama Bear Reads

For Thursday:
Carol

For Friday:
blueviolet

A great big thanks to all who participated. I so enjoyed this whole experience.

This has been a lot of fun and I hope there will be more. But I am on a learning curve here. I will have to do things differently next time. It took me 6 hours to compile the four lists and track down contact information. Which of course makes me extra grateful for those who included their @ in comments. They must be old hands at this hmmm? So next time an @ or a blog where I can leave comments to notify a winner will be required for a qualifying entry. The ironic thing is that the winners all had provided email in their comments. So the smart thing would have been to make the drawing first and then track down contact info if necessary. lol Live and learn.

Read more...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Book Giveaway--Last Day!

Still time to enter for your chance to win one of four copies of Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard.

You can enter in comments once in each of the posts between Tuesday and Friday. This one--tho it's not still Friday as I prepare to publish this--sigh. Friday's are often hectic around here.

I feel bad about that and am considering extending the 3PM Saturday deadline for qualifying comments because of my dereliction. As it is I know I'm probably not going to be ready to conduct the drawing and prepare the winner announcements that early. I don't know what I was thinking when I set it. Other than that I knew Ed and his folks would have left for the dirt track races by then.

Race day Saturday is my chore day--laundry, room clutter patrol etc. And this weekend is one of the rare ones my niece is able to be here what with her summer jobs. So tell you what, when I sit down to start the drawings as soon after 3PM PST as possible (and I will make it my first chore after Ed turns the laptop over to me as he prepares to leave) I will start with Tuesday's post and work forward doing one drawing at a time. As I begin to prepare the list of contestants for each post, I will close comments temporarily--until after the winner's announcement is posted atop this post. So if you come in after 3 but comments are still open and no winner's announcement is posted then you might still have a chance. It is this post particularly that I want to extend the deadline for as it is really unfair of me to be posting it so late that it is nearly dawn on the east coast.

I'm so sorry about that. This was my first giveaway and I'm kinda fumbling at it. I hope I get my act together better for next time. Always assuming I'm allowed a next time. :(

See Sunday's post for the poem I wrote inspired by this book. (not part of the giveaway)
See Tuesday's post for my book review
See Wednesday's post for my TT featuring info from various bios of Jacquelyn Mitchard.
See Thursday's post for a glimpse of and discussion of the hardback and tradeback book covers.

I had planned another in depth discussion of the novel for this post based on the questions I proffered all the WG participants this week for answering in their book reviews. Well it can't be in depth else or it will be noon before I publish this but I'm going to paste the questions below and give myself 30 minutes to answer what I can which means either short and sweet answers or only one or two answered.

I admit I used a boilerplate to leave these questions but I really wanted to plant these concepts with book reviewers. For as a reader who writes and a writer who reads I'm interested in the technique and art of storytelling itself:

How was Point-of-View handled? Was there a single POV character or did it alternate among two or more. Was it always clear whose eyes and mind were filtering?

POV jumped among dozens of characters major, minor and incidental. For the most part it was handled well enough I was usually clear who was thinking/witnessing what.

How was language used to set tone and mood?

Language was matter-of-fact most of the time, moving the story's action along. But Mitchard was deft at setting a humorous tone when called for, a dreamy romantic one a couple of times, an occasional contemplative one, and many a tense, anxious one when necessary. And it was frequently necessary. She would alternate mood, playing it like a symphony of emotion on its way to a crescendo.

Was the prose dense or spare? Were sentences generally simple or complex?

Her prose tended toward the spare and sentences toward the simple. I mean compared to Falkner's sentences that covered pages. But she wasn't as spare as Joan Didion who favored sentences with a noun and a verb and as little else as possible. So she lands in mid spectrum really.

How was metaphor used? Were associations fresh or did they tend toward cliche? Did they add to your understanding of the theme?

Overall metaphors were sparse but when used they were fresh. I never caught a cliche unless possibly when a character would think or speak in one because it was in character for them.

What was the central or organizing theme?

Transcending one's character in the service of survival and love. Each of the women--even Janis who stayed behind for a family emergency--had to struggle with their character flaws, their internal demons--rising to the occasion (or not) in order to work out their own salvation without compromising their integrity. Mitchard's purpose I think was to write a damoselle in distress story in which the damoselles were their own heroes.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Judging Book Covers

I ran across a new book cover image for Jacquelyn Mitchard's Still Summer. I suspect it is the image of the paperback or tradeback edition. And if so is more likely to be the cover of the book winners of the giveaway this week will receive. The hardback library copy I read has the sailboat on the cover and will probably always be the image I see in my mind when remembering this novel. Since I ordered it through the library catalog without seeing a cover image, I can't be sure whether I would have pick it up off the shelf at a bookstore before seeing Mitchard's name. I might have since I am attracted to seascape images. But I can be nearly certain that I'd have picked up the second one before knowing either title or author.

As much as I hate to admit to judging books by their covers, I know I do tend to when in a bookstore environment, stressed by unfamiliar territory, pressed for time and scanning the shelves quickly. This applies generally only to the rare impulse book buying. I've not bought a book in over a year and even then I went after one particular book to spend my Xmas gift card on. It has been over eight years since I was in a bookstore with funds to spend on a whim.

So I'm wondering how many of you are willing to fess up that you ever buy a book because of the cover?

If you are interested in a free copy of this book enter the four drawings in the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (this one) and Friday (tomorrow) posts. Just indicate you are interested in comments. I will be drawing the winners--one from each post's pool of commentors--after 3pm Saturday and then posting the winners.

See Sunday's post for the poem I wrote inspired by this book. (not part of the giveaway)
See Tuesday's post for my book review
See Wednesday's post for my TT featuring info from various bios of Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Read more...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #96

Another day another giveaway!

I've been given an opportunity to give away five copies of Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard. The first was won via a special contest on Monday's post.

The remaining four winner's will be selected by some random means from among the commentors expressing an interest in the posts for Tuesday through Friday. One winner per post comment pool. But I won't be selecting the winners until Saturday afternoon. That allows for individuals to make multiple entries (one per post) and gives me time to promote the contest. Sorry but only US and Canadian non PO Box mailing addresses qualify.

You don't have to be a TT participant to participate in the book giveaway on this or any of the other three posts. And visa versa you TTers don't have to be interested in the book to comment. Just remember that only those expressing an interest in winning the book will be entered in the drawings on Saturday.

Tuesday's post is my review of Still Summer. Today is a list of facts about Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Be sure and check out the poem I wrote for Monday Poetry Train inspired by the novel.






Thirteen Things About Jacquelyn Mitchard

1. She is the author of bestseller Still Summer the book I am hosting a giveaway for this week.

2. She is the author of Deep End of the Ocean which became the first Oprah Book Club selection and also a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer .

3. She is (or was) a syndicated columnist.

4. She has authored at least eleven novels for adults and children.

5. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin...

6. with her husband...

7. and seven children. Seven!

8. She is a self-taught novelist.

9. She teaches two writer's workshops each year.

10. She loves horses

11. She has a web page where you can read some of her articles and her blog, learn about each of her published books and those upcoming, join her forum, listen to podcasts, peruse her photo gallery and see her itinerary.

12. Her birthday is December 10, the same as Emily Dickinson's.

13. From her bio:
If you are smart, you will not play a game with Mitchard involving quotes from song lyrics and British or American literature. If PowerBall were based on this talent, Mitchard would by now own the Amalfi coast.


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!




The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Read more...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Yesterday's book giveaway winner was Joanne of Book Zombie for discovering the Title and Author of the giveaway. Congratulations Joanne.

The remaining four winner's will be selected by some random means from among the commentators expressing an interest in the posts for today through Friday. One winner per post comment pool. But I won't be selecting the winners until Saturday afternoon. That allows for individuals to make multiple entries and gives me time to promote the contest. Sorry but only US and Canadian non PO Box mailing addresses qualify.


Still Summer
by Jacquelyn Mitchard
(c) 2007
Warner Books
Hatchette Book Group USA
307p

Twenty-five years ago Tracy, Olivia, Holly and Janis were inseparable. They called themselves The Godmothers and strove to distinguish themselves at St. Ursula High, a Catholic girls school, as 'unholy innocents' wearing fishnet stockings and leather jackets and pulling pranks like running a D cup bra up the flagpole. Nineteen years ago Olivia had married an Italian Count and moved to Italy the four had all been together only a handful of times since then. The other three had entwined their lives like macramé, acting as Godmothers and Aunts to each other's children, spending many holidays and vacations together. Now Olivia is returning to America after the death of her husband and the women have planned a very special reunion: A luxury sailboat cruise of the Caribbean.

The day they were to leave, Janis has to cancel due to a family emergency. Tracy's nineteen year-old daughter, Camille, takes her place. Tracy hopes they can use the opportunity to mend whatever has been fraying their relationship.

The first few days of the voyage are as paradisaical as they had imagined with the two man crew of the trimaran Opus, Captain Lenny and Co-captain Michel, serving them gourmet meals, entertaining them with tales of the sea, taking them scuba diving at reefs and shopping on exotic islands.

Then in a moment paradise dissolves. One tiny miscalculation leads to a series of unfortunate events and suddenly the four women are alone on the open sea. Opus' motor has quit, the sails are shredded, the electricity goes out, the radios receive but won't send, the GPS has been lost. Without electricity the perishable food quickly spoils.

The next couple of weeks are fraught with fear, frustration and frayed nerves. They fight hunger, thirst, fatigue, sunburn, modern day pirates, their own inner demons and each other. Limits of loyalty, friendship and love are tested. Each woman discovers just what her character is made of and what is truly important.

This story was a page turner and a hanky-honker with strong threads of humor woven into the the tapestry of horror.

I had only one minor problem with this book. Mitchard opted for a point-of-view technique that is very difficult to control. POV jumped from character to character throughout. Not just the major characters but minor and incidental ones as well. For the most part it was done gracefully and seamlessly. But there were a few times I was jarred out of the story-dream by confusion having not caught that POV had shifted. I cannot be sure though how much my problem with it was due to my own visual impairment or even just fatigue after reading through the wee hours and past dawn with my sleep deprivation meter in the blinking red zone.

Regardless, I would not wish Mitchard to have used a different POV scheme as it really was the best option for providing the reader with the necessary knowledge for understanding all the events as well as the currents of history that carried the various relationships and the undercurrents of emotion and misunderstanding that threaten to pull some of them under.

I was astounded to learn that Mitchard has seven children! A multiple bestseller writer who is raising seven children. I can't lift my jaw off the floor.

Read more...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Weekly Geeks #12

I'm going to combine WG this week with the giveaway that I've been talking about here all weekend. Or, I should say, the beginning of the giveaway since I've been allowed 5 copies to giveaway and have decided to make it an all week event. I'm going to feature the book in some manner each day Monday through Friday and there will be a winner chosen from among the commenters to each post.. Which means essentially Tuesday through Saturday since, like today, I often begin working on a post so late in the evening that I frequently don't click publish until the wee hours of the next morning.

Anyway. After this post each day's winner will be chosen in some random manner from the pool of commenters expressing interest. But the first winner will be chosen differently. Read on. The explanation will follow the presentation of this week's WG assignment.

From Dewey:

1. In your blog, list any books you’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet. If you’re all caught up on reviews, maybe you could try this with whatever book(s) you finish this week.

2. Ask your readers to ask you questions about any of the books they want. In your comments, not in their blogs. Most likely, people who will ask you questions will be people who have read one of the books or know something about it because they want to read it.

3. Later, take whichever questions you like from your comments and use them in a post about each book. I’ll probably turn mine into a sort of interview-review. Link to each blogger next to that blogger’s question(s).

4. Visit other Weekly Geeks and ask them some questions!

****ETA: I don’t want to tell people what to ask, but I’m seeing a lot of “What did you think of ______?” and “What is ______ about?” questions. And I just want to suggest that bloggers might appreciate something more specific to answer.

Oh boy. This is something I so need to kick start my butt. I have a TBR pile rivaled in size only by my TBR pile. That is my To Be Reviewed pile is at least a young adult version of my To Be Read pile. For example I've got a folder on my computer with 120 Book Reviews in various stages of completion. A dozen or so were complete and posted either here or at Joyread. Another dozen were complete and waiting for HTML pages. Several dozen contain little more than the author, title, publisher info.

But I'm not going to draw from that list for this assignment. I stopped working with those book reviews and stopped beginning new ones in the word processor over two years ago. I stopped studying HTML and thus stopped making pages for Joyread and Joywrite in 2005 the year my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I stopped working on formal book reviews in late 2006 after the announcement our libraries were slated to close their doors in April for lack of funding. I must have checked out over 300 books between December and April, but other than a handful of novels I wasn't reading to finish books. I was reading to cram my head with as many facts and as much ambiance related to my various writing projects--the professions, diseases and stomping grounds of the dozens of characters in my stories in progress; the supporting facts for the thesis of the many essays in progress; how to for fiction and poetry writing; anything Shakespeare and DVDs by the dozen. But I stopped taking notes.

By the time the libraries opened back up in October 2007 I was so focused on writing my own fiction again, I'd practically stopped reading entirely.

I've recently been trying to shift the balance back to reading, especially fiction. And to taking notes and reviewing books. A writer needs to read. A fiction writer needs to read fiction. A poet needs to read poetry. I recently tried to create a post to collect the links to book reviews I've posted here but I could find only a handful of the ones I had firm memories of reviewing on Joystory. Then one day last week, while musing about a book I was still reading and another I had just finished in the last paragraphs of a post, I realized that must have been what happened to the 'book reviews' I remembered posting. They weren't formal enough to merit their own post so I didn't title the post with the title of the book and most of them were posted long before Blogger provided labels.

So. I'm sure that was way too much information.

The books I'm going to list here I finished in the last several weeks. Or am about to finish. Most are novels. All but a couple are library books and most of those I will have to send for again before I can do a proper review. The giveaway book is among them. :)

  1. A New Earth by Ekhart Tolle
  2. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  3. Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan
  4. Swordquest by Nancy Yi Fan
  5. The Piano Lesson: A Play by August Wilson
  6. Messi@h by Andrei Codrescu
  7. The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra
  8. The Morning After by Lisa Jackson
  9. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  10. Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
  11. Foretelling by Alice Hoffman
  12. ? (the giveaway) Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard
    Joanne of Book Zombie gave the correct answer so the first copy of the book is hers.
  13. The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler (which I need to finish this week as another patron is waiting their turn so it may be weeks or months before I get another turn)
  14. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kid (which I'm about to finish)
  15. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (which I'm about to start)
That's right I'm still not naming it because the winner for today will be the first one to leave a comment with the correct title and author. The clues are contained in three of my previous posts:

Heads Up
Monday Poetry Train #55
Thursday Thirteen #92 you can ignore the windy intro. The book is in the list of 13.

If no one guesses correctly by the time I'm ready to click publish on tomorrow night's post (sometime between 9PM and the wee hours) I will select a winner by some random method from the pool of commenters expressing an interest. Then I will be requesting the winner to provide a mailing address via: joystory AT gmail DOT com.

That mailing address must be either United States or Canada and cannot be a PO Box. I know of several this is likely to affect but there could be a fudge. If you have any family or friends with a qualifying address you could provide that. Either to gift them with the book or to ask them to ship it to you if you are willing to pay those costs.

Don't forget to indicate in your comment if you are interested in winning the book as there will be a drawing instead if no one guesses correctly in time and only those expressing an interest will be included.

Don't forget to also leave me some questions about one or more of the books in the above list. Including the mystery book if you figure it out or arrive here after I've updated this post with the answer and the announcement of the winner soon after I post tomorrow night. Which I imagine will be one or two hours either side of midnight. If there has not been a winner before I begin working on the post, I will check comments one last time before clicking publish and thus closing the contest so as long as this post is riding the top of the page you still have time.

Some of this weeks WG participants:

gautami tripathy
Bybee
Joanne of Book Zombie the winner of the book.
Alessandra from Out of the Blue
Care of Care's Online Bookclub
Kim of Page After Page

I will try to remember to return and add more after I start visiting more WG.

Read more...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Monday Poetry Train #55



Still

by Joy Renee

Still, after all this time,
our stories intertwine.
Tho the fibers may be frayed
by strains of distance and years,
never have we each other's
hearts betrayed,
nor scorned the other's fears.

Still, after all these years,
after a million tears
were shed for joy and sorrow,
there has never been a sign
trust had been misplaced. Our
soul's morrow
left steeping in the brine.

Still, after all we've shared
and all the secrets bared,
we could never dare behold
shadows stalking at our keels--
putrid slough off ancient wounds.
We withhold
awareness of such weals

to our doom.

#######

I'm fairly sure this is incomplete. It feels unfinished to me, like a story without resolution.

This was inspired by the novel I just finished. The one I mentioned in Friday's post, Head's Up. The one I'm going to be hosting a giveaway for this week. I hope by mid Tuesday latest. Watch for it. I'm so excited. It's my first book giveaway.

Read more...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sunday Serenity #65

Hanging With the Fur Babies


Sour Sweetie

Sweetie pouts for at least a full day after Ed's folks leave town. They've gone to the coast for the weekend and Ed was helping me get pictures of all the fur-babies for my planned Sunday Serenity post. I wanted Sweetie to join in the fun but all she would do is sit and stare at the door. I think I understand how my parents must have felt when I would act just that way when they were trying to get a family-togetherness thing going and even when they could keep my body there they couldn't keep my spirit there.

Meanwhile...


Is Any Buddy Home?

A little over a week ago, Merlin started acting very unlike himself every time we hook his leash up to the front porch rail, which was usually after sundown. He would go down to the bottom and sit or prowl to either side of the steps and sing, yowl, moan. He has never been a very vocal cat and even when he speaks up he is usually hard to hear. But he was making himself heard this past week or so.


Kitty Kisses

This went on for three or four evenings before we discovered the 'problem'. There was a stray kitten who'd made himself at home under the steps. They must have been playing to the right and left of the steps out of reach of the porch light for at least a couple of evenings for by the time she showed herself in the light, chasing his leash up the steps, they were already fast friends.


I's Gotz U In My Sightz

Knowing those are regular sized bricks and that stake is less than three inches tall, gives you an idea of her size. Teeny-tiny. Picking her up is like lifting a fur pouch of balsa wood. But that's partly due to her being little more than a skeleton in a fur coat. Poor baby. One of the first times I saw her clear she had come up on the porch while I was reading, long after Merlin and Ed had gone in to bed. I heard a rustling noise coming from the corner where Sweetie's dish sits atop the lidded tub of her kibbles. My father-in-law often leaves a partial cellophane bag of a moister and more flavorful treat that he adds to the dry kibble waiting in the bowl. The kitten had punctured a hole in it just big enough to extract one tiny pellet at a time with her claw. This may explain why she settled under the porch. She could count on that pouch being there two out of every three days as my FIL doled it out one third at at time.


Who'z Gotz Who Babe?

One of the kitten's favorite games is to chase and tangle with Merlin's leash. Here she had caught him so off guard she spun him around and tugged him toward her. But he's instantly in his ox posture tugging back. And a second later he lunges for her.

She scampers...


I'z Ignoring U Now.

Flowers are suddenly soooo much more interesting. They also smell soooo much sweeter than this importunate critter whose front door is a garbage can.


Time Out

Take a lesson from a kitten. When its time to rest, rest in the same way you play--all out!

Now that's serenity.


Watzat?

When noise and flash intrude on your serene moments, give it the evil eye.

She was startled by the whir and flash of the camera as I took the previous picture and I snapped another, capturing that moment of her startle just before she sprang up and off.


The Boarder

My FIL put the dishes down for her Friday morning. He had found her in Sweetie's dish a couple of morning's earlier and taken pity, dropping a few pellets and kibbles on the floor for her. He began calling her The Boarder. I don't know if he's intending that for a name but he says it with affection and that gave me hope he wouldn't chase her off or call the pound. Ed and I have discussed names for her as a fun game--he likes Morticia because of those white hairs in her ears, I like Dizzy because she runs tight circles so fast she trips herself--but we agreed that it shouldn't be up to us for whether she stays or goes would be at the discretion of Ed's parents. Ed overheard them playing the naming game the other evening. Hope is a springboard for joy.

Maybe we were presumptuous, but we picked up kitten food and the feather toy for her this afternoon.

She feels like something magical, no miraculous, to me. I'd been yearning for another kitten in my life tho I don't much care for the thought of being confined in a small room with it for twelve to sixteen hours per day even if it were possible to bring another such imposition into my in-law's home.

Read more...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Heads Up



I've been too busy reading to write on Crystal's story this week. As I feared, once I let off the brake, I moved from zero to ninety in a nanosecond. I'm in the last third of the third novel I've started since Monday. That makes seven since the Read-a-thon.

But I've got an extra-special reason for wanting to finish this latest book and put a review of some kind up soon. I've been given the opportunity to host a book givaway! My first one. I'm so excited.

I am targeting Monday or Tuesday. Watch for it!

I don't want to give away its title just yet which makes it difficult to talk about the way I usually talk about the books I'm currently reading. I will say this much: four women lost at sea on a sailing vessel who are found by pirates...

The author had a previous novel selected for Oprah's Book club which was also made into a movie. That one, like this one, showcased the author's insight into family dynamics and interpersonal relationships.

That is probably enough info for anyone who has read both to guess.

Now I want to get back to the story!

Read more...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It



This week Missy left a comment on my Monday Poetry Train poem that made my day. And yet gave me pause.

She said, "I so wish I could write like this. It's beautiful!"

It's obvious why it would make my day. Maybe not so obvious why it would give me pause.

It was because I know that feeling so well and what a sneaky little harpy it is. A harpy with double-edged teeth that sneaks in through the door of your appreciation of a story or poem whose encounter moved you in some profound way and its bite poisons your joy in the art in two ways. First with that insidious sense of intimidation casting a shadow over your memory of the encounter that moved you. Then, with intimidation suffusing your spirit, your motivation to even attempt emulation is sapped until eventually your willingness to even try is completely drained.

I was bothered by my sense that Missy was falling into this trap that had kept me stifled for more years than I care to contemplate. So when I left my comment on her Poetry Train post I thanked her for her over-the-top complement and then continued thus:

I must say in return: you can! if by 'like that' you mean writing something that moves another heart to say, 'oh yes! that's it!'

I know this because I can see the evidence in your blog that you have a passion for language and story and respect for the craftsman's tools--words, image, metaphor, ideas, conflict etc--and based on the choice of poem you shared today I see you can recognize 'it' when you encounter it.

This is what I've learned: 'it' happens when the writer combines the competent use of the tools with the willingness to be vulnerable--when the choices of words, images, metaphors etc come out of your unique take on life, your personal anxieties and ecstasies, your wounds and your victories.

It took me decades to learn this. Not the fact but the willingness. And I'm still at the toddler stage. So I wanted to encourage you on two levels: to believe that you can. And to know that 'it' is in the well of your own heart so its needless to be intimidated when encountering 'it' in other's work.


Some of what I wrote there, I wasn't even aware that I knew until I encountered Missy's complement and began to contemplate why it both exhilarated and worried me and then began to try to put it into words to explain it to myself as much as to her.

For that, I owe Missy yet another thank you: For holding up the mirror in which I saw one of the ways in which I'd been sabotaging myself for so long.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #95

I think I've done this before but I'm sure I've collected enough for another batch of 13 since then. These are moments of oops. Things I did or that happened to me that might be attributed to my visual impairment, sleep deprivation, the absent minded professor sans PhD syndrome, or according to my sister, ADD. She and her son have been diagnosed and my brother's son but not me.





Thirteen Oops in My Recent Past

1. While clearing the table, I picked up what I thought was a piece of grated cheese and put it in my mouth. It was a yellow twist-tie off the bread wrapper.

2. While bringing Merlin out to the back yard, I misjudged where the stake for his leash was and I stubbed my bare foot on it. In my defense it was painted green and didn't stick up above the grass much that day.

3. Last Sunday the oscillating fan in our room started making a racket and in order to adjust it I needed to kneel on the bed. I had been reclined against pillows reading and in order to get onto my knees had to roll over first. In the process I smacked my forehead on the shelf holding the clock and reading lamp. It gave me a headache for a few minutes. About twenty minutes later I went out to the porch fridge to get a cold drink. Ed was out there working on the laptop and he looked up and said, What happened to her head? When I went to the bathroom mirror to look I saw a small round red dot like Hindu women often wear to represent the third eye. Except it was a tad off center and a tad higher.

4. A few hours later while exiting our room I tripped over Merlin who raced between my legs. I stumbled out of the room and on down the hall (about three steps) where I smacked into the doorknob on the hall door which stands open against the hall wall. I now have a bruise the size of a tennis ball about four inches above my left hip.

So much for the idea that the bump on my head had opened my third eye.

5. About six weeks ago I was washing dishes on the day of my in-laws expected return from the coast. I'd let them pile up for most of two days. I was almost done when I suddenly noticed that the clean dishes in the rack which sits in the left sink well were standing six inches deep in greasy pink water. I'd been rinsing them with the spray nozzle not realizing the drain stopper was in on that side and earlier I had rinsed out a spaghetti sauce skillet on that side before placing the rack there. I had to rewash everything in the rack.

6. I was feeding a little stray kitten out of a tiny cup held in my hand. I tried to stop a piece of kibble from going over the edge with my finger. I missed. She bit my finger.

7. Sunday night as Ed was getting ready to sleep and I was getting ready to write my post for Joystory, I discovered that the clip-on lenses that make it possible for me to read the screen from a normal typing position--ten or more inches from instead of the four required by my bifocals--were missing. I suddenly remembered that I had accidentally worn them outside when I took Merlin out and had clipped them to the cover of my book. Knowing I couldn't have a satisfying or productive session on the computer without them, Ed got dressed and went back outside to try to spot them. No luck. He found them the next morning under the bottom step of the back porch.

8. Monday afternoon when Ed and his folks left for the dirt track races, I moved my workstation out to the living room where I anticipated sitting in comfort with the cooler and two fans in there. I got all set up and then reached to lower the clip-ons and they weren't there. I distinctly remembered clipping them on as I left the room with the first load. I spent the next hour backtracking my every move looking for them. I even had to go out to look on the front porch and steps and the strip of lawn beside the driveway because when I had gone out for the small folding table (we used to call them TV trays) Merlin had darted out with me and gotten clear to the driveway before I caught him.

(Call that an oops too so that makes this # 8 & 9)

Anyway after working up a serious sweat doing all that scurrying around and going in and out of the nearly 100 degrees and I mean really serious--it soaked my T-shirt from the neck to the waistband of my shorts--I finally allowed myself to sit down and rest and try to think where else in the house I had been while getting my workstation moved out and set up. I went to raise the collar of my shirt up to wipe my face. And there were the clip-ons--clipped to the collar.

10. On my last walk to the library and back about three weeks ago I missed a landmark which was my cue to turn and cross the street. I overshot by nearly a block before I realized I now recognized nothing. I stopped and turned in a circle slowly a couple of times trying to get my bearings and a man who had whizzed by on a bicycle a few seconds earlier circled back to see if I needed help. By then I had spotted the backside of the stop sign behind me and I gestured at it with my white cane and then at the other side of the street from it and said, I think that's the stop sign where I was supposed to cross. Is that the street that goes past the post office?

He confirmed this for me and I trudged back. It was pushing 90 degrees that afternoon. So maybe that could have seemed like the explanation for my red face. I get so embarrassed when people stop and ask me if I need help when I am acting disoriented on the street. I appreciate it. I do. But I am still embarrassed.

11. A few weeks ago, one of the weekends my in-laws had gone to the coast, I was walking across the living room and tripped over Sweetie, their Border Collie/Australian Shepard. I went to the floor hard, hitting the couch on the way down having thrown myself to the side so I wouldn't land on her. That has happened at least a dozen times since we have lived here.

12. One night last week, Merlin tried to jump up on top of my To-Be-Reviewed pile on the bedside table trying to get to the window to check out the sounds of a catfight just outside it. I tried to stop him. the pile of five novels fell off and the reading lamp beside them fell over and a lot of misc small stuff fell onto the bed and floor. If I'd just let him do his thing he would have probably managed it without the fiasco. Sigh. More than preventing the tip over of the books and lamp I wanted to prevent him getting in my light. In my attempt to save a little bit of time and annoyance for myself, I ended up causing the loss of a lot of time for myself and annoyance for both me and Ed who had been asleep beside me. It took me twenty minutes to put it all back in order.

13. That To-Be-Reviewed pile had to go back to the library unreviewed Tuesday morning. Leaving aside the fact of my procrastination due to the heat so that three of them had sat there over a week--much of the blame can be placed on the oops #7, 8 & 9 which caused loss of time and energy intended for that project.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!




The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Smokin

The picture is not of our area but it is what I imagine it must look like from the air.


The smoke from the California fires 50-60 miles south of us is beginning to fill our valley again. Not nearly as bad as a couple weeks ago but it surely will be if we don't get a stiff breeze flowing through--preferably from a different direction than south. Last time a temperature inversion set atop us for several days like a lid on a Tupperware container.

It is still hotter than I tolerate well but I don't think it topped 100 today.

In spite of the smoke in the air and the sweat on my brow, I read a whole short novel between 7 and 9pm this evening. Which left me feeling, well, smokin! It was one of those I stocked up on in the weeks preceding the Read-a-thon and then didn't get to read that day because I hadn't finished the longer novel I'd started over a week before and didn't want to set aside. Then after the Read-a-thon I had three longish novels with urgent due dates that I turned to next. I finished the last of those a couple days ago.

Yesterday I spent several hours of quality time with half a dozen NF books that were coming due this week to prepare a bag for Ed to return on his way to work this morning as it is obvious I won't be making the walk myself this week.

There is a fat fantasy novel which Ed finished over a week ago and is eager for me to read and I'd already put my favorite bookmark in it. But after I got back from doing dinner dishes this evening I decided that I really needed to choose something that I had a hope of finishing before I slept tonight. And that meant before midnight because I am seriously sleep deprived after several nights of staying up past dawn to take advantage of the extra IQ points the cool night air affords me.

I chose one of the books my niece took home with her the weekend of the Read-a-thon and returned with raves this past weekend. Green Angel by Alice Hoffman. It is 116 pages but with the three pages fairly free of text dividing each chapter there are probably only 99 pages of text.

The story is very fable like. The setting is a bit amorphous as to time and place. There is a village, a city, a river, a dark wood. None of which have names. The narrator is a fifteen-year-old girl known as Green because she can coax plants to grow. She has a younger sister, Aurora, whose beauty attracts the white moths away from the moon at night. One day, her parents take her sister into the city with them to sell the produce from the garden and they require Green to stay behind to tend the garden. She is angry and refuses to say good-bye. Then at noon while eating her lunch on the hill overlooking the river and the far off city the ground shakes and the city bursts into flame. Soon the sky is dark with smoke and ash and embers fall on the garden. She huddles under the kitchen table waiting for her family to return. And she waits. And waits....

That was the first chapter. The rest of the chapters tell of how she mourned the loss of her family and the future she had anticipated. She began tattooing ravens, bats and roses on thorny vines over every surface of her skin she could reach. She refused to answer to Green and took the name Ash instead. She sewed thorns from the rose bushes in the garden to her leather jacket and a scarf. She attached nails to a pair of her father's heavy boots. She sunk deep into grief but not so deep that she could not respond with compassion to the needs of neighbors and wounded wanderers--both human and animal.

This was simply charming. The prose is as succulent as poetry and image and metaphor resonate like a tuning fork in the heart. It is packaged as a YA (Young Adult) novel but both the story and its language would enchant adults as well as children. I can imagine adults reading this aloud to children six to ten years old.

Read more...

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Most Productive Day


In one thing anyway.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Monday Poetry Train #54


Overflowing Light
by Joy Renee

There is a place within my mind
where every flicker of my thought
casts wavery images on walls
of white
as I
down memory's long halls traverse
reciting lines of ancient verse.

There came a time when lingering long
and wandering far into the maze
that light flared bright and overflowed.
I saw
In awe
as memories mixed with lore of old
and bright reflections of my dreams

were etched with lightning dipped in inks
whose bottomless wells fill with hues
drained from the rainbow's jeweled veins.
My self
must melt
or be consumed by bright untold
stories wove of flame; yet untamed.

######

Well, I said in yesterday's post that I just might have to write some posts designed to feature pictures off this site. As before the picture is linked to it's page on fromoldbooks.org.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sunday Serenity #64


In the hours before and after the fiercest heat of the day this week, I'm finding my serenity in the pages of books this. The novel I am currently reading is another which, like The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, has old books and manuscripts as its focus. Though in the case of Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book, the focus is on the history of a single ancient book and its travels across Europe rather than on the history contained in a number of old libraries and musty archives scattered over Europe and America.

Do check out the link to the picture above. The site provides quite a few pictures of old books that are public domain. All they ask is that you link it back to them. That is eminently fair. The pictures are all so enticing I am tempted to write posts just for the purpose of displaying them.

Read more...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Funk

The heat this week has zapped me. It was a tad cooler today (90s instead of 100s) but not enough to snap me out of the funk I've fallen into. I've got a swamp for a brain. So I'm not going to try to put up a snippet this week. I have my home alone Saturday coming up but can't count on being able to write much as I've got a lot of laundry and room cleaning chores to do having neglected them for several weeks already.

I woke at noon today because I didn't sleep until dawn because I started feeling better at midnight Thursday night and started working at various writing tasks. First getting the WG post put up and doing some visiting for it and TT. Then organizing my notes in WhizFolders the ap I use for everything now. It's previous incarnation as WhizNotes I used only for my fiction projects. But the new version allows for live links and object embed and graphic embed as well so it's usefulness is as infinite as thought. I'm using it to collect my WWW bookmarks and organize them in ways that work.

WhizFolders latest update added automatic spelling check. WhizNote, an early Windows (pre 95) version, had no spell check at all so I was really happy to discover WhizFolders had it and not too disappointed that it didn't have automatic spell check--the red lining of misspelled words. In a way I had found that a blessing while working with WhizNotes for all four NaNos. It kept me blissfully ignorant and thus able to resist the temptation to keep fixing things. But when it comes time to post something written that way, I have to run it through a spell check of some kind. I am a terrible speller and add to that the fact that speedy typing and long hours of typing add typos. It is bad. I mean really bad. Often editing takes longer the the original writing.

Anyway, the point being: Crystal's story aka Home Is Where the Horror Is has been entirely written in Whiz--except for the first scene which was written over ten years ago in a word processor and worked over and revised numerous times. And even though I could have used the new spell check in WhizFolder to spell check it, I had not done so. I had been fixing spelling and typos in Blogger each time I copy/pasted over because my Firefox browser does automatic spell check in forms. So, in the wee hours of Friday morning as I started rereading scenes of Crystal's story in preparation for a possible snippet for tonight, the first read through since the update added automatic spell check, all those red lines just popped out at me and I had to fix them. I didn't finish before my eyes wore out Friday morning but I worked on it some more this afternoon and I think I caught them all.

Maybe that hour or two should have been used to write another scene. I don't know. I am just pleased I got something productive done. After the week I've just had, even something as simple as spell checking a 13K manuscript was something to feel good about.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Weekly Geek #10 Magazines

I remember getting Highlights magazine as a kid. That was over forty years ago. My favorite feature of each issue was the full page drawing in which a number of small images were hidden within the lines that made up the bigger picture and you were challenged to find them all. I wonder if they still do that? Are they even still publishing? It's been over ten years since I was babysitting regularly and looked for Highlights magazines in the library to check out for them. By then they had changed their look so much that wouldn't have recognized them but for the name. They had gone full color and slick and shrunk several inches in height and width. Highlights magazine also nurtured the seeds of wonder for language and story. I was especially captivated by the riddles, puns, word games and jokes scattered throughout the pages of each issue.

By the time I was eight or nine I began picking up the Reader's Digest which was the only periodical my parent's subscribed to. At first I mostly read just the jokes and the vocabulary building page but would occasionally dip into the articles. By the time I was twelve I was reading it cover to cover and did so pretty much every month until I left home at 21.

We've seldom been in a position to afford magazine subscriptions since then. But I have a faint memory of subscribing to Writer's Digest for at least one year at some point. I very, very occasionally bought single issues of a magazine when it featured something important to me--something about writing or writers or publishing or books; some kind of investigavite journalism; short stories and/or poetry; articles about cutting edge science or technology; articles with photography of exotic (all most anything not 1960s suburban America was exotic to me) places or cultures.

But for most of my adult life I satiated thos magazine hungers the same way I satiated most of my book hunger--via the local library.

There were two ways to do that. The first and most obvious was to check them out. The second was to take from the rack by the entrance where people could 'recycle' the magazines they were done with. Only my hometown Longview library and the old Phoenix branch building had those racks though. We didn't have room in the temp building we moved into in the summer of 2005 and so far I haven't seen them reinstate them at the new building. It is probably just as well. Magazines are one of the things I have hoarding issues with.

Following is a list of some of the magazines that often attracted me:
Mother Jones*
Utne
Writer's Digest
The Writer
The New Yorker*
The Atlantic Monthly*
Harpers*
Redbook (years ago and it was mostly for the fiction which I heard they stopped publishing but I can't confirm that rumor as I haven't looked; in fact I can't even confirm they are still publishing at all. I'm too lazy to Google it.)
O Magazine
Omni
Science
Scientific American
National Geographic*
The Nation
The New York Times Book Review*
and several of the pulp science fiction and fantasy magazines whose exact titles are blending into each other in my very tired mind.

*These are magazines I've occasionally visited online in the last couple years. Which has been the extent of my magazine reading since I lost access to that giveaway rack at the old library building. Except I do still have about a foot-high stack of magazines 3-5 years old that came from that rack and used to read them while sitting with my husband's grandmother in the last two years of her life but I don't think I've picked one up since she passed a year ago last month.

More Weekly Geeks:
Puss Reboots
Literary Feline

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #94

It was another scorching hot day here--triple digits. I know I'm a wimp about heat. I think of the firemen fighting the forest fires; of Ed and his crew loading trucks; of the orchard workers; of my niece volunteering on a horse ranch that provides riding opportunities for handicapped children and adults; of my nephew serving in Baghdad--and I still can't shame myself into productive behaviors.

I was actually thinking of skipping TT; even of skipping posting entirely though it would be the first missed day since April 9, 2007. But then I decided that I could just do another installment from the eleven page list of silly author/title combos. I know, I just did one last week and I usually try to put a month between them. But I have the routine for this down so that I can have one posted twenty minutes after opening Blogger Dashboard. And I could use the time saved to visit TT including the visits I still owe from last week.

I'm working on the front porch. Merlin is with me, his leash attached to the porch rail. But I don't know how much longer he will be content as he has been outside since 8PM. He doesn't eat much during the hot part of the day so he is probably going to start thinking of his food dish soon.

There has been evidence of confusion in comments on these TT featuring these silly author/title combos so I thought I would clarify: No I have not read all of these. These are made-up titles and made-up authors. I remember playing this game as a kid and so did my sister who emailed me the list about four years ago because she remembered. And no neither she nor I nor our brother made any of these up. The list was an email that had been forwarded sumpteen tillion times already. I suspect, tho I never confirmed with her that it was one of the homeschooler's mailing lists she is on because so many of them seem to come out of a kid's mind and I've only had to edit out about four or five so far for offensiveness.

The picture I'm using again this week is of a brass sculpture of a shelf of books that sits on the mantle over the fireplace at our new library. It was featured in the TT last winter that celebrated the grand opening of the library.

Thursday

Thirteen


And Yet Another 13 Silly Author/Title Combos

Green Spot on the Wall by Picken & Flicken
Greeting Sheep Strangers: Hugh R. Ewe
Guarding the Door: Sergeant Atarms
Guide To Mixology: Bart Ender
Handel's Messiah by Ollie Luyah
Happy New Year! by Mary Christmas
He Disappeared! by Otto Sight
Head of Security: Barb Dwyer
Here's Puss In Your Eye: Lance Boyle
Hertz, Don't It?: Lisa Carr
He's Contagious! by Lucas Measles
Hide and Seek by I.C. You
Highway Travel by Dusty Rhodes

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I've Got Nothing


But a headache.

Temps topped 100 degrees here today. I heard tell 107 in some parts of the valley but here in Phoenix we are seldom one of the hotter spots. I didn't bother going out on the front porch to see the thermometer. What point is there in attaching a number to your misery?

There was one blessing today. The park pool was closed. Tuesdays is the day each week they keep it closed for maintenance, including application of chemicals. I say blessing because we don't use the pool but it is right over the backyard fence and the noise from those who do use it is not buffered one iota sense they cut down the juniper trees that had been a kind of hedge creating shade, privacy and a bit of a noise absorbency. I've been spending a lot of time in the mornings and evenings sitting in the backyard reading or writing. Or trying to. I have one or more books and a clipboard with me, a large iced drink of some kind and Merlin on his leash.

The morning tends to be mothers with small children and preteens. The afternoons teens with gutter mouths. The evening more teens and adults. There is a small wading pool for the babies inside the fence with the swimming pool. The other morning I listened for an hour to the full voiced commands of a thirty-something Mom whose age I know because she told one of the kids there that when he was thirty he could _____. I Missed the definitive word but she was on him about disrespect. Her style of supervising about fifteen kids was to yell commands and then ask, Did you hear me? Did you hear me? I said yadayadayadyadayada. Did you HEAR me?

Well one of her little ones somewhere between three and six, one of her own because she kept saying, Mama told you yadayada, this kid said he needed to use the bathroom almost as soon as the group entered the pool area. I sympathize with the woman's dilemna because this put her between a bad place and a rotten place. Pool rules require at least one adult supervising children under a certain age. She could not leave the pool area to escort the little one back home unless she made all the kids leave and locked the gate. She would have had to take all the really small ones with her. So in the same loud, and I mean LOUD, voice she told her son to go in his pants. To just sit down and go because he was going to get wet anyway. Go ahead, she said, Mama said you could. But the kid was real reluctant and started crying and she just kept repeating the command to sit down and go in variations for about fifteen minutes. I gave up on the back yard and moved to the front porch.

But now you know why I could say in a post several months ago that I haven't been swimming since sometime in the early nineties in spite of all the times I mention that pool just over the fence.

Oh the stories I could tell about life in this trailer park. Wisteria Lane has got nothing on Bear Creek Estates. Umm I kinda made up that name there. Don't want to get the park owners or management on my in-laws case.

But I'm serious. The stories I've heard about things that go on here or went on in the years before we moved here! Just about everything that has been included in the Desperate House Wives story lines has happened here in some form or other. Drugs--using, selling, growing. Murder. Family feuds. Domestic Violence. Child neglect. Infidelity and other kinds of partner mix and match. Fires. Robbery. A tree falling on a house. Burst pipes. Creek flooding the nearest row of trailers. Cat fights--both kinds. Dog fights. Raccoon fights. Neighborhood gossips. We have at least four ethnic groups. And young men dressed in black with shaved heads and tattoos carrying hunting knives on their hips. The only real difference besides the architectural style of the houses is the costumes and the diction. The human dramas are all cut from the same cloth. I'm thinking I could write a novel set in a trailer park.

Whether I should though.... Entirely different question.

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