Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Release

Horror at it’s Best

I’ve mentioned a friend of mine on this blog from time to time by the name of Jennifer Hudock. Jenn is an amazing writer who specializes in the horror genre. She’s currently undertaking a spectacular podcasting project that is not to be missed. Check out her website for more information. The Goblin Market will speak to fans of horror, paranormal and fantasy.

But there is even better news. Jennifer Hudock’s story “Two Weeks” has just been released as part of the anthology Book of the Dead: A Zombie Anthology. Jenn is an incredible new talent that you will be glad to have found.

NCLB: No CLue Bullshit

First day of “Leadership” down.
First migraine of the school year, here.

I had to start back to work today. As the Reading Dept. chairperson, I’m a part of the leadership team. This means I spent seven hours sitting in a meeting trying to decide if we should have a goal for 99% of our eighth graders to meet or exceed standards this year or for 98% of our eighth graders to meet or exceed standards. Oh, and the truly tough question, do we have a goal for 50 or 55% to exceed standards?

Welcome to the world of No Child Left Behind. We were horrified this year to discover our school did not make AYP (adequate yearly progress). Why? Because our special needs population, as a subgroup did not meet the bar. That’s right, students who are diagnosed with learning disabilities, who struggle with standardized tests, timed tests, and learning problems that cause them to be behind their peers, didn’t keep up with their peers. Therefore we are, of course, horrible educators.

But hey, our country is serious about quality education. That’s why they are giving us money to buy materials and supplies, money to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes…what? There is no money for materials? There is a hiring freeze? We’re furloughing teachers? We’re increasing class sizes?

In the words of the unforgettable Gilda Radner….”Never mind.”


If you’re considering making the trip to Romanticon this year, I can’t urge you enough to do it. It’s a convention that is not only for writers, but for readers too. Check out the list of writers who will be attending, appearing on panels and signing. There will be lots of give aways and some amazing baskets to be raffled off. The authors that work with my editor have gotten together to create a Frog Pond basket that is going to be out of this world. There are so many books and goodies included in it, we may need to put it in a suitcase instead of a basket.


I’ve not been on the computer much the last few days. I’ve been sewing. I know this seems like an odd thing to talk about but it’s something I wasn’t able to do anymore up until my surgery. I’d be able to work for only a minute or two, then my fingers would be so numb and my hands so weak, I couldn’t continue. Now I can sit on the couch, watch my new favorite show, Warehouse 13, and embroider. I love it. Typing still tires my hand quickly, but sewing is going great. It’s nothing earth-shatteringly spectacular, but it’s the first I’ve been able to do in years.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Essentials, In My Humble Opinion

I was confronted a while back by a parent whose child was reading above grade level. The problem is, they wanted their student to read only books on their “reading level”. This creates two problems.

First of all, while a middle school student may be able to read and comprehend books written for an adult audience, they are not ready to read the content in most books written for an adult audience. Then there is the “fun” element. Most adult books are written at a fifth to sixth grade reading level. Want something higher and you’ll be reading books like David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and the like. Not exactly what a 13 year old boy wants to read.

The second issue is that there are certain juvenile and young adult books that form a basis for cultural literacy. These are books that most young people have read and that teachers are likely to reference. And many of them are books that, in my opinion, are books that everyone should have read by the time they hit high school. In no particular order:

1. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry
2. The Giver
3. Wrinkle In Time
4. The Great Gilly Hopkins
5. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key
6. Little House in the Big Woods
7. Charlotte’s Web
8. The Outsiders
9. Bridge to Terabithia
10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone

Many of these are Newberry Prize winners or honor books. All have become part of our cultural literacy in terms of children’s books. Their characters span races, economic situations and ages. The settings are urban, rural, contemporary, historical and the future. They are realistic fiction, fantasy and adventure.

Have you read them?

Monday, July 20, 2009


We’ve arrived home all in one piece, more or less. The visit with my family was nice, mostly. There was mild family drama, but then that’s to be expected since a portion of my family treats drama like a fifth food group. But over all it went well.

In the car home, we listened to almost all of Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Haddix is primarily a YA writer who is probably best known for her Shadow Children series about a future world where population control limits each family to two children. Third children are forbidden. The Shadow Children tells the stories of some of those third children. This new one is about a plane that arrives at an airport from nowhere. There is no record of it and it just appears at the gate. All the seats inside the plane are filled with babies. Now that those babies are adopted out into families and have reached the ripe old age of 13, someone’s sending them letters warning them that someone is coming to get them.

This leads into my title because the girl heroine in this story is the weak link in the story. She is irritating and not very likable. My irritation with her got me to thinking about my relationship with my own female characters. I wondered, did Haddix know that this character was so annoying? Is she as annoying to others as she is to me? Does anyone else want to throttle her and tell her to shut up?

Female characters have always been difficult for me to write. I have an unfinished manuscript that will probably never be finished because the driving voice in the story is the female lead. Whenever that happens, the stories just seem to fizzle out and I lose the line of the story. I’ve had other stories that were a struggle to finish because the female character boxed me into a corner, or she is a secondary voice and she is not cooperating with the telling of the story. I have three of those right now. I was zooming along on them, 12,000 words or even more and then a screeching halt. *Sigh*

I wonder why it is that female characters present a challenge for me? My guys usually drive my stories. I’ve been complimented on how my guys were very real except for all that mushy love stuff. I’ve been told that during the moments leading up to and during intimacy men do not have the lovely romantic thoughts romance writers usually give them running through their brains. But, the stories are targeted toward women and damn it we want to believe that our men are thinking sweet loving thoughts and not just focused on the tactile.

There is an upcoming movie that has made me laugh while watching the previews. It repeats exactly the advice I’ve been giving to my friends for years when they are having trouble with husbands and boyfriends. Men are wired differently. It’s not upbringing, it’s wiring. Men are visual and tactile, women tend to be auditory and cognitive in our arousal. Men are simple, and I don’t mean simple minded. They don’t complicate matters or spend a great deal of time analyzing the nuances of what someone says or does.

Maybe that’s what makes female characters such a struggle. When that female voice is talking to this female writer, we get bogged down in too much analysis and contemplation and ask too many damned questions. My guys are simple. They usually tell me the story and then I have to pull out the details from them. The ladies lose me in the minutia. I've never been a fan of drama.

And, just cause I think this is cute, and I own a Cavalier:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Last Day

We’re on the last day of our trip to see my family in Illinois. It’s always an adventure. This was the first opportunity most of them have had to meet Z. Of course since we are driving, the trip back tomorrow will be vastly unpleasant. Z did fine for 90% of the trip up, but had two absolute screaming fits. One the last hour of the trip and one, unfortunately, at the exact moment someone from my publisher’s office called me about my reservations for Romanticon. (Again, Valerie, I am so sorry.)

We’re very fortunate with Z. He has a very outgoing personality and doesn’t seem to mind a large number of people passing him about and playing with him. At 7 months old, I was afraid the normal stranger anxiety would make it an unpleasant experience for him to meet all of his aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great aunts and uncles, etc. He didn’t mind at all. He found them all very entertaining, even his great aunt Jo. who in typical Jo style got lipstick on his head from kissing him. And the family’s reactions to him were wonderful. Everyone cooed and oooed over him.

My sister and her husband kept him for us for a few hours today so we could have some grownup time. (They also baby-sat Wendell who was much more upset at being left behind with them than Z.) It was the first time we’d been alone without Z since April when Grandma Roth watched him so we could sneak out to a movie. This time we went to see the Harry Potter movie, so-so and very long, and have a bite to eat. It was nice to have a bit of couple time. Of course everyone dropped hints that we would have more such time if we would just move up north to live nearby. I’d seriously think about it, but I do love where I live and it would place us very far from my SO’s family. Not to mention that I married a Floridian who abhors cold weather.


If you haven’t registered yet for RomantiCon in October, you should do so. Hoards of your favorite romance writers will be there signing and meeting readers. There will be workshops and forums for readers to tell authors what they want and what they like. Authors will be able to meet readers and other authors. (We are all fans too.) So check it out and sign up. Did I mention the cover models will be there too? Oh Yeah!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A trip to Austenland?


I just finished a nice little book called Austenland by Shannon Hale. I was intrigued by the concept and by the fact that I knew Hale as a YA author and she was now moving into the realm of adult fiction, much as Meg Cabot did. In fact, Hale’s writing reminds of Cabot. It’s sharp, smart and keeps just enough of your funny bone tickled to make the reading from becoming too biting.

Austenland is the story of a young woman, who like many of us, loves Jane Austen. But when she finds herself in a fantasy “theme park” playing the role of a Regency young woman in a house full of Austen-esque characters it becomes hard to remember it’s all an act. Especially hard to remember when faced with the prospect of her own Austen hero stepping out of the pages and fulfilling her deepest fantasy.


My right hand is doing much better. I’ve been able to take off even the little bandage over the actual incision and it’s drying up quite well. I have a large bruise on my palm that makes shifting gears a bit unpleasant. It looks a bit icky, but in a couple of weeks more you will barely see the mark if it’s anything like my left.

Harry Potter

I am a Potter fan. Or I was up until books 6 and 7. Rowling’s final two books had two essential problems IMHO. First of all, they started to read like fanfiction. In fact, what was scary was that I had seen fanfiction that was better written, more imaginative and thought out, than Rowling’s last two installments. Much of the books read as if she had read the fanfiction and said, “Hmmm…I like that idea. Yes, it’s what I’ve had planned all along.”

Secondly, the last book had elements that were not suitable for the audience to whom the books had always been targeted. The mistaken idea that your audience is growing with your characters supposes that new fans will only read one book per year. That’s not how children read. When kids find a series they like, they will devour it in as short a time as possible. So that cute 9 or 10 year old who is delighted by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone will be confronted in book seven by the torturing of a main character and multiple occasions of implied sexual violence. I’m not kidding. What did you think happened to Dumbledore’s sister? And the remarks of Greyback about how “tasty” Hermione is? Yes, he wants to bite her, but the implication goes beyond that.

I will be seeing the sixth movie. I have enjoyed the film series for itself and am curious as to how they will manage all the content of these books. I’m also interested to see how actors that were cast as children have grown to rise to the occasion. Some solid and impressive acting will be required by those playing Draco, Neville and Ginny. Who knows, we may actually get to see Alan Rickman act rather than stand about in camera shot looking grim and intimidating. From the stills released, it looks like the scene between he and Narcissa Malfoy will be in the film. I was certain that would be one of the first things cut.

Oh, and I can’t wait for the final confrontation in the last film between Helena Bonham-Carter and Julie Walters. That short bit will be worth the price of admission.

Monday, July 13, 2009


What do you get when a librarian and a reading teacher breed? Z is seven months old. No, he's not reading but he loves to look at the bright pictures and play with the book.

Yeah !
No more hunting and pecking. I got my bandages removed today. I still have to be careful, it’s only been 10 days since the surgery and while the stitches were removed, the incision site is still not fully healed and the wrist and hand are still sore and bruised. But it’s nice to be able to type semi-normally again.


I’m watching the Senate confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Nominee Judge Sotomayor. I now have no doubt why nothing ever gets done in Washington, DC. The Judicial Committee has been in session since 10:30 this morning and has accomplished nothing except that each member of the committee has given an opening statement. It seems to me we could have significantly cut the time and the cost of this process if the procedures were reviewed briefly and then everyone got down to business. You’re all (Republican and Democrat) going to repeat this nonsense later as you question her so why are we spending so much time hearing about what you’re going to ask her? Just ask it for Pete’s sake.

This is why our country and our economy are in trouble. No one can get past their own bs long enough to do their job. Seems that part of the Oath of Office they keep secret is that you swear to be as full of hot air as is humanly possible.

By the way, does any one else find it flippin’ surreal to see Al Frankin as a Senator? I keep expecting him to blurt out, “And this is Saturday Night Live.”


I just finished reading World Without Winter by Steve Pierce. I’m writing a review for the September 09 eMuse but let’s just say I don’t recommend the book. It has certainly made me appreciate my own editor and the writing seminars I’ve attended. The writing in this novel can be summed up by calling it undisciplined. It fails to follow the important rule of writing that says that what happens in your story should serve the purpose of the plot.

I recently bemoaned the problem of authors who cut too much to keep to a low word count; this book has the opposite problem. It has too much filler, chapters and chapters of irrelevance that do nothing to advance the plot. Pierce obviously felt strongly about global warming and was eager to demonstrate his scientific prowess, but this story just simply was not meant to be a novel.

If you're looking for quality writing I suggest you check out Goblin Market by Jennifer Hudock. This free podcast novel has the first two installments up on Hudock's website, . This is fantasy as it should be done. If you like stories of faeries, or contemporary fairytales, you'll love it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My Right Hand

I never realized all the things I rely on my right hand to do. I mean, I had thought in advance of the two handed tasks I’d need to make arrangements for like carrying, changing and bathing Z. But there are things I didn’t expect to have trouble with; stupidly forgetting I was abdicating use of my dominant hand. Opening bottles, like the Advil, with a child proof cap has proven interesting.

There has, however, been a certain degree of compensatory entertainment to be had from watching my SO do certain tasks I’ve pretty much taken on full-time. For example, we make Z’s baby food ourselves. Other than the first introduction and a couple of back up jars, just in case, we don’t buy it. I put up quite a bit before my surgery, but due to our limited freezer space some of it had to wait. So now I get to watch someone who literally ended up with the fire dept. intervening in the making of pork chops, baking & pureeing apples. Of course the avocado puree will be even more interesting since K hates avocados.

Okay, this is all the hunting and pecking I can manage for now.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Do You Dare?

The very talented author, Jennifer Hudock, has opened the doorway to the land of the fey. Before you feast on that gloriously forbidden fruit, be sure you can pay the price demanded in the

Goblin Market

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Surgery day

As bad as I am about updating it's likely no one will notice, but I may not be able to be post for a week or so. Surgery is set for this morning on my rt. hand. If I update for a bit depends on a.) how this doctor bandages and b.) how frustrated I get with typing one handed. Too bad the dogs can't really type my blog for me. Or one of my characters. I shall, perhaps, have to be satisfied with posting witty pictures stolen from someone else.

I've not been nervous, but I'm up early and have a distinct queasiness and a headache. Of course this could be from not having any liquids since about 9pm last night. Ugh! I chose the kitty picture (*snicker*) because I've been a grump the last few days and his face is just a perfect reflection of my mood.
I'm not the only one. Z and I are having a grumpfest. He's crabby, I'm crabby, so there! Munchkin has allergies. We were pretty sure of this since everytime the SO is runny-eyed and snuffling, so is Z. He's mouth breathing a lot lately which means he's gulping air and getting a gassy upset tummy. Cranky, fussy, no sleep through the night Z means a grumpy mom. The doctor started him on infant zyrtec but it doesn't help his congestion. You can't treat congestion in children under 6 because of the dangers of decongestants, evidently.
I do have a perverse sense of pleasure in knowing that for the next week or so since I can't technically "lift" the baby, K is going to have to take over. Sweet sleep, you shall finally be mine.