Sunday, December 31, 2006

Guess Where I'm From

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: North Central

"North Central" is what professional linguists call the Minnesota accent. If you saw "Fargo" you probably didn't think the characters sounded very out of the ordinary. Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot.

The Inland North
The Midland
The Northeast
The West
The South
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Considering I spent my first 14 years in South Dakota, the next four in Wisconsin, back to South Dakota for 2 years, then Minnesota for three, Wisconsin for 1, Minnesota for 6 more months, then Wisconsin for the last four, I'd say that this pegged me somewhat accurately. My Wisconsin friends say I have a Minnesota accent, but my South Dakota relatives say that I sound like someone from Wisconsin.

Have a happy New Year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Sleep Tight by Anne Frasier

Title: Sleep Tight

Author: Anne Frasier

Genre: Thriller

Summary: FBI agent Mary Cantrell is sent to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to complete the profile for a serial killer who may be her best friend's murderer.

The Take-Away: The beginning was a little rough as the story switched from Mary to her sister Gillian. I didn't have a firm grasp of who was which and was confused during the first switch. Of course, since I read it during NaNo the confusion could be directly related to my sleep deprivation.

The writing is intriquing, with the story twists and plot lines tangling together. I especially enjoyed the relationship between the sisters, and Mary and her mother. That, more than the discovering who the killer was, kept me going in the story.

The amount of research and level of detail, both for the Minneapolis area and the work of an FBI agent was great. I felt like I knew the protocol that should be followed, along with the insider details. Since I'm not an FBI agent, I haven't a clue as to whether or not Fraiser did get it right, but I believed it.

Recommendation: Read it with the lights on.

November Titles

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

It's really a meme thing that lots of bloggers do, partly as promotion, partly as a way to get the wheels turning in a different fashion. Page Smith wants some useful writer things.

So I poked around in the hidden recesses of my computer and came up with "Thirteen Ways to Deal with Writer's Block."

In a previous life, I was a teacher. I was the mean teacher that would make you write. I didn't care if you wrote "I have nothing to say" millions of times because I truly believe that at some point your brain will rebel and give you something interesting to say.

Plus, waiting for a muse doesn't really work if you are writing 50,000 words in one month (aka Yes, I did it. Three times. But I'm not nearly amazing as a woman I met from Green Bay. Her word count was over three times the required amount.

So, without much further ado, Thirteen Ways to Deal with Writer's Block!

  1. Have an outline before hand. Use the outline time to think of all the the wild "What if" scenarios, instead of trying to work it out during the story.
  2. Stop in the middle of a sentence. It's really easy to pick up and keep going.
  3. Stop when you know what it coming next. Again, if you know what to write next, it's easy to keep going afterwards.
  4. Do the unexpected. "Suddenly, a penquin appeared in the room..." is a great way to shake things up, remind yourself that this is supposed to be fun and get more words out of your characters' mouths. You can always fix what doesn't work with editing.
  5. Keep your butt in the chair and write anyway. Painfully, one word at a time, until blood is streaming down your face from the exertion. Or, until it is easier.
  6. Open a new document. List all of the reasons you can't write. When the page is full, you're characters will look pretty damn enticing to write about again.
  7. Invite your character to lunch and ask what should happen next. Yes, I have conversations with people I've created. Both the real ones and the imaginary ones.
  8. Muses don't exist. Writers write. Waiting for a muse is like waiting for the boy (or girl) you had a crush on in 6th grade to notice you. Unless someone gives one of you a kick, nothing is going to happen. Writing is the kick.
  9. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes. If necessary, turn your font to white so it matches the background. If you can't see it, you can't edit it.
  10. Figure out what motivates you. I love seeing my word count meter go higher and higher and higher. I'm motivated by the numbers.
  11. Make it a habit to open your manuscript first and email last. If you always answer email first, you'll always check it while you write. If you have to wait, you'll zoom through your word count quota.
  12. What? You're still stuck? Then tell the story from a different character's point of view. No, I don't care that it is currently first person. Just do it and see what some else thinks of whichever event that's already happened. Who knows what you'll come up with until you do it.
  13. It doesn't exist. Most people who experience writer's block have other issues. One thing that NaNo really opened my eyes to was the maxim, "When you have time, write." I have a full time job, two small kids (6 and 3) plus a household to run. You train yourself to write regardless of how you feel. Even if it's crap, it's crap that gets you back in the grove. Plus, if you use the tricks above, you don't get stuck. It may or may not be crap. Take care of that during editting.

These are the things that keep me going. I don't remember when I last had writer's block.

Procrastination block. Well, that's a whole 'nother post.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Romance, Onion Style

How Did I End Up On The Cover Of This Romance Novel?

The Onion

How Did I End Up On The Cover Of This Romance Novel?

Last week at the supermarket, while shopping for my weekly supply of three dozen eggs and 12 pounds of mutton, I spotted a rack near the checkout...

Not only is the article worthly of any bodice ripping historical romance*, The Onion provided the code to do the very cool blurb you see above.

*I lived for bodice ripping historical romances as a teenagers. Especially if they had pirates. Publishers need to start filling this demand for us again.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Free Books Increase Sales

Or so claims Cory Doctorow in the Forbes article Giving It Away

I've been giving away my books ever since my first novel came out, and boy has it ever made me a bunch of money.

When my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, was published by Tor Books in January 2003, I also put the entire electronic text of the novel on the Internet under a Creative Commons License that encouraged my readers to copy it far and wide. Within a day, there were 30,000 downloads from my site (and those downloaders were in turn free to make more copies). Three years and six printings later, more than 700,000 copies of the book have been downloaded from my site. The book's been translated into more languages than I can keep track of, key concepts from it have been adopted for software projects and there are two competing fan audio adaptations online.

He's not the only one doing it. Peter Watts is giving away Blindsight. JA Konrath is giving away some of his novels too. He explains why in his post Ebooks! while referencing some other free book sites like Project Gutenberg.

Do free books help? I know I downloaded a few. I haven't read them yet because I don't like e-books too much. I don't have a reader, and sit in front of a computer screen all day at work too. But I think this is a great thing for published authors to do for their readers -- existing and potential.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Red State of Mind

Title: A Red State of Mind

Author: Nancy French

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: A Rebublican and good-standing member of the church takes a stab at explaining what it is like to live with people who are her political and spiritual opposites.

The Take-Away: Nancy tells a great story. As you read, her Southern drawl comes through the menanderings of the story. She sticks to the point, but uses highlights to illustrate the big point she makes.

One of my favorite parts of the books is when she discusses politics with a friend. All along Nancy sees it as an open discussion, two adults debating the merits of each others beliefs. Until Nancy realizes that her friend is trying to get her to see the light and convert. Except that it wasn't religion, but Republican versus Democrat. Watching Nancy handle the debate and the continued friendship was fantastic.

Recommendation: Get it and see for yourself what it's like to live among your polar opposites.

November Titles

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What Kind of Reader Are You?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dead Until Dark by Charlene Harris

Title: Dead Until Dark

Author: Charlene Harris

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Vampires may have obtained legal status in the USA, but not everyone is as open minded as Sookie Stackhouse when Bill the Vampire moves into his family home.

The Take-Away: This is the first in a series. I learned of them from The Lipstick Chronicles, when they featured the most recent release as part of their online book club.

The story was sweet, but the writing was still rough. I'm interested in reading more about Sookie and her growing yet tentative relationship with Bill. The storyline, with the dead bodies typically found in vampire literature, was twisted with two points that I really liked.

First, Sookie isn't your normal small town waitress. She can read minds. She doesn't want to, but when the police start questioning her brother as a suspect in the murders of two women, she uses her ability to assist. To no avail, frequently, but she does try.

Second, Sookie's brother isn't your normal sidekick brother. He's the scummy guy that you'd warn your best friend against. I liked that good-hearted Sookie had this sort of skeleton wandering around town, instead of hanging around in her closet.

Recommendation: I'm checking out the second in the series. This title only gets a so-so recommendation. It's not bad, but neither is it fab. I'll let you know if you can start with the second one or if it is imperative to start at the very beginning.

November Titles

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Monday, December 18, 2006

The High House by James Stoddard

Title: The High House

Author: James Stoddard

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: The new Master of the High House has an enormous task in front of him -- restore the balance between Chaos and Order while preventing the Anarchists from taking over the House.

The Take-Away: Superb. I really enjoyed the witty language, the well-developed universe that exists within the High House, and the Anarchists. The whole book, nay, the House, serves as a metaphor for the world that the reader inhabits. Every room, stairwell and passage way reveals a part of nature in a new way.

The one downfall is that the narrator is often limited to the new Steward. Because he often doesn't know what is truly going on, the reader is attempting figure it out as well and pieces of it aren't explained as well. To help with this the Steward has the help of the Butler, the Windkeeper and the Lamp-Lighter. All three of these characters amused me to no end and I was thrilled during every one of their scenes.

Recommendation: Look high and low for this one, because it's out of print. It will be worth the hunt.

November Titles

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Valley of Silence by Nora Roberts

Title: Valley of Silence

Author: Nora Roberts

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: The Circle of Six stands ready with its army to face Lilith in the final battle.


The Take-Away: It moved slowly. I don't attribute it the fact that it was the third in the series, and the obvious conclusions of "Happily Ever After," but rather the relationship between the final pairing of lovers -- the Queen and the Vampire.

While it was obvious that they were attracted to one another, it felt forced at times, even superficial in the conflicts. I sort of felt like they wouldn't have fallen in love, if Lilith hadn't been hovering over them. They would have walked away, if they had not been the last of the Circle and drawn together in battle.

However, I worried about this going in. I'd be interested in knowing the thoughts of others, either in this trilogy or others.

Recommendation: Read it in order to find out what really happens, and report back to see if you had the same reaction to the final couple.

November Titles

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas

Title: Writing the Breakout Novel

Author: Donald Maas

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: NYC agent Donald Maas relays his strategies for nurturing his authors from the mid-list to the breakout list

The Take-Away: Some really great advice for authors of all levels. My personal favorite maxim is "Conflict on every page." I have the worst time with conflict in my novels. But after reading about the various things Maas has told his authors or the examples he picked, I have ideas how to do it in my own manuscript.

The one downside to the book is the publication date -- 2000. It's just a little too old, given the current political stage and events that occurred just after it was published. It shows in the writing, and I would be interested in an updated edition. A few places were jarring even, and should be corrected.

Recommendation: If you're wondering what your novel is missing, get it. It makes for a great read and a good reference book.

Bonus Review: Magical Musings

November Titles

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Editing Lessons

My Chocolate Cake Club goal this month is editing 30 pages, start dividing the book into chapters, and ensure that conflict exists on every page.

I've really struggled with this editing business. Daily or weekly word count goals are easy. I can turn them into metrics that show what I've accomplished. The distances I've leapt. But this editing thing is difficult. How much is enough? How can I make it tangible? How do I know when I'm done?

Crap. I need to get started. It is afterall, the 12th day of December. (ed: I wrote this last night.)

Last night I decided to stop procrastinating. And, once I thought about it, two pages a day would see me to the end of the month, with a few pages to spare. How long can two pages take?

I don't know, because I never made it to the second page. One page took me 35 minutes.

That might be directly related to Pickle Boy's hindrance help. He decided that he would watch Mommy work.

He talks. A lot. All of the time, in fact.

We talked about the music that we were listening to on my iPod (we were sharing the new ear buds I got -- Skullcandy, totally fab.) We talked about the blue post-it notes and how they were for Mommy to use. We talked about the yellow paper Pickle Boy could use. We talked about why Mommy doesn't have to share her purple pen since she is color-coding some of the edits and purple is very important right now to Mommy, not red.

We talked about how he makes lovely spirals (and yes, I do love them.) We talked about how Mommy's work is important and how I'd be done just a little sooner if he would be quiet.

And when I was done, and put everything away (because that's what big boys do when they are done playing,) we talked some more.

He told me about school and the kids at daycare. As I listened to him ramble on, with little prompting, I felt my frustration dissolve. I interrupted him and said, "Pickle Boy, you talk a lot. Do you talk a lot at school too?" His prompt reply, "No." But he had that look that moms learn to recognize as "I'm going to get in trouble if I tell the truth."

I reminded him that he wouldn't get it trouble, I just wanted to know. He confessed. "Yeah, I talk a lot at school. Ms Tammy asks me to be quiet." I laugh, and he laughs. "I make them laugh at school," he says.

Great, I've spawned the class clown. I'll just introduce myself to the principal now, thank you very much.

"You're silly, Goofy Ball McGee." That's our other nickname for Pickle Boy.

"No, you're silly, Momma Cucoo." That's his nickname for me.

"Nope. I learned it from you."

"I learn from you."

Yep, you probably did, Pickle Boy.

It may have only been one page of edits, but it was a great page.

Six Weird Things About Stacie

Here are the rules - Each player of this game starts with the "6 Weird Things about You." People who get tagged need to write a blog entry of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says 'you are tagged' in their comments and tell them to read your blog!

This is way harder than it should be. I can't think of anything weird about myself. I'm feeling quite mainstream today.

  1. I am fanatic about the order of my books. I can tell with a glance if one is out of order. Since I have kids who like my books (not that they can read them, but it's cool to play with my books instead of their books) this happens frequently.
  2. I collect Mini-Coopers. Not the full sized ones, but the Matchbox/Hot Wheels ones. I steal them from my boys. I currently have six of them: yellow, blue, blue on a platform, red, red with a British flag on the roof, and green.
  3. I have last year's calendar hanging on my wall at work because I like the pictures. And to see if anyone notices.
  4. I have a poster of the front page of the Mason City, Iowa, newspaper hanging on the wall next to my bed. It's the headline from the Buddy Holly crash.
  5. My clipboard at work is purple.
  6. I know way too much about UPS billing systems. Thankfully, someone pays me to have that knowledge.

I'm tagging Page Smith, Kelli, Kelly, T Cannon, Prime Looper and Jaimie. I'm skipping Word Nerd 'cos I got her last time.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Brain Test

How smart is your right foot?

This is so funny that it will boggle your mind. And, you will keep trying it. At least 50 more times to see if you can outsmart your foot.

But you can't!

While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles with it.

Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand.

Your foot will change direction!

And there is nothing you can do about it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Money

Netflix will pay you for $1M idea.

We’re quite curious, really. To the tune of one million dollars.

Netflix is all about connecting people to the movies they love. To help customers find those movies, we’ve developed our world-class movie recommendation system: CinematchSM. Its job is to predict whether someone will enjoy a movie based on how much they liked or disliked other movies. We use those predictions to make personal movie recommendations based on each customer’s unique tastes. And while Cinematch is doing pretty well, it can always be made better.

Now there are a lot of interesting alternative approaches to how Cinematch works that we haven’t tried. Some are described in the literature, some aren’t. We’re curious whether any of these can beat Cinematch by making better predictions. Because, frankly, if there is a much better approach it could make a big difference to our customers and our business.

So, we thought we’d make a contest out of finding the answer. It’s "easy" really. We provide you with a lot of anonymous rating data, and a prediction accuracy bar that is 10% better than what Cinematch can do on the same training data set. (Accuracy is a measurement of how closely predicted ratings of movies match subsequent actual ratings.) If you develop a system that we judge most beats that bar on the qualifying test set we provide, you get serious money and the bragging rights. But (and you knew there would be a catch, right?) only if you share your method with us and describe to the world how you did it and why it works.

Man, I knew I should have taken that scholarship offer to MIT instead of becoming a teacher.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Glasswrights' Progress by Mindy L Klasky

Title: The Glasswrights' Progress

Author: Mindy L Klasky

Genre: Fiction

Summary: Rani Trader has sworn to rebuild the Glasswrights' guild but the succession of the throne has been challenged again.

The Take-Away: Rani is older, and a better judge of character. Other characters tell the tale, as well, and circle around to the main conflict. The kingdom to the North has been building its army for years, an army of children called the Little Army.

Rani befriends a general in the Army. Between them and with the assistance of the Touched girl Mai, the war is won with minimal damage or loss of men.

One point I enjoyed the most about both novels was the world built. It was the feel of fantasy, but I don't recall any magic being performed. Instead, it could be an alternate historical setting, but I'm not quite sure which is it. Enjoyable, nonetheless.

Recommendation: Pick it up after starting with The Glasswrights' Apprentice.

October Titles

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Fantasy Lover

Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: A Spartan general is released from his prison once a month, to fulfill the fantasy of the woman who released him. This time, the woman wants to free him.

The Take-Away: A very clever twist on Roman mythology. Even though the titles promises a great amount of sex, it wasn't as much as I feared.

A couple of fellow booklovers and I recently discussed sex in novels. All three of us skim them. Kenyon still had a decent plot with some cameo appearances from well-known gods even when I skimmed the sex parts.

Recommendation: If you like Roman or Greek mythology, a new twist is written into the history.

October Titles

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Life Takes an Interesting Turn

For my NaNo minions who started reading my blog, the careful readers of yesterday's post, and my long time friends, Life Has Been Stressful.

Not because I've been ramping up for the holidays, or drafting 50,000 words in one month. Not because I'm a mom and work full time. Not because I'm waiting for my grad school acceptance. No, none of the easy things in life.

Instead, I interviewed for a new job, at one of my current employer's other companies. The new position interests me, it's a great career step, it's in Minnesota.

That last one was the problem. I can't move my family because of Ollie, my stepson. The offer worked out so that I'll be able to manage a weekly commute. My husband is 120% supportive (otherwise it wouldn't have worked.) It will be tough, but accepting it made more sense that not accepting it.

So have a round on me and celebrate.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bookworm Report, November 2006

Last week rushed by in a really stressful way that turned out quite fab. But more about that later.

I promise.

Instead, I owe you a list of books, reviews from last month and this month. Honestly, I don't think I've ever been this far behind before. At least, not on my blog.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 5,139 19
2002 4,076 13
2003 2,448 7
2004 2,747 8
2005 3,410 10
2006 2,168 7

For the year, I've read 118 books, or 44,306 pages, which averages to 10 books a month, or 3,692 pages per month, and an average book length of 375 pages.

I've read four books more this year, with a month left in the year. But I doubt that I'll ever top 2001, the first year I ever kept track, when I read 164 books. I was dating my now husband, teaching for one semster, and attending my final semster of college. In the fall of 2000, someone asked me how many books I read in a year. Now, I know.

Too many. You could say it's something of an addiction.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Girl's Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy L Klasky

Title: Girl's Guide to Witchcraft

Author: Mindy L Klasky

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Jane, librarian of a private library that holds records from Colonial America, discovers that she is a witch.

The Take-Away: This title was a great set-up for the series. The future plot lines are drawn, but don't overshadow the current story.

The stakes are high when Jane is forced to accept a paycut but compensated with a cottage on the library grounds to cover the lost wages. They are raised when the scholar of her dreams accepts her dinner invitation. The ante is upped again when her mother, missing since Jane's childhood, comes back into her life.

It seems like too many plot lines to keep track of but Klasky handles it masterfully. An extremely entertaining read.

Recommendation: Check it out, and keep an eye out for future titles in the series.

October Titles

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Return

For those that stuck it out with me for the whole month, thanks. But we are returning to our regularly scheduled programming, and turning off NaNo until next year.

Reading the Classics

I love reading classics. Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Wilkie Collins are authors I adore. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for them, however.

One fellow reader, in fact, dislikes them so much as to view them as "the literary equivalent of eating salad -- not something she really loves, but feels she has to do for her health."

But she promises hope -- Daily Lit. An easily managed chunk of classic literature in the public domain can be sent to you free of charge.

How long will it take? That depends on the title and your consumption. Daily Lit has a full FAQ at their site and will answer all of those pesky details.

And just might make literature a bit more accessible to those needing some salad in their diet.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


With one word to spare.

My profile and an excerpt are here.

NaNoWriMo '06

No need to check your calendar. It's not November 30, yet. This is just my way of manipulating the calendar settings to keep this post at the top.

The following is a progress table of where I am, day by day, compared to where I was last year. November 1 fell on a Monday in 2004; a Tuesday in 2005; a Wednesday this year. Saturdays and Sundays are off as well. Figure it out. :o)

Following this entry, there will be random posts for your reading pleasure.

Excerpts of this year's NaNo can be found on my profile page, over on the NaNo site.

Daily Word Count
Day 2004 2005 2006
26 0 1,205 2,638
27 0 0 1,443
28 0 1,335 0
29 4,960 2,972 0
30 2,076 0 0
Total 50,051 50,338 50,001

Accumulative Word Count
Day 2004 2005 2006
26 43,015 46,031 48,558
27 43,015 46,031 0
28 43,015 47,366 50,001
29 47,975 50,338 50,001
30 50,051 50,338 50,001

The plan is to keep the five day chunks, but feel free to comment on what you'd rather see. I'll keep it in mind.

And I'm off! (a shot is fired in the distance...)

Friday, November 24, 2006

I Want This Book

And I don't want to have to wait until next year.

Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume.

Judy Blume has one out for adults too called Summer Sisters. It was fabulous and well worth the time spent reading it. Unfortunately, I read it before I started doing reviews or even keeping records of the books I read, so I don't recall when I read it.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Saying Thanks

My most excellent at reminding me friend Kelli has done it again.

It's been a long time since I posted about our men and women in the armed forces, and I thought that its long overdue. Following is a quick little something that I have done with my students this year. If you go to this website, you can pick out a thank you card (which was made by children), Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to some member of the armed services.

How AMAZING it would be if we all got together and said a big THANK YOU! You can personalize your own message, or you can choose from the many they have to offer.

It only takes a minute. By the time you are done reading this post, you could have sent one. Click and send. Tell them you appreciate them.

She is so fab.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Scottish Historical Exam

Last April, Kristen Nelson posted a link to the Fantasy Exam, something I swore I linked to but couldn't find in my archives.

UPDATE: I did, and I don't get why my site search didn't turn it up.

It was fab, but this is just as good and in the same light, only for historicals set in Scotland.

  1. The hero is always depicted as Highland chief (complete with kilt and basket hilt sword usually - and wrongly - called claymore), even if he lives in the Lowlands.
  2. The heroine is always English.
  3. She’s described as feisty; often red haired.
  4. The bad guy is her father/brother/betrothed.
  5. The heroine, in most cases abducted by the hero, first hates him and sees him a savage but soon can’t resist his alpha maleness (her betrothed is a whimp, after all) and falls in lurve. Of course, she goes over to the Scottish side at that point. A bit angsting is ok, but not too much. This is a romance, not a psychological portrait of a woman torn by opposite allegiances.
  6. The hero is in lurve with the English girl since he met her at a ball he attended in disguise to spy on the English.
  7. If the English characters (except the heroine) are keen on getting more money, it’s always greed.
  8. If the Scottish hero is keen on getting money, it’s to help his clansmen to buy cattle, or sometimes to restore his ancient seat which the English destroyed.
  9. The hero says “Ye ken, lassie,” a lot.
  10. If the hero drinks a lot of whisky, it’s alpha male-y, if the English do it, it’s depraved and a sign of inherent weakness.
  11. The Campbells are the only Scottish clan that is bad.
  12. There can be a clan feud, but it has to be ended in order to fight the English. Except if it involves the Campbells because those are bad (see 11).
  13. The Scots win the decisive battle despite the fact that they’re outnumbered five to one and fight with swords against muskets. This is achieved by the famous downhill charge.
  14. There must be at least one scene where the hero shows the heroine the beauty of his country by dragging her along over mountains and stones, though heather and moor, until he finds a river where he can catch some salmon with his bare hands. Romantic dinner ensues.
  15. Never bother about the differences between pre- and post-Culloden Scotland, even if you mention Culloden as example for the badness of the English.
  16. The hero must at some point deliver a speech stuffed with platitudes about the greatness and braveness of the Scots from the times of their mysterious selkie ancestor onwards (and never mention Normans or Vikings in the family trees), and list a number of vile English kings that tried to unjustly suppress the Scots.

    Bonus points if you can manage that speech while the hero stands in chains in front of his English captors. He will of course get insult, and the heroine has a chance to escape with him.

  17. The hero has a trusted sidekick who hates the Sassenach girl until she manages to save his life.
  18. The heroine can ride in a man’s saddle. She also has a favourite horse, preferably some breed that would never be able to find footing on highland mountains if this were not a romance.
  19. The hero is able to swim across any loch in the depth of winter without getting a cold. While escaping several salvos of arrows or bullets.

via Writer Unboxed

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Return of the Draft

Also known as, the shifting tide of the new party. Check this out from The Washington Times.

The incoming Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means panel says he will introduce a bill to reinstitute a military draft in order to provide the U.S. with more troops, while Sen. John McCain continued his call for increase of troop levels in Iraq.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York first called for a draft in January 2003, when Democrats were the minority party in both houses of Congress. Now that his party controls Capitol Hill, he was asked yesterday on CBS' "Face the Nation" if he was still serious about the proposal.

"You bet your life. Underscore 'serious,' " he said.

I think drafting 18 year-olds is wrong. If either of my boys was even close to the right age, I'd encourage them to sign up. The root problem isn't solved by the draft.

I'm all about solving the root problem (and yes, it pisses my co-workers off.)

The root problem is that citizens don't support the government and the way it has been operating. That's evident from recent elections, polls, etc. Why should anyone want to go to work for a cause they don't believe it? I couldn't ever work for an abortion clinic. I don't agree with the principles practiced there.

Come to think of it, that's part of why I had to quit teaching at the parochial school too. But that's another post.

If a draft is the only way to go, then the Military needs to recruit differently. Policies need to change in Washington. People need to know how this is a good career move, just like college and tech schools are.

Initiating a draft is only going to cause more problems. Solve the root cause.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Dead Sleep by Greg Isles

Title: Dead Sleep

Author: Greg Isles

Genre: Thriller

Summary: A series of paintings, worth millions, depict women that are assumed to be alive, until one is connected with a missing persons case.

The Take-Away: Isles story telling and character development is strong, even though this is one of his early titles. It did stretch my imagination further than it was willing to go, especially when the murderer is discovered. (I don't want to give it way, but it felt a bit deus ex machina for my tastes.)

I would have liked to see more of the MC's family. It was left undeveloped, in part I believe, because she was a twin of the missing woman. It was complicated for the kids and the husband to deal with XXX looking so much like the woman missing from their lives. I wonder if it had been left out, if it would have mattered. The couple of scenes that were present left more, not less, questions in my mind.

Recommendation: Decent, but his later books are better.

October Titles

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Friday, November 17, 2006

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

Title: The Fiery Cross

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Historical

Summary: The possible alteration of the past is woven into the individual stories and drawn the novel together when Roger and Brianna decide whether to stay in the past or return to their own time.

The Take-Away: I loved the debate of impacting the future between Jamie and Claire, Roger and Brianna. A local skirmish that never made the history books is used to illustrate how they could possibly be affecting or have effected their known history. Any author with a time-travel story has to answer how this works in their world. Gabaldon hasn't answered the question yet, but hints at the possibilities.

I've found too, that her books read slower than most titles that I devour. They take awhile to reach the critical, "I can't put it down" stage. But they continue to be worth the time. Afterall, if you're going to pick-up a 900+ page book, you need to know that it is worth it.

Recommendation: Read it. If you start out of order, you'll ruin a couple of plot lines, but still be able to follow the story.

October Titles

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Five Things to do One Day

I haven't lived terribly long on this planet (29 years for the inquisitive) but I have made some rather important decisions about my life.

For all of those NaNoer's out there needing an easy post, I'm starting this meme: One Day...

List 5 things you'd like to do some day. The dreams that you'd like to accomplish. The goals you've set for yourself.

Here's my five things, and I've done a few of them.

  1. Write a novel. I've done this five times and am working on my fifth try. I'm not published, but I am happy being a writer, with my butt in the chair every day.
  2. Learn how to tat. I taught myself how to through a series of books. I decided that after dropping out of college, and my susesquent to return after one year, I needed to start learning what I wanted to, rather than waiting for some day.
  3. Live in a foreign country. For at least six months, possibly longer. I'm not really sure how I'm ever going to do this, since my husband hates to fly domestically. I cannot imagine what sort of promises I would need to make in order get him on an international flight, but I don't want to rule it out. I'd probably pick somewhere in the UK, but a European country with a strong English speaking population would be good too. Maybe Greece. Or Italy.
  4. Teach my kids to think for themselves. When I was a teacher, I got in trouble for this regularly. I'm sure the consequences will be steeper yet as a parent, but I cannot imagine wanting my children to learn any other lesson, no matter how difficult it makes them as teenagers.
  5. Graduate with a useful degree. I currently have a Bachelor's of Science in History. That's what an overdose of religion classes will do to you. But I don't have the teaching certificate necessary to make the major or the minor (English Lit and Education ) useful. I check the mail box anxiously every day for a letter with the return addresw with a UWO logo. A big fat envelope, because everyone knows that those mean acceptance.

I'd like to think that my list is both literal and symbolic. That what I've choosen as my life goals are meaningful, challenging, and encompass both the day to day activities as well as the long stretches. I think a list like this should stretch in a variety of directions.

I'm tagging

If you don't have a blog, email me (stacie.penney (at) and I'll post your list for you.

What's your one day list?


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

NaNo Day 14

Even though I'm doing really well, I still feel a sense of foreboding, that because I took yesterday off, I might not be done by the end of the month.

Crazy, that a few episodes of Veronica Mars, Season Two, in an Iowa motel room could cause such guilt.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

Title: The Fiery Cross

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Historical

Summary: The possible alteration of the past is woven into the individual stories and drawn the novel together when Roger and Brianna decide whether to stay in the past or return to their own time.

The Take-Away: I loved the debate of impacting the future between Jamie and Claire, Roger and Brianna. A local skirmish that never made the history books is used to illustrate how they could possibly be affecting or have effected their known history. Any author with a time-travel story has to answer how this works in their world. Gabaldon hasn't answered the question yet, but hints at the possibilities.

I've found too, that her books read slower than most titles that I devour. They take awhile to reach the critical, "I can't put it down" stage. But they continue to be worth the time. Afterall, if you're going to pick-up a 900+ page book, you need to know that it is worth it.

Recommendation: Read it. If you start out of order, you'll ruin a couple of plot lines, but still be able to follow the story.

October Titles

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony by Eoin Coulfer

Title: Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony

Author: Eoin Coulfer

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Holly, ex-LEPron officer is asked to assist rescuing Artemis, and finding out who else knows about the People.

The Take-Away: This title really cemented Artemis as a good guy for me. I loved the contrast between him and Minerva Paradizo, the 12 foil to Artemis.

Coulfer also brings back the message written in the People's language along the bottom of the book. If you didn't translate it in Book One, and missed "The Artemis Fowl Files," have fun translating.

Recommendation: Great for adults, fanastic for kids.

October Titles

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

If Average Jane can be Metaphysical, so can I!

You are The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

via Average Jane because she rocks at finding interesting posts when she's too busy to actually post

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

5 Truths about Parenting

  1. Mother and Father need to be in agreement as to the ideals taught to their offspring. I value sarcasm; he doesn't, therefore I get to teach the kids how to use it on him.
  2. Most parents eagerly await the first words out of their child's mouth. Don't. Once they start, they never shut up. Unless they are a teenager, by which time they will have perfected the use of sarcasm in daily conversation.
  3. Bribes work. Would you consider your paycheck any thing other than a bribe?
  4. Good cartoons have structure, rising stakes, character development, etc. Use them for an object lesson. Ruin them just like schools have ruined your favorite books.
  5. Paint is cheap. Your time is not. Just paint over the crayon marks and markers. Even better, take the crayons along the next time you visit the sadistic bastard who gave them to your kids. The paint is optional.

Only to be used by parents who truly understand both kids and the world today.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dance of the Gods by Nora Roberts

Title: Dance of the Gods

Author: Nora Roberts

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: The Circle of Six is complete and starts the next phase of their training - preparing their army.

The Take-Away: The point of view problem has been worked out in this title. Every new section was clearly identified. I have to think that the first novel was either a fluke or a new technique.

The main female character in this book reminded me quite a bit of a friend of mine. I have no clue how Roberts described Blair Murphy because I kept thinking of my friend. It didn't bother me the least, but I've never had a character drawn so closely in personality to someone I know. It was eerie.

The stakes are raised in a rather predictable fashion that was laid out from the onset - the Circle needs to train an Army in a land that should only exist in faerie tales. The Kingdom of Geall, however, is the homeland of the male MC (who isn't nearly as memorable as Blair, yet equally suited to her.) While the myth of vampires is a well-known our world, the people of Geall refuse to believe it, even when their neighbors fall victim to Lilith's scouts.

Recommendation: Again, wait until the third is out and curl up with all three over a weekend.

Bonus Review: Morrigan's Cross, Book One

October Titles

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Monday, November 06, 2006

How to Succeed at NaNo

This is how I have succeeded at NaNo two years in a role and have achieved my current word count.

  1. Figure out how many days you are actually going to be able to write. I have kids, family commitments, and a real life job. Thirty days is shriveled first to 22 because of weekends (it just doesn't work,) then 21 because I know that I will get nothing written on Thanksgiving Day. I knock off one more because I have gotten sick every November since 1996. So my daily count is 2,381 words. Yes, I divided the 50K by 21 anyway.
  2. Every time I sit down, I set a goal. I figure out how long I have to write.
    1. If it's fifteen minutes, I should be able to type between 300 and 400 words. Then I figure I'm going to do it twice, because I'm at work. Then I push myself to get 500, so I walk away with 1,000.
    2. If it's after everyone has gone to bed, I push for the 2,381. Even if I made the 1,000 goal during the fifteen minute sprints. The 1,000 words are icing at that point.
  3. Repeat. On every writing day and any time the kids go to be early or I find myself alone.

See, winning isn't so much about the 50K, it's about figuring out what you can do and when.

What can you do? When can you do it?

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Glasswright's Apprentice by Mindy L Klasky

I found a really cool new NaNo Widget. Check out my profile page.

Title: The Glasswright's Apprentice

Author: Mindy L Klasky

Genre: Fiction

Summary: In a daring moment, Rani Trader speaks up to protect her king, only to become an accomplice to murder.

The Take-Away: I spent most of the book confused. Who should I trust? The Touched Girl who takes Rani under her wing? The King's advisor, who is harboring one of Rani's fellow guildmembers and a fugitive? Rani's brother? The Fellowship that operates in the shadows?

I confess, my loyalties swayed as much or more than Rani's did. It wasn't until almost the end of the novel that I realized that the confusion I felt paralleled the confusion Rani felt (okay, not quite the end, but closer than I'm comfortable admiting.)

Mindy Klasky was able to do this because every new character really seemed to have the kingdom's and Rani's best interests at hand. The end of the novel ties the threads together before picking them apart to find the truth.

Fabulous, really.

Recommendation: Good enough to make me want to read the second one.

October Titles

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Truth About NaNo Day One

7:24 -- Word Count: 0. Husband leaves for work

7:49 -- Word Count: 658. I realize that I didn't post to my blog and log in to correct the mistake. I chat with a friend who's doubling as cheerleader and promise to check back to read her author answers.

8:07 -- Word Count: 658. Start writing again.

9:26 -- Word Count: 2,648. This is awesome. My personal goal is 2,381 for each writing day (since past experience has told me that my life makes it impossible for me to write 1,667 words every day for 30 days. It sounds nice but doesn't work for me.) I decide to take a break, clean up the kitchen and check in with the cheerleader. Maybe her blog will be posted and the author answers will have some awesome insight for me. Since I took vacation today, I need to hit at least 7,000. 10,000 would be better. I'm burning vacation time for this after all.

10:29 -- Word Count: 2,648. Start writing again. I did dishes and cleaned up the kitchen in general. Since our neighbor's trees and our tree have lost almost all of their leaves, I thought I'd mow the lawn. Physical activity is alway a good thing for my writing process. But the lawn mower isn't cooperating. My hands reek of gasoline, so I'm off to wash them and return to finish the scene that I left Rebecca (not Becky) in. Poor thing, she's walking into a social trap. Her best friend does have her back though.

11:48 -- Word Count: 4,827. Time for a lunch break and an episode of Veronica Mars. My word count is pretty much where I want it to be. I'm done with "Day Two" and starting on "Day Three." The trick, I've found, is to ride the wave of enthusiasm as much as possible in the first week.

1:09 -- Word Count: 4,827. Start writing again. I have about two hours until Ollie is dropped off.

1:54 -- Word Count: 5,909. I'm going slower and slower. My brain is just about mush. Another 100 words and I'm taking a break.

2:00 -- Word Count: 6,052. I'm taking a break.

2:22 -- Word Count: 6,052. Start writing again. I'm thinking that if I don't hit 7,000 by the time Ollie gets here, I'm done for the afternoon.

3:02 -- Word Count: 7,270. Or 21 pages. In all, a success for today. Now I'm going to see how well the NaNo site is working and try to upload my file to verfy how different the word counters are this year.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bookworm Report, October 2006

It's a day earlier than normal, but tomorrow starts NaNo and the insanity of posting word counts begins. It will be better this year than last year. If you recall the horror of the long tables, they won't be making a return appearance.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 5,880 15
2002 3,073 9
2003 2,129 5
2004 2,862 8
2005 4,064 11
2006 3,777 9

For the year, I’ve read 111 books, or 42,138 pages, which averages to 11 books a month, or 4,214 pages per month, and an average book length of 380 pages.

Hmmm...this appears to have been Mindy Klasky month, occupying 1/3 of the list. Should tell you something about her writing and story telling abilities. In case it doesn't, I'll have reviews of her titles posted soon.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Lost Kids

Saturday was hugely busy for us. Soccer in the morning. A birthday party in the afternoon that meant an hour drive one way. A NaNo kick-off meeting that night. Inbetween the birthday party and the NaNo meeting, the kids were passed to Grandma.

I thought my husband was picking them up.

He thought I was.

Instead they had an impromptu slumber party.

Thank god for reliable babysitters, especially when the parents aren't so.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dress Rehearsal by Jennifer L. O'Connell

Title: Dress Rehearsal

Author: Jennifer L. O'Connell

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary: Lauren, owner of Lauren's Lucious Licks, has a theory: if a couple can choose a cake with minimum arguements, their marriage will be good. Only the couple picking the cake is her best friend and the decision isn't an easy one.

The Take-Away: It amazes me what women will go through to help a friend. Even though the title is fiction, I know several women who would do just what Lauren did, including lie, confront and protect.

Lauren is a bit self absorbed through the process, however. While she thinks she is acting in her friend's best interest, she in turn ignores the advice she is given. I admired the strength she had in starting her own bakery boutique, but it was a stretch to believe she went from an office worker without a complete set of measuring cups to a $4,000 per cake boutique owner.

Recommendation: Sweet, just like the frosting described in the book.

August Titles

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Freedom of Speech Protected Again


Alabama Bill Targets Gay Authors

A college production tells the story of Matthew Sheppard, a student beaten to death because he was gay.

And soon, it could be banned in Alabama.

Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.

"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.

Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries.

Librarian Donna Schremser fears the "thought police," would be patrolling her shelves.

"And so the idea that we would have a pristine collection that represents one political view, one religioius view, that's not a library,'' says Schremser.

"I think it's an absolutely absurd bill," says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

First Amendment advocates say the ban clearly does amount to censorship.

"It's a Nazi book burning," says Potok. "You know, it's a remarkable piece of work."

But in book after book, Allen reads what he calls the "homosexual agenda," and he's alarmed.

"It's not healthy for America, it doesn't fit what we stand for," says Allen. "And they will do whatever it takes to reach their goal."

He says he sees this as a line in the sand.

In Alabama's legislature, the reviews of Allen's bill are still out on whether to lower this curtain for good.

Editor's Note: When the time for the vote in the legislature came there were not enough state legislators present for the vote, so the measure died automatically.

I believe controversy means defending what you believe. In order to defend, you have to know what you stand for and not have it spoon fed to you.

I don't think that anyone should be able to tell me what to read or not to read. I don't want peole telling my kids it either. I want them to read things that challenge their way of thinking so their minds can expand.

Thankfully, state legislature was lazy that day. I'd hate to know where this might have gone.

Yes, I realize that this is an old article. I'm outraged that something like this almost happened. And it makes me wonder whatelse is going on out there.

via Miss Snark, because she rocks

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

OMG, I've Been Tagged

Stacy Brazalovich, of Welcome to the Confessional, tagged me with one of the coolest memes I've seen going around -- Five Things I wouldn't Say at a Cocktail Party.

1. We feed our dog boogers. Yes, it's true and it started as an accident. I have kids, small kids. They pick their noses. Elle stared intently at Ollie one day while he did it. I couldn't figure out why until he held out his finger and she scarfed that booger like it was Godiva chocolate.

2. I went to a parochial high school. No, I'm not Catholic. For some reason, people assume that "parochial school" is synonymous with "wild and crazy things with tequila." It's not. That happened on breaks away from school.

3. We were going through at least a roll of toliet paper a day until we switched to Scotts Tissue. I doubt that the pooping habits of the men in my life mean anything to anyone other than myself.

4. I've been meaning to try some weed. Do you have any? I've never smoked pot, something that is becoming less believable over time, since so many people have. Even my husband didn't believe me right away. This one could be really interesting though. Finding out the closet pot smokers could be fun.

5. Oh my god, I'm so sorry. He's never done that before. When you aren't the host. And you mean your husband. Sorry, honey, you'd be on your own since you always give the car keys to me.

Trisha Ryan post hers here.

I'll tag my normal suspects. If you do it, I'll link to you and we can have inappropriate conversations together.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'm sort of behind today

So I'm suggesting this post by Lynne Viehl -- FAQs.

Or this one by Holly Lisle -- Evolution of a Knitter, aka a writing allegory.

Otherwise the NaNo Forums are a great place to get sucked into, er, spend some time.

I promise to not forget about you tomorrow.

Monday, October 23, 2006

NaNoWriMo '06

NaNo starts in 10 short days. YIKES!

Normally by now I have an outline, usually by chapter, of major events and funny details. This year, I have a paper sketch and a mental train.

I'm hosting a kick-off party in Appleton next weekend (See the WI: Elsewhere forum for details. I need to get the goody bags together, but I have everything for them, except the NaNo swag. I'm not sure that is going to make it in time.

We are encouraged by the Office of Letters and Light, the headquarters for the event, to be active MLs. In fact, they published a handy list. I'm good on all of them (checking in at least once a day, writing a novel, answering questions, etc.) except the scheduled write-ins.

I'm sure that they want to make sure that the MLs are dedicated individuals doing good deeds, and not some bottom feeders just in it for the recognition and the swag. However, my region is WI: Elsewhere. Elsewhere as in NOT Madison or Milwaukee.

And that's a helluva lota ground to cover.

Last year I tried online write-ins. It might have worked, but my personal schedule changed and it bombed. I'm not too keen on setting something up at a coffee shop, since the two or three that are in Oshkosh or Appleton don't have much by the way of tables or plug-ins. Plus I don't want people to feel obligated to buy something or not come because they can't afford it. I know that I could ask the local libraries for space, but run into another problem -- not many people have laptops.

Any ideas? Either for meeting space or machines?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Lack of Enthusiasm

I've had a severe lack of enthusiasm for any sort of writing lately. Blogging, shorts, novels, book reviews, emails for work, etc. Nothing is interesting to me.

Part of it stems from change. I'm frozen, forced into inaction, because things keep changing and I can't do a damn thing about it. I barely know what the next 15 minutes will bring, let alone the next day.

I'm a hunting widow this weekend as my husband has departed for the state of my birth, to bond with my brother and the various male members of my sister-in-law's family. He does it every year, no big deal, partially drawn by the hunting, partially drawn by the snorting and grunting that will take place.

It helps quite a bit that Cabela's releases a $1 million pheasant. Shoot that sucker and some things will change drastically for us.

Last night as Pickle-Boy and I bonded over the computer, something we rarely do when Dad's around, we watched a favorite of theirs -- The Wonder Pets. I was pleasantly pleased to find that Nick Jr. had nine episodes online. Pickle-Boy always is asking for The Wonder Pets and now I can oblige.

As I listened to their tiny voices singing, "What's gonna work? Te-eam Work," I thought to myself, that's more applicable than the creators of the show realize.

My work and home life may be going through lots of changes, but I have a good team to share the work.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Title: Drums of Autumn

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Historical

Summary: Jaime and Claire make their home in colonial America, standing up for what they believe is right while Brianna and Roger travel from Scotland, both present and past, to find them.

The Take-Away: Being reunited after twenty plus years of separation mean that Jamie and Claire have catching up to do. They also are staking out their claim in America, growing their home into a self-sufficent village, and taking a political stance as the political scene grows into the American revolution.

And yet, even in the midst of these major historical events, life goes on. Winter needs to be prepared for. People are sick or hurt and need tending. Even the unexpected, when Brianna finds them and Roger shortly after, is handled with care and cunning to enhance the plot and keep it moving forward.

The writing is rich with details, both of 'people history' and political history. While the story could be told faster, it would lose the charm for speed.

Recommendation: A story that never ends and keeps getting better. Invest some time in the series.

September Titles

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Morrigan's Cross by Nora Roberts

Title: Morrigan's Cross

Author: Nora Roberts

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: A time traveller must find five others like himself. Together, they must defeat Lilith's vampire army, an army she has been recruiting for centuries.

The Take-Away: As always, a great story combined with strong characters who have room to grow and change. I'd expect little else from Nora Roberts. What I do expect, is better execution.

Because this is the first title in a trilogy, suspense has been combined with romance, I know that their will be three pairs of lovers introduced. Easier still, the three pairs are also the circle of six that will ultimately defeat the bad guys. It's a tough crowd that Nora writes for. Any reader of hers will have high expectations and know key elements such as these.

It was disappointing, then that her transitions between sections were so rough. Often a new section would begin, and I wouldn't know which character I was reading for several paragraphs. While it might have been on purpose, so the reader would realize how closely each individual character compared to the others, it was distracting.

The second title, Dance of the Gods was released in October and the final title, Valley of Silence in November. Even with the ambiguity of character, it was still the great story that I know I can count on in a Nora Roberts trilogy.

Recommendation: Buy it, but wait until you have all three and a weekend alone to indulge in reading them together.

September Titles

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dooce was Sued

Last Thursday, Heather B Armstrong of Dooce was sued.

At the beginning of July I was served court papers. The case is a matter of public record, and I’m sure anyone who wanted to do a little research could read every sordid detail, or at least the plaintiff’s one-sided account of the details, but I’m not going to get into any of the specifics here other than to say that I chose not to sign a contract and was sued because of that decision.

While she never says what contract wasn't signed or refuses to allude the company, I wasn't the only curious person. This was posted at Yahoo Answers:

Who filed lawsuit against heather armstrong / dooce in July 2006?

The answer pointed to three different sources -- MediaBistro (aka Galley Cat), the Salt Lake Tribune, and The Zero Boss.

Any one of the accounts will tell you that she had troubles with a publishing contract with Kensington. Her troubles set a precendent that scares the pants off of me -- Heather was sued because she didn't sign a contract, based on a binding oral argeement.


I've been reading Dooce for quite some time and have that sense of over-familiarity that one gets from personal blogs. I'm outraged that a company would do this. I am going to keep watching the story and hope that someone with publishing experience puts in their two cents.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry

Title: Truck: A Love Story

Author: Michael Perry

Genre: Non-Fiction

Summary: Over the course of a year, Michael Perry twines his life around the rebuilding of an International.

The Take-Away: Mike's previous books have been about the people and things he has observed in life. This title reflects what's going on within himself, primarily explaining how his love for a time represented by a International. The International -- once a hard-working farm truck, now a lawn ornament -- has been moved to his brother's shed. In their spare time, between jobs, writing assignments and family, Mike acquieses to his brother's superior knowledge of trucks. Unless, it involves left hand lug nuts with left threads. Then Mike's collection of odd knowledge wins out.

The International isn't the only love in Mike's life, but also a time that only exists in peoples memories. Mike longs for a simplier time, when a fictional woman named Irma Harding graced the marketing material for variance home appliances and cookbooks. The world seemed simplier, a world that a man could be a man and trucks were used as work vehicles, not a means of transportation. Mike paints the world he misses in broad strokes, but with careful attention to the detail that truly makes it special.

Perhaps most importantly, Mike regales his readers with the stories of people falling in love, his brothers and himself. Each bacholer's in their own right, each married to strong women who complement them.

Mike's book isn't one to race through in an evening. Each section is meant to be savored, with a bit of reflection on what life really means, and how I'm going to make my life mean that as well. The lessons I drew from the pages probably weren't his intent in writing them. Often, though, that's were I find life's best lessons to be located -- where no one means them to be.

Recommendation: Buy a copy for yourselve and for the readers on your Christmas list.

September Titles

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Friday, October 13, 2006

The Buried Pyramid by Jane M Lindskold

Title: The Buried Pyramid

Author: Jane M. Lindskold

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: The discovery of a new Egyptian king leads the explorers on a fantastical journey that the Protectors of the Tomb do their best to prevent.

The Take-Away: I love books about Egyptology, such as Elizabeth Peter's series featuring Amelia Emerson. This book is of a similar quality and excellent story.

One of the attractions of novels of this sort has always been the culture conflict. While the British were touring, exploring and uncovering in an attempt to not only learn about the Egyptians, but also perserve the knowledge, their Egyptian counterparts were willing to sell their national antiquities to the highest bidder of the moment.

The other attraction of this is the voice of the novelist. Combined with the style reminiscient of novels from the early 1900s, Linskold narration is moves forward, but at a pace slower than most modern novels. The difference was refreshing.

Recommendation: Dig in, but expect a different sort of writing style.

September Titles

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

NaNoWriMo '06

I've found two really cool NaNo-ing things.

From Will Write for Chocolate, a weekly comic published every Wednesday:

If the comic's too small to read, double click to get a larger version.

A counter to add to website that automatically updates word count as recorded with NaNo.This baby's going in my template.

I have a title for the year and the start of my outline, a requirement if I'm going to have anything worthwhile at the end of the month. Are you going to NaNo?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wives and Sisters by Natalie Collins

Title: Wives and Sisters

Author: Natalie Collins

Genre: Women Lit

Summary: A renounced Mormon struggles to find closure to the horrific crimes she has been subject to and the Mormon Church could have prevented.

The Take-Away: Many of the rumors about the Mormon church make it into this novel and are always balanced with the someone saying "that's not the church, that's just the person." While it seems like a contradiction, having experienced that same phenomenon in the church of my youth, I understood how people think that way.

The main character, Allison Jensen, is six when she first realizes that God will not always protect her. She fears her baptism, which will occur at age 8, because she will be held accountable for all of her sins. A huge responsibility for anyone, but especially for one whose father believes in punishing his children with a belt across their rear. Her mother intercedes, but only to receive the punishment herself.

When her best friend is kidnapped before her eyes, Allison begins to doubt what is being taught in her Mormon home. Her questions deepen as she grows older, but she never truly breaks free of the church. Instead she stays close by and tries to find the truth about what happened when she was six. While filling in the missing memories, she is raped. Allison correctly believes that it is connected to her searching and resolves to uncover what the church has been protecting.

The narrative is so engaging and so involving, that I really had difficulty remembering that it was fiction and not a quasi-autobiography. I cared so deeply about the character that each set-back brought pain to me, and occasionally, tears to my eyes. When the mystery is solved, I felt the same since of emptiness that Allison must have felt realizing that she could move on.

Recommendation: It's a dark, gloomy, but eye-opening reading. Well worth the time.

September Titles

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New Math

This is the sort of Math I could get into -- Indexed.

Step One: Identify your favorite social, economic, or cultural phenomenon.

Step Two: Combine with charting technique learned during Math class (ie. Venn Diagram, bar charts, etc.)

Step Three: Submit to Indexed for a good laugh.

I've been reading this one ever since J-Walk posted about it. I've died laughing several times. Since then I've learned that it is seriously hard to perform CPR on your self.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Wizard's Hall by Jane Yolen

Title: Wizard's Hall

Author: Jane Yolen

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: The last new student for the term is the most important -- Number 113.

The Take-Away: Henry is recognized by his teachers as the most important student to pass through their doors, but none of them know why. Only that he is, even though he doesn't show any magical inclination unless some provides a guiding hand.

Even the most basic of magical elements -- singing -- proves impossible for him. But he promises to try and do his best, which really, is all that is needed.

Recommendation: A short title that would be a great introduction for any child considering fantasy or wants a taste of what Harry Potter is all about.

September Titles

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Friday, October 06, 2006

The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Title: The Time-Traveler's Wife

Author: Audrey Niffenegger

Genre: Literary

Summary: The intwined lifes of Henry and Claire transcend the way we assume time works.

The Take-Away: I love this story as much the second time around as I did the first time. The title confused me, during the first reading, as it seems that it should be Henry, as the time travel, that is important. By the end of the first reading, I realized that Claire truly was the important character, but wasn't able to say why.

Hence the re-reading.

I waited. I was a bit fearful that it wouldn't read as well the second time and I loved this book. I didn't want anything to ruin it. But I found myself without titles from the library and a Saturday afternoon free, so I grabbed it from my shelf.

The book challenges freewill. When Henry first visits Claire, he knows her to be the child version of his wife. Claire grows up, her life marked by her waiting for Henry to return until as an adult they are married. Are either of their choices their own?

Niffenegger challenges this as well by forcing Henry to visit, over and over, certain times and scenes in his life. He can't ever change them.

And while he travels, Claire waits. She is his constant. She knows bits of his future, based on the visits he currently makes and she already has had.

The whole novel has a very circular effect that is quite fascinating and, if I think about it for too long, it might my head explode. The wonder of the story isn't just in the reading of it, but also in the thinking about the possibilities.

Recommendation: Buy it and keep in on your shelf. Another great title for gift giving.

September Titles

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Video Games

Recently, as a reward for good behavior, Ollie was given a Star Wars video game. It's the Lego one, the first triology (when Anakin was little and not yet controlled by the Dark Side of the Force) and it's freaking awesome to play.

First, because everyone is made of Legos, when you heart containers are empty (we try not to say die) you fall apart and the pieces scatter for a few seconds before magically reforming. And, if you were so inclined to mistreat your C3PO or any of the other droids who look like a C3PO but go by a different alphanumeric configuration, he hops around without an arm or a leg until he is completely done it and is scattered Lego pieces across the battleground.

Second, it's a good length for Ollie to play. One adventure takes 10 to 20 minutes, if he doesn't scoop up every nickel, dime, and quarter he sees or solve all of the mini-games. The time is well-within the video game boundaries we've established. But because of those mini-games and various moneys just lying there (which collecting "enough" is a mini-game on it's own) it's fun for me to play too.

Third, and the very best reason, is the two player feature. Player One can play and play until he gets stuck. Player Two can hop in, save the day, and hop back out. The characture temporarily controlled goes back to its protective, but relatively nonactive role.. So when Ollie gets impossibly stuck, he can have help to get him over the hurdle, but still gets to play the game himself.

Interestingly enough, Collision Detection posted about the challenge of developing games for both the casual and hard-core players -- The Myth of the 40-Hour Gamer. Even though Star Wars Legos is meant for kids, it accomplishes bridging the gap between the novice and the pro.