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

Technorati tag:

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

Technorati tag:

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

Technorati tag:

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

Technorati tag:

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

Technorati tag:

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

Technorati tag:

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.