Friday, January 31, 2014

Odd & Interesting: Household Tips

The purpose of Odd and Interesting is to provide something that you may wish to slip into a bit of writing yourself.  None of these will probably  result in a major plot point, but perhaps a side character does one of these, drops an odd fact, goes to a different place.  I guess I could also call these interesting fillers.  Last week's Odd and Interesting was about exotic places.  This week's post is a bit more domestic - household tips:

1. Aluminum Foil Tabs

I never buy a large roll of foil because despite the savings per foot, I almost always pull the stinking roll out of the box and drop it on the edge, thus ruining the ability to unroll the foil and resulting in much frustration as I slowly and unsuccessfully try to unbend the edges so that the foil will unroll as normal.

There is hope.  If you were not aware of this little poorly kept secret, take the time now to check out your pantry and find a box of foil or plastic wrap.  Right there, safely away from the sharp perforated edge that will certainly draw more of your blood that actually cut the product, on the sides of the box is a little tab waiting to be pushed in.  In theory, you push in the tab, the roll stays in place, and you will never have that problem again.  In theory.  Of course, sometimes the tab doesn't push in easily and you push too hard resulting launching the foil roll out of the box and crumpling the edge anyway.  At least, that is what fate had in store for me last week....

2. Use a Sponge for an Ice Bag

My sons like to take their lunch, so I pack an ice bag in their lunch bag to help keep the drink cool and the rest unspoiled.  However, my oldest son is very bad about accidentally throwing away the ice pack (I think it is more that he is too lazy to bring it home for reuse) which can get expensive after a while.  Taking a Ziploc bag and filling it with ice is not a much better solution as it can leak and then get a book bag soaked (along with the expensive text books, school issued laptop, and homework papers therein).

I don't remember where I heard this, but this next idea is genius.  I took an ordinary square kitchen sponge.  I soaked it in water, placed it in a Ziploc sandwich baggie, and placed it in the freezer.  It stays icy longer and doesn't leak when it melts since the sponge will just absorb the water back.  Plus, if my eldest forgets to bring it back, I'm only out 25 cents.

3. Keep Apple Slices from Turning Brown with a Rubber Band

While we are on lunch packing, you may shy away from packing apple slices because of the nasty brown color they get after they are sliced.  My youngest son love apples, but hates apple skin, so just putting an apple in his lunch doesn't work.  However, if you slice the apple and then reassemble it and secure it together with a rubber band, then the apple it ready to eat and doesn't turn brown.

4. There Is a Way to Fold Fitted Sheets

I just usually ball them up and stuff them into the closet, but maybe you have a character that is a bit more fastidious than I am.  If so, here is how you fold a fitted sheet:

While we are at it, if you store your nicely folded fitter sheet and regular sheet in a matching pillow case, you will always have all of your sheets ready to go when you need them.

One of the greatest things about You Tube is that you can watch a video on how do just about anything on it.  I fixed my heat pump watching You Tube (and I am far from a HVAC guru).

5. A Vacuum Cleaner and Panty Hose Can Be Used to Find Lost Little Items

Just cover the end of the vacuum hose with panty hose and you will be able to suction up small lost items without them going into the dust bin.

OK, maybe one of these will make it into your writing.  At the very least, maybe you can use it yourself.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

So who writes these posts?

Well, snow has covered most of the Southeast, which for teachers means a nice day off.  So with no swim team practice to coach this morning, no school to teach all day, and no after-school activities to drive my kids around to, what in the world could possibly prevent me from sitting down and knocking out that great American novel?  Well, a snow princess.

We don't really have that much snow, just enough to coat the roads and to put together a very modest little snow princess for my 3 year old daughter.  The boys got to actually sled a bit (on the road with a metal runner sled rather than stuck in the back yard with a plastic round sled) and since it won't get above freezing all day today, we'll probably have another day off again tomorrow.

So I thought that since I was putting off that next novel anyway, I'd take the time to identify myself a bit more.  I started this blog to identify myself with other aspiring writers.  I figured I'd share the process I was going through and maybe connect with a few of you along the way.  The first couple of posts were a bit random, not really knowing exactly how I was going to get to where I was going.  They were also a bit far between at times.  This is because I am a teacher first (I'd love to become a writer first, but since there are a few things called bills and debt that get in the way, I'll have to stick to the job title that is paying me) and this past semester I had a new prep to get through, which takes up a bit of spare time.  Once November hit, swim season started and even though practice is in the morning, not all of my coaching duties are in the morning.  Through in my two son's sport schedules and my daughter's dance schedule and it feels like all time is gone.

So here I am.  I got a bit of a breather and decided to put the effort into setting this blog straight and connecting with you.  I'm on a journey to get a book published.  I've got one young adult one written (Future King) and the ideas for another kicking around in my head.  I have discovered that this novel writing process is tiring, fun, and ego threatening.  Just when you think you've got it figured out, you realize that there is a whole other facet to perfect (writing a query, finding an agent) and the learning process starts all over again.  People say that you've got to have a tough skin and be able to take rejection letters.  I have found that to be as about as accurate as any prediction I've ever heard.  And yet, the desire to be a writer burns stronger than any blow to my ego that I have received.

So I will continue to write.  I will share what I learn along the way and look forward to seeing any comments you guys provide in return.  This blog will continue to try and find what it needs to be most effective for me and for you. Good luck with your writing and if you have a chance, drop a comment here and there so I'll know who you are too.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Deer Beds

I decided to enjoy the day off from school with my kids by walking through the woods behind my house. They were very interested in seeing if the creek froze (it didn't).  However, we did run across three of these not far into the woods at all:

The size is about three feet across.  Maybe three and a half.  The other two were close by.  My assumption is that these are where deer laid down to sleep right before the snow started last night. There were not any hoof prints near them, but I cannot think of what else would have made the spot so clearly dry and without snow.  My kids think that deer sleep under bushes or something and not out in the woods like that.  Any of you guys know?  Anybody else see something like this?

Of course I'm thinking how could I use this in a book and the other part of me is that it is interesting to me only because I saw it while out with my kids and so it wouldn't be interesting in print.  I guess if a situation comes up where it would make sense, I have a spot to use it, but better not try and make it fit just to include it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Odd & Interesting: Places

For the Odd & Interesting posts, we will explore different things, places, actions, etc. that might be useful to slip into a book you're writing.  Maybe you 'll want one of these places to be a setting, maybe the action is going on in the background, maybe your characters are searching for the object in question, maybe one of your characters just mentions this in dialogue for some reason.  Whatever the case, if you can use it, USE IT!

#1 Yosemite Firefall


Every summer night from 1872 to 1968 at 9:00 pm in Yosemite National Park in California, workers would dump burning embers from wood fires from the top of Glacier Point to the bottom 3,000' below.  The effect is a stunning fiery waterfall look.  It was a tourist attraction and the workers pushed the embers along to keep it at a steady pace.  For obvious reasons, the practice was banned.

#2 Tsingy, Madagascar


Due to natural erosion, the limestone at Tsingy, Madagascar, has formed sharp tall spikes exceeding 300' high over a 230 square mile area.  There are bridges you can use to get around, but this looks like something straight out of an adventure book nightmare.  The name of the place mean, "where one cannot walk barefoot."

#3 Fort de Roovere

This fort in the Netherlands is notable because it has an underwater bridge to get past the moat.  From a distance, this bridge is undetectable.  Useful for you fantasy writers trying to come up with a new look for your castle.  I would imagine in a fantasy setting, there could be devices built in to flood the thing, should the enemy find it.

#4 Playa de Gulpiyuri


In the middle of a field in Spain there is a weird place where a sinkhole connects to the sea and creates a beach with waves and tides and everything.  The water has to travel underground to get here, so it is colder than the nearby Cantabrian Sea that feeds it. Great locale for a romance, I would think.  Of course, there could be treasure hidden in one of the tunnels that connects it to the outside water source (not for real, but in your book, maybe so).

#5 Tunnel Road to Guoliang Village, China

Tired of always having to use the 720 steps to reach their village, villagers from Guoliang created a road that cuts through the cliffside.  They had no electricity nor heavy machinery to do it and it took them five years.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Quotable Quotes - Part 5

If a story is in you, it has got to come out. ~ William Faulkner

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I’d type a little faster. ~ Isaac Asimov

There are so many different kinds of writing and so many ways to work that the only rule is this: do what works. Almost everything has been tried and found to succeed for somebody. The methods, even the ideas of successful writers contradict each other in a most heartening way, and the only element I find common to all successful writers is persistence-an overwhelming determination to succeed. ~ Sophy Burnham

Either you’ve got a certain style or you haven’t. What you say is much more important than how you say it. ~ Steve Allen

Regarding characters, my feeling is this: get [the reader] to accept one thing, one weirdness, and then the rest of it must follow realistically. ~ Clive Barker

My first drafts are very rough. I think what I really start with is a basic situation. I don’t know the characters. All of my characters develop on paper. The characters come as I am working every day. They surprise me. ~ Judy Blume

The human brain is the laziest apparatus in the world. If you start to revise before you’ve reached the end, you’re likely to begin dawdling with the revisions and putting off the difficult task of writing. Unless I find I’ve made some drastic mistake in characterization or basic structure, I never go back until I’ve written the last page. ~ Pearl Buck

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly. ~ Edgar Rice Burroughs
My first stories were the best stories I could write, and every story that I have written since has been the very best story I could write. ~ Edgar Rice Burroughs

Always look to a character’s dark side. There’s more material there. ~ Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Monday, January 13, 2014

Authors on Twitter Se - T

More author Twitter accounts.  As always, let me know if I missed yours or one of your favorites, and if you know anything about one of the authors on this list.  I got this list from my school librarian (I teach at a high school), and while it is pretty long (what month are we on so far?), I am sure it is not exhaustive.

Sedas, Michelle - @MichelleSedas
Senate, Melissa - @MelissaSenate
Sepetys, Ruta - @RutaSepetys
Shanahan, Sue - @SueShanahanArt

Shank, Marilyn - @marilynshank
Shaw, Hannah - @HannahWeasel
Shaw, Jessica - @_Jessica_Shaw
Sheinken, Steve - @SteveSheinken

Shepard, Sara - @sarabooks
Shepherd, Megan - @megan_shepherd
Sherman, Melanie - @Scupperlout
Shireen, Nadia - @NadiaShireen

Shirky, Clay - @cshirky
Shukert, Rachel - @RachelShukert
Shurtliff, Liesl - @LieslShurtliff
Shusterman, Neal - @NealShusterman

Sierpinski, Hilary - @hpinski
Silvey, Anita - @anitasilvey
Simner, Janni Lee - @JanniLeeSimner
Simon, Seymour - @seymoursimon

Sitomer, Alan - @alansitomer
Sloan, Holly Goldberg - @HGoldbergSloan
Slomba, Gregory S. - @GregDeliverers
Sly, Shelley - @ShellSly

Smailes, Caroline - @Caroline_S
Smith, Cynthia Leitich - @CynLeitichSmith
Smith, Dana Lynn - @BookMarketer
Smith, Hilary T. - @HilaryTSmith

Smith, Jennifer E. - @JenESmith
Smith, Jenny - @jennysmithbooks
Smith, P.D. - @PD_Smith
Snider, Debra - @DebraSnider

Snyder, Betsy - @betsysnyderart
Snyder, Laurel - @LaurelSnyder
Solo, Sabrina - @SSoloBooks
Sonnenblick, Jordan - @JSonnenblick

Spencer, Jay C. - @SpencerToday
Spinelli, Jerry - @JerrySpinelli1
Spohn, Steven - @stevenspohn
St. Claire, Roxanne - @roxannestclaire

St. Onge, Caissie - @Caissie
Staak, Bob - @BobStaak
Stanet, Andrea - @AutismInsights
Starmer, Aaron - @AaronStarmer

Stead, Rebecca - @rebstead
Steel, Danielle - @daniellesteel
Steensland, Mark - @MARK_STEENSLAND
Stein, Elissa - @elissastein

Stelzner, Michael A. - @Mike_Stelzner
Stephens, John - @johnrstephens
Stiefvater, Maggie - @mstiefvater
Stine, R. L. - @RL_Stine

Stohl, Margaret - @mstohl
Stone, Tamara Ireland - @tamaraistone
Stone, Tanya Lee - @TanyaLeeStone
Strachan, Donald - @hackneye

Suerth, Renata - @RenataSuerth
Sussman, Elissa - @Elissa
Swanson, Kristen - @kristenswanson

Taub, Melinda - @MelindaTaub
Taylor, Phil R. - @philrtaylor
Telgemeier, Raina - @goraina
TenNapel, Doug - @TenNapel

Tessina, Tina B. - @o
Tharp, Tim - @TimTharp1
Thompson, Alicia - @aliciabooks
Thompson, Karri - @KarriThompson

Thompson, Terry - @TerryTreads
Timberlake, Amy - @amytimberlake
Tintera, Amy - @amytintera
Towell, Katy - @katytowell

Tovani, Chris - @ctovani
Tozier, Christopher - @OliviaBrophie
Tracy, Kristen - @kristen_tracy
Trigiani, Adriana - @AdrianaTrigiani

Tse, Helen - @helentse
Tubb, Kristin - @ktubb
Tussey, Lori - @LoriTussey

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mythology Monday: Christmas Witch

At first I was thinking that the early Christians had the right idea to celebrate Christmas for twelve days, but then I started to realize that we start the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving and celebrate a lot longer than twelve days!

Back to the twelve days, on the twelfth day (January 6th), not only are you supposed to give your true love twelve drummers drumming, but children should prepare for the coming of La Befana. In Italy, on the Epiphany (Jan. 6th), La Befana, or sometimes known as the Christmas witch, brings fruits and small goodies to stuff in children's stockings that they hang by their bed. If you're a naughty little chap, she'll give you charcoal. She travels by either broomstick or on the back of a donkey, and so doesn't have the capacity for large toys like Santa. And for the adults, she sweeps the floor before leaving.

Speaking of Santa, she also doesn't frequent malls for kiddies to hang out with either. She is a witch - ugly nose warts, rags, haggish cackle, and all. But children in Italy seem to love her all the same. She is rather rotund and it is common to leave her, not milk and cookies, but a glass of wine and a small doll.

How did she get her start? Well, according to legend, she was cleaning house when these three wise guys showed up looking for Jesus. She thought they were full of it and chased them off, only later to have some second thoughts. She ran out to help them, but had dallied too long. They were long gone. Distressed that she missed her chance to help the baby Jesus, she began handing out gifts to children hoping that one of them was the baby Jesus.

An alternate version is that her son was one of the babies killed by King Herod. She doesn't believe he is really dead, so she goes out in search for him every Christmas. Personally, I like the first one better.

Regardless of the origin, her search turned her old, gray, and into the hag-like appearance she now has. Finally, she found Jesus and laid all her gifts (or her son's belongings) before him. He called her "Befana" (giver of gifts or the White Witch) and gave her the ability to deliver gifts each year on night before Jan. 6th.

To any of my readers in Italy, were your socks hanging up?

Look for more information at these sites:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Weird Book Cover Wednesday

A new bit here on the blog.  When I find an odd book cover, I'll post it up here.  Reply if you've actually read the book!