Whiskers on Kittens

Raindrops on roses

Looking at blue sky through green leaves
Trees that bloom in February
Weeping willows
Cell phones
Friends who call from 700 miles away just to tell a funny story
Writers' group
Writing and editing with friends
Brownies ... and chocolate in general
Having enough to share
Four teenagers, a horse, and a flame
A dream I had when I was about twelve, and the resulting imaginations
Daisies, those dear lilies of the field
Being a girl--I love it
Fleece throws, especially my lion blanket
Earth, and the rest of the solar system
St. Peter's Basilica
Raphael, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and Bernini
Santa Maria Assunta in Siena
Douglas firs
The big maple down the street
Snowdrops and crocuses
Good sweet wine
Blogger, gmail, YouTube, Wikipedia, and sometimes even Facebook
Hot showers
Household appliances
Agreement, commonality, unity and peace
Overflowing bookshelves
Whole milk
Tea lights
Sunday mornings
Grace, mercy, forgiveness and the Eucharist
Having grown up Christian
Clergy with shepherds' hearts and wisdom
Square notes
Seedlings in starter pots
Having a valentine
Sitting side-by-side on the couch with Lou, getting our introvert time together
Mushrooms, cheese
Muffin papers
Fairy tales
Culinary creativity
Being a homemaker
A man who protects me and takes care of me
Psalm 139
The Bridge of the Angels
Michael, Gabriel, Raphael
Psalm 45
The Blogengamot
Garlic, oregano, thyme, olive oil
Light, life and love


Oh Yeah ... Blog

The final chapter of my NaNoWriMo novel underwent primary revision yesterday. I had to rewrite almost all of it from scratch because on November 29 I just wanted to have an ending down, and let me tell you, it was some of the worst writing I've accomplished in years.

Rewriting it was euphoric. I almost skipped my writers' group meeting. I barely finished the book I was supposed to read for book club at 6:55 PM (book club met at seven.) I made dinner in a flaming hurry and nearly burned the tortilla strips. And I didn't blog. (Or get on Facebook ... or clear out my Google Reader ... or call my sister back ...)

The plan now is to go back through the whole book and tighten up some things that even in the rewrite I just couldn't help speeding over. I'm excited.


Tasty Tuesday: Tortilla Soup

Tasty TuesdayShort of a knock on the head, I'll never forget the first time I had this. It came after a long day of raft guide training in late March or early April. I was cold and wet and had spent all day thinking about what moving water does when it hits rocks and submerged train cars and low-head dams--and what happens when the human body gets involved in that combination. Neither my body nor my mind were anything like comfortable.

You can only get one of those fairground barns so warm when it's fifty degrees out. I had removed the wetsuit and put on all my dry thermals and a hat--and then Eddie and Leanne served us this. If you're cold and exhausted, I don't think there's anything more comforting.

Tortilla Soup

1 chicken
4-5 burrito-size tortillas (or several smaller ones)
2-3 avocados, depending on size
2-4 tomatoes, depending on size
1 small onion
Bay leaves
Olive oil
Cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Salsa (optional)

Boil chicken with salt, garlic and bay to taste (I use 3-4 bay leaves, about a tablespoon of salt, and a healthy sprinkling of garlic powder.) Debone chicken and return to stock.

With a knife or pizza cutter, cut tortillas into strips about 1/2" x 2". Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, add tortilla strips and fry till lightly browned (you'll need medium or medium-high heat). You can then make cheese quesadillas with whatever tortillas remain in the package--they make a great side dish.

Chop avocados, tomatoes, and onion and put in separate bowls.

Grate cheddar cheese.

Here's what you do to serve: Ladle bowls half-full of chicken and broth. Make a buffet line with fried tortilla strips, vegetables, cheese, sour cream and salsa. Allow everyone to take their bowl of chicken and add the other ingredients according to desire.



Unexplained Vistas

Commenter David (newmaldon), in a note on last Thursday's post, asked a set of questions I thought deserved a whole post to answer. For the rest of you, David was responding to this Tolkien statement about Lord of the Rings:
"Those who enjoy the book as a 'heroic romance' only, and find 'unexplained vistas' part of the literary effect, will neglect the Appendices, very properly."
David says: "I'm guessing this is a reference to the fact that he created so much history and culture that never actually appears in LOTR, but is instead hinted at. But then, how much of this history and culture is "necessary" to create? And how do we incorporate this into a story so that it appears that there is much more depth than what appears in print? How are you going about that?"

Fantastic questions, David--thanks for asking them! To assist my attempt at answering, here's a sample world-building paragraph from an imaginary novel:
The water came up to Kimmie's ankles, and as far as she could tell, it got no deeper as it stretched out before her--acres and leagues and furlongs before her. It needed more interesting words than the miles and kilometers she was used to. She bent over and rolled up the legs of her jeans to mid-calf, straightened back up, and laughed. Where she stood, where she ought to go, what to do with this brand new world--she had no idea, but it was beautiful, a sea of perfect blue; and her puddle-hopping days did not seem so long ago as she drew breath, jumped as high as she could, and came down with a tremendous splash.
How much history and culture is it necessary to create?

It depends on the scope of your story. The grander and more epic the tale, the more you need to know about the world, the people, and their past. The nature of your plot affects this, too: if you're focusing in on a romance, the manners and customs will be of more relevance than the weapons and travel information you'll need for a hero's journey. And whatever your plot, you need to know enough to be sure your events and scenes arise from reason, rather than happening deus ex machina.

Example from above: I might need to do some research on what ecological effects a giant shallow body of water might have on a world. The nature and extent of my research will depend very much, however, on whether Kimmie has arrived in this new world to find the love of her life or to help save the place from environmental collapse.

How do we incorporate this into a story so that it appears that there is much more depth than what appears in print?

First, I believe strongly in the power of suggestion, of trusting the reader's ability to make associations. If you've read the sample paragraph, I shouldn't have to tell you that Kimmie is dressed like a casual American girl--the word "jeans" gave you enough. Hopefully you also have a beginning feel for Kimmie's personality. As for the world, you should have an image in your head--and whether or not Kimmie can see dry land from her position doesn't matter just yet.

Second, we work within a narrative voice. Kimmie will learn this new world one experience at a time; she'll have a very different perspective from Marius, who comes poling along on his wiggawood raft looking for flapjack fish. Kimmie's sense of wonder could be useful to me; Marius' lifelong knowledge--which of course he takes for granted--is a different resource. Neither of them will give out all there is to know about the world; Kimmie because she doesn't know it, Marius because he never thinks about it.

The plot will have to bring the necessary details to the characters' attention. If a piece of information isn't relative to plot or character development, I'll make a judgment call over whether it's really necessary for setting, with a preference for leaving it out.

How are you going about that?

For my current novel (which is not about Kimmie), I wrote the rough draft in a month from a very bare outline and sketchy world-building notes. The result was awfully slapped-together. I had to go through my scenes, figure out what needed killing and what I should keep, and rebuild the story around the remains.

To that purpose, I've created several things that won't appear in the manuscript: a timeline complete with original dating system, maps, and notes from the perspectives of characters around the protagonist.

I've also researched things like tiki torches, blanket-roll-making, self-defense with a baton, and poloidal fields on the moon. It's been fun.

Sticking to my third person limited-omniscient point of view forces me into constant consideration of detail. If my protagonist is unconscious, so are we; if she's facing the wrong direction, we miss the action. The challenges of writing in this voice fascinate me--I've got to know what she does and does not know, then move her so she sees enough to notice and learn. With her personality, this is not easy, but I never get bored.

* * *

David, I loved these questions and might have had a little too much fun answering! I hope this is helpful to you and anyone else who reads it.


Currently Reading: The School of Essential Ingredients

Lillian lifted the lid and drew out one of the creatures. Its shell was the color of dried blood, with black pea eyes perched on the front edge. Its antennae shivered, reaching out for input, and its front pincers waved, ludicrously out of proportion to both its body and the situation, as it searched for air in an ocean of oxygen.

"Are we going to kill them?" asked the black-eyelinered girl.

"Yes, we are, Chloe. It is the first, most essential lesson." Lillian's expression was quiet, calm. "If you think about it," she went on, "every time we prepare food we interrupt a life cycle. We pull up a carrot or kill a crab--or maybe just stop the mold that's growing on a wedge of cheese. We make meals with those ingredients and in doing so we give life to something else. It's a basic equation, and if we pretend it doesn't exist, we're likely to miss the other important lesson, which is to give respect to both sides of the equation. So we start here."

Author: Erica Bauermeister

Synopsis: Lillian teaches a cooking class every year to eight students, focusing not on recipes but on taking time to consider food and enjoy it, to seek out what ingredients work together. Her belief is that people are affected by scent and taste, that a mood can be changed, that a person can find emotional healing through food--and every one of this year's students is searching for healing or resolution.

Notes: While I hope to never own a restaurant, in my own little home I love to cook with an eye to satisfaction--comfort food, real food made with real ingredients, things that both fill the body and provide pleasure for the senses. I'm no purist--sometimes I'm in a hurry, I have no particular affection for a zester, and last week canned fruit sounded like the best side dish a girl could ever enjoy. But I do love to cook.
I enjoyed this book, then--the word sensual comes to mind, and while that might have negative connotations, it's hard to find a good substitute. The writing is poetic and evocative, and the tale has something of a magical feel about it. The different stories fit together smoothly and work toward a hopeful ending.
It reminded me of the movie Chocolat--same feel, similar ideas.
It isn't moral--be ye forewarned; weirdly enough, there's even a scene where a mother and her teenage son make brownies with marijuana. That isn't judged at all--it just happens and the book moves on, and I was a little bit floored because the general world nowadays will judge drug use when they wouldn't do more than shrug at a young girl's moving in with her boyfriend. Which, of course, also happens in the book.
I came away from the story wanting to try my hand at all-day spaghetti sauce with sausage, and the chocolate-orange-anise-milk-and-cream thing Lillian put in her mother's coffee (though I have never learned to love anise and would be awfully cautious about including it.) I'm also wondering what I can do with mushrooms, orange pepper and/or asparagus tonight. Hmmm.


Word Count, Novels, and Headaches

All right, I just spent an hour researching word count. Again.

Most writers, I hear, tend to write and then query amazingly long novels--150,000 words, 200,000, sometimes 300,000 or more. Publishers prefer most genre fiction for adults to land around 80,000-100,000 words, in case you need the comparison. I really don't know where these people get the words.

With a definitive authorial preference for things like clearly marked scenes, tight third-person (limited omniscient) perspective without exceptions, just enough description to give a visual feel to the writing (NO more), and what Tolkien called "unexplained vistas", I have the opposite problem: my work tends to run on the short side. According to various sources on the internet, looking at the most reputable ones I can find: A young adult novel should be in the 50,000-80,000 range. I'd like to shoot over 60,000 with this book. I'll be lucky to hit that.

The fact that there are multiple ways to estimate word count is not helping my headache.

There are two chapters and a little bit left to rewrite in my story, with chapters running 3-4,000 words by Open Office's (overestimating) counter.

If I format in Times New Roman (yes, 12 point double-spaced with 1" margin all around), my current 155 pages x 250 words = 38,150 words. (Open Office gives me a word count of about 350 per page in this format, however, and it's not that far off.)

If I format in Courier New, I have 204 pages x 250 words = 51,000 words (except that I can't seem to figure out how to make Open Office put 25 lines to a page and keep a 1" margin all around. Open Office counts about 230 words per page in this format.)

Open Office's counting tool gives me a current word count of 47,425.

Google Docs gives me a current word count of 45,647.


For the rest of you tormented souls, here's the best post I've found on the subject. As for me, I think I'm done headaching about it. When I go to query, I'll use my software word counter and round the dang thing off.

P.S. And if my critiquers tell me that my word count troubles are due to thin plot rather than "definitive authorial preferences," I will be rewriting again before I query. Oh, yes.


Ash Wednesday

Giving up something for Lent is always a challenge for me. I suppose I have as many frills in my life as anyone, but I'm not sure what they are. You don't give up foods when you're underweight, you don't give up sleep time when you've got a strong tendency to writing-induced insomnia, and you don't give up the Internet when you're a member of a group blog. At least, you shouldn't.
Coffee? I like it, but I never just buy or pour it for myself. Alcohol? Likewise. Soda? I might have that twice between now and Easter. Novels? I'm a part of two book clubs. Chocolate? I'm not giving up chocolate. Heh.
Lent, anyway, means more than just "giving something up": it's a time of fasting combined with prayer and almsgiving. My husband manages most of the alms around here (thank God--I put bills in stacks and forget about them), so the giving aspect is pretty much a "Hey, do you think we should ..." kind of deal for me. As for prayer and fasting, though, here's what I've managed to come up with:
1. Internet not immediately needed for work is for use only on lunch break and before/after work hours. That means you, Google Reader. (The Hog's Head, my own blog, and research for writing all count as "work" for these purposes--I'm trying to control the internet's influence on my life, not shirk obligations just because I like them.) The goal here is to order my life so that my top priorities get taken care of first.
[Note: I'm a homemaker, in case any of you don't know that--I'm not reading blogs on employer time, I promise! Also, since I blog myself, I would consider it a breach of honor to stop reading other people's. I'm not going forty days without my Google Reader--just limiting myself.]
2. Make a daily effort to care less about hearing the sound of my own voice, to delight less in myself and to listen more closely to others.

3. Pray a Divine Mercy chaplet every day and do the Angelus at noonish when possible.

4. Journal daily, preferably before work to focus my mind--because I haven't done that faithfully in years, and it's a good way both to clear out distractions and to move my mind to spiritual things.

That ought to keep me busy--and hopefully, willingly "denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Christ."


Thank You. Thank You Very Much.

I had a lovely Tasty Tuesday post all planned out today, all Mardi Gras-appropriate and everything, and had every intention of posting it until I read Nathan Bransford's piece this morning. After spending so much time and energy in a far-off place these last few months, I could not refuse to take him up on the Writing Significant Other/Friend/Family Appreciation Day.

Many thanks, then, to the following:

Louis, who bears the brunt of my distractedness. He is forever patient with Sleepy Jenna who comes to bed at three AM, Grumpy Jenna who didn't get enough computer time, Emo Jenna who walks around on the verge of tears when her characters are unhappy, and the Spacebrain who only hears the last half of whatever comment her husband just made because her mind was busy solving problems on a distant world. He also reads my work, and YA fantasy is a bit fluffy for Mr. I'm-Actually-Enjoying-The-Essays-In-Les-Miserables. And if all that weren't enough, he made it possible for my "write what you know" to include "falling in love with a great soul."

Mom, who made me come up with a climax and resolution to Merry's story all those years ago, thereby giving me the impetus to finish a 120-page middle reader book that should never, ever see publication--but it helped me learn to write and push myself. Also, Mom puts up with conversation that can't possibly make any sense to her because I'm trying so hard to avoid giving out spoilers. "Well, when I changed this one character's name it gentled her way down, and that's no good because I need her to spend half the book arguing with this other character, and ..."

Dad, because he's just so good to me. He also helps my music writing and recording, being the person who can best tell me when I have the bass up too high and whether I got all the drum set parts right.

Beth, who got more excited about the idea I finally used for my NaNo novel than even I did at first. That helped me spend November in a land of magic and myth instead of fuming over issues, which was my other idea. (Ah, the reasons I write fantasy instead of realism in fiction.) Beth also keeps begging to read the book and came up with several of the world-building elements herself; one of my worlds is definitely a better place because of her.

My other sister doesn't like being named on the internet, but she tells me I have a way with words, and that means a lot to me.

My former boss, Jason, who set up the writers' group and preached us many a powerful sermon on goal-setting and achievement. Likewise, all the members of that writing group, whose creativity and criticism and friendship help keep me coming back to my keyboard.

Mom and Dad St. Hilaire and Andy and Lindsey, who regularly ask me how my book is coming along and want to know when they can buy it from a bookstore.

Briana, who asks to read it and faithfully encourages me in writing.

Others who ask about my writing, including my beloved book club girls, who think writing a novel is cool; Mike and Kay G., who asked me all through November how my NaNo novel was coming; also Brittany, who keeps asking about my other book--which I miss, oh yes, I miss it like crazy. I'll be back at that one this summer, Britt.

Travis, Arabella, George and the other Hog's Head bloggers and regulars who have welcomed me as a writer at the pub. Who needs Cheering Charms with you folk around?

All of you who read this blog, especially when you comment or tell me about it--you help me believe that I'm not wasting time shouting into a void, and it's hard to overestimate the importance of that.

Publishing industry pros who blog begin to feel like friends after awhile, even to a shameless lurker who never comments. Nathan, Rachelle, Anne, Holly, Jessica, and others--you give me important guidance and confidence in my work.

Thanks, everyone--including anyone I may have missed! If it ever gets to publication, there are about 60,000 words in this novel alone, thanking you for your help.


A Question for Jane

Tell me, Miss Austen: when you penned the scene where Darcy tries to comfort Elizabeth after the news of Lydia's elopement--did you have to get up and walk about the floor to relieve your feelings? Mine get worked up when I read it. I can just imagine how it may have felt to write it.

Miss Brontë, when you wrote the line "Reader, I married him" could you not stop smiling for some minutes--or hours?

Ms. Rowling, perhaps you've already told the world whether you had to take a break to cry when you wrote Harry's walk into the forest with his lost loved ones. I should remember that, and I don't, not off the top of my head--but I would not be surprised.

From the things I've read, I'm pretty confident that Mrs. Meyer and Miss Alcott could sympathize with such feelings.

What about you other writers out there, published or not? Does writing an emotional scene or section get you all worked up? Part II of my NaNo novel--while I certainly won't venture to compare it to any of the above works--has taken such energy and passion for me to write that I have had to take time just to put my head down on the couch and bite my lower lip. I told Lou that I wanted to sit and cry till I felt normal again, which made him laugh.

I am deathly afraid right now that all my readers will hand the manuscript back to me, marked over, with the words "This is self-indulgent, sentimental crap. Try again. Or better yet, don't." Ah, the stuff of nightmares.

James Scott Bell says to "Delve into your character's heart. As the author, you must feel the big emotions as much as your fictional creation does."* Yes, and it hurts like heck when you do. Especially when you're trying to feel for several of them--and sometimes even when the emotions are positive.

Part III, here I come. This should make for an interesting week.

* James Scott Bell, "Leave Them With Hope," Writing Basics magazine, May 2006. That's all the citation information I could come up with ...


Broken Appliances and Holiday Cheer

Epic fail: The dryer quit heating on Tuesday, the water heater quit heating tonight, the cold water in the bathroom sink has decided to start randomly shutting itself off again, and the oven door came apart when I was making brownies with my sister this morning. Our apartment manager is going to have a long day tomorrow.

Despite all that, I've had a thoroughly happy day. I woke up this morning all a-jitter, preparing to make revisions on what is probably my favorite scene in my NaNoWriMo novel. Too bad the details would all give away major spoilers, because I'd love to talk about it--the big revelation, the sweet moment, the description, the characters involved and why I love them so dearly ... Being a great big F on the Myers-Briggs scale, I'm a bit emotional about that scene. In a good way.

I've dried my laundry at the in-laws, made brownies and cappucini with my sister, cleaned the house, and written my scene, and it has felt great. It makes me want to post as if it were Thanksgiving. Here I am, thankful for family and friends and productivity and chocolate and four walls with a roof and a landlord who gets things done quickly even if he never gets rid of old appliances.

My eyeliner may not come off with cold water tonight, but oh well. It's eyeliner. It never really comes off anyway.


I Know It's Random, But ...

Not sure how many of my regular readers are interested in bands who write songs about the TV show Lost, but I've only got the one blog post in me today. The Hog's Head got it, and that's what I wrote about. Enjoy, if you wish; otherwise, I'll be here tomorrow! For now, my novel is calling to me and I must go.



The Inverted World

A few days ago, I put up a post about why I write novels.

Fellow blogger and Hog's Head regular Mr. Pond linked it in a post today--and did such a fantastic job expanding upon the idea that I couldn't resist linking back. His piece, Flying Upside-Down, is well worth the read. Likewise, the Chesterton essay linked by commenter Eric.



Tasty Tuesday: Cheesy Potato Soup

One of my new cousins has begun a blogging meme, and while my first thought was "... my blog is more about books and writing than housewifey stuff," as it turns out, I do post recipes here. I'm in, then.

Tasty Tuesday

American Catholics aren't required to go fish-only or meatless on Fridays anymore (except during Lent), but I've tried to do so more regularly when we're home for dinner. It beats trying to dream up some other form of sacrifice. This recipe, however, doesn't taste like sacrifice--I couldn't believe how well it turned out. It was also incredibly easy to make.

Cheesy Potato Soup
(very loosely adapted from here)

3 cups peeled, diced potatoes (I didn't measure this--just diced up five medium-size bakers)
2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp minced onion
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp parsley
2 cups milk
About 1 cup cheddar cheese, cubed (I probably went a little over that ... I like cheese)

1. Put potatoes, water and salt into pot and boil until the potatoes begin to fall apart when pierced by a fork.
2. Saute minced onion in butter until clear.
3. Add milk, parsley, onion and butter to potatoes and cook until pot begins to steam again.
4. Reduce heat to low and add cheese. Simmer until cheese is melted and well blended.
5. Add pepper and more salt to taste, if desired.

Easy, easy, easy. I served it with asparagus and red pepper broiled with olive oil and salt, and huckleberry muffins.

Note: The soup serves 3-4, depending on how hungry you are and what you serve with it, so you might want to double it if you're cooking for many.


Sleep-Deprived Writer's Euphoria

All right, I stayed up until after 3 AM writing last night. Hopefully this post makes sense.

Having read well beyond midnight many times out of absolute need to make sure the characters survive, I find it interesting to have a similar experience while writing. When I shut my computer down around eleven, I had left my protagonist in a terribly dark moment. And even though I knew she'd survive--it wouldn't be much of a book if she died in Part One--I just couldn't leave her there. I got out of bed at 11:30 and wrote her into a place of comparative ease.

Made it from page 62 to page 92 just over the weekend, thank you very much. That made me happy.

The whole weekend felt productive. On Saturday I got hit with inspiration and did a huge portion of my editing work for a project some friends and I have going. Yesterday Lou and I went to Henderson's and I bought an encyclopedia of astronomy and Inkspell (sequel to Inkheart), which I can't read yet--there are at least two other books I have to read first. And while I've been trying very hard to take a break from writing on Sundays, I wanted to get to my story so badly that I gave in and wrote--and wrote and wrote.

It was incredibly fun. But productive weekend meant less time paying attention to my longsuffering husband, so I'm going to go make him a nice dinner now.


The Ever-Tormenting Why

Writing update: I've revised my NaNoWriMo novel all the way to page 62, or about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through the book. Which means that I need to speed up to make my March 20 deadline--which I need to do, because I have other projects lined up for afterward.

This week, despite tolerable productivity, hasn't been the most motivating for me.

I've invested a lot of hours in writing this novel, staying up late, forgetting to eat lunch till two in the afternoon, pouring myself into the plot and phrasing--and I've got a hundred pages of another work waiting for the moment my writing focuses are free--and this week it has all felt like a waste of time and energy. "Making up lies," as worthy old women might have said in another time. And for what? Who knows if these books will ever contribute a dime to this household? Who knows if they will interest anyone enough to persevere through to the end? (I like my little tales, but I created the people therein and I love them dearly.)

Here's why I keep going:
" 'Why do innocents suffer?' can't be answered in any interesting way with syllogisms. The syllogisms may be necessary, to prevent internal contradictions. But only paintings and novels and movies, the lives of the saints, and above all the Passion narrative, can truly bring us to accept the possibility that God is merciful, that there is a Heaven where even our wounds -- even our children's wounds -- are like the glorified Wounds of Christ."
Thank you, Eve Tushnet. I needed to hear that. Oh, and I loved the rest of the article too.


Currently Reading: Inkheart

The book Mo was reading that night was bound in pale blue linen. Later, Meggie remembered that too. What unimportant little details stick in the memory.

"Mo, there's someone out in the yard!"

Her father raised his head and looked at her with the usual absent expression he wore when she interrupted his reading. It always took him a few moments to find his way out of that other world, the labyrinth of printed letters.

"Someone out in the yard? Are you sure?"

"Yes. He's staring at our house."

Mo put down his book. "So what were you reading before you went to sleep? Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?"

Author: Cornelia Funke

Synopsis: Meggie Folchart lives with her father, a bookbinder, in a house filled with books--but she has never been able to convince him to read aloud to her. When a stranger named Dustfinger shows up in the night, she embarks on a bookish adventure involving magical creatures, a villain and his cruel henchmen, a boy from the Arabian Nights, and the mother who had vanished when Meggie was only three.

Notes: I adored this book. Despite the English text's having been translated (from the original German), the writing kept me enchanted--fanciful description, spunky little pre-teen heroine, quirky characters, and murderous suspense. I'm actually a little bit afraid to get the sequels.

The tale also has its poignant moments--things twelve-year-old Meggie only begins to comprehend, but she sees enough to let her readers know what is really in her father's heart.

The quotes from various children's books, heading up every chapter, add to the fun.


Homeschooled or Homeschooler?

This video explains the difference between the general perception of homeschoolers and the truth about most of those who were or are educated at home. It gave me some good laughs.

Maybe there should be a third category for those of us who fit the extremely-socially-awkward profile in high school ... and, indeed, perhaps into our early twenties ... but turned out relatively normal. (At least, I think I'm relatively normal now. Compared to my teen years, the improvement is extreme--you would all admit it if you knew. What--I don't have any pictures of my awkward teen years on my computer? Aww. Such a shame.)


Bill Watterson and Introverts

Hat tip to The Knight Shift for the link to this interview with Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes. I thoroughly enjoyed that this morning.

It amuses me a little that the header for the piece describes Mr. Watterson as "reclusive." As far as I can tell, that word gets applied to a lot of writers, especially those who aren't anxious to have a lot of press or public interaction, as if the desire to get out there and live fame to the fullest were normal and anything lesser were therefore suspect.

Maybe he's just an introvert. A lot of writers are, after all--writing means spending quite a lot of time in your own head. I go crazy without sufficient time in mine.

Which reminds me of this little write-up on introverts--one of my favorite old articles. The author writes as if he knows me.


Fighting over Gold

As someone watching from the bottom of the beanstalk, it's been interesting staring up at the battle of the publishing industry giants this weekend. If you haven't heard, Amazon temporarily pulled all Macmillan books from their site when Macmillan wanted the Kindle pricing setup to look like the brand-new iPad's.

A couple of the literary agents I read have posted their thoughts:

Rachelle Gardner: Publishing Smackdown: Let the Games Begin

Nathan Bransford: The Kindle Missile Crisis

Thus far, having not yet bought an e-book device, I am not sure how I feel about this. Competition among companies is healthy for all of us, so I favor the iPad and Kindle duking it out a little.

The converse is that an e-book has certain disadvantages against the three-dimensional copy, which is why I haven't taken a lot of interest in e-book readers yet. I don't think I'd pay $15 (on the current economic scale) for something I couldn't loan out and that doesn't make my house look more like a library. But that's me.