Monday, September 10, 2012

Closing shop

Kristen Lamb's recent blog post about writers not needing more than one blog was the final kick in the butt for me. I'd been thinking about this issue for a while now myself.

Writing blog posts is hard work and while I enjoy it most of the time, some days, even paring it down to once a week for each of my two blogs, it's pure torture.

Therefore, much as I've come to enjoy this blog, I'm going to stop posting here and use my old blog at http://homesteadnotes.blogspot.com/ as my one and only blog. I'll leave this blog up at least for another year or so, but I won't be updating it. My official writer's website is at http://teresarobeson.com but I'll continue blogging at the http://homesteadnotes.blogspot.com/ site for now.

As I was saying to a friend, time is the frenemy of busy folks. Time is, of course, our friend because I'd rather have it than not. ;) But it's also our enemy because it never gives us enough of itself and it's up to us to make the most of it.

See you on the Other Site!

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, September 3, 2012

goodreads

Most people I know use goodreads. If you're one of the few people who is not familiar with it, you're totally missing out.

Goodreads is to books what Ravelry is to the fibre (yeah, I'm Canadian) arts community.

Goodreads is a community of readers and writers interacting and participating. You can use goodreads to keep track of your books, both read and to-be-read, categorize them on your virtual bookshelves by whatever ways make the most sense to you. You can give each book a rating out of 5 stars, and post reviews to share with the community.

Also within the community are different book clubs you can join. I'm not one for book clubs (ok, I really view them with as much pleasure as I view being infected by the plague, if you must know), but I think if I were forced at gun point to join a book club, I'd join one on goodreads because I can discuss books in my PJs without having to venture out of the house and drink whatever the heck I choose instead of whatever is served. Truly a fabulous option for a non-people person like me.

Another great thing about goodreads is that there are at any one time, hundreds of authors having giveaways of their books, some are even ARCs (advance reader copies)! I've won a book before. It was good too; I gave it to my son to hone his writing when I was done with it.

And if you join goodreads, pleeeease friend me! I love to see what others are reading even if it's a genre I have no interest in. I'm just a bibliovoyeur. Hey, I invented a word!

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, August 27, 2012

Write clearly

No, this is not a post about what a shame it is that some school systems have taken out cursive and penmanship from their elementary education curriculum.

It's another post about how language can be amusingly confusing.

This time, it's a sign on a donation box that makes my older son laugh hysterically every time we pass by:
You'll have to click on the photo to enlarge it, but the slogan says, "We turn used clothing into new kids through education." As Son1 is fond of pointing out, that make no sense at all.

I mean, you can understand their gist, but, really, no matter what process you use, used clothing can never be turned into kids.

And while this sounds like a good cause, it's a bit sad (and ironic) that something that is supposed to involve education sounds like it's written by someone who has no education.

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, August 20, 2012

Right on, Write-On Con!

I wish I could credit the person from whom I found out about Write-On Con, but, hey, these days, I'm lucky if I remember my kids' names (all two of them) and the day of the week it is. I suspect it was one of my fellow Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrator member buddies.

Last year, when I first found out about it, I was a lurker. A lazy lurker at that. I think I arrived late and didn't really try to figure out how it works.

In the interim, I completely forgot about it because that's just how my brain rolls...or doesn't roll. My brain is quite the expert on gathering moss in my old age.

Fast forward a year. I got a notice that Write-On Con was about to start again  - fortunately for me, I had the foresight to sign up for their email notifications last year (I suspect my good twin Skippy did me the favor*).

I still am trying to figure out exactly how Write-On Con works, but I have to tell ya I learned a lot from the live and forum events which featured editors and agents, and other helpful writers.

Because I have only a picture book manuscript completed so far this year, I participated in the PB query forum. While critiquing 15 or so - I lost count - of other people's queries was time-consuming, it was also a terrific learning experience. I think my critiques improved after about the 5th one. I also realized that the accumulation of writing knowledge for the past 20 years or so actually stuck in my brain, so that even though I can't remember where I read certain facts from, I could tell others about these facts.

While no Ninja Agent asked to see my manuscript, some kind person gave my query 5 stars. [And then I, embarrassingly, asked @writeoncon what stars meant...duh.] Thank you, kind fellow writer! Your rating kept me from believing that my writing sucks so badly no agent/editor deemed the query worth looking at.

So, if you write children's literature, I highly recommend checking out Write-On Con's archives and then participating next year. It's all free, though I always donate, even last year when I had no idea what was going on. Having been a long time volunteer in various capacities, I usually believe that volunteers should be rewarded somehow. :)

Maybe I'll see you at Write-On Con next year?

*I have no twin, good or evil.

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, August 13, 2012

To flatter or to complete, that is the question

I read something recently in an e-newsletter that made me giggle. The headline for an article said, "Compliment the Bedding."
"Well, hello, Bedding; you sure are looking sultry and beautiful tonight."
It was, as I suspected, a piece about making matching bedroom decor so the colors would go together harmoniously, and not, as you would think from the word "compliment," a piece about giving praise to the way the bedding looks.

To complIment is to flatter, to heap praise upon. To complEment is to make something whole or complete.

In this case, there's a very fine line, but there is still a distinct difference. It was pretty funny thinking about someone coming on to bedding.

What grammar faux pas makes you giggle?

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, August 6, 2012

I'm moving!

Well, ok, I'm not personally moving, but I'm moving my blog to my new author website at teresarobeson.com. Hope you'll join me there!

You can also find me in my usual blog, Raising Our Own, where I babble about a lot of different things related to my life. :)

I won't be deleting this blog since I keep track of my favorite writing/publishing bloggers here (and I may do identical posting here and on my website for a while).

Hope your week is productive!

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, July 30, 2012

My obsession with Little Women

Once upon a time, my parents immigrated from Hong Kong to Vancouver, British Columbia. I was 8 years old then and spoke not a lick of English.

But thanks to small class sizes and having an teacher's aide back in 1972, I was able to learn English quickly through immersion and my third grade teacher giving me extra help.

By the end of the school year, and I had even missed a couple of months of school since we moved in October, I had progressed from "Mat the Rat" to my very first novel.  Bet you can guess what the novel was. Yup: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

It was pure magic for me, both being able to read a novel in a foreign language and the novel itself. This is why I ended up owning 3 copies of the book.

The one in the middle is the copy I found in my parents' basement. I have no idea how they got it because the inscription inside said it belonged to one "Rosario Maria Gulelle."
I kick myself for never asking my mom, while she was still alive, who the heck that person was. I can't ask my dad because he'd never know; he is a flake. Lovable, but a flake nonetheless.

The volume on the left might be even older than the one in the middle. It's copyrighted 1910 and belonged to hubby's maternal grandmother (she dated it 1913 in her handwriting).

Then, because I didn't own a copy of Little Men, I had to get the 3 volume anniversary edition on the right (which includes Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys). HAD to. ;)

Do you own more than one copy of any book? If so, what is it?

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, July 23, 2012

Oatmeal and apostrophes

While I occasionally make an apostrophe error, especially when doing quick and dirty things like tweeting, I am shocked at how many professed writers make apostrophe mistakes. At this one site I recently went to, I must have seen apostrophes used in vain at least 10 times in the 15 minutes I spent there. Ouch.

If you don't know when to use apostrophes, check out this hilarious chart from The Oatmeal. I'd seen it before but thanks to Amy at WildBird Magazine for bringing it to my attention again. :)

Are you an apostrophe champion or slayer?

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, July 16, 2012

Got craft?

I've been told in the past that I have natural skills in fine art and writing. Honestly, most some days I wish I had skills in something more useful, like woodworking and giving public speeches, instead.

Hubby's parents' neighbor was a pilot by career and a woodworker by hobby. He had a craft that was more tangibly rewarding and valued by many, including me. He made this little chest for my in-laws many years ago, and I had told my MIL that it was something that I'd like to have whenever they want to pass it on. So, now I have it. I keep it on my nightstand so I can admire Mr. H's fine craftsmanship every day...and wish that I were more talented in other areas.
What are your talents and are they the talents you wish you had?

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, July 9, 2012

Where do you get your ideas?

I don't think I've ever been asked that question, but apparently famous writers get asked that a lot. (The question I get a lot, instead, is "what's for dessert, mom?"...which is just as well because, like I said before, my baking is better than my writing.)

But in case it ever comes up, here's where I get some of my ideas:
Where do you get your ideas?

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, July 2, 2012

No news is good news

I think that saying was created just for writers.

When you're waiting to hear from an editor or an agent about your submission, "there's still a chance," as Ginger said in Chicken Run.

But when you get a reply, and there's a 90% chance - on a good day - that it's a rejection, then, really, no news is good news. Or, at least, better news.

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming

...to announce that my story "Matches and Races" is live at the Enchanted Conversation e-zine site. It's my altered-take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, "The Little Match Girl." Because I've been bawling for years every time I read that story, I decided to give it a quirkier and more upbeat ending.

:)

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, June 25, 2012

Gut feeling

I made a discovery about myself. It was more of a "duh" than a "Eureka!" moment.

I realized that my stories that editors claim they like best are the ones that move me the most or cause me to feel like I've been punched in the gut. Most of the time, they're stories that have a personal meaning for me.

Sounds obvious, but lots of writers can write about things that don't have a personal meaning for them and do a good job of it. Apparently, I'm not lots of writers.

Duh.

What's your best writing been? Something personal? Something more academic and detached?

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, June 18, 2012

Oh so not helpful

Our local county library used to have this wonderful search engine. If you type in something wrong, it'll show you what you typed amidst the list of titles that it owns and says in large friendly letters, not unlike the "Don't Panic!" logo on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "Title not found, but it would have appeared here."

It was great since you can scan the titles above and below it and often times, I'd find the proper title (whose words I may have transposed or typed wrong) that way.

Well, several years ago, the library made this proud announcement that they're switching to a new and better search engine. HAH! Never believe the hype...which is a good motto to live by in general anyway.

This new and improved *using air quotes* search engine sucks. Pardon my French.

Let me give you an example.
I typed "Probability: a very short introduction" into the search box. Turns out the library doesn't have it, so the search engine very helpfully (don't slip on the sarcasm that I've dripped all over the floor) suggests "Did you mean 'Probability ah very short introduction'?"

Seriously. It changed my "a" into an "ah." Does it honestly think that could possibly be a real title?? And it does this all the freaking time. If what you're searching for has an "a" in it and the library doesn't have it, the online catalog search engine will always ask if you mean "...ah..." instead.

It's enough to drive any logophile to drink. Which is not a bad thing, I suppose, if you like to pair wine with a good book...IF you can find the book with this stupid search engine.

What's your library's online catalog like? Does it make you want to smash in the computer?

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, June 11, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo

Most of you are probably aware of NaNoWriMo, the not-so-roll-off-the-tongue shortening of "National Novel Writing Month". It's a one month (duh) writing frenzy that runs every November that is supposed to help you produce a rough first draft of a novel in 30 days.

I don't know about you, but my Novembers are usually crazy enough as it is, getting holiday cards and presents made for December (and we don't even do anything to celebrate Thanksgiving since we take the Native American perspective on it), without taking on writing a 50,000-word novel.

So when I found out that the NaNo folks have created a similar venue called Camp NaNo, held in June and August - and you can choose one or both months, I decided that I could try it in June (instead of August since August is the time when most veggies are ready to be harvested and canned). I figured that of the three months available for doing NaNo, June would be the least busy.

I got my buddy Michelle to sign up for it with me a few months ago when it seemed like June would be a nice quiet month. Turns out June is not a nice, quiet month. I'm up to my neck in things to do and my calendar is filled to the brim. Dang.

But I have a novel idea, which I hope is also a novel (adjective) idea...hah!, that I need to work on anyway, so I'm determined to write as much of it as I can during this month.

As hubby likes to remind me, I'm certifiable.

Are you also doing Camp NaNo or will you be doing regular NaNoWriMo this year?

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison

Monday, June 4, 2012

Life models

You probably thought the title meant people I look up to. Nope. ;)

A basic piece of advice in art is that when learning how to draw, you must draw from life. Once you understand a subject thoroughly in 3D, you can then draw from photographs without making the subject look flat.

Sometimes my live models are actually alive:
Son2 posing for me a few years ago
But sometimes my "live" models are dead:
female Northern Parula that crashed into our window
Either way, it's good practice to draw from life. Take that however you want. ;)


"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, May 28, 2012

Why baking beats writing

I have a 90% success rate with baking, and only a 40% (and reducing) success rate in selling my writing.

People rave about my baked goods; one friend even suggested that I open a seasonal bakery. Nobody's raved about my writing. Editors who've bought my writing and those who've rejected my writing have said that my writing is "good," but they've never raved about it (that I can remember...but I never make bets on my memory).

When people say my baking is good, I can tell from the look on their faces that they really mean "gooooood". When people tell me my writing is good, I think they're just being polite or kind or are outright lying.

There are concrete and tasty results from my hard work in the kitchen. My sweating blood at the keyboard yield only words, which are neither concrete nor tasty.

I can pull off delectable feats with minimal effort when I bake. I mostly just get a bitter taste in my mouth from showing my writing to others.

And that is why I will always put off writing in favor of baking. The pleasure center in my brain lights up a lot more when I bake.

What would you rather do than write?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, May 21, 2012

Inspirational things

Beauty inspires us. But so do not-so-beauteous things sometimes. Or kind of creepy things.

I think I'd place this dew-laced cobweb in the creepy but gorgeous category and it does inspire me to write poetry. If you know how much poetry makes me itch, you'd appreciate the depth of the inspiration even more.
What's inspired you lately?


"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, May 14, 2012

A font by any other name

**We've been put on bandwidth curfew again (cursed Wildblue) so if I've not been visiting your blog, this is why.**

A complete mystery to me is why my older son is so obsessed with fonts. And his obsession centers on one particular font: Papyrus.

Whenever he sees it, he yells ARRRRGHHHH! like it's some sort of calamity.

"It's vastly over-used," he says. Uh, and that's a concern to him, how?

Here's a sample of it (from the excellent Intellego Unit Studies curriculum DVD) -
Does that bother you? I rather like it myself.

Do you notice fonts? Do you have a favorite or one that you detest?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Amazing Alina!

As a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator, I get to hobnob with some very interesting writers.

One of the most interesting ones I've met has to be the super talented Alina Klein. Not only is Alina an author - she wrote a fun picture book called Martimus At Midnight, and her first young adult novel, Rape Girl, comes out in August! - but she also is a mother of two young boys, volunteers her time helping with Regional Assistant duties for SCBWI, AND gardens and raise a menagerie of animals in her little homestead. 

Naturally, she and I feel a kinship due to our both having sons, and interests in writing and homesteading. But, believe me when I tell you that her energy puts me to shame.

So how does Alina do it all? Has she always wanted to be a writer? Was she born a red-head? Is her favorite ice cream flavor really “durian chestnut”? Is doing research for her novels her favorite hobby? Am I making all this up?

To get to the truth, I interviewed the lovely and talented…have I mentioned that she’s talented?...Alina. 
Q. Is it true that you have some infamous guinea fowl?
    
Oh my, yes. And they are as nosy as they are noisy. I'll often be hard at work on my computer and hear a tapping at my window. When I turn I will find this sort of thing staring back at me: 

Hellooooo, Alina! It's us, your faithful guineas!
It's quite ridiculous and makes me laugh every time. They are also great guard-birds. They like to spread their wings and charge, head down, toward any cars that drive up our driveway. Often people park about a mile from the front door for fear of running them over.  They also eat their weight in ticks and yet will still follow you around the garden, looking hungry.

In short, everyone should have guineas.

Q. Was it preparation for zombie invasion that got you started with homesteading?

Yes. yes it was. (cues eerie music, shines flashlight under chin)

Actually, no. No it wasn't.  It was books that got me started.  Books like "Hatchet", "Island of the Blue Dolphins", "Naya Nuki: Shoshoni Girl Who Ran", and "Golden Urchin" are the first to leap to mind.  These are all books I've read dozens of times, and all of them are about kids who survived on only what they could find, make or hunt from the land. Their stories captured my imagination, and still do!  Plus, it's just so darned practical to know what's what out there. You know, just in case... (pulls out flashlight and eerie music, again) So I'm teaching myself to forage for wild edibles, in addition to growing my own garden. My husband and I even built a little greenhouse so I could grow a "4 Seasons Garden" a la Elliott Coleman! So, yes, as you can see it was all because of the books.

Q. What is your background like - education, where you grew up? Did that lead you down the path to be a writer or homesteader or zombie fighter?

I come from a family of ten. My mom used to do a lot of canning and preserving of foods and creative cooking with dirt-cheap ingredients. Gluten-based fake meat, anyone?  My dad was in medical school when the first half of us were born, and they were dead broke. She had to make big bushels, of this n' that, last and feed us all. That definitely contributed to the homesteading part of my life. I have both a massive dehydrator and a pressure cooker in my pantry which would make my mom very proud.

As for the writer-part, that came from being a reader. My whole family read quite a bit, actually, but I was more obsessive than most of my siblings. I could spend a whole summer holed up in my room reading stacks of library books or raiding my dad's shelves for science fiction. It was funny, when I worked at a library a few years ago, the librarians would sometimes turn to me, if a kid asked whether a book was good, because chances were pretty high I'd read it.  I'm sort of addicted to books.  (As an aside, have you heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill?  I think reading counts toward writing hours. And yes, I learned that from a book as well: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.)

As for my education, I studied biology and some of my first paid writing gigs were science articles for kids, so I guess my education did contribute to my writing.  And my science background features heavily in the novel I'm currently at work on, as does homesteading. It's a really fun book to write! No zombies, though. (puts away flashlight)

Q. Do you have a favorite veggie to eat or grow? 

I'm fascinated by zucchini. I love it when it's tiny and sweet to pick and eat right off the plant. I love that when it gets the length of your forearm, you can slice it lengthwise to use like noodles for veggie lasagna, and I love that when it grows to the size of a baseball bat (as one or two inevitably do) they'll keep almost as well as winter squash in a cool, dry place. It's fun to pull those out and shred them (peeled or scraped, and seeded) for mid-winter zucchini bread!  As for wild edibles I have been known to transplant woodsorrel and lambsquarter (wild spinach) into more convenient places, such as my garden-beds, for stronger growth and easier snacking.

Q. What was the best advice you received for pursuing the writing life?

Oh boy, there is so much writing advice out there it can be deafening! I used to scour it all at great length, searching for "the key" to everything. I finally realized that there wasn't one. My hardest-won lesson, and one I had to figure out on my own, was that every writer's way of writing is the right way. Don't let anyone convince you that their way is the only way to write a book. Experiment to find what works for you, be diligent about finishing, and then open yourself up to feedback from critique partners.  Don't spend another moment searching for the magic bullet.  Writing a book is the only way to succeed at writing a book--or having a chance to publish it.

Q. Can you share a gardening or homesteading tip?

Let's see, the first to come to mind is to grow common horsetail near the pump or hose you use to fill animal-waterers. A strand or two of horsetail, crumpled, makes an ideal (compostable!) brillo pad for scrubbing waterer's because Horsetail is loaded with silica. Grow a clump in a large pot if the location is ideal for the plant (sunny, damp) as it can be invasive. Otherwise just plop it into a hole in the middle of the grass, next to your pump, and use at will. 

Q. Because you are a brave soul, you also raise bees. What’s it like to raise something that many people seem to have an irrational fear of?

Bees get a bad rap. More often it's a wasp or yellow-jacket that stung someone when they blame a bee. Sure honeybees sting, but rarely without great provocation. As bad as it is for you, it's worse for them--they die! 

I like bees. They're friendly and hardworking little creatures. Sure you shouldn't be stupid and collect a swarm without wearing a bee suit, or at least a veil (like somebody did their first time out, not naming any names *cough* me.) but if you're gentle with them they will usually return the favor.  For example, if you find a bee getting a drink somewhere or collecting pollen from a dandelion, try reaching down and softly petting their backs with one finger. My boys always ask me to do this, so they can watch.

I raise bees for pollination and because I worry about their threatened status. I'm not in it for the honey...or the glory. (Haha)
Alina all suited up to go to Mars...uh, I mean, catch a swarm of bees
Q. And speaking of being a brave soul, the topic of your soon-to-be-released novel is a serious one that is, unfortunately, still all too relevant: that of rape.  It’s a topic that has personal meaning to you. Can you tell us more about that?

Well, I'm a rape survivor and I knew there wasn't a book out there that told the story of a survivor like me. One who spoke up, pressed charges, and was stigmatized for it.  Why don't girls speak out? Here's why! Let's change it.
  
Q. Can you recommend some resources for victims of rape?

My favorite is Pandora's Aquarium, a message board associated with Pandora's Project. It's a safe place for survivors to post and find support. Much of it is private and cannot be accessed by anyone but members. Some areas can't even be accessed by members unless they've met a minimum post requirement first. It's a carefully managed and wonderful place that I highly recommend.

RAINN is another great resource which provides many outreach programs, and both phone-in, and online, hotlines for survivors.

I'll be donating a portion of proceeds from "Rape Girl" to both organizations.
  
Thank you, Alina, for sharing with us today! Your new book will help raise awareness for the horrible crime of rape and also provide aid to victims who will know they’re not alone and that they, too, can survive and rise above.

Thanks for interviewing me, Teresa! This was really fun!

~~~
Alina is the author of Rape Girl
Hey, look. It’s that girl. That rape girl, right? 

Valerie always wanted to be the smart girl. The pretty girl. The popular girl.

But not the rape girl..

That’s who she is now. Rape Girl. Because everyone seems to think they know the truth about what happened with Adam that day, and they don’t think Valerie’s telling it..

Before, she had a best friend, a crush, and a close-knit family. After, she has a court case, a support group, and a house full of strangers..

The real truth is, nothing will ever be the same..

Rape Girl is the compelling story of a survivor who does the right thing and suffers for it. It is also the story of a young woman’s struggle to find the strength to fight back.

Rape Girl's official release date is August 15, 2012. Be sure to put it into your GoodRead's list! And if you don't have a GoodReads account, you need one...now! And friend me there, please. :)

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, April 30, 2012

Friend or Follow?

So I dropped out of Facebook...it was supposed to be a temporary hiatus while I got some writing and other stuff done for deadlines, but now that I've been away for a few weeks, I don't know that I want to go back. I've not had the yen to go back. I'm not even the least bit curious as to what people are doing.

I'm also on Twitter but because I don't find that it distracts me as much as Facebook did, I didn't bother to suspend that account while I was on a time crunch.

Because I'm not as fussy as to whom I friend on Twitter as I am on Facebook, I find that after a while, I have too much stuff in my "stream". While I use Tweetdeck (because Kristen Lamb told us we had to) to keep track of people whose tweets I most want to see, I still feel swamped. And that's where Friend or Follow comes in.

I know Twitter has hiccups where it un-follows people randomly for you, but sometimes, for whatever bizarre reason, people will follow you, wait for you to follow them back and then un-follow you. Weird.

So to weed out people like that, you can use the nifty tool called Friend or Follow to find out who got you to follow them and then stopped following you. It's a great decluttering tool...and it's free! I like to use it about once a month or once every couple of months to clean up my Twitter account.

Thanks, @Randy_Gage for creating Friend or Follow! You've made cleaning up easy on Twitter. Now if you could invent something similar to deal with the rest of my house, especially the junk drawer...

Have you used FoF before? Are you as enamored by it as I am?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, April 23, 2012

The failed resolution

One of my resolutions for this year was to do a quick bird sketch each day, using an old bird-a-day calendar by David Sibley that someone passed along to us. That lasted a whopping couple of months. Even at just 5 minutes a sketch, I couldn't squeeze the time in to that on a daily basis. Pretty pathetic, I know.

But despite my failure to keep it going, I was happy enough with some of the sketches I managed to do, so I thought I'd show you a few of them. Click on the images to enlarge.


And, yes, dear Michelle, I AM actually still thinking about the wolf art I promised you...although you may not find yourself with the same wall space in your dream homestead, and we may have to plan for a different size. :)

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gimme a C! Gimme an O! Gimme an N! Gimme...

Oh never mind. What I want to talk about is CONSOLIDATION.

This blog doesn't get a whole lot of traffic. My other blog, the homesteading blog that I started about 7 years ago, gets ten times the amount of traffic. I know this blog is young, and it will one day stop crawling and learn how to walk and run. But I don't know that I have the patience to wait.

Besides, writing two blogs takes twice - count 'em - as much energy. My AARP membership is in sight; I don't have that kind of energy anymore.

Besides, wouldn't the four of you who actually visit this blog rather read about our gardening
or our chickens
or my latest non-writing-related creative projects?
I thought so!

Anyway, it's something I'm considering seriously, so be forewarned. Heeey, I can hear that yawn from here.

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, April 9, 2012

Worried about my brain

Seriously.

This past week, I received a book in the mail: Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Littman.
It looks like a fun and funny read...but I have no idea how I got it. I don't recall signing up for a giveaway or winning any contests. Hubby thought someone I know might have sent it to me, but it came from, and was signed by, Ms. Littman herself.

Regardless of how I got it, thank you so much Sarah for the book! And, if anyone knows I came to receive it, or has come across my brain wandering aimlessly down a sleazy back alley, please, please, please tell me.

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, April 2, 2012

The 7 (Seven) Game

I've been tagged by John Rea-Hedrick over at his blog R-H Perspect!ves to play The 7 Game. I'd not done a meme in a while and since this doesn't require extra work on my part, I was happy to play along. ;)

The rules are:

Go to page 77 of your current MS.
Go to line 7.
Copy down the next seven lines or sentences and paste them as they’re written.
Tag seven other writers to play the game.

The following is a snippet from a SF-comedy novel I wrote for the 2009 NaNoWriMo.

“I’m not sleepy,” said Anne.

“Well, then you can keep watch and make yourself useful somehow. Just don’t touch anything without consulting with us.”

“And don’t play chess with the computer,” said Wendy. “It cheats.”

“What?”

“I do not cheat,” said the computer.

They left Anne looking bewildered.


I rarely tag anyone in memes and this is no exception. However, I'd be delighted if you played along! Please comment below so I can go read your entry if you decide to play. :)

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mixing metaphors

I used to think that it was those of us who have English as a second language who mixed metaphors. Not so, I've discovered.

Within the last week, I heard/saw two prime examples. A woman in an interview on NPR said, "...struggling by the skin of my teeth...". Now, I'm not positive that this lady isn't ESL (though I was pretty certain by the context of the interview), but I thought that she may be under duress and therefore not paying attention to her metaphors.

The next one came from a letter someone wrote to my father-in-law. It said, "I'm behind the eight ball in replying...". Ummm, yeah.

Those examples really merely make me go, "huh?" But my favorite mixed metaphor comes from another ESL person - someone hubby attended grad school with. It's getting one's "sh*t in a row". Much funnier than getting "ducks together".
Have you ever mixed metaphors? What is your favorite or least favorite?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, March 19, 2012

These are a few of my favorite words

You know what my favorite word for a few decades now is? Peripatetic.

I don't why. I'm a solid homebody so there's no reason why that should be my favorite word. Maybe it's the way it rolls around on my tongue like a lovely chocolate truffle that appeals to me and not so much the meaning?

Speaking of chocolate truffles, check out this Mayan Chocolate Truffles recipe that someone shared with me on Sherrie's blog. Mmmm!

Do you have a favorite word...or a favorite truffle recipe? :)

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, March 12, 2012

Prevaricating about the bush? Use "use" instead of "utilize"

trying to sound like Einstein?

Michelle's comment in my last post brought up an excellent point: there's no need to use big words when a simpler one would do unless there's a compelling reason to do so.

(An example of a compelling reason would be if you had to watch your word count for a submission and needed to sub in a single work for two or more words. E.g. I'd substitute "suffice" for "would do" in the previous paragraph.)

I've noticed that people often say "utilize" when "use" is not only the nicer and tighter word, but actually the correct word as well. Below are three good, short articles to explain when to use either "utilize" or "use."

How to Use "Use" versus "Utilize" Correctly
Mother Tongue Annoyances (I love that title!)
and
Grammar Girl (it's the middle part of the article on the page)

And now that you know, go forth and make things right! What's your pet peeve in misused words?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, March 5, 2012

National Grammar Day

So yesterday, March 4, was National Grammar Day.  Not nearly as tasty as National Doughnut Day, but with only a fraction of the calories, it's a much more healthful day for you.

I think my sci-fi critique group is under some strange impression that I'm a grammar guru. Not so. As someone with ESL (English as a Second Language), I make my fair share of gaffes, though apparently not the same gaffes as native speakers do.

But, like many people, I do have my language botch-up pet peeves. One of them is the mispronunciation of words. The famous one, of course, is people saying /new-ku-ler/ instead of /new-kleer/ for "nuclear", but the one that bothers me equally - because I watch WAY too much House Hunters on HGTV - is /reel-la-ter/ instead of /reel-ter/ for "realtor". (Do those slash marks make me look like a linguistics major? Well, I was.)

Come on, people! Do you see the "a" after the "l"? No? Then don't pronounce an "a" after the "l". Simple.

What's your favorite language/grammar pet peeve? Is that an oxymoronic phrase, favorite pet peeve?

Today's post was brought to you by the question mark...helping inquiring minds go one annoying step further.

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, February 27, 2012

The only thing I'm pretty good at

...is, apparently, writing haiku for the birding crowd.

Continuing my winning streak at the WildBird Magazine Twitter haiku contests, I got another guide book. Yay! We love bird guidebooks (as you can see from a post on my homesteading blog), and this was one we didn't have yet.

Thank you, again, Amy (@WBeditor on Twitter) and your wonderful staff, for enjoying my 140-characters poetry! When I'm feeling down with yet another rejection, I can say that at least birders appreciate my talent. Birders are some of our favorite people anyway. ;)

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, February 20, 2012

Introspective introverts

"Hello, my name is Teresa, and I'm an introvert."

I've known for a long time that I'm an introvert. A lot of people don't believe it though since, when I'm forced to be in a group setting, I appear gregarious and un-shy. Well, guess what? I'm just faking it when I do that. Apparently, I fake out-going-ness as well as Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in When Harry Met Sally.

There's not really a whole lot in studies published on introversion/extroversion that is news to anyone who has him or herself pegged as one or the other. Still, it's somewhat interesting to re-hash this stuff when the news cycle once again comes around to covering the topic as though it were ground-breaking.

Case in point: the recent article in Time magazine and the subsequent piece on NPR.

If you've not self-diagnosed your social bent yet, take the quiz at the link above. Even though I know what I am already, I took this one because I enjoy quizzes (yes, I'm sick that way; whenever we have to fill out questionnaires, hubby always hand them to me to deal with). It was easy...I just checked "yes" all the way down...well, maybe with the exception of "I can concentrate easily". That's not so easy at my age with a forgetful brain and a family who feels no qualms about interrupting me.

The statement that resonated most with me was:  "I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it's finished."

The Gotham classes and my critique groups have mostly cured me of that peculiarity, but it used to be that I would never show anyone my writing, except the editors that I submitted my writing to. I wouldn't even show them to people after they were published. Whenever friends and family asked if they could read my writing, I'd usually mumble something about, yes, they could find them in such-and-such magazine.

Except for that little bit of neurosis, though, I would not trade being an introvert for the world (especially not the world in the sorry state that it's in now). I love being by myself, the quiet, and the solitude of recharging my spirits.

So, my friends, what are you - introvert or extravert?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wacky research

One of the more fun things about writing is doing research. For shorter stories, or a quick, one time tidbit, the internet is indispensable. I really don't know how writers used to do it before the World Wide Web and search engines. They must have been slaves to the library.

I found myself looking up expensive Italian men's shoes the other day...along with demon names, and the Dutch word for "sweetheart". What, you can't see the commonality? Heh.
not *these* shoes

What the most unusual thing you've researched?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tech savvy I ain't

I was doing some Disqus editing and ended up deleting all the comments on this blog instead. I tried to do a recovery but I think I botched it up even more.

Great. Just great.

I feel like my FIL who never learned how to program a VCR. If you ask me what a VCR is, I'm be liable to throw my 8-track player at you. :P

I guess the only thing left to do is hobble off on my walker with dignity. *sigh*

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, January 30, 2012

The power of music

A question that writers and other artists get asked often, or will answer anyway even if they're not asked, is what type of music they work by.

I used to play some music - often classical, sometimes rock - when I was painting, but I almost never played music when I was writing.

One of the main reasons I don't listen to music when I write is that I love to sing. If I'm listening to rock, or other singable tunes (and I loooove me my Nat King Cole), I'm 99% certain to sing along. Even if I'm listening to classicals, I will end up whistling along....or, even worse, start conducting.

Singing or whistling or conducting isn't conducive or helpful to writing.

Recently, while doing laundry, a tune popped into my head and I began to whistle it. One minute, I'm my current pushing-50 self taking down laundry, next minute, I'm having teen spring fever, itching to get out of my horrible high school so I can attend university.

The song was Steve Winwood's While You See a Chance. It came out sometime in my junior or senior year. While it wasn't like I was a huge fan of the song, it transported me back to the time in my life when I heard it often. And there I was again, feeling all antsy and uncomfortable with myself as I did back when I was 17, 18.

That was when I realized that the other main reason why I can't listen to songs while writing: if I listen to songs I know, I can't stay inside my story. Heck, I can't even stay inside my present, very real, and very satisfying life. Music, like scents, for me, immediately transport me to a different place and time and, usually, a huge wave of homesickness washes over me, even if that place and time was not nearly as happy as my current state (such as the example above: I really hated my high school).

Does this happen to you or can you work well with music?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, January 23, 2012

DailySF - How do I rate thy stories? Let me count the ways

Coming off a week of particularly excellent tales from Daily Science Fiction (the week of January 9-13, 2012, but I write my posts in advance now and set them for future publication), I got to thinking about the ratings for stories from DailySF.

I've been subscribing to DailySF since last summer, I believe. It's enriched my life in many ways.

So, some time ago - unfortunately, my faulty memory prevents me from remembering dates - DailySF started a rating system: you can give a story from 1 to 7 rockets. Cute, no?

Anyway, I have never rated a story lower than 4 stars (which is still a passing grade). My reasoning is that if the story passed muster with the good folks at DailySF, editors Michele and Jonathan, and any editorial assistants they might have, then the story has to be half-way decent.

My criteria or system for docking rockets is:
1) if I finished reading the story and my first reaction is "huh?"
2) if I find any glaring technical - grammar or science, etc. - faults
3) if I have other instances in the story where I also go "huh?", or if it just didn't sit right with me for reasons I can't articulate

You can see that by my system, I can't give a story anything lower than four stars. I've seen people give some of the stories fewer than 4 stars on DailySF's Facebook page, and I'm not sure how they justify that. Being an introvert and one who doesn't like to engage in confrontations, even of the friendly sort, I, of course, never ask them.

If you are a fan of speculative fiction, do yourself a huge favor and subscribe to Daily Science Fiction. The subscription is FREE for goodness sake! How many things in life  are that good and also free, besides air and water (which is not free, but is practically free given its value versus what we pay the water company for it)?

Well, so much for keeping my posts short.

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, January 16, 2012

To do or not to do

One of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes is "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

Sometimes, though, it's hard to live with others because we all do things that drive each other crazy.
"If you don't shut up, I will have to punch you."

In the arena of social media, I have some advice for myself (and anyone else who sees him/herself in these) to help us live together more harmoniously:

1) Stop making obscure and provocative remarks. It's like that old advice for when you're angry: count to ten before you say anything. I know if I did that, I'll find that I really needn't be saying anything at all. Instead of going to Facebook or Twitter and announcing something just to get people to say "are you ok?" or whatever, write it down in my journal instead. I'm guessing the need to make obscure and provocative posts stems from a passive-aggressive personality...thanks, mom, for passing that trait along.  :P
**Hey! I'm not the only one who thinks that's annoying - see top peeve at the poll at Real Simple. 

2) Don't be subtle. I get subtle jokes only if I'm operating at 98% and I, and most people I know, aren't usually operating at that level of capability. If I'm going to be subtle, chances are people won't get the joke. Or the hint. And then I'll just get annoyed at people when it's me I should be mad at.

3) "Like" more. The "Like" button is easy to use and generally appreciated by the recipient. So even if a particular person has rarely acknowledged my posts, I can still be nice and "Like" their statuses and posts - this also lets me check "random acts of kindness" off my daily to-do list. Now if only Twitter has a "like" button...

Hope you're having an introspective and socially-conscious Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!


"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, January 9, 2012

Nothing like a badge

...to show "Fail!" in a stylish way.

My buddy Tom continues with his generosity. This time, he made a NaNo Loser icon that he's letting me proudly display!
Soooo, who's up for Camp NaNo with me?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tackling 2012

...like Frenzy obviously plans on doing:
Or superhero style, like Green Lantern. :)

My buddy Tom sent me his vintage (Gen 1) Transformer action figure and its weapons. As if that wasn't enough to make my heart go pitter-patter, he also gave me a hand-painted Green Lantern ring. I'm so psyched to wear it out and have people give me thumbs-ups as an acknowledgment of our secret Brother/Sisterhood of Geeks.

Or maybe I'm being too optimistic. I thought people would be giving me thumbs-ups for my Firefly shirt, but that never happened. Once, though, when my Firefly theme-song went off on my cellphone at the library, a gal who worked there said to me, "I love your ringtone!" There's hope.

Did you get any cool gifts this holiday?

"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day." – Alexander Woolcott