Friday, October 31, 2008

The Loot

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Happy Halloween

Little Red Riding Hood and Guitar Man

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A Halloween Story

In honor of Halloween here's a story 11-year-old Pippi wrote. It actually started out as the introduction to a story she decided not to write. But she figures this stands on its own.

Maude Dwight
by KRM

The wind whistled through the cave's open mouth. It was Halloween night, and Maude Dwight sat shivering inside Skull Cove. She had gotten a little fire going, but she couldn't do anything from the wind that kept blowing it out.

PHOOSH!! The fire was out. Maude reached out blindly for her flint. Once she grabbed it, her fingers locked around the smooth stone, she heard footsteps. Wast it her Papa come to save her? She dropped her flint in excitement, waitin got see her father's flashlight.

But she never saw it. The footsteps got louder.

Suddenly, a dark, dark figure appeared out of the shadows. A knife glinted in the dim light.He lashed it at Maude.

Maude screamed.

And that scream can be heard every Halloween night.

Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bonus Revision Tip

I was thinking more about revisions after yesterday's post and realized I had left out one crucial rule of thumb. I figured if I waited until next week to share it I'd forget to mention it again.

So here's a bonus revision tip on a Thursday.

When re-reading your story. If there are places you skim over in order to get to the 'good stuff', look at those places very carefully. If you're not interested in reading them again - even though it may be the hundredth time, maybe they're not worthy of staying in the story.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Writing Wednesday

Once again I find myself revising things I've already written. Sometimes it feels as if all I do is revise things I've already written. And I know some of you know the absolute truth of that.

The revisions I'm working on now are actually big picture kind of revisions and I'm going through chapter by chapter to see if all of the scenes actually move the plot forward or if they are just happy little place holder scenes - showing what "happened then". I find I write a lot of that kind of scene. I know in my time line that it is Thanksgiving or Christmas and I feel that I must write in detail about that event. But if nothing that happens during that event actually moves the story forward, then it is just kind of boring reading.

Since I'd rather my story not be boring I have to make sure that each scene either has a reason for being there. Or else it has to go.

So that's what I'm doing today.

How do you revise?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Carving Pumpkins

A fine October tradition.

Pippi's pumpkin goes by his formal name of Jonathan O'Lantern, instead of the nickname Jack. I'm not sure if Harry's pumpkin has a name.

Edited to add: This post has been attracting spam comments. I'm not sure why. I'm going to close the comments on it. Sorry.
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Fall Flowers

We actually had snow in the air today - but yesterday I noticed my mums flowing over my garden fence in the backyard and couldn't resist taking a picture.
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Tuesday's Proverb

The Proverbs of Solomon: A wise son makes his father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother. (Proverbs 10:1)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Poetry Friday

It's time for Poetry Friday once again, and I've got another Pippi poem to share.

by KRM

Maybe I'm a
with hands
the size of
and eyes
the size of
Dinner plates,
Or a fairy
with glittery
Maybe I'm
A tree swaying
in the fall
Perhaps I'm a
lamp, shining
it's bright light
down upon
the paper
(of equations - ugh.)
Maybe I'm
A Manticore
a club in
my meaty
fist, horns
coming off of
my furry head
Fury spelled
across my eyes
of red.
I could be
a shy satyr
Or a unicorn,
I could be a
fish blowing
The one thing I'm
is doing my

Ah, doesn't it just bring you back to middle school again?

The round up this week is by Kelly at Big A little a.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Emerald Tablet

I've been remiss in posting this. PJ Hoover had her debut book released this week. If you haven't already bought yourself or your children a copy of The Emerald Tablet, then go do so. Why you ask? Because it's a great story.

Still not convinced?

Watch this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Window Wednesday

Ha - fooled you. I bet you thought this was going to be Writing Wednesday - and it should be - and I did write today. But today's big news is our new window.

Before (note the boy peering through the blinds):
And after (different view - but you get the idea):

A nice improvement - don't you think. And so much less drafty. In case you can't tell from the picture, that is a bow window - it curves out a bit - making the living room seem a little roomier.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday's Proverb

She [folly] sits at the door of her house upon a seat on the city heights, Calling to passers-by as they go on their straight way: "Let whoever is simple turn in here, or who lacks understanding; for to him I say, Stolen water is sweet, and bread gotten secretly is pleasing!" Little he knows that the shades are there, that in the depths of the nether world are her guests! (Proverbs 9:14-18)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Let's Hear it for the Kids

Both Pippi and Harry had some good news this week. And since I shared my good news, I'll share theirs.

First: On Tuesday Harry's street hockey team won a game. This has been a tough season and they just could never seem to catch a break. There was one memorable (miserable) game where they lost 17 to 2. It's hard to keep positive in the face of stuff like that. But on Tuesday they won. Yay!! With a score of 7 to 1. And wouldn't you know it - it was the only game all season I wasn't able to make it to (PTO obligations). You don't think they won because I wasn't there, do you? I'd hate to think I'm bad luck for the team.

Second: Yesterday Pippi found out that she is the second sixth grader picked for the middle school band. Not too many sixth graders make it in - especially not before the winter concert. But she did. Her band teacher praised her playing (clarinet) and then gave her a note at the end of class that she was in. The first sixth grader in is a friend of ours - and he's actually the one who told me Pippi had made it in (when I picked the kids up from his house yesterday) Pippi just sat there and smiled.

So. Yay for Pippi and Harry!

It's been quite a week around here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jury Duty

Oh what fun. Everyone's favorite civic duty. Jury Duty. At least the people who work there realize that everyone before them is trying to think of a way to get out of it. They acknowledge it and try to convince you that being there is a wonderful thing.

So - I had to go. (Had already had it postponed from the summer.)

I was hoping for one of those terribly boring experiences where you sit in the room all day and wait for your name to be called. And your name isn't called. I had a good book with me. I figured that would work for me.

That's not what happened. And that actually turned out to be a good thing.

First panel of jurors called - 25 people out of a room of several hundred. And of course I'm one of them (worse luck, I'm figuring.)

We get up to the courtroom. The judge talks to us for awhile. Then he picks 8 people to serve on the jury (civil trial). He starts questioning them. Many questions that ranged from if they knew anyone involved in the case down to what bumper stickers they had on their car. A couple of people were excused at this point.

Then the attorneys get to excuse jurors. So one is excused, another chosen - who must then answer all the questions.

Another juror is excused. And another chosen.

Five, six, maybe seven jurors excused (picky attorneys, I'm not sure quite what they were looking for). Then my number called.

Oh dear. Didn't want to be on a jury. And now I'm sitting in chair number one. But I decided to look on the bright side - the case was only going to run for three days. Today, tomorrow afternoon and Monday. I figured I could work out after school care for those days. So, as things go not so bad.

Then lunch break.

Went back in and I was asked a few more questions.

The Plaintiff's attorney excused another juror.

Someone else was picked - and questioned.

Then the Defense attorney excused me!

Slightly mixed emotions. After all I don't want to be on a jury - so this is good. But hey, what's wrong with me? I'll get over it.

So I went back downstairs to wait to see if I would be called for another panel (and seriously hoping I would not). I sat with two other people who'd been excused from the jury (seriously they excused maybe 10 or more people - and not because the juror asked to be excused - I don't know if this is typical or not) and one woman who had simply been sitting there waiting all day.

Only two panels had been called. Ours and one other (possibly for a 5 week murder trial based on something another judge said, but perhaps not). Everyone else was sitting in the waiting room. Waiting. For hours. The 45 minutes or so before they made an announcement that everyone could go home felt much much longer.

So in the end I was glad I was on the panel - definitely more interesting than sitting in the waiting room (though I would have had a chance to read my book) and I don't even have to go back. It all worked out quite nicely.

And bonus! I'd never been in a courtroom before. But now I have first hand experience with not just the waiting room but the panel selection - and even sitting in the jury box. Plus there were interesting people - all with a story to tell - great for thinking about characters. Somehow, somewhere, I bet I can use all of this in a story someday.

Tuesday's Proverb (Yes, I know it's Wednesday)

The woman Folly is fickle, she is inane, and knows nothing. (Proverbs 9:13)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Unexpected Stuff on a Monday

I just got a publishing contract.

My first.

I'm beyond excited and trying very hard not to use all caps and lots of exclamation points.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Huckleberry Hill

We spent the afternoon on Huckleberry Hill - aka the home of my brother and sister in law. The afternoon included a mini baby shower, fun with cousins and lots of gazing at beautiful leaves. We just wish it didn't take so long to get there - but the trip was worth it.
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Poetry Friday - another Fairy Tale Edition

This week I have another poem by my 11-year-old daughter (actually I have a whole bunch, but I'm going to parcel them out on Fridays). What happens when you take a familiar fairy tale and look at it from another point of view completely. Is it still Happily Ever After? (and I don't mind saying, when I read this poem I got goosebumps)

Happily Ever After?
by KRM

It was a cold
and the wolf
had been slaughtered
by a wood-cutter.
Everyone was
Happily Ever After.
But Reuben
sulked, his back
against a tree
the wind whipped
around his fur.
Ice-cold tears
lined his eyes
of anger
He thought
of his
and his last
with him.
But now,

Reuben looked
at the
sky, clouded
dark, menacing
The Forest
at rest
trees were
bending in a
Sixties dance,
and the wind
howled ferociously
the quaint
cottages were
at rest
oblivious to
his story
his father.

The Poetry Friday Round-up is at Picture Book of the Day.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Writing Wednesday - Critiques

The contractor is gone for the day, there is an apple cake in the oven, my critiques for the week are done and I have another hour and a half before the kids get home from school.

Time to write!

But first - a quick post for Writing Wednesday. Since I spent the morning doing critiques, I have that on my mind.

Writing is fun. Writing is largely a solitary endeavor. And it is very easy to become enamored of ones own turn of phrase to see if what is on the paper is very good or not. That's where a good critique comes into play.

For a long time a friend and I critiqued each others' work. Of course we knew each other so well - and our writing style's so well, that it was almost like reading your own - with the same pitfalls.

About a year and a half ago I joined a wonderful critique group (and now belong to two wonderful critique groups). They are both on-line - with weekly deadlines. It works very well for me.

Now I get opinions from a variety of people - each of whom takes a slightly different approach to the things they look for and critique on - which is great - because it truly gives a well rounded view point in the end.

I have learned so much about what works and what doesn't in my own writing and in others' and really think I am a better writer today because of the groups.

So - aside from singing the praises of these groups - what can I say about critiquing?

1) Don't be offended if someone isn't as enamored with your pithy wordings as you are. Take all criticism and comments in the spirit offered - a spirit of trying to help everyone do their best.

2) When critiquing offer all your comments and criticisms in the spirit of trying to help everyone do their best. (see #1)

3) Be specific. "It's all great" might make the writer feel good - but it won't help her improve. What things did you have questions on? What things did you think could be better? And also - what things did you love? Critiques don't only have to point out things that are "wrong" they can also (and should also) point out the things that are right. Everyone likes to know when they hit that home run.

Okay - that's all I've got for today. Off to do some writing!

A Little Curb Appeal

We're having some work done on the house. New entry doors and storm doors. The back and side doors won't be a dramatic change in look - but the front door provides us with a much needed update in appearance. The real big change will be when we get the window done in two weeks.


another after picture, since there is glare off the storm door.
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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tuesday's Proverb

If you are wise, it is to your own advantage; and if you are arrogant, you alone shall bear it. (Proverbs 9:12)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunday Reflections

Praying before Communion and I try to put myself in God's presence. I picture Jesus standing on a hill preaching, and I am sitting at the bottom of the hill, taking it all in from a distance, happy to be there, but not really a part of what's going on.

I was content at the bottom of the hill, sitting on a rock and watching. I could see the inner circle around Jesus, talking to him, asking him questions. What would it be like to be that close? But it was comfortable here on the rock, and maybe too much would be demanded of me if I went closer.

Praying after Communion I pictured Jesus on the hill again. This time I was sitting next to him. I had allowed myself to go up that hill and go to him.

And I was glad I did.

Apple Picking

Time once again for our annual outing to pick apples. This involves a wonderful pick your own orchard where the dwarf apple trees are trained on wires, so all the apples are within easy reach. Of course this means that it is very easy to pick apples - and even with the warning of "don't pick as many as last year" we came home with more than 40 pounds of apples.

After the orchard we head to a winery in the area for a little fun for Mom and Dad.

And then to Washington Crossing Park - a little nature, a little history, a little walk across the Delaware.

After that we stopped at our alma mater. And walked around campus. So many new buildings have gone up in the past 20 years that it's hard to recognize the place. But the dorm where we met is still standing (even though it's slated to be taken down - or so I understand)

This is one of the two bags of apples. Yum.

And this was the quick desert we devised with some of those apples after we got home. Sliced and dredged in flour mixed with sugar and cinnamon and then fried in butter and oil, with some honey drizzled on for good measure. Double yum.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


Pippi doesn't want to do her homework. So she let her views be known through her dollhouse.

Oh and did you notice what good taste her doll has in reading material?
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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Talking About Books

There is a lot of talk this week around the blogosphere about Banned Books Week.

I think most rational people can agree that banning books is bad. When a government controls - in any way - the information available to it's people - it's a bad thing.

As far as I know, in this country, we do not have an issue of government censorship of books.

Most often then, when people talk about Banned Books, they are referring to books that individuals or groups of individuals have requested be removed from libraries.

Quite rightly this raises a concern. One person, or even a small group of people, should not regulate what other people have access to. Just because someone disagrees with a book shouldn't mean that I don't get to read it. I have my own opinions about things and deserve the right to make my own judgments. As does everyone else.

Now - quite often it seems - that books are being challenged not in the public library - but in a school library. And while it also holds true for children that they should be entitled to make their own decisions about things - not all books are appropriate for all children all the time. Has a book with sexually explicit themes found its way onto a K-5 library? If so, is it wrong for someone to request the book be removed - as long as it is still available in the older grades? (I have great respect for school librarians and all librarians for that matter, and think they do a great job of keeping their collections geared to the appropriate level, so I think this would be a very rare occurrence.)

Which brings me to my last point. Often on these lists of banned books are books that have been challenged - and henceforth removed from a 'required reading list'. I'm going to go out on a limb here - but telling someone you don't 'have' to read it is not the same as telling someone they 'may not' read it. It's not banning a book. The book is still available for people to read. It's still available for those students to read. They are just not required to do so.

Perhaps I feel strongly about this because last year, in fifth grade, my daughter had two novels (of many) she read for her advance language arts class that were clearly more appropriate for upper middle school or high school students. Both of the books labeled by Publisher's Weekly for ages 12 and up.

Now these students were reading at a more advanced level, it's true, but they were still only fifth graders with fifth grade sensibilities. And I think the teacher did them a disservice by including those books as part of her curriculum.

If, in two years when my son is in the same class, those books are still part of the curriculum, I may very well question their inclusion. There are hundreds of wonderful books that advanced readers in fifth grade could enjoy - why burden them with stories that include rape, and murder?

So will I be among the book banners if I challenge these two books*? I would never say the children may not read them. I would never say they should be unavailable to them. I would say, I don't think you should make them read these books. Not at this age.

Book banning is serious. It's horrible. It is a way of keeping people ignorant. But by including books that have been "challenged" and removed from "required reading lists" on the list of "banned books" I think people do the issue a disservice, they water down the issue.

And that is my rant for today.

*and no, I won't identify the two books.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Writing Wednesday - First Page

In my critique group we've spent some time talking about and discussing what makes a good first page. In Writer's Digest this month there was on article on what agents hate in Chapter One. Of course they have to get past page one in order to read all of the first chapter. What it comes down to is that not only does the first chapter have to be good - but the first page has to grab the reader.

So here's a little test. Here's the current first page from my historical YA work in progress. Would it make you want to read more?
Chapter 1

“Do you think they have new fashion dolls?” Polly asked, running forward to get a better glimpse of the approaching ships.

I breathed deeply of the salty, fishy air and watched, feeling my stomach tighten. These were not ships delivering goods.

“Molasses!” Patience jumped up and down and clapped her hands.

“No.” I shielded my eyes to watch the ships form a ring around Boston and then drop their sails. Instead of a lovely row of billowing sails against the horizon, we now had a well regulated line of ships surrounding the port. War ships.

“I didn’t think they’d really do it,” Susannah said.

I tucked a flyaway strand of hair back into my bonnet, that sinking feeling wouldn’t leave my stomach. I tore my eyes away from the forest of riggings out in the harbor and looked at my best friend. “We best get the children home.”

Our younger sisters were still discussing the many goodies that could be aboard one of those ships. Susannah continued to look into the harbor. “Do you think they’ll stay long?”

“Only until we pay for the tea.”

“Papa says we’ll never pay for that tea.” Susannah grabbed five-year-old Patience by the hand and turned toward home.

“Then they’ll be there for a long time.”

I signaled to Polly to come and we left Long Wharf, through the crowd that had assembled, and toward home.

Patience tugged on Susannah’s hand. “I want an ice,” she said.

Susannah stuck her hand in her pocket “I don’t have any money with me.”

“I have a shilling,” I said, and felt in my own pocket to make sure it was true. My fingers wrapped around the small silver piece that Da had given me for helping in his apothecary shop.

*all content copyright Christine Marciniak