Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Query Shark is Trolling the Waters and I've become Chum

I do a little bit of writing. Recently a literary agent wanted to see the first few chapters of my novel. She read them and then sent them back with lots of comments all over the place. She said that I may be able to find an agent who would like to represent my novel as is, but if I would consider a rewrite (with an eye to her comments), she would like to take another look at it.

So I'm busy working on a rewrite. The comments were terrific and invaluable. No huge changes in the works, all very subtle stuff that makes a world of difference.

I also sent a version of my query letter -the letter you send out to agents hoping to entice them into requesting several chapters or even your whole manuscript, in the hopes that they will fall in love with it and want to represent you in the publishing world - to the new query critique site, Query Shark:

It'll be lots of fun to see the kinds of bites the shark will take out of my query if it appears on the site. I'm looking forward to what I'll learn from the exercise. If my letter shows up, I'll post a link to it through my blog.

P.S. You don't see many queries like #15 on the site. That's the kind of thing you try to aim for.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Weeping Camels

I saw a movie recently that I would highly recommend. I found it at my library in the foreign films section. It's called The Story of the Weeping Camel. But wait! Don't click the link yet! Read on first.

You will never forget this film if you see it. I'm hesitant to say more about it because I checked it out of the library with only a look at the front cover and not so much as a glance at the blurb on the back. So all I knew about it was that there were two people riding furry camels on the front cover, and below them a TIME magazine quote, "A truly beautiful film the whole family ought to embrace!" Because I knew nothing about it - only that I wanted to be taken somewhere far away - as the story unfolded I was mesmerized, entranced. And when the ending unfolded, it was magical.

It may have felt exactly the same if I had read the back blurb ahead of time, but somehow I feel that it was all the more powerful because I knew absolutely nothing about it. If you do want to read more about it, click the link above.

The only thing that I would caution about is one agonizing camel birth scene. It had me writhing in empathy.

This film is one of those rare things that can remind us that many beautiful and magical things still exist in this world despite all of our modern progress.

Friday, April 25, 2008


This comes from a librarian friend of mine.

Remember kids, pot is only for grownups!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Of Daggers and Feet

Okay. So my daughter left this morning on a high school trip with the band and orchestra for musical competitions in Florida (with some fun thrown in here and there).

Last night, however, we were in the ER until after 1:00AM getting the top of her foot stitched up. Why? Because, and I kid you not, a dagger had accidentally fallen point first from her dresser and buried itself in her foot.

It's a pretty little dagger that her Grandpa made for her. It has a pretty turqoise and wooden handle. A rose is carved into the handle on one side and her initials on the other, and a heart shape is stamped out of the blade where it widens near the grip. Her Grandpa makes these kinds of things and sells them at craft fairs and online.

So, my daughter had been cutting tags off of a couple of new shirts she had gotten for the trip with this dagger because it happened to be in her room while the scissors were all the way downstairs. Apparently after she set it down, it got bumped and fell, point first, into her foot.

Did she tell me right away at 5:30 when it happened? No. She waited until after 10:00 when I had just gotten into bed with my book.

Teenagers. What are they thinking??

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Update: Geese on a Barn

I haven't seen the geese on top of the barn for the past few days. If I do, I will try to catch a picture to post.

Has anyone out there ever seen geese perched on a roof before?

Another Recommended Book

I just finished reading Escape by Carolyn Jessop. It details her life in, and escape from, the FLDS – the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints. The FLDS have been in the news lately; they are the polygamist colony which was raided in Texas and had over four hundred of their children taken away. Carolyn was able to escape them in 2003, when they were still in Arizona and hadn’t yet moved a substantial number of adherents to Texas.

Her tale is harrowing and almost unbelievable, but believe it.

The FLDS is an offshoot of the Mormon (LDS, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) church. I used to be a Mormon myself until I smartened up and left the fold. The Mormon church is nowhere near as goofy as the FLDS, but once a person becomes part of any group which exerts control over their life, it’s a slippery slope and not a far tumble into strange realms of belief.

Don’t ever let anyone think for you. Question everything, and don’t let anyone or anything stymie your search for answers.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Geese on a Barn

A couple of mornings last week while walking my dog, I noticed geese standing on top of a barn. The first day I noticed this, one goose was sitting on the grass below the barn and one goose was standing on top of the barn's roof. The goose up on the roof looked like a weather vane, except for the fact that it was alive. The next day both geese were standing up there. They were facing each other and squeezing out the occasional honk. I never knew that geese did such things as stand on the roofs of barns. I'll take a camera with me next time I'm out there to see if I can catch them at it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Candy and the Farmer's Market

Last summer I sold homemade candies at a local farmer's market. It was the first ever farmer's market for my nice little town, and it was a lot of fun.

I sold my candies under the name Castle Door Candies. I used the image above as background for my signs.* I sold three types of fudge, two types of caramels, and something which I called treacle crunch, which is candy honeycomb (not actual honeycomb) covered in a chocolaty coating.

It was a lot of work making the candies during the week. I cut and wrap the caramels by hand, which is tedious. And making the fudge is always a bit nerve-wracking. It takes quite a while for the candy concoction in the pot to reach the right temperatures, and then it must cool for a time, and then comes the nerve-wracking part. It must be beaten to just the right consistency. If it's underbeaten then it doesn't set right. If it's overbeaten, then you're left with a stiff gob of unsellable gump - and there are only a few seconds between the perfect consistency, which will result in velvety, chocolaty ambrosia -and overbeating which will give you a lump of crusty hard-tack.

The insides of the treacle crunch are kind of fun to make. When the treacle-sugar concoction in the pot reaches the right temp, you add baking soda and whip up. The mixture expands into a candy foam which you pour out and let harden. When hard, you break it up. Then comes the part that I don't like so much. Dipping the crunchy centers in the chocolaty coating. It makes my back sore for some reason.

But when Saturday morning came - it was all worth it. The market was so much fun! We had great weather every single Saturday. I gave out free samples of my treats and it was such a blast to hear people saying good things about my candies. I was always amazed to actually be selling my candies. People actually bought them!

The market is returning this summer and I have to decide whether or not I want to participate again. It was a lot of work during the week for one morning of fun. The profits weren't all that stellar - even upon selling out most weekends. There's a limit to what people will pay for a bag of caramels or a block of fudge, or a bag of treacle crunch - no matter how yummy it is.

The experience last year, though, was very rewarding personally if not necessarily monetarily.

* The castle door image above was photoshop-ed from one of my own pictures. It's actually of a church door, not a castle door. I took the picture on a trip that my family took to Germany when I was 19. The original picture (although shown in B&W because that's what I have saved in my computer) is below:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Couple of Books I would Recommend

I read young adult books as well as regular adult-type fare. A few that I have read lately that I would recommend are the following:

The Last Dragon by Silvana De Mari. This is a middle-grade/young adult book, wonderfully written. My daughter and I call it The Littlest Elf, and if you read it you may see why. The story will tug at your heartstrings in places and make you laugh in others. I checked it out of the library and read it, and then my daughter read it. When one of our cats, a little stray that we had taken in only eight months before, had to be put down becuase of heart failure, we went out and bought the book. My daughter wanted to read it again becuase for some reason it made her feel better. It's a little gem and I highly recommend it.

The Caliph's House and In Arabian Nights both by Tahir Shah. Prepare to be introduced to another culture in these sometimes funny, sometimes thought provoking, always entertaining books.

The two-book series which together are called The Orphan's Tales. The first book is called In the Night Garden. The second book is called In the Cities of Coin and Spice. They are by Catherynne M. Valente. I met the author and she is quite unique, as is her poetic style of writing. These books are a series of nested tales, much like the Arabian Nights. Read them in order - otherwise you'll be lost.

The three books by Garth Nix that I have read, Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. The last was my favorite, but I really liked them all and they are all remarkable for the imagination with which they were created. The ending of Abhorsen is just one of my very favorites of any ending I have ever read. These are aimed at a young adult audience.

First Post

Hello. This is my first blog post. Welcome! If there actually is anyone out there who stumbles across my blog - wow!

I decided to start a blog because I've found that the things that are important to me seem to be inconsequential to most other people. I've started feeling like a non-entity, so in order not to go crazy, I decided to start a blog. Here I can write about things and if someone happens to stumble across it and likes it, well hey, then maybe I'm not alone after all.

The picture below is my dog heading towards home between two ball fields in the park next to our house. The tallest tree in the distance to the left of the dog is in my backyard. This picture was taken a month or so ago.

Okay. First off, I'd like to tell you about something that happened the other night. I live right next to a very nice park (see above). Half of it consists of numerous soccer fields. The other half consists of little league baseball fields and a pond. The parks department in my nice little city is planning on putting in lighting for the two baseball fields furthest from the houses that abut the park (those fields would be located behind the picture-taker in the above photo). My neighbor and I don't really want this to happen because we think that it will adversely impact the enjoyment of our yards on a summer evening.

We went before the planning board when the issue came up the other night to voice our concerns with the project. My house lies 560 feet from the closest ball field that will be lit. They assured us that spill-out light from the field will reach acceptable levels 425 feet from the field, so they are well within regulations. Wow! A cushion of 135 feet!

That's fine, I know that the lights won't be shining directly into my yard or windows, I'm really just concerned with the general glow and light pollution which will wash the stars from the night sky. I like the stars, but lots of other people don't really care about them, so it's not really something that was looked into. I will miss them terribly. Terribly.

The noise, too, that will come along with the games, which will last until 11:00 pm, six to seven nights a week during the season, was a concern. That and the fact that right now the park closes at dusk. With the advent of the lights, people will be able to roam around, right by the houses, after dark. That's a little creepy, but I guess not creepy enough to be of concern to the parks people, or the planning board.

I also enjoy the wildlife in the park. I asked if they knew what kind of an impact the artificial nighttime lighting would have on the migratory red-winged blackbirds which nest all along one side of the ball fields, and the killdeer which nest in an open field on another side. And what, if any, the effect would be on the other night denizens of the park. I tried to bring up the fact that the wildlife that could be found in, over, and around our park was on par with what could be found in a neighboring National Park - including bald eagles - and so we shouldn't ignore any impact to the habitat that the lights may incur. But I was interrupted and asked if I had any data about all of that. No I didn't, but I reiterated that maybe these things should be looked into.

I know that these things aren't as important to other people as they are to me, but it was worth a try. I guess. But really I just feel pretty foolish about the whole thing. Maybe I came off as nutty. I don't know.

The lighting was approved. My neighbor is putting her house up for sale.