Monday, April 14, 2014

To edit or not to edit? Definitely to edit.

Many of us are not gifted with the innate propensity for perfect grammar and spelling (Universal Grammar, indeed, Professor Chomsky!), but yet need to have good grammar in order to do our jobs.

Luckily, there are talented editors like Beth Stilborn who provide a much needed service for those who are grammatically-challenged. I highly recommend hiring Beth to help polish your manuscript or whatever other writing ails you. Check out her service (click on the photos to bring up a larger image)...you'll be glad you did!

Next Monday, internet gods willing, I'll post photos of our recent road trip to Big Bend National Park. Come back for some virtual sunshine!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, April 07, 2014

My Favorite Scene - an entire book

We're (the whole family) watching a DVD lecture series called "The Human Body: Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology" from The Great Courses. It's been 30 years since I took biology at university and it wasn't like we covered the human body in detail, so I'm enjoying learning about this topic, as is the rest of the family.

While watching it, the section on the nervous system reminded me of a course I'd taken back at U called, I think, "Brain and Behavior." The textbook for the course was one of my favorites, and I'm going to share that with you today.
video
What was your favorite class in school (high school, university, college, etc.)?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, March 31, 2014

A rare blog hop post

I almost never play along for blog tags and blog hops. Really. I even shunned my poor sister's award tag. But this one seemed easy enough to do, so I'll give it a go.

I was tagged by a sweet, online writing friend, Catherine Johnson, who has published two poetry books, Weirdo Zoo and The Everglades.

The theme is "my writing process," which I've never really thought too much about. I suppose I worry that it'd be like the joke with the centipede. The centipede was ambling along, minding its own business. A butterfly asked him, "how on earth do you manage to walk properly with all those feet?" The centipede thought about this question...and was never able to walk again. 

I'm afraid that if I over-analyzed my writing process, I'll never be able to write again. Joking! Well, only sort of.

But anyway, here we go.

1. What am I working on?

Right now, I'm working on about 10 different picture book drafts in varying stages of revision and completion, going through some final edits on a middle-grade SF novel, and starting a YA steampunk novel that I'm rather excited about.

I'm also working on a number of adult science fiction stories to be included in The Minnows Literary Group's next few anthologies. 100% of the proceeds from these anthologies are donated to Doctors Without Borders. The first volume was Out of Time, and the second volume was In a Land Far Away.
Upcoming volumes will be Centauri Station (stories about space travel), and another one on time travel again, due to popular request.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Aside from having a voice that is uniquely my own, as every writer does, I tend to weave science facts into my work. In the adult pieces that I write, I sometimes make people work a little bit to "get" the story. For example, in In a Land Far Away, some of the things I mention in "Three Long Pigs" will make the story much richer if you looked them up.

I try not to write stories that are considered beach books. I may never attain Danielle Steele status with this philosophy, but I'm proud of my writing that involve a lot of research.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write children's literature because I never stopped reading children's books even after growing out of childhood. A lot of what I read, whether children or adult books, tend to be science fiction or fantasy (I include fairy tales and folklore in this category) and science/nonfiction. So it's only natural that I should gravitate to those categories and genres when I write stories.

4. How does my writing process work?

Um, does it seem like it's working? If it were working, I'd have the fame and productivity of Stephen King. ;)

I try to write, on and off, a couple of hours a day, and revise for a couple more. I get interrupted a lot by household chores and homeschooling stuff. Inspired by my amazing science fiction critique group buddy, Russell James, I was getting up an hour or two earlier than my family last year so I could have quiet time to write, but when it got really cold in the winter, I stopped doing that because I can't type when my fingers are freezing (we keep the house pretty cold at night). Now that it's warming up again, I will have to get back on that schedule.

Thanks again, Catherine, and I hope I haven't bored you all to tears too much.

Per usual, I don't tag people, but if you feel like playing along, please let me know and I'll come read your post!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, March 24, 2014

Northern Mockingbirds, the crazed clowns of the bird world

I have a very short post this week especially for my friend, Sheralyn Barnes (a.k.a. illustrator and musician extraordinaire) due to our Facebook conversation about mockingbirds. :)
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 Anyone else thinking of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds? Have you ever been dive-bombed by mockingbirds for getting too close to their nests?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, March 17, 2014

Eggs, eggs, and more eggs

**Thanks to Yvonne for making me realize I spelled "yolk" wrong. In my defense, I had a loooong day out yesterday and found out at the end of the day that I never did finish writing my post and schedule it (I'd uploaded the photos and totally forgot about the post...genius), so I rushed to post it. Things are corrected now! How embarrassing. :)

We currently have 15 hens, the most we've ever had (well, 16 is the most we've ever had, but Brody was picked off by a hawk not too long ago).

Because our hens are a variety of mutts (even Ameraucanas are really "mutts"), the eggs they lay are nicely varied too, ranging from light pink to dark olive.
Not only do they have a range of colors, but they also have a range of sizes. Some measure longer than 3 inches!
Recently, we've had a couple of eggs that were not only long but also massive in girth. One is in the upper left of this photo:
We speculated that those eggs would be double-yolkers, and sure enough... See the middle egg in the pan:
In the 12 years we've owned chickens, we'd only gotten double-yolkers a couple of times. But within the past month, we've had 2 of them. Hmmm, methinks we have a mutant hen on our hands. Call Professor Xavier!

Have you had any double-yolked eggs lately?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Top Ten List...of Scientists!

If you hang out at Facebook, you'll notice a lot of Top Ten (or whatever number) Lists games going around about what books, albums, etc. that have influenced you.

As far as I know, nobody's come up with a list game of things that are truly important, such as Top Ten Humanitarians, or Top Ten Historical Moments. The game I really want to play is, "Top 10 Scientists (or mathematicians) I Admire/Love."

Here I go...

10) Euclid - "proof by contradiction"...I adore a smart contrarian.

9) Karl Schwarzchild - he developed his brilliant equations while in the battlefields of WWI; most of us can't even think of a pretty good idea while relaxing in our comfy chairs and sipping a warm beverage, let alone under duress,
8) Richard Feynman - surely, I'm not joking, Mr. Feynman! He was the original cool scientist.

7)  Erwin Schrödinger - he wrote a book that inspired Francis Crick to change fields (and you know what that meant to biology), and as if that wasn't enough, he was one of the developers of quantum mechanics.

6) Irène Joliot-Curie - probably every bit as brilliant as her mom (and dad) but a lot less celebrated.

5) David Attenborough - a naturalist and an outstanding human being whose soothing voice has lulled me to sleep since 1983 when I started watching his Life On Earth series in the biology tutorials at university.

4) Werner Heisenberg - another co-creator of quantum mechanics (I have to overlook his remaining in and with Germany during WWII).
From the wonderful book, "You Want Proof? I'll Give You Proof!" by Sidney Harris
3) Ludwig Boltzmann - because S = K log W

2) Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar - nobody did stellar evolution like he did, and he did it with quiet charm and humility.

And my number one favorite scientist is.....

1) James Clerk Maxwell - I like unassuming people who don't make a big deal of their brilliance. He mathematically unified light and electromagnetism, people!
I have more favorite scientists, of course; maybe I'll create another list some other time. 

So, would you like to get your nerd on and play this? Who are 10 of your favorite scientists or mathematicians? Or even just one or two? Please tell me in the comments, or play along with me on Facebook if you're my Facebook friend.

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, March 03, 2014

My Favorite Scene - Poetrees

As I promised last month, I'm starting out 2014's My Favorite Scene with a special book written by the  inimitable poet/artist, Douglas Florian, whom I'm honored to call a friend, albeit an online one only for now.

Douglas has a long and illustrious career as a children's writer and illustrator. He is also an extraordinary fine artist. He has a show that runs through mid-March, so pop over in person to see it if you're lucky enough to live near the NYC area.

I have a largish collection of Douglas's books; some are from the 1980s…
and a few of the more recent ones (yes, I have more in my personal library)...
It was hard to pick a favorite, really, but I have my reasons to choose the one I did. You'll have to watch the video and see:
video
Have you, or your kids, read any of Douglas's books? If so, which one is your favorite? If not, what are you waiting for?

Next week, I'll be posting about another one of my favorite things: scientists! Hope to see you then. :)

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, February 24, 2014

Lime Crescents

Because Dani Duck claims my blog is mouth-watering, and because I've not posted a recipe in a while, I thought y'all might want to see a recipe post for a change. :)

These beauties are Lime Crescents, or (sub)Lime Crescents as I like to call them because they really are sublime.  The flower sprinkles I put on them, maybe not so much, but in the depth of winter, I can either try to find my invincible summer or make my cookies spring-y. Guess which I opted for? Sorry, Camus.
I don't think I need to add that this is one of my favorite cookies. :)

Lime Crescents

cookie dough:
1 C butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1.5 T grated lime rind
1 T lime juice
3/4 C confectioners' sugar
2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 t salt

drizzle:
2/3 C confectioners' sugar
1 T lime juice
green decorator sugar (I used different sprinkles in the photo above)

Directions:
1. Beat butter, egg yolk, lime rind, and juice in large bowl until smooth. On low, beat in confectioners' sugar, flour, and salt until blended. Refrigerate dough 1 hour or until firm.

2. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Form 1 rounded teaspoon dough into 2.5 inch log; bend into crescent. Place on ungreased baking sheet (not too closely). Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are just golden and tops are slightly cracked. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove cookies to wire rack and let cool completely.

5. Drizzle: stir together confectioners' sugar and lime juice in small bowl until smooth. Place wire rack with cookies over waxed paper. Decorate cookies with drizzle. Sprinkle with decorator sugar.

Makes about 4 dozen crescents.

Enjoy!


"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, February 17, 2014

Just to prove I wasn't totally slacking

I managed to finish up a few projects before the end of December, 2013. Granted, I started some of those projects at least several months ago, but I consider it a victory when I actually finish a project.
The socks and the washcloths are knitted but the hat is crocheted. It has a funky swirl pattern on top, which was what drew me to it in the first place. I owe Robin thanks for helping me get started on the complicated looking pattern.

What projects did you finish up at long last by the end of 2013?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, February 10, 2014

Doodle Day December

I love alliteration!

Since my last participation in July, 2013 (see this post), I'd been a bit too busy to keep up with Doodle Day until this past December. The theme for the month was water, but my brilliant (seriously) friend, Sylvia decided that it'd be cool to focus even more narrowly, choosing a sub-theme of cephalopods. Inspired by her cleverness, I also narrowed my focus to water-related birds. This happened on the fourth day, so my first few doodles were not of birds. Plus, after "Z," we were free to draw whatever we wanted, and I continued to do birds, though not water-related ones.

Here they are for your enjoyment. Click on a photo to see a larger version.





























I took a rest on the last day and posted one of my illustrations of a kakapo that I did previously for a picture book manuscript that I've been submitting:
Hope you enjoyed this little display of my bird art. :)

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Poetry Friday

This is my first time doing Poetry Friday, so be gentle with me. ;)

What is Poetry Friday? It is a weekly meme in which lovers and advocates of children's poetry share their own kids' poems, poems by major kids' poets, interviews, videos, and more. Here is a link to the hosting schedule: http://www.kidlitosphere.org/poetry-friday/

Poetry Goddess Renée LaTulippe of No Water River is hosting this week's Poetry Friday and I'm participating. The reason why is because Renée developed a class called The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry and I was one of the lucky ones who was invited to be a beta tester!

While I've never trained as a poet, learning what little I know from high school English classes, I have sold a number of poems to Babybug and Ladybug magazines, so I know I don't completely stink. But by taking Renée's class, I can now pinpoint where I do stink, and can stop myself from stepping in any other stinky things.

We learned the basics (stress, rhyme, meter), the different forms of poetry, as well poetic prose, and how to write all those things. This is an interactive class with a Facebook forum where students can share their work and ask for help. Renée is attentive and kind, and, most importantly, vastly knowledgable. She answers all questions without making you feel like a fool for asking.

Taking this class was like putting on glasses for the first time (when I didn't realize I was "near-sighted"), and seeing everything sharply and clearly. No longer will I read a poem or any prose passage and not understand why it sings or sounds jarring. With the help of this class, you, too, will be able to truly appreciate (and yet be able to dissect) anything you read in regard to the way it sounds.

Having taught a small unit on poetry in my kids' homeschool language arts co-op, I can say with certainty that the experience would have been several times more meaningful if I had had Renée's course to guide me or had it for the kids to do on their own. So, in addition to highly recommending the course to writers, especially picture book writers, I also recommend it to homeschoolers.

To find out more about, and to sign up for, the course, click on this link: The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry.

Even more exciting, Renée is holding a GIVEAWAY so that one lucky person can take her course for free!!! To be entered in the drawing, head to her post for Poetry Friday.

My poem for Poetry Friday is something known as a Double Dactyl, which is a special type of light verse having a very specific form. I was inspired by a recent trip to China to write this:

The First and the Great

Uppity snubbity,

Emperor Qingshi was
Crazy ambitious in
Sending a call,

Getting all peasants to
Put down their plows and to
Put all their efforts in
Building a Wall.
The Great Wall of China, built by the First Emperor of China, Qingshi Huangdi
And so that you get your money's worth, I'm sharing a second poem. This is a Haiku that I wrote back in high school (circa 1979) when I fell hopelessly in love with astronomy and wanted to be an astrophysicist more than anything else.

Prominence (click on the title to see the scientific definition)

A flare of the sun
reaches out to pat the stars
reassuringly.

Now, head over to Renee's blog, enter the giveaway, and check out other poems on this blog hop!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, February 03, 2014

Come back on Friday!

This is just a short post to let you know that for the first time ever, I'm participating in a Poetry Friday. The talented Renee LaTulippe, whom I am proud to call my friend and critique group partner, will be hosting. You won't want to miss it! I'll be telling you about an invaluable poetry course that is perfect for both writers and homeschoolers.

And, for those of you keeping score (which would be…hmmm…none of you), yes, I am deferring My Favorite Scene yet again. But, you know what? It'll be worth the wait because I'll be presenting a book by a very special person when I finally get to it the first Monday of March. I promise you'll love his book (all of his books, really), and him, as much as I do!

So, here, nibble on a slice of my homemade artisan bread, and come back this Friday.

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, January 27, 2014

Drawing on inspiration

My kids inspired some of my writing that had been published by Babybug and Ladybug magazines. I wish I could say they had inspired me to draw and do art more too. I really wish I had drawn a picture of them at least once a year.

Alas, I'm a slacker and could only find a handful of sketches I did of my (very cute…not that I'm biased or anything) sons.

One of the first sketches I did was of Son1 when he was a baby:
And because he slept a lot, I did another sketch of him napping:
Fast forward 14-15 years, Son1 again:
This was of my younger son when he was about 5:
And again at around age 12:
Not sure when this was from:
You can see the details better if you click on the photo to enlarge.

Do your kids inspire you to do creative things? Do tell!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams