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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Signs You Are Grown Up

6: AM is when you get up, not when you go to bed.

You hear your favorite song on an elevator.

You watch the Weather Channel.

You go from 130 days of vacation time to 14.

Jeans and a sweater no longer qualify as "dressed up."

You're the one calling the police because those damn kids next door won't turn down the stereo.

You don't know what time Taco Bell closes any more.

Your car insurance goes down and your payments go up.

You feed your dog Science Diet instead of McDonald's leftovers.

Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt.

You no longer take naps from noon to 6 PM.

Dinner and a movie is the whole date -- instead of the beginning of one.

Eating a basket of chicken wings at 3 AM would severely upset, rather than settle, your stomach.
"I'll be the designated driver," replaces, "I'm never going to drink that much again."

90% of the time you spend in front of a computer is for 'real work.'

You no longer drink at home to save money before going to a bar.

And the NUMBER ONE sign that you've grown up...

You read this entire list looking desperately for one sign that doesn't apply to you!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas in My Back Yard

The house has been ready for Christmas for weeks, now it's time to prepare the back yard for all the littles who come around. While there are no sheep or cattle or camels in my yard, such as those who appeared on the original Christmas Day, there is plenty of wildlife showing up. Squirrels and birds appear on the deck and go into begging mode. I toss chopped walnuts out for them and watch them dive for the morsels.

I've stocked up on bird seed, sunflower seeds and cracked corn and have filled the feeders, so even when I'm not at the kitchen window there will be plenty of food for all. Some birds prefer suet, so I've hung some hot-pepper suet from the branch of a tree. The squirrels don't like hot pepper, so they leave the suet alone--otherwise they would devour it just for a few sunflower seeds embedded in it! I put the sunflower seeds on the back fence and the rail of the deck, so they have plenty to eat.

The water dish on the back rail is popular. It has been unusually dry here for December, so it is not uncommon to see two or even three birds waiting in line for a drink! Sometimes one will decide the water dish is perfect for his bath, which is fine, but it means I need to refill it, because all the splashing quickly sends the water overboard. The squirrels love the water dish, too.

Sometimes I hear a noise on the deck in the evening, and I will look out and see a raccoon at the water dish. The raccoons can be a bit clumsy, however, and often as not the dish ends up on the ground and I have to retrieve and refill it. Even the occasional opposum comes looking for a drink or a few sunflower seeds.

The deer still prefer whatever plants I have that are blooming (and, amazingly, there are still some flowers in my yard!). Maybe I should leave carrots out for them!

The creatures who come around may not know why there are extra treats for them at this time of year, but I do. It's all part of the joy and celebration.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The first novel ever written on a typewriter...

...and other interesting trivia:

Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the U.S. Treasury.
Men can read smaller print than women can; women can hear better.

Coca-Cola was originally green.

It is impossible to lick your elbow.

The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work:

The percentage of Africa that is wilderness: 28% (now get this...)
The percentage of North America that is wilderness: 38%

The cost of raising a medium-size dog to the age of eleven:

$ 16,400

The average number of people airborne over the U.S. in any given hour:


Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair..

And finally:
The first novel ever written on a typewriter, Tom Sawyer.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Love in Special Christmas Boxes

Most people are stocking up on wrapping paper, ribbons and tape to wrap their Christmas gifts, but I head for a storage closet where I keep old boxes, beautiful Christmas boxes from my childhood.

My father's mother and sister loved to create beautiful packages, and each year our family looked forward to the day the big box from West Virginia arrived in the mail. All the package were decorated. One had a styrofoam Christmas tree heavily embedded with glitter and tiny ornaments. Another had a felt Christmas tree with tiny toys as decorations. There was a silver box with red felt candles. A gold box with miniature ornaments.

I remember being as excited about the boxes as I was about the gifts they held. One year the package from West Virginia still hadn't arrived on Christmas Eve day, which was a Sunday, and I was so disappointed. Then there was a phone call. It was a worker at the post office in our small town in Connecticut. A package had arrived, he said, and we could come to the post office to pick it up! Disappointment quickly turned to joy!

I have saved those boxes. They are getting worn and a bit tattered now. One got so frail that my mother's mother took the felt tree off the remnants of the box and put it on a stocking that she made for my then baby daughter. That is still my grown, married daughter's stocking to this day.

So think about the gifts you give, but also think about the boxes they come in. Maybe you can wrap your gifts in boxes that will hold a lifetime of love.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Confucius didn't say...

...but probably should have:

Man who wants pretty nurse, must be patient.
Man who leaps off cliff jumps to conclusion.

Lady who goes camping must beware
of evil intent.

Man who runs in front of car gets tired;
man who runs behind car gets exhausted.

Man who eats many prunes get good run for money.

War does not determine who is right,
it determines who is left.
Man who drives like hell is bound to get there.

Man who stands on toilet is high on pot.

Man who live in glass house should change clothes in basement.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Parenting: If it was going to be easy, never would have started with something called labor!

Shouting to make your children obey is like using the horn to steer your car, and you get about the same results.

The smartest advice on raising children is to enjoy them while they are still on your side.

 Avenge yourself! Live long enough to be a problem to your children.

The best way to keep kids at home is to give it a loving atmosphere -- and hide the keys to the car.

Parents: People who bare infants, bore teenagers and board newlyweds.

The joy of motherhood: What a woman experiences when all the children are finally in bed.

Life's golden age is when the kids are too old to need babysitters and too young to borrow the family car.

Any child can tell you that the sole purpose of a middle name is so he can tell when he's really in trouble.

 Grandparents are similar to a piece of string -- handy to have around and easily wrapped around the fingers of grandchildren.

 There are three ways to get something done: Do it yourself, hire someone to do it, or forbid your children to do it.

 Adolescence is the age when children try to bring up their parents.

Cleaning your house while your kids are at home is like trying to shovel the driveway during a snowstorm.

Oh, to be only half as wonderful as my child thought I was when he was small, and half as stupid as my teenager now thinks I am.

 Adolescence is the age at which children stop asking questions because they know all the answers.

 An alarm clock is a device for awakening people who don't have small children. -- Toni Schultz

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Clutter, clutter everywhere

I've been on a tear, clearing out clutter. But not all that clutters is a bad thing.

I've been cleaning out junk drawers, closets and storage boxes. I mean, just how many twist ties does a person need, anyway? I triage the junk. Keep, recycle, donate or throw away. Well, okay, I guess that would be quad-age, but who's counting? The fun thing is finding stuff I forgot was ever there, even if it is four rolls of duct tape. I guess I bought another one every time I couldn't find it in the junk drawer!

It's great to have drawers and closets and storage boxes that are once again roomy and organized.

But there's another kind of clutter—the kind that means something to me. Early Clutter pretty much describes my decorating style. Walking into my home is a little like walking into an antique store.

I have a lot of furniture, because I've kept so many family pieces. Just because it's a tight squeeze to fit something into a corner doesn't mean I'm going to get rid of one of the tables or dressers made by one of my great-grandfathers. Dishes from my great-grandmother top the buffet made by one of those great-grandfathers. Those dishes will stay, too.

And family photos. I have those all over the house, plus boxes more. Then there's spoon and oil lamp from my first-cousin once-removed, my mother's paperweight collection, the tea towels hand-stitched by my grandmother that I use as a valance over the kitchen window, and every hand-made-in-grade-school knick-knack my daughter every gave me.

This kind of clutter is not really clutter. It's a trove of treasures and memories that make me smile every time I look at them. The mementoes that "clutter" up my house trigger reminiscences of so many people and good times.

Some people like the spare look (and/or hate to dust!) and that's fine. But give me clutter!

Monday, November 7, 2011

For English Lovers...or not

I think a retired English teacher was bored. :D
1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear..

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

To Scuff or Not to Scuff

That is the question--regarding leaves.

It's autumn. The leaves are turning glorious shades of red, yellow, purple and gold. And those leaves are falling to the ground. That can be an annoyance to homeowner's who have to clean up those leaves. But it's a joy to walkers of all ages everywhere.

When I was a kid, I loved scuffing my way through leaves along the sidewalk on the way to and from school. Now, as an adult, I walk for pleasure, and what greater pleasure than to scuff one's way through colorful leaves. There's that wonderful shuffle-scuffle-crunchy sound. That unique dry-leaf smell. It's easy to feel like a kid again when scuffing one's way through leaves.

The only drawback to doing that as an adult is when you come to a neatly raked pile of leaves. To scuff or not to scuff. Someone spent a lot of time getting those leaves piled up into such alluring piles. The thought of a few kicks sending leaves scattering, colors flying is very tempting. It wouldn't even occur to the kid part of the brain that messing up someone's work wouldn't be the right thing to do. But it does occur to the adult part of the brain.

Ack! What to do? Indulge the kid side or respect the adult side? Maybe a little of both. Kick through just a few leaves on the edge of the pile. The thrill is still there, but no damage is done. Not really. Just few leaves scatter away.

That's okay. Right? :D

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Jokes

Q: What do you get when you divide the circumference of a jack-o-lantern by its diameter?
A: Pumpkin Pi.
Q: How do you make a witch stew?
A: Keep her waiting for hours.
Q: How do ghosts begin their letters?
A: "Tomb it may concern..."
Q: What happened to the guy who couldn't keep up payments to his exorcist?
A: He was repossessed.
Q: What do you call a person who puts rat poison in a person's Corn Flakes?
A: A cereal killer
Q: How do you mend a broken Jack-o-lantern?
A: With a pumpkin patch.
Q: What is a ghost's favorite ride?
A: A roller ghoster.
Q: Why are there fences around cemeteries?
A: Because people are dying to get in.
Q: What do you get when you cross Dracula with Sleeping Beauty?
A: Tired blood.
Q: Why was the mummy so tense?
A: He was all wound up.
Q: What kind of street does a ghost like best?
A: A dead end.
Q: How do you know if a ghost is lying?
A: You can see right through him.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Plot Strategies, Part III: The Fulfilling-a-Wish Story

In this type of story the main character's wish must be something that seems almost impossible to achieve. The main character may try once or twice to fulfill his wish, but he must fail so miserably that the reader sees just how truly difficult it would be. The main character also may simply wish without making the effort because she thinks her dream is unattainable.

There are two types of Wish stories. In one the person gets what she wants because of who she is. The poor girl wants to marry the gallant prince and when she has a chance to meet him he is so impressed with her good qualities (which the rich women he has met lack) that he wants her to be his bride.
In other wish stories, the main character gets what he wants because of what he does, but it must be unrelated to his original goal. He may loves sports and therefore wants a summer job at the local minor-league baseball stadium. He knows it's a longshot to get a job there, because he is under eighteen, but he did set up an interview.

On his way to the interview, the boy may stop to help someone change a tire. As he gets dirty and sweaty and late for his job interview, he talks to the driver. The driver is opening a sporting good store, but he is worried no one will show up for his grand opening. The main character misses his job interview, because he is late after helping change the tire and talking so long to the store owner because the main character is so interested in what the store owner has to say. The main character finds out that someone else, much more qualified, got the job with the minor-league team.

The next day the main character goes to the grand opening of the sporting goods store. There are few people stopping by. The main character suggests to the store owner, who remembers him from the day before, that he could help the store owner by dressing in various pieces of sports clothes, going outside and carrying the Grand Opening sign that is just sitting in the window.  The owner agrees. The Grand Opening is a success. The store owner offers the main character a job as a sales clerk at the sporting goods store and the main character happily accepts. Though it's not with the minor-league baseball team, he has a sports-related job.

The wish in this type of story must not be filled until the very end. It must be a suitable one for the main character. The main character must be one the reader likes and will root for.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Getting Past the Block, Guest Blog by Author Jo Ramsey

Getting Past the Block
     Last spring, I did an appearance at my town’s middle school. I spent the entire day doing presentations in the school library, and one question that I was asked by nearly every group was, “Do you ever get writer’s block?”
     Short answer: Yes. Frequently.
     I don’t think there’s a writer alive who doesn’t deal with writer’s block at one time or another. If such a writer exists, I’d really love to meet him or her and find out the secret to not getting blocked! No matter what one is writing, there are always going to be times when the story isn’t going quite the way you want it to, or when you aren’t sure what way you want the story to go. Eventually the block gives way and the writing starts to flow again, but sometimes that can take a while.
     So what does a writer do when writer’s block attacks? Personally, I’m usually working on more than one project at a time. I write romance (under a super top-secret pen name) as well as young adult, so I kind of have to have more than one project going or I wouldn’t be able to get everything written that I need to. Sometimes that pace is a little hectic, but it does give me a way to deal with writer’s block. If I get stuck on one story, I just work on another one for a while. Sometimes all I need to get past the block is to stop trying to figure out where the problem is.
     That would be my advice to any writer. If you’re blocked, put the story aside for a little while. Work on something else, or go for a walk, or watch a brain-candy TV show. When you try too hard to push through the block, sometimes it backfires and you end up more stuck than you were before. Or you end up with a bunch of words that you have to delete because you only wrote them to get past the block and they don’t really work for the story.
     If you step back from the story and focus your mind on other things, part of your brain will probably keep working on that story. At least, that’s what happens with me. As soon as I stop consciously thinking about the block and how I can work through it, part of my mind keeps processing and all of a sudden, the perfect solution pops into my head. I don’t know if everyone’s brain works that way, but if you’re fighting writer’s block, it might be worth a try.
     And you might end up with something better than what you expected.
     Jo Ramsey is the author of several novels for young adults, including the two urban fantasy series Reality Shift and The Dark Lines, and the upcoming contemporary novel Cluing In. She has been writing since age five. Jo lives in Massachusetts with her two daughters, her husband, and two cats, one of whom has declared herself the mighty hunter of the household. Find out more about Jo and her books, and where else to find her online, on her website,


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Plot Strategies, Part II - Story of Problem Solved/Objective Accomplished

In this type of story the main character has, as the title suggests, a problem he needs to solve or an objective he wants to achieve. He has to struggle to solve the problem or achieve his purpose. He will gain ground, but then lose it. He must keep struggling before forging ahead and in the end accomplishing his goal. While others can help or advise, he must do things on his own.

Any abilities the main character needs to solve his problem must be revealed to the reader before he needs to use them. If he can start a fire by rubbing sticks together, for example, he should be seen doing that, maybe demonstrating it to a younger sibling.

Plan the story carefully. Don't let things just "happen" to the main characters. Readers like to read about a character with whom they can identify who solves a realistic problem that they too might face and have to solve.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Favorite Love Stories

In books and/or movies.
Pride and Prejudice (book & movie)  Delightful dialogue and characters
Gone With The Wind (book & movie) The drama of it all--and Will She Get Him Back?
The Thornbirds (book & TV movie) Forbidden love...
Gidget (movie) Great first-love story!
Edward Scissorshand (movie) I cry every time.
Camelot  (movie) again, I cry--and sing along
Casablanca (movie) Putting duty ahead of love
Titanic (movie) love everlasting
Roman Holiday (movie) saw this as a re-release in a small theater on my first date with my husband, when we were in high school)
Katherine (book by Anya Seton) a historical romance in the classic literary sense

What are your favorite love stories?

For some love in YA books, check out  mine:

Snowed In Together

How to Survive a Summer Romance (Or Two)

The Farewell Season (only 99 cents!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Plot Strategies, Part I

Though every story has a beginning, middle and end, the Happening story is the most simple and basic, and it is often found in picture books. There is not truly a plot, as the main character is not striving for anything, but rather reacting.

A trip downtown, to Grandma's house, to the beach can all be Happening stories. The main character sets off to the destination, reacts to all the new things he/she sees and returns home. There is almost always another character with the main character--a friend, parent, teacher. This allows for dialogue and sharing of reactions.

Sarah might go to the grocery store with Daddy, pick out some apples, stop at the post office to buy stamps, see a neighbor who is also out shopping and then return home. The Happening story is short, anywhere from 300 to a maximum of 1500 words, but more usually no more than 600.

The Happening story is an adventure to the main character, it is something he/she is doing for the first time. There should be a number of incidences in the story and the pace should be quick. Sights, sounds and smells should be incorporated into the story.

People think picture books are easy to write because they are short, but many consider them the most difficult of all books to write.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How to Pitch Your Book to Agents

There's no point in querying an agent about a book for a Young Adult novel, for example, if the agent's focus is non-fiction for adults. With the web and market books it's easy to find out which areas of writing an agent represents.

Have a one or two sentence pitch. You need to grab an agent's attention right away. Which would you read first? Two sentences or three-pages?

To create that short pitch, ask yourself what challenge your main character faces. How does that challenge test the main character? What is the climax? Answer these questions consisely and you can more easily come up with that attention-grabbing pitch.

Of course, be sure to follow instructions for querying. Does the agent want snail mail? E-queries? Sample pages? Attachments or pasted into the email? And be sure to spell the agent's name correctly! (I'm an author, not an agent, but I can't tell you how many times people spell my first name incorrectly--and I notice!)

Query about five agents at a time and have a list of five more for the next round. You may not need a next round, you may need several next rounds. Meanwhile, work on your next manuscript, and good luck!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Don't Die Waiting to Write that First Word!

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper." -E.B. White

I know too many would-be authors who are waiting for the "perfect time" to start writing. It might be when they finish college or when the kids are grown or when they retire. Others are a little less specific. They say they'll write when they aren't so busy, or have a little more time. Or…when the muse strikes.

Sorry, people! There are no ideal conditions or perfect circumstances, so stop waiting for them before you start writing (I'm saying this with an encouraging smile). :)

 The time to start writing is now. You can carve out an hour a day--or even an hour a week. You can do that hour all at once or you can divide it up into 15-30 minute segments. Really, you can put in at least an hour a week, and you'll be surprised at how even with that minimal amount of time your word count will add up at the end of a month. Get up a little earlier in the morning and write. Or announce (even if it's only to yourself) that Friday evenings from 9-10 is your time for writing, and that's that!

Don't put too much pressure on yourself, though, if you've set "only" an hour a week as your writing time. Tell yourself you have to write only two sentences. 99% of the time you will end up writing much more than that. But on those occasions when two sentences are "it," don't feel bad. That's two more sentences than if you hadn't written anything at all!

You really do have only one life, so the time to start writing is immediately.

 For information about me, my books and my kitties, visit:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Authors often get that question.

Ideas come at all times of day and night. I've had ideas come when I'm in the shower, when I'm driving to the dentist's office, and, often, just as my head hits the pillow when I go to bed. I might see someone at the grocery store whose appearance is something I want to remember, maybe for use as a character.
I've found the only way to remember ideas is to write them down. I have a small notebook with me at all times, and I have them scattered around the house. My dh is now used to me turning the light on right after we've gone to bed so that I can jot down some plot idea, bit of dialogue or description for a setting.
I've rushed a lot of showers so that I can get out in time to write down an idea before I forget it! (Good for water conservation, too.)

Some ideas come from looking at something familiar in a new way, or really looking at my surroundings when I'm at the grocery store, post office or out for a walk in the neighborhood. I have to write down these ideas, or, no matter how good I think they are at the time, they will vanish!

 I clip articles from newspapers and magazines (my own!). I sometimes "borrow" from my own life, or lives of others, with a new twist, of course.
Ideas are everywhere, but they must be "captured" before they disappear!

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