Do you ever get the wrong mail delivered to your house? We live in a neighborhood with one of those post boxes that has a bunch of slots all together, and sometimes our postal lady slips up and gives us someone else’s pool maintenance equipment catalog or another neighbor’s DirectTV offers.
This week I accidentally got the elderly neighbor lady’s clothing catalog. Really, I should have walked it over to her house immediately, but I was editing my WIP and time got away from me. It sat on the counter for a day and I was going to get to it, but before I could, my preschool daughter brought it to me on my bed.
“Let’s read this together, Mommy. We can pick out the cute things.”
It was full of “cute” things–caftan house dresses, jeans with elastic waists, comfy tunic shirts in loud prints. My daughter LOVED them. She showed me the embroidered/sequined tops and found the ones she thought were best. It was a cute exercise, really pure, actually. I would’ve looked at them and said, “Whoa. I hope these are not in my near future.” But not this darling–she was able to see the beauty of them all. Bless her heart.
Until…we flipped to the undergarments page. There we saw ladies’ undergarments in stretch fabrics with weird flower prints. Bras, mostly. My darling’s reaction was immediate and dismissive.
“We don’t need those.” She turned the page. “They look a lot like zucchinis.”
Yes, yes they do. And if I hadn’t sat down to read this catalog with her and enjoy the cargo yoga pants’ joys, I would never have known such deep truths. Motherhood is always an education.
(Just now, as I typed it, I think I realized maybe she meant bikinis.)
First, an announcement. For the next couple of days, BIG IN JAPAN will be on SALE on Amazon and Kindle – $2.99 for the e-book version. That’s $26 off the hardcover list price. Bargain for your beach read, and it IS a great beach read, if I do say so myself. Here’s the link for Amazon, and the link for Barnes and Noble. Enjoy!
And now, it’s time for a little grammar, folks.
I do a lot of reading of manuscripts and papers for people, and there’s one comma error that crops up quite a bit–one that’s really easy to spot and super easy to avoid if you know a simple rule.
I call it a comma math.
I know, writers and math brained people, ne’er the twain shall meet. But forget that–this is so simple you won’t care about what your scores were on your 9th grade algebra tests.
First: S means subject. Like the subject of the sentence, and V means verb. The action. Conjunction is the and/but/or connector. (They’ll get you pretty far, Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?)
S+V comma conjunction S+V
SV (no comma) conjunction V
Simply, if you have a subject and verb (a.k.a., complete simple sentence) on one side of the conjuction, AND a complete simple sentence (S+V) on the other, then USE A COMMA.
If you don’t have both on both sides, LEAVE OFF THE COMMA.
Mary ran, and Joe threw the ball.
Mary ran and threw the ball.
In the first sentence there are two subjects and two verbs. In the second, there’s only Mary doing both verbs. So COMMA in the first one, NO COMMA in the second. It doesn’t matter how much more complex the sentence gets with prepositional phrases or adjectives, etc., this is a great gauge for whether you need a comma in the sentence.
Happy comma-use, friends. I hope that was clear. Leave a comment if you have a question — or a better way of stating this principle. I’m all ears!
Today I’m excited to announce a new book on the reading scene: (trumpet fanfare, please)
FAIRY GODMOTHERS, INC., by Jenniffer Wardell.
Jenniffer and I met at my book launch for Big in Japan, and I only got to talk to her for a second because of swirling chaos, but now that I’ve read her amazing book, I am seriously KICKING myself, because I really wish she could move in next door and be my friend and entertain me with her hilarious brain.
This is the story of a, sort of, modern day, bureaucracy-laced, dysfunctional institution called Fairy Godmothers, Inc., and one of its moderately talented employees, Kate, and her mission to marry the moderately pretty Rellie to the marginally charming Rupert, using fairy magic, of course.
This is a world where, yes, there are the expected wings and dresses and spells and magic wands; however, there’s also a healthy dose of Jasper Ffordeian (or is it Ffordian?) brokenness of the fairy tale world. There are regulation books and paperwork; the sheer breadth of the ball gowns’ skirts can be hazardous; spells accidentally light things on fire. Everything is deliciously self-aware. It’s almost like theater of the absurd at points, and it’s a sheer joy to read, especially as the real love stories and the nefarious plotlines unfold. I rooted for the heroine and wanted to boo and hiss like at a melodrama at the villainess.
This was one of the most creative books I’ve read in ages, and the language was a delight. I really look forward to Jenniffer’s future novels, Beast Charming, and whatever she titles the one planned for next year. And let’s cross our fingers that the creative juices keep a-flowing and she sends us book after book for years to come.
So…now you want your own copy, fer sher! There’s a Rafflecopter Giveaway for this book!
Or if you just want to go ahead and BUY it, which you should, seriously, here are some links. Plus the link on Goodreads to read the fun reviews – and there are lots.
After all these years sitting in living rooms, it finally occurred to me this morning why they’re called “throw pillows.” It’s because every single time a child encounters one, he or she feels an uncontrollable urge to throw them on the floor.
Why is this? Why is it that every time I go into my living room. all six pillows have been moved from the sofa onto the floor? Whether anyone is in the room at present or not, there they are: a friendly greeting to let me know a child has passed through.
The other signal of “child presence” is the handy clue that those little slipcovers that go on the arms of the sofa are either wildly askew, tossed on the floor, or partially tucked down between the couch cushion and the arm of the couch.
Some people (who don’t have little children) have the luxury of avoiding this by inserting those little screw-shaped curly thumbtack thingies that will keep a armrest slipcover in place. But not me. As a mother, those are just waiting to be removed, thrown on the floor, and gouging up into a person’s bare foot. That, or else get sucked up by the vacuum where they can tear up the inside of the machine. Just their very presence on the arm of the couch begs for this occurrence. They couldn’t possibly be left in place for a full twelve hours. Or three. Not during hours when a child is awake.
And let’s not forget or overlook the dish towel hanging over a cupboard door near the kitchen sink. The one I strategically place so I can dry my hands. Why, oh why, is it always on the linoleum? And why don’t I notice until after I step on it? Then I feel highly uncomfortable drying my hands on that towel. What makes that such a good target for tossing? Only the child knows. But it’s irresistible, apparently.
I often admit that I’m a poor-to-average housekeeper. But this is by choice. At the beginning of my phase as a mother of children, I tried to keep everything in order and clean. But it didn’t take many years to realize what a colossal waste of crazy-making time that was. (Because doing the same thing over and over, like putting on the slipcovers, and expecting them to stay is a manifestation of insanity.)
Now, I do things like wad up the armrest slipcovers and stick them in the top of the coat closet.
Bad housekeeping is a form of survival for me. Luckily, I married someone absolutely great. He’s great for many reasons, but one of them is that he’s basically oblivious to detail. This means I can skip cleaning the bathroom for three weeks and he’ll not notice. Or … a lot of other things. It’s nice to be married to a smart man, as my friend Naomi says, because he’s so busy thinking I can get away with almost anything and he won’t notice.
So I skip a lot of cleaning projects I might do. And I survive (even if I do complain about the stupidity of throwing pillows.) Which keeps me happy. And saner. And that makes my husband happy. And my kids. Plus, it gives me time to do things like write. Everybody wins when the house is unkempt!
Despite the fact we had no measurable rain in April for the proverbial April showers, May seems to be making the flowers come up in my yard. You should see the snapdragons. They’re glorious. And my husband planted them from seed, which still just dumbfounds me. You know, I think I have never once grown anything from a seed in my life. Maybe I should.
So, with May, which is my favorite month of the year (school gets out, there are lilacs in bloom, the world seems beautiful), I am really excited about all the stuff I have planned.
1) On May 7th I’ll be spending the day at a local high school to discuss with students issues and topics from BIG IN JAPAN. I can’t wait to see what kinds of things they bring up. It always fascinates me to see what things other people take away from writing.
2) On May 9th several other local authors and I will appear at the Business and Professional Women’s Club for an author panel at lunch.
3) There’s going to be a $ – SALE – $ for the e-book of BIG IN JAPAN. If you haven’t got your copy yet to read on your beach trip, loosen up your “add to my cart” button pushers and get ready for the sale. Dates to be announced soon!
4) Later in the month I’ll be doing a giveaway of a copy (I hope a hardcover) of BIG IN JAPAN to one lucky winner on Goodreads. So if you haven’t joined Goodreads yet, now’s a great time. (Forget what I said in my paranoid worry-fest a few days ago. Goodreads is still great! I have hundreds of book reviews on there myself.) And if you want to “friend” me on Goodreads, please do. I’ve been more of a “book adder” on there than a “friend adder,” but I’m not opposed to friends. Let’s be friends.
5) May is also a fun month because a couple of my fellow author friends have books coming out this month or soon, and I’ll be reviewing their novels and interviewing the authors, so watch for that here on this blog.
6) SCHOOL GETS OUT! Yipppeeee! And that means beginning at the end of May I get to have my kids all to myself and we can go camping and to the pool and do jobs and work on goals and all the fun stuff we do every summer with my invention called “Griffith Points.” I love summer vacation. If only it were what Phineas and Ferb claim it to be: a full 104 days. Alas, it’s more like 85. But I can’t wait! (Does this make me sound crazy? Well, maybe, but I do also love the END of the summer when routine returns. So only semi-crazy, I guess.)
Today my 10 year-old asked me if she could save up and buy a kiddie pool to put in the back yard.
My mommy mercenary ears went a-buzzing! Cheap labor! A way out of doing housework chores I have been dreading! Yeah!
“Sure, sweetheart. Do you want to start today?”
“Do you mean ‘money jobs’?” Like she thought this dream might take a long time to realize. No, sweetie. We can make this happen now!
I offered to pay her a dollar each for doing various assignments. Here’s what she ultimately did at a buck a pop.
* Mop the kitchen floor (Sticky from red slush melted and partially dried)
* Straighten her bedroom (Which had her little sisters’ clothes and pull ups all over)
* Pick up the back yard (Decorated with yucky mess)
* Pull weeds in the side yard (The sheer number of thorns in this climate is dumbfounding)
* Make cookies (Which I shouldn’t've asked her to do. Cookies are my NeMESiS!)
* Wipe off the stovetop (Let’s just not even imagine how bad it was before)
* Do the lunch dishes (Did I mention I made homemade cream of mushroom soup today? Gray soup. Bless her.)
* Fold a batch of laundry (Her own. I let her off easy)
That, altogether, added up to just 50-cents less than she needed to earn for her kiddie pool, when added to the money she’d already saved up. I’ll have to think of one more chore.
This brought to mind the situation a few years ago when my oldest son wanted to earn money for a DSi video game thingy. I actually didn’t want him to have one, so I said he could get it if he earned all the money for it. Am I the only parent of a determined child who has made this mistake? Serious underestimation.
Despite my horrible, cruel efforts to thwart him (like paying him 25 cents to clean chicken droppings off the floor of the entire sunporch back when I was crazy enough to let my husband talk me into joining the “urban chicken movement”, and another 25 cents to do all these awful jobs like clean out the whole garage), he achieved the full purchase price after several weeks.
Since then, I have softened a bit, I guess. Or else it’s just that a kiddie pool sounds a lot less … brain-sucking than a Nintendo game system. The price per-job has inflated quite a bit since then, too. Ah, the joy of being able to do things on my own whim.
So today was a major case of “everybody wins” because as she did all the chores I’d been avoiding myself, I had a chance to get my lesson ready for church tomorrow, go buy dog food, pull *other* weeds, and get three more pages done on my current writing WIP — which puts me at the halfway point! Yeah! Can’t express what a relief that is, after a rough couple of weeks finding time to write at all.
Daughters are fabulous.
Only downside: we have to now go to WalMart on a Saturday afternoon to procure her prize.
(Almost negates all the positives of this situation.)
One of my favorite people in all the world is Tina Scott. She is a great writer, lovely artist, amazing cook, great mom of SEVEN, and a hilarious friend. She’s got some fun children’s books, great parenting articles, a travel book about peach rings and Denmark, and now (drum roll, please…) she’s ready to launch on the world the historical romance she’s really poured her heart into. Tina’s of Danish heritage, and she’s done lots of research into the time period and it’s a really fun story. I’ll post an interview with her soon!
FAREWELL, MY DENMARK
Who loves historical romance? If it’s you, then check this one out. Put it on pre-order for your e-reader or for your bookshelf. Good times.
To celebrate, Tina’s holding a fun contest (because she’s just a fun kind of person. I’m serious.) Enter to win the book AND a gift card to Target.
(Sigh, Target. If only we had one in this one-Walmart town.)
Enter! Win! Enjoy!
Here’s your chance to win a copy of Farewell, my Denmark and a $10 Target gift card. INTERNATIONAL: ebook only, no gift card. Sorry.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE:
…Or, Why I Probably Won’t Review Books Very Often Anymore
You might have heard the news that printed-word-behemoth Amazon has now purchased Goodreads, the online book site where readers and authors connect to share opinions on books and make recommendations, as well as keep lists of books read, book ratings, book wishes, and so on.
Some friends have expressed to me that they find this news good, a way to get word-of-mouth buyers pointed toward authors’ books. Others find it troubling.
I’m probably more in the latter category, since, for one, I’m a bit of an old person at heart, not liking change. I was probably one of the last people alive to change from WordPerfect word processing over to the ubiquitous Word program.
But it might be more than a dislike of change. It could also be factored in that I’m a “Six” in the nine Enneagram personality testing categories. We Sixes are Loyalists, and while we love having a consulting team on almost every topic (which makes Goodreads solid gold for us) we also have a strong streak of suspicion. And that’s the side that takes over for me when I think about Goodreads going Amazon. What are they doing with my reviews, things I assumed would be shared mainly with my selected friends? Will these now be posted on a commercial site for all to see?
But now? I don’t know where they’re going.
Even beyond that, though, I have concerns about reviews in general. Not that I don’t think everyone should have an opinion on a book. It’s how it is. But different books resonate with different people. There are very, very famous and popular book series that just don’t capture my interest. Harry Potter? I made it through three books before the series got too dark for me. Vampire novels? The thought of drinking blood is just too yucky to me, no matter how compelling the love triangle.
Maybe it is bugging me because a few months ago I got a negative review, and the concerns the reviewer expressed were fair and honest, which is fine, but they also didn’t take into account that chances were, he was simply not the audience for my novel (an expert sumo fan and not a novice like the vast majority of my readers). Now, that’s his prerogative; however, the review is now on Amazon. And there will be people who will read the review and take it to heart I mean, who hasn’t done that? A dozen five-star reviews for a product and then a single one-star review blows the whole purchase for us.
So, anyway, I realize I have been one of those people living in this bubble all my life where I simply assume that my taste is superior and correct and that everyone obviously ought to agree with my taste, for the most part. Haw! (Be honest, we’ve all been there.) But now that I can see that my occasional dislike for something might deter someone from potentially thoroughly enjoying something, I realize I might not be the arbiter of all things after all.
It’s not like I have written a large number of bad reviews. For a long time my policy has been along the lines of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” for the most part. Unless there’s a book that I feel is completely destructive to the human soul for some reason, I will not give a negative review. However, there are a few reviews on my Goodreads page (which I wrote for FRIENDS) that say things like, “I expected to like this book, I tried to like this book, and while the language is beautiful, I think the characters needed to wake up and stop being lame!” Or some such stuff.
And now that Amazon owns the site, I have this quivering in me that I need to suddenly curtail my free speech or something, like now Big Brother is watching and I need to be careful about what I say in certain company.
This, clearly is my suspicious nature talking here, but is it unfounded? Does anybody else have these concerns? For me, what started out as book-chat-among-reading-pals is now anybody’s guess where it’s going. I almost feel nervous to post this concern on my blog. What if Amazon were to blacklist my novels for this? Who’s to say they can’t?
And who’s to say that just because I’m paranoid that doesn’t mean nobody’s after me?
I wish there were a “dislike” button for this whole literary-consolidation-culture.
I don’t get it. Why am I the only person in my family who can see the beauty and fun of the automobile? Since I was a kid I loved cars, looking at classics, knowing what models and makes were cool, which ones were clunkers. I learned to drive on a sweet, shiny copper 1964 Chevy Impala. That thing had an engine! Just touch the gas and you were riding low and fast down the highway, and it was as heavy as an oceanliner so it hugged every curve of the country roads where I lived. Steel. Steel and chrome.
Please, allow me to reminisce.
My parents loved cars. When I was a baby they drove an orange Porsche my dad was fixing up. They had to get rid of it because it was so bright it became a target for speed traps and started costing a lot in speeding tickets, or so they said. (They’re not much of speeders, so I think this might be an exaggeration.) We also had a Jeep Willy’s Wagon, two-tone, mustard and white. There was a 1962 Chevy pick-up that belonged to my grandmother, her fishing truck. Also a sweet 1960s era International Scout, two-door. We had a giant yellow Oldsmobile, a 1978, with black interior, my mother’s “real estate” car from the years she was an agent, and which she traded straight across for a 1977 Honda Civic during the gas crisis years when we moved farther out of town – even though there were four kids in the family. One kid had to sit in the 6″-wide hatchback area. And scrunch down. It was great.
Then there was a 1983 Subaru wagon, 2WD (I’m sorry to say), that had a few good years and then had the loudest brakes you EVER, EVER heard, a car to keep a person humble when she drove it in college, a car that started only if prayed over first, thus teaching a driver faith preceeds the miracle. Many stories accompany that car, and its 335,000 ultimate odometer reading. Yes, its little hubcap has been placed on a hook and is now a cherished Christmas ornament.
And the 1980 cherry red lemon also known as the Pontiac Phoenix. The white leather interior was so pretty. But the car itself was pretty iffy. And it was a hatchback, thus sealing the doom of all other hatchbacks in my opinion forever more. (Sorry, hatchback fans.) Its sister-model was the Chevy Citation. Did the designers not realize that “citation” is another word for “speeding ticket?” I bet they laughed all the way to the showroom on that one.
Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I drive a 1999 Suburban. Before you laugh, (har har, it’s paid for), you have to know I saw one in a car museum/sales room in Las Vegas in September listed at $75,000. Granted, it’s the one driven by Tony Soprano in his eponymous TV show, but hey. Ours has association cachet. And seats that are a darn-sight more comfortable than the LaZBoy in our living room, I’m telling you. And it seats nine, so…everybody rides.
Anyway, a couple of years ago my brother subscribed to AutoWeek magazine for us, and I weekly devour it. All the new models of all makes of cars are in there, and they have brilliant writers with great vocabularies, and it’s just a fun read. I love it. (And no yucky ads, if that means anything to anyone. I hate those yucky ads that are in so many car magazines. No “yikes” moments as you flip toward the back.)
But I’m the only one who reads it. Even my teenage sons can’t muster an interest. I try, and I try. I turn on Top Gear, I rave about this or that model as we drive past Johnson Motors on our way to and from school. I mention my abiding dislike for crossovers, or my deep love for chrome, and it falls on deaf ears.
I’m an island.
So I was temporarily excited the other day when my 8 year old daughter started noticing cars in the Walmart parking lot. Brace yourself, though, this has a sad ending. Stop reading if you don’t think you can handle it.
Here’s the car she saw and asked about:
In about 1980, General Motors took their design of the aforementioned Pontiac Phoenix (such a looker), bumped out the hatchback and tweaked it into a family station wagon (makes me think of my own days with a station wagon). And way back when, someone bought it. I suspect it was the lady who was driving the white, dull-paint version, slightly dinged up, through the Walmart lot on Monday. It looked like a “one owner” to me. I happened to recognize the driver, a lovely person, a lady who volunteers for “Friends of the Library,” and very sweet. She’s older, elderly really. The handicap plates were of the earlier model of Arizona colors – on dark maroon with white paint. Remember those, car people? Do ya?
Well, anyway, we see this motoring by, and sweet lady can barely see over the wheel. Her windows are down, of course. It’s a warm day. Pretty sure the ol’ AC ain’t functioning anymore, poor dear.
My daughter pulls my sleeve. “Mom! Mom! Look at that car!”
I perk up. I’m elated. I can’t believe it’s finally happening. A child of mine is taking an interest in the old mom’s little hobby. It’s a dream come true, a windy-day miracle for sure!
“Which car, sweetheart?” My eyes are scanning the Walmartscape for something notable.
“That one!” And then she asks the question that lets me know I’ve failed entirely.
“Is that a Ferrari?”
But I guess, there’s a beauty in that. Somewhere. Deep. What is it? It’s that my daughter looks on the heart. She can see that old dinged up station wagon and see a Ferrari. She can see the inner beauty of a car that’s been running that long, serving its owner for years and still running her to Walmart and the library and such. It’s much better than an Italian sports car that needs to be garaged and babied and mileage kept low. It’s great that she sees its intrinsic worth. I love her.
I hope someone, when I’m old and dingy and my AC has broken down, will look at me and ask, “Is that a Ferrari?” And though it may cause a temporary fit of laughter, I hope the answer will be, on some level, yes. Fast, valuable, worth something. Fast to help someone in need, valuable in a crisis, worth something to those I love.
So, yeah. Feraris and old station wagons. The worth of a soul. And a good amount of laughter at our kids–even when they make us feel like an island.