Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Workstation Accessories

My writing corner got a new accessory yesterday. An addition to the media folders and press releases, and my folders full of research and ideas, and my ergonomic keyboard... in addition to the Longaberger coffee mug I desperately need to start my day... I now have a little live foot warmer.

A puppy, who slept under my desk all morning. Well, the part of the morning when she wasn't romping with the big dog or peeing on the rug or making me stand in the rain with her outside.

Needless to say, I got very little accomplished in the way of writing or magazine work. I did speak with most of my family and friends who saw the photos on Facebook and called to either ask "wtf" or congratulate me, depending on their feelings for dogs.

Oh, but she's cute.

And she won't fit under there for very long, so I think I'll just enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fun for Friday

Somehow, I'm in charge of the 8th grade Bake Sale this afternoon from 4:30-8pm, in conjunction with a PTA event at the middle school. If you're a mom, you understand how these things happen. My husband and sons just roll their eyes.

My daughter is excited about it, though. She and I baked up a flour storm in the kitchen yesterday in preparation. Her creation (straight from the "Bake Sale Cookie Bible," honestly) is a cookie pizza, complete with melted white chocolate "sauce" and candy toppings. Yummmm.

My creations were a lot more straightforward, 4 chocolate chip cookies in each ziploc bag. Lots of ziploc bags. Boring, perhaps, but profitable.

The recipe for the pizza cookie appears below. You can make the crust peanut butter as recipe suggests, or regular sugar cookie dough if you have allergy concerns. Either way is sure to be yummy. And fun for a rainy Friday afternoon. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Pizza Cookies
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
3/4 cups peanut butter
1/2 cup Crisco
3 Tps milk
1 Tbl vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
8 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped (*we used Nestle white morsels)
candies to decorate: Twizzler pull-n-peel, thick chocolate bar, jellied candies of different colors

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine sugar, peanut butter, Crisco, milk, and vanilla in large bowl until well-blended. Add egg.

3. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture and mix until blended.

4. Divide dough in half. Form each half into ball. Place 1 ball onto ungreased pizza pan or baking sheet. Spread dough with fingers to form 12 inch circle. Repeat with other ball.

5. Bake one sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet. Remove with large spatula to cool completely. (*we used a clean, thin aluminum cookie sheet to slide under cookie and remove. see photo. Once the cookie was decorated and cut, we were able to move it onto a dinner plate.)

6. Place white chocolate in shallow microwave-safe bowl. Nuke on High for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat 30 second intervals until chocolate is all melty.

7. Spread melted chocolate on center of cooled cookies to within 1/2 inch of edge. Decorate with candies while chocolate is still warm. Let set completely. Cut into wedges with pizza cutter.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Weathering the Storm

Another storm passed through my life this week. Nothing major or unexpected. A little more erosion on the beach. A little more erosion of my confidence.

Being rejected erodes a writer bit by bit. At least this latest rejection came in a wonderful chocolate coating. Well, not literally, but close.

"Skillful use of dialogue."

"Good job developing characters."

She even said "Technically, your writing was great."

These are all very wonderful things to hear from an editor. But a "yes" would have been nice as well. Apparently I spent too much time developing character and should have gotten more intimate with the characters more quickly.

The shoreline will survive this latest March storm - there's still plenty of beach left. My confidence will survive this latest round of rejection.

Back to writing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Ghost Tale for Tuesday

While I don't have an original ghost story to share today, I've been looking around the internet and finding scads of Cape Cod Ghost Stories. There's a Paranormal Investigation scoiety here on the Cape as well, giving public ghost tours of Barnstable Village from June through October. Who wants to join me?

In the meantime, here's a spooky tale for a rainy Tuesday....

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"Sagamore Cemetary Haunting" from capelinks.com

"In a small quiet Sagamore cemetery dwells an unknown force also known as ghosts. It has been rumored to be haunted for as long as anyone can remember. The strong scent of cigar smoke can be smelled throughout. Even the care taker Mr. Jerry Ellis doesn’t have an explanation.

The ghost is of an eleven year old girl in a wedding gown and has muddy leather boots. She haunts the cemetery for some sort of revenge. We believe it was some sort of murder. It makes us think this because there is also a ghost of a tall man in a top hat and and a re-lined suit coat of the age of around 20. When she died also buried right next to him and on her stone it read wife of the said person. But she was only eleven so how could she be married to a 20 year old man? We have a theory maybe this was some plot to obtain money or an arranged marriage. This all took place in the 1850s, so our next theory would be she murdered him and then killed herself because she could not bear it.

There have been stories of moved headstones. I suspect a spirit of great strength or of anger. One of the most famous is the case of Eliza Howe. Her stone tipped over to lean on her husband’s, captain William Burgess, a heavy cigar smoker and that’s why there is a heavy layer of cigar smoke sometimes drifting around the place especially around the deformed tree in the shape of a nose right in the center of the graveyard. No one knows what caused the strange deformation.

Me and my close friends go there and research. Our most mysterious was on 6/6/06, June 6 of 06 and we saw a shadowy figure stalking about and then we heard an uproar of some sort. There was no plane helicopter or automobile in sight. It was all so very strange. Many people don’t believe us.

Then there’s the three mausoleums one at the opening in which none can enter and its all tarnished and rusty. The second on the far left from the center, this one was carved into a hill. The door shows no damage even though people have shot at it with pellet guns and attempted to smash the locks and trust me I’ve tried. It looks as if it’s made of wood but its metal and very strong at that. Atop it there is a hole. I dropped 3 rocks down, 2 hit the floor, but one sounded as if it were caught. The last was new and it held some rich guy.

My friend’s camera phone picked up some bizarre pictures. One was blank another was of the top hatted ghost and the last was of a giant spectral eye. Later on we found a muddy boot print next to the deformed tree. Then we smelled heavy cigar smoke a sign that the captain was near."

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There are comments posted on the site where this tale originally appeared, telling of other instances where people smelled the sea captain's cigar smoke. Spooky!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Good Morning, Monday

What a beautiful weekend! Lots of beach walks, lots of sunshine, lots of seaglass to be collected.

Friday I picked up 13 pieces, Saturday another 9, and yesterday I found a beautiful piece of turquoise blue - the bottom of some kind of small bottle, bumped up in the middle like a nipple.

There are theories about seaglass, about the magic imparted by the sea. Finding white is for clarity of thought, green for money or opportunity, brown for grounding, and blue for good luck wishes. Blue is special because it's so rare. My walking partner told me yesterday that she's never found a piece of blue along our stretch of Atlantic.

So finding blue means I will be lucky this week.

I also found a plastic wolf, in howling position. I wonder what that means?

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Art of Provincetown

My son's 8th grade class went to Provincetown today for the day. They've been learning about Ptown's history as an art colony, and the development of the "Provincetown print." They even tried their hands at making some of their own iconic Cape prints (my son's try is the image above, currently hanging in the school's Spring Art Show.)

I totally applaud the school and the art teacher for taking advantage of the natural resources we have here on Cape Cod, be they "nature" or "man-made," like the galleries and museums of Provincetown. My son came home energized and enthused by the various art forms they saw, and the artists who took the time to sit and talk with the students.

But there was one part of the program lacking, and that would be teaching tolerance.

For those who don't know about Provincetown, it's the town at the tip of Cape Cod that has been an outpost for artists, authors, playwrights, and other creative types for the last 100 years. It's also become a mecca for gays and lesbians. It's in no way a secret, so the teachers should have discussed this aspect of the trip ahead of time, seeing as it's middle school.

My son told me that many of the boys were making fun of pedestrians as the bus rolled through town, calling them "gay" in a derogatory manner. Or worse. And the teachers didn't call the kids on it. That was a teaching moment. By letting the behavior slip by, ignoring it, they may as well have condoned it. There need to be stronger anti-bullying rules in our schools, and less tolerance of poor behavior from our students.

While I'm skeptical that the legislation before the state house can really fix the bullying problems in our schools, we can all do our part to not let the kids "get away" with intolerant behavior. We all need to teach our children that it's okay to be different, and not to bully those who are not the same as them.

More Blue Skies and Sunshine

Another gorgeous spring day is on tap for Cape Cod. The temperatures should get into the 60s both today and tomorrow. Maybe even 70 tomorrow - gasp! How will I take advantage of this natural beauty?

The first step would be to turn off the computer.

Do I sound like I'm looking for an excuse to procrastinate? Because, believe me, I'm already a master at procrastination. I've never ever - ever - missed a deadline in my life. Not in high school, not in college, not as a reporter, not with my editor at Cerridwen Press... but I'll wait until the very last minute if there's something more urgent (or more fun) that needs doing.

Granted, the social media class this week has been fun. Learning to tweet is actually fun, as much as my teenager rolls his eyes at me when I talk about it. He likes to tell me I'm too old to "speak in text." IMHO, I don't feel that old, but maybe he's right, LOL.

Are you having this same bright spring day? Then why are you still reading this? Leave a comment and tell me what you're going to do to celebrate the sunshine - and then turn your computer off, too.

I have a date with my dogs to get out and romp in the sun.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Connecting with Social Media

I really want to be out walking the dogs along the beach right now. The sun is shining, the temps are pushing 60 degrees... but I'm waiting at home for a pool repairman to come give me an estimate of how much cash we need to pour into the hole in the backyard...

So in the meantime, I'm online participating in this week's RWA-PRO bootcamp on social media. They're teaching us to Tweet this week. No, not like birds, Tweet as in Twitter, the 140-character or less social phenomenon. I've now got a Twitter account at "okatieo" and have sought out a few friends to follow. All set up and good to go. But where am I going?

Twitter is different that Facebook or Blogger. I'm not sure what I think yet.

The question becomes one of time.

I already have 3 separate email accounts to check daily, and several chat loops that I read on digest (although I admit I'm not a good participator, more of a lurker) I also try to keep up with my Facebook friends, blog here and over at the Old Mill Point News site, as well as follow the dozens of other bloggers in my industry who I think are interesting ... oh yeah, and write. All this cyberwork in addition to my real-world responsibilities, you know, like take care of the house, dogs, kids, husband, (i.e. cook, clean, make beds, walk dogs, taxi-drive, etc. etc. etc that mommies have to do every day)

Where do people find time to do it all?

Something always has to give. This week it was the vacuuming (my rug mysteriously changed color by growing its own new coat of fur...) Last week it was the laundry (who else has heard the 5 a.m. "I have no pants" whine?)

I'm not sure Tweeting fits into my schedule. But it's fun learning new skills.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wishes for a happy St. Paddy's Day

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.

In the whirling vortex leading up to today's Grand Holiday, with myriad kid activities and manuscript requests, I totally forgot to post a ghost tale of any kind yesterday. Mea Culpa. Life happens.

What, did I say manuscript requests?

I received one of those very thin SASE envelopes yesterday in my post office box. The kind that make you sigh when you see them sitting there in the box. Except this wasn't a form rejection, it started with "I am intrigued by your query..." and went on from there. A manila envelope with pages is winging its way to New York as I type. Let's hope the intrigued feeling continues.

And then last night, checking email in between my daughter's Art Day chorus recital and my son's indoor soccer practice down in Eastham, there was a request for a partial on another book from an editor at a small press.

Part of me feels like I've been here before, and that it could all crash and burn around me. But I'm hoping some of my husband's Irish luck rubs off on me and both books grab their readers in ways that make them say, "Yes!"

As all the rejections remind us, publishing is a subjective business. It only takes one "Yes."

Or in this case, two.

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Here's a song my sisters and I used to sing all the time, but especially when we were at my Grandma's house, searching for four leaf clovers in the meadow that was her side yard along Closter Dock Road, in New Jersey... does anyone else remember this?

I'm looking over a four leaf clover
That I overlooked before
One leaf is sunshine, the second is rain,
Third is the roses that grow in the lane.
No need explaining the one remaining
Is somebody I adore.
I'm looking over a four leaf clover
That I overlooked before.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Great Review from Night Owl Reviews!

Melinda from the Night Owl Reviewer staff just gave me 4.75 out of 5 stars in her review! That's one star arm short of a perfect review... !! (author caveat: If only she'd gotten my name right in the actual review...the info on Night Owl is correct, but her blurb is not.)

And I quote:

Jillian is troubled and confused. She thought she married the perfect man yet after three children she feels lost and alone. In the beginning things were great with Kyle but something has changed. She never told him about her secret power, a power that lately she feels she needs to feel complete. When her grandmother gets in an accident she knows it is time to face her past. Her granny always told her that she has a special gift that cannot be ignored. Yet because of her parents she had to give it up to try to lead a normal life. Her grandmother needs her but there are secrets and shadows that hover near her family. She is unsure what to do. She must deal with things that hurt her and find out if her mother is really a murderer.

There is so much to say about this beautiful book yet I can’t give too much away. This is one that you will just have to read and enjoy for yourself. Kate Sullivan did a remarkable job in this tale of second chances, special gifts and a chance for new beginnings. The magical powers Jillian has is a gift that for some reason she gave up on. I loved that even though a tragedy is occurring there is a bond that can never be broken. This is definitely a great book that I highly recommend. This is one that the magic and the family really work together well.

I was feeling down about my writing as a "career" today, and found this notice in my inbox. Makes me feel so much better about the day...my book... and my life! Thank you, Night Owl!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Ghost Tale for Tuesday

I was in the car this morning, dropping my daughter off at before-school chorus practice, and heard an interesting ghost story... on NPR's business news. I thought I'd share, in case you missed it.

It seems that there is a woman selling ghosts on eBay.


She lives in a (formerly) haunted house, where there were two spirit presences bothering her. One was an older "distinguished" gentleman, the other an "obstreperous young girl." (Those were the words used in the business report, really.)

She was (supposedly) able to capture the ghosts and put them in bottles, using a liberal application of holy water to contain them.

And then she decided to auction them on eBay. Bidding ended at $2,000 for the pair. The seller claims the proceeds will all go to charity, minus her exorcism fee.

There's a book in there somewhere...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Blue Skies Ahead

The week is dawning bright and clear. My WIP is almost ready to go out the door to an editor who's eager to read it. An agent whom I love (and would love to work with!) requested a partial on my finished project. The articles for the Spring Issue of CapeWomenOnline are starting to roll in.

The sun is out and spring is in the air. I've got my fingers crossed for a productive week.

Plus, it's crazy hat day at the elementary school. What a great way to start Spring!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dark Clouds of Rejection

You'd think I'd be used to it by now. That long-awaited and always heart-breaking "thanks-but-no-thanks" letter. Or email, as the case may be.

I know writers aren't supposed to blog about rejection, that it isn't "good form." But it's the truth.

The truth isn't pretty.

And it never gets any easier.

What no one really tells you is that in publishing, there are more rejection letters than happy dances. More "It's not right for me" letters than "Send me your manuscript." Okay, they do tell you that if you're paying attention, but to be a writer is to be full of hubris and think your manuscript is better than the others in the slush pile. That it will get picked out, picked up, and rocket to the top of the bestseller list. But the truth is that even when the agent or publisher has your full manuscript, and says he likes your story... it still may end in rejection for myriad other reasons.

So why keep at it? This is a question that I'm sure many, many writers and authors struggle with on a regular - if not daily - basis. Then again, rejection crops up in many forms in many other professions as well. Is every day at school rewarding for your child's teacher? Probably not. Does every sales call or demonstration result in a deal for the company selling the new widget? Definitely not.

What keeps us going is the idea that one day, someone will "get it" - they'll sign us, or buy our product, or thank us with hugs and smiles, and make all the hard work and all the rejection worthwhile.

I just wish that "one day" had been today. For me, for you, for all of us struggling with rejection. May our "one days" be sooner, rather than later.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Ghost Tale for Tuesday

I apologize for not having an original tale cued up for this morning - I've been wrapped up reading other people's stories and books this week (as well as trying to finish my own latest WIP)

I tried to read The Shadow of the Wind when it first came out. I couldn't make it past the first 50 pages - I didn't get it. Or maybe it was that the kids were home on vacation and there was too much chaos to allow myself to be swept into the rich worlds that Carlos Ruiz Zafon paints for his readers.

His latest book - The Angels Game - was similarly hard to start, but there was enough intrigue to keep me going. The storyline keeps me guessing - I have no idea where its going next - and the writing is rich and beautiful.

Why is this a ghost tale? The main character, David Martin, is caught up in a swirling saga of past and present, where hopes and desires are twisted... he's haunted by both actual ghosts and the ghosts of his own longing. It's hard to explain, but beautiful to read.

Find it. Try it. Buy it.

Happy Tuesday to all...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Slushfest Monday

I mean slush as in storm, not as in those manuscripts sitting in knee-deep piles on editor and agent desks... where my queries are buried in the cyberslush piles... or the piles of queries in my inbox at the magazine...

Actual slush, in the form of extra-wet precipitation, is falling from the sky this morning, covering the beach and filling the roads with slippery badness. School was delayed for two-hours while they tried to make the roads safer for the buses to muddle through. My sneakers are soaked from standing at the bus stop with my daughter, trying to keep her hair under her hood because it's spring picture day at school today.

Slush. Nature's way of reminding us that spring isn't quite here yet.