Fake News?/Angles, Biases, Framing, Slanting & Spinning/Critical Thinking Starts With the 5 Ws & 1 H

Nowadays it’s more and more difficult to find unbiased news sources, and the only place I can seem to get “the facts and just the facts” are on reruns of Dragnet. Let’s face it, it’s in our nature as human beings to “frame” issues according to our “biases” which are shaped by our own experiences, beliefs, attitudes, values, principles, and interests.

I don’t believe the news outlets are reporting “fake news” per se, but you bet your sweet bippy I believe the information parceled out to the public is “slanted.” (Whenever you see a particular angle or aspect of a story played up, the story is said to be “slanted.”)

Rarely do journalists present both sides of an issue in an unbiased manner, allowing the news consumers to decide for themselves what to believe. News programs are typically “slanted” or “angled,” toward either a liberal or conservative audience.

Why would reporters, authors, writers, and journalists do this? It’s quite simple. The story is usually boring without a slant, and we want our stories to have an impact on you, we want to influence you, or maybe we just want you to think. Most of the time we can accomplish these goals by “slanting” a news article or report. It’s a pretty standard technique employed by us writerly types, and sometimes it is done consciously, and sometimes it is done unconsciously. Don’t the best stories make you “feel” something though?

How would I know? Oh, please. I do it all the time on my blog. Since I generally see life through a humorous lens, most of my posts (but not all) are intended to be entertaining, light-hearted and, dare I say, amusing.

In order to be a good writer, one must also be a good thinker. Let’s face it, that doesn’t always come naturally because emotions often cloud our thinking and judgment.

One of the best classes I ever took in college was called “Critical Thinking Skills.” In order to be excellent in any field, one cannot be a passive recipient of information and accept things at face value. We cannot rely solely on our instincts and intuitions. Critical thinking demands that we question findings, ideas and even our own assumptions to determine whether or not we are seeing the entire picture.

The ability to critically think was essential when I was working in the nursing field. In order to problem solve, I had to be open to seeing things from many different perspectives and I think it is equally valuable in my career as a writer today.

How does one begin to think critically? It starts with standard information gathering taught in Journalism 101, or in my case, nursing school.

I’ve always remembered the “5 Ws” and “1 H” of information gathering by memorizing the poem in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Elephant’s Child.” You’ll find it in his collection of “Just So Stories.”

 

“I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.”

 

 

 

Have I thoroughly bored or confused you yet? Let’s inject a little levity while I try to illustrate my points.

Here are the simple, unbiased facts surrounding an incident that recently happened in my life.

Who was involved? – My dog.

What happened? – Poop happened.

Where did it happen? – On the neighbor’s lawn.

When did it happen? – Two days ago.

Why did it happen? – Because my dog was in the neighbors yard and had to poop.

How did it happen? – Because two doors in my house and a fence gate were left open.

A mundane occurrence in our neighborhood and certainly not news worthy, but hold on. Things are about to change.

Here is how Neighbor A (an animal lover and friend) reported and “slanted” the situation:

L.’s dog got out of her house and dashed over to romp with his little doggie friend next door. You should have seen them chasing each other around. They were so adorable! L’s dog, Rupert, got so excited, he pooped in his little friend’s yard, but no matter, L. quickly collected him and the little brown problem left on the lawn. I love watching those two dogs frolic together.

Here is how Neighbor B (not a huge animal fan, nor a good friend of mine)) reported and “slanted” the situation:

Two days ago L.’s dog ran away again. If you ask me, that woman and her husband shouldn’t be allowed to own an animal, let alone two. They are too careless and neglectful. Their dog chased and menaced the dog next door, and if that weren’t enough … it shit all over our neighbor’s lawn. It took L. fifteen whole minutes to get the little terrorist out of the neighbor’s yard and back into her house. Although L. had the decency to clean up the dog turd … after all it is the law … it never would have happened in the first place if L. and her husband were more responsible pet owners.

Here is how I did damage control and “spun” the situation to the other neighbors who may have heard the story from Neighbor B’s “slanted” perspective:

My silly dog is quite the escape artist. I don’t know how he keeps on getting out, but I’m highly suspicious he’s learned how to pick locks. He’s got such a crush on the dog next door and if she’s out, he’ll cross any barrier just to be near her. What can I say? He thinks he’s in love. I’ve tried telling him taking a massive poop in her yard is naughty, but since she rolled around in it once, he’s convinced that sort of thing impresses her. I’ve taken to carrying plastic bags and gloves in my coat pocket until I can talk some sense into him or make enough money to hire Cesar Millan … whichever one come first.

The outcome:

Since none of my neighbors have dressed like giant bowel movements and staged a protest outside of my house while shouting: “Hey, hey! Ho ho! That stupid dog has got to go!” I think I’ve successfully “spun” the situation for now.

So now that you know some journalistic secrets, talk amongst yourselves or better yet, leave a comment on the blog so I know someone is actually out there reading what I write.

 

Writing Inspiration Can Be Found Anywhere / Let Nature Be Your Muse

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Since I am writing a book series about angels, gargoyles, fairies, and leprechauns, I’m often asked what inspires me. In the summer, I find inspiration no further away than my backyard. A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say. Any writer or author worth their salt may not be inclined to agree with that statement, but I don’t have time to paint you a word picture today, so pictures it is!

(If you want, feel free to check out Rafe Ryder and the Well of Wisdom on Amazon.com).

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The hubster is actually a fairly decent gardener and my study looks out over our backyard. (Lucky me)!

This is what happens when you put too much chlorox in the fountain. You get an angel on a cloud. (Total mistake on my part, but I liked the effect).

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I spent most of my formative years on the coast of Maine, and I desperately miss it at times. We brought some stones back from the rocky beaches of Maine to quell my homesickness.

 

 

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The blueberry bushes are doing their “thang” in a marvelous way!

 

 

 

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The corn is being staked out by a skunk who is just waiting for the end of summer to eat my it, but I’m looking for ways to thwart the little critter.

 

 

 

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Gunther

I have a collection of gargoyles. I think they are adorable, but not everyone who visits my house agrees. Gunther has vitiligo and is very patriotic.

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Gypsum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Goliath

 

 

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The flowers in the garden are a-m-a-z-i-n-g! Astilbe is gorgeous.

 

 

 

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Rudbeckia Helenium is breathtaking.

 

 

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The Fuchsia is unique and quite lovely.

 

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Marigolds are brilliant!

 

 

 

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The mirror, made by my brother-in-law, fascinates my dogs. They love looking at themselves. They may be narcissistic or looking for friends. (At this point, I’m not really sure).

 

 

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So, as you can see,  in the summer I let nature be my muse, and no … none of you can borrow the hubster. He’s totally got his hands full here.

 

 

 

Middle Grade Tight Rope Walk / Marketing Your Middle Grade Novel

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I’m a writer, not an artist! No laughing at my stick figure art!

Getting together with fellow authors at a local restaurant is both a blessing and a curse.

“You wrote a middle-grade novel?” said one of my author friends, sucking in a breath through pursed lips and sounding horrified.

“To be fair,” I protested. “The protagonist turns thirteen in the novel … so technically it’s both a middle grade and young adult novel. The future books in the series will all be YA.”

“What were you thinking? Don’t you know how tough those books are to market?” asked another friend. “Well…now you’re going to do the middle school tight rope walk.”

I rolled my eyes and sighed. Yes, yes, for the umpteenth time, people, yes, and I still deliberately chose to write for younger readers!

“Congratulations,” said my third cheerleader. “You’ve got to get through the gatekeepers before you can get the book into the hands of your target audience.”

“Yes, I know.” I sighed again and forced a smile. Smiling was the polite thing to do.

There are parents, teachers, friends, and librarians (gatekeepers) that absolutely must be considered before I can place the book, “Rafe Ryder and the Well of Wisdom,” into the hands of children.

I fully realize that I have two customers: the child and the gatekeeper. I need the adult to trust me, and the child to be transported to a new world when they read what I wrote.

Adults read what they want without needing anyone else’s approval for their book purchases or guidelines for their book borrowing. Children, however, are subject to some form of adult censorship, and well they should be! I supervised what my children read, and I’m of the opinion, all parents should. (Roadblock number one.)

The children for whom I write are not likely to be active on twitter, Facebook and blogs looking for their next read. They are out having adventures with their friends, and again, well they should be! (Roadblock number two.)

Children don’t hold the purse strings when they walk into a bookstore with their parents. (Roadblock number three.)

Still, I’m not as worried about marketing as my fellow authors think that I should be. Children, more than anyone else, need good books, and I wrote one. Childhood is a time to let their imagination and creativity run wild. Limits will be placed on them soon enough.

I adored walking into a room and seeing my own children poring over a great chapter book for days and days on end, captivated by a spellbinding story. Then watching their little minds work out the deeper meaning of the words written on the page.

So what if I have to go to a few more libraries, schools, and book clubs than most authors do. I’ll gladly stomp any and all pavements to see the light in a child’s eyes after they read a good book…even if it’s not mine.

 

 

I Wrote a Book / What Have I done? / Rafe Ryder and the Well of Wisdom

I’m almost ready. The final countdown has begun to the November release of Rafe Ryder and the Well of Wisdom, a middle grade fantasy novel. It’s an exciting time for me. I even have an author page on Amazon now. *breathes into paper bag*

What’s it about? I’ll give you the back cover blurb.

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Strange things happen when the place you call “home” is no longer your address.

Twelve-year-old Rafe Ryder’s year couldn’t get worse. His parents have shipped him off to live with his grandmother and he doesn’t know if he’ll ever see his sick father again. Arriving in Maine, Rafe plots his return to England, but the possibility of a homecoming slips further from his grasp when an adventure in a corn maze at his new school goes wrong, and he and twelve of his schoolmates are mysteriously transported to Mystfira—a realm of angels, leprechauns, gargoyles and fairies—and home to an elite angelic training school. Forced to co-exist with student angels and surrounded by more danger than he ever could have imagined, Rafe searches for a way home only to stumble upon a scheme to destroy the heavens. Can he find a way to save himself and his friends…or will they be lost forever?

I have been so very fortunate to have a wonderful team of people surrounding me, thanks to my friend and fellow author, Katie Cross. I could not have gone on this journey without her! Everyone has been so patient and good to me, starting with the editor of my first draft, Kim Young, and my final editors, Catherine Jones Payne, Stephanie Guido, and Christabel Barry at Quill Pen Editorial Services. As you can see, my cover artist, Jenny Zemanek of Seedling Design Studio is pure genius and phenomenally talented. I’m so grateful to all of you. (Also thanks to Professor Mark Muesse. If I hadn’t taken your course, Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation, and learned how to meditate, I’d currently be modeling a straitjacket.) Oh, and I can’t forget the remarkable, Kella Campbell and her eBook formatting skills, and the amazing Christopher Bell at Atthis Arts.

Now as exciting as this time is for me…I have to admit…I’m terrified. Rolling over and exposing one’s soft underbelly to the world does carry a certain amount of trepidation…but I promise, I’m going to be okay as soon as the tingling in my hands, lips and face goes away. *falls off chair reaching for paper bag*
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New England Corn Mazes/Fall Fun/Gaines Farm Corn Maze/Guilford, Vermont

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Color me happy! Autumn has blazed to life in New England and I love everything about it. Everything. The brilliant leaves, the crisp air, the apple cider, the fall festivals, the pumpkins, the colorful mums, the bonfires, and the corn mazes. My family and the beta-readers of my manuscript are acutely aware of my affinity for the latter. The pages of Rafe Ryder and the Well of Wisdom contain an incredible 50-acre corn maze and what happens there changes the lives of thirteen children forever, Rafe’s most of all.
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The idea for the corn maze in my manuscript came from a much smaller, but no less spectacular corn maze, tucked into a picturesque valley in Guilford, Vermont, which I love and visit annually.

 

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The Gaines Farm is one of the oldest working farms in Vermont. Established in 1782, it has been farmed by seven generations of the Gaines family and operates on 200 acres. In addition to their fabulous corn maze, the farm offers a baby animal barn, hayrides, horseback riding, an iron cow train, pumpkin bowling and a corn cannon.

 

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A hayride was the first thing on my list of things to do. Excited children and big tractors always make me smile.

 

 

 

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Unloading the iron cow kiddie ride so more youngsters could pile into the hay wagon.

 

 

 

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We stopped and fed some adorable bovines in the pasture.

 

 

 

 

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After the hayride, I entered the maze. It took a little time, but I got out without having to place a 911 call.

 

 

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The reason we don’t swear in a corn maze. No bad language because the corn has tender ears.

 

 

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The reason you don’t run in a corn maze.

 

 

 

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Once we got to the bridge in the middle of the maze, no one wanted to leave.

 

 

 

 

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When I got to the top, I understood why.

 

 

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It was so beautiful up there, it made my chest hurt. I didn’t want to leave either.

 

 

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Each year, after I complete the maze, I treat myself to a cup of hot mulled cider and some fried dough at the concession stand.

 

 

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The pumpkin cart.

 

 

 

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Made my way through the “farmtastic” baby animal barn.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bunnies!

 

 

 

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I caught a rare moment when there were no little ones digging through the corn box.

 

 

 

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I had the most “a-maizing” time.   (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun.) The maze is open for two more weekends in 2014. Put it on your list of things to do and you won’t be sorry. I promise.

 

Make Your Query Sing / Find the Rainbow Connection

IMG_2569Honestly, I’m often baffled by the outrageous goings-on in my overly-active imagination, but I’m a writer, and my mind’s madcap flight of fancy is what makes writing an adventure, not a job. My brain rarely rests and when I dream, things can go from moderately kooky to downright bizarre rather quickly.

A few nights ago, after I had safely tucked myself into bed for the evening, I heard voices coming from the downstairs living room, so I did what every idiot in one of those abysmally bad horror flicks does, I went to investigate.

I tiptoed into the hall and down the stairs. Squatting on the last riser, I peered through the banisters at a wonderfully ornate, carved oak door. What? That’s not supposed to be there.

Intrigued, I cautiously approached the door and reached for the smooth silver handle. Suddenly, the door swung open, its massive hinges groaning impressively. As I stared into what should have been my living room, I saw two lovely ladies and two handsome gentleman with their hands clasped solemnly on the desks in front of them

I recognized them instantly and I felt the color in my face draining, drop by drop. The people gazing back at me were four of the ten, prestigious literary agents I had been cyber-stalking…er…I mean…researching for the last year. The Towering Ten, as I liked to call them, are my “dream” agents, the ones to whom I wish to eventually submit my manuscript, hoping to find the Rainbow Connection: The magical, mystical, bond between a writer and agent where all our mutual dreams come true.

I awkwardly folded my arms over my scanty nightie, cursing myself for not having the sense, or decency, to have thrown on a bathrobe and fidgeted like a sugared up six-year-old.

“Do you know why you’re here?” asked the honey-haired lady agent.

“No, I can’t say that I do,” I whispered. Knees quivering, I sank onto a couch, which was conveniently facing their desks.

“This is a query letter intervention,” said the older male agent. “If you, as a writer, cannot communicate your story to us in an effective and compelling manner, then it’s highly unlikely that your manuscript is ready for us.”

“No, no,” I protested. The manuscript is ready, I swear. It’s been edited and polished to a high-gloss. What’s wrong with my query letter, anyway?”

The young male agent shook his head and gave me a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me look. “We hardly know where to begin,” he said sadly.

A beautiful older lady in a red suit chimed in. “Your query letter is of vital importance to us, and as cruel as it may sound to you, it’s how we agents sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.”

“But…but…” I stammered. “I’ve attended numerous webinars on the subject, as well as breakout sessions at several writing conferences, plus I’ve purchased and read every book ever written about queries. I have done everything they said to do. My letter was professional, courteous, short and informative…wasn’t it?”

“It was and, frankly, it bored us to tears,” snapped the younger male agent.

Ouch! That stung!

“Your query didn’t sing,” said the honey-haired young lady.

I crossed my arms and scowled sullenly. “I didn’t know it was supposed to sing. Is it supposed to tap dance, too?”

“If you’re going to make snide comments, we can leave,” replied the older gentleman.

I started to panic. I had four members of my “dream team” in my house and I didn’t want them to go. I wanted to hear what they had to say. “No, no, no. I’m sorry. Please continue.”

The lady in red crossed her legs and leaned back in her chair. “Your writing didn’t transport us to the world you created in your manuscript. Your query had no umph, no spirit, no pizzaz, no je ne sais quoi.”

I hung my head in shame. She was right, my query didn’t have any razzle-dazzle and it certainly didn’t showcase my writing ability.

“Agents get hundreds of ho-hum queries on a daily basis,” she continued. “If you want us to sit up and take notice of your writing, then send us a query where your talent and passion leap off the page and straight into our hearts. However, if you can’t manage that, you’ve got to at least send us an interesting query.”

“Okay. Point taken,” I said. “How do I make my query less boring?”

“Write your query in an irresistible voice, let it entice us, seduce us, enchant us, woo us.  We want a rainbow connection as much as you do,” said the young male agent.

My hand flew to my mouth and I sat in stunned silence. How did he know about the rainbow connection?

“Take our advice and rewrite your query before you blow your chances with the rest of The Towering Ten and, for the love of all that is holy, wear clothes the next time you visit an agent’s office,” said the honey-haired agent.

Another fair point. Appropriately chastised, I slunk out of the room and back up to my bed, where I wrote down every word they’d just said to me.

Although I endured a firestorm of criticism from my “dream” agents, I wasn’t about to take it personally. Edits and constructive criticism make me a better writer.

I’m still not sure if my query can sing or dance yet, but I think it croaked and wiggled the other day, so things are looking up.

Writer’s Word of the Week : Pusillanimous | Birds in the Bush

Usually birds scatter when I enter the backyard, but today was different.  Several speckled, iridescent-black birds with yellow beaks had congregated on top of the backyard blueberry cages. They glared at me, their eyes accusatory, piercing and fierce as I approached.IMG_1841

“I know you’re upset about this,” I said soothingly, “but last year I didn’t get any blueberries. This year it’s my turn.”

Puffing out their feathers in a fluffing display, they spread their wings, rotating them in an aggressive manner as I continued moving towards them.

“Oh, stop!” I called loudly. “No need to be vulgar.”

I couldn’t very well expect them to be polite, after all, they were hungry starlings and rude behavior is pretty much the norm for them, but when I saw wild flutterings arising from inside the cages, I knew what was causing their aggressive posturing.  The birds were in protection mode.  Three young birds had pushed their way under the netting and were gorging themselves on MY berries.

IMG_1843Howling mad, I dropped the bowl I was carrying and sprinted towards my precious blue nuggets. Unzipping the netting I quickly provided an escape route for my feathered friends. Then I promptly zipped the blueberries back into their protective gear and secured the gaps the birds had made at the bottom of the structure to gain access to the fruit.

“You little devils,” I whispered as I bent to retrieve my bowl.  I heard an ugly squawk and felt something slap the back of my head.IMG_1847

Rubbing my noggin,  I cautiously straightened as more starlings massed onto the blueberry cages and fencing in my backyard.

Son of a gun!  This was not a good…not good at all!

Intent on teaching me a lesson, the starlings began to buzz me from behind, while their fellow bird brains loudly vocalized their support and approval.

Not wanting to be hit in the head again, and fearing I was in the birdie equivalent of the Colosseum, I was suddenly overcome by the most pusillanimous inclination, I ran to the house like a lily-livered coward, arms flapping protectively above my head. (Which brings me to the word pusillanimous. It is an adjective meaning: lacking courage, timid, weak, cowardly.)

I was bent over the kitchen sink, gasping loudly, when the hubster entered the kitchen. “How come you’ve got feathers in your hair? Were you playing Pocahontas in the backyard?”

“No, I was playing Tippi Hedron.”  I replied, turning to look at him. “Those birds out there just tried to peck my soul out through my eyes.”

“Ooooo.  Do it again.  This time I’ll watch from the window.”

I narrowed my eyes, pressed my lips together and glared. “Go away.”

The hubster wisely retreated.  Was it pusillanimous behavior on his part?  You be the judge.

 

 

Pushing Against Overwhelming Odds

AWESOMESometimes I find encouragement in the oddest places.  This little petunia pushed it way up through the hostile environment of bricks and crabgrass in our driveway.  It was a truly astonishing achievement considering there are no petunias planted in my yard and there are none growing in any of my neighbors’ yards either.

The odds were overwhelmingly stacked against the flower’s very existence, but the fragile little red and white blossom has flourished, sending up one bud after another.  Over the short summer season, I’ve learned a lot about strength and perseverance from this lonely petunia.

Perhaps it is an extended metaphor for my writing.  If so, how can I have any less fortitude or endurance than that fearless little plant?  My time in the sun will come someday if I keep pushing against the odds.  I am sure of it.

 

Squirrels Can Swim! | Writer’s Word of the Week – Mordacious

Sopping wet squirrel

Sopping wet squirrel

Our five year old Shiba Inu, Rupert, has appointed himself the sheriff of our property and zealously protects our home from any perceived threat.  He has repeatedly warned the neighborhood squirrels that he is on the job and that they risk life and limb should they decide to invade our privacy; however, the squirrels in our area are brazen little hussies and quite unable to resist the siren’s song of temptation sung by the blueberry bushes in our backyard.

The husband and I were puttering around outside yesterday when I heard Rupert kicking up a ruckus.

“Now what,” I said, turning towards the noise.  Sheriff Rupert was standing at the edge of the pool, fixated on something in the water.

“Huh, I didn’t know squirrels could swim,” said the hubster, scratching his head.

I lowered my gaze to see a furry little creature crazily paddling across the pool.  I was admiring the squirrel’s remarkable swimming abilities until I saw the wheels spinning in Rupert’s clever doggie brain.  He was trying to work out exactly where the squirrel would exit the pool.

I sprang into action.  “Catch that dog right now or you’ll be eating squirrel for supper,” I shouted.

“I can’t catch that dog.  No one can catch that dog.”

Okay, so the hubster had a fair point.  Rupert has lightning fast reflexes and can outrun and outdodge any human alive, but I still didn’t think we should allow the poor little rodent to be dispatched to squirrel heaven because of her momentary lack of good judgment.

“Then run interference,” I cried as the squirrel wiggled out of the water and onto the pool deck.

We proceeded to race about the backyard like lunatics with the squirrel in the lead.  Finally my husband caught Rupert’s backside for half a second, giving the squirrel just enough time to scramble to the top of our lilac bush.

Which brings me to our writer’s word of the week—MORDACIOUS.  It means sarcastic, caustic, or biting.

    The Sheriff

The Sheriff

You’d think the squirrel would have been more appreciative of our help as she drip-dried on the tree, but she felt the need to verbally chastise us for ten minutes with a few mordacious looks thrown in for good measure.  That’s gratitude for you.

Writer’s Word of the Week – Furciferous!

Their answers to the question:  Whose idea was this anyway?

Their answers to the question: Whose idea was this anyway?

It’s ninety degree weather and the last thing I needed to do today was chase Mr. Ninnyhammer (a.k.a. Rupert) and Miss Flibbertigibbet (a.k.a. Winnie) around the hot and very humid neighborhood.

If my dogs weren’t such FURCIFEROUS (rascally, scandalous) little scoundrels I’d let them enjoy their merry romps off leash through the community now and then, but they’re not to be trusted.

I knew they’d escaped when I heard them antagonizing our neighbor’s hens into a frenzied cackling fit.  I jetted outside and followed the hoodlums about demanding that they return home “this instant” while apologizing to numerous neighbors along the way for their shameless doggy shenanigans.

I tried to entice them to come home with hotdogs, but being the culinary connoisseurs that they are, they were too busy helping themselves to a delicious selection from a rank compost pile and strewing their leftover tidbits from one yard to the next.  I finally got my hands on the two nincompoops after they decided to chase a cat into an alley for a little tete-a-tete.

I’m presently lying on the floor panting from heat exhaustion, thinking that I should have let the cat trounce them, while they’re busily slopping water all over the kitchen like it’s their job.

They’re lucky that they are so adorable and that I only have the strength to move my fingers at the moment or I’d banish their hindends to their crates so they could think about their criminal activity.  Besides, incarcerating the little rascals has proven less than effective in the past and I am highly suspicious that they use those timeouts to plan their next great escape anyway.

 

Puerperal – Writer’s Vocabulary Word of the Week | Robin Update

The oldest baby bird already left the nest but I caught the two remaining robins working up the courage to leave their home.

The oldest baby bird already left the nest but I caught the two remaining robins working up the courage to leave their home.

I apologize for not posting about the baby robins in a more timely manner. The little darlings left the nest two weeks ago.

Momma Robin is currently up to her wingtips in a new puerperal insanity and is bringing more straw and dried grasses back to pad the old nest for the new clutch of eggs she intends to lay.

The empty nest!

The empty nest!

It’s time for your handy-dandy writer’s vocabulary word of the day: PUERPERAL.  It is an adjective pertaining to a woman in childbirth or used to describe something pertaining to or connected with childbirth.

Heh, heh, heh!  Good luck trying to work that word into conversation outside of the medical field.  It’s not that easy!

Special shout-out to my Chinese blog followers!  “Ni zenme yang, wode pengyou?”

Writer’s Alter Ego

Beyoncé has alter ego Sasha Fierce and I have Princess Olivia.  No, I don’t have a split personality disorder, thank you very much.

Princess Olivia and African lanner falcon named Zulu

Princess Olivia and African lanner falcon named Zulu

While I’m in my element combing through library stacks, browsing bookstore shelves and investigating every bit of information possible regarding angels and birds of prey, I’m not comfortable conducting research outside of those parameters, thus Princess Olivia was born.

Without her,  I would never have had the courage to take advantage of a wonderful research opportunity which serendipitously presented itself several years ago.

Princess Olivia has more cheek and nerve in the tip of her pinky finger than I do in my entire body. She happily agreed to assist a master falconer for three weeks at a large Renaissance fair, but it was more difficult than even she anticipated.

First, the princess was required to learn the falconer’s vocabulary which included terms such as hoods, jesses, creances, gauntlets, and mews to name just a few and then she worked sunup to sundown weighing, feeding, training, exercising, performing and even rescuing the occasional raptor that had flown the coop via radio telemetry.

It was demanding work and not nearly as glamorous as the princess makes it look.  (Trust me, being trussed into a corset for ten hours a day is enough to make anyone cranky come nightfall.)  Birds of prey demand constant attention and owning just one of them is a full time job.

Thanks to Princess Olivia’s efforts and expertise, one of my favorite characters, a  red-tailed hawk named Simon now lives and flies about in the manuscript of Rafe Ryder and the Well of Wisdom.

Never off duty (although out of costume) Princess Olivia assists in training a young peregrine falcon.

Never off duty (although out of costume) Princess Olivia assists in training a young peregrine falcon.

 I’m curious, what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done to research a subject about which you intend to write?

Ululate – Writer’s Vocabulary Word of the Week | Robin Red Breast Update

This morning, after I finished swinging through the treetops looking for my husband Tarzan, I noticed that Momma Robin had left her nest unattended.  I seized the opportunity to snap a picture of her new babies.  It looks like the one on the right just hatched!  I’m so excited!  Please excuse me while I go beat my chest and give Tarzan an ululating call to tell him the good news!  (Ululate is my writer’s vocabulary word of the day.  It means to howl or wail, in grief or in jubilation.)005

Beating Words into Submission

My writing is very much like my cooking.  Sometimes I make a gourmet meal and score rave reviews from the hubster, and sometimes I flop in such an epic way that even my dogs can’t be tempted to taste my culinary blunders. (Here is Rupert, my five year old Shiba Inu, expressing his disdain for one of my more recent failures.)015

Each new day brings the possibility of a pleasurable writing experience and if the hubster is lucky an edible meal, but I can’t always count on either one of those things happening.

While writing can be effortless at times, experience has taught me that it can just as easily be complicated, if not downright arduous.  More often than not, pesky little things called words get in the way of my writing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I adore words, but words are sometimes mischievous and problematic especially after they have been poured out onto a page.  They enjoy taunting, provoking and confounding me, as well as posing knotty little problems for me to tease apart for hours at a time.

I spend a good portion of my day pushing unruly words around, and coaxing the ones which have gone astray back into line.  I have even been known to give particularly troublesome words a good slap and banish them from a sentence altogether.

By my hand (and red correction pen), words often suffer a cruel, but necessary fate for refusing to acquiesce to my wishes, but I really can’t be blamed.  When I am forced to chase words about a page and beat them into submission, it’s rarely worth the effort to keep them around.

There!  I’ve finally admitted it!  I’m not proud of my abusive behavior towards certain words, but I have found I have to be firm and let them know who is in charge.

FYI, I do not advocate, endorse or participate in violence towards any LIVING creature.  I assure you, I just mistreat words and that’s only if they’ve aggravated me to the point of frustration.

I’d best shut my trap before I dig my hole any deeper, but I find myself wondering if I’m the only writer that takes such a harsh stance with words.  I think not, but I could be wrong.  They say confession is good for the soul and remember people, let he who hath not sinned cast the first stone.

Springtime Procrastination

I am a prolific writer from late fall to early spring, but as soon as the temperature rises to seventy degrees or above, I have an extremely difficult time applying the seat of my pants to the seat of any surface in my house.

Writing, at least for me, is very difficult during the short New England summer.  During this time my concentration and self-discipline are severely impaired and it’s become obvious over the last few years that I may have to consider summering in northern Canada, Siberia or in the worst case scenario, a Russian-manned drifting ice station in the Arctic Circle.

Yesterday I climbed to the top of my roof to wash some skylights which poses absolutely no problems for me in the late fall.  At that time I scramble up the ladder, wash the windows and get back down on the ground like any rational person.   However, the instant I climb to the top of the house in spring, I find myself in the clutches of a reckless irrationality and this year was no exception.

Deep in the throes of my temporary insanity and dangling from the side of the roof, I snapped a picture of my newest neighbor’s home.  Poor Momma Robin seemed horrified to discover that she had built her new home next door to someone so willing to invade her privacy.  Now, I can’t be certain as I don’t speak fluent robin red breast, but I’m pretty sure most of what she screeched at me from another tree cannot be repeated in polite company and the word voyeur may have even been tossed out during one of her more colorful rants. 044

Then I decided to watch part of a little league game, chat with several neighbors who seemed very concerned about my safety, have a refreshing beverage and text a friend from my iPhone.  (It is amazing all the things you can take up to a roof in the pockets of the right sweatshirt.)

Today is another beautiful day.  I’ve decided to write outside until noon and pray for no distractions.  As long as the hubster remembered to put the ladder away, my feet will stay firmly planted on the ground and there is a distinct possibility I might get some writing done—well, that is after I have a cup of tea, balance the checkbook, pay some bills, take the dogs for a walk and clean that light fixture in the bathroom that has been driving me crazy.

What Sets You Apart From Other Writers?

Honestly, I never thought about it until I started writing a blog.  For as much as we writers have in common, we each bring something different and totally unique to the table.  That’s right we’re all special! (God bless us, everyone!)

It’s important to play to your strengths when you write.  Use your natural abilities.  For instance, I have a peculiar brand of snark and quirkiness that I’ve been told makes me somewhat interesting.  (Wow….do I smell a thinly veiled insult or compliment?)

Secondly, I’ve lived long enough to experience the sweetness and beauty that life has to offer, but more than that, I’ve been lucky enough to have faced my fair share of setbacks and misfortunes.  (Lucky to have troubles? Is she insane?  Stay with me people, I promise I haven’t passed quirky and gone straight to stark raving mad.)

There are great advantages to tackling the challenges that life has to offer.  The strength, patience, determination, perspective and wisdom that I possess and enjoy now were born from misery.  Happiness didn’t teach me those things, hardships did.  Learning to understand the inestimable value of emotional pain is essential to the writer who strives to be excellent and it can’t be achieved without some degree of experience.  (So in your face trials and tribulations!  Who’s got the last laugh now?)

My profession as a registered nurse offered me another remarkable benefit.  It was in the service of caring for others that I gained extraordinary insight into human nature and behavior.  To this day that knowledge is indispensable when I’m breathing life into the characters of my stories. (Sorry, no snappy comment to be had on this paragraph.  I’m never flip about my nursing career.)

Finally, I’ve honed my writing skills and I’m passionate about creating literature which not only entertains but inspires young people to read and to think!  I don’t mind hard work, honest critiques, or any necessary revisions that make a manuscript go from good to exceptional.  (However, in my perfect world, I’d be getting paid to do all these things too.)

Now, I patiently await a kiss from destiny as I search for the perfect agent. (And I pray the afore mentioned kiss is planted squarely on the cheek of my face and not the cheek of my butt!)

What sets you apart from other writers?

Jumping into the Blogosphere. Yippee Yi Yo Yikes!

I’m currently suffering what I like to call a yippee yi yo yikes moment.  Come on, you all know what I mean…that thrilling feeling of elation and terror that one gets when experiencing something new for the first time.

Let’s use my current moment as an example.  Yippee yi yo!  I have a website and a blog! Yikes!  I have a website and a blog!  See what I mean?  Yippee yi yo yikes!

At moments like these I like to practice a little positive self-talk and relaxation.  (Breathe L.L., just breathe.  You’ve constructed a platform from which to spring into the writing world.  You’re ready for the challenge and you’re going to be just fine.)

Will people like me and my writing?  At this point who knows?  I certainly don’t.  Yippee yi yo yikes!