29 April 2011

Mah Kitteh iz 5!

Okay, technically he's not 5 till tomorrow, but whatever, we don't post on weekends anymore. Now, I know that a large number of our recent hits have been for Tara's post on the Royal Wedding, which is probably happening as you read this, so if I don't mention Kate, Will, and all the royal partying, we'll probably be missing out on a lot of traffic. Besides, I'm totally pulling an all-nighter to watch it online (since I have all kinds of knitting left to do on this sweater for my best friend's impending offspring, I might as well watch something). And, I gotta admit it, sometimes I get all girly and I want to see the dress!

Ahem. Okay, end of digression. Back to my fabulous feline. So, meet Durwen. Officially his name is "Zanadu Durwen", 'cause that's the breeder I got him from (yeah, the "Z" is on purpose, the "X" spelling was already taken or something), and his middle name is Socks, 'cause he has pretty white feet even if they don't match. Oh, he's a Birman, which is why the matching-feet thing is a big deal. Wanna see him? Here's my boy:

Heh. Oops. That's the Playkitty pose... Right, let me find you a better one. *snicker*

Yeah, that one's much cuter. So, the story of Durwen: Once upon a time, when I was 19 years old, I got permission to move out of the dorms and into my very own apartment. This was a big deal. I immediately contacted a Birman breeder ('cause I'd always wanted one) to reserve a kitten, so that my original kitty-baby, Kiffie (the Fabulous and Awesome!) could have some feline company when we moved into our very own place come August. Fast forward a few months, and by a complete fluke of something (genetics? environment?), every kitten in the litter I had a reservation for turned out with show markings - perfectly matched gloves and laces, Roman noses and unkinked tails. I was willing to shell out $400 for a kitten, but $1500 was just not going to happen. So I got Rullie instead - rescued her from the crazy lady at the garden centre (don't ask...). And heeeeeere's Rullie!

Pretty girl, yeah? Don't let the bitch-face fool you, she's become quite a sweetie in her later years here. So for 8 years it was me and Kiffie and Rullie, three girls all together. When the amazing and wonderful Kiffie-cat passed away of kidney failure, however, I needed a new buddy. Well, actually I cried rivers for weeks and I'm still tearing up as I type this 'cause I miss my girl so much, but Rullie was moping around big time and really, she's the one who needed a new buddy. Wanna see Kiffie? Of course you do.

Wicked super cute, huh? (Don't think she could fit in there now though, there's approximately another thousand books crammed into those cases {no, I'm not exaggerating in the slightest}). Right, so anyway, I did the Great Google Search for Birman breeders within a 10-hour drive from Boston, found one with seal point boys who'd be ready to be adopted in the time frame I needed, and lo and behold, I found myself in southern Ontario one August morning throwing a hand-knitted catnip hackeysack into a pile of kittyboys to see who'd come up with it. Durwen was the winner, so he came home with me - he was quite well-behaved for the first few hours, got him over the border with no problems, and then he decided to cry non-stop for over four hours. I was ready to tear my own ears off by the time I got him back to Boston... Here he is on his first night at home:

And so began a highly rewarding and very fuzzy friendship. He's sometimes the world's biggest lovebug, all super-snuggly and hugs and kisses; sometimes he's the world's biggest PITA, biting my feet or scratching things he's really not supposed to; he's always entertaining though, especially when he dances. Happy birthday, Durwen!

I've just outed myself as the crazy cat lady, haven't I?


28 April 2011

Truly, Madly, Deeply Delusional

The DSM-IV, and psychologists, generally agree that personal beliefs should be evaluated with great respect to complexity of cultural and religious differences since some cultures have widely accepted beliefs that may be considered delusional in other cultures.[3] Specifically, to be a "delusion," a belief must be sustained despite what almost everyone else believes, and not be one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person's culture or subculture (e.g., it is not an article of religious faith). Wikipedia on Delusional disorder
Now listen up! We've been having these Delusional Thursdays for about a year now, here at the Burrow, and guess what? I can't hear you. Speak louder. Oh fugedaboudid! I'll just say it - nobody agrees on what delusional is.

I am a young man and I am convinced that my father isn't the guy in the workshop that everyone thinks is my father. No, my father is really really important and any day he will call for me to come to where he lives. It's (I believe) a wonderful place and he's the king of it all, sort of like what's his name with the combover only instead of goofy daughters, I'm his only son. While I wait for his call, I try to convince people that there is a better way to live. That they can be free if they just share and love and don't blame and steal. And I get pretty weird with it. The dudes that I hang with are giggy with it. They used to think I was truly nuts, delusional in fact, but now, all but one, thinks that it is true what I say. And not only will my Dad call soon for me - he'll have work and a great condo for them too.

I am a young woman who thinks it would be cool to let common folks read these stories that I've heard about. I have only heard certain special people read them aloud in a language that I don't know all that well but way better than most of the people in the land where I live. I have the eye and the heart of the main dude here and I convince him to go against the rest of the guys in the European union so that we can get this happening. Things fall apart pretty fast but I do get my desire - everyone has access to the stories. Well, everyone but me because he calls me a witch and has me eliminated.

I am really smart. I can't help it, I just am. And I know some stuff that makes people crazy. They think I'm delusional - well, not that because the word hasn't been invented - but they think I'm wrong and I'm constantly attacked for my views. Although I end up being the father of physics, I spend my last years confined to house arrest.

I am an officer in the armed forces sent to Rwanda to help 'keep the peace' only no one will listen to me when I say that there is a massive genocide taking place. I am told to keep my head down and keep on pretending that there is a peace to keep. By the time anyone listens hundreds of thousands have been killed.

Well, I'm not going to go on. I'm just saying that delusion - as Wikipedia says - is in the eyes of the community which rules. If you are in the fat centre you don't want anyone upsetting all the goodies with their weird ideas. That's why thinkers and dreamers and inventors are called down by the establishment. No one likes change - not even a wet baby. But we need the change. We need to embrace those visionaries who aren't delusional but get something that others miss. We need to protect the truly uncrazy - the ones who realize that we are all, in fact, in a big delusional dream - a dream that buying more and building more and making more money is what progress is.

Who are the delusionals above? Jesus, Elizabeth the first, Galileo, and Romeo Dallaire.

27 April 2011


Remember last year? About ten months ago, when you first stumbled upon this blog, and realized it was a treasure trove of charming, witty, outstanding, clever, amazing people, posts and pillow fights? Or perhaps you dropped by for the first time last week, noticing nothing but a few stray feathers in dusty corners indicating that even though there might have been pillow fights, none of them took place recently?

Okay, so I don't know how you came across our blog (though a quick look at the stats indicate that it might be because you were looking for info on the upcoming UK Royal wedding. Sorry. Mostly burrowers, books and balderdash here), and it doesn't really matter. My point was that sometime last year, on July 5th to be specific, this blog was born. If interested you can read all about it here. Our very own Tami wrote a most handsome post about it (the very Tami whose post yesterday mentioned that the ABNA Semi-final announcement was coming up, but who didn't get to say [since the actual announcement was later that same day] that SHE PASSED - we now have a Burrow ABNA semi-finalist!!! Congrats, Tami!).

I am digressing. It's a professional hazard (or a requirement, actually. You can hardly be a Digressioneur without digressing, now can you...). But my POINT (there is one) is that in that first post - the very first one on this blog, quite regardless of how or when you found us - in that post Tami mentioned BuNoWriMo.

This may sound like a particularly bad ailment to you. Like a rash, itchy and red and impossible to get rid of once you've caught it. Actually, that isn't entirely wrong...

BuNoWriMo is modeled after the more famous (and infamous) NaNoWriMo - the National Novel Writing Month - that takes place in November each year. Like NaNo, the BuNo is all about writing a novel (or at least 50,000 words of one) in one month. If you've never tried, you might think this sounds impossible. If you have tried, you might know that it is.

And yet. Last year nearly 30,000 people wrote the required amount of words for NaNoWriMo. Clearly it is possible. And yet #2. A considerable amount of the people starting NaNoWriMo never reaches the 50K goal.

I'm sure that many of the participants that give up before the finishing line is in sight do so because of such various reasons as a)they got bored; b)they got hit by writer's block; c)they discovered their lives didn't appreciate being put on hold; d)they ran out of coffee; e)-z)various other reasons we make up because we cannot face realizing what sadly is the truth for some: this novel isn't meant to be written. Ack. Some novels aren't.

But. But-butbut-buuuut, what about the ones that had very valid reasons for not finishing? What about the ones that simply grew to understand that November is a truly sucky month for novel writing? You see, we had some first-hand experience of this in the group. Leanne and myself both work in bookshops. Retail and Christmas-shopping? Yeah, November isn't exactly a quiet month. In addition, several of us were involved in education, whether we were the ones being educated or doing the educating, and again - November is bad for extracurricular activities, since it tends to be when end-of-term stress really takes over.

Thus we decided to try to eliminate one of the many reasons people have for not finishing NaNoWriMo. In our very own WriMo, we wanted to pick a month that suited us better. Thus, our June WriMo, BuNoWriMo was established.

Last year we expected to participate with a few friends. We ended up with more than 100. We discovered that mutual encouragement and peer pressure also works outside of the NaNo framework. Our group on Facebook was a thriving community of writers of all ages and categories. I'm not going to pretend we all reached the finishing line this time either (I, for one, did not), but it was such a rewarding experience, regardless. And several of our participants did reach the goal, and some more than reached it. Our little initiative brought about a quarter million words into novel format last June!

With this immense success, we couldn't not host it again, now could we? Therefore, June 1st, here we go again. Like last year, we will be using Facebook and the designated group BuNoWriMo to spread the word and offer support. More details for how it all will take place will follow later on, but I thought this might be a good time to let you know something is in the works. If you're interested, I encourage you to visit the Facebook group, read the summary post from last year, and start thinking whether this might be for you. I'm not saying that you should start outlining - after all, that is against the purpose of WriMos - but why don't you start asking yourself whether you might be in for some novel writing fun this summer? Perhaps you can start stocking up on coffee already now, and perhaps the seed of a story has been planted in you somewhere. We would love to help you make it grow.

26 April 2011

Prom Primer

(did someone do this last year? Seems they might have, but THIS year, my daughter has been talking to me on it...)

In my world, there are only two topical events yesterday (well, three, if you count that my daughter turned 16 yesterday and is now begging for a car—but that is only HER... I mean mass topical events)

The first is that TODAY is the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semi-final announcement... I have a book up for either the boot or passing on and it's possible I'm a little punchy. If you are remotely interested in reading my excerpt, you can see it here.  You will need a Kindle, but Kindle for the PC is free. And then you need to 'buy' the book for $0.0 (and you may roll your eyes at that. I did).

But the OTHER big news, is PROM!!!

Now Prom is a US phenomenon, so if you are lucky enough to live somewhere else, you may just look at this as an excuse to mock us. But for most American Girls (and by American, I mean United Statesian, because that is how we see it in the US *cough*) there is a coming of age event in high school... it goes something like this:

Daughter wants red (you can buy here)
WHAT is Prom? Basically, it is a formal dance... almost a ball... it is the substitute because we don't do debutante balls (in most parts of the US) and only some subset gets quinceneros (certainly not American mutts like us). So for seniors in high school (and those lucky enough to be their dates) there is a huge-deal fancy, formal wear dance.

WHEN: May, typically, though there are a few schools who edge into April or June. Oddly, this is a BEFORE graduation event.

WHERE: Ah, yes... well this would be the question, eh? It could be anywhere from a fancy ballroom somewhere to the high school gym (where my own was)--it depends on how much money the class putting it on has earned and how they've prioritized their spending. There are competing events like graduation, graduation PARTY, class trip, gift to the school... lot of stuff competing... and not all classes are great fund-RAISERS...

Rent your limo here!
HOW: See, now HERE there is great variety. I didn't have any IDEA how great a variety until I got to a city... there are kids who RENT LIMOUSINES for Pete's sake... My daughter assures me it is a LONG dress affair (I think there was a time in between my youth and now when short but super fancy would pass—daughter says short will pass for homecoming, but NOT prom). There is a nice dinner out... usually a party afterward...

The Tradition: There is LORE about the land that PROM is when one should lose one's virginity. Girls are said to fantasize about this... As your resident Tart, I am here to say THIS IS A BAD IDEA. I'm not some prude who thinks we should all wait until we are married (I think this thinking leads to the DISASTROUS END of early marriage—the STUPIDEST thing someone could do with their life... I think marriage should NEVER happen until you are your full self, which is several years AFTER your highest education... this would mean a PhD delayed sex until near 30—what a WASTE. What I DO think on the matter though, is PROM is surely too early or too late. Translation: No relationship is going to align its timetable with an academic calendar. Sex is a step in a relationship where there should be maturity, trust—that first time is ideally with some level of commitment... those things do NOT line up spring term senior year. So don't plan on this. The date of a dance is a bad reason for this particular step.

However, this is an EXCELLENT device in fiction for explaining some bad YA decision making...

Under no circumstance under creation, though, is Prom ever a good ENDING.  You should NEVER do this.  If you do, we will mock you.

25 April 2011

Brilliant British Mysteries

I know, I know, enough with the alliteration already. Sorry (no, not really). So, we all know about the Queens of the Golden Age, right? Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh... all fantastic, and still wonderfully readable. But who's out there now? Here are some of my favourites, from the old-fashioned to the gritty to the very, very odd (not necessarily in that order, though).

Peculiar Crimes Unit - Christopher Fowler

I think I'll start with the odd, actually. If there's something weird going on, you call - erm, no, not the Ghostbusters, at least not in London. Nope, it's the Peculiar Crimes Unit, a strange and not always entirely official offshoot of Scotland Yard, which handles the woo-woo cases. Nominally in charge are aged (but still mostly effective) detectives Arthur Bryant and John May, with an assortment of colourful and generally quite odd cohorts. And a cat who just might pee in the marijuana. Don't ask, just read.

Maisie Dobbs
- Jacqueline Winspear

Set mainly in the interwar years (with some flashbacks to WWI), this series manages to be a contemporary of both the Golden Age ones referenced above and current works, since it's still being added to (the latest was out in hardcover in mid-March). The eponymous heroine is part detective, part psychologist, and all very, very interesting. These are extremely well-written, with a strong sense of atmosphere (including plenty of thick London fog) and sympathetic characters, from Maisie's assistant Billy, whom she once treated when she was a battlefield nurse in WWI, to her father, a former costermonger now living a fairly comfortable retirement on the grounds of the estate where Maisie used to be a house servant before being caught in the library at 2 AM and, rather than being punished, was sent to school. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Flavia de Luce - Alan Bradley

These books pull off the difficult task of appealing to adults while having a juvenile narrator - namely, 11-year-old poison enthusiast Flavia de Luce (hey Merethe, have you read these?), a precocious and intelligent girl living in a crumbling family manor with her father and two elder sisters. Set in post-WWII Buckinghamshire and full of period detail (but not obnoxiously or anything), this is a series which definitely takes the award for "Best Titles" on this list. There's all sorts of chemical chicanery, as well as sibling rivalry, amazingly bad cooking, and, of course, corpses. There are three books currently available; something in the back of my brain is saying that Bradley's got a 6-book contract (he's actually Canadian, if anyone's keeping track), but who knows where I dug that up.

Adam Dalgliesh - P. D. James

I first discovered these when I was in college - there was a discount bookstore/yarn shop (I know, heaven on earth, right? Except I wasn't knitting then.) at the mall near campus and I'd pop in there several times a month to see what had turned up. Nestled along the back wall were these little pocket-sized paperbacks, and yet, oh, the stories in them! Dalgliesh is a police officer and a poet, and over the years (quite a lot of years - Baroness James is not an annual publisher) has had cases running the gamut from private plastic surgery mishaps (or was it?) to mysterious lawyer killings. Like others on this list, there's a TV version; I think it was an ITV show, haven't seen any though. Bonus points if you can identify the source of the quotation used as the title of the first in the series, shown here - I'll give you a hint, it was also referenced in a Miss Marple mystery!

, Paddy Meehan et al. - Denise Mina

I have this author to thank (or curse) for my desire to walk up Garnet Hill Road in Glasgow - I believe the first block has a 17% grade, and the second is only slightly less wind-stealing at 14%. In any case, the Garnethill trilogy and her series featuring Paddy Meehan are what she's mainly known for, and then there are several standalones. For better or for worse, her hardcovers frequently end up in the bargain section, which means that I can afford them - I think Americans just don't quite GET that Glasgow vibe. Pity, 'cause she's fabulous. Anyway, Garnethill trilogy - psychiatric hospital, sex abuse victims, nasty throat-slashing murder, it just doesn't let up! As I frequently do, I'm just going to stop right there and let you discover the rest on your own.

John Rebus
- Ian Rankin

Okay, I admit it, I've only read the first two in this series - so far. 'Cause the rest are definitely on my list (and not just because I'm addicted to Edinburgh). Rebus is a professional detective, and more in the mold of the classic American "hardboiled" guys than the typical protagonists of these books. (As a completely irrelevant aside, if I'm not mistaken Rankin lives on the same street as both Alexander McCall Smith and J. K. Rowling. I want to live in that neighborhood!) Anyway, Rebus is divorced, drinks too much, has a troubled kid he doesn't see much, and the cases themselves are definitely more in the down-and-dirty category than some of the other more genteel entries on this list (if one can use the word "genteel" to refer to a murder...). Rankin has other novels as well that don't go in this series; I've read a couple more of those and they're thoroughly interesting also. Still addicted to Edinburgh though. ;-) (Oh, and the title of the first one there is a play on "noughts and crosses", which is British for "tic-tac-toe", for those who aren't familiar with it.) There's also a television series, but I haven't seen any (yet) so can't give any kind of opinion on it.

Lynley/Havers - Elizabeth George

This is the series that got me back into reading mysteries after a hiatus of several years (roughly corresponding to the hell that was high school). See, I'd been in a bit of a fender-bender (tire blew out at 50 MPH) and was in massive screaming amounts of pain, and therefore I took myself off to the nearest drug store to procure a heating pad and figured since I was likely to be spending the next several days mainly in bed (did I mention I was staying in a weird run-down rooming house in the middle of effing nowhere?), I should grab a novel or two off the rack. One of them was In the Presence of the Enemy, and I have been a huge Elizabeth George fan ever since (we share a birthday, too). These are big fat dive-in-and-enjoy books, with a strong cast of regular characters and fascinating new additions with each case. They've also been made into TV shows (broadcast on PBS's Mystery in the US), though many of the later episodes are not based on the books at all (ran out of novels, at least at that point); they're not bad (despite some really weird casting) and I'll confess to owning them all on DVD (as well as all the books, of course... several of which are autographed...). Anyway, Scotland Yard, British nobility, house parties and tabloid journalists and race relations and violinists and street gangs - you name it, they cover it.

Charles Lenox - Charles Finch

For some reason, I seem to pack these when I'm heading out on Burrow excursions (I had the first one with me for our UK '08 trip, and the second when I visited Mari and Sarah in DC in '09). Leaving aside the weirdness caused by the main character sharing a name with the author (I can't think of anyone else at the moment who does that, aside from Jane Austen), this is another set being written now but set in earlier times - Victorian, in this case. Lenox is a prime example of the gentleman detective (à la Albert Campion) who at first stumbles into cases almost accidentally and eventually gets called in on purpose. For those keeping score, Finch is an American who went to Oxford. Especially in some of the later ones, the mystery seems almost incidental to the story and character development, but it is there and so far he's fooled me every time.

Now, originally I had a few more on here, but as usual I have gone on forever and I need to let you get back to work or breakfast or whatever it is you were doing before you clicked over here - but I hope you'll give at least a few of these a try!

22 April 2011

Who Am I? Let's start with my name....

I blog as 'Rayna', but almost all of you know that my 'real' name is Natasha. And if there are any of you who know me only as 'Rayna', but care enough to know my 'real' name, 'Natasha' is the name on my birth certificate and the birth certificates of both my kids, so that's as much 'My Real Name' as anything is likely to get.

How and why I became 'Rayna' is a long story. When I started blogging nearly three years back, I saw no reason to not use my 'real' name. I used to post on this public forum, but because nobody ever commented, I presumed I didn't have an audience, and said it as I saw it. Unfortunately (or fortunately), mine is a unique combination of 'first name' and 'surname'- if you google my name, every single hit you get is me- so if anyone looked me up on the internet, it wouldn't have taken them too much time to get to my blog. And a few people I knew professionally did just that. One in particular, creeped me out- it was a person I was working rather closely with, and without once letting me know he was doing so, he was stalking my blog, and using my blog posts to guage my "state of mind" (which was apparently too buoyant, considering the thing we were working on wasn't going well).
That did it- I decided to go underground! 'Rayna' was what I intended calling my first-born, and 'Iyer' would have been my surname if not for the fact that people in my part of the country use their father's first name as their surname. For two years, I was 'Rayna Iyer' on blog-sphere, and it got to a point where I used to be surprised if people called me anything but 'Rayna' anywhere on the Internet.
And then I started blogging once a month on my organization's blog, and being the lazy person that I am started linking my blog to that when I did not feel like writing a post of my own. The boundaries blurred, and I decided to bring my 'real' name back into my 'blog' name.
Well, that's who I am on blog-sphere.

But real life is quite another story. I really don't know which of my friends first started calling me 'Nutty', but 'Nutty' is what I was through high school and college. It got to a point when even my teachers started calling me Nutty, because that seemed to be the only name I ever responded to. To most people, the name was supremely ironic- what was an honours student, with serious passtimes like debating and quizzing doing with a name like ' Nutty'? But the few people who did know me well knew it suited me just fine- the outer shell of 'respectability' hid an inner core of sheer Thursdayness*.

When I started working, things changed. No investment banker could let herself be called 'Nutty' and expect to be taken seriously. I became 'Natasha'. And the name became such an integral part of my identity that even people I met outside work knew me only as 'Natasha'. There were times when worlds would collide- when people who had known me as 'Nutty' encountered 'Natasha', but gradually they managed to sort themselves out. The 'new improved me' was Natasha, even when she was being silly.

Other names were offered up. 'Mrs. Father-in-law' was one that I rejected that outright. Mrs. Father-in-law' was my mother-in-law- it was not me. The main reason I clung to my maiden surname was because I did not want anyone to refer to me as my mother-in-law, even by mistake (Mrs. Father was what I sometimes got called, and more often the husband was referred to as Mr. Father, but those were easier to live with).

'Thing One's mother', 'Thing Two's mother' and 'Thing One and Two's mother' were three others that I was happy to embrace. I was called those names by people who primarily knew me as the mother of my kids, and  I couldn't care too much what they called me, since none of them really knew the real me.

More recently, I have had a spurt of people calling me 'Nat'. These are people I know, but who primarily interact with over Facebook. When we meet, they call me by name if they call me anything at all, but online 'Nat' seems the preferred diminutive. And for some strange reason, I react as adversely to 'Nat' as I do to 'Mrs. Father-in-law'. I may be funny that way, but to me, 'Nat' is the name of a sophisticated ingénue. 'Nat' is calm, classy, confident, wears little black dresses and charms snails out their shells. 'Nat' is not a person who habitually rushes out of the house without remembering to comb her hair.

It should not be, but it is near impossible to get people to stop calling me 'Nat' and to start calling me 'Nuts'/ 'Nutty'. And that's my new measure of people- those who tell me that Natasha I shall be are the ones who make the grade to friendship!

* for people who do not know what Thursdayness means, please refer to either Hart Johnson, or Delusional Thursday.

Picture credits:
Pen name
Sophisticated ingenue

21 April 2011

Quiddity of M.J. Nicholls

The Burrowers are a friendly lot, for the most part, and we have made MANY fabulous bloggy friends, but it is always delightful to find someone several of us have stumbled upon independently, though in this case, it's possible I was following Cruella around (she's hipper than me). Whatever the case, Mark is one of those who seems to have won each of us over individually, and for his Quiddity, which if you follow Jan's Blog, you learned just yesterday is like that extra UMPH in eccentricity. Mark's take on the world is delightfully self-deprecating, alternately sarcastic and wise, and Mark is a SCOT! (it's a little-known fact that we Burrowers are trying to collect Scots.)

Mark writes novels, but in the process, has had prolific success publishing short stories. They are unerringly amusing, sometimes bizarre, but in a way that makes you chuckle to know there are people more wacky out there than EVEN YOU (I might be projecting). At other times you laugh at the blatant beam of light shined on the innermost insecurities of us all. Mark is fearless (and fabulous—and because I know him, he is alternately blushing and trying to talk a lovely young woman into bed over such praise).

Whatever the case, Mark's Blog title, The Quiddity of Delusions makes him a PERFECT candidate for a Delusional Thursday guest! Without further ado (or I suppose you may add as much ado as you like), Welcome, Mark!

March of the Malformed Nazi Lepers

M.J. Nicholls

I sat down to write this post on delusions. I was ready to discuss how black is white, chalk is cheese, then I realised something – I have no delusions. I am a stubborn realist prone to exaggeration. I know that terrible things occur on a frequent basis to nice people, and when these things happen to me, they are the worst things to ever befall me-kind. Dying of starvation in shop doorway? That’s nothing: I HAVE ULCERS! LOOK, THEY’RE BULBOUS AND SORE! OW OW OW OW! HERE, HAVE A BUN.

So the delusions I have are ones of exaggerated suffering. I bloat things up until they’re pufferfishlike, distorted and spiky, likely to cause a nasty existential splinter. Let me run through the main offenders.

  1. Communication
I have constant phone paranoia. There are only two reasons people phone: they want something from you, or someone has died. The first category contains such people as gas and water and council grownups who want money. They want to talk to me about my bill, how I actually owe them an extra £100,000. Did I not read the small print? Do I have a good lawyer? Well, DO I? People only phone when there are problems. How much nicer to receive a call that says: “Well done for paying your bills on time, Mr. Nicholls. What a punctual payer you are! My, you are a furry sex mongrel in those trews!”

Then there’s the death calls. Brr-ing brr-ing. Your mother’s dead. Come on! Why can’t people email me death notices? Maybe with a Jpeg of a funny kitteh to cushion the blow? Wouldn’t life be easier if we balanced the shit with the cute? For example: there’s a tornado heading your way. But look at this ickle puppy in a hammock! Aww! Or: I’m afraid it’s cancer. But isn’t this singing cat adorable? How do they get him to do that? Aww.

I don’t want people to phone me, mail me, talk to me. Speak to me via email, and you’d better attach a funny limerick if you’re sending me a typhoon of shit-to-deal-with.

  1. Writing Careers
Some might say forging a ‘career’ in print is a delusion. But I can’t subscribe to this view. See, it keeps me sane. It stops me strangling my neighbours and weeing on their baubles. I am furious, absolutely furious, at how sparse opportunities are for writers. FURIOUS. Every day, I wake up to the fact working at Sloppy McBurger is a wiser fiscal move than writing. Writers are treated like malformed Nazi lepers on a daily basis by swaggering cocks with MA Media degrees, semi-literate cash-slurpers and loving partners. In no other walk of life are people expected to work on the sly, to steal time, to sacrifice so much. You wouldn’t get a Starbucks server working as Professor of Latin in his spare time, would you? Or a Subway sandwich monkey moonlighting as Prime Minister? We should be given GRANTS and MONEY and SUPPORT and HOUSES from our snob-mob leaders, we should be given RESPECT and BARRELS OF LOVE. Wow. This really is delusional.

Our craft is not properly rewarded. We toil for years on our first novels, funnelling thousands into MAs and tutors and PhDs, then after years teabagging agents and secretaries, we get published by Fat Sparrow Books in Nowhere, Georgia. Then our books get reviewed by some illiterate chimp on Goodreads, that big One Star hanging over our books, and those little words: “I couldn’t really get into it. I couldn’t really get into it.” YOU COULDN’T GET INTO IT? DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I’VE SUFFERED!? YOU LITTLE FU—

At least in Subway, you make a sandwich, make a sale, have a happy eater. It takes twenty seconds. At home, you spend weeks on a story, weeks re-writing it, then send it out to tiny e-zines. Months later, when you’re living in a ditch in Berlin, a publisher sends you an email saying: “Liked it. Will publish.” Then you’re in a magazine no one reads, being read by nobody, your words fading into nothing. It’s a wonder we bother at all. When I think of giving up, I remember the alternative: there is no alternative. This is what I’m good at. I can make a good omelette, but mainly writing is what I do. Yes, I’m screwed. Would you like onions on your sandwich, sir?

  1. Humans
With two notable exceptions—Joanna Lumley and Anna Ford—all human beings are wrong and should be stopped. I propose a national Let’s Die Inside day, where everyone downgrades themselves completely, ripping their character to shreds, breaking down in tears. I do it every morning. It’s very therapeutic and gives you great self-assurance. The ones who can’t complete the exercise will be exterminated for being arrogant egotistic twerpsicles who don’t deserve the boats of oxygen they steal from the neurotic.

There is no reason to be a self-possessed, confident and sassy individual. There is no reason to wear smart clothes and make clever quips and listen to Razorlight on your iPod nano. You are a monkey if you think otherwise, and you will be stoned summarily. It’s only through our begrudging tolerance of each other that we remain peaceful. Remember, it doesn’t take much to mutter those five little words: I hate you. Go away.

[Thank you Mark! That was fabulous!]

20 April 2011

Short and Sweet

It might seem a little odd (considering that I am desperately trying to make my manuscript a few thousand words longer), but my 'tip' for this week's Writing Wednesday post is to keep things short. Trim, check, cut some more, check again, then give a final trim in fact. Why? Because it seems to me that everyone is in a hurry these days, and if you waffle on for longer than three seconds, you are going to lose your audience.

OK, as someone who is prone to rambling, this seems to be a case of 'do as I say' rather than 'do as I do', but that doesn't mean the advice is pointless. I have reached this conclusion via two separate avenues.

The Possibly Overly Mentioned April A-Z Challenge.

Yes, I succumbed. But I had a cunning plan, oh yes I did. *nods* Not known for regular blogging, I needed to make sure I had a plan of some sort, and this plan turned out to be limericks. Five little lines based on the letter of the day. Definitely one of my finer moments. Bite-sized blog posts which take minutes to write, and even less time to read. The shortness of the posts have made it easier for fellow challengers to read and leave comments. When faced with the daunting task of reading as many blogs as you possibly can every day for a month, it is the shorter posts that will attract you. I can honestly say that I have never received so many comments as I have since this challenge started, and I've almost doubled my followers. Definitely a case of short being very sweet indeed.

Then we have...

The Universally Hated Query Letter.

I've been thinking about my query letter for some time now, but, true to my procrastinating ways, kept putting it off. Now that I'm finally working hard to edit and polish my manuscript, however, I can't really put it off any longer. Again, this is another of those 'the shorter, the better' kind of situations. Your query needs to be clear, catchy, and most importantly, concise (Ooh, I used alliteration without meaning to!). I know this is true, because I've read variations of this sentence on about a gazillion blogs (maybe a slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean).

So do we take this 'shorter is better' attitude when it comes to our novels? I mostly think 'yes'. True, there are certain genres that lend themselves very well to, for want of a better term, the long-winded style of writing, but we could all do with learning the talent of trimming what we don't need. My natural tendency to waffle and ramble is at odds with my inclination to write a story in as few words as possible, so I think I definitely over-compensate. But, if I could just find the right balance, I think I might manage this publishing a book thing after all...

Image borrowed from here.

19 April 2011

Shot Heard 'Round the World

So for those of you who are up on your American history, you already know that it was on this date that the opening shots of the American Revolution were fired - you know, Lexington, Concord, midnight ride and all that jazz. Officially, that makes this the state holiday known as Patriot's Day. Of course, it just wouldn't do to have a holiday on a Tuesday - no long weekend! The horror! So it was observed yesterday instead, along with another long-standing Bay State tradition, also involving a gun - actually, make that a starter's pistol. That's right, time once again for Marathon Monday here in Boston.

Don't be getting any ideas though - I didn't run it, and likely never will (I managed about two miles last night before getting distracted by some friendly terriers who liked the way I smelled... or something), but I'm an enthusiastic spectator, along with about 500,000 other folks. After all, with 26+ miles of course to stand along, you can pack in a really big cheering section!

So, a little more history, this time race-specific. This year marked the 115th running of the Boston Marathon - it's the oldest annual marathon in the world, started in 1897 (after the first Olympic Games in 1896). For those in the know, just qualifying for it is a huge accomplishment - you can't just sign up for this one, you have to prove you can run the thing fast enough that you won't still be bumbling along the course when it gets dark. Of course, there are those that do fundraising for various charities and win a spot that way; and then there are the bandits, runners who aren't registered and don't get an official number but jump in along the way (some of them in outlandish costumes designed to get attention from the crowd - I kid you not, I saw a guy in a lobster suit one year). For those runners with really good qualifying times - like, have-a-shot-to-win-it times - there are the Elite categories, who get to start at the front of the pack (in the case of the women, about a half hour earlier) so they don't have to shove through everyone else. Oh, but I shouldn't forget that not everyone is running - there's a sizable wheelchair category too, most of whom are self-propelled, but then there are the Hoyts. You may have heard of them; Dick and Rick Hoyt are a father-son team, and Dick pushes son Rick's wheelchair (he has cerebral palsy) - frequently beating most of the "regular" runners, who aren't pushing a full-grown man in a chair! Talk about inspirational.

Anyway, I also wanted to mention a couple of friends while I'm at it today. First off, happy birthday to my college roommate, Emi, who is the world's biggest sweetheart and a damn good violinist too - just wish she lived closer than Switzerland so we could see each other more often! And another violinist, my old friend Margaret, who not only ran the Boston Marathon but did it from the Elite Women's group, finished 31st, and had a time of 3:04:02 - but not this year. She ran that time in 2004, the year she died attempting approximately the same distance, except across the Grand Canyon. So I miss them both today, for different reasons.

Emi (far left) with students

Margaret (right) after a race

Oh, you probably want to know who won the Marathon yesterday, huh? Geoffrey Mutai set a new record of 2:03:02 for the men, while the women's winner was Caroline Kilel. No surprises that they're both from Kenya (that place turns out serious runners!). For the wheelchairs, Masazumi Soejima took men's honours, while countrywoman Wakako Tsuchida won her 5th straight title - and goodness knows the Japanese could use something to celebrate, so good on them! But hey, the race is on Patriot's Day (errrm... observed), so it might be nice if an American won it once in a while. Got fairly close this year, 2nd place woman, 4th place man... well, there's always next April!

18 April 2011

Reading Monday - do you re-read?

As you are reading this I am whizzing through the air from one coast to another. Or I'm home and lying down recovering from this. Either way, there is something you can depend on - I will be reading. The thought of being 'out of a book' strikes terror deep in my heart. Luckily, unlike some of my friends, I am a happy re-reader. I will read books again and again. It has to be the 'right' time though. If I'm unhappy in book land then I scour the shelves and come across an old favourite - recently it was a book I've read about four or five times. It had been awhile and I was ready to leap into visiting my friends again. As I've explained to those of you who don't re-read, I don't get bored with hearing the story again, just as I don't get bored with hearing your stories again. I know, I know, you tell it slightly differently each time and my life is different so I hear it in a new way BUT my dears, the same thing happens when I re-read a book. Sure the writing is the same but I notice different elements of the story based on my own experiences and state of mind. Reading isn't a passive act. Not to go all po-mo on you - we're part of the equation of the literary experience.

a very young Margaret Drabble

The book I was reading was Margaret Drabble's The Radiant Way. Having devoured this wonderfully rich story of life in Britain during the Thatcher years (shudder), I went on to read the other two in the trilogy - A Natural Curiosity and The Gates of Ivory. All of Drabble's books are brilliant. She has a Dickensian way about her and can write stream of consciousness (as he could) without it being the least bit irritating. And she describes women's friendships in an acceptable way to me. I think she actually has female friends and has had babies and struggles and poverty and all - it is real. This is Drabble in her middle years writing about that time. For those of you who haven't read Drabble, you might start with her earlier books - I particularly like The Waterfall and The Millstone but as I say - I haven't read any that I don't like. Wait, there is one - a more recent one called The Red Queen which didn't grab me. But 16 out of 17 is pretty good! I envy those of you who haven't read her as you'll have this rich resource of books and not need to be 'out of a book' for simply ages. These books are usually in libraries. Dive in, have fun and let me know what you think.
And tell me - do you re-read?

15 April 2011

Small Town Blues

I have better pictures, taken in better light, of prettier motifs. But this one
reflects how I currently feel about this place. Crooked, bleak and ugly. 
No leaves. A passing car. Out of focus. Remnants of 60s architectural 
catastrophes mixed with once-grand buildings. 
I was born and raised in a small town, but it's been a while since I've been a small town girl. I've since gotten used to the comforts of a larger city - everything from coffee shops, cultural activities, public transportation and shopping; to the fact that you can go outdoors without having to expect to know everyone you meet - are perks of living in a city. Especially Tokyo spoiled me. The clean, efficient, exciting, huge-yet-local, multi-leveled, never-closed, mega-city has everything. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Tokyo is probably - objectively speaking - the greatest city I have ever visited, and I'd be willing to claim it's also one of the greatest cities on this planet.

Thus coming back to my dozy hometown was a cultural shock in reverse.

Ugly tree, blocking an ugly view. 
Everything is too familiar. Everyone is too familiar. The few people I don't know, annoy me, in the same silly way it bothers me that I do know everyone else. It's too tight, too small, too close. I feel claustrophobic. Even the really good things about a small town - this small town - make me cringe. Local patriotism, enthusiasm, idealism, community spirit - I want nothing of it. Sitting in the audience for a local cultural event I feel a latent touch of Tourette arise in me. I have an urge to shout profanities at my fellow citizens, for being there, for talking giddily, for having the indecency to drink cheap wine and enjoy it when there is a whole world out there that is more, more, incredibly more. But I don't do it. Because I don't have Tourette syndrome; only a bad day.

Bridge. Connecting bleak with ugly since 1949. 
Ironically, the shock of finding myself in a small town has triggered a mild form of social angst. I don't want to meet these people. They are people I know. But they are strangers. I don't know them well - with the exception of a few family members - almost everyone I know know have left this place. Those that remain are more or less distant acquaintances, or they have become so after years of me growing out of this town, and them growing into it. People my age that stayed behind - I try not to look down on them, but I do. And I loathe myself for doing so. When I'm away I can control it; I don't think of them, of the town. But when I spend time here I remember. I'm glad it isn't me. Sad that I feel that way. And scared to realize that now - temporarily, I tell myself - it is me. I'm one of them. Even if it's only for a short period of time.

As cultural shocks are wont to do, it will wear off. I will remember why I survived - and for the most part liked - living here for 18 years. I will move on: the second I land a job I'm off. I will go back to view my hometown with ironic distance; a fondness born out of years of having had to deal with benefits and disadvantages of small town life, and then years escaping it. I've become a city girl.

This is a rather transparent attempt of adding the compulsory "positive" at the end of an otherwise negative post. 

14 April 2011

Dear Future Mr. Moneybags

Sassy, entertaining tart obsessed with writing seeks Philanthropist, Investor or Sugar Daddy*

* When I say Sugar Daddy, you need to understand this is an honorary title, like the PhDs imparted to politicians and nobility at graduations across the country about a month from now... you get to flaunt the title, but really, it is for MY benefit...

Requirements: Ability to send large checks, preferably about ten grand a month (I need to pay off some debt and I'd really like to go to some conferences, hire a web designer... and take my kids on a vacation... you see, they've never been to Disney World, so this isn't all that unreasonable...

What you get in return: A warm, good feeling that you are helping an author achieve her dreams! And I promise to THANK YOU in every book (and on my blog and website! That is publicity!). And if you can talk my husband into it and are either particularly attractive, bad boy sexy, unnaturally bendy or can make me laugh so hard I cry, we can discuss a little physical somethin somethin on the side...

What I will Do When I have a Benefactor

WRITE: I promise I will dedicate at least 3 hours to writing and 2 hours to promotion every day, in addition to my hour of blog-writing and hour of PLAY promotion (ie, Facebook, Twitter)

Exercise: I will work out 90 minutes daily in the gym membership YOU will provide! Sometimes I will do a class (aerobics or something) sometimes I will power walk and then do weights, sometimes I will swim... good to mix it up a bit. But with YOUR investment, I will look GOOD!

Eating: I will eat more fruits and veggies. I will eat organic... I will even hire a chef for 3 nights a week to give my hubby a break so that he is more content cooking healthy stuff!

Research: I will be able to GO PLACES to do research! This will make my books even better!

So if you are seeking an artist to support, I'm your girl!

13 April 2011


On my personal blog today, I shared information about a group writing commitment, A Round of Words in 80 days. It is about defining our own goals in a way that keeps us balanced, but still achieving our goals. This event theoretically started 9 days ago (and ends on my birthday, June 23rd—YAY!), but I didn't learn of it until yesterday. I figure though, if we go to the end of June, that is close enough and coincides nicely with our own Burrow event (more soon)

The goals I set were these:

1)  finish 1st draft of 2nd Cozy Mystery (I am maybe half way)
2)  line edits and editor requested changes for first cozy mystery (this is a one week edit, then one week read through)
3)  REVISE (one of two) Legacy if Kahlotus stays in ABNA, Kahlotus if it doesn't
4)  Write a fresh first draft during BuNoWriMo (Burrow's WriMo in June which you will all be invited to take part in)

But I thought HERE, on Writing Wednesday, I would expand these goals into the actionables of how I plan to accomplish them.

For chronicity, lets just switch goals 1 and 2, because I am going to do #2 first. It is most manageable and I have a specific deadline on it.

Goal #2—Perfect Garden Cozy #1

Step 1: go through line edits from editor. This is a 5-day job, mostly a matter of accepting her suggestions. I will begin this tonight and go through Sunday.
Step 2: There were three points my editor asked me to tweak in a bigger way. I figure these are a day per change, as they require some actual rewriting.
Step 3: Read the whole MS to make sure any changes that had ripple effects get smoothed (one week)

Total: 15 days, so I will be done April 28th.

Goal #1: Finish writing 2nd Gardening Cozy

I am about 40,000 words in (half way). I can continue writing like I am now for the first five days (so 5000 words), then need the writing break for 3 days, then can get back to it again... 35,000 words in 3.5 weeks is 10,000 a week which means I need to increase my pace, but if I pretend it's a WriMo, it can be done.

Goal, done by mid May

Goal #3: For the sake of delusions, lets assume I keep going in ABNA with Kahlotus, so Legacy is my editing project. I have a reader with it right now who has given some FABULOUS, but sort of big feedback. She notes my 13 year old MC sometimes seems too mature. Now I have justified her behavior because I KNEW a girl with a mess of a mom who really did step up and act mature at 13, but I am going to alter some of the internal dialog so it is clearer part of this is an act or control issues that become ingrained because the OTHER person certainly isn't controlling anything. The second piece is that while my tension events keep ramping, they often come all the way back down... I have written successively bigger hills, when what I should have written is climbing a mountain... up, down less, up, down less, big up, little down... you get the picture...

I can begin a reading and marking while I am still doing the Cozy, then when the Cozy is done, I will begin to change the story,

I want this done by the end of May.

Goal #4: Write a book during BuNoWriMo

Step 1: Define BuNoWriMo for Y'all... Last year the Burrow, with our couple teachers for whom November is bad, and our nut (me) who thinks twice a year is better than once, decided to host a WriMo in June. We did it on Facebook, made badges and all... and had 108 people who participated. (I know, right?)--we were stunned and thrilled, and plan to do it again this year.

Now I've done 3 WriMos and won them all. I don't have any doubts on this front. But I DO need to see which book is nagging at me... I have a YA one I am thrilled with the idea on, but I also have a Sassy mystery (like a Cozy but more naked—yes, I made that up, though I've read one—Kerry Greenwood and her sometimes dominatrix MC)... I really want to write both this year, but I will need to see which feels closer to my heart in June.

So there you have it... my own personal breakdown *shifty*

12 April 2011

Topical Tuesday

In a Burrow full of scatty people, I must be the most scatty. For some strange reason, I thought I was doing Reading Monday this week, and since I didn't have any fresh ideas, I was planning to review Nick Kristoff's 'Half the Sky'. Turned out my calculations were wrong- it was not a Reading Monday, but a Topical Tuesday post that I was supposed to do this week. So I decided to post what I was intending for yesterday today, since it is equally relevant as a "Topical" topic.

To be absolutely honest, I picked up the book, because my boss asked me to read it. I did so against my will, because I have never had much patience with people who advocate woman's rights while employing young girls to mind their own kids. I realised the need for empowering girls, but thought education and economic independence were the way to go about it. I genuinely believed that if we could keep girls in school, many of our problems would automatically get solved in a generation.

When I got the book, the cover nearly put me off. It was sprinkled with quotes by Angelina Jolie, George Clooney and Khaled Hosseini; did the author really need so many celebs promoting his book? Couldn't the book stand on its own merit, presuming it had any?

But then Melinda Gates was mentioned as saying "Both a brutal awakening and an unmistakable call to action, this book should be read by all.", and she is a lady I admire a lot. I overcame my objections, picked a chapter at random, and started reading.

After just 15 minutes, I put it down. I. Just. Could. Not. Go. On. The book was too real. How could the author speak so unemotionally about female candidates wearing extra pairs of stockings, so they could delay if not deter the rape that their political opponents would order to 'teach them a lesson'? Could those statistics on the number of girls having their first initiation to sex through abuse be true? Were areas so unsafe that women would actually wear a tampon-like attachment that would function like a zipper if they were sexually assaulted? Were there areas where women went into the forest to fetch sticks to burn, knowing they would be mass raped if seen (they prefer not to send the men, because the men would be killed, while they are "only" sexually assaulted)? Could the punishment for relatively minor transgressions ever be the ritual rape of unmarried relatives? What was the mysterious value of a woman's hymen that everyone seemed to want a share of it?

It took me over a week to read the book. A month after finishing it, I am still trying to digest it. And I am not sure I will ever come to terms with it.

But a month later, I can honestly say that though I was not even aware of the magnitude of the problem, the solution remains the same - educate and empower girls and women. Because when a woman is educated, she can assert herself more, and when a woman is economically empowered, the money goes doesn't get spent on drink and other women.

Join the movement!

11 April 2011

Reading Monday: Book Recommendations

This post is somewhat ADD (attention deficit disorder) since I have been pulled into so many directions lately. My thoughts are truly scattered this evening. I have to find a balance or my schedule is going to kill me. :D

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

I am currently rereading this series in anticipation of reading the entire series. My daughter, Ayanna, recommended them to me after I was complaining that I needed something to read that wouldn't require much metacognitive contemplation on the mysteries of life. I have too much going on right now and I took the advice of a fellow Burrower, Jan Morrison, to read something light and enjoyable.

So the book is about a group of children who were part of an experiment to create little mini-superheroes. However, "The School" that created them wants back one of its wards, Angel, and sends a task force of werewolf mutant kids, Erasers, to retrieve her. The leader of the flock (yes, they have wings) is Max and she devises a plan to save Angel and discover who is the individual behind this atrocity. I don't know why I thought she was a boy, the misleading name perhaps!

The novel is full of action and intrigue. Every chapter brings more questions and hooks you from the prologue. I highly recommend this book for ages 9- adulthood.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

My co-teacher and I decided to to use this novel as one of our units of study for ELA. Our theme is struggle, strength and perseverance. The students will explore each character and analyze their various roles throughout this exemplary literary work.

I love this book. It is raw, complex and inspiring. The story takes place in the early 1900's in a small, rural town. Celie, the protagonist, is abused and mistreated as a child and pre-teen. Her life is filled with strife and suffering. We see Celie transform throughout the novel into a woman of strength. The story is bittersweet and sent me on the emotional roller coaster of a life time. If you have already read this novel, maybe it's time to dust it off and read it again. :D

On a side note, please check out The Burrow's April Feature!

Image 1

Image 2

08 April 2011

Personality Split

I've left it almost to the last minute again, but here I am dutifully typing my 'Who Am I?' post for today's blog. My previous blogs on this subject have been, well, wacky, I suppose you could say. This is as it should be because I'm generally a wacky person - well, my internet persona is wacky at any rate. In real life, unless you know me well, I am quiet, shy, and can come across as being stuck up. Once you do know me, however, my Inner Nuttiness usually comes out to play.

Anyway, despite my inclination to be a bit silly, I can also swing to the complete opposite and be very serious when I need to be. We all suffer ups and downs in our lives, and the things that happen to us shape who we are. I think my tendency to silliness is probably just a type of coping mechanism which comes into force to help me forget the icky parts of life.

It probably gets a bit confusing to the people in my life. I think my internet buddies expect something crazy from me, so when I occasionally spring something serious on them, it probably knocks them back. I'm currently doing the A-Z challenge on my main blog, and I decided to blog with a theme for the entire month. I chose limericks, and the very nature of them means that they will mostly be silly little ditties. Any new followers that have joined me will no doubt expect fun and frolics whenever they stop by for a visit. They will get this, no question - it is me, after all - but something serious will pop up sooner or later and they may suspect that there is an impostor taking over my blog.

In real life, I surprise a lot of people. I like a giggle as much as the next person, but I'm usually known to be a reliable, steady person who knows what she is doing and is sensible into the bargain. So when I have a 'Mad Moment', it certainly shakes people's opinions of me.

So who am I? Am I a staid, reliable woman with her head screwed on straight? Or am I a complete wack-job who's a few sandwiches short of a picnic? I'm neither, yet I'm both. The lovely thing with blogging - and the internet in general - is that the whole experience sort of frees you from embarrassment. I can get away with saying almost anything, and even if people laugh AT me rather than WITH me, it doesn't matter. If I said half the things in real life that I say on my blog posts, then I suspect I would be carted off in a straitjacket.

This is why I love blogging. And although my internet persona is an extreme version of me, it is still me, and I love that I get to be as silly as I want to be.

Does anyone else have the same kind of deal going on? I'm curious to know if I am in the minority when it comes to having split personalities.

Crazy Frog image permission.

07 April 2011

Birthday BS

So I've got this roommate, right? (Well, actually I've got two of them, but whatever.) And it's her birthday today. So the other roomie and I (see, this is where she enters the picture) were clearly having some sort of mind meld and we both decided to give her Doctor Who-related gifts ('cause she likes that sort of thing). (Yes, I know "mind meld" is a Star Trek reference, not Doctor Who; I'm a TV idiot, but I've managed to pick up a little bit.)

Anyway, I am pretty freakin' broke right about now, so the only presents I've been giving for quite a while are the ones I can make myself from stuff I already have in the house. Mainly, this means I'm doing a lot of knitting, sewing and cooking. However, this strange Aussie chick called Briony (about whom you may have read right here on this very blog...) posted a knitting pattern on my Facebook several months ago which was entitled "Extermaknit". If you know anything about Doctor Who, you know where this is going. Uh huh. That's right. I knitted a Dalek.

I must admit that some of it was rather amusing - it's not every day that your pattern has headings like "eyestalk" or additional instructions like "you can also stiffen it [the arm] with wire if necessary, as long as the recipient is old/human enough not to poke his/her/its eyes out with it." The bobbles (which I am reliably informed are called "Dalek bumps") were kind of a drag though, they take forever. Still, I have made this thing, despite having only seen a handful of episodes myself (I'd probably love it, honestly, but I really don't need another obsession right now). Oh, you'd probably like to see it, huh?

Yeah, sorry about that... camera issues. You'll just have to take my word for it. And that, I suppose, is the most delusional thing about this post. No wait, I lied - I forgot to tell you what the other present is. It's a Sonic Screwdriver.

Call me crazy, but it really looks like a - erm - we're supposed to be more or less family-friendly 'round here, aren't we? Well, if you're hanging around us, you can tell exactly what I'm thinking right now and probably giggling at the inherent bad pun. Screwdriver? Really? Hoo boy...

Images: Wikipedia, Wikipedia

06 April 2011

Writing on Wednesdays

Oh man oh man, I'm blogging too much. I'm doing this A to Zed challenge, which is a hoot, and I'm blogging on my other blogs about Rumi and chickens and knitting and, of course, here, at the Burrow. Today I'm writing about writing. I thought I might tell you all why I blog in terms of my writing. Weird but true. I blog to write, I write to blog. Blogging keeps me away from my WIP maybe, but it doesn't keep me away from my writing. I know, I know, people say it does but it doesn't. It would be like saying that cleaning the top of my cupboards (which I'm also doing today - hateful task) keeps me away from housecleaning. No, it keeps me away from cleaning the bathroom but not housekeeping.
My writing has improved a great deal since I started blogging. After about 600 posts (500 at my main site and a bunch more elsewhere) I think I can safely say that my writing has improved. And it spills into my 'real writing'. Yes, it does.
I get instant feedback from savvy readers on what constitutes a good blog post and I can tell you, the writing has much to do with it. For instance, I nearly wrote 'alot' to do with it but I know that word is a no-no, or funny, or something - and I know it from blogging. I have honed my skills to use other better words, different words, unusual or unexpected words BECAUSE I don't want every blog to sound like one after another of cliches. And it is the daily practice which tells me this.
So, complain if you like about how blogging is taking you away from your important writing - even if you only do this to yourself or your cat, but ask yourself this. Why do I blog then? Because you do if you're here. You do.

05 April 2011

Tropical Tuesday

Did you miss me? I bet not. I’ve been hiatusing from this blog since I like to do so whenever I fear that my dependability might be compromised. Like last month, when an earthquake hit the country I was currently residing in. You may have heard of it. I think it sorta made the news.

Anyway, I’m back now. Both here, and, uhm, here. “Here” being used to describe both my current physical location (Norway) and my current online location (Burrowers, Books & Balderdash – which is also your current online location, since you’re reading this. Clever, huh?). I left Japan in a flurry, and I wasn’t sure how why if when what would happen. Thus, being committed to serious blogging seemed like a bad idea.

Of course, “serious” is almost always a questionable term when it is used in between me and blogging.

For instance, I could have chosen to write about any number of highly topical things for this blog. I could have written, naturally, about Japan. I’m sure none of you are tired of hearing about the triple catastrophe by now. I know I’m not at all tired of talking about it…

I also could have talked about Libya. Or Syria. Or Côte d’Ivoire. Or Quran burning lunatics and the aftermath this inevitably had. I bet you would have loved that.

But let’s assume I am right and you’re a frog. I figured we all needed a break from all the sadness, all the tragedy, all the news. Let’s instead see what the weather will be like, Todd.

TODD: Thank you, Dan. Tomorrow we are looking at sunshine, sunshine, sunshine. Spring is on its way, and freckle warnings have been issued. The snow appears to be melting, and the weather is positively tropical for Norwegian standards. With less than a meter of snow left, people are moving outdoors, having picnics and sunbathing. Today, two Vikings were observed skinny-dipping in a lake only partially covered in ice, and it is expected that we will see more – assuming that we’d want to – of this is the near future.

DAN: How about the birds, Todd, have the birds returned yet?

TODD: Well, it appears that the birds are still hesitant, but at least the penguins seem to have returned to Antarctica, so spring must be right around the corner. I’m making piña coladas as we speak.

And with that I wish you a happy Tropical Tuesday. Spring really is on its way here in Norway, but for someone who was thrown back into Nordic winter after having experienced Tokyo spring; it’s been a cold few weeks. Hopefully Norway will catch up soon, and before we know it we can enjoy our one week of actual Tropical Tuesdays (funny how the one week where our temperatures rise above 25 Celsius consists of only Tuesdays) , and then summer is over and a new winter is on its way. Ah.