Saturday, January 31, 2009


As soon as the boys walked in the door after Tae Kwon Do today, Jeremy got Sam in a headlock.

Sam said, "There are aspects of this with which I must disagree."

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The house painting project is taking a bit longer than expected because many things need to be fixed first. The mice I wrote about here and here have been living it up in the attic and causing significant damage.

Today we moved the gecko (and his tank) downstairs so he wouldn't have to breathe paint fumes. He seems at home next to my in-laws' glassware.

The painters are worried about where they will work when this job is finished, so during breaks, they call the unemployment office. The line is always busy.

My brother emailed me about graffiti in Los Angeles. I shouldn't have been surprised that the paint presents an environmental hazard.

Remembering this picture book makes me smile.

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!

by Karen Beaumont

illustrations by David Catrow

Harcourt, 2005

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's Sort of Like Camping -

except it isn't fun.

I decided it was time (after living in this house for 21 years) to get the inside painted. We recently solved (I hope) the problem of rain in the kitchen,* but the damage was huge.

Monday, I spent the day moving chachkas to the basement and taking pictures off the walls. My sons own a huge number of tippy trophies.

Yesterday, while the painters repaired drywall, I moved my parents' and my in-laws' china and glassware to the basement so the china cabinets could be moved. My parents and in-laws certainly bought a lot of dishes during their lifetimes. Why did it all end up here?

Everything upstairs is covered in tarps - except my sons' beds. The boys have threatened to move to the Tae Kwon Do studio in search of a little peace and quiet.

The smoke alarms keep going off. I think it's from the paint fumes.

This morning, the painters will be back at 8:30, and my computer will be unplugged. So long ...

*I was going to blog about this problem, but Jacqui Robbins' post about the rain in her kitchen was funnier.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Overheard #43

"Somewhere between 4 to 6 strikes and you're out."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Things I Should Have Realized a Long Time Ago - Part 2

The other day, I ran into a woman I hadn’t seen in a long time. I was amazed at how much she knew about my sons, while I had next to no information about her daughter.

Later, I told the story to Jeremy and said, “I know nothing about your friends. Is that because girls talk more than boys?”

He grunted.

See what I mean?

So I developed guidelines for how my characters can communicate with each other about each other.
1. Moms gossip.
2. Teenage girls may discuss their lives at home.
3. Teenage boys exist within a cone of silence

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Photo by me.

Evidence of at least one sunny day during the Michigan winter.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Overheard #42

"Your heroes get judged by the quality of their enemies."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Things I Should Have Realized a Long Time Ago - Part 1

Yesterday my sons came home from school and collapsed in front of the TV in a middle-of-finals-week stupor. The TV was tuned to yet another comedian lambasting his wife. The comedian explained when men argue, they have it out right away, while women save up grudges then argue days later. (Okay, his routine was a little funnier than that, but not much.)

How did this comedian know that in my WIP, I'd delayed an argument between two brothers for an entire day? Today I rearranged scenes so their emotional explosion was immediate.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Little Light Reading

"Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story..."

What a first line!*

The Iliad and The Odyssey
by Homer
translated by Robert Fagles

I recently purchased a boxed set of The Iliad and The Odyssey. When I wondered aloud if I taken on too large a task, Jeremy said, "Mom, you're the best reader I know. If you're not doing something in the kitchen, you're either reading or writing."

How's that for a summation of my life?

I'll admit here, before all of cyberspace, that I'm relying on some help from sparknotes and plan to rent movies of the two stories. So far, I'm enjoying The Iliad.

*Some translations of The Odyssey begin with those words.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What a Day!

Is there anything I could write about such a momentous occasion that hasn't already been said? Probably not. I will watch the Inauguration on TV today with pride.

Jay Asher's blog has a beautiful watercolor by Lea Lyon

Yesterday was also quite a day. In response to Barack Obama's call for volunteerism, Shutta Crum started a volunteer manuscript critique event within the Michigan chapter of SCBWI. Ruth McNally Barshaw's blog describes it elegantly.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bog Child

Bog Child

David Fickling Books (division of Random House), 2008

I am intrigued by dual story novels. When written well, the two plot lines are synergistic; each enhances the other, yet carries its own weight. The stories should shift back and forth like a holographic image. Bog Child is one of the best dual story novels I've read.

The main story takes place in Ireland in 1981 near the north-south border where political unrest affects every aspect of life. 18-year old Fergus hopes to escape the violence and turmoil of Northern Ireland, yet he is pulled inexorably into the fray.
The second story occurred in the Iron Age (80 AD). Fergus, when illegally digging peat with his uncle, discovers the body of a child, who lived nearly 2000 years earlier. The story of Mel, the bog child, is told through Fergus’ dreams, but this is not another prophetic-dream-sequence novel. The dreams seem like those a teenage boy might have after discovering a body, and he doesn’t always remember them. Mel’s story is beautifully told, yet spare, reflecting the limited amount we can know about people who lived so long ago.

I highly recommend Bog Child. Click here for a detailed review.


Photo by Z.F. Burton

Friday, January 16, 2009

Overheard #41

"He should be forced to read his own writing though all eternity."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Because Today's High Temperature is Five Degrees

and I don't mean Centigrade.

This is Santa Monica Beach. My hometown beach is usually less crowded and sports fewer bright umbrellas.

Photo by

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On Topic

I am pondering a new project, brainstorming scenes, sketching characters and enjoying myself - so far. Yes, I know the main character needs a name.

Sam said that while his English class is reading Heart of Darkness, he welcomes homework interruptions of all kinds, even requests to shovel the driveway.

Sam is taking an Advanced Placement calculus class online. I emailed the distance learning institution several times to request the bill. They responded that it would be sent later. I worried that if we never paid, Sam wouldn't get credit for the course. They finally sent the bill; I paid it. We are no longer stealing a calculus class.

Jeremy's science book states that ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the most important biological molecule. My husband wondered why they wanted the kids to memorize that little fact because there are at least 500 molecules required for life. I responded that cyanide poisoning is almost instantaneous, and since it works by inhibiting electron transport and thus the production of ATP, organisms die quickest without ATP. Oxygen deprivation takes longer to snuff out the test subject. Then, my husband reminded me that anaerobic bacteria need no oxygen, but do require ATP. That settles it ATP is the most important biological molecule. We agree that Mg+2* is the most important biological ion.

*Again, Blogger thwarts my desire to use superscripts.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Dangers of Being Marooned on a Tropical Island

For Jeremy’s current book report, I recommended an action-fantasy novel that I had read and enjoyed a few years ago. He’s having a hard time making progress, so I opened the book and read a bit.

At Jeremy’s bookmark, our heroes are on a transoceanic voyage. They have been attacked by pirates and their ship was damaged by a storm. (So far, so good.) Then they found refuge on a tropical island, where both our heroes and the plot became marooned. Sure the heroes are repairing the ship and pushing back the frontiers of natural science, but other than that nothing is happening. They while away the pages with snappy banter.

Snappy banter isn’t all bad. I find that in early drafts of my manuscripts, letting my characters talk to each other is a good way for me to get to know them. But then a lot of it has to go. I recently cut 10,000 words of snappy banter from my WIP.

I’m trying to decide on a new writing project, and I’m leaning toward the idea that has more potential for action.

Photo from Getty Images.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Overheard #40

"It's laundry time. Do you know where your iPod is?"

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Photo by me.

Perhaps it's time to look for a new photographic subject. You can also see this crabapple tree here, here, here and here. I promise to post a picture of something else next week.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Does The Cheese Stand Alone?

So, how was that applewood-smoked, paprika-dusted cheddar?

I'm going to rate it a resounding --- Pretty Good.

Smoked cheeses tend to taste like a tailgate party, but the smokiness of this cheese was more interesting that usual. Would I be able to differentiate between applewood smoke and some other kind of smoke, like maple or cherry? Unlikely. The paprika was mild, and I wished they'd used the spicier variety.

Was this cheese my favorite of all time? No.
Did I like it? Yes.
Who knew buying cheese could be so much fun?

Wasn't it only last week, that I resolved to keep this blog on topic?

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Cheesy Experience

Yesterday, when I was at the cheese section in the grocery store, a man I didn't know (not a store employee) handed me a chunk of applewood-smoked cheddar, sprinkled with paprika and told me it was great.

"If you buy this cheese, you'll remember me," he said.

My face must have had the Oh-No-Another-Grocery-Store-Crazy look because he said, "I'd better stop talking to you before my wife gets back." I edged away from him, the cheese still in my hand.

When I got to the checkout lane, the checker said, "You must really like cheese."

I explained how a person I didn't know recommended the applewood cheese. "I wanted to try some new cheeses because the family of a close friend started a magazine just about cheese," I said.

The look on his face was Oh-No-Another-Grocery-Store-Crazy, so I went on to explain it was an upscale magazine like Bon App├ętit or Gourmet. This seemed to reassure him because he told me a story about a friend who, when visiting France, was served cheese with maggots in it. The maggots were supposed to be there as they were part of the delicacy.

When I told my husband about the maggots, he said, "Chimps eat maggots and are glad to get them."

I haven't tried my applewood cheese yet, but I'm sure it has no maggots.

Waving from the evolutionary tree ...

To Wear Pants or Not ...

The idea started in NYC. January 12, 2008 was the 7th annual pantless subway day. One Saturday each year, several hundred brave souls ride the New York City subways without pants. (Yes, they wear underwear.)

The trend is spreading across the country. Tomorrow (1-10-09) is pantless day for the Los Angeles subway system. Yep, that Commander Dan Finkelstein they interviewed is my very own brother.

Somehow, this event seems less meaningful in Los Angeles. The weather is warm, and winter fashions tend to show skin anyway.

If I lived in a place that had a subway system, I would not participate. I'd be home revising my novel.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Overheard #39

"You're the apple of my eye, but we cantaloupe."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Lately, I've been trying to cut down on the amount of coffee I drink. Amy Huntley told me that Shakespeare wrote Hamlet before Europeans knew about coffee.

Writing without caffeine must be possible.

Writing without chocolate is not.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

by Charles Seife

Penguin Books (2000)

If you've always hated math, this book probably won't change your mind. For people like me, who enjoy numbers, science, questions and history, it is a fascinating read.

Seife describes the roll of zero in mathematical history. Early number systems did not include zero because people did not need zero to count sheep or barter grain. Later, zero was banned for religious reasons because accepting zero, meant acknowledging infinity, and numeric infinity threatened Medieval concepts of God. Seife gently leads the reader through calculus, relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory. He finishes by explaining why the universe will end in ice not fire.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Three magnifications.
Photos by me.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Overheard #38

"Who are The Bills, and why do we have to pay them?"

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Okay, Some Resolutions

My 2009 Writing Goals are:

1. Finish and submit CBL (current WIP).
2. Start a new WIP.
3. Keep Misplaced Electrons on topic.

Happy New Year!

Photo by Z.F. Burton