Thursday, April 30, 2009

What Color is a Gray Wolf?

Wolves range in color from white or cream to gray and black. The darker colors are common in wolves that live in forested areas, but rare in wolves in the Canadian tundra. Scientists have proposed that darker fur color confers a selective advantage in a forested habitat and have speculated about linked genetic advantages not related to color.

In the March 6, 2009 issue of Science (vol. 323, p. 1339), Dr. Gregory Barsh and graduate student Tovi Anderson describe the genetics of black coloration in wolves. They examined genetic variation in wolves, dogs and coyotes, and concluded that dark coloration was introduced into the wolf population from domesticated dogs. Black wolves probably started appearing shortly after the first humans (and their domesticated dogs) migrated to North America.

Humans often have disastrous effects on wolf populations. Global warming and land development reduce wolves’ habitat. It is ironic that a gene introduced to the wolf population by man’s best friend may help wolves survive.

Here is a related article in Science Daily.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Overheard #54

"Most committees decide action is useless."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Finding Time to Write

I recently learned that Sir Thomas Malory, author of Le Morte d'Arthur committed a variety of heinous crimes. He spent the last years of his life in Newgate Prison where he did much of his writing.

Sure, it's hard to find time to write.

But there has to be an easier way.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Photo by me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Baby Mammoth

I haven't had a science post in a long time. Here and here are a couple links about a baby mammoth that was discovered in Siberia in 2007. The mammoth is the cover story of the May issue of National Geographic Magazine and will be featured in a special called Waking the Baby Mammoth (April 26, 2009, 9:00 PM ET/PT) on the National Geographic channel.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


In a graduation speech at the University of Michigan, Cathy Guisewite said, "If you want something to change, do something different." She did not say "do something differently", meaning take something you're already doing and tweak it a bit. By using an adjective to modify something, She suggested an entirely new approach.

Major revisions are difficult. Even a short novel is unwieldy to turn inside out and attack from a different angle. I've decided to start the revolution.

Today I sent my fictional heroes to Laguna Beach. They had a lousy time, but I enjoyed my mini, expense-free vacation on a gray Michigan day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Photos by me.

Primary Colors

Friday, April 17, 2009

Good Advice

Lately, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction, specifically the Sharpe's series by Bernard Cornwell. I had to smile at this line in the Historical Note section of Sharpe's Tiger (HarperCollins, 1997).

"I changed the nature of that explosion, and delayed it by two days, because fictional heroes must be given suitable employment."
How did he know my fictional heroes and I have been lollygagging in a very rough first draft? Pay attention, boys. It's time to get back to work!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Problem with Parents

You’ve gotta love those spunky orphans. And there are so many to love in tween and teen literature. Writers need to get helpful parents out of the way so protagonists can solve their own problems, and orphans come with a ready made solution.

I’d like to propose an alternate approach. The parent can be clueless. This oblivious parent doesn’t have to be in prison or on mind altering drugs. He or she can be loving and attentive, but simply not know what’s going on.

What happens in school stays in school.

Last night I attended Jeremy’s choir concert and discovered he was singing a solo. Surprise! He sang the “EEEE-EE-EE-EE-EE um um awaaaaay” on Mbube (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) and sounded terrific.

I’ve blogged about The Cone of Silence before. I’ve even written about this song, but alas, I didn’t suspect the solo.

If kids don’t talk about positive stuff, who knows what else lurks beneath the surface?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Overheard #53

"I don't like vampires. I don't even like mosquitoes."

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Photo by Z.F. Burton

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring Break

Lately, I've been having a problem with manuscript fidelity. Usually, I cuddle up with my WIP, and stick with it until submissions do us part. This past week, I couldn't seem to decide which manuscript was my heart's desire.

Last Monday, I posted that I was putting aside TAoCBS. I started an exciting new affair with DB. I adored the protagonist of DB for at least a couple chapters. Then, alas, TAoCBS started looking better. I remembered its laughter and light-hearted spirit.

In honor of the NCAA playoffs, I revisited G&G, my basketball novel. Perhaps G&G is my true champion.

Fortunately, CBL is off getting a paid critique. Out of sight. Out of mind.

I noticed something important during my wild and crazy spring break. The manuscripts with male protagonists have more action than the ones with female protagonists. Who knew my muse was so sexist?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Magnitude of the Error

I didn't realize the rejection letter fiasco involving the California university was big enough to make the news. Thanks to Jacqui Robbins for cluing me in.
Click here to read more.

The UCSD notified acceptances in March, but they do not send rejection letters. It's easy to see why so many students were upset.

There might be a story in here somewhere.

A New Take on Rejection

Last week Sam received an email from a university in California that contained a congratulatory message of acceptance and an invitation to attend freshman orientation. A few days later, he received a second email that said the first was a mistake, apologized for any undue disappointment and wished him luck in his educational pursuits. Sam had already decided to attend the University of Michigan, so he didn't care, but I'm sure some of the applicants who received that pair of emails were distraught.

The next time I get a rejection, I'm going to console myself by realizing the agent did not write, "Yes!" then later tell me, "Uh, sorry. I meant another writer."

And the next time one of my characters has to face disappointment, I will first set him on top of the world.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Overheard #52

"I grew up in the Age of Aquarius, but now I live in the Age of Infinite Accountability."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More on Teen Driving

As a followup to a previous post on teen driving, here's what Sam said about NCAA commercials.

"They tell me what car I should drive, what beer I should drink, and what insurance I should buy if I do both simultaneously."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Progress Report

I finished the first draft of TAoCBS. It was difficult to write, so finishing even a short, rough, first draft is an accomplishment. This manuscript is different from all my other projects, and I'm glad I attempted it.

Now it's time to put it aside. I’m not doing this because The Voice of Doubt has joined a street gang which he/she/it has. The Voice of Reason is telling me that I know enough about writing to recognize that this manuscript is not a novel. Maybe someday, I'll figure it out, but right now, I don’t have the answers.

Meanwhile, there are other stories to tell and other voices to discover.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Photo by Z.F. Burton
Froggie went a-courtin'

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What Did You Mean, Exactly?

Have you ever noticed how some phases in the English language are intended to be untruthful?

Yeah, right
With all due respect
Don’t worry about it
Pretty good
Leave it to me
It’s easy
No, really
Just follow the instructions
You’ll be done in no time
Trust me on this
It’s not that bad

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Target Audience

Every YA author should have to teach a teen to drive. In case you don’t have a young driver handy, here are two conversations that occurred while Jeremy was behind the wheel.

Jeremy (singing falsetto): In the jungle, the mighty jungle,

Me: Don’t sing while you’re driving.
Jeremy: the lion sleeps tonight.
Me: Okay. Only at red lights.

Me (after emphatically correcting a driving error): When I was learning to drive, Grandma got mad at me.
Jeremy: You must have been terrible. Grandma was really nice.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Overheard #51

"Is there a reason why you put the mark of Zorro in my underwear?"