Sunday, January 31, 2010


rushing river

Yesterday, a flock of wild turkeys crossed the road in front of the car, but by the time I got my camera out, they’d mostly moved on. So, here’s more ice – because it doesn’t run away.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Earlier this week, I had a Facebook conversation with Ruth McNally-Barshaw that reminded me of my favorite palindrome, REVILE LIVER. It comes from a book by Jon Agee. His books on wordplay are terrific for reluctant readers. Not only do they have few words and wonderful cartoons, they demonstrate the fun of fooling around with language.

Biochemists and molecular biologists are fond of palindromes because short palindromic DNA sequences are the targets for restriction enzymes (the proteins that cut DNA), and long palindromic sequences determine RNA structure. If you’re really interested, click here.

I googled palindromes and learned that the longest palindromic word in common usage is saippuakivikauppias which means "soapstone vendor" in Finnish. (How else could I possibly use that word in this blog?)

The first recorded palindrome is the Latin word square "Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas" from 79 AD, but my husband says everyone in the Garden of Eden spoke in palindromes:

“Madam, I’m Adam.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Micro Manuscript Take Two

A while back, I used Darcy Pattison’s Shrunken Manuscript technique to analyze CBL [blog entry]. Last weekend, I tried it with TAoCBS.

Start by taking the spaces out between chapters, single space and reduce the font to 8-point. My 40,000 word manuscript shrunk to 32 pages. Then I assigned each character a color and marked sections according to their emotional impact.

The quantity of description versus dialog becomes immediately obvious.
The amount of play time each character gets is also clear in my color-coded scheme.
The tension (or its lack) can also be tracked by the amount of vertical and diagonal cross-hatching.

Hint: Treat yourself to a new package of markers before you start.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Snow Whale Reprise

TimInMich modified my snow whale with Photoshop to create this beautiful image. It reminds me of Katsushika Hokusai.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


We haven't had much sunshine in Michigan lately. It's almost like I'm taking black and white photos.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blue and Green Stripes

On Monday I changed my blog header and asked if anyone could tell what it is. I enjoyed reading everybody’s guesses. Beth came the closest. Perhaps mystery photos will be an occasional feature in this blog.

So what are the blue and green stripes?

In my parents’ house, the wall over the kitchen table was covered with framed 5x7 photos of kids and grandkids. When my mom moved to assisted living, we shipped the photos to Michigan and recreated the photo wall in her apartment. My mother passed away over a year ago, and the photos have been sitting in a box in my basement. Last weekend I finally took these photos out of their frames and put them in an album. The frames have seen better days, but the glass covering the photos can be recycled, so I stacked them on the dining room table. When I saw the morning light coming through the edges of the glass plates, I photographed it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Snow whale breaching. He's spouting ice.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To E or Not To E

No one ever said writing a novel was easy. Even choosing the right words can be tough. But it could be worse.

In 1969, a French writer named Georges Perec wrote La Disparition, a 200-page novel that does not contain words spelled with the letter E. Then Gilbert Adair translated La Disparition into English, also refraining from words containing the letter E.

This post has 340 characters. 39 are E. That is 11%.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A New Look, A New Name

I renamed my blog (again). Finkelstein can be difficult to spell. (Is it E-L or L-E?) And I changed the header photo. Can anyone guess what it is?

Here’s a different picture.

Hint: I used the flash on this one.
Tune in tomorrow for the answer - no make that Friday. (1-22-10)

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Photo by me.

mystic crystal revelations

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Code Book

The Code Book

By Simon Singh

Doubleday, 1999 (The cover design is from the updated 2001 edition which was not available from my library.)

I discovered this book on the recommended reading list in Mysterious Messages. Simon Singh knows how to tell a good story and provides fascinating accounts of the people who made encryption history. Code making and breaking are fundamental to diplomacy and warfare, so the story of secrecy explains history, provides insight to the present, and hints at the future.
Who would enjoy this book?
Anyone who is interested in WWI and WWII
Anyone who is curious about ancient Egyptian and Minoan cultures
Anyone who has wondered how Internet transactions can be secure
Anyone who likes puzzles
Do you have to be a math geek to like this book?
Serious math geeks would hardly count me among their numbers, yet I managed to keep neck and neck with the calculations. The amount of math required to understand this book depends on whether the reader is willing to accept concepts as written, or feels compelled to check the work. (I belong to the second group.)
Simon Singh also wrote an edition for teen readers, The Code Book: how to make it, break it, hack it, crack it. (Delacorte Press, 2001).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another Contest

Mary Kole, an associate agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, is holding another contest. This one is for the first 500 words of a MG or YA novel. The winner gets a 15 page critique. Click here for details.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The First Rule of Revision


I can write better than that.

Repeat as often as necessary.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ten Words

In honor of the New Year, Kirby Larson challenged her blog readers to write a story consisting of only ten words.
Here’s mine:

Shovel driveway. Scrape windshield.
Slip. Slide. Skid. Stop?

Today, Kirby asked for ten more words with an emphasis on emotion. If I make progress on my revisions, I’ll give it a try.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Photo by me.

Crystal Blue Persuasion

(In case that dopey song isn’t already lodged in your brain, here’s the link.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fun Fact to Know and Tell

Egyptian hieroglyphics existed as a form of writing for 3500 years, then died out in a generation. The last known sample of hieroglyphics (dated AD 450) was graffiti.

I guess that's leaving a mark on history.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Photo by me.

I think this log looks like a dog’s head. My husband says it resembles a sheep with earrings. Other opinions?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Book from No Man's Land

  • When I started writing TAoCBS, I thought it was a middle grade novel.
  • When I brought the first chapter to my critique group, they said, “Oh no. This is too sexy for a midgrade. It has to be young adult.”
  • When I had a first page analyzed at the SCBWI-MI fall conference, the panel members were aghast that I called it a YA. “This voice is obviously midgrade.” They spoke at length about this designation, implying that the author didn’t know what she was doing. (Thanks.)
  • When I entered this novel in a query contest, I referred to it as “upper midgrade.” (hedging my bets)
  • When I got the rejection letter, it said, “30k is really not long enough for today's YA market.” (Yes, of course, but I thought it was a MG.)
Currently, I am revising TAoCBS in hopes that someday it will be bigger and better. But when I resubmit, I don’t know how I’m going to classify it.

Chuck Sambuchino did an interesting interview with literary agent, Erin Murphy, in which she refers to the MG/YA distinction as more of a “scale than a line.”

Sunday, January 3, 2010


icy stalactites over the Red Cedar River

the same ice formation one day later

Photos by me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Decade!

Ten years ago:
  • We were relieved the Y2K hullabaloo didn’t happen.
  • My brawny lads were wee lads.
  • I was waiting for Science is Golden to be published.
  • I was a new SCBWI member.
  • The World’s Greatest Critique Group had a few of its current members.
Some things remain the same:
  • I was married to the same wonderful man.
  • We were living in the same comfortable house with our two amazing sons.
Politically, globally and economically the last decade was brutal. We have vast opportunities to improve the next one.