Just checking in

I have a red head in bed with a high fever. Betty Boop is in her pink satin pj set and refuses to change, because she is "an eensy, weensy bit sick" - and The Mystery Man has a pair of Boop's (clean) underwear that he insists on putting in the dish cloth drawer and cries and shakes his head 'no no no' whenever I take them out.

And so it goes.

A window into my life

These are the sorts of conversations I have on a daily basis.

Miss Betty Boop:

Today I took the younger two out on a walk to enjoy the lovely spring day in Seattle. It may be the only one we get - gotta seize the moment. A lady passed us, probably 19 or so, kind of sullen, head down, so Boop asks... "Mom, can that lady talk?"

"Of course," I respond.
"No," in a patient, clarifying sort of tone, actually that very slow voice that kids use when they think their parents are being morans and they have to slow it wayyyy down so we can actually understand them, Boop continues, "I mean, can she talk to HUMANS!"
"Of course," I repeat, hoping the poor girl can't hear us. She's clearly having a bad day as it is.
"No," Boop tries again, "I mean, can she talk to humans in a human VOICE. Like WE can?"
"Yes. Dear."
I still wonder what sort of voice she thought that girl had.

Later - on returning from the park where we had a bbq with friends, Boop says from her car seat all dismayed, "I only have two hands, and I have three things! I have to carry two balls and a soda. How am I going to carry all three things?!"

Her daddy unbuckles her from her car seat and takes both of the balls. She then jumps down from the car with her soda can in hand and proudly announces - as her daddy walks ahead with her balls, "And that's how I carry three things at once!"

The Red One

Me: How's the playlist workin' for ya? (I put them to bed with a playlist on my ipod of kids stories and songs. It's my only prayer that Boop will remain anywhere in the vicinity of her bed.)
BB: Great!
Red: Great!
Me: Great!
Red: But if you do change it up tomorrow, would you put on one of the Robin Hood stories?
Me: Sure - you seem to really love Robin Hood - you know I could get you a book on Robin Hood.
Red: That'd be great, as long as it's a *real* book and not one of those 'shortened up from the real thing 'cause they think we can't read the real one' sort of books.
Me: uhhhh... sure.

That's of course exactly the type of book I was planning on getting. Not anymore.

Susan, Simon, Cynicism, and Smiles

Susan Boyle.** If you haven't seen her sing yet, please click on her name. I'll wait. You'll be so glad you did!

OK, now, tell me - why did *you* feel all warm and fuzzy after that video? There are lots of good answers - triumph of the underdog, Susan's indomitable spirit, the sheer beauty of the song... but after some heart searching myself, the real reason I get so happy whenever I see that... and I hate to tell you this... is that it makes Simon Cowell smile. A real smile - no smirk - no cheekiness. A pure smile.

It's true. And it makes me smile.

I was watching the results show yesterday on fast forward, as I usually do, and then I stopped. Woah! What was that, rewind! Simon smiled! Something caught inside me. I had to find out what made him smile. But the real question, is why do I care?

I haven't even really liked Simon this season. He was kind of mean about kicking Megan off (DH interjects that Megan was terrible. I suppose good people can disagree. Except that I'm right and he's wrong in this case). I hated how he and Paula's antics have kept Allison Iraheto from getting a decent critique. I've basically felt like the judges have all been acting like 12 year olds all season.

But clearly, I still love Simon, because he smiles... and I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Figuring out this sort of stuff is why I write - and largely why I read fiction. It's why I keep looking for that perfect book. That book that makes some character come alive, and shows me something new about people. It's why I reread The Great Gatsby year after year.

I read that you will always feel you know a character better than you know a person, even your family. The reason is that characters, even layered, complex characters, are fundamentally composed of just a few traits. And the job of the book is to highlight those traits, play with them, put the character in positions where those traits are tested, tried, broken.

Aslan is put on the altar.
Darcy is rejected by a woman.
Heathcliff thinks he hears that Catherine doesn't love him.

Those are gut wrenching moments because they go against type. Aslan is the king. Darcy does not get rejected. Catherine is Heathcliff's own self. What will they do?

Simon is cynical. Confronted with beauty, he smiles.

I think part of his appeal is that in this era of self-esteem and relativity and "your truth/my truth" - Simon's praise means something. It isn't cheap.

He had this to say about it:
"I thought this audition was going to last three seconds. So did the audience...Then she started to sing and I've never ever felt anything like it in my life. The whole place just turned. And it was just the most astonishing feeling at the time."

You could see it on his face.

**Thanks to Janet Reid for the link. I wouldn't have seen it if she hadn't posted it.

Homicidal writing tools - or something like that

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

I just grabbed that from failblog.com. I think it's hilarious. I assume they meant that they're on duty during the evening, but maybe they were going for goulish. I don't know. Great for a mystery blog, though!!

In that spirit (the spirit of grabbing cool things from other blogs) I thought I'd let you know about some things going on in the blogosphere.

Nathan Bransford is doing the "Be an Agent For a Day" contest till Saturday night. You get to read 50 queries - 3 for books that have been published - and either accept or reject them. You can accept 5 in your quest to find the 3 published books. It's fun, and enlightening. I thought reading slush would be oh so much more fun than it really is!

Editorrent is doing a workshop of sorts right now to help you get your logline nailed down. The worksheet they have up there to help you create your logline is also really helpful for getting (or recapturing) the vision of your book.

Also, Savvy Verse and Wit has a bunch of giveaways listed on her blog right now!

I'll be checking back in later today. The monkeys are all sick. DH is traveling. And I need virtual adult interaction. Will they ever not be sneezing and coughing? This is my big question right now. I bought them all spring time jammies to try to convince us that it's spring - even though we're still sick and wading through puddles and swampy grass outside. I think we all need to move to the desert. And, just to give you a little window into my life, all through this post the Mystery Man has been leaned over my lap unplugging, plugging, unplugging, plugging in my computer - from the back of the computer, not the wall lest you fear he might electrocute himself. And Boop has been begging me to tie her shoe - which is really my shoe, but she's determined to learn to tie shoes before her big sister. I suppose that will be a lifelong feather in her cap and she knows she only has a small window to obtain it and I'M NOT HELPING! And now Mysterey Man has done something to this posting window so all my text is justifying weird. I don't know what or how he did it. I hope it looks ok when it posts. This is my life, folks!

A peaceful Easter morn

Or. Not.

I have two very sick mystery kidlets this morning. Fortunately, I had already planned a candy free Easter. As a child, I always saved my jelly beans for weeks, carefully doling them out day after day. Guess what I found out - not all kids do that! And then they get all crazy. So... no candy. Instead we're doing a plastic egg hunt and they get to trade their eggs in for little prizes like stickers and bouncy balls. I'll let you know how it goes over. It's a change in tradition, but one of the benefits of never telling the kids about an Easter bunny. I have full Easter privilages.

I think they'll love it but I'm a little worried about Miss Boop becoming too mercenary as it is. I will occasionally pay her older sister for doing things that I feel are over and above the call of duty - like putting away her sister's toys after said sister has fallen asleep, stuff like that. Well, Boop is wise to it. And while Red has a heart of gold, Boop's might look more like paper currency.

For instance, this morning she came running to me saying "Mama, mama, come quick! Mystery Man's booty smells like poo!" Eww. I go running. And as I pass her she says, "Do I get money for that?" No. And his booty was fine.

You can think of me ministering to my sick little mysterylings this morning while DH and Red go to church. I'm planning a viewing of The Easter Carol (Veggietales) in lieu of going to church and infecting the masses for the little ones.

So, no bunny, no candy, no baskets, no fun family gathering just me wiping noses and keeping Mystery Man from escaping out the front door, but all that really matters to me is that He is still risen and I have little guys to pass on the Good News to - whatever the state of their noses.

Pop! Goes the zombie

There's been a rash of Popcap gaming going on here at the house of mystery. First there was Bejeweled 2, then Peggle and Zuma... and so...

This made someone in our house curious (who shall remain nameless but I'll just say that his name rhymes with Shmee Shmaych). This led him to check out the Popcap website himself, where he found info on their next game: Plants vs. Zombies!!!

He even found a music video promoting the game. Yes, you read that right. A music video

I tried to embed it to no avail, but you can see it here.

So we now have a video with a dancing sunflower singing about the zombie apocalypse with a bouncing ball (I mean brain) on the words. And what is a Shmee Shmaych to do? Why, he calls his red head with the quirky sense of humor to see the video, of course.

She laughs. She says it's hilarious. She can't wait for the game.

Night falls.

Long time blog readers may remember her little issue with zombies last winter. She slept with a cardboard tube that her mother (me) insisted would neutralize the zombie threat. Her teacher would tell me she looked too tired in class - yes, it's hard to be alert in the morning when you've been up all night standing vigil against zombies with your paper tube.

Guess where, or should I say, with whom, I slept with all night.

If we had a dog, you'd know where Shmee Shmaych slept, too.

Never stop with their first answer

DH and I are sitting on the sofa perusing the Tivo Now Playing menu. He has his laptop open.

ME: What are you working on over there.
DH: A little Bejeweled action
ME: How's your score?
DH: I don't keep score. I play for the existential benefit of relaxing and other such things.
ME: So you haven't beat the current score of 98,000?
DH: *smirk playing at the corner of his mouth* If I had, you'd have heard about it!

Example #2

Betty Boop let out a wail of distress when she found out that my sister, otherwise known as The Fun Aunt had gone home while she was in bed. Please read this conversation imagining an intense emotional pitch, near panic, and rising with each answer.

BB: But I wuv my aunt, I miss her so much, I MISS HER SO MUCH!
ME: Oh, why do you love your aunt so much?
BB: Because she brings FURBALL with her! (Furball is the name given to my sister's cat, changed to protect his identity from, yanno, cat thieves and such...)
ME: But you have Norah. (our tortie cat)
BB: But I like Furball better!
ME: Why?
BB: Because Furball is all white!
ME: And you like white?
BB: White reminds me of chocolate and I like white chocolate best of all!

And there you go. So perhaps I can buy her a block of white chocolate and she'll be totally over her aunt leaving while she was in bed and taking the furball with her. Also, I do feel a little sad for Norah. It wasn't all that long ago that Boop was rolling a soup can around pretending it was her pet... because she didn't have any pets. Except poor Norah, of cours.

book meme

I grabbed this from Savvy Verse and Wit because it looked like fun. If it looks like fun for you, too, grab it and leave me a comment so I can go read yours!

1. Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?
Absolutely trade paperback! They are the perfect size and feel in my hands.

2. Barnes & Noble or Borders?
Barnes and Noble - they just plain have more books. Borders is too tall and airy where I live, and have less choices. And I like the kids' section better at B&N. And the 10% off. ;)

3. Bookmark or dog-ear?
Dog-ear - I have little ones who would steal a bookmark in a heartbeat.

4. Amazon or brick and mortar?
Both. I go to Barnes and Noble almost at least 2 or 3 times a week. It's a great outing with the kids. I may or may not buy a book at that time, but I always buy coffee.

However, they don't have nearly all the books I'm looking for. I read a lot of scholarly theology books, and they sometimes have one or two, but it's really inconsistent. Also, I've been burned on books that just look good. I like to go to Amazon and read the reviews and maybe he first page. And I'm from Seattle, so it's supporting my local economy. ;)

5. Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?
Or throw in a wicker basket next to my bed...

6. Keep, throw away, or sell?
Who throws away books?! I keep only a select few because I have severe space issues. So I either give away or sell or exchange on paperback swap or frugal reader.

7. Keep dust jacket or toss it?
I hate them, but I wouldn't throw them out, hence my love of trade paperbacks.

8. Read with dust jacket or remove it?
I usually leave them on and use the flap as a bookmark. Unless they get unwieldly.

9. Short story or novel?
I will let you in on a little secret. I hate short stories. I like the IDEA of short stories, but they are so often depressing or just weird, that I almost never read them. Exceptions made for the greats like Poe or Fitzgerald.

10. Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
Harry Potter!!!

11. Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
I stop when a little person jumps on me or when my brain stops working.

12. "It was a dark and stormy night" or "Once upon a time"?
"It was a dark and stormy night" - both because I love atmospheric mysteries and because it opens one of my favorite books - A Wrinkle In Time.

13. Buy or borrow?
Buy. Borrowing is great in theory, but there's that pesky thing where you have to keep track of them and then return them to the library or they get really upset with you. Plus, I like to support my fellow authors.

14. New or used?
Depends on the book and how much I want the author to get sales.

15. Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse?
I like reviews and recommendations from bloggers - next I browse.

16. Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
Tidy, please!

17. Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
Right before bed, unless it totally captivates me and then I read constantly!

18. Stand-alone or series?
Either, but I do love a good series.

19. Favorite series?
Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mystery series.

20. Favorite children's book?
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Also, there is a beautiful children's book about Christmas called An Angel Remembers.

21. Favorite YA book?
Ooo, tough. I really liked A Northern Light.

22. Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
Five Smooth Stones, by Ann Fairbairn.

23. Favorite books read last year?
St. Agnes Stand, The Diplomat's Wife, The Winter Queen,

24. Favorite books of all time? (not mentioned earlier)
The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Age of Innocence, The Little Drummer Girl, The Harry Potter Books, The Historian, Possession, the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

25. What are you reading right now?
The Cosgrove Report

26. What are you reading next?
The Collaborator of Betheleham

27. Favorite book to recommend to an eleven-year-old?
Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time trilogy.

28. Favorite book to reread?
Pride & Prejudice

29. Do you ever smell books?
I do occasionally.

30. Do you ever read Primary source documents?
Yes, I do. I love research.

How to get off to not such a great start in the morning

1. Go to bed too late

2. Go to bed too late because you were watching American Idol and The Biggest Loser, but your favorite singers were just eh, and neither Helen, Sione, nor Felipe got sent home.

3. Wake up feeling like you were run over by a truck, or more precisely that you are coming down with the colds that your kids have had for 3 weeks that up till now you've successfully avoided.

4. Think to self, at least you remembered to order orange juice from Safeway, only to pour out orange juice and see sludge. Pour back into container. Shake. Pour back out. Still sludge.

5. Realize you do not have "pulp free" orange juice, but "pulp full" - Who buys pulp full? I still think the Safeway.com guys just threw the wrong one in the bag.

6. Look out window and see the rain turn to sleet, and then snow.

7. Discuss dieting with your husband.

I'm ready for tomorrow.