Monday, December 31, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I've Been Awarded a Roar.... meow...

My favorite Resident Alien bestowed this award upon my blog... and I thank her wholeheartedly for the accolades. Now, as per the rules of being A Roar for Powerful Words recipient, I must publish three tips, for to be powerful and writerly, and pass the award on to five more bloggers of worthy esteem.

So, here goes:

Tip #1: Don’t take wooden nickels :

The lovely thing about writing circles, blogging buddies, critique groups, and books on the craft of writing is that you find new ways to look at and edit your writing... Wanting to evolve and grow, many of us have a keen ear for picking apart our own prose and others’... and this tip is not to say that you shouldn’t listen to critique, you absolutely should, especially when you’re getting identical crits from multiple sources...

As an author of your own creation, though, you have to know where to draw the line between others’ views and your own voice. For example, I did a lot of rewriting specifically with active voice in mind because I’d been around a lot of writers who touted this absolutely... It messed with my voice. Luckily I had only edited two chapters of my ms with these ideas in mind, but once I realized how far off it was, it took me weeks to bring it back to my own voice... honestly, some of those cuts and edits were necessary and I still am a back story writer who needs multiple weedings, but to the extreme that I had followed... well, all action and no prose is not good writing to me, it’s manic and it disrupts the flow of the language... I won’t read that type of book, so I certainly don’t want to write one.

Tip #2: Network, Baby :

For blogging in general, networking is a necessity. You develop a readership by reading and commenting thoughtfully on posts around the blog-o-sphere. For writing, though, I think we often think it’s more procrastination than helpful, but that is somewhat untrue... while you can get sucked into blogging and networking to the extent that it interrupts your writing time (yes, I’ve done this... my own fault, too) – ideally, if you use a little discipline, what networking with other writers offers you is invaluable.

Not only will you find more avenues for submission, critique groups, and a like minded set of people exchanging thoughts and ideas... but you will get your name out there in a way that you couldn’t sitting at your keyboard alone. Networking is good for the soul if nothing else. It lets you gain a bit of support from others who are where you’re at, or have been there... and those who have made it higher or are just coming up... community is always a good thing – no matter where you find it.

Tip #3: Write, dammit!

This is so basic and so overlooked. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. You can spend twelve hours a day critiquing others, discussion craft, and reading books on writing... you can be the most prolific agent and publisher watcher imaginable... you can have a handle on every book your list of most wanted agents has ever represented .... but if you haven’t put your ass in the seat and done the actual writing, none of that will make you a writer.

Do the writing. Do it first. I know, stories flesh themselves out in your head all the time. Even when you’re not physically writing, some part of you is working on it... I know that. I do that, too. So does every writer I know... Guess what? That’s not writing... it’s a perk of writing, but it’s not the actual work. Sit your ass in the chair and write. Do it every day. Do it first. Don’t walk away because nothing’s coming... write it out and edit it later... write it out and trash it later... but write. Yes, we all need the research and the research on publishing is more time consuming than most people think... the writing still has to be primary, or you’re only daydreaming with conviction.

Oy... five bloggers for to pass this on...

Okay, guys, some of you may have received this one already; in which case just take the kudos and don’t worry about posting... here are my picks...

Anita Daher I first met Anita on Myspace, and a nicer author you’ll never meet. She’s a Canadian author with multiple books out, and she’s always very generous with her time and insight, even to us unpublished newbies.

Angela She always has thought provoking posts and always responds to comments with the same amount of consideration with which she pens her entries... This particular blog is more about parenting a teen, but she has another all about life as a freelance writer... both are excellent.

Pinhole I can think of nothing else to say about Pinhole except that he is brilliant... and even more attractive, he doesn’t seem to know it. His blog is full of hand drawn illustrations, beautiful prose, and some of the best wit you’ll ever find. I highly recommend him whenever you’re in need of deep thoughts or a chuckle, you’ll find both.

Travis Erwin I can’t believe that Travis hasn’t already been nominated for this one, he’s brilliant and his voice is just the most fun ever. You’ll find the best turn of phrases and the most fantastic stories here. If you haven’t stopped, check him out.

The SUV Driving Bitch Your Mother Warned You About Suv Mama is a favorite stop of mine... she had a blog that I visited regularly and took down some time ago, but she’s back... and better than ever. The name says it all, so I’ll let you all check her out on your own.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dear Mr. Anonymous

Dear Mr. Anonymous,

It has recently come to my attention that you have built an unmistakable presence in blogging and cyber communities. Of course, it must be said that your voracious wit and charm is not to be believed! Where once you contented yourself with poison pen letters and nervously scrawled notes to the principal while hiding in nearby lockers, now you’ve bloomed to the open stage of literary viewers both large and small.

In recent weeks I’ve seen your, oh so unique, comments on agent blogs and author’s sites... Oh, and how I applaud your forthright diatribes, smearing of the commenters and blog authors alike, knowing full well that signing your name as you have may lead to irreparable damage to your reputation. We all know that these criticisms are sincere and not inspired by some secret rejection or cynical alienation from the community to which you condemn... Of course not. And your prose are so very prolific... the deigning of all agent blog readers as grovelers, the verbal abuse of all (insert faith here), the carefully chosen cuss words for widows and orphans... and, let us not forget, your intellectually stimulating additions to all chat boards discussing Britney Spears and Paris Hilton... yes, yes, all you, my dear anonymous... we can tell that no one has taken your identity fraudulently, for your voice has about it the same characteristic intelligence in each of your signed entries....

I admire your zest for words and never was a writer so prolific. In political discussions, you are there! To skewer each side with illogical reasoning and never cower from the light of day; not you, brave anonymous... a hero among men... In professional arenas you wound with wit and occasional bloodthirsty threats... how invigorating. Though some believe your moniker to be the assumed name of a snot nosed band geek at home on Friday night... I know better. For you are the judgment to which we all should aspire and your carefully placed comments, so strategic in forcing actual participants to weed through your views before being allowed to continue the discussion... well, sheer genius as we all know and of course your opinion has far more weight in our meandering minds than those whose credentials claim expertise.

Wherever there is gratuitous profanity and skillfully wielded slander for no apparent reason, you’ll be there. And for that I salute you... I shall leave you to guess with which finger.


Yor N. Ass

Well, can you tell I'm feeling a bit grinchy tonight? I've been annoyed a few too many times by anonymous posters at really fantastic discussions and decided to have some fun with it in writing... Consider this a sarcastic little gift from me. Feel free to copy any and all parts of this letter for your own blog, or in answer to anonymous trolls what annoy you... Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lottery - Last Discussion on the Book Club Blog

Today we are wrapping up the book club blog discussion on Lottery. If you missed the previous discussions, you can find the first one, discussing Lottery’s presentation of society’s view on mental and financial success, here, and the second one, on the presentation of love and loyalty, here. I want to thank Patricia Wood once more, for her wonderful participation in an excellent series of discussions... She took a lot of time out of her schedule and carefully answered readers’ questions while inputting her own thoughts on the themes and writing process.

I’d like to take the time now to close the discussion with a special emphasis on the writing process. I know some of the readers on this particular series are not writers by trade, though I hope they will find it interesting, none the less. I thought, for this particular blog, it would be a fitting way to close. If you scroll through my entries you’ll notice a vast majority of them have something to do with the writing process. We did, briefly touch on some of the writing devices used in this novel in the comments from the first post, Stephen Parrish so eloquently started us off by pointing out the brilliant way in which Patricia allowed the reader to hear exactly what Perry’s relatives were saying in front of him. This allowed the reader to know exactly what was going on while Perry, who could hear but not completely understand, remained unaware of their exact intentions.

The most prominent thing to me was the use of first person here. First person has been used before, of course, but it’s a difficult type of writing to master for a number of reasons. One key reason for the level of difficulty in writing first person being that the audience can only see things through the eyes of the main character, thereby limiting their own understanding of events. With a narrator like Perry, at the outside you would think this point of view would be a detriment, but Patricia skillfully makes it a poignant positive. As Stephen mentioned earlier, the ability to hear what people are saying around Perry without him really understanding is an amazing, yet realistic way to see the entire picture without detracting from Perry’s character. The fact that people will often speak openly around a person of Perry’s mental ability works as a plus here.

What I found most compelling was Patricia’s ability to maintain the character’s voice throughout. This has to be a far harder task than people automatically assume. Reading just a few blog posts or interviews by Patricia, one can see that her usual writing voice is far advanced in both language and flow, than that of her character’s. I wonder how many times during revisions she had to have picked through, thinking, ‘there’s no way Perry would say that...’ I also applaud her deference to the story because I think it’s a natural thing for most writers to want to impress with their poetic prose – Patricia let simplicity of language and power of story do the work... and I don’t think that’s any small task.

Here’s what I would love to discuss, and anyone who cares to participate can. (of course we’d all love to hear from Patricia on this as well) How do you make your choices during the writing process? Do you have the story in front of you and decide it works best in first or third person? Do you start writing and see where it goes? Are you a researcher? Do you have the idea and then spend a good amount of time researching before you put pen to paper? Do you outline first or do you write by the seat of your pants?

Okay, guys, I hope you’ll all take some time to enlighten us with your own process or tell us what literary devices in the novel really impressed you. This will be the last post on the book club blogs for Lottery, but I’ll be sure to post something soon to let you all know where and when the next book club blog will be... in other news, the holiday is sneaking right up on me, so I will try to make it over to everyone’s blog at least once, but likely won’t post until after Christmas... So Merry Christmas to everyone out there. May it be full of great food, good company, and lots of love.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lottery - Second Discussion in our Book Club Blog

Over the last few days, we’ve been having a rousing discussion on the book, Lottery, concentrating especially on the themes of society’s views of monetary and mental success. Of course, like most book club blog discussions, the comments have taken different paths from the ones started in the blog post, but that’s just the way I like it – it’s been a joy to have so much participation and so many thoughts exchanged. It’s been especially fun to have Lottery author, Patricia Wood participating to both add her own insights into the story and its creation and to address questions and comments from her readers.

If you haven’t seen the original post yet, check the first link above to look around. I will repeat the same disclaimer here – this is a book discussion, which means there will be spoilers to the novel. If you haven’t read it yet, and reading the discussion might ruin your enjoyment of the novel, I really recommend picking up a copy – it is a great book and one you don’t want to miss.

Today I’d like to discuss the themes of love and loyalty and how they are addressed through the eyes of Perry Crandall. One of the aspects of the novel I so enjoyed was its treatment of these themes, and the way that Perry comes to ‘pick’ his family. What I mean to say here is, outside of his grandparents, Perry’s birth family does not have his best interest at heart. They have little to do with him at all throughout his life, unless it is to cheat him out of something. And, while Perry’s gullibility leads him to give these blood relations more than their due, the family he really cares for are the ones who are of his own choosing.

Keith is a great character because he is both flawed and noble. Perry picks Keith as his best friend, but really it is so much more than that. And perhaps this relationship has as much to do with Keith picking Perry. The thing I adore in their relationship is that Keith is so lost himself, so much of what he’s become, and let himself become, is lower than his potential. So we have this guy who drinks too much, swears too much, is a bit less than respectful about the female form, and has essentially given all of his dreams away because his heartache at losing his family and surviving the war makes him unwilling to try. Then you have Perry, whose mental ability is limited through no fault of his own and society is constantly telling him that he can’t - yet Perry does nothing but try. He tries his hardest no matter what job he’s working on and he takes pride in his accomplishment, but more than that, he takes pride in his contribution...

So these two characters, to me, balance each other out. Keith watches over and looks out for Perry in a way he wouldn’t even look out for himself, and Perry gives Keith a family; one he didn’t even know he still wanted...

Themes of family run heavy in this novel and I also love our small interactions with Gary’s family. They, too, become a family for Perry and, by extension Keith and Cherry.

Cherry is probably the character you’ve all been waiting for me to address because I think there are likely some differing views on Perry’s relationship with Cherry, before and after Keith’s passing... All I can do is offer my own sensibilities, though I’d love to hear everyone else’s too. I thought Perry’s crush on Cherry throughout made him a fuller and more concrete character. It was one more thing that smacked of reality and gave me something to both identify with and feel for him over. I loved Keith and Cherry together, I thought they brought something to each other that was sorely missing from each of their lives before... though, I have to admit, Cherry’s age and family situation made me wonder somewhat whether it was fair for Keith to get involved physically at that point in her life... I didn’t read it as Keith taking advantage or even thinking about taking advantage – I read his feelings as genuine. But my personal perception can’t help but come into play in a book that pulls me so far in, and at the point where they were obviously serious, my thoughts were that it was a bad idea. My thoughts were that when Cherry grew more mature and had some distance from her abusive father, and became more of her own person, she might realize that her love for Keith was more of that as a little girl looking for a protector, and not a true partner and equal... None of this discounts my love for the book. On the contrary, I think when you go that far into psychoanalyzing characters; the writing must have made them astoundingly real.

Cherry’s relationship with Perry after Keith’s passing. I have to say, it’s not the ending I would have chosen (mighty disclaimer – it’s the author’s right to choose, and I don’t like a lot of what real life dishes out, either... it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel, obviously), not because I wanted Perry to live a celibate alone life, but because Cherry so obviously settled for Perry because Keith was not there. I wanted Perry to have a wife that adored him, first and foremost, and I almost felt like they wound up together because of an odd turn of events rather than a true romantic connection. I was happy that Perry was happy and I was happy to see him involved with both Cherry and Keith’s baby. I adored seeing Perry get his puppy and be a father and businessman. But that is, of course, my own sensibility. Now I’d love to hear yours....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lottery - First Discussion in our Book Club Blog

Today, we kick off the first in our book club blogs on Lottery by Patricia Wood As this is a book discussion that, I hope, will delve intricately into the plot and themes, I want to warn you all ahead of time. If spoilers are the type of thing that will keep you from reading a book, please pick up a copy and read this one first, and then come back and visit if you like – this isn’t a book you want to miss and hearing what readers thought won’t replace the experience. If in depth discussion ahead of time doesn’t ruin the reading experience for you, grab your coffee and hang out a bit... oh, yeah, I think I’m serving cyber wine, cheese, and crackers... and away we go!!!

For me, narrowing down the discussion topic to one thing was harder than it looked back when I finished the book. The writing is simple and forthright, and deceptively full of insight. The first thing that I’d like to touch on is perception of success. I think the idea of both monetary success and mental acuity are both given poignant precedence through the eyes of Perry.

In Perry L. Crandall, we have a main character with an IQ of 76. This number has defined him for most of his life, both in his own thoughts and by the outside world. To Perry, that number is proof positive that his is not retarded. To his brother cousins, teachers growing up, and school mates it is an indication that Perry is not as smart as they are or not able to function in their world.

Perry and his Gram are simple people. It’s quite clear that they are not well off financially, but it’s just as clear that they are happy with what they have. There are a lot of characters to like in this book, and I do love Perry, but Gram is by far my favorite even though she dies early in the book, a death which is really the catalyst to Perry’s own independence, her presence is still felt throughout in Perry’s recollection and in his own mode of living his life. Through Gram we see a no nonsense voice that, for all of her gruff insight, is the marker by which Perry learns to distinguish moral character. Throughout his life, she’s built routines that are geared so that he will be able to function without her when she’s gone. She has also, we find, held a good deal of information to herself, such as the reason for their loss of Gramp’s business. I like to think she took these heartaches internally, so Perry wouldn’t be burdened with them. Still, she did not bury it like it didn’t happen; she helped Perry to make lists, so that he would be guarded in some way against the people who might take advantage:

“...There are people you listen to, and others you don’t. You have to be able to tell the difference.” Gram slaps the kitchen table hard with her hand and makes me jump.
“Like who?” I ask.
We make a list.”

We find a distinct difference between the way Perry is treated before his Lottery winnings and after. The possible exception to this being Keith and Cherry. Gary, his boss at Holsted’s, is distinguished early as a person of character and one Perry can trust (he made the list). But even Gary learns a bit more about Perry and starts to see him in a different way; as an asset to the business. However, in this case I view the change as more in line with Perry’s own growth as a person rather than society’s view of him once he has a fortune.

I love the way the time old moral lesson of worth being determined by more than your bank balance comes into play in this novel. We become familiar with relatives who would gladly take everything Perry has without a second thought.

The characters of John, David, their wives and Perry’s own mother, who he calls Louise, are a firm contrast to Perry’s moral fortitude. These characters have all of the financial trappings that society holds in esteem. They are professionals whose mental prowess far surpasses that of Perry, and they each hold these facts as evidence that they are superior to him... So superior, in fact, they do not even claim him as family unless they need to take something from him. While this is infuriating to the reader, it also serves to bolster our own sense of right and wrong.

Yes, these characters have the money and professional resume. Yet, they are constantly miserable, nasty creatures. And, we find as we examine their lives a little more intently, even with their vast earnings they are in debt. They look down on Perry, but Perry has a better life and it’s not because ‘ignorance is bliss’ it’s because Perry puts the priority on being a good friend and a good person and doing his best.

I’m going to turn the discussion over to you now. I’m not sure what the next theme will be that I cover, but there will be a second posting in the next few days, after the readers have had a chance to comment and move the discussion forward.

What did you think of the portrayal of these characters in deference to their perception of success? Who did you find the most fascinating? Who did you find the most despicable? What in this book resonated with your experiences in life?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

December Update - Writing Check In

Upcoming Events:

The book club blog on Patricia Wood's Lottery starts this Thursday, December 13th! Mark your calendars and I hope to see everyone there!

Technical Difficulties and other Forms of Cosmic Annoyance:

I seem to have some little gremlin wreaking havoc on my cyber progress... First, the linkage problem that was so clearly discussed in comments a month ago. I think I fixed that one, the lack of linkage in this post is due to the fact that I am typing this directly into the blogger field and I didn't write down all the pretty html addresses (I usually copy paste them into a blank word file before I start my posts).

Now there seems to be something wrong with my email address. It inadvertently fails to deliver miscellaneous email of its choice. People seem to be receiving my email okay, but on a number of occasions over the last few weeks, it's come to my attention that I haven't been receiving all of the email sent to me... Kind of a finger biting proposition, as I have some submissions out and my email address is on my contact info... likely the only response, too, as they were submissions made via email or online venues. The oldest in the batch has a ten week response time, which is up in the next week or so... urg... so I'll give that one til after New Year's and then become a pest :-)

Obviously I have to do something to correct that problem - I've been, ironically enough, in email correspondence with my carrier - I think that's the funniest thing ever; you fill out their form telling them you're having problems with your email address and they request said address to get back to you - love to know which problem solver thought of that one - likely one who enjoys long liquid lunches and trash can basketball from his cubicle. I'll be calling them via telephone sometime today or tomorrow - I'm trying to wait for a tad bit of calm before discussing it with some tech who really doesn't deserve my annoyance... besides, when you curse at them in a creative yet insulting fashion it doesn't tend to fix the problem.

The next step is setting up a new email address for submissions. I'm thinking either Yahoo or gmail, if anyone has a preference, let me know. That way, I won't spend weeks worrying about whether they responded and I never got it over the next batch of submissions.

Last, but not least, la, la, la... I opened up someone else's word file to do some beta reading for them and their settings were completely different than mine - which is fine, except whatever doohickey I hit while in their document saved their setting to my word program... meaning I have to go in and redo my settings because... WHINE... I don't like theirs... it's really a small thing, but I went to write a quick post and couldn't fix the document and just about snapped... mostly because I'm upset over the whole email thing... sniffle... okay, seriously, this one will probably take me twenty minutes to figure out and fix, I'm not that technologically daft it was just an added annoyance I didn't need today - so you all get to hear me vent... la, la, la, luck you!

On to my actual writing progress:

Those of you who follow these things will remember that in my November post I set a goal of four submissions. I failed utterly and miserably... I did I did... I would hang my head in shame, but it would just be four more submissions I'd be pulling hair out over, so, hey, you take the good with the bad... Actually, I did finish one short story that is ready for submission (I didn't send yet because I found out about the email thing... though, that's not an excuse really, as I just was ready to send this week and my month is up on the 15th)

I do have one essay that's half written.. it needs to be finished and the markets I've found so far want query with clips first... which I don't have, so either I keep looking for markets or hold off a while with this one.

Still, that's only one complete and one partially done, out of four slated submissions.... I officially suck. I'm not even giving you any excuses about Christmas coming or whatever other thing is going on, when I set a goal I have to meet it... I have to start looking at this like I did term papers; if you don't get it in on time you fail... then you wasted a hell of a lot of money to hang out with wanna be communists discussing the ramifications of cheese whiz and thinking you're so cool for checking out the gay bar... okay, not literally on all of that... though I'm really only lying about the cheese whiz.

The moment you've all been waiting for - WIP update

Okay, my goal was to completely finish the revisions on the first two chapters (the ones I was having such a hard time with) and to complete revisions on two further chapters... On this goal, I have actually surpassed my expectations. So much so that two weeks into my month's goals, I upped my revision final date to the end of January... The first two chapters are done. I like them - I think they're much better than they were and right this second they are the best I got - but I don't think that's a bad thing. I can't tell this close, but my feeling is that you can really feel the characters and that the action pulls you in... I'm not touching those chapters again, I'll wait until after my beta readers have read the full and I've taken some time away after revisions then I'll read the whole thing once more.

I also finished the final revisions (I say final, as if I won't tweak or completely change things if they don't read right after the whole process is done) anyway, I finished not two chapters, but five!!!! I can see the finish line and it has a big easy chair and a couple of foofy martini's...

So, yay me, I can say I surpassed the goal on the WIP which is the most important goal I had writing wise, though it doesn't give me a pass on the submission failure.

For January's Check In

I'm sticking with four submission and I'm not counting the one I have ready to go...

My out date for the revisions is the very end of January... I'm setting January 29th - my dad's birthday... it's right there anyway and I can't think of a better way to celebrate that anniversary.

In Other News

Thanks to much help at the Goblin's Crucible, otherwise known as JJdebenedictis' blog, I did finish my pitch this month. So, my query letter is ready to go, other than the first paragraph which will depend on which agents I'm submitting to - still far less to worry about with that letter than I usually do.

Hunted up another page of perspective agents, again with stars next to their names for further research... A funny thing, one agent who looked really promising, represented middle grade, yada yada... I went and found an interview in which he was asked the question, 'What do you absolutely not want to see in a submission?' The first thing he said was 'Fairies'...

Immediately I thought, 'well, yeah, but mine are different... if he only read...' and then I stopped myself... Why do we do that? I know you other writers out there have done it, too? He's not on my list, though I'm sure he's a very good agent... but why try to convince someone they're wrong in their taste? That's just a stupid waste of time... and so I closed that interview page, telling myself, 'drop it, Merry, he's just not that into you...'

Okie-dokie artichokie's... I'm behind on my odes, but permitting I get the word stuff fixed with relative ease, I should get one posted tomorrow... otherwise you guys will have to wait until after the Lottery discussion...

And now that you've read such a long and winding rant couched as a monthly check in - what's annoying you today? Bad news? Good news? Please join me in a cyber grumble... or cheer me up with your budding good fortune.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Challenge - Charity Begins At Home

My friend, Silken recently posted a challenge asking bloggers to think outside of their computer screens in order to spread the good cheer this season. Take a moment if you can and stop at her original post to see her take on spreading the benefits of her extra blogging dollars.

Her post asked us to go out into the world and use some of the profits we make from paid posting and blogging on a charity of our choice this Christmas season... As I said in her comments, I don’t currently earn any monetary value from blogging because I stopped doing paid postings when I switched to this blog. But I would be happy to support charities through the Christmas season... I went on to list the things I am giving this holiday... the same causes I contribute to every holiday... hmmm... maybe I can do a little better.

Unfortunately, I’m at a bit of a disadvantage, as the things I currently support are really about as much as I can comfortably afford.... so I started thinking about this dilemma, which brought me around to thoughts of charity in general.

The first phrase that popped into my mind was, ‘Charity begins at home’. Sometimes, especially around the holidays, we hear so much about what’s needed in the community that we forget to look at what’s needed right in our backyard. It doesn’t have to be a great need. It doesn’t even have to be a monetary need. From my experience, bank account balance has very little to do with a person’s fortune and some of the ones with the highest balance actually have the poorest lives.

That brought me around to the story of St. Nicholas. Some of you might not know this one, it’s very popular with us Catholics and I tell my children a rather watered down version of the story every year around the Feast of St. Nicholas, which just past yesterday, December 6th. You may know it as the day Catholic kids put their shoes out for St. Nick to fill with candy and small treats – yes, we did that, too.

But the story of St. Nicholas is a bit more extensive. He was born to a wealthy family of the time and raised with a very devout faith. His parents died when he was young, leaving Nicholas a vast fortune, but the man wanted only to devote his life to God. He followed his path to the priesthood and eventually, sainthood (long after his death, of course) But during his life, St. Nicholas saw no need to use the material treasures he had inherited on his own wants; he had all that he needed serving God and the Church. Instead, he gave his money to those in need throughout his life.

But St. Nicholas didn’t just open a coin purse and toss money to the poor in open daylight. He didn’t bestow these gifts as awards or with great fanfare. Instead, he saw a need in people around him, those he heard were having hard times, and those he happened upon and watched their struggle. Especially small children, St. Nicholas had a special place in his heart for the young and wanted nothing more than to aid them in their life and relationship with God. So he gave of his time and resources, but in secret. He never wanted to be thanked or even known for the generosity he bestowed on those around him because he wanted the recipients to give thanks to God. His good deeds were a prayer and he didn’t want thanks for that – he wanted instead to impact those around him with the knowledge that God will take care of all things, whether it’s through the hands of one of his servants or through divine intervention.

So, my extra something this month will be to play secret Santa for those around me, but never to let them know it was me. It may not be monetary help; it might just be a small thing, like brushing the snow off of their car or leaving some small thing to make them smile. Silken asked for everyone to have completed their extra charity by December 31st and to post what they’d done, without telling amounts or anything, but as a promotion to the charity of your choice. I’d love to see posts of that nature going up around the internet this December... I’d love to see posts of that nature going up the whole year round.

I’m not naming people to complete this challenge, though I’d love to hear if you did. And I don’t know if I’ll be posting an update on this one, myself, because I think it might be fun just to do some good things and keep them to myself... There was a Friends episode once where Joey and Phoebe argued over charity. Joey insisted that you couldn’t do anything good for someone else without receiving something in return... I tend to agree with him.

Good luck and happy gifting, whether it’s time, talent, prayer, or pocket change. Even a small thing can have a huge impact on someone’s day.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I Have My Own Song!!! Woo Hoo!!!!

I have my own song, woo hoo!!!! Colleen Katana wrote the following song for me, to the tune of Hey, Mickey! Stop by her blog and give her kudos for a job well done – she’s also one of my winners, so she’ll be getting a song parody here some time in the near future as well...

But really, I just wanted to show off Colleen’s brilliant writing, ya know, not ego stroke for me, writing praise for her... okay, and a little ego stroke for me, I’m secretly waving pom poms while I sing this one too!

Oh Merry, your blog's so fine, your blog's so fine, it blows my mind
Hey Merry (clap-clap clap-clap!)
Hey Merry (clap-clap clap-clap!)

Oh Merry, your blog's so fine, your blog's so fine, it blows my mind
Hey Merry (clap-clap clap-clap!)
Hey Merry (clap-clap clap-clap!)

(Verse 1)
Hey Merry—
You seem to write all night and that's a little long
Every time I check you've posted yet another song
Why can't I do that too, oh you put me to such shame, Merry!

Cause when you say you will, you always follow through
Your writing gives me chills, Merry, yes indeed it do
In comparison to you, my writing feels so lame, Merry!

Oh Merry, Mom and More, I check your blog each day
Your writing grabs my eye and I can never click away
Oh Merry, stories of your life, your thoughts, your kids…
It's blogs like yours, Merry…
Oh what you write, Merry,
Write, Merry
Never disappoints, Merry!

(Verse 2)
Hey Merry—
Now when you take me to your world, I always seem to know
That every time you write you show a little more soul
Your query on BookEnds proves how well your words flow, Merry!

So c'mon and keep posting, anyway you can
Anything you want to write, I'll take it like a man
Just don't disappear and leave me all alone, Merry!

Oh Merry, Mom and More, I check your blog each day
Your writing grabs my eye and I can never click away
Oh Merry, stories of your life, your thoughts, your kids…
It's blogs like yours, Merry…
Oh what you write, Merry,
Write, Merry
Never disappoints, Merry!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

An Ode to Mary Witzl

Today’s ode is for Mary Witzl’s Resident Alien blog – the song I’m taking my parody from? American Pie - I doubt anyone reading this really needs me to link the audio... I do have to preface this, though, in attempting to keep with the rhythm and rhyme, some of the lyrics are slightly inaccurate... For example, I say that I found Mary’s blog in September... hey, it had a good beat and I could dance to it.... in actuality I found her blog months earlier than that, though I couldn’t tell you the exact date now.

Okay, on with the song – adopt your folksy best and sing along –

An Ode to Mary Witzl

A fine, fine blog I know...
Found her in September
And I’ve been reading her all this while.
And if you give her just one glance
Then stay a while and just per chance
I tell you, Mary’s bound to make you smile.

Her home is happy, that I’ll give her
Though her parking can make me shiver
Beggers on her doorstep
New customs, she’s now adept.

It was too funny when she tried
Death metal concerts - her kids just sighed.
To me it was a point of pride
She didn’t run and hide.

She said bye bye to American pie
In a new place, at her own pace,
You don’t need to ask why.
Scotland is her home now where she’ll be, by and by
She just got sick of our burgers and fry.
Got sick of our burger and fry.

She’ll give you a needed shove
To help you earn a dream you love,
If you’ll only let her know...
If you’re a writer, take a stroll,
Mary’s support can sooth your soul
She’ll help you to unwind and take it slow...

Her husband’s case of pessimism
Makes her laugh and roll her eyes at him
With humor we could use,
To get us through life’s little dues.

Japan was lovely full of friends and luck
Scotland called and they packed the family up
In her place I’d say, ‘What the f—k’
She didn’t run ad hide...

She just kept saying
Bye bye to American pie
In a new place at her own pace
You don’t need to ask why
Scotland is her home now where she’ll be, by and by
She just got sick of our burgers and fry
Got sick of our burger and fry.....

I hope you all liked it - especially Mary. I picked the song especially because you mentioned in comments some time ago that you liked it - and it fit so well, being a natural born American who's spent most of your adult life abroad. For those of you who have never read Mary's blog, I highly recommend it!!! There's a little bit for everyone. If you've ever wondered what it's like to live in another country or a strange culture, if you like discussing writing, raising children, husbands, or any aspect of life, really, Mary's blog is full of wisdom and mirth... and so is the owner.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Truth About Santa

I’m taking a little break from my Ode postings to have a little Christmas fun... for those of you having a good time with the song parodies, Mary’s will be up sometime tonight or tomorrow.

For today though, I’m in a Santa mood... we put up the outside lights over the weekend and I’m getting the front room and dining room carpets cleaned tomorrow so I can put up the tree this week... we’ve just started our Advent Calendar and the kids each made their Advent wreaths... I can finally turn on some Christmas music and actually enjoy it... whenever the stores or radio plays it prior to December it just cheeses me off!

Anyhoo......... somewhere in blogland, sorry I don’t remember now whose blog I was on – if you recognize it as yours just yell at me for the lack of linkage in the comments – they were discussing when they found out the truth about Santa... it got me to thinking because my daughter just figured it out this year... she has a friend a few years older than her who told her that Santa is mom and dad last year and she’s been doing some detective work since then about Santa, the tooth fairy, and the Easter Bunny, one of many reasons that I call my daughter ‘Ms. Marple’ .... to her credit, she took it all with a grain of salt and is playing along so her brothers don’t find out. She also knows not to mention it in school at all, in case there are some hold overs in the fourth grade that still get to believe in the magic of it all.

Truth be told, I don’t remember ever believing in Santa. That doesn’t mean I didn’t, only that by the time the secret was ruined I was far too young to still remember it as being a big deal. Then again, I was the youngest of three, with two very cynical and worldly brothers that were older than me. My first memory of the fat man was when I was three years old, going on four. I know this because it was the same year that I split my head open a few weeks before Christmas and some things you just remember... I remember going head first into the coffee table. I remember my mother freaking out and putting me up on the counter while she got ice and frantically called my father, as she was home along with three kids (ages 7, 5, and 3 at the time) and my dad had the only family car. I remember watching drops of blood drip past my eye, and not knowing enough to cry about it... I also remember looking down at my oldest brother, whose head was only a little taller than the kitchen sink. He looked up at me, matter of factly, and said, “Head wounds bleed profusely, you know. You could bleed to death.”

Seriously, that’s exactly what he said, the little jag off... he was always like that, though, the kid read science books for fun and he used his rocket scientist IQ to scare the bejeezus out of me... which worked, after he said that I started to cry... anyway, my dad’s friend came and took me and my mom to the hospital, I got stitches and a candy cane and I think I broke the poor nurse’s fingers because she told me to squeeze my hardest while they were giving me the stitches and she looked none to pleased by the time I left...

Anyhoo, in all the hubbub and excitement, we never made it to the mall to see Santa, and my mother was not happy about it. She kept telling my dad they had to go and he kept putting it off for a myriad of reasons (by the way, she got her own car as a Christmas gift that year and she never did thank me for the head wound)... by Christmas eve she was frantic about it and gave him quite an earful... My dad, in turn, called a guy he knew that was a cabbie and just asked the man to meet him at his office that he needed a favor. The cabbie flew right over, thinking my dad needed a ride or whatever, and my dad greeted him with a Santa suit. This poor guy had no idea what he was in for, but he went ahead and put the thing on and my dad brought him home.

The fat man came in the door with my dad with a present for each of us – mine was a cupie doll with a plastic swirl of hair and eyes that closed when you laid her on her back. And I will never forget this for as long as I live – ‘Santa’ sat each of us on his lap in turns, as he sat on my dad’s big old recliner. He asked us what we wanted and smelled like cigars. And under his breath he muttered, “Ho, ho, ho, I could be at the airport right now makin’ fifty bucks! Ho, ho, ho!”

I still think that was about the funniest Christmas Eve in the history of man. My parents weren’t normal, but God love ‘em, they did their best and they were a damn good time.