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Nathan Bransford’s 5th Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate 1st Paragraph Challenge

7 Feb

oracle cover 200 pxOnce again, I’ve joined the great slush pile experiment of glee. (Well, it’s genuinely fun for me.)

A few days ago I was able to type the magical words THE END on my second novel ever, and, to celebrate, I entered its first paragraph in Nathan Bransford’s challenge. I managed to make it in as paragraph number 29 of 869, so I’m excited that, if nothing else, most people will at least skim mine before their eyeballs blow out from fatigue. It may not register, they may not like it, but they’ll have read it, and, um…yay.

Here it is, for posterity:

Mid-tackle, feet in the air, Jim realized this was the stupidest thing he’d ever done. But it was too late. Cartoon characters could stop time, could backpedal and change direction as they fell. Lowlife vermin Jimmy Scott was no cartoon character.

From: The Tale of the Fugitive Phantasmic Oracle

A twelve-year-old runaway decides to pay “rent” on his woodland hideout by becoming fairy godkid to the family who owns the land – eavesdropping in order to grant wishes, serve as a human Ouija board, and perform anonymous good deeds from the tree tops. However, his “magic” keeps leading to disaster, winter’s on the way, and rumors are spreading that could lead to discovery by the stepfather he’d hoped to escape.


Literary Christmas Gifts, Year Five

25 Dec

IMG_3675This year’s literary themed gift from my sister.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Narnia

Brown “fur” for the coats in the wardrobe
Pastel drawing of a street lamp in the woods
Turkish Delight
“Jeweled” goblet
hot chocolate


10 Mar

A notable dearth of pigeons in the neighborhood today. The hawks are eyeing the crows…

Happy New Year!

31 Dec

In lieu of a top ten list, let us merely take a moment of silence to reflect on the year that was 2010.

(That’s a fancy way of saying I have nothing interesting enough to list.)

Happy 2011 to all!

Literary Christmas Genius

25 Dec

Proof that my sister is a creative genius.

Oz gift theme

This is the third year in a row that she’s created a literary theme for her gifts. I love them.

This year was The Wizard of Oz.

  • Ruby slippers (literally slippers)
  • poppy seeds
  • lions and tigers and bears (oh my)
  • emerald earrings (green crystal & silver, she made them)
  • apples (a la the angry trees in the movie)
  • a silver heart frame (tin man)
  • a book of word puzzles (scarecrow/brain)
  • a bottle of Professor Marvel’s Liquid Courage for the Cowardly Lion (mini wine bottle with a custom label she created)
  • Wizard & Gale’s Wicked Witch Repellant (bottled water with a custom label she created)
  • a gingerbread village to represent home

Last year was Alice in Wonderland.

  • tea
  • teacup
  • drink me (soda)
  • eat me (a cupcake, not shown, eaten)
  • pea soup (more pepper)
  • marzipan (in lieu of mushrooms)

The inaugural year, 2008, she did Little House on the Prairie.

  • a “tin cup”
  • sticks of candy
  • little heart-shaped, golden-brown cake
  • a shiny new penny

How to Have a Nifty Super Duper Swell Time (Amusement Park Edition)

8 Dec

In this tough economy, sometimes we just need to get away, escape for a while with the family. One fleeting, magical day at an amusement park is a splurge, but well worth it if you follow a few simple tips to maximize not only your joy but that of those around you.

  1. Decide to forgo the lockers in favor of a backpack. Make sure that you stuff that sucker full of coats until you’re twice as deep as you normally are. And this is the important part — FORGET ALL ABOUT IT. No, really. Never think about it again. Only then can you play the SUPER DUPER LAUREL & HARDY GAME. If you know you’re batting people like ping pong balls every time you turn around or smashing the person on the other side of the rope every time you step backward, then it just becomes malicious, and that just isn’t you. You’re A Good Person. That exempts you from ever being the bad guy in any situation. You may make the occasional innocent mistake, but if anyone ever mentions it, remember — they’re being jerks, trying to make you feel bad for their own entertainment, and need to lighten up. A blank stare should convey this message clearly.

  3. You know those rules about flash photography? Those are just for all those other people. Other people are stupid. You know what you’re doing, and once won’t hurt because you’re A Good Person. Besides, your camera phone just won’t get a good picture of a hairy, plastic, life-size pirate without the flash, and then what will you frame and hang over the fireplace for decades to come, warming the hearts of all who visit?

  5. Bring a stroller. If you don’t own one, rent one. No. Rent FOUR. Make sure that most of the time no one uses one, but insist on pushing them everywhere anyway in the crookedest possible path. BONUS POINTS for letting your cutesy wootsy toddler push them. It’s ADORABLE, and people don’t mind being trapped behind you because they get to watch junior, and all their hearts will grow three sizes.


    Remember, a stroller is a magical ENTITLEMENT GRANTER and can be used as a weapon, every offense automatically deemed “an accident” or “in self defense”. If anyone gets mad that you slammed the front end of one into their leg or ran over grandma’s foot, you must give them the stare of righteous righteousness, the I’VE GOT A BABY ON BOARD AND I’M NOT AFRAID TO USE IT stare. And if you stop suddenly, as you are so entitled to do, and the people behind you trip over you and slightly jar your stroller on their way to cracking their heads on the happiest pavement on earth, make sure you shriek — not in sympathy but in outrage. How dare they jostle your child in the slightest as they die? Why, next they’ll expect you to stop texting as you steer your stroller with your pinkies.


  6. People may claim that it’s for the greater good if you ask a few family members to walk behind someone else, narrowing the group, but that’s ridiculous. Everyone knows that we are all equals and must walk abreast through the park, never yielding in the slightest to oncoming traffic. Walk proudly! Walk slowly! Let your eyes go unfocused! Then and only then can park guests enjoy WAVE AFTER WAVE OF SOMNAMBULANT ROCKETTES. Tease them by never quite getting to the part where you kick your legs — unless there are people right in front of you, then encourage your children to spontaneously practice kung fu and karate.


    This method is greatly aided by the next.


  7. If they are actually passing out valium at the park entrance, as it so often seems, get some! Get heaps. All the cool kids are doing it, and they’ll look down on you if you don’t. So, if you forget, just do your best to act stoned so no one catches on. Zombies are red hot in popular culture right now. You can eat the rational brain right out of a person if you zombie just so. If a non-zombie has the gall to remind you of what they’re supposed to do to kill a zombie, then they’re just being jerks, they don’t get it, and obviously forgot their valium. Do your duty and look down on them.

  9. You will feel that you are slightly off your desired path from time to time. The best thing to do in this instance is to STOP DEAD IN YOUR TRACKS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. Do not pull over to the side. Just start shouting, “I thought it was that way,” or, “Where’s the map?” Argue about that for a while. Never ever look up to see the effect this has on traffic. After all, everyone else is just a cardboard cut-out extra in the movie entitled, YOU, MAMA’S SPECIAL FLOWER, ARE AT AN AMUSEMENT PARK, so they can be ignored. But kindly do remember to fling your arms out from time to time, pointing in different directions, or you won’t get to feel the lovely massage that comes of socking someone’s cardboard cut-out grandma in the teeth or poking the eye out of someone else’s child.Which leads us to the next rule.

  11. Children must be neither seen nor heard. If you have somewhere to go, even if it’s a non-emergency,  just plow right through them as though they aren’t there. If a child is standing right next to a rope, and you see your friends up ahead, catching up to them is far more important than that child — besides, those sissies can’t fight back. Shove the child, shove the rope so its reverberations take out the ears of several more children, and run like Forrest Gump. If you don’t see you’ve hurt someone, IT NEVER HAPPENED, and you remain A Good Person.

  13. Just as tips are discouraged on cruise ships, “please,” “thank you,” and, “sorry,” are considered in poor taste at amusement parks. If you ever say one of those things, especially at the end of a day, you may see the other person start to weep with shock and gratitude, and that’s just gross.

  15. FOR PARK EMPLOYEES: Install lockers on one side of your main street, put all the restaurants on the other side, and then, just as dinner time, sunset, and sharp drops in temperature intersect, CLOSE THE STREET TO ALL PEDESTRIAN TRAFFIC. Don’t have a parade. Just cord it off, add people waving neon sticks, and direct all the freezing diners who want to get at their coats all the way back to the park entrance, shoulder to shoulder like cattle — or, in this case, frozen hamburger. Shout at them, put down orange cones in no particular pattern, make it very dark, and shake more lights in their faces so that half accidentally leave the park. Force the rest to repeat their fight up the other side to the lockers. If you can, hire lots of giggling teenagers (drunk on their day of autonomy), and thick-necked men (who’ve had it up to HERE, unlike the rest of the guests) to shove their way through the crowd for maximum pain and indignation.


    Advanced Method: When the biggest glut of visitors has been put through The Stampede Ride and are in sight, suddenly open the street for easy crossing , just to kick ’em in the gut.


  16. The most important rule of a visit to an amusement park: Hold on to each and every grudge you develop during the day, forget that you were sometimes guilty, too, and then post a rant on a blog that only fourteen yawning crickets read.

Random ! of the Day

14 Oct

One can only dream of such a land — a sea of gummi bears and no ants to swarm them.


Maybe Just One Teeny Exploding Planet?

9 Oct

Wrote 1800 words of the last chapter of my book today then sat back and thought, “Well, now, ain’t that a chatty little resolution?”

They aren’t exactly sipping tea, and I don’t require an exploding Death Star for my finale…


No. Focus.

Anyway, it needs to be quite different. Time to do the old Cut & Paste between my document and a junkyard file for old ideas. And then back to the drawing board looking for the strangest path between Y and Z.

Last Sprint

1 Oct

Before we had kids, my husband liked to play a video game where you raced motorcycles and attacked your opponents with chains or mighty kicks. Because that wasn’t exciting or brutal enough, he always tried to end the game by wiping out just short of the finish line so he could tumble and skid across from momentum, still winning a medal.

That’s a really lame metaphor for how I view Fridays. The week’s been brutal and fast-paced, the finish line is in sight, and I’m about to wipe out from all the stress, hoping my momentum will carry me through to the relief of the weekend. How long I skid depends on how late my husband works, and that always varies.


  • Drum roll over who will be chosen for a page critique at Nathan Bransford’s site.
  • Drum roll before the NaNoWriMo 2010 site goes live.
  • The drum roll before the wipe out described above.

Plus, a battle with my muleheaded five-year-old:

He reads a short book and is supposed to talk about it, then draw a picture with the book’s title at the top.

I sit down with him. “So is this a true story, Youngest? Or is it make-believe.”

“It’s true.”

(It’s not.)

“Is it something that really happened? Or do you mean it’s a story about something that could really happen?”

“It really happened. I was there!”  He gives me his scowling bull expression.

“Um. Okay.” I’ll fight that battle later.  “Tell me what it was about.”

“It was about me and Daddy and [his brother]  going to Legoland last weekend.”

“This book was?”

“No. My story is.”

“Well, we’re supposed to be talking about this book you just read.”

“I don’t want to talk about that story.” Scornful look. “I want to tell my story.”

Then he didn’t want to write the book’s title.; he wanted to make up a sentence at random. He didn’t want to draw a picture about the book; he wanted to draw the pedal cars at Legoland. He didn’t want half a dozen other things. Much finagling later, I’m still not sure his picture had much to do with the story, but he drew it with glee: a happy hedgehog with an apple stuck to its back standing beneath a tree that grows blue apples.

It Is to Weep

30 Sep

Can I afford thirty-dollar cake?

Do I need thirty thousand calories?

Did one of these bakeries just open in my neighborhood?

Am I going crazy wanting one?

It shall be mine…

Cardboard Forts & Blankets over Chairs

29 Sep

You do not want me designing your house.

Any house I designed would no doubt blow over in the first gust of wind because it was made of cardboard and tape. My characters, however, have no choice. If I say, “Live under a rock,” they’ll live under a rock, by gum. And so I spent my morning developing a rock floor plan for one of the major houses in my story.

It’s very important I do so, you see, because, um, otherwise… Okay, it’s not important. But it was fun.

It just occurred to me this morning that I was viewing this house like a theatrical set. I knew exactly what was on three sides. The fourth, apparently, consisted of my gigantic eyeballs peering through the diorama’s window*. Maybe someday there will be an actual audience of readers there. But I still want to construct that fourth wall.

Last year, I scoured Google Images and sites about Victorian homes to compile a turreted Queen Anne mansion suitable for my family of eccentrics. Between my research and a liberal dose of cut and paste in Photoshop, I wound up with something darn near perfect. Now I’m on the hunt for a two-story craftsman home. I found a great site that shows Sears home plans from the first half of the twentieth century. It’s a lot of fun to look at. It also made me realize that the fourth wall wasn’t my only problem.

I see this house slightly differently in each version of my novel.

It’s not such a big problem because, as I said, this isn’t important, just fun. And no one else will ever know that in my main WIP, the basement stairs are by the front wall and in my NaNo novel, they’re closer to the kitchen, but it still bothers me.  I see these scenes so vividly. To rearrange the rooms seems wrong. An atrocity! (The horror…)

So there’s another opportunity for procrastination later on because my control-freak brain will not let this rest. It was hard enough to admit that just because I imagined the basement studio in a certain position, it simply could not exist entirely outside the house’s boundaries the way Pirates of the Caribbean resides under what used to be Disneyland’s parking lot. This house is on a smallish lot in north Berkeley.


In other news, it’s Wednesday. And why is that news? Because Wednesdays are nerve wracking. I keep getting calls from the school.

First, my youngest learned the hard way what happens to the first kid down the slide on a misty morning, so I had to bring the humiliated creature a change of clothing.

The next week, he decided to hold an impromptu demonstration of his stubbornness talent, and so I got the call to come and end the dramatic performance. When I arrived, the principal was standing guard while my youngest clung to the backpack hooks with all his might and wailed, “I just wanted to learn something, and I didn’t learn anything!” The principal said my youngest wouldn’t go with him, and he couldn’t pick up kids and haul them off, so it was my turn. Youngest climbed into my arms sobbing while I wondered how many kids actually get sent home for the day from kindergarten. Ugh.

Last week, I think we had a break. I forget. But today, not only did my youngest fall off a tricycle before school even started, I once again saw the school’s number on the caller ID around mid-morning. I believe I shouted, “No!”

So far, everything’s been about my youngest, so it never occurred to me that it was about my eldest until the voice started saying that she was from the health office, and they’d had the eldest there. My brain immediately zapped back to last week when I saw an ambulance go screaming into the school lot, and how I freaked out for at least an hour until I was sure the school wouldn’t call me. My eldest has a peanut allergy, and so every day is scary because of it. Anyway, flash to today and the nurse saying they’d had him in the health office. Terror. Why the past tense? Was he in an ambulance now?

Turns out he’d just bonked his head on a pole as he was walking with his teacher, so she’d sent him in for some ice. The nurse said he held it for a few moments then begged to go back to recess. Thus the past tense. I kind of wonder if she was confused by the way I laughed at the end of the call. I just liked the happy ending.

And now it’s siesta time for everyone.


*Just realized not everyone made the same kind of dioramas in school as I did. We’d take a shoebox, poke an eyehole or window in one of the short ends, then fill the box with our 3D scene. We also had to cut a rectangle in the lid and cover it with some kind of translucent paper, like a skylight. I was obsessed with those things — wound up making a bunch of them at home just for fun. I might even have one socked away somewhere.

I’m Just Sayin’…

27 Sep

Found this on our walk to school today, just a few doors down.

There are at least two stars in that top swirl of color. Eee! 😉