Monday, November 29, 2010

The Many Uses of a Pizza cutter

Pizza rotary cutters are pretty brilliant. I love using them -- whether it's to cut pizza, quesidillas, or sandwiches.

Today I also discovered that they are absolutely fantastic for cutting sandwich meat into strips. I cut the meat into tiny squares for things like scrambled eggs and Greek pizza. Normally I use a large chopping knife, but today I decided to give the pizza cutter a try. It worked like a charm -- and about three times as fast!

Now I'm thinking I could put this pizza cutter to use cutting some other things as well...

What handy ways do YOU employ a pizza cutter?

Blame NaNo.

I've been desperately wanting to get another post written and feel incredibly guilty that I've only managed 13 posts for you all this month. However I got sick, we had holidays, and I ran into a rut with my NaNo novel which meant suddenly I had to crank out many more words a day than I was expecting. And I've still got a ton of I&F work to do. Phew.

Meanwhile I still plan to give thoughts on HP7, and maybe I'll even make it to tangled sometime soon! I'm also wading my way through a delightful but insanely long novel about Mary, Queen of Scots. If it turns out to be appropriate I may even do a review on it, it's that good so far.

I'm also thinking of starting to review the TV shows I've seen over the past few years. So there should be plenty to keep me busy once I get through November. Can't wait for Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Sorry, I lied."

Have you noticed this trend? If someone tells you something, and then finds out later that they were mistaken, or facts were other than they know, instead of saying "Hey, so I made a mistake..." they are just as likely to say "Sorry, I lied..."

This seems a bit strange to me. I mean sure, I understand the cultural meaning here... (and have occasionally used the phrasing myself) but I feel it could have disturbing ramifications. If this trend continues, it could change the meaning of "lie." Instead of being a deliberate falsification, it would soften the meaning of the word to "mistake."

And I'm not just talking about a change in definition in the dictionary. Society's entire perception of what "lie" means could change. A lie would no longer be so deliberately malicious, but rather an accident.

Why is this worrisome? Am I overreacting?

In the last century we've seen such a shift in moral perceptions. The world hates the word "sin" and despises moral absolutes. Condemnation of many acts that have been seen as evil for thousands of years now is decried as judgmental and narrow-minded. Since the world has normalized adultery, fornication, blasphemy, homosexuality and coveting, is it really that irrational of me to see "sorry I lied" as the next item on the list? Could this really a move (however unintended) towards blurring the definition and consequences of lying?


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Enchanted Ivy

Imagine you are a prospective student at Princeton University. As you tour the campus, you find that an exclusive society is going to give you a chance to win instant admission to this college of your dreams. Just one catch. To do so you will have to enter into a world of magic -- of talking gargoyles, were-tigers and vampire monkeys. It could even cost your life.

This is exactly the situation that high school freshman Lily Carter finds herself roped into in the pages of Sarah Beth Durst's latest book, "Enchanted Ivy."

From the moment I open the cover I was entranced by this story. Even though I had a NaNo novel urgently calling to me, my eyes stayed glued to the page until I was deep into the book. It wasn't until I was halfway through that I reluctantly pulled myself away -- and that only succeeded because I bribed my inner reader with the idea of e-mailing Durst and telling her immediately how much I was enjoying the novel.

It was only a few hours later that I finished the book and immediately passed it on to my younger sister.

"Enchanted Ivy" is Durst's most captivating book yet. And although I enjoyed "Ice" and "Into the Wild" (and it's sequel) I can easily say that this latest work is my favorite. Maybe it's the magical world set on an ordinary college campus -- maybe it's the unexpected twists -- or the lovable characters -- but I am absolutely in love with "Enchanted Ivy." And topping my Christmas list is a desire for Durst to announce that she has a sequel in the works, because the setting is rich and absolutely demands further installments.

I would recommend this book for readers 14 and up. It is more suited for a younger audience than "Ice" was -- apart from some bloody encounters with a villain it remains quite appropriate. And as evidenced by my own enjoyment, this is a book to be enjoyed both by the younger ones -- and by those of us who read it with a nostalgic air, wishing our own college experiences might have included such magical adventures.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sickness and Stuff

So sorry that I've been so quiet this week! I came down with the flu on Friday and have had horrible brain fog ever since. I feel rather terrible about that because I've had some good post ideas lately but I just don't trust my brain to properly convey my ideas to the page... you know how it goes. When you're sick some things can truly be genius -- and others can just be sickness pretending to be genius.

Hoping things will clear up so I can get back to work and also so that I can go see Harry Potter 7 on Friday!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Toy Story 3 at Redbox

Have any of you gotten Toy Story 3 from Redbox? I would like to rent it, but the last Pixar movie we got from Redbox (UP) didn't have any special features, including subtitles. Watching a movie without subtitles isn't an option for me (since I'm hard of hearing) so I'd like to know whether or not Toy Story 3 at Redbox has them before I lay down the money for it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Are You Ready to Date?

My thoughts on being emotionally, spiritually, financially, physically and mentally ready for a dating relationship:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I bought an orange jump-rope.

Yes, folks, I am the proud owner of an orange plastic jump-rope. Despite the fact that orange is one of my least favorite colors (just above puke green and magenta) and the other fact that I don't jump-rope, I nonetheless just purchased one. Why?

Blame it on Claire's. Yes. The teen jewelry store. Did you know that they also sell jump-ropes? Well now you do. Count it as your Important Fact of the Day.

Every now and then Claire's will have a sale on their clearance where you can get 10 things for $10 bucks. My sister and I happened to stop into one of the stores on Monday and - low and behold! - it was a 10 for $10 sale. I couldn't resist. My sister got four things and I got six.

The selection wasn't amazing. I mean, the first three things were easy. Cute hair clips! But the necklaces were not included in the 10 for $10 (grrr) and I can't wear earrings. So I had to look for other things. Namely more hair stuff. But you can only own so many jeweled bobby pins.

And then I found the jump-rope. It was cool and sparkly and bright and had this cool twist to it... and I thought "now that is SHINY! and it's only $1! and you never know when I might need a jump-rope..."

So, my readers, I put that jump-rope into my basket and my sister was completely befuddled as to why it was there...

But you never know when you might need a jump-rope. So now if I have to tie up a burglar or just burn a lot of calories really fast, I'm all set.

Me and my orange jump-rope.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A NaNo Skit

A One Act About NaNoWriMo

By Elizabeth Hausladen

The stage is quite plain. There is a desk, an office chair, and an arm chair. Above the desk hangs a poster that says "NaNoWriMo: 30 Days, 50,000 words!"

My office is right in here.

Two people enter. They can be played by either men or women, although this script is written with a feminine slant.

The COUNSELOR is a professional looking person in her late twenties. She is well groomed, with every hair in place.

The WRITER is younger, perhaps college age. There are circles under her eyes and she is dressed in sweats. Her hair looks as though it hasn't been brushed in days. Under her arms she clutches a laptop.

Will you sit down? (Indicates the armchair)

(gingerly sits down)

Now, what are you in for today? I understand it was something of an emergency?

(bursts into tears)

(hurries to offer a box of tissues) Oh no, don't cry! What is the matter?

My -- my book -- is TERRIBLE!


My characters won't do ANYTHING I want. They all went out and bought gumballs last night. WHO WANTS TO READ ABOUT GUMBALLS?


And tomorrow is the 15th. I'm supposed to have 25,000 words by the 15th!

(inches backwards and starts tugging on the edge of her poster)

I was up to 24,593 words last night. I was SO CLOSE. But then my computer died on me and I lost HALF of that. HALF of my story! And all I remember are the gumballs!

(succeeds in pulling the poster off the wall and hiding it behind the desk) I am so sorry. That is terrible!

My life is OVER!

Oh -- well you may feel that way now, but I'm sure that's not true. You've got your school, your family, your volunteering at the nursing home --

I'm a great big failure!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (bursts into tears again)

(Starting to get really worried) Uh, can you excuse me for a moment? I need to make a phone call.


(grabs a notepad and cell phone and leaves the office, crossing down to stage right. As she goes, she dials a number on the phone.)

(Meanwhile the Writer watches her leave, then pulls out the laptop and starts typing furiously)

Hello, is this the Office of Letters and Light? Why yes, I am doing NaNoWriMo! Oh it's lovely. I'm doing a mystery in Victorian England. No, it's not my first novel. Yes, that does make it easier. Say, I do have a, er, friend, who is not having such a good time. Well everything that can go wrong seems to be going wrong and she said something about gumballs... plot ninjas? No I hadn't heard -- (starts scribbling on her pad) Mhmmm. Yes. I see. Oh good idea! Yes. Thank you.

(In the office the Writer seems to hit a block. She stares at the screen for a long moment, then slams the lid shut and starts bawling again)

Yes. Thank you again! Goodbye! (hangs up and goes back into the office. She is worried when she sees the Writer crying again and hurries over to kneel besides her with more tissues) Hey, honey, it's okay. We're going to get through this.

No one can save my poor deranged story!

Well I'm a psychiatrist. My job is working with deranged people. Now I talked to some professionals, and I have some good news for you. (holds up her tablet) First of all, you must remember that NaNo is supposed to be fun.

Fun? (bursts out in maniacal laughter)

It's not about writing the next Great American Novel. It's about learning how to start and finish a story in a reasonable amount of time.

R- reasonable?

Well one month is pushing it a bit, but if you can do a bit of crap in a month, you can pound out something decent in a year.

But I can't waste time on crap! I have to pay bills NOW!

Right, so I have three words for you. December, January, February.

I'm supposed to write three more novels?

No! Those three months are your saving grace. In December you take a break. You forget the novel ever existed. Eat cookies, make snow angels, open presents, sing silly songs. RELAX.

Relaxing sounds good...

Then in January, you pick up your manuscript again and read it. Then you start going over it with a viking axe. Chop out all those pieces that are superfluous and unnecessary. Throw out all the gumballs into that truck in "Bedtime Stories."

Oh so that's where they came from! I thought there were an awful lot of gumballs on that truck.

Then in February you start proofing. Maybe even let some other people take a look at it. Perfect it. By March 1st you will have something that you can actually read without wincing at.



(looks greatly relieved and picks up her laptop, opens it, and starts writing again)


(pauses) Yes?

I sort of need my office back.

Oh! (closes the laptop, stands up and shakes the Counselor's hand) Right! Thank you soooo much! When I get published, I'm going to dedicate this novel to you! (runs out)

Yeah... I hope it's a long time before you learn that publication is an entirely different story. (hangs up the poster, then goes back to her own desk and starts typing) "Dear Miss Cole, I would like to bring to your attention my novel, DARK WITHOUT STARS..."

(lights down)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sarcasm and 1 Thessalonians

I don't have a very good track record of keeping up with doing daily scripture readings right now. However the past two weeks I've been periodically reading through 1 Thessalonians which is a book I've never paid much attention to before.

Today this passage jumped out at me:

Therefore encourage on another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Okay, the first thing I have to point out is that in this sentence, Paul practices exactly what he preaches. He says "you are doing a good thing here -- keep doing it!" He doesn't say "Well you need to do this and this and this" and turn it into a long discouraging lecture. He notes what his readers are already doing!

But the second thing I want to talk about is sarcasm - especially internet sarcasm.

When did sarcasm start? Is it something that has always been around, or has it developed over the years? Are there incidents of sarcasm in the Bible? I think there are some words of Jesus that could be seen as sarcastic -- although our Lord always used anything along the lines of sarcasm to illuminate a point, NEVER to cut down others.

I don't know about you, but it seems to me that sarcasm is pretty popular today. People use it a lot. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes you get the point exactly. Sometimes it is just a way of "witty bantering" that hearkens back to screwball comedies.

But the difficulty is, how do you know where to draw the line? Because sarcasm is NOT inherently something that builds others up. It is almost always a sentence that implies negativity of some sort, and it is terribly easy to cause offense without meaning so. OR, sarcasm can betray inner negativity that the speaker was not actually intending to reveal.

And if real life sarcasm has dangers, that is nothing compared to the pitholes of online sarcasm, where faces are invisible and even the friendliest of sarcasm can get mistaken for ire and hatred.

I'm not bringing this up as a lecture... sarcasm is something I've always struggled with. I do try not to use it online, unless it is a conversation in which there is no way the meaning can be mistaken. And there are obviously some situations in which you can be sarcastic about something and everyone will know what you mean.

I made a sarcastic comment last week. It was meant to be funny, and I'm fairly certain it was taken as funny. However I realized a second later that the issue at hand really wasn't one that I wanted to infuse with negativity. I'd made my joke -- but I wanted to clarify that the object of my words would actually be quite good at the subject under discussion.

Reading Thessalonians made me realize how this shouldn't be a rare occurrence -- it should be my regular mode of operation. How much more will get accomplished by building up and encouraging others, than by making a joke at their expense?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Theories about River Song

Having just finished the final episode of Doctor Who Season 5, I wanted to do some research into what theories the fans were spinning out for the identity and purpose of River Song.


Here are 8 pages filled with theories I found interesting --- some are quite easily disproven and others are rather viable...

Theory I

Theory 2

Theory 3

Theory 4

Theory 5

Theory 6

Theory 7

Theory 8

So what are the theories we see so far?

River is the Doctor's Mother or Daughter
-- eh, much too creepy.

River is Jack.
-- not possible. River dies in the first episode we meet her in, whereas Jack (as the Face of Boe) dies in "Gridlock." Plus it's also very, very creepy.

River is Romana, the Rani, Rose, Donna, another past companion
-- I really don't think this is likely AT ALL. Some companions (the Rani) have copyright restrictions, and others are very clearly completely wrapped up for good.

River is Amy somehow regenerated
-- Personally I really don't like this idea but I can't rule it out for good.

River is a future incarnation of the Doctor
-- No, because she wouldn't need the diary to recognize what time point they were meeting in, nor would she be surprised by the fact that the Doctor doesn't know her when they meet in the LIBRARY.

River is a future companion of the Doctor with her own history/game
-- more likely than anything on this list.

My personal favorite theory? River is the TARDIS. I think that would be the coolest of anything previously mentioned. I don't think it's necessarily true as it is very farfetched, but it would be by far the most interesting.

And then there is the perhaps bigger question. Is River the Doctor's Wife? His Murderer? Both? Neither?

What is the truth going to be? I don't know. What I do know is that after "The Pandorica Opens" and "The Big Bang" I actually like River now. I have to stop casting premature dislikes on characters in Doctor Who... (Rose, the Ninth Doctor, River Song) because I invariable change them...

Completely different side note. RORY ROCKS! 'Nough said.


EDIT 1-16-10
Just can't stop thinking about River! Read my additional thoughts here: MORE River Song.

A Night on the Town

So after about 1400 words of NaNo yesterday, I pushed it aside to go spend a night on the town with some friends.

We picked up one friend at a train station, another two friends at their college, and after parking waaaaay too far away from our restaurant, we tromped through the icy cold streets to meet up with our final friend who had gotten hopelessly lost.

Anyhow, it all worked out. We stopped into a Caribbean restaurant first, but it was steaming hot and the food looked too spicy, so we left that one for the slightly nicer yet also cheaper Chinese restaurant next door. We were all pretty glad we did, as the food was excellent, the atmosphere was calm and relaxed, and we had amazingly nice servers. I think the restaurant was owned by one family or something, because there was a matronly figure there, two teenagers, and one adorable little girl. And they were all so polite! One of my first comments upon entering the restaurant was "I think Alex O'Donnell would probably love this place."

The food was really good. I got the best cream cheese puffs I've ever had. The egg rolls weren't so amazing, but I sampled almost everyone else's meat and there was some good stuff!

Have any of you ever heard of bubble tea? I should really look it up online. None of us got any, but it was one of the featured items at this restaurant and they had just about ever flavor under the sun. Including one really weird and disgusting one we couldn't quite believe: Leeches.

I'm not a downtown person, and I'm not a cold person, but I do like food and friends so in the end it was a pretty fun night. :) Although trying new things like this isn't really part of my comfort zone, it is important as an author to do it occasionally and stash it away for future novels. So if you ever read one of my future published works and find a scene like this in it... you'll know where it came from!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Basics of the 3 Act Plot

Want to know the basics of the 3 Act plot?

Then check out my article on the subject in I&F's November issue here:

You can always find interesting and important information about writing in my column, Jots and Scribbles.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bleak House

It is 19th century London. In the Court of Chancery a case - Jarndyce and Jarndyce, to be precise - has been dragging on for generations. Foggy and duplicate wills have ensured that a grand fortune remains tied up in court, no matter how much the possible heirs could use it.

Into the midst of this muddle come three young people who will be changed by it forever.

Richard and Ada are wards of the court and possible heirs of Jarndyce. Esther Summerson is a girl of unknown parentage who has been engaged as Ada's companion. All three of them have been invited by old Mr. John Jarndyce, the kindest man ever to live, to come and live with him at Bleak House. They all willingly accept and find in Mr. Jarndyce the best friend and guardian any of them could hope for.

But life never remains as it was, and unwanted suitors, mysterious parentage, nefarious lawyers and deadly illnesses turn everything upside down.

Will they survive the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce alive?

Although I have not read the book, by all accounts this 2005 adaptation produced by the BBC is fantastic. And taking it on its own merit, it is a wonderful miniseries. The acting is fantastic, the locations are perfect, the costuming is wonderful, and the script --- (written by the A&E P&P's Andrew Davies) is brilliant. Like most BBC productions the only faltering point is the camera-work which remains somewhat jarring, though in a way that is perhaps not inconsistent with the feel of Dickens. Though unconventional the cinematography is totally watchable and I liked it better than I do most BBC work.

It is also very appropriate. Apart from a scene of spontaneous combustion (which is a little freaky/gross) and discussion of an illicit affair (but in proper Victorian language) it is something the whole family could watch. Younger children will likely be uninterested by the court case and the depth of human emotion, but the rest of the family should find this a wonderful treat to enjoy together over the upcoming winter months.

Dickens and I have a love/hate relationship. I love his "A Tale of Two Cities" and "A Christmas Carol" but have been annoyed by most of his other stuff that I've read. However several years ago I happened to catch the first episode of "Bleak House" on PBS and was completely engrossed. I always meant to find it again, but it wasn't until now that I actually managed to do so. I'm extremely glad I did as it is marvelous and human and accessible. But when you have such a stunning cast and a script written by Andrew Davies, what else can you expect?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ink and Fairydust - November 2010

Dear Friends,

What's the big deal about Facebook?
Why should you read Alex O'Donnell?
How do you know if you're ready to date?
What are the confessions of the 23rd Thief?

Find out all this and more in the latest issue of I&F! Read it online at

Also, I am looking for two new writers to join our staff. More information will be up on our website shortly, so check back often.