Monday, September 28, 2009

So, there's this book

So, yes, I've alluded to this book. This one I'm co-writing. With a friend. All that is going well. I want to say it's done, but actually, we've been over it several times and now we've decided to add a prologue, which we think is a really nice addition.

We thought we were done and started sending it out to agents, but then this prologue idea crept in and we're on a different track. So we've put more agent outreach on hold until this prologue is brushed up. And also our first four chapters. We really need to nail those better, because we think they don't grab the reader as much as we think they should.

So far this has been quite a creative experience. I really love co-writing. I think it might be better than just writing, because you have a person bouncing ideas off of and it seems things just get better with two heads. I'm surprised more authors don't do it. I have found out that James Patterson has. He likes to co-write. I don't see why not. It may be what keeps his stories rolling and fresh. This book writing has helped me get over some of the blues I have about my full time job. Some of the creativity has left there, and I needed something to spark my creative side.

Now we are in the learning curve about agents and publishing, in addition to revising our tails off. We've decided much of getting published is dumb luck. So we are hoping for luck. And trying different tactics. I am reading a lot more. Our genre is middle grade, which is books for children anywhere from age nine to twelve or thereabouts. I feel very comfortable about that age group and writing for them.

This blog was meant to help with some of that creativity, but as I got buried into revising, this blog has suffered. I don't write the book the way I do the blog, but writing anything a few times a week is a good habit to get into. Discipline is not my strong suit, and sometimes I just want to lie on the sofa and mindlessly watch TV rather than read or write.

So, I'm back to reworking the prologue. Then we hope to plaster that together with the first few chapters and send it to some family or friends for a second read through. We're hoping that we created more excitement and purpose for the characters. I've read about other writers who write their first book and then decide eventually that it's crap and shelve it, going on to write something better that gets picked up. But I don't think our story is crap. Far from it. In fact, I think it is just as good or better than some things I've read for that age level. But I worry that what I think is good may not be to a lot of people. I have no idea if I'm just crazy, or if it would be really enjoyable for kids. Lots of kids. Definitely not JK Rowling level, but a little fan base with kids writing us letters would be neat.

But really, I just don't know what agents and publishers are looking for. To me, it seems all over the board. So, how, in a small one page query letter, do we show an agent that he or she should take a chance on us? And how do they show a publisher to take a chance on us?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tracking the ham balls

So, some of you more faithful followers may remember my ham ball recipe. In that post, I was musing on its midwesterness. It seems, however, that it is really Iowan. Iowa is the place for pork. But recently, in reviewing some searches that have led some people to my site, there's been a couple of people searching for "Iowa ham balls." Fascinating. I hope they got the recipes I included. I am wondering if it's some people moved away from Iowa, fall coming on, they now start to get the hankering for ham balls. Cooking in the oven in the fall is a nice change of pace, and the secondary heat is nice for the house, no need to turn on the furnance just yet.

But it also leads me to believe more strongly that the ham ball was developed in Iowa. I think I will have to do some research into this. Of course, with all the free time I've got. You know, in between two full time jobs, soccer practice, soccer games, dance lessons, evening meetings, getting a chance to go out with the girls/boys (well grownups), FaceBooking, play dates, writing a book. You know, all that free time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Light on my feet

Go ahead and laugh. I know I was a bit nerdy or geeky in high school. For crying out loud, check out Glee and imagine what my life was like. I took dance lessons up to the ripe old age of 17. Yep, all the way through to senior year. I got a solo. That was nice.

Seriously, but I miss it. And, I didn't get exposed to a whole variety of dance. I got tap, ballet, and jazz. The basics. Recently, my daughter's fascination with Irish dancing has led me into a whole new realm. (Oh, yes, thanks to a dear friend of mine, who suggested she might enjoy visiting a trial lesson). Irish dancing is a bit too expensive for me to spend a whole wad of money on. But, oh, how she loves Irish music and watching others dance. I guess it didn't help that I took her to Irish Fest. Or downloaded music from Gaelic Storm. (Is it good or bad that she knows the actual words to What's the Rumpus?)

I watch my daughter dance her own little very bouncy, very near to Irish dancing dance. And I keep thinking I wish I knew some steps, just basic beginners, just to get her started. But woe is me. Because: one) They don't seem to offer classes for beginning adults, and two) for the longest time I could not find a video on the Internet to show me the steps. Me, having taken dance lessons, and knowing full well where to place my legs and arms as need be for various steps, can follow most visual instruction. Then, there it was, on the Internet, my first basic steps. It was all I needed.

Tonight there was an almost middle aged woman bouncing like an Irish dancing teenager. She bounced in the office in front of the computer. Good thing there's space in there. Then she cleared out the living room rug, her daughter selected the music, and away we went with Irish dancing mayhem. Mr. Wild came home from a meeting to find his wife sweating and bouncing in the living room. He was grinning like she was crazy. Her daughter was giving her high fives for getting it.

Threes are easy, sevens are hard until you know which beat your foot is supposed to hit the floor. And I love the point and toe move.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The other half

This post was inspired by the post at Strange Pilgram. I know it's an odd take off of that, but it moved my brain in this direction.

I want to be a fly on the wall when the dads get together. My circle of friends is a combination of stay-at-home moms and dads and their work outside-the-home dads and moms. We have occasion to get together in a variety of combinations. As couples, men's night, women's night, park play groups, family play groups. It is fascinating. Me being a woman, I see the women's side of things and the couples, but I always wonder about poker night.

Poker night is a mystical beast. I wish I could see our men in their native habitat and how things play out. We know men don't have the same topics of discussion as we do. Or do they? Do they talk about their wives? Do they talk about sports? That's a tough one, because I am sure at least half of the poker guys couldn't care less about sports teams. Do they talk about their kids and the weird things they do? I cannot even imagine that it could be as interesting as any time I get together with the girls. I've asked before what the topics of conversation are, not because I want to pry, but just curiosity. I really would like to see how guys relate.

I guess it has always been that way. I've never really known what groups of guys do or are interested in. There's the generic sports talk, or, if your guy leans toward the geek, the generic vid game/role playing talk. There might be sci fi, or taking things apart or putting them together. But really, is that all? And when a woman asks, the man shrugs it off as if it is so unimportant.

Occasionally, the womenfolk hear a snippet here and there. It's usually something shocking or grandly funny. The good thing is the guys do talk to us. It spreads like wildfire through the feminine grapevine. Then us ladies, as we get together more often than the gentlemen, have a little rehash and a giggle about whatever that latest tidbit was.

Why is it the women can pull things together and see each other more often? Is it something we crave and make an effort for? I just realized that the men haven't had a poker night since June, or maybe May. The women have had three book clubs, a couple girls' night out, maybe a girls' night in (can't remember), some play time at the park. It's not always the same combination of people, but the same people rotate in and out. There is definitely a list of gals, and roughly, their husbands participate in poker night. We care if it has been too long between bar hops, but they are so nonchalant. I don't get that either, because it is always great to blow off steam with a few people who know the trials of your sex.

If anyone has been the fly on the wall with a gathering of men, or is a man who would be happy to enlighten us, I would love to hear what their normal ordinary conversation topics are. Please leave a comment.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My aunt

My aunt died on St. Patrick's Day. My mother's older sister. At the moment she was passing from this life to the next, I was in the local Irish pub, having a Smithwicks with a couple of friends and trying to be polite to the weird old man that was talking to us. We finally moved indoors and whiled away the time with random conversation and peeling peanuts from their shells, depositing the empties on the table. I remember it was a warm night, the warmest in weeks and the warmest in weeks to come, because I wanted to wear my leather jacket and it was too hot.

The next day I got the email. I knew it was coming, but still, you just think, that maybe, there will be a miracle. It was breast cancer. My mother's mother also died from breast cancer. The pit of my stomach churns thinking about it. Two cases, on my mother's side. It's a worry. But maybe, we'll get lucky.

It was a little weird getting the news via email. I could quietly grieve, instead of loudly grieving over a phone, but it seemed weird to me none the less. At least it wasn't one hundred years ago, or even 60 years, when a letter came, weeks or months after the fact, telling you a relative died. But I'm not sure I'm ready to be entirely in this emailing, texting world. At least it wasn't a text.

I saw this aunt, cousins, uncle occasionally and much less now than I had as a youth, which wasn't much to begin with. We were introduced to much less midwestern fare, not that my mom and dad were typically midwestern in the meals they fixed for us, but still, I had my first taste of some more exotic foods. We had some kind of oriental food, possibly Thai (my parents already made Chinese at home). My oldest cousin graduated from high school and we visited (or maybe that was college) and we had blintzes and I was introduced to bagels, lox, and cream cheese. My uncle was a professor and Jewish, my aunt was a nurse, and my cousins played violin, viola, cello. I wished I could be as cool playing an instrument like that.

My aunt was one to give thoughtful and thought invoking gifts. When I was nine, she gave me a lined book for writing in. Inside she inscribed, "For you to write your poetry in." It had not yet occurred to me, until then, that I had poetry to write, let alone having my own book to write it in. I remember bits and pieces of my nine year old poetry.

My desk may become a mess
But if you may
Please let it stay
In my room for more than one day.

Practice makes perfect, some people say.
But it seems like I get worse every day.
Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't.
I feel as if I'll quit, but I won't.

Immediately after my aunt died, I went digging in my basement. I'll admit it, I'm a bit of a pack rat. But, don't you think that a historian should be? It is my own personal history. I went digging and digging and digging. I know that book is in my house. I took it to college with me. I couldn't find it. I think, at that moment, that made me more sad than anything else. I have hope, I know it is here somewhere, I just didn't have the gumption at that point to haul everything out and dig through it. Another day.

Here it is, another day. My aunt never met my daughter in person. Who is named after the grandmother that first died from cancer. I'm sorry about that. We just didn't have the money or means to get to Seattle to see them before things went badly. My parents enjoyed visits with them out there in their retirement home in Seattle. I'm glad they did and they had good times.

My aunt had, what to me appears to be, a meaningful life. And she imparted a lot of great traits to her daughters, my cousins, whom I still admire a great deal. And I still admire my retired professor uncle. I believe we still need to make that visit to Seattle. I hope he can heal some from such an emptiness in his life. He has a passel of grandkids and another on the way. And the girls will tell such wonderful stories about grandma to their kids. They also know what it's like to be missing a grandma. I was eight when my grandmother died. I remember it pretty well.

I count my blessings that my own children's grandmother (both for that matter) is relatively healthy and well and can be there to impart her own special wisdom.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I just realized ONE YEAR

I just realized I started writing this just over a year ago. So much changes in a year, it's incredible.

I thought to celebrate I want to rename my kids.


Well, at least for this blog. I am kind of bored with the non-creativity of Wild Child #1 and #2. So I was giving it some thought. I am going to use the names they might have been given had our fancies struck us differently.

WC#1 had a toss up, but the second choice name was Andrew. He does not seem like an Andrew at this point in his life, but I think I will use it here.

For WC#2, we had come up with a silly name for her that I don't think we would have ever used. It was a private joke between Mr. Wild and me, but I cannot explain it without revealing the real name of her brother. I have always liked the name Willa, so Willa she will be here.

And at some point, I may have to describe me yelling in frustration at them, so may have to use their middle names. Each name did have a middle name to go with it. So, you may see Andrew Ervin or Willa Marie pop in occasionally.

So introducing Andrew:

And Willa:

(if you look close, you can see her eyes match that ocean)

But they are sooo not those names.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The end of an era

I think I've mentioned before the trials and tribulations of Mr. Wild and his foray into stay-at-home parenthood. It was fraught with its pitfalls, frustrations, and happy moments. But it was good for all of us, I think we all would agree in our family.

After WC#2 started all day kindergarten, Mr. Wild thought perhaps he needed things to do. He did, for a bit, work the census, which worked as a great part time job. For as long as it lasted. It was supposed to last for a couple months, but his census team was so good, they were done in about four weeks. That was it.

Mr. Wild still felt he needed to have some useful occupation. He started to toy with the idea of getting back into the museum field. Yes, we both have the same professional background, which is a challenge unless you live in a high population area with many historical societies in a small land area. We love living in Wisconsin in a small town. We love our friends here and our schools and the atmosphere. We love the way we can get nearly everywhere in town on bike (if we wanted). So getting back into the museum field without us moving could have been a challenge.

But, the jobs popped up, one here, one there. There was one about 45 minutes away, but sounded very interesting. Unfortunately, the website with the announcement was outdated, because they had already hired someone for the posted position when he checked. Let this be a lesson to all (including me), keep your websites updated!

Then, it seemed almost providential, a nearby town with its historical society had a new job announcement. Mr. Wild read the description and said, "I can do that." And the whole process went well. They called for the phone interview. Mr. Wild was nervous, "I haven't done this in years." They called him back for an in-person interview. Trying on work clothes for Mr. Wild was a bit harrowing. We won't mention how it seems all the clothes shrank in the last five years. They were pleased with him and called him back for an interview with the staff.

Then, they called him with the position. He was thrilled. I was thrilled for him. It is always nice to be chosen for a job. Then reality set in. We didn't know how we were going to be a two income family again. Did we want to? Mr. Wild and I have grand ideas of maybe we could switch places. But extenuating circumstances at this point won't allow us to switch.

[I'm going to add a dig into the health care debate. His job offers no health insurance, mine does at very low cost. I tried to look up the cost for family health care at the level I have it, and we could not afford that on our own, not with orthodontics and the kids being in sports and glasses and everything else. If there had been a public option at a reasonable price for the whole family, well then....]

We did find afterschool care for the kids. It is a good price and both are doing well with it. For my son, the afterschool care is at the school and he gets his homework done during those hours, then can come home and relax with us. I think for him, this transition is fine, and maybe even really good for him. He's at the point where he won't listen to us grownups, can be distracted by what we have at home, so the afterschool program allows him to get his homework done and then be relaxed at home. For WC#2, I think it's a harder transition. She was extra huggy the first week, to both of us, but now she seems to be settling in a routine. She's good about doing her homework after she gets home to see us.

The hardest thing, I think, is for Mr. Wild to change his focus and mindset. He liked being at home when the kids came from school. He misses those two hours before I come home. I never understood this was the case, because, to me, he would often seem frustrated with the kids when I got back, but I think that just comes with the territory. I don't know if I can be of much help, because I have always been at work. I cherish the weekends and other spare time I have with the kids, but I don't think I know that feeling of not being there.

He says he always feels overwhelmed with how much he has to do at this new place and is not able to concentrate. Granted, he's only been back a total of seven days. I keep telling him to give himself more time than seven days.

I'm not sure how long we will be able to stay in this pattern. I think we both believe we needed to give it a try. Especially since this job would be good on his resume and not some random job he could have held. It's kind of a wait and see situation. I believe in Mr. Wild, after he has six months or more to get into a routine, I think things will go well.

But I think we both might really be happy if we could both be at home. Funny that.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Okay, okay, here's some pictures of our lovely trip to Maui, Hawaii:

The flight there:

Our backyard, yeah, it was always gorgeous like that:

Some beach time:

Heading to the mountain with Grandpa and cousins:

Haleakala, my sister, me and some of our kids. Sorry, we were all freezing up there. Should have been better prepared:

Gorgeous Iao Valley:

Some miniature golf and bumper boat time. I was soaked after my kids got me:

Some time with my cousin's kid. It was cousin-mania with my cousins, their cousins, and second cousins. WC #2 is teaching them jumping techniques:

In the end, we were sorry to leave this beautiful place.

Those of you that live there, I hope it is still breathtaking for you every time you step out that door. I spent many mornings just being in awe of the sights I could see every day.

More pictures are in the sidebar. Please enjoy. I have been missing from the blogosphere, but I hope that you will accept this post with my apologies. More later about trying to become a published in print author....

Best Wishes,