The Rambling Blogger

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be switching to my new blog home next week. I’ve picked out a very summery looking header I hope you’ll like. I’ve also wondered how it would work to put some order into my blog-keeping. Maybe having a plan will keep the juices flowing.
So far I’m thinking:
Tuesday something historical
Wednesday I’ll post a poem
Thursday a fiction story
Saturday I’ll write about an interesting book or blog post I’ve read

To start my new habit, I’d like to tell you about a post I read yesterday over at Another Purple Planet. This blogger is turning thirty and sharing with us a list of the important truths she’s learned up until now. I told her in a comment that I’m more than thirty years older and can’t add much to her list. (So why is it that we human beings who consider ourselves so intelligent, spend years learning the same lessons over and over?)

Click here to read her article and see if you can add anything.

A heads-up for readers of this blog:
You won’t have to do anything. Subscribers will be moved as well as the domain, christinegoodnough.com. This current site will revert back to the pre-domain address of christinegoodnough.wordpress.com, so if you want to check out some post in these archives you’ll need to type in that address. Christine Composes will go back to christineevelynvance.wordpress.com.

Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

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A Season of New Things

Spring Has Sprung and So Have the Cats

Our cats are so happy to be released from their long winter’s confinement. We’ve had some lovely weather lately and they’re making the best of it. Other creatures, too, are popping out of hibernation.

Yesterday afternoon I looked out and saw Pookie sitting on his haunches on the lawn, with a magpie facing him about two metres away and another one standing about that far away on his right. Lying between the three of them was the limp body of a full-grown gopher. (Aka, thirteen-striped Richardson ground squirrel.) Whatever it was once known as, the dead critter had become the object of a property dispute.

Magpies are thieves; we see it all the time. If the cats catch something and haven’t eaten it yet, there’s usually a magpie peering hopefully from the garage roof or strutting in the grass nearby. And they often work in pairs. Like: “You distract the cat and I’ll grab the corpse.” Even if there’s no loot magpies often work in teams to torment cats.

So when I saw this standoff I opened the window and shooed the magpies away. With the birds gone Pook went back to playing with the thing awhile, even if it offered no exciting resistance. As soon as he got tired of the game and wandered off the magpie was back, snatching bites of the prize, which Pook didn’t tolerate. He rushed back to reclaim the gopher, then a few minutes later our black cat Angus sauntered up and began gnawing on it. Pook went back to wait beside the gopher hole for another one to pop out. Poor gophers. It’s a hard life at the bottom of the food chain.

Angus likely caught the thing in the first place. Pook is a bit of a thief himself. As I said in an earlier post, he’s an invasive species; he has this habit of pushing his nose into whatever interesting meal Angus is eating and slowly takes over the dish. Or mouse. Or whatever. Anyway, an hour later all trace of the victim was gone, so I imagine whatever remains remained when Angus left the magpies snatched.

Tuesday en route to the city we saw ducks in the ponds. This morning my husband opened the window and heard a meadowlark singing. Bliss! I went outside a bit later and heard the honking of a goose. I looked up and saw a line of snow geese headed by what looked like a Canada goose and he was the cheerleader. So spring has returned to our land.

A New Home for My Stuff

Since spring’s a time of beginning again, I’m going to catch that wave and move to a new blog home.

I’ve been contemplating this for awhile, wanting to bring all my writings under one roof but not quite sure how. I shut down Swallow in the Wind a few months back, but still have Christine Composes for my fiction, plus this site. Now I’m going to bring all my writing to Christine’s Collection’s new home. I contemplated a major renovation, but the categories and tags on my posts would all need reworking to fit the new plan. Easier to start from scratch, I decided.

I’ve had a “spare” private blog for a couple of years, using it to test out new themes before going to all the work of installing them on my public sites. Last week I enlisted the help of Bruce at WordPress Support and he’s been guiding me through this move, bless his heart.

Bruce says it’s no problem to switch the domain name for both active sites so that anyone who types in christinegoodnough.com or christine composes.com will land up there. All subscribers from both sites will be switched to the new one. And I will only have one better-organized blog to contend with. This sounds great to me now, given my health issues.

So I’ve been going back and forth for a few days now, carrying and unpacking a few files, scheduling future posts and generally preparing the site for visitors. I’m delighted with the new look, though I’m sticking with this basic layout. I’ve learned how to build Categories into the main menu, now my category “closets” are easily accessible and every genre will have its proper place in the grand scheme.

I thought I’d give you this heads-up a week or so before I do the final move and open the new site for public viewing. But the only difference you’ll find is that this current site will revert back to the pre-domain address of christinegoodnough.wordpress.com, so if you want to check out some post in these archives you’ll need to type in that address. Christine Composes will go back to christineevelynvance.wordpress.com.

Those Answering Machines!

I read an interesting post recently: a blogger writing about her father, a Polish immigrant to the US in 1947. He never quite caught on to the business of answering machines. Read her story here.

I remember folks getting quite creative on their answering machine recordings. Years back I phoned a number — someone advertising something for sale, if I recall rightly — and they weren’t home. Instead I got this C&W verse sung by some fellow with a nasal twang, that went something like:
Hello, so nice of you to call. And how are you, your wife and the kids, your Mom and the dog? A couple more lines, then he launched into a different melody starting with, “Where oh, where, are we today…”

When my daughter got home I called back so she could listen to it, too — hoping no human answered the phone! I wonder how often those folks were told, “Er… Hello. Um…well, I actually didn’t call to talk to you. I…uh…just wanted my friend to hear your answering machine song.”

I was inspired to write a little ballad (set to the tune “Streets of Laredo”) telling the tale of a poor fellow and his answering machine. If you’d like to record it on your machine, feel free. 🙂

I just walked out to the store at the corner;
I thought I’d step out for a bit of fresh air.
Then don’t you know it, my phone started ringing,
and as you will know I just wasn’t all there.

The phone started ringing, my dog started barking,
and woke up my neighbor who sleeps half the day.
He phoned the police and they came in a hurry
and the pound keeper came to take Rover away.

I pleaded my cause and they gave me a warning,
“Get an answering machine or get rid of your hound!”
Well, I love old Rover — my best friend, I tell you!
So I bought this contraption— the best one in town.

Now when I’m outdoors or downtown on an errand
leave your messages here at the sound of the beep.
I’ll be calling you back soon if you leave your number,
but don’t call again. Let my poor neighbor sleep.

Talents & Frustrations

Today is my dear husband’s 75th birthday. Quite a milestone! We celebrated officially last Sunday night after a church function, and are looking forward to a dinner out with the family tomorrow. Of course he blogs about it on his site, mentioning all the things that have changed since he was a boy.

What really scares me is the thought that the next twenty years will go by just as fast as the last twenty. Whatever happened to “old age, when the hours would drag by”? We find the flight of time incredible!

I can assure you that in his youth Bob was a studious lad just like the young fellow below. I don’t know if there was ever a “Willy Brown” in his school to be jealous of, though. Hope this poem gives you a smile.

FRUSTRATION

My teacher says that I’m the best
And smartest boy in school;
I’m never careless like the rest;
I never break a rule.
If visitors should come to call,
She has me speak a piece,
Or tell what makes an apple fall
Or binds the coast of Greece.
You might expect that since my brain
Holds such an awful lot,
I’d be extremely proud and vain;
But, oh–I’m not.
For Willy Brown’s a cleverer lad
Than I could hope to be;
Why, I’d give anything I had
To be as smart as he!
He can’t recite, “Hark, Hark, the Lark,”
He’s not the teacher’s pet;
He never gets a perfect mark
In ‘rithmetic — and yet,
Could I be he, I’d waste no tears
On foolish things like sums;
For Willy Brown can wag his ears
And dislocate his thumbs.

Author’s name unknown to me.

How FF and JJ Shortened My Patience

Reading Judy Dykstra-Brown’s post, Too Much Information, reminds me of an article I worked on yesterday, so I’ll post it as my response to today’s Word Press prompt word: overwhelming.

Overwhelmed by Adjectives

My mind registered a familiar ring tone and I reached for my navy faux-leather handbag, the one I’d bought with the gift certificate Mom gave me for the trendy new fashion store that just opened up three months ago at a nearby mall. I rummaged around, feeling my wallet, a few tissues, and several small spiral notebooks I carried for jotting down bits of poetry before I pulled out my shiny pink cell phone, now steadily tinkling out the tune to Fleur Elise, my favorite of all the tone options on this phone, hit the tiny green Talk button and said “Hello.”

The caller had hung up.

Would you? If this were the opening paragraph of your story, would you keep reading?

I started a book last week and soon discovered the writer is a lover of vividly descriptive adjectives. I had the feeling of walking on a wet beach where your feet sink into the sand at every step. In Chapter One the main character gathers her things, heads to work, and arrives there. Not what you’d call fast-paced, but her home and workplace were well described.

Some readers enjoy this type of descriptive writing and will find this story interesting. They are a market, albeit limited, some writers aim to please and that’s great. But like most readers, my attention span has become short. I like a bit of description, but then let’s get on with it. Give me a quick, smooth trip, no slogging through wet sand.

May Heaven Bless Good Editors

If you’re working on a novel and intending to publish it, do run it by a professional editor. And listen to their advice — even if it hurts.

The editorial cry of, “Cut, cut, cut!” can be painful. One tactful editor a century ago told a writer, “Your work is like a rare jewel. And like all jewels, it will sparkle all the more once it’s cut.”

Mark Twain once said, “When you see an adjective, kill it.” He admitted that adjectives do have their place, but cautions writers to use them sparingly.

For a travelogue descriptive adjectives are great, but do we care that, in the opening scene, Fleur Elise is this girl’s favorite among all the ring tones on this phone, or do we want to find out who’s calling and why?

Writer Charles Todd, in the Bess Crawford Mysteries series, has achieved what I’d call a perfect balance. While including descriptions of WWI battlefield scenes and the shattered bodies brought in for Bess and the doctors to patch up, the story line moves along quickly and holds a reader’s attention.

Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild

A few months back my husband signed up with the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild and I started following his articles entitled “How to become a ferocious self editor.” We get a demonstration of how Jerry would edit the first page of someone’s manuscript — and he does EDIT. Chop, chop, chop!

The story may start out with 200 words and end up with 50 when he’s done, but he explains each change. We hear that one adjective is usually enough. Instead of talking about the great big house, you say the great house or the big house. Better yet, eliminate both and say the cottage or the mansion. Instead of “The lonely lost lamb shook with cold and fear,” pick one good adjective and choose your verb well. “The forlorn lamb shivered.”

Friday Fictioneers: Putting It Into Practice

This is a group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Every week she posts a photo as the group’s writing prompt and we’re to post a hundred-word story in response. I’ve been finding these a real challenge!

A hundred words means barest bones. Every superfluous word goes. Every line that can possibly be omitted is.

My opening paragraph contains 102 words, the entire allotment for a for Friday Fictioneers story. Action sum total: a female answers her phone. For an FF story I’d boil it down to:

I grabbed my ringing phone from my purse. “Hello.”
Mom’s voice sounded worried. “Sue, I can’t reach Patty. Have you seen her lately?”

Word count: 23. And go on from there. In the final edit I might even have to cut out the purse, though its mention tells readers she’s on her cell phone and not at home. This type of editing is terrific practice for writing tight, which is mainly the writing that sells these days.

As a reader, are you fond of description in your stories, or do you prefer the “cut to the chase” version?

What Could Be?

I came across this little poem recently and found it encouraging. Hope you enjoy it, too.

I’d rather be a Could Be
if I couldn’t be an ARE —
for a Could Be is a May Be
with a chance of touching par.
I’d rather be a Has Been
than a Might Have Been by far —
for a Might Have been has never been,
But a Has was once an ARE!

Author Unknown to me

I’ve posted my Friday Fictioneers response, on my Christine Composes blog. You can read it here: Jack Miner’s Discovery