Friday, December 31, 2010

Squeeze one more in...

Tonight, I'll go out and eat gumbo with friends. I'll launch bottle rockets in the general direction of Bud Rip's, and I'll drink a cube of mojitos -- that's right.

And of course, I'll have to look back over 2010 with fond nostalgia.

After all, I'll only ever have one first book. There's the chance that I may -- someday -- have a first "New York" published book, but All Along the Pacific will still always be my first. That happened this year. It really happened.

This may seem a little redundant, but some days I still can't believe it. I'm eternally grateful to the people who have worked to make this happen -- my mom who did the illustrations, my thesis team, the staff at Open Heart, my husband for his patience, and anyone who decides my book is good enough to buy.

Thank you everyone for making 2010 one of the best years yet.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Taro and Bread

I finally pulled the taro up yesterday, after a few frosts had killed off most of the leaves. It certainly didn't get the full time in the soil that it should have, but I did get plenty of tubers to use. Half of the harvest I sliced up and put in the food dehydrator as a first step toward flour. I probably should have done a little research first. Seems it would have been better to make poi first and then dehydrate it, which in hindsight makes a lot of sense. Boiling it first would get a lot of excess starch out of it which might affect the bread consistency afterward. I'll try that next time.

I still have a bag full of taro tubers in the fridge as well. For, I'd say $0.99 worth of investment -- and some time -- I've got quite a bit of stuff to work with.

I've also got bread starter going right now, and have been baking everyday for three days straight. So far, the sponge method is working best. A cup of starter is mixed with a cup of flour and water and left to sit over night. In the morning, I make my dough by adding enough flour to get to the right consistency. That sits until it rises enough, then I bake it in a dutch oven. Today's bread is a take on brown bread. I added brown sugar, molasses, and corn flour, along with my regular white flour and whole wheat flour. We'll see how it comes out.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Today is My Birthday

Today I turn thirty-three years old. Eleven days ago my first book released. Here are some comparisons (first novel year minus birthday year, according to Wikipedia):

Stephanie Meyers 28
Anne Rice 35
John Steinbeck 27
China Mieville 26
Gabriel Garcia Marquez 35
Jane Austen 36

Those average to about 31.2, so I guess I was a little later than average, but still on a fine schedule if I can keep my workload up over the next few years.

This week, I wrote a speculative fiction story for an anthology. It had to be set in the 1920s, but include paranormal, science fiction, or horror elements. I went the sci fi route. I'm afraid it's lacking something -- a more dynamic meeting with the red herring, perhaps. A gun fight in an alley... I don't know, but as it is, I'm only 500 words from the limit on the anth, so I don't think I have much room to add anything.

I know I'm supposed to be starting back on Magpie, but that's going to wait until the New Year. I'd like to get a few more short stories out for anthologies next year. Maybe write one more before the end of the year. I'm also figuring that I should focuse more on literary fiction, so those anthology readers would buy my book. Sci fi fans may not want  historic fiction, but people who read literary fiction would, possibly.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Outstanding Student Writing

A few weeks ago, students were shown two pictures of the fall of the Berlin Wall. From those pictures, some vibrant writing grew. These students had a ten-minute history lesson before writing...

Berlin Wall
By Andrew
I pushed through the crowd. People stood, screamed, yelled, jumped, and chanted. So may people piled in the massive crowd. We crowded like ants fixing their hill, only we fixed our city. I fought closer to the front. I needed to get a hit in on the wall that separated my city, my people, my family. I finally arrive. There was a man with an ax. He chopped away at the wall. He wore a pink sweatshirt and blue jeans. His friends around him looked unusually calm to me compared to the other people in the crowd. I figured that they'd stood longest considering how close to the wall the were. I then realized I possessed nothing to hit the wall with. Disappointed, I watched the man. Once he became tired, I grabbed the ax and flung myself at the wall. I hit it. The cement chipped and cracked from the force of the ax. I hit it until the man made me give back his ax. After handing it over, I sunk back into the shouting crowd, my mission complete.
I Watch
By Amy

I watch as the Berlin Wall comes down. After living in East Berlin for twenty-five years, I can finally return home. Bang! Bang! The person near me hacks away at the wall.
"Hand me the crowbar," I say to the man.
He hands me the crowbar, a smile plastered on his face. I firmly hold the crowbar in my hands. My heart pounds in my chest. My breathing accelerates. I raise the crowbar in my hands and slam it into the wall. I bash into the wall over and over again until my arms become Jell-O. A large chunk falls out. An uproar ensues. I can't help but smile.
I look up to see everyone clapping. People from all around embrace me. Their warm touches got to my soul. I became weightless. Everyone around me and I took one step closer to freedom. No longer would Soviet Russia control us. They stare at us emotionless. If I came near the wall yesterday, I'd see this day from heaven. Now I just destroyed part of it, and they stood and did nothing. Boom! A large piece of the wall falls. I make a mad dash toward that area. A huge gap sits there. I look through and see my husband. Tears pour out of my eyes. I break through the crowd and dash through the gap.
"Dan! Dan!" I shout.
"Amelia!" Dan yells. He runs toward me and gives me a great big hug. "I've missed you so much."
"I've missed you too," I say. "Where are the kids?"
Sadness takes over his face.

"They tried to go over the wall to rescue you, but they were caught and killed."

Tears spill out of my eyes. A state of shook comes over me. I can't move. I can barely breathe. I fall on my knees and mourn.
Escaping
by Hunter
I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one followed me. I took a deep breath. About ten people, including me, walked over to the wall. and tried to start to tunnel underneath it. All of the sudden there was a loud "Crack!" One very large man, that looked as if he could life a building, fell to the ground. We didn't waste a second. Everyone started scattering in different directions, searching for somewhere to hid. The bullets come down like rain, making no place safe.
My name holds no importance. Only escaping the wretched East Germany matters. The Berlin Wall stands in my way. I slowly started inching back. Then I shot off; I was lightning. I ran for what seemed like an eternity. When I finally slowed down, I knew exactly where to go. The man I wished to see held an East German official position. He could smuggle me across to West Germany because he posses a pass. I just hope he doesn't let the cat out of the bag.
I knew this man when I grew up. When I arrived at his house, I knocked three times. He answered and invited me inside. I told him that he must get me across now. After much deliberation, he agreed. He led me to his car and took off the fender. You couldn't fit a baby in the hole he showed him. He told me to get in, and I somehow managed to squeeze inside. I heard the engine rumble for a while, but then it stopped. I could hear voices. We must have arrived at the wall. I held my breath and waited. I heard laughter and salutations. They engine roared alive again and continued. We stopped and my friend let me out. I hugged him and ran away happy. Freedom tasted so good.

Christmas Tree

I put up our Christmas tree yesterday while the Buccaneers played against the Falcons... I bet you know who I was cheering for in that match-up.

We are starting on year two with living in half the house, so again we have a small tree, a white tinsel number, that sits on top of the Brunswick .78 player that belonged to my great grandmother. That means no listening to Bessie Smith for the interim. We are putting up only gold and white ornaments, hoping to make up for the sorry $20 Big Lots tree with the sheer decadence of the decorations. My ornament for this year was an air ship. It's silver, but I put it up anyway.

My birthday is in a month: thirty-three years old. I like double numbers. I'm one of those people that makes a wish at 11:11, so it seems like a nice year. To celebrate, I got tickets for the Tales of the Cocktail holiday event, Tales of the Toddy. We went to this last year, and it was awesome. This year may even be better because it is in the Monteleone, which I love.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

All Along the Pacific Released!

All Along the Pacific, my collection of historic fiction, is now for sale at shop.debrincase.com.

It went on sale last night. Please help me make it one of the best-selling books from Open Heart ever by placing your order now!

This book spans California history from about 1850 to 2005. The stories are loosely based on real events, with nuggets of truth burred in sometimes strange and wacky tales.

Thanks for your support and happy holidays!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Finished!

I finished my first "serious" screenplay, and I'm basically sick to my stomach at the thought of sending it to someone who actually knows something about the business. Now that it is done, I can tell you I will definitely be taking a break before starting back on Magpie, which I talked about a few posts ago.

All Along the Pacific is just waiting on an ISBN, by the way, so it should be out soon.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A fortuitous sighting

This morning, I stood in the back yard and watched black vultures circle over head. My husband immediately speculated as to where the "corpse" was. Watching vultures may seem odd, but I love them. When I took natural history at Cuesta Community College, I watched the turkey vultures and kept a detailed account of their behaviors. When I moved to Louisiana, the vultures' black heads fascinated me and made them seem all the more ominous.

Vultures have two names for the groups they gather in depending on their behavior. Just a group is a venue; if they circle -- I presume over a carcass -- then they become a kettle. I find that exceedingly interesting, that animal behaviorists or zoologists or whomever came up with these terms thought it necessary to give the groups two separate names. Are there any other animal group that have different terms based on what they are doing? I don't know.

All of this links back to writing because vultures figure into the first few pages of All Along the Pacific. If you look for them, you'll see them there, circling over the brown hills of the Salinas Valley.

By the way, that book should be out any day now. I'll keep you all posted.

And just for fun, if you sear "vultures" at Amazon, here's the first thing that comes up:Star Wars Clone Wars Star Fighter Vehicle - Super Vulture DroidA Star Wars toy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

November...

I'm so lucky to get an entire week off for Thanksgiving. I'm going to need it. I've procrastinated enough with the revisions of the screenplay. In a little over a week's time, I'll sit down and do it. No matter what. I swear I will. I have all the notes done. I know what needs changing, and I will do it.

In the meantime, I've had something of a revelation as far as deciding what my next project will be. We had a visiting author at my school, Kimberly Willis Holt. She wrote When Zachary Beaver Came to Town and My Louisiana Sky. She said that when she first started writing, she decided she wanted to write like an author she had admired in middle school.

I started thinking about that. Then I decided maybe, in order to get back into the swing of things, I should try to write a story more like those I admire. The three books that I read over and over again are Frank Herbert's Dune, John Steinbeck's East of Eden, and -- probably most surprising -- Nick Cave's And the Ass Saw the Angel. I see the similarities between the first two -- broad, sweeping, generational epics about man carving out his niche in a universe... But the third. Then I realized what it is that always draws me back to that work: the language and the voice. It is an ugly, dirty, gritty story full of pestilence and violence and decadence in the H.P. Lovecraft sense of the word, but it captivates me. Of course, Nick Cave is primarily a song writer, which is why his language is so beautiful, even if his plot is not.

After a talk with my husband -- he's not all unicorns and rainbows when it comes to my writing; he does take it seriously -- we decided I had a voice, but it might make sense to cultivate it a little more. So my next project, pushing all else aside, is going to be finishing Magpie. This was a novella I started my last semester of workshop. It's about a slightly crazy daughter of a moonshiner who kills the preacher's son when he tries to rape her, but no one knows what happened to him. Yes, I listened to "Crow Jane" over and over as I worked on the first two sections. Well, once the screenplay's finished, I'm going to head back to those, rewrite the first two sections, and then finish the story. I think it might be good for me, since Magpie is the only character that has ever gotten away from me.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

We are in crisis

Today is a Saints game. For all intents and purposes, it should be an easy game. We should trample the Panthers and come home with a better record from Carolina than we arrived with.

We have one issue however.

I have neither enough vodka for bloody marys, nor do I have the requisite Lays with ridges and French onion dip which are required to ensure a Saints' win. Mock me will you? This is a tried and true recipe for success. The day we went to the game -- the Browns -- we did not win because we had no chips and dip. We ate nachos at the Dome, but that is not the same thing. Another loss, we'd bought the store-brand chips. See? Believe me now?

Of course, this means I'm going to have to go out before the game to two separate stores to get the required elements for a Saints' victory. I don't want to leave the house, but I'm going to do it for the team.

Geaux Saints!

(I'm glad the Hornets aren't as picky with their rituals. They seem to be winning no matter what I do.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chickens in the Hizouse (is that how you spell it?)

We've been trying to hatch another clutch of chicks, but the timing has been off. We've been getting one a week, and in the melee of bodies in the hen-house, they're not surviving. So Pat decided to bring the latest one inside. It's living in a cage behind my desk, sprawled out on its belly beneath a red heat lamp like you'd see at a fast-food restaurant. It has a hard time staying awake. I think it even falls asleep standing sometimes. It twitches a lot while it sleeps, and I wonder what a day-old chicken could be dreaming about.

I'm worried to death about it, so I keep looking over my shoulder, and my neck is getting stiff. It also breaks my concentration, but we have nowhere else to put it right now.

In other news, I got to see a mock-up of the cover of All Along the Pacific this week. Quite thrilled since I have started booking some blog dates and interviews to promote it.

This should be available within the next month or so for order, and then after some logistics are figured out, it will be for sale in some shops and galleries on both the Central Coast of California and in New Orleans.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Miss Huckabay's Thoughts on Descriptive Writing

Why is descriptive writing important? If there were no descriptions, any and all writing would be horrendous. Essays, short stories, poems, letters, song lyrics, and plays would have no substance. Audiences and readers would have nothing to look forward to reading.

It is so important to first understand that descriptions in writing create pictures in the readers’ minds. Some characteristics of descriptive writing include the use of figurative language, imagery, and rich details. All three of these characteristics combine to construct a mental picture of the person, place, or idea being described. Of these three, the use of imagery, appealing to the five senses, is one of the most important to note. By using all of the senses in describing a certain object or idea, the writer can easily captivate and involve the reader in a strong way.  In addition to using imagery and figurative language, I enjoy nothing more than to pull up an online thesaurus while beginning a new short story or essay that I want to write and continuously find synonyms for overused words and verbs. Variety in word usage creates more descriptive and vivid paragraphs that engage and involve the reader. It is strong descriptive writing that breathes life into otherwise bland, dull observations and narrations.

What would happen if people stopped challenging themselves to describe in detail daily activities and observations? How could cops solve cases of burglaries and murders without the help of witnesses’ vivid memories and descriptions? How could scientists develop new cures to diseases without precise, detailed observations? Could engineers design new structures without a creative mind and vivid details for their goals?  In a first glance, descriptive writing may not seem all that important in the grand scheme of life. However, if you just start asking yourself what would happen in the world if there were no descriptions of anything, its importance will become much more clear

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What a Weekend

The weather here has been outstanding. As a result, I've been following up on my fitness routine. What is that, you say? Well, it involves hacking away at old stumps in my back yard for twenty or thirty minutes at a time. These are stumps that are left over from Hurricane Katrina. One in particular is a thorn in my side, because it is write where I want to put a table in chairs, smack dab in the middle of the yard. I think I managed to reduce its mass by about a quarter today between levering chunks off with a breaker bar and using the Sawzall to cut away at the roots.

It's probably best that I got quite a bit done on that today, since tomorrow I'll go to the Saints game. This is going to be a bittersweet game. Sweet in that we'll probably win, bitter in that it will be Scott Fujita's first game in the Dome as a Brown and not a Saint. I love Fujita when he played on the Saints, and I still love him. He's a great guy and an asset no matter where he is, both to his team and the community in which he lives. I think we all miss him down here. He will definitely not get same reception McNabb got in Philadelphia. We feel too happy to welcome him home.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Verb Repetition

Now that we've moved beyond using weak verbs, passive verbs, and any use of "to be," we can go on to the next thorn in my side: verb repetition.

Let's say you got assigned this picture to describe:
 
My nephew
 You  might write something like this:
I see a little boy. He wears a white shirt. He wears a sweater vest. He has reddish blond hair. He has his fist raised. He has blue eyes.
Here's the problem:
I see a little boy. He wears a white shirt. He wears a sweater vest. He has reddish blond hair. He has his fist raised. He has blue eyes.
There is no verb variety in this paragraph at all. Sure, I'm not using weak or passive constructions, but the paragraph still reads like a boring list because I have made no attempt to add variety. Variety is the spice of life, they say, and that definitely holds true when it comes to writing.

Your latest challenge when it comes to verbs? Try to only use a verb once in each paragraph. Twice if absolutely necessary. Forcing yourself to find new and interesting verbs, and using them only once, will definitely improve your writing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Model Writing

Recently in class, we wrote descriptions of this picture. I thought I'd upload mine for you to have a look at:

Her gaze pierced me, and I could see a thousand stories living behind those hazel eyes: bare foot treading through landmine-laced fields, boiling away the last of the lamb fat to make it through the winter, work-cracked hands raised in dubious surrender to Soviet troops.
Old before her time, she pauses, the green of her dress visible through the tattered shoulder of her robe. I could brush past her in the marketplace and never take a second look, but here, now, she captivates me, draws me in with her stoicism, her willfulness. She will not bow to any man's boot.Will not pick crops for any man. She would die beneath the lash before lowering herself to that. Strength lives in this woman, inhabits her as if she herself were merely a tattered suit of clothes, still just able to serve its purpose.
And here's an example from one of our first period students, Kristen (minor editing done):
She looks at you with such intensity. The blazing red cloth raps around her delicate skull. A splash of green adds variety to the palette of colors. Her cloudy gray eyes tell stories you wouldn't believe. They witness more than one lifetime can hold. The dark smudges of filth hold proof of those tales. Her lips look like they belong to a Greek goddess. Her nose sites proud on her face. To some she may hold salvation and hope. To others, a life lesson.
And another from Kayla:
The Afgani woman's pebble eyes widen at the sight of the camera, full of confusion. Her caramel skin coats her face, showing no trace of any flaws. The woman's lips zip closed with no sign of opening. Blood red blankets cover her entire body. She stares at the camer man, startled by the picture he took of her.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Steampunk

I'm writing a steampunk short story right now. It also happens to be a detective story. While I have dabbled in the steampunk genre -- my first novella was a steampunk story -- I have not written mysteries or detective stories. Steampunk seems like a good setting to dabble in with mysteries, since it sort of harkens back to Sherlock Holmes in the style.


So anyway, I have about a week to finish this short story. I was hoping to make it a short-short, but the set-up is taking a bit longer than I hoped. Maybe I'll cut it later, but probably not.


In other news, I only have seven votes in the Honest Lie Volume Two contest. If you haven't voted please do so here: http://ahlvol2vote.debrincase.com/.


And if you'd like to buy your advanced copy, check out http://debrincase.com/ahlvol2/c-b-calsing/ and click on the heart to earn me 500 votes and order your copy today.


And next month, we should finally see All Along the Pacific, so I hope you've saved some money for that!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Screenplay finished

I completed the first draft of my screenplay today. Of course, I have no idea how it will work out in the long run. It's eighty-nine scenes in 121 pages. That means nothing to me. I told the story, yes, but did I tell enough of it? Am I missing vital elements?

It's quite a different process from writing short stories or novels, that's for sure. Things I would never do in narration are fine when describing action for a shot, I think. I hope so, because I did a lot of it.

Now for edits. I think I'll feel better after one readthrough. I know stuff is missing and inconsistent, but going in knowing that makes it a lot easier to work with later.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Banana

Today, I found a blossom on my banana tree. This is only the second time I've ever had blossoms on my banana plants since I started growing them several years ago. Problem is, bananas take something like six months ripen. It can't be rushed. In addition to that, bananas don't hold up to frost at all. And the Farmer's Almanac is predicting a colder than normal winter for the Deep South, with "above normal" snow fall.

So while I have this lovely, massive, strangely sexual blossom hanging from all that verdant green now, it will probably end in heartache. Some day in January, frost will cover my tree, and then within a few days, the leaves will be brown, the potentiality of fruit destroyed.

I wonder if I can take sick leave if my excuse is that I stayed up all night, keeping a fire burning bright beneath the fronds of my tree in order to keep the cold at bay. I doubt it.

Such is the plight of those of us living in the sub-tropical region.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ms. Huckabay's Notes on Summary, Paraphrasing, and Direct Quotations

There are three basic types of note-taking during research: summarizing, paraphrasing, and direct quotations. These three tools are essential to creating a research paper that avoids plagiarizing and gives individual flavor to any student's writing. It is important to distinguish between the three. I will describe the purpose of each, and how they differ.

Summary
A summary is a type of note-taking in which you restate the main idea of a reading selection. The information that you include in a summary is more general than that of paraphrasing. Summaries are shortened versions of the reading selection. Summaries must be written in your own words.

Paraphrasing
Paraphrasing is a type of note-taking in which you include all the ideas in an article or story. It is not necessarily just the main idea of the selection. It is a shortened version (similar to a summary) of the article; however, it is more detailed than a summary since you are including all the ideas from the reading selection. You must write in your own words.

Direct quotation
Direct quotations are statements used in research that must be identical to the original source. You must make sure to cite your source in order to give credit to the originator of the statement.

Please be sure to note the differences between summary and paraphrasing. They sound very similar at first glance, but I have pointed out the differences. You will have to apply this to your note-taking.

All three types of note-taking for research must be referenced in in-text citations as well as the works cited page.
Quotations, paraphrases, and summaries serve many purposes. You might use them to . . .
Provide support for claims or add credibility to your writing
Refer to work that leads up to the work you are now doing
Give examples of several points of view on a subject
Call attention to a position that you wish to agree or disagree with
Highlight a particularly striking phrase, sentence, or passage by quoting the original
Distance yourself from the original by quoting it in order to cue readers that the words are not your own
Expand the breadth or depth of your writing

The following website provides even more information for your reference:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Who is your Favorite Author from An Honest Lie Volume 2?

Who is your Favorite Author from An Honest Lie Volume 2? Please check out this link and vote for CB Calsing if you haven't already. And don't forget to buy your copy of An Honest Lie Volume Two!

Citation! song

Sung to the theme from Ghostbusters!

If you use a source
in your bio project,
what you gonna do?
Citation!

If you paraphrase
someone else’s words
What you gonna do?
Citation!

I ain’t gonna get in trouble
I ain’t gonna get in trouble.

If you summarize
some big main ideas
What you gonna do?
Citation!

Direct Quotations
need the most attention
What you gonna do?
Citation!

Author, page number, in-text
Author, page number, in-text

Where’s it gonna be?
In text!

If you don’t know
for sure what to do
call
Ms. Calsing!

Last name, lead in, page number
Author and Web site address!
I ain’t gonna get in trouble
Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

What you gonna do?
Citation

If you’ve used outside sources
and you need to cite them
you’d better call
Ms. Huckabay

Lemme tell you something
Citing sources makes me feel so good!

I’m gonna give credit!
I’m gonna give credit!’

Don’t get caught plagiarizing no no

Citation!

When you put it in
Your own words
You still need to do
citation

What you gonna do?
Citation

What you gonna do?
Citation

What you gonna do?
Citation

What you gonna do?
Citation

I can’t hear you
What you gonna do?
Citation

Even in your own words?
Citation!

What you gonna do?
Citation

What you gonna do?
Citation

What you gonna do?
Citation

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In-text Documentation and Citation

Works cited pages are definitely an important part of research writing, but it is only one element of an adequately cited and sourced paper. The second important element is using in-text documentation or citation. This is the method generally used by the Modern Language Association.

Every piece of information you include in your paper from another source must be cited both in text and in the works cited page. This is true for paraphrasing -- "putting it in your own words" -- summary, and, of course, direct quotations. All in-text documentation must also appear in a works cited entry, and you will not have anything in a works cited entry that is not also cited in text. Failure to include either a works cited or in-text documentation will result in suspicion of plagiarism. Take the time to do it right so that there will be no question later.

So what needs to go into in-text documentation. Well, it can be a little different for each source. Commonly for a book, you need to include the author's name and a page number. For a Web site, you might use the page title and the URL or the host site of the page. Some great examples from Duke University can be found here. It follows MLA format and is pretty clear with how in-text documentation should look.

Of course, the best place to get information about in-text documentation and works cited pages is the MLA handbook. This is a book you will need throughout high school and college. Becoming comfortable with it now will only make things easier later.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Works Cited Entries

More and more students every year are relying on the Internet to do their research. You're probably among them. However, just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's free for you to use without citing your sources. In fact, if anything it's probably more important for you to cite sources really carefully so your teacher doesn't get suspicious.

The first step to citing sources -- the thing that is most basic and most widely asked for -- is the works cited page. Later in the week, we'll get into in-text documentation too, which is probably more important but harder to grasp.

What is a works cited page? Well, it's a list of the resources you used to find your information for your research project. It is comprised of entries, which include specific information. A list of Web site addresses, for instance, isn't enough.

For a book entry, you will need to include the author, the title of the book, the city it was published in, the publisher, and the year it was published.

Web site entries can contain a lot of information, but the most common entry includes the following:
  • The author of the page, if available
  • The title of the page or post in quotes
  • The title of the entire site underlined
  • Post date or date the site was last updated
  • Site sponsor, like a college or organization
  • Date you visited the site and got the information you used
  • The entire URL in carats, like this <http://www.writingfromthemiddle.blogspot.com>
It's not enough just to have the entries correct for a works cited page, however. You also have to have the layout right. Here's some hints on what the layout should include.
  1. In the header, right aligned, should be your last name and the page number.
  2. The entire page is double spaced, with no extra line breaks anywhere, not even between the title and the first entry.
  3. The entires are in alphabetical order.
  4. The first line of each entry is flush, or right about against, the left margin.
  5. Every subsequent line of each entry has a hanging indent of half an inch.
All of this can be done in Word or, if need be, written out by hand. There are plenty of resources online with lots of exmples, so make sure you check those out.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mad Rush is Over

The mad days of going back to work after the summer -- of readjusting to six a.m. mornings and going to bed when the clock tells me to and not when I want to -- are slowly fading. And just in time, I get swamped. Work, work, and more work. Still, I somehow find the time to write. Today, two scenes for the screenplay, day before yesterday, a flash sci fi story. Tomorrow I hope to get another scene written before I head off to work on the restaurant.


I'm optimistic enough to think that I may have the first draft of the screenplay done before November, which means I could possibly do NaNoWriMo again this year. I'm not quite sure what to do, though. I have an idea for a western fantasy, but part of it is already written as a short story, so that would be cheating. So really the bottom line is I have no real ideas for this year.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WERE-WORDS: Verbs can change when the moon is full... or when we have to do it to make sense.

Unfortunately, the title of this blog entry makes it sound a lot more exciting than it actually is, doesn't it? You were all thinking, "Whoopee! It's just like Twilight!" but it's not entirely. In some cases it is, though. Just like Jacob can transform into a wolf, but remain the same lovable Jacob on the inside, so can verbs. They can change, but still have the same kernel of meaning.

Verbs change in two major ways.
  1. Tense. Tense deals with when the action happens. The most basic tenses we use are past, present, and future, but there are many more tenses that we use every day orally that we may not necessarily know the name of when it comes to grammar class. That's okay. The most common way to make something past tense is to add an -ed to the end. To make it future, tack on "will." Some verbs make it more difficult than that though, so you always have to pay attention!
  2. Conjugation. The other way verbs change is to take into account the subject of the sentence and what kind of noun that is. It also takes into account who is talking. Conjugation changes the verb to singular or plural subject, and to first, second, or third person perspective.
Tense and verb conjugation come together in verb grids. Remember that the main components of a grid are always the same, shown below:

SingularPlural
FirstIWe
SecondYouYou all
ThirdHe, She, ItThey

This should be memorized. After that, the verb with the correct tense and conjugation should be added. For instance, "to shop" in future tense would look like this:


Singular
Plural
First
I will shop
We will shop
Second
You will shop
You all will shop
Third
He, She, It will shop
They will shop

Notice the word remains the same here. Again, this isn't always the case, so always pay attention.

There you have conjugation and tense. Not all that difficult. You can go ahead and read some Stephanie Meyers now. You know you want to.

Go Team Jacob!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hellebore & Rue | Drollerie Press

Hellebore & Rue | Drollerie Press Check out the cover art for the new anthology of which I am a contributor.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Vampire Tour

Last night I went, with my friends from out of town, on the New Orleans vampire tour from Haunted History. It wasn't...that bad. He told some interesting stories, but I did have to call foul on a few. Like he had the bit about the casket girls wrong at the Ursuline Convent.

Today, still playing tourist, I'm off to do the plantations on LA 18. I'm also hoping to pick up a pawpaw at a nursery out there. They had them a few weeks back when I called.

The screenplay is going quite well. I think I'll have a first draft done far sooner than expected, and then I'll go in and rewrite, sprinkling in foreshadowing and that type of thing. I like the Celtx program. It's a totally free download for the basic form, and it's really easy to use. Keeps track of all the characters and such. Really nice.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Recommended Read

This is a book I love! It makes me laugh every time, and it offers super advise for writings of all ages. Everyone should have it on his or her shelf.

Welcome!

Periodically through this blog, I will be offering nuggets of really important writing advise geared toward middle school students. I have been teaching middle school for seven years, and have taught writing specifically for four years. Not only am I a veteran teacher, but also a published writing. Everything I teach is not only to help kids get better grades and pass state tests, but also to help them become writers in all areas of their lives.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Basset Hounds

Lately I have had two basset hounds visiting. They come for the day, to dig for rats with my Dane/boxer cross Hamlet and to make my pit/Catahoula Zatoichi feel insecure. Zato is normally the "cute" one, the happy-go-lucky one that gets into all types of shenanigans. He eats light bulbs and climbs chain-link fences as Catahoulas are wont to do. Having these oddly-shaped dogs with comically floppy ears around is putting him off his game. While they are around, he mopes. When they leave, Hamlet whines. It's been just great.

Everyone should get to test-drive dogs. I used to think it might be sort of neat to have a basset hound. They're funny, at least. And I bet they're super at sitting on feet to keep them warm in the winter. I had a corgi once that was great at that, and I sort of miss it. However, I have come to the realization that I will never, not in a million years, get a full-time basset hound.

Here are six things that I've learned this week about basset hounds that helped me reach this conclusion.

  1. They don't fetch.
  2. They slobber on everything.
  3. They can jump up on you, regardless of the laws of physics. And then they slobber on your chest.
  4. The manage to slobber on their own ears. Their ears are always so wet and...slobbery.
  5. Their feet are freakishly large, and are often covered in slobber that has rained down from their giant, slobbery maws.
  6. They are not good ratters, despite the fact that they can fit down the holes and they have all that slobber to lubricate their passage.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two "Held Over" this Week and K+5

The week started with several rejections, which -- when added to the whole going-back-to-work-at-the-end-of-summer thing -- sort of made me a smidge moody. But later in the week, I got two notifications that some stories of mine are being held for further consideration. That sort of eases things over. I just wish I wasn't so brain dead from the day job that I could get some more writing done too.

Of course, the other reason this time of year is difficult is because of the anniversary or Katrina. Last night, my husband and I walked a few blocks to pick up some barbecue at The Joint on Poland Avenue. It's right next to the Naval Support Activities building. It had rained all the day -- dreary and steady, more suitable to the Northwest than here -- and to the west, the sky was a sliver of brilliant blue, and clouds just above that golden and pink, and then gray covering the rest of the heavens. A breeze blew down Royal Street, and the temperature was just such that I considered needing a sweater. Odd for a late August evening. It definitely hinted at fall.

In short, the beauty of it had me smiling as I walked, thinking nothing could be more beautiful than Bywater right then. Katrina changed a lot of things, but probably the thing it sparked most, for me, was the pride and contentment I feel just being here. Katrina became my sort of near-death experience. Coming back after, I realized how precious this place was.

Precious, yes. Perfect, no.

Here are six things that still need fixing -- five years later -- in Bywater.

  1. I have to drive a minimum of twenty minutes to get groceries. We still have no nearby, full-service grocery store. Sav-a-lot works most of the time, but they sell neither booze, nor artichoke hearts -- frozen, canned, or marinated.
  2. Restaurant Mandich never came back, and we don't have our own, old-school New Orleans restaurant anymore. God, I miss their oysters bordelaise.
  3. Brown-outs still happen more than they ought to.
  4. My backyard is still filled with cut-up wood from trees that fell during the storm.
  5. No pecan tree within the united space of my block's backyards has grown to fruiting age. We had a massive one that had nuts on it every year before.
  6. More people decided they wanted to move into my neighborhood because it doesn't flood. It's losing that small-town feel, little by little, that I loved so much. People worry less about crime and more about condos.

Regardless of the above... When I drive home from work each afternoon, I have to cross railroad tracks right before coming back into the Bywater. Crossing those tracks is like a switch. When my tires thump-thump over them, I remember why I live here, I relax, and the outside world -- that which exists north of St. Claude Avenue and south of the river, east of the Industrial Canal and west of the tracks -- fades away. I hope everyone has the same feeling in their own neighborhood. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Minder by C.B. Calsing

Elson heard his Minder ping and refocused. He saw the ball arcing toward him and managed to snatch the pop fly out of the air. He grinned into his leatherette mitt. He heard his coach shout, “Nice work!” from the dugout, and Elson hustled in from the outfield with the rest of his team.

After a few pats on the back, he picked up his gear and headed home. His thoughts raced. Here it was okay; he didn’t have to focus unless a car came, so the Minder let his mind run in laps like an excited dog. Elson took in everything, but remembered nothing. His eyes darted from a blade of grass to a butterfly to a parked SUV then down to the toes of his shoes. He thought about microwave popcorn and multiplication and his latest X-Box Infinity game. His thoughts moved like a moth batting against one bulb, then the next, in a string of Christmas lights
But when his hand touched the front door of his house, his minder pinged. Elson’s racing thoughts stilled, and he ran through the list that had been conditioned into him: put gear on the console by the door, put uniform in hamper. Wash up. Dress. Take homework to table. Work until dinner.
And he moved through these motions, his mind tranquil and alert. Nothing intruded into the habits he’d created and the Minder monitored. He did not forget to unlace his shoes before he tried to take off his pants. He did not need to be asked ten times to go wash his hands. He did all these things as if they came naturally to him.
Which they did not.
Finally, face scrubbed and uniform away, Elson sat down at the kitchen table with his tablet and began his homework. He hated homework, though it went a whole lot better now that he had his Minder. When he’d first gotten it, the incessant pinging in his brain had nearly driven him nuts… Well, more nuts than he already was. Elson smiled. It had bothered him that no one else could hear it and sympathize with him, but slowly he learned what it meant to focus, and the pings had grown more infrequent as the weeks had passed.
His grades had gone up too. And he’d made the baseball team, which never would have happened otherwise.
His father watched from his station in the kitchen, preparing dinner. Elson began work. His conditioning kicked in, his eyes moving left to right, keeping up with the scrolling text on his tablet. When it stopped and required an answer, he entered it with his stylus, and then the text would continue to bleed off the page.
“Elson,” his father said, and waited. He knew that Elson had to finish what he was doing before he could acknowledge the sound of his father’s voice. Elson finished a line, hit Pause, and looked at his father. If he’d glanced up first, he would have heard the alarm. “Almost done?”
Elson nodded. “Five more problems, Dad.”
“Good.” He went back to chopping vegetables, and Elson hit Cont.
He listened to the sound of the knife on the cutting board, and he heard a ping. He blinked a few times and returned his attention to the screen.
The smells of cooking filled the room, and Elson carefully scribed out the last few answers on his tablet. The computer checked his work, and he had to correct an answer.
When Elson had finished, he turned off the tablet and returned it to his backpack. At the dinner table, his father served him a plate of fish and vegetables.
“How was school?”
“Fine,” Elson said, pushing the slices of zucchini around on his plate with his fork. He didn’t want to eat them, but he knew Dad would make him eventually. “Terrell is such a spill though, Dad. I can’t believe I used to be friends with him.” He took a bite of the fish, chewed, swallowed. A tinge of guilt touched him. Terrell had the same problems he did before he had the Minder. “Can we, you know…give him one?”
“One what?” Dad raised a glass of wine to his lips and took a brief sip. Elson knew the wrinkled nose that followed meant the wine had soured, but his dad would drink it anyway.
“You know, like I have.”
Dad set down his glass. He folded his hands, his elbows on the table, and looked at Elson over the crags of his knuckles. “No. Absolutely not.”
“Why?”
“It’s still experimental. You know that.”
Elson sighed. “But it works.”
Dad twisted up one corner of his mouth, and his eyes went to the ceiling. He lowered his hands under the table and leaned forward. “You’re a brave boy, Elson. I’m proud to have you as my son.” He paused and pursed his lips. “You know things can still go wrong.”
Elson raised his eyebrows and ate a piece of broccoli. Yeah, having something hardwired into his brain could lead to…issues, but nothing bad had happened yet.
“Tell me about your baseball game.”
Elson slumped his shoulders. His dad wouldn’t talk about Terrell anymore, he knew. He told his dad about the catch he’d made to end the game, but left off the fact that he wished the man had been there. He’d been working, creating more things like the Minder.
After dinner, Elson did the dishes and then sat in the special chair his father kept for him in the workshop. His dad fastened the restraints around Elson’s wrists and ankles, and then attached the leads to the small jack behind Elson’s ear. He had to be restrained, his dad said, in case something happened. He didn’t want Elson to get hurt.
“How many reminders today?” Dad asked as information about Elson’s brain downloaded through the wires and into a computer.
Elson tried to remember. “Five…no, six.”
Dad clicked his tongue and typed on the computer. “Better than last week, but not as good as yesterday.”
Elson felt his eyes getting tired. He wanted to go to bed, but it always took a while for all the info to transfer.
“Any headaches? Eye pain?”
Elson started to shake his head then stopped himself. He had to keep it still during download. “No. I felt fine today.”
“Good.”
His dad showed him the same stack of flash cards he did every night. They showed scenes, and Elson had to find a bicycle in each picture. He didn’t need to say he found it, just see it. The computer at his dad’s elbow would make a sound when Elson saw the bicycle, and his father would go on to the next card.
When that he’d finished that task, his father unhooked him from the computer and undid the restraints. They hugged briefly, and Elson dragged himself off to bed.
But his Minder pinged, and he remembered to brush his teeth.
Finally in bed, he said brief prayers for his father and Terrell, and then closed his eyes.
As he drifted off, he remembered the catch he’d made. How the sun had felt on his back, the praise from his coach, the grins on his teammates’ faces…
The Minder pinged, and Elson refocused.
Sleep, he thought. Sleep, sleep, sleep.