Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Storm at the Shore

I took a walk around my neighborhood. Here's what the storm looks like at the Jersey shore.

Yes. I almost did go for a swim..accidentally.

Waiting tables...
The Barnegat Bay.
Note to self: Next time, get the shovel from the shed before the storm starts

I bet you were expecting Santa Claus. This scarecrow should have been put away weeks ago. But I like him so I couldn't do it. I'm going to find him a red hat and let him stay out for the season.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Charlotte Observer lists Neil Armstrong is My Uncle on their "Best Book for Youths" list!

Yesterday, Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me was mentioned in The Charlotte Observer in Susie Wilde's article on "Best Books For Youths"!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Near-Death Experience (Not mine -- but still traumatic)

I will never understand how my husband can sleep through our dog's pre-dawn I-have-to-go-out barks. It's not like I jump up right away. I pretend I'm asleep, but those barks seem urgent. At 6am on Sunday morning, either the love of my life is still in dreamland or he is giving an award-winning performance.

It's still dark outside when I let out the dog. I'm grumbling as I search for coffee. We are completely out. If I'm going to salvage a moment of this day, there must be caffeine involved.

I throw on a sweatshirt, sweat pants, winter boots, no socks. (Apparently my limited fashion sensibilities don't wake up until there's caffeine either). I weigh my coffee options.

Like any town here, we have a WaWa. For those of you unfamiliar with this mainstay of the Jersey shore, it's a local convenience store known for its coffee and sandwiches. There are more WaWas in these parts than there are mosquitoes on a summer evening. But even in the early hours, it's a busy place, and I am not in the mood for throngs of humanity.

Instead I head to Dunkin Donuts. I buy my ground coffee and of course, I get a cup for the road. After a few sips of caffeine and a conversation with the Dunkin Donuts man (who is completely sympathetic about my sleeping husband/barking dog/no coffee in the house situation) I'm feeling better. I get into the car to drive to a different part of town to watch the sun come up.

So the morning seems to be savable. The coffee is good. I feel completely validated by the understanding Dunkin Donut's man. I decide it's pretty cool that in a town of only 1500 people, there are two places where you can buy coffee at 6am.

I begin to count all the wonderful things that we have doubles of in this town. True, there are no bookstores, which is my personal cultural barometer, but there are three pizza parlors, two places to get a Tarot card reading, and a zillion places to get a tattoo. I'm still counting when I turn down a wooded road.

A rabbit races out in front of me. I hit the brakes.

A lot goes through your head during moments of crisis. First, I am struck by the unfairness of the situation. I can't be a rabbit killer. I'm a vegetarian (okay, well, I eat fish, dairy, eggs and on nights when the stars are not properly aligned, I will nibble on a piece of chicken. But never rabbit. I mean..that's like red meat).

And why this particular little guy? This is no scrawny half-starved creature. This is a furry, round, adorable animal. If they were casting parts for the Easter follies, the rabbit who is now a mere six inches from my front tire would be a shoe in for the starring role. There is no getting around this. I'm about to run over the Easter Bunny. I wonder if I already had.

The Easter Bunny must have made a 90-degree turn under the car. I see him hopping about two feet in front of me. I know it's only a matter of moments before his little round rabbit legs give out and those tires catch up with him.

Finally the car stops. The rabbit makes a run toward the other side of the street. For a moment, human and rabbit stare at each other. I can see his little bunny heart pounding. And mine seems to share the same quick rhythm.

I wait until the bunny is out of sight, far from the road. And I continue on my way. As I'm sipping my coffee watching the sun come up over the bay, I think about the rabbit hiding in the brambles and wonder if he is watching the sunrise too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Other Side of The Reference Desk: A Writer Puts on Her Librarian Hat to Learn the Value of a Dollar

Like all librarians, I have my favorite reference resources. And I'm thrilled when I get a chance to use them.

It's not like I wake up in the mornings wondering if I'll be able to use the Encyclopedia of Associations at work that day, but if someone wants a little info on the Society of Coffee Mill Enthusiasts, you bet I'm hopping to that book with a spring in my step.

Here's another one that sends me to the shelves humming.

The Value of A Dollar:Prices and Incomes in the United States

What is it: The editors of this book say it's about "practical economy: what things cost and how much money people have to buy them". It lists the actual prices of things consumers purchased from the 1700's to the present. It also has info on salaries. But it's so much more than that.

Why writers need to know about this book: It's a wonderful way to see what society was like at different periods in history. If you're not writing historical fiction, take a look at it anyway. This book goes up to present times and will help you find interesting details for your w.i.p.

Here are some samples of what's inside: (source:
Value of a Dollar: Prices and Incomes in the United States. Millerton, NY : Grey House Pub., 2004.)

In 1900 the Chicago Tribune advertised for a Sales Agent "we want a few active hustlers in city to sell our new patent reflectors for Welsbach lights; evenings 6 to 9 pm; exclusive terrritory $1.50 to $3.00 a night"

In 1890 "Dr. Williams Pink Pills for Pale People: Miraculous cure" 50 cents

In 1932, you could buy a box of 200 "Kraft; fresh, soft, fluffy, vanilla-flavored marshmallows" for 65 cents

A frying pan in Prince George County Maryland cost 4 shillings in 1797.

And if you want to get an idea of how much an author made in 1834: William McGruffey made $1,000 in royalties for the various McGuffrey texts.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Other Side of the Reference Desk: A Writer Puts on Her Librarian Hat: Talking about Databases

I'm wearing both hats this week. In this post, I talk to myself (which happens frequently).

LibrarianNAN: Here's one of my favorite resources. Let's talk about databases...

WriterNAN: YAWN. I hate that word. It's dull...uninspiring. Who wants to search a database when they can search something fun like Yahoo and Google?

LibrarianNAN: It is a boring name. Sometimes, that makes it a hard sell to library customers. I've lobbied for a name change. I think a database should be called "an amazing collection of in-depth information that you can't find through search engines like Yahoo and Google -- and even if you could, it would probably be at those websites where they charge you for info and it would cost you a ton of money -- but you can get this info through your library for free." That's more descriptive, but it's a little hard to fit in the brochures.

WriterNAN: Er..yeah..right. So why do I need to know about these things?

LibrarianNAN: Not everything is available for free on the Internet. There are wonderful gems of info that...

WriterNAN: Wait. I thought you said it was free.

LibrarianNAN: For library users, it's free. Libraries pay major money for these databases. We buy them and make them available for our library customers.
But the information isn't free. It's often a collection of books, articles, issues of magazines and journals (in electronic form). That's why you can't find this stuff through regular search engines.

WriterNAN: Free is good. What can I find on a database?

LibrarianNAN: Let's say you're writing a story and you need information about the mating habits of butterflies...

WriterNAN: Ha! I know why you came up with that example. We just finished reading the incredible first story in Laini Taylor's Lips Touch: Three Times. It was wonderful and you're still haunted by it.

LibrarianNAN: If Laini Talylor came into the library and asked about the mating habits of butterflies, I'd suggest the databases Academic Search Premier (for some great scholarly journals on that subject) and also Science Reference Center.

WriterNAN: Hope you'd ask her to sign her book too. Alright. So databases have good info on butterflies, but let's say my main character is an 11 year-old who fixes lawn mowers.

LibrarianNAN: Try the Small Engine Repair Reference Center

WriterNAN: And what if my main character broke an antique flower pot and needs to know how much it would cost to replace it.

LibrarianNAN: The Antique Reference Database has prices for all kinds of antiques. You're still stressed out about the broken coffee cup this morning. Aren't you?

WriterNAN: It was early. I was pre-caffeine.

LibrarianNAN: From language learning to medicine to art to history --there's a database for almost anything. Our library has about 90 different ones. Take a look at our library's website to see the huge variety.

WriterNAN: But only cardholders for your library can use your databases. What if I want to tell my writing buddies about this. They live all over the country.

LibrarianNAN: Because of agreements with database producers, the databases are generally only available to cardholders of the library system. But so many libraries have them. Your writing buddies can check their own library's website to see what databases are available to them or they can ask their librarian.

WriterNAN: And if it's 2am, they can use one of those "Ask a Librarian" services that you talked about.

LibrarianNAN: I like your thinking. It's good to know we're on the same wavelength. The librarians at the 24/7 library services would be happy to help them.

WriterNAN: So are there any secret search strategies that you use when you search databases or is it similar to searching Google.

LibrarianNAN: You can pretty much search them the same way, but we librarians know a few secret tricks.

WriterNAN: Will you show them to me?

LibrarianNAN: Any librarian will show them to you. If you're ever stuck, ask them. But I'll talk about my search strategies in another post.

WriterNAN: Great. And maybe by then, we'll have pulled ourselves together.

(sorry for posting the wednesday post on problems)