Monday, December 30, 2013

Spelling Humor (Yet Again)

Folks, one of the easiest ways to make yourself look stupid is not learning the basics of spelling and vocabulary.  This is especially true on the internet.  It's rather like passing out or falling asleep at a party; everyone assumes you're fair game for public humiliation if you don't proofread in cyberspace.
Today I found this little gem on Pinterest:

It's a great photo.  But the caption read thusly:

The Quechua girl and the Lama - Peru, via Flickr.

No, no, no.   There is no Tibetan priest in the picture.  In fact, I'm not sure that rural Peru even has many Tibetan priests.  That, my friend, is a llama standing next to the girl.  Peru has lots of them.  And they don't look anything like Tibetan priests, or lamas.

Hey, What's Happening?

I didn't really plan on taking a blog holiday over winter break, but it seems to have happened.  Really, there just hasn't been much about which for me to post.
I've been typing away at a good rate on the first draft of The Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook, cleaning the house, grading a bit, spending time with family, exercising, getting enough sleep for a change, finding ways to promote Becoming Brigid, trying to make some big decisions about life after  30 years of teaching (coming up all too soon, folks!), and helping another author with a still-super-secret chunk of research.  (I think it's OK to tell you that this involves an American author who is creating an American character who moves to Edinburgh, Scotland.  Since I'm an American who once lived in Scotland, the author is seeking my input.  It's been really fun so far.)
And that's really about it.
This is why I haven't blogged; I didn't want to put you all to sleep.  :)
Coming soon, however, is my annual list of what I read this year.  This always amuses at least a few of you.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Books!

Still in a Christmas mood?  Got a little gift money or a gift card to spend?  Let me recommend to you some of my favorite Christmas books.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
If you have never actually read the book, you're missing out.  I'm not even really a big Dickens' fan, but I think this novella -- for it's not really a full book, but it is rather long for a short story -- is superb.  The characterization, the setting description, the sarcasm all get lost in movie versions.  You really need to read the original.  (This Dover edition is only 95¢ on Amazon.  It's hard to beat that.)

Another classic must-read: The Father Christmas Letters by JRR Tolkien.
If you like Tolkien, particularly if you like the books as opposed to what has happened in the movies, if you like The Hobbit the way Tolkien wrote it, as opposed to the completely different story it has become on screen, then you should read these letters.  Tolkien began by answering his son's letters to Father Christmas, but the story that developed over the years is clearly the background for the entire LOTR series.  Elves vs. goblins.  A good, wizard-like man.  Polar bears (think Beorn).  Underground caverns.  All of that is there.  This is marvelous stuff.

Alan Bradley's Flavia De Luce series is fabulous!  If you read mysteries, don't miss out on it.  (I'm counting days until the next installment is released in January.)  I Am Half Sick of Shadows (yes, it's a line from Tennyson's "The Lady of Shallot") is set at Christmas -- with murder and mayhem as folks are snowed it.

Naughty by Steve Hockensmith is a collection of short mystery stories set at Christmas.  Most of them are hilarious.  I believe this one is e-book only, but don't miss out on it!

Paige Shelton is my hands-down favorite cozy writer, and this one -- Merry Market Murder-- is her brand spankin' new mystery set in a farmers' market.  I gobbled it up.  If you want a Christmas cozy, this is the one to get.

And why waste a good opportunity for self-promotion?  Clockwork Christmas is four steampunk humor Christmas stories for 99¢ on Kindle.  It's a great way to spend an hour after the Christmas rush.
You can also enter to win a copy right here.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Yup. Made the Lasagna Again.

For the third year, I have convinced Mom to let ME do the Christmas cooking.  The Christmas lasagna is now a tradition.
The recipe post is also one of the most popular on this blog -- year 'round.
Click here to find my recipe.  (I think it would easily feed 8-10 people.)

Another Proofreading Faux Pas

Got this in a tweet today:

While You Are Sleeping on Kindle. A tale full of chaos, humour & a smattering of elves

While you were sleeping on a Kindle ---
1) you drooled and ruined it.
2) you accidentally hit the "buy with one click" button for $800.00's worth of tacky romances.
3) you missed all the proofreading in the book.

Yes, it was only a tweet.  But it made no sense.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pick Your Prize Giveaway!

Let's have a giveaway to fill up those new Christmas Kindles!
Between now and New Year's Day, you can enter over and over again to win one of my e-books.  That's right; if you win, I'll contact you, and you can choose which book you want!  Fun, right?
Here are your three options:

Becoming Brigid.  Click on the link to read about it.

Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire.  Click on the link to read about it.

A Clockwork Christmas.  Click on the link to read about it.

You can tweet every day and pin every day (it needs to be a new pin onto a different board each time, though.  I WILL check.).

UPDATE 12/23/13:  I've already had to delete a cheater!  Look, people, I freakin' TEACH JUNIOR HIGH.  Do you honestly think I'm NOT going to check your entries?  Seriously?  Think again.
Play fair.  Enter honestly.  Or I will delete your entry.  Period.

Ready to enter?  Here you go:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Becoming Brigid Book Reviews

I just thought I'd share what a few readers are saying about Becoming Brigid.

 From a girl named Hannah, who won my goodreads giveaway:

This book was very funny and unique. This book had a lot of flavor. I was literally laughing out loud so much while reading this. I really got into the story and had trouble putting the book down. I didn't find all of the characters very likable, but I liked the character development in the main character. I didn't feel like any of the other characters developed a lot, though. I can't wait to read the other books that this author has written.

She also posted this comment when she was only just starting the book:
""Constellations of freckles" I just love that. I'm already so into this book."

And Mary had this to say about it:

The first few pages of this story sound like it might be a ghost story, but it isn't. Pepper is a normal teenage girl, with a dash of spice. While she tries to ignore the incident with the "ghost", she goes to school, dreams about romance, and hangs out with her friends. One of her good friends is a 14 year old boy, and it's partly because of that friendship that she finds herself on a cliff by the sea, alone, hanging to a chain while she climbs. And that's where she begins to find answers to her "ghost" sightings.

Pepper is strong and smart. She is confident, yet insecure, intelligent but not nerdy, empowered, but not bratty. She dreams about romance, but is mostly realistic. And she can take care of herself: she gets caught using a cell phone in class but doesn't get in trouble, fends off the unwanted affections of a strange man, and stands up to a boy in her class, the self-proclaimed morality defender, Zane.

I especially love the connections to Ireland and Scotland. I can picture the cliffs by the sea, the stone pillars, and the caves. I can almost hear the strange dialects of the people, and I am delighted to learn of the hidden connections between modern life and literature, and their ancient traditions.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is 15 or older. Girls will identify with Pepper, but I think boys would enjoy the spooky adventure, the mysterious man, and Pepper's friend / neighbor who lives in a mortuary. In fact, I'm going to recommend it to my husband. He will be pleasantly surprised that the story is wholesome, fun, and not predictable.

Also, Heidi said this:

I stayed up way too late last night because I had to finish this book. I found myself amused and entertained throughout the entire story. 

I found myself amused at Pepper's plan for her future life at the beginning of the story. Perfect husband, perfect children who never throw temper tantrums in public (or at all), perfect mommy blogger. Watching her be annoyed by real children (my kids will NEVER do that) was funny. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for reality to set in and her view of the world, and her future, changed.

Most of the characters were easy to love or hate as appropriate. Pepper was fun to follow through the story and DC is just plain cute. Zane instantly set my nerves on edge. How many "holier than thou" types do we know in life? Dougal I spent the entire book trying to decide if I liked him or not and never quite decided. I'd feel bad except that Pepper felt the same way. :)

I liked how Pepper handled herself in the rough situations. When she was placed in a romantic situation she made it clear where she stood on that and didn't back down. When she was placed in situations where she was being demeaned or victimized she took care of things.

This is a fun book appropriate for a YA audience. I highly recommend it.

Have they convinced you to read it?  You can find the book right here. :D

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gay Marriage And Polygamy Now Legal In Utah. Why The Former Doesn't Bother Me And The Latter Does

Sixteen days ago, a Federal Judge declared Utah's anti-polygamy laws unconstitutional.  Today -- just now, in fact -- the icky gay marriage ban, forced through in 2004, was also declared unconstitutional.
Right now, I really, really wish I could hear the rants of the Eagle Forum (Utah's version of the John Birch Society, which has waaaaay too much influence on our local governments).  *smirks*
However, the polygamy legality I don't find funny at all.
I realize my opinion will not be popular, but I intend to state it anyway.  Here are my reasons why gay marriage doesn't bother me but polygamy does:

1) Sexism.
Two women marry.  Two men marry.  One man and one woman marry.  These are partnerships.  Granted, there might still be inequalities, but it's not built into the system.  The marriage contract between two adults is set up to be equal.
Polygamy in Utah doesn't usually mean some type of hippie commune with multiple guys and gals celebrating free love.  I think that some people believe that polygamy is like free love or partner swappers or swingers, so they assume that those of us against polygamy are uptight.  For the record, I really don't care who sleeps with whom, as long as it's not rape, coercion, or about hurting or lying to someone.  (And as long as I don't have to see it. :) )
Polygamy in Utah almost always equals one guy + multiple wives.  This is inherently sexist, no matter how loving the relationships are.  It means it takes 2 or 3 or more women to equal the one man -- that the women are somehow worth less than he is.
It also sets the stage for jealousy and favoritism and simmering hurt and hatred.  He gets to sleep with multiple partners; the women are expected to share him and not seek out other partners.  This accepts that a man may desire and deserve sexual variety but not that a woman might.

2) Problems with schools and burden to taxpayers.
It is extremely unlikely that gay partners will produce accidental and/or unwanted pregnancies.  Most gay couples raising children either have them from previous heterosexual relationships, have adopted, or have used sperm donors/surrogate mothers.  It is not highly likely that gay partnerships will produce far more children than the parents can afford to raise and educate, thereby sucking dry the welfare system, increasing crowding in our schools, and burdening taxpayers.
Most polygamists in Utah, however, are polygynists who feel it is their God-given duty to do all of the above.  It is not unthinkable for a polygamist patriarch to sire 3 dozen children.

Let us imagine a polygamist family in Utah: John Smith and his wives Sally, Sandra, Sue, Shelly, and Cindy.  Let's say that each wife produces a "modest" five kids; this family now becomes one of 31 people.  This will require either one very large house or several smaller ones.  Let us say that Cindy opts to become the stay-at-home sister wife and that John and the 4 other wives all work full time and equally (ha, ha, ha) share the domestic duties.  That is still only 5 working adults for a family of 31.  Each employed adult must support her/himself and 5.2 other people.  If we assume that each working adult makes the Utah average of $40,000 per year, then s/he will have to support 6.2 people on that much every year.  But what will really happen is taxpayers will end up supporting these people.
Sorry, but I find this sickening and wrong.
People talk all the time about how they find gay relationships to be immoral or unethical.  I, on the other hand, find polygyny with its sexism, gross amount of offspring, and burden on other people to be the thing that is immoral and unethical.

Let me add some arguments by Kristyn Decker, former polygamist wife, given in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune:

The problem, Decker said, is that polygamy fosters abuse, particularly against women and children. Decker said she saw the abuse first-hand during her years in the AUB and now continues to talk to scores of women who are too afraid to go public with their experiences. People who see polygamy as a matter of choice between consenting adults — and who equate the issue with gay marriage — miss that point.
"It’s not about choice," she argued. "It’s about coercion."
Decker said women in polygamous communities are coerced by being told that their salvation depends on defending "the principle," a fundamentalist term for plural marriage. Dissenters face retaliation, as well as expulsion from their families and social circles, Decker said.
Polygamy also strains children, who are forced to assume significant responsibility.
"Families are so large they’re not getting the things they need," she said. "You’ve got children raising children."
And despite a willingness to look on the bright side, Decker was skeptical that Waddoups’ ruling would do much to curb those problems. She said most polygamists have not feared arrest or prosecution in recent years and decriminalizing the practice edges closer to condoning abuse.
"I don’t think there’s any good polygamy," she added.

Just for your information, let me state that I am the descendant of a relatively famous Utah polygamist, one who had 5 wives (although Wikipedia claims it was 6) and 32 documented children.  (There could be more, folks.)  He was wealthy enough that each wife had her own house, and, by all surviving accounts, he did his best to be a kind husband and father.  But still, he could not possibly have had enough time nor enough emotional strength to give proper love and attention to each wife and child.  His whole, huge family must have suffered from it.
I did not know this man, but I knew his granddaughter, who was my grandmother.  She was always horribly ashamed of her grandfather for what he had done.
Grandma was ahead of her time.  She'd be sickened by the legalization of polygamy today, too.
As for gay marriage, I doubt it ever crossed her mind.  For me, though, I would be honored if any of my gay friends asked me to help them celebrate their marriages.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My Tweet Made The Tribune

So, last night came the news that Utah's polygamy ban is unconstitutional, and polygamy is now decriminalized.  I am not pleased.
I've been thinking for months now that I ought to do a post on why gay marriage doesn't bother me but polygamy does, and now I know I'm going to have to do that.  But last night I merely posted my thoughts in 140-character spurts on Twitter.
For good or for ill, a couple of Salt Lake Tribune reporters, who were clearly trying to make this news into some kind of marriage victory instead of a huge slap in the face for women's rights that it is -- not to mention the kinds of problems it will create for taxpayers and the school system -- picked up on one of my tweets and used it in their slide show article for the online Tribune.  I could not help but notice that they carefully chose a tweet that didn't show any real negativity at all.
At any rate, here's my 15 minutes of Twitter/Tribune fame for the morning:

I guess I'd feel better about it if it were ever truly polygamy (where gals have multiple husbands as well), rather than just polygyny.

Friday, December 13, 2013

And December's Winner is...

She won a gift bag filled with goodies to go with her copy of Becoming Brigid:

"Tre" entered twice: once for letting me use her photo for publicity and once for this review on Amazon:

Of the three books written by Lisa Shafer, this is my favorite. The novel consists of a time-traveling plot line with interesting twists and turns, strong female characters, suspense, and comic relief. This is not a long book, barely 200 pages, and it is a fun read.

Want to win a prize in January?  No problem!
Buy and read Becoming Brigid, then review it on Amazon and/or Goodreads and/or a public blog and/or send me a jpg of you holding the book (with the cover showing).  I plan to have giveaways in January and February, so you still have time to read and review the book! :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Purple Argyle Sweater Day: A Story Problem

So, what are the chances that three teachers in the same school actually own V-neck argyle sweaters with a pattern in some shade of purple?
And how likely is it that all three of them will be English teachers?
And what, exactly, is the probability that all three of them will accidentally wear their purple argyle sweaters on the same day?

Round your answer to the nearest tenth.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Mystery Of The Doorstep Gifts

About 6 weeks ago, when the fall weather was still very nice (Note: we had 6" of fresh powder on the driveway this morning.), I arrived home to find a couple of sprigs of lavender desert sage flowers tied with two bits of ribbon and placed on the doormat.  There was no note accompanying the tiny bouquet.
I tried to think of who might have done this in a kind way, but I failed.  I have one neighbor who's likely to do spontaneous nice things, but her garden does not contain this type of plant, and she's not really the crafty sort.  (This morning she and her son shoveled a fair chunk of my part of the sidewalk before I got out to clean up the snow; that's the sort of nice thing she does.)  I have two other friends who live nearby, but one's going through a really tough time, and the other's more inclined to leave books than flowers.
As a junior high teacher, I am naturally suspicious.  I wondered if the flowers had been dusted with a chemical or sprayed with cat urine or -- who knows?  Thus, I left them on the doorstep for a couple of days until they dried, then I took a shovel and disposed of them into the trash.
No one has ever mentioned them to me, so I still have no idea whether they came from friend or foe -- or from someone who got the wrong house altogether.
I'd forgotten about them until I went to get the mail yesterday -- and found a box of soup mix.  Yup.  Chicken enchilada soup mix.  It was commercially packaged but a brand I've never heard of before.  There was no note attached, nor was there any advertising flyer announcing this as a free sample.  In fact, there wasn't even any mail in the mail box.  Nothing.  Just a box of soup mix.
There is, of course, no way in heaven or heck I'd eat something so suspicious, so the recyclable parts will be recycled, and the rest will be trashed.  (I hope it's not poisoned, but, just to be safe, I won't put it into the compost bin, but into the trash.)
Still, the mystery remains.  Are these two odd "gifts" somehow connected?  If yes, how?  If not, why I am the recipient of two such odd things?  And, either way, why soup mix, of all things?  And why has no one left notes or ads?
I feel a bit like I'm living in a cozy mystery novel right now.
The plot thickens.....

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This Made Me Laugh

Someone tweeted this to me the other day.  Apparently, this was supposed to be a serious warning.

Yeah, this describes about 75% of all junior high school students.  And, no, one doesn't feel shamed and absorbed the blame; one tells them to sit down, shut their mouths, and get to work.

Now, granted, it IS harder when adults behave this way, but I had to laugh at this tweet anyway.  I love how this description connects the average adolescent to the term "psychopath."  Funny.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Writing Lessons From An English Teacher #1: Lay vs. Lie

From a yahoo! news article about today's tragic train accident in NYC, we get this line:

Aerial photos taken above the scene showed several train cars laying on their sides, and one near the water along a bank of the Bronx River.

Unfortunately, the grammar here is also tragic.  Yes.  Reporting serious stuff should require care and good form, not carelessness and bad grammar.  Grammar mistakes can be cringeworthy in light-hearted writing, but in serious reporting such as this, they can be downright disrespectful.

Those train cars aren't laying anything; they're lying on their sides.
This is 7th grade grammar, people.  If you're a writer of any kind, you need to learn this.

Lay = to place or to put.  It's a transitive verb, and it takes an object.  You have to lay something; you cannot just lay in the present tense or in the participle form.

A hen lays eggs.  I can lay the new carpet.  Henry was laying the silverware out on the table.

The past tense is laid; it is NOT "layed," as there is no such word.

The hen laid eggs.  I laid the new carpet.  Henry laid the silverware out on the table.

The past participle (the one that requires a helping verb) is also laid.

The hen has laid many eggs.  I have laid the new carpet already.  Henry has always laid the silverware out on the table.

Lie, when it doesn't mean telling a falsehood, means to rest or to recline.  It is an intransitive verb, which means (for those of you who never listened in your English or foreign language classes) that it has no object (like eggs, carpet, or silverware in the above examples).

The dog lies in the sun.  The train cars are lying on their sides.  I want to lie down and rest.

Where it gets complicated is the past tense, which is "lay."  You have to think about this one to keep from confusing it with the lay which means "to put."

The dog lay in the sun yesterday.  The train cars lay on their sides after the wreck.  I lay down to rest after working all day.

The past participle is also irregular: lain.

The dog has lain in the sun all morning.  The train cars have lain on their sides ever since the wreck.  I have often lain down to rest after working hard.

There you go, folks.  Yes, these two verbs can be confusing.  Stop whining and learn them.  When you misuse these verbs, you automatically announce your ignorance to the world, and people wonder why you're writing when you clearly don't know grammar rules.

No one is perfect; typos will happen.  But very often it's not a typo with lay and lie; most folks haven't ever bothered to learn the difference.
I see these verbs misused so frequently by writers that I thought it was time I gave a lesson.  Maybe someone will read it and learn.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Announcing December's Book Swag Contest!

Yesterday I announced that Liz had won the Becoming Brigid tote bag giveaway for November, so today begins the Christmas book swag giveaway.

The prize this time will be a goodie bag to match the book.

The bag itself is purple and rather sparkly.  It's cotton and makes an excellent socks-and-undies bag for traveling.  Inside the bag is a matching eye mask filled with rice and dried lavender flowers (just heat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes to have soothing warmth and to release the scent), a travel-sized bottle of Bath and Body Works "Dark Kiss" lotion (because it's purple and because -- c'mon, how appropriate is a "dark kiss" for Dougal???  Definitely!), a purple, shimmery lip gloss, and a book of 100 Best-Loved Poems, which includes several from which Dougal quotes in Becoming Brigid.

So, how do you enter to win this fun little pack of girly goodies?
There are four ways:
1) Read the book and post a review of it on Amazon.
2) Read the book and post a review of it on Goodreads.
3) Read the book and post a review of it on a public blog, facebook page, or similar.
4) Take a selfie of you with the holding the book or your e-reader (with the book cover showing in either case) and send me the jpg to use for publicity.  (You must be 18+ for this one or else have your parent pictured with you in the photo.)
You can post a comment with your e-mail address (comment won't be published), pin the pic on Pinterest and leave me the link, or send me the pic via twitter (@lisamshafer)

That's it.  You can have up to four entries.
The winner will be announced on December 13 to allow me time to ship this to you by Christmas.

For a list of entrants, click here.