Behind my sister's house is a pasture shadowed by tall oaks and orange trees. We sit at her table and enjoy this view. Cows graze by; they are lumbering and thoughtful, these big, gentle creatures. Ironically, a slaughterhouse sits on the same street not half a mile away.

I do not like to think of this, not even as I eat my hamburger and stare out my sister's windows.

Insomnia, But Not For Long

I woke up at 3:44 this morning and was unable to return to my dreams. Alert and focused, I could have executed any scientific or mathematical problem set before me. I gave up on sleep and trudged downstairs, checked email (none), set up a couple shows to record on my HDR, and ate an Entenmanns' Rich Frosted Donut. It was after five before I went back to bed and slipped in and out of that weird quasi-sleep. Maybe I should have stayed awake. I feel more tired now than I did at 3:44.

But the end is near--I visited the sleep doctor this week. It's just wonderful to visit doctors; after all, they're really the only ones interested in listening to your tale of woe. Sometimes I think I'll forget something so I type it all up into a little story.

Sleep Doctor asked me about my sleeping history. It goes something like this: shared a room all my life with sister and couldn't sleep if I even heard her breathing; rented a house with sis and bros--the bros stayed up all night, clanging pots in the kitchen, watching COPS, and slamming doors; married a man who snores and has his own sleeping problems. Then I described all the little strategies I use to encourage sleep.

The doctor shook his head in sympathy. "You are an insomniac," he said. "Classic insomniac." He didn't give me a handout like the other doctor did: Keep your room dark. Go to bed at the same time every night. Use your bedroom for sleep and sex only. He gave me a prescription. "Just use it when you need it," he said. "You will not become a drug addict or a junkie. I don't believe you'll be killing people for pills."

And I won't. And soon, the red cracks in my eyes and the purple eye-bags underneath will fade, cognizant thinking will be restored, and my box of donuts will last longer.

Revisions, How to Punch up Your Blog, and I'm Going to See Brian Regan!

Revisions are finished, and the manuscript is in the hands of two of my readers. After I receive their comments, the story will make another trip to New York.

I'll be using this break from revision to market some of my short stories and learn more about blogging. Angela Mackintosh of WOW! posted an excellent article called Optimizing Your Blog. Lots of tips here, folks. Check it out!

I'm feeling good, feeling kind of MMMBop-py today partly because I've finished revisions and also because I'm going to see Brian Regan! We've got floor seats just a few rows back! I can't wait. I just hope that tall guy doesn't sit in front of me like he always does in church.

Do all Writers Suffer from Insomnia?

My manuscript has an RSS feed directly to my brain. People talk to me but I can’t hear them. I drift past chores, eat toast for breakfast, lunch. Same menu at supper.

I’m revising.

In the morning, I awaken to thoughts already in progress regarding my story. It takes me a minute to catch up, but then I realize I’ve been revising all night long. My mom appeared in a dream, telling me to turn off Track Changes. In real life, she doesn’t even know how to use email.

Sentence fragments steal past me, plot developments tumble—in the fog of my sleep, I can’t grab them. I get up. I think if I write these thoughts down they’ll let me sleep. But as I said on VK, I can't push the pen around fast enough; I go downstairs and type because it's faster to type but since I’m on the keyboard anyway, I might as well open up a new draft and tweak that one chapter that's been bothering me and, yes, I see it's well past midnight, but I've made it on three hours of sleep before and I can't stop now because I’m on a roll and I’m wide awake so I might as well keep on writing. I mean, it's almost breakfast time.

I visit the sleep doctor this week. I hope he can doctor me up some sleep. Just don’t make me wear one of those Darth Vader sleeping apparatuses.

The Pigeon Story, in which a Bunch of Old Ladies Overtake Me

If I were a pigeon, I would take umbrage at the delcension of my reputation.

Once accepted as a sacrifice to the Lord and later serving man by carrying messages in World War I, pigeons are the victims of a massive smear campaign. How would you like it if your name was synonymous with rat fink, stoolie, chump, or sucker? A pigeon is an easy mark, a patsy, and here's the worst one: a dupe.

Scientists have studied homing pigeons for years; they still don't know how pigeons fly so far and make it back home. So who's the dupe now? And don't even call a pigeon pigeon-hearted. In WWI, homing pigeon Cher Ami saved the lives of two hundred American soldiers and received the Croix de guerre--that's a French medal given to those who perform acts of heroism in the face of the enemy. (Read more about that here.)

Homing pigeons flock in a park nearby my house. I like their pink feet and the emerald iridescence of their necks. I went to the park the other day armed with a loaf of stale white bread. Everything was fine until these old ladies showed up with a bag from Panera Bread. No sign of arthritis here; their fingers were nimble and sure, ripping and shredding Asiago loaves and tossing the gourmet crumbs like confetti. My birds defected, leaving me with a lone squirrel hunting for acorns. The old ladies laughed and squealed, and I'm pretty sure I heard one of them snicker at me.

One thing about pigeons is they never hold a pose. Somehow, I caught one straight on.

This guy's no dupe. I call him The Terminator.

Interview with Danette Vigilante regarding her Two-Book Deal with Putnam

by Danette Haworth (Yes! There are two of us!)

Today we have the privilege of speaking with Danette Vigilante, a debut author who just landed a two-book deal with G.P. Putnam's Sons. Those of us who have watched her journey on Verla Kay's Blueboards are thrilled for her and can't wait to hear the details. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started!

DH: Danette, congratulations on your book deal! I hear there was a lot of shouting and crying and jumping at your house the other day, and I believe champagne was involved—has the reality of what you've accomplished sunk in yet?

Danette: Thank you so much. Yes, I think I burned lots of calories that afternoon. And, I’ll admit, the champagne did flow nicely into the champagne glasses I had to run out and buy!

No, reality has not fully hit me yet. I think it’s going to take time. It’s almost like this has happened in a different language, one I don’t understand. Little by little, I’ll come to understand its full impact.

DH: It probably won’t hit you until you see your books at Barnes and Noble! Face out, I hope!

There’s an adage among writers that it’s harder to snag an agent than it is to land a publisher, but at the same time, writers are advised to refrain from submitting to publishers because potential agents don’t like a manuscript that’s been shopped around (even if only to a few houses). What was your submission experience like?

To read this interview in its entirety, click here.

Funny Video Clips

New item in the sidebar--Video Clips that Make Me Laugh. Clips include bits by Brian Regan, Mitch Hedberg, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Colin Farrell, Wayne's World with Aerosmith, and Justin Timberlake with Jimmy Fallon.

Check it out!

The Man with Dirty Hands

A man with dirty hands patronizes my library and checks out every book I want to read before I get to it. How do I know it's a man, you ask. Here is my indisputable proof: I opened up my library book and a large, flattened spider slid out onto my shirt. Only a man would do that. Sorry guys, but I have brothers, a husband--and my father once slammed a roach in a missalette at church and put it back in the holder. My dad and I laughed for the rest of service, we kept thinking about the next person who'd open that book. But I digress.

This man, this library patron, has pizza thumbs and mustard fingers and is bleeding. I know this because of the stains he leaves behind. Also, he picks his nose. He reads literary fiction, but he enjoys children's literature as well. I used to think maybe he was a professor, until the books I checked out started showing up with greasy thumbprints along the sides of the pages, as if he'd leafed through the books many times. Now I think he's a self-educated mechanic. Or a writer who reads while eating, bleeding and picking his nose after changing his toner cartridge.

We Had a Barbecue! And I Give You Potato Salad by Kids in the Hall

Another family get-together this weekend. We hosted it, and we put on a traditional barbecue--burgers, chicken, cole slaw, corn on the cob, French fries, iced tea and lemonade. I couldn't find my usual recipe for baked beans, so I pulled a recipe off the Internet and man! did those beans turn out good. Nothing like a little liquid smoke!

I love potato salad, but I didn't feel like making it. So I watched this video instead.

Mixed Reviews

One of my short stories climbed all the way to the top of an editorial ladder only to have the editor-in-chief knock it down. I received a nice, handwritten note from the fiction editor telling me how much she enjoyed it, but the chief decided to pass. Oh, well. The editor's encouraging words kept me from sinking.

While I have received this rejection, others I know from Verla Kay's Blueboards have received good news. The other Danette landed a two-book deal with Putnam! Congratulations, Danette! You deserve it. Carole had a poem accepted by Fandangle and another piece published in this month's Stories For Children. Brenda Sturgis snagged an agent.

Congratulations to all!

There's a tomato post today on a blog called Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds. Great storytelling! Check it out.

Technorati Profile

Signs from the Road

In Georgia, they do not consistently dot their is, but the ts are always crossed.

I think it happened something like this:

Governor: Gentlemen, we've exceeded the state budget by 7.3 trillion dollars. What can we do?

Senator: Let's not dot the is.

Governor: Brllllant! You get a ralse.

And That's Why They Call 'em The Smokies

View from Clingmans Dome.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee--what an excellent town! We emptied our wallets there and had fun doing it. Spent all kinds of money riding the ski lift, hitting museums, eating out, and treating ourselves to Ben & Jerry's every night. (This was not your regular ho-hum Ben & Jerry's; I'll post the video later this week.)

Not only did we hit the strip, we also went off-road and hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We hiked some footpaths that were hardly trod at all. I couldn't get over the wildflowers that grew across the mountains in huge blankets of purple, white, yellow and red. Beautiful, and filled with bees. Everywhere we hiked, we could hear the buzzing, a monotonous, slightly threatening drone. I was glad to get back onto the main trail.

In the park, a sign was posted that said Feeding Wildlife Picking Flowers Prohibited. I did not see any squirrels picking flowers, but if I had, I would not have fed them.

Here are more signs I photographed:

If you are a jacuzzi, you are welcome at this establishment.

Yeah, but what about jacuzzis?

More photos and videos from the road coming this week.


Vacation! Leaving the Collective

Heading for the mountains! I can't wait. I'll be back toward the end of next week. Please come back and visit.

Spot the Error(s)

I shot this photo through a chain link fence.

Billy Straight by Jonathan Kellerman and My Thoughts on Shifting POVs

I'm reading Billy Straight, a novel published in 1998 by one of my favorite mystery authors, Jonathan Kellerman.

Billy Straight is a smart, too-small-for-his-age kid who can no longer take the punishment doled out by his drunken mother's succession of boyfriends. Deciding he can do better on his own, he runs away. He does pretty well for a street kid--uses the library, the zoo and other public places to create a routine for himself. He also carves out five secret spaces across town to sleep in. Hiding in one of those places puts him in the perfect spot to witness a horrific murder.

Enter Petra Connor. She's the detective who's going to crack this case. Petra's got baggage in the form of an ex-husband and a deceased father. Daddy used to be a cop, a good one, and Petra is constantly trying to measure up to what she thinks would be his expectations of her.

Chapter one opens with Billy, 1st person POV; second chapter is Petra, 3rd person POV. I don't like this convention, but I've seen it before and I can handle it. Besides, I like both characters already. The chapters alternate regularly and I hit my stride until page ninety-nine, in which Kellerman introduces Sharla Straight, 3rd person POV in chapter thirteen. I'm taken out of the novel for a moment, scrambling to root this person in the story. Chapter fourteen is even worse--just half a page long, and it's an unnamed narrator, 1st person.

After that, the predictability of narrators is lost. Sometimes Petra has two chapters in row; other narrators slip in with 3rd person POV: a second detective, a maid, a Jewish man, a street vendor. All of this arrhythmia takes place after the reader has crossed ninety-nine pages. I keep reading because I need to see what happens to Billy and how Petra will save him. But I don't like the wildly shifting POV.

Jonathan Kellerman is a bestselling author; who am I to argue with his construction? Well, I'm a reader. I don't happen to like all the shifting POVs. I understand he's using this technique to create tension, toss red herrings, and heighten suspense, but understanding this technique doesn't mean I have to like it.

I didn't like it in Criss Cross, either (YA, Lynne Rae Perkins). But that's just my preference. Criss Cross won the Newbery Medal in 2006.

Back to Billy Straight--I'm on page 344 now. The kind Jewish man let Billy sleep in the shul. Petra's come up with an exciting theory on the case. More than a hundred pages to go. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Colin Farrell, Ben Stiller, Captain Kirk, Bono

Who boldly goes where few stars have gone before, meets with leaders of alien nations, embarks on missions of peace and justice?

If you said Bono, you are right, my friend. This post's for you. (Quick--Edge's real name?)

Somehow, I missed U2 through the 80s and 90s. Yeah, I'd heard of them, heard some of their songs, but I'm the kind of person who generally likes silence. I like time to think.

A couple years ago, Val Kilmer was hosting a rerun of Saturday Night Live and U2 were the musical guests. I was blown away.

Here are some of my favorite U2 moments:

Colin Farrell as Bono on Saturday Night Live.

Ben Stiller as Captain Kirk and Bono.

Bono as Bono at the Grammys, singing one of my favorite U2 songs, "Beautiful Day."

Edge's real name? Look in the comments section!

I Do Not Sing in the Shower (for I Wish To Remain Married)

Man, my worship leader is good! Where is the waterproof mascara?

I sing in church, but just loud enough for God to hear. He's the only one who actually likes my singing. On key is not one of the gifts he's given me. In sixth grade, my best friends and I tried out for chorus. CK totally had to make it because like her whole family had sung in chorus, and CJ thought it would be fun. I did, too--how hard could it be? The auditions were held in an open room and all my classmates were there. Then it was my turn. I bellowed out a rousing rendition of Row, Row, Row Your Boat. A better imitation of a moose has never been heard. I finished my song--the show must go on and all that--but I knew I would not be donning the official black chorus skirt with coordinating blouse.

Chris Rice sings on key and he's funny. Here's the Cartoon Song.

In Which I am Turned Into a Curse Word

"Jeanette?" people ask after I introduce myself. "No, Danette with a D," I say. Most people haven't heard of my name. I've barely heard of it myself, having met just a handful of other Danettes. One works at my dentist office and I love to go there. "Hi Danette!" "Hi Danette!" Half an hour later, "Bye Danette!" "Bye Danette!"

Teachers never could pronounce my name right. They always gave it the phonetic treatment: "DANette." Didn't matter how many times I corrected them; they never wavered. The other kids got it right, but never the teachers.

Even spelling it for people can be a problem. I was on the phone with the cable guy and he had some kind of mental block. He thought I was saying Denise, Janet, Danita. I spelled it for him three or four times before he was able to enter it into his files.

Then I got the bill. It was addressed to Dammet Haworth.

It Was Good, Anyway

The sleep deprivation experiment continues.

It was after midnight before I fell asleep, yet I woke up at 3:37 a.m. My stomach was churning. Sick? Hungry? I don't know. I went downstairs and ate an Entenmann's Rich Frosted Donut. I didn't fall back asleep, but that donut sure was good.