Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Great Debate...

Oh yeah…it is of vital importance: whether to put one space or two after a period. You laugh…you think I am joking. But alas…I am not. On no less than three writing loops today, there was massive discussion on whether to use one period or two after a period that ends a sentence. Post after post after post bemoaning the fact they are from the old school where two spaces ruled. Must they change their ways? And the most daunting question of all: how can they possibly go through a 400-page masterpiece and remove all those extra spaces?

On my! The trials of being a writer.

Now tell me…can you truly, really tell in most instances how many spaces are after a period? Does anybody really think a prospective agent or editor is going to throw down a manuscript in disgust and exclaim: “Horrors! This piece of drivel has two spaces after every period!”? I really doubt it. They are probably much more likely to roll their eyes at the 15,000 misplaced commas than worry about how many spaces are between the end of one sentence and the start of the next.

At every roundtable discussion I’ve attended, someone always asks the editor or agent speaking: “What are you looking for?” Never once has the reply been: “Oh, I’d love to see just one space between sentences. That is what excites me! That is what makes me think that perhaps I’ve found the next bestseller.” Give me a break! (as my friend, Jon Stossel (in my dreams I wish I knew him…he is so stinkin’ cute…but I digress) would say…) The usual answer is… drum roll please… “A good story.” Periods be damned…never ever hinted at as being an important consideration.

And yet we seem to forget that the story is what is important, and instead get hung up on period spacing, what font to use, how many rubber bands, if any, to use when binding the manuscript together for mailing. You know, the important things. Forget about a good plot, lots of conflict and tension, characters that shine. Let’s worry about the vital stuff…

And yes… I put two spaces after periods even though I have technical writing training which demands that only one space is proper…. So there! Do you suppose that is why I’m not published yet…

Side Note here: The roof is fixed! The roof is fixed! The roof is fixed! And…there was no sign of termite habitation, infestation, or damage! Woo Hoo! Now that, folks, is news worth shouting about! Now on to getting the ceiling repaired…

Saturday, April 16, 2005

No time like the present…

I have wanted to be a writer since I was seven years old. I actually even got published that year! In the PALO ALTO TIMES! (The daily newspaper published in the San Francisco Bay Area.) A little short story I wrote called MR. MILLS. And oddly enough, it was even a romantic story!

And then…writer’s block hit! Nothing of any great value spewed from my pencil until I was a sophomore in high school. Since my English teacher was in charge of the statewide writing contest for drug awareness, we all had to write an entry. Mine placed second in the class… again…it was too “sweet”.

The following year we had to write a novelette…about 25,000 words (it is rather scary I can remember all these useless details…isn’t it!?!) and wrote a beautiful…love story! The teacher didn’t think it was quite as beautiful as I did…she only gave me a B+… the following year…my senior year I found out why.

We were supposed to be writing dark, weird stories. Stuff about death and sadness and depression. Definitely not this kid’s bag. As a matter of fact, I wound up depressed. I began pondering my life at the tender age of 17… The fact that a fellow classmate that wasn’t really close enough to be called a friend, but I certainly knew him, hung himself in my best friend’s avocado grove didn’t help matters. I decided that if that was what writing was all about…well, it was not for me. And so I set aside being an author and instead went into business.

Fast forward a few hundred years (okay…not quite that many!) to present day…and Brooke still wants to be a writer. Brooke wants to write books. And actually, she has written two to date…nothing that could be published, but still, that is quite an accomplishment. I am currently in the process of editing a manuscript that could be publishable. And the well of ideas for others is in no danger of running dry.

When I started this blog, it was with the intent of it being a journal of my travels to publication. But…that would be pretty boring. I mean, how many days do I want to write: well…got home too late and too tired to write tonight. Or: Wow! Edited half a chapter today! There are just so many variations of these two sentences that even the most talented writer can come up with!

But that doesn’t mean I can’t write about writing! There are endless blog segments that can be created on the subject. And so, from this day forth, my blog will relate to its title: Brooke Writes Books.

Disclaimer: I reserve the right to occasionally expound on other subjects, but they will (hopefully) be few and far between…

Friday, April 15, 2005

Tax Day is HERE!

Are you ready for it? Are you all done? Got those carefully prepared envelopes in the mail? Remember to sign your returns in all the proper places? Did your hand tremble a bit when you were doing it?

Well, mine are done and out as of yesterday! Woo Hoo! No more thinking about it for another year…well, except for the fact that my printer had the audacity to run out of ink in the middle of printing my copies! So, technically I am not done. I still have to finish printing out the last three pages, shuffle all those pages and assorted data together into a neat bundle…and then I am done! With any luck…I’ll be able to cross that off the list by August 31! (yes…still 2005!…geez…give me a break here!)

I didn’t used to drag it out like this. I used be one of those creepy. geeky people that had their taxes in the mail by February 10th…eeekk….the 15th at the latest. Then about ten years ago, I was all involved working…and didn’t get the project done until March 1st (ironically I was working as a tax preparer…now there’s a thankless position! I could write a whole blog entry on that one!). Then the whole pattern changed about seven years ago when I was working in Ireland and didn’t return home until April 15th. I suddenly discovered the “thrill” of waiting until the last minute to do taxes.

And so now…I do drag it out a bit… But…mine were done before the deadline! Are yours?? (Ah…the joy of the taunt is so much fun!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Where's the fire?

Can somebody please tell me? I mean, it must be out there somewhere…and judging by the mass panic on the freeways these days, it must be somewhere close!

For example, tonight on my way home, I risked a glance down at the speedometer, knowing I was going much faster than the posted 65 MAXIMUM the signs say, and almost had to do a double take! Oh sure, the steering wheel was trembling, the tires were whirling as fast as they could whirl, and I swear there was a breeze coming in the car even though no windows were open and the A/C was off… I was doing almost 85 MPH…and the way the other cars were acting, it was like I was standing still. I must have been in the middle of the biggest road race imaginable!

And it’s not that they are just ripping by. They are switching lanes, back and forth, from the fast lane to the slow and then back across fours lanes to the fast lane again. Oh…and for the record…we are not talking about one or two maniacs here. We are talking about normal freeway traffic…all of them… except that poor truck who was only going about 70…and they nudged him off the freeway onto the shoulder…

Sadly, this exciting ride home tonight is not out of the ordinary. It is becoming an everyday, twice-a-day thing. Tonight just seemed worse because it is the first time I’ve been forced to drive 85; 80 was the previous record. And it may have been more noticeable since I’d just witnessed no less than five cars drive around railroad crossing barriers instead of turning around, going up a block and picking up the street down on the next corner…

So, I ask: where’s the fire? Was it really worth getting home three minutes faster? There must be something really important going on…

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Confessions of a Sig-alert Junkie...

Yes, it’s true. I am addicted to

What is You mean to tell me that you don’t know!!?? Well, that isn’t surprising…and is probably testament to your intelligence. is a traffic reporting service. They tell you all about the wrecks, hazards, and other assorted exciting things that happen on the freeways.

My addiction started out quite innocently. When I was working in the Bay Area, I used to drive the 101 to and from the office…also known as The Bayshore Freeway. When I was growing up in the Bay Area, that particular stretch was known as Bloody Bayshore because of the high number of deadly accidents. Okay…so it was some thirty years later, but that nickname never fell outta my brain, and I’d check the traffic reports to see how the freeway was running. When it was clear, I’d make the break from the office.

Then about five months ago, I discovered that one of the local news stations here had a feature on their website of up-to-the-minute traffic reports…really a link to which is really just a duplicate feed of the calls made to the California Highway Patrol. The cool thing about Sigalert’s, however, is that they also include a neat map with key-coded diamonds marking the spot of the incident.

So I started out just checking the traffic when I was about ready to leave the office. Then I started checking before I left home for the office. Now I just check any old time I want to procrastinate… But there are some interesting trends:

There are a ton of Hit and Runs. I am appalled by the number of these. At any given time, there are usually two or three in progress. Sometimes they catch the person…other times they don’t.

Sadly, there are also a lot of people involved in accidents that have been driving under the influence. Fortunately, they don’t too often result in serious injury, but an accident is traumatizing enough.

There are lots of ladders that fall on the roadway…along with couches, mattresses, plywood, washing machines, pipes, and today…a pick ax. And there are lots of dogs that are reported running loose on the shoulders of our highways. Some make it to safety…others…don’t.

Cars catch on fire. A lot! That is a rather scary realization to someone who dreads fires...who has nightmares about fires...we'll just move on and try to ignore that trend.

I am surprised by the number of reports of pedestrians walking along the side of the freeway…with no car in the vicinity. Where are they going? Did they have a fight with the driver, and the person in control stopped the car and said: Out! Out now!!! leaving the hapless passenger on the roadway where the cars whiz by at 70, 80 or more miles per hour?

And I have to say…one of my biggest complaints about driving the freeways is how they are out of control. It is rare to see a CHP cruising along with traffic to make us all behave. But, they are lurking there somewhere close, because their response time to incidents is amazing. Normally it is only two minutes or less and they are on the scene.

So see…at least my addiction is relatively educational…which is a good thing since at this point, I have no idea how to cure it…

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Who is one to believe?

I mean, don’t the predictions for the weather all come from the same place: the National Weather Service? I truly do not believe, nor will I be conned into thinking, that just because most TV weathermen (okay… weather-people!) are meteorologists that they really get out the maps and read the computer radars and come up with a forecast on their own.

But yet…one must begin to wonder. Otherwise, what could be the possible reason that three different stations and four different other sources have all come up with five different forecasts for today’s and tomorrow’s weather? One says sunny and cool. Another says sunny and warm…okay that could be relative, I suppose…but when they actually put temperatures to it, I have to say, and I believe most will agree me on this one, that there is a pretty substantial difference between 65 and 80 degrees. Most of us will notice that spread of warmth/coolth variation…

Another station says windy and sunny…I am not sure about that one…right now there is not a leaf stirring…but the wind here is very fickle. It could whip up any instant now…

One of the radio stations says cloudy all day (with the “all day” dragged out in a sing-song fasion)…they are wrong…there is not a cloud in sight! I think I can write them off write now.

But the fifth…they are making me most nervous. They are predicting sun today and rain tomorrow. Okay…I look at the radar…and see not a storm in sight…and 99% of the time the only rain we get here (because of the mix of ocean, desert and mountains…) we just don’t get rain without a storm. Sometimes we get heavy drizzle…but folks…that ain’t rain.

However…I am the one with the leak in the roof that pours down over the stove… So, tonight before I trudge off to bed, I shall haul out the towels and buckets and truss up the stove… just in case….

And today…I shall call the wayward roofer and see where I am on the amazingly long list…the list that is even longer than my To-Do one… another thing I find difficult to believe…

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

No Help Wanted...

Okay…I realize that one of my “flaws” is that I am too independent. But, bottom line here is: if I want it done, 99% of the time I truly do have to do it myself.

However, one of the best expenditures of money I’ve made was to hire a landscape service. Oh sure, they don’t do things quite the way I’d always like. They have broken a number of sprinklers. The defined line between the grass and dirt in my backyard is definitely no longer defined. But those are little things when I can use those three hours it took me to mow the lawns, etc. every weekend in other ways…like taking a nap for example…

But yesterday…they went a bit too far…

First a couple of background things: I don’t have regular trash service. Next, a few years ago I had a broken sliding window which I had replaced but the window guy put the broken glass crystals into an empty trash can I had in the corner that my dad had dragged out of my garage…I used to keep junk mail in it, but for some reason, it was decided it was better outside…See…this is why I am independent…

So, I come home last night…in the dark…don’t go there… and see a blue trash can with two green plastic bags on the sidewalk…on my half of the sidewalk…not on the neighbor’s half, ready for pickup early today (regular trash day for those that have the service…which I do not…) But since it is pitch black out, I procrastinate seeing if it is mine.

This morning, in the dawning of the new day, I totter out there…and sure enough! It is my trash can…and it now filled with grass cuttings. I drag it back to its spot in the backyard…it weighs about two tons….and haul the two green trash sacks in to plop down next to the blue can…and shake my head.

It was bad enough having the blue can there all the time…Now I have to figure out how to get rid of these two sacks (who knows what is in them…they didn’t really feel heavy enough for the glass crystals…) as well as the grass cuttings which I hope don’t start a fire before I work all this out.

Now see? This is why I am fiercely independent and try to do everything myself…it really is much less work in the long run…

Monday, April 04, 2005

Spring has sprung...

Spring has sprung…

… and I love it!

Along with autumn, this is my favorite time of year. It is so fresh, so new, so pretty. There is so much promise in the air.

I love how the days are warm, but there is still a cool breeze. You can be outside and still wear a sweater or a long sleeve shirt and feel just right.

I love all the colors! The new, bright green leaves on all the trees. The first flowers of the season…especially the Iceland Poppies we have here. I remember when living in Ireland, the first flower to pop up were the yellow Daffodils. There were everywhere! Vibrant, happy yellow blossoms lined all the streets and were in all the gardens. Then came the tulips! In every color imaginable and again they were everywhere. I tried growing tulips when I came home…and after three years of trying finally did get about four to come up and bloom. There were beautiful…and brought back such wonderful memories.

I love all the birds and their raucous chatter in the morning just before the sun comes up. During the day, they are frantically at work, preparing their nests, watching their eggs, and then the real work begins when the babies are born. This is the second year the mud swallows that built the next at the peak of my roof…yes…right above my bedroom screen door…that is a bit of a pain… are back. I allow them to stay because they eat bugs as opposed to my strawberries which are growing in containers right outside the said bedroom window. Mr. and Mrs. Mud Swallow are very good parents and so much fun to watch.

And I love the longer days…the longer days that give the illusion anyway of having a bit more time. Time to maybe get a few more things done… time to turn over a new leaf and begin again.

Yes, I love spring.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Where did March go??...

…and trust me, I am reeling over the fact that it has been over six weeks since my last post.

I have been very, very busy…hence, the lack of Blog Banter. What have I been doing? you ask. Well, that’s a reasonable enough question… I’ve been doing lots of things… lots and lots of things… I reply…wracking my poor brain for anything that might fall into the productive category.

“So, the roof is all fixed?” you query…trying to be helpful.

Uh, well no. The roof is still not fixed. But, hey! The good news is that the rainy season is probably over! Now I have about five months in which to be put off, ignored, shoved aside, and at the mercy of the roofing industry. And all the while, the huge crack right over the stove grows wider and wider and peels more and more. Trust me, I am not gonna be a happy camper if a chunk of sheet-rock falls into a pot of my heavenly-smelling culinary delight turning it into instant grub. And no…I am still not able to use the microwave…Grrrr…. Let’s move on, shall we, I say sweetly.

“But, you got caught up at work, right?” you question.

Well, no, not exactly. I am still two months behind in closing but…there is good news here, too! Got year end all done, and after the accountant did his audit, etc., there was not one adjusting entry (for those of you unfamiliar with accounting, adjusting entries are essentially corrections and it is almost unheard of to not have any while closing out the year…so this is quite a feather here! Clap a bit for me, please!) But yes…the stacks on the bookcase behind my desk are now taller than me…and there are three of them… And yes… I am still working awful hours. And yes… the new timeclock that I championed for is not up and running yet. Can we * please * change the subject??!!

“But you got your house all cleaned, right?” You always are the helpful one, aren’t you….

No, the Dust Bunnies in Brooke’s Abode still rule. And they have had babies. And their babies have had babies. So have the spiders. I definitely live in a haunted house what with all the cob and spider webs dangling from every corner and crevice and even non-corners and non-crevices of the joint. But! I got the Christmas tree put away today! Woo Hoo! Can we say progress!?

So, I ask…(my turn now!) feeling quite proud of myself: Do you have your income tax done? I do!!!!!! Okay…so that was a bit mean! But hey! You started it! You kept asking me about all the things that have been keeping me busy that are not done yet! Geesh!

And yes…it has been a long, long time since my last blog post… so long in fact, that I forgot my Blog user name! ACCKKK!!!!! How sad is that??? Don’t even bother to answer!