cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Sunshine Rays


Chelsea created a bit of sunshine on this rainy morning with her announcement of receiving the Sunshine Blogger Award. These blogger awards are fun, not only for the recognition (because we all appreciate a bit of hurrah now and then, right?), but for the batch of questions that need answering.

I do enjoy a patch of sunflowers.

So, thanks, Chelsea! And here are the questions and some answers as requested:

1. Why did the chicken cross the road?

She followed the sunburned cow.

2. What’s black and white and red all over?

A cow who ran out of sunscreen.

3. Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?

The chicken and the cow.

4. Where do you see yourself in five years?

At Barnes and Nobles making sure they have sold out of my cow joke book.

5. What would you say is your greatest weakness, and how have you learned to overcome it?

Cow jokes. I can’t stop. Sorry.

6. Why is 6 afraid of 7?

I had no idea. How long has 7 been intimidating 6?

7. Why am I here?

You are here because here is a better place to be than there.

8. Why is the sky blue?

Technically it’s black, or so I have gathered from reading sciencey type answers. Blue is much nicer.

9. Why do bad things happen to good people?

No flippancy here. Bad things happen to everybody. It hurts no matter who you are.

10. What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?

Broken or a Frisbee. Your choice.

11. What is the meaning of life?

I thought it was 42. Being terrible at math, perhaps I got it wrong by not carrying over my remainder or messing up my eights once again.

Now I am supposed to nominate some people and create new batch of questions. Well, having nominated numerous bloggers for other awards in the past, plus Chelsea has nominated a few of my recent discoveries, along with being a bit of an outlier, here is where I diverge from the expected. There is also the idea of not wanting to leave anyone out. Bad memories of that ubiquitous choosing up teams in school disappointment.

Here are eleven questions. If you have stopped by to read this blog, you are appreciated and I offer this Ray of Sunshine ☀️ for your efforts.

Pick a question to answer, or all of them or some of them. I look forward to your comments. And consider this your commission to spread your own Sunshine Award today to others.

1. Why did the farmer install beehives in his dairy pasture?

2. How many cows does it take to change a lightbulb?

3. Why did the cow jump over the moon?

4. What did the farmer say when the cow stepped on his foot?

5. Why are cows terrible dancers?

6. Why did the farmer move his dairy to Alaska?

7. How do you turn a cow into a cape?

8. What happened when the cow jumped on the pogo stick?

9. Where do most cows go to college?

10. What do you call a pregnant cow?

11. What do you call a cow after she’s given birth?

All right. Sunshine, awards, cow jokes–yeah, another lovely day.

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Debatables: September


It’s time for Debatables. My partner, whose wit and writing has attracted over 12,000 followers, is Mike Allegra. An amazingly talented doodler, Mike also pens children’s books, and has a new series out: Prince Not So Charming.

This month our topic is almost unbearable in scope: which team would survive the Hunger Games?

I’m backing Paddington and Pooh. Mike believes in the Berenstain Bears.

Check out Mike’s blog and our debate logic here. Don’t forget to weigh in your vote and add in your comments. Our debates get pretty lively–an understatement.

So far our debates stand at one round each. I won the first round on who was the better Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder, of course). Mike took the second round with his choice of Love You Forever being the worst picture book ever.

Who will emerge triumphant in this third round?

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Katniss fondly supports the P&P team

Cast your own vote of belief in the two indomitably tough bears whose cuteness is on the cutting edge of survival skills–I’m talking Paddington Bear and Winnie-the-Pooh. Send those sponsor parachutes and votes to Mike’s site.

Go P&P!

Reading Round Up: August


Well, I am going to breeze by my Goodreads goal of 101 books this year. As of August 31 I have read 98 books. I read 21 books in August. I’m almost embarrassed by that statistic. It sounds as if I am holing up surrounded by books and don’t have much of a life.

In my defense, it’s summer and I am on break from school and this is what I do on vacation: read, read, read. It’s difficult to find time once back into the routine of teaching. August also proved difficult for outdoor activities. I did manage to work in the yard on mediocre air quality days and accomplished some projects. I also did some puzzling, and organized my files. What I didn’t do much of was finish up a couple of manuscripts. A big disappointment in that area. The fuzzy grey skies of summer this year definitely affected my creativity’s forward motion.

On the other hand, reading so many books did inspire at least three new story ideas which I framed. Plus, I did manage to send out three projects to assorted editors and agents–planting seeds with a hope of securing interest and contracts.

As for titles read in August…

A mixed shelf of classic and contemporary and genres jumping all over the place.

I began with H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man and ended with Posted by John David Anderson. From “meh” to “wow”–a nice way to end up my summer reading.

I will detail the highs and lows of my summer reading in an upcoming post. If interested in detailed book reviews you can pop over to Goodreads (search: Cricket Muse)or check them out on my full blog site side boxes.

I will miss the lengthy leisure days of reading, yet I am looking forward to passing on my love of books to my students. Hi Ho Hi Ho it’s back to work I go…

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho it's off to work we go

Doodle Contest: currying votes, once again


Mike Allegra, yes,  that Mike Allegra my plucky partner of Debatable fame, is currently running one of his wonderful Doodle Contests. I do like his doodles. Knowing I like cows he drew this doodle to illustrate one of my cow jokes. The doodle is definitely better than the joke.

What do you call a cow who steals? A hamburger. *Cows-hamburger (right, if it needs explaining it isn’t that funny)

One way to get a ballot is to link back to his contest.

Another way is to talk up his contest on social media. Problem. I only blog. No pins, tweets, faceplants, instantly graming done. 

I could post a review about his new books about Prince Not So Charming, but I have only read the Amazon preview, but they do look as fun as Mike says they are.

The other way to get a ballot in the box is to leave an interesting fact about myself in the comment box, which I did, and then thought “perhaps I shall elaborate upon this morsel” and so, out of the catacombs of the past adventures of Cricket Muse:

Once upon a time a young woman seeking to expand her educational horizons and desiring to stretch her wings and fly out of the home state nest for a bit, decided to enroll in an out of state university where she knew not anyone and had to establish residency for a year or pay horrendous out-of-state tuition fees. Slinging burgers did not appeal nor did answering phones, cashiering or any of other usual job posties. Swinging a deal to remodel a storefront (her dad had instilled some skills) for six months free rent, our heroine opened a helium balloon bouquet delivery service, dubbed Alligator Balloons. It was such a surprise to the fair hamlet that it became a hit, soon emulated by others, but we all know the original is indeed best. 

A year goes by, college begins, and a dilemma ensues. Go to school, run the business, do both? Yes, do both. At least for a time. Alas, school and trying to raise a family proves a bit much (the Alligator met a prince of a handyman while remodeling the store, proposed, and married him, getting a much unexpected bonus to her diploma). Selling the started-the-biz-with-$300-in-the-back-pocket at a significant profit, she retired from ballooning to work in the library and eventually teach high school English, penning stories as the Muse and time became amendable. 

Of course I couldn’t write all that in the comment box, but I am hoping I left enough to garner a win. Now let’s think up a possible doodle for Mike to do…

If you would like to win an original Allegra doodle I suggest clicking to his website before the contest ends. 

Hazy Daze: August Fire Season


August is proving to be a difficult month in our area. For the last three years forest fires have created smoky days so bad that air alerts are issued. Often the wildfires are started with a July lightning strike, although it is estimated 85% of the fires are started by people either through accident or by arson. No matter how the fires start, everyone suffers. At one point the rating was 160–unhealthy is between 101-200, and then moves into extreme.

Red sunrises and sunsets are reminiscent of being in a Ray Bradbury short story as blue skies disappear and the days are shrouded in paleness that is somewhat disorienting. The world as we knew has morphed into one continuous mono sky of creamy grey. The tree topped mountains bear streamers of thickened mist that almost looks like the early morning fall fogs. These mists hover ominously all day with a suppressing heaviness.

With numerous fires burning throughout our area and no relieving rain in sight, changes are apparent in the community’s usual routine: athletic events are cancelled, as are church picnics, tourist traffic is decreased, people are wearing masks. Few people are in their yards. Fewer people are walking and cycling. The beach is nearly deserted. The most activity is at the fairground.

The local fairground is providing campground space for the fire fighters. Colorful pop up dome tents are scattered all over the scruffy yellowed grass. Four wheel drives and diesel trucks line the makeshift fence keeping the row of porta-potties company. A few people wander about, especially in the early morning when I pass by them on my daily walk, when I detect a breeze and go for a quick stretch. I say silent prayers of keeping them safe, and tears of gratitude unexpectedly escape as I reflect on their efforts. I wonder how their mothers are dealing with their sons and daughters risking their lives daily with the flames. Many of the firefighters are volunteers. There is a banner at the front of the parking lot where people are signing their thanks, prayers, good wishes, and leaving uplifting messages.

As our community deals with the smoke and haze, my reading has become an escape since going outside is now a health issue that can’t be ignored. Curtailing my usual walk is a consideration as I am developing a tight chest, sore throat, and find myself clearing my throat and coughing. Running the air conditioner is not advised on some days. Even vacuuming is not advised since it stirs up particles. Barbecue is not on the menu. The lawn is becoming shaggy as mowing it in this soup bowl of haze is not wise. I quickly spritz flowers and my strawberries with water. And this is where it is interesting. Since the haze veils the sun the usual heat of August, the intense 90-100 degree days are nil. Pleasant temps of 75 degrees are the norm. The lack of direct sun means flowers aren’t withering in the heat. The ground is actually staying moist. This has become the best year for strawberries. The plants are still flowering and bearing tasty berries–tartly sweet, small but quite tongue pleasing in flavor. I carefully rinse and rinse again as a guard against particle matters.

So, with outdoor activities curtailed I am reading. A lot. It’s almost embarrassing how many books I have read in August. I could have used this time to work on my own writing projects, yet I need blue sky for inspiration. These days of opaque horizons are suppressing my energy for creativity. Books are my balm and retreat.

Are you living with wildfire threat and hazy days? How is your community coping?

Update: Prior to posting it rained in the night! What a difference!

I can see clearly now (and the air is soooo fresh).

Word Nerd Confessions: August


This month’s offerings contain a shared element. Can you guess it?

And to continue:

Did you detect the shared element? Pop in your guess in the comments and I shall reveal after the first correct guess.

Now let’s go for some creative lexiconnery. Your challenge is to devise a sentence (or two) with all of the featured vocabulary. Sure you can do it. Fine, I’ll give it a whirl to start things off.

“My marvelous mavourneen,” Gladys gushed to her husband, the honorable Mayor Cecil Pettigord. “That stemwinder you delivered to the city council on raising parking fines certainly proved your bailiwick for speeches. My darling, it was a regular apotheosis, an opuscule of rhetoric genius.”

The honorable mayor harrumphed in false modesty, little realizing the council, and especially the up and coming reporter of the council meeting beat, considered the mayoral paroxysm to be one of bathos, a jumble of political galmatias, and proved the mayor was merely an ignominy, even a nudnik as an elected official.

Now, it’s your turn. All ten words. You can do it.

Author Spotlight: Madeleine L’Engle


Although she wrote numerous books ranging from picture books to middle reads and YA to reflective nonfiction to poetry, Madeleine L’Engle is best remembered for changing children’s literature with The Wrinkle in Time. Awarded the Newberry Medal in 1963, the book remains popular and turned 50 in 2013, and became a Disney released movie in 2018. The Wrinkle in Time is one of the titles found on banned novels list, being ironically praised and criticized for its spiritual themes and approach.

A newly released book on Madeleine L’Engle, A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual of Madeleine L’Engle, Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Sarah Arthur is not so much a biography as it is an exploration of Madeleine’s spiritual beliefs and how they were intertwined into her writing.

Like C.S. Lewis, L’Engle infused her stories with spiritual metaphors and even direct references to God. However, unlike Lewis, L’Engle often found herself criticized for what some deemed a New Age approach to story telling, that her spiritual beliefs were too bound in a universalism that some thought misleading or confusing for her young reader audience.

Praised or censured, Madeleine L’Engle’s impact is significant, especially A Wrinkle in Time.

I was in fifth grade when I read about Meg and Charles Wallace and tesseracts. The book opened my reader’s eyes wide open. Time travel, intergalactic worlds, good versus evil, scientific concepts, interpersonal family dynamics, and so much more. The landscape of reading changed for me. I had that Dorothy moment of stepping from the barren black and white lands of Kansas to the Technicolor world of Oz. Reading for me did begin with that over the rainbow moment and L’Engle provided a colorful palette of possibilities.

I decided to reread A Wrinkle in Time as part of my Classic Club challenge. Reading it almost fifty years later I marveled how well the story kept my interest, and how much I anticipated certain plot points: Charles Wallace and his cocoa session with Meg in the kitchen, syncopated ball bouncing, Aunt Beast, the complicated plot, challenging vocabulary, along with its scientific concepts–this was way beyond the Homer Price and Henry Huggins fare on the library shelves. I don’t know how well I comprehended the entire story of how a girl could take on space and time and fight evil, but I do know Meg was the first of many underdog protagonists that would be added to my reading dance card.

I’m just discovering that The Wrinkle in Time is one of five books in the series and I am checking out each title and revisiting with Meg and Charles Wallace.

What are your impressions of A Wrinkle in Time?

The cover as I remember it.

Debatable: Worst Picture Book. Ever.–Recap


My first Debatable argument that Gene Wilder was such a vastly superior Willy Wonka than Johnny Depp, as suggested by Mike Allegra, won so amazingly, so soundly, that  I felt uber confident I would easily  win the second round.

I did not.

Image result for sad cat in the hat

See–even the Cat is sad he didn’t win about being such a loser.

Mike questioned my acknowledged labeling of Love You Forever against The Cat in the Hat as the worst picture book ever as a frumpled win. No, I am not a “sore” loser–just a bit of a hair splitter. After all, even Mike admitted LYF isn’t a children’s picture book in that it is more of a picture book written for mothers.
Well, I shall not sour grapes the issue (a shameless plug for my monthly DOWO post). A win is a win. Congrats, Mike.

Next month we go Round III of Debatables. We hope you will continue to bear with our quibbling. Maybe you can help us figure out what to take on next for a topic. Here are the guidelines:

  • Being children’s book writers, we are trying to keep topics close to books children read–picture books up to YA (Willy Wonka actor sparring was inspired by Dahl’s book)
  • The more improbable the better–none of the usual Narnia vs Hobbit fare. Go for the silly, the extreme, the profound. Mike especially likes a challenge.

Do you have an issue of children’s bookery you would like to see Mike and I tackle? Send in your suggestions to either Mike or me in comments.

We’ll post the top picks and see what happens from there.

DOWOs: the “A” list


Having expended all the interesting expressions found in Why We Say, and not wanting to disappoint fans, I have found another source for expressions origins, which is appropriately titled Dictionary of Word Origins: A History of the Words, Expressions, and Cliches We Use by Jordan Almond. For posting purposes DOWO shall suffice.

I have been merrily marking choice entries to share. Look for new DOWOs around the 15th of each month.

Let’s start off with a few “A” list entries:

Why does “A-1” mean the very best?

London Marine insurance firms created a registry of ships and their cargo designating the condition through alpha/numeric sequence. An “A” rating meant the ship was perfect, and a “1” meant the cargo was perfect.

So if you are “A 1” it might be safe to say you are ship shape [you will just have to wait patiently for that reference].

What is meant if something or someone is found to be “above board?”

Dishonest gamblers and magicians (not that they are considered dishonest) often create their tricks or sleight of hand out of sight underneath the table or board. What can’t be seen can’t be trusted, which means if all is performed out in the open it is “above board.”

Performing his card tricks in front of the appreciative crowd, the magician was flushed with his success of dazzling them all with his above board feats of card sharpery.

What is an “Adam’s apple?”

Going back to the Garden of Eden we find Eve offering Adam fruit, which is traditionally thought to be an apple. Maybe being caught by God snacking where they weren’t supposed to caused Adam to choke on his apple bite, thus that bit of stuck fruit is referenced as “Adam’s apple.”

So did Eve swallow hers first or did she not take a bite? Hmm…

Why does “alcohol” mean “spirits?”

Actually “alcohol” means “eye paint.” Both Egyptians and Arabians prepared a black powder to paint eyelids which in Arabic is called al koh’l. Eventually the process of extracting the essence of product from the vine through a charcoal filter became known as “alcohol.”

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

What is meant by “running amuck?”

This has nothing to do with gallivanting around in a mud puddle. In Malay, where the phrase originated, it meant someone under the influence of opium or other stimulants would become so excited they would rush around in a dagger-led frenzy stabbing people and yelling “Amoq! Amoq!” or “Kill! Kill!!”

I, for one, will think twice before attributing this description. Especially to emus.

Movie Musings: The Librarian


Someone finally got it right: they created a movie that showed how librarians are more than capable of saving the world from evil doers. I discovered these movies long after they had first been released, but enjoyed them nonetheless.

Noah Wyle from ER fame, established himself in that long running role (11seasons!) as the likable character who was a bit different from others due to background and interests, and sets the tone by choosing what is beneficial for others. This appeal transferred well into the Librarian series.

In the initial movie, Quest for the Spear (2004), Flynn Carsten is a poster boy for failure to launch. He has 22 degrees, lives with his mother, doesn’t have a job or any relationships going (never has, and doubtfully ever will), and would rather spend time with his books because they “speak to him.” His professor signs him off, telling him to go live in the real world. Flynn looks for a job, but then a job finds him. Sent a personal invitation to apply as The Librarian (notice the emphasis), Flynn joins the que of perhaps a hundred applicants.

Thumbnail: he gets the job, he discovers his penchant for all the knowledge that he amassed comes in handy, and that the most important knowledge is not what is in the head, but is found in the heart (great mom advice).

While the movie’s initial production quality is a bit thin, it does have a campiness that is fun. There is a combination of all those jungle adventure movies, mixed in with some Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, and James Bond. Sometimes there is a hint of Doctor Who, as Flynn gains experience and status as the “fixer” of what is strange and how it affects the world. Fairly clean family entertainment, except for hinted love scenes, and tame fighting sequences.

A total of three movies plus a TV series meant The Librarian has a fan base of reckoning. Noah Wyle’s character grew in each movie and TV episode until he became a legend in his own time.

His Librarian skills transferred well to Falling Skies, a Steven Spielberg TV series about life after aliens have invaded the planet.

If you haven’t seen The Librarian and are looking for some easy going entertainment, check out the movies. If wanting a more developed, continuing sequenced plot look into the series.

Quest for the Spear” (2004), “Return to King Solomon’s Mine“ (2006), and “Curse of the Judas Chalice“ (2008).Nov 12, 2009

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