a writer's journey as a reader

Still Waiting on the Platform

About four years ago at a writing conference the buzz word was “platform-building.” I diligently built a platform with this blog you are reading after much searching, deciding, redeciding, and procrastinating. Now, I wonder why I waited so long. I’m a weak writer if I don’t post at least every seven days. (hahaha–right?)

Seriously though, I’m waiting for that Costner moment, when the headlights of the fans come trailing down the road to my baseball field. Metaphor insert.  Build the platform and all sorts of fans drop in and rave–I think that’s what’s supposed to happen.

It hasn’t, and I’m okay with that, because, quite frankly, I’m still waiting to get published. Wait, am  I supposed to write the book before or after I build the platform?

I’m learning that to be really successful as a writer, I need to multi-platform. I doubt I’m up for Twittering, Instagramming, Pintresting and the like. I manage to keep up with my blog and I’m really, really okay with that. I’m into the keep it simple approach. I’d be really, really, really be happy with publishing my book and sit back and let people buy it because it’s that good. Harper Lee did that, didn’t she?

I did find this snifty article about what are impressive stats for platforming.  I’m now depressed. My platform stats only impress me. Maybe I should give out coupons with every new follower. Or have a Happy Face counter for every view I receive. Does that actually mean something though? Instead of worrying about the effectiveness of tossing my writing out to the social media winds, I would rather concentrate on writing an amazing book. Wouldn’t that be more effective in connecting with readers? Or do the amount of likes and follows indicate whether I am an effective writer?

 Maybe I will get back to writing that novel and not worry about my blog stats.

By the way, if you decide to follow my blog, here is your coupon.


If you viewed it, here is your smiley face (with a bit of its history).



Those Thrifty, Nifty Dover Classics

For those of us who splurge and buy books to hoard on our shelves so we always have a lovely bit of paged delight at our fingertips, probably don’t consider the paperback, easy-on-the-pocketbook editions of Dover as ones we trot out and buy. Yet, I imagine most of us Book Boosters, really and truly appreciate that Dover does provide under $6.00 editions of classics.  As a teacher on a tight budget, I’m thrilled I can get a class set of Hamlet for under $40.00.

What is Dover all about? Well, the good folks at School Library Journal took time to find out by interviewing their editor-in-chief,  M.C. Waldrep. One of the takeaways from the interview is that among the top four classics that sell are Frankenstein, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and The Adventures of Huck Finn.  Shakespeare is right up there, of course.

For more Dover insights check out the interview.

BtW: Dover is more than providing classics for the economic minded. They have a ready collection of coloring books for that new trend (or old trend renewed). They have initiated the first National Coloring Book Day which you can anticipate by sharpening up your Crayolas when August 2 arrives. More on the coloring craze is found here.

What Dover classics are roaming your shelves, backpack, or are fondly remembered from your school days?

Better yet, which Dover classic would you slip in as a stocking stuffer?


Oh de plume

Being a gregarious hermit means I have moments of friendly banter mixed with overpowering needs to keep myself to myself. This is why I hide behind my plumey of Cricket Muse. I chirp when in the mood, and spend the rest of the time ensconced thoughtfully in my little world of teaching, reading, and writing.

I have played around with what my pen name should actually be. So far I’ve been published under three. The Chicken Soup people wouldn’t let me publish my essay on “Piece of Quiet” as Cricket Muse–too, umm, cute. They did relinquish under my compromise of C. Muse. Friends and family responded with “why”? As in why not use my real name. I guess I could have used my own name, but where’s the mystery in that?  I am in good company. Look at these wonderful authors and their real names. See–it worked for them.

          Name               Nom de plume                           
  1.  Anne Bronte–Acton Bell
  2. Benjamin Franklin–Alice Addertongue
  3. Anton Chekov–Antosha Chekhonte
  4. Charles Dickens–Boz
  5. C.S. Forester–Cecil Smith
  6. C.S. Lewis–Clive Hamilton
  7. Charlotte Bronte–Currier Bell
  8. Washington Irving–Diedrich Knickerbocker
  9. Ray Bradbury–Douglas Spalding
  10. L. Frank Baum–Edith Van Dyne
  11. Emily Bronte–Ellis Bell
  12. Eric Arthur Blair–George Orwell
  13. Georges Remi–Herge
  14. James Alfred Wight —James Herriot
  15. Michael Crichton-John Lange
  16. Daniel Handler–Lemony Snicket
  17. Agatha Christie–Mary Westmacott
  18. Edna St. Vincent Millay–Nancy Boyd
  19. Isaac Asimov–Paul French
  20. Hector Hugh Munro–Saki
  21. Stanley Martin Lieberman–Stan Lee
  22. Victoria Lucas–Sylvia Plath
  23. Francois-Marie Arouet–Voltaire
  24. William S. Burroughs–William Lee
  25. Vladimir Sirin–Vladimir Nabokov

While I figure out under what name my masterpiece shall be published, I will keep playing with possibilities. I found the nifty pseudonym generator. So far I like:

Dewey Raferty

Grange Moser

Dalli Easton

Here: give it spin and see what you come up with…and do share it you get a doozer.

Name Generator

Do Rah Mean Reviews

I started reviewing books about twenty years ago, mainly because I wanted a steady supply of books to read since at that time we lived out in the toolieloops, about an hour from town, and with three kids in tow this involved a spirit of adventure and a rousing case of cabin fever to shake me into organizing a “going to town” outing.

A book reviewer I became.

One thing learned about book reviewing is the art of the “do rah” as in do be a cheerleader of sorts and Thumperize a book–find something nice to say. As a writer, I can’t imagine reading a review and having to bear any slicing and dicing of my creative endeavour.

Yet, there are those who skip the do rah and just go for mean. You know what I’m talking about. Those vitriolic reviewers that pen scorn and derision that practically blame the tree for providing the pulp that provided the paper for the book.


Not long ago I felt compelled to comment on such a review found on Goodreads addressing a book I recently finished. I mentioned the importance of setting aside 21st century expectations when reading historical fiction. Whoa! A personal tirade was my reply. I didn’t see that one coming. Fortunately, another reader rebuffed that reply saying the writer was out of line and should be warned. Are there Goodread police who hand out “play nice” tickets?

“Don’t be a meanie, be a do rah-er when reviewing books.”

That little episode provided the epiphany that mean reviews perhaps stem from mean-spirited people, and I try even harder to offer more positive than negative comments in my reviewing. After all, that some day of getting my cow joke book published might actually arrive and I wouldn’t want my bovine humor butchered unfairly by unfriendly reviewers.

What thoughts on mean reviews? Do they dissuade or persuade you to read the book?


Ah, tis November. As much as I like that this month gets me a wee bit closer to the end of the year, which gets me that much closer to the end of first semester, which ushers in second semester, which provides a not-as-distant glimpse of June and summer release, I do like October and I am reluctant to let it totally fade away.

I like its blend of summery days of warmth and crisp evening. I appreciate the last hurrah of garden color mixed with swirling leaves. And I favor the bounteous moons that hover like bloated Chinese lanterns on the night’s horizon.

So, here is an October poem for November. How could I resist “spicy woods”? Yet, Amy Lowell does set the tone well for the Thanksgiving month with her “Hoar-Frost” offering:

In the cloud-grey mornings

I heard the herons flying;

And when I came into my garden,

My silken outer-garment

Trailed over withered leaves.

A dried leaf crumbles at a touch,

But I have seen many Autumns

With herons blowing like smoke

Across the sky.


Helen Hunt Jackson
Bending above the spicy woods which blaze,
Arch skies so blue they flash, and hold the sun
Immeasurably far; the waters run
Too slow, so freighted are the river-ways
With gold of elms and birches from the maze
Of forests. Chestnuts, clicking one by one,
Escape from satin burs; her fringes done,
The gentian spreads them out in sunny days,
And, like late revelers at dawn, the chance
Of one sweet, mad, last hour, all things assail,
And conquering, flush and spin; while, to enhance
The spell, by sunset door, wrapped in a veil
Of red and purple mists, the summer, pale,
Steals back alone for one more song and dance.

Bookstore or Library

I am a Frequent Flyer of the literary miles category. I inter-library loan, grab stuff off the FREE shelf, donate back, check out DVDs, CDs, books, audios, magazines–if it has a bar code I find a way to get it checked out and get it home. I have yet to check out their seed catalog *make note*. I even joined the Library Board of Trustees for a year and a half. That could be a blog post in the making.

image: Libraries. Sigh. Wait, shouldn’t that “l” be an “L”? Aren’t libraries proper nouns, words of significant importance?

Now–with all my Book Boostering, you would think I would buy more books. My bookshelf at home is actually rather anemic. Somewhere in the post collection I have photos and details. Here’s the deal: I don’t buy them because the library has already done that. Plus, books need dusting, and bookshelves take up a LOT of space. Teeny house. Hate dusting.


I don’t go to bookstores. I just don’t. I don’t want to spend the money. I just want to read the book. Occasionally I will buy a book as a gift. I usually review books because they are free and then I give them away. I prefer the word “frugal”, thankyouverymuch.

Yesterday I broke the pattern. I actually stepped into a bookstore and actually bought a book. Ours is a smallish town and box stores consist of the ubiquitious Wal-Mart, a half-hearted Penney’s, one Hallmark, the usual fast food five, and a handful of motels that are in everywhere anytown. No Barnes ever so Noble, only three private bookstores. One smells like the dusty, mildew-ish haunts I avoid, one is bright and serves up new books (and I’m glad they offer discounts to teachers), and the other is an anomaly. This is the one I popped in to visit.

It smelled of new books, was brightly lit up, organized well, had reasonable prices, and an eclectic assortment of titles, plus it had the quirky owner esconced behind the counter. After my purchase of a gift book (no spoilers), I learned the no-funky smell is due to the painstaking care of each book being sanitized and being given a new cello cover. Lovely.

I still prefer libraries, but should I ever develop that urge to squander my occasional windfall on books instead of the usual dinner out or garden plants or gifties on the progeny, I now know a place where I can meander and come away with a treasure.


Bookstore or Library: preference?

Word Nerd and Proud of It

I am a professed Word Nerd. I collect words (lexophile) study them (etymologist), mispronounce them (cacoepy), and read about them (Book Booster). Maybe my mom propped up my crib with an old dictionary, because no one else in my family shows this proclivity.

My love for words overflows into all facets of my life. As a kid, other kids would roll their eyes at my vocabulary, and teachers would be either amused or irritated at me knowing what the vocabulary word meant without any prompting. “Show off” was sometimes bantered about when I was around. Not really. Misunderstood for my zeal of learning vocabulary, yes, that would be better.

Zoom up to my young mothering years (an empty nester now–still mothering, but from a defined distance). I guess I nearly ruined my children’s lives by trying to instill the love of words into their little bodies. “No one talks like us, Mom!” And that was a bad thing? The payoff came much later, when recently the youngest progeny phoned to say the boss folk liked how well he could express himself in company meetings. Ah–delayed gratification.

As a teacher, I legitimately get to introduce vocabulary to students and interject my enthusiasm for increasing word strength and even test them on what the words they need to know for life and  for state required assessments and get paid for it (I just committed a polysyndeton with all those conjunctions–great word).

Lately, as a blogger, I get more attuned to posts about words dropping my way. For instance, I found this gem in my box not too long ago, even though it’s a 2012 post, it’s still relevant to me.  It’s all about Word Hacking, that delicious art of creating new words. There is all sorts of action and exercise in Word Hacking. There’s combining, mash ups, and verbalizing, and nouning. One could seriously lose calories by inventing new words. Shakespeare must have been in stellar shape with all his inventiveness. Doesn’t this look ever so fun? Check out the full blog post

Why We Say #20–highbrows to hobos and hoodlums

As promised from last month we are delving into the somewhat unsavory sayings dealing with lowlife, or at least perceived lowlife. However, before traipsing across those tracks (and there are so many railroad tracks where I live, that nobody knows which side is which), let’s look at those high brows.

High Brows:

“No worries, I got your Bach, Delores.” image:

“I don’t know, Delores, I would rather attend the Bieber concert. Bach is rather high brow for my taste.”

If only Delores could convince her nephew that high brow is so yesterday. Yes, scientists have determined that the idea of having a high forehead–I believe Sherlock has one, is not an indication of superior or even uppity tastes. No matter your forehead shape, you can have your Bach and beat it too.

Higher than a Kite:
“Did you hear about Frank? Oh, man–he was higher than a kite. It was hilarious watching him trying to navigate down the hall after he ate two pieces of Aunt Stephanie’s rum cake.”

“Rum, anyone?” image:

Wellindeed. Maybe Auntie Steph is a bit heavy handed on her rum, then again Frank would not want to be higher than a kite. No, that’s not the Mary Poppins stick and paper toy, nor is it the bird. It’s a shortening of the original phrase, “higher than Gilderoy’s kite.” Gilderoy, actually Patrick MacGregor, an infamous highwayman, known for deeds such as hanging a judge, picking Cardinal Richelieu’s pocket, and robbing Cromwell, met his end at the gallows. The height of the gallows indicated the height of crimes. Gilderoy swung fairly high, and the Gaelic word “kite” means “body” so, the expression “higher than Gilderoy’s body has nothing to do with Aunt Stephanie’s cake.

I remember dressing up as a hobo for Halloween one year. It’s a cute photo. I’d share it with you if I could get my album off the shelf without braining myself in the head. Cleaning the hall closet is not on my BIG list (that’s right, Allegra–visting my messy closet does not even rate a mention on my list). So, talking about hobos has all kinds of connotations. I remember a William Powell movie My Man Godfrey that did a very nice spin on the hobo theme. Then again Mr. Powell probably didn’t know that “hoc boys” were the originals and they were actually hard workers who traveled from plantation to plantation working the cotton fields. They traveled around trying to find work and eventually their name was shortened to “hobos.”  Those hoc boys would be no doubt bummed to be considered lazy-good-for nothings.


We’ve seen them in those noir films, those types who hang around the docks and buildings, just exuding trouble in the making. “Hoodlums” they may be, but actually they are “Muldoons” because that is where hoodlums gets its name. Apparently a West Coast reporter, whether to protect himself, it’s not known, wrote about a “Hoodlum” which turned out to be a backward spelling of sorts of a character named Muldoon, a gangster at that time. Perhaps a bad guy is a bad guy no matter how his name is spelled.

“Wait, a cotton-picking minute–we aren’t looking for work. We’re waiting for the bus. And there is no Muldoons amongst us.” image:

Blog Spotlight: October Round Up

I usually try to spotlight a blog I’ve come to appreciate, yet this month I’ve jotted down so many posts I thought it best to spotlight them all: keeps me both amused and inspired with the nifty talent for combing a photo with two sentences. A novel in a handful of words that would make Hemingway sit up and take notice.

Daniel Katz provides insightful, informative educational opinion and newsbits.

As a Book Booster, I am always prone to stop by and learn more about literature, which is what Interesting Literature serves up: tasty bits of literary trivia.

Lately I’ve been wobbling in my commitment to blogging and that’s why I especially appreciated Robert’s comments about his five years of observations as a blogger. Check his post on 101Books.

I also appreciate photos and SFarnell, provides some stunners.

One of my newest followings is CoachDaddyBlog. His avatar (or is it his metaphorical symbol?) is a Stormtrooper. His quick wit and observations are worthy of a visit.

If you don’t know these bloggers and their wares, I hope you stop by and check them out. What blogs are in your Reader bin that brighten your day?

POM:October–Singing in the Fall, I’m Singing in the Fall

Due to the roasty, toasty temps we experienced this year, I’m becoming more of an autumn fan than a summer lover, my allegiance to fall begins to wane when the leaves start swirling down. While I don’t actually loathe raking and burning the farewell of summer, I do detest how the days are darker–both in the morning and in the evening. I do adore my Happy Lights. One in the bedroom and one in the kitchen. I’m about to trot to Costco to purchase another for my office.

Being the type of person who prefers solutions to problems, I appreciated this poem find. Instead of fretting about the impending gloom, I shall whistle instead.

Whistling in the dark, with a poem in my heart image:

The Gift to Sing
by James Weldon Johnson, 18711928

Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
      I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
       And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
       And I can sing.

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