Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Allow Me To Redirect You

Two things:

First, Myra is running a fun little competition of sorts over at her blog and you should enter. Granted, your submission will most likely pale in comparison to my masterpiece, but you really shouldn't compare yourself to others. That's not healthy. For example, I once compared myself to a broom and the result has been nothing but ceaseless feelings of inadequacy. The broom was thinner, was able to stand without moving for a ridiculously long time, had more hair (and it was blonde, like Jesus. Or at least like that picture of Jesus my great-grandmother had on the kitchen wall), and soundly defeated me in a dirt removal competition. (Try as I might, grains of the stuff kept slipping betwixt my fingers, while the broom's minor failures were almost entirely the fault of the dustpan. I should have compared myself to the dustpan.)

Second, this video, which is amazing. If amazing meant something like ten times more than amazing.




I used "betwixt," and I googled to make sure I used it correctly. But I'm still not positive I did.

Deleting Comments

How many of you have deleted your own comment on another person's blog because you made a grammatical error or typo?

Me too.

I do it all the time.

In fact, I just had to do it over at Tracy's blog. I made the dreaded "you're" "your" switch.

Here's a tip: Highlight your grammatically scarred comment and copy it. Then delete it by clicking the little trash can. Start a new comment, paste in the old one, make the change needed, and submit the fixed comment. Viola! You look educated.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Murphblog: A Primer

I have new followers! Six of them, in fact. Please help me in welcoming Corey, Paradox, Amy, Ocean Girl, Ichardesty, and hegk. Let me also apologize right now for being a less than stellar blog reader and commenter lately. I really appreciate all those people who've been commenting here while I've been neglecting their blogs entirely. That's very unselfish of you. You should probably reward yourself.

Now, quite a few of the newer folks have expressed some hesitancy about dipping their toes in the Murphblog waters and I realize this is entirely my fault. I have, quite intentionally, cultivated a cozy, almost familial* atmosphere in which inside jokes are dropped, references to months old posts are made, and seemingly derogatory comments are not only appreciated, but strongly encouraged. I like our little family. But to newcomers, it must be a little like starting at a new school and walking into the caf and seeing everyone with their friends and wondering how you're ever going to fit in when you don't even know what chocolate milk and Joe Biden have to do with each other.

So this post is a primer on all things Murphblog. It'll help catch you up.**

First, the stuff you need to know about me is over there on the right. I've written two books, a middle grade and a YA. They're not pubbed. I'm not agented, although I thought for a while that I might be. You can get the cliff notes here. My YA is done, but not done; the ending is unsatisfactory. When it's something more than that, I'm sending it to some readers. If you'd like in on that action, let me know. I also write poems, some of which I've posted here. I've had four of them published, so that's cool. My mom framed one. No kidding.

Here are some things in progress:

I submitted a story to Writer's Digest for their Your Story contest and was selected as a finalist. People voted. (Thanks!) I'm waiting to hear if I won. If I did, I'll be published in their next issue.

I'm working on a list of Things I Like. I'll be posting it soon. You are encouraged to make a similar list and post it on your blog. When you do that, you should link to my list because it was my idea. It's the least you can do.

I love chocolate milk. There was at one time a raging debate over the merits of different kinds of chocolate milk and it ended in a tie. I called on Joe Biden to break the tie because that's pretty much his only Constitutional duty as Vice President. I've emailed him twice. He has not responded. This has turned me into a Republican.

Other Stuff:

I have the best readers and commenters on the Webosphere. In fact, I'm thinking about disabling the commenting feature because a lot of times the comments are funnier than the blog posts and that's just not acceptable. You should be funny, but it's not good form to upstage the blogger.

This blog has already won multiple awards. However, should you feel the need to award it, you should not hold its past successes against it.

I used to have contests every once in a while, but since I still haven't sent out the prize to the last contest winner of some six months ago, I kind of gave that up. Sorry, Kelly.

I rarely review books. This is not because I'm afraid of offending the writer or agent or publisher and I think it will hurt my own publishing chances.*** I just suck at writing reviews. I like discussing books, though. In fact, Tracy and I often email our opinions back and forth. You can too. My email is murphypaulmichael@gmail.com

Buy Sophomore Undercover, The Order of Odd-Fish, and anything by Jacqui. Also, a few of my followers have books coming out in the near future. I'll be promoting them when the time is right. I do not pretend objectivity when it comes to promoting books written by Murphblog followers. Objectivity has its place, but it's not a place I'd want to be.

And here's a post about what men should not wear.
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*It would be a dysfunctional family, though. Most the dysfunction is Monica's fault.

**But there are archives going back all the way to the first post. You can't really complain about feeling left out if you're not willing to put in a few measly days worth of reading.

***I'll prove it: Despite it being universally loved by men my age, and despite the fact that Ben Esch himself loved it, and despite the fact that the author is repped by Steven Malk, who I think is awesome and who represents two of my favorite people, Ben and Chris, I thought King Dork kinda sucked. Yes, the voice was entertaining (for a thirtysomething year old dude, not a teenager) and the band names were clever, but after that...nada. Paper thin plot, lack of a resolution to what little plot there was, female characters whose only purpose was to sexually gratify the MC, references to 1970s pop culture that even I didn't get and I'm 15-20 years older than the target audience and the main character. Et cetera.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vampires, Swine Flu, and Other Things That Might Kill You

So I'm not much of a Twilight fan and I kind of didn't know that the Edward guy and the Bella chick were a real life thing until I walked into 7-11 today and saw the September 3 cover of OK! magazine. It's headline blared ENGAGED! Now I'm sure Myra can fill us in on the veracity of this claim, but if it's true I feel really bad for Stephenie Meyer. That is not the kind of pressure anyone needs. It really got me thinking. Had Stephenie Meyer not written the books (or had they not been published or not become popular or any number of other ifs) then the movies never would have been made and these two kids probably would have never worked together and they therefore would not have fallen in love and they wouldn't be rumored by OK! magazine to be ENGAGED! So basically, their entire lives have been altered because of some Mormon lady's imagination. That's just plain scary. And now, if they marry and eventually divorce, which, let's face it, they probably will, some of the anguish and hurt feelings and animosity that seems to associate itself with divorce will be at least partially Stephenie Meyer's fault. The whole thing reminds me of Back to the Future, but then again, most things do.

Did you hear about CNN medical correspondent and one time candidate for Surgeon General, Sanjay Gupta contracting the swine flu? I'd say that pretty much guarantees the rest of us getting it too. I mean, if Sanjay Gupta can't stay healthy, what are the chances of me, who spends his day in close proximity to 56 runny-nosed third graders, staving off the virus? The only thing that sounds worse than getting the "swine flu" is coming down with a case of the "Guptas."

Speaking of vampires, The Wife sunk her fangs into my creative genius and extracted my "If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?" question for use as a journal prompt with her sixth graders. One girl responded, "I wouldn't be any animal. I'd want to be a vampire. But not a sparkling, moral kind of vampire. More like Vladimir Tod." I hope she doesn't say that to OK! magazine. Robsten would not be impressed.

And I'd like to send a message to Ms. Hannah Montana. Ms. Montana, could you please stop recording catchy tunes? Despite the self-loathing that immediately follows, I can't help singing along to "Party in the U.S.A.", and neither can The Wife.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Someone Out There Likes My Stuff

Imagine my surprise.

I don't remember if I blogged about this previously and since my titles sometimes have little relevance to the content, I'm having a hard time combing through the archives. So anyway. I get Writer's Digest and my favorite thing about that mag is the Your Story contest. There's a write-to-a-prompt contest every other month and I always read the winner. Sometimes I'm impressed. Other times I regret not entering because I'm pretty sure I can do better. (Is this sounding familiar yet? It does to me.)

So last month I decided to enter. I wrote a little story called "Spelling St. Pete." Then I registered for the WD Forum because you can't vote for a winner if you don't. Anyway, long story short, out of 550 entries, the WD folks selected my story as one of their top five. So now the registered members of the site get to vote for the winner. I just voted. (For myself. And no, I haven't yet read the other entries. Sue me.) Right now I'm in first place with 38% of the vote. Someone else is at 35%.

Now I'm not going to tell you to get yourself registered and vote for me because it's kind of a pain and lobbying for votes is what politicians do and we all know how popular they are.

However, I'm not going to tell you not to either.

Just in case: Register Here. Voting ends Wednesday morning at 10.

Let Me Tell You About My YA

It's done in the way a bag of microwave popcorn is done. Most of the kernels are popped and coated in that fake butter stuff. It's good. Maybe not movie theater good, but certainly edible. But then there are those unpopped kernels hanging out in the bottom of the bag. There are always unpopped kernels. My last eighteen pages remain unpopped. They kind of spoil the whole bag, because when I'm done enjoying the popcorn I've got those kernels that, like the last chapter and a half of my novel, symbolize unrealized potential. Those kernels could have been popcorn too, if only I'd had some more of patience.

So even though I really want to share my popcorn and see if others find it as appetizing as I do, I'm not going to. I'm putting the bag back in the microwave. I'm popping the last kernels.
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Blogger's note: Here's the problem with metaphor: If you put an actual bag of popcorn back in a mircrowave, you run the very real risk of burning all that was previously delicious. Sure, you'll pop those last few kernels, but it's not worth the risk. Better to pop most of the corn and leave a few bagglers then have to throw out the entire bag due to greed. But none of that really works with a story. Stories tend to get better the more you work them. So let's just ignore that little problem, kay?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm Inspired

Chris inspired me to write my own ridiculous story and it so happened that I heard this story on the radio while driving home. Here's the line that gave me my idea: "When it comes to public safety, it should be an easy decision,” Bolger said. “We know a building isn’t going to respond to (an emergency) call. A trooper will.”

State-of-the-Art

They built the new police station when times were good. It was state-of-the-art. The townspeople bragged about it to neighboring townspeople.

"You should see the windows," they said.
"It's got a helipad. And cutting edge communications," they boasted.
"It's got four separate wings!"

But then, before the police could even move into their new building, the economy soured. People lost their jobs. They stopped buying things like fertilizer and expensive coffee. They moved to other places. The government had budget problems. Cuts were necessary.

One vociferous group of activists said that the cops were just fine in their old station. It would cost too much to lease the new building. What little money they did have should go to hiring more police. Crime was bound to go up in such a poor economy.

"Buildings don't stop bad guys. Police stop bad guys." That was their slogan.

This all made the new police station very sad. For three months it had looked forward to serving the officers. Who would use its helipad? Who would gaze out its fine windows? Who would use its superb communications system? The station went from lonely to vindictive. "I'll show them," the building pledged.

Across town, there was a domestic disturbance. The police station picked up news of it on its state-of-the-art communications system. Although the building possessed four separate wings, it could not fly. In this way it was similar to a penguin. It was not like a penguin in any other way. Penguins don't fight crime. The South Pole has no crime. It's too cold. Plus, no one lives there but scientists.

So since the police station couldn't fly, it slid along the streets, sending joggers and bike riding children scurrying out of the way. Its hard exterior gouged out sections of road and flattened parking meters and mailboxes. It was like a glacier, but faster.

Black and whites, their lights flashing, surrounded the house. The station had been monitoring police frequencies during its destructive jaunt and it knew that the situation inside was volatile. A husband was threatening to kill his family. The police negotiator had made no progress. Only surprise combined with overwhelming force would do. It was the perfect job for a large, quickly moving building. The police station pushed through the perimeter and smashed into the house. It knocked the house off its foundation and when the man was corralled by the police station's lobby and deposited at the cops' feet, all the officers cheered.

There was a ceremony the next day. The mayor had an important announcement to make. All of the police were there. So was the new police station. They all wore huge smiles.

"Ladies and gentlemen. And building. I have solved our budget problem without sacrificing public safety. The solution is simple. Effective today, all officers have been relieved of duty. Policing will now be the sole responsibility of our new police station!"

The cops were angry. They fired their guns at the police station, hoping to destroy it. But all they managed were a few chinks in the brick exterior. The windows didn't even crack. It was, after all, a state-of-the-art building, right down to the bulletproof glass.

When their bullets were exhausted the cops slumped home. Many of them found their mailboxes in pieces. And if the new police station could have cried, it surely would have.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Thoughts

Because I know you care. (And also because maybe someone will feel like arguing with me.)

  • There's a partially filled can of Coke on my desk. This is The Wife's doing. I'm ninety percent sure she's never finished an entire can of Coke. I only noticed it (which says something about the organizational state of my desk) because it's making sounds, like insects are scurrying around inside of it. The can has been here for hours. Honestly, it's a little creepy sitting in here with it.
  • Here's how you know you're losing a political argument: You compare someone to Hitler or you call them a racist.
  • Bad news: My beloved Spartans lost to Central Michigan last Saturday. Good news: I guess I was on TV. Uncomfortable thought: I had no idea I was on TV until a few people text messaged me, which means that from here on out I'm going to be very careful about when I yank out my nose hairs.
  • I just finished reading The Shack. The first couple of chapters were good. After that, not so much.
  • It makes me a horrible person, but I have trouble feeling bad about Patrick Swayze. There's a reason they call them "cancer sticks."
  • My opinion of our President was enhanced when I read that he called Kanye West a jackass. If only our politicians would always be so frank.
  • "If you could be any animal, which animal would you be?" I asked on a student questionnaire. (I believe in a rigorous curriculum.) One student answered, "A monkey, because I was born to climb." How would you answer?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's Just Great!!!

So I need to write something here in order to slide the rejection post off the screen. Because that thing is starting to depress me and depression really gets me down. I should probably post something that'll make me feel better.

Plus, I've been reading on the Webosphere that we writers aren't supposed to share any negative opinions we have about other people's novels, or our own writing, or crazy librarians who lovingly fondle books written by total strangers. So instead of telling you what I really think and how I really feel, I'm going to blog about something that is great. It's totally super! I love it a lot! I mean, it is truly, utterly fabulous!!!!!!!!!

I'm talking of course about balloon animals.

What's not to love about balloon animals? They're safer than real animals, especially scary ones like giraffes. You never have to feed a balloon animal. They come in all colors of the rainbow; you're never going to see an orange swan in nature! Sure, that balloon dog might not be as soft and cuddly as the real thing, and it might pop if you hug it too hard, but if you rub your finger along its side, it'll make a funny noise! Plus, the people who make balloon animals are some of the finest in the world. They bring joy to children, just like Bozo the Clown, Bob Saget, Weird Al Yankovic, and Michael Jackson used to.

How could you not respect the balloon animal creator? A lot of times they're clowns, too, so you get twice the entertainment for a fairly minor creepiness factor nominal fee. Many times, the balloon animal maker will don his product as headwear.

Now that's just funny. It's so funny, I can almost forgive the two-toned demin jack--whoops, there I go being critical. Chances are balloon jockey's sister is a literary agent or an editor or someone who wrote a book once.

Too bad. I coulda been somebody.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

REJECTED!

Received the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag today for my manuscript FARVE CASTLE LETS IT GO.

As most of you know, I've been working exclusively with an agent on revisions for the last few months. Some history:

1. Asked blog readers to take a look at my query and tell me why it sucked.
2. One of said readers agreed and passed it along to an agent friend.
3. Agent friend asked to see the manuscript.
4. Agent liked that it was a baseball book and saw some potential in the story, even though the draft he read pretty well sucked.
5. Agent offered revision notes if I agreed to work exclusively with him. I agreed.
6. Revised and resent.
7. Story still sucked, but in different ways. Agent asked if I'd try again.
8. Tried again.
9. Failed. Got my rejection today.
10. Told The Wife I got rejected. She was very nice about it.

So here's my take on the whole thing:

1. I learned a lot.
2. My story is better.
3. Ultimately, I wrote the book with this crazy notion that it might get published and the agent didn't think he could passionately advocate for it. In short, he feared he might not be able to sell it. And since getting it sold is kind of like the whole point of having an agent, he made the best decision for both of us.
4. I would highly recommend this agent because of the amount of time and energy he spent on a manuscript that probably did not deserve the time and attention.
5. I stand by this post 100 percent.
6. It sucks, but only because rejection sucks in general. There's nothing in particular that sucked about either the experience or the rejection letter, which was very thoughtful and even apologetic, though it did not need to be.
7. Wanna know what I'm most bummed about? Getting back in the query game. Ugh.



Sunday, September 6, 2009

What Took So Long?

Although Charles H. Duell never actually said, "Everything that can be invented has been invented," it would be a lot cooler if he had. Because then I could use the above quote to introduce yet another product that has me asking, "Why didn't I (or someone even smarter) think of that?"

Following in the same tradition as chips clips, omelet makers, and these things, some enterprising lass has invented the GoGirl, a female urination device that allows its user to pee while standing up.

I'm not real knowledgeable about prehistory, but I think it's safe to say that women have been squatting to pee for a really long time. I think it's also fair to say that it's been a bit of an inconvenience.* The GoGirl doesn't appear to be all that complicated. So of the many questions I have, the most mind-boggling is Just what the hell took so long?

By the way, the GoGirl website is a gift that keeps giving. My favorite part is the page titled "Who Needs It?"

The "Globalgirl," for one. When you travel, you never know what you'll find. Especially when it comes to bathrooms. You might find anything from a hole in the ground to no sanitary facilities at all. [blogger's note: doesn't that imply that holes in the ground are sanitary? Hmm.] With GoGirl, the world is your toilet.

Well there's a slogan I can get behind.

"OutdoorsyGirl:" Why bother squatting and the usual contortions? With GoGirl, there's no messing up your jeans or dripping down your leg.

As someone who has peed standing up for a number of years, I can tell you that that's not necessarily true.

And this gem, which I'm sure the people of India appreciate: Whether you're taking off for India, taking on nature, taking on the competition, or just taking on the challenges of everyday life, there are plenty of reason to love GoGirl.

I've never been to India, and now, I'm not sure I ever will.

They're selling 40,000 of these things per week. I'd say something about penis envy, but that would probably go over like pee stains on a toilet rim.

Want to see more?



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*At least according to the Wife and some anecdotal evidence I've picked up over the years. And the really long women's restroom lines at sporting events. And my own experience. Sometimes it's just safer to sit.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Things I Like

I was moved to a new school this year and one thing people in education like to do is try and make new people feel welcome. My first official work days are tomorrow and Thursday and you can bet I'll be asked to participate in some "getting-to-know" activities that require me to act energetic and gregarious and just generally really happy to meet these people, most of whom I already know.

Today in my email I received a template for a baseball card that will be used to introduce me to other teachers and parents and kids and random people who walk in off the street. It has a picture of me (the four-year-old one I use for this blog, as a matter of fact), my name, teaching assignment, and college. Then at the bottom, I was asked to "tell a little about myself."

This was an opportunity I couldn't resist. I love to tell about myself. I even have a blog that does very little except tell about myself. I decided I would make two lists, one of things I like and one of things I don't. But then I got to thinking and I had a really hard time thinking of things I like. There were the obvious, of course--chocolate milk, golfing, anything with cheese or bacon, new socks--but I was surprised how much mental energy it took to figure out what I really liked.

So on the drive home, I started paying attention to everything and discovered that I like a LOT of things. I have made it a goal to create a comprehensive list of the things I like. I'm keeping this list in a notebook. And I'm keeping the notebook in a very secure place. And I'm not telling you where this secure place is because then it wouldn't be very secure anymore because it doesn't have a lock or anything. I mean, it's a notebook full of things I like, not credit card information. Besides, what if I have to get at the notebook really quickly, before I forget the thing that I like? I wouldn't want to monkey around with a lock, especially one of those combination ones. Then, in a month or so, I am going to reveal my list right here on Murphblog. I encourage all my readers to do the same. I think you'll be surprised at some of the things you like.

(For instance, just now I remembered that I really like parentheses. How could I have forgotten?) (Ooh! Rhetorical questions. I like those.) (Ooh! Ooh! Making lists!)
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This is totally irrelevant (like most of this blog's contents, really), but I just accidentally googled "the" and the first link is to The Onion. What'd they pay to get that?

A Murphblog First

WARNING: The video clip below is of me singing the greatest rock and roll song ever recorded. Watching it may forever ruin the song for you. Click at your own risk.

DISCLAIMER #1: I suck at singing. Randy Jackson would undoubtedly call me "pitchy." I'd rather not think about what Simon would say.

DISCLAIMER #2: I really suck at high notes, which is why I cut the video off right before Peter Cetera really gets going.

YOU MAY BE WONDERING why I did this. First, I kind of intimated that I would and I don't like intimating and then not doing. Two, this song has taken up residence in that part of my brain where songs take up residence and I think seeing myself sing it so poorly may convince that part of my brain to relinquish it.

All right, enough stalling...