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All posts for the month March, 2014

Ok, Jane, I will take your challenge

Published March 30, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

This week, XO Jane Editor-in-Chief and Goddess Supreme has left an open thread for folk to talk/comment/write about. I took the ” First song that comes up when you press shuffle”.  I am too lazy to get up and walk the ten feet to my ipod  so I hit shuffle on itunes. (Well, after I waited for itunes to open and tell me that there is yet another new version of itunes available.) The first thing played was how to pronounce the question “Where is the bank?” in French.  The next was a bit from a Million Little Pieces by James Frey.

Now, I’m not  freaked out by the fact that music is not the first thing to play on itunes. I have always thought outside the box. I’m just a little slow on the uptake. (A week later, I just now realized the metaphor in Divergent.  Go see it; Shailene Woodley kicks ass. )

What did freak me out is the fact that James Frey made money and continues to make money when he bald faced lied to Oprah. He got a her book club endorsement and made a bazillion dollars, then after being exposed as the gentleman with his trousers aflame, made more money on a book that is still considered a memoir. (I didn’t pay for it; I got it from the Public Library. )

It truly tweaks me that liar-heads make money.

Now VC Andrews makes a kajilion dollars, a pretty amazing feet considering  that she had been dead for almost three decades.  What is even more amazing is that her publishers and ghostwriters ARE NOT LYING TO ANYONE. She has ghostwriters. She is dead. That’s true.

And even though she has never been touted by Oprah. She has sold a bunch of books that are pulpy and have shiny peek-a-boo covers so that everyone will know you are reading a Gothic Bodice Ripper that is a little ooky because the bodice is being rended by a close relative of the protagonist.

I would rather read some honest ook than lies masquerading as grim reality.

 

Love, loss and other crap that is under my bed

Published March 29, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Anyone who knows me knows that I have certain traits gleaned from my parents. My quirky sense of humor and need to sing weird bits of song I got from my father. (I also got my big rib cage and thick, peasant like haunches from him too, but the polite thing is not to mention it.)  From my mother, I got the defiant tilt of my chin and the stubborn streak that forbids me from refusing a dare. (I also got her short stature and her need to obsess, but that’s in the polite-don’t-mention-it category.)

Both of my parents are extremely tidy organized people.

Guess what I didn’t get?

Since the departure of EH, I have managed to turn my entire house into something that resembles a rummage sale at a half-way house. (It smells much better; I don’t smoke and I use Febreeze like I have stock in the company.)

I try to stay on top of the major messes, like keeping the dishes clean and the toilets scrubbed.

The rest of the house is a free for fall, unless I lose something, then I clean until I find it.

I have an active link, it’s like a fit-bit  but it’s linked with Weight Watchers.  I wear it all the time, even at night and only take it off when I shower.

Sometime last night, it escaped.

I have been tidying around and I still haven’t found it.

I found the lid to a Vick’s Vapo-rub jar that has been missing since last cold and flu season. (The jar is long gone.)

I found the stretch things that you can use to stylishly taper your over-sized blouses so your huge rib cage doesn’t make you look like your are smuggling a Frigidaire out of the Sears Outlet. (Once again, polite not to mention it.)

There are a number of socks clustered like co-conspirators at the foot of the bed.

Guess what I haven’t found?

I’m hoping I find it before I have to vacuum.

In the shallow end of the crazy pool

Published March 29, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I know, I know, I’m not doing to good with the posting everyday thing. I just get overwhelmed (By life mostly, but right now, the fact that I have to hit the “J” three times to make it work is making me want to punch something.)  Lots going on. I am still working towards the alternative certification. One of my more recent classroom experiences just reinforced my theory that students will invest themselves in their own education in a relaxed environment. (I know, that kind of thinking, you know the idea that students are people, will be my downfall.) I am studying in fits and starts, like that Dodge Shadow I used to own. (There’s a truly entertaining story about the tensile strength of the hood and windshield on an American made car, but that’s a story for another time.)

My job at the Library continues in it’s awesome-ititude. The tagging detail is coming to an end and I made the mistake of opening a can of anime worms by asking if  perhaps the Batman Animated Series DVD had been miscategorized.  That took about ten minutes longer than it needed to and got resolved by passing the buck to someone who wasn’t there. (Had the day off, not invisible, all though if talking to an invisible colleague had been a solution, I would have taken it.

I am now the Acting Children’s Services Coordinator. This means that I am the utility infielder until a full-time person can be hired. (I thought it sounded like I’m in charge of the Acting Children. I don’t want to be an ass and point that out and I’m perfectly fine with that.)

There is so much going on. I’m just trying to get it all done in tiny bite sized chunks. You know, the appetizer approach to being a grown-up.

The website is undergoing reconstruction. (Kind of like in the Civil War except I changed web hosts because my Webmaster, EH is spending all of his spare time with his Baby and his baby-mama, as well he should, and I ‘m a decent human being who is trying not to choke on my bitter rage so I’m just going to switch to a more user friendly host.)

But the novel will be available by June.

I mean it.

I need to know Fran’s gender and other news from the revolution

Published March 20, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

My days  are always interesting. I generally start each day by guessing how much caffeine I need for the first hour or so based on my access to refueling stations.

Today I spent the morning teaching third grade Math (I know, I know. I am at the very least capable of handling this level. The VERY VERY LEAST)

I have speechifyed on a number of occasions about the things that are wrong with Public Education. I know there is no ideal situation.  I also know that cramming a twenty four kids in a small classroom, all with varying levels of comprehension, not just about math, but also about the world in general, is not even remotely approaching a solution.

This particular school was in fairly good neighborhood, so that, at least, wasn’t a big problem. The students were all clean and fed. (It’s sad, but that’s not always the case ) The challenges I faced today were based on the personalities of the individual students (Actor Boy keeps reminding me that my downfall is imminent if I insist on treating students like they are people. I’m a rebel)

There was at least one mean girl in training in each section of this class (Two sections of 24)  There is one that I will call Zelda. (I do know her real name, but I’m kind of afraid of her.)  Zelda arrived with attitude and a jut of her jaw that led her straight into verbal altercations with two different boys. I stopped both of these before she could follow through with what was probably going to be a bitch slap, judging by her stance and the squaring of her shoulders. What could possibly have enraged this child twice in the single hour she was in the classroom?

In addition to this social interaction, there was also a little cultural issue happening. The school has a large African-American population. One boy’s hair was huge and pulled away from his face with a single rubber band. He has long hair so this created a large poof on his head that was distracting because some of the kids couldn’t see over it. One of the girls, also African-American, helped him remove the rubber band while the child explained that his mother was out of town and his dad didn’t know how to do his hair.  The girl did what she could to help, including turning to the class and barking, ” Y’all Shut Up! He’s having a bad hair day.”

Then there is the monster we all fear: The Word Problem.

Martin has 216 more stickers than Payton. Fran has 194 fewer stickers than Martin. Payton has 445 stickers . The boys donated all their sticks to the community reading program. How many total stickers did the boys donate? 

First, I want to know if Fran is a girl. Not all Fran’s are  girls and not all Payton’s are boys. I need that information before I go on. I know most kids would assume that Payton is a boy because of Peyton Manning, but if you are thinking football, Fran could be a boy(Fran Tarkington).   If they are all boys, you would need to add 445 to 216 -194.

If Fran is a girl, it doesn’t matter how many stickers she has, so why even drag her into the equation?

Try doing this in a crowded room with 24 kids. Five minutes before lunch.

I still don’t know if Fran is a girl. I asked the teacher and the gender hadn’t occurred to her.

I may have misplaced my driver

Published March 16, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

It’s been a strange few weeks. (I know, Quelle Surprise!) I am finding myself overwhelmed by, well, everything.  I am doing my best to stay the course as I work my way through the vast piles of test prep materials. I am discovering that I am either a) unable to twist and mold my brain into  fun new shapes, or b) the research team for the teacher’s certification test haven’t been in a classroom over the last decade. I suspect it is the combination of the two.

I have great plans for how I’m going to prepare for the tests. I have the flashcards and practice tests for English-Language Arts 8-12 and School Librarian K-12. I also have the test prep books for the basic “Let’s see what your common sense in the classroom quotient is” test and the Social Studies endorsement test.

The plan includes benchmarking myself by taking a sample test for each absolutely cold, with no preparation and using that data to map my study plan.

I got an 83 % on my first Social Studies pass.

Who knew?

I haven’t done any of the other subjects yet. I am intimidated by the Language Arts flash cards.

I have planned to record myself reading the cards with the answers and listening to them over and over in order to improve my information retention.  Easy enough, right?

Well, no, of course not.

The recording part is ready to go.

I have purchased a cheap (less than $10) mp3 player exclusively for studying.  So far I have spent a total of $10 of two different players. They are supposed to be plug and play.

Plug and play never works for me.

My computer doesn’t recognize the players and thus will not allow me to transfer audio files.

That sums up everything in my world right now

I know the information is there, I just can’t find the driver.

Running, but not hiding

Published March 9, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I am at the end of another week trying to ramp myself up for the next one. )I imagine that I resemble one of those toy cars that you have to pull back a few times before it will leap forward again for the amusement of all.)  I have a huge amount of stuff to do and a myriad of information to cram into my head. I’m just trying to figure out where to start.

I know that I have gotten lazy about my writing, at least from a critical perspective. I have taken the time to browse through a few of the test prep books for the tests I will be taking late this summer. (I have also taken the time to shriek and demand to know what twisted administrator decided to create a test that evaluates skills that have absolutely no practical applications.) I am forcing myself to embrace the reality with exactly the same enthusiasm that one would have if being forced to hug a relative with halitosis at a family reunion while everyone else scrutinizes your behavior for future reference.

When I write, I like to actually have something to say and I tend to get balky when forced to write in a vacuum (It’s really dusty in there.) so I am going to use my actual classroom experiences in my responses to essay prompts. It’s going to get weird.

Last week I subbed half a day in a Bilingual Second Grade classroom. I knew it was going to be a fantastic day when the first person I saw was the woman who taught me in Kindergarten. (She works there, I was not hallucinating a comforting face before a challenging day, although that does sound like something I would do.)

Highlights of the day include a small child asking me if my name was Lynda when I was a little girl. I told her that it was still my name. She looked confused and said, “No, your name is Ms. Rodriguez.”  A few of the kids wanted to know if I spoke Spanish. I told them I understood it but I don’t speak it well. They decided  to give me a vocabulary quiz. They squealed with delight  when I got one right. I would learn anything just to hear kids squeal when I got a correct answer. One child was trying to tell me something that was happening at one of the tables in the corner. I couldn’t understand him so I asked him to repeat it. I still didn’t understand so I asked to say it in English. He shouted, “I AM speaking English.” Ms. Rodriguez clearly needs to get her hearing checked.

The kids in this class do a lot of independent reading. (My turn to squeal with delight.) I took this independent reading time to roughly out a formal essay on Children’s Literature. This is based on one of the study questions for the English/Language Arts test: Define Literature. That’s it, that’s the whole question. The answer is to include a concise rundown on the types of literature. I only know this because my sheer panic at the vagueness of this question made me leap to the answer key.

I am still working on the formal essay, but the basic information I gleaned from the classroom is that literature written specifically for the enjoyment of children is a relatively new idea. Beverly Cleary was a trailblazer in this area. Now we have Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, Amber Brown and a host of other characters. (I have no idea why most of the protagonists of these books are female; that will be another essay.)

The Little House books are a fine example of Historical Fiction and World Literature can be represented by The Wheel on the School and Hans Brinker. (Although when was the last time you saw an elementary school kid deeply engrossed in the story of the sliver skates?)  Folk tales and Fairy tales are an excellent example of the oral tradition and Aesop’s Fables provide allegory as do the Berenstain Bears.

I am terrible at writing concluding paragraphs. The conclusion that I drew actually opened the Pandora’s box of questions.  Why do we stop encouraging children to read for fun?  Instilling and maintaining a love of learning will lead to students who have an investment in their own educations.

I personally hope that Twilight’s drekery didn’t wring out all of the interest in literature in a whole generation of young people .

Writer Chick: Behind the Music (Well, Law and Order SVU and Pandora Comedy with some Concrete Blonde tossed in there)

Published March 2, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I am re-listening to Stephen King’s 11-22-63. Mr. King’s works have kept me inspired throughout the  various stages of my writing career.  Taking a cue from King (say it out loud, it’s fun.) In celebration of Read an eBook Week, this blog, inspired by Nightmares and Dreamscapes, will give you a behind the scenes look at what inspired my short stories, featured in One Foot in the Door and Other Short Stories by Lynda Rodriguez and one of the many FREE Ebooks available at Smashwords this week. 

The title of this collection is a bit on the wordy side and is a bit flimsy. I put a lot of thought into the title. I personally feel that this story, One foot in the door ( the other one in the gutter),is not the strongest in the collection, but I wanted the title to stand out on the many, many eBook markets. The rest of the title, and other short stories by Lynda Rodriguez  is a tribute to the late Steve Garrett, whose impeccable timing and booming voice could stop a conversation with a well placed . . .. and other short stories by (insert appropriate author here).  Snarky comments could be addressed with . . .. and other short stories by Dorothy Parker.

The cover art was created by my brother, George X Rodriguez, who read all of the stories and designed it after the focal character of his favorite Both Sides. Now. with a tribute to the protagonist of When All is Said, its Done. 

One Foot in the Door (the other one in the gutter.) is from the  Replacements song “I Don’t Know” The story itself is an extension of  a short story I wrote that was based on my Writing for Radio-Televison final in college. The assignment was to write a proposal and pilot episode for a TV series. My proposal was for a show called Choices (I know, I know, but I was a very young and naive writer with limited exposure to actual people.)  The show used an ensemble of actors who would appear in every episode but as different characters as the audience got to see all of the what if’s of a single incident. I still think this is a good idea, but it’s a bit convoluted.

My story was actually a what if from my own life.  I have always wondered what would have happened if I had kept on dating the guy who introduced me to alternative music and then went back to from whence he came. I tweaked a few things and emerged with the story of a young couple who drifted apart and drifted back together briefly when she shows up on his doorstep offering him the chance to meet their son who she gave up for adoption.  The extension takes place when the son, at twenty years old, wants to meet his biological father.

The rough draft of the story was written for a short, short story contest. I fleshed out the 1500 words for this collection

When All is Said It’s Done

This one is a first person narrative of the focal character from my novel Circumstance (coming soon! By June!)  I wrote this one to answer the question “Why did she leave?” Unfortunately no one in the reality of the novel ever gets this answer, but having been left hanging by many an author, (Ouida Sebestyen, I’m talking to you!) I wanted someone to know what actually happened, and who better than sweet Vanessa Riley to tell the story to her BFF’s ?

The Classic

This one is my favorite. I wrote it for a short story contest and it was highly rated. It came about from a conversation I was having with Actor Boy as we browsed in a bookstore.  I was quite vociferous in my dislike of the overused zombie/vampire/werewolf genre.  I wondered what would happen if the genre logically extended to include the Blob.  The main character, Zach and his brother Miguel are based on two of my former students. Once I had the characters in my head, it wrote itself.  I called it The Classic because of the classic terrible horror movies that Zach and Trix adore.

Beneath the Bereft

My novel, Circumstance (coming soon! By June!) was originally this epic tome filled with characters all based on some of my favorite people. The characters soon took on lives of their own and I know all of them better than I know most of my blood relatives. The editing for the final draft eliminated several scenes that reveal emotions and motivations that enhance the characters. This story gives the reader a chance to see beyond the character, Sara Harris’s, chilly and sarcastic demeanor.

Both Sides. Now.

This is an idea that I have been knocking around for awhile. It may yet take on a larger life as a book length work. It is based on the concept that there is a reality that is parallel to ours. Not a new concept, but the other universe can observe all of our shenanigans and in the past have exchanged people in order to prevent disaster for us.  As the population and media has expanded on our side, the other side has stopped interfering.  A teenage girl on their side hijacks the technology to switch out with her person so to prevent an assault.  I do like these characters. The opening of the story was brought about by an actual event I saw played out in the hallway of a high school.

Bonus: Chapter One of Circumstance (coming soon! By June!) 

The chapter that appears in this book was in the second draft. The third draft version, as well as chapters two-six  are available at http://www.ellesview.com

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