Thursday, December 20, 2007

Promise of a Forthcoming Review

Okay. I know I should review more books, but in a strange twist I'm making a commitment to have my daughter (college math major) review the book she's been laughing about all night.

Title: "Zero: Biography of a Dangerous Idea"

Prewarning: Only math geeks need read.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Richard Peck

I've been holding my breath for a couple weeks waiting for official word that I made it in for a writing retreat in very early March featuring Richard Peck. I received word this week that I'm in and can now give a sigh of relief. (My sons also gave sighs of relief -- they don't have to find alternate Christmas presents!) I've enjoyed a number of his books and plan to add to that number over the next three months.

I met Richard Peck briefly following a delightful speech he gave at the Chicago Tribune YA Book Award five or six years ago (when he received it -- I think it was the 1st one given). He seemed like a really great guy!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Halloween Just a Week Away

Halloween is just a week away and I need to pull out a poem I submitted a while back for an online contest at the national SCBWI website.


by James Danielson

Don't cross my path on Halloween night
Or your right will turn left, and your left will turn right.
Your limbs will be sucked through your body in route
To turning your bones and your skin inside out.
Your eyeballs will dangle and bounce to and fro,
Occasionally hitting your liver or toe.
Even your thoughts will turn backwards a lot.
If you say the word TONS, you'll be covered with SNOT.
There's only one way to cancel this spell,
A bag full of candy, and all will be well.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Okay. I just saw that J. K. Rowlings stated that Dumbledore was gay. My question has nothing to do with his announced sexual orientation nor the appropriateness in what at least started as a book for children.

The question is this: If, as a writer, we do not relate some detail about a character in text (directly or with strong evidence), do we have a right to determine the detail --OR-- should that detail belong to the imaginations of the readers?

I realize that there is a lot of back story for every book that never gets into print. This was probably the case for Rowlings. Still, I say if its not in text, its for the readers to debate or decide -- once the book is published, the only way to add details should be in the form of a sequel. (this is strictly the opinion of this blogger and in no way reflects the opinion of Google or any of its affiliates :-) )

Now, I confess up front I have not read book seven and there may indeed be strong evidence. I'm not, however, under that impression, but would like to know. (I haven't read reviews in any form as not to spoil the book when I do get to it.) Regardless, I'm still curious about other opinions on my question.

Jim D.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Gearing up for the next few weeks of events

Fall is the season to energize our writing. Mid October through early November will be the perfect Rx for my writing.

Oct 2oth SCBWI-Illinois Southlands is hosting a talk by Carolyn Crimi on injecting humor into fiction. Who better to speak on the subject than Carolyn! (You may recognize her from the blog she does with Andrea and Julia -- Three Silly Chicks.)

Oct 27th is the Chicago Tribune YA Book Award being given to Gary Paulsen. My (23 yr old) son the High School Physics teacher would be coming with if not for plans to tailgate at the U of Illinois football game that day.

Nov 3rd is the really BIG ONE. Prairie Writers Day. Illinois-SCBWI's annual one day conference complete with 3 editors, 2 agents and much, much more.

Yep, just what I need to inspire words to fly from my fingertips to the keyboard of my laptop as I sit by the fireplace on a cold winter night in Chicagoland. (Now all I need is a fireplace and a laptop.)


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Songs the Year of HS Graduation meme

Christine (see blog list) meme-ed me.

Here's the top 100 from a compiled list:

Top 100 Hits of 1968 / Top 100 Songs of 1968
1. Hey Jude, The Beatles
2. Honey, Bobby Goldsboro
3. Love Is Blue, Paul Mauriat
4. (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay, Otis Redding
5. People Got To Be Free, Rascals
6. Sunshine Of Your Love, Cream
7. This Guy's In Love With You, Herb Alpert
8. Stoned Soul Picnic, Fifth Dimension
9. Mrs. Robinson, Simon and Garfunkel
10. Tighten Up, Archie Bell and The Drells
11. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, Hugo Montenegro
12. Little Green Apples, O.C. Smith
13. Mony, Mony, Tommy James and The Shondells
14. Hello, I Love You, The Doors
15. Young Girl, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap
16. Cry Like A Baby, Box Tops
17. Harper Valley P.T.A., Jeannie C. Riley
18. Grazing In The Grass, Hugh Masekela
19. Midnight Confessions, The Grass Roots
20. Dance To The Music, Sly and The Family Stone
21. The Horse, Cliff Nobles and Co.
22. I Wish It Would Rain, Temptations
23. La-La Means I Love You, Delfonics
24. Turn Around, Look At Me, Vogues
25. Judy In Disguise (With Glasses), John Fred and His Playboy Band
26. Spooky, Classics IV
27. Love Child, Diana Ross and The Supremes
28. Angel Of The Morning, Merrilee Rush
29. The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde, Georgie Fame
30. Those Were The Days, Mary Hopkin
31. Born To Be Wild, Steppenwolf
32. Cowboys To Girls, Intruders
33. Simon Says, 1910 Fruitgum Company
34. Lady Willpower, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap
35. A Beautiful Morning, Rascals
36. The Look Of Love, Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66
37. Hold Me Tight, Johnny Nash
38. Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, Ohio Express
39. Fire , Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
40. Love Is All Around, Troggs
41. Playboy, Gene and Debbe
42. (Theme From) Valley Of The Dolls, Dionne Warwick
43. Classical Gas, Mason Williams
44. Slip Away, Clarence Carter
45. Girl Watcher, O'Kaysions
46. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone, Aretha Franklin
47. Green Tambourine, Lemon Pipers
48. 1, 2, 3, Red Light, 1910 Fruitgum Company
49. Reach Out Of The Darkness, Friend and Lover
50. Jumpin' Jack Flash, The Rolling Stones
51. MacArthur Park, Richard Harris
52. Light My Fire, Jose Feliciano
53. I Love You, People
54. Take Time To Know Her, Percy Sledge
55. Pictures Of Matchstick Men, Status Quo
56. Summertime Blues, Blue Cheer
57. Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
58. I Got The Feelin', James Brown and The Famous Flames
59. I've Gotta Get A Message To You, Bee Gees
60. Lady Madonna, The Beatles
61. Hurdy Gurdy Man, Donovan
62. Magic Carpet Ride, Steppenwolf
63. Bottle Of Wine, Fireballs
64. Stay In My Corner, Dells
65. Soul Serenade, Willie Mitchell
66. Delilah, Tom Jones
67. Nobody But Me, Human Beinz
68. I Thank You, Sam and Dave
69. The Fool On The Hill, Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66
70. Sky Pilot, Eric Burdon and The Animals
71. Indian Lake, The Cowsills
72. I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
73. Over You, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap
74. Goin' Out Of My Head / Can't Take My Eyes Off You, The Lettermen
75. Shoo-Bee-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day, Stevie Wonder
76. The Unicorn, The Irish Rovers
77. (You Keep Me) Hangin' On, Vanilla Fudge
78. Revolution, The Beatles
79. Woman, Woman, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap
80. Elenore, Turtles
81. Sweet Inspiration, Sweet Inspirations
82. The Mighty Quinn, Manfred Mann
83. Baby, Now That I've Found You, Foundations
84. White Room, Cream
85. If You Can Want, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
86. Cab Driver, The Mills Brothers
87. Time Has Come Today, The Chambers Brothers
88. Do You Know The Way To San Jose, Dionne Warwick
89. Scarborough Fair / Canticle, Simon and Garfunkel
90. Think, Aretha Franklin
91. You're All I Need To Get By, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
92. Here Comes The Judge, Shorty Long
93. I Say A Little Prayer, Aretha Franklin
94. Say It Loud, I'm Black And I'm Proud
95. Sealed With A Kiss, Gary Lewis and The Playboys
96. Piece Of My Heart, Big Brother and The Holding Company
97. Suzie Q., Creedence Clearwater Revival
98. Bend Me Shape, American Breed
99. Hey, Western Union Man, Jerry Butler
100. Never Give You Up, Jerry Butler

I'm going to add comments over the weekend, but look at I the only one old enough to remember the pre-disco BeeGees and actually have a number of their 33 1/3 albums stashed away?

Jim D.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Free Morning, Away From Home, Focussed Writing

Drove my daughter back to college yesterday morning. She had to be there for a 9AM seminar on TI calculator use in teaching math -- she was moving in to her apartment afterwards (with Dad's help).

Anyhow, that left me with free time to sit in my old Alma Mater's student union and WRITE.

I was able to crank out 500 words of new text and develop direction for this new section. I'm pretty excited about this new piece. It's actually the continuation of what was a 3500 word short story. It's definitely turning into a full blown novel. Subject: Ghosts and basketball -- it has "boy" written all over it. That's way overdue since my 2 WIP's have girl protagonists.

Hopefully those 500 words will spark 500 more on my train commutes these next three days.

Jim D.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Things I Learned About Making Movies

Filming of a major film at my work has taught me a few things about the movie biz. I share them with you:

  • Big stars sometimes in the same "lunchroom" as the other movie workers.
  • The stars sit by themselves and everyone gives them their space.
  • Set microphones pick up the tiniest of sounds. Eliminating them was one of our staff's main tasks.
  • Every scene is shot many, many times and from various angles to ultimately splice into the final movie.
  • The work that goes into creating sets is amazing. I can see why show tickets are so expensive.
  • Movie people put in long days.
  • Many of their tasks would be very boring after while.
  • The food is extremely good. Especially the desserts!

Jim D.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Critique Group Question

At my "face-to-face" critique group we experimented with reading someone else's piece out loud (as opposed to reading our own).

Have any of you tried it this way?

Any thoughts on it?

Jim D.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Batman, Packing for College and a Writing Exercise

Well, tomorrow is the first day of Batman filming at "my" building (where I work). I'm actually working 4 Hrs. during the filming and probably won't see anything important.

8 days til I drive my daughter back to Champaign-Urbana for junior year. The living room is stacking up with things to bring.

Last Thursday's SCBWI meeting brought the following writing exercise to mind: Do an interview with your characters to get to know them better. We're going to do it for our next month's meeting. Let you know how it goes.

I'll check back in on Batman too.

Jim D

Monday, July 30, 2007

The "Bat"vator

Wierd fact totally unrelated to writing, I had to walk through Bruce Wayne's bookcase "elevator" in the space in my building they're using to create sets for the new Batman movie. Definately the closest I'll ever come to being a movie star (in spite of the fact that filming is weeks away).

Friday, July 20, 2007

My theory why Harry Potter lives

Last minute posting of why I think Harry lives:

JK Rowlings is involved with developing a Harry Potter theme park. Harry's death would be bad for the theme park. If he died, she wouldn't have gotten involved.

We'll find out very soon!

Jim D.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thanksgiving Parade story background

Yesterday, Madeline Smoot posted (at Buried in the Slush Pile) the short story I entered in her writing contest. I offer the following bits of background on the story:

  • The first Macy's parade was November of 1924
  • The ship Stockholm did exist and had arrived just prior to Thanksgiving 1924
  • There were only real animals in that year's parade -- no balloons until a few years later.
  • My father traveled to this country aboard the Stockholm, but on a trip in early 1924. He was nine years old.

Thanks to Madeline for posting the contest on her blog.

Jim D.

College Story

PJ Hoover (Tricia) put out the request to post college stories and offered one up that made me realize why I didn't want my daughter to have a first floor dorm room. Anyhow, here's my story:

Second semester of my freshman year my neighbors were upperclassmen vetenary med students who loved pranks. One evening I came back from dinner and sat down at my desk to study. My two roommates were gone so the room was quiet.......except what was the strange tapping coming from under my desk. Hmmm? Why was there something covering my waste basket?? Why was it weighted down??? How silly of me not to know there was a rooster in it. Now, what would you do if you had a rooster in your sixth floor dorm room? Answer: Wait for an empty elevator send it off to another floor.

Epilog: Rooster was later spotted tied to the Head Resident's door.

Disclaimer for any animal rights people reading this: I was young, crazy and in light of the fact that I'm 57 years old I'm way past the statute of limitations.

Jim D.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Writer's Website

My co-network rep for SCBWI just brought up her website in preparation for her PB being published this fall.

Gail is actually someone else who went to high school with me (see other blog from tonight). We were out of touch until I joined SCBWI a few years back. One thing I can add to her bio is that she was secretary of the math club when I was president. Think she would kill me if I posted an old yearbook picture?

Anyhow, the really good picture is the cover art for her new book.

Go to www.gpdavenport. com to see it!

Jim D

OT: Watching TV

I don't watch a lot of TV, but Friday night seems to be the night my body and mind crash as I let go of the stress of the work week. Last night we settled on the game show "1 vs. 100". The wierd thing was, the second contestant was announced "And from South Holland, Illinois......". Well, guess where I live. "Portia Peters." Portia went to high school with my sons (and was in band with one of them). I went to grade school and high school with her dad. We see her mom in the grocery store often. Etc, etc, etc.

Boy, it's a small world (after all)!!!

Jim D

PS She won just under $35,000.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Neglected Blog

Well, I can give you the list of things that have kept me from my blog and put everyone to sleep or I could blog something relevent or I could just anwer 4 x 4 Christine's meme.


Don't want to be rude..................

Okay......4 things in the past four years:

1) Learned what a blog was. My now 20 yr old daughter blogged for a year in conjunction with a contest she won for a short essay she wrote.......oh the prize was the Dell laptop she blogged with.
2) Became an SCBWI-Illinois network rep.
3) Changed genre long enough to write a PB (but not get it published).
4) Joined an online critique group recently.

Next 4 years:

1) Pass up my daughter's net writing income.
2) Get that PB and/or an MG novel published.
3) See everyone else in my new critique group get published (some great stuff out there).
4) Learn where on earth the term "MEME" came from.

Jim D.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Missed Meme


I missed being memed last Wednesday by PJ Hoover.

Right now I'm reading LILY'S GHOSTS by Laura Ruby and listening to audio book DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY (adult nonfiction about th 1893 World's Fair in Chicago).

I started a writer's blog list. PJ is the first on it. Many more will follow.

Jim D.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

If You Listserv, Don't Away Message

Technology can be a wonderful thing! We can set up groups of people who all receive e-mails to a single address (sometimes referred to as a listserv). That listserv can preserve subject threads by sending replies back to the entire group.
E-mail itself has a lot of nice features. We can set up automatic sorting, filtering, signatures and even auto reply "away messages".
Let's ponder Listserv + "away message". Hmmm......
Get message from listserv.....your e-mail sends it back.......listserv sends it back to you and the entire group.....your e-mail sends it back again.......etc,etc,etc

I checked my e-mail at the end of my day from work or the 70 messages might have been 170 by the time I checked from home. (I moderate the listserv, so was able to stop the cycle but as someone commented "Good thing Jim wasn't out of town too!")


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Writing Tip Tuesday - Where Ideas Come From

Ideas for writing are everywhere! We just need to let them surface at will. One of the novels that's still more in my head than on paper comes from a dream I had -- NOTE: an important point is that I wrote detailed notes very early the next day or the idea would no longer exist.

Another idea was suggested in a writing magazine interview with I believe R. L. Stine. He said a lot of his stories start as a title and develop from that title. I tried this for a short story I submitted to CBAY for the ghost story anthology that has since (sadly) been pulled. The title used the word "possession" as kind of a double meaning between ghosts and basketball and the story just kind of grew from there.

Where do your ideas come from???

Let's always make sure we listen when they appear!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Slow Start Sunday

Took the luxury of sleeping in this morning.....well 7:00 at least.

Slowing down. When I went to post Wiki changes yesterday, one of the writers had suggested the chapters are very short and that we should slow down and enjoy each one. I think the nature of the Wiki makes this an inherent issue. Most (possibly all) of the writers are published, have a book about to be published, are trying to get their work published, etc. Let me edit that -- they're busy writing their own things. The Wiki is a fun aside to clear the mind, so ideas may get thrown in rather abruptly at times. The group also (inherently) has a lot of imaginative ideas. I actually found trying to edit Chapter 4 kind of a first lesson in Novel Editing 101 -- hopefully when I look at what I changed (in a day or two) I'll give myself at least a B-.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Wacky Wiki Wednesday

I've been looking at Chapter Four of the Wiki and have this incredible erge to edit. I can see that the biggest pitfall in group writing is that details start to get inconsistant. For example, Chapter Three indicates Moctor's gang of friends number five and Chapter Four indicates only three, maybe four are below waiting for him. There's timing issue between the two Chapters too. They essentially happen at the same time, but different locations. Timelines need tweeking.

Goal: Fix the problems, but leave the meat of the story alone. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, go to

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Writing Tips Tuesday

One of the things I've noted over the last couple years is that every section of a MS. should be read out loud prior to presenting it to others -- in other words read it to an empty room. In a pinch, you could try reading it out loud in a public place holding your cell phone to your ear, but someone will probably catch on that nobody is on the other end. I'd stick with the empty room.

When I read a piece out loud for the first time at critique I usually find myself making mental corrections as the group jots down a lot of the same things. I might add, I'm talking MG novel chapters. For my rhyming PB I went as far as to record myself and listen to myself repeatedly.

On the things you might want to avoid: Unless you like wash ink off your hands (or have better luck than I did), do not purchase kits to refill printer ink cartridges yourself. On the plus side the ink did wash off, plenty made it into the cartridge in spite of the leaky container and after a few pages the printer worked fine.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

April Snow

Well, today's writing (during my train commute) consisted of a little poem about the weather.


by Jim D.

Here's a fact
You really must know
I'm allergic
To all April snow


It's ugly and cold
It's slushy and wet
My shoe sprung a leak
Now I'm really upset

Grrrrrrrrrrr !!!!!

Oh that snow in December
Was fluffy and white
With soft flowing drifts
That glistened at night


Here's a fact
You really must know
I'm allergic
To all April snow

In case you didn't figure it out--Chicago weather was nasty this morning.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Rejection Monday

Yesterday was apparently rejection Monday for a fair number of Illinois writers who submitted to the same editor following a conference last fall. The question had been made on our listserv "Has anyone heard back yet?" Well the answer came to at least seven of us in yesterday's snail mail.

General consensus: It was actually a "good" way to receive the rejections -- we shared them.

Three cheers for the support virtually all children's writers share!!!

Sunday, April 1, 2007


This week marked a new children's writing experience -- I joined the group writing an online book on a site named . I was a bit nervous about tacking on my own plot directions as I wrote them on my commute to work. No need to worry though -- two sentences were added through the day calling for changing my text completely. (I've sometimes felt my own fictional characters do the same!) I sat at the computer that evening and wrote the changes on the spot. EEEEEEEK! An ugly first draft. I sent the text and added a bit over the next day or two -- and I waited.............waited...............waited................. (Nobody has made changes since)

This morning is when the "EEEEEEEK!" really occurred. I realised what a weak position I had given to the MC Moctor Fall. Not good. I patched a bit and hopefully this version will still look okay in a couple days.

Hopefully I haven't scared everyone off with a bad plot twist. The whole project seems like it can be great fun. It also should open our minds to accepting those twists our characters drag into our plots when we least expect it.