Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lazy Blogfest

Today, I'm taking part in Summer's Lazy Blogfest. Check out the other entrants!

Basically, you're supposed to post about your writing space, preferably using a photo. Unfortunately, I was too lazy to actually take a picture of the space that I write in. Of course, I can describe to you where I write: I have this lovely golden couch in my living room, where I take my old black laptop and move around, trying to stay warm and comfortable. I scooch all over until an indent forms in the cushion...then I switch sides and find a new spot to move around.

However, there's also this: I don't think at the computer. My writing space is bigger than one might imagine...I find myself thinking about the whole process, and that involves plotting, fleshing out details, working out issues with characters and uncovering issues to bare in front of them. And for that, I find, just walking, preferably on a walking path or in a park, is just what I need. That becomes my thinking space, and heck, would probably be my writing space if it weren't for the fact that I can't see the screen of my laptop in the glare of the sunlight. (I'd write it out, but I just can't do that to myself. Besides, I apparently never learned how to correctly hold a pencil, so it's far more stressing on my hand than it might be, otherwise. Yep. I'm that talented. I still confuse the big and small hands on the clock, from time to time, too.

Back to my thinking space. I find that especially along this one pathway I take to work, my story changes--I walk through some pine trees. The trees are huge, and I am small, and I just realize things about my characters and their lives that I don't know if I would, otherwise. Of course, sometimes you almost get hit by cars if you wander around thinking of your book, your head in the clouds, you might have a few issues, so you want to watch that.

So, take part in the Lazy Blogfest! And that's about all I have to say right now.

Edit to add: Don't forget to sign up for my Blogfest: Retold, on Nov. 16!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I hope you are all having a wonderful, safe, happy Halloween! For those of you with families, enjoy trick-or-treating and candy. For those who don't, enjoy your other activities. I hope you get to dress up, or that you at least listen to the Monster Mash, watch Ghostbusters, and/or hear the Thriller song.

Or watch this video and see the choreography!

Or read some Edgar Allen Poe. :) Nothing quite like the tell-tale heart to raise goosebumps!

Enjoy the reason for celebration, and see you all in the coming week. :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Favorite Things Friday!

Halloween is coming! So what's a favorite of mine that fits right into the day? Why, Alfred Hitchcock, of course. We'll let him make a cameo on my blog, in a bigger way than the famous cameos he made in most of his films.

This is not to say that I love or even have seen all of his movies. And I attribute my fear of flocks of black birds to him. (Not that I have seen "The Birds," but trust me when I say I'm not seeing it anytime soon!)

Even if I don't love all of his films, I find that I admire something in all of them. He was somewhat demanding, I understand, and much like a puppetmaster--a bit different from other directors. But if it's by Alfred Hitchcock, including his television series and the publications of stories under his approval, I glom on. Because hey--it's Alfred Hitchcock. It has to be good in some way, right?

A few (but not all) of my favorites of his films include:

Lifeboat, Psycho, Stage Fright, Dial M for Murder, Rope, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, The 39 Steps an (earlier film), and The Lady Vanishes (another earlier film).

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Don't forget to sign up for my Nov. 16 Blogfest: Retold! If you're interested. Sign up today!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Very Merry Halloweeny Blogfest

Effervescent Mia is hosting this Very Merry Halloweeny Blogfest today! Check out the other entrants here, and have a read. This is very much a WIP, which I just came up with in the last hour and a half. I kept going back and changing things, but I very much love Phil, and I hope you do, too.
I apologize for length. Skim, if you'd like. Oh, and don't forget to join my Blogfest Retold, set for November 16!
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Phil didn’t hate Halloween, really. But he wasn’t especially partial to it. Why should he be? Smelly, terrible children running from house to house, begging for sweets and threatening tricks if they didn’t get them. The caricatures they drew of the unknown. The way they preened.

And they were coming. It was tradition, after all. Every year, residents of the M-wing of the Rehab center had to see children on Halloween—like it was a therapy of some sort, and not torture. He never trusted children. Even less than he trusted the Government. And look how that had turned out! Granted, some of the residents here had checked themselves in, but most had arrived after the Government mandate that they all register. Of course, Phil had been forced to enter after he was found in that last blood bank. But at least he wasn’t actually attacking people and sucking up their blood. Not that he could have. How many times did he tell them that his teeth were not like straws?

In any case, most of the other residents looked forward to Halloween. They enjoyed the parading around of costumes, the love of the dead, the obscene, the craziness. They picked out their clothes carefully, trying to find the best outfits to wear. The traditional clothes of their people, some of them said. It was a good excuse to be who they really were. To let their true characters out.

Phil didn’t dress differently. He didn’t need to advertise what he was. He certainly didn’t have to—Lewis Smithson, the burly guard who had been assigned to him, did that for him already. Phil had no doubt that Smithson would stay sitting on his chair, reading his newspaper, the entire time the children were there. He could already hear him calling out, “That’s the Vamp. Don’t get too close to him. He’ll suck your face.”

It was to be expected, though he hated it. Hated what had happened to his kind. He hated this hall, where he was always watched, even when he was on his own. He hated Smithson, at least sometimes, and the way he smelled. Phil had no choice but to do his time…but he didn’t need to take part in any show.

For a moment, in desperation, he considered staying with Crazy Wanda, who lived down the hall with about ten thousand cats. Her room smelled of their urine and treats.

“It’s not safe out there!” she cried, as he passed by, back from getting last-minute candy. The only thing left on the shelf in their store—black licorice. His favorite, though, because kids hated it, and the sticks were long enough that he could tuck the candy into their bags from a safe distance.

“Mrs. Weems,” he said, because he always addressed her as such to her face, “There’s nothing to fear. Halloween comes but once a year.” He grinned a little, though he guessed the rhyme was lost on her.

“You say that now,” she said. She held a gray cat, stroking it dolefully. “But you don’t know what it can be like.” She shuddered. “The children…”

He sighed. “I don’t want them here anymore than you do, but shouldn't you get ready?”

“I’m not home.”

He tilted his head. “I think they might know you are.”

“They won’t know.” She slammed her door shut. “Not if they know what’s good for them.” It was muffled through the door, and meaningless. They had taken her magic away. Part of her mind had gone with it. She was a lifer…a useless witch.

He continued onward, ignoring the d├ęcor the other residents had slipped into the hallway. Luckily, it was almost deserted. Only Aquina was across the hall, adjusting her mat. She was wrapped in thin green filaments of cloth, which were almost transparent, sequined with fish hooks, seashells and seahorse bones. “Phil!”

He raised a hand, and tried to make his escape.

“Phil! Phil Drakes! Phil!”

He cursed inwardly, but turned. “Ah, hi, Aquina.”

“They’re almost here!” She giggled, and it sounded like pouring water. He noticed a puddle around her feet. Well—now they were feet. Once they were fins. “Where’s your costume? Don’t you have a nice cape somewhere?”

“Oh, I’ve got to—to put it on,” he mumbled, and he quickly shut the door behind him.

As the time drew near, Phil poured black licorice into a basket and began pacing. The first knock sounded at 6:02. It was a girl, dressed as a princess in bright purple, with canine teeth more finely pronounced than his own.

“Happy Halloween,” he said. She smelled terrible. Her blood was too young.

“Are you the vampire?” She puffed up her cheeks and blew between her teeth.

“Don’t talk to him, honey,” the mother said. She laughed, nervously. She smelled much better than the girl.

Phil stared at her. “I won’t hurt her.” He was more concerned about the opposite.

The mother looked surreptitiously back at the guard.

“We keep ‘em locked up well,” Smithson assured her. “He can’t go out of the building, without one of us following him.”

“I wouldn’t even be here, but she begged me,” the mother said, almost apologetically.

“Yeah, well, it’s good for ‘em. To see normal.” He chuckled.

Phil hadn’t seen anything normal yet.

“Say it! Say it!” The girl grabbed his hand, and he recoiled. “Please, say it?”

“Elizabeth!” the mother scolded.

Smithson fidgeted with his paper. “Aw, he can do it. Go on, Vamp. Say it for the little girl.”

Phil narrowed his eyes. “One.” He swallowed. “One stick of licorice.”

“Laugh. Just like on Sesame Street!” She clung to him. He was starting to feel dizzy, with her scent so near.

“Get her away, please,” Phil said, and the mother, eyes wide, snatched her lilac-clad daughter and ran the other way.

It was going to be a long night.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Favorite Things Fridays!

Today's favorite is not a thing, but a person--someone near and dear to my heart. Fred Astaire.



I can't quite recall the first time I saw him in a movie. I think it was in Shall We Dance with Ginger Rogers--I'm fairly positive I was mesmerized by his dancing, in any case. I consider him to be an inspiration.

Born Frederick Austerlitz, he danced when he was little and when he was old. There was a certain joie de vivre in his steps, no matter his age, and he helped transform musicals, dancing and just general awesomeness.

Yes, I'm a Gene Kelly fan, too, but even he gave props to my darling Fred. (Gene, I'll feature you later!)

I'll be the first to admit it--Fred isn't the typical dreamboat of a movie star. He looks sort of small and awkward. But his personality and his dance, and even his singing which is enjoyable--not broadway or Glee-worthy by any means--make his on-screen character shine greatly. You go, Fred.

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Don't forget to sign up for my Nov. 16 Blogfest: Retold! If you're interested. Sign up today!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The first picture book? Perhaps!

Last week, I discovered an article stating that picture books are a dying breed. Whether it's true or not...and hopefully, it's not...I decided to spend some time promoting and representing children's picture books. Every Tuesday this month, in fact.

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I did a tiny bit of research for this post, which is sort of unusual. It was by accident--I was looking for picture books online, trying to decide on the first one to feature. What I discovered was one of the first picture books: Orbis Pictus. Orbis Pictus is by Johann Comenius. Wikipedia tells me he published it in 1865. It was a textbook, published in Latin and German.

Go ahead--click on the link.

OK. I assume you've come back, or I'm typing into the vast unknown of the internet. Now, I know that you probably aren't fluent in Latin. I'll translate it for you. Luckily for you all, I am a Latin geek.

Chapter I. Invitation: The photo is of a teacher (magister) and a boy (puer).

The conversation follows:

     T: Come boy! Speak wisely.

     B: What is it, oh, wise one?

Okay--I'm not going to translate it all. But basically, the teacher is getting ready to teach the boy. And look at the woodcarving photo! Isn't it lovely?

I never thought of the history of picture books before. It always seems like they just morphed out one day, and we all reaped the benefits. Art and text, in one sweet package. Or, sometimes, just art. On pages. Have you ever read art?

I promise, I'm really going to set you up with a good picture book for today. Since I'm starting with, well, starting points, and since Maria from the Sound of Music said that it's the very first place to start, we had better begin with a picture book about the alphabet.

Chica Chica Boom Boom is a classic, and it shares the alphabet in a very unique way. I have to admit--I can't read this book out loud (or even quietly) without jamming out a bit to the beat of the words. I can't help but remember that the letters, as they scramble up the tree, will fall down...and that after they begin to untangle, the letter P will show with a black eye. This is an alphabet book that I can read over and over again. Highly recommended from this blogger--check it out. By Bill Martin, Jr. and illustrated by Lois Ehlert.

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Don't forget to sign up for my Nov. 16 Blogfest: Retold! If you're interested. Sign up today!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Purple cauliflower and other wonders

I really enjoy food. And I love veggies. So it's been pretty exciting for me to see all of the different shades of produce this year. I mean it--it's really been a colorful bounty. Or maybe I'm just more aware of it? It's hard to say.

I was in my supermarket a few weeks ago when I discovered this: purple cauliflower. They also had orange, and green. Okay, seriously--green cauliflower looks like not-quite-ripe broccoli. Or like that spring green crayon color. So, it wasn't as exciting as these other colors. (They aren't genetically engineered, that I can tell, either...selective breeding. Much like what was done to carrots. No, they weren't always that lovely neon-orange shade. I'd like to find some yellow or purple ones, and eat those--that was once the color they were known to be!)

I went looking for some yesterday, and found the last purple cauliflower in the store. I hurried home and steamed it, with some broccoli. If you're into those sorts of veggies--mmmmm. The cauliflower doesn't taste that much different from regular--I'm not sure I could tell a difference in taste, at all. But, yummmmmmmm. I loved it! And I have plenty left for tonight.

Now, I've also discovered blue/purple potatoes, which are colored on the inside; yellow-y potatoes; purple broccoli; it's all so colorful and fantastic! And it makes me wonder what other vegetables and fruits are out there, or will be out there at some point soon.

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Don't forget to sign up for my Nov. 16 Blogfest: Retold! Spread the word!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Favorite Things Fridays!

A few years ago, two Great-Horned Owls decided to raise a family outside of my workplace. (I named the babies Jericho and Methuselah.) Everyone was excited about it--we all would go on our breaks and look for them. We watched them mature. I got to see them fly! They looked like giant cats sitting on tree limbs, from a distance. And for a while, I was an expert on all things Great-horned owl; I knew their eating habits, mating habits, habitat habits, gestation period, particular menu favorites, speed of flight. I don't remember much of it anymore, but I totally did know, once!

I'm not really a bird person. In fact, I find that I have an incredible fondness for the underdog--the poor earthworms that robins peck at throughout the year. Poor things. Robins can be vicious. But owls--at least, the Great Horned variety--are different. Sure, they eat small mammals, but they, at least the four I got to know and love, have one thing over other birds (specifically robins): They actually like me. I know it. I'm not sure this owl in the photo does, though.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feeling the bookrage!

I get this listserv email from Kathy's blog about Illustrating and Writing for children. It's kind of lovely, with tips and bits on writing, publishing, ups and downs, and once I even saw blogger Shannon Messenger featured on it--about how she got an agent. It's worth signing up for.

However, today, I opened it up, and what article is featured in it today? This, about the sad, slow death of picture books.

This is kind of depressing to me--first of all, if you read the article, that some parents are pushing their kids to read and not allowing them to look at picture books. All for the sake of learning? Pshaw. Pshaw, I say again! Why, what's wrong with instilling a love of reading first? And what are we saying when we insinuate at a very young age that only pushing kids to read books at higher reading levels will bring knowledge? If you haven't read this article yet, check out this quote from it:

“They’re 4 years old, and their parents are getting them ‘Stuart Little,’ ” said Dara La Porte, the manager of the children’s department at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington. “I see children pick up picture books, and then the parents say, ‘You can do better than this, you can do more than this.’ It’s a terrible pressure parents are feeling — that somehow, I shouldn’t let my child have this picture book because she won’t get into Harvard.”

Some of my favorite books are children's: middle grade, young adult and picture books. Last Christmas, my Mom picked up a gem I found, which I got wrapped under the tree--Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree. Let me tell you, this book has it all--cute photos, clever rhyming text, an ironic twist! I encourage you all to check it out.

In fact, I encourage you all to post and share some of your favorites--new or old--that are picture books.

So for the rest of the month, on Tuesdays, I'm going to share classic picture books and authors. And I do hope you all go out and hunt them down. Even for yourself--I know I still do.

On an unrelated side note, be sure to sign up for my Blogfest: Retold! It should, hopefully, be a fantastic time.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Announcement: The blogfest, retold!

Well, I went back and forth about it a bit, but I had almost completely decided on the theme of the blogfest I am hosting after after I wrote this post, hyping my fantastic record of writing 80 posts in close to three years.

You may or may not recall from the review I wrote on "The Thirteenth Princess," but I love retellings. That is, I love to hear things from more than one point of view. I think that's what gives us ideas, really. What gives us inspiration, often. It's how we explain things, sometimes to ourselves, sometimes to others. Because we all ought to know, there's never just one story. Right? There are reasons motivating every character, and their reasons can, and should, tell a completely different tale.

So, I welcome you to join "The Blogfest, Retold!" (trademarked with exclamation point) on November 16!

Yes, I want you to retell a scene from someone else's view point. Let us know, for example, what motivated that third little pig to build his house of brick...actually before his brothers turned into bacon. Or explain to me, in your lyrical prose, how the muses feel about singing to Vergil. Whether or not Herodotus actually saw a Unicorn. Why the Trojan war actually happened. How the ship Titantic felt about its name...to name a few examples. You can and are even encouraged to borrow your script from one of these fabulous sources:

Fairy tales
Mythology/legends
History!

You can also retell a story of your own making, but please, post your original scene, so we can see the difference.

Maybe limit your word count to about 500-750 words? I want to try to read them all, and that's difficult when there are a verbose plethora. Yes, I know, I'm one to talk...I always go overboard, myself. But this is just a scene, after all. You can write the fabulous book or short story it inspires afterward.

So, please sign up below...remember, this is for November 16th! You have lots of time. Hurray!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10-10-10!

Happy triple-ten day! It's not every day we get to see such lovely symmetry. It's like a symphony!

OK. Maybe I'm a bit tired.

Friday, October 8, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...Fridays!

So, I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I've decided to start a (semi) regular post on Fridays. About my favorite things. Yes, this is a big shock, after reading the heading of my blog. Surprise!

So, I have many, many favorites. Of everything. Hugs. Hugs are my favorites. And dark chocolate. I have a list of favorite colors. But I want to feature all manner of things. So, to start with, I'm going to feature one of my favorite books when I was young.

Robert the Rose Horse is a masterful tale. The images are detailed line drawings in reds and blues. Get this--Robert, a horse, has allergies to roses! For a girl growing up with allergies, this book totally rocked. I mean, I totally got Robert--and he totally understood me! Even if we probably couldn't go too near to each other. I am allergic to fur, after all.

Totally love-love-love this book. So it, and Robert's journey from country horse to working horse, belongs in my long list of faves. By Joan Heilbroner, and by the way, fantastic for those without allergies, too. :)

So Happy Favorite Things Friday!

Friday, October 1, 2010

From the Post office, with love

I received a little present from the post office, yesterday. I consider every bit of mail I get to be exciting, although granted, when it turns out to be junk mail, I am a little disappointed. And bills aren't all that exciting to pay...but there is some satisfaction in opening the envelope, knowing it's for you. I've received all sorts of varieties of things in my life, but yesterday's little gift was something I've never experienced--a summons to serve on a jury.

I know most people are severely disappointed to receive that sort of an item, but I'm new to the idea of juries, so I haven't made any impressions of the concept of serving on one, yet. And, you have to remember, that I have a love of mysteries, (some) court room dramas, and more. I am typing this, watching an Alfred Hitchcock film. (I've never seen the movie Suspicion before, but just found it at the library today. Oh, oh, oh--Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock. How fantastic is that? Cary Grant's shoulders are so dreamy. I wonder if anyone called him Cary? They must have--but I just don't think his first name alone holds all the punch his full name does. Anyway. I digress.) So I have to admit to a variety of feelings, which I'm sure will only increase as my time for possibly serving approaches. I'm kind of excited to be part of that atmosphere--to be part of the process. I'm a little bit proud--this is that civic duty sort of feeling. But I'm kind of nervous, too. I want to do a good job, but won't it be difficult? I mean, Heavens to Betsy, it takes me long enough to decide wear in the morning. How will I ever figure out who is innocent or guilty? I am taking this very seriously!

In any case, this could shape up to be an interesting month!