In the Chrysalis

Nothing says Spring like overnight snow.

 

Happy Spring!

When I think of Spring, I think of chrysalises/cocoons and the butterflies/moths that will emerge from these protective shells—the pupa stage. What I didn’t realize is that the shed skin of a pre-butterfly caterpillar hardens around it to form a chrysalis. But the caterpillar of a moth has to spin silk to make a cocoon to protect itself.

  

A challenging time like the one we’re facing now is a chrysalis from which we will all emerge at some point. Instead of shed skin or silk, the walls of our home are our borders, since many states have issued a stay-at-home order. Consequently, we’re going through a lot of different emotions: fear, anger, dread, despair—you name it. Many of us have felt the hardening effect of those emotions. I know I have. I’d much rather feel joy or peace. I know you would too.

What’s really helped me in these chrysalis days are texts from friends who write to encourage, share a funny meme, a song, or a Scripture like this:

Psalm 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?  [The next verse provides the answer.]

These daily check-ins remind me that I’m not alone, despite the social distancing mandate.

As a result of all that has happened, I mentioned in this post that I’m giving away two crocheted child Yodas like the one below. The winners of those crocheted child Yodas are Shari and Lyn!

Because of the state-mandated lockdown, I contacted the winners ahead of time so that I could get the Yodas in the mail to them before the 5 p.m. stay-at-home order went into effect this past Saturday. I am currently making two more Yodas. If you’d still like a Yoda, please email me or comment below. I will try to get them sent whenever I can.

Photos by L. Marie.

Nesting

A while ago, I watched Dancing with the Birds, a documentary on Netflix about the courting habits of male birds. One of those birds, the Macgregor’s bowerbird, is well known for building an elaborate bower to attract a mate. I love that! This bird uses sticks, leaves, rocks, and colorful objects to create the perfect bower. According to an article on the San Diego Zoo’s website, “Bowers are not nests.” They are really courting areas. The female is responsible for building a nest for offspring.

      

The male weaver bird has the same goal as the male bowerbird. This bird, however, builds an actual nest using a weaving technique. But some species of weaver birds build nests in a group and have their own little neighborhoods. (See this article for more info on these amazing builders.)

When you think of nesting, what do you think of? This?

Or, perhaps you think of the efforts that people awaiting the arrival of their babies go through to prepare their “nests” for their little ones. I think of that too, but I also think in general of someone making a home warm and cozy, particularly in the winter when the weather is too cold to venture out. Warm, soft fabrics of differing textures, conversational seating, adequate reading materials, and other comforts, come to mind (like the Anthropologie pillows in the photo below). I also think of having the essentials on hand (besides the usual food staples): coffee, tea, chocolate, and cookies.

Speaking of soft fabrics, I saw this pattern on Yarnspirations.com and immediately thought of nesting. Wouldn’t you love to be wrapped in something like this blanket below while lounging on the couch? No? Just me then? Perhaps I’ll make it someday.

In these days of enforced nesting, with many of us anchored to home, I have been choosing craft projects to do. Before I knew about the latest crisis worldwide, I stocked up on yarn.

Speaking of which, I have an unusual giveaway just because it’s nice to get free stuff every once in a while, especially in challenging times. If you’ve heard about or seen the Disney Plus show, The Mandalorian, you know about this little guy:

I found a crochet pattern by Vivianne Russo online and have been making these. They are about five inches tall. I’m giving away two. Comment below if you’d like to be entered in the drawing to receive one. Winners to be announced sometime next week!

Henry is nesting with his new friends, the Yodas (for want of a species name, this is what everyone is calling them) and their guardian unicorn.

Macgregor’s bowerbird and nest from somewhere on Pinterest. Weaver bird from network23.org. Crocheted blanket image from yarnspirations.com. Pillow from Anthropologie’s website. Other photos by L. Marie.

Pajama Party

When I was a kid, I loved a pajama party (or whatever euphemism you’re used to—sleepover or slumber party being the most common). I particularly loved going to my best friend’s house with my sleeping bag, pillow, and of course, my pajamas and slippers. My friends and I stayed up well past midnight, playing games like Twister, eating pizza and popcorn, and watching Svengoolie (Rich Koz) on TV (who featured really tame monster movies). After that, we’d tell ghost stories until we fell asleep, frightened out of our wits.

Mostly, I loved being with friends, away from my brothers (who hosted their own sleepovers in the tent in our backyard). I also loved the coziness of sleeping on the floor in my sleeping bag and the convenience of having junk food within reach. (My BFF’s mom was very hospitable and hooked us up with snacks on the hour.) So, coziness, camaraderie, and convenience are three words that come to mind when I think about pajama parties.

Those words also come to mind when I consider why I love mystery books, especially those written by Agatha Christie—one of the queens of the cozy mystery. I love plots that involve people spending at least one night at a remote estate—the ultimate sleepover. Thinking of mysteries causes me to add a fourth C to the list—clues. The amateur detective, who of course is among those invited to the gathering, has to solve the mystery based on conveniently placed clues. But the clues that seem the most obvious are often red herrings placed to lead the detective astray. “Curiouser and curiouser,” Alice from Alice in Wonderland would say (to add a fifth word beginning with C to the list). (By the way, did you know that Lewis Carroll coined the word curiouser? Check this out.)

While I haven’t been to a pajama party in ages, I can always attend one vicariously, whenever I pick up a cozy mystery.

What’s your favorite cozy mystery?

  

Everyone agreed that the highlight of the sleepover was when the uninvited T-Rex sneaked in to wreak havoc, but wound up staying and having a good time when the bunny started telling ghost stories.

Pajama party image from fbccranbrook.org. Son of Svengoolie from Pinterest. Book cover from somewhere on the internet. Other photos by L. Marie. Squeezamals are a product of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company. Pop Hair Pets are a product of MGA Entertainment. The T-Rex came from Bath & Body Works.

Crayons—Promises of Proficiency

I’ve written about crayons before. Like here.

Crayons fascinate me, particularly the box of sixty-four. What an array of colors! When I was a kid, a big box of crayons made me fit for any task—whether I needed to color a page in a coloring book or make my own illustrations on a blank piece of paper. Each crayon in my hand was a promise that I could make things happen. Back then, I never doubted that I could.

 

These days, I don’t use crayons as much as I once did. And some days, doubts creep in that I’m fit for the task. The bane of adulthood. Ever been there? On days when I doubt my proficiency, I think I know what to do instead: open my box of crayons and remember the promise.

Andy of City Jackdaw, here’s a promise: you will see a copy of Charles Yallowitz’s book, War of Nytefall: Eradication on your Kindle device! Please comment below to confirm.

Book cover courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Photos by L. Marie.

Check This Out—War of Nytefall: Eradication

Is the Orb of Durag the key to Clyde and the Dawn Fangs destruction?

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

As Dawn Fang vampires are found dead across Windemere, their infamous leader will remember what it is to be afraid.

With the truce between Nyte and Nytefall nearing its end, an old enemy has emerged to rekindle the vampires’ most ancient feud. A Duragian priest is on the move and he is wielding a weapon that can depower and kill Dawn Fangs. This follower of the Sun God has claimed enough victims that Lord Tempest wants the weapon for himself and Clyde is beginning to worry that his fledgling kingdom is in danger of extinction. When it becomes clear that the mysterious relic and Clyde’s transformation into the first Dawn Fang are connected, he will be forced to face a past that he can barely remember.

What can Clyde do to defend his people, his life, and the child he does not know is on the way from the terrifying Fist of Durag?

Excerpt: Stirring

The thick darkness that greets Clyde’s eyes is suffocating and disturbingly familiar. A disconcerting numbness flows along his skin and plunges all of his senses into a mental fog. He groans as he sits up and touches the warm ground beneath him, his fingers finding it rough and jagged. The memory of being in Gregorio’s lair strikes his mind like a perfectly aimed arrow and he tries to stand up. A dull ache courses through his legs and forces him to remain on the floor, which trembles for a brief moment. Picking up a stone, he can feel the faint carving of half a sun with a grinning face. With a yawn, the vampire throws the rock away and waits for it to land, but the sound of it bouncing takes several minutes to reach his ears. Clyde scowls when the noise ends with a strange thud that reminds him of a fist punching flesh. The distant gurgling of a stream draws his attention to the right and he squints at a strange form that is gradually taking shape in the gloom. Finding the energy to rise, he gets to his feet and wipes the dirt from his body, which he learns is unclothed. The Dawn Fang’s senses steadily return to their full strength and he realizes that his vision has been blocked by his own hair. Luscious and tangled tresses cascade from his head to cover everything from his scalp to his elbows. Wrapping all of the strands around his left hand, he uses his right to slice them off and is about to use his fingers like scissors when his body locks.

The ruins of the Duragian temple are laid out before Clyde, their details making it clear that they are the genuine articles. Bodies of civilians and priests are strewn about the area, all of them having been drained of blood. A white-bricked wall has been marked with scratches that the vampire knows are a foolish attempt to keep track of time, which he abandoned after he had run out of prey. Far in the distance, he can see the tower where he was once held prisoner, its top seven floors having snapped off as it sunk. Light pulses from the enormous structure to drive the cavern’s darkness into the corners. Smaller shrines help to illuminate the streets, which are littered with debris. The smell of rotting meat is thick in the air, the stench emanating from the abandoned food and corpses. Not far away, the vampire sees a cleared area with a burn mark in its center. It takes him a moment to recognize the battered ruins of the execution square, its right side having slumped into a sinkhole.

A pang of doubt and anxiety races through Clyde’s mind as he recalls getting struck by the fake Fists of Durag. He begins to walk through the ruins in search of signs that he is being tricked, but it becomes clear that he is not trapped within an illusion. All attempts to see through the spell are met with failure, which feeds a primal rage in the pit of his soul. Coming to a broken fountain, he kneels and scoops up a handful of stagnant water to drink. The foul liquid makes his tongue burn and his stomach twists to the point where he has to vomit in order to avoid passing out. Focused on his own body, Clyde releases his severed hair when he realizes that his heart is no longer beating. Jamming a finger between his ribs, he touches the organ to find it wrinkled and still. With a growl, he swings his fist at the nearest building only to find that he cannot knock the whole structure over. The vampire stares at the hole in the wall and flexes his fingers, which make the gestures for a claw-growing spell. He curses loudly when he feels his nails lengthen and harden into natural blades.

“What in all of Windemere is going on?” Clyde asks.

Get War of Nytefall: Eradication on Amazon for $2.99!
Add it to your Goodreads To-Read Lists!

*****

Start the adventure from the beginning with War of Nytefall: Loyalty!

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

Then, follow the vampire-filled fun with War of Nytefall: Lost!

Cover art by Alison Hunt

Afterwards, continue the action-packed journey with War of Nytefall: Rivalry!

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

Interested in more Windemere? Then don’t forget to check out Charles E. Yallowitz’s first series: Legends of Windemere

All Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After spending many years fiddling with his thoughts and notebooks, he decided that it was time to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house with only pizza and seltzer to sustain him, Charles brings you tales from the world of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you and drawing you into a world of magic.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cya

L. Marie here. I’m giving away a copy of this book. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced sometime next week!

Easter Eggs or Seven Years A-Bloggin’

Though I posted the above photo, this post is about what’s described in the quote below from Wikipedia. Check this out:

While the term Easter egg has been used to mean a hidden object for some time, in reference to an Easter egg hunt, it has come to be more commonly used to mean a message, image, or feature hidden in a video game, movie, or other, usually electronic, medium.

So I really mean images like the one below from Star Wars: The Force Awakens with Boba Fett from Return of the Jedi superimposed on it, which points out an Easter egg. You have to check out WatchMojo’s website or YouTube channel for the explanation. Easter Eggs are for fans who eagerly pour over scenes from movies, hoping to find characters, objects like spaceships or flags, dialogue, or even sound effects from other movies, TV shows, graphic novels, video games, etc. Finding a sly reference to another work can be as satisfying as finding Waldo in a crowded scene—something that’s very relaxing to people like me who are uptight and prone to road rage. (Ah, the life of an irate driver.)

Nowadays, it’s not enough that filmmakers or television producers provide an epic ending to a film or show. Many go the extra mile to entertain fans by hiding Easter eggs. Perhaps they feel they have to keep up with the Joneses by including Easter eggs, since so many other films and TV shows do so.

Easter eggs might seem like an odd topic for a blog post. But as someone who has participated in many an Easter egg hunt, hiding eggs in friends’ backyards over the years, I guess you can say I’ve earned the right to talk about them.

Do you look for Easter eggs in movies? What are your favorites?

P.S. Because this is my seventh blogoversary (the actual date was February 19), throughout this post I have included seven Easter eggs from my first seven blog posts. Big hint: I used phrases from blog post titles, rather than pictures. You’ll have to go alllllllllll the way back to the 2013 posts to see which titles I mean. I was so tempted to do thirteen for 2013—the year I started. Seven will have to do. Happy hunting!

Kitty desperately wanted to talk over the Easter eggs she saw in a movie. She asked Henry, “Did you find the Easter eggs?” When Henry nodded to an empty bucket, before he could open his mouth to say anything, Kitty added, “No. Don’t speak.” Obviously, he didn’t have a clue what she meant.

Easter eggs from somewhere on Pinterest. Star Wars image from WatchMojo.com. Other photo by L. Marie.

Lemons

Have you ever bitten into a lemon? I did once, when I was a kid. Note the word once. I quickly realized that some fruit have a taste other than sweet.

Now, I realize that many people love to eat lemons. (My mother for instance.) And this article talks about the benefits of eating lemons: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefit-eating-whole-fresh-lemons-4390.html

Yet I prefer my lemons paired with other things: sugar and water in lemonade; sugar, water, and tea for iced tea; or sugar, eggs, flour, and other ingredients in lemon meringue pie or lemon bars. Even the lemon candy I like is of the sweet and sour variety.

    

It’s much the same with stories. I like a mixture of sweet and sour. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien; Sabriel by Garth Nix; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016 movie; the novelization was written by Alexander Freed). An author who writes this kind of story has to strike the right balance between hope and hopelessness.

   

Usually I love the point in the story where things are at their worst, and you don’t think good can come out of it—but then it does, sometimes at a high cost. A thoroughly satisfying conclusion is a great reward for that kind of tension.

I also think of lemons because the sourness of life sucks sometimes. I can’t help putting it that baldly. (Yes, baldly.) Jobs are lost. People you love face health issues or are in emotional pain. These moments are the “shut the book, Dad” moments Samwise Gamgee talked about in Lord of the Rings—the moments when you’re not sure everything will turn out right. I’m in that kind of moment right now. Maybe one day, I’ll provide the full details. But I wanted to write about it in the moment—when a happy ending isn’t a guarantee—because often you hear stories of triumph after the fact, after the darkness has passed and the “sun shines all the clearer”—another quote given to Samwise, this time in The Two Towers:

I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.

These words gives me hope when life hands out lemons. May they enable you to keep pressing on in a sour/dark time of your own.

Now I’m thinking of some words Galadriel spoke in Fellowship of the Ring:

May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

Lemon image from freepik. Lemon meringue pie image from Pillsbury. Lemonhead image from Target. Quote from Two Towers is from the script by Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, and Fran Walsh © 2002. Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee image from Cinema Blend. Words of Galadriel and others are by J. R. R. Tolkien.