About L. Marie

I am an aspiring writer of fantasy for kids and teens. This blog encompasses my thoughts on the writing life, movies, animation—whatever pops into my head (not always a good thing). I was a student at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. I have worked as an editor, a ghostwriter, a technical writer, a bulk foods stocker, a receptionist, and a babysitter. I brake for squirrels and geese.

The New Dinosaurs

Recently, I got around to reading an article in the Winter 2017 SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Bulletin—a quarterly publication. It had been in my bathroom for, oh, at least seven months. The title of the article—“Signing Books in Cursive?”—has a subtitle, “Children Might Not Be Able to Read It.” In the article, an author mentioned how she stopped signing books in cursive after her daughter and other teens warned her that kids wouldn’t be able to read her writing. The article went on to discuss how many teachers have stopped teaching cursive writing.

As I read the article, I was a little dismayed. I wondered how children who aren’t taught to read cursive writing would ever sign a check. And then it dawned on me: many people don’t use checks. They pay online with a credit card. Maybe by the time these kids grow up, they won’t even order checks.

I still use a check to pay rent and some bills like car insurance. And I sign the back of a check when I deposit it at the bank. (Beats chiseling rocks like we did back in the Stone Age.) And—something else that’s new—I don’t have to physically go to the bank to deposit checks. I can deposit them through my phone. (Though I choose not to do that. I’m still old school in some ways.)

It’s interesting to note what is now considered a relic of the past like the dinosaurs. I never imagined that cursive writing would be considered a thing of the past.

Contracts have changed also. Twelve years ago, I received a book contract in the mail—ten pages of legalese on 8½ × 14-inch paper with spaces for me to sign in cursive. Last year, I received a contract attached to an email that required a code to open. I “signed” it on the document (printed my name, really).

How times have changed.

What are some things you’ve been made aware of recently that are considered to be relics of the past? How do you feel about that?

Cursive writing image from handwriting8.blogspot.ca. Photos by L. Marie.

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Winning World-Building

The other day I watched a YouTuber talk about his love for all things Pokémon—the games, the anime series, and movies. He could probably name all 800+ Pokémon, including the regions in which they can be found, and also the different towns players visit in the games and anime.

Now, that’s a fan! When you create a world, you want it to be appealing enough to attract dedicated fans like this who love visiting over and over.

   

Who wouldn’t want to visit a world with creatures as cute as Torchic (right) or as majestic as Xerneas?

With the subject of world-building, maybe by now you’re thinking of the various planets in the Star Wars series or fantasy places like Westeros (George R. R. Martin), Hogwarts (J. K. Rowling), Pixie Hollow (where the Disney fairies live), Wonderland (Lewis Carroll), Narnia (C. S. Lewis), Oz (L. Frank Baum), Windemere (Charles Yallowitz), or Middle-earth (J. R. R. Tolkien).

I think about Lothlórien or Narnia, and how I’d love to live in either place for the rest of my life. (Mordor is a definite no as a place to retire, however.)

 

Hogwarts would be fun also, now that He Who Must Not Be Named isn’t an issue any more. I also think of Oz, since I’ve been rereading some of the books. Who wouldn’t want a lunch or dinner pail full of food that you can pick ripe off a tree the way Dorothy, the plucky orphan from Kansas, did in Ozma of Oz?

       

Even if I wouldn’t want to make my home in a land (looking at you, Westeros), I still enjoy a visit via a book in the comfort of my own home. I love to learn about the different animals and plants in a land. Like Fizzle in Windemere. To learn more about him, click here.

But the aspects of a world that really resonate with me usually meet a felt need. Sometimes when problems crowd the horizon and I feel helpless, I long to escape to a land of magic where full-course meals grow on trees and adventure is just around the corner. Or sometimes, I crave a place suffused with wonder (look—tiny fairies) and peace when life seems gray or full of battles.

Yet many of the worlds I read about have problems like wars and hunger. In Ozma of Oz, Dorothy wound up lost and hungry. Maybe that’s why that dinner pail tree made such an impression on me. She found it after a struggle.

And how could I forget that the peace in Narnia came after the defeat of enemies like the White Witch?

So, maybe the world-building in each series I mentioned really resonates with me, because a skilled author has shown the compelling efforts his or her characters made to overcome their problems, and thus build a better world.

Now, that’s winning world-building!

What is your favorite fictional world to visit? What do you love about this world?

Dorothy illustration by John R. Neill found at the Project Gutenberg website. Westeros/Essos map from geek.com. Lothlórien image from somewhere on Pinterest. Oz map from fanpop.com. Narnia map from toknwasiamknown.wordpress.com. Torchic from imgarcade.com. Xerneas from pokemon.wikia.com. Star Wars planets image from somewhere on Pinterest. Hogwarts from rmvj.wordpress.com. Disney fairies from fanpop.com. Ozma of Oz book cover photo by L. Marie.

Why Being Weird Can Sometimes Work

When I was in third grade, I was told that girls were scared of bugs. At least the boys at school who ran up to me with grasshoppers in hand believed that. But I wasn’t, which put a damper on their enthusiastic decision to chase me with said grasshoppers.

I watched the boys visibly deflate as I calmly looked upon the terrified grasshoppers clutched in their fists, instead of screaming and running. Some of them thought I was weird because I was not afraid. Others wanted my friendship, because I was not afraid.

What they hadn’t reckoned on was me having an older brother who inspired me to collect grasshoppers. Between us, we filled a jelly jar with them. (Mom was not thrilled.)

You probably realize by now that I was a weird kid, driven by curiosity. For example, I wondered why grasshoppers hopped. Why did they spit a brown liquid that looked like the tobacco juice my elderly tobacco-chewing relatives spit? (I know. TMI.)

(Apparently, others called this liquid “tobacco juice” too. Look here.)

Years later, after I had been an adult for a while, a publisher specializing in educational resources needed someone to write curriculum for elementary school-aged kids about insects, amphibians, and other animals. Guess who was asked to write it. Yep. Weird me.

Sometimes weirdness has unexpected benefits.

Lately, I’ve been viewed as weird for not having cable or even a working TV. Nowadays, books are my TV. Well, books and YouTube videos about Pokémon, movies, or new toys.

   

This is what’s on TV these days.

Being without a TV has helped me to better understand the characters in a book I’m slowly working on. I have more time to think about the questions I have concerning their lives and motivations.

Being without a TV also has enabled me to work on my paper crafting. For example, I’ve decided to do the same scene in different seasons. Winter (below right) is mostly done. I’m working on autumn now. I’m taking liberties with the colors, however. Instead of having a gray bench with a snowflake throughout the seasons, I decided to change the bench for each season. I need to draw and cut out hundreds of leaves to scatter on the autumn scene. After that, I will tackle spring and summer.

Some might view this activity as weird. But who knows where this weirdness might take me in the days to come.

In what way(s) have you been designated as “weird”? How has being weird worked for you?

Grasshopper from freeimages.com. Grasshopper in a jar from commons.wikimedia.org. Other photos by L. Marie.

The Prism Effect

When I was a kid, I was given a prism to use in one of my science classes in elementary school. I thought it was the most awesome thing ever. (Yes, this was way before cell phones were invented.) We discussed Sir Isaac Newton’s experiments with light refraction. As it passes through one object to the next object, light bends. Newton used prisms in his experiments.

As an article here mentions

Newton was the first to prove that white light is made up of all the colors that we can see.

In science class, we duplicated Newton’s experiment with a light source, cardboard, and a prism. (Yes, this was back in the day.) I don’t have photos from that experience. But this one comes close.

The white light containing the color spectrum makes me think of something else: a blank page. I see that confused look on your face. Let me explain what I mean. First, let’s switch out the phrase color spectrum and insert words. Now, think of a blank page as something containing all of the words that can be seen—wonderful, colorful words describing vivid images. A prism is needed for those words to be seen and understood. The writer is the prism that helps others see those words.

My mind turns on odd things sometimes. This was something I was thinking about recently. 😀

If the writing aspect doesn’t fit your life, think of the prism analogy this way. Our minds are prisms. We often take whatever is beamed into us and show the world the result. For example, let’s say we hear a lot of negative comments. Such a drab view of life might result in a negative mindset that spills over in our dealings with others. We tell everyone, “This is how life is—drab.” But unlike an actual prism, we have a choice as to what we do with what we’re given. We can either show the drab colors and say, “This is how life is and always will be,” or we can show something else: the colors of hope. Even if we can’t see them yet. By this we say, “This is how life can be. And it starts with me.”

For someone like me who is prone to depression, the latter is a challenge. But I’m still willing to give it a shot. How about you?

     

I saw this rainbow months ago while standing outside of a grocery store. A rainbow is a nice example of refraction.

Prism image from 924jeremiah.wordpress.com. Refraction experiment image from myscienceacademy.org. It is from an MIT YouTube video. Blank page from imgarcade.com. Rainbow photographs by L. Marie.

Check This Out: Legends of Windemere—Path of the Traitors

On the eve of destiny, the fate of the champions are in the hands of those they once called Enemy.

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Hated and distrusted, Queen Trinity must leave the shadows and reach for redemption.

With their final battle on the horizon, the champions are faced with a long-lost piece of the prophecy. Unable to search for the crests that are rumored to be the key to survival, they must turn to a band of their former enemies for help. Sinister desires and hopes for redemption collide as Queen Trinity of the Chaos Elves leads the hunt and struggles to keep her companions on the path of heroism. Monsters, traps, mysteries, and their own pasts will rise up to stand in the way of these people who have spent their entire lives committing sins. Throughout it all, another old enemy is lurking in the shadows and determined to claim her own delicious prize.

By the end of their journey, those who survive will learn that being a hero is more than simply stepping into the light.

Dive into the adventure on Amazon for $2.99!
Find it on Goodreads!

Excerpt: The Aura Syphon

A gurgling causes the two women to pause and look into the pit where the shadows are swirling among the jagged stones. Two black tentacles lance out of the ground and wrap around Yola’s waist, the ooze-dripping projections turning silver at the taste of her magic. Attracted to the stronger energy, the aura syphon yanks the immortal into its slime-covered maw and becomes a metallic beast. With its armored skin, the camouflaged predator is now visible and resembles a sea anemone with the body of a beetle. The jagged rocks are fused to the animal’s exoskeleton and there are six jointed legs that help it scurry out of the pit. Standing over Trinity, the creature opens a faint crease on its body to reveal a bulbous eye with a star-shaped pupil. It pauses to shove a few tentacles into its mouth and hit Yola with pulses of electricity to stop her from struggling. It changes from silver to gold when she attempts to break free, her efforts being quickly drained by the monster.

“Let the crazy woman go before you get killed,” Trinity whispers to the aura syphon. She creates a fireball in the hopes of getting its mouth open, but her spell is ignored. “No reason to have a snack when you have an eternal meal in your belly. Maybe we can have a trade. Can’t believe I’m trying to bargain with this thing. Well, I gave you a chance, so I’m going to blow you up before things get worse. Hope you heard that Yola and are bracing yourself.”

The beast gurgles before releasing a blast of sticky strands that lock Trinity in place. Instead of going after the trapped chaos elf, the creature turns its attention to the helpless army. Having had its fill of magic, the aura syphon is ready to gorge on fresh meat and opens a second mouth that is filled with knife-like teeth. Heading for Sir Harbiss, it is stopped when a chunk of earth erupts beneath it and flips it back into the pit. Unsure of where the attack came from, the aura syphon leaps out and reveals several eye stalks that search for an unseen enemy. A cutting wind lops off half of the projections, but Yola’s potent energy revives them and protects the crystalline armor plates. When the spell comes back around, it bounces off the new defense and bursts against a hill. Blasts of fire strike the beast from behind, so it sprouts a fan-shaped tail of water that douses the flames.

Looking around, the aura syphon stops when it sees that Trinity is nowhere to be seen and there is a hole where she once stood. Spikes grow from the predator’s belly and it slams against the ground in the hopes of impaling the chaos elf. The hiss of escaping gas is heard an instant before an explosion sends the shrieking animal into the sky. Careening towards a solitary cloud that is very low to the ground, the beast catches the scent of an aura that revives the one currently in its gut. Passing through the cloud, it finds its legs caught in a net that runs down to where Trinity is hiding behind a hill. With enhanced strength, the channeler slams the aura syphon into the ground and delivers a leaping stomp to its soft upper body. Instead of ejecting Yola, the creature opens its skin to swallow the chaos elf’s leg up the knee.

“Fine. Backup plan it is,” Trinity mutters, synching her aura to that of the imprisoned immortal.

Releasing as much magic as she can without killing herself, the channeler creates a power surge within the aura syphon. Unable to absorb or redirect so much energy at once, the predator tries to reject the grinning chaos elf. Plunging her fingers into its flesh, Trinity refuses to be thrown off and continues her assault. Blisters appear on the hard exoskeleton and the metallic color flakes off to reveal the natural black of the tentacles. Without warning, the gold returns and the animal explodes with enough force to collapse the ground. Before she can escape, the channeler falls into the pit and is buried beneath the icy dirt.

Need to catch Legends of Windemere from the beginning? Then click on the picture below! First book, Beginning of a Hero is free!

Ready for the newest adventure in Windemere? Find out if Queen Trinity earns redemption or will return to the Baron’s side!

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 his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

Returning to Childish Things

Before I get into the subject of today’s post, let me just say my thoughts and prayers are with and for those affected by Hurricane Irma. And of course I think about 9/11 so many years ago, when terrorist attacks here in the States changed our world in so many ways.

😦

You know how you’re told to “put away childish things” when you become an adult? That’s good advice, especially when it comes to relating to people. It encourages us to actually talk to people we’re in conflict with, instead of rolling our eyes and sticking our tongues out at them, like we did when we were kids, or making up a song about them and taunting them with it.

Oh wait . . .

Moving on (though you probably have the song “Bad Blood” going through your head), I went against the advice to put childish things away and returned to a childhood pastime—making paper rooms.

Why would you do that? I hear you asking. Well, fiction writing has been difficult for me lately. I freeze up whenever I attempt to put words on a page in any of the stories I’ve been working on. Whenever I ran low on inspiration when I was a kid, I made what I called a chain house. First, I would make furniture by folding notebook paper and taping or gluing it so that it would stand up. Second, I would arrange the furniture of each room to fit on one sheet of paper. When I finished two rooms, I would tape them together in a chain before moving on to the next set of two, until the house was complete. The chain houses could be rolled up and stored away.

But these days, instead of using notebook paper, I use the paper you find in the paper crafting section of Michaels or Jo-Ann. Yeah. The good stuff.

Here’s my first attempt at a living room, bedroom, and kitchen.

    

This room is my crafter’s room:

When I was a kid, I never revised anything. Stories remained as they were first written. Same with drawings and chain house rooms.

Now that I’m an adult, revision is second nature. Whatever I write, I revise. And now I’ve begun revising the paper rooms. Here is the revision of the bedroom above. Instead of just a generic bedroom, I positioned it as the ultimate girl’s room. I’m picturing a kid who isn’t the neatest kid on earth living in this room and having sleepovers here.

Instead of a generic living room-like space as before, I’m going for a cozy family room in this revision. Obviously, I have a lot more to do in this room to add more character. Like maybe adding more furniture.

What I realized through this paper room exercise is the value of having specific goals for each space, as well as having characters in mind. When I made the first rooms (the living room and bedroom), I didn’t put much thought into the rooms. I just made them, because they were fun to make. But during the revision phase, I realized I needed to have goals for the space, as well as character marks to show what the person or people who occupy that space is/are like.

When I made the crafter’s room, I had a specific person in mind—myself. I don’t really have a craft room like this. This room reflects my crafting style and the tools I often use. But the reason why you don’t see a revised version of this room, is because I knew when I started it what the goal was and who it was for. I’m happy with how it turned out.

Maybe what I learned while making paper rooms will help me when I return to fiction writing. So many times, I’ve leaped into a story without giving much thought to goals and without really knowing the characters I wanted to write about. But now I know I can give more thought to both and have fun during the journey.

Sometimes it’s good to return to childish things.

Have you returned to an activity you loved when you were a kid? How has this activity helped you in your adult life?

The start of the next room . . .

Girl sticking her tongue out image from imgrcade.com. All other photos by L. Marie.

It’s a Matter of Perspective

It’s Labor Day here in the States. On this day, we cease from our labor and go to the home of friends and enjoy fondue.

Oh wait. That’s just what I plan to do today. But for many of us, this is part of a much-needed three-day weekend. (Unless you work in a hospital, store, or restaurant and have to work on Labor Day.)

Before I head off for fondue, take a look at this photo. What do you think it is? You can see what it is if you scroll down to the end of this post. How close were you in your guess? Does the photo below change your perspective?

So many things in life are a matter of perspective. Ever reread something you wrote but put aside for years, thinking it was a lost cause then, but now discovering a treasure? Or perhaps you recently took another look at a DIY project you finished years ago. What did you think of it when you first finished the project? What do you think of it now?

Time can change your perspective. Think about all of the books, TV shows, or movies you loved or hated when you were a kid. Do you still love/hate them? Case in point: my parents loved documentaries. But when I was a kid, I thought documentaries were too serious and were super boring—unless they had something to do with predators like lions or sharks. Then I was interested. But now I love documentaries of all kinds.

Anyway, I recently reread some poems I wrote years ago, when I first began a daily poetry challenge. Now, I don’t consider myself a poet at all. Andy of City Jackdaw and his new poetry-centric blog, Coronets for Ghosts, is a published poet. Charles Yallowitz regularly features poetry on his blog. I just dabble at it, thanks to the assignment of a grad school advisor (also a published poet), who told me to get The Aspiring Poet’s Journal and do the exercises in it every day to inject more whimsy into my writing. I was a little resentful of the assignment at first. But I soon grew to enjoy it. I now look forward to my daily sessions.

When I first began writing poetry, I was convinced that a kindergartner just learning his or her ABCs could write better poetry than the ones I churned out. But last week, when I reread one of my earlier poems, I was surprised to discover that I wasn’t as embarrassed by it as I’d assumed I would be. Time had softened my perspective. And no, I don’t plan to post it here. I don’t have that much nerve.

Off I go for some fondue. Before I go, let me ask you this: What perspective shift, if any, have you experienced recently?

Labor Day image from wallpapercave.com. Other photos by L. Marie.