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.

Talkin’ About the Car Wash

If you’re familiar with old songs from the 1970s, you’ll know that the post title is a line from a song by Rose Royce—the titular song of the 1976 movie, Car Wash. (Go here if the video is not below. Some YouTube videos I’ve posted have disappeared in other posts.)

When I was a kid, I loved going to the automatic/tunnel car wash. Loved watching the big brushes on the sides of the car and the huge blowers. And just when I thought the car wash was over, other services my father asked for (like wax or an undercarriage wash), would begin. The more time in the car wash the merrier, I always thought!

My younger brother, however, was terrified of the experience. He would cover his eyes and sink low in the backseat. My older brother and I made fun of him, because we were exercising our sibling right to torment him. Yet as I look back on that today, I feel bad for mocking him for something he genuinely feared.

It’s interesting how as kids, our first response to someone else’s fear was often to laugh, especially if the fear is not one to which we can relate. “Fraidy/Scaredy Cat!” “What a baby!” Ever hear those phrases? I’ve said them. It’s what kids do.

There are some fears we grow out of. But others linger longer than childhood.

Awhile ago, someone told me that more people than ever are suffering from anxiety. It is certainly on the rise among teens as this article mentions. Many people have had debilitating panic attacks. But instead of empathy, some have been given advice along the lines of, “You need to get over it.” I wish I could pretend that these words weren’t uttered to someone I know. But they were.

That’s why I think of the car wash and the empathy I withheld from my brother. I didn’t understand the fear, so I didn’t offer support. Even into adulthood, sometimes I thought a push in the form of a platitude was enough to motivate someone whose situation I didn’t really understand. I ignorantly assumed that emotional obstacles could be readily surmounted in a short time span. That is, until I went through a period of grief myself.

Sometimes a kick in the pants is necessary to motivate someone who has the power to move on but procrastinates. But some emotional seasons go beyond a pat answer. Grief, anxiety—neither has a preset limit. Just when you think you’re out of it, like a car moving along a conveyor belt at the car wash, another stage begins. It’s over when it’s over.

So from now on, I’m giving pat advice the brush off. Daily I’m reminded to be quick to hear and slow to speak* when someone shares his or her pain.

Car wash image from clipartmag.com. Grief image from the Ridge Meadows Hospice Society.

*From James 1:19.

Finish Well

One of the things I find fascinating about The Great British Baking Show (as it is known here in the States because of Pillsbury; it is The Great British Bake Off where it originated) is the fact that you can win the accolade of Star Baker—the best baker—in one week of the competition and be sent home crying in another. It’s what you do each week of the competition that counts—particularly the final week. (Don’t worry. I won’t give any spoilers.) You can see this scenario played out in any of the series on Netflix (or wherever you watch the show). So, winning Star Baker is not an iron-clad guarantee that you will win the whole competition.

A good motto for the show is, “What have you done for me lately?” On this show, you can’t coast on your laurels. You have to prove yourself every week to the very end.

This is the concept of finishing well. Haven’t you’ve seen Olympic runners tragically stumble before crossing the finish line, or a gymnast execute a perfect tumbling run only to stumble out of bounds—or worse—fall and injure himself or herself? And how many of us have mourned when our favorite sports team choked in the last minutes or the last game of the championship?

And who can forget the hoopla surrounding the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones—a show highly favored until the last season?

I’ve read book trilogies and viewed movie trilogies with endings that disappointed me to the point where I wished I’d never started the journey in the first place. Have you? Some of the trilogies I’ve regretted reading had endings that felt rushed or tacked on. In all fairness, the downside of some publishing efforts is that some authors spend years on the first book but are only given a matter of months to finish the second and the third.

And I know: art is subjective. The same trilogies I’ve disliked were liked by many people. You can’t please everybody! But there are some series with endings so satisfying, they have become regular destinations for me. One of those is The Lord of the Rings. Another is Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated series, not the movie). (I realize that fantasy is not everyone’s cup of tea. 😀)

I’m impressed by the fact that the Avatar series creators, Michael Dante DiMartino (right) and Bryan Konietzko, knew the ending of their series well before that season ever aired. In Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series (Dark Horse Books, 2010), DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko explain what happened during a meeting they attended to discuss the show:

We pitched for over two hours, describing the four nations, the entire story arc—all three seasons’ worth (12).

So, before the show was ever greenlit, they knew what was going to happen. And the show ended pretty much on par with that pitch meeting. Many fans and critics agree that this series is one of the best animated series ever made. Ending the series took four episodes! But it was one of the most satisfying endings to a series I have ever seen.

 

Finishing well is definitely not an easy undertaking. If you’ve ever run a race, you know that your strength begins to flag before you reach the end. When my brother ran the Chicago marathon, he said that around mile 20, he was ready to quit. But he tapped into a well of determination to cross that finish line. (We enjoyed some great snacks when he did. 😄)

The road to finishing well begins with finishing what you started. But that’s just the beginning, especially in writing! For many who have written a story, an article, or any book, you know that finishing a draft leads you to the beginning of another journey—that of revision. But revising helps you finish well.

What do you do to ensure that you finish a story or some other project well? What series have you read that finished well?

Finish line image from the intentionallife.com. Mile 20 image from Wikimedia. Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko image from Toonzone. Avatar book photos by L. Marie.

Let It Snow???

“Oh the weather outside is frightful,” as the song goes. I’m staring out at snow falling in a rather sheepish way. No pun intended ’cause snow and sheep are both white. I mean the snow is kind of light and noncommittal. Like, “Eh, I’m falling, ’cause it be like that. But I may not stay.” The determined, take no prisoners snow has yet to arrive.

 

Though I’m irritated by the snow (I want autumn! Go away, winter), Henry, however, is in his element. He wishes every day could be a snow day. He might get his wish, since we’ve had two days of this.

  

This is a short and sweet post, because I want to get to the main reason why I posted (besides complaining about the autumn snowfall). Before I get to that, let me throw out that I’ve been nominated for a blogger recognition award. There are a bunch of conditions for this award one of which involves acknowledging that I’ve been nominated (done!) and thanking the one who nominated me—FictionFan, which she announced at this post. Thank you, FictionFan!

Another is to tell you how this blog got started. Since this is not the anniversary of my blog, I will give you the simple answer—my younger brother challenged me to start a blog back in 2013. Within a month of that challenge, another guy basically said to me, “If you call yourself a writer, you’ll start a blog.” I took the plunge in February of that year. The results, as you can see. . . .

There are other conditions for this award, which I am skipping over, ’cause it be like that. And now, on to the main point of this post. What more fitting day than a snowy one to announce the winner of the ice cream giveaway, which was announced here. So without further ado, Nancy Hatch, Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Caramel Almond Brittle Ice Cream has been ordered and is on its way to you.

Thank you to all who commented! That’s all for now from the snowy Midwest!

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream image from their website. Other photos by L. Marie.

I Scream for Ice Cream

When I was a kid, one of the dearest sounds in the world was the song the ice cream truck played. Often, the tune played was “The Entertainer,” written by Scott Joplin. I wondered why, so I turned to your friend and mine—Google. According to this AVClub.com post by Joe Blevins, “Most professional ice cream distribution vehicles come complete with a music box from Nichols Electronics.” This music box has “public domain favorites like ‘Yankee Doodle,’ ‘Brahms’ Lullaby,’ and Scott Joplin’s deathless ‘The Entertainer.’”

Ooookay. Though we often had ice cream in the freezer, as my mother would remind my brothers and me, we still wanted to buy whatever the truck sold. We knew the right moment to bug Mom for money—when she was on the phone. Many times she would give it to us just to get us to leave her alone.

Why am I bringing up ice cream? Because I am resurrecting the ice cream giveaway. If you’re new to the blog you’re probably wondering what on earth I mean. (It’s been awhile since I hosted this giveaway, so even if you’ve followed this blog awhile, you might be confused. Click here for a past giveaway.) I’m giving away one pint of ice cream (or yogurt, sherbet, gelato, or sorbetto, if you prefer), which will be sent by Icecreamsource.com. Again, you might be wondering why. My answer is one that many parents have given over the years: “Because.”

Why now? I love the notion of giving away ice cream outside of the usual ice cream season—summer. I’m just weird that way.

Click here to see the varieties offered. In the comments below, please name the pint of ice cream, yogurt, sherbet, gelato, or sorbetto you’d like to receive. This company only delivers to the U.S., so my apologies to any readers outside of the States. Winner to be announced sometime next week.

After a hard day, Tia Tigerlily needs a little pick-me-up. And yes, she can quit eating ice cream anytime she wants. She just doesn’t want to.

Ice cream truck from clipartion.com. Ice cream images from Serious Eats and Tasting Table. Other photo by L. Marie. Tia Tigerlily Shoppie doll is a product of Moose Toys.

Salad Days

Back when I was in college, back when the transportation of choice was the covered wagon, I aspired to afford the salad bar at Fritz That’s It. What’s that, you say? It used to be a well-loved restaurant in Evanston, Illinois—part of the Lettuce Entertain You chain of restaurants. Alas, it closed in 1987. Click here and here for more information on the restaurant. Today, that name is associated with another establishment.

A menu from 1973 (I was not in college at this point, in case you were wondering.)

When I was a student, I was always broke. So I shared restaurant menu items with my friends, who were equally broke. As the articles I linked to above will tell you, Fritz was known for its extensive salad bar. It even had caviar and pâté! But the salad bar was an extra cost.

A well-stocked salad bar was the hallmark of Lettuce Entertain You restaurants. Rich Melman, the founder of Lettuce Entertain You, talked about the salad bar at RJ Grunts  (the first restaurant he opened) in this post at Foodandwine.com:

Instead of just iceberg and a few toppings, I would say we started with about 30 choices, maybe more, and it just kept growing and growing.

I loved having so many choices. Those were indeed salad days! But years later, many restaurants scaled back on the salad bars. Even Wendy’s pulled the plug on them back in 2006.

Yet salad bars live on at some restaurants (like buffets) and many grocery store chains. The grocery stores in my area have salad bars with multiple options (including soup) and charge for the salads by weight. (The photo below was not taken at a grocery store in my area, in case you wondered.)

The element of choice is one many people treasure, not just in a salad bar but in other areas in life. I love going to a craft store and seeing aisle after aisle of colorful skeins of yarn of all different textures in which to choose. Many of us love to binge watch seasons of shows on Netflix because we have multiple episodes from which to choose. (Unless the show is uploaded once a week like The Great British Baking Show is this season. Sigh.) And many make purchases on Amazon because of its staggering variety of items.

Another area of choice I love involves authors with multiple books just waiting to be discovered. Many, like Jill Weatherholt, John Howell, and Charles Yallowitz, have been featured on this blog. (To discover where to purchase any of these books, just click on the cover.)

   

What authors have you discovered recently, who have multiple books just waiting to be read?

Have you visited a salad bar recently? What do you like about it?

Kitty thinks her giant veggies will net her a fortune at salad bars across the nation. But I doubt that, since most edible vegetables don’t have faces.

Fritz menu from worthpoint.com. Salad bar image from Rochebros.com. Salad items from clkr.com. Kawaii veggies from etsystudio.com. Other photo by L. Marie.

The Visionary

The other day, I glanced over at Lazy Buns (her actual name, yes; and no, I didn’t come up with it), still in bathrobe and curler mode, and realized I had the same attitude about the world building I had not yet completed for a middle grade science fiction novel I’m writing. There was so much work yet to do, but I was feeling lazy.

“Join meeeeeeee,” Lazy Buns hissed in her best Darth Vader imitation, a voice incongruent with her small stature.

To snap out of the trance I’d fallen into, I turned to some behind-the-scenes DVD documentaries. I’ve mentioned before that I love documentaries on the creative process. I’m particularly fascinated by authors and filmmakers who envision possibilities not previously foreseen, even in the face of criticism. We think of them as visionaries.

The other day, I watched one of the documentaries on the Attack of the Clones DVD. I’ll pause here to give anyone who hates this film the opportunity to judge me for having it (or if you love it, to praise my good taste). . . . Are we done? Moving on . . . in the documentary, George Lucas talked about the challenge of working in a new medium called digital technology. According to this Red Shark News article:

George Walton Lucas, Jr., entrepreneurial filmmaker, creator of Star Wars and Indiana Jones and industrial empire builder, drop-kicked Hollywood into the digital age with the release of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones—the first major Hollywood blockbuster to be shot 100% digitally.

Keep in mind this film came about in the early part of this century. We take digital filmmaking for granted nowadays. But Lucas took a lot of criticism for going the digital route. After all, digital was nontraditional. But nontraditional thinking is the mark of a visionary.

Lucas pushed his staff beyond where they thought they could go to achieve the vision he saw in his head. This was par for the course for Star Wars, a franchise that sailed in uncharted waters when it first debuted.

The Star Wars franchise is very controversial these days. Fans are divided over the current crop of movies, now owned by Disney. And let’s face it, even when Lucas had control of the company, fans complained then too. But few people debate the fact that George Lucas is a visionary writer-director. You can see that if you take just a cursory look at the world he created.

For years I have also been inspired by book authors  like Ursula Le Guin, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, L. Frank Baum, Frank Herbert, Charles Yallowitz, and others whose expansive worlds I’ve visited again and again. They remind me that world building takes time and effort—two words that are contrary to my current lazy bones attitude.

 

 

So I have an attitude to shake off. Here I go—back to researching galaxies, designing star systems and the terrain of planets.

Sigh. I need cake.

What fantasy or science fiction worlds do you love to visit? If you aren’t into either, who is someone you consider to be a visionary?

George Lucas photo found somewhere in the internet. Dune cover from Goodreads, since I can’t seem to locate anything I own of this series. Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie poster from inquisitr.com. Cake from clker.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Pop Hair Pets are a product of MGA Entertainment.

Color My World

When you think of a product that epitomizes your childhood, what do you think of? To me, nothing says childhood like Crayola Crayons. I loved getting new crayons at the beginning of the school year. Crayons and new notebook paper opened up new imaginative possibilities.

I couldn’t find the small box of crayons I have, so this box of chalk will have to do as a stand-in for childhood wonder.

Thanks to the recent rainstorms, the ground is too wet right now to effectively draw on the sidewalk, but here is a photo I’ve used on the blog before. Some of the kids in my apartment building did the handiwork. I love how the color brightens a bland sidewalk. It was a day brightener for me as well.

Did you know that non-toxic crayons have existed since 1903? I didn’t. I found out when I looked up the history of Crayola and watched a video on it. Click here for that video.

The 1903 crayons

In 1958, the box of 64 crayons was born.

I never lost my love of crayons, mainly because I love an array of colors. Whether I crochet or knit, I love to use colorful yarn. If a pattern calls for neutral colors, I usually switch the colors to those I prefer. I actually feel better when I’m working with colors and when I’m surrounded by colorful things.

Turns out I’m not the only one. According to this article, brighter wardrobe colors make you feel better. Room colors also affect your mood, according to this article and this one. But according to this post at Smithsonian.com, color preferences are not always universal. Past associations with a color and also cultural influences can affect how a color is perceived.

Do you have a favorite color? How do these colors make you feel?

 

 

 

 

Undoubtedly, you’ve seen color used in a movie or in a book to heighten a certain mood. But sometimes color is used against type for an unsettling effect (like a bright, sun-washed blue sky in a horror film).

Speaking of color in nature, with autumn underway, I look forward to the changing colors of the leaves. Until that happens, I can enjoy colorful clouds in the sky at sunrise or sunset. These photos were taken at sunrise. The clouds in the photo at the right look like a mythical firebird with bright plumage.

 

How has something colorful brightened your life this week?

The Squeezamal [creature at the right] has found a colorful new friend, Lazy Buns, who doesn’t get a move on without a cup of coffee.

Crayola stamp from somewhere on Pinterest. 1958 Crayons from PopScreen. Other photos by L. Marie. Squeezamals are a product of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company. Pop Hair Pets are a product of MGA Entertainment.