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.

Details, Details

Quiz time for fiction writers. No need to fear. This is easy.

  • As you think of the main character(s) in your work-in-progress, what color is that character’s hair? Eyes? (See? Easy-peasy.)

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  • Does he or she have a nickname? If so, what is it?
  • Where does that character live? Town, city, or rural community? What is the character’s street address (or what are the landmarks that lead to this dwelling if an address can’t be given)? This can be a made-up address like 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Kudos to whoever knows this address from an old TV show. Skip to the very end of the post to see if you are right.
  • What animals are in this character’s life (like a pet or a warhorse)? What are their names? Species? Colors?

Now think of a secondary character and answer the above questions. If you have fifty secondary characters, could you easily answer the same questions about all of them?

By now you are probably wondering why I’m being so nosy. Well, for one thing, sometimes I forget some of the information about my characters, especially in a book with fifty plus characters. That’s why I have to keep a list of people, places, and things, especially when I am writing a series. But I keep a list even for a standalone book with fewer characters. Nowadays I add to the list as I write the book. I remember how tedious it was to write the list after the book was done.

I’m wondering how many authors keep a list of pertinent character information. Some authors have told me they keep track of everything in their head. Do you? If you don’t keep a list, would you consider doing so? I ask this also as someone who wears the freelance book editor hat from time to time. I have had to email or text authors to inquire about hair and eye color, names, addresses, etc. because of inconsistencies found while editing.

Speaking of other useful things to have, I also think of a timeline sheet for a book. Do you keep a list of the day-to-day events (for example, June 4—the Fruit Fly Festival in Harbor Creek)? If you say a book starts on a Tuesday in April and ends on a Wednesday in May, do you check a calendar to make sure the timing of the story events works? If you’re writing historical fiction, do you search the internet to see if May 4, 1925 really was on a Monday as you mentioned in your manuscript? (It really was on a Monday, by the way.)

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Maybe you’re thinking, Why should I do any of this? The editor is going to check all of that. True. But why not do it for your own sake, instead of waiting for a busy editor to take time out of his or her day to ask you questions about inconsistencies. After all, none of us is perfect. Okay, I take it back. You are. But for everyone else, if you keep a list, maybe the questions won’t have to be asked by an editor (or a reader, who might not be kind).

This public service broadcast was brought to you by I-will-now-mind-my-own-business.

And now onto the winners (finally) of the following books written by Charles Yallowitz and Sandra Nickel respectively. (Click here and here for the interview posts with these authors.)

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New Charles Author Photo SandraNickel

The winner of The Stuff Between the Stars is Marian Beaman. The winner of War of Nytefall: Savagery is S.K. Van Zandt.

Marian and S. K. Van Zandt, please comment below to confirm. Thank you for commenting!

Address Answer: 1313 Mockingbird Lane is the home of the Munster family in The Munsters.

Author photos and book covers courtesy of the authors. Eye image from lolwot.com. May calendar image from dreamstime.

Um, So Next Week Then?

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Hi! Sorry about the shortness of this post and the fact that once again I am posting on Saturday. This week, I said I would announce the winners of these books.

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The week got away from me due to a tough project that I am slowly, carefully working on. Every time I looked up, another day had passed. And here I am writing this post on a Friday!

With that in mind, I unfortunately have to postpone the announcement of the winners until early next week. You might wonder, Why not do it now? I like to take my time writing posts, even a post to announce the winners of the books I’m giving away. Besides, the winners have not yet been generated.

Once again, I’m sorry. See you, hopefully, next week.

Jean Luc Picard facepalm from fanpop.

Check This Out—War of Nytefall: Savagery

It’s Monster vs Monster and Only One will Keep His Head!

savageryFor the first time in over a century, Clyde will know what it means to feel powerless and weak.

Headless bodies appearing across Windemere is only the beginning as Clyde faces the terrifying vampire hunter, Alastyre.  Able to match the Dawn Fang leader in power and ferocity, this new menace shows no signs of weakness or mercy.  With both friends and enemies getting dragged into the battle, Clyde will have to find a way to become stronger.  For that, he will have to accept an ancient challenge and pray that those he cares about and trusts can hold Alastyre at bay.

Which monster of Windemere will claim the top of the food chain?

Want to hear more?  Enjoy this Teaser!

Alastyre disappears for a moment before reappearing in front of Clyde and grinning at how the Dawn Fang does not react. “I have waited many years for this day. You probably don’t remember me since it has been so long. The temptation to tell Mab the truth when she was my captive was so strong that I knew I needed more time to mature. I should only feel happy and excited when we are about to clash. By the way, your enemies put up an entertaining fight. It lasted no more than a couple of minutes, but I enjoyed it. My hope is that your reputation is true and I will get to use my full power for once. The thought of ripping your head off and adding it to my collection is one of the few dreams that gives my life meaning. Is this where we’re going to fight? I see that there is a lot of sand and giant boulders scattered about. Do you use this courtyard as a large rock garden in order to relax? You are a more amusing monster than I expected.”

“I don’t like you,” Mab growls before she is grabbed by the face.

“A drug-addicted worm should watch-”

“Put . . . my . . . partner . . . down,” Clyde growls from behind the hunter. The illusionary vampire fades away as the real one materializes, his gauntlet sword already pressed against the man’s meaty neck. “You say we’ve met before and you’ve been training to fight me. Looks more like you’ve altered yourself to become a freak. The smell of your blood reeks of corruptive magic and demon influence. There’s a hint of Dawn Fang and dragon in there too. You’re nothing more than a glorified golem. Bunch of parts and auras cobbled together to turn a weak mortal into a monster. I’m not impressed, Alan Stryker. Still trying to strike fear into the rotting hearts of my kind? At least your name isn’t as stupid as it was before.”

“Wait, do you mean that guy who attacked you outside of Lord Shallis’s castle?” Titus asks with a chuckle. He grunts when his sister is thrown into him, the force sending the siblings crashing against the patio’s railing. “I told you that keeping him alive was a mistake, but I didn’t think it would turn into this. You must be angry that nobody believed your story about vampires that are immune to the sun. Is that what this is about?”

With a casual flick of his finger, Alastyre sends Clyde’s sword and arm flying across the courtyard. “No because it was another hunter who survived and told that tale. Your leader was so distracted with Mab biting him that he failed to notice a second mortal that he failed to kill. I focused on recovery and getting stronger because I refused to follow such a ridiculous plan. The fewer people who knew about the Dawn Fangs, the better my chances were at being the one to succeed. Please know that I only want to destroy your leadership. Originally, I wished to wipe all of you out of existence, but that could prove to be impossible. You monsters are more talented at hiding than anything else I have hunted, so I could never be sure of your extinction. The next best thing is to take over Nyetfall and use it as a jail for your kind. All Dawn Fangs will be contained on this island once they no longer have their precious rulers. Don’t you agree that this is much better than extermination, Clyde?”

“I have no opinion because it’s never going to happen.”

“Do you accept my challenge?”

“You never officially made one.”

“I demand that you fight me to the death.”

“Thank you for being straightforward and not making me hunt you down.”

“We fight in an hour then.”

“Why not now?”

Alastyre points while mentioning, “You are still missing an arm. I want to face you at full strength.”

“Don’t say I didn’t give you a chance,” the Dawn Fang says as he continues healing the injury.

Get a copy of this vampire action adventure for
99 cents on Amazon!

Help spread the word by adding it on Goodreads!

*****

Want to catch up on War of Nytefall?Grab the volumes 1-5 for 99 cents each ($5 total)!

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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:

New Charles Author PhotoCharles 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
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cyallowitz/

Enjoy the fang-filled adventure by clicking here!

L. Marie here. Comment below to be entered in a drawing to receive a free copy of War of Nytefall: Savagery. Winner to be announced next week!

Check This Out—The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe

Welcome to the blog! Returning to the blog today is the awesome Sandra Nickel, who is here to talk about her latest picture book biography, The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe. It was published by Abrams in March of this year and was illustrated by the amazing Aimée Sicuro.

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Check out the fab book trailer.

If you’ve been around the blog over the years, you know the drill. Once I talk to Sandra, I’ll tell you how you can get this book for free in a drawing that I am hosting.

El Space: Since your picture book is all about astronomy: If you could name a star, what would you name it?
Sandra:
Does it have to be one star? Or can it be a star cluster like the Pleiades? I always loved the idea of the Seven Sisters, up in the sky, named after their mother. My mother gave birth to three of us. Maybe we could be the Eleanores.

El Space: How did you come to this project? Sadly, I didn’t know anything about Vera Rubin until I read your book. I certainly didn’t know her connection to the study of dark matter.
Sandra:
I also didn’t know about Vera Rubin, not until Kate Hosford (below), a wonderful picture book author, texted me and told me about a tribute to her in The New York Times. I read the article and was captivated. I started researching that very day.

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El Space: Tell us about the research. How did your findings help you decide on the story angle? At what point did you decide you’d done enough research to make a start or to conclude the writing?
Sandra:
When I read The New York Times article, Vera had died two days before and papers were flooded with homages to her. After reading these, I found articles and a book Vera had written. The greatest discoveries, however, were interviews with Vera. They gave such a clear vision of her personality, childhood, home life, and struggles.

For the most part, editors no longer require picture book biographies to tell a person’s story from cradle to grave. They are looking for a story that fits into the classic story structure. Introduction. Rising Action. Climax. Resolution. I had the introduction early on, because Vera said she fell in love with stars when she was eleven. The climax had to be her discovery. That left me searching for rising action. Vera had so many challenges thrown in her path—far more than made it into the book. Once I was confident that I had found the most important ones, I knew I had enough to start putting the rising action together. The trick was to select experiences that resonate with children. I chose the experience illustrated below because everyone can understand how awful it is to be the only one against a crowd.

Vera Facing the Senior Astronomers

El Space: Your book is so beautifully written. How challenging was it to explain scientific concepts in picture book form?
Sandra:
From the beginning, I knew I needed to come up with imagery that would help children understand. I searched and searched for different ways to describe gravity, galaxies, and dark matter. Once I had all of these in my head, it became very clear that these same descriptions could be used to portray Vera Rubin’s life itself. It was challenging from the point of view of filling my mind with new ideas. Minds don’t always want to accept new things. But once that was done, it wasn’t challenging at all. The metaphors appeared as if they had always been there.

El Space: How long was the process from writing to publication? Did you have much contact with the illustrator, Aimée Sicuro? Why or why not?
Sandra:
It took over four years from the afternoon I read The New York Times article to the day The Stuff Between the Stars came out. With some nonfiction picture books, the writer and illustrator need to exchange information because the writer discovers photographs and descriptions through private sources not available to the general public. My book Nacho’s Nachos was that way. The Stuff Between the Stars was completely different. There are a number of photographs of Vera Rubin online, and Aimée Sicuro discovered each one of them. She asked for only one thing from me: one of Vera’s equations. She incorporated it into the gorgeous illustration below where Vera stays up working at night as her family sleeps.

Vera Working at Night as Her Family Sleeps

El Space: What did you learn about Vera’s life that inspired you in your own life?
Sandra:
The greatest Vera Rubin lesson is: Choose your own way. I know that seems cliché. But it’s harder than it sounds. It’s easy to fall into thinking that life is just hard, that suffering is part of the journey. I love that Vera said, I don’t like being treated harshly, I don’t like all the negativity. I love that she found a way far from all that and then discovered something bigger than everyone else. I’ll never discover something as immense as dark matter, but by doing things my way, my writing will hopefully be infused with joy. Because it makes me happy. And that is marvelous already.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Sandra:
There’s a book I’m working on right now with an editor that I hope will bring readers the kind of joy I’m talking about. It involves a very big bear and a very little fish who see the world in very different ways.

Thank you, Sandra for being my guest!

If you want to learn more about The Stuff Between the Stars, check out this video produced by the Smithsonian. In it, Sandra reads the book and interviews Aimée Sicuro. You’ll also see a fun demonstration by Aimée on painting a galaxy.

Looking for Sandra? Check out her website, Twitter, and Instagram.

Looking for The Stuff Between the Stars? Look for it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop, or your favorite local bookstore.

But one of you will look in your mailbox or tablet and go, “Oh my goodness! A free book!” Comment below to be entered in a drawing to receive a copy of The Stuff Between the Stars. Winner to be announced sometime next week.

Author photo, book spreads, and book cover courtesy of the author. Illustrations by Aimée Sicuro. Author photo credit: Emo-Photo. 

Learning to Fall/Fail

I don’t usually post on Saturdays, but I promised I would post this week. So here we go. . . .

I learned to ride a bike when I was eight. I wasn’t one of those kids who had a bike with training wheels. My first bike was sky blue and had a banana seat and a white basket. Kinda like this one. (This is not my bike, however.)

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My dad held on to the back of it and coached me to balance and pedal. Ha. Easier said than done. Those of you who learned to ride via this method will know that I immediately crashed into something, especially when I realized that my father no longer held on to the seat nor was he providing the balance my brain told me I lacked. Oh yes. I became well acquainted with trees, the grass, the concrete sidewalk—you name it. I fell countless times before something clicked and I was able to ride without fear.

Learning to use a pair of inline skates was a lot easier. For one thing, I took a class from a traveling group of people who taught in a parking lot. The best thing I learned during that class was how to fall. Knowing that falling was part of the process made learning easier. I still fell many, many times. Yet the attitude of my teachers toward falling was the thing that kept me going. They were so cheerful and matter-of-fact about it. “Keep your knees bent,” they said. This advice made falling easier.

Inline Skate

It’s interesting that in our society, we see the success stories. The stories of failure are usually less intentional and more along the lines of, “So and so was caught doing something wrong and here is that story.” We’re taught that failure is something you shove at the back of your closet and shut the door to prevent anyone who comes to your home from seeing it.

That’s why I love stories of authors who talk about the many rejections they have had, and how those rejections were part of the process that took them from point A to point B. They knew how to fall and get back up again.

I also appreciate advice I was given from advisors: to experiment and freewrite. This was their way of teaching me how to fall gracefully. Because once I realized what didn’t work, I could try again until I found what did.

Mary Winn Heider can certainly relate to try, try again. Click here to read the interview with her concerning her latest MG novel, The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy. The winner of that wonderful novel is Laura Bruno Lilly. Laura, please comment below to confirm.

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Bike photo from somewhere online. Skate photo by L. Marie.

  

Check This Out: The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy

Please join me in welcoming back to the blog the one-and-only Mary Winn Heider. Woot woot!. Mary Winn is here to talk about her latest middle grade novel, The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy, which was published by Little, Brown and Company on March 16.

Jacket Pic MWH     Losers1

Cover designed by Sammy Yuen

Lest you think this is a novel about space exploration (some of you might be thinking of The  Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams), click here to read the synopsis. At the end of the interview, I will discuss how you can receive a copy of The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy. Now, let’s get to gabbing with Mary Winn. (P.S. If you are wondering about the extra space between the questions and the answers, I have no idea how to fix it! If you do, please let me know in the comments.)

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?

Mary Winn: I live in Chicago.

I got an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts with you!

I started the pandemic with one aloe plant and now I have eleven. They keep having babies.

I’ve played the flute, the French horn, the bagpipes, and the ukulele (but never the tuba)!

El Space: Please walk us through the inspiration for The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy. Why CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy)? Why the tuba?

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Mary Winn: This book was a real puzzle. A lot of the pieces fell into place in sort of non-linear ways, and the CTE element is one of those. I wrote a scene that became the seed for the story, and that took place on a football field—but it still took me a while to understand how football actually figured into the story. When I eventually realized that a football player was going to figure prominently in the story, I knew that I couldn’t in good conscience write about players without including CTE—and in that moment, I suddenly understood the source of the grief that had been an undercurrent in the story all along.

The tuba was a lot simpler! After years and years of band, I’ve had a lot of time to consider which instruments are the funniest and which ones are the saddest, and in my weathered old opinion, I believe that the tuba has the ability to be both funny and sad better than a lot of your other typical school band instruments (the bassoon as well, which also has a brief cameo). So despite it being an instrument I’d never played, it was the clear choice

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El Space: Without giving any spoilers, what was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

Mary Winn: I’d say the grief component. I was grieving some of my own losses as I wrote it, and there were periods when it was really hard to want to spend time in the story. I discovered that by outlining and giving myself more structure, it wasn’t as impossible—it felt safer, in a way. Still, there were long stretches of time where I felt incredibly disconnected from the story, and those were tough to wrangle with.

El Space: Which character’s perspective seemed the easiest for you to slip into? The most difficult?

Mary Winn: Winston’s perspective was the easiest! Like him, I can be very dramatic in my internal life, and like him, I love playing instruments, but am not particularly good at them. Louise was more difficult, because she’s a hard scientist, and as much as I love dabbling in science, I have never been as serious about it as she is.

El Space: What did writing this novel help you discover about yourself as an author?

Mary Winn: The discovery that outlining could give me bumpers for my bumper car—but not inhibit my exploration of the story—was huge. And since this is my second novel, it was fascinating to discover that my relationship to my own books isn’t necessarily the same from book to book. This one was a lot more complicated.

El Space: Not counting VCFA authors, because there are too many great ones, what author(s) inspire(s) you?

Mary Winn: Oooooh SUCH a tricky question! EVEN not counting VCFA folks, I will inevitably feel like I’ve left off about a thousand writers who were incredibly influential to me. I’m going to take this in a few different directions—the following writers inspire me with their gorgeous writing, but they’ve also influenced me in an additional authorly dimension. Dhonielle Clayton is one of the hardest, smartest working writers out there—and she took the time to help me out in a big way at my first conference when I was a bumbling newb.

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Her generosity in a moment when she was the absolute biggest cheese in the room is something I’ll never forget and that I’ll spend the rest of my career trying to pay forward to other new-to-it, deer-in-the-headlight writers. I’m so, so excited about her upcoming Marvellers series. Mel Beatty, who wrote Heartseeker and the sequel Riverbound, is the queen of dialogue that absolutely crackles, and she worldbuilds like nobody’s business. But she’s also a bookseller, and has a sixth sense about what books to recommend for people—the joy she puts into the world by intuiting what people are ready for is a whole super power. And finally Chad Sell, whose books—Cardboard Kingdom, Doodleville—are so beautiful and full of heart. He’s a genius at building narrative arcs. We’re working on a project together right now, and my process has been so radically improved by the experience of learning his process.

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El Space: What will you work on next?

Mary Winn: The project with Chad is a series based on an idea he had. I’m writing and he’s illustrating—and it’s just a blast. We started about two weeks before the first lockdown, so we’ve been meeting over Zoom, and those meetings have been the highlight of this last year. Working with him has turned out to be such a joy—it feels like together we make one bigger, smarter, funnier brain.

El Space: Thank you for being my guest!

Mary Winn: Thank you, thank you for having me!!!

Looking for The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy? Look at Bookshop, Indiebound, and Barnes & Noble.

Looking for Mary Winn? Then head to her website, Instagram, and Twitter.

But one of you will look up one day to discover a free copy of The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy handed right to you. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced some time next week!

Tuba from clipart.com. Author photo by Popio Stumpf. Book cover photo by L. Marie. Cover designed by Sammy Yuen. Other book covers from Goodreads.

Ready for Work for Hire?


Over the years, people have stated to me that they want to do certain types of editorial work. These statements usually occur after the person hears of a project I’m working on—copy editing; line editing; developmental editing; indexing; ghostwriting; devotional writing; fiction writing; nonfiction picture book writing; curriculum—whatever.

Wanting to do something and being ready to do it are two completely different things.

What does that mean? you might ask. If I want to do something, that means I’m ready to do it.

Not necessarily, if you don’t fully know what you’re getting yourself into. Forewarned is forearmed as they say.

Work for hire, being hired to perform a specific task, has certain demands. Since work for hire is a broad topic, I’ll narrow it to writing. Many publishers hire freelancers to write series they have developed, curriculum projects, etc. You’ve seen many of these online and at stores like Walmart and Target. For many of these projects, you either have to know an editor who is hiring or have an agent who can get you in. But sometimes publishers cast a wide net and advertise that they are looking for writers.

So you want to be a freelancer? Ready to stick your oars into the waters of work for hire? Here’s a quiz to test that readiness.

• When it comes to writing, I like to have total say over whatever I write. True False
• If I have written something, when the final product comes out, I want to see pretty much what I’ve written—nothing (or not much) altered. True False
• I see deadlines as guidelines, rather than hard-and-fast rules. For example, if the deadline is Monday, I have met the deadline if I get the work to the editor by 9 p.m. True False
• If I have written anything, I want to receive a royalty for it. True False
• I cannot write for someone else’s vision. True False

If you answered True to most of the above, work for hire might not be the direction to steer your boat toward. Usually, a flat rate is offered for the work. This is not a royalty contract (for which a certain amount in advance is given). Once paid, that’s all you get, even if what you’ve written sells hundreds of thousands of copies. Also, since you are not the copyright holder, whoever holds the copyright has the right to make whatever changes are deemed necessary.

On some occasions I looked at the finished product and barely recognized a single word I wrote.

Welcome to the world of work for hire. Still, I have worked on many fun projects. Since all of them were done under my given name (L. Marie being a pen name) or someone else’s name (in regard to ghostwriting), don’t expect a list of them here.

As for why I brought up the deadline issue, many editors are sticklers about the deadline, which means handing over the manuscript during the workday (not after five p.m.). Some editors are a little more lenient, especially if you have an excuse for being late (illness, family emergency, etc.).

So that’s just a small taste of the work-for-hire life. I didn’t get into the tax aspect, because that’s a whole ’nother ballgame.

Now Hiring from shareicon.net. Royalty image from somewhere on Pinterest.

Butterflies

I don’t know about you, but on a sunny day at this time of year, I think about butterflies, even if this is not the season for them. Sure, it would be lovely to see a Monarch butterfly, which are common in my area in late summer.

But I can’t help wondering about butterflies that are a little more unusual, like

The glass-winged butterfly. This wonder can be found in Panama, Mexico, and Colombia.

The dead leaf butterfly, aka Kalima inachus, which can be found in Vietnam, India, Japan, and Thailand. This butterfly should sign up to join a surveillance organization immediately.

Photo: Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand. 380m a.s.l.

88 butterfly aka Diaethria anna and Anna’s eighty-eight, which can be found in Central and South America and sometimes in Texas

Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, which was named after Alexandra of Denmark). It can be found in Papua New Guinea. I’m sure you’ve heard that this is the world’s largest butterfly, with some having a one-foot wingspan. I have this one on my island in Animal Crossing.

Zebra Longwing, which can be found in Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies

I also think of butterflies because of the idiom, butterflies in my stomach. Why do I think of this? I am auditioning for freelance writing. I usually get butterflies with an impending deadline, especially if there is no guarantee that I will get the gig. But I have to turn in a sample chapter this coming Monday.

Do you have a favorite butterfly? Please comment below and tell me. (I am partial to the Monarch, Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, and the glass-winged butterfly.) And Charles, get ready to see the light with your alpaca lights! (Click here for the post on that giveaway.)

Monarch butterfly from Wikipedia. Glass-winged butterfly photo from allpicts.in. Dead leaf butterfly from bugsaliveblogspot. Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing butterfly photo from sakepedia.blogspot. Zebra longwing from Wikimedia. Alpaca lights from Amazon.

So Yeah, Eight Years

Technically my eighth anniversary happened toward the end of February. But last week I was researching for a picture book and writing a short story, and time got away from me. The following occurrences didn’t help:
• My computer went crazy. (It’s old and cranky like me and probably needs replacing, because the keypad is difficult to manage now.)
• Someone hacked my Messenger account and started requesting money from people.
• Microsoft Word crashed and needed to be replaced.

What did help was a care package from Laura!

The mug rug as she described the following seems too pretty to set a mug on, especially the way I have been known to overfill mugs and spill liquid on surfaces. But I love it nevertheless.

There’s something about hot chocolate with cinnamon that makes me want to break out the castanets and shout Viva! I don’t own castanets, but I shouted, “Viva!” anyway. Hope the neighbors appreciated it.

And there’s something about a blog anniversary that makes me want to give stuff away. What better thing to give away than the gift of light?

“Okay, that’s totally random,” I hear you thinking. Yes. I can hear your thoughts. It’s a gift. Anyway, as the dark of winter slow eases its grip to make way for spring, some of us in colder climates need a little somethin’ somethin’ to help us in the gap. Even if you live in a warmer place, a little bit of light is still welcome, isn’t it? So, you choose . . .

alpacas,

sunflowers (for some reason, I couldn’t copy the image from Amazon, so please click on the link in sunflowers to see the lights),

or eufy by Anker, Lumi Stick-On Night Light (same deal as with the sunflowers).

Or if none of the above grabs you, let me know in the comments, and if your name is chosen, you can pick one you like from Amazon or Amazon UK and I’ll have it sent to you.

“But why light?” you ask. “And what does that have to do with your blogoversary?” Well, to answer your questions, I can’t help thinking of something Galadriel said in The Fellowship of the Ring.

She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand. “In this phial,” she said, “is caught the light of Eärendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” (423)

This is one of my favorite quotes from the book (though the image below is from the movie adaptation), because I know what light meant to the hobbits. They were often frightened and desperate. (And who hasn’t been in this pandemic? Light was s life saver.)

Light is a symbol for hope and revelation. Light pierces through darkness.

So that’s why.

Listen, I don’t have anything profound to say. I wish I did. Anniversary posts have a tendency to make you want to get your Winston Churchill on and impress the masses with a stirring speech. But for some reason, I wanted to come to you just as I am—no big speech, no clever rhetoric. Just the opportunity to bring a little light into your world.

So with this anniversary, I wish you light.

P.S. Comment below to choose which set of lights you prefer. Winner to be announced sometime next week.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. New York: Random House, 1954. 423.

Product photo found at Amazon. Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins photo from namelessone.co. Other photos by L. Marie.

Only for Special Occasions


When I was growing up, my parents had a set of china, but then acquired another set. This is one of the plates of the first set:

We used the first set more often. As a consequence, I remember breaking at least one of these plates.

The second set has plates with a gold rim and blue flowers. I don’t have a photo of this set. Because my brothers and I had a tendency to . . . ahem . . . break things, they were rarely used. Only on special occasions—like maybe Christmas and Easter. We called them “the good plates.” They had to be hand washed and dried—careful, careful—and quickly stored away. (Whew, didn’t break anything.) They certainly could never be used in the microwave.

Mom has a set of pearls—also only used for special occasions back then. But the occasions that came our way didn’t seem special enough. So, she never wore them.

Until . . .

Until one of her closest friends died of breast cancer. She was 34 years old. Suddenly, the just-for-special-occasions rule seemed too narrow, especially when Mom went through her first bout of cancer. Every day was worth celebrating. Every day was precious. So, we started using the good plates more often. Mom wore her pearls too.

I don’t have a photo of the pearls either. But you don’t need to see them to consider the things that are just for special occasions in your life. You know—the things you think are “too good” for every day use.

Maybe take out those pearls. Wear that sweater, that jacket. Break out the good plates or that fancy stemware, even if you’re just having a meal of Ramen noodles. Why? Because you’re special. Not just the day. You.

P.S. Please keep the people of Texas in your thoughts and prayers. They have had a time of it with the cold and the power outages.

China plate photo by Stan Washington. Other photos by L. Marie.