Take Joy—My Fourth-Year Blogoversary

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It feels like forever since I’ve written a post. What a whirlwind the last two weeks have been. First, my computer decided to stop charging. After contacting the manufacturer a few times, I had to send it to California for repair. So, I was without a computer for a while. Though the repair center techies returned my computer, I’m still waiting for them to return my AC adapter. (So much for being able to use the computer.) Second, I caught the weird virus with a lingering cough that just about everyone I know has, and, like everyone else, have fought it with an antibiotic. (I’m still a bit under the weather.)

Anyway, this week marks my fourth anniversary as a blogger. Honestly, I almost forgot about that anniversary due to the computer issues. But like Christmas, “it came just the same.” (Extra credit points if you can name where that quote came from.)

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As I considered what to post for this blogoversary, I was reminded of something my mom said to me recently after I grumbled to her about everything that happened: “Do something that brings you joy.” (Though I’m old as dirt, my mother still gives me advice. I find that quite nice, actually.)

Posting on this blog gives me great joy. But there have been times when that joy has diminished. This is usually when I start to worry about how many subscribers I have, versus how many a fellow blogger might have. Focusing on stats, at least for me, is a joy killer. So, in the last year or so, I made a pact with myself to ignore the stats and keep posting whether anyone reads what I write or not.

And that’s been the fear—that no one will read my witterings. But here I am, four years later, still wittering. Still flying by the seat of my pants as a blogger.

The best way to deal with fear is to focus on something that is an antidote to fear. Which brings me back to Mom’s advice about joy. For me, joy comes from putting words down on paper—words that tell a story, allow me to share a bit about myself, or provide a tip on the craft of writing.

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Last week, joy also came from buying and putting together this Djeco fairy castle, which promptly gained a ton of visitors. But I digress.

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Joy also comes from interacting with you, my readers. I’ve gained some good friends through this blog. And that’s the ultimate joy for me about being a blogger.

What brings you joy?

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Some of the occupants on my computer desk

Joy image from floatinglemons.com. Number four from clker.com. No fear sign from liferoadsigns.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

Kitty Returns—My 400+ Post

Actually, this is my 411th post. I meant to commemorate the 400th post, but totally forgot about that milestone until now. Better late than never right?

Which brings me to the subject of this post: Kitty, or as she is sometimes known, Hello Kitty. She has not been seen since this post. Guess she’s been kinda busy. Being a supervillain can be difficult, especially if you’re carrying a cupcake and generally look sweet. Perhaps you can relate.

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If you’re like Kitty, to make up for those deficits, you try to be extra clever as you work through your nefarious schemes. You travel the world, making sure the world is worth your time and effort to take it over. And you hire henchpeople and supervise them, or delegate that responsibility to thugs who don’t often have your work ethic.

You also speak to large crowds, making sure they understand your demands, and are aware of their place—squarely beneath the heels of your fur-lined jackboots.

I caught up with Kitty at her latest rally, and watched her address the crowd, hearing their mournful sighs as she unveiled her master plan for world domination. I had a few questions for her afterward.

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Me: So, what’s it like being an icon for females young and old who love carrying backpacks shaped like you? By the way, that doesn’t seem like supervillainy to me.

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Kitty: It’s part of the plan, L. All part of the plan.
Me: I see. So, will you tell me what’s going on in the photo below? Is that a crocheted beaker? Is Jordie (below left) one of your henchpeople? Since when do you have a minion (below right)? And is Jordie spelled J-O-R-D-I-E or J-O-R-D-Y? I haven’t been very consistent on this blog, because I wasn’t sure of the spelling.

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Kitty: No. Yes. Yes. None ya.
Me: Huh?
Kitty: No, I won’t tell you what’s going on in that photo. Like the rest of the world, you’ll have to wait and see. But by then, it will be too late for you. Mwahahahaha! Yes, that is a crocheted beaker. How observant of you. Yes, Jordie is one of my henchpeople. And none of your business whether or not I have a minion. Hence the term none ya.
Me: You’re rude.
Kitty: Thank you. I try. And for the record, Jordie prefers the J-O-R-D-I-E spelling.
Me: Gotcha. And what is the significance of this photo?

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Kitty: Don’t ask. Just . . . don’t.
Me: Well, can you at least tell me why Gandalf is in the beaker in this photo?

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Kitty: That’s actually a funny story.
Me: I’d love to hear it.
Kitty: Too bad! I won’t tell it to you. Mwahahahahaha!
Me (sighing): I give up.
Kitty: That’s what I like to hear!

So, there you have it. A supervillain’s work seems confusing and secretive at times—kind of like the thinking processes of this intrepid blogger.

Thanks for sticking around for 411 posts. You can count on me to bring you the 4-1-1 (that’s old slang for information if you’re completely confused) on the weird, the whimsical, and the wild.

Photos by L. Marie.

Giving Away a Smile . . . or Two

Ever have one of those seasons when you’re so broke you can’t even pay attention? Welcome to my life. Consequently, I was offline for almost two weeks. Internet service providers don’t work for free after all. I haunted the library daily like an overzealous patron. But I couldn’t always get on the computer. And with a 60-minute time limit for the use of a computer, I could only check email and leave.

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I missed you. I missed posting on my blog and reading the posts of others.

One good thing that happened during my exile is that I finished a revise of my middle grade fantasy novel. I am now working on cutting scenes out of said revise. The fact that I accomplished so much in a short span of time made me painfully aware of how much I usually procrastinate online.

Meanwhile, I’m back online with a giveaway. Inspired by the kindness of friends who made me smile during a difficult time, I’m giving away two copies of an award-winning middle grade graphic novel called Smile by Raina Telgemeier. Why this book? Mainly because the publisher (Graphix/Scholastic), for some reason, sent me stickers autographed by the author.

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So to celebrate my return online and getting through the revision, two commenters will each get a copy of this book. Due to the cost of mail delivery, I can only send the stickers and two crocheted daisy coasters (in photo below; they make me smile) to people in the U.S. (Yep. Offline I accomplished things like learning to crochet daisy-shaped coasters. The pattern is here.) But don’t worry, those of you who live outside the U.S. and depend on Amazon.co.uk. I can still send you the book courtesy of Amazon.

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Anyway, nice to “see” you again. I’ll announce the winners when I post next week. I’m still deciding on which day I’ll post each week.

What made you smile this week? I hope you’ll find a lot to smile about this weekend.

Book cover from Goodreads. Off button from youthleaderstash.com.

Time for a Change

Ever been in a relationship where your significant other sat you down and said, “It’s time for a change”? (That always sounds ominous, doesn’t it?) Perhaps you were the one who sat someone down and gave that speech. If you or someone you love felt taken for granted or wondered where the magic had gone, perhaps that was the catalyst for initiating the “time for a change” talk.

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Are you sitting down? Good. It’s time for a change.

Over the last few days, I’ve thought about this blog and the fact that lately I seem to be repeating myself. Some of the repetition is due to absent-mindedness—a product of the various stressors in my life, along with a need to complete my novel (not exactly a stressor).

To avoid stagnation, I mulled over my options. Cut down on posting? Give up the blog altogether? The latter was not an option I considered for long. After all, relationships take commitment. And I’m committed to this blog and to you who read it.

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They’re committed, too, though you might not wish to know exactly to what they’re committed.

So cutting back to posting once a week was the best option for the time being. I don’t want to wear out my welcome after all. I’ll see how that posting schedule plays out. However, I might occasionally have to post twice a week for special events like interviews, cover reveals, and other book-related announcements.

Ironically, this is my second post this week. But I had to post again in order to make the announcement about posting once a week. 🙂 I haven’t decided yet on what day I’ll post from now on. I’m mulling that over.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll continue leaving the light on for me. 🙂 Have a great rest of the week!

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Clock from sweetclipart.com. Lamp from clipartlord.com.

Happy Spring—My 300th Post

You have to laugh at weather in the Midwest, otherwise you’d cry. A lot. I mean, look at this—a bouquet of snowflakes arriving just in time for spring.

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Ooo. Ahhh. That brisk spring breeze. Watch as I celebrate burgeoning spring by shoveling snow and brushing it off my car. Cheer as I tiptoe daintily along the snow-covered path to get the mail. Strap in as I navigate the slippery, snow-covered streets. (Uh, can you tell I’ve been watching too many Honest Trailers?)

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So spring is on a slight delay here. I don’t do well with delays. But even with the snow, I’m reminded of the new life inherent with spring. Trees bud. Birds mate. Easter beckons.

We make plans, don’t we, as we contemplate warmer weather and being seen without heavy winter clothes or visited by people who have been cooped up inside all winter. You know what that means. House painting. Spring cleaning. Shedding winter pounds. (Which I was informed I need to do, since my cholesterol and blood pressure are both high—facts I learned after waiting over an hour to have a five-minute conversation with a medical practitioner.)

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Spring also means tackling other projects that could lead to a changed life. You know what those are. Finishing novels, poems, graphic novels, or screenplays. Getting queries out. Waiting for someone to respond to those queries. Eating ice cream. (Wait. How did that one get there?)

What is it about spring that makes us long for change? Perhaps because it is the first full season of the year (winter doesn’t count, since it carried over from last year) and we’re ready to begin anew. We have a clean slate.

Spring is the time to make life glorious. How are you planning to change your life this spring? If you can’t think of a plan, here are some suggestions off the top of my head:

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When you can’t find a flower, make your own, then give it to someone who needs it more.

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Be a wildlife champion. Look what someone left by the dumpster for the birds, the coyote who occasionally visits, and the stray cats roaming about (who might have met the coyote).

Happy spring! Thanks for helping to make this blog one for which I wanted to write 300 posts. 😀

Bathroom scale from deals.plethoraa.com.

Color Show

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While researching sight in horses, I learned that horses can’t distinguish as many colors as humans can. The human retina has three cone photoreceptors while the equine retina has two (dichromatic vision).

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One of the articles I read is “Vision in horses: More than meets the eye” by Neil Clarkson for Horsetalk.co.nz. The following line from the article made me sit up and take notice:

The research showed that horses, with their dichromatic vision, cannot distinguish red.

love-red-colorHumans with protanomalous (red-weak) vision have the same issue. And since red is my favorite color, well, you can see why I took notice, especially since the color red led me to research the topic in the first place. While writing a story with shape-shifters, I wanted to know which colors a teen in his animal form (horse) could distinguish. Could he distinguish the color of blood on snow?

I guess it’s up to me whether or not he retains his trichromatic color vision or switches over to dichromatic while a horse. (This is a fantasy book after all.) Since I wound up dumping the snow in the scene, the color aspect became moot anyway. But it caused me to think of how enriched my own world is due to having trichromatic color vision. Since I love bright colors (note the nail polish in the first photo), I have to fight the temptation to make every person, place, or thing I write about brightly colored. But I love using colors as symbols to show the emotional landscape of a character or to show mood in general.

Color choice can be very important when you’re using an objective correlative. If you’re wondering what an objective correlative is, here’s a handy definition from Merriam-Webster.com:

Something (as a situation or chain of events) that symbolizes or objectifies a particular emotion and that may be used in creative writing to evoke a desired emotional response in the reader.

A great post on objective correlatives with a helpful (and color-filled) example can be found here at Ingrid’s Notes. I can wait while you jet over there. I’ve got coffee to drink anyway.

You’re back? Good. Moving on, I also love to use color in an ironic way; for example, a depressed character who has the most colorful hair or wears the most colorful clothing (or both).

Color is one of the reasons why I love superhero ensemble shows or movies—all of those colorful costumes. Yet some of the most interesting heroes are the ones in basic black (or “very, very dark gray”; if you’ve seen The Lego Movie, you probably recognize that line). Here are some of those heroes:

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Black Panther (in front) and Lego Batman

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Black Widow and Hawkeye

(Still wondering about the “dark gray” line? Watch this video.)

How do you use color in your stories? What, if anything, have you admired about another author’s use of color?

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Hello Kitty and Jordie wanted to be part of the color photo shoot, since they’re colorful as well. However, if this post were a magazine, this photo would be one of the alternate covers.

By the way, I mentioned in another post that I was going to make myself a puppy hat. Mission accomplished. And yes, I wear it proudly.

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Horse eye from commons.wikimedia.org. Color wheels trotusa.com (which had the same photos from the Horsetalk article). Red wallpaper from love-wallpapers.com. Batman from jeffajohnson.com. Jeremy Renner from Hawkeye from fanpop.com. Black Widow from hdresimler.com. Black Panther from fanpop.

All Roads Lead to . . .

crossroadI worked with a guy who should have had his own version of Six Degrees of Separation. Every time I’d mention someone, he either knew that person or knew someone connected to that person. So, if I ever grew angry with my co-worker and wanted to vent, I had no one to talk to about him, because he’d eventually hear about it. I don’t dare mention his name, because you might know him.

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A six-degrees of separation flowchart

Know someone like that? If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s nonfiction book, The Tipping Point, you know about connectors—people who have an innate ability to connect people to other people. (Read this if you want to know more about connectors.)

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I am probably the only connection-impaired person in a family of connectors. I’m usually the person who goes, “I saw What’s-his-name the other day. You know. He’s married to What’s-her-face.”

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This is me, sort of. Actually, it’s Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (2005). But I relate to the posture of standing alone, or at least standing in the wind trying to recall someone’s name.

Connectors know lots of people. My older brother was one of the most popular people at our high school. He’s always naming people he heard from recently. (To which I usually reply, “Oh yeah. I sorta remember him,” knowing that I’m drawing a blank.) My younger brother was popular at his university. Do you know how difficult it is to be popular at a university which boasts tens of thousands of people? His birthday parties are usually populated by at least 40 of his closest friends. Now, I’ve known my younger brother all of his life, but at a recent party he threw, there were people who came that I did not know.

My dad knows tons of people. My mom always manages to connect to people who know everyone. My parents are used to the connecting way of life, because they’re from large families with a combined total of over twenty siblings (though, sadly, several are dead now). My in-laws also know everyone. I remember being in a mall in Houston with my sister-in-law, only to have her run into someone she knew. (We don’t live in Texas by the way. You know you’re a connector when you bump into people you know while traveling.)

Many bloggers are connectors: Andra Watkins; Jill Weatherholt; K. L. Schwengel; Charles Yallowitz; Marylin Warner; Laura Sibson; Sharon Van Zandt; Lyn Miller-Lachmann; the Brickhousechick; T. K. MorinCeline Jeanjean; Mishka Jenkins; Sandra Nickel—just to name a few. And I have several classmates (besides Laura, Lyn, and Sandra, and Sharon) who are born connectors. Whenever I want to inquire about agents, publishers, marketing, or anything else, I head straight to them for advice.

We look to the connectors in our lives, especially when we need to network, don’t we? It’s nice to know someone who knows someone else trustworthy. Connectors seem to love to match you with people they know. Need your car fixed? They know the perfect place to take your little Yugo. (Remember those?) Need your roof fixed? They know the people you should avoid calling. The only awkward thing about some connectors is that they think they know your taste when sometimes they don’t. Like when I was blindsided at a dinner by a well-meaning connector who tried to match me up with someone who also did not understand that this was a matchmaking meal. Talk about awkward, especially since we had no interest in each other.

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A Yugo

Authors are the ultimate connectors in a way. If you’re a fan of Charles Dickens, you know that in many of his books, he often reveals hidden connections between his characters. Then he adds a connector to connect the dots. Don’t believe me? Read Bleak House or see BBC’s adaptation of it. I won’t spoil the mystery for you.

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The challenge for an author comes with connecting characters in a noncontrived way—and by that I mean beyond shock value. Oh, I know. There’s something fun about the “Luke, I am your father” announcements. Have you explored the connections between your characters in ways that might surprise or delight a reader (or a viewer)? I’m reminded of a movie, Whisper of the Heart, written by Hayao Miyazaki, in which the main character, Shizuku, checks out library books and constantly finds the name of another character on the checkout cards. (This movie was made in the 90s, so checkout cards were used then.) He becomes an important connector for her. Knowing your characters’ back stories really helps. I’ve been a bit lazy in regard to back story with some of my characters. Some seem too isolated ala the Lizzie Bennet photo above. I’m trying to rectify that by providing more connecting points (i.e., interactions with friends, family, acquaintances, and enemies).

Connectors are a reminder of the richness of being in a community. I’m grateful for the threads like connectors that link us together.

Who are the connectors in your life?

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Gratuitous chicken photo

Crossroads photo from amersrour.blog.com. Six degrees diagram from commons.wikimedia.org. Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet image from pinterest.com. Yugo and chicken photos from Wikipedia. Book cover from Goodreads.