Kitty Wants Out

See? She has candy. She knows how to celebrate the season.

She also has a T-Rex. There’s time to run though. He’s not finished (still being sewn).

Every once in a while, I feel pressured great joy to cover the antics of Kitty, even after forgiving her time after time for stealing the loose change out of my wallet. (Though how she managed to do that while carrying that cupcake in her two hands is something for the Guinness Book of Records I guess.) Even now, she’s not really doing anything worth mentioning. Just standing there on the desk staring at me. I don’t know if that means she’s plotting mischief or taking a break.

My bad. She’s saying something.

Kitty: I’m bored. Need to get out of the house. So, how do I muscle in on this Halloween thing?
Me (staring blankly at her): What do you mean?
Kitty: Halloween. How do I profit by it?
Me: There’s no profit to be made. You pass out candy to kids or to adults who show up in costume at your door. That’s it.
Kitty: Easy peasy. I’ll just make candy. Get me some construction paper and I’ll draw some to give out.
Me: You have to give real candy! Otherwise people will come after you with tar and pitchforks. (Under my breath) You should be used to that treatment by now.
Kitty: Did you say something?
Me (innocent): Me? No.
Kitty (sounding menacing, though standing there with a cupcake kinda renders this moot): I didn’t think so.
Me (trying to be helpful): You can get a bag of candy at the store for $2.99.
Kitty (light bulb): Ah. Get several bags. We can sell ’em to your neighbors for $17.50 a bag.
Me (knowing the futility of explaining to her that no one in his or her right mind would pay almost six times the price for a bag of candy that he/she could get at the store for $2.99): I see where you’re going with that.
Kitty (gleefully rubbing her hands while still holding on to that cupcake): I’ll make a fortune. Run along to the store now. We’ll be grifting in no time.

Sigh. Of course, you know this scheme is doomed. As a probable aftermath, I can’t help thinking:

Better get used to these bars, kid.

(If you know what movie this line is from, please tell me in the comments. [I already know the movie, BTW.])

Have a happy and safe Halloween.

On a more sobering note: Thinking about and praying for the families of the victims of the recent Pittsburgh shooting. As you grieve, know that others are grieving with you.

Photos by L. Marie.

Time to Play!

My brother and his family used to live in San Diego. I wrote that just to give you a little context. One day when I was visiting, I had ordered my nephew, then five years old, to do something. You know how much fun it is to order kids to do stuff for you—tasks you’re perfectly capable of doing but are too lazy to do. While I can’t recall exactly what I wanted him to do, I’ll never forget his response.

“I’m busy,” he said.

“Busy doing what?” I asked. Obviously not busy doing what I’d just told him to do, which annoyed me.

“Playing,” he said.

I was so taken aback by his answer, and the seriousness in which it had been uttered, that I just stood there, staring at him. Finally, I said, “Okay. I can’t argue with that.”

His response might not seem profound to you, but it was to me. My attempt to interrupt his schedule had been met by a rebuff I couldn’t refute.

Lest you think I’m one of those adults who think children should do whatever they want whenever they want (newsflash: nope), let me just say that this is not a post about teaching children responsibility or anything else. You see, my nephew taught me something that day: the value of taking playtime seriously.

Oh, I see that look. Adults have to behave responsibly. We’ve got mortgages, car insurance, and other bills. Can’t always sit around building with LEGOs, right?

Right?

Playtime is even better with a crowd.

I’m a better writer when I take time to play, when my nose isn’t always to the grindstone and I’m trying to force myself to write something whimsical and delightful. How many people know that you can’t force yourself to write anything with that description if your attitude is, “I MUST do this. I MUST suck it up and put words on the page because, y’know, that’s what you’re supposed to do”?

Yeah, yeah. I totally get the need to sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Sometimes, you have to do that. But sometimes, you have to allow yourself time to just play, whatever that might mean for you.

Playtime is like ma space, a rest (or space) between periods of action. (Look here for the Wikipedia article on ma space or here for a post on this blog about ma space..)

My friend Jill puts puzzles together. My friend Sharon takes photographs and draws. My friend Laura hikes or kayaks. My friend Lyn builds awesome things with LEGOs. Some of us play videogames or crochet lambs. (Yes, I consider crocheting playtime.)

What do you do to play?

Here in America, today is a holiday called Labor Day. What is Labor Day? According to this website on the history of Labor Day, “It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

What better day to kickback and play? I have deadlines tomorrow, yeah. But today, I’m gonna play. Today’s playtime could usher in tomorrow’s inspiration.

Hopscotch anyone?

Donatina Shoppie with mini Donatina and locket by Moose Toys. Hopscotch photo from toysperiod.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

Many Moms

Hope all you moms out there had a happy Mother’s Day! I couldn’t be with my mom on the day. But I sent her something I crocheted to say, “I love you. Thank you for being my mom.”

Orchids come out to play on Mother’s Day.

While at the craft store last week (I’m at the craft store at least three times a week), a woman said to me, “Are you a mother? Hope you have a happy Mother’s Day.”

I told her I was not a mom. She looked stunned and said, “Oh I just thought you were since most women are mothers.” I didn’t explain to her that I couldn’t have children. But as I walked to my car, I felt as I had failed somehow, since I couldn’t do something “most women” could do.

Don’t worry. I mentally slapped myself the moment I opened my car door. The act of opening the door was a reminder of how easily I could open the door to depression simply because of what someone said. I’ve done that too many times before.

So instead, I gave thanks for my mother, grandmothers (now deceased), sisters-in-laws, mothers of my sisters-in-law, friends, and the women who have been like mothers to me. Like my mother’s best friend, who lived several houses away on the block I grew up on in Chicago. She was the kind of neighbor who cared enough to correct me when I did something wrong.

Or like my fifth-grade teacher, who worked me harder than any teacher I’d had up till then, because she saw potential in me.

I think of my aunt who emails to see how I’m doing every once in a while. She doesn’t have children either, by the way.

Moms come in so many types besides biological. I think of writer friends who are “manuscript moms.” They helped me raise good manuscripts by beta reading them, giving helpful suggestions for changing them, and by reminding me of what’s good about them. And I have non-writer friends who mother me by inviting me to their homes for dinner or who send tea or other goodies to me in the mail.

But I also can’t forget that holidays like this can be difficult sometimes. One of my grandmothers died right before Mother’s Day years ago. So, my family attended a funeral instead of celebrating Mother’s Day. I can’t approach a Mother’s Day without thinking of her. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’ve lost a parent or a child or couldn’t have children at all. If so, perhaps Mother’s Day is a struggle for you too. Just know you’re not alone in that.

When you think of Mother’s Day, who are you thankful for? Maybe you don’t have a mom or a significant female in your life, but are thankful for your dad or some other surrogate parent. Feel free to comment below.

These friends (Olive, Barbie, and Babette) have made a pact to spend Mother’s Day together. Though single (and yes, happy in their singleness) and without children (except for those they babysit), they’re surrogate moms and mentors to others.

Photos by L. Marie.

This Is Me

Happy Valentine’s Day (and Ash Wednesday)!

If you’ve seen the movie, The Greatest Showman (starring Hugh Jackman and directed by Michael Gracey), you might know that the title of the post is the title of a song from the movie, which was sung by Keala Settle and other members of the ensemble cast. Yeah, I’d never heard of Keala Settle either before seeing the movie, though she’d starred on Broadway for years. Yet there she was in the movie, singing one of the most memorable songs from it.

A friend and I saw the movie this weekend. Afterward, we walked back through the frozen tundra to the car, processing what we’d seen.

Some of the lines of the song ran through my mind:

I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me. (Written by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek)

This post is not meant to be a review of the movie, though I thought it was fabulous. (Guess that statement is a mini-review of a sort.) I won’t give any spoilers about why the song was sung, though it came at a very appropriate point in the movie. And this post is not a commentary on the life of P. T. Barnum, the subject of the movie. I was struck, however, by the song and how long it took to get the movie made—seven and a half years, according to Hugh Jackman. Studios were reluctant to back an original musical. But this project was a passion for him. In an interview I found on the internet (sorry, I didn’t copy the link to the interview) he said this project was more like who he was than other projects.

Maybe you can relate to the lyrics I quoted above. I certainly can. And I can relate to a seven-year journey of working to get something made. I began my elf novel seven years ago. I’ve written many books and other things since then. Some were published, some weren’t. But the elf book is my passion project, which has its antecedents in a story I wrote twenty years ago—you read that right—back when I wrote parodies.

I grew up watching a little cartoon called Fractured Fairy Tales, which were parodies of fairy tales.

I thought I’d try my hand writing at those. But instead of using existing fairy tales, I wanted to write original fairy tales. I came up with some characters who rescued princesses. Only, they weren’t very good at it.

This is not the story I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I can’t find that one for some reason. This is another fairy tale I wrote back in the day. But I wrote all of my fairy tales on yellow paper like this.

I worked on that story off and on for six years for my own amusement, considering it a hobby like crocheting, while trying to finish a science fiction novel for adults. But around 2004, an astute friend asked me, “Why don’t you write fairy tales instead?” She meant for publication, instead of the science fiction novel for which I struggled to find a good ending. “They seem more you,” she added.

Honestly, the notion of getting that story published had never crossed my mind until she spoke those words. Well, I polished it, submitted it to publishers and agents, but got nowhere. Only one agent asked to see the full manuscript. He mentioned that he liked some of it. Now, let’s flash forward seven years. I’m in grad school at this point. An advisor read my fairy tale, which had been rejected probably twenty-five times. Ironically, I had submitted chapters of this book as part of my application to get into the graduate school.

She said, “I liked some of it.” Familiar words. And then she said (and I’m just paraphrasing here, since we had numerous conversations on this subject), “You’ve got to take writing more seriously. These characters deserve better.” Meaning, stop writing parodies, making fun of the fairy tales you claim to love. Write from a sincere heart.

So, I lifted several characters out of that book and gave them a new home and a new plot, which became the book I started seven years ago.

That’s why I was encouraged by The Greatest Showman. It’s nice to know that projects made with love can find an audience of people who love them too.

What’s the longest you’ve ever worked on a project?

If you want more information on the movie, check out this
HBO Interview, which involves Hugh Jackman, Zendaya, and Zac Efron talking about the movie:

The Greatest Showman movie poster from cinematerial.com. Fractured Fairy Tales still from avxhome.se. Other photos by L. Marie. The Valentine owl crochet pattern can be found here.

Snow, Snow, Slow Your Roll

I’m sitting here as I write this, gazing out of the window at a gray-blue sky. We’ve had day after day after day after day of snowfall. And more is on the way, according to my brother and sister-in-law, who within hours of each other, texted the happy news to me.

   

Yeah, I know. That’s what winter is all about, Charlie Brown. Snow falls. Temperatures drop.

   

Anyway, I was complaining to Barbie about this recently. She’s a good listener. Even put down her magazine and gave me her full attention. I was explaining how the snowfall has caused me to slow down while driving.

She gave me a look as if to say, “Like that’s a bad thing?” Snow-Fro the Shoppet also concurred. She would. She was made for winter.

I like to zip around town, catching every green light, making good time, getting to my destination quickly. But zipping down a road, heedless of what the conditions are like, is how accidents happen. Having had my share of winter accidents, I learned the value of taking it slow. When you live with snow and ice, you adjust to the pace of the season.

Revision is that way. I’m revising a young adult fantasy novel for probably the twelfth time. I want to zip through it, like I zip down the street when the roads are ice free. But that’s what I did before. And I’ve discovered several things I missed in the earlier revisions. Like the gaps in logic or faulty descriptions I constantly find as I read the chapters.

My revision cave, where, yes, crocheting and video watching also occur

One chapter took me two days to work through. Two. Days. So, no matter how hard it’s been and how long it’s taking, I need to give myself permission to keep at it. “Slow your roll, L.,” I remind myself.

Winter is here in all of its messy glory. Just like revision. I’m trying to be present in the moment and present on the page in this season of change.

The sun is out, like a kiss of heaven. Though the snow lingers and threatens, I can’t help believing that I can weather the snow and the revision.

   

Barbie is a registered trademark of Mattel. Snow-Fro and Kissy Boo Shoppets and Fluffy Snowball and Terri Tennis Ball Shopkins are registered trademarks of Moose Toys. Photos by L. Marie.

Check This Out: Warlord of the Forgotten Age

Hello! Happy 2018!

One of my favorite ways to celebrate a new year is to host a giveaway. With that in mind, on the blog today is the awesome Charles Yallowitz.

Those of you who have followed me for a while have seen many posts featuring Charles’s books from his Legends of Windemere series. Well, today he’s here to talk about the final novel in the series: Warlord of the Forgotten Age. Let’s celebrate with Charles by talking with him about this milestone in his series.

Cover by Jason Pedersen

   
El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Charles: 1. I was born premature and required two blood transfusions before I could finally go home. Been told that my head was shaved to allow for the wires and sensors they put on me. Part of me wonders if this introduction to the world is why I have such a visceral fear of needles. It’s to the point where trying to give blood can result in me fainting.
2. Pizza is my favorite food and I use it as a reward for hard work. I don’t get it for myself when I’m working on a project. Once I’m done, I pick a day where I go to the local pizza place and get a few variety slices. My favorite is a Rigatoni Ala Vodka slice.


3. According to my parents, I was given a Gonzo (The Muppets) prototype plushie when I was a kid. The story goes that a family friend in the business suggested they test their upcoming plushie line on me. She showed me the toys, but I was upset that there was no Gonzo. This led to me getting a Gonzo toy a few weeks later with a cape and this soft plastic nose. I chewed that part up a lot and always shared my gum with him, so any value was pretty quickly destroyed.
4. I used to have a habit of watching an anime called Neon Genesis Evangelion when I was depressed. To explain, I get blue and down periods a lot if I’m under a lot of stress. No real urge to do anything and I can’t find a real source of the gray mindset. So, I’d put this anime on, which is strange because it can get really dark and depressing itself. Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t really a happy, pick-me-up series, but I kept watching it for some reason because it made me feel better.

El Space: In completing the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson said on his website:

I’ve reached the end of the journey and set down my burdens. It’s wonderful, relaxing, and solemn all at once. I love the Wheel of Time. It’s also great to be done.

What are some of your thoughts at the conclusion of your series?
Charles: Wow, I feel like I need a cool quote like that now, but I keep feeling like I’m at a crossroads instead of an exit. Legends of Windemere has been a part of my life for so long that it feels weird knowing I no longer wake up to working on it. Yet the survivors can show up in other adventures. I spent a lot of time planning future series. I keep saying that it’s bittersweet when I write about it, so that’s definitely the best word. Is it great to be done like Sanderson said in his quote? I wouldn’t say it’s great, but I definitely feel proud about making it to the end of such a big adventure for both my characters and myself. Guess just like with the champions, I have to accept the ending and move on too.

El Space: Your series began almost twenty years ago. Looking back at your initial vision for the series, did it come out the way you envisioned it? Why or why not?
Charles: Since this was based on a D&D game, the vision was always a little fluid. Yet the initial version is very different from what I came out with. Merchant of Nevra Coil, The Mercenary Prince, and Path of the Traitors weren’t part of the original idea. Those stories stemmed from me seeing some characters who were interesting, but underutilized. On a more detailed level, the character relationships stayed pretty much where I expected them as far as the champions themselves. I stumbled onto various secrets and surprises as I wrote, which changed the vision and world building slightly. Mostly, it involved how magic and various cultures worked since this series was also designed to set the stage for future series.

    

Covers by Jason Pedersen

I always wanted to have a lot of action, humor, and entertaining characters to draw my readers into the world. I think that’s stayed relatively stable while the pieces have changes and morphed over time.

El Space: Without giving any spoilers, which character(s) was/were the most surprising to you in their development? Why?
Charles: All of my characters have thrown me curveballs from time to time. But the reigning champion has to be Kira Grasdon. It might be weird to pick a supporting character, but the surprising part of her development is that she had any in the first place. Way back when, she was a nameless blonde in the background of Beginning of a Hero. Then she got the name Linny and became a mouthy character in one chapter. At some point, I decided she would be better as a decoy for something and gave her more scenes. Things rolled with her proving to have more sparks with Luke than his original lady love from the game and the entire Bor’daruk culture was created around the newly dubbed Kira Grasdon. So, she’s a nameless figure that managed to grab more and more attention in every edit until she became an essential player. The series wouldn’t be what it is now without her even though I know she’s ruffled a lot of reader feathers over the years.

Kira illustration by Kayla Matt

El Space: Who will you miss writing about the most? Why?
Charles: Luke Callindor will probably be missed the most. He was my character in that D&D game, so there’s a closer bond between us than with the other champions. It was always very natural for me to write his scenes and dialogue, which might stem from me being him for so long. There will be a few other characters like him in other series, but Luke could be considered my first surrogate. That and I always felt like I could do more to him than the other characters without feeling as much guilt or getting in as much trouble.

         

Luke illustration by Kayla Matt; cover art by Jason Pedersen

El Space: What advice do you have for newbie authors who’d like to try their hand at a fantasy series?
Charles: Since we’re talking about series specifically, I would advise that new authors put a lot of attention on continuity. World building is very important to fantasy, so you need to make sure your magical systems, cultures, monsters, and everything else are consistent. It’s hard to keep track of after a few volumes, so developing a system of notes is highly recommended. Readers are very quick to point out inconsistencies in the world, so never be afraid to go back in the series to make sure you’re keeping things the same.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Charles: My next series is going to delve into the world of the Dawn Fangs, which are the day-walking vampires of Windemere. It will reveal their origins and the vampire civil war that ensued between them and the old worlds. Right now, it’s looking like nine books at most, since this is going to be another foundation series for Windemere. Aside from War of Nytefall, I have a one-shot spinoff of Legends of Windemere that I plan on publishing next summer. So, I’m planning on staying fairly busy, even if I take it a little slower in January. Maybe just focus on outlines during that time.

Thanks, Charles, for being my guest!

Looking for Charles? You can find him at his blog, Twitter, Facebook.

Warlord of the Forgotten Age can be found on Amazon. But one of you will win a copy of this book. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced on January 15, 2018, along with the winner of another book you will hear about soon!

Warlord of the Forgotten Age cover and author photo courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Legends of Windemere cover art by Jason Pedersen. Character art by Kayla Matt. A Memory of Light cover from Goodreads. Rigatoni ala vodka pizza image from gfcookiesxo.blogspot.com. New Year image from happynewyear2018photos.net. Finale image from grandbanktheater.ca. Neon Genesis Evangelion image from taringa.net.

Happy Holidays 2017

Since next Monday is Christmas Day and I’ll be with family, I decided to post my holiday message today.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I finished my middle grade novel revision. Woo hoo! 😀 😃 😄 I celebrated by moving on to a ghostwriting project. See, that’s how I roll. Actually, I included a couple of hours of Pokémon Ultra Sun game play in my celebration.

With the revision out of the way (and no, I don’t have further news about that just yet), I can sit down and express my shock at how fast this year has flown by. Other bloggers like Jill Weatherholt have noted that fact.

Seems like only yesterday that I went to bed early on New Year’s Eve. That’s right. Didn’t stay up to ring in 2017. More than likely history will repeat itself this year. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Christmas is a week away, and I feel quite unprepared for it. I’ve been in my own little world, with its own rhythm: revise, sleep, eat, revise. Now that I’ve come up for air after a month, I realize how little time I have to do anything in the way of shopping or holiday crafting. Sigh. And I had such grandiose plans earlier in the year. I was going to make a ton of gifts early on, and then sit back and drink cocoa and watch holiday movies all season long. Ha ha! 😆 My crafting plans sound like New Year’s resolutions—made early, broken soon afterward.

But maybe that’s okay too. I have a tendency to get caught up in seasonal expectations that, in the grand scheme of things, really don’t mean much. My mother would much rather spend time with me on the phone or in person than receive a crocheted sweater or yet another potholder made because the season demands it. That’s not an excuse to skip buying or making a gift for someone. That’s just a truth I so often forget, but have been reminded of lately. Kinda takes the pressure off.

What, if any, expectations do you struggle with during the holidays?

Wishing you continued joy and peace this holiday season.

Kitty wonders how much loot she can fit in this mitten ornament. Not much, she assesses. And now she wonders why I didn’t crochet it bigger. I wonder when she’ll realize that it’s not all about her.

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Composed by Franz Xaver Gruber; lyrics by Joseph Mohr

Photos by L. Marie.