Kitty on the Lam or: How a Tiny Car Is Not the Best Bet for a Getaway

Welcome, July! In the last post, a certain Kitty not only forced her way on to my blog, she made off with my change (though she won’t get much with $4.57) and escaped before the police could apprehend her.

She made off on this Cutie Car. Obviously, she didn’t get very far. Would you, on this thing?

But she managed to get some distance away at least. To help the police, I set out to discover her whereabouts. First stop: Kitty’s parents. A bewildered Ken and Barbie had this to say:
Ken: First of all, the fact that she’s our daughter is news to us.
Barbie: All we can say is, we’re very disappointed that her life has turned out this way.
Ken: Is she really a supervillain? They’re supposed to be rich. She never gave us anything.
Barbie (disapprovingly): Ken! . . . Anyway, she came by here after slipping off that Cutie Car. It was the banana one after all. What did she expect?
Me (crickets chirping)
Barbie (slightly embarrassed): We told her to turn herself in to the police.
Ken: Especially since she never gave us a dime for rent after moving back here.
Barbie: Ken!

They weren’t much help. But an astute person snapped this photo of Kitty scaling a bureau.

Oops.

Her dangling escapade must have ended soon afterward, because the next Kitty sighting took place in a patch of flowers. Maybe she thought she wouldn’t be noticed.

She was wrong.

The last sighting took place on Brush, a tree you might recall from this post.

   

But when the police converged on that spot, Kitty was gone. No one knows where she is now.

Meanwhile, Lyn Miller-Lachmann asked about Jordie. Life has been up and down for him. Having always believing himself to be straight-up gangsta, Jordie decided to acquire some molls just for the look of the thing. But things didn’t work out. This photo was taken seconds before the would-be molls beat up Jordie, and made off with his wallet. I was told they went on to a successful, but short-lived bank robbing career. (Hmm. Guess it wasn’t so successful, if they were caught, though I heard a movie is being made of their story, even as I type this.) After a stint in prison, they headed to Hollywood, where they’re working as stunt doubles.

Weary of the laughter and jeers of others (ironic, considering his outfit), Jordie gave up his life of crime. (He wasn’t good at it anyway.) He’s peddling ice cream somewhere.

Lemony Limes also decided to give up the lackey life and go straight. She applied for an internship with the Avengers and is now being mentored by Captain America. And even Goldie the goldfish, still shocked at having been chosen to be one of Kitty’s lackeys, has realized that crime does not pay. What would a fish do with money anyway?

   

Hello Kitty was made for McDonald’s by Sanrio. Jordie is a LEGO minifigure. Barbie and Ken are registered trademarks of Mattel. Cutie Cars, Lemony Limes Shoppie doll, Snow-Fro and Kissy Boo Shoppets are registered trademarks of Moose Toys. Captain America Lip Balm can be found here. Photos by L. Marie.

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Bring On the Ninjas

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Kitty and her effigy

Don’t worry. I’ll get to the winner of the preorder of Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt. But first . . .

The other day, I watched this video at Swoozie’s YouTube channel. (It’s okay if you don’t know who he is. You can Google him later.) It involved ninjas.

With this video, we’re reminded of TV and movie series featuring the Power Rangers, and of course the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and martial arts films from Japan and China, which give us a feeling of nostalgia. While watching the video, I couldn’t help wondering why I and many others enjoy the sight of ninjas. So I searched the internet and found a great io9 article by Annalee Newitz on the subject: “Why Americans Became Obsessed with Ninjas.”

This quote from the article caught my attention:

Today being a “ninja” is just a way of saying you’re awesomely skilled, and maybe a little aggressive.

Newitz mentioned the 22,000 people on Twitter who call themselves social media ninjas. Even if we don’t call ourselves that on Twitter, many of us like the idea of being “shadow warriors”—stealthy and in control.

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Kitty has bought wholeheartedly into the notion of being a ninja.

Sadly, some people online use stealth to attack others with their words or actions. Like stealth bombers, they deploy missiles of hate or rage, believing themselves to be cool and clever, but also safe behind the mask of anonymity.

Wouldn’t it be great if people became ninjas not to harm but to help or encourage others? I’d love to see people who are “awesomely skilled” at building others up, instead of tearing people down. Imagine stealthy acts of kindness and generosity.

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At first, the sudden appearance of tiny, masked strangers struck fear in Jordie’s heart. But when they gave him gifts of food, he had a different idea of what a ninja could do.

Food for thought.

Now on to the winner of a preorder of Jill Weatherholt’s book, Second Chance Romance.

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I said there would be one winner. But in the spirit of being a ninja who gives or encourages, I’m giving away two preorders instead of one. How’s that for stealthy? . . . Okay, maybe I need to work on my stealth.

The winners are  . . .

Are   . . .

Are   . . .

Are   . . .

S. K. Nicholls

and

Phillip McCollum!!!

S. K. Nicholls and Phillip McCollum, you have until Wednesday at 10 p.m. (November 9) to confirm below and email your address and phone number to lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com. Let me know if you want a paperback or an ebook. I will preorder the book to be sent to you via Amazon. If within that time frame I fail to hear from either of you, the random number generator will choose two other winners.

Thanks to all who commented.

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Um, this is a raccoon, rather than a ninja.

Newitz, Annalee. “Why Americans Became Obsessed with Ninjas.” Io9. Gizmodo, 06 Feb. 2013. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.

Jill Weatherholt photo and book cover courtesy of the author. 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.

Gender Talk

When you see photos like the ones below of girls talking in a group (just hanging out at a sleepover or at some other gathering), what do you imagine they’re saying to each other? (Okay, yes, I know they’re all dolls of a sort. Just pretend, okay?)

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Raise your hand if you think they’re talking about boys. Or hair and makeup. Or collections of tiny things like Shopkins. Or perhaps you think they’re gossiping about their friends or other people. Now, raise your hand if you think they’re talking about quantum mechanics (“the science of the very small,” according to Wikipedia), earth science, psychology, or what’s trending on the internet. Anybody? Hello?

Now look at the photo below. Think of them as boys having a conversation. (Um the one in purple is Batzarro, who is in Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League.) What do you think they’re discussing? Sports? Quantum mechanics? Girls? Cars? Videogames? Collections of tiny things like Shopkins?

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Many of us have preconceived ideas about what girls or boys talk about or like. Some of these ideas have to do with how we were socialized, and the expectations with which we grew up. You know the ones: girls like dolls and colors like pink and purple; boys like cars and trains and colors like blue or green. Girls talk about boys and hair at a sleepover. If a kid stepped out of the “bubble,” he or she was “corrected,” sometimes by other kids.

Think times have changed, now that we’re so “enlightened” about preconceived gender issues? Think again. A little boy I know used to love the color purple until he was told by another kid that purple is a “girl” color.

If we have kids, we want them to be all that they can be. But sometimes what we think someone else “should” like or be like has more to do with our own frustrated hopes than that person’s natural bent.

I read an article a few weeks ago (wish I could find it again) where a father mentioned the Girl Toy of the Year and the Boy Toy of the Year for 2015. The Girl Toy of the Year was the Shopkins Small Mart Playset (by Moose Toys). The Boy Toy of the Year was the Zoomer Dino (by Spin Master). There was a general Toy of the Year too. But in the article I read, the father complained about the girl toy and how it lacked action. Never mind the fact that a girl moving a doll around the market shows action and especially imagination. I can’t recall if this father had daughters or not. If he did, more than likely they should not expect to get this Small Mart Playset. (By the way, I’ve seen kids play with remote-controlled toys. They grew bored with them fairly quickly.)

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I wonder if this dad would be appalled if he saw some little boys I know happily playing in the giant toy kitchen set up in their home. They know their way around the kitchen, because their dad is an awesome cook who probably could open his own restaurant.

At this same house, I watched the kids at a birthday party recently. Now in this family, there are three kids: a girl and two boys (same as my family). The family will soon grow with the addition of a baby girl this summer (also the same as my family, though my sister didn’t live).

It’s fascinating to me to see to what toys and games children naturally gravitate. Though lightsabers and Nerf guns abounded in this house for anyone to use, the girls at the party chose to play quietly in a bedroom away from the raucous lightsaber/Nerf gun battle in which the boys participated. Every once in awhile, the girls would emerge from the room with a doll or doll blanket. (All of these girls were under the age of eight.) But they refused to join the battle.

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Yet when I babysat the children of the host family, all of the kids participated in a game I introduced to them that I used to play with my brothers. We called it Houseboat. The couch was the houseboat. The floor represented the shark-infested waters. The object was to dive for pearls or other treasure and make it back onto the houseboat without being attacked by sharks. The lookout (usually me) would call out, “Sharks!” Everyone would have to get out of the “water” and back to the houseboat. There were always some casualties. 🙂

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It’s fun to watch kids be kids whether they pick up a doll or a lightsaber. (And I’ve picked up both.) They can be all they can be as long as they know there is no shame in what they choose.

By the way, a girl at church who has been the beneficiary of some of my Shopkins mentioned that her brother wanted some of them too. Just sayin’.

Shopkins Small Mart Playset image from crossencreations.com. Zoomer Dino from norcalcoupongal.com. Shark from download32.com. Lightsaber from unity-technology.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

Dress It Up

When was the last time you told someone, “My luve’s like a red, red rose”? Probably never, right? Perhaps you leave those sentiments to poets like Robert Burns (who penned those words) or Andy Murray. Or perhaps such language seems stilted to you in the every day. But chances are you use figurative language—similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, alliteration, onomatopoeia—quite often, even if you’re not overly conscious of doing so. Ever say, “Boom” or “Hush”? Onomatopoeia. “LOL, Loser”? Alliteration. “He is a panther, sleek and sly”? Metaphor.

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But you know all of that. And you also know how figurative language can dress up a line of prose or poetry. An apt phrase can replace miles and miles of exposition. For example, we all know how destructive fire can be. So instead of taking three paragraphs to describe how one character (Character A) is a bad influence on another (Character B), we might have Character B tell someone that Character A is “like fire.” (But we would remember that many cliché phrases involve fire and of course would try to avoid those.)

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Back in my grad school days, I showed my advisor a scene from my Tolkienesque fantasy novel for teens, which involved a teen approaching his dying mother. The following paragraphs are from that scene. I mentioned that scene because I included some figurative language. I won’t keep you in suspense—my advisor hated this scene.

From the cottage doorway, she looked like a doll left on the bed: small and fragile. Even the hill of the child she carried seemed dwarfed by the faded patchwork quilt.

Though the lamps had been lit, the cottage was full of late afternoon shadows and a quiet beyond the absence of the others. . . .

He swallowed, trying to make his voice steady, trying to ask what he didn’t want to ask. “What did you see?” He could tell by her face that she’d had a vision. Though they could communicate mind to mind, he could never see what she saw. Her visions were random, virulent things.

After a vision her green eyes were like birds, restless, flitting until the touch of his father’s hand calmed her, brought her back from wherever the vision took her. This time, it didn’t look as if she would ever return.

Why did she hate this? Well, she knew something about me as a writer: I was not really paying attention to the characters in the scene. I was more concerned with the language of the scene—how “pretty” I could make it. That’s what she hated. She wanted to care about the characters—not my attempt to sound lyrical.

Lest you think she seemed overly harsh, please understand that she did me a favor. I could see why the scene didn’t work, and especially why a reader would feel emotionally manipulated (cue the violin music). I wound up rewriting the whole book anyway. (That scene was not included.)

So the use of figurative language has pros and cons. If you keep character foremost in your mind as you consider using figurative language, your writing will be wonderfully effective. And unlike me you’ll avoid giving a lyrical line of dialogue to a three-year-old, no matter how eloquently the sentiments are expressed. After all, since three-year-olds are learning to form sentences, they wouldn’t trot out a simile or a metaphor. But they might say, “Boom!”

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She says his head is like an empty room. He says she is the wind beneath his wings. Can this relationship work? The beauty of figurative language.

Watch, if you dare, a blast from the past—a video by Bell Biv DeVoe featuring their 1990 hit, “Poison” (or just listen, if the video images bother you). Figurative language? Yup. It’s got it.

Figurative language image from gcps.desire2learn.com. Fire from losangelesawyersource.com.

Living Beyond the Label

When I was a kid, I took an IQ test like every other kid at the school. But my parents chose to do something interesting: they chose never to reveal to me my IQ. Instead they always told me, “Study hard, and do the best you can.” So I grew up without the labels that come with a specific IQ.

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Later other labels/categories were introduced to me. For example, the Myers-Briggs test based on personality types developed by Carl Jung. I’m sure you’ve seen the personality types. I found the following right here:

The 16 personality types
ESTJ   ISTJ   ENTJ    INTJ
ESTP   ISTP   ENTP   INTP
ESFJ   ISFJ   ENFJ    INFJ
ESFP   ISFP   ENFP   INFP

Have you taken this test? I won’t say which of these types supposedly encapsulates my personality. But I will say that some of my former employers required this test or other personality defining tests. I never understood why, since I can’t pinpoint any discernible way that the knowledge of my personality type helped me in the jobs I’ve had.

Now, before you balk, remember, I’m talking about myself. Perhaps knowing your personality type helped you. I’ve been employed as a proofreader, copy editor, production editor, and a book/curriculum editor. If you think one personality type would be ideal for any of these occupations, you might believe you could make an accurate guess about my personality type. But you would probably be wrong about me.

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In some communities to which I’ve belonged, certain combinations of those four letters were highly prized, depending on the personality types of those within the “in” crowd. But I have always been a bit rebellious. That’s why, having learned my results from the Myers-Briggs test, I determined to forget what I learned.

“Don’t you want to understand yourself better?” some have asked me. Do I really need four letters to tell me what I’m like?

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When I was a kid, I failed to understand why my parents withheld information about my IQ. Now I do. They wanted me to live beyond the label of it—to work hard to be the best person I can be, whether my IQ is below or above average.

Regardless of whether I’m introverted or extroverted, some tasks will take me out of my comfort zone. But I still have to do them. If I allow the limits of a label to define me, I might shun these activities.

You know what I find interesting? The fact that so many well-known celebrities admit to being shy. If you look at this article, you’ll see that these individuals didn’t want their lives defined by this label. Instead they worked hard to live beyond it. Just like my parents wanted me to do.

Want to know which four-letter label I wouldn’t mind living by? You can find two of them on my T-shirt. A specific personality type is not required.

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What about you? How have labels helped or hindered your life?

IQ image from caltech.edu. Other photos by L. Marie.

Fantastic Four

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The “fantastic four” as perhaps you’ve never seen them. They’re willing to fight crime. But I’m not sure how effective they will be at it.

When I asked a friend the other day for advice on my WIP, she reminded me of the rule of three. What’s that? Wikipedia says:

The rule of three or power of three is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.

Perhaps that accounts for the large volume of trilogies out there. And nursery rhymes, folktales, films, and books like:

• “The Three Little Pigs”
• “Three Billy Goats Gruff”
• “Three Blind Mice”
• “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”
• The Three Investigators series

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The Three Musketeers (Dumas)
Three Times Lucky (Turnage)
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time (Mortenson)

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Three the Hard Way (1974 film)
¡Three Amigos! (1986 film)

But I think we’ve all been disappointed by a trilogy or two at some point, haven’t we? Maybe the first two books or movies were good. Yet the disappointment we felt at the close of the third—the crucial one—made us wish we’d never started the series in the first place.

Still, I’ve enjoyed stories with the rule of three firmly in place. Aladdin had three wishes. Macbeth consulted three witches. Cerberus had three heads. Three princes set out on a quest to free an enchanted princess.

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Um, this does not count as the rule of 3. But it’s fun all the same.

Though I appreciate the rule of three, I’m partial to the number four for a number of reasons. As a kid, I read the Fantastic Four comic books. (Yes, I’m looking forward to the reboot of the movie franchise.) I was born in the fourth month. I enjoyed The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle. A four-book series of mine was published ages ago. (Now out of print. That’s the downside of publishing, kids. Stay in school. Don’t do drugs.) The character Four (below left) in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth is hot. And though we usually associate three ghosts with Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, he actually talked to four ghosts, if you count Jacob Marley. But Dickens followed the rule of three with the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future.

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Yet as fantastic as four is, I can’t say I’ve deliberately put four of anything in a book with the view of making it funnier or more satisfactory. I’m hesitant to do so unless I’m certain that what I’ve added is organic to the story, and not just a plot device. Because that’s the thing about rules sometimes, isn’t it? Sometimes, they’re just gimmicks that get in the way.

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Here’s where I confess that I’m toying with the idea of adding a fourth main character  to a young adult novel I started last year. I had hopes of making it work with three perspectives. The rule of three, you see. Months ago, I put that project down in favor of the one I’m working on now. But a fourth character’s perspective keeps coming to mind, one begging to be explored. Who knows? Four might be the charm.

Do you follow a rule in your writing? If so, how has a writing rule enhanced your story?

In honor of four, here’s “The Four-Legged Zoo”—a Schoolhouse Rock video:

Christmas Carol scene from iam2.org. Book covers from Goodreads. Number 4 from raggedglories.blogspot.com. Rules of Anime 3 from gabriellevalentine.synthasite.com. Fantastic Four comic from comicmegastore.com. “Fantastic four” photo by L. Marie.