“You Put Your Left Hand In . . .”

img_4153

What song/dance did you think of immediately when you read the title of the post? It’s considered a novelty/fad dance because of its popularity for a time at wedding receptions and large gatherings of kids. (If you still aren’t sure what that song is, I’ll whisper it to you in the comments if you ask.) I didn’t notice anyone suggesting it at any wedding reception I’ve attended in the last few years. The “Chicken Dance” is still hanging in there as a wedding reception staple.

img_4151Connie Willis’s 1996 science fiction novel, Bellwether, is all about fads and trends. Dr. Sandra Foster, the main character, is a sociologist who studies them. Like this one:

dance marathon (1923—33) Endurance fad in which the object was to dance the longest to earn money. Couples pinched and kicked each other to stay awake, and when that failed, took turns sleeping on their partner’s shoulder for as long as 150 days. (Willis 105)

And yes, Barbie herself (pictured above) has endured past her early fad-dom. (If that’s even a word, which I suspect it isn’t.)

This is not a review of Bellwether, by the way, though I loved the book. (Which I guess is kind of a mini-review.) I’m more interested in the central concept of the book: the bellwether. (Maybe now you’re thinking of the Bellwether character in Zootopia.)

bellwether_zootopia

Assistant Mayor Bellwether

According to Merriam-Webster.com, a bellwether is

one that takes the lead or initiative : leader; also : an indicator of trends

States can be bellwethers too. You can check out Wikipedia (click here) for more information on the bellwether’s antecedents. Willis’s book addresses the notion of the bellwether in a very creative way.

16574946-_sx540_

I’ll be bahhh-ck. (A sheep’s impression of Ah-nold Schwarzenegger)

We can’t always predict what will become a fad, thanks to the fickle nature of humans. Even if we’re contemptuous of the fads others follow (especially if they seem dangerous or dumb), if we’re being honest, we’ll probably admit to having followed a few fads at some point in our lives.

img_4157

Blue hair on a dude is not uncommon nowadays.
Is this a passing trend? Who knows?

Bellwethers set the trends, sometimes inadvertently. Think of the artists who are simply being true to themselves, but who wind up starting fads, thanks to the adoration of fans.

Maybe we don’t think of ourselves as trendsetting bellwethers. But sometimes, for good or ill, we are bellwethers in the lives of someone impressionable. I can’t help thinking of some children I’ve babysat, who use some of the same exclamations I’ve used. “Oh good grief!” a three-year-old said in frustration, using the same inflection I used. This taught me to keep a careful watch on what I say around him.

What fads or trends have you noticed lately that you like or wish would go away? Do you know who started them? Have you ever started a fad? What was the result?

img_4164

Willis, Connie. Bellwether. New York: Bantam Books, 1996.

Assistant Mayor Bellwether image from thefandomnet.tumblr. Bellwether sheep found at Goodreads.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Barbie and Kris dolls by Mattel for the movie Barbie Video Game Hero.

A Night at the Opera

Have you ever had one of those days when you looked in your closet and picked out several things to wear, all the while thinking of each, Nah this won’t do? That’s how I’ve been the last several days with blog posts. I started one on writing tips from Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon (yes, really; it’s almost finished) and one on the great outdoors (less finished). But this post you’re reading is neither of those (Perhaps you’re thinking, Whew, I dodged that bullet), nor any of the other ideas I had swirling around in my head.

Last week, a friend of mine and I attended a student production of Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute (which also is playing at the Civic Opera House in Chicago). Though I have attended several operas over the years, and enjoyed them, I can’t say I’m an opera aficionado. But I have friends who love the opera, and one friend who is an opera soprano (and a faculty member at the University of Illinois). So, that’s how I found myself at the opera several times.

img_4143

I didn’t know the storyline of The Magic Flute beforehand (click storyline in the first part of the sentence for the synopsis), though I’d heard one of its most well-known arias elsewhere. That aria, “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (“Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart”) is sung by the Queen of the Night, a character who does what is needful to regain her kidnapped daughter, Pamina. You can listen to that aria here if you like.

You probably already know this (if you do, you know way more than I did last week), but I’ll tell you anyway. The Magic Flute is a fairy tale that follows the hero’s journey model. We meet the hero, a prince named Tamino, whose call to action from the ladies of the court of the Queen of the Night is to rescue Pamina from Sarastro—her kidnapper. Along the way, he gains a sidekick—Papageno, who is forced to accompany him on this mission. In Act I of the opera, you start off with one idea about who is good and who is evil, then find that notion overturned in Act II.

img_4126

At left in black is Abi Beerwart, who played Pamina; in yellow, is Bethany Crosby, one of the ladies of the court of the Queen of the Night

I love the hero’s journey story model and fairy tales. Having grown up on a steady diet of fairy tales and musicals, thanks to parents who took my brothers and me to musical performances, this opera was right up my alley. I love that my assumptions were overturned, but not in a frustrating, this-doesn’t-make-sense kind of way.

Several small children in the audience were very vocal in their commentary. Some burst into tears, wanting to leave halfway through the production. Others, knowing cast members, cheered when their favorites appeared. Still others just wondered what was going on. Early in the performance, I had the same question. But at least the children were there, soaking in the rich tapestry that was The Magic Flute.

I’m reminded of a recent post at Jennie’s blog, A Teacher’s Reflections.

Major pieces of art? Masterpieces? Introducing this to preschoolers? It is not easy to explain to people how and why art can make a difference with young children.

You have to read the post (click recent post above to do so) to understand why I thought of it as I wrote this post. Jennie ends the post with, “Art makes a difference.” Perhaps watching The Magic Flute will be life changing for the children who attended it as well.

What kinds of art (musical performance, movies, books, animation, dance, painting or other forms of visual art) were you exposed to as a young child? What difference did it make in your life?

P.S. Extra bonus points if you can guess where I got the title, “A Night at the Opera,” from. Though I had one specific source in mind, there is another possible answer.

Photos by L. Marie.

Get Cozy!

img_4118When you live in an area where lately the temperature seems to hover between 9 degrees (Fahrenheit) and 2 below zero, you tend to crave anything that makes you feel warm and cozy.

Like my Sherpa blanket.

img_4111

Oh yeah! If I could wrap up with it while waiting for the train on frosty mornings, I would. When I throw it on, I instantly feel the weight and warmth of it. It’s like having a sheepdog wrapped around me.

I’ve mentioned the maple apple cider tea that makes me feel especially cozy. Nancy Hatch and Lyn Miller-Lachmann, expect to get some in the mail soon. (Yes, that is my way of announcing the winners of the giveaway announced in this post. I decided to go with two, since they both said they wanted the tea in the comments. Winners, please confirm below. If you would prefer to have a blend of flavors [click that link to preview] instead of only the maple apple cider, please mention that when you confirm.)

img_4073

Another way of getting cozy is to watch a cozy movie. I’ve mentioned in many posts that movies and miniseries adapted from Jane Austen’s books are my usual go-tos. However, Enchanted April is another favorite. This 1991 movie, directed by Mike Newell, concerns four women (Josie Lawrence, Miranda Richardson, Joan Plowright, and Polly Walker) who rent a villa in the Italian Rivera. It’s based on the 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Arnim. With a cast like that, I can’t help feeling cozy, especially with so many sun-splashed days and lovely walks in the Italian countryside.

img_4120

Still another way of getting cozy is to curl up with a cozy mystery. Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Ngaio Marsh, P. D. James, and Dorothy Sayers were my authors of choice for years on cold winter days. Agatha, Ngaio, and Dorothy wrote during the Golden Age of mysteries (the 1920s and 1930s). There are many cozy mystery series now. For a great review of a cozy mystery, check out FictionFan’s blog. She reviewed one of the Murder She Wrote novels starring the one and only Jessica Fletcher. (Click here for that review.) I used to read those ages ago. I think I’ll pick one up again.

25894027

I feel warmer already!

What’s your favorite way to get cozy this winter?

Book cover from Goodreads. Photos by L. Marie.

First Post of 2017!

Happy 2017! Since I didn’t make a list of resolutions nor do I have goals to share, I’ll just get to the point of this post. I wanted the first post of the year to involve a giveaway. Here are the first two items.

In a previous post, I mentioned some Christmas gifts I received, which included this tea (which came in a six-box lot)

img_4073

and this book:

img_4074

This book, by Jessica Julius, appealed to me for a number of reasons: (1) Zootopia was one of my favorite movies in 2016. (2) I love books about the process of making a film or writing a series. (3) The world building in Zootopia was fantastic, and is well covered in the book.

So I’ll give commenters a choice of one of those items (don’t forget—you’ll get about six boxes of the maple apple cider tea) or one other. Having recently seen and loved the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I was inspired to add the following book choice:

30008713

Please keep in mind that I didn’t read this novel. I only saw the film. But this is the novelization of the film.

So, you might wonder, what’s the catch with all of this? Am I flinging money to the winds because I’ve gone insane? No, but since you asked so politely, I’ll tell you why. Lean closer. . . . Closer. . . . Closer. . . .

That’s close enough. Are you ready? Here’s the answer: no reason. Just because.

Happy 2017! When you comment below, please state which of the three you would like. (Please note: If the tea is your choice, please keep in mind that I’m not sure if Amazon delivers the tea out of the U.S.) When you comment, you don’t have to give a reason for your choice. But if you like, you can share how you rang in the new year. I’ll start: I fell asleep around 11:30, but was awakened by the fireworks outside.

Rogue One novel cover from Goodreads.

The Year in Review—2016

img_4063  img_4065

img_4067   img_4070

For some years, there are no words.

Perhaps you can relate. Twenty-sixteen definitely has had its ups and downs with project losses and gains, illness in the family, graduations, etc. And at the end of the year, I find myself striving to write anything. This wordless state is a bit scary for me. I’d love to be in a fulsome state of writing right now. But some things can’t be forced, I guess.

One Christmas gift that inspires me is this (click on Christmas gift to find out more about this book):

img_4074

And this tea is insanely good!

img_4073

Early in the new year, I’ll do a giveaway of Christmas gift inspirations like the ones above. In the meantime, I hope 2017 is good to you. What are your hopes for the coming year?

img_4071

My new Jane Austen quote journal. We will spend lots of time together in the new year.

Barbie Made to Move™ photos and other photos by L. Marie.

Happy Holidays 2016

22428327-baby-jesus-nativity

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled:
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies,
With the angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

Words: Charles Wesley (1707-88), George Whitfield (1714-70), Martin Madan (1726-90), and William Hayman Cummings (1831-1915)
Music: “Mendelssohn” chorus by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-47), adapted by William Hayman Cummings

img_4019

Merry Christmas!
Chag Sameach to those who celebrate Hanukkah.

Before we go our separate holiday ways, I’d like to announce the winner of The Spirit Well by Charles Yallowitz. (If you are confused by that statement, click here.)

the-spirit-well-cover

That person is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . . (I could go on like this all day.)

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Jill Weatherholt!

Congratulations, Jill! You know the drill—please comment below to confirm, then email your info to me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com.

img_3984

Believe it or not, Kitty received gifts from a grateful fan. She chose not to share her Christmas bounty with anyone.

Baby Jesus image from freeimages.com. Book cover courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Other photos by L. Marie.

Check This Out: The Spirit Well

Return to Windemere in THE SPIRIT WELL!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Born from the light and darkness, Dariana can no longer avoid her fate.

The final corrupted temple stands between the champions and Baron Kernaghan having their great battle. Only one problem: the Compass Key refuses to work with Dariana, who long ago wiped all memories of the Spirit Well from her mind. Now, they are forced to follow a trail of clues that Dariana’s former self left behind centuries ago. It is a path that will lead the champions into a part of their friend’s past that could tear them all apart.

Will the bonds of friendship be stronger than the call of blood?

Grab it on Amazon!

Add it to your Goodreads ‘To Read’ List!

Excerpt: I’m Sorry . . . Again

“I’m sorry, but I told you that my powers make the Compass Key argumentative when it comes to the Spirit Well,” Dariana sheepishly explains while rubbing her clear ring. She smiles when Fizzle lands on her head, the drite’s cool tail running down her spine. “This is very scary for me. None of the champions have made it to this temple, much less the final battle with my father. It’s hard to take in after this destiny being my entire life for so long. I used to always dream of how I would handle my temple, but things are different now that it’s no longer a distant dream. What if I make a mistake and get someone killed?”

“We trust you, my friend, and know that you will not fail,” Timoran whispers as he slides the Compass Key across the table. He is confused when the relic sparks at her touch and gets pushed back into his hand. “That is fairly disheartening. If you cannot use the Compass Key then there is no way to find this Spirit Well. Perhaps it does not like your physical touch and will respond to your telepathy. I wonder why the gods would create this obstacle.”

“It’s possible that we did this,” Delvin suggests while using one of his enchanted rings to create a delicious cup of coffee. He gestures for the barbarian to throw the relic over to him, but the red-haired barbarian refuses. “You’re right, Timoran. Probably not a good idea to toss something like that around. Anyway, we had the Compass Key warded against agents of the Baron. They aren’t able to see it, which means they can’t find or use it. The decision made sense at the time, but things are different now. Maybe our spell has a small effect on Dariana. Not saying you’re working with the Baron, but there could be enough of an aural touch to cause this problem. Do you think we should cancel the spells, Nyx?”

The channeler heats up a cup of tea, which she sips at while considering the possibility of her magic being the issue. “They should stay because I don’t think they’re the problem. Dariana said this has happened before, which means the gods made a mistake. Sorry for how that came out. Gabriel, who better not get angry at this conversation, created the Compass Key first and then turned Dariana into a champion. He couldn’t fix the problem thanks to the Law of Influence, so it’s remained all this time. Though he had to have created something to help us move on.”

“Maybe we have to find Isaiah and he’ll lead the way,” Sari says from the couch. Flipping to her feet, she joins her friends and immediately takes a strawberry off Luke’s plate. “He hasn’t been much help since the first temple, so one has to wonder what his purpose is. I doubt we need his protection any more, which means he has to have another role to play. What do you think, Dari?”

The telepath rubs her temples while scanning the city for a sign of the fireskin, part of her praying he is not nearby. Dariana finds evidence that Isaiah has been spying on them until recently, but the caster is long gone. She considers tracking the faint trail and goes as far as the outer wall, which is where the psychic tracks make an odd leap into the sky. The strain of following Isaiah any further makes Dariana pull back and return to find that everyone is staring at her again. Realizing that she can no longer delay the inevitable, she gets out of her chair and kneels to her friends. Fizzle is still clinging to her head, which makes the apologetic bow both amusing and awkward.

“I know I say this a lot, but I really am sorry, my friends,” Dariana states while keeping her forehead pressed to the stone floor. She looks up at the sound of rustling feet and is surprised to see that everyone is approaching her. “Long ago, I managed to avoid being put back to sleep long enough to track down the Spirit Well. My curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to know where my path would meet its end. I was still forced to wipe my memory of the location, but I do know that I left a map behind. There are a few clues that I buried in my subconscious where even I could not dislodge them after erasing the original discovery. More may come to me as we get closer, but all I know now is that we should go to Rodillen. I was hoping the Compass Key would work and we could avoid this extra journey.”

“Like our luck would be that good,” Nyx mutters while she helps Dariana stand.

Need to catch Legends of Windemere from the beginning? Then click on the covers below!

You can start for FREE . . .

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Or grab the $4.99 ‘3 in 1’ bundles!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen 3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen
3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Also Available in Single eBooks:

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Interested in a new adventure? Then grab your Kindle & dive back into the world of Windemere! Don’t forget an apple for Fizzle.

Author PhotoAbout the Author:

Charles 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 his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

[L. Marie here. I plan to give away a copy of The Spirit Well to a commenter. The winner will be announced toward the end of the week.]