Armed and Dangerous

See this?

This is a sword. It might not look like it, but it is. I use it to slay the elements.

You hear that, Winter??? You’ve thrown what you got at me. Minus 11-degree temperatures with -20 windchill. Snow falling every day. Freezing rain on top of that some days. Days when I have to scrape snow and ice off the car sometimes two or three times a day. But you will not get me down! No, no, no! You. Will. Not. Break. Meeeeeeeeeeeee!

This is my fighter pack.

Yes, that is a cup from Starbucks. It is a hot mocha. Got my sword and my gloves. And my lemon loaf cake. And I’ve got books to keep me warm. (And soft blankets.)

   

See these? My babies! I call the one on the left Darth Vader. And the one on the right has a space helmet vibe. How apt that these are space heaters.

   

Don’t let this sunny day fool you. It got to ten above (-12 Celsius) that day and sixteen on Sunday. The forecast calls for more below zero weather with snow.

   

Ha ha, Winter! You think you’ll break me. Think again!

Life is like that sometimes, isn’t it? It hammers at you, crusts you over in disillusionment with its icy winds.

So I bought this the other day.

It may not look like much. But the title on the package says something to me. Not to the surface me, but to the bone-deep me that needs a good word every now and then. It reminds me to keep dreaming even through the crusty moments. Dream big dreams, girl. Not just dreams of warm, sunny days to avoid giving in to the winter blahs but dreams that say cold, dark days like this won’t last forever. That there’s something beyond those midnight blue-hued days where you’re kicking icicles off your car. Off your heart.

Yeah, I know. Sometimes the iceberg of life is way too much for your little boat. And my little pep talk, with its mixed metaphors, is only a tiny splotch of Sunshine Yellow paint on your Great Wall of Despair. I don’t want to make light of anyone else’s pain. This pep talk is really to remind me to keep going, even when I don’t want to.

So, Winter, you won’t have the last laugh! Not on my watch.

Oh yes, Winter. I’m armed and dangerous. Don’t mess with me.

Even Kitty has a found a friend during the cold days. Though I don’t think this poor cat knows what she’s gotten herself into.

Photos by L. Marie.

The Gift of Words

I’m late posting this week, because I’ve been busy revising my middle grade fantasy novel for an interested party. I hope someday to have news to share on that score. (Sorry to be cryptic.) In the meantime, I wanted to talk briefly about the gift of words before I return to revising.

Being able to tell a story, to use the right combination of words to entertain, encourage, or enlighten is a gift. Every once in a while I’m reminded of how valuable a timely word can be.

Ever have someone affirm you in a way that galvanized you to action? Perhaps you’d been stuck, and someone said just the right thing to get you moving. Perhaps what he or she said inspired to go beyond what you thought you could do. The gift of words.

Sometimes, you only need one word to lift your spirits or to bring about a positive change. There’s one in particular I’m thinking of: Yes. A balm for a soul bludgeoned by too many No’s. The gift of a word.

When has someone’s yes lifted your spirits? What recent story inspired you to go beyond the limitations you thought were the framework of your life? Feel free to share in the comments below. And have a great weekend while you’re at it!

Yes, ’tis the season for crochet projects. I found this mini mitten ornament pattern (designed by Rebecca Lynn Taylor) at Ravelry.

We’ve got snow! At least a little.

Revise sign found at clashesandcollisions.wordpress.com. Yes button found at clker.com. Photos by L. Marie.

Drive On, Worker Bee

People are like cars. Some are newer, sportier models, zipping down the street, engines freshly oiled and cranked for speed. Some are reliable sedans or mini-vans. They get where they’re going. Some are older models that have weathered many storms, but are in need of an oil change every now and then.

(Where is she going with this? I hear you whispering.)

Lately, I’ve felt like the old model slowly making its way on the road, while the newer models zip around me, heading toward opportunities beckoning toward them that older models seem denied.

Of course, that’s a matter of perception. But man, I’ve felt beaten down lately.

Recently, I received this badge in the mail:

I have to thank Andy of City Jackdaw for it. He told me that the worker bee is the symbol of Manchester—a reminder of its industrial past. But it’s also a reminder of their resilience in the wake of the May 22 bombing at the Manchester Arena.

I needed this reminder, as I consider my life. Worker bee? Check. I’m happiest when I’m working on something. Resilience? Why do I always forget how necessary that is? Haven’t I lived long enough to know that you have to persevere through hard times? Rejections, money issues, writer’s block, loud neighbors, illness, the death of a loved one (I’ve experienced all of the above recently), breakups—they pop up like potholes here and there on the road of life. It’s our choice whether to stall out or drive on—to persevere through them.

   

I’m grateful for friends who prayed for me and encouraged me through this dry season, where I’ve felt trapped in a canyon surrounded by walls of doubt; a place where I can barely write even a grocery list. Words fail me. This too shall pass, they say.

I’m suddenly reminded of some lines from Peter Pan—“second [star] to the right and straight on till morning.” Sounds like driving directions to me. I know you can’t get to Neverland by car. You need pixie dust for that. But I can return to a state of wonder—a place I see just over the horizon—if I keep on driving.

Have you felt stuck in a canyon lately? What did you do to climb out and keep going?

Photos by L. Marie. Cutie Cars by Moose Toys.

The Prism Effect

When I was a kid, I was given a prism to use in one of my science classes in elementary school. I thought it was the most awesome thing ever. (Yes, this was way before cell phones were invented.) We discussed Sir Isaac Newton’s experiments with light refraction. As it passes through one object to the next object, light bends. Newton used prisms in his experiments.

As an article here mentions

Newton was the first to prove that white light is made up of all the colors that we can see.

In science class, we duplicated Newton’s experiment with a light source, cardboard, and a prism. (Yes, this was back in the day.) I don’t have photos from that experience. But this one comes close.

The white light containing the color spectrum makes me think of something else: a blank page. I see that confused look on your face. Let me explain what I mean. First, let’s switch out the phrase color spectrum and insert words. Now, think of a blank page as something containing all of the words that can be seen—wonderful, colorful words describing vivid images. A prism is needed for those words to be seen and understood. The writer is the prism that helps others see those words.

My mind turns on odd things sometimes. This was something I was thinking about recently. 😀

If the writing aspect doesn’t fit your life, think of the prism analogy this way. Our minds are prisms. We often take whatever is beamed into us and show the world the result. For example, let’s say we hear a lot of negative comments. Such a drab view of life might result in a negative mindset that spills over in our dealings with others. We tell everyone, “This is how life is—drab.” But unlike an actual prism, we have a choice as to what we do with what we’re given. We can either show the drab colors and say, “This is how life is and always will be,” or we can show something else: the colors of hope. Even if we can’t see them yet. By this we say, “This is how life can be. And it starts with me.”

For someone like me who is prone to depression, the latter is a challenge. But I’m still willing to give it a shot. How about you?

     

I saw this rainbow months ago while standing outside of a grocery store. A rainbow is a nice example of refraction.

Prism image from 924jeremiah.wordpress.com. Refraction experiment image from myscienceacademy.org. It is from an MIT YouTube video. Blank page from imgarcade.com. Rainbow photographs by L. Marie.

Fantasy, I’m with You Still

Perhaps by now you’ve seen Avengers: Age of Ultron (loved it; would like to see it again) and, like me, are looking forward to the next Marvel movie—Ant Man.

Right after watching Ultron, I finally got around to watching a movie I’d wanted to see for some time now: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks 2014). Like Age of Ultron, it made a deep impression on me.

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Though I loved both films, I’m going to confine my comments to How to Train Your Dragon 2 for reasons that will become clear. The trailer for it follows. While seeing the first movie before tackling this one is ideal, this film provides enough back story to help you get by without seeing the first one.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 debuted last year; however, this week was the perfect time for me to see it. Having heard a number of times the opinion that fantasy stories are a hard sell these days, I needed to a visual reminder of the joy and wonder of stories within the fantasy genre. This film provided that.

What I love about How to Train Your Dragon 2, besides the fact that it involves dragons, is the fact that people take a stand despite overwhelming odds. And I mean overwhelming. There. That’s my spoiler-free take on the movie.

If you watched the trailer above or saw How to Train Your Dragon (2010; based on the book by Cressida Cowell), you know that Hiccup, the main character, is an extremely unlikely hero. In the current story, though five years have passed, he’s still unsure of himself. But ready or not, Hiccup has to face an enemy who has every reason to feel totally confident of winning any battle. Consequently, the stakes are indeed high.

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Hiccup and his friend Toothless, a night fury dragon

What I also love about Hiccup’s story is that despite the darkness of the times, there is hope. Yes, there are setbacks and pain. But a rich vein of hope shines through. However, when hope arises, there’s also a dissenting voice: that of the antagonist.

You’ve read stories, haven’t you, where an enemy taunts a hero, telling him or her to give up, that he/she won’t win? A bit of that happens in How to Train Your Dragon 2. In the hero’s journey, the taunting is sometimes part of the dark night of the soul, where the hero is at his/her lowest ebb. The taunts of the enemy are all a mind game, really—an attempt to put the hero at a psychological disadvantage so that he/she will feel too defeated to fight.

That’s how I’ve felt lately—taunted by the enemy known as Despair, which constantly whispered, “Your stories won’t sell. Only genres you’re currently not writing will sell. You might as well give up.”

Nice try, Despair. But I can’t let you win. The stakes are too high.

Sometimes you have to take a stand, even if the odds are overwhelmingly against you. That’s what being a hero is all about. I’m not your typical hero—the sword-wielding kind. I’m a genre hero. Being a genre hero means sticking with your genre of choice even if others tell you to do otherwise or abandon the field themselves. That’s what I learned from Hiccup. And if you’re battling the same enemy I faced, stay strong, Hero. This dark night will pass.

How to Train Your Dragon poster from ramascreen.com. Avengers: Age of Ultron  poster from teaser-trailerz.blogspot.com

It Takes Two

Ever have one of those days when a supervillain with a bulbous head seems to win, and all you can do is lie there and take it?

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Jordie isn’t sure how he wound up tied up with his own cape. But suddenly he finds himself on the ground with a blade of death headed for him, and a supervillain softly cackling in the background.

But suddenly a friend comes along and works with you to turn the tide. The supervillain is subdued, thanks to teamwork.

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If it hadn’t been for Sidney Duck, Jordie would have been toast. Now, the supervillain has been vanquished. Jordie and Sidney will share the cupcake, since the supervillain is headed to the nearest maximum security prison where cupcakes are not allowed.

Most of us will never have to face a supervillain along the lines of Hello Kitty, Dr. Evil, or Lex Luthor. But sometimes we’re the supervillain or at least we act like the henchperson of one. Who else but us plays the “You really messed that up” tape over and over in our head? Who else but us whispers, “You’ll never finish that” or “Everyone else will always be better at that than you”? You know where those statements come from: the real supervillains—Doubt and Defeat.

  Dr_Evil Lex Luthor

Dr. “One Meellion Dollars” Evil and Lex Luthor

But suddenly along comes a friend who sees things differently. Where we see, “Ugh! I can’t believe I wrote such crap,” he or she sees, “Wonderful,” “Could be awesome with just a little polish.”

Aside from being grateful to find a Cutie orange in my Happy Meal today, I’m grateful for my Secret Gardener and blogger friends who continually rally around with a few carefully chosen “You can do its” to help me vanquish Doubt and Defeat.

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Writing is a solitary venture. Yet there are times when we writers need something that only someone else can provide: another perspective. Two heads are sometimes better than one.

So, when a supervillain like Doubt or Defeat comes around and whispers,

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I’ll be back . . .

Do yourself a favor and call a friend. Don’t let Doubt have the last word.

And speaking of the last word . . .

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Lex Luthor from youngjustice.wikia.com. Dr. Evil from cupofjoepowell.blogspot.com. Cat from LOL Cats.

Let’s Get Gluttonous

If you have Olivia Newton-John’s song, “Physical,” going through your mind (“let’s get physical, physical”), you’re already blaming me. But neither of us can do anything about that now, so let’s move on.

physical_us

I still hear muttering from your direction, however: “Let’s get gluttonous? Come on! We already did that at Thanksgiving.” Bear with me. Now that the turkey is behind us and/or in front of us if we’ve gained a few pounds from the awesome force of our knife and fork wielding, we can get down to business. I suppose I should speak for myself, rather than for you. This Thanksgiving I ate too much and wrote too little. Can you blame me with two turkeys and two hams on the table, plus countless side dishes? And there were desserts so delectable, my thought was, Why stop at just one? So I didn’t.

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We had good times together, didn’t we, ma petite fourchette?

But now that I’ve returned home, my thoughts turn from my waistline to my wasted writing time. Unlike me, some of you conquered NaNoWriMo in November. Well done, you! Here’s your pat on the back.

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Now that December has rolled around, you’re probably ready to take it a little easier—perhaps coast till Christmas as you revise what you just wrote. But now’s the time for me to make up for lost time. You can still join my new campaign. In December, let’s get gluttonous—writing with abandon to create a feast with words.

Consider it: descriptive passages so succulent, a reader’s mouth waters for more. Those are within your reach—as close as that cranberry sauce was to your fork last week. Just wield these ingredients: a dash of sensory details and a pinch of action verbs with knife-edge precision to sharpen the camera’s eye-effect of your story. And while you’re at it, chisel characters so amazingly life-like, they’re miniature Davids carved from the marble of your imagination. Go to it, Michelangelo!

   michelangelo_david_head writing-with-a-pen 

Don’t run away screaming! This cheerleading session is mainly a reminder to myself to go big in December and expand the territory of my writing. If I give my writing as much attention as I gave to expanding my waistline at Thanksgiving, I will soon be at least 20 pages to the good. Will you join me?

Where do you go for inspiration as you buckle down to write? A multitude of sources usually provide inspiration for me. One is this:

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Fork from spell.psychology.wustl.edu. Person with a pen from wisegeek.org. Olivia Newton-John from jamesreadtan.com. David from caravaggista.com. Pat on the back gif from community.us.playstation.com.