What Might Have Been

Growing up, my brothers were not into cartoons or shows about Barbie or Polly Pocket (whose Alpine set is shown below). They certainly would not have cared about My Little Pony, had those ponies existed back then.

So, since there was only one small TV and I was outnumbered, I got used to watching wrestling matches and any other televised sport, including Roller Derby (remember the Thunderbirds? . . . No?)—and Godzilla and martial arts movies.

Bull Curry. . . . Don’t remember him? . . . Yeah, I’m old.

Terri Lynch of the Thunderbirds

And I read DC and Marvel comic books. Oh and Archie too, but I don’t have any of those from childhood.

 

So lately, I’ve wondered what my life would have been like had I grown up with a sister—a fervent wish when I was a kid. My best friend, who lived next door, was like a sister. I just wanted someone (a non-parent) to talk to who understood what it was like to be a girl. She was an only child. So neither of us knew what it was really like to have a sister. When we hung out, we rode our bikes and watched horror films hosted by Svengoolie (a show also known as Screaming Yellow Theater and Son of Svengoolie) and crashed into each other ala the Roller Derby.

  

Svengoolie (Jerry G. Bishop) and Son of Svengoolie (Rich Koz)

I can’t say those activities are what I imagined growing up as the kind of activities sisters participated in. I always thought sisters did each other’s hair and makeup and wore each other’s clothes, none of which I could do with a brother.

Those of you who grew up with sisters are probably thinking I sound extremely naive about sisters. You’re right. And I know the grass is greener and all that. But now that I think about it, I can’t help pondering over why I thought the activities I mentioned above were the kind of activities sisters did.

I am a product of the times in which I grew up. When I was a kid, the women’s rights movement was just beginning. Certain stereotypes about “the woman’s place” had yet to be challenged. Case in point: back when I was a kid, females in sports were frowned upon. Running and playing baseball in the alley—two things I loved to do—were not seen as “ladylike.” Sadly, I allowed the opinions of others to sway me away from them.

Yet no one could dissuade me from expressing my imagination through writing—though many tried. And as I think about what might have been had I grown up under different circumstances, I realize that those circumstances helped shape the writer I became.

So I have no regrets about the past. (Well, one regret—that I didn’t date that guy who expressed interest on the last day of my senior year in high school.) Though I might have watched a lot more wrestling than I cared to watch, I learned a lot growing up with guys. I learned to always look first before sitting on the toilet seat in the middle of the night while half awake (the lid might be up), to take risks (some of them stupid—I’ve mentioned before about jumping out of windows), how to fight (useful during my middle school years), that insects didn’t have to be feared, that a towel makes a good cape. But mostly, I learned that my brothers always had my back. (Well, most of the time.) I wouldn’t trade them for any mythical sister in the world.

Tia Tigerlily is grateful for her Girls Day outings with Marsha Mellow, despite the fact that Henry always tries to tag along.

Polly Pocket Alpine scene from ebay.com. Godzilla poster from mymightymega.com. Wrestling image from mentalfloss.com. Terri Lynch photo from Pinterest. Svengoolie image from the miniaturespage.com. Son of Svengoolie from Pinterest. Other photos by L. Marie. Tia Tigerlily and Marsha Mellow Shoppie dolls are products of Moose Toys.

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.

When It Rains, It Pours

This weekend, we celebrated my younger brother and sister-in-law’s silver wedding anniversary with “a party of special magnificence.” (If you’re up on your fantasy novels, you’ll know that reference. If not, scroll down to the end of the post to find out where this quote came from.)

Yet the joy of the celebration was tempered not only by those who were invited but couldn’t come for various reasons, but especially by the arrival of Hurricane Harvey and the flooding of Houston. My parents and older brother and sister-in-law live on the outskirts of Houston. A tornado recently hit that area, thanks to the hurricane. Also, the sister of a friend lives in Corpus Christi where the hurricane landed.

After some phone calls, I’m relieved to mention that all are safe. Yet so many people are struggling right now, as you can see on the news, thanks to the rainfall.

My cousin, who had come to celebrate with us, mentioned that her husband is preparing to head down to Texas for storm duty. He works for an insurance company, so he has long hours of work ahead of him.

As the party wound down, we stared at all of the pans of untouched food, wondering what to do with them. My brother and sister-in-law finally decided to take the food to a nearby homeless shelter. Wouldn’t you know it? When they walked in, the workers told them that a record number of people had shown up that day and they weren’t sure what to serve them. In walked my brother and sister-in-law with the solution.

I sat outside after returning home from the party. The gray sky had a bruised sort of look to it, almost like it too mourned what was happening down in Texas. And I felt sort of bruised too. Bruised, but still hopeful.

Life certainly has some highs and lows, doesn’t it? From the wonder of the solar eclipse to the horror of Hurricane Harvey. There’s also the unrelenting sadness of homelessness. But as we saw on the news, people reached out to rescue those in Houston who were trapped in flooded homes. And a homeless shelter in Illinois was able to serve those in need, thanks to some party guests who didn’t show up.

P.S. The quote at the beginning is from the first paragraph of chapter 1 in The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Photo by L. Marie.

Check This Out: The Life & Times of Ichabod Brooks

Spend your summer with Ichabod Brooks in this 11 story collection! $2.99 on Amazon!

Cover Art by Circecorp

Enter the world of Windemere with 11 action adventure short stories featuring a man who is out to make an honest living.

Some heroes seek fame. Some seek fortune. Others simply want to save the world. Ichabod Brooks only wants to put food on the table for his family.

Known and respected as the man who can get any job done, Ichabod has seen his share of adventure. Most of which have been highly exaggerated by bards. Still, the man has his famous reputation for a reason. Whether it be climbing a temperamental mountain for eggs or escorting orphans to their new homes, Ichabod takes every job seriously and makes sure he is as prepared as he can be. Not that it helps since things always take a turn for the worse.

Available on Amazon!
Add it on Goodreads!

Excerpt: Preparing for Galaces

“Is this any way to greet an old friend?” a dwarf in dark gray chainmail asks before plugging his ears with his dark red beard. Wanting the bard to stop, the mountaineer marches over and puts a hand over the young woman’s mouth. “Are you supposed to use her as bait? I did hear there’s a hobgoblin pack that moved in a few months ago. You know how those drooling scavengers love elf flesh.”

“Sorry about that, Dex. She latched on at my last stop and I haven’t been able to shake her off,” Ichabod replies, shaking his guide’s hand. He rubs his own black and white beard at the sight of how his friend shows no sign of graying. “I have to give this one credit for tenacity, but this is where we part ways. Galaces Mountain is not a place to go unless you have experience, an excellent guide, and common sense. So far, I don’t see you having any of those things and I’m not going to babysit.”

“I must go. That’s the only way I can write about your newest adventure,” the bard insists, unwittingly proving Ichabod right. She crosses her arms and meets the icy stare of the dwarf, who she considers leaving out of her tale. “Being the first to speak of your climb will help my reputation. I promise not to cause any trouble and pull my own weight. Elves are graceful and agile, which makes us perfect companions for whatever it is you’re doing. Besides, Galaces Mountain doesn’t look like that bad a climb. The stories must be nothing more than colorful exaggerations.”

Ichabod puts on a pair of white-palmed gloves and slips a blue band on his finger, a charge going through his body to enhance his lungs. “I suddenly relate very well to this mountain. Take a look at the empty space between us and Galaces. You’ll see why this place has earned a reputation.”

The bard puts her lute over her shoulder and walks to the yellow rope, which sparks with a mild magic. At first, she is unsure of what she is supposed to pay attention to among the shrubs and fallen rocks. It takes the elf a few minutes to recognize weather worn bones sticking out from under a boulder. The limbs are splayed since the climber plummeted with the rough stone pressed against his back and the landing embedded him in the ground. Knowing what to look for, the bard realizes that there are at least ten old corpses hidden by the mountain’s litter. The bard spots the fresh body of a yellow-skinned creature sitting behind a shrub, the armored creature crumpled from landing butt first after its fall. She is about to ask a question when a small pain runs up her arm and she collapses into a magical slumber.

“Guess that’s more humane than knocking her on the head,” Dex mentions while Ichabod carries the young woman to the dwarf’s cart. He shields his eyes as he stares at the churning clouds that have been trapped around the peak. “Looks like the eagles captured a storm beneath their nest this year. Means the winds are going to be brutal and the tunnels are infested with horned spiders and revelers. Not going to be an easy trip. Sure, you don’t want someone else to take this contract?”

“I’d love to hand this off to someone else, but Chef Zyrk always insists that I take the job. I have no injuries, diseases, or family events, so I’m here,” Ichabod replies, sheathing his sleep-inducing shortsword. As an afterthought, he grabs a horse blanket and tosses it over the bard to hide her from view. “The Starwind Eagles lay eggs every ten years and now is the time to get to them. Wait any longer and the mountain will be crawling with hunters. A youngster wouldn’t know that or have you as a guide.”

The dwarf grins as he lifts the rope and gestures for his friend to lead the way. “They also don’t have your wife making deals that you can’t say no to. She mentioned that you’re getting three times the usual pay because this baby is going to be prepared for Duke Solomon’s wedding. Personally, I’m looking forward to your wife’s cooking after this. Surprised your gut isn’t huge considering that woman can make a pot roast even the gods would praise. Did you happen to bring some of her dishes for the road?”

“I can cook too, you know.”

“You can bake, Ichabod. Not the same as cooking in my book.”

“So you don’t want the cookies I brought.”

“Oatmeal and cranberry?”

“With a touch of cinnamon.”

*****

About 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

Remembering

As I set out to photograph the flowers around my apartment complex, I couldn’t help remembering my grandmothers: Lela (paternal) and Marie (maternal). Both are dead now, one as recent as 2011. Seems fitting to think of them on Memorial Day. Though neither fought in a war—Memorial Day being a day to pay honor to military service people—they were soldiers nevertheless. Just not in the military.

    

In keeping with my habit of not posting family photos (I’m writing this blog under a pen name after all), I will not post photos of my grandmothers. (Sorry to disappoint.) Instead, think of the flowers I photographed as representing my grandmothers. 🙂

Now, what do I mean by soldiers? Imagine being dirt poor and having kids to raise. You fight a battle against despair every day. But you have to win this battle for the sake of your kids. Both of my grandmothers had large families—my paternal grandmother having nine children, and my maternal grandmother having fifteen. You read that right. Two of my mother’s siblings did not live to adulthood.

My grandmothers didn’t go to college. One grandmother didn’t even go to high school. But all of her children did. College too. Both grandmothers wanted their children to have a better life than they did.

    

When I was a kid, my family spent many a weekend traveling to Pontiac, Michigan, to visit my paternal grandparents, and many a summer’s day driving to see my maternal grandmother in Lake Providence, Louisiana. We never thought about the fact that my grandparents were poor. They loved us, and we loved being with them.

My paternal grandmother taught me to crochet. My maternal grandmother taught me to be generous even if I have next to nothing to give. That was how she lived.

Some people talk about antiques or trust funds passed on to them by grandparents. Neither of my grandmothers had much to leave anyone. But they left something money couldn’t buy—a legacy of resilience, faith, and unselfishness. Not to mention precious memories of time spent with them. Their personalities imprint just about every story I write (and even one that I ghostwrote under a different name).

   

This Memorial Day, I also remember the people of Manchester and the victims of the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22. My blogger friend Laura said it best in this post. She provided excerpts from a post and comments by another blogger friend, Andy, who lives in Manchester. Many of you follow his City Jackdaw blog.

Memorial Day also is a day for me to remember that I’m giving away two books.

    

Thanks to the random number generator, the winner of The World’s Greatest Detective is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Nancy Hatch!

The winner of Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L. M. Montgomery is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Jill Weatherholt!

Nancy and Jill, please comment below to confirm. If either of you would prefer an eBook to a physical copy of the book, please let me know.

Rosie Bloom is shocked to discover that the flowers she planted came up crocheted. She plans to contact the seed company to demand answers.

Photos by L. Marie. Rosie Bloom by Moose Toys.

Try Everything?

I’m currently obsessed with the movie Zootopia. Now that it’s on DVD/blu-ray, I’ve seen it at least six or seven times.

zootopia-poster-01

I even have the theme song, “Try Everything” by Shakira, on my phone. I love the message and the way it relates to the journey of the main character—Judy Hopps.

If you have an extra three minutes, you might check out the song (though be warned; it has scenes from the movie that are slight spoilers):

My sister-in-law is someone who embodies the message of this song. Last week, she went to boot camp, not because she enlisted in the military but because she wanted to test herself—to see if she could make it through boot camp. She had the same attitude about the half marathon one year. Six months before the event, she organized a group of her friends to train for the half marathon. Never mind the fact that they’d never done the half-marathon before. They met the qualifying time and did well in the event.

“Try Everything” also reminds me of a conversation I overheard last week while on the train. A woman was talking to a friend about her upcoming birthday celebration.

“We’re going skydiving!” she declared. I couldn’t tell if she was about to try skydiving for the first time or not. All I know is that she was excited to go.

For me “try everything” usually only comes up in regard to an all-you-can-eat buffet. (Talk about a “full” life.) But lately, I’ve worried that I’ve been missing out. Is fear of failing holding me back from “trying everything”? Have I truly tried to be all that I could be? Did I miss out because I didn’t go to boot camp with my sister-in-law?

So I had a heart-to-heart talk with Barbie today. I grabbed a cup of joe while she made herself comfortable on a napkin. Since she’s the Made to Move variety, I was certain she would have good insight.

IMG_3212    IMG_3241

“The way I see it,” she said, “is this: you admire your sister-in-law for trying new things. But did you really want to go to boot camp?”

“Um . . . not really.”

“Well, let’s talk about some things you tried that were out of your comfort zone. What about the time you wrote a screenplay?”

“How’d you know about that?”

“This is an imaginary conversation, so of course I would know. Did you like doing that?”

“I enjoyed trying a form of writing I hadn’t tried before.”

“What about when your advisor challenged you to write poetry every day and you decided to also write song lyrics. What did you learn about yourself?”

poetry

“That writing any kind of poetry is difficult. Poets like Andy Murray make it look easy, because of the high quality of their work. Still, I enjoyed the challenge.”

And that was the key. Some people enjoy mountain climbing, skydiving, and other activities that challenge them physically, because that’s what they enjoy. And I enjoy some aspects of a physical challenge. But I love anything that challenges me creatively.

What about you? Are you the kind of person who tries everything? In what way(s) do you like to challenge yourself?

For more info on Made to Move Barbies, click here.

IMG_3217   IMG_3242

Zootopia movie poster from film-book.com.

See You at the Movies?

Happy belated Father’s Day to all of you dads out there. My family and I went to see Finding Dory the other day as a combination Happy Birthday/Father’s Day celebration for my younger brother. A good time was had by all.

Finding-Dory-Poster

While we waited for the movie to start, my sister-in-law mentioned that it was the first movie she’d seen at the theater in over a year. Interestingly, Andrew Stanton, the director of Finding Dory (and Finding Nemo), had a short clip before the movie began in which he thanked the audience for coming out to watch the movie; thus acknowledging that the movie-going experience is increasingly rare for many.

Andrew+Stanton+Premiere+Walt+Disney+Pictures+sketXu1LhUdl

When I was a teen and a younger adult, I hit the movies just about every weekend. I didn’t miss a major movie. But for five of the last six years, I can use one hand to count the number of movies I’ve seen at the theater. Last year, I saw more movies at the theater than I’d seen in years. I saw

 NEMye3g3VuXNQM_1_1   star-wars-the-force-awakens-poster

Jurassic-World-2015-movie-poster   MPW-102782

avengers_age_of_ultron_NEW_POSTER    Ant-Man-Movie-Poster

See? Not a ton of movies. For others, popping a DVD or blu-ray disk into a player was the extent of my movie-going experience. (Wish I’d seen The Martian at the movie theater. Glad I saw it on blu-ray at least.)

the-martian-poster

This year, I’ve seen Captain America: Civil War twice (took my niece the second time), Zootopia, and now Finding Dory. I hope to see several others on my list—like Doctor Strange; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Suicide Squad; and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

zootopia-poster-01   captain-america-civil-war-movie-poster

A number of factors work against my desire to go to a movie theater: higher prices; films that are all style and no substance; and rude moviegoers. In one movie theater I attended, a group of teens talked loudly and ran around the theater until the manager threw them out—halfway through the movie. So I usually head to the cheap theaters, reserving the first-run experience for the movies I want to see the most. And I tend to see movies I really want to see, rather than take a chance on an unknown the way I used to do. (Same with books, sadly.)

movie-theater-items-hi

(By the way, many critics declared that Jurassic World lacked substance. Though the characters were underdeveloped (and some were downright annoying), the movie’s entertainment value made up for the lack of substance—at least for me.)

I miss the days when my good friend who lived next door, my brother, and I would look at each other and say, “Let’s go to the movies.” And then off we’d go without a second thought. Back in the day, Spielberg movies were always a draw for us, along with those of John Carpenter, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, and others.

I also miss some of the element of surprise. Nowadays, with incessant internet trailers that give too much away, and people blabbing spoilers on social media, you practically know everything about a movie before you walk in the theater. To maintain at least some of the surprise, I tend to avoid watching more than one trailer for the movies I’m determined to see at the theater.

Still another thing I miss is having a slate of movies to choose from with well-developed plots, dialogue, and pacing. Instead, we might get one good movie and several well-this-is-sort-of-okay-though-it-is-a-dumbed-down-adaptation-of a-well-known-book/inferior-remake/sequel-of-a-better-film. That’s why I love the adage at Pixar: “Story is king.” (They also have the twenty-two rules below.) I wish many studios believed that.

Pixar's 22 Rules of Phenomenal Storytelling

How many movies did you see at the theater last year? What do you like or dislike about the movie-going experience? What movie are you excited to see this year?

Brooklyn movie poster from movieposter.com. Jurassic World movie poster from dvdreleasedates.com. Inside Out movie poster from movieweb.com. Finding Dory movie poster from screenrant.com. Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie poster from inquisitr.com. The Martian movie poster from flickeringmyth.com. Zootopia movie poster from film-book.com. Captain America: Civil War movie poster from shockya.com. Movie theater clip art from clker.com. Pixar rules from gsartfactory.blogspot.com.