Monday, October 31, 2011

Retro Halloween

Note: Today's blog was powered by fun-sized Almond Joy bars.

Ever seen that Catching Fireflies catalog? If you have far too much discretionary income, do check out their Halloween costumes. Here is my favorite:

Quite a bit different from the costumes I used to get. My mom would take my sister and me to the grocery store, where we had to decide between Spock:

and WitchiePoo:
Note name on costume: only way to tell who the hell you dressed up as
The masks for Spock, Witchiepoo, Strawberry Shortcake, Thor, Fonzie, Skeletor, etc. had little nostril holes to breathe through. Yeah, those didn't work.

At least there weren't any Snooki wigs back then:

Nowadays, you can decorate your house with full sized electric chairs.

Quite different from our big 1970's splurge - cardboard cut outs, which we installed with fancy sticky tape:
You know some smarty pants wanted to add, "WHOO'S ready for Halloween?"

You know what though? I pity modern kids. For us, trick-or-treating didn't start until after dark. the moon was up, bats were flying, and things were much more Halloween-ish in general. Now they go door to door in broad daylight. I understand it's all much safer, but where's the fun in that?

If you are looking for some retro fun for your kids, read them The Witch Family, by Eleanor Estes. There are witches, obviously, as well as mermaids, Easter bunnies, and a few humans. Good stuff.

This cover just screams retro. Find it and enjoy this undervalued gem!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A True Kind of Love Story; Or, An Ode to Friendship

There are loads of romance novels out there, and I have enjoyed quite a few of them. Georgette Heyer, for example, is a goddess to me. A well written romance, especially if it includes humor and some nice historical touches, is a delight. I'm talking a rainy day outside, a fire within, me, the couch, and a pot of tea... and a book in my hands.

Nurse Gwen must choose between Dr. Jack or a man about town!!!!!!!!

As a woman, I find romance very important. But there is a different kind of love that is also important, nay, vital to my happiness. I mean the relationship that I have with my girlfriends, the ones I chat with on the phone, the ones who are there to hear me vent, the ones who used to listen to me sob over the end of some great romance in my life.

There are some stories out there about friendships. During the seventies, the move Julia told the story of Lilliam Helmaann's friendship during the second world war. The Turning Point looked at the friendship between two ballerinas.

In the nineties there was that great love story about two friends, The Shawshank Redemption, but naturally that was about male friendship. I'd love to see a female version of that.

I wish there were more stories like this. Friendship is sometimes seen as a background. You have the sassy friend, the supportive friend, the rebellious friend, the bitchy friend, and they're usually there to help the main character through a mystery or a love affair.

But how about the development of the actual friendship itself?

Friendships sometimes grow, like romances, over time. Friends bump heads. We quarrel, and make up. We chat. We go out. We are there for each other, no matter what.

I wish, as an author, that I had the creds to detail that relationship. The story and the importance of friends, after all, is a special thing, and it is a bit neglected.

Anyone out there writing anything about pure friendship?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Crowds and the Walking Dead

My husband wanted to go to the amusement park, which is right down the street. I had warnings from the local moms that it was a very busy time of the year to hit the rides. He didn't listen, holding his usual philosophy of "Oh, it'll be fine."

The reason for the crowds is that it is officially Fright Fest here in New Jersey. That means that as you wait in line for hours to go on a two minute ride, teens in ghoul makeup lurk, ready to terrify kids. The kids themselves (my daughter and her friend) are more than ready to be terrified.

"It's Fright Fest," I say.

"YAYYYYY!!!!!" is their response. "Can we walk through the graveyard?"

I tell them we can, after we get on the ride. An hour passes. We wait in line, and wait, and wait, and wait. The husband begins to see my point about Fright Fest.

The kids begin to get squirelly. They find different ways of endangering themselves on the bars that mark where the line goes. My husband and I chat with the people next to us in line, mainly about how much it stinks to wait in a line.

We finally, finally get to ride the ride. As we get into the car, one of the kids announces ... yes, that they have to pee. I tell them to hold it and we go through the ride.

We head to the bathroom. Shocker! Another line. More waiting, more chat about how lines suck.

Now it's time to head to the graveyard. The kids are really excited. As we get closer, though, my kid's friend starts to look thoughtful. She holds my hand in a killer death grip.

"Are you sure you want to go in?" I ask.

"Yeah!" they both yell.

We enter the graveyard, with the usual fake smog, organ music, and the walking dead (teens in green makeup.)

"Ouch," I say. The friend's grip is cutting off circulation.

The graveyard is packed too. Everyone wants to see the walking dead! I look around. More parents, whose hands are getting crushed by more kids who stood in line to see the graveyard.

Back to the car, parents singing a happy "We Are Going Home" tune. We wait in line to leave the park, having ridden on one ride, peed, and been crushed in a graveyard.

The kids fall asleep on the way home.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Halloween Candy

It's that time again. I have to go and get huge sacks of candy to hand out to kids in Monster High and Clone Wars costumes.

One year my husband handed out FULL SIZE candy bars. It was as though we had Johnny Depp, dressed as a pirate, standing at the door. Kids told other kids, and soon we had a mob scene.

"Here, kids, have a treat, and don't forget to pick up the litter afterwards."
I can't blame them, though. I still remember the feeling I got when a parent popped a full sized Hershey bar into my bag.

Then there's the bad Halloween candy. I'm talking to you, peanut "blossoms," Dots, boxes of raisins, pennies...
Not a fan.
Again: Full sized Hershey's Bar!

When I was a kid (a LONG time ago) I used to get candy at Halloween that never appeared at any other time during the year. I'm talking wax lips and strips of sugar dots you gnawed off paper and rock candy. That was good stuff.
What do you DO with these things?

Those were the years before the warnings against homemade treats came out. Home made popcorn balls, fudge, and caramel apples... they just don't make them like that any more...

...but there is still that full size Hersey bar.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Gaming Confession

Yes, I'm a gamer.

No, I don't play World of Warcraft (although I am intrigued) nor any game that involves shooting. No, I am one of a growing population of "and something" women who play contemplative games, usually on the web.
Will I start to look like this if I play it?

I've noticed that there is a certain pattern to games. There is the Match Three type, like Bejeweled, in which you try and line up three or more similar objects. There is the Hidden Object type, in which you  and find things in pictures, usually within an adventure backstory: beautiful archeologist sets off to find magical icon, beautiful doctor must rescue father from the asylum... etc etc.

Never looked for so many "honey dippers" in my life.

If you like a bit of madness, then there is the crazy Time Management type of game, in which you have to make the cakes, or feed the people in the diner, or weed the garden, and the trials become more and more difficult along the way. I'm not very good at those - I'm FAR too uncoordinated.

This is my life anyway, so - not so much.

Within that genre there are the construction games, in which the object is to build a  hut, then buy plans for a cottage, then a manor house, working your way up to a castle. My Kingdom for the Princess is a good example of that type.

There are arcade games, where you have to shoot at different things like aliens or zombies. Not a fan.

My favorite games, however, are those that break the mold a bit. One prime example is the games by Last Day of Work, such as Plant Tycoon or the Virtual Villagers trilogy. In the LDW games, time moves slowly as you raise plants, crossbreed them to discover magic plants, and sell them for funds to improve your nursery.
If you're looking for a zen-like state in your gaming experience.

Or you teach villagers skills and wait for them to build temples or schools or learn how to fish

Oh, come ON! How fun!
Virtual games are best played for fifteen minutes at a time - perfect for a crazy woman like me who has no time to be doing that in the first place.

I'm dreadfully afraid of when it actually is my "Last Day of Work." For, you see, then I might get sucked into that World of Warcraft, and then I would never reemerge.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Wish and the Will

"In the solitary City of Middengarth, where fairytales and folklore are history, and magic still lingers in the air, strange things are afoot..."

I love contests.

Recently I entered a contest at We Fancy Books and won a fantastic prize - three episodes of a continuing graphic fiction series called The Wish and the Will, by Chaz Wood.

To read this series is  like opening a door into a lively, bawdy, frightening, beautiful world. The sinister and eccentric Daemonlords, led by the insane Jester King Paimon, rule the inhabitants with ever-increasing firmness. The great City Clock stands still at one stroke before midnight, and the whispers on the street are that soon the Clock shall strike - to signify an event of world-shaking proportions.

When down-on-his-luck gambler Jeth Sundancer reluctantly agrees to perpetrate the 'biggest-ever bank job', the brainchild of the appealing but mysterious Claudia, he soon wishes he had stayed among the anonymous outcasts in Middengarth's City Warrens...

Wood has built a complete universe of characters and plot, but there is far more than that.

He has created an entire system of time, a magical government, a Blimey Almanac (which is quoted throughout the episodes) as well as lovely illustrations throughout of the large cast of characters in the series.

The title is explained here, in the Blimey Almanac:

“Once upon a time, there was magic in the world, and legends and fairy stories were all true. Two great and opposing forces of nature, called the Wish and the Will, battled with each other for untold aeons. And in so doing they created a third and neutral power, which became known as the Fury, and the whole fabric of the world and the universe changed.
But you ain't got no need to know any of that. What you do need to know, me old pal, is that you're now in the City o' Middengarth. Or Old Mid as it is referred to inside this sprawling metropoliwhatsit thing of ours. And if you want any chance of keepin' yourself alive from this ticky-tock o' the clock onwards, and not getting up the noses of their Daemonic Majesties who rule us all, then you'll read everything what I have to tell you, okay?”

- from the preface to the 57th edition of 'Arry the Vagabond's “Blimey Almanack: a Personal Companion to the Streets, Gutters, Public Latrines, etc. etc. of the City of Old Mid."

Episode 2


Look at some of the characters from Episode 3:

Mr. Jeth Sundancer, An unfortunate gambling man

Engineer Loxxibana Flauccivana, A riverboat engineer

Mr. Nunsuch Pryde, A gambling man's gambling man

Dan, a Lavatory Maintenance Engineer

Smike the Boss, A Grotmonger Captain
Episode 3

Chaz is also the author of Maranatha, part of the Trinity Chronicles. That book, along with its prequel, Venus in Saturn, explore the possibility of  finding the actual DNA of Jesus. In order to publish those books, Wolf founded FenrisWulf Books in 2008, a publishing site with several contributors. One is Frang McHardy, the author of 'The Sword of Lochglen', a weird historical Scottish fantasy.

I wanted to showcase how well the world in the WatW has been developed by quoting the system of time in the book:

The following ready reckoners ought to be memorized to prevent embarrassing lateness at social functions, or unexpected termination of employment:
Season = equivalent to a year
Tithe = equivalent to a month
Click = equivalent to a day
Tick = equivalent to an hour, hence Half-tick = half an hour, quarter-tick = quarter hour, &c.
Tock = equivalent to a minute
Hick = equivalent to a second
Titch = a moment, or otherwise, any very short period of time
Got that? Of course you have. Some few have dared to suggest that the nomenclature of Middengarth's time periods has been designed to be as confusing as possible. Such individuals are clearly of very low natural intelligence ...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Voyage to Ireland

My mother used to take my sister and me to Ireland every summer for a month or so. For us, it was a shining time in the middle of a long vacation. For her, it was a chance to see her parents, to see her aunts and cousins and college friends.

The trips tailed off, although my sister and I still go from time to time. I brought my husband, then my fiance, so he could meet the auld ones and see the country I adored. We brought our daughter when she was four.

We just returned from another voyage. This time my sister and I brought our mother, except she wouldn't be visiting cousins or friends, nor anyone else for that matter, ever again. It was, for her, the last voyage.

Our first stop was to Dean's Grange, where we buried her with her parents in a quiet corner near the wall. Next we went to the Avoca Weavers for lunch, and if you ever are in Dublin, do make certain that you have a meal there. The food is organic, and it is sublime. We had duck breast salad, white wine, and a miraculous dessert called "Eton Mess." (There is meringue and whipped cream and fresh raspberries involved, and it is nearly a religious experience.)

Eton Mess. Ours was bigger and messier and more delicious, I'll bet.

After that we drove on to Glendalough in Wicklow, where St. Kevin won sainthood by casting the woman who tempted him into the lake. You can read more about that episode here, in the form of poetry.

St. Kevin's church, Glendalough

Our mother took us to Glendalough many times, and it seemed the perfect place to scatter a few of her ashes. Of course we hadn't taken the wind into account, and we didn't want to get mom blown back in our faces. We carefully faced away from the lake and the wind, and her dear body now is comingled with that glory.

The next day we had a service in a wee church known as St. Nahi's. If you sneeze you'd miss it, and too bad if you do, because there are tapestries down by the Yeats sisters there, as well as a font that baptized the Duke of Wellington and Robert Emmett. 

Then on to St. Helens', now the  part of the Radissson BLU, and they gave us the most wonderful lunch overlooking their lovely gardens. The sun, for a wonder, came out and the children ran about in the hedgerows and mazes. We drank wine and tea and ate chicken and stuffing sandwiches. We chatted and laughed and wept, under a bright blue sky streaked with long clouds.

The rest of our trip was spent at tea and supper with cousins and aunts, much like our mother would have done. My daughter loved it. When we drove to the airport our last morning, she begged and begged me for "just one more day." Exactly as I used to do, forty years earlier.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


A few weeks back there was a bit of passionate debate between the good folks at Fantasy Island Book Publishing about the exclamation, "SQUEEEEE!" I won't name names, but it was all started by a certain author who wrote a certain book and blogs at a certain blogspot.*

The problem, this author said, is that "Squee!" while descriptive, is not very manly. Now, if you don't know what Squee! means, it's what emotional people say when they get a really nice surprise. For authors, it's what some of us (females) say when we see our names in print for the first time.


Usually, when you say it, you wave your hands around and giggle and jump up and down. I'll admit that those actions, put together, aren't very manly.

What they are saying = essence of squee

Still, men must want to show their appreciation of a fine, unexpected event sometimes, right? Is there an alternative?

Well, of course there is the socially accepted "SuhWEET!" It can be said in just as high pitched** a squeal, but it's usually followed by a punch on another guy's flexed bicep and a shot of Jack.

The thing about Squeeee! though, is that it's new. It's fresh. It's exciting. SuhWEET, however, is played, fellows.

Can't you come up with something else?

Can't you growl, "SQUOAH, dude," and fist each other in the 'nads? And go pee on a stump to prove your manliness?

In any case, if there is a fella out there who has accepted the Squee! then that guy is totally secure in his testosterone level, and Fresh Pot of Squee, I mean Tea, is so down with that.

*Oh, he is a really great author too.
**My hyphen key doesn't work. Whatup wit that, laptop gods?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My New Admin

My new admin is fantastic. Sure, I used to have piles of papers, files, kids' drawings, bonus cards for grocery stores, credit card apps, and stuff that just was Too Cool to Throw Out but I Didn't Know What to Do Withall over my desk and office.

Phone calls went unreturned. Menus weren't planned. Gifts weren't bought, thank yous went unwritten.

All that changed when I got my wonderful admin. My admin tells me what is coming up every day on my calendar. The office is now neat and organized. Correspondence is sorted into several piles, so that which must be done gets done. That very day.

There certainly aren't any more coffee cups with cold coffee in them at my desk anymore.

This is what my office looked like, pre admin:

And post admin:

Did I mention my admin looks like this?

(Disclaimer: This entire post is fiction, except for the representational pre admin desk picture.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Steamy Hair

I write steampunk books for kids. In the book I have out now, my heroine, Miriam has black curly hair. And n the book I just edited, an amazing fantasy called The Time Weaver, there is a warrior called Malia who has long, curly blond hair.

That got me thinking about hairstyles in fantasy and steampunk books. Women in fantasy have hair like this:

Oh yeah. Pure fantasy.

or this:

I can just see her as the queen of an alien planet.

or you can have the steampunk lady, like this:


And let's not forget the gentlemen:
The name's Galgadir. James Galgadir.

And we cannot forget:


I just notice that no one in fantasy has a shag, or one of those hair helmets, thus:

So, why can't Madge go on a quest for a ring that in the Darkness Binds Them? Eh?

I don't see why not, since she looked pretty fantastical getting that way:

Just look at the caption, above. Nuff said.