Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkin face

This year's pumpkin is full of glee of the scary sort.

Of course, I did reveal its face by stabbing and hacking and peeling. Who knows what lies within until we set it free?


You still have until midnight to enter my mini-contest for All Hallow's here.

Happy Halloween.

Stay safe and gleeful.

P.S. I plan to hand out goodies to cute goblins and watch old episodes of Supernatural. How about you?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Of spooks and contests, hee-hee

I love fall and Halloween. There's excitement in the air and it's not just sugar-induced. The air's crisp and clean. People dress up silly and tell spooky tales. What's not to like?

I saw this ghost pinned to a massive redwood trunk while I was walking back from the lake, and I had to steal his image. Now, he's forever caught in digital limbo.



Last year's pumpkin. I haven't carved this one yet. I love me some scary squash.

And I found a witch's broom!

Really, I think she got zapped by another witch and fell to earth.

Or maybe she upgraded to a Firebolt and tossed this one aside. Did she take the magic off it first?

Now I wish I'd brought it home.

Neil Gaiman has come up with a brilliant idea for all us bookloving, writing fanatics. All Hallows Read gleefully suggests that we give gifts of scary books as a new Halloween tradition.

So I'm going to give away the very scary THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan to one lucky person who leaves me a comment. All I ask is that the comment tell me one of your favorite scary reads and that you follow my blog. Contest closes midnight Oct. 31.

*This is not my contest for reaching 300-plus wonderful followers. That will come soon. I'm having fun looking up the number three and dilly-dallying.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Power of Three

Gasp. It has not escaped my notice that today the friendly follower's widget says 303. What a magical number, and besides that, Woo-hoo, Wow, Yay and OMG! I have trouble believing that so many people clicked on that little button and followed my blog.
Thank you old and new followers for finding something interesting here. I appreciate it, like, by the power of three. Triple imagery is found throughout the world and its history, so I'm going to brew up a post on that, along with a contest.
I'd do it right now in my excitement, but tonight is crit group (actually, so was yesterday) and I've got some serious writing to do on my novel that's been undergoing reconstruction. So today is hard-hat day. See you soon to frolic and work some magic. (I hope). Thank you again!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

That path we're on

I can't decide if I feel like this skateboarder, rolling down a mountain trail, flying on land and not caring what rules he breaks as long as he's finding a new hill to conquer.
Or if I'm the old man who had to stop to catch his breath part-way uphill, willing himself to do this thing even if his body threatens mutiny.
I feel as though I swing between exhilaration and exhaustion on this journey to publishing a novel. (Well, if I get past the writing and revising to the publishing part.)
And, yet...even when I question, even when I'm tired or down, I go on. The mountain is there, and I'm lured to find its summit. I don't know if that's insanity, destiny or true grit, but I gotta do it. Sometimes, it's a helluva fun ride.

But sometimes, too, I just feel driven, and that's not healthy. I'm searching for balance.
I think I need more of this--gazing up at the sky, spotting the sliver of moon, watching clouds drift.
Like when I was a kid and I seemed to have all the time in the world to soak up the wonder and enchantment and possibility. It reminds me of the words I posted last from Susan Straight: Just be in it.
What about you?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Finding your place

Susan Straight found her place as a writer in the town where she was born. She loves the land and people of inland Southern California. As a high school student, she melded into the extended African American family of her boyfriend (now her ex-husband and father of her three daughters). She absorbed their history and culture, the cadence of their voices, and it spills onto the pages of many of her books as it does her life.
The other night I attended a reading and signing at the Culver Center of the Arts in Riverside, Calif. This is the town Susan fictionalizes as Rio Seco in her novels. She was introduced by Marion Mitchell-Wilson, executive director of the Inlandia Institute, which named Susan as its first Literary Laureate. "Susan embodies our entire mission--to celebrate the people who live, work and write about this place."
Susan, who has written six novels, was a 2001 finalist for the National Book Award and her short stories won the O. Henry Prize and an Edgar Award. But she's so down-to-earth, she baked cupcakes and her mother baked brownies for the booksigning.
She told the audience that she carries small notebooks with her most of the time but writes on anything that's handy, like the subscription cards inside magazines she finds at the gym. "I wrote a big scene on a Disneyland Day Pass."
Her latest book grew out of two events that happened years ago and waited to find their place in a story. One was a beautiful but grief-stricken woman Susan saw every time she rode a bus as a student at USC, and the other was a murdered girl whose mother said no one would care that someone killed her daughter because she was black.
In TAKE ONE CANDLE LIGHT A ROOM, Glorette, a woman who turned every man's head loses herself to crack when her heart is broken. She's found dead, but no cops are called. Susan's haunting prose: Her small body folded in on itself by someone who'd left her in a shopping cart in an alley behind a taqueria, her long black hair, tangled around her beautiful face and falling through the metal mesh that left marks on her cheek.
Fantine, the story's narrator who left Rio Seco, gets a call from her sister-in-law on the anniversary of Glorette's death.
"So you might drop by, huh? If you ain't too busy." Cerise sounded pissed, like she did every single time we talked. She was mad at me for being in L.A., mad at my brother Lafayette for leaving her and their kids, and mad at Glorette for being dead.
"Fantine!" she whispered harshly. "You didn't never see her anymore! But I saw her all the time." Cerise was crying now. "If I went to get my nails done. Or at Rite Aid. She went in there for a break."
I didn't know what to say. I tried to imagine what Glorette had looked like by then.
"She would just smile and say, 'Hey, girl,' like it wasn't no big thang she had a bruise on her neck."
I plan to write more about the book in a future post, but I wanted to put this up to let people know Susan's on tour. If you're in New Orleans, she'll be at the Garden District Bookstore on Oct. 19. Then on the 20th, she'll be at Left Bank Books in St. Louis. In November, she'll be in Washington and California. For a complete itinerary, check Random House.
I'll leave you with some advice to writers from Susan "to stop and look at the world, not judge it. Just be in it."

Friday, October 15, 2010

It's not nice to trash your Mother

Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is water. Did you know water covers 71 percent of the earth's surface? We haven't done a very good job of keeping those waters clean on our rare, habitable planet. But it's not a lost cause. There's still time to make it up to Mom.


Patricia McKillip is a lyrical writer of wondrous stories. In looking for water quotes, I found these lines from THE CHANGELING SEA.

The tide was low that afternoon as Peri walked home, so low that even the great jagged spires stood naked in the glistening sand, and all the starfish and anemones and urchins that clung to their battered flanks were exposed. It was a rare tide. Beyond the spires, the sea dreamed gently, a pale milky blue shot with sudden fires from the setting sun.

And here's another beautiful excerpt from Meredith Ann Pierce's short story collection, WATERS, Luminous & Deep.

One evening, Connor and Elspeth went down to the shore. Moonlight was combing the long, green sea with ravels of silver and winkings of fire.

While we love the reflected fires of moon and sun, we can not accept the man-made fires of oil drilling explosions. It's time to be aware, to speak up, to protect the waters that sustain life on this planet.

Here are some trashy facts and do-it-yourself remedies.

The Ocean Conservancy reports 17,000 pieces of plastic counted during four days at sea about 550 miles off the California coast. Among items adrift in the open ocean were shampoo bottles, laundry baskets and hard hats. Not only is this trashing Mother Earth, it chokes, poisons or otherwise injures and kills fish, birds and mammals.

Remedy? Use less plastic and recycle. Organize neighborhood cleanups to stop trash from washing into gutters. Urge manufacturers to make packaging biodegradable.

A single quart of motor oil can contaminate up to 250,000 gallons of drinking water, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Remedy? Repair motor leaks and never dispose of used oil in gutters or drains. Take any hazardous materials (antifreeze, batteries, bleach, tile cleaner, insecticides, herbicides, resins, paint) to a hazardous waste site. Hey, if you don't want to drink it out of the bottle, don't pour it into the drain where it makes its way to the groundwater or sea.
Burning fossil fuels not only puts carbon dioxide in the air but also in the water. For 20 million years, the pH of the oceans was stable, but in 250 years since we started heavily using fossil fuels, there has been a 30 percent increase in acidity. Just as osteoporosis weakens human bones, the acidified oceans make boney structures and shells weak. More than 60 percent of the world's coral reefs are sick or dying due to pollution, sedimentation and bleaching caused by rising water temperatures.

Remedy? Try to buy the most fuel-efficient car you can, and look into alternative fuel sources, such as solar power for homes. Walk and ride bicycles more often. Turn off non-essential electricity. Talk to town councils about what your community can do.

Chlorine used by paper mills to make your toilet paper white can cause dioxin to be discharged into waterways where it's toxic to fish, wildlife and humans.

Remedy? Use recycled paper goods made without chlorine. A few years ago, I saw a documentary about a river polluted by a mill, resulting in fish downstream with tumorous growths. I switched to non-chlorinated household paper and have never regretted the extra cost to me, knowing I'm not adding to the poisoning of our waters.

My remedies aren't revolutionary. Check out other blogs taking part in the event or any of many conservation organizations, which offer tips on keeping our planet clean. I hope this doesn't come across as preachy, but being silent won't serve us.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I've been searching

Been reflecting a lot lately, and these three photos kind of illustrate what's going on in an abstract way. Each was taken at the south end of a lake I frequent, but they have differing imagery.

I'm searching for something like that in writing but also in an abstract way. Some of you may know that I was shaken up to discover that another book is out with some similarities to the novel I've been writing all year. I don't want to toss my story, because its core is much different than this other book, but I need to change some things, I need to see beyond the literal to the abstract.

In my last post, I mentioned putting our characters up a tree, making them deal with the unfamiliar, the unexpected. Now, I spend time looking for ways to keep my story from the predictable, the already been there.

I hope I find it.
By the way, I just finished two must-read books that are completely different one from the other. The uni smiled upon me when I won an ARC of Beth Revis' ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. For those of you who've read the first chapter online, all I can say is the rest of the story is just as riveting, just as breathtaking. Anyone who loves sci-fi, dystopian and mystery should pre-order it now. In fact, everyone should. The other book was E. Lockhart's THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS. What a fun, smart book. Check it out.
And if I haven't visited your blog lately, please forgive me. I've been gone on family stuff and fulfilling some obligations. I hope to make the rounds soon. Happy October! I love this month.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Up a tree with me (and a contest!)

What gets our attention? Often, it's the thing out of place, the unexpected. Like this duck up a tree. I see ducks paddling along, leaving rippling wakes. Sometimes, they're tail up, looking underwater for some delectable or they're waddling along the shoreline. Although I've seen video of odd ducks who nest in trees and make their ducklings leap out, free-falling to the ground (well-padded), I've never seen a duck in a tree. Hence the photo.

This got me to thinking how the best stories surprise us, make us do a double-take or sit back and ponder. A good writing experiment would be to comb through our stories looking for places we could put our characters up a tree--metaphorically, of course.



Okay, so I really want to whisper instead of shout this, because everyone with a picture book manuscript is going to jump at this chance, and I so want to win!
Dear Editor (Deborah Halverson) is celebrating her six-month online anniversary with a free picture book edit. This is truly amazing for the winner. Deborah was an editor with Harcourt Children's Books for a decade.
If you aren't reading her regularly, you're missing out on lots of advice about writing and the industry.
The rules for this contest are a picture book for ages three to eight, text only and no longer than 2K. Deadline is midnight PST Oct. 10. Specifics on how to enter are on her site.
Right now I'm feeling laptop love. I've been away from home--unexpectedly up a tree--for days due to a family situation. It's raining and I'm listening to the soft patter and putting up this post. The view from the tree limb is pretty good, actually.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sometimes We Soar

I can now say this for a fact: watching Olympic skaters from front row seats is freaking amazing! My daughter and I were blown away by All That Skate in L.A. this weekend. The show was aired on Korean television, which is the origin of these videos. It will be broadcast in the U.S. Oct. 10 on NBC, as well.

My breath was taken away by the lyric beauty and astounding jumps of Gold Medalist Yuna Kim and by the lifts and throws in the performances by Pair champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo.

Here's the thing about champion ice skaters. They take risks, big ones. But they've work long years, perfecting the basics, getting physically strong and mentally prepared for pushing themselves to these extremes of performance. And if they fall, they get right back up and keep going. They make pretty good role models for anyone, really.

Kim organized the show and invited her impressive friends: Michelle Kwan, Johnny Weir, Stephane Lambiel, Patrick Chan, Ashley Wagner, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy.

Hope you enjoy the videos or catch the televised show. Better yet, someday go see them live.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Not just any day





The passing storm


Sometimes Southern California gets dramatic, and my favorite times of day are those moments when the sun is rising or setting. There wasn't a lot of rain with this system but there sure was a show.
Tomorrow, my daughter and I are going to see a different spectacular show--All That Skate with Olympic ice skaters including Yuna Kim, Michelle Kwan, Stephane Lambiel, Johnny Weir and Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo. Excited much? Oh, yeah.

And, oh my, I notice that almost 300 people pressed the little follow button on this blog. I never dreamed so many wonderful people would drop by. I'm going to have to throw a party. With prizes, of course, when I get there. Thank you all!