Monthly Archives: October 2013

Halloween Costumes

1970-box-costumesWhen I was a kid, Halloween costumes were something we pulled out of my sister’s closet at the last possible minute. There was a big box that my mom had wedged into the back. It was crammed with all sorts of masks and outfits to turn us into a witch, a ballerina, a rabbit or even a gorilla. With six kids (7 when I became a teenager), Mom never went to the store to buy us costumes in those little boxes with the cellophane front. That would have been way too expensive. We had to be whatever costume fit us from the box or come up with something on our own.

The clown costume we owned  had been worn by every single one of us at some point. It was an orange full body suit (white polka dots on one half) made of cotton that tied at the neck. There was white ruffles on the elastic wrist and ankle openings. It was topped off with a dented plastic mask that always seemed to cut into the skin around your eyes. Our witch costume had a similar mask and came with an ancient orange long sleeve dress with a black collar.witchiepoo

Because I hated wearing those masks, I ventured out on my own early. I remember raiding my dad’s closet for some old clothes and tying a bandana pouch to the end of a stick. This costume we called a hobo. I think the politically correct term now would be homeless person, though that wording doesn’t have the romantic connotation to it that the wandering hobo does.

At the time, I think I resented not being able to go spend money on a new costume. When I look back on it now though I appreciate the creativity it made me have. One year I teased out my hair and painted my face brown to be a werewolf (won first prize in the school contest) and another year I made a Frankenstein flat-top out of paper mache’ that fit on the top of my head like a helmet (also won first prize).

Today I have a daughter. Over the years I’ve sewn all of her costumes…each more extravagant than the year before. There was a pony, a monkey, a purple princess, Angelina Ballerina and the tooth fairy. When we started homeschooling her, the costumes began to take on a historical vein so that researching them could be part of a lesson. She did more than just tell me what she wanted. She became part of the process. We did Sacagawea, Cleopatra, Medusa and then the Statue of Liberty.

The past two Halloween’s she’s been more interested in the “fear factor” for her costumes. Last year she humored me a bit though by being a vampire who was turned during the Victorian era. She wore a long black dress with a bustle. This year is going to be another vampire, but completely modern. No more history lessons to sneak in.

Because she’s just one kid, I can spend the time with her to make a perfect costume. We don’t have to depend on a box wedged in a closet. But I’m proud to say that the costumes are still not store-bought things made in China. We work on them together. I think that I’m letting her develop her creativity just fine without the alternative being a mask that digs into your face.

Happy Halloween!

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THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by Holly Black

TCGIC_CoverLittle, Brown & Company 2013

When I heard that the just released book by Holly Black was a book about vampires, I was a bit skeptical. Everything I’ve read in writing trends and publishing these days says that vampires are dead (pun intended) in Young Adult Fiction. The genre has moved on…but The Coldest Girl In Coldtown is not another Twilight wannabe. TCGIC made me forget all about those romanticized blood suckers (Edward who?). This book is the raw, gritty, chilling way vampires really would be in our internet happy world today.

The Coldest Girl In Coldtown’s list of characters is led by seventeen year old Tana. She’s lived through the decade old plague that has descended on the world. In this book vampires came out of hiding and started running rampant across first the US and then the other continents. Everyday, more and more people become ‘infected’ and begin craving human blood.

The government’s answer is to quarantine the places where the outbreaks start. Huge walls are built to trap those inside. These places are called Coldtowns. Humans and vampires live side by side in these twisted self-ruled cities. Horrific video feeds and news stories pour out of these places describing how the vampires maintain their food supply.

The first and most famous Coldtown is in Springfield, Mass. This is where Tana is heading after she wakes up one morning in a bathtub to find that she’s the only person at a ‘sundown’ party left untouched by a pack of vampires (Do vampires roam in packs? Maybe it should be a gaggle of vampires. Perhaps a pride of vampires.). Traveling with her are an ‘infected’ ex-boyfriend named Aidan and a boy vampire that was chained up in the house beside Aidan. It’s not your typical road trip.

This story is gruesome and disturbing, but also eloquent and beautiful. I couldn’t put it down. In fact, my whole weekend was shot because all I could do was read this book. Who needs clean laundry?

Go get this book. Right away. I mean now. It will be a nice Halloween read for you. You can check out more about Holly Black and her writing at her website, blackholly.com.

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Buggy vs. Cart

buggy-vs-cartYou may know from my bio page that my roots are firmly set in the south. Particularly in East Tennessee. That’s where I was born and in the deep recesses of my heart, I still call it home.

The first time I moved away and had more experience with people from different places was in my senior year of college. That’s when I started working as an intern at an environmental education center in Indiana. We taught kids (who had much thicker accents than mine) about trees, aquatic life, animal habitats and the like.

My fellow instructors were from all over the place. Some came from the Northwest, some from New England and others came from deeper in the Midwest. There were even a few stragglers hailing from the UK. We worked, lived and ate together so of course the topic of how we say things differently would come up around the dinner table.

It’s a given that the British say things in another way than we do in the US. We’re both speaking English, but that’s only a technicality. I could spend a whole day listing words we say that they use for something completely different (all I’ll say on that was that the guys from England would fall over laughing if you suggested they use a “fanny pack”).

What I want to discuss is how words vary so much across our country. The first I really noticed this was when a group of us instructors went to the grocery store together. I asked someone from Montana to get me a “buggy.” She just looked at me until I pointed to the grocery carts lined up at the front of the store.

In East Tennessee, we call all soda “Coke.” I’m sorry to you Pepsi fans out there, but where I’m from Coke is to soda as Kleenex is to tissue. I know other places they call it “pop” or even “dope.” In my hometown if you ask someone for a Coke they’ll ask you what kind (and I don’t mean diet).

Another example that comes to mind was when I was a school teacher here in the north. It was Valentine’s Day and I had a card with candy for each of my kids. As the bell rang to mark the end of the day I called out, “Make sure you get a sucker before you leave.” The kids thought that was the most hilarious thing because they all call the hard candy on the end of a rolled paper stick a lolly or lollipop.

I rarely run across instances of these regional word variations anymore. My last personal reference above was from more than ten years ago.

I bring this all up because the other day I finished reading Hourglass by Myra McEntire (2012). The story is set in the south, but I just know the author has to be from there. It’s not because the characters have an accent and no one says “y’all.” The one thing that made it so clear for me was when the girl in the story didn’t use the term “sneakers” to describe her athletic shoes. She called them “tennis shoes.” This is a definite tell. When I was a kid everyone I knew used this term. Even if the shoes were meant for playing basketball or running, they were still tennis shoes.

For a while I thought the little eccentricities of speech from different regions of the country had been ironed out. We’re all exposed to so much television, movies and videos where the people speaking have plain vanilla accents. I was afraid this suggested that our big melting pot of a country had finally melted into one big lump. I’m just glad to discover that this is not entirely true.

It’s good to know when I go into a grocery store here in the north and ask for a “buggy,” people will still look at me funny.

I would love to hear about regional words/terms that are still used where you live that are different from other places. If you care to share, please leave a comment.

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LEGEND by Marie Lu

Putnam 2011

Marie Lu breakout novel Legend is a book that really stuck with me. I would read chapters at night, and then the next day I kept Legend_coverfinding myself thinking about the main characters and what was happening to them. That doesn’t always happen for me, but when it does I know that the author has developed something special. Marie Lu created a world that mixed itself with mine.

Legend is the story of June and Day, adversaries in the dystrophin future of the United States, told from dual perspectives. Each new chapter focuses on the opposite character but continues the story from where the previous chapter left off.

Day is a fifteen year old criminal in the ranks of Robin Hood. He does what he does to survive or keep his family alive. He becomes a shadowy hero to the people being held down by the oppressive government.

June is also fifteen, but her lineage and abilities put her on the other side of the equation. She is a prized prodigy who received a perfect score on the government aptitude trials at the age of ten. This earned her advanced placement in the military training programs.

When June’s older brother is killed, it becomes her obsession to track down the elusive Day and bring him to justice. That’s when their stories intertwine and will never be separated again.

I have to say that Legend is full of action and drama, with just enough romance to keep me turning the pages. It’s the first in Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy. The second book, Prodigy, came out in January 2013. I suggest you read the first two right away, because the final installment, Champion, comes out on November 5, 2013. You can read more about these books and learn more about Marie Lu at her website, marielu.org.

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Leibster Award PART I

liebster-award

The wonderfully MAD females over at We’re All Mad Here recently nominated me for the Liebster Award. Much appreciation going your way ladies.

For those of you who have no idea what the Liebster Award is, don’t fret. You’re in good company. I had no idea either. I just thanked my nominators (nominators doesn’t seem like it should be a real word) and filed the thought away until I could research it further.

After a bit of digging online I found that the Liebster Award is a chain mail type of acknowledgement from fellow bloggers. It’s meant to promote the blogger sending the award, the blogger receiving the award & the bloggers yet to be nominated for the award. One person whose blog had been nominated over five times decided to track down the origins. The earliest recipient she could find was from 2010. That means that this piece of charm has been roaming around the web for at least three years. Pretty impressive, I must say. As Newton said, “An object in motion tends to stay in motion.” Who am I to stop this speeding locomotive? Granted, an online chain mail award isn’t a REAL object (or locomotive) but when I saw the comment from the Red Queen at We’re All Mad Here, if felt real. In fact, it felt REALLY NICE.

So, I’m going to follow the rules of acceptance set forth by the Queen and do my part.

Here’s what she said:

The Liebster Award is a way to help blogs with under 200 followers gain attention and expand their audience.

Rules:

  • Link back the blogger that tagged you.
  • Answer the questions of the one who tagged you.
  • Nominate 10 others and ask 10 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
  • Let you nominees know of their award.

Yes, this does seem like a LOT of work. It reminds me of Junior High (okay, I’m old enough that we called it Junior High instead of Middle School) when kids would pass out chain mail letters. These would say that you had to write out the letter five time and pass them along or a tree might fall on you. I was always torn between wanting to be included in the game and dreading having to write out the page over and over and over and over and over…free hand. 

Since I’m lazy, I will tackle two parts of this today and save the rest for another moment.  “Why do today what you can put off as long as you possibly can (That’s the correct quote, right?)?” The parts I choose today are: Link back to the blogger (SEE ABOVE) and Answer the questions of the one who tagged you (SEE BELOW).

Here are the questions asked of me along with my answers: 

1. Why in the world did you start blogging? I’m a writer, so I write. This was just a way to let me explore my thoughts and find some people willing to listen.

2. Are you a part of any fandoms? I had to look up what was meant by “fandoms” since I figured it didn’t mean you just like certain types of music or a football team. So, I guess the answer is no.

3. What is your favorite genre? In books currently, YA Fantasy

4. Do you judge books based on their covers? Of course. Who EVER came up with that saying must have lived when books were just bound together pages. If we weren’t supposed to judge them by their covers the covers wouldn’t be so easy to JUDGE.

5. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done? I plead the 5th amendment.

6. What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a book blog? I’m afraid book reviews can be corrupt. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but being paid to say you love a book just seems wrong. Also, giving bad reviews because someone won’t pay you is just as wrong. With book reviews, there’s a chance someone could accuse you of being dishonest. Book bloggers who do reviews should really have a posted policy outlining how they do their reviews and under what circumstances free books are accepted. That’s why I only provide book recommendations. The books I submit are books I truly have read that I really enjoy. I’ll never post a book that I’m not 100% behind.

7. What book made you love reading? Anything by Judy Blume, but especially Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing.

8. What’s your favorite series/book? Easy. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

9. Would you rather never be able to read again or never be able to talk again? I’d guess I’d give up reading because I’m not one who can be shut up.

10. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one thing what would it be? I would bring a boat. : )

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THE FALSE PRINCESS by Eilis O’Neal

Egmont USA (sub of Random House) 2011the-false-princess_cover

When I first got this book, I thought I’d read it before. There was a princess who wasn’t really a princess, a prediction of a terrible death and a boy who wouldn’t be able to marry a princess or a pauper. It’s been done before. Many times. But this take is different. Author Eilis O’Neal blows some fresh wind into this old tale.

Sixteen year old Princess Nalia finds out she isn’t really a  princess at all. Instead she’s Sinda, the daughter of a common weaver. He was so heartbroken when the child’s mother left him soon after the birth that he willingly gave the baby to the King and Queen to raise.

At the time of the real princess’ birth, an oracle predicted that the she may die before her sixteenth birthday. Wizard advisers to the crown came up with the idea of switching the babies. The real princess would be locked away safely until the danger passed while the false princess would know nothing of the deception.

When the prophesy doesn’t come to pass, they decide it’s time to bring back the true princess. So, out goes Sinda to live with an aunt she doesn’t know and who doesn’t want her. She also leaves behind the only parents she ever knew plus her best friend, a boy named Kiernan. 

This is when Sinda’s life of adventure REALLY begins.

Though the story seems familiar, it has magical elements, unpredictable twists, romance and a gusty heroine that keep it fresh. A combination I truly enjoy. There were also a couple of times I found myself crying. That always makes me happy (HA!).

As far as I can tell this is Eilis O’Neal’s only novel, but she has other published stories. You can read them and more about the author at her website: http://www.eilisoneal.com/

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I Can’t Seem To Finish…

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

Click Image to link to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Before I jump into the topic of my post I want to say I’m excited to be a new participant in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Group blog hop, co-hosted this month by  Julie Luek, Rachna Chabria, Beverly Fox, and Ilima Todd!

The purpose of the IWSG is: “To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!”

The first Wednesday of each month is the official Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. So, I can hardly wait to hear from other writers and to be able to help anyone that I can.

After you’ve read my post, please Click here  to “hop” to another blog on the list to support and share with others.

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Where I start on my post is that I can’t seem to finish…the rough draft of my newest novel. It’s a young adult futuristic fantasy about a teenage girl trying her hardest to balance relationships and not getting killed. I’m on the tail end (I mean, the last two sentences) of the second to last chapter.  I know exactly what happens next, I just haven’t put it down in writing. My manuscript has laid untouched for a couple of weeks.

Part of me wants to say it’s because I’m so busy with everything else in my life. Like most writers I have responsibilities beyond working on my book. There’s the business my husband and I run every day from so early in the morning to way to late at night. Right now we’re gearing up for the coming holiday season.  At the same time I home school my daughter. That in itself is equal parts overwhelming and rewarding. Besides those two big things, my shoulders carry the regular minutia that involves living a life: doing the laundry, cooking meals, cleaning the bathrooms and the like.

Reading and writing are the things I do just for myself. My escape time. When I squeak out the time to write it sort of feels selfish. There are a million things that NEED to get done, but I’m sitting in front of the computer playing with my thoughts. It’s hard to reconcile being so focused on my wants when deep in my mind I know I should be cleaning the dishes.

But my guilty conscience and a busy life aren’t my problem. Time management isn’t what’s holding me back.

I know because all summer long I could write for fifteen minutes here and grab another half an hour there. Banging out a few hundred words was no problem. I can find the time. I just have to give up some sleep.

An author I met once told me that there’s nothing like the feeling of finishing your book for the first time. She was right. When I completed the rough draft of my first novel, I was ecstatic. Back then I wasn’t good at “plowing” through to the end of the draft come what may. I was meticulous and long-winded. It took me YEARS to finish that book. Today it’s still sitting on my hard drive collecting computer dust.

That’s my real problem. I’m afraid of finishing my book. I don’t really want it to be over. The rough draft is where I’m just blasting out my inner thoughts. Anything can and does happen. Next it’s going to be a lot more work. That happy feeling I’ll have when I can write “the end” for the first time is so short-lived. Revisions are painful. I just don’t want these characters that I love so much to be hidden away because I may not be successful in rewriting them. I also don’t want to start hating them because I can never get away from them.

I’m making this my debut IWSG post because I would love some words of encouragement. Please give me some pointers on getting over the “Post Finished-My-Rough-Draft-High Let Down.” What do you do to keep motivated in your writing, even when you have to re-write it again and again and again?

Thanks!

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