Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fear and Loathing in Dallas

Today I feel kind of like this. I've been put through the wringer and spit back out again -- all because of a literally hair-raising experience. I decided to woman up (yes, I really did type that, instead of man up) and cover my gray, just to see if I liked it. I've been prematurely graying since I was 21 and it doesn't bother me, but recently my writer's imagination started dreaming about what it would be like to have hair all the same color again just for fun. So I went to Walgreens and bought some dye and half an hour later, there I was on the phone to my hair stylist in tears after calling the hot line number on the box because my PERMANENT hair color was bleeding out from my hair into my clothes and my towel. Of course, I was told by Clairol this was all my hair's fault.

I tried scolding my hair, "you naughty, naughty hair," but it didn't listen. Eight shampoos and three conditioning treatments later, and my hair still bleeds for me. I'm sure there's a story in there, but right now, I'm just filled with a deep loathing for anyone with normal hair not straight out of a horror film.

This hairiffic experience led me to ponder things that I might fear now. Previously, I had written I had no deep, secret fears, but then I read a few interviews by Stephen King and I thought to myself: Yeah, I am kind of afraid of that. I guess I didn't think they were fears really, because I don't think of them often. I'm like a turtle. I'll just hide in my shell with my bleeding hair, thank you.

But fear is a powerful emotion and can lead to really good storytelling. After thinking more, I realized that some of my deeply repressed fears have actually ended up in print -- going insane and falling down the stairs are just two.

Soooo ....

My List of Fears

1) Being alone -- not just for a few hours or a day or a week, but waking up one morning and discovering that everyone you loved has passed and no one cares about you anymore.

2) Falling down the stairs. This one probably stems from watching my brother the daredevil cartwheel down the basement steps when I was younger. It kind of left an impression on me. He wasn't injured, but I'm sure if I had fallen, I would have broken my neck!

3) Unknown insects in strange states -- just because you never know if they will bite.

4) Losing my mind -- literally. What bothers me about this one, is that if it ever happens, I probably won't know.

5) I admit it; I am afraid of what's under the bed, but hey, Stephen King admitted the same thing in an interview once, so I'm in good solid adult company here.

6) Stephen King also admitted being afraid of the dark, especially in unfamiliar hotel rooms. I get this, Stephen -- because of you, I cannot go into a hotel bathroom without thinking of the scary ghost lady in The Shining. Thank you so much for that! *shivers* (Oddly enough, when I actually stayed at a haunted hotel last December, the scary ghost lady didn't seem so scary any more).

7) Getting bit by a snake. Now, yes, we have one as a pet in our house, but really, Ludwig belongs to my husband. He was a birthday gift. I pick him up, I give him water, and I wouldn't let him starve, but I'm not bonded with him or anything, even though he's a "gentle" snake, according to hobbyists.

8) I'll also admit to being afraid of suffocating, but this is a logical fear. I have asthma and growing up, asthma medicine wasn't as effective as it is now.

9) Never making it as a professional writer -- now this one is a normal fear, even though writers don't like to talk about it.

10) My father dying while I am still living out of state. This one really gets to me. My father is 78 and has emphysema. I moved away in 2006, when he was doing okay, but now he's not doing so well. Every time the phone rings late at night, I automatically assume it's about him.

11) Waking up to discover the person you are sleeping next to has died during the night. I don't know why I worry about this, but it would just be creepy. Think about it. You slept next to a dead person all night and didn't realize it. *shivers*

12) Finding my elderly pets dead somewhere in the house. This one is normal. Nobody wants to lose a beloved pet and the shock of discovering them is horrible. I hope this one never happens.

I'm going to stop here before I reach lucky thirteen because it seems like a good place to end this.

What are your fears? Explore them and they might lead to one of the best stories you ever wrote. You just never know.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night - The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2011

On the way to dinner last night, my husband mentioned how funny the winner of the "dark and stormy" opening line of a novel winner was this year. He couldn't remember the name of the contest, but I found it online this morning.

The Bulwer-Lytton homepage boasts: Where “WWW” means “Wretched Writers Welcome”. Rules for the contest can be found on their page:

Inspiration is taken from the opening of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford written in 1830

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
The winner of The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for 2011 is Sue Fondri, from my native state, Wisconsin. Sue wrote:

Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.
The runner-up was Rodney Reed from Tennessee:

As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this . . . and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words.
For more giggles, you can check out the other winners and notable entries here:

Also included on their site are links to The Dark and Stormy Night board game, which looks highly amusing and a link to Swig Bar in San Francisco featuring a cocktail called "The Dark and Stormy".

And if that wasn't enough humor for you, you can always depend on the Sticks and Stones page where actual bad author quotes abound. This page will make any writer feel better!

Gear up and get ready for next year, folks!

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blog Pet Peeves

My pet peeves have sharp pointy fangs, wear steel toes, and carry shotguns. Be warned.

I've been tooling around new blogs looking for quality posts to read in the past week, but some of them have been so annoying, I'd rather poke out my eyes and eardrums with a rusty nail.

My Blog Pet Peeves

1) People who use webspeak excessively.

2) People who use annoying sound effects/songs with no option to turn them off.

3) Blogs that look like a rainbow threw up on them. Choose a few MATCHING colors and stick with it.

4) People who whine in post after post about how horrible their life is. Everybody has shit to deal with. We don't need yours too.

5) People who write about books they read and only post: I liked it. That doesn't help me much.

6) People who don't know about the use of white space on the Internet.

7) People who can't tell the difference between "their" and "they're".

Thus concludes my pet peeve segment. I will now put them back in their cage for the remainder of the day because they're quite nippy now. I think they need to be fed.  I have some leftover pinky mouse from snakelet's feeding in the freezer. Perhaps, they would like that for lunch. Bleick!

What are some of your blog pet peeves? We all have them.

As always, happy reading and happy writing to all!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The House on the Rock

The House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin was birthed from the imagination of Alex Jordan in the 1940s. The 14-room house rests on a shelf of rock 60 feet long and boasts some of the weirdest and kookiest collections you can find. Alex Jordan's mammoth dedication to collecting the odd and fantastic is something we can all enjoy today. In fact, this house even made an appearance in Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Neil Gaiman has gone back there to discuss his book. 

The House on the Rock also has an inn nearby you can stay in and there are many events to enjoy. They have  steampunk Halloween costume party planned his year. You can read more about it and other interesting tidbits here:

A Wisconsin native, this attraction is just a day outing for me. I have visited the place more than twice and each time I return, I find something new to marvel at. Here are some of my photos. If you're heading to Wisconsin, this is a great family attraction or if you're just a curious writer with a good imagination like me. Perhaps, you have your own story to write here.

This is the Infinity Room:

These are some shots of the carousel room made famous in Neil Gaiman's book:

Here are some random photos of the collections at the house. There are lots of mechanical bands, etc.

This one is a favorite. It plays The Beatles' Octopus's Garden.

Even the public bathrooms are cool:


They have a beautiful garden area as well outdoors. These alligators are my favorite:

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Are You Reading Between the Covers? - #19

Ridiculous! I woke up at 5AM and here I sit wide-awake at my computer. I guess I'll do my blogging for today.

I've been doing a fair amount of reading, but this week got back into a heavier writing schedule, so I only have two books to discuss, but they are really, really good.

I like to browse the new section every time I go to my library. This time I found this cool little collection of  short stories, Creature Cozies, edited by Jill M. Morgan. It's a selection of mystery pet tales written by mystery authors about their own pets. Included on the back cover, which is a nice detail, is a photo of each author with their pets featured in the stories. Now I am a total animal lover, but I don't read many mainstream mysteries. I usually like my mysteries to involve the supernatural or paranormal, but these proved to be just as entertaining. I expected the book to read like The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter mysteries by Susan Wittig Albert, which I do enjoy immensely, but to my surprise, the book offered more than that. It's hard to pick a favorite from this book because they were all so good. I simply can't. They all won my heart.

The second book I read this week featured horror shorts for young adults, Be Afraid!: Tales of Horror selected by Edo van Belkom. Wow! Again, I loved every story in this collection, which rarely happens for me, but I seem to be having good success lately. All of the stories dealt with relevant issues for young adults today in a creative way; the topics included adjusting to puberty, teen gun violence, popularity, and other issues. I was impressed with how the authors addressed everyday issues in the horror genre, something Mr. Belkom discussed in the introduction where he mentions that horror is what happens around us in everyday life. This prompted me to think even more about my own personal experiences I could write about, something I have been doing a lot of lately anyway. It's been a weird week for me. Usually, I find I love half and think the rest are just okay. Sometimes I actually dislike a few or am indifferent, but I never am psyched about all the stories in a collection. That's twice this week!

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Older I Get ...

Getting older as a writer is about letting go. I always thought I'd be writing about the monsters in the basement, but that's not what I'm choosing to write. Nope. I've gotten a little retrospective in the past year or two. Being hit by a semi gives you a whole new perspective on life. I think I know how Stephen King felt when he got hit by that van now!

I haven't gone all sappy and sentimental. There will be no kittens wrapped up in little pink bows basking in the sun under a rainbow with a unicorn nearby, but that's okay because I feel my writing is more authentic. I'm not writing what I think the dark fiction genre should be, but what I feel dark fiction is for me. It's made my stories original, realistic, and cathartic.

Zombies and vampires are still great stories for me to read, but I've discovered if I delve into my life, there are a few of my own ghosts to discover. I'm not going to lie to you and say I wouldn't change any of the bad experiences in my life because of all the wisdom I've gained. Some of them were painful and/or scary. Who really wants to experience pain or fear? Nobody does. Yes, I can say I took something positive and valuable away from a bad experience, but that's just my way of coping with bad situations and making the best of it. Many people do this. What I will tell you is that reflecting on events that shaped me has opened me up to new story ideas.

For example, I finished reading Be Afraid!: Tales of Horror selected by Edo Van Belkom. It's a collection of children's horror. In the introduction, Mr. Belkom writes:

What scares you? What is it that causes you to be afraid? Is it vampires? Werewolves? Evil demons? Sure, those things can be scary, but no one has ever really seen a vampire walking down Main Street ... horror is not about monsters - it's about people's personal fears and emotions.

So true, Mr. Belkom! I could not have written it better myself. This introduction led me to reflect on how the stories affected me personally. What memories were dredged up while I traveled, safely tucked in my bed with my trusty cat at my feet and my husband snoring beside me?

Well, a few reared their slimy heads. One of them involved walking through a cemetery with my friends when I was about four - a common occurrence many adults can remember. The cemetery sprawled just around the corner of my block - literally. Kids used it as a shortcut home. I remember distinctly how the older children tried to spook me with ghost stories after they convinced me to walk with them, but the ghost stories didn't terrify me one bit. What did terrify me was the wino  masturbating in the back seat of a junky old car who wasn't too pleased to be disturbed by a group of annoying kids. That was scary! I remember him sitting up and swearing at us in a slurry tongue, positive he would get out of the back seat and chase us down with a fury I'd never seen. I didn't know what he would to me when he caught me, but I sure didn't want to stick around and find out! There's a story here and I plan to write it very soon. It's not another werewolf adjusting to a new life or another vampire searching for a soul, but it'll work for me.

If I search harder, I'm sure I'll find even more. What are your stories?

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reading Author's Pet Mysteries and Inspiration Struck!

Past the witching hour and I hadn't gone to sleep because I needed to finish Creature Cozies edited by Jill M. Morgan. This delightful short story collection featured mystery authors and their sleuthing pets. It hooked me in with the first story and inspired me to write about my own zoo. I particularly liked the author/pet duo photos featured on the back cover and will be blogging a book review later. Check back for details.

Possibilities abound with my menagerie of animals. It's hard to choose which one to write about first. If I write about all of them, there'll be eight tales -- tails of glory!

Let me introduce you to my furry/scaly family.

This is Derrick. He's five and a half years of trouble with a penchant to eat anything he can put in his mouth. He's nicknamed "The Garbage Can". He's sampled oatmeal cream pies, potato chips, and lots of other things not on his preferred diet -- a regular connoisseur of junk food! I got Derrick from a member on a bearded dragon forum when I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She gave him up free to a good home. Last month Derrick almost passed. We're not sure what happened, but he had horrible seizures and wouldn't eat. He's better now, but his illness remains a mystery.

This is Mike. My stepson named him after the movie, Monsters Inc. Mike is the reason I met my husband. We met on a bearded dragon forum six years ago and have been together ever since. Mike is seven years old and has the appetite of a Hoover vacuum cleaner. Yesterday he discovered he likes blackberries. He's an experience traveler, having gone many places, including Petroglyph National Monument and Roswell, New Mexico. He is a rescue from a clutch - purchased at a pet store in Albuquerque.

This is Tiggyr (pronounced Tigger). She turned thirteen this year. She is the first cat I adopted as an adult. Tiggyr came from The Humane Society in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I went looking for a black cat, but came home with a polydactyl tabby. Tiggyr wouldn't let me leave without her, meowing at the top of her lungs and grabbing me through the bars of her cage with her paw. I'm a sucker! She was dumped by her family. She wasn't even six weeks old and should have still been with her mother. I'm literally her mother; she imprinted on me. Tiggyr will sell me out for a piece of cheese in a heartbeat, but she's also very loyal and loving.

This is Toshio. He's a British Bombay (a mix of Burmese and black cat). Toshio is about two now. I adopted him from Texas Cares, a no-kill cat shelter located in Dallas. I'd had my eye on a black cat for a while, but my husband told me no more cats. Then one day we were at PetSmart and there he was on a leash visiting the birds. I asked if I could pet him and as soon as I did, I knew I wanted to take him home. My husband didn't want to tell me no; instead, he told me I could get him with the apartment's approval. Of course, they approved adding a third cat to my lease, so Toshio came home. He already had his name and for the past eight months had answered to it, so we kept it. It means "leader" in Japanese. And that he is. He bullied his way into being the head cat in the house. He will sell me out for a piece of sashimi. He's quite vocal, mouthy really, likes to play fetch, and is very affectionate.

This is Houdini, our five-year-old tabby. Houdini came to us by a case of mistaken identity. I'd just moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to be with my husband and the majority of my boxes were still under a tarp on the back porch. Suddenly, a cat appeared in the patio door. My husband thought it was Tiggyr. He opened the door and a strange cat came charging into the living room. We tried everything to get him to leave, knocking on doors, shooing him out of our house, but each time we put him outside, he beat my husband back in the door. Finally, we gave up and kept him while we tried to locate his owners because he obviously wouldn't go back home on his own. He was so sweet and had to belong to someone. No one claimed him after a week and we took him to the vet. He had a microchip, but the contact numbers were disconnected. We figured someone had dumped him after they moved. Of course, my husband wanted to keep him, but didn't tell me. I had to tell him I wanted to keep him! Will named him "Houdini" after one of his favorite magicians; my husband plans on using Houdini is his magic act someday. Houdini loves to watch Will practice magic and is not afraid of fire. He's a sneaky cat. He can escape from most locked rooms and open doors and to this day, we have no idea how he ended up on the enclosed porch in New Mexico, but we're glad he did.

This is Ludwig van Beethoven, one of my favorite composers, aptly named because his stomach looks like a piano. He's a Western Hognose snake native to Texas and not even a year old. We've had him for a few months. We nicknamed him "Snakelet" because he is so tiny. He cannot even eat on his own, yet. Some day he will be a big snake, all of two feet, if even that. He is gentle and will not turn aggressive as he ages. He's really my husband's pet -- a birthday present for Will this year.

This is Fizzlebub. Fizzy is named after my children's short story character, a lovable demon. She's a Cuban Anole, the largest anole in the world. We don't know how old she is. She's been with us for about three years now and before that, she had two previous owners. She ended up back at the pet shop. One owner didn't have the time for her anymore and the other couldn't handle her. The staff was afraid of her, since she was quite aggressive, but with love and patience, she's now tame. I'm guessing she's around at least five or six years old.

And last but not least -- little Bradbury the Three-toed Box Turtle native to Texas. He is not even a year old and will live at least twenty-five years, if not more. I got him after I lost my beloved Tatsu, my bearded dragon I'd raised from a baby. Bradbury inherited Tatsu's tank. He is named after one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury. He's quite a grouchy, persnickety little fellow who likes to be fed on time and hates taking baths, even though he needs them to be healthy.

 Whew! That's my zoo! Hope you enjoyed meeting all of them. Perhaps, you'll see their mugs in print some day. I have some writing to do now...

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More About That Crazy Writer

10 Facts About Me That Have Nothing to Do With Writing

1) I am ambidextrous.

2) In high school my friends and I would dress up in all black on a full moon and paint our faces. We would go to school like this.

3) I do not like westerns, except for spaghetti westerns. Who can resist those?

4) I have a tattoo of a Gila monster on my right shoulder that I got when I was 19.

5) I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for over ten years, but am not now.

6) I think black cows are cute. They remind me of my cat, Toshio.

7) I am afraid of falling down the stairs to my death.

8) I hate the phrase: Don't get your undies in a bundle.

9) I took piano lessons for eight years.

10) I have never read Treasure Island.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Never Miss a Chance to Sell Yourself

As you can see by my lovely collection of bracelets, I ended up at the E.R. Thursday morning. I've been dealing with a mold issue in my air conditioning unit and it's possibly been making me sick. Hopefully, the A/C will be fixed on Monday. My visit turned out to be one of the funniest, yet. In my woozy state, I remembered my brother mentioning reading about urine therapy; apparently, urine has nutrients in it and according to Eastern medicine, is not just a waste product. Even the Aztecs used it as an antiseptic for cleaning out wounds. So my husband looked it up on his smart phone and read me all the interesting facts. At the end of the article, which I wish I had the link to, there was some odd trivia about urine. I learned that vultures pee on their legs to cool themselves off when they are hot. I could NOT make this stuff up if I tried! It's true. Look at all these links:

How bizarre is that?

While I was laughing about that, a nurse came to start an I.V. and he had an E.M.T. student with him who was studying to be a firefighter as well.

"What were you planning to do today?" the nurse asked.

"Well, I was going to finish editing a short story, but now I'm here, instead."

"You're a writer?"

And I in my woozy, fatigued state grinned like an idiot and said, "Why, yes, I am."

"Well, what kind of stuff do you write?"

"I write dark fiction, sci-fi, dark fantasy, and horror. I have a web site too."

And then I gave him the link to my site, not like he would probably remember, but you never know. He could get bored at work on his break and look me up. *grins* Hey, if I could get a book sale out of my hospital visit, I'd be happier than a vulture peeing on itself. *chuckles*

Never miss the chance to get your name out there, even if you're a little loopy and in the emergency room wearing a ridiculous gown with no back.

Here's my question to you for the day: If you were a vegetable, what kind would you be?

My husband and I got on this tangent after the nurse and E.M.T. in training had left because while they were there someone asked about a D.N.R. (Do not resuscitate order). Of course, I told my husband he was not allowed to let me be a vegetable for more than 60 days, which he already knew anyway.

"I will be your vegetable," said my husband. He confessed in private that he would never be broccoli because no one likes broccoli; he would be corn. I forget why. By then the meds in the I.V. were working.

So, if you were a vegetable, what kind would you be?

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

To the Waters and the Wild, With a Fairy Hand in Hand

That is a quote from William Butler Yeats's The Stolen Child. I spent a lot of time on vacation photographing my mother's flowers. When I think of my mother, I think of her gardens, which are her pride and joy. They burst with cool, green leaves and vibrant flowers with soft petals silky beneath your fingertips and the allure of scents so sweet and potent they will make your heart leap with joy. I spent many hours in the summer as a child watching my mother dig in her gardens, transplanting irises and other flowers, planting annuals, and watering them. I remember the hot rubber smell of the water hose and the quiet burbling it made as the thirsty earth drank up the water. I remember the feel of red clay beneath my fingertips and the moist, damp smell of dirt. And I remember fairies.

I knew the fairies loved my mother's gardens, even though I spent all summer unsuccessfully waiting to catch a glimpse of them. My next door neighbor had given me a popup alphabet book of fairies for my birthday and I read and read that book, studying the flower fairies and imagining them cantering through my mother's pinks and asters. Positive they could not resist the enchanting call of my backyard, I even left a brand new shiny copper penny amongst the wild violets near my favorite pine tree. I pleaded for them to show me their faces and accept my gift, but I never heard them singing or saw a blade of grass stir. And yet, in my child's imagination, I knew they were there. They existed in the call of the wind and the rattling of the windmill. They lived in the shadows beneath the cement pagoda in the rock garden. They slept upon the soft mounds of moss growing at the base of the cedars. They rode on the backs of the red winged blackbirds and jousted with the robins seeking worms after a warm rain in the summer.

I ran out early every morning with the dew fresh upon my toes to check and see if the copper penny was still there. I worried my dad would pick it up and the fairies would be mad I took back my gift. But it sat there and eventually, the wild violets grew taller, hiding its shiny face from passersby, until one day I could only see the very edge of the coin poking up from the dirt. I left the penny there hoping the fairies would find it someday.

I was positive they would come and dance under the light of the full moon. They would accept my gift and one day soon, I would awake to find a tiny face peering in at me from my bedroom window. Maybe, it would be a girl fairy wearing a tiny rose petal for a hat and clothed in the shiny green leaves of my mother's roses. Maybe, it would be a boy fairy sporting a jaunty acorn hat and carrying a sewing needle as a sword attached to the piece of string he used as a belt. It didn't matter. I knew they would come.

And then one day, I stopped checking for fairies in my mother's gardens and I went to school and forgot about the copper penny. Now as an adult, when I walk through my mother's flowers, smell their sweet nectar, and listen to the crickets softly chirping and the birds rustling in the trees above, I wonder if I would find that penny in the backyard or if I went digging, would it simply have vanished. I like to think it disappeared. I still like to believe in the fairies, even though I can't see them. It's too alluring to be out in nature and not have the spark of my writer's imagination flare, reminding me of the child within.

They're out there. How could they resist such beautiful gardens? I can't

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blame the Plague of Zombies on the Unagi!

Warning: Do not eat a unagi rice bowl from Whole Foods Market late at night! I had a killer dream, no pun intended. I've been indulging in a little reality television in the morning after my Jillian Michaels Shred routines and I think my writer's imagination imploded last night. I am a fan of Tabatha Coffey from Tabatha's Salon Takeover because she's a smart, no-nonsense, successful businesswoman. The "bossy Aussie" as she is nicknamed, lived up to her reputation last night in my dreams.

Tabatha Coffey invaded dreamtime last night and became the "bossy" coordinator of a zombie dance video while Jillian Michaels encouraged them to workout harder. I've been letting a new story idea marinate, while working on finishing a few others. This is something I do frequently. I mull over an idea until all the juicy details are fleshed out. If a story doesn't flow like water when I write, I move on to the next idea and shelve the previous to return to later. My story inspiration this time came from a popular cell phone commercial, which will remain nameless, since I'm not a fan of cell phones. Anyway, I've been toying with the idea of a mob of zombies showing up somewhere unexpected in public and creating a spectacle.

Meh! A zombie dance video coordinated by Jillian Michaels and directed by Tabatha Coffey is not how I envisioned my story going, but who knows? Maybe, it will work for someone else. I can only conclude that I need to watch less T.V. or stop working out, and only one of those would really be better for me. Instead, I'm blaming it on the unagi, which I think I'll shy away from for a bit -- have to ward off the possibility of encountering a mob of zombies dancing in the streets. Admittedly, that might be the most exciting thing to happen to me since I discovered mold/mildew growing in my air conditioning system this week in my apartment.

A girl has to live vicariously sometime. And if I had a mob of zombies, I would probably sic them on my rude neighbors who don't pick up after their dogs, leave garbage on people's doorsteps, and are working towards their third Olympic medal for excessive drinking and fighting at dark-thirty in the morning. One can only wish for a hoard of hungry zombies!

What would you do with a hoard of hungry zombies at your disposal? Hmm... I feel another story coming on.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Children's Stories Encouraged You to Read?

My parents' didn't have a lot of money when I was younger, so growing up, one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go to the library. I remember how proud I was to get my very own library card when I learned how to write my name. It was orange and that card opened a completely new world for me. The same stories I read as a young child, I also enjoyed reading to my brother.

I drank books up like water and the librarians always asked me when I came up laden with armfuls of stories: Are you really going to read all those? They soon learned to stop asking me such a ridiculous question. I always read every book I checked out and usually didn't need to renew them! I became a familiar face at my library. I still remember the smell of the plastic library book bags lying in the sun in my mom's car while we grocery shopped. It is a happy smell.

We didn't own very many books, but we did have some as kids. In fact, one of my favorites is sitting on my shelf right now. Its spine is torn and beaten, but the pages are intact and miraculously it managed to avoid being scribbling on. The book is called: (Dean's) A Book of Fairy Tales. My brother and I liked the book because of the colorful illustrations. One of my favorite fairy tales in the collection is Thumbelina. I wanted a tiny person of my own to be my friend. My brother's favorite was Jack and the Beanstalk.

Besides fairy tales, I was a huge Beverly Cleary fan. I don't remember if my mother, the librarian, or my teacher introduced me to this lovable character, but I was a great fan of Ralph S. Mouse. The Mouse and the Motorcycle is still one of my favorites and rests proudly on my bookshelf today as well. In fact, I have read it to many kids I babysat for over the years and my brother too. I dreamed of going on a summer vacation and discovering Ralph waiting for me in my room with his infamous motorcycle. What adventures we would have had!

My other favorite I have sitting on my bookshelf is Miss Osborne-the-Mop by Wilson Gage. I'm ashamed to say I never returned it to my teacher's personal book collection in the classroom. Somehow, it ended up in my own personal collection. Maybe, one of these days, I will remember to take it back to Milwaukee with me and it will find its home again. I can't count the times I read this story. It fascinated me that I could possibly wake up one morning like the girl, Jody, and discover I possessed magical powers and Miss Osborne-the-Mop, one of her magical creations, made me giggle.

So what childhood stories stoked your imagination, fostered your love of reading, and made you the writer you are today? Perhaps, they'll get you writing again.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What Are You Reading Between the Covers? - #18

Well, this post is long overdue. With all the pet emergencies and then me going on vacation, I haven't had time to blog about my latest reads. My humble apologies to my readers. You can flog me with a thousand wet pages of type, if you'd like. I have four selections for you today.

The first is Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor. This story is thick enough to use as a doorstop and thoroughly researched. For those of you who don't know the horrors of Andersonville, it was the Confederate prison where many Union soldiers suffered and died needlessly due to lack of food, medical care, and basic shelter, etc. The stories from this prison camp are infamous and will make your stomach turn. This tale does a fine job detailing the atrocities of Andersonville and follows a few families in Georgia as they struggle to live in the war-torn state. It is highly moving and emotional, but at times, a tad long. I do recommend it, though.

I switched gears then and read my first book from Permuted Press, a collection of four zombie novellas. The Undead: Headshot Quartet rocked! From H.P. Lovecraft and zombies to a boy who can imagine anything he wants into existence -- phenomenal. Highly recommend it to anyone who likes a good zombie story. I couldn't put this one down. It even inspired me to dust off and spruce up my own zombie novella. I will be reading more from Permuted Press in the future.

If you aren't a fan of zombies, then maybe, you've heard of a very popular book by Emma Donoghue, Room.  This book dealt with dark subject matter, but I didn't find it to be as dark as many of my friends suggested it was. It is great writing, though. The story is told by Jack, a child born of rape. His mother is held captive in one room and this is the only reality he has known until she decides they need to escape. The novel follows them out into the world where Jack learns that there is more to life than the one room he lived in. The author gives us a unique perspective on what we perceive as reality vs. what others see. How Jack and his mother cope is quite interesting. This book was a quick read. I almost finished it in a day. I recommend this one as well.

The next book I finished on vacation this week. It is Urban Gothic by Brian Keene. This book is so sick; it's beautiful. It's Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets The Hills Have Eyes meets the raw grittiness of Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door. If you're faint of stomach, leave your lunch at the door. This story is why I love to write. A must read for any serious horror enthusiast.  You'll find yourself asking why people are disappearing in the rundown house. Will your favorite characters get out alive or become the next meal for the cannibals? Can't miss this one!

Hope you enjoyed my picks. Check back soon for more reviews.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!   

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Milwaukee Art Musuem - Writing Inspiration

I visited The Milwaukee Art Museum for the umpteenth time to see the new Summer of China exhibit, which I could not photograph. The exhibit wasn't what I expected, but it was interesting. Only three museums in the world received permission by China to host it.

I enjoyed much more wandering around my old favorites. The Milwaukee Art Museum is located on the lakefront and includes this remarkable building, now a landmark, designed by the famous Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. The Calatrava building has adjustable fins, making for an interesting variety of designs depending on how windy it is on the lakeshore.

The inside of the building is as spectacular a piece of art as the vast collection the museum displays. It is a joy to photograph and makes a wonderful story setting. I snapped these shots, though they were setting up for a dinner/reception. The building can be rented for weddings and other events.

I also photographed some of my favorite pieces, which struck me as funny, since I lived in Milwaukee for 30 years and never bothered to photograph any of them. I guess I always took for granted I could go visit them any time I wanted. Perhaps, they'll be your writing muse for today. I hope so.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!