Sunday, December 25, 2011

Transcending the Five Percent Normal

"Well, now that we have seen each other," said the Unicorn, if you believe in me, I'll believe in you. Is that a bargain?" -Lewis Carroll

According to a stelliferous NASA article, the recipe for the universe is 70% dark energy, 25% dark matter, and 5% normal matter. My little sister calls normal matter "bright matter" because of its visibility, and I rather like her label for the tangible: mica-encrusted dirt and deep moss, macromolecules in sea foam and trees reaching fingers for the solar glow of stars. But I also love the dark--the spaces humans are still learning to measure, to feel out and embrace with ever widening parameters of imagination and inquiry. I will never be satisfied to live in just five percent of the universe when 95% still waits for exploration and ink.

P.S. Merry Christmas, bright matter citizens!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Epic by Conor Kostick

I adore this book because of how the author utilizes the power of duality. The society of New Earth relies on the virtual game world of Epic to resolve all conflicts, banning violence in their physical reality by allowing it exclusively in Epic. But by becoming dependent on a game to function as their legal and economic system, poorer citizens are forced to waste valuable time earning wealth in a virtual world in order to gain a meager allotment of resources in reality. While a person’s entire livelihood can be wiped out with their player’s death, those players who amass enough wealth in the game can become privileged members of New Earth’s elite Central Allocations. The young boy Erik tries to beat the system by creating Cindella, a swashbuckling character who attracts the attention of an ancient electronic sentience in Epic. I could go on, but I don’t want to spoil the story. I think what draws me into this story are the simultaneous double stakes—Erik must balance two identities, his own and that of his female player Cindella, and exist in two worlds, New Earth and Epic. What happens in one can have dire consequence in the other. That’s cool (whichever way/world you slice it!)

*Check out this fan made book trailer on Youtube:

P.S. The sequels Saga and Edda are equally delicious mental fare.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Falling Pages

Autumn writes the best poems.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Childlike Empress Pearl Headpiece

Seeing as Halloween is swiftly approaching, I decided to make a tribute to the Childlike Empress this year.

I adore Michael Ende's The Neverending Story not only for its fantastic elements, but also for its exploration of what it truly means to wish. When Bastian reads the enscription on the AURYN, "do what you wish," at first he thinks it is an easy task, but the lion Grograman knows otherwise. The Many-Colored Death warns that a wish is our "deepest secret," and the journey to it the most perilous of all because it demands both the "greatest honesty" as well as "vigilance" (p.238) And why? Because the journey in which we follow our wishes can also become the easiest path to lose ourselves.

As I destroy drafts, renew ink and throw all I am into syllable for the sake of a single wish (WRITE), I am growing to understand the AURYN's message. "Do what you wish" is no idler's whim, but a banner unfurling from the most fragile and defiant part of the soul.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A dose of silliness helps reality go up ~*~


I’m all feathers and chicken bones today.
A mite could devour
My courage
In a nano-gulp, a micro-breath—
That’s it?
I barely qualified as an appetizer.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Scrumptious Gold

My little sister gave me a card with the following nugget of wisdom from one Polly McGuire: "Stories are like fairy gold. The more you give away, the more you have."

I suppose for scribblers that's a bit like having a cake, and eating it, too-- writing stories and reveling as the audience gobbles them up. But even better is when a reader gets to the end of a story and flicks aside the last period like a stray crumb, ready for another slice of syllables!

In the words of Oliver Twist, "Please Sir, I want some more." That's how I feel about stories like Kenneth Oppel's Airborn trilogy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chivalry--The Word

I'm a big fan of Paulo Coelho, especially his book The Alchemist! Today he had a stelliferous post about the Prayer Book of Medieval Chivalry I thought I'd share.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011


(Somehow I find this Stuart's sign highly profound).

Pitches, synopses and outlines make writing a story seem so tidy and self-contained. But alas, obsessive organization only gets me so far! Especially with my current draft. It's much more of a crash/reboot process. The story keeps evolving. I guess what I'm (re)learning is that stories don't get written in comfort zones with lemonade stands along the way. There are cliffs with an 1000 mile drop in confidence. Sometimes even the creativity evaporates between the sentences and leaves nothing but a dumb strand of ellipses like a dead brain's yawn... I have to be willing to sky dive after the syllables. Rethink the word! Even the Childlike Empress needs a new name now and again, after all.

As Nathan Bransford counsels, "Keep writing."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Insomnia has its uses. I translated elements from one of my stories into my narrow slice of reality. Behold my crude mortal replica of fairy magic!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Magnolia Secrets

I learn a lot from trees, especially magnolias. They're nothing special for three quarters of the year, but come spring, I've never seen anything quite so ... I would say "beautiful," but that word has been worn so much it barely holds a gloss. There is a magnolia tree on my block that has such an abundance of blossoms, it's like all Eden exploded through the sap! I try to see other humans like that sometimes--full of splendrous troves of talent and possibilities waiting for the courage, hard work and timing to manifest. I think it is easy, when we are so often "plain" and pinned down by routine mundanities, to forget our own colors. To doubt what we are.

Don't let the ink inside dry out before you ever dare to use it!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Startle Me

Poor roses, all their petals are tattered to clichés. But I was recently startled by a scrubby little rosebush I bought for 3 dollars at Big Lots. The wretched thing was quite hacked to pieces, and I wasn't sure if it was going to live after I planted it on a berm on the side of the house, much less bloom. But it did, even though the weather has been thundering and dropping buckets of rain on and off for weeks! Just one bud. The card attached to the rosebush promised a "Mississippi Rainbow" or "Everblooming Hybrid Tea Rose" that was hot fuchsia with a swirling inner circle of gold petals. It lied. The lone bud was a hue of pink so pale it reminded me of ballet slippers and tulle. Though its inner petals held no gold, its center blushed amber as the sun. I wonder what its true name is; I feel like I have a lost fairy queen among the other ladies of the berm: Blue Princess Holly, blackberries and raspberries, and a sprawling butterfly bush.

That's how I like (to read and hopefully write) my stories. I want to go somewhere I don't expect, to fall through the sentences and land somewhere my imagination has never stretched before.

The picture attached is the rose in question. Not the best shot or lighting, but I wanted to catch it before the rain knocked any more petals off!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Clip Art Crazy

Behold my crazy, rather rudimentary clip art interpretations of Tennyson's "Lady of Shalott." I've always been fascinated by Tennyson's poem, so I decided to have a little fun!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Under the influence

Did you know that E.B. White, the author of Charlotte's Web, had a penchant for making lists? I do, too. Unfortunately, my lists are usually the kind that never get finished! But sometimes that's not such a bad thing. I've decided to compile a list of the major creative influences in my life. What are the movies that shape your imagination, the authors and musicians whose stories and lyrics help bring out the ink in your pen?

In no particular order, here are some of my literary muses:

1. The Changeling- Zilpha Keatley Snyder
2. Giftwish (and sequel Catchfire) by Graham Dunstan Martin
3. The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen
4. The River at Green Knowe
by L. M. Boston
5. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
6. A Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
7. Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood by Meredith Ann Pierce
8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
9. The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander (and all other books by him!)
10. I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
11. Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke
12. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
13. Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and Russel Munson
14. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
15. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
16. The Norby Chronicles by Janet and Isaac Asimov
17.... A Wrinkle in Time, Harry Potter, The Neverending Story, ....and my list could stretch on into the 5th dimension.

I shall end with one last recommendation: Hattie and the Wild Waves. All writers should read it!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wild Ink

I just survived my first year at grad school! I'd break out the chocolate and cider Martinelli's just for that, but I am especially excited to have more time for writing the next few months . . and terrified. Thoughts become wild ink thickets when imagination is given free play in the mind and it's my job to turn them into well-ordered groves. I confess, sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have quiet space in the head--no characters vying for attention, no dragons distracting me from scholarly papers on theory or unit planning.

Quiet time is overrated, and dragons? Always welcome.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Quill of the Condor

How do you write? In Moby Dick, Herman Melville calls for a "condor's quill" and "Vesuvias crater for an inkstand!" (428). I must confess that my brain is no longer programmed to work efficiently with pen and paper. My computer has become my condor's quill. I rely on my trusty mouse and keyboard (esp. the backspace key!) to give my thoughts the eloquence of form. And I can't leave out the visual-audio component. Sometimes I write with movies playing in the background. Current favorite? Tangled! Current music of choice: Mediaeval Baebes,"Erthe upon Erthe." is usually open in my tab bar. Sometimes I google artists' conceptions of creatures that I am trying to ink into being with words in my own stories. Thanks to the magic of multimodality, I am never alone as a writer unless I want to be. I wonder, fifty years from now, how will we write?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pluto's Demotion and the Intertextual Universe

The poet Muriel Rukeyser said, "The universe is made of stories, not atoms." In my research methods class, I also learned that according to some theorists, the universe is intertextual. I agree! Scientists have proven it with Pluto's demotion to a dwarf planet: Growing up, my perception of reality was bracketed by the concept of a nine-planet solar system. It's what my science book and teachers drummed into my thick skull. I remember piecing together nine-planet puzzles, seeing posters and marble kits that all included Pluto... Today? Not so much. I was recently mildly peeved to visit a science museum and find Pluto missing from the solar line up. Even the gift shop had obliterated Pluto. Granted, I'm happy that Ceres and Xena are part of the solar system club now, but the point is that a piece of my universe has dropped off its previously appointed pedestal, reshifting my reality.

Go Muriel. You were right.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Interview with a Character: Confessions of a Warmongering Wizard

Ever have a slippery character who just won't let you pin them to the page? Interview them into defnition with a rigorous Q&A session. I sometimes find it helpful to ask my characters questions and then try to formulate logical replies based on their psychology, sociology, and physiology (see my post on character PSP for a longer explanation).

Take your typical warmongering wizard:

Q. (Interviewer) So... did you always want to rule the local hamlets?

A. (WW): That was a recent development, actually. I was originally trained as a Palace Prestidigitator, but I couldn't take all the whining from the royal court: Whip me up a love potion for the next masquerade, gimme a dragon-slayer's sword, find me the perfect princess, glass slippers included, blah blah blah. That's when it hit me: No offence, but why serve mortals when they were so much better suited to serving me?

Q. Excellent point. Can you elaborate?

A. I don't mean to brag, but my staff could incinerate you in 1.5 seconds flat. The average mortal could barely manage to latch their sandal in that amount of time!

Q. Fa-fascinating, truly. Favorite banquet dish?

A. Hmm... I'd have to go with roasted swan with braised shallots, though my mother's mutton pie definitely comes in a close second.

Q. Favorite pet?

A. I had a Baltic Leviathan once. Poor girl, I had to get rid of her. Sweet Fang kept eating all my siblings. Besides, I'm terribly allergic to leviathan scales. Reverses all my spells when I sneeze. Oops. Shouldn't have said that. Don't take this personally, but I'm going to have to incinerate you. Privacy is worth a troll's ransom these days, you know.

Q. But I haven't asked you about your first love yet--

A. She was a witch. Smashing good one, too, until that hideous house fell on top of her. Most unfortunate. Now, would you please stop fidgeting and hold still? This will only take 1.5 seconds . . .

Interview terminated.

I don't use half the silly stuff generated by this exercise, but the rambling Q&A jam often helps me to get a better idea about my character's motivations.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Teaspoon of Star Stuff

I recently visited New York's American Museum of Natural History and was thoroughly star-struck by the Rose Planetarium's show "Journey to the Stars." I learned that the first stars in the universe were far more massive than today's balls of gas. They burned quick and hot before flaring out. Now here's the stelliferous part: we contain about a teaspoon's portion of these original stars.

Sidereal, dude! Try thirteen billion years' worth of awesome.

So the next time you feel doubt, rejection, or the mundanities of mortality smothering the spark and syllable from your soul, REMEMBER YOUR EMBER, my fellow scribblers.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hunting for Atlantis

For all people addicted to myth and fantasy, here's a fascinating story about the search for the lost city of Atlantis.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"A" Worthy Word

I once had an English instructor in college tell me that if I used the following word in a paper, I would receive an automatic "A." Alas, his promise was in jest, but the word is a worthy addition to anyone's vocabulary. Meet inescapable's sinister twin:

INELUCTABLE. The word means "incapable of being evaded."

Example: My ineluctable fate is to work on reading protocols and lesson plans till the wee hours of the morning. Somehow, I think even drudgery sounds more noble when it is ineluctable!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood

I love to be astounded by a sentence. A word. A name. Meredith Ann Pierce's novel Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood astonishes me on each page. The story's ink is vivid with magic and pulls the reader into the soul of Brown Hannah, a girl whose sprig-filled hair holds more living secrets than she herself knows. After rebelling against the magician who has held her captive since her first memory, Hannah sets out to uncover her hidden past. Her only companions are a cranky magpie, three foxlets, and a black fox that is truly a knight, or perhaps a knight that is truly a fox. Read the story and find out!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Courting the Invisible

The loveliest thing I ever heard I never saw. I was at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga when I passed a music box tree in a street whose name I have since forgotten. The tree itself was rather small and unremarkable, but given the noise, there must have been an avian legion concealed within its tidy foliage and tight-woven branches! The leaves all but chimed with their lyrical racket. Starling or sparrow, I have no idea, and I don't really care. The sound stays with me like their silhouette. Too often, I think it is easy to rely on the sense of sight to describe a scene, but then I remember the music box tree and try to do better.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Amber Syllables

I recently watched this splendiferous clip about the universe. Dr. Michio Kaku, author of Physics of the Future (which I'm dying to read now!), said that "when you look in a mirror, you don't really see yourself. You see yourself as you were a half a billionth of a second ago."


So now I've been wondering if literature (meaning ALL the arts and sciences) is the only place where we catch a timeless, living reflection of humanity and minds in motion. Perhaps the present is too fluid to ever truly catch unless it is pressed between the pages. What do you think?

Monday, January 31, 2011


Vowels are like pearls. A syllable may have multiple consonants or only one, but a vowel always gems the center of a syllable in the English language.

A Biography of the English Language yields little treasures like this in each chapter!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Tolkienesque Word

Alas, snow days and an avalanche of homework tend to fall on the same day, but I'm surrendering the scholarly quill for the moment to share my favorite word. I stumbled upon it in my textbook, A Biography of the English Language by C.M. Millward:


It's means elf-bright or beautiful. I'm fairly certain this word is one of the primary reasons I am an English major!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Scintillatious! Faux Word Fun

In her poem "Part One: Life," Emily Dickinson wrote: "A WORD is dead/ When it is said,/ Some say./ I say it just/ Begins to live/ That day."

I must agree, especially when considering how many made-up or popular words are now part of the dictionary, such as "muggle" and "unfriend."

What faux word would you mint for adoption by reality? I would nominate "scintillatious: -adjective. [sin-tl-ey-shuh-s]. Excessively sparkly!"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Notebook

I want to talk about the Notebook. Not the movie, I mean a writer's best friend. In my very first creative writing class in college, I had an instructor who required all students to keep a notebook of daily randomness: observations, ideas, pictures, etc. The notebook could be made up of anything, from paper scraps, electronic files, binders or wallet-sized booklets. The only stipulation was that we constantly fill it. I still have most of the notebooks I made during different creative writing classes, monstrous compilations of magazine clippings, illegible scribblings and messy diagrams. But after I graduated from college, I'm ashamed to say I slipped out of the habit of taking regular notes. Perhaps some writers find notebooks unnecessary, but I know at least for myself that note taking gives my writing an added vitality, and I want that enthusiasm pushing through the ink again.

Time to get back to the basics!

Random note for today:

Last week I watched vendors sweep flower petals from their store fronts and doves eat the leftovers on plates. I don't know what to do with these images yet, but their loveliness sticks with me.