Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013



2013 started with an owl.

Despite my New Year's "condition", I still remember the strange noises in the hotel parking lot.  I had spent yet another December 31st with my husband, two great friends ("Zahara" and "Mary"), and an entire hotel-bar-dancefloor-DJ all to ourselves.  Ten minutes after the clock struck twelve, the four of us stumbled into 2013 to be greeted by the raspy hissing and shrieks of some unknown entity lurking in the shadows. 

"What is making that noise?" Mary asked.

"It's creeping me out," Zahara said.  

"It's really creepy," Mary agreed.

"Iffan owl!" My husband watched in a mix of pity and confusion as his pathetic birding enthusiast wife proclaimed, "It's an owl! I know that sound! It's an owl!  OWL! Shhsssh. Shssssh. Let's go see it."

The suspected owl emitted a noise that sounded something like a mix of serial killer grunt, B movie demon, and dying giraffe.

"Let's get out of here," Mary said. 

After "spirited" festivities, I tend to become that annoying person who keeps repeating themselves.  Pretty obnoxious. Thus, as the curtains fell on 2012, my husband lovingly dragged me away from the familiar shape perched on a tree branch as I protested that it was indeed an owl about twelve times.

Being an annoying repetitive New Year's douchebag, I convinced my tired husband to go owling with me at 2:00 in the morning after we walked our friends home.  We returned to the hotel, which is in walking distance from our apartment complex.

"I have to see that owl," I said.  To someone who goes birding with their parents in the dead of winter (at the Ocean nonetheless) seeing an owl is a pretty big deal.

"I think it's gone," my husband said as we approached the trees where I last saw the coveted bird.

As if on cue, a shadow floated across the frozen yucky garbage pond.  Despite the failed bridge construction and the empty bottles on the banks, it was still a pretty impressive sight.  There's nothing like seeing an owl fly by at night, even if it is over a patch of land and water fit for a Kevin Smith movie.  It's just haunting and so different than other bird sightings.

"That is pretty cool," my husband said.  "I'm so glad we came back!"

After the sighting, I was nerdily obsessed with owls for a few days.  I drew owls in my sketchbook and researched what the omen of an owl might mean. I found everything from a sign of "luck and wisdom" to bad luck, misfortune, and the devil himself. (Which I still don't quite understand.)

I decided to have a positive outlook and determined the owl was a good omen.

Then 2013 happened.  

The year pretty much started with a very serious car problem. A very costly car problem. Which lead to financial problems. Which lead to some pretty dreary days. Which lead to some pretty dark thoughts. Which lead to a general wave of negativity and frantic busyness that encompassed most areas of my life.

I am so glad it happened.  Sure, 2013 was a tough year for me, probably one of the most challenging and, at times, depressing. But my bad year is a stellar year for someone else. Other people had far, far, worse 2013's than I did. That I know for certain. Out of all the things that went wrong, there was always something right, someone supportive, or somewhere pleasant.

I joined bell choir at church, rediscovered my love of both contemporary and traditional religious music, saw a graphic novel I illustrated in print, experienced true compassion and support from people who love my sorry ass hermit self, met some great authors and illustrators at Write On Con, had the best Thanksgiving to date...in "historical" costume, attended a Circus themed party, attended a Game of Thrones party, attended a Renaissance Faire, participated in a Clue costume entourage as Mrs. Peacock,  went Trick 'o Treating with the coolest kids around, got a new job that's given me a fresh perspective on some things, saw a drunk zombie lifeguard try to resuscitate a prop skeleton, attended the weddings of some great couples, attended a wedding with great people and sealife (at an aquarium), spent a week at a cabin in the best place on earth (Woodford Vermont) with my wonderful parents, experienced the joys of a freak hail storm, discovered the Leverett Peace Pagoda, finished some neato illustration projects, and celebrated my thirtieth birthday with a weather themed party thrown my fantastic, unpredictable, and always entertaining husband, who can make even the worst year pretty good. And at the very least, entertaining.  

So you know what?  2013 wasn't that bad after all.  Maybe the owl omen means a little bit of everything I read. (Well expect the evil satanic feather devil owl part.) Yes, it was a challenging year.  But I believe I'm heading into 2014 as a wiser, stronger, more spiritual, and more grateful person.  I'm still a socially awkward hermit and my twisted sense of humor remains, but heck.

Thank God for 2013.  And owls.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cutie Time Illustrated YA Feature: Vicious Deep by Zoraida Córdova

Features focus on a New Adult, Young Adult, or Middle Grade book.  Features will showcase the (favorable review) of world-building, characters, and plot of a certain book, with cute-kinda-scary-and-noseless illustrations. 3 out of 4 reviewed books will be independent press or self-published.





Facts:
Vicious Deep
Author:   Zoraida Córdova 
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher : Sourcebooks
Type: Mainstream

Synopsis: For Tristan Hart, everything changes with one crashing wave.
He was gone for three days. Sucked out to sea in a tidal wave and spit back ashore at Coney Island with no memory of what happened. Now his dreams are haunted by a terrifying silver mermaid with razor-sharp teeth.















Introduction: Honestly, I read this book awhile ago. (I've been planning these features for about a year now.  Yikes! I finally feel like I am ready to commit to this idea if it goes well!) The visuals and voice still remain strong in my mind and I look forward to reading the sequel.  Vicious Deep explores merfolk lore with impressive world-building,lively language, and a memorable protagonist. (Tristan Hart).

Voice:    In Vicious Deep, Tristan's voice carries the story.   Zoraida writes a male YA protagonost with a believable balance of wit, charm, and humor.  Tristan's voice rings with authenticity, from his hilarious reactions to his sometimes goofy personal thoughts. 


Other Characters
Tristan has good relationships with his parents, and I have to say this is one of the only paranormal/urban fantasy books I've read where the parents are involved (in a positive way) and are aware of the supernatural element in their child's life.  Even though I'm guilty as charged, it's refreshing to see a story where both parents are alive and ...actually good parents.  I think this is harder to write than the abusive/dead/missing/negligent/doofus parent route, and the author does a good job keeping the son/parent dynamic fresh, believable, and interesting.  Tristan's level-headed love interest (his best friend, Layla) is written with a nice balance of assertiveness and loyalty.
The cast also includes a fun selection of sea-dwellers, from Tristan's devoted bodyguards ( Kurt-a stuffy young man and Thailia- his spirited little sister), to oceanic rivals, to the sea king himself.  Kurt, the stuffy young man in question, is one of my favorites.

 Setting/World Building:  Vicious Deep provides a fun take on aquatic fantasy lore. From the various fantasy races and customs, there is plenty to enjoy in the secret world under the sea.  Coney Island (the "normal" setting) is a character in itself.  The author doesn't shy away from developing Tristan's "human" world as well.


Plot:  While the plot mirrors the epic quest or hero's journey in some ways, the characters and the world-building take the story to another level. Tristan is a little on the cocky side, but written with enough charm and virtue so he remains likable throughout the story.  Without giving too much away, I'll let the book's tagline speak for itself. (See above).

Description:  The world and plot is shown through Tristan's eyes, with memorable visuals and 
detail.   Characters reveal their distinct personalities through their behavior and Tristan's (sometimes comical) observations.  I appreciate stories where I have a clear mental image of what the characters and world. The author gives us the sensory details of her world without overdoing the prose, and leaving just enough room for the reader's imagination.

Best Points: It's a fun read that offers some new ways of approaching the urban fantasy genre (male protagonist, family involvement, lighthearted  humor).  Strong points include Tristan's voice , characters (main and secondary), humor, world-building, descriptions, and...this scene (spoiler):

This is kind of sick but hilarious.  One of my favorite parts was when Tristan transforms into his mer-form and ponders the disappearance of his...erm..manhood.  (Let's be honest here, I've always wondered the same thing about mermen.) So where is it? Fear not, for I will refrain from spoiling it for you. Read the book to unravel this timeless mystery.  ;)




Crit Zone:   Though it's not a major critique, I guess the weak point would be the actual romance.  I don't want to give anything away, but I just didn't take to this part of the story. The romance, however, is secondary to a neat plot, fun characters, and fantastic world building.  The characters and their relationships are fleshed out wonderfully.   I just didn't feel that "spark" that makes your heart or arc reactor (if you have one of those) spontaneously combust.  (Of course, it might be because with all merman business going on, their relationship is very, well, normal.) The character banter is fun, I'm simply saying I just didn't feel it was swoon-worthy, and I almost wonder if the characters would have worked better as a platonic pair with a more indirect/hinted romantic element (like Mulder and Scully or Patrick Jane and Lisbon).  Other people may feel differently, of course!   They are still a fun couple!

When I first picked up the book from the library, I read most of it in one night.  Somewhere near the third act, the it slowed little and I can't pinpoint why.  It didn't keep me from reading, but the beginning of the story is very strong. (The end is still a good read. I guess what I'm saying is that the beginning half is my favorite part.) Vicious Deep is a good book that is worth diving into. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? 


Three words to describe this book:  Entertaining. Creative. Humorous.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Top Ten Truths of Caricature Gigs


At first glance, a caricature gig will differ vastly from the one that came before. Whether it's graduation parties that last until one in the morning, classy weddings, rowdy parties, family parties, rowdy family parties, heart-wrenching charity events, or children's birthdays, an event is always unique. Yet, each event, different as they are, always offer certain similarities. From the ten little boys who want to be Red Sox players to the three drunk goofballs who want to be drawn surrounded by beautiful cartoon women, I have discovered ten truths about that remain consistent at every single unique sketchy event I've attended.






The Ten Truths of Caricature Gigs
1. At least one person will pronounce it "character" or "chair-ic-a-ture" or char-a-chure."  : )

2. You never leave when you're supposed to ...unless you're hardass enough to say, "Sorry, I have to go" to the bug eyed little girl who wants to be drawn as a princess. : (
3.  If you're over 21, You will get showered with gifts of free alcohol or beverages of some sort.
Its a drink and draw situation, folks.  Alcohol is abundant at most of the parties, even birthdays for 2-year-olds.  And the hosts or guests are usually quick to offer a drink.
4. You will experience a beautiful diversity of free food ranging from wedding plates to New England lobster to homemade Portuguese custard to freshly baked Indian samosas.

5. People are usually very, very, Nice.  You get your nit-pickers, scoffers, and I-don't-get-its, but in general this is a line of work where one encounters good people with a good sense of humor.
6. At least one person will ask the question "Did you go to school for this?"  (Really, it is a legit question for people who aren't artistic. I would probably ask a dancer or athlete a similar question). The humor is found in the fact that most caricature artists did not go to school to draw caricatures and I've yet to see a Caricatures 101 college course offered. Many did not even attend art school.  Usually, caricature artists learn from a mentor or on the job.
7. Adults have more trouble staying still than the babies.
8. Some people don't know what they like.  This especially funny when it's a couple.

Caricaturist: What do you guys like to do together?
Couple: ::shrugs:: I don't know.
::Looks at other person::
Other Person in Relationship: Hmmm... I don't know. ::looks at partner:: What do we do?


9. At every caricature gig, there is always this one little girl (I swear it's the same kid every time) who is kind of bossy and critical, hangs around and watches you draw, has a lot of questions, but is ultimately happy with her picture in the end.

10. No one has brown eyes.
You heard me. NO ONE wants to admit they have brown eyes. Is it really that much of a curse to have brown eyes?  It's always hazel, gray, "forest green", purple, green in the middle but turns to grey, GOLD or...even changing colors.  However, I do indulge in fantasy and supernatural fandoms, so maybe we do have mutants and vampires among us after all.  : )

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Avengers Discover Fan-Art and I Rediscover Blogging

The Avengers Discover Fan-Art
Note: Special thanks for all the enthusiasm, sharing, and positive responses to this picture!


So who's up for some smoldering Voldemort and Thor romance fan-fiction?  Just kidding...   I won't be posting anything like that because I don't want The Avengers to smash my poor old computer.  It's not in the best shape as it is, and the last thing it needs is a smashing.  Or maybe that's exactly what it needs.

If this news disappoints you, worry not!  I do have plans for his blog.  Visual plans.  Cute plans.  Eccentric plans.

Stay tuned, for in the coming weeks I'm hoping to set up a fun and unique system of illustrated YA and MG novel reviews, interviews, webcomic reviews, rants, raves, and Top Tens.  I'm really looking forward to this new venture.  I think it will be a lot of fun and a neat little experiment.  The first review will feature Zoraida Cordova's YA urban fantasy, "Vicious Deep".   My goal is to alternate between mainstream books and self published/indie published books.

In the meantime, you can read my Whomping Willow X Treebeard fan-fic.*   Jk...

*Sadly, I did indeed pen this fan-fic to generate lulz for my roommate during my college years.  I can't find it.  Let's just say Treebeard kind of liked when the Whomping Willow whomped at him.  It may exist somewhere in the dark depths of the internet.  I hope not.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sleep???

Oh Golly Gumdrops. I cannot sleep. At all.  It's 1:38 AM.  Why did I drink that coffee so late in the day? Ah, well. I tend to take on a vampire's lifestyle in the summer...minus the blood draining.

Let's see...I am simultaneously watching Cowboy Bebop, working on some comics, and googling "Water Chevrotains" which is seriously the new tapir for me. (If you haven't watched Randall's Water Chevrotain video, you are missing some much needed educational pointers about these precious creatures.)

Some recent comic picks:

From DOT (Curly Girlz Comics: Defenders of Time)

 http://www.curly-hair-styles-magazine.com/curly-girlz-comics-issue-1-page-1.html

And Geode Corner: Love is Conplicated

 http://www.conplicated.smackjeeves.com/comics/

 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Top Ten Thursday: 10 Literary Hero Crushes

 Original visuals! You have permission to use them as long you provide a link back to this blog entry.

Please Read:  This list represents the first 10 literary gentlemen who came to mind.  I’m sure there are others I would have included that I didn’t think about right away.  I’m only including  heroes from books I read, based on the books (or also based on a movie that accurately captured the book version of the character. Spoiler:  Mr. Darcy.)
For example, I didn’t include some of the True Blood gentlemen because I haven’t read the books.  I’m also staying away from strictly movie/TV men, comic book heroes and cartoon misters.  (My apologies, Mr. Stark and Gambit).  I would love to hear about who's on your "list".  ;)  I enjoyed setting up the blog entry like this, expect similar posts in the future!

Anyhow, here’s my list of the Top 10  Literary Hero Crushes, in random order.







10. Mr. Darcy-Pride & Prejudice   By Jane Austen

Heralding from the quintessential  love/hate romance, the list wouldn’t be complete without him.   He’s rich, handsome,  witty, and kind of a jerk….oh, wait…he’s really nice after all….he’s just enough of a jerk so you can CHANGE him!   Why wouldn’t girls like this guy???


  9. Gilbert Blythe -Anne of Green Gables  By Lucy Maud Montgomery


I loved the progression of Anne and Gilbert’s relationship from childhood frenemies to close companions.  Gilbert is a well-educated, hard-working, person with a good balance of  fun and intelligence.  He’s a great character who grows throughout the novels.  Spoiler: Also becomes a doctor.

8.   Griff King from "The Girl in the Steel Corset" By Kady Cross

Who wouldn’t want a rich earl who can soothe your chaotic PMS emotions?  Griffin bears the unique gift of soothing the emotions. He’s ahead of his time,  fosters the outcast protagonists, and actually encourages the female characters to pursue their independence in a world dominated by men.  …And he wears sexy steam punk clothes.  ::Sigh::

7.  Kit Harrison  “Where the Wind Blows” By James Patterson

Kit is an “unconventional” FBI agent who quickly wins the heart of the spunky main protagonist, Frannie, and I can see why.  He’s smart, clever, and pretty kickass in a couple of the scenes.  He knows how to be confident without coming across as arrogant, and he’s not afraid to fight for what he believes in.   Kit is a wonderful unsung literary hero.



6. Charlie Swan from Twilight*  By Stephanie Meyer

Wait. WUUUUT. 
Yes, you heard me.  I’m a sucker for a man in uniform.   Forget Team Edward or Jacob.  Charlie is one fine cop who does his darndest to protect the mean streets of Forks, while simultaneously raising his monotone daughter and dealing with her stalker boyfriend.  You go, Officer Swan! 

Note: *Yes, I know.  Twilight. Did I like them when I read them? Yes, I did, way before the movies came out.  I DO recognize the flaws in the books. However,  I did read  three of the books, so the author did something right and I did really enjoy the first one.  I have a very complicated relationship with Twilight.

5.   Lord Maccon from "Soulless" by Gail Carriger

He’s grumpy, gruff,  sloppy, and snarky.  Yet, you can’t help but love this guy, partially because Maccon is the closest thing to a real man, despite also being a werewolf.  The author does a great job of balancing his flaws and worthy qualities.  Even though he has his messy room and socially awkward moments, Maccon has a quick wit and radiates a certain charm.  I love this character.   The dialogue between him and the main heroine is entertaining and clever.  If you like boring, sappy, perfect heroes with no personality , you’ll hate Lord Maccon.

 4.  Larry Underwood from "The Stand"  By Stephen King

He’s a musician.  ‘Nough said.

So…"Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?"  I sure dig you, Larry. <3 He’s just a really cool character and he’s the type of guy who can maintain a quick wit/sense of humor throughout the duration of the apocalypse.   Larry is a truly human character;  a tortured everyman walking the fine line between good and evil, and doing so with wit and charm every step of the way.  Spoiler:  This fine musician is also brave enough to walk through the Lincoln Tunnel …after it’s been packed with the bodies of decomposing New Yorkers trying to escape the superflu.

3. Howl From "Howl's Moving Castle" By Diana Wynne Jones

I have to admit, I really enjoy both the book and Miyazaki versions of this timeless character.  He’s one of the more eccentric leading men and he isn’t afraid to use his magic powers. Well, maybe sometimes.   Howl is flamboyant, charming, comical, and at times thoughtful and genuine.  He’s a one-of-a-kind character in a one-of-a-kind universe that only a genius like Diana Wynne Jones could create.

2. Samwise Gamgee from "Lord of the Rings"  By J.R.R. Tolkien

Now here’s a hero you can take home Mama.   Sam is a sweet, albeit flawed, adorkable little hobbit with a strong sense of loyalty.   Though his romance plot with Rosie isn’t central to the plot,  Samwise  proves to be a great friend and stays by Frodo’s side, to the point where he could arguably be the “real” hero of the series.   Samwise is another great “everyman” character, struggling to balance his own hopes and fears with the central mission.

1.   Rhett Butler from "Gone With the Wind" By Margaret Mitchell

This Han Solo of the South is still my favorite.   I love me some scoundrels and antiheroes, especially the ones that look like TDH Rhett.   He’s just got it all.  He’s handsome,  rich, he’s fun, he’s witty, he’s fashionable,  he’s clever, he  pulls off some pretty amazing rescues, and he’s a doting husband  (stupid Scarlett is stupid) and a great daddy.  He's certainly not perfect, but that just makes him more interesting. And get this, even GUYS love Rhett Butler.  My dad quotes his dialogue.  My husband said he’d "slit someone’s throat for a Rhett Butler doll ." (jk…I think)  I bet the guys in your life aren't that enthusiastic about Edward Cullen.  Rhett is a classic (anti)hero written with a  fantastic balance of charm, wit, flaws, and epic dialogue in both the book and the movie.  And of course, in the movie (one of those rare equal-to-the-book-if-not-better situations) he's played by Mr. Clark Gable.






Thanks for reading! I appreciate any comments, responses, inputs, and top notch trolling.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sniffing Away Writer's Block with...Scented Candles?



Far to the North (Deerfield, MA) lies a magical place filled with apple pies, lavender, summer citrus, French vanilla, and…fresh cut grass.  I speak of our local sensory overload indulgence, the Yankee Candle flagship store.

When it comes to the senses, sometimes I need a break from the ones I’m accustomed to, and feel the sudden need to draw in a castle, walk through a Christmas forest, or a buy some old-fashioned candy.  Granted, I know plenty of people who think the store’s a fun trip, albeit a tacky one. (It actually gives my husband a headache. He won’t go with me.)  For creative types, and I might not be alone here, the gimmicky flag store offers something else; a key to unlocking a sensory writing block.

Smell often strikes me as the most difficult sense to tackle.  I’m a very visual person, I love to eat, I just love rummaging through all the textured junk in my messy apartment, and I’m always listening.  Breaking a sense block is usually pretty easy.  If you need to write visuals or sounds, look at photograph, visit a church,  or walk through the woods.   If you want to indulge your taste senses, eat or drink something.  Tactile inspirations are plentiful in most living quarters, especially those of slobs.  (::nervous laugh::) The flagship store offers something to please all the senses, with a particular focus on what to me, is the most evasive.

I’m not saying you can’t find smell inspiration in your imagination or in the settings around you.  (I mean, I can smell my day-old coffee lurking somewhere on this table. Om nom nom.) Yankee Candle offers a unique focus on this particular sense, and serves as an enjoyable “reboot” for exploring the nicer side of this smell. And drawing in the "castle room" is a pretty sweet deal, too.

Most Massachusetts residents have been to this store at least once in their lifetimes. You can still visit the same theme rooms that I did when I was kid.  Switching from a snowy pine forest to a European village takes an easy two minutes.   I love visiting the different rooms, but the main reason I visit is to indulge the sense of smell.  Every time I go, I browse the candles, then I ask for a scents list to keep for writing inspiration. There’s always something new, and I seldom leave without finding a fresh way to describe something that smells nice; be it a flowery meadow, and old house, or a love interest.  

Now that I have list in my possession, it’s time to put the candles to work with a sultry, smelly, romance scene.  Ohhhhh, yeah:

She indulged in a light splash of Christmas Cookie™ perfume, before slinking quietly into Lord Donovan's Rainbow's End™ scented room.  He gazed up at her buttercream silhouette with a cocky grin, running his hand through his caramel pecan hair.  Delilah recognized his intoxicating Home for the Holidays™ cologne, suddenly reminded of their steamy previous encounter in the cranberry chutney vineyard.  The curtains lifted slightly, pulled by the force of a MidSummer's Night® breeze, allowing a light ribbon of moonlight to caress his bare chest. 


Hmmm. That kinda sucks.  Maybe I shouldn’t go to Yankee Candle for inspiration after all.