Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Starting my own magic: A brief introduction to Herocracy, my webcomic project.

Imagine the world of 2011, with one minor difference.  Heroes are real.  Not just every day heroes, but laser-eyed, super strong, flying, magic using, mind reading heroes.  They've been around for a while.  These heroes are registered in teams, some organized by the Bureau of Superheroics (BOSH), others act independently, only registering to keep themselves legal.  And then there are rogue units, vigilante cells who see BOSH as a bureaucratic hot mess.  And then there are others with less savory goals and ambitions.  Through all this, these people have to maintain double identities and keep a positive media presence as well (at least the registered ones).  This isn't just being superhuman.  It's about being a person.  Welcome to the Herocracy.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In which no newts are mentioned

Um, rushed post is rushed. I spent so much time researching witchcraft and tryin to figure out a way to kill a witch that I acutally forgot to write a story for today. So I cobbled something together as a sort of segway into the fight.

So, enjoy Charlotte's witch killing mania and the obligatory Python reference.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Have You Heard? Literary Mixtape

Last week I came across the Literary Mixtape for Tigger by Emily Temple over at Flavorwire. Here's her explanation of a series that's too much fun:
If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. 
I'm hooked. I bounced along to Tigger's playlist for an entire workday. (Aren't you glad you don't share an office with me?)

I couldn't resist getting in on the fun, and neither could Adam. Here is our homage to Ms. Temple's literary mixtape stylings. My Literary Mixtape: Mr. Darcy.

"Pre-Ex-Girlfriend" by Five Iron Frenzy
It all started when he saw her at that ball, when he "watched her on the floor tonight". He's stunned by "the intellect that girl has."

"I Want To Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles
Have you seen the new Pride and Prejudice film with Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy? Remember all those shots of his hand as he helps Elizabeth into the carriage or watches her flee Pemberley?

"I Get A Kick Out Of You" performed by Frank Sinatra 
"I get a kick every time I see/ You standing there before me./ I get a kick though it's clear to see/ You obviously do not adore me." Poor Mr. Darcy.

"Your Boyfriend Sucks" by The Ataris
This is Mr. Darcy's message to Elizabeth during the Mr. Wickham days. Note: instead of "best friend," insert "the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."

"Can't Buy Me Love" by The Beatles 
Mr. Darcy might own half of Derbyshire and have ten thousand a year, but after proposing to Elizabeth, he learns that it can't buy him love.

"Please Read The Letter" by Robert Plant and (for this version) Alison Krauss 
Rejected in love: what's a man to do? Stay up all night writing a letter, of course. "I have been walking in the grove some time in the hope of meeting you. Will you do me the honour of reading that letter?" And it begins to change her mind.

"My Hero" by Foo Fighters
Lydia is lost for ever and so are Elizabeth's hopes of a future with Mr. Darcy...until a hero tracks Lydia and Wickham, bribes a cad, and arranges a wedding.

"Finally Forever" by Chris Cornell 
And they lived happily ever after.

What would you add to Mr. Darcy's literary mixtape? 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lucy's Love List

Quick entry tonight- the internet in town has been completely shut down all evening and only came back up a few minutes ago. Now there's a storm fixing to brew outside, so we're crankin' this thing out like only we can do in the South!

On to it! This is my Things I Love Thursday, or TiLT, list for the week! Feel free to leave a comment of all the things that made you smile this week! :)

 Sewing class! I went to my first sewing class this evening and it was a blast. Only the instructor and I were there. Which turned out to be a good thing because I definitely needed some one on one attention! I hadn't sewn since I was little and had some rather traumatic experiences with it. Thankfully my teacher had dated a behavioral psychologist so she knew just how to help me through it.

 Baking! I've been up to my elbows in baking this past week. When my little sister came home last week I made Butterbeer cupcakes that were to die for. The kitchen was a mess– always a sign of good food! Then this week I made coconut & white chocolate truffles. I died, went to heaven, then came back to life so I could go to work the next morning. SO GOOD.

 My baby sister came home! I haven't seen my 'Helga' (affectionate nickname I gave her in high school), since Christmas so it was great to see her again! Sadly she had to leave us and head back to Nashville. But we'll get her back soon enough. ;)

 Earthquakes! Okay, this is going to sound a little sadistic but I LOVE the excitement of earthquakes and hurricanes and the like. Obviously if they are bad enough then there's nothing to love about them. The ones that we had here in VA were only bad enough to knock the groceries off the shelves at the Food Lion. No lives were lost- so I feel okay to say it was just REALLY exciting!

..Oh, and we're going to have a hurricane this weekend. Lovely, no? Oh well, at least we East Coasters are used to hurricanes. Nothing a little duct tape can't solve, am I right? Right!

 SouLodge– I've been participating in this e-course taught by Pixie Campbell. Three weeks into it and I'm loving the projects and the experience of meeting new and wonderful women! So great! I love Pixie to death- she is awesome. Pure & Simple.

 Coffee dates– our friend Ricky rode into town with Helga this past week and we are going to have coffee and catch up some time soon. I haven't seen my "other brother" in ages! You all remember him from his guest post here on the subject of "Swag". Well, I am here to tell you that he is the real deal. Then again, I am a little bit biased. ;)

 Chance! I am excited beyond measure to have a guy on our staff here at FS! If you didn't read his intro article from yesterday GIT ON IT! You will all love him as much as I do. I promise you that.

Hm. I could keep going but I think that's enough love for now... The lightening flashing outside agrees with me! BUT, what about you lovely lot? What's given you the grins lately? 


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Meet the new guy

Greetings and felicitations, Spatulans!  I am your new author.  You may call me Chance.  I'll be bringing you my own brand of magic on Wednesdays and the occasional Friday.  I think to start this off I will tell you how I personally make magic.
To pay the bills I am a biologist.  I find life as a kind of magic to be sure.  It defies all explanation and laws of chemistry and physics.  By all rights, life should not exist but it does and even has many forms and levels and depths that cannot be explained.  And then we can manipulate it, harness it, getting to its roots.
In my spare time I am also working on a webcomic which you may (read: probably will) see here.  To me that's another form of magic... creation, imagination.  Creating new worlds, people, lives that you relate to and grow attached to, even though we know that they're not real.
Well that sums it up pretty quickly.  I am in the midst of packing so this is unusually short and sweet.  There will be more in the future.  Feel free to ask questions for next time!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In which I ramble for a bit

Oh, guys. You know I hate to do this... but I have to digress from the story this week. I simply have no idea what to do at this point and, as usual, my characters aren't helping any. They are all standing around looking at me, pointedly, refusing to do anything for themselves. Which is actually a change as they are usually running around behind my back and doing things I hadn't planned for them.

But enough of that. I really have no idea how this exchange is going to work at the moment and I'm not going to give you something half-assed just for the sake of posting.

Just trying to get my feeble little bit of fiction out every week really makes me appreciate all the authors of the books sitting behind me on the shelf. They've produced, not just books that are enjoyable, but books that are enjoyable each time I read them.

I can't tell you how many times I've read through Bored of the Rings. Yes, you read that right. Bored of the Rings. I have, of course, read the proper trilogy, and as much as I loved every single word of them, they are not an easy read and they are not something I would reread without copious amounts of free time on my hands. But the Harvard Lampoon parody? Let's just say that my copy, which is only 10 years old, is falling apart from the almost constant perusal I've put it through. And it is just as funny the 30th time as it was the first time around.

It is funny that Kristi should mention the Harry Potter series, because I've just finished reading them through for the third time and I cried just as hard this time as I did when I first read them. In fact, I think I might have cried even harder, knowing what was coming and all the little hints that Rowling dropped along the way.

That, my friends, is impressive. I'm not saying that Harry Potter is the best set of books I've ever read, but they might be my favorite series to keep reading. (Also, please weep for any son I may have, for his name will be Albus. I'm sorry, future son.)

That kind of lasting power, that ability to evoke strong emotion in a reader is why I keep pushing my poor fiction on you guys each week. Through this little slice of Internet I'm creating and refining my magic in the hopes that one day someone will have a dog eared copy of a book with my name on the cover. I don't even particularly want fame like Rowling has; I just want to know that somewhere there is something that I have written that brings joy to someone over and over again.

I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that zombie alligators and foppish French necromancers aren't the right way to go about it. But you've got to start somewhere, right?

tl;dr- Witch fight next week! Also, let me know what your favorite books to reread are; I'm always looking for more things to read to keep me from having to do my dishes. Yes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Recent Infatuations

  1. 2Cellos. Just have a listen and you'll understand why, when I heard them playing in a store, I had to know who they were, then download their album, and then play it on repeat all day today. 
  2. Harry Potter. Yeah, I'm about 500 years behind everyone else on this one. I should hide in shame that I'm only now reading the later books, but better late than never. Have you read them recently? Or, were you like me, and read the first when they originally came out? 
  3. eBooks. Further proof I'm just getting into the 21st century: I now read eBooks. I've always, always loved paper books--the smell, the texture of the paper beneath my fingers, the rustle of pages, the spines lined on a shelf, and the sigh that accompanies closing the back cover. Jerky electronic ink drove me to distraction; it looked like the reader was about to have a seizure. But books are overrunning the house. They are even creeping into our beds when we aren't looking. Of course, I can't stop buying books. And then my loving husband gave me a full-color touchscreen reader. It's been less than a week, but I think this infatuation might develop into a committed relationship. (I still buy hardback books. I just picked up another Harry Potter yesterday. See #2.) 
  4. Cake. Okay, this isn't recent, but don't we all need to fall in love with cake again? And again?
  5. Running. To combat #3. Actually, I'm training for a marathon. Yep, you read that right. I, Ms. Hates To Run, is in the early stages of marathon training, and I'm loving it. It actually ties in well with #2, because when my muscles yell at me, I picture Snape screaming at Harry, and my solution is to picture Ron, Hermione, and Harry disarming Snape at the end of The Prisoner of Azkaban. Bam! Knocked out cold. If you're interested, I recommend The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer
What are your infatuations? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nothing As It Seems

 This whole story arc is going on a little longer that I planned. It seems that I can't stop myself writing about François. I'm not sure how much farther it will go on, but I promise it will end and then maybe François will leave me alone for a while. Oh, the things we do for our creations.

Anyway, the next installment, and finally! The terror is revealed!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Have you told them lately that you love them?

Your local indie business that is.

Hold on a minute before you think "this isn't about magic" and flip over to something incredibly magical, like checking today's Google header. (It's boring; I already checked.)

Think about the local businesses you frequent. Is there one that you include in your ideal Saturday? One where you're as part of the scenery as the leggy potted plants or notch-ear cat? One where you know you'll always get honest, sage advice? What about the place you've always admired but haven't yet made yourself a fixture? What place would you be devastated to lose?

Got that place in mind? I'll wait while you do.

Good. Now that you have it, why not, in the next week, head over there and say thank you? Would it really hurt?

So what prompted this post, you might wonder. The ideal Saturday in my home city isn't complete without a visit to a favorite independent bookstore. This past Saturday they had an event, like they often do. Afterwards, friends and I chatted with the owner, a brilliant bookseller who I've come to admire a great deal over the years, and during the conversation a startling fact slipped from her lips: we might lose the store.

I thought about it for hours afterward. I even tried to rally friends. I can't imagine living here without it. And you know something sad? In all the years I've been going there, I don't think I've ever said "thank you for being you and giving the community this place." Yeah, businesses are about bottom lines and making a living, but there are some fields that are more a compulsion or a calling than a job one goes into looking to retire early or get voted onto the Most Influential lists.

Saying thank you won't make the businesses stay around, but they'll know they're appreciated. They'll know that what they do isn't perceived to be just about selling a product or service, it's about an experience, a community, and sharing a bit of magic during the mundane days. I plan to thank my local indies this week. Who would you thank? 

PS Haven't found an indie that gets your heart all fluttery? Check IndieBound for local independent bookstores. Ask friends for their favorite spots. Watch community bulletin boards for flyers. You'll be well on your way to finding your own magic place.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Jefferson Drop-Off

Hey folks- This week there's going to be a little bit of flash fiction for you.  Let me know what you think! :) 

The name's Mildred, most people call me Millie though. I work as a waitress at the Jefferson Drop-Off, a cozy little diner on the corner of 5th and Main in a backwash town called Misshaven. Often colloquially pronounced as "Miss-BE-haven", or, for the gentleman with a five o'clock shadow it's "Miss-shaven".

I really don't want to be a waitress, not that it isn't a noble profession, I really want to be a writer. Luckily, I  tend to work the lunch shift so I get a lot of great inspiration for my novels. I say novels because I have a terrible habit of not finishing one before starting another. Mostly they just take up space on my laptop never to see the light of day.

Still, I make sure to keep two notepads in the front pocket of my apron. One for taking orders, obviously, the other for jotting down the snippets of conversations I hear. Sometimes people from out of town come in, making for great new material.

The majority of the time nothing particularly interesting goes on. The Usuals at table number nine, a husband and wife, always talk about how their day is going at work and who gets to pick up which kid from what activity. The most exciting thing they ever talk about is what happens when her mother has had one too many bourbons while out with her bridge club gals.

Then there's table number two. Another fireworks couple, two guys- coworkers- who never seem to have much to say to each other unless they're complaining about their families or something to do with the Bigs Wigs at the office.

Lastly, The Cheesecake Twins. Two young women who only seem to be capable of paying for dessert but will hog the table for two hours. Generally they don't have much in the way of anything to say that's worth writing down. I don't mind them so long as they keep tipping well.

That about sums it up for our team of hot-shot regulars. How anything fun or exciting could happen here I will never know.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Forgive me, dear internet, for having yet another cliffhanger. I had to finish the post rather quickly this afternoon because I heard that my brother was coming into town and, I'm sorry, but family trumps all. I promise next week you'll find out what it is that the goblins are so afraid of. Until then, have a little bit of François being weird, as he is wont to be.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after." 
 -Natalie Babbit, Tuck Everlasting  
 This paragraph begins one of my favorite novels. Each summer I read it. Who wouldn't want to keep reading to find out what things the characters felt led to do and how they were sorry? And doesn't Babbit capture the week we just went through in all its humid glory?

I'm recognizing more and more how my reading and even music listening can follow seasons. I don't read Wuthering Heights or The Lord of the Rings every Christmas, though many do. I don't read mass market paperback romances on the beach, though many readers spend their vacations cracking the covers of Harlequins. I do gravitate toward weightier books in the winter and some of my favorites, like Tuck Everlasting, are best enjoyed during the sweltering months. There are books I read while I'm writing a manuscript and books I avoid, sometimes because they're so good they make me want to put my head in a smoothie maker. But I digress.

There are some songs with organs and horns that are filled with warmth and light; those are best for the winter. Certain rock songs will always remind me of driving along winding country roads at dusk with the windows down. Isn't it funny how various forms of our creation--music, literature, painting, cooking, and more--coincide with Creation?

Does your favorite form of magic follow the seasons?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Renting People

So. I Started writing this strange little tale about a place that rents people. Pick a type of person and the costume for an event. Then, this Egyptian goddess Bastet and a Victorian Vampire named Maximus show up. I have no idea how they got here. They just showed up at Carlita's a couple of days ago wanting to rent a costume and a person to go in the costume. Apparently the two are roommates some time in the future. Maximus (Max or Maxine) likes victorian clothes and the band Pig Destroyer. Bastet is the daughter of the Egyptian Cat Goddess (same name) and she likes to cuss... so I've changed all her F's and S's to a fluffy word just to, ya know, make it appropriate for blogger. It's rather long. And you don't have to read all of it. I just thought, well... OK I'm nervous posting some strange fiction I've only looked over once (or twice...) but I'm doing it anyway. Stepping out of the comfort zone here. I'm not asking you to be nice in the comments. I'm not even asking you to comment. Ok... I'm done with the pre op. Here it is...

P.S. Spatulans, what point of view do you like to write in? First person? Third person omniscient? Why?

“Carlita’s One Night Stand: Thousands of costumes and people to fill them. Need a best friend to tell your secrets to? High school reunion coming up and need someone to fill the shoes of your imaginary girl friend? Is your five year old wanting a cowboy party but you can’t find a cowboy? If you can dream it we can create it. Costumes included in rental price. Prices based on per event. No sexual conduct of any kind. Must sign waiver. Call for more details and to make appointment.”

I read the ad twice. The ad showed a guy in a fat Elvis costume singing into a fake microphone and a woman wearing a stripey pirate dress, tri-corner hat, hook hand, and a lopsided sneer as if she was saying “Argh” as the camera snapped her picture. I couldn’t believe it had come to this. I couldn’t believe I had been reduced to picking out costumes for an imaginary “best friend.”

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Perfect Spot

I am a creature of habit. I gravitate toward the same spots. Perhaps it's because I have warm, fuzzy associations with those places, or perhaps it's because I've finally molded the seat to the contours of my bum. Either way, two posts at the start of this week made me think about my special reading spots through the years. The first was the fabulous "Summer Reading" post right here on Fantastic Spatula. The next came one day later on Beyond Her Book, a Publishers Weekly blog, that asked, "What's your favorite reading spot?"

In my early years, one of my favorite reading spots was in the swing on Grandma's front porch. I was small enough to lie on the seat with my feet propped against the chains. A little push on the chain would start the swing swaying, not enough to cause motion sickness, but just enough to get a slight air movement against my sticky skin. Oh, and in the late evening, sun slanted over my right shoulder and hit the page, making it golden.

Each major life change brought a new location to read. In college I curled up in the UVA gardens, my own hortus conclusus as I enjoyed Chaucer, Donne, and Beroul. Now there are special places in our home: Adam's grandfather's recliner; the sofa stacked with pillows and a throw my in-laws gave me a couple Christmases ago; the armchair in our office that gets perfect morning sun; and our bed. This bed is a thing of beauty. We were fortunate enough to design the bed and get it handcrafted by a talented woodworker back in Halifax. When we gawked at the completed bed in his shop, he pointed out that the headboard is wide enough to fit hardbacks. We didn't even ask for that feature! It's a joy to find another bibliophile who understands the importance of crawling between the sheets with a good book and reading until you have just enough energy to raise your hand and slide the book away for the night.

Maybe these spots are special because they ground me in places of family and familiarity as my mind wanders through the adventures I read. Or maybe it's just about the comfy bum.

What do you think? Do you have special spots for reading? If so, why do you think they're significant to you? 

The Ones Who Remember

Hey folks- how has your week been? 

Mine has been a little all over the place. I've been mulling over what to write for this week's post, and while I've come up with some nifty ideas, they haven't been anything I've really wanted to talk about.

As fair warning: What I am going to write about might be triggery, as I will be talking about death. I apologize in advance if this is too sensitive a topic to read. Anyone who would prefer to not go any further, I completely understand. I just need to get this out.

To be honest- last Friday really knocked me over.

It was July 29th. That's a date that stands out in my memory for many reasons both good and bad. The good reasons being that Gala Darling got married! (!!!), and also a friend of mine was born on that day few (48) years ago.

It also happens to be the day that I lost someone very dear to me and a lot of other people.

Last Friday I went up to the cemetery to visit his grave and leave a token like I've done almost every year. I'd expected to be the only person there since it was such a hot, sticky summer night, but when I was making my way towards where he was buried I heard another car barreling down the drive.

The person driving the car knew exactly where to go, as if drawn to by a magnet. I got a glimpse of a petite, blond woman behind the wheel. She came to a stop, parked the car, and walked tranced like toward her son.

While it's been fourteen years since he passed away, there are still times like this where memory and grief know just how to f*ck with your day. (Sorry, there's just no other way to say it.)
Seeing his mom there was about the hardest thing I've dealt with in a really long time. I didn't approach her for a few minutes out of respect. Eventually I walked up beside her and put my token on his tombstone. We hugged, we cried, we talked, we stood in awkward silence. We remembered.

She said that the one thing she had hoped was that people would remember her son and all the good moments shared with him. I assured her that plenty of people still did before I hugged her goodbye.

Sometimes the hardest part is being the one who remembers.

Remembering is not all bad, however. Especially when there are so many things worth remembering. Not just the bits that make you cry, but the parts where you just about bust a gut from laughing so hard. The times where there was sincere tenderness and complete vulnerability. The sweet, raw, "Here it is" words that echo from the deeper place.

Those are the things that nurture and sustain.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Yeah, another cliffhanger.

I can't resist them. But isn't it better this way? Now there is something exciting to look forward to next week. Until then, try and guess what is in the bust and who Charlotte would be calling so late. I'll give you a cookie if you're close!

Looking back on that evening, Amanda couldn’t fathom how they’d all expected to be able to simply shut the mysterious lady back in her crate with the promise of Max that her remains would never be disturbed.