Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Rat Sonnet

A friend of mine asked everyone to write a spring poem. Here's mine. It's about an angry rat and the reason that is... well, I won't go into it. I hope you enjoy it. :)

Rat Sonnet # 1

Each horror I escape is like my grave.
To a she rat as I, all is death.
The pressing sun by day makes me a slave.
But night is when I catch my squeaking breath.

The moon above shatters my vicious thoughts.
Rip out my pale bucktooth will and make time.
You are so slow, he rat. My patience rots.
Your twisted tail and patchy pelt match mine.

But by your waddling dawdling gait
A people kitchen is your frequent haunt.
I crave the city's wild streets when it's late
Where I feast like a plague, though I grow gaunt.

Still, I will wander under bone white moon.
While you sleep sugar fed in a snug room.

A pet rat we once had.
Okay, if you're still here, I'll tell you why I wrote about an angry rat. I misread my friend's facebook post. He was listing things to write about and one was "love" and another was "angry rant" and I thought it said "angry rat." I told him about the mix-up but he held me to it. So, this is about an angry rat in love. I was inspired by the magnetic poetry on my fridge. It's zombie themed, a gift from my niece, Jasmine. You can see her blog here.

Now for a music video about the plague:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Obligatory Harry Potter Post

Yes of course I bought the Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 DVD. It was for the twins' birthday. Really it was! :)

Deathly Hallows, Part 1
Having it in my hot little Muggle hands only served to whet my appetite for Part 2 and THEY know it! But what can I do?

One day I realized that since my resident Harry Potter expert (a.k.a. older daughter- seen here in one of her old YouTube vids) moved out, I haven't been getting the daily scoop about the Wizarding world, so I did something I never thought I'd do. I clicked on MuggleNet.com.

Evanna Lynch
Oh, not that there's anything wrong with fan sites. I myself have been known to write fanfiction. But I can't count how many times I rolled my eyes at my daughter, moaning, "Get off the computer. You don't need to know every detail about Rupert Grint's favorite band or Emma Watson's adorable outfits. Yes, we want to keep track of the realease date of the next book, but the color shoes Evanna Lynch is going to wear in the next movie isn't important!"

Rupert Grint
But I suppose it's my own fault if I encouraged my kids in their Harry Potter obsession. For instance- I did film this video a few years back:

***Now shut your eyes or quit reading if you haven't read Deathly Hallows and you don't like spoilers.***

So there I was standing in the kitchen chopping carrots hushing the ten-year-olds as I listening to the people on MuggleCast (the podcast on MuggleNet) talk about where Snape was going to die in Deathly Hallows Part 2. Then they said it. A houseboat. Can you believe it? He won't die in the Shrieking Shack, but in some random boathouse!!! Apparently it's still going to be a very good scene full of drama and all, but it's in a boathouse at Hogwarts.

So, my Muggle, Wizard, and Squibbish friends, this just teaches you that you'd better keep up on your Harry Potter fan site reading so you don't have any surprises when you go the movies this July 15th.

*Links to images sources embedded in image captions.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Steam Powered Calliope

Calliope wail like a seaside zoo
The very last lately inquired about you
It's really very one or two
The first you wanted, the last I knew

(from "Cosmic Charley" Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia)

Okay, now that I've got the Grateful Dead lyrics out of my head, I can get on with the blog post. It's remarkable how I could concentrate on researching the calliope with that song running through my brain.

1874 Poster
I crave the appearance of a calliope in my work in progress. I'm always saying how wonderful it is to have music in your writing and this is such an unusual musical instrument, so I went on a hunt for their history and various forms. I won't bore you with too many technical details, but basically, it's a steam organ or steam piano. These days they often use compressed air. They were popular on riverboats where steam was already available to power the boat. Here you can see a modern video of one on a riverboat:

At circuses calliopes shared the steam power that drove the carousels, so that is why they became the classic carousel music. Some calliopes were in there own fancy wagons to be towed in the circus parade.

The design was patented in 1855 by Joshua C. Stoddard in Massachusetts. He wasn't the first to think up a steam powered musical instrument. In 1832 another guy invented the steam trumpet (a.k.a. train whistle.)

Something interesting I found while researching- "The Greatest Tattooed Man on Earth," Mose Smith (1891-1948),  played the calliope. Nowadays the grandeur of his tattooing probably wouldn't be as shocking as it was at the time. But he toured with Ringling Bros as well as other shows. Another tidbit- he kept snakes and an orangutan.

 You can buy calliope music at this link. They let you listen to a sample too.
Our trip to Disneyland in 2010

Hmm, now that I've discovered calliope's sister instrument, the propane powered pyrophone, I may change my story writing plans.

*links to image sources embedded in image captions (unless image is my own)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

42 Days Until Towel Day

It's Forty-Two Days until Towel Day!!! Of course unless you are a fan of the late Douglas Adams, (author of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and many more)  that means little to you. If you haven't yet traveled the Galaxy with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect or been rescued by Zaphod and Trillian on the Heart of Gold, then you probably don't celebrate this important day.

Towelday- Innsbruck

But if you are and if you have, then grab hold of your towel and get ready because in 42 days, it will be time to celebrate the man and his works.

Be sure to drop by DouglasAdams.com and http://towelday.net/ (one of my favorite hangouts)
Douglas Adams

What is Towel Day anyway???

Well, right after Douglas Adams died (May 11, 2001), fans were stunned. So, two weeks after his death, they decided to all carry around their towels- (to work, the store, school, everywhere!), because as you know, a towel "is the about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have," (Hitchhiker's Guide) And fans do this every year. You can go to such places such as Towelday.net to post pics of you with your towel and play Towelday related games and chat. Some folks post YouTube vids as well. I've been known to do that. :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Statistics Tool of your Blogger Blogspot


You have a tool that's both amusing and useful for increasing your readership.

Have you noticed that you can check the stats of your blog? Go to your Dashboard. The far right tab is marked "Stats." From there you can poke around and look at an overview of your week, month, all time, etc. What you'll probably notice right off is that you're getting more traffic than your comments or follower numbers indicate.

Many of us have a stats indicator right on our pages, but what I like about the built in Blogger tool is its other features. I can see where my traffic comes from (the referring sites and URLs). The place on the stats report that shows that info also displays the search keywords people used to find my blog if I keep scrolling down. For instance, today somebody found me by the keyword search "Cultural Science Fiction." Cool, eh? Now don't forget you're only looking at the ones for the week or month or whatever the time period you've selected at the top of the page. Expand it if you're only seeing one or two.

So what, right? Well, this tells you how your random market finds you- the people who just stumble onto your blog. It gives you a clue about how to phrase future posts. You'll increase your blog readership if you use phrases people are likely to search for, but be sure they pertain to your topic so the reader sticks around to read on and become a regular reader.

*link to photo source embeded in photo caption

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Give Your Characters Character

Well what do you know, your characters are just like people. Give them quirks, talents, and mannerisms.

Does your space pilot always fiddle with the seat adjustments when he climbs into the space flying machine thingy, even if he was the last person to fly it (much to the annoyance of his copilot)?

That coffee barista in your novel- she repaints her nails nearly every day (adding little fancy details such as spots and stripes), because she loves the compliments of her customers.

Nail Polish
Maybe your fairy has a bent wing because she's always flying recklessly through the forest.

Truffle fairies
 Don't make a huge deal out of these little idiosyncrasies, for that could get annoying. "There's Sunbeam with her bent wing." "How's your bent wing, Sunbeam." "Gee, my bent wing sure is bent today." But memorable details can add character to your characters. I dare you to imagine Hugh Laurie's House without a limp or Indiana Jones with no hat.

Hugh Laurie

Indiana Jones
How about the individuality of every incarnation of the Doctor (in the Doctor Who series)? Aside from each one's signature costume (ie.Tom Baker's ridiculously long scarf, Peter Davison's celery in the lapel, and David Tennant's Converse), they all have unique habits and talents. For instance- Patrick Troughton's Doctor plays the recorder and Tom Baker eats Jelly Babies. And those are just some obvious traits. They also have particular mannerisms.

Tiny Tom Baker (4th Doctor)

Patrick Troughton (2nd Doctor)
Something to think about- Does the flaw, foible, or signature hat impact the character in some way? Will her peanut allergy defeat her after she battles fifteen ninjas single-handedly? How about this- the fact your professor knows ancient Hittite will come in handy because *whoosh* the characters fall through a crack in time! And remember Indiana Jones' fear of snakes? Yep, he had to face those legless reptiles. Lots of them.

Indy's Hat
Don't let all of your characters look at their hands when they are nervous. Observe the people around you. See what they do. Everyone behaves differently when feeling particular emotions. Your best friend sighs and sits back in her chair. Her dad chews the side of his thumb nail. Sally, from next door, twists the hem of her T-shirt. Get the picture? Good. Now your readers will too. :)

Fiona and Avery say, "Now get writing."
*Links to image sources embeded in captions (unless the image is my own)
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