Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What's This Sign of the Green Dragon Anyway?

Hello, all. I'm popping up from my extended summer vacation (rough life, I know...) to share with you this post from awesome author C. Lee Mackenzie. She's here today to talk about her latest release, The Sign of the Green Dragon.

I'll be back to posting next month. Probably...

But for now, please put your hands together for Lee!

What's this Sign of the Green Dragon anyway?



A Vintage Poster 


First, it's called Cang Long of the East or Qing Long Xing, Green Dragon Star, and it appears every year in spring in the eastern sky. In Chinese mythology it represents the essence of all devine creatures, and the first mention of it is about 3,000 years ago.  In 10 BC it was linked to the length of the seasons and meant to help farmers calculate their planting and harvesting of crops. Because of the dragon properties, it also gave protection to those needing it. (I'm really simplifying all of this. But after thousands of years you can imagine the stories and the complications.)


I've always been fascinated by Asian mythology, so when I read about this star and its significance, I tucked the information away until I found a story to connect it with. Years later, the story I needed came to me on a visit to Virginia City, Nevada. I have no idea how that happened, but it must have been the open sky that wasn't dimmed by city lights as well as the historical period of an early mining town that somehow triggered Sign of the Green Dragon.


I decided to use the sign (a series of six dots) as a secret code and set my characters on a quest to find out what it meant. I needed more to make the story possible, so I added a note written in the 1800s and a crumbling skeleton just to spice up the adventure.


Here's the scene where the kids (Sam, Joey and Roger) find the note. They've discovered a secret room after an earthquake has shattered a wall of their cave hideout. In this room is a large chest with a dragon carved into its top.







Sam inched forward and aimed the flashlight inside the chest. “Uh oh.” 


“What?” Joey gasped.


“It’s a ... well, kind of a ... skeleton.”


“Awww,” Roger screamed, ran, tripped, and sprawled on his stomach.


“It can’t hurt you, Roger,” Sam said. “Come on. Take a look.” One thing about being in a family of paleontologists, you got used to bones.


Roger quick-shook his head. “No. No. No.”


Joey took three slow steps and stood next to Sam. “Sweet. A dead guy. Man, let’s get out of here.”


“Hold this.” Sam handed Joey the flashlight. “Keep the light on him, okay?”


The skeleton was partly covered by a tattered shirt and pants. Bony fingers clutched a wooden box with a piece of thin metal about two inches long on its top.


Reaching inside, Sam tried to pry the box from the skeleton’s grasp, but the finger bones fell through the rib cage and clattered to the bottom of the chest. The box lodged between the ribs.

The light jiggled in Joey’s hand. “Come on Sam, enough already.”


Sam picked up the thin metal piece from the top of the box, and held it under the light. One end of it was bent at a right angle. A faded red tassel looped through the other end.


“Here, take this.” Sam handed Joey the strange object, then reached inside the chest and gripped the box. He lifted it slow and easy. It could be a trap. It could be dangerous. His hands twitched and the edge of the box caught on a rod that held the chest lid open. He barely snatched the box free before the lid crashed down.


What sounded like an angry dragon exploded around the cave.


The walls trembled, and the floor heaved under foot.





And so the story begins. . . 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Return of the Mummy Hand And Other Fun Tales

Back in May, I wrote a post likening my never-ending editing experience to a Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode—the one where she works at the magic shop and does battle with an uncooperative mummy hand. (Life Serial—Season Six, Episode Four) You know, the one where she looks like this:

Coincidentally, this is what I currently look like on the inside.
And maybe the outside, too. Whatever.

In that post, I said my revisions were like that uncooperative mummy hand, and that I was failing in my attempts to tame said mummy hand.

But eventually, I found my way through to the end. And for almost one glorious month, it stayed that way.

But then...the mummy hand returned. With a vengence.

It all started when I received emails from my betas saying, "Hey, here's a typo; you should go fix it." And I did that. I opened the manuscript to fix said typos, and ended up catching sight of a sentence whose structure made me do this:



So I decided to fix that, too. And then things sort of snowballed from there. Or, you know, avalanched from there. Whatever.

The bottom line is, I think I have forgotten how to write prose. And now I need to correct it. If I can.

It's been a slow process, which has been exceedingly frustrating. I have fifteen chapters left to go through, and more often than not, it feels like I'll never get there. This is, of course, not true, but it still feels that way.

I literally am spending every single moment I can on this revision—often foregoing things like eating and sleeping and exercising, and blogging and reading books written by other people—but those available moments are about to shrink big time because in a couple of days, I am...

GOING HOME

That's right. I am going home. To New England. For the first time since I moved to this godforsaken swamp state Florida. Sadly, it's just for a week, and not, like, you know, forever, but I will take what I can get. Which is a week with much-missed family and friends in a land where the temperature may actually drop below 90 degrees once in a while, and there are very seldom any lizards camping out in the mailbox.

It's going to be great.

Which brings us to the moment where I ask a favor:

Part of my adventures that week will be a visit to my old writers group where I will be talking a little bit (in front of the group, even) about blogging. But because I am a notoriously inconsistent blogger, I turn to you, gentle readers, to help me out with this.

What advice would you give to an aspiring blogger? 


Then, provided I survive my brief public speaking experience, The Man and I will be playing host to family the next two weeks, which will be equally great, but does mean that my revisions will be on the back burner until the end of August. and this blog will once again become a ghost town. (And I started off the year so well, too.)

Which may sound like a complaint, but really isn't. A little forced time off will likely be good for me. And while I'm sure I'll fight it at first, I'm sure I will quickly embrace my freedom.

And probably spend every spare moment watching this over and over again:




And on that note, I'm outta here. Thanks for stopping by today. See y'all again in August...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Baby Monitor Tales

Hey, everyone!

I have been swallowed whole by a mass of unexpected revisions, but fortunately, Tamara Narayan is here today to prevent My Pet Blog from becoming one of those deserted desert landscapes filled with nothing but bleached animal bones and tumbleweed.

Thank you, Tamara!

Take it away!





When my daughter was a baby, loud puppy barks woke me one morning. We did not have a dog. I couldn’t believe my husband would get one without consulting me. Furious, I ran downstairs and found . . . nothing. I was hearing our neighbor's dog through the baby monitor.

Pretty funny, huh? Sadly, more sinister things can happen with shared frequencies. One couple watched their monitor in horror as a woman walked to their crib and removed their baby. Luckily the images came from a neighbor’s house. Other parents have notified the police after hearing or seeing children being abused on a shared frequency.

Source: Phillips Communications; Screenshot from Phillips Smart Baby Monitor digital innovation


Today’s media-savvy parents can use an internet-based monitor, but they risk getting hacked. For example, a Minnesota couple found pictures of their baby online taken from the monitor's camera. A San Francisco couple’s 3-year-old was scared to sleep alone because the “phone” would talk to him. Just an overactive imagination, right?


Source: mrplough; creepy baby monitor picture


Nope. One night his mom heard the monitor say, “Wake up little boy, daddy’s looking for you.” When the parents rushed into their child's room, the monitor's video camera moved on its own to track them, and the voice said, “Look someone’s coming into view.” (Source

Hackers screaming your child awake or an accidentally shared frequency can be nerve-wracking, but at least there’s an explanation. Here are two spooky tales from a Reddit thread:


Source: Matt Bargar; watching the baby monitor


A babysitter spotted a dark shadow by her charge’s crib on the monitor and heard whispering. Investigating the room, she found nothing. Later she questioned the dad, and he cautioned her not to tell his wife, having seen this shadow himself. As the baby girl got older, she spoke of a “friend” that she would miss terribly once the family moved. When her mother invited this imaginary friend to go with them, her daughter said her friend couldn't leave the house. (Raise your hand if this reminds you of Jodie in The Amityville Horror.)


Source: Consumerist Dot Com, hissing cat


Another fellow’s cat would hiss and arch her back at a certain corner of his baby’s room. Whispers were also heard through the monitor. A week after the family stopped using this room, the dad heard a voice on the monitor say, “It’s okay. I’m leaving now.” And the strange occurrences stopped.

__________

And now for the plug. Here's a poem/blurb from my short story Monitor, one of four spooky tales in Heart Stopper and Other Stories available now at Amazon.com.




Peppermint, mice, and a cold-as-winter voice 
A mother must make a desperate choice. 
Heeding her instincts to save the child 
What’s lost instead, the pain won’t be mild.

Perched on a mountain with a view to die for, Laura and Paul Alderson have it all: new home, new baby, and new challenges. It’s the American dream, but when the baby monitor whispers urgent warnings to Laura about the garage and the safety of her infant son, her new life takes a nightmarish turn.

_________

Did you know internet monitors and cameras could be hacked? Did you use a baby monitor with your kids? Anything strange or spooky ever happen?

Web Sources:






Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Nicest Things (An IWSG Post)

Hey, everyone! It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

This month's co-hosts are:
Yolanda ReneeTyrean MartinsonMadeline Mora-SummonteLK HillRachna Chhabra, and JA Scott.

One of the newest features of the IWSG is a question that members, if they so choose, can answer in their posts or use to inspire a post, or some combination of all of the above. This month's question is:


What's the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?


I like the timing of this question because I've reached that oh-so-happy stage of the writing/publishing process where all I can do is think that Second Nature just will never get beyond the three-ring-binder stage. I really am working my you-know-what off to make sure that doesn't happen, but I keep feeling like I'm too far behind, and not gaining any ground, and no matter what I do, no matter how hard I may work, it just isn't going to happen.

(Which it will. I may be feeling hopeless right now, but I felt the same way about Effigy when I was trying to release that story, and it made it out into the world eventually. I'll figure things out with the second book eventually, too. It just may take a little longer than originally planned. That's all. Nothing to be upset about, she tells herself for the millionth time...)

But that isn't actually the purpose of this post. It was meant as some backstory or whatever as to where my head's at these days.

Meaning that, as much as I hate talking about this kind of thing (no matter how minor, it always—absolutely always—feels just too damn boastful to me, and I hate feeling like that.), I shall do it today because I think I might be in need of a minor confidence boost, and perhaps looking back at some kind words could help achieve this. (But more likely, I will spend the rest of the day hiding under my desk. Because I'm completely well-adjusted like that.)

So here they are—a few kind things said about Effigy, posted by people on Twitter (and Twitter only, for brevity's sake—which totally feels like bragging/boasting to me because it's like, 'Oh, my work has so many compliments that I couldn't possibly fit them all into one post!' I didn't mean it that way. I hope no one took it that way. I apologize if anyone read it that way.) who are not only not related to me, but who are also wonderful authors whom I admire greatly.

(Note: If you happen to be one of these people who tweeted these things for all of your followers to see, thank you so much for that, and also, I hope you don't mind me using them now.)

Listed in the order that I came across them:









That's going to do it for me today. Thanks to the entire IWSG community, and also to you, gentle readers. Thanks for stopping by. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Joss Is Boss: Best Episodes (Part Two)

Last week was Joss Whedon's birthday, and since then I've been inspired to create many posts about him and his body of work (but mostly Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly).

And, as you've probably guessed, I'm doing another one today.

Last Friday, I discussed my top ten favorite characters.

On Monday, I discussed the first half of my top ten Joss-penned episodes (#6-#10) and promised (or threatened or warned...) that today I would reveal my top five favorite episodes.

I intend to fulfill that promise. I know you're super psyched about this, so I won't delay any longer...



5. Objects In Space (Firefly, season one)

What Happens: A bounty hunter steals aboard the Serenity while the crew is asleep, looking to capture Simon and River Tam. It becomes up to River to save them.


Why It's On The List: One of the things I love most about Joss (besides, you know, everything) is how he's always writing unusual episodes that break the mold. This particular outing offers the viewer an inside look at River Tam's mind, and is done in a really beautiful and elegant way. And Joss still finds time to make us laugh.

Favorite Scene: Okay, so I couldn't find any complete scenes from this episode on YouTube, so I'm sharing this snippet that I did find. This is taken from the scene where the crew is discussing River, and what's to be done about her unpredictable behavior.




4. Becoming, Parts I and II (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season two)

What Happens: The season two finale, this is the episode where Buffy goes up against Angelus to stop him from sucking the world into hell. So, you know, it's like every day in Sunnydale, right?

Why It's On The List: This two-part episode has so much going on. Kendra! Buffy gets expelled! Joyce discovers Buffy's secret! Buffy and Spike form an alliance! Giles gets kidnapped! Willow's in a coma! The world's in peril! A truly amazing sword fight! Willow restoring Angel's soul! And (SPOILER ALERT!) Buffy freakin' kills Angel in order to save the freakin' world! Oh, and Buffy runs away at the end. And did I mention there were swords? I love how Joss isn't afraid to rip viewers' hearts out. He'll do the unexpected all in the name of story. This episode makes you laugh and cry, and I adore it. It also contains dialogue like this:

Angelus: No weapons...no friends...no hope. Take all that away, and what's left?
Buffy: Me.



Favorite Scene: All right, so I couldn't find a clip of the sword fight (apart from the above gif), so I'm using the scene where Joyce discovers Buffy's secret.




3. A Hole In The World (Angel, season five)

What Happens: After opening a compartment in an ancient sarcophagus, Fred is infected by an ancient disease that slowly begins to kill her. As the team rushes to find a cure, Wesley begins to realize that there may be no way to save Fred.


Why It's On The List: Another example of how Joss loves to rip viewers' hearts out and stomp on them right in front of your eyes. This episode starts off so well. Fred and Wesley are finally together, and are super happy! (Always a sign in a Joss Whedon show that something horrible is about to happen, I know), and Spike and Angel are debating over who would win in a fight—cavemen or astronauts, so you're smiling and happy and feeling good and thinking about that whole cavemen/astronaut battle, but by the end of the episode, you're sobbing into an ever-expanding lake of tears on your floor. I love the episodes that make me feel, and this episode does that and more.

Favorite Scene: I was hoping to find a scene of Spike and Angel fighting over the cavemen/astronaut debate, but there was'nt one to be found (YouTube, you're really letting me down today.), so instead I have selected Fred's death scene...(sorry about the less-than-stellar quality.)




2. Once More With Feeling (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, season six)

What Happens: The musical episode. A demon comes to town, and suddenly everyone is breaking into song and dance, and revealing their innermost secrets in the process.

Why It's On The List: Did I mention that it's a musical? Once again, Joss is pushing those boundaries and breaking those molds.

Favorite Scene: This episode is nothing but highlights for me, but I've decided to go with the musical number, Walk Through The Fire because it features everyone, is a little bit funny, and a little bit serious.






1. The Body (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, season five)

What Happens: Joyce dies.

Why It Makes The List: Holy hell, this episode is amazing. It's so amazing, that it beat out Once More With Feeling as my favorite Joss-penned episode. Which is really saying something because I love Once More With Feeling. It's so realistic (the brief vampire-slaying incident at the end notwithstanding) and goddamn heart breaking. I've said before that I have the greatest love for the episodes that make me feel, and this episode makes me teary-eyed just thinking about it.

Favorite Scene:



So, that concludes my top ten. If you're a Whedonite, which episodes would you include?

And on that note, you have officially made it to the end of of my Joss Whedon-themed posts...At least until next year, that is. (Unless I decide to do one on Friday, too. But I probably won't.) Thanks for your patience!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Joss Is Boss: Best Episodes (Part One)

Happy Monday, everyone!

Last Friday, I shared my Top Ten favorite Joss Whedon characters (an incredibly hard list to make, by the way.)

Today, I shall be continuing my ode to Joss Whedon by taking a look at my favorite Joss-penned episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. (Spoiler alert: it's mostly a BtVS and Firefly list.)

Sorry, Dollhouse and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D...you didn't make the cut this time around. Better luck next time. But don't feel too bad. Even Angel only managed to get one episode in the Top Ten.

This particular subject will be broken up into two parts because it's a super long post with just a few listed here. If I put all them in one post, that would just be way too long. Part Two will be posted on Wednesday.

Ready to begin?



10. Family (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season five)

What Happens: The episode where Tara officially becomes one of the Scoobies, and that whole 'is Tara evil' thing is resolved.

Why It Makes The List: I don't know that this episode would appear on many lists of Buffy's best episodes, but it's always been one of mine. And when I settle in for a re-watch, I always make time to watch a certain scene toward the end of this episode.

Favorite Scene: The aforementioned favorite scene at the end of the episode:




9. Our Mrs. Reynolds (Firefly, season one)

What Happens: Mal finds himself married to Saffron, who turns out to be a con artist looking to steal the Serenity out from under the crew.

Why It Makes The List: It's really freaking funny.

Favorite Scenes: I couldn't find any good YouTube clips, so you get typed-out quotes instead. And a few of this episode's quotes were already used in my post on Friday, so I skipped using them a second time.

Shepherd Book: If you take sexual advantage of her, you're going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.

Mal: How drunk was I last night?
Jayne: I don't know. I passed out.

Saffron: I've made myself ready for you.
Mal: Let's ride on past the past where you explain exactly what that means.

Mal: Oh, I'm goin' to the special hell.


8. Hush (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, season four)

What Happens: The Gentlemen (fairy tale monsters) come to town and steal the voices of everyone in Sunnydale. This is the episode for which Joss received an Emmy nomination, which is funny because critics always lauded Joss for his skill at writing dialogue, and as was previously mentioned, this is the episode where none of the characters can speak for the majority of the show.

Why It Makes The List: It's said that Joss wrote this episode as a challenge to himself. He wanted to see if he was a good enough writer to craft an episode largely lacking in dialogue. I love that. Plus, this episode is super creepy, and when I first watched it, I kind of forgot that I was still able to speak. I love that, too.

Favorite Scene:




7. The Message (Firefly, season one)

What Happens: In one of the unaired episodes, Mal and Zoe attempt to fulfill a dying request from an old army buddy. Also, Jayne's mother sends him a hat.

Why It's On The List: This is probably another one of those unusual choices, but this episode is funny and sad, and the end gets me every time. I really do love it. Plus, Joss makes a cameo appearance in this episode. Also, because of this episode, Jayne Cobb has an amazing hat. And so do I. (Translation: My mom made me a Jayne hat, even though she did not understand my obsession with it. I heart my mom.)

Favorite Scene: I know I just said that the ending gets me every time, but I'm going to share another scene from this episode. One that makes me laugh:





6. Restless (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season four)

What Happens: The gang, exhausted after defeating the season's Big Bad, decide to unwind with a movie night, but end up falling asleep. Each of them has wild and crazy and dark dreams as a unknown danger stalks them in the dream world.

Why It's On The List: This episode is just all kinds of crazy and creative. There's foreshadowing galore (Be back before dawn...) and Oz puts in his final Buffyverse appearance, and there's also just some random guy with the cheese walking around. Plus, Giles sings.

Favorite Scene: In which Giles sings...




All right, folks, that's all for me today. Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to tune in next time (Wednesday) when I reveal my Top Five Joss-penned episodes because I know you just can't wait to find out what they are...


Friday, June 24, 2016

Joss Is Boss: Top Ten Characters

Yesterday was Joss Whedon's birthday.

(Happy Birthday, Joss!)

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you will know that I worship at the altar of Joss Whedon, so his birthday is, like, a high holiday at my house.

As such, I have decided to create yet another Joss Whedon-themed post.

Actually, a whole slew of them, because I couldn't decide on just one topic. So, there will be another Joss-themed post on Monday. Maybe Wednesday, too. I haven't decided yet. But yeah, there will probably be three. Or four...

Today's post, however, was inspired by this particular tweet:




And I found I couldn't respond to it because I couldn't pick just one favorite Whedon character. And seriously, who could? So I decided to do what I love to do...create a top ten list of my favorite Whedon characters.

And before we begin, just know that all of these characters are Whedon originals, so as much as I love them, no Avengers will make an appearance on this list. But I'm still going to use this gif because I love it, and it's too good not to use:


Here we go...(Man, this is hard.)



10. Jayne Cobb

From: Firefly and The Big Damn Movie, Serenity

Favorite Quotes: 

"Shiny. Let's be bad guys."

"I'll be in my bunk."



9. Hoban Washburne

From: Firefly and The Big Damn Movie, Serenity

Favorite Quotes:

"Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

"I can be terse. Once, in flight school, I was laconic."

"I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar."



8. Kaylee Frye

From: Firefly and The Big Damn Movie, Serenity

Favorite Quotes:

"Yes, sir, Captain Tightpants."

"The hell with this—I'm gonna live!"



7. Winifred "Fred" Burkle/Illyria

From: Angel

Favorite Quotes:

"Can I say something about destiny? Screw destiny! If this evil thing comes, we'll fight it, and we'll keep fighting it until we whup it. 'Cause destiny's just another word for inevitable, and nothing's inevitable as long as you stand up, look it in the eye, and say, 'You're evitable!'"

"I am not the damsel in distress!"

"I am feeling grief for him. I can't seem to control it. I wish to do more violence."



6. Rupert Giles

From: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Favorite Quotes:

"The earth is doomed!"

"I used to be a highly-respected watcher. Now I'm a wounded dwarf with the mystical powers of a doily."




5. Willow Rosenberg

From: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Favorite Quotes:

"I'm a blood-sucking fiend! Look at my outfit!"

"I don't care if it is an orgy of death. There's still such a thing as a napkin."

"You two are the two who are the two. I'm the other one."

"Bored now."



4. Dr. Horrible

From: Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog

Favorite Quotes:

"The status is not quo. The world's a mess, and I just need to rule it."

"What a crazy random happenstance!"

"I'm Dr. Horrible! I have a PhD in horribleness!"



3. River Tam

From: Firefly and The Big Damn Movie, Serenity

Favorite Quotes:

"Also, I can kill you with my brain."

"I tore these out of your symbol, and they turned into paper."

"No power in the 'verse can stop me."



2. Captain Malcolm Reynolds

From: Firefly and The Big Damn Movie, Serenity

Favorite Quotes:

"I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you."

"Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle."

"Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill 'em right back!"

"Oh, I'm gonna go to the special hell."

"The next time you decide to stab me in the back, have the guts to do it to my face."

"I aim to misbehave."



1. Buffy Anne Summers

From: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Favorite Quotes:

"If the apocalypse comes, beep me."

"I'm the thing monsters have nightmares about."

"The hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it."


So that's my list...

Are you a fellow Whedonite? If so, which characters would make your list? Tune in on Monday when I discuss my favorite episodes penned and directed by the man, the myth, the legend, Joss Whedon.



Thanks for stopping by! Have a great weekend, everyone.