Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting Back to Fantasy…where would you most like to live?

A couple of years ago I tried this on the Gather networking site and got quite a response. Now that Hollywood has given us yet more fantasy places, let’s try it again. I’ll start with a previous favorite – Middle Earth: the Shire, Lothlorien, and Rivendell.

Now we have Pandora:

Then there’s Eragon’s world from Chris Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle:

And other fantasyscapes I’ve scrounged up around the web:

Of course, I'm still partial to Ammanon:

So I’ve shown you mine. Show me yours!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Irresistible “I’m Glad I’m Me” Teaches Us How to Talk to Each Other

Yes, I’m still genre-jumping! My grandson pulled this out of our children’s bookcase yesterday and I fell in love with it all over again. Sheila Aron’s little gem, “I’m Glad I’m Me” is, as an interviewer on FOX news put it, “a parenting guide disguised as a children’s book.”

The book is a dialog, a script. Knowing the positive impact messages of love between parent and child can have, Sheila offers 18 simple, everyday conversation models. It gives you the words you need. And when you read it to your kids, they’re hearing what they need to hear.

I actually met Sheila before her book. Her book signing was the week before mine, and I went just to see how they worked. I was just starting out. She was already a veteran of the signing scene, having done the likes of Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Brazos, the most popular indy bookstore in Houston.

With the event winding down, we sat down with coffee and chatted. She’s a petite brunette, very pretty in a thoughtful sort of way. I asked how “I’m Glad I’m Me” came about. It’s a poignant story. One night on the evening news she heard a story about a young girl committing a horrific crime and it struck a chord deep in her soul. Why do these things keep happening? What triggers it? What can be done?

As she explored the problem, one thing stood out for her: people don’t know how to talk to each other. In this era of tension and uncertainty, chopped up text-speak, emotional disconnection, and parental exhaustion, few can even conduct civil conversations, much less express love.

Here’s an excerpt: “…when we are working together: Thank you for helping me. Working or playing – I love to be with you.” Sound sappy? Think about it. It’s what you feel, isn’t it? It’s what you mean. It’s what you want to say. So say it! Get used to it! Start building your attitude; that positive relationship. The few minutes it takes to read and share this book could impact a child (and you!) for a lifetime.

Beautifully illustrated by Charlotte Arnold, it’s a book a child will reach for. Because of the subtitle, “Weaving the Thread of Love From Generation to Generation,” each book comes with a symbolic multicolored length of yarn, which I've found useful for marking my place when Mikey suddenly needs a potty trip.

Since the last time we talked, Sheila has set up a wonderful website: I close with a quote from it:

Sheila Aron’s advocacy for loving parent-child relationships reaches deep into her Houston community. She has donated copies of I’m Glad I’m Me to various charitable organizations including Harris County Children’s Protective Service, ESCAPE Family Resource Center and ChildBuilders™ for distribution to families served by these organizations.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Odd Moments in History – August

I know, I know. August ain’t half over yet! But already there’s quite a collection of oddities – and who knows what impact they’ve had on life as we know it? For instance:

Aug. 3, 1985 - Mail service is discontinued to a nudist colony in Paradise Lake, FL until residents promise to wear clothes or stay out of sight when the mailperson comes.

Aug. 4, 1693 –Dom Perignon invents champagne. (This day is now more popularly known as U.S. Coast Guard Day. No doubt it’s celebrated with champagne.)

Aug. 6, 1981 – Fire fighters in Indianapolis, IN return from a false alarm to find their station ablaze from a grease fire. (Turn off the burners before you leave, guys…)

Aug. 6, 1762 – The first formally acknowledged “sandwich” since Roman times (beef and cheese between slices of toasted bread) is devised for John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich.

Aug. 7 was quite eventful:
1983 – Over 675,000 AT&T employees, mostly operators, go on strike. Middle management mans the switchboards and quickly decide they need a union, too.
1947 - The balsa wood raft Kon-Tiki struggles across 4,300 miles of Pacific Ocean only to crash into the reef of a Polynesian archipelago.
1876 – The centuries old custom of tup-running (trying to seize a ram by its greased tail) goes wildly awry at Eton College. The panicked ram swims the Thames and runneth amok through Windsor Market with the boys in hot pursuit. Much mischief resulteth.

Aug. 9 was even busier:
2004 - Donald Duck receives the 2,257th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
1944 – Smokey Bear debuts as the spokesbear for fire prevention. He’s the creation of The Forest Service and Wartime Advertising Council.
1905 – Ty Cobb’s mother mistakes her husband for a burglar and kills him.
1678 - American Indians sell the Bronx to Jonas Bronck for 400 beads.

Aug 10, 1846 - Congress charters the Smithsonian Institution, called "the nation's attic."

Aug 14, 2126 - Comet Swift-Tuttle makes its closest approach to Earth. Just a little heads-up there…
1756 – And a society note here: Daniel Boone marries 16-year-old Rebecca Bryan.

Aug 11, 1984 – President Reagan (for a radio voice check): "I have signed legislation that outlaws Russia forever. We begin bombing in 5 minutes." This day has also been declared Presidential Joke Day.

August 13, 3114 BC – The first day of the Mayan calendar, according to the Lounsbury correlation.

August 15 is host to many momentous events:
1969 – The Woodstock Music & Art Fair opens in Bethel, NY (Max Yasgur's Dairy Farm). Billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music," it features
24 bands and draws over 400,000 people. The event became an iconic cultural phenomenon.
1968 – Pirate Radio Free London goes on the air. A transmitter was set up in an apartment, and their aerial was a long wire which ran across a street and a railroad track and was tied to the fire escape of a BBC building.
1877 - Thomas Edison writes to the president of the Telegraph Company in Pittsburgh stating that "hello" is more appropriate than "ahoy" when answering the telephone. Like, why not just call him about it?

Aug. 16, 1920 - The only fatality to date in major league baseball occurs when Ray Chapman (Cleveland Indians) was hit in the head with a fastball from Carl Mays of the NY Yankees.

Aug. 17, 1977 - FTD (Florists Transworld Delivery) reports that orders for flowers to be delivered to Graceland for Elvis Presley’s funeral surpasses any other event in the company's history.

And so it goes. I had no idea what neat stuff I’d be learning when I took on the “Today in History” feature for The biggest shock was August 10, 2003, which was the first marriage from space. It was between cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who was orbiting in the International Space Station, and Ekaterina Dmitriev, who was down at Houston’s Johnson Space Center. Unfortunately, I misunderstood my source’s rather vague listing of the event and thought both were cosmonauts, and both were aboard the ISS.

But no problem. One of VerveStar’s founding partners, Miranda Spigener, is a personal friend of Ekaterina (“Kat”) and was able to correct my entry. It seems Kat even starred in a short film written/directed/produced by Miranda. ( It won Audience Choice as Official Selection at the 2001 Venice International Film Festival and appeared as part of the Alternate Selection/Audience Pick at the 2001 Berlin International Film Fest. Wow. Like I said, you never know what you’re going to learn.

Now get out there and make an Odd Moment for me to report!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Elle Newmark’s The Book of Unholy Mischief : the story is history and suspense, but the book itself is a mystery. It…uh…smells good

There is a whole lot to say about Elle Newmark. Her PR coup, a virtual book-launching party that reached 500,000 people and netted her a prestigious agent and a 7-figure advance from the likes of Simon & Schuster, is legendary. I “met” her on Nikki Leigh’s blog where her uproarious “Better Late Than Early” article was posted. Finding we were the same age and both newly published, I shot off an email with sisterly congrats. She was packing for India at the time but answered me anyway. We had a few exchanges since, and I still frequent her blog.

As for the story, it immerses us in 16th century Venice. We live history through the eyes of an urchin named Luciano who is plucked from the streets by the head chef of the lavish Doges Palace. But in the midst of exquisite culinary details, we are caught up in a vicious search for a particular book of alchemy, said to contain the secrets of wealth, power, and life itself. Beautifully and cleverly descriptive, the story twists, turns, and finally emerges as a lasting testament to wisdom and truth. (That was excerpted from my own review of this book.)

But this isn’t about either of the above. It’s the physical book itself. It smells good. That’s right. It smells good. It filled the room with a mysterious, ethereal fragrance the second I pulled it from its wrapper. The hardcover binding was absolutely steeped in it. It’s not like anything I’ve ever smelled before. It’s a haunting, hypnotic floral incense type of thing. What the heck is it? I sniffed my way passed high-end department store fragrance counters. Nope. I ducked into candle shops, hobby shops, and boutiques. I even browsed extensively in a mix-your-own perfumery in the Bahamas. Nope again.

But never mind the what of the matter. It’s the how and the why. Is it some gimmick Simon & Schuster employs with its Atria imprint? I emailed Elle. No, she’d never heard of them doing that. Ever.

I contacted the Amazon distributor who shipped it. No, she hadn’t personally spilled anything on it and hadn’t noticed anything peculiar when she acquired it.

When I was at the Book Expo in NY back in May, I stopped by the Simon & Schuster booth and asked ‘em point blank. Why, no. They’d never heard of such a thing!

Could it have happened in transit? But there would’ve been stains and fragrance on the padded envelope, right?

Ah, well. One more deep inhale and I’ll return it to the bookcase. Some things are just meant to remain a mystery, I suppose…

Sunday, August 1, 2010

So I got to Wondering: What Does It Take to Produce a Cookbook?

Another genre heard from! Even before I met Dr. Ann Moseley, author of college level English textbooks (see post on July 18, 2010) I was exchanging emails with another author, the artistic and irrepressible Glenis Thomas of Wellington, New Zealand.

Glenis and I met via my website some time back when she was gathering info on publishers. When she said she was working on a blueberry cookbook I made a point of keeping in touch. I LOVE blueberries! Just look at her beautiful website: which announces her upcoming Blueberry Recipes. In her words: “It's point of difference is that it is dedicated to one type of fruit and every recipe is illustrated.”

The first thing I wanted to know was: who took all those mouth-watering pictures? She did! Which led to the exquisite crystal and china pieces. Were they hers? Well, they are now! She boldly approached “a huge company here in NZ” and stated her purpose. And would they like a mention in her book? I guess so - they gave her a gift certificate to cover her purchases!

It helps that Glenis happens to be an extremely creative, artsy-crafty person in the first place: “I designed the book and layout. I composed and took the photos of my recipes…and had two skilled friends edit and proof read. My neighbours, my international students, and friends were taste testers.”

“Neighbours?” Uh-oh. Does than mean the measurements are in metric? At this point, she’s considering two versions for her international audience. Actually, it happens that my Pyrex measuring cups are labeled both ways. I’m sure most are. But the folks she polled in the US want things stated in the imperial system. Conversions, she tells me, are terrifically time-consuming. “So far the book has cost me 20 months work.” Blimey, mates! I want that book NOW!

What else is involved? In her own words:

Being a compilation helped, as I have several recipes supplied by cook book authors, restaurant cooks, and foodies from USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and NZ. Blueberries have only been in NZ 30 years, and commercially about 20, so it is a young industry here.

I did a lot of research about blueberries and publications. I approached experts on the subject of blueberries to make sure my history, health and storage info was correct. I also contacted the Blueberry Industry "umbrella", Blueberries NZ Inc. to enlist their help in contacting blueberry farmers and checking info. I will be going to their AGM
(Annual General Meeting) in September to personally promote the book.

Wow. So…when can we get our hands on it? A few weeks ago I pointedly mentioned that July is National Blueberry Month. The operative word here is “National.” You see, in NZ blueberry season is November. So her publisher will either release it then, or “sometime next year.” Sigh.

Okay, I know you’re all wondering. Yes, Glenis had friends and relatives appearing as extras in Lord of the Rings.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to her website to pre-order Blueberry Recipes.