Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Join Me at Flixy Mom

You might have noticed the pink badge over to the right and wondered "What the heck is that?"

I have joined authors Karen Cantwell and JC Phelps, along with actor/writer Aimee Hix and stay-at-home/homeschooling mom Beth Balberchak, at a brand-new movie review site, Flixy Mom.

Here's a little bit about it.

"We are here to help parents find movies that are enjoyable and appropriate for their children's viewing experience.


Truly, we all have our individual philosophies and limits regarding allowable content in a movie. Some parents are comfortable with mild language while others are not at all. Some want no violence or no sexual content, while others may allow some of one or both, depending on the age of their child and/or other factors. Some children are very affected by certain scary or evil characters, while other children are not bothered by these things at all.


It is our hope at Flixy Mom, that we will provide movie reviews that give you valuable information as well as our own personal preference for the movie.


We will be reviewing family movies for all ages -- very young children, elementary school-age, and young adult. We may even review a romantic comedy or drama if we feel it is a movie that would be enjoyed by the family."




Flixy Mom will feature both in-theater films and DVDs. I am going to be handling some of the older-kid movies, junior high age and up, although I will be participating in The Lorax group review since I just love that book and am very interested to see what they do with the movie.

My first review was of Big Fat Liar. Next up is The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, which will run sometime soon.


Please stop by and check it out, maybe even sign up to follow it. There also is a Facebook page, if you would like to join, where there is a lot of great movie talk going on.

Thanks much.








 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wow! What a Weekend!

My journalism career taught me never to use exclamation points, particularly in headlines. They should be reserved only for the most mind-boggling of news. Well, dear readers, this is one of those times.

These past three days have been quite amazing. A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One) hit #25 on the Amazon Women's Fiction best seller list,  #51 on the contemporary fiction best seller list, and #6 on the domestic life best seller list. At one point, it was right above Room, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, which sent the butterflies in my stomach flittering a bit.




Many thanks to all who purchased the book, as well as to Greg over at Ereader News Today, the Holy Grail of advertising. 

BigAl over at BigAl's Books and Pals, the mega-famous book reviewer, ran an interview with me on Saturday, which also clearly helped to keep Whisper on the charts. 

With this lucky confluence of happenings, the book was up there for the entire weekend. It is still in the middle of the Women's Fiction/Domestic Life chart, at #43, as I write, which is just delightful. 


Big News

February has been the largest sales month Whisper has ever had! There I go again with the exclamation point. Please forgive me, journalism gods, but this is a great way to lead into my next novel.

After much deliberation and input from you, dear readers, which was documented in the previous post, In a Quandary, I have decided on a title for Bibliophile Catherine's book. 

It is ((trumpets blare)) Until My Soul Gets It Right




Happy Monday, everyone. May this week be productive and wonderful for us all.



Friday, February 24, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Wrapping Up Romance Month

Romance Month comes to a close today on Flash Fiction Fridays with a piece by, well, me. We will return to open prompt for the next several months until our usual spotlight on horror in October.

There are some wonderful stories on tap for March. I cannot wait to share them with you. The deadline for April submissions is 3/23. Remember, 1,000 words or less. Any topic, any theme. Send them to karen@karenberner.com, and please put Flash Fiction Fridays in the subject line. As always, I look forward to reading your work.



When a Young Girl’s Fancy
By Karen Wojcik Berner


He wore those kind of glasses popular back in the 1950s, black and thick-rimmed, the ones like that comedian on TV and countless guys in their early twenties sported trying to be retro. On him, however, they just were dorky. He was an ordinary-looking man. Medium height. Thin build. No butt. Irmalene never paid him any attention when he came into the dry cleaners, always with seven white shirts to wash, extra starch.

One particularly hot, steamy spring day, after setting his pile on the counter, he leaned over, looked Irmalene straight in the eye and said, “You look beautiful today.”

She was sure her hair had drooped from the humidity. Perspiration was seeping from every conceivable area of her body. And she had a sneaking suspicion her mascara was running.

You look beautiful today.

After that, Irmalene made a special effort to be pleasant when Mr. What’s His Name dropped off his shirts every Friday, a little after five o’clock, and to pick them up Monday evening, anytime before six.




“Looks like we are in for some nice weather this weekend.” Irmalene grabbed the pile of dirty shirts and a pen. “Name?”

“Jake Doyle.”

“Phone number?” Irmalene had to ask, not wanting to appear too interested, even though the information was already committed to memory. The dry cleaners had at least fifty regular customers. No one would expect her to know all fifty phone numbers, now would they?

“356-0712.” His bespectacled eyes watched her write the claim ticket. She had large, loopy printing. He imagined her signing her name with a smiley face or heart. “What time do you get off work?”

You look beautiful today.

Irmalene pretended to not hear his question and instead focused on nervously filling in every single space. She was not accustomed to men asking her that sort of thing. That only happened in the movies, right?

“Here you go, sir.”

Jake smiled and walked out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cantwell Launches Third Barbara Marr Book

Good news, readers! Friend of the blog, Karen Cantwell, has released the third in her Barbara Marr Murder Mysteries series. Remember her Take the Monkeys and Run and Citizen Insane? Great, fun books.


Author Karen Cantwell
Her new one, Silenced by the Yams, looks to be just as hilarious and intriguing. Here's a synopsis.

Soccer mom, Barbara Marr attracts trouble the way the North Pole attracts short men with odd wardrobe choices. So it’s no surprise when she finds herself in deep doo-doo while attempting to prove the innocence of friend and ex-Mafia goon, Frankie Romano, after he’s arrested for the murder of a famous action movie director.

This third book in the popular Barbara Marr Murder Mystery Series brings Barb out of the suburbs and into the slimy, urban world of bright lights, nightly news, and drive-by shootings. Luckily, she never loses her sense of humor or her ability to befriend some decidedly quirky characters.


And now, I am proud to present an excerpt from Silenced by the Yams by Karen Cantwell.



I’d only known Guy Mertz for ten minutes and already I was plotting to murder him.

“So, Barb—can I call you Barb?” He didn’t bother to wait for a response. “Tell me about your website . . .” His pointy nose rose into the air as if he’d remember the title by smelling it. “FlixieChick.” He nodded, pleased that his memory had served him well.

Suppressing an eye roll, I waited a beat, then corrected him. “ChickAtTheFlix.”

A minor grimace crossed his thin face. “ChickAtTheFlix. Hmm.” He tugged at his filet mignon with a fork and knife. “FlixieChick has a lighter ring. Shorter. Easier to remember.” He popped a hunk of beef into his mouth and continued to talk around his chewing. “Ever think,” (chew, chew) “of,” (chew) “changing it?” (chew, chew, chew)

I disguised a gag by sipping on my dry Chardonnay and not-so-casually scanning the banquet room of the prestigious American Cinema League’s Tanner Building. The ACL was a national organization—their DC building featured a 200-seat theater and sweeping banquet hall which were often rented by Hollywood studios for local movie preview events. Although excited to be in attendance, I lamented being seated next to this bozo instead of Randolph Rutter.  Randolph—the movie reviewer for Channel 3—appeared to be in a serious discussion with up-and-coming action movie director, Kurt Baugh. Rumor had it that Kurt’s next project would be a Steven Spielberg-collaboration. I really wanted to talk to Kurt Baugh and find out for myself, but I was stuck sitting between a no-show empty chair and Guy, the ill-mannered carnivore.

Guy Mertz was a celebrity of sorts in the Metropolitan Washington, DC viewing area. Every evening on Channel 10 News, Guy “entertained” the television audience with melodramatic reports of local true crimes. Some people found the reports deep and meaningful, most people found them humorous, but I just found them nauseating. Guy was the reason I watched Channel 6.

How he made it to television, I’m not sure. Certainly no one had surveyed his headshot before hiring him. His face was unnaturally long and his flabby lips hogged most of the square footage. His beady brown eyes were topped by eyebrows that looked like fuzzy caterpillars on steroids. Let’s put it this way—if he had been Don Knotts’ brother, Don would have been the good looking one.




Guy was babbling on about my website, but I had tuned out and instead, was transfixed on Kurt Baugh who was stealing food from Randolph Rutter’s plate. Kurt appeared to be the kind of man who had been strikingly handsome at one time, but had partied a little too hearty, and now looked more like a down-and-out country western singer recovering from a two-year bender. I found myself staring at his horribly orange skin and wondering if he really believed that ten bottles of spray-on tan could recover his youthful splendor. Unfortunately, I stared just a micro-second too long, and he caught me. It was one of those moments where you don’t realize you’re gawking at someone, but then they “feel” your gaze and turn to meet you eye to eye. Thankfully, he must have been flattered rather than irked because he shot me a wink before taking a sip from his water glass.

I, however, was mortified and jumped back into my conversation with Guy at just the wrong time. “I wanted to cover your story, you know.”

My stomach lurched.

I downed the rest of my wine and wondered if they had something stronger. Arsenic perhaps. “Pardon me?”

“Your bang ’em up, shoot ’em up, FBI’s Most Wanted story out there in Rustic Woods.”

My worst fear was being realized. I had wanted to attend this screening as a respected movie reviewer, not as the famous, flighty, gun-toting suburban mother who found herself in the middle of the yearbook fiasco from Hell.

I was about to ask politely if we could refrain from discussing my newsworthy crime tale, but Guy steamrolled on. He shouted across the table. “Hey, Rutter!” He waved his sharp, silver steak knife around in the air to catch Mr. Rutter’s attention. Unfortunately, he was successful. Randolph Rutter and Kurt Baugh stopped talking and turned their heads in our direction.

How could I silence this buffoon? I considered the possibility of quickly jamming my fork into Guy’s jugular and blaming it on an involuntary muscle spasm attributed to a rare genetic disorder, but of course, I’d have to come up with a name for the genetic disorder and I’m just not that quick on my feet these days. Instead, I sat, face flushed, wondering where that waiter was with the wine.

“This is Barbara Marr!” shouted Guy. “Remember her story?”

Randolph’s face was blanker than the checks in my wallet. He did not remember my story. Now I wasn’t sure which was more embarrassing—the fact that I wasn’t memorable, or the reality that Guy Mertz was about to make me look like a crazy lady in front of some very important people.

“You know,” Guy torpedoed on, the entire table paying attention now. “The soccer mom in Rustic Woods who took down three of the FBI’s most-wanted with a hand grenade.”

A smile tugged at the corners of Randolph Rutter’s mouth and he nodded.

“Actually,” I said, feeling the need to set the record straight, “the hand grenade wasn’t my idea.”

Silenced by the Yams is available for Kindle at amazon and and for Nook at Barnes and Noble. It will be available in paperback at the end of April.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Contemporary Fiction: Snapshots of an Era



Do you think contemporary fiction can be used as a reliable source for chronicling a certain time period? Here is a post that I wrote for a wonderful blog, Lori's Reading Corner, during my WOW! Women on Writing Book Tour. 







Want to read the best history book ever? Try a piece of contemporary fiction.

Think about it. Can you fathom anything that better portrays the Jazz Age than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby?

Contemporary fiction serves as a window to the time period within which it is written, chronicling society and events as they occur. From this, we learn manners and customs. Family stories illustrate people’s everyday lives.

For example, how do the characters speak? Language patterns and slang terminology provide major clues to an era. What do they wear? What kind of music do they listen to? What art or architectural style is popular? What do they eat?

All of these things help piece together an historical record of life in that time period.

I took a class in college, “Historical Reality in American Fiction,” which opened my eyes to the natural pairing of history and literature. We analyzed several early-20th-century novels to see if they provided an accurate portrayal of life in the various decades. It turned out, of course, they did. It was fascinating.

Historical fiction is not quite the same. Although I love it and mean the genre no disrespect, historical fiction works to recreate a time period. That is very different from being genuinely of an era.

It is easy to forget how many of the classics were pieces of contemporary fiction, since now we have a tendency to view them as “period pieces.” For example, when I entered Jane Austen’s home, (also known as a pilgrimage to my holy land, but I digress), it felt like I had walked right onto the set of the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. Somehow before, my mind never made the connection that dear Miss Austen would have written contemporary fiction, if that genre would have existed more than two hundred years ago.

Similar to Austen’s Regency, England, the dust bowl days of the Great Depression come alive in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, while Tom Wolfe illustrates early 21st-century collegiate life in I Am Charlotte Simmons.

I think that is why I enjoy writing contemporary fiction so much. With A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One), I wanted to compare and contrast two sides of womanhood — those who have children and those who desperately want them — through Annie Jacobs, who is dealing with a diagnosis of unexplained infertility, and the overwhelmed, stay-at-home mother, Sarah Anderson. I’m sure all of us know people just like Annie, Sarah or probably both. They are most definitely products of our time.

What are some of your favorite pieces of literature that reflect the time period in which they were written?

(Photo courtesy of In my good books...blog.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Crazy and Sweet

Romance month continues with a great piece from Mary Langer Thompson. Enjoy.



The Stick Up
By Mary Langer Thompson

This new Paleo or Caveman Diet gets old fast. That Friday night at the Applebee’s near our Sunset City home, we ate cheeseburgers topped with extra bacon without the bun. We were full, yet that nagging desire for something sweet to top off our meal lingered.

“I’d love a red velvet whoopee pie,” I said to my husband, Ed.

“You’d blow our whole diet,” he said, “You’ve lost five pounds.We just need a little something.  Like Bazooka or Double Bubble Bubble Gum.”

“Let’s go to the 7-Eleven and get some,” I suggested.

“I don’t have any cash. I can’t charge that little bit of an amount.”

“I’m tired. Forget it.”

“No.  We’ll stop at our ATM.  I need money for tomorrow anyway.”

As we left the restaurant, Ed nearly tripped over the newspaper stand. “Ed, you need to be more observant,” I said. “You could have killed yourself.”

Ed left me sitting in the idling car while he walked up the ramp to make his transaction.  It was dark already. We’d turned our clocks back the previous weekend.

I always bring a book, and thought of turning on the reading light, but I was tired, and full. I wished I had a piece of that bubble gum. But I’d have to be careful. I didn’t want to pull out any fillings. The gum would wind up being expensive if I incurred a dental bill.

I sat and mulled over the current state of dental insurance and then glanced out the window. Ed was still at the machine, but someone tall was standing behind him. I could see their backs. I saw Ed nod his head.

Oh brother, I thought. Ed is such a gabber. What’s taking so long? Is the ATM on the fritz? How can he talk so much to a stranger? One of these days he’s going to befriend someone who doesn’t feel like talking.

A few minutes passed. This is ridiculous. Maybe I should open my window and tell him to get a move on. I want to get home, get in my pajamas, watch House, and chew my gum and maybe even blow some bubbles.

Finally, Ed headed toward the car. That other guy was still close behind him. He walked in front of our car, and then took off running.




Feeling irritated, which usually happens on an empty, not full stomach, I lit into Ed as soon as he opened the door.

“Do you have to be so damn talkative? Good grief. I want to get home. He could’ve been a robber.”

“He was a robber,” Ed said between clenched teeth, slamming the door as he got in the car.

“You’re kidding.”

“I’m not kidding.” Ed sped off in the same direction as the robber.”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to get him.”

“He could have a gun!”

“He does have a gun, and it was stuck right in my back,” said Ed, growing more impatient. He was driving too fast.

“There he is!” said Ed.  

I shrank down in my seat. “If he’s got a gun, then he could shoot us!” I tend to state the obvious when scared.

But Ed was on a mission. It was too dark to tell whether the guy still had a gun in his hand, but he was running fast.  

The man turned right and ran under an arch leading to a motel parking lot. Ed followed, still determined to be a vigilante.

“You’re going to trap him. Then he will shoot us. Turn around.” I was pleading.

He parked and opened his door. The robber was nowhere in sight.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to call the cops from the office,” he said.

“Well, I’m not staying in the car this time,” I said and hopped out and ran, bent over with my hands over my head.

“I just got robbed at gunpoint up the street,” Ed informed the manager. The guy ran into your courtyard. Can I use your phone? My cell’s at home.”

I never carry mine when I’m with Ed. It dawned on me if the guy had shot us, we’d have had to drag ourselves somewhere for help. We could right now be shot and bleeding.

“Yeah, we’ve been robbed about three times,” said the manager, handing Ed the phone.

Oh, great.  Maybe robbed by the same guy who’s going to come in here a fourth time and finish us all off.

We sat down and I asked Ed to tell me exactly what happened.

“I took out my ATM card,” Ed said, and suddenly I felt something sticking in my back. The guy said, ‘Take out $400.00.’ I said, ‘The limit’s $300.00.’ He said, ‘No, they raised it.’ And sure enough, the machine gave me $400.00. Then he said, ‘Walk back to your car.  Don’t do anything funny.’”

I gasped.  “Oh, my God, he could have gotten in the car and taken us somewhere and shot us and buried us in a ditch.”

Ed stared at me. The manager sorted papers.

When the police came, they invited Ed to drive around with them. Ed disappeared fast. I was left in the motel office. The manager made me a pot of coffee.

I really wanted something sweet. Like bubble gum.

Soon Ed and the cops returned. Ed looked defeated. One policeman gave us forms to fill out. “You’re victims. If you need counseling, you’re entitled.” He looked at me. “The cameras aren’t working at that ATM.”

At the convenience store, we charged our bubble gum, but also Abba Zabas, gummy bears, Hershey’s kisses, for the resveratrol, Butterfingers, Milky Ways, and a red velvet whoopee pie. Forget that Paleo diet. We’re civilized, not primitive beings.

We rented a movie, Crazy, Stupid Love, because, yes, I still love Ed. Even if he isn’t always observant and almost got us killed.

And because we’ll always share a love of sweets.



Mary Langer Thompson's articles, short stories, and poems have been in numerous anthologies and journals. She has an essay in the newly released, Women on Poetry (McFarland). She lives in Apple Valley, California, with her husband, Dave, and is a proud member of the High Desert branch of the California Writer's Club. To learn more about Mary, visit her website.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Editing for Grammarphobes: A Wednesday Quickie

Here is something I came across while working on my WIP.





Do you know the proper way to refer to an engaged woman or man?

Fiancé is for a man who is engaged.

Fiancée is the correct spelling for an engaged woman.



Monday, February 13, 2012

Karen's Favorite Things

Since tomorrow is Valentine's Day in the States, I thought today I would share some things I have experienced recently that I absolutely love. Unfortunately for you, I am not Oprah, and, therefore, cannot afford to surprise you with any of these (or a car, for that matter), but I hope you will enjoy this blog nonetheless.





My family and I saw Green Day's American Idiot musical on Saturday. Gritty, powerful and real, it provides an intense window to the post-9/11 world through the amazing music and lyrics of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool. Absolutely loved it. If it comes to your town, do not miss it!




I read The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson in the fall, but never had the chance to tell you how wonderful it is here, probably because of my WOW! blog tour, the holidays and various other things that deride the best of intentions on a daily basis.

This is literature with a capital "L." A wonderful, old-school Gothic novel, this book firmly places you in Provence — the smells, the sights — by way of exquisite prose, all the while weaving a story worthy of a Bronte.  I was so enthralled by this book, I wanted to light a lavender candle for Benedicte and Marthe right after I finished.




English period costume drama set in the gorgeous Highclere Castle with shades of Upstairs, Downstairs — what's not to love? But, Downton Abbey is so much more. It is superb British drama at its finest performed by a stellar cast.

And speaking of clever things, how about Simon Kearns' piece of flash fiction, Fugue No. 2, last Friday? Wasn't it a gorgeous exercise in language? There are a lot more fantastic pieces coming up on Flash Fiction Fridays. Stay tuned.

Well, thanks for learning about some of my new favorites. I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day filled with all of the things (and people) you love.

P.S. Thanks so much to Leanne Dyck of The Sweater Curse for generously passing along a Versatile Blogger award. YAY!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Experimentation

Romance month continues today with a lovely piece by Simon Kearns.















Fugue No.2
By Simon Kearns


SUBJECT

The breeze caressed the trees. The nightingales sang loudly.

DEVELOPMENT

- The breeze, a southerly, and somewhat damp from the sea, made the trees whisper among themselves as if a stranger were in town. Moonless night in early June, and the nightingales sang loudly. By the window, the curve of you, a silhouette against the stars.

- The breeze caressed the trees, wavering every leaf, simply passing through, not bending in haste. Moonless sky of stars, silently flickered by bats, with constellations defined and bold. The curve of the plough matching that of your shoulder, as if it were a decoration. And the nightingales sang loudly.

RECAPITUALTION

The breeze caressed you, and the trees approved, dampened by the sea, and starry sky, the curve in the window with the curve in the sky and the night in the night wavered and flickered and the great bear at your shoulder, and boldest of all, as I kissed you, the nightingales sang loudly.




Simon Kearns grew up in the North of Ireland and currently lives in the South of France. His debut novel, Virtual Assassin, (Revenge Ink), explores personal responsibility in a corrupt society. His next will be published in Spring 2012. To learn more about Simon, visit his website.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Celebrating a Literary Master




“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


Yesterday was the 200th anniversary of English literature superstar Charles Dickens' birth. One such as myself cannot let something like that pass without commemoration, so today on Bibliophilic Blather, we will discuss Dickens and his work.

I’m sure you remember studying at least one of his novels in school or college. A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and Bleak House come to mind immediately. Being an English major, one could never earn that degree without at least one piece of Dickens being analyzed and appreciated. Recently, Masterpiece Classic has done wonderful adaptations of Oliver Twist and Great Expectations.

But of all his great works, my favorite is still the little ghost story novella he wrote in 1843, the ultimate yuletide tale, A Christmas Carol. Have you ever read it? Of course, we all have watched it countless times throughout our lives, whether on television, in the movies or on the stage, but have you actually read it?


“But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round —
 apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging
 to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time;
 the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by
 one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures
bound on other journeys.”
—Nephew Fred to Ebenezer Scrooge





A few years ago, I found a beautiful version Barnes & Nook Books had put out in 2003 and decided we would read it aloud as a family the week or so leading up to Christmas to put our heads in the right places as we jettisoned toward the big day.

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.”
—Charles Dickens

More powerful even than Alastair Sim’s heartfelt apology to Fred’s wife (which does not happen in the book, but makes for a lovely moment on film), Dickens’ words cut to the heart of the holiday, as all around him, the chasm between the haves and the have nots had grown cavernous. It is a lesson as relevant today as in his.

That is what great literature does, don’t you think? Opens our eyes (and hopefully our hearts) to the experiences of others. Holds a mirror up to our collective faces and exposes the flaws. Challenges our society to better itself.

In gratitude to you, Charles Dickens, for reminding us at least once a year what is truly important.

Happy Birthday.




Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Morning Quarterbacking



Great Super Bowl yesterday, don't you think? I was very glad the NY Giants won, as I have a personal prejudice against Tom Brady for leaving his pregnant girlfriend for a Brazilian supermodel and toward Bill Belichick for his cheating coaching ways.

I was also happy to see Eli Manning come into his own and establish himself as a two-time Super Bowl champion.

And what about the Giants' receivers? Mario Manningham's supreme catch had me delirious with joy. It was nothing short of awesome. And Cruz and Nicks! Great hands, spectacular plays.

Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

What did you think about the half-time show? My kids ask year after year why it is that only "old" people get to perform, like the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and now Madonna. I do understand their point, because despite trying to infuse the performance with some life by adding Cee Lo Green, LMFAO and the two women who I am not familiar with, it still fell a little flat for me.

Commercials? What was your favorite? I enjoyed the M & Ms party and the Doritos dog and baby who grabs the chips out of his brother's hands. Good fun.

A few too many girls in bikinis for my taste, but, then again, there always are. I was surprised by the David Beckham spot, never expected to see so much of him. Nice tattoos...eh, hem...

What were some of your favorite Super Bowl moments?


Photo courtesy of ABC News Radio blog.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: It's Romance Month!

To get us in the mood for Valentine's Day, this month is all about romance. First up is Kayla Bashe. Enjoy.


New Growth
By Kayla Bashe


Nasrin Malus strode into the forest clearing with a warrior’s grace. Glaring at its treebeing occupants, she sat on a fallen trunk.

The treeperson next to her, a tall oak male with braided twig-hair, edged away. Across the clearing, a pale-barked Aspen female sitting on a tree stump pointed at Nasrin. Wide-eyed, she whispered something to her neighbor, a Willow with execrable posture. The two laughed, their hair-leaves rustling with mirth.  

Let them pity and mock her; Nasrin knew how she looked.

She didn’t care.

Two rings ago, Nasrin became extremely ill. Fire blight scorched her leaves, turning them shriveled and black. Orange, dark-ringed spots appeared on the few areas of foliage left untouched, and weeping sores opened on her skin.

She’d survived, but at a cost.

“Repulsive,” her mate, Arvid, had murmured upon their reunion. Out loud, he said: “I’m sorry, Nasrin. I could never pollinate someone who looks like...”

“Arvid...” She stepped towards him, confused.

Arvid jumped back. “Get away from me!”

Her hurt hardened into anger. “Fine,” Nasrin told him and left.

“Excuse me. May I sit here?”

A tall, brown-barked treemale — Apple? Cherry Blossom? — stood next to the tree trunk, a small yet seemingly friendly smile quirking his lips. Nasrin tried to imagine herself through his gaze  — an apple treefemale of twenty-five rings, wearing a gown of deep pink rose petals trimmed with goldenrod, her former beauty evident in her high cheekbones and dark eyes. On her left cheek, a dark lesion ripped across sage-tinted barkskin. The branches atop her head looked withered and blackened, even though new, spring-green leaves poked from their tips.

“If you must.”

He sat next to her on the fallen tree. “The name’s Topaz Gala. I’m a hunter, from Orange Grove. And you?”

“Nasrin Malus,” she muttered. She’d heard of Topaz; he’d fought off an entire family of beavers by himself.

Topaz’s dark eyes widened. “Nasrin Malus? The Nasrin Malus?” His tones carried a note of excitement over a melody of awe; his trimmed-short branches, rustling with the wind, appeared coarse yet soft. “That kill you made last week amazed me.”

Nasrin had almost forgotten the feeling of receiving praise: joyous, warming, like an unexpected sunbeam through the overhead leaves. Still, he was probably just messing with her. Tormenting the hideous outcast, as so many did. “Thank you,” she said warily.

A breeze rustled the forest’s foliage.




Since interacting with her made most adult treebeings uncomfortable, Nasrin worked in the sapling patch. Alert through the moonlit hours, she guarded the still-rooted young ones with bow, arrow, and unfailing vigilance. Yesterday, at sunset, a deer had nearly gnawed on a foot-high tree-female; her leaves quaked with terror. The rustling sound alerted Nasrin. Whipping around, she shot the deer through the eye before it could touch a single leaf.

Topaz nodded, enthusiastic. “I just moved here a few weeks ago, but I’ve already heard so much about you.”

Could his smile possibly be genuine?

Nasrin regarded him evenly. “Like what?”

“You’re an incredible huntress, very intelligent, and somewhat of a misanthrope. I don’t believe the last one, though,” he confided.

Tilting her head, Nasrin caught a whiff of apple blossoms. Topaz was an apple-treebeing too, then… and a fertile one at that. Unwanted thoughts of pollination slipped into Nasrin’s mind; quickly, she pushed them away. “Really,” she said, her tone wry. “What do you believe?”

He looked at her, serious, intent. “I think… that you’re a talented, persistent, and interesting apple tree who hasn’t been given a fair chance. I’d like to give you that chance,” he added quietly.

Not knowing whether to react with surprise or amusement, Nasrin settled for a mixture of both. A small smile stabbed her lips. “You’re very interesting as well.”

Topaz returned her smile. “I checked the schedule- we both have guard duty on the evening shift. You’ll have a chance to see whether I’m really as interesting as you think I am. I must warn you, most of my anecdotes are about as fascinating as watching grass grow.”

Nasrin chuckled. “We’ll see about that.”

He rose to leave. “Until tonight, Nasrin.”

She did likewise. “Until tonight.”

Nasrin left the clearing and headed into the forest. Happiness and excitement mingled within her for the first time in what felt like an eternity, warming and energizing her, as if the sun shone on her spring-green new leaves.




Kayla Bashe is a student from New Jersey. Her work has appeared in YARN, Raphael's Village, Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders, and Yesteryear Fiction. She also is a contributor in the upcoming in Vagabondage Press' Love Notes anthology. Recently, she self-published a children's book, Ivy Gets Healthy. This past summer, Kayla attended the Alpha SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers. In addition to writing, she enjoys musical theater and curating the extraordinary. You can find her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KaylaBashe .



Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In a Quandary





For the last two days, I was one with my sofa, unable to do any work due to a monster cold that made it impossible to read a computer screen without my eyes burning and tearing. Throbbing headache. General malaise. You know the kind.

These unplanned days off gave me time to think. However, since it was a Benadryl-induced haze, I come out of it today unsure whether my thoughts are valid or just rubbish.

So I decided to ask you, dear readers.

The working title of The Bibliophiles: Book Two is How Long 'Til My Soul Gets It Right?

Here is a synopsis.

Catherine Elbert has never been good at making decisions, whether it was choosing ice cream as a small child or figuring out what she wanted to be when she grew up. The only thing Catherine was certain of was leaving her family’s farm in Burkesville, Wisconsin, as soon as possible after high school graduation. Join Catherine as she bounces across the United States, from the rocky Atlantic shore to the glimmering golden beaches of California, in search of her true self.

How Long 'Til My Soul Gets It Right?

Emotionally, I love this title and think it sums up Catherine wonderfully. However, the marketing side of me wonders if it is too long and not catchy enough. What do you think?

Thank you in advance for your input.

Clip art courtesy of DivaWhispers.