The Lights Are Dimming, They're Not Out.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Peace on Earth/Little Drummer (Medley) by David Bowie and Bing Crosby (it is amazing. I never thought this harmony could work so well).

I am going dark. Not forever! But just for the next week to possibly just after Christmas. The Cybils have really caught up with me and its a pell mell dash to the end. Slow and steady isn't going to win his race (sorry tortoise. I still love you!). But once I come back, there should be a week-long feature of the Cybils, filled with lists of books for your heart's content. As soon as my eye stops twitching, that is.

As the year comes to a close, it is usually a time for reflection, and since I'm going to be absent so to speak, it seems like the perfect time to do this. I am wondering what people like the most about this blog so, if possible, I can tailor it a bit more so it is not as crazy as my mind tends to be. :) So while I'm gone if you could answer this poll I would love you for forever and a day. And feel free to leave any comments about what else you want to see or anything like that. Putting it in haiku form makes a kitten be born. :)

See you all soon, everyone! :D

EDIT: (The poll is over in the left sidebar) It wouldn't work inside the post.

The BIGGEST Snowman I Have Ever Seen in my *Entire* Life

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Brad Smith.

So here I was, driving to work like I usually do, popping in a few good CDs from the library and tapping out a beat on my steering wheel - when all of a sudden I pass a neighborhood and almost swerve off the road because I whipped my head around to stare, literally stare at this thing I could. not. believe.

It was a snowman.

Only the biggest snowman I have ever seen in my entire life.

Are you ready for this? I warn you. He has broomsticks for arms.

My jaw was still hanging when I got to work. On the way back I had to turn into this neighborhood to take a picture with my cell phone. But that wasn't good enough. So the next day I brought my whole camera set up and took another. My co-workers jaws dropped too. :) Dude. I'm still wondering how they got the head up there. It's almost as big as the house.* And look! He has a little family too! :)

*Remember all that snow I showed you a couple of weeks ago? Look what a lawn-full of it could build. :)

Monday's Muse, 26th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Crack the Shutters by Snow Patrol.

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

The Joys of Love by Madeleine L'Engle.

Just after college graduation, Elizabeth joins a summer theater troupe where she finds elusive love with Kurt, a pompous director, and deep friendship with her lanky, goofy colleague Ben. L'Engle revisits her own theater experiences at the beach in the 1940s, making this novel's salty breezes, musty shared quarters, and boardwalk burgers vivid. Beautifully unadorned language and fluid dialogue recall a bygone era that might feel foreign to modern teens. Even dated colloquialisms and social mores, however, cannot diminish L'Engle's magnificent rendering of a smart girl's guileless romantic missteps. Teens will cringe as Elizabeth swoons over Kurt and ignores the clear chemistry that she shares with Ben. They will quickly forgive her, as the young woman's unwavering sense of self, her heady belief in acting, and grounded acceptance of life's inequities make her a powerful, appealing character. The wonderfully simple, economic prose allows Elizabeth's revelations to shine with glimmering clarity, like moonlight on the ocean.—Shelley Huntington, New York Public Library, School Library Journal.

Sell-Out by Ebony Joy Wilkins.

NaTasha’s parents’ decision to raise her in an all-white suburb doesn’t sit well with grandmother Tilly, who thinks the African American teen is trying to squeeze into a persona that doesn’t fit. After a disastrous ballet recital, the teen still doesn’t quite agree, but embarrassed by her clumsiness, she sees the merit in spending time in Tilly’s Harlem neighborhood during the summer. NaTasha reacquaints herself with a childhood friend and flirts with a boy at the local bodega. But it’s her relationships with the girls at a crisis center for troubled teens in a rough area of the Bronx that truly engender her growth. Although the story opens up room for discussion about self-loathing and exactly what being a sellout entails, it does strain belief at times, especially when Tilly, a longtime center volunteer, knowingly exposes NaTasha to a group of girls who are brutal, even violent bullies. Still, NaTasha’s budding realization that appearances and expectations often mask a person’s true nature, and that even bullies have a story, signals an important adolescent journey. --Karen Cruze, Booklist.

The Complete Novels (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Jane Austen.

Few novelists have conveyed the subtleties and nuances of their own social milieu with the wit and insight of Jane Austen. Here in one volume are her seven great novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Lady Susan. Through her vivacious and spirited heroines and their circle, Austen vividly portrays English middle-class life as the eighteenth century came to a close and the nineteenth century began. Each of the novels is a love story and a story about marriage—marriage for love, for financial security, for social status. But they are not romances; ironic, comic, and wise, they are masterly evocations of the society Jane Austen observed. This beautiful volume covers the literary career of one of England’s finest prose stylists of any century.

The Machineries of Joy by Ray Bradbury.

This is vintage Bradbury - no punk, obscenity, fantasy, horror or sex. Just beautiful, succinct, wonderfully constructed short stories that give new meaning to the term "American Genius".

The stories range in subject matter from religion to space to family to war but through it all Bradbury explores the meaning of being human in all its wondrous degrees. There is more poetry in this prose than in most English books of poetry. Every single story - I mean every one! - is excellent, thought provoking and haunting. What a writer! (by Avid Reader - review)

Feature Fun Friday - Kid History

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): What I Wouldn't Do by A Fine Frenzy.

The art of storytelling is a force that drives us from our innermost core. I was once told in an acting class that there are four things people need to live. Food, shelter, love, and stories. Stories sustain us and shape us. But sometimes stories get vastly different better with each retelling. Enter Kid History, one of the best YouTube videos I've seen in quite some time. Yet one more reason why I write for kids/teens. :) Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

Feature Fun Friday - Tangled is AWESOME!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Kingdom Dance by Alan Menken [Tangled soundtrack] (oh yes I am). :)

Okay, can I tell you how much I like Tangled? Okay, I REALLY LIKE TANGLED!!! Yes, it's been out a week and I've already seen it twice. So much fun, so funny and so sweet and cool at the same time. It is definitely a contender with How To Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3 for best animated picture this year. I want to see it again. Quite badly. At least three of the songs keep going through my head and I love the characters and ohmygoshholyheavens the song/dance on her birthday! *sigh* Because it's a fairy tale I have no qualms about gushing here for Feature Fun Friday. Here is a collection of clips if my squeeing doth not have you convinced yet. Have a great weekend everyone! (and I know a really good movie you could see). ;)

Silver Phoenix Haiku Sequence

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Different Story by Peter Schilling.

For those who remember from the YA Fantasy Showdown, Ai Ling from Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix was one of the featured characters, and in my contest it happened to be one of the most requested books of the showdown. Well, the sequel is coming out (March 2011) and she decided to host a contest of very cool proportions.

Originally I wasn't going to share this at all, but I was cajoled by friend and foe alike (they happen to be the same people by the way. I still shake my fist at you!). Usually any work I show I like to have refined, polished and prettily spit shined, but since I wrote this last night under very little sleep there isn't much to be done in that arena. But I also know I should be proud of my work, and I love to feature diverse and different stories like Silver Phoenix whenever I can, so here I go. And a little fandom is always nice.

Here is a very rough haiku sequence in honor of the storyline of Silver Phoenix. Originally it was going to be a renga, but I don't feel nearly adequate enough to attempt it and get it right. I also did not follow the strict form of 5-7-5 syllables (it is a lot easier to do in Japanese, trust me), but instead tried to keep the original idea and intent behind the haiku with the image, the turn, commentary, etc. I tried to make each stand on its own but also follow the sequence of the story.

Silver Phoenix

Mere daughter
Unworthy of esteem by most
but cherished by a father still

One day, a letter
a summons from the emperor
leaves - but does not come home

A journey begins
the step beyond the light is dark
but time - too short

Courage, a medallion
gifts of her father, but to take hold of another's spirit
a gift of her own

The world is wide
unknown dangers always lurk
a reflection of life

The pool seems safe
cool water, soft lilies bloom
but the monster's hands are strong

Choking in a water prison
life's small candle flickers, threatening extinction
but other hands pull back

A friend, an enemy
a stranger can be both
but these yellow eyes are soft

Two now instead of one
a journey with a friend is always best
but first - we eat.

Instructions, advice well taken
wisdom and a dagger freely given
which shall prove the greater?

On the back of a dragon we fly
a courtyard of trees. The gods still live
- a revelation.

Dragon, demon-possessed
not all dragons are the same
like humans, I suppose

Insurmountable foe
requires the greatest mastery of self
reaches with her spirit - and destroys

One brother safe, the other unable to save
she could pull him back, restore him, warped
... she lets him go

A journey twists and turns
never knowing its end until it is upon you
like sun lifting a morning fog

A thousand souls stolen away
to wait for a single bright spirit
everything - for a marriage

Night, the shield of many things
a bedchamber, a place of communion turned to another purpose
different eyes, different soul destroys this time

Love potent, refined through trials
but there are more paths to walk
so we say goodbye.