Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas Tree 2013: Superheroes!

This year, my son picked the theme for our Christmas tree: Superheroes!  To do this tree, we had to buy a new, silver tree skirt and several superhero ornaments.  We still didn't have a lot, so we filled in with colored plastic balls we already had in our Christmas ornament collections.  I also purchased a couple of rolls of ribbon.  My son chose the places for the majority of the ornaments.


The fun of doing this tree was coming up with the topper. I knew it had to be a Bat-Signal, and finally came up with a cardboard hatbox, painted black, with a cutout of the bat-symbol in front, backed with cellophane. Inside is a yellow LED bulb, and the inside of the box is lined with aluminum foil to help bounce the light around. It is electrical-safe, because none of the electrical components touch metal or come in contact with the cardboard, and LED bulbs don't burn hot the way incandescent bulbs do. It's simply an accessory cord like you would use to light up a Christmas village house, and the little incandescent bulb was replaced with a yellow LED one. Feel free to imitate for your own superhero-lover. My son loves it!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

There will be food. There will be football. There will be lots and lots (and lots, and lots, and lots ...) of leftovers.  Yep, it's Thanksgiving time again for Americans everywhere.  Hope you all have a safe, happy, and delicious day with family and friends.  Have a good one, everybody!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


So, yeah. I am a bit of a superhero geek. And it isn't all because of the influence of my husband and son. I can tell you how Wolverine got his adamantium (and why he doesn't remember), and I know Superman's real name (*and his dad's, too).

This is a good week for a superhero geek. "Man of Steel," the Superman reboot, came out on video this week, and "Thor: The Dark World" is out in theaters.
It's also a great week for the ladies, 'cause Henry Cavill and Chris Hemsworth are mighty nice to look at.  See photos.
While I love Superman, and he's my all-time favorite superhero, I don't generally approve of remakes.  I mean, Henry Cavill is gorgeous, and I enjoyed this retelling of the Superman origin story (including its lean toward a darker, angstier Superman), but I will always love Christopher Reeve in the role.  I have great affection for the old, campy Superman films, and Margot Kidder's Lois Lane was one of the first, actually gutsy heroines I can remember from my youth (the other being Princess Leia).  I could never stomach the heroine who stood in the corner screaming and cringing while the hero did all the butt-kicking.  A really good hero-heroine duo should do it together!  We'll see how Amy Adams' Lois Lane does as the series progresses with the forthcoming "Batman vs. Superman."
That said, "Man of Steel" is a great Saturday film if you plan to be a couch potato.  Plus, Russell Crowe as Jor-El*.  Did I mention this film has Russell Crowe?  Oh, yeah, and Russell Crowe's in it, too.  I might be a little drooly right now.  Sorry.  Ahem.

For those of you ladies who like them tall, blond, and thundery, we have Chris Hemsworth in "Thor: The Dark World," currently in theaters.  We debated a bit about bringing our six-year old son to this film, since it's PG-13, but he has seen the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and the first "Thor," as well as "The Avengers," and he knows to steer clear of naughty language - so we took him.  He enjoyed himself thoroughly, and I'm not sure he even noticed the cussing.

This is a good, old-fashioned, really action-y superhero flick.  It has great characters and a good storyline, and lots of funny moments.  As usual in a Marvel superhero film, there's even a cameo by the great Stan Lee.  You'll find nods to other Marvel superheroes you know, too.  Don't look for deep introspection, but the shining star of this film is the relationship between Thor and Loki.  As far as I'm concerned, Tom Hiddleston is the current "it" guy of screen villains.  He's crafty, he's charismatic, and his sparring with Hemsworth's Thor has a terrific irresistible-force-immovable-mountain aspect that makes me want more, more, more.

There is a scene with Hemsworth sans shirt, too, ladies - obviously planted in for our benefit, but who can argue?  Have you seen him shirtless?  His wife is one lucky woman.  Be sure to stay through the entire run of credits, too. There are a couple of inserted clips that you may want to see.

"Thor: The Dark World" cleaned up at theaters this weekend.  It was the top-grossing film, which goes to show that the public wants more of either Hemsworth or superheroes in general.  If it's Hemsworth, I heartily concur.

I find it amazing that not only have they made individual films (and sequels) for Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, and Captain America, but that they are tying them together via "The Avengers" and weaving the individual storylines throughout.  That's a tall order, and one I hope they continue to manage well.

Keep those superheroes coming, Hollywood!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Contorting Characters

A short while back, I promised that I would write a "craft" article about Contorting Characters.  Contorting characters result when a writer attempts to have her character do two or more things simultaneously which would be physically impossible to do.  Even experienced writers have trouble with character contortion ... but the good news is, this problem is easy to spot.
The usual suspect in this instance is AND.

For example: Jeff walked across the floor AND danced with Gina.

Physically, there is no way Jeff could both walk and dance at the same time.  It seems nitpicky, because you can extrapolate that he danced with Gina AFTER walking across the room, but this is one of those writing snags that drives an editor batty. Editors want to see the sequence happening.  This sentence is missing that THEN element.  Grammatically, it should read

Jeff walked across the room, AND THEN danced with Gina.

Often, a writer is in such a hurry to get from one character action to another that she will mash several activities together in one compound sentence, leaving the reader to figure out exactly what happened, and in what order. At best, it's a blip on your reader's radar.  At worst, they're wondering what the heck that character is trying to accomplish.  Rather than confuse or frustrate your reader, it's much better to clarify a sequence of events.

One of the things I always point out to newer authors is that you are not there to hold your reader's hand while she reads your book.  Your words on the page must do all the work of conveying your message and meaning.  Always be clear in what you mean to say, or you run the risk of losing your reader's trust, interest, or both.  Why let such a little word muddy your meaning?  Un-pretzel your character by using THEN, or have each action take place in its own sentence.  Happy writing!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Congrats to the Winner of my LASR Halloween Blogfest Prize!

Congratulations to Trix, who won my prize at LASR's Halloween Blogfest! (See the previous post for details.) Trix commented that she has a garden full of hummingbirds, now that she has planted red sage. What a great way to invite wildlife into your garden!

Habitat loss is a hummingbird's worst enemy, but humans can be their best friends. A garden full of shrubs to hide or nest in, flowers to use for nectar sources, and even artificial feeders, can be life-saving habitat for a hungry hummingbird. These birds need to eat about every ten minutes because of their outstanding metabolism! Watch a feeder or nectar source long enough, and you will see these little flying jewels return, zip-zip-zip, to feed again and again.

When using an artificial feeder, it's extremely important to clean it regularly - every three to four days, or more frequently when it's hot out. Purchase one with bee guards, and invest in an ant guard to keep unwanted pests away from the food source. These migratory birds will show up at your feeders and gardens from spring through fall to tank up for their long flights. Help them out with a variety of flowers that bloom at staggered times, and keep those artificial feeders stocked and ready for the show.

Happy Autumn, everyone! Hope you (and your resident wildlife) enjoy the season.