Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zeta, as in-- Catherine Zeta-Jones

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Today's Saturday Shout-Out goes to Catherine Zeta-Jones. The Welsh-born actor is a private woman and going public about her struggle with Bipolar II Disorder must be difficult.

Bipolar II, sometimes referred to as manic-depression, is a psychiatric condition that induces severe, fluctuating moods. However with Bipolar II, the emotional swing doesn't rocket to the high point of full-blown mania, so the elevated moods are considered to be hypomania. These episodes range from euphoria to irritability and can lead to erratic or bizarre behavior. Often the symptoms of Bipolar II can be managed with psychotropic medications.

Other actors affected by Bipolar II Disorder included Russell Brand, Rosemary Clooney, Richard Dreyfuss, Patty Duke, and Carrie Fisher. Writers believed to have Bipolar II Disorder are Patricia Cornwall, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London,  and Sidney Sheldon.

About 2.5% of the US population suffer with Bipolar II.

The primary symptoms of bipolar disorder are dramatic and unpredictable mood swings.

Mania symptoms may include excessive happiness, excitement, irritability, restlessness, increased energy, less need for sleep, racing thoughts, high sex drive, and a tendency to make grand and unattainable plans.

Depression symptoms may include sadness, anxiety, irritability, loss of energy, uncontrollable crying, change in appetite causing weight loss or gain, increased need for sleep, difficulty making decisions, and thoughts of death or suicide.  ~ WebMD
If you experience these symptoms, please speak to your doctor.

National Mental Health Assn. Provides free information on specific disorders, referral directory to mental health providers, national directory of local mental health associations 1-800-969-6642 (M-F, 9-5 EST)

National Institute of Mental Health Information Line: Provides information and literature on mental illness by disorder-for professionals and general public. 1-800-647-2642

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Friday, April 29, 2011

The Yeti

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Today's Fantasy Friday is all about the Yeti -  Big Foot's abominable snowman cousin.

The indigenous people of the Himalayan mountains in Nepal, India and Tibet have stories of Yeti sightings documented through-out their history, though the scientific community considers the cryptid to be nothing but legend. Attempts to explain the Yeti range from misidentified wildlife to a human hermit.
In the 19th century, a first person account of an encounter with a Yeti in Northern Nepa described the creature as tall, bipedal, and covered with long, dark hair.
In 1986, mountaineer Reinhold Messner reported that he killed a Yeti. He believed the creature was an endangered Himalayan Brown Bear that
walked upright like a man.

In 1996, two hikers in the mountains of Nepal shot video of an ape-like creature trekking through the snow. 

The discovery of homo floresiensis (Flores man) in 2004 gives cyptozoologists hope that human-like creatures reported to be myths or legends may one day be proven to be real.

In 2007, footprints were found in the Everest region of Nepal resembling descriptions of Yeti. They measured 13 inches in length and 9-10 inches in width across the toes.

The Yeti is popular icon in modern culture, making appearances in books, movies, television programs and video games.

My favorite Yeti is Bumble the abominable snowman from Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer.
Who's yours?

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The X- Files

I miss The X-Files. An iconic science fiction series of the 90's, The X-Files integrated conspiracy theories, spiritualism, supernatural phenomenon, and a mytharc of extraterrestrials that was unlike anything I'd seen. The plots were bizarre and way over the top, but always interesting, imaginative, and challenging. Themes from the show quickly become pop culture slogans.  The Truth is Out There,  Trust No One,  and  I Want to Believe popped up on posters, buttons, t-shirts, and bumper stickers, becoming the voice of a generation. The X-Files, a Fox television series, ran from 1993-2002 and spun two full length feature films. 

According to Wikipedia, The X-Files directly inspired other TV series, including The Burning Zone, Lost, The Dead Zone, Dark Skies, and The Visitor.  I admit that I didn't watch those shows, so I can't say how closely the resemble the "feel" of watching The X-Files. However, I'm an avid viewer of the current television series, Fringe. Though it doesn't deal with extraterrestrials, it does showcase a parallel universe, scientific experimentation on humans, and unexplainable phenomena, giving me my sci-fi fix for the week.

What's your current favorite sci-fi television series?


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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writerly Wisdom from Walt Whitman

Write in the Gush

The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.


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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday's Treasure: Vowed in Shadows

  • Publisher: Signet 
  • Release Date: April 5, 2010
  • ISBN-10: 9780451232984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451232984 
Book Blurb:  Once a righteous missionary man, Jonah Walker now endures immortality with nothing but a body built for battle and a heart set on retribution. But his last devastating fight left him wounded beyond healing-and his only chance for redemption lies with a fallen woman whose passion burns through the shadows...
    Vowed in Shadows is an urban fantasy romance where repentant demons are the good guys. Their world is dark, decadent, and dangerous. The plot is fairly straight-forward without any unexpected twists, but it is by no means boring. A few intense action scenes were a bit difficult to follow, forcing me to re-read or skim over those parts. Otherwise, the pacing was good and the story held my interest.

     I love that the hero is a former missionary and that his heroine is an exotic stripper. Their conflict brews and builds from the opening scenes forecasting an explosive relationship. However, for me, I was a little disappointed that their HEA journey was less than stellar. Simply put, the emotional development between the pair didn’t meet my expectation. 

    I really liked Nim. Feisty, independent. Selfish at the start, but as she grows to trust and love Jonah, her selfishness turns into fierce selflessness and self-sacrifice. Although I liked Jonah, his emotional revelations and insights were less tangible and shallow; therefore, I wasn’t fully engaged with his character.

    There are a slew of secondary characters that fans of the series will recognize. New readers should review the excerpts from the Handbook of Possession at the back of the book that gives insights in to the cast of characters—the good guys and the bad. I would also recommend new reader peruse the Glossary of Terms since the author uses Aramaic and Greek words as well as other terms not used in everyday conversation. Followers of the series should have no problems with the vocabulary.

    The plot is complex and the action is fast-pace, if not over the top at times. The setting is gritty and fantastical with a graphic novel feel. 

    Jessa Slade Vowed in Shadows is book three in the Marked Souls series. I believe fans of Angela Knights’ Mageverse series and Rhyannon Byrd’s Primal Instinct series may find Vowed in Shadows enjoyable.

    GOLD COIN Rating:    3
    HEAT LEVEL:                Bonfire

    Reviewed for The Season.

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      Monday, April 25, 2011

      Umbrella anyone?

      Umbrella anyone?
      Uh, no thanks.

      Photo Source
      Instead of hurrying to get away from the rain, I will breathe in the earthy smell as the cold droplets patter against my skin and wash away the day's anxieties.

      Puddles fear me. I will splash each and every one. I don't worry about wet hair or wet clothes. Ten years from now I won't remember what I wore or how my hair looked, but I will remember dancing in the rain.

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      Sunday, April 24, 2011

      T is for Tennyson

      T is for Tennyson. Lord Alfred, that is.

      Tennyson began writing poetry in his teens and was locally published at 17. He excelled at writing short lyrics, but also penned blank verse. My favorite, of which is Idylls of the King.  He wrote a number of popular phrases~ Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all~ being on the most recognized. Tennyson is the second most quoted writer in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, following Shakespeare.

      My favorite of Tennyson's poems is ~

      The Lady of Shalott

      John William Waterhouse

      On either side the river lie
      Long fields of barley and of rye,
      That clothe the world and meet the sky;
      And thro' the field the road runs by
      To many-tower'd Camelot;
      And up and down the people go,
      Gazing where the lilies blow
      Round an island there below,
      The island of Shalott. 

      Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
      Little breezes dusk and shiver
      Through the wave that runs for ever
      By the island in the river
      Flowing down to Camelot.
      Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
      Overlook a space of flowers,
      And the silent isle imbowers
      The Lady of Shalott. 

      By the margin, willow veil'd,
      Slide the heavy barges trail'd
      By slow horses; and unhail'd
      The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
      Skimming down to Camelot:
      But who hath seen her wave her hand?
      Or at the casement seen her stand?
      Or is she known in all the land,
      The Lady of Shalott? 

      Only reapers, reaping early,
      In among the bearded barley
      Hear a song that echoes cheerly
      From the river winding clearly;
      Down to tower'd Camelot;
      And by the moon the reaper weary,
      Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
      Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy
      Lady of Shalott." 

      There she weaves by night and day
      A magic web with colours gay.
      She has heard a whisper say,
      A curse is on her if she stay
      To look down to Camelot.
      She knows not what the curse may be,
      And so she weaveth steadily,
      And little other care hath she,
      The Lady of Shalott. 

      And moving through a mirror clear
      That hangs before her all the year,
      Shadows of the world appear.
      There she sees the highway near
      Winding down to Camelot;
      There the river eddy whirls,
      And there the surly village churls,
      And the red cloaks of market girls
      Pass onward from Shalott. 

      Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
      An abbot on an ambling pad,
      Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
      Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad
      Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
      And sometimes through the mirror blue
      The knights come riding two and two.
      She hath no loyal Knight and true,
      The Lady of Shalott. 

      But in her web she still delights
      To weave the mirror's magic sights,
      For often through the silent nights
      A funeral, with plumes and lights
      And music, went to Camelot;
      Or when the Moon was overhead,
      Came two young lovers lately wed.
      "I am half sick of shadows," said
      The Lady of Shalott. 

      A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
      He rode between the barley sheaves,
      The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
      And flamed upon the brazen greaves
      Of bold Sir Lancelot.
      A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
      To a lady in his shield,
      That sparkled on the yellow field,
      Beside remote Shalott. 

      The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
      Like to some branch of stars we see
      Hung in the golden Galaxy.
      The bridle bells rang merrily
      As he rode down to Camelot:
      And from his blazon'd baldric slung
      A mighty silver bugle hung,
      And as he rode his armor rung
      Beside remote Shalott. 

      All in the blue unclouded weather
      Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
      The helmet and the helmet-feather
      Burn'd like one burning flame together,
      As he rode down to Camelot.
      As often thro' the purple night,
      Below the starry clusters bright,
      Some bearded meteor, burning bright,
      Moves over still Shalott. 

      His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
      On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
      From underneath his helmet flow'd
      His coal-black curls as on he rode,
      As he rode down to Camelot.
      From the bank and from the river
      He flashed into the crystal mirror,
      "Tirra lirra," by the river
      Sang Sir Lancelot.

      She left the web, she left the loom,
      She made three paces through the room,
      She saw the water-lily bloom,
      She saw the helmet and the plume,
      She look'd down to Camelot.
      Out flew the web and floated wide;
      The mirror crack'd from side to side;
      "The curse is come upon me," cried
      The Lady of Shalott. 

      In the stormy east-wind straining,
      The pale yellow woods were waning,
      The broad stream in his banks complaining.
      Heavily the low sky raining
      Over tower'd Camelot;
      Down she came and found a boat
      Beneath a willow left afloat,
      And around about the prow she wrote
      The Lady of Shalott. 

      And down the river's dim expanse
      Like some bold seer in a trance,
      Seeing all his own mischance --
      With a glassy countenance
      Did she look to Camelot.
      And at the closing of the day
      She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
      The broad stream bore her far away,
      The Lady of Shalott. 

      Lying, robed in snowy white
      That loosely flew to left and right --
      The leaves upon her falling light --
      Thro' the noises of the night,
      She floated down to Camelot:
      And as the boat-head wound along
      The willowy hills and fields among,
      They heard her singing her last song,
      The Lady of Shalott. 

      Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
      Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
      Till her blood was frozen slowly,
      And her eyes were darkened wholly,
      Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
      For ere she reach'd upon the tide
      The first house by the water-side,
      Singing in her song she died,
      The Lady of Shalott. 

      Under tower and balcony,
      By garden-wall and gallery,
      A gleaming shape she floated by,
      Dead-pale between the houses high,
      Silent into Camelot.
      Out upon the wharfs they came,
      Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
      And around the prow they read her name,
      The Lady of Shalott. 

      Who is this? And what is here?
      And in the lighted palace near
      Died the sound of royal cheer;
      And they crossed themselves for fear,
      All the Knights at Camelot;
      But Lancelot mused a little space
      He said, "She has a lovely face;
      God in his mercy lend her grace,
      The Lady of Shalott."

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      Friday, April 22, 2011

      Scary Movies

      I love scary movies. Maybe that's a throw back to the days when my friends and I sat in the dark, telling stories of the escaped convict with a hook hand that came upon a couple "nekking" in the woods. The scare wasn't so much when the bad guy slaughtered them, but the build up leading to him to them. It was all in the suspense.

      That's why I like the psycho-thrillers more than the slasher films.I want to be scared with the characters, I want to help them figure a way to survive. In a slasher film, I know they're all going to die. Where's the suspense in that?

      The first R-rated movie I watched in a theater with my friends (I was a tween at the time) was Christine. We'd all read the book and just had to see it.

      I've only watched The Shining once. That was enough. Just the mention of it still gives me the willies. Talk about lasting impressions.

      1408 is top on my list too. I watched this in my living room with Professor X and a blanket pulled up to my face.

      Hide and Seek kept me guessing. Who or what was Dakota Fanning's  imaginary friend. Why was it killing people? And I loved, loved the hook at the end. Ooh, chills.

      Of course, I can't forget the original Psycho, and all the old monster movies like The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man. There's just something about watching those classics curled beneath the covers on a lazy Sunday afternoon that makes me quiver.

      This week, my cousin asked me about a scary movie we'd watched as teenagers. One Dark Night. About a psychic vampire buried in a mausoleum.We had nightmares about that one. Of course, now that she's mentioned it, I must find it and watch it again. I hope it still has the fright factor.

      What are your favorite scary movies?

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      Thursday, April 21, 2011

      Rolling in the Deep

      "R" is for raisin' the rafters with Rolling in the Deep performed by Adele. My newest favorite song.

      Adele, a 22 year old English singer-songwriter, was the first recipient of the BRIT AWARDS Critics' Choice in 2008. Her album 21 spent 11 consecutive weeks at number one on the UK Album Charts, surpassing Madonna's 1990's album The Immaculate Collection. Since its release, 21 has broken the UK record for digital downloads.

      Seems that Adele isn't just rolling in the deep, she's rolling in the dough.

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      Wednesday, April 20, 2011

      Qwerty Keyboard

      Writers might not have moved beyond the ink and quills for penning stories if not for the advent of the typewriter.

      The typewriter was designed in the 1860's by Christopher Latham Sholes, a newspaper editor and printer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The name QWERTY comes from the first six letters appearing in the top letter row of the keyboard.

      Though the basics of the modern QWERTY keyboard remains the same, there are a few differences. The original design have a "0" or "1" and the letter "M" was at the end of third row, next to the "L". Also, the "X" and "C" are reversed. And some typewriters didn't include an exclamation point until the 1970's.

      Because of the positioning of the letters, many English words can be typed using only the left hand, while only a few words can be typed with only the right hand. (Wooh! Score for the south paws.)

      While the US utilizes the standard QWERTY keyboard layout, some variations are utilized in other countries, including Canada and the UK. Computer designers adopted the QWERTY layout with modifications, creating a numeric keypad and adding function keys.
      Today, QWERTY keyboards come in all shapes, colors, and sizes.
      Some mobile phones use a half QWERTY keyboard with two characters sharing one key.
      Although other inventors tried to "improve" upon the QWERTY design, the changes weren't significant enough to motivate typists to learn a new way of typing. 

      I was in 7th grade when I learned the QWERTY system on an IBM Selectric typewriter. Do you remember when you first learned to type and on what typewriter? Do you use a keyboard other than a QWERTY?

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      Tuesday, April 19, 2011

      Tuesday's Treasure: Phantom Evil

      • Pub. Date: March 2011
      • Publisher: Mira

      A newly formed team of paranormal investigators take on ghosts, murders and misdirection in a state senator’s haunted New Orleans’ mansion. Known as the killing grounds for post-Civil War era serial killer, the mansion has long been associated mysterious deaths. The locals believe ghosts are the culprits in the rash of suicide jumpers from the second floor. The house’s latest victim, Regina Holloway, is thought to have killed herself following the loss of her only child in a drunk-driving accident.
      Beloved state senator, David Holloway, refuses to believe his wife’s death was suicide. He hires a paranormal investigative team, backed by the US government, to uncover the truth. Despite the supernatural hoopla, the agents have their eyes and ears pointed toward the local Aryan group and a cultic church who are vocal opponents of the popular senator’s political views. Whatever the investigation reveals, the six member team won’t rest until they uncover the murderer.

      The sequences that propel the story forward are logical and plausible. I didn’t notice any particular flaws as the team went about investigating not only paranormal phenomenon within the house but following non-supernatural leads to find a killer. There is an extensive cast of characters with six investigators, the Senator, his four member staff, a police detective, a pregnant teenager and various spectrals residing in the mansion. Some-times too many characters can overwhelm the story, but these individuals were given enough story time so that I wasn’t jerked around here, there, and everywhere by cardboard pop-up figures.

      Jackson Crowe and Angela Hawkins, the lead investigators, develop a romantic relationship fairly quickly but it doesn’t seem out of place or rushed. The romance thread is a facet of the story but not the focus, so this is paranormal suspense with romantic elements.

      I really like Jackson Crow. He believes in the supernatural but he also understands that what most people would call supernatural are manipulations perpetrated by contriving people. He will pursue the logical course and when that’s stripped down to the bare bone, he’ll either find a human culprit or evidence of a supernatural. No matter what, he’ll get to the truth.

      Angela is a conduit to help spirits move forward and into the light. She operates more on instinct and feeling so this often put her in conflict with Jackson.  Angela trusts her “knowing” ability, but she isn’t airy or foolish. She’s a former police officer who knows how to handle a big gun, much to Jackson’s surprise.

      Jackson and Angela’s temperaments are a perfect match. Their differences create enough of a conflict to keep the relationship interesting and common ground keeps them connected.

      Although the mystery plot is well-developed and credible, I skimmed parts when large amounts of the house history or backstory were presented. For me, the data chunks slowed pacing and I prefer faster, smoother reads. However, those sections don’t necessarily detract from the story. In fact, they demonstrate that investigators do go about investigating, even paranormal ones.
      Phantom Evil is not an edge of your seat thriller. However, there’s plenty of action, a slew of suspects, and enough paranormal activity to hold interest until the end.

      Heather Graham is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author.  Phantom Evil is book one in her new paranormal suspense series Krewe of Hunters.

      Gold Coin rating:    3.75
      Heat Index:             2

      Reviewed for The Season

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      Monday, April 18, 2011

      Old Wives Tales

      Photo Credit:
      Ever heard of "old wives tales"?
      The term has been around in some fashion since the 1st century and the concept ranges from moral lessons to folk remedies.

      I remember a couple of  "old wives tales" from my childhood.

      The first that comes to mind is: Knock on Wood  to ward off bad luck.
      I still do this when I don't want to jinx myself. I can't not do it. It's ingrained into my autonomic responses.

      Another: Cats steal baby's breath.
      I wonder if this came about because baby's breath smells like milk and cats like milk. My grandmother liked cats, but she never allowed one near infants or toddlers.

      Ever had a chill run up your spine for no apparent reason? Well, that means someone in the future is walking on your grave. Ergo, I'm obsessively careful when walking in cemeteries.

      I learned this one from my dad: Find a penny, pick it up. All the day you'll have good luck. I can't pass up a coin on the ground. Once, when Professor X and I were at Busch Gardens I picked up a penny in the parking lot. A little while later, I found a nickle, then a dime, a quarter. By mid-afternoon, I'd collected a few more coins and a dollar bill. Finally, I had enough to buy an ice cream. Ahhh, what a lucky day.

      Hey, did you know it's bad luck to kill a lady bug?

      And did anyone ever tell you that eating raw pasta would give you worms? Or walking barefoot would make your feet big? Yes, someone told me those things. No, I never got worms and my shoe size is 5 1/2.

      How about step on a crack, break someone's back or break a mirror and have seven years bad luck? Don't cross paths with a black cat. 

      Pulling out a gray hair will cause ten to grow in its place. Now that one, I believe.

      Know any "old wives tales" that you'd like to share?

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      Saturday, April 16, 2011


      Today's A-Z Challenge letter ~ N


      Nachos are a tex-mex dish created by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya in 1943 for the wives of US soldiers on a shopping trip to Piedras Negras. They arrived after the restaurant where he worked had closed for the day, so Anaya used kitchen left-overs to create a quick snack. He cut tortillas into triangles, added longhorn cheese and warmed them. Before serving his "Nachos Especiales," he added jalapeno slices for spice.

      I love nachos, so I thought I'd share my recipe.


      • 1 pound of ground turkey
      • 1 can refried beans
      • 1 can enchilada sauce
      • salt, onion powder and garlic powder to taste
      • 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese
      • 1 bag of plain tortilla chips
      • 1 small can of black olives
      • sliced jalepenos


      Heat oven to 350°. Cook ground turkey in a large saucepan. Add all ingredients but the cheddar cheese, black olives, jalepenos, and chips to the pot and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. While it is simmering, pour the chips into a casserole dish. Spread hot mixture over the chips; sprinkle grated cheddar cheese, black olives, and jalepenos on top and put in the oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and browned. Serve with a side of sour cream.

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      Friday, April 15, 2011


      Playing on my iPod ~ Sweet Dreams, Marilyn Manson

      It's Fantasy Friday and today's A-Z Challenge letter is "M."

      The Mothman is a 7-foot cryptid with moth-like wings and red glowing eyes. Reported to be a portent of disaster, the Mothman was seen by various credible witnesses in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, hovering over the Silver Bridge on several occasions before the bridge collapsed into the Ohio River on December 15, 1967. Thirty-one vehicles fell with the bridge killing forty-six people.

      John Keel, UFOlogist, credited the phenomenon to parapsychological manifestations, including precognition by witnesses. Other theories suggest that people were observing Sandhill Cranes that were a problem in the area.

      Though the sitings of the Mothman in Point Pleasant was the first recorded in modern times, others have followed. People reported seeing this creature before the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City, the 1986 meltdown in Cherynobl, and in New York City on September 11, 2001.

      In the movie, The Mothman Prophecies, someone tells Richard Gere's character: "You noticed them. And they noticed you noticing."

      Spooky. I'm gonna remember that when I'm in the backyard at night and I hear a rustling in the brush.
      Photo credit:

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      Thursday, April 14, 2011

      Lilli who? Lilliputian

      Illustration from a French version of GT
       Playing on my iPod ~  Rolling in the Deep --  Adele
      Open on My Nook ~  Against the Wind -- Kat Martin

       Today's A-Z Challenge letter: L

      Lilliputian ~  trival or very small thing or person. Word Origin: 1726. An inhabitant of Lilliput, a fictional island in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

      Lilliputian. Ha! A made-up word. How uber cool is that?

      I like to make-up words. Sometimes a made-up word is what is needed to precisely describe something squirreling in my head. My friends understand this and when one of those made-up words flies out of my mouth they roll with it.

      One of my English professors wasn't too happy with this little quirk when it reared in my writing. He was only too happy to have a discussion with me on the matter that if a word wasn't in the dictionary it had no place in one's writing. I responded that if new words weren't constantly being invented then language would stagnate and die. Think of the ancient languages that are now dead. What doesn't float down the river of evolution goes the way of the dinosaurs. I'm not a Flintstones kind of girl. I'm Jetsons all the way.

      In dissecting my writing assignment that day, the professor admitted that the made-up words I used were understandable and presented in a manner that allowed the reader a clear picture of what was in my mind's eye. After pushing forward the heavy-weights in my corner, such as Swift, into the dialogue, the professor and I agreed on a distinction. Made-up words were permissible in creative writing class but not expository writing. I counted it as a victory and encouragement.

      If everyone stuck to the rule of no made-up words, we wouldn't have added laptop, netbook, wi-fi, blog, computer, internet, web,  and iPod to our vocabulary. Yikes!

      Kudos to those who break the rules and give us imaginative words that become a part of our modern language. 

      Have you read something that contained a made-up word that stuck with you? Do you make up words when you're writing? What are they?

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      Wednesday, April 13, 2011


      I love toying with kaleidoscopes. The endless combinations never fails to enchant me.

      When I began researching kaleidoscopes I discovered that it hasn't been around since DaVinci like I thought. In the early 1800's Scottish inventor Sir David Brewster put together a tube, two mirrors, two translucent discs and two beads for an experiment in light polarization.  Voila! What started as a scientific experiment soon became a popular toy for children of all ages.

      The word "kaleidoscope" comes from the Ancient Greek language: kalos ~ beautiful, eidos ~ shapes, and skopeo ~ examine, or to look. In essence, the name means to look at beautiful shapes.

      Kaleidoscopes come in all sizes. The largest is 60 feet tall and found at Emerson Place (formerly Catskills Corner). Designed by psychedelic artist Isaac Abrams and his son, Raphael, the kaleidoscope is a converted grain silo. How's that for recycling old buildings? Bravo!

      Some kaleidoscopes are little enough to be key rings. According to the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society the smallest kaleidoscopes were created by stained glass artist Stan Goeller and are inside a  miniaturized replica of BKS founder Cozy Baker's home-museum.

      No matter the size, the images created by a kaleidoscope never fail to inspire. 

      Photo Credit: wikimedia commons

      Photo credit: wikimedia commons
      Photo Credit: Marshal Rubin

      Photo Credit: the Launch Pad

      "The Kaleidoscope fascinates us all, and we watch - and wait - sometimes holding our breath, as the patterns of color continue to change with the passage of time." ~  Rebecca Blackwell Drake

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      Monday, April 11, 2011

      Jackalope, The Legend

      I admit that I'm more familiar with myths and legends of other cultures than my own. Though periodically, I come across a snippet of North American folklore that makes me go, hmmmmm, really?

      Photo credit:
      So it was when I first heard the legend of Jackalope~ a horned rabbit known for its aggressive and prankish behavior. Some legends say that jackalopes are a crossbreed between male jackrabbits and a female antelope. Others claim it's the offspring of a pygmy deer and a killer rabbit.

      No matter the origins, the critter is believed to  possess the uncanny ability to mimic human voices. They become more vocal during thunderstorms and only mate during lightning flashes.

      The milk of a lactating jackalope is highly sought after for its medicinal aphrodisiac properties. Jackalopes are fast and tricky. Using ventriloquisms the creature throws hunters off its trail by vocalizing human phrases such as "He's over there" or "He went that way."

      The best way of trapping a jackalope is with whiskey. Leave a bottle in an area where a jackalope is suspected to inhabit. The animal will drink the whiskey until it's drunk, making it easier to capture.

      The first American jackalope was spotted in Douglas, Wyoming in 1829. Other sitings have been reported throughout the American Midwest and Southwest . It is believed that the jackalope may be a cousin to Germany's wolperdinger and Sweden's skvader.

      Of course, modern scientists have weighed in on the subject of jackalopes. Their take is that the critter is a jackrabbit infected with the Shope papilloma virus which causes tumors that look like antlers to grow on or near the animal's head. Scientific treatises have documented such observations dating back to 1789.

      The more I snoop, the more I wonder. What is the jackalope really?  Fact or fantasy? Check out these websites and decide for yourself.

      Shope papilloma virus
      Legend of Jackalope
      The Jackalope Conspiracy

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      Sunday, April 10, 2011

      "I" is for Imagination

      Today's A-Z Challenge letter is "I".

       Figment the imagination dragon.
      Photo credit:

      What is this ethereal entity we call imagination? ~the product of imagining;  a conception or mental creation, often a baseless or fanciful one.

      Merriam-Webster Dictionary ~ the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality. ~ the ability to form a mental image of something that is not perceived through the senses.

      Wikipedia ~ the work of the mind that helps create, provides meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge; is a fundamental facility through which people make sense of the world. The basic training for imagination is listening to storytelling, in which the exactness of the chosen words is the fundamental factor to "evoke worlds."  Woohoo! I like this def the best!

      I believe, as my tagline will attest, that Imagination is the elixir of life, not the elusive Philosopher's Stone that has enraptured alchemists since the 10th century--including Sir Isaac Newton. Without imagination, there is no progress, no growth. Only stagnation and decline. Imagination pushes us forward, keeps us in motion. Ever learning. Ever reaching to understand more.

      Imaginative play is a critical part of child development. It is an activity we should carry over into adulthood to continually revitalize ourselves. Unfortunately, many of us don't bring it with us because we're clinging to bad memories and disappointments.

      Jerome L Singer, PhD, Professor Emeritus Yale University, has studied the phenomenon of imaginative play in adults and surmises that daydreaming and fantasy could improve everyday problem-solving abilities. He further postulates that imbibing in "creative novels and dramas built around characters’ private thoughts" could have a similar effect.

      My interpretation of Dr. Singer's research...indulging in imagination is good.

      Albert Einstein rode the imagination train. He said, "logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."  He also believed imagination was more important that knowledge. "For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

      Motivational speaker, Stephen Covey, encourages us to "live out of {our} imagination, not {our} history." And, Henry Miller asserted that "imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything godlike about God it is that. He dared to imagine everything."

      When you engage your imagination, you become the creator of a universe that is uniquely and unequivocally your own. The only limitations to that providence are the ones you devise.

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      Saturday, April 9, 2011

      HUBBLE turns 21

      Today's A-Z Challenge ~ "H" is for Hubble.
      Credit: NASA

      We've come a long way from when Galileo pointed his telescope at the stars in 1610. On April 24, 1990, the Hubble became the first major optical telescope positioned in space.  Twenty-one years later Hubble is still going strong.

      Named after America astronomer Edwin Hubble, the Hubble's current mission is gathering data on the nature of dark energy. According to the NASA website,
      "Every decrease in uncertainty of the universe’s expansion rate helps solidify our understanding of its cosmic ingredients. Knowing the precise value of the universe's expansion rate further restricts the range of dark energy's strength and helps astronomers tighten up their estimates of other cosmic properties, including the universe's shape and its roster of neutrinos, or ghostly particles, that filled the early universe."
      Image  Credit: NASA
      "We are using the new camera on Hubble like a policeman’s radar gun to catch the universe
      speeding," Riess said. "It looks more like it's dark energy that’s pressing on the gas pedal."

       Here are some of the spectacular sights that Hubble has shown us from it's unobstructed view of the universe.

       Gas pillars in the Eagle Nebula
      Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University)

      SuperNova 1987: Halo of Vanished Star
      Credit: Dr. Christopher Burrows, ESA/STScI and NASA
      Visible Baryonic Matter
      Credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Massey (California Institute of Technology)
      Spiral Galaxy M100
      Credit: NASA

      Visit HUBBLESITE for more spectacular photos, interesting facts about the design of the Hubble telescope and the contributions it has made to our understanding of our world and beyond. Also, please consider contacting your Congressmen and Senators to express support in our nation's Space Program.

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      Friday, April 8, 2011

      Gargoyles and Grotesques

      Oops sorry this was late posting. The Auto-scheduler had a glitch.

      Today's  A-Z Challenge is "G".

      Going for a paranormal theme for Fantasy Friday, the first idea to pop into my mind is"ghost." Popular ghost hunting shows, such as GHOST HUNTERS, and GHOST ADVENTURES are fast becoming "the" reality shows to watch. CNet, ever-mindful of technological trends, has a short video on the website that lists the Top 5 Ghost Hunting Gadgets. Really? Yeah, really. Who woulda thunk?

      Hmmm, maybe this ghost thing is a little over-played.

      The next idea to ding-ding in my head is gargoyles. I imagine the scary, squatty, statues adorning medieval churches and castles and some modern buildings. Ooh, aah!

      A 1st century BC Hellenistic gargoyle 

      Instead of ghost hunting, I turn my attention to learning a tidbit about gargoyles. Much to my surprise I learn that what I think of as gargoyles aren't exactly gargoyles at all. Gargoyles are ancient gutter systems decorated with carved stone figures used as water spouts to keep water from seeping down into the mortar of stone walls. Without the gutters, the squatty, scary stone statues are called grotesques.

      The term gargoyle is usually associated with  medieval gutters and architecture, but throughout all ages the word implied some means of water diversions.

      Whether gargoyle or grotesque, these creatures were thought to ward off evil with their terrifying appearance.

      A gargoyle on the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur. See the open gutter?
      (c) Michael Reeve

      Modern grotesque of Darth Vadar at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington.
      (c) wikimedia commons
      Wow, ancient architecture goes sci-fi. Now that's worthy of a Fantasy Friday footnote.

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      Thursday, April 7, 2011

      "F" is for The Finger, Part Deux

      In January, I posted about "The Finger" ~ my diagnosis of epicondylitis (tendonitis of the elbow), or what I coined as "writer's elbow." Ironically, the inflamed tendon causing me trouble runs to my middle finger. Go figure.

      Well, the wrist splint was a bust and I had to proceed with two cortisone shots. The medication in the syringe had the consistency and coloring of Elmer's glue. The shots hurt, but not as much as I had imagined, at first. By the next day, my arm was swollen and aching worse than ever. For a week, I bemoaned its misery.

      As the swelling faded, so did the sharp, severe pain that shot through my elbow whenever I attempted to pick up something. Ooh lala! I'm cured.

      If only I had been.

      Although the elbow pain has subsided, I've now developed generalized muscle tenderness in both arms and across my shoulders. Beneath my skin, my muscles feel bruised and sore even with the slightest touch. So not happy with this latest symptom.

      Went to physical therapy on Tuesday. I was told that I have hyper-flexible joints, but that it doesn't affect my muscles and wouldn't cause muscle tightness. They recommended electrical stimulation to start with and follow up strength training exercises.

      The electric stim sounded promising. Fifteen minutes of relaxation, bundled in warm blankets with electrodes connected to my skin at various nerves and trigger points. After I got hooked up, the physiologist cranked up the juice. The currents flowing through my right upper extremity weren't painful but they weren't pleasant either.

      My hand flexed and contracted in a weird spasm. Lo and behold, my middle finger stood at attention as if to salute the flag in full regalia. I was assured that this meant the electrical stim was working. Maybe so, but all I could think of was rewriting the sexual tension and love scenes in my WIP. I certainly didn't want to imagine that kind of electrical current running through other parts of my body, as I've so often seen referenced in romance novels.

      The electricity I experienced running through my system didn't have me thinking moony thoughts about Professor X.  It had me telling the PT to "get these things off me."  Of course, he didn't. He merely dialed down the voltage and left me strapped to the juice box.

      Thunder boomed. Lightning streaked. Dear God! A severe storm in one of the worst lightning strike areas in the country and there I am with a direct line to a power source. Sore muscles could be the least of my concerns.

      My imagination fills with gnarly images of death by electrocution. I decide that should I fall victim to such a fate, I would haunt the rehab center. Looking around at all the treadmills and stationary bikes and other equipment, I think that a ghost could have a lot of fun making mischief here. I'd be much more prankish than Sally on BEING HUMAN. And so I  began plotting, er rather, planning.

      The PT must've seen a strange glaze in my eyes because he assured me that everything was fine and there was no danger from the storm.  I decide that I'd haunt him and his little dog too, if he were wrong.

      Fifteen minutes later when the the machine was turned off and my electrodes were removed, I was alive and breathing. I stashed my ghost to-haunt-list and made my next appointment for a day with no rain in the forecast.

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      Wednesday, April 6, 2011

      "E" is for Evanescence

      After a three year hiatus, Evanescence will be headed into the studio this month to begin recording their third album. I, for one, am excited that the fall will bring me new tunes from this Little Rock, Arkansas band that catapulted to success in 2005. I love listening to their songs. They put me in the right frame of mind for dark paranormals.

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      Tuesday, April 5, 2011

      Tuesday's Treasure: Demon and the Succubus

      Today's A-Z Challenge is the letter "D," which coincides with today's Tuesday's Treasure: the DEMON AND THE SUCCUBUS by Cassie Ryan.

      Book Blurb:
      In 1340, four succubi helped Lilith--the Queen of the Succubi and Incubi--trap a powerful demon responsible for the Black Plague. Then, to protect themselves, the sisters separated and went into hiding. Now the demon is back--and he's had centuries to plan hi elaborate revenge.
      Amalya has spent the centuries using her succubus skills to become one of the most sought-after escorts at a high class brothel. Seducing and corrupting men to make her quota with her queen, Lilith, has left Amalya jaded about sex-until a devastatingly handsome new client triggers her most forbidden desires and delivers an enticing surprise. 

      Levi Spencer, Duke of Ashford, has been offered a deal he can't refuse in exchange for safely slipping Amalya back into Lilith's lair. But a demon with a vendetta is plotting something far more sinister than Amalya's death. And if Levi and Amalya can't stop him, it will mean the end of the world.

      Publication Date:  April 5, 2011
      Berkley Sensation Trade Paperback
      ISBN:  978-0-425-23906-3

      Armageddon is coming. The only hope Heaven and Earth and Hell have to avert disaster is four succubi sisters. Their protectors must bring them to Lilith’s lair before the fallen unleash the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

                  One has reached safety. The second is now fighting to get there.

      Before sitting down to read this, grab a cool pitcher of lemonade and get ready for a spicy-hot, action-packed adventure.  From the soapy, sexy opening this book grabs you and doesn’t let go until the final scene slings you into The End. 

      The plot is extensive, and while it gives sustenance to the underlying series arc, the book stays true Amalya and Levi journey to falling in love. There’s also a love triangle. Generally, I don’t like these because unless it’s a ménage story-and this isn’t-someone gets left out and I feel bad for that character. However, I’m happy to say that the author handles this facet exceptionally well, and I’m satisfied with that character’s turn of events. 

      The heavy weights from the Heavenly Hosts are intricately woven into the story. I’m delighted that although they aren’t allowed to directly interfere, they don’t sit back and blithely twiddle their thumbs either.  

      Though Amalya and Levi aren’t human, they have emotions that run as strong and as deep as human emotions. They can and do understand commitment to purpose, sacrifice and eventually love.
      There are a lot of characters. Each, intricately woven together. Although at times, the pattern seems a bit discombobulated, when put together as a whole, they complete the story. If one were removed, the beautiful tapestry of fantasy would unravel to weaken the plot. 

      Each scene held my attention and I was immensely satisfied with the conclusion. Since there are four sisters, only two have made it to safety, I’m eagerly looking forward to the next two installments to see how or if Armageddon will be avoided. 

      The Demon and the Succubus is book two in the Sisters of Darkness series. This is the second erotic, paranormal romance series for author Cassie Ryan. 

      Gold Coin Rating:     4.25
      Heat Level:             Bonfire         

      **This review has also been posted at The Season and Goodreads.

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      Monday, April 4, 2011

      Canines, Countertops, and Cooties

      Today's A-Z Challenge letter is "C."

      I suppose cat owners must  be familiar with cats padding on the countertops. But, being a dog owner, I didn't concern myself with canines on the countertops. Until Monster Puppy came along.

      Monster Puppy is curious. Monster Puppy likes to eat. Monster Puppy likes to check out what's on the counters, and then eat it.

      This morning I lost the top of my breakfast sandwich. I swear. I only turned around for a moment. In a flash--it was gone. So was Monster Puppy.

      (c) Kristal Lee Romances

      Cutting my losses, I chunked the cootified sandwich down the garbage disposal and obsessively swiped down the counters with Lysol.

      Later, Professor X told me that when he wheeled into the kitchen, he found MP standing at the sink with his head bowed over the garbage disposal. I guess he was looking for the rest of his sandwich.

      I love my fur-babies, but I could live without their cooties. Until then, I have a ready supply of Lysol.

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      Saturday, April 2, 2011

      Saturday's Shout-Out: "B" is for Bigelow

      Last night I contemplated a "B" topic that would coincide with Saturday's Shout-out. By the time I plopped into bed, after midnight, I had come up with Nada.  I had the inkling that my creativity would stall on the second day of the A-Z Challenge. How annoying.

      Although not the first thing on my mind when I wake, the letter "B" soon skitters across my mind doing the nana-nana-nana (fingers-in-the-ear, tongue-sticking-out) wave. Considering the taunt, I trudge into the kitchen and set about my Saturday morning routine...

      I grab the electric teapot and fill it with water while the fur-babies eager for their morning treat hover at my feet. (Well, Brave Little Basset hovers. With his short legs, he can't reach higher than my calves. Monster Puppy, however, stands at the perfect height to reach the back of my thighs, just below my butt cheeks. He doesn't hover; he sneaks. Waiting for the opportune time when I'm distracted, he gooses me by pressing his cold, wet nose against my skin. So not a good thing, especially when I'm carrying a pot of water.)

      After I manage to plug in the teapot, I dole out the dog biscuits and shoo the fur-babies outside, wondering if I should post about Brave Little Basset...two "B's" there. But, Saturdays are about Shout-Outs not musings.

      Then, I consider writing something on butt cheeks. Somewhere, I heard about people paying to get butt implants. Looking over my shoulder at my derriere, I shudder to think what would possess someone to consider such a thing. I'd like mine smaller, please. Not bigger. No Shout-Out, there.

      Sighing, I reach into the pantry and pull out the tea bags.

      I love tea. Hot tea. Iced tea. Any way you brew it, tea. Some writers need coffee; I need tea.

      Tea is fairly inexpensive when compared to other beverages. It's easy to prepare and is believed to have many health benefits. My grandmother always had a glass of tea in her hand and a pitcher in the fridge. She was 96 when she passed from this life to the next and she didn't suffer from any major age-related sickness or disease. No diabetes. No heart disease. No arthritis. No dementia. I think tea was the key to her longevity.

      I stare at the Bigelow tea bag in my hand.
      Inspiration strikes.
      The Hallelujah choir sings.
      Funny how the angelic host sounds a lot like Evanescence belting out Bring Me to Life.

      Then and there I realize today's Shout-Out belongs to  R.C. Bigelow, Inc., a.k.a. the Bigelow Tea Company. Founded in 1945 by Ruth Campbell Bigelow, the company remains 100% family owned. They sell more than 50 varieties of tea world-wide. The Bigelow Tea Company also owns the US's only tea plantation in Charleston, SC.

       A successful, American-owned, family driven business started by a woman, continues under the administration of a woman, and manufactures my favorite beverage-- that definitely deserves a Shout-Out. But, there's more.

      Bigelow Tea Company has a Green Mission. They don't use pesticides. That means no herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides. Their irrigation system uses only rain water and pond water so they aren't tapping into the local water reserves. They recycle the stems and fibers extracted from the tea plants during processing and use them in the fields for mulch.

      They incorporate ECO-friendly practices not only in the fields, but also in their business offices. Electric hand-dryers are used in the restrooms and double-side printing is encouraged to reduce paper waste.

      Pay them a cyber-visit at and drop a comment below to let me know what's your favorite beverage and why. Hey, if you've been to the tea plantation in Charleston (or any tea plantation), I'd love to hear about your visit, too.

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      Friday, April 1, 2011

      "A" is for Alicorn

      Aaaack!  April and the A-Z Challenge has arrived.
      The idea is to blog on a topic beginning with a letter of the alphabet every day, except Sundays, and complete the alphabet by April 30th.

      Originally, I thought I'd start the challenge with "A" is for Alliteration, one of my favorite rhetorical  devices. However, it's Friday and I can't imagine anyone wanting to kick off the weekend with a grammar lesson.

      TGIF! and Friday's are reserved for Fantasy. So, in keeping with my muse's theme of the moment, I'm going with "A" is for Alicorn.  An alicorn is a unicorn's magical horn; although, in modern fantasy the term is linked to a hybrid of the unicorn and a pegasus.

      Medieval physicians crafted cures from the powder ground from an alicorn and sold the remedies at top dollar. Drinking from a cup made of alicorn or waving an alicorn wand was thought to cure food borne sickness and counteract poisons. Alicorn powder was also used an aphrodisiac. 

      Mary, Queen of Scots, owned an alicorn. Francis I Frederick III of Denmark had a throne made almost entirely of alicorn. And, the most famous alicorn, The Horn Of Windsor, belonged to Queen Elizabeth I.

      Photo: Glenn Williams
      Of the known alicorns still in existence, all have been found to be narwhal tusks. Narwhals are Arctic whales that have a long tusk extending from their upper left jaw.

      Ridley Scott's 1985 fantasy film "Legend" featured the magick of the unicorn horn and a quest to save the world from eternal darkness.

      If you've seen the film, I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you haven't seen it, let me know if you might consider watching it and why.

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