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1. SEA OF SHADOWS by Kelley Armstrong {Review}

Reviewed by Andye SEA OF SHADOWS Age of Legends #1 by Kelley Armstrong File Size: 773 KB Print Length: 417 pages Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0751547816 Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (April 8, 2014) Mark on Goodreads Buy on Amazon Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author, takes an exciting new direction with this big, breathtaking blend of fantasy, romance, horror, and

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2. 20 Years Gone, 10 Years Found

Tomorrow marks twenty years since Kurt Cobain's death, but this is less about him and more about me because with that anniversary comes another one that is harder for me to explain, a personal turning point that is just as significant—no, maybe more significant.

I've tried on many occasions to put what Kurt Cobain and Nirvana's music meant to me into words. I think my story is similar to a lot of Nirvana's fans no matter when they discovered the music—in the thick of when it was all happening, like me, or a decade or so after Kurt's death. I was lost, broken, and angry. I'd been bullied, and even though I had a few good friends, I was so depressed that I still felt like an outsider, an alien. Above all, I felt voiceless. And then along came this man, this band, who understood all of that, who knew what it was like to be trapped in school with no recess, to "miss the comfort of being sad," who channeled it into noisy, distorted guitars and gave those difficult feelings a voice. That, in turn, gave me the courage to use my voice because if Nirvana could do it and change the entire world, surely I could do it to empower myself.

Then April 8, 1994 happened. The day we learned that Kurt's depression and addiction had won out over his voice, silenced it with a shotgun blast. I heard about his suicide from the girl who'd been my best friend since third grade and she delivered the news is a nah-nah-nuh-nah-nah sort of sing-song. She didn't like Nirvana, saw them as one of the new differences that had been cropping up between us. And I would learn later, she was pissed at Kurt, thought him a selfish coward for taking himself away from his family on purpose when just a year earlier, cancer had taken away her grandmother, her family without giving anyone a choice. I was pissed, too. I called him selfish in my journal, asked him how he could do it to his wife and his baby. I didn't write, but I remember thinking, "And how could you do it to me?"

Me in my bedroom at 14, November 1993
This is probably where my story differs from other Nirvana fans. My story is so tied to the fact that I was fourteen when Kurt killed himself and I was a pretty fragile/angry/depressed fourteen. His suicide flicked a switch inside of me, it dialed my self-destructive, "oh, fuck it" feelings up to eleven. It made me want. Desperately want. I wanted a tribe. I wanted mosh pit bruises. I wanted to taste and try everything. I wanted to live. Not all of this was bad. It was time for me to come out of my shell and when I did many of the friends I found were amazing and so was the music and the shows and those mosh pit bruises. But since self-destruction lurked underneath it all, there was a lot of ugliness, too. A lot of mistakes. A lot of pain. A whole fuck-ton of anger. I emerged with scars and foggy memories as well as crystal clear ones I wished I could erase—especially that day almost exactly a year after Kurt's death when a boy who idolized him taught me that saying yes once means saying yes forever. (God, why do so many boys who idolize Kurt get it so fucking wrong? "He's the one who likes all our pretty songs... But he knows not what it means...")

In my early twenties, I started to come out of that.... Well, I started trying at least. I was still drinking too much sometimes, still in a fucked-up codependent relationship, still feeling married to my past. I'd taken a bit of a break from Nirvana in my late teens; sadly, they reminded me too much of that asshole boy. But when I was ready to crawl out of that bloody, angry, booze-drenched hole I'd dug myself into After Him, I turned to those songs again. Kurt's howl reminded me that I could howl and I needed that more than anything. I became obsessed. I spent hours on message boards, talking to other fans, trading bootlegs and memorabilia, trolling eBay for the limited edition vinyl and mint copies of the magazines I'd cut up and collaged my bedroom with as a teenager:

A piece of the Nirvana collage between my windows that I started in eighth grade

In retrospect, I think I was trying to go back and fix it. I still didn't have the strength to get out of my alcoholic codependent relationship, so instead I avoided it by locking myself in my office and trying to time-travel back to 1994. Maybe with enough bootlegs, enough vinyl, enough magazines I could do it. Maybe in alternate 1994, Kurt wouldn't die, or even if he did, I would do a better job of living through it, of surviving high school, of being punk and artsy and weird without being destructive. I would just have a bunch of really cool friends, which is what I did find on the message boards. More specifically, I found them on the Hole message board because that's where the girls were and I didn't really want to talk to boys about Nirvana. I'd spent real 1994 listening to boys talk about Nirvana. It was old. It was boring. And half the time, thanks to my 1995 boyfriend, I didn't trust male Nirvana fans. I wanted to talk about them with girls. Girls like me who heard something in the music, heard the respect they'd never gotten from male artists before and turned it into self-respect, heard a voice that made them feel understood, that made them feel invited to create and did create something—something far more interesting than all the boys who picked up guitars to emulate Nirvana. ("I like the comfort in knowing that women are the only future in rock and roll."- Kurt Cobain)

Even though so much of my obsession seems silly now, like some weird version of therapy that I feel uncomfortable talking about most of the time (the fact that I'm blogging about it now might seem to indicate otherwise but I'm basically pretending this is my journal), I don't care because those months—no, those years, really—locked in my office trying to time travel back to 1994 brought me my girls, Jenny and Eryn, two of my very best friends in the entire world:

Jenny, Eryn, and me at Viretta Park, Seattle, April 5, 2004

After exchanging emails, letters, and packages, Eryn and I started talking on the phone. She's a couple of years younger than me, but her heart broke like mine had when she heard about Kurt's suicide, and like me, she'd watched the news coverage of the vigil in Seattle and wished she was old enough to go. She'd promised herself that she would one day. I had too at some point, but I'd forgotten about it and while talking to her, I wondered if maybe that forgotten promise had fucked things up for me. Maybe if I made the pilgrimage, I could let go of my teenage baggage. So Eryn and I started planning our trip and recruiting people to accompany us to Seattle in April of 2004 to pay homage to Kurt on the tenth anniversary of his death.  This was the beginning of a real transition for me—from trying to time travel to trying to find closure.

I was home sick a couple of weeks before we were to meet in Seattle, me coming from Chicago, Jenny and another friend of hers from St. Louis, Eryn from Denver with another friend of ours from the message board who'd come all the way from Australia. While zoning out on the couch to the bootleg Nirvana videos that were my greatest comfort then I realized how significant the trip was. Ten years. A part of me had needed to do this for ten fucking years. So if I was going to do it, I should DO IT all the way. I pulled all of the Nirvana biographies I owned off the shelf. Heavier than Heaven by Charles Cross was the most detailed, giving exact addresses or solid descriptions of locations. I tore up tiny pieces of paper and marked each important mention: childhood homes, recording studios, concert venues, shady motels where Kurt escaped to shoot heroin, the morgue where he was cremated. I wanted to see it all. I NEEDED to see it all. I took the book upstairs, shut myself in the office and painstakingly Mapquested everything. Yeah, Mapquest. These were the days before Google maps with street view and integrated public transportation schedules, before GPS and smart phones. Or at least before I could afford them. I was still in college and had saved for a year to go on our week-long trip. We were renting a car for a day, but reliant on public transit for the rest, so I went back and forth between Mapquest and the King County Metro transit website trying to locate everything and fit it all in to our schedule. Eventually I came up with a full itinerary. Eryn was as excited as I was. The others might have been a bit freaked out by the depth of my obsession, but they didn't show it. Jenny, who'd volunteered to drive the rental car, exhausted herself so we could do it all: the bridge and the childhood homes in Aberdeen, Hoquiam, and Montesano, the site of Nirvana's first show at a house party in Raymond, the Pear Street apartment in Olympia, and even McLane Creek where Charles Cross described Courtney, Wendy Cobain, and Frances spreading some of Kurt's ashes.

Me under the Young Street Bridge, Aberdeen, Washington

Jenny, me, and Eryn at McLane Creek, Olympia, Washington

Last week, Eryn sent me a link to a New York Times article by a dude who had gone to all of these places and wrote an ultimate guide. Not gonna lie, I was a little bitter. We did that ten years ago back when Aberdeen was not into celebrating Kurt Cobain at all—when there was no park by the bridge and people at gas stations misdirected you because they didn't like Kurt or his fans. I pitched the story of our journey to every major publication I could think of, but had no takers. Maybe ten years wasn't long enough. Maybe the interest in Nirvana is extra high now because of their impending induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Maybe I didn't have enough writer cred yet. (Okay, I definitely didn't; I was still four years away from publishing my first book and seven from writing for Rookie.) Maybe writing about Nirvana has long been dude territory and no one wanted to hear a woman's point of view on Kurt Cobain and how he transformed her life twice—once as a junior high misfit and again when she went to Seattle at 24 to retrace his footsteps and light up his name.

Our tribute to Kurt at Viretta Park on our last night in Seattle, April 10, 2004

But that's okay because I wrote it anyway and for an essay site created by a woman named Hillary Carlip, who'd inspired me as much as Kurt did when I was teen. Hillary helped me shape it into the thing I wanted it to be: less of a Nirvana travel guide, more of the story of a personal journey. Go ahead and read it if you want because I don't really want to rehash it. It was a huge moment for me, the moment I finally started to let go of my past, but it happened ten years ago. That's why after a little bit of bitterness and venting that someone else got to write the piece I'd researched, lived, and wanted to write ten years ago, I quickly realized that I didn't care. Now any Nirvana fans, old and young, who still need to go on that journey have a guide and that’s a good thing. Hopefully it will lead them where it led me: to blaze their own path.

This brings us to that other anniversary, the one I am far more focused on than the twentieth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. Ten years ago around this time I found the place where I belonged and something clicked inside of me—maybe that self-destructive switch turning off?—and I started to set myself free. It was definitely a process. Even though I had the giant “It was” revelation on April 10, 2004 that I documented in my “Ten Years Gone” essay, disentangling from ten years of damage wasn’t that simple. I didn’t go straight home, break up with my alcoholic boyfriend and move to the city I’d fallen in love with on my ten-day trip. In fact, I stupidly bought a house in the city I knew I didn’t want to live in anymore with the guy I knew I shouldn’t be with. But I was changing on the inside. I was thinking non-stop about Seattle—not about Kurt, but about my experience there. That was and still is the hardest part to explain, the way I fell in love with Seattle and drew strength from it sort of in the same way I did from Nirvana’s music. Sort of but different. I did my best to explain it here and also here and now I explain mostly in pictures on my Tumblr. I have to admit that I feel self-conscious sometimes about its connection to Nirvana. It’s not just because the depths of my obsession in my early twenties was strange and personal, but because that makes it less mine somehow.... Or worse, it keeps me tied to my past, and my love for Seattle, my moving here, is not about my past—quite the opposite. When I fell in love with Seattle, I started fighting to live in the present and to give myself a future.

My trip to Seattle in 2004 was the farthest I’d gone from home on my own, without the boyfriend, without any link to teenage me (well, besides the Nirvana fandom). The girls I was meeting up with were new friends, internet friends. They became best friends, people who knew and understood me as well (and better in some ways) as those who’ve known me most of my life, but that bond was forged during our trip. In some ways that week was more intense than spending four years of high school or four years of college together. And though Nirvana brought us there, our friendship was so much than that. The shit that we’ve gotten each other through and that we’ve celebrated together over the past ten years proves it.

Me, Eryn, and Jenny on my wedding day, October 3, 2009

My relationship with Seattle is quite similar. Nirvana may have brought me there, but the old venues where they played or recorded, the house where Kurt died and the park next to it is not what made me fall in love with it. Much as I loved grunge and 90s music, I’d never thought of the city as some sort of Promised Land—that’s probably why I’d forgotten my fourteen year-old promise to go there someday until I talked to Eryn. It was just a faraway place, a rainy and gray place from what I’d heard. Just a place. Except from the moment I arrived at the waterfront, I knew it wasn’t a place. It was the place. My place.  

My first glimpse of the Seattle waterfront, April 3, 2004
But like I said, it was a process to get there—a process that involved a lot of visits. I took my boyfriend there in December of 2004, partially because I already missed Seattle so much after six months and partially as a test. If he saw the city the way I did, maybe our relationship would be worth salvaging. He didn’t. The two of us finally broke up after I took another trip to Seattle with Eryn in April 2005. It quickly became a tradition for the two of us, sometimes Jenny joined us, too, and once we went with a couple of other message board friends and one of my best friends from college. That was the fifteen year anniversary of Kurt’s death, so we did Nirvana-themed things then, but for the most part my trips with Eryn or Eryn and Jenny had changed—we went in June or August instead of April, we always visited Viretta Park, but we spent most of our time exploring the rest of the city, especially the parks and beaches, the places I had nothing similar to back in Chicago.

I stopped hanging out on message boards and collecting. I’d found my girls, and once I’d started ridding myself of the damage and baggage from my past, I didn’t need it anymore. Actually, I didn’t have room for it anymore. I was too focused on my own art and building my first healthy romance with a guy I would eventually marry. I did still buy the music—the reissues of Bleach, Nevermind, and In Utero as they came out, and I had to have them on vinyl. The music will always be my everything and to paraphrase Britney, one of our diarists at Rookie, when your favorite band is no longer, has been no longer for more than a decade, and will never create anything new because the frontman is dead, you take what you can get. You listen closely to remastered songs to hear something new, you relish lives tracks and the scraps of partially written songs. (I’m sure that Britney actually said this much better. She writes insanely insightful diaries for Rookie. You should read them.) But aside from the music and a recent impulse buy of a special edition commemorative Nirvana Rolling Stone, I’ve stopped collecting.

I didn’t even see Hit So Hard, the documentary about Hole’s drummer Patty Schemel until it had been out on DVD for a while, and when I did, I reacted to the old video footage of my teenage idols in a surprising new way. Instead of wishing I could time travel back to the early 90s and live forever in the period before everything went wrong, instead of being pissed at Kurt for leaving behind the baby girl he clearly loved and the people who clearly loved him, I felt that empathy he'd written about over and over again in his note. I remembered being 24, still grappling to understand teenage me, something he must have been grappling with too and during his meteoric rise to fame. I remembered being 26, right after that long, codependent relationship finally ended and struggling to find the ground beneath my feet. Even after I found it, I still battled depression. Hell, at 32, just a couple months before I watched Hit So Hard, depression and severe artistic blocks combined in such a way that I was regularly writing journal entries wishing for my own death. If this has happened to 26 or 27 year-old me, I might have picked up a shotgun (or my version of it, which would have been a razor blade and a cocktail of pills) but instead I picked up a phone and made an appointment with a sliding-scale, feminist therapist who helped me remake my life. I survived. It was surreal for 33 year-old survivor me to watch 26 or 27 year-old Kurt, the man I’d always thought of as my savior, and want to go back and tell him that it would be okay. It could have been okay. He could have survived. Not for me, not for his art, but for the people who loved him. Yes, outliving and outlearning your idols is a very strange experience indeed.   

Right around that time April 2014 became a different sort of anniversary in my mind—my ten-year anniversary with Seattle. In late 2012, I started to grow anxious. I told my husband that I felt pathetic for wanting to live in this place for almost ten years, but not being brave enough to go for it. I had to be there by the ten-year anniversary. Had to or I’d feel like I failed myself. This is when the biggest change in me happened, bigger than “It was,” bigger than my break-up, bigger than publishing my books and becoming an artist in my own right. It’s still so fresh that I haven’t been able to fully unpack it yet, though I tried in this Ms. Fit Mag series. All I can say is that I feel like a fully-formed person now, one who let go of fear and self-imposed limitations to become brave and assertive enough to go after what she wants and live how she wants to live. I am new in this new city. I am the person that I dreamed of being ten years ago when I was still trying to time travel to fix it. Time travel wasn’t necessary. Fixing wasn’t necessary, processing was and I did that through cross-country travel, through friends, and through art.

It’s still a work-in-progress. It was only a couple of months ago through a conversation with Anaheed Alani, one of my brilliant editors at Rookie, that I realized how connected to my past I remain in my art. I expect that settling here in Seattle, living fully in the present and dreaming of the future, will change that immensely over the next ten years (or hopefully over the next year or two!). It’s a little bit scary, seeking inspiration in new places, but mostly it’s exciting and hopeful.

So what does tomorrow bring? April 5th, 2014, the twentieth anniversary of the death of my teenage hero, the man who sort of brought me here, the man who I outlived, what does it mean to me now? It’s been a little bit bizarre because ten years ago and especially twenty it felt like it meant as much if not more to me than it did to the rest of the world, but not this time. There’s been a frenzy of stories—the creepy, crying statue in Aberdeen, the newly released photos from the suicide scene, all of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame hoopla, and that New York Times piece that briefly stirred my writerly jealousy. I’ve clicked on them, skimmed, and then closed the browser window and glanced out the real window at the Seattle sky that I consider mine now.

A Seattle morning as seen from my house
What tomorrow brings for me—what tonight brings actually—is my girls. Jenny and Eryn as well as my college best friend Jenny and Lynn, a message board friend turned real-life friend when she came to Seattle the first time five years ago. We will go to Viretta Park and I’m sure I’ll bring flowers and light a candle to pay tribute and say thanks because I’m still very grateful for what Kurt and his music did for me. He helped me find my way to this path. I do still wish he could have found his way to one that helped him, but mostly I'm just grateful that I did survive. I made my way here to this beautiful, healthy life that is fully mine and I don’t need to retrace footprints, I’m leaving my own and so are my girls. That’s what we will really be honoring and celebrating this weekend and I think Kurt would have appreciated that.

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3. Apparition, by Gail Gallant | Book Review

This YA paranormal mystery/romance is a page-turner all the way. Told in the present tense, the action always feels immediate. The author captures Amelia’s grief over her mother, self-doubt over her paranormal abilities, and conflicting pulls of love for both the dead Matthew and the living Kip.

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4. School Spirits - Review


Publication date: 13 May 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN 10/13: 1423148495 | 9781423148494
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Category: Young Adult Fiction/Fantasy
Keywords: Paranormal, High School, Ghosts, Witches
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Source: ARC from Publisher


Synopsis:

Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

Kimberly's Review:

Izzy Brannick is strong and trained to fight monsters. And the one thing she is scared of? High School.

Izzy has been homes schooled her whole life. So when a case requires her to go to high school, Izzy bunkers down, watches a lot of high school television and hopes for the best. But nothing could prepare her for a best friend, a crush and a ghost. A really strong ghost.

Can Izzy's new friends accept who she is and help her defeat this ghost?

I'm a big fan of the Hex Hall series so I was really excited to read School Spirits. Izzy appears in the last book Spell Bound, and she takes front and center in School Spirits. Izzy is smart, strong and achingly awkward. I love how she's never been to a high school pep rally, basketball game. I love how she's learning everything there is to know about high school by watching television. The story introduces us to some "normal" teenagers like her new best friend Romy who is equal parts awesome fun and rainbow unicorn. And sweet Dex who makes Izzy a little bit dizzy.

In typical Hawkins fashion, there's a lot of fun one liners and witty dialogue. There's some romance, and ghosts and witches and danger. But best of all, there is Izzy who is really sweet and a bit sad.

The story moves quickly and while I would have liked more description, more twists, stronger motivations for the characters, I still breezed through it quickly in only two days. Enjoying the ride and wishing there was a sequel I could dive into right away.

It's a standalone after the Hex Hall series, but you should read the series first to fully enjoy School Spirits. I really hope this is the start of a spin off series.

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.
 


Visit the author online at www.rachel-hawkins.com and follow her on Twitter @LadyHawkins


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5. The Path of Names: Ari Goelman

Book: The Path of Names
Author: Ari Goelman
Pages: 352
Age Range: 10-14

The Path of Names by Ari Goelman is about a girl named Dahlia Sherman who loves magic tricks, does NOT want to go to Jewish summer camp, and ends up unraveling a 78-year-old mystery involving a Yiddish rabbinical student and the ghosts of two young girls. There are camp skits, mazes, and (minor) sibling rivalries. There's a creepy camp handyman, a posse of mean girls, and a boy with the potential to be a friend (and the inclination to be more). In short, The Path of Names has a little something for everyone.  

Dahlia is a strong character, a girl who doesn't care that much that the popular girls think she's weird, who likes math, and who just wants to understand things. She's at that age where she's resisting the boy-girl stuff, even as it swirls around her. She is delightfully furious when she finds out that her friend Rafe is letting people believe they are dating. I like that she uses her brain and tenacity to solve the mystery, despite making mistakes along the way.

Most of the book is told from Dahlia's limited third person viewpoint, but intermittent chapters are from the viewpoint of David Schank, a 17-year-old yeshiva student in 1940's New York City. A few sections are also told from the viewpoint of Dahlia's older brother, Tom, a counselor at the camp. Dahlia is the one that readers will relate to most of the three, through David's story is the more suspenseful one. Shifting the viewpoint between Dahlia and David will keep readers turning the pages, driven like Dahlia to understand what happened to the young student. 

The camp setting and details seemed authentic to me, though I never went to sleepaway camp (Jewish or otherwise). It is certainly not an idealized portrayal - there are details that strongly indicate the author's personal experience in a camp setting. Like this:

"Dahlia went up the stairs to the cabin. It smelled familiar from visiting Tom all these years: the musty scent of old wood, mingled with the smells of clean laundry and dirty shoes and nylon sleeping bags. She had sort of liked the smell when they visited Tom, but the girls' bunk smelled different, more girly. Had someone really brought perfume to summer camp?" (Page 9)

There is also quite a lot of information in The Path of Names about Jewish history and culture, kabbala, Hebrew words, etc. All of these things are central to the book's storyline. I found the details fascinating, and I think kids will too. Goelman does a nice job of broadening the reader's perspective, while still keeping his focus on plot and character.  

I do think that The Path of Names is more a book for middle schoolers than for elementary school kids. This is partly due to content (there is a small amount of drinking by the older kids, and there are deaths), but mostly due to the mystical themes, and the relatively grown-up perspective of David. Certainly, despite having a girl as the primary protagonist, The Path of Names is also boy-friendly (ghosts, mazes, magic tricks, pranks). Recommended for mystery and adventure fans, or anyone who likes the idea of seeing ghosts at summer camp. 

Publisher:  Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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6. In the Shadow of Blackbirds - a review

There is no easy segue from yesterday's Captain Underpants review to today's In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I primarily review children's books.  This one is definitely for young adults.

Winters, Cat. 2013. In the Shadow of Blackbirds. New York: Amulet.
Advance Reader Copy supplied by NetGalley.



Through the windows, I watched the boys proceed to a line of green military trucks that waited rumbling alongside the curb. The recruits climbed one by one beneath the vehicles' canvas coverings with the precision of shiny bullets being loaded into a gun. The trucks would cart them off to their training camp, which was no doubt overrun with feverish, shivering flu victims. The boys who didn't fall ill would learn how to kill other young men who were probably arriving at a German train station in their Sunday-best clothing at that very moment. (From Chapter 2, "Aunt Eva and the Spirits")

The year is 1918, and 16-year-old Mary Shelly Black is on her way from Portland to San Diego to stay with her widowed 26-year-old aunt. Her mother is dead. Her father has recently been arrested - swept up in the anti-German immigrant frenzy that's sweeping the country.

The sign in front of the eatery claimed the place specialized in "Liberty Steaks," but that was simply paranoid speak for We don't want to call anything a name that sounds remotely German, like "hamburger." We're pro-American. We swear! (from Chapter 13, "Ugly Things")

Young men are eagerly enlisting to fight in the trenches of Europe, and amidst it all, the "Spanish flu" ravages the population - their flimsy gauze masks are no match for the deadly virus.

The businessmen in smart felt hats rode with me, probably on their lunch break. They buried their gauze-covered noses in the San Diego Union, and one of them felt the need to read the October influenza death tolls out loud. "Philadelphia: over eleven thousand dead and counting - just this month. Holy Moses! Boston: for thousand dead." The use of cold statistics to describe the loss of precious lives made me ill. (From Chapter 17, "Keep Your Nightmares to Yourself")
The bleak situation is made all the worse by her recent discovery that her dearest Stephen, the only bright spot in her sad existence in San Diego, has enlisted in the Army, not because he desires to fight and kill German soldiers, but to show love for his country and free himself from living under the same roof as his brother, a drug-addled, "spirit photographer,"

So this is war. The declaration changed Coronado and San Diego overnight. The men are all enlisting and everyone is hurrying to make sure we all look like real Americans. One of our neighbors held a bonfire in his backyard and invited everyone over to burn their foreign books. I stood at the back of the crowd and watched people destroy the fairy tales of Ludwig Tieck and the Brothers Grimm and the poetry of Goethe, Eichendorff, Rilke, and Hesse. They burned sheet music carrying the melodies of Bach, Strauss, Beethoven, and Wagner. Even Brahm's "Lullaby."
In the Shadow of Blackbirds takes a decidedly darker turn when Mary Shelly learns of Stephen's death in the trenches of Europe.  She attends his funeral, but something is very wrong.  She can hear him, she can feel his torment.  His spirit is not at rest; and amidst the horror of war and the flu pandemic, something else is terribly, terribly wrong.  Spirit photography and séances are commonplace as millions across the country yearn to connect with loved ones lost to war or disease; but Shelly is a girl of science, of rationalism - raised in a house of reason and education.  But how can science and reason explain the anguished pleas of her deceased love?

In The Shadow of Blackbirds is gripping historical fiction and Mary Shelly Black is a tragic yet strong protagonist. Containing some of the same themes as Avi's dark, Seer of Shadows (Harper Collins, 2008) (spirit photography, rationalism vs. spiritualism), In the Shadow of Blackbirds examines these themes as well as romantic love and post-traumatic stress syndrome. The setting (San Diego and nearby Coronado Island) and the juxtaposition of love and war, disease and science combine to offer a dark and gritty debut novel.  The descriptions of trench warfare and everyday life during the massive flu pandemic are gritty and graphic, reminiscent of Mary Hooper's novel of Europe's 17th century plague, At the Sign of the Sugared Plum (Bloomsbury, 2003). The fear of death is almost palpable, made even more so by the reader's knowledge that garlic amulets and gauze masks are powerless against the killer flu. To read In the Shadow of Blackbirds is to be immersed in a grim period of American history that at times, bears resemblance to our own.


From the Author's Note,

...the influenza pandemic of 1918 (this particular strain was known as the "Spanish flu" and the "Spanish Lady") killed at least twenty million people worldwide. (Some estimates run as high as more than one hundred million people killed." Add to that the fifteen million people who were killed as a result of World War I and you can see why the average life expectancy dropped to thrifty-nine years in 1918 - and why people craved seances and spirit photography. 

Note: If you've ever watched the classic Academy Award Best Picture, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), this warning from Mary Shelly to her love will foreshadow and haunt,

 "Please stay safe. It's not everyone who has the patience to photograph a butterfly."


Period photographs of life during the influenza pandemic of 1918 availabe at these sites:



There are great resources of all kinds (music, vintage video footage and photos) at Cat Winters' site.

Here's the trailer, just released today at the Mod Podge Bookshelf. I wish it hinted at the book's rich historical detail.

2 Comments on In the Shadow of Blackbirds - a review, last added: 2/16/2013
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7. Thursday Poll Question: Have you seen a ghost?

Thursday Poll

We are having a lively discussion over at the Talking to Angels and Ghosts class about ghost sightings. For a new, fun thing, Thursdays are fun poll days. Let’s hear from you…

Take Our Poll


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8. Review: Forget Me Not by Carolee Dean

Forget Me Not
by Carolee Dean

Published by: Simon Pulse
Released on: October 2, 2012
Hardcover
374 Pages
Rating:4/5










    Forget Me Not is deep, twisting around life, hidden secrets of reality, and the truth.  We meet Ally who isn't quite what you would suspect. Yes, she is an average girl, but when she meets the others in the hallway at school that is off limits, she finds herself learning more and more, all the while ending up more confused with the riddles and games the others around her like to play.

   It's Elijah that might be able to make a real difference in Ally's life. He's been in that hallway and has escaped it and the evil that resides there. He knows first hand what Ally is about to give her life to. He knows that she's about to make the biggest mistake ever. Elijah is her only hope of survival, but she has to want it.

If you love novels that are written in verse, this one's for you.


Received for review purposes from the publisher.



1 Comments on Review: Forget Me Not by Carolee Dean, last added: 4/23/2013
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9. The lowdown on Ghost shows

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 8.56.09 AM

I’ve completed the research on ghost shows, so you don’t have to.

Ghost Hunters

I used to be a huge Ghost Hunters fan. I collected and bought every season they had, and then life got busy and judging by my bookshelf, I stopped at Season 5. I watched the show the other day, and I still have fun with it, but I’m a little bored. I’m not sure if I overdosed on Ghost Hunters all those years, or it was negative experiences I had actual ghost hunting with a team for a television show (kinda disillusioning). I was pissed when they lost Grant, as the Jason and Grant combo really worked — they would have the most ghost-hunting experiences to report on the show. Some things did grow to be annoying — when a ghost hunter would cry out, Did you see that? Since of course, we did not, we could only guess what they saw or heard vs. real evidence. Overall, though, I enjoy the personalities of the show. They have become old friends from watching back in the day when the show began.

Paranormal State

A team of college students investigate hauntings in this show. The show is now over, as I imagine, most the students have long graduated. I liked the research end of the show but there was such a darkness that pervaded each episode that gave me a headache. Everything was devil this and devil that and then they would bring in Lorraine Warren and it was ALWAYS some demonic entity doing the haunting. A big yuck for me as I prefer to focus on the more light-hearted side. The plus side on this show is I loved when Chip Coffey would come in as medium. That’s when my juices really flowed and I related to his findings or at least to his technique.

Ghost Adventures

A bunch of strapping, good-looking investigators are locked into a haunted location for the night. Being claustrophobic, even the idea of this doesn’t appeal to me. There’s very little intuition going on in the show, so it doesn’t hold my interest as much. They also seem to have many experiences where they are touched or scratched, and I find that just plain nasty. Would you want to be around living people who scratch you for no reason and are abusinve? Much less get stuck in the room with them for hours. It’s like a bad party, or most of 2009 for me.

Psychic Kids

I’ve mentioned this before on this blog that I loved that show. Talking to and validating the experiences of intuitive kids? How fabulous a premise is that! They even EDUCATE the kids on how to handle their psychic ability, which is even better. I think I learned a thing a two for myself. Why don’t they make more of these shows?

Haunted Collector

I watched this show last night about a father/daughter team who investigate haunted objects. It runs like most ghost shows, the same format, but the hauntings originate from some antique or object, rather then a spirit haunting, which leaves the show feeling a little emotionless and detached for my taste. I like a good story regarding a person. The last episode I watched involved a boxer spirit who was attached to a medicine bottle. I found that to be a vague connection. A bottle? That didn’t sit right. I think he was more attached to the boxing ring that was still there on the premises. It’s still an entertaining show, but I can’t connect to things like that.

Girly Ghost Hunters

Sorry, Ladies. I really didn’t like the episode I watched. There was one episode where the ladies are discussing the next case while riding their ghost hunter bus, and they giggle and comment, and it’s just plain awkward. It reads like a bad home movie. I was uncomfortable watching it. At least with some of the other shows, I feel the detectives have experience and vast knowledge on the subject. This feels like a bunch of girls grabbed some cameras one night on a drunken dare. It’s a “no” for me.

I’m guessing most of the shows are scripted in some way, and when they go through the editing process, they aim for the more sensationalized effect over authenticity.  If you can overlook that and just have fun watching, these shows are entertaining and enjoyable. My recommendation would be stick to the more light-hearted ones with the good stories. The darker ones will only leave you with a headache.


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10. Listening for Lucca, by Suzanne LaFleur

"I'm obsessed with abandoned things." So begins LaFleur's quiet and enchanting book about friendship, family, choice, ghosts and history.

Siena's family is about to abandon Brooklyn for the beaches of Maine.  Siena doesn't really mind.  There's not much tying her to Brooklyn anymore.  Her once deep friendship with Kelsey has fizzled since Kelsey no longer seems interested in Siena's dreams or imaginings.  And honestly, Siena is a little frightening about what has been happening to her lately.

She has always had vivid dreams, but now these dreams are creeping into her waking hours.  Scenery seems to shift and she finds herself viewing history, when she should be seeing what everyone else is seeing.  Maybe Maine will help?

The move is not for Siena, however, but for her little brother Lucca.  Lucca used to be a run of the mill little kid...sticky and loud.  But now Lucca is silent.  Siena's mom is desperate for anything that will give her son a voice again.

Once Siena is in the new house, she just knows that there are ghosts.  What's more, is that Lucca seems to sense them too.  She has no sooner unpacked her collection of abandoned things, when her vivid dreaming and visions start again.  Only now Lucca is scared, and Siena promises him that she will get to the bottom of things.

When Siena finds an old lost pen high up in her closet, pieces of the past come forward and help her to understand not only her dreams and her visions, but her family as well.

This is a lovely slow reveal of a book that will delight detail oriented readers.  LaFleur weaves the story together with invisible strings that form a delicate pattern that becomes clear in due time.  Each character is fully developed and the past and the present storylines never compete with each other; rather they complete each other.

Simply captivating.

1 Comments on Listening for Lucca, by Suzanne LaFleur, last added: 7/29/2013
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11.

I have to say I love patterns, so when asked to do a halloween illustration, all I could think about  was  the scenario and patterns. So here is my offering, the ghosts are friendly and handing out treats to the little treat or treaters.
With patterns... Read the rest of this post

2 Comments on , last added: 9/5/2013
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12. Review: Bleach Vol 1 by Tite Kubo

 

Title: Bleach Vol 1

Author:  Tite Kubo

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Hot-tempered 15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki, the hero of the popular fantasy-adventure Bleach, has the unsettling ability to see spirits who are unable to rest in peace. His sixth sense leads him to Rukia, a Soul Reaper who destroys Hollows (soul-devouring monsters) and ensures the deceased find repose with the Soul Society. When she’s injured in battle, Rukia transfers her sword and much of her power to Ichigo, whose spiritual energy makes him a formidable substitute Soul Reaper. But the orange-haired teenager isn’t sure he wants the job: too many risks and moral dilemmas.


Review:

Bleach is one of my favorite series, and I realized with a great deal of dismay that I am far, far behind in my reading of this title.  I don’t think I’ve reviewed many of the volumes, so I opted to take advantage of a comp copy through Vizmanga.com to reacquaint myself with Ichigo, Rukia, and the rest of the gang.  This is a very fun series that features a ton of action, surprisingly touching emotions, and fan favorite protagonists in both Ichigo and Ruikia.  If you enjoyed The Ghost and the Goth or The Curse Workers by Holly Black, I think you should give Bleach a try.  Admittedly, the length of the series is daunting, and it’s still being published, but there are enough volumes released in English that you can read it in manageable chunks by utilizing online sales and trips to the library. 

Ichigo Kurosaki is 15 years old and he can see ghosts.  His sisters can too, though all they can see are faint outlines.  Ichigo can see, touch, talk to, and channel these pesky spirits that he thinks are a pain in the butt.  He just wants to be left alone to mind his own business but NOPE!  That’s not happening.  Ichigo also has a high moral obligation to help anyone in trouble, even those troublesome ghosts.  When an evil spirit threatens to hurt his family, he’s forced to borrow Soul Reaper powers from Rukia, a Soul Reaper who was badly injured saving his bacon.  Too hurt to fight, she offers to lend Ichigo half of her dark powers so he can save his family.  She’s dismayed to discover that he’s so spiritually powerful that he steals all of them, and now she can’t get them back!

I love the relationship between Ichigo and Rukia.  Their back and forth banter is humorous and full of snark.  While Ichigo isn’t exactly disrespectful, he doesn’t understand the need to put himself in danger, fighting the Hollows, regardless of the obligation he acquired when he snatched away all of Rukia’s power.  When the chips are down, though, her forceful prodding  makes him realize how important a Soul Reaper’s duties are.  If he doesn’t take care of the restless spirits, they will eventually turn into Hollows, and once they become these evil monsters, they lose their last shred of humanity.  There is no going back, and the Hollows have an insatiable need to feed on souls.   Rukia put her life at risk to save Ichigo and his family, so he acknowledges that he has a duty to help Rukia until she can figure out a way to get her powers back.

Ichigo is one of my favorite characters because he can’t stand to see an injustice and not want to correct it.  He and One Piece’s Luffy have a lot in common. Both of them will give their heart and soul, not to mention their life, to defend those needing help.  They are white knights in attitude.  Ichigo can’t turn his back on bullying, or just stand by when someone is about to get hurt.  He’s not perfect, and there are many times when he should learn to keep his mouth shut, but he can’t do it.  He is fiercely devoted to his friends and family, and he won’t let anyone hurt them.  Now that he’s a Soul Reaper by default, he can’t ignore when a soul is in danger, either.

The first volume of Bleach is fast-paced, brimming with frantic action, yet it doesn’t let the characters and their interactions take a back seat to all of the fighting.  That is what I enjoy most about Bleach.  The character come to life for me, and I so badly want Ichigo to master his new powers so he doesn’t come to harm.  It’s hard watching such a likeable guy getting the crap beat out of him, even though I have few doubts that he’ll always persevere.  That assurance is the main appeal of manga for me.  I know that even as the protagonists are facing certain doom, they will eventually find a solution to all of their problems.  Reading along as they figure that out is what makes reading them so rewarding.

Grade:  A-

Review copy provided by publisher

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13. Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco | Review

This should be a sad tale but instead is up-lifting. Much of that is due to the protagonist’s wry voice: Twelve-year-old Bee (short for Beatrice) is an orphan and works for a traveling carnival, living in the back of a truck with nineteen-year-old Pauline.

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14. Review: Bleach Vol 2 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol. 2

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Immediately after checking into the Kurosaki Clinic with a mysterious scar on his back, the muscle-bound Chad goes AWOL. Accompanying Chad is a talking parakeet imbued with the soul of a young boy named Y?ichi. It doesn’t take newbie Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki long to surmise that a Hollow must be involved. By far the strongest spirit he’s faced to date, Ichigo is about to discover that not every soul is bound for the Soul Society, especially if it’s tainted with innocent blood

Review:

I loved this volume of Bleach!  Picking up right where the first volume left off, Chad  is in oodles of trouble because of a possessed parakeet.  Housing the soul of the a young boy, Chad has promised to keep him safe, unaware that a Hallow is hot on their heels.  It’s a good thing that Chad is a strong, sturdy fellow, because the evil spirit does its level best to thoroughly annihilate him.  Rukia tries to race to the rescue, but without her Soul Reaper powers, she’s even more helpless than Chad and the parakeet!  Ichigo is temporarily out of the picture.  His sister Karin is very ill, and he’s been tasked with seeing her home safely.  Will he get to Rukia and Chad in time to save the day?

I thought this story arc was very entertaining.  It revealed that Chad has some spiritual energy, and even though he can’t see the Hallow, he can pummel the heck out of it, holding it off until Ichigo’s arrival.  While creating a tense and exciting action sequence, Tite Kubo manages to sneak in some humor to the heightened emotions and make the action even more memorable.  I think that’s what I like best about the series; while things are fraught with stress and impending doom, the mood is altered ever so slightly with quick bursts of humor.  The opposite happens when the mood is light and Rukia and Ichigo are joking around.  The reality of their responsibilities intrudes, if just for a moment, causing a complete shift in tone.  The emotional roller coaster makes this a very engaging read for me.

During the battle over the little boy’s soul, we also learn what happens to people who were evil when they were alive.  Ichigo’s  zanpakut? can’t cleanse their souls of the evil they carry, and they are dragged down to Hell.  Wah!  That’s pretty scary!  Some of the Hallows weren’t decent people when they were among the living, so it’s somewhat gratifying to see them get their just rewards in the afterlife.

This volume also introduces one of my favorite characters, Kisuke Urahara.  He doesn’t seem like much here, other than a shifty merchant peddling in questionable Soul Society goods, and one all too ready to take advantage of Rukia unfortunate circumstances.  There’s also the hint that things in the Soul Society are not all rainbows and unicorns.  Experiments with dubious moral implications are just the start.  I like how these tidbits are scattered like so much bird seed throughout the chapters.  Both Rukia and Ichigo have a lot to learn about what’s really going on in the Soul Society.

This series is highly recommended if you enjoy action, gripping storylines, and likeable characters.   Yes, yes, the fact that it’s at 60 volumes and counting is a little daunting, but on the plus side – you won’t run out of new story for a long time!

Grade:  A-

Review copy provided by publisher

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15. Haunted Houses and the neighbor across the street

hauntedhouse

I know it’s the day after Halloween, but I still have haunting on my mind.

I’m convinced the house across the street is haunted.

Let’s look at the facts. Since I’ve lived in my home, about three years or more, no one has stayed in that house for more than four months. There is a constant turnover with moving vans coming and going. Sometimes there is a playground set in the front yard, and other times, the swings are dismantled. There is always the landlord coming through cleaning up the yard, throwing out garbage in large quantities into a dumpster in between inhabitants. Something is scaring them away.

Haunted houses fascinate me. I went googling this morning on the subject and found some fun links for you to visit.

8 Haunted Houses in New Orleans That Will Scare Your Pants Off (Road trip!)

Here’s a list of haunted places in Arizona

My favorite haunted house as a kid: The Haunted Mansion

Hands-down my favorite link, How to Buy or Sell a Haunted House

Have any haunted house stories?


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16. Character Word Associations with Amelia from Arise

 

Amelia is the protagonist from Tara Hudson’s Arise.  Amelia is a ghost, and her love for Joshua seems doomed to failure.  Amelia took time out of her busy day searching for a way for them to be together forever to answer some word associations.  Check out what she has to say!

[Manga Maniac Café] Hi, Amelia!  Thanks for stopping by.  Can you please play a little word association game with us? What is the first thing that comes to mind for each of these words?

[Amelia] Brass – The old miner’s lamp in Joshua’s bedroom, which I like best when we turn it off…

Violin – The music on Joshua’s iPod.  If only I could touch it, so that I could play DJ for once.

Fireworks – Um…I’m kind of blushing right now.  I can’t say what I’m thinking, but it definitely involves Joshua

Fog – Where I lived for years, and where I never want to return…unless I have to

Safe – Ha!  What’s that word?

Scream – Demons.  Wish I didn’t do that, every time I see one.  Since I seem to be seeing them more often, now….

Mistake – Something I did in New Orleans…something I hope I can undo

Barrier – Seer Dust.  You know, I really hate that stuff

Memory – My father and my mother.  Things I’m starting to remember, but sometimes wish I wouldn’t

Torrent – High Bridge.  May it crumble into dust, amen.

Hunger – Beignets. 

Camel – The thirst I feel, watching Joshua and his family drink chicory coffee in the French Quarter

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!


You can purchase Arise from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.  Available in both print and digital

Thanks to {teen} Book Scene for arranging this interview

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17. Novella Review: The Ravenous Dead by Natasho Hoar

 

 

  Title: The Ravenous Dead

  Author: Natasha Hoar

  Publisher: Carina Press

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

This time the dead are hungry…

Rachel Miller doesn’t just see dead people, she rescues them. As a member of The Order of Rescue Mediums, she spends most of her time helping stubborn spirits move on from the world. But after she learns the details of three brutal murders, she knows the culprit can only be a reaper, an undead monster that relentlessly stalks its victims to feed on their souls.

A reaper once consumed the soul of Rachel’s mentor as she watched frozen in fear. Now, Rachel is in the role of teacher to Kit Elkeles, a rodach just learning to control his wraithlike powers. After Kit and Rachel rescue a half-vampire, they work to protect him while searching for a way to stop the reaper. But when Rachel realizes who the monster is really after—and just what kind of dark magic she’ll need to stop it—will she be able to do what is necessary before it devours one of her friends…or even herself?

27,000 words

Review:

I love this series!  The pacing is fast and furious and guarantees that the pages will turn rapidly.  I started The Ravenous Dead when I had a couple of free moments, but then I had to put it down because I had social obligations to attend to.  All I could think about was getting back home and hunkering down with Rachel, Kit, and new guy Luke.  How could they possibly out muscle a horrifying monster that literately rips the soul out of its victims?  I couldn’t wait to find out!

One of the things I like best about this series is how we are given little snippets of background information about the characters and the weird, alternate Vancouver that they reside in, while chasing around with Rachel as she tries to stay alive long enough to unravel the latest mystery she’s stumbled into.  Paranormal beasties try to blend in with normal humans, and when they don’t, it’s Rachel’s job to find out why, and if necessary, help put an end to any dangerous behavior.  The world building is believable, without being heavy handed.  It’s almost like Rachel deals with all of these nasty creatures so I don’t have to even be aware that they are standing in line next to me at Taco Bell.

The Ravenous Dead pits Rachel against a reaper, an undead being that feasts on souls.  She believes that it’s the same reaper that  she failed to destroy years before, causing the death of her partner.  She is consumed with guilt, and she has a driving need to free the souls trapped inside the reaper.  The only problem?  It is a terrifying monster, fueled with the souls of its victims, and Rachel must overcome her mind-numbing fear of it, which leaves her frozen and incapable of calling on her supernatural powers.

This is a quick, exciting read with relatable characters and a paranormal world I would like to know more about.  The focus is on the intense action and character interaction, with small breadcrumbs scattered throughout the narrative to help make the setting feel real and believable.  Rachel is a strong, smart lead, and she’s given just enough flaws to ensure that she doesn’t have things too easy when she’s going toe to toe with a cantankerous spirit.  I can’t wait for her n

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18. "It's Slime Time!" EXCLUSIVE 2-DAY T-shirt by CHOGRIN at www.theyetee.com


Hello everyone!

I'm selling my first t-shirt design online! It is inspired by one of my favorite logos and movies of all time. Did I mention it GLOWS-IN-THE DARK! I'm super excited to share this with you and hope you can spread the word on your facebooks, twitters, blogs, friends, families, fans, etc. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Only on sale today (Friday, June 22nd) and tomorrow (Saturday, June 23rd). I would super love you if you snagged one too! Thanks for your support! It's ECTO-GLOW-IN-THE-DARK time! ;)

Follow the link here: http://www.theyetee.com/index.php?shirtid=chogrin or here: WWW.THEYETEE.COM

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19. I feel sorry for the ghostwriter

Just saw this in Publishers Marketplace:

The younger sisters on E!'s hit reality show Keeping Up with The Kardashians Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner's dystopian novel that takes place in a world none of us have ever seen and will follow two sisters on a journey filled with terror, mystery, drama and love, to Charles Suitt of Karen Hunter, for publication in Summer 2013, by Mel Berger of William Morris Endeavor (NA).

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20. Interview with Laurianne Uy, Creator of Polterguys

Laurianne Uy is the creator of Polterguys, a new graphic novel series with one shy girl and a bunch of hot ghosts.  Laurianne dropped by the virtual offices to chat about Polterguys, and about her road to getting her project published.  Check out what she has to say!

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Laurianne Uy] Someone who enjoys writing and creating fun, compelling stories Likes visual art analysis and bubble milk tea. Internet junkie. XD

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Polterguys?

[Laurianne Uy] Sure, it’s the story of Bree — a smart but socially awkward college girl who moves into a house that’s haunted by five cute guys. She’s the only one who can see these ghosts so she has to help them resolve their unfinished business. From someone who’s uncomfortable hanging around boys, Bree suddenly has to live with a bunch of dead ones!

The series is informed by my love of ghost stories, reverse-harem manga and TV shows with awesome girls as lead characters. Some of my favorite movies from the ‘90s were Ghost, Heart & Souls and The Frighteners and I was always drawn to them for the dramatic storylines. But I always wanted to see one with a young girl in the spotlight (Why should guys have all the ghostly fun? XD)

Fruits Basket and Ouran are among my favorite anime/manga because they are incredibly entertaining with just the right amount of bittersweet-ness to them. Both series don’t have the “save-the-world” kind of arcs but their conflicts always felt so personal and intimate. The characters’ struggles were much more relatable that way and for Polterguys, I wanted familiar kinds of problems, too.

And finally, I can’t say enough how empowering shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars are for me as a viewer. Watching these tough girls take on bad guys, saving their friends and just kick ass inspires me to do the same (er…narratively, of course.) I like the idea that stories could inspire young women to be their own heroes in their daily lives. My favorite writers do that for me and this is me trying to pay it forward.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Laurianne Uy] Out of nowhere, I was having breakfast one morning and an idea just came to me- "Ghost harem." Somehow, my mind connected ghosts from shonen manga like Bleach and Yu Yu Hakusho to the reverse-harem shojo trope in Fruits Basket and Ouran. I usually didn’t have strong conceptual ideas like this so I knew this was special. But I did struggle to flesh out the world. My first drafts were pretty depressing and the main character was not very relatable or sympathetic. 

Then, I moved the setting from high school to the university and suddenly, the drafts were getting stronger. It was about this girl and figuring out who she was on her own. Full disclosure, I was pulling from my experiences studying at Berkeley for college after growing up in the Philippines most of my life. I felt like a blank slate coming here and that was fueling my writing much more so than if I had a younger protagonist.

Bree is the survivor out of all the protagonists we tried placing in this unique situation and I’m relieved people have liked her (so far, haha!) As for the ghosts, I retrieved all my mental files on reverse-harem stories I’ve enjoyed and devoured in the past. The boys had to somehow clue you into that reverse-harem trope but also function as believable characters in this world. So I had a football jock as the gentle giant, the kid who’s smarter than a whip and goes to a private school, identical twins with different tastes in fashion, and a cute kid in pajamas.&nb

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21. Cover Shot! Sweet Chaos by Misty Evans

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I haven’t heard of Misty Evans or her Kali Sweet urban fantasy series before, but this cover for Sweet Chaos got my attention.  This is the second book in the series, and it looks pretty good.  Have you read anything by Misty Evans?

 

Three hundred years later, the ghosts from her past are hunting for revenge.

The past always finds a way to bite you in the ass.

As a three-hundred-year old vengeance demon, I’ve made a lot of enemies. The worst was Queen Maria, the Italian Court’s most devious succubus and a ruler who used me as a weapon of mass destruction to inflict pain and kill hundreds of humans in her torture chambers.

Now she’s back, this time as a ghost, and she’s invited a new friend to the party—a vampire king who wants my head on a stake. Together they’re bringing a war to Chicago that will topple the carefully constructed world I’ve protected for centuries.

But I’m Kali Sweet. I never run from my past…and I’m not about to hide from my present.

In stores now!

 

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22.

DEAD WRITES
(NEW REVISION: 9-13-2012)
 
Scanning over my files, came accross a newer version of this play. For the record, I've always believed this has potential but for whatever reason (laziness springs to mind), never pursued it. Did some updating and tweaking with the end result posted here. As always, critiques both pro and con always appreciated. If not - enjoy.

 
"DEAD WRITES"
by Eleanor Tylbor

SCENE I

SETTING: A funeral parlor - Early afternoon

AT RISE: A funeral chapel. A group of people chat between themselves while waiting for the service to begin. A coffin is situated on an elevated stand in the middle of the room

FELICIA PEMBROOK, wearing a diaphanous dress, sits on the floor next to a coffin examining her surroundings. Slowly, she examines her body, touching her dress

LIGHTING: Dim lighting, except for a coffin in the middle of the room, which is spot-lit with a white light.

SOUND: somber organ music.


 
 
FELICIA
(cont’d) 'Scuse me…hello'?'

Man continues to ignore her, focusing and fixing the inside of the
coffin

(cont’d) Is this a… for real funeral parlor? Shoot! What’s the matter with me? Duh! This is another of Phil’s dumb jokes. Wait ‘til I get him…

Man continues to ignore her
Don’t bother answering me or anything… Fine – suit yourself. I'll find out on my own!


A male (JOSIAH) enters and stands directly behind FELICIA.
He has white hair, is dressed in a white shirt and matching
white pants that glitter


JOSIAH
Perhaps I could be of assistance?

FELICIA
Whoa! What do we have here? A human Christmas tree ornament

SFX: THUNDER CLAP


JOSIAH
I beg your pardon?

FELICIA
Do you come with sound effects, too?

JOSIAH
A suggestion here and take it for what it’s worth but your choice of words could prove to be problematic

FELICIA
You an agent for the grammar police? Do we know each other?

JOSIAH
Excuse me?

FELICIA
A little nervous are we, when I mention “po-lice”? Perhaps you’ve dealt with them on occasion?

JOSIAH
In my business we deal with all types and police officers are very common in my milieu

FELICIA
Not surprising. You earn your living dressed like… that?

JOSIAH
Sorry?

FELICIA
Wigs? Makeup? Do I have to draw you a picture?

JOSIAH
I’m not sure of what you’re getting at…

FELICIA
You don’t have to be shy with me. I’m very liberal minded when it comes to life style choices. Different strokes for different folks I always say

JOSIAH
You mean what I'm wearing. We all wear white where I come from and this glitter sort-of attached itself to me. Don’t quite know why

FELICIA
Is your family okay with all of this?

JOSIAH
They’re very much aware of my work. In fact they rely almost entirely on my input. I’m an important source of information.

FELICIA
You’re not one of those people who – you know - like to get up close and personal with dead bodies.

JOSIAH
If you’re asking me if I mind being present among those that have passed…

FELICIA
Damn! Do I have to spell it out for you
SFX: THUNDER CLAP
JOSIAH
(staring upward)
'Yes – of course!'

(Cont’d. JOSIAH) Please watch the manner in which you speak. Where I reside that’s one of the words considered an offensive term of reference

FELICIA
(glancing upward)
Something with the ceiling? What is it with you and the way I speak? Hell - it’s none of your damned business

SFX: THUNDER CLAP

JOSIAH
That would be another no-no - a real no-no

FELICIA
Pullleeze! God damn hell…

SFX: THUNDER CLAP
JOSIAH
You must stop! Is it really necessary to use those words?

FELICIA
It’s my mouth and I can choose what comes out of it. Hell, there have been more than words rolling out but I’ll spare you the details…

SFX: THUNDER CLAP

JOSIAH
(staring up)
‘excuse me Sir – I was just explaining the rules…’

(TO FELICIA)… That “H” word is never mentioned out loud, ever

FELICIA
For your information, words are my bread and butter, so don’t try telling me which one’s I can and can’t use. Hell! Hell! Hell! There! I said and I’m proud to have said it

JOSIAH
(staring upwards)
‘I’m trying Sir – I’m really trying! Yes I know but she’s new at this’
(TO FELICIA) At least consider my cautionary advice?

FELICIA
This is some kind of weird funeral parlor. So many damn rules!

SFX: THUNDER CLAP

FELICIA (cont'd) Can’t do this, can’t do that. Can’t swear - I mean, really, and with all due respect, my words fall on deaf ears in the true sense of the word. Strikes me that you’re familiar with the routine so maybe you can explain. I've been trying to get an angle on how and why I’m here but that that funeral guy over there won’t give me the time of day

JOSIAH
Mr. Postner, the funeral arranger? I can say with absolute certainty that he isn’t even aware of your presence

FELICIA
That’s obvious. It has’ta be this tacky outfit. I don't even own anything like this, so why and how I ended up wearing this rag is beyond me

JOSIAH
I wouldn’t worry too much about these things. In your case it doesn’t make a difference

FELICIA
I don’t want people to think I don’t have anything better. Maybe I should go home and change. Do I have time before the funeral starts?

JOSIAH
Trust me when I tell you that the last thing you should worry about is your clothing choice and as for Mr. Postner here, he’s just doing the job he has to do

FELICIA
Considering it’s his business dealing with dead bodies, the least he could do is be polite and answer me. I’m gonna make sure to tell people not to use this funeral parlor. I bet they charge big bucks, too. Maybe I’ll even write this place up in the paper

JOSIAH
Sad that many people hear the words flow out of my mouth but don't want to listen. Very sad indeed…

FELICIA
Y’know – just an observation but it’s no wonder nobody pays attention to you dressed the way you are. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence especially in this kind of business. I’m getting the impression that you’re connected to this place, am I right? Don't get insulted, mister Josiah person and I'm no fashionista, but have you considered maybe your sparkly outfit is a little over the top for this type of job? Perhaps a dark suit would be a better choice

JOSIAH
Rich and poor, they all end up in the same place…

FELICIA
You're just one happy-crappy guy, aren't you?

JOSIAH
That… person who passed on, she never bothered to reach out to anyone. Lived her entire life satisfying her corporeal needs and her ego

FELICIA
So you do know the corpse. I figured as much. Now how ‘bout sharing that with me so at least it’ll answer why I’m here

JOSIAH
In due time, in due time. So now, have you led an honorable life?

FELICIA
You sound like one of those TV preachers. What’s it your business, anyway, what kind of life I lead?

JOSIAH
I thought being that we’re getting to know each other you wouldn’t mind answering a few of my questions. I’m a very curious person by nature

FELICIA
Some would say nosey. Listen buddy boy – I don’t want to get to know you, got that? I’m here for the funeral and it would be nice to know who in the hell – heck – died. So bug off! Go stand under a Christmas tree or something!

JOSIAH
It wasn’t my intention to offend and if I did, I’m truly sorry. I just wanted to get some sort of idea what type of person you were… I mean, are.

FELICIA
I’m a little up tight with this here situation. So you wanna know about Felicia, huh. I’m not ashamed to say I’m a “been there, done that” kind of female. Isn’t that why we were put on this earth? To experience everything life has to offer?

JOSIAH
To a degree I suppose, but there’s more to it than that. You’re supposed to help your fellow human. If only people would realize when they have the chance that life is not about accumulating riches or… things. What’s important is what a person gives of themselves to make the lives of others happy

FELICIA
A philosophical funeral organizer, too – I am indeed blessed. Shoot! Lemme make this as easy as possible. You gots your users and use-ees. It’s either use or be used and I don’t take no crap from anyone. Ask anyone I work with. They’ll tell you Felicia’s no pushover

JOSIAH
We are all accountable for our actions

FELICIA
I know that I'm gonna be a better person receiving that helpful advice from Mr. Sparkle. Places like this used to give me the creeps whenever I went to a funeral. This one, though, kind of…makes me feel warm. Now don’t get the wrong impression ‘bout me – I’m not one of those funeral groupies or anything that check out the obits for kicks. You know what I mean? People that use funerals as a social occasion? I’m rambling. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m gonna join that corpse soon

JOSIAH
Could be sooner than you think

Female wanders in, stopping every so often to check out the surroundings.
She stares at JOSIAH and smiles at FELICIA


FEMALE
Hi! Nice to see another body here and I mean that in the best sense of course.

FELICIA
It’s about time somebody noticed I’m here!

FEMALE
Know where you’re coming from. Just wish I knew how I ended up here

JOSIAH
But…you shouldn’t be here, my dear. I’m guessing that you’re a friend of Michael?

Man (MICHAEL) dressed entirely in blue with glittering pants rushes in and
places his arm around female’s shoulder

MICHAEL
So there you are! You shouldn’t wander off like that. Come along now…

JOSIAH
You must take better care of your charges, Michael! You’ve been warned about losing your souls. You’ve still got two missing souls unaccounted for wandering the earth. This is not good, Michael!

MICHAEL
I’ve got a search party out looking for them. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with them? After all – they are…

JOSIAH
…better get along now

FEMALE
Nice meeting you. Why can’t I stay and chat with her….

MICHAEL leads female away

FELICIA
Another member of your group, I suppose? So, is this funeral gonna start any time soon? Gotta get back to The Sentinal before those b - bad people steal one of my leads. You seem to know how things are run, here. Can’t you move things along? I mean, those people must have jobs to go back to

JOSIAH
Do any of the mourners look familiar?

FELICIA

FELICIA studies group of mourners

Perhaps… a few strike a familiar chord… Hang on a sec - they're reporters for our newspaper. That must mean I know the stiff in the coffin. Or perhaps you do? Is it… Jack McGrath or Pete Winston? Shoot- tell me it’s not! Don't know how many times I warned them both to slow down, but did they listen? Of course not! What does an old broad like me know

JOSIAH
It's neither one of them

FELICIA
That's a relief 'cause we're the last three old farts left at the paper. We seen 'em come and we seen 'em leave. Some moved on to bigger and better papers and some left in a wooden box. Just like that poor corpse in there

JOSIAH
Don’t worry. You'll know who's in there shortly

FELICIA
This is getting ridiculous! It’s an open coffin for shit’s sake and for some weird reason, I can’t tell whose inside. Take a look at those mourners. A bunch of green kids out of J-school. What do they know about getting a story? People can't write about life without experiencing it and how much could they know at their age? No work ethic. They sit and wait for the phone to ring and take the facts over the phone. Only go after the high profile stories so they can get the byline. Things sure aren’t what they used to be

JOSIAH
The young have to learn the ropes the same way as you did but then they have a lot of time. You certainly experienced life to the fullest, didn't you?

FELICIA
Hey - I didn't need no journalism school to teach me. I had the best teacher - good old trial and error. Made mistakes and paid for them all along the way, but I learned – shit how I learned –

SFX: THUNDER CLAP

JOSIAH
- perhaps another word would be better …

FELICIA
(laughing)
You mean the word, 'shit!' Hey – I shit, you shit, we all shit – that’s nature at work!

JOSIAH
Your sense of humor eludes me

FELICIA
Well ex-cu-sez-moi! They all respect me at The Sentinal, you know. They know better than to cross this old broad. See them newbie reporters using them – whad’ya call them – knee computer crap. Gimme a good, old solid typewriter any day

JOSIAH
You never shared your accumulated knowledge with any of them, Felicia. How come?

FELICIA
You gotta be kidding. Hey – I hadda fight every step of the way to get where I am. Nobody was around to lead me by the hand and that goes for them too. They'll learn the heard way

JOSIAH
There comes a point in one's life when those who go before must pass on their wisdom to others. You obviously never learned that

FELICIA
The only thing I share is bad breath. Just tell me already so I can go home and change out of this outfit

JOSIAH
Somebody you know intimately

FELICIA
That would cover a very long list of guys. Could you gimme a hint, maybe?

JOSIAH
You'll know in due course

FELICIA
All this hush-hush top-secret stuff. If you’re one of those - what do they call them now - grief councilors , I don't need your services. Death doesn't scare me none. No siree. I’m ready to go – not yet of course

JOSIAH
Part of my duties entails helping people through a difficult period of transition. In fact I've never missed a funeral

FELICIA
What does your wife say 'bout you hanging round a funeral parlor day and night…assuming you're married…are you? Married, I mean

JOSIAH
(laughing out loud)
Not quite!

FELICIA
You don't have to kill yourself laughing. It's not such a dumb question. If I was hooked up to someone like you, I'd be wondering about your attraction to a place like this

JOSIAH
I'm sorry. It's not your question that tickles my funny bone. Once all is revealed…well – you'll understand the reason for my amusement soon enough

FELICIA
Is it necessary for you to keep talking in riddles? You keep hinting at…like there's something I should know but don't. I'm getting these flashes…a feeling that our paths have crossed …somewhere. It's like… just out of reach of my consciousness

JOSIAH
We've had a few close encounters in the past, Felicia, but this is the first time we've met one-on-one so to speak

FELICIA
Strikes me that this corpse wasn't too popular in life judging by the few people who showed up to say goodbye. Then again, real friends are hard to come by

JOSIAH
It's actually quite sad. That person believed she –

FELICIA
- so it's a woman -

JOSIAH
As I was saying she assumed she never needed people and in the end, seems that they weren't there for her when she needed them most

Mourner moves to front of room, and stands in front of coffin

FELICIA
'Janice? Hey girl, we were supposed to meet for lunch yesterday! I showed up but where were you?' Janice is my closest friend at the paper

JANICE

JANICE talks to "person" in the coffin
You miserable, lying bitch! At last you made a useful contribution to the world and left it! Good riddance to bad rubbish

FELICIA
‘Is that a way to talk about the dearly departed? Even dead people deserve respect from the living.’ No class but that’s part of who she is and I accept her ‘cause we’re best friends

JANICE touches the coffin and returns to her seat

She's probably pissed 'cause the corpse stole a lead away from her. 'Ya gotta move quickly if 'ya want a byline in our biz. You snooze – you lose. We better take a seat with the rest of them. Looks like everyone from the paper is here so who’s the corpse

FELICIA takes a seat next to JANICE.

ASIDE TO JANICE: You never did have any class, girl.

Turns to the man sitting on the other side of her
Hey Pete-ee! So, how's it goin' with you?

(PETE) ignores FELICIA, talks to the female on his other side
(Cont’d.) Hey - I'm speaking to you. What's with them all, today?

JOSIAH
He can't hear you

FELICIA
Oh please! He hears me all right but he's busy chatting up the new reporter, Chloe Starshine. That guy can't keep his zipper closed around the opposite sex, if you get my drift

JOSIAH
Has it dawned on you, yet, why you're here?

FELICIA
To pay my respects to someone in the print 'biz. What else? You know…I've covered practically every kind of story but I can't ever remember spending the night in a funeral parlor. This is a new one for me and it's about this outfit I'm wearing. I'm assuming I didn't have time to change 'cause I wouldn't be caught dead in this

JOSIAH
(bursts out laughing)
In your state clothes are the last things you should worry about…

FELICIA
I'm happy you find me so amusing. Ssh! I wanna hear the name of the corpse, I mean dearly departed

MINISTER steps behind podium

MINISTER
Friends…


Voice calls out:
'She didn't have any!'

MINISTER
…we are here to bid goodbye to one…

Another voice:

'Good riddance to bad rubbish!'

MINISTER
…a…good reporter and… a good friend and colleague…

FELICIA
At last I'm gonna find out who this mystery person is. Strikes me she sure wasn't liked, but even dead people deserve respect

FELICIA stands up and addresses everyone

'That's no way to speak about the dead, you bunch of parasites. Show some remorse!'

MINISTER
Is there anyone here who has something positive to say, about the departed? A few words would suffice. Surely there must be one person in this entire room that could say a few nice words about the late Felicia Pembrook? Anybody?

FELICIA
I can speak for myself, thank you very much…What's with this "late" crap? What am I late for? A meeting…an interview… I’m sure I checked my agenda…

MINISTER
No one? Then we'll have a quick service for Ms Pembroke and you can all go back to work

FELICIA
Is this guy for real? Let me make this very clear: 'I'm among you, in the flesh! Look at me! I'm sitting right here.'

JOSIAH
I've been trying to tell you…

FELICIA
I know what's going on here. They've all staged this to teach me a lesson. 'Well, it won't work people! I'm on to you all!'
FELICIA stands up on chair, waves and screams
FELICIA
Felicia is here among you! The old witch is alive and kicking. You can't ignore me forever

JOSIAH walks to the front of the room, and stands behind the coffin
JOSIAH
I'm the only person who can see – and hear you

FELICIA
You keep saying that and you expect me to believe it? A guy dressed like a Christmas tree ornament?

JOSIAH
Believe it or not – it's the truth. Haven't you wondered why no one has acknowledged your existence? You know as a reporter you have to deal with the facts and the facts here are undeniable. This will probably be a shocker to you but you-are-dead, my dear!

FELICIA
You're one crazy weirdo! This is just another nightmare - it has to be a nightmare. Must'a eaten a bad rack of ribs. All right… I'm willing myself to wake up now…wake-up…wake-up…c'mon body – get up!

JOSIAH
Come over here and take a peak inside

FELICIA looks hesitatingly inside and jumps back

FELICIA
If this is a bad joke, I don't have a good sense of humor, today. Enough is enough, already. I don't know how you did this, making a person look just like me. It's been a blast but I got things to do, places to go…

Aside to mourners
'Okay you guys. You pulled off the ultimate practical joke. Got me fair and square. I give in…'

JOSIAH
It's you in there for real

FELICIA
(laughing lightly)
Who hired you, huh, and how much did they pay to help pull off this prank? Whatever they gave you – I'll double it to get even

JOSIAH
Money is of no significance and it's the real thing - or you're the real thing

FELICIA
Is this one of those dinner theatre productions and I'm playing myself? That's it, right? Please say it is!

JOSIAH
Trust me when I tell you that you are here in spirit only

FELICIA
Oh I got spirit, all right and it comes straight out'ta a bottle of vodka. You don't happen to have a flask on you? I could really use a shot right now

JOSIAH
Go on - check your body out…

FELICIA runs her hand over her body

FELICIA
It's like I'm touching…nothing

JOSIAH
There is no more Felicia Pembroke as you knew her. In fact you don't really have a body at all. It's a transitory illusion so you can accomplish your job

FELICIA

She paces back and forth in a panic

This isn't real - it can't be - I don't want this to be real! Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! See – I don’t always swear. When…how did this happen?

JOSIAH
Your passing occurred two days ago. A massive heart attack while eating a Big Mickey Trio. Died with a french-fry stuck in your throat

FELICIA
Didn't somebody try and give me CPR or something?

JOSIAH
The restaurant staff worked on you but it was your time to go, so nothing helped

FELICIA
If I'm - I can't even say the word, never mind accept it - dead like you say, then what am I doing here? Shouldn't I be…you know…in a heavenly place or something? This sure ain't heaven and I don't hear harps playing anywhere

JOSIAH
(laughing)
Only in films, my dear

FELICIA
Why am I still here? I see people…

JOSIAH
…but they can’t see you. Perhaps an introduction is in order now. Officially, my title is Josiah, Spiritual Adviser – Disembodied Souls Division – we call ourselves the SADD people – a little inside joke

FELICIA
Just…Josiah?

JOSIAH
Just…Josiah. No last names

FELICIA
Okay tell me… Josiah, what I'm supposed to do next? Hang around here and haunt this place?

JOSIAH
It's not quite as simple as that. In most cases a person dies and the soul moves on to wherever it's supposed to go. However, we've run into – how do you say down here – a snag in processing your case to its finality

FELICIA
What kind of snag are we talking about? Not major I’m hoping. I still got things to do

JOSIAH
Actually, this is a little embarrassing. The Judgment Assembly - of which I'm a member – is in charge of processing the paper work and can't decide on the fate of your
soul. There’s a split among a few of us as to whether you really belong with the people of light or…the other side

FELICIA
You're on the good side, right? That means the odds are in my favor

JOSIAH
I'm but one person. Some are of the opinion that your choice of lifestyle doesn't warrant
moving on to the next level

Grabbing a sheet of paper floating down

'Thank you!' Let me see here … At their last meeting, it still appears there’s a split amongst the celestial gatekeepers. The score is five for and five against. A veritable tie

FELICIA
I'm being punished for living a full life? Isn't that what humans are supposed to do?

JOSIAH
There is living…and then there is living. Your time here is supposed to be a learning experience but some do go overboard. That's when we encounter problems, like yours

FELICIA
How was I supposed to know what to do with my life? I just did what I figured was good at the time. If I'd known that it would be held against me down the line, I would've…I would've… Know what? I wouldn't have changed one damn thing…

SOUND: thunderclap

JOSIAH
Please! If you value your future, don't ever use that word. Never speak it out loud. In your precarious situation, it's even more essential that you remember

FELICIA
Being that I've never been dead before…

JOSIAH
Actually, you have but this isn't the time or place to discuss these ethereal issues

FELICIA
…and I'm not a by-the-book person at the best of times, so you know I'm gonna make mistakes, especially being a newbie at this and everything

JOSIAH
Please try holding your tongue when choosing your words - what a peculiar expression that is. Does it help to actually hold a tongue physically, to stop from saying certain things?

FELICIA
I mean, I didn't kill anyone. Well…nobody important. So I accidentally ran over a squirrel or two. Okay, it wasn't that accidental…but there are a lot more of them…

JOSIAH
Not an ideal frame of reference

FELICIA
I did get out of the car and move it to the side of the road. That I didn’t leave it there to rot as road kill for passing crows. should count for something.

JOSIAH
That and the others also came up for review by the way. There are some who need convincing that you can be redeemed

FELICIA
I’m begging, give me another chance to make up for all the things I didn't do and all the things I should have done, and all the bad stuff I did. Look – I can change! Let me prove it to all of you and you'll see that I'm worthy of rehabilitation

JOSIAH
Your time here is over as you experienced it

FELICIA
But you said…

JOSIAH
You assumed that life would be the same as before but that's not possible. A temporary soul-free zone has been negotiated on your behalf in the hope that you can improve yourself and your soul. You’ll be a free agent for six months from this day – no more, no less

FELICIA

Drops to her knees and kisses
JOSIAH’s hand

I'm your humble servant! Your willing slave

JOSIAH
No need for that. I hope you mean what you say because you're probably not going to like what I'm about to tell you

FELICIA
(glancing around)
Will you look at that. They've all gone. Two faced sons of a…

JOSIAH
There is one person who remained

FELICIA
It's just that Chloe Starshine, the air head. She doesn't count. Started working for us - I mean The Sentinal last week. Straight out'ta J-school she is. Believes everything anyone tells her

JOSIAH
Do you think she's got potential as a reporter?

FELICIA
Not unless she toughens up. They step all over her and she doesn't even realize it

JOSIAH
What if…somebody took her under her wing and showed her the ropes?

FELICIA
That person would have her work cut out for her, let me tell you! Hang on – you don't mean… Forgetaboutit! No way! Uh-uh!

JOSIAH
If that's your final decision then I better get in touch with the group…

FELICIA
Do they allow blackmail where you come from?

JOSIAH
I'm merely the messenger. I believe I made a joke

FELICIA
So you're not giving me a choice here, are you?

JOSIAH
You still have free will. I'm just explaining how things work

FELICIA
It would take a lot of time and even then, I don't know if she's got what it takes to succeed in this biz

JOSIAH
Then you'll have your work cut out for you. Just keep in mind how you felt when you first started at the paper. How scared you were…how much easier it would have been if somebody had been there to take you by the hand and lead the way

FELICIA
Cheesh – the kid is crying, for heaven's sake. 'Get a grip, girl!'

CHLOE moves to the front of the room. She touches the coffin,
caressing the sides and runs out exiting

JOSIAH
See? There was a person who genuinely cared for you

FELICIA
Go figure and she only knew me for a month. So what comes next?

JOSIAH
She's meeting your co-workers at a bar you frequent. "Down Time" I believe it's called…

FELICIA
…I wish I had a cent for all the bucks in tips I slipped across the counter at that place. I would have been a millionaire for sure. A scotch rocks would suit me fine right now…at least I think I’d like it…I'm not sure anymore

JOSIAH
There's no more need for - how shall I put it - earthly indulgences

FELICIA
But say if I really felt like a drink…

JOSIAH
You'll find your taste buds non-existent

FELICIA
I could indulge, right? And I won't get drunk or hung over?

JOSIAH
Hangovers are a thing of the past as are earthly desires

FELICIA
Listen, do I get to choose a younger body, maybe? That would be a big boost to my ego

JOSIAH
Don't push things

FELICIA
Are we leaving?

JOSIAH
If you'll follow me…

FELICIA
How would I do that, now?

JOSIAH
I keep forgetting that newcomers are earth-bound. Close your eyes …

JOSIAH snaps his fingers and they fade into nothingness

 

 
 

 
 


0 Comments on as of 9/13/2012 12:08:00 PM
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23. Why can’t I hear my dog or loved one, but you can?

Often, this is the question I get the most with students and other people. I even found an old email I gratefully missed seeing berating me for claiming that I could talk to my departed mother. How do I answer that?

For one thing, yes, I can talk to animals and feel spirits. The spirits more like drop in and out on occasion. I can’t conjure up. It’s more like having someone call you up on the telephone. I’m not delusional, I’ve been relatively grounded, and I’m psychologically sound even though life has really roughed me up a bit, and I’ve concluded that it was that “roughing up” that allowed me to hear or see.

Here’s one of my theories

Many of the friends I have that are truly “psychic,” which is really aware of other dimensions, or simply, what’s beyond THIS, have had in their life some kind of experience that caused them to pop out of their bodies from some kind of trauma. During that popping out they noticed “hey, there’s something else here.” No, they didn’t go into the devil’s world, which at least, I hope not. When I was a kid, I had such chronic pain that it was an easy thing to just pop out and hang out on the ceiling then feel that pain all the time (by the way, animals do this.) I was already very empathic, just like mother, and I think that’s how–the popping out–was why I also able to readily hear guidance.

Some folks need their worlds to fall apart to experience that there’s more then what’s here. GRIEF can open you up completely or…shut you down. That’s one big reason you can’t hear your loved one or your departed dog. There isn’t a thing you did wrong or something wrong with you. What I know from experience is when I am very upset and angry at the world, I can’t access any guidance. I feel cut off and stranded. I think with grief, you’re in a protective mode. You need to be insulated so you can heal. And then later on, you can hear or feel and connect to loved ones.

Some folks have had trauma and hurt early on and have always been shut down. It’s safer that way when the world is an unsafe place. But if you asked them, they will recall little signs that happened in their lives that showed them they were watched over, if they are willing to see it.

Lots of people could hear and see when they were children. But as they grew up and life got hard, they forgotten this.

Some folks are very left-brained and they experience the world solely from the mind, and therefore, won’t hear or see. (They need to rent movies like DRAGONFLY.) That’s not their path to hear.

Don’t Push

When I hear students say this, I always question if they are pushing or trying to hear/feel. That always shuts things down. Then your mind comes in and takes over. They are almost always missing the SUBTLE signs of communication and dismissing it as nothing, but it’s there. They are feeling hugged (those goosebumps out of nowhere), having songs come into their heads out of nowhere, seeing a shadow run across the room or a blink of light. That’s the communication! It doesn’t have to be a full-blown ghost giving a six page message. That’s just television! And always with their animals, they just need validation that they are already picking up a ton of information from their animals. How can they not? They are so connected to them.

I’ve always thought like a scientist. I need proof to believe and I need to experience it. Most folks are like that. So, if they don’t experience it or see it, why would they believe it? And the interesting thing is, when you have lots of experiences and you start to believe, the experiences increase.

No, I’m not special at all because I pick up things from spirits or know what dogs feel and think. I actually curse it sometimes when I have headaches from it and overload all the time, and pick up psychically what I really don’t want to or is helpful to me. I really don’t appreciate when people think I’m nuts. I don’t hear all the time, either, by the way. Sometimes, I stare at my dogs wondering what they want and can’t hear anything at all. Being sensitive can be a really big hindrance in my life, especially in my relationships, but it’s also a gift that can help others (I get to write about it.) And there are many out there who totally relate to this, who often come here.

Just Keep the Gate Open

The big thing is, if you are missing or grieving someone and you can’t feel or hear them, it doesn’t mean they have abandoned you or there’s no after-life, or worse, everyone who can is crazy. Right now, in this moment, you can’t. It’s not forever, and maybe there’s a reason, like I mentioned before. Instead, just leave that door open to possibility. That’s all you need for the world to surprise you. And boy, will it.

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If you are interested in developing your abilities to hear/see/feel, sign up for Fairy Online School to get help and info, which starts September 21st.


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24. Interview with Sean Cummings, Author of Poltergeeks

Sean Cummings dropped by the virtual offices to chat about his new release, Poltergeeks. Check out what he has to say!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Sean Cummings] Middle-aged introvert with obsessive compulsive tendencies. Life long cat person who is morphing into the crazy old man on your street.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Poltergeeks?

[Sean Cummings] Poltergeeks is book with a strong female protagonist who is snarky, fearless, loyal to those closest to her and who is desperate to prove herself to her over protective mother. It’s a book that is brooding vampire-free where there are romantic elements that differ from a lot of the love triangle formula you see in many young adult books these days. Julie and her best friend Marcus are quintessential geeks (Marcus, more so) who are quite happy about their social standing and comfortable in their own skin. There’s a bit of high school in the book but most of the story takes place on the streets of my hometown of Calgary. The reader is introduced to some very eccentric characters and Betty Priddy tops the list – she’s a blast to write about and the fact that she’s an immortal spirit who steals bodies at death’s door so she can manifest in the mortal plane creates a couple of interesting choices by which she pops into Julie’s life. This is a fun and funny story that gets very dark, very quickly. It’s non-stop action because the clock is ticking for Julie if she plans to save her mother’s life.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Sean Cummings] The book started with the title, actually. The word POLTERGEEKS just popped into my head and I started jotting down ideas. Given that it’s been nearly thirty years since I was in high school I took a gamble when I decided to write something aimed at young adults and I wanted to make the characters as genuine as possible. So there’s mother-daughter angst. There’s a protagonist who wants very much to prove herself. There’s a missing piece to my protagonist’s life in that her father died when she was very young. All of this started to gel once I sat down and worked on an outline and the actual plot took shape very quickly once I sat down with a sheet of paper and a pencil. I wanted to write something different than a lot of urban fantasy featuring teenagers, so I adopted a mindset very quickly that my characters, though low on the social scale at school should still be quite comfortable with their standing in life. In Julie you have the hero’s journey. In Marcus, you have the Watson to Julie’s Sherlock Holmes.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Julie?

[Sean Cummings] Feisty. Fearless. Irresponsible at times. Grounded in her friendships. Extremely loyal. Extremely self-sufficient. Comfortable in her own skin. She’s also a very, very powerful witch – more so than other witches her age. And finally, she’s snarky. A good female protagonist in an urban fantasy needs to be snarky, and Julie’s level of snark jumps right off the page.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Marcus would never have in his pocket?

[Sean Cummings] That’s a good question. He would never have car keys in his pocket because he’s all about saving the planet. He wouldn’t have a Starbucks gift card because he hates evil corporate entities save for McDonald’s. He wouldn’t carry lip balm unless he’s analyzed its chemical components first.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Julie’s single most prized possession?

[Sean Cummings] The faint, wispy memories of her late father who died when she was four. He’s the missing piece in her life – his non-presence has shaped the person that she’s becoming. His legacy is coming back to haunt her in a very dark and dangerous way.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Sean Cummings] Comic books top the list. Anything written by Alan Moore because he re-imagined what a comic book can possibly be with Watchmen. Stephen King, obviously, but also authors like Robert R. McCammon, John Saul and Simon R. Green. Believe it or not, Buffy didn’t influence me, though I did enjoy the show immensely.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Sean Cummings] 1) Silence. I need absolute silence. 2) Coffee. I need that kick start first thing in the morning. 3) Early morning. I can’t write after twelve in the afternoon. I’m a morning person and my creative juices are always flowing when I’ve crawled out of bed to begin pounding away at the keyboard.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Sean Cummings] The one that stands out the most is BLACKBIRDS by Chuck Wendig. I believe that in Miriam Black, Wendig has completely re-written the rules for what’s possible in dark fantasy with a strong female protagonist. Like, completely and utterly demolished them. No, I’m serious. He hopped his ass into a Sherman Tank and bloody well smashed through them with his main cannon firing. Miriam Black is unbelievably damaged goods – she touches your skin, she sees your death. BOOM! How can that NOT mess your mind up? How can you NOT smoke a three packs of cigarettes a day or guzzle whiskey to numb everything. It’s gritty, frightening and at times downright hilarious. This is the first book in a long time where I don’t have a bloody clue the direction the main character is going to go because Miriam doesn’t really have a clue where her life is leading her either. BLACKBIRDS is the best book of the year – hand’s down. I expect you’re going to see a lot of authors writing books with similar style characters because they’ve been influenced by Wendig’s writing. God knows, I have.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Sean Cummings] Oh that’s easy. WHEN THE WIND BLOWS by John Saul. It’s the first "adult" book I ever read and the irony is that its main characters are children. All of Saul’s books deal with themes that can resonate with someone writing young adult. The setting is always a small town where everyone knows each other. There’s always something dark and terrible in that house two blocks away from your house. There’s always something evil lurking in the shadows and it usually revolves around young people.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Sean Cummings] I’m a massive English football fan. Love love love the game! So I watch it on the dish Saturday and Sunday mornings at an obscenely early hour when I should be writing. I like to hang out with my son. I read, obviously. I watch a lot of science fiction and fantasy with the better half. I basically immerse myself in being a happy middle aged man who lives in a nice neighborhood (finally).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Sean Cummings] I’m on Twitter (saskatoonauthor). My website is sean-cummings.ca. I’m on Facebook. My email is info AT sean DASH cummings DOT ca.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Poltergeeks from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below

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25. FREE BOOK!

Join the Party! Jeff Gunhus is wrapping up a 3 week tour with a Twitter Party on Friday, December 21 from 6 pm to 8 pm EST Use the hashtag #JackTemplar to join the party. Missed the tour? Check out the entire tour schedule for great reviews, guest posts, and interviews!…………………………………………. MONSTER HUNTERS ~~AND ~~ [...]

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