Friday, October 29, 2010

Blog Notes: Giveaway, Latinas and 100 Children's Books

Watercolor artist and illustrator Bonnie Beckeman will be my guest on November 6, 2010. She'll sit down for an interview and one commenter will win a copy of the children's book Amie and the Purple Butterfly. Written by Cheryl Pillsbury, it's the sweet story of a little girl with autism and the purple butterfly who befriends her.

The first professional review of my YA novel I Made Out With a Teenage Communist! is up! Visit Cobwebs and Memories to read it.

Another book blog to check out is Livin' the Vida Latina. Books written by Latinas are reviewed by Latinas. The featured post today is by previous Pagan Spirits guest blogger Sandra C. Lopez.

Finally, I borrowed this post from TeacherNinja Jim Randolph. This list of the 100 top children’s books was created by School Library Journal. The ones I’ve personally read are in bold.


100. The Egypt Game - Snyder (1967)
99. The Indian in the Cupboard - Banks (1980)
98. Children of Green Knowe - Boston (1954)
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - DiCamillo (2006)
96. The Witches - Dahl (1983)
95. Pippi Longstocking - Lindgren (1950)
94. Swallows and Amazons - Ransome (1930)
93. Caddie Woodlawn - Brink (1935)
92. Ella Enchanted - Levine (1997)
91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Sachar (1978)
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall - MacLachlan (1985)
89. Ramona and Her Father - Cleary (1977)
88. The High King - Alexander (1968)
87. The View from Saturday - Konigsburg (1996)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Rowling (1999)
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek - Wilder (1937)
84. The Little White Horse - Goudge (1946)
83. The Thief - Turner (1997)
82. The Book of Three - Alexander (1964)
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Lin (2009)
80. The Graveyard Book - Gaiman (2008)
79. All-of-a-Kind-Family - Taylor (1951)
78. Johnny Tremain - Forbes (1943)
77. The City of Ember - DuPrau (2003)
76. Out of the Dust - Hesse (1997)
75. Love That Dog - Creech (2001)


74. The Borrowers - Norton (1953)
73. My Side of the Mountain - George (1959)
72. My Father's Dragon - Gannett (1948)
71. The Bad Beginning - Snicket (1999)
70. Betsy-Tacy - Lovelae (1940)
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society - Stewart ( 2007)
68. Walk Two Moons - Creech (1994)
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher - Coville (1991)
66. Henry Huggins - Cleary (1950)
65. Ballet Shoes - Stratfeild (1936)
64. A Long Way from Chicago - Peck (1998)
63. Gone-Away Lake - Enright (1957)
62. The Secret of the Old Clock - Keene (1959)
61. Stargirl - Spinelli (2000)
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi (1990)
59. Inkheart - Funke (2003)
58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Aiken (1962)
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 - Cleary (1981)
56. Number the Stars - Lowry (1989)
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins - Paterson (1978)
54. The BFG - Dahl (1982)
53. Wind in the Willows - Grahame (1908)
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
51. The Saturdays - Enright (1941)
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins - O'Dell (1960)



49. Frindle - Clements (1996)
48. The Penderwicks - Birdsall (2005)
47. Bud, Not Buddy - Curtis (1999)
46. Where the Red Fern Grows - Rawls (1961)
45. The Golden Compass - Pullman (1995)
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Blume (1972)
43. Ramona the Pest - Cleary (1968)
42. Little House on the Prairie - Wilder (1935)
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Speare (1958)
40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Baum (1900)
39. When You Reach Me - Stead (2009)
38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix - Rowling (2003)
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Taylor (1976)
36. Are You there, God? It's Me, Margaret - Blume (1970)
35. HP and the Goblet of Fire - Rowling (2000)
34. The Watsons Go to Birmingham - Curtis (1995)
33. James and the Giant Peach - Dahl (1961)
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - O'Brian (1971)
31. Half Magic - Eager (1954)
30. Winnie-the-Pooh - Milne (1926)
29. The Dark Is Rising - Cooper (1973)
28. A Little Princess - Burnett (1905)
27. Alice I and II - Carroll (1865/72)
26. Hatchet - Paulsen (1989)
25. Little Women - Alcott (1868/9)
24. HP and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling (2007)
23. Little House in the Big Woods - Wilder (1932)
22. The Tale of Despereaux - DiCamillo (2003)
21. The Lightning Thief - Riordan (2005)
20. Tuck Everlasting - Babbitt (1975)
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Dahl (1964)
18. Matilda - Dahl (1988)

17. Maniac Magee - Spinelli (1990)
16. Harriet the Spy - Fitzhugh (1964)
15. Because of Winn-Dixie - DiCamillo (2000)
14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Rowling (1999)
13. Bridge to Terabithia - Paterson (1977)
12. The Hobbit - Tolkien (1938)
11. The Westing Game - Raskin (1978)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth - Juster (1961)

9. Anne of Green Gables - Montgomery (1908)
8. The Secret Garden - Burnett (1911)
7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)
6. Holes - Sachar (1998)
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - Koningsburg (1967)
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Lewis (1950)
3. Harry Potter #1 - Rowling (1997)
2. A Wrinkle in Time - L'Engle (1962)
1. Charlotte's Web - White (1952)






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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Celtic Languages 101: Welsh for Halloween

Yes, I'm Irish, but I can't help but be fascinated by Welsh, the Celtic language so unpronounceable to English tongues. All the best Welsh words and phrases come into play this time of year, when Irish Celts and neo-Pagans everywhere get ready to celebrate Samhain.

The Welsh expression for Halloween is Nos Calan Gaeaf. Nos Calan Gaeaf is one of the Teir Nas Ysbrydion, Three Spirit Nights. The other two are the traditional Celtic holidays of Beltane (May 1) and Midsummer Night (June 21). These are the times when the veil between the seen and unseen worlds is at its thinnest, when spirits are most likely to break through.

One of those spirits, in Welsh folklore, is the hwch du gwta. She is a spectral black sow, a bad omen similar to the Grim in English folklore (famously appropriated by J. K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).

If you want to avoid visitors from the spirit realm, it's best to leave some bwyd cennad y meirw outside your door. Bwyd cennad y meirw is food for the dead.

Without a tasty bribe, you might get a visit from the Welsh equivalent of Ireland's sidhe, the fairies. The Welsh call them tylwethtag.

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The Wheel of the Year is a beginner's guide to celebrating the eight traditional pagan festivals of the the year.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

'Refracted' by Sheila Deeth: Shockingly Original Fiction

Refracted by Sheila Deeth (Gypsy Shadow Publishing) is the kind of book that starts out by making the reader wonder, "What am I reading?"


After the first chapter or two, you might think you were in a Christian fiction novel, one that follows child witnesses to Biblical events who tell of miraculous happenings from their own points of view. Soon you begin to realize these characters aren't particularly religious, at least not in any orthodox way. After the third chapter, the narrators aren't quite so innocent anymore, and a bigger picture begins to emerge.

Let me give you a hint: this is a work of science fiction, though one that's told in a particularly poetic voice. It evoked a number of associations for me. Let me name just a few so I can attempt to parse out the flavors of this fantastic dish:

~If you've ever listened to the song "I've Loved You Before" by Melissa Etheridge, you can have some idea of the emotional underpinnings

~If you read The Prestige by Christopher Priest (or even saw the movie), you can have some idea of the strange, eerie type of science fiction this turns out to be

~If you think back to the horcruxes in the Harry Potter series, and how Lord Voldemort split his soul into pieces, you can imagine the meaning Deeth assigns to the colors of the rainbow

~If you read the anthology She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror you can have some idea of the various settings.

That's probably all I can say without spoiling too much.

Did I enjoy this novel? Yes, tremendously. I was pleasantly surprised by its twists and turns. I liked the way it subtly invited the reader to walk a mile in seven different pairs of shoes without being overtly political. It is highly relevant to all the religious misunderstanding that's going on in the world, so in that it's realistic enough to carry non-science-fiction fans through some of the more fantastic elements. It certainly gives the reader something to think about.

Friday, October 15, 2010

As featured in Poetic Monthly #56: My interview with Christian Bale!

I (never) sat down for an (imaginary) interview with (a fictional) Christian Bale, the star of films inspired by great literature such as Little Women, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and American Psycho.


Erin O.: It’s an honor to meet you. First question: will you pull me around in a sled like a pony, as you did for Kirsten Dunst in Little Women?

Bale: That’s fucking unprofessional, man. Are you professional?

Erin O.: Of course. I’ve been a staff writer for Poetic Monthly for over a year, and I’ve interviewed several authors on these pages.

Bale: Give me a fucking answer!

Erin O.: I just did. My answer was yes.

Bale: Oh, did you? I’m sorry. What was the question again?

Erin O.: (Deftly switches questions.) You recently applied for American citizenship. Your parents are English, and you were born in Wales. Do you feel any kind of special connection to the Welsh people?

Bale: Naturally, Wales holds a great fascination for me. I’m especially fond of Dylan Thomas, the greatest Welsh poet. I can only read the English-language literature of Wales, though. That Celtic language they speak is beyond me.

Erin O.: It’s beyond the comprehension of any English speaker. They spell “Wales” as “Cymru,” for crying out loud! Moving on…do you ever find yourself singing “King of New York” from Newsies?



Bale: That was so long ago, I forgot all the words. I do remember all my Shakespearean dialogue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, though. When Calista Flockheart got married, I recited all my lines for her at the wedding. It took so long she had to skip throwing the bouquet!

Erin O.: That’s actually sweet, in a weirdly egotistical way. Speaking of wedding cake, your weight fluctuates drastically. You were almost plump in The Prestige, but skeletal in The Machinist. What gives?


Bale: (Smiles.) It all depends on what the role requires. Plus, the head caterer on the set of The Prestige had a crush on Hugh Jackman. She kept making him Vegemite pies. They were delicious! Why don’t you have Vegemite here in America?

Erin O.: I’ll check with our food writer, Stephen Lapan, and get back to you on that. So, you’re saying you ate Hugh’s pies?

Bale: I think he told me I could. His Australian accent is hard to understand. I always talk in my growly Batman voice so people can understand me.

Erin O.: I do like the growly Batman voice. May I end this interview with a joke?

Bale: Please.

Erin O.: How does Batman keep his hair so smooth and shiny?


Bale: Oh, I know this one! He uses Conditioner Gordon!

Thank you, Christian Bale, for stealing my punchline. Post script: I asked Martin White, the editor of Poetic Monthly, if we could make this a scratch-and-sniff article that smells like Vegemite pies, but he nixed the idea. I haven't figured out how to make a scratch-and-sniff blog post.

Monday, October 11, 2010

First there was Hunk du Jour. Now it's the ladies' turn!

Back in August I discovered Hunk du Jour, a yum-a-licious blog covered with photos of beautiful men. This morning I discovered its feminine equivalent, Dorothy Surrenders.

Dorothy Surrenders is a lesbian website posting hot photos of the girls whom girls love to ogle. Its author is Dorothy Snarker - ha! Its motto? "A Gay Gal's Guide to Pop Culture. Why Let the Boys Have All the Fun?"

Why indeed? Since I stumbled upon DS this morning, thought I'd share some of my favorite chicas (a sampling of my celeb girl crushes) from its virtual pages. Click to view the hotness!

Christina Ricci

Eva Mendes

Josephine Baker

Queen Latifah

Rihanna (btw, Snarker is so right on about the Eminem video)

Scarlett Johansson

Shakira

Susan Sarandon

Uma Thurman


Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven

'The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven' is a dual memoir penned by Kevin Malarkey and his son Alex. In 2004, when Alex was only six, Kevin and Alex were in a terrible car accident. While Kevin escaped with only relatively minor, non-lingering injuries, Alex's condition was serious. Alex suffered an internal decapitation - his skull became detached from his spinal cord. In medical terms, this is not compatible with life. Alex should have died, yet thanks to the persistent prayers of the paramedics, bystanders and Alex's family, Alex lived.


He was in a coma and never expected to come out. Even if he did awaken from his coma, doctors told Kevin and Alex's mother, Beth, that Alex would have severe brain damage and never again be the same boy they knew. They were told he would never be able to speak or even to swallow food on his own. Remarkably, none of this was true. Alex emerged from a coma with his personality fully intact. He relearned how to speak and to eat. Alex and his family never lost hope and have faith that one day Alex will even walk again.

If this wasn't remarkable enough, though, there is more to Alex's amazing story. As soon as he regained speech, Alex began telling his mother and father about what really happened when his body was so badly injured in the accident: Jesus took Alex's spirit to heaven. Ever wondered what heaven is really like? Alex knows. He's talked to Jesus and God the father, though he wasn't able to see God's face. Seeing angels became routine for Alex, even when his spirit and body were reunited. The struggle of Alex and his family to adapt to his painful new circumstances, Kevin came to realize, was a new battle in the age-old war between good and evil in the unseen spirit world.

Was Alex telling the truth, or did he simply have a very active imagination? Kevin Malarkey gives the various reasons why he doesn't think so. The Malarkeys are evangelical Christians, but they had never been the type of charismatic Christians who expected to have this personal type of supernatural experience. Even though Alex was only six when he had this experience, his description of heaven is completely consistent with the Bible.

Alex Malarkey is a humble survivor. Though he's shown incredible strength and resilience, he takes none of the credit. He gives God all the glory. He is truly a child readers will never forget.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Death's Excellent Vacation, Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

I suspect that many readers who pick up Death's Excellent Vacation, a collection of paranormal stories with a vacation theme, will do so for Charlaine Harris' brand-new Sookie Stackhouse story. "Two Blondes" sends telepathic waitress Sookie and vampire Pam out of town to visit a casino and run an errand for vampire sheriff Eric Northman. In the course of their errand, they meet an elf, Pam is drugged, and the two blondes are forced to don scanty outfits and pole-dance. It's a good story and a welcome addition to the Sookie catalog.


There are many other worthy stories in this collection. The second tale, Sarah Smith's "The Boys Go Fishing," features a Superman-like character on an expedition to catch the Loch Ness monster. It's a strange concept, but it works beautifully. Jeaniene Frost's "One For the Money" features engaging vampire characters. "Far Across the Caspian Sea" by Daniel Stashower is in the vein of Kurt Vonnegut's immortal Slaughterhouse Five. Remember the Simpsons Halloween episode where dolphins take over the world? If you do you'll enjoy "The Innsmouth Nook" by A. Lee Martinez. "Safe and Sound" by Jeff Abbott is a twist on true events and a stinging indictment of a well-known cable TV personality.

One of the most enjoyable tales here is "Seeing is Believing" by L. A. Banks. Fans of Sookie Stackhouse will find this Louisiana werewolf tale familiar, yet different enough from the True Blood universe to make it unique.

Surprisingly, I found myself skimming through Katie MacAlister's "The Perils of Effrijim." I usually love Katie MacAlister's brand of comic romance novels, but this short story was a little too steeped in obscure fantasy language to hold my interest. I had a different problem with "Thin Walls" by Christopher Golden: the setup was good, but it seemed to drag in the middle.

The stories improve after that, so bear with this book. "The Heart is Always Right," a gargoyle tale by Lilith Saintcrow, is wonderful. "The Demon in the Dunes" by Chris Grabenstein features a realistic young narrator and a surprising twist. In "Home From America" by Sharan Newman, Pat O'Reilly discovers he's not really an O'Reilly, but has an entirely different Irish heritage. The bookend to this anthology, "Pirate Dave's Haunted Amusement Park," is a werewolf mystery with pirates - who couldn't love that? In all, there is much more to admire here than to skim through.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Add this to your October reading list: Wonder

The latest anthology to feature an original Erin O'Riordan short story has been published this October by eXcessica. It's called Wonder, and it's a collection of short romantic stories. Mine is called "Butterfly Boy," and it's about a woman who falls in love with a man she meets at the park. I won't give away the supernatural twist. Each story has one as well as the steamy erotica content you've come to expect from eXcessica.


Official book blurb: "Whether it’s werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, angels, ghosts or aliens—these are stories with all of those strange and wonderfully sexy creatures that fascinate the human psyche! Come on a spicy, paranormal journey that ventures into titillating realms bound only the imaginations of your favorite eXcessica authors! A dozen stories included in this volume by Wynter O’Reilly, Selena Kitt, D.B. Story, Sommer Marsden, J.M. Snyder, Dakota Trace, Piers Anthony, Roxanne Rhoads, Elise Hepner, Darcy Sweet, Christabel Rouseau and Erin O’Riordan."

An excerpt from "Butterfly Boy:"

As much as I tried to calm myself and focus on the peaceful environs of the garden, every time I closed my eyes I was flooded with violent images of cold-blooded beasts with bared fangs dripping blood. I kept remembering the nightmare I’d had, but my memories were more terrifying than the dream had been. Even as I sat in the lightly shaded garden on a hot summer day, chills wracked my body.

My unpleasant meditations were disrupted when something landed on my toes. I looked down at my sandals and saw my toes were covered over with a bright red flying disc. I looked around, but the thrower was nowhere to be seen.

I heard him before I saw him; he came in through the back gate and up behind me. I turned to see his approach. He wore long, red basketball shorts, a white t-shirt soaked in sweat, and a red headband holding back his heavily gelled, spiky black hair. Though he was dressed like a teen, he was at least my age, twenty-four.

“Hey, have you seen my flying disc?” he asked me. I picked it up and held it up for him to see. “Thanks,” he said as I handed it back to him.

“I didn’t think anyone else was in the garden today,” I said. “I wouldn’t want my meditation to get in the way of your game of catch.”

He snorted slightly, catching the note of sarcasm. “Actually, my friends and I are playing in the park across the street. This one was a wild throw.”

“Wow,” I said. The disc must have flown at least sixty yards. “Nice arm.” He did have nice arms, with thick, toned biceps. The sleeves of his shirt showed them off nicely; I couldn’t help but notice.

He shook his head. “Nah, I didn’t throw it. It was my friend Rick. I’m Jake, by the way.” He tucked the disc under his arm before offering me his hand.

“Lacey Burke,” I said as we shook.

“I’ve seen you around here before,” he said. “You like the Japanese garden, don’t you?”

“It’s my favorite place to meditate.”

“I know what you mean. The park’s my favorite place to kick back and catch some fresh air and sunshine, you know?”

“I’ve never noticed you before,” I said honestly.

He chuckled. “Well, since your focus is kinda scattered at the moment, and your meditation’s kinda ruined, want to play with my friends and me? We’re going to go get burgers in a while.”

I cocked my head. “Are you asking me out, Jake?”

He smiled. He had a nice smile. “I guess so, Lacey. Come on, I’ll introduce you to my friends.”

***

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Welcome, Dan O'Brien, author of 'The Journey!'

Today I'm featuring an interview with eclectic novelist Dan O'Brien, author of The Journey. Please leave your questions and comments for Dan, and he'll stop by and answer as he gets the chance.

What was the name of the first book you wrote?

Deviance of Time was the first novel I wrote. I started it when I was in 8th grade and then finished around my 16th birthday or so.

How did you get it published?


I got it published through American Book Publishing.

Which do you find leads you to your best work: your triumphs or your tragedies?

I find that it is often a marriage of both triumphs and tragedies, but if pressed I would say tragedies.

Do you write from joy or pain?


A little of both honestly. It really depends on what the content of the book requires.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

My brother and long-time girlfriend as they have both maintained support and criticism throughout my professional career.

Do you read for pleasure? If so, what kind of books do you like to read?


I do read for pleasure and it is often genre-bending fiction that challenges existing prototype novels. I do love The Road and anything McCarthy writes.

What has been the most significant book you've read (or listened to, if you were a small child) in your life?

I would say The Prophet by Gibran or perhaps A Wrinkle in Time. They both had a profound effect on my later writing and ideas about how books should be written.

A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all-time favorites! What project(s) are you currently working on?


I am working on getting my existing 8 novels into print as well as working on a shooting script for a film project. I already have 4 more novels set up, so needless to say I am going to stay busy.

Thank you, Dan, for taking the time to visit us today, and good luck with your novels!