Monday, May 31, 2010

The course of true love never did run smooth

Were the World Mine is a thoroughly charming film. It's a musical with a great rock soundtrack with the lyrics based on William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Midsummer Night's Dream happens to be my favorite of all of Shakespeare's brilliant plays. I cross-dressed and played the workman-actor Peter Quince in my fifth grade school production of it. I took my husband to see it live on stage when we were first dating. I adore the 1999 film version, and not just because it has a young Christian Bale as Demetrius. Heck, I named my last book Midsummer Night, and in one scene the characters are watching the Shakespearean film.

Were the World Mine is not just a new adaptation of the play, though. Its central character is Timothy, a gay teen at an all-male private school. He has an unrequited crush on Jonathon, who happens to be an uber-jock rugby player. Enter Miss T, the English teacher. She insists on casting the macho rugby players in the school play, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Everyone knows that English teachers possess magic, and in this case, it's literally true. She casts Timothy as the mischevious fairy Puck, prompting many "fairy" jokes but also teaching him the magic formula for making the play's love-inducing flower.

With the magic pansy that can make people fall in love with each other at first sight, Timothy gets Jonathon to fall in love with him. Unfortunately, he makes a mistake and accidentally also gets his heterosexual friend Max to fall in love with him. Then Timothy goes a little wild and turns most of the town gay. But this is a comedy, and like the Shakespearean version, all the star-crossed romances and rivalries will be straightened out (literally, in this case) by the end of the film. I don't think anyone will be surprised to learn that when all the magic is reversed, it turns out Jonathon's feelings for Timothy are genuine, and the two live happily ever after.

The music is great, the characters are adorable, and Miss T's glam production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is gorgeous. (Adam Lambert could easily star in this, if it were adapted as a stage musical.) Lovers of theater will appreciate the play within the play. In fact, only the crustiest homophobe could dislike this disarming production.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Poems (A List)

A Song. Joseph Brodsky.

A Woman Waits For Me. Walt Whitman.

Christ Climbed Down. Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Daddy. Sylvia Plath.

Death to Van Gogh’s Ear! Allen Ginsberg.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. Dylan Thomas.

Dover Beach. Matthew Arnold.

Gnostic Gato. Phedra Johnson.

He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven. William Butler Yeats.

Impossible to Tell. Robert Pinsky.

In the Naked Bed, in Plato’s Cave. Delmore Schwartz.

Jehovah buried, Satan dead. e. e. cummings.

Lady Lazarus. Sylvia Plath.

Lucifer in Starlight. George Meredith.

My Father and the Figtree. Naomi Shihab Nye.

My Makeup. Rochelle Kraut.

Nothing Gold Can Stay. Robert Frost.

Phenomenal Woman. Maya Angelou.

She Walks In Beauty. George Gordon, Lord Byron.

Sonnet XXX. Edna St. Vincent Millay.

So We’re Go No More A-Rovin’. George Gordon, Lord Byron.

Still I Rise. Maya Angelou.

’Tis the Voice of the Lobster. Lewis Carroll.

The Abortion. Anne Sexton.

The Goblin Market. Christina Rossetti.

The Raven. Edgar Allan Poe.

The Second Coming. William Butler Yeats.

To You. Walt Whitman.

Walking to Work. Ted Kooser.

Warning. Jenny Joseph.

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why. Edna St. Vincent Millay.

From Emily Dickinson:

I felt a funeral in my brain.

I heard a Fly buzz when I died.

Because I could not stop for death

I’m nobody! Who are you?

“Hope” is the thing with feathers.

Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant.

Success is counted sweetest.

I took my power in my hand.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Loose Tooth Showdown: 'The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez'

Rene Colato Perez was born in El Salvador. He now lives in the United States, where he teaches elementary school and writes award-winning books for children. His newest release is the delightful The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez.

Who collects baby teeth when they fall out? In the U.S., it's the Tooth Fairy. In many Spanish-speaking countries, though, it's El Raton Perez...Perez the Mouse. The book, for children ages 4 to 8, explores what happens when legendary tooth collectors, and cultures, meet. Find it on Amazon here.

In this mild month of May, Pagan Spirits is exploring books appropriate for all ages and all things mild. So here's your chance to share your memories of baby teeth falling out. Did the tooth fairy visit you? Were you ever visited by El Raton Perez?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pagan Spirits Gone Mild!

Is it just my imagination, or does my blog seem a little tame this month? First my guest blogger was Sandra Lopez, a young adult author. Her book, Beyond the Gardens, about a Latina college student, sounds like an amazing read. It's completely appropriate for young adult readers.

THEN it was National Day of Prayer, and I gave a shout-out to Mary Ford-Grabowsky, the queen of multicultural, woman-inclusive prayer books for all people of faith. It was a nice post. So nice, not even a nun could object.

THEN, in keeping with the prayer theme, I reviewed two mini-books from White Rose Publishing, a sweet purveyor of faith-based romance novels without any explicit sexual content.

Later this month, I'm going to host an actual children's author for the first time! Rene Colato Lainez will be here to promote his book about the Tooth Fairy. (We take our fairies very seriously here at Pagan Spirits.)

Sooooooooo......let's take a brief walk on the not-so-mild side of Pagan Spirits a moment and enjoy these photos of my #1 celebrity crush.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mini-Reviews of Short, Free EBooks

White Rose Publishing specializes in romance novels...not the smutty kind, but the sweet, clean kind. It's not my usual favorite genre to read, but who can resist the appeal of a free e-book? I can't. I'm a free e-book collector. If you are, too, go to and click on the "Free Reads" link. There are actually twelve of them to choose from (IF you choose to could get them all!).

I've read two, "Catching the Bouquet" and "An Uncommon Sparrow." Both are Rosettes, or single short stories. "Bouquet" is only 13 pages, and "Sparrow" only 11, including the cover and the title page.

"Catching the Bouquet" by Kara Lynn Russell is set at the wedding of Tony and Jasmine. Tony's younger sister Angel is in a serious relationship with Jeff, but lately Angel hasn't seemed like herself. She's beginning to wonder if her own wedding day will ever come. Does Jeff really love her, or is he already getting tired of her? Angel keeps getting mixed signals. Will Angel catch the bouquet and be the next to get married, or will she lose out to one of Jasmine's flirty cousins?

"An Uncommon Sparrow" by Janelle Ashley is set in the late 18th century, yet the story is timeless. "Bouquet" is romantic, contemporary, and straightforward, but "Sparrow" is a little more fun. Its heroine is 19-year-old Pricilla. Pricilla is always in the shadow of her gorgeous best friend Mercy. At the governor's ball, there seems to be one man who isn't enraptured by Mercy's charms: Luke Ainsworth, a war hero. Could he really be interested in Pricilla, the sparrow-like brunette?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

For National Day of Prayer 2010

The Breast-Plate of St. Patrick, Paganized and feminized:

"I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea, Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

"I arise today
Through Brighid's strength to pilot me:
Brighid's might to uphold me,
Brighid's wisdom to guide me,
Brighid's eye to look before me,
Brighid's ear to hear me,
Brighid's word to speak for me,
Brighid's hand to guard me,
Brighid's way to lie before me,
Brighid's shield to protect me,
Brighid's host to save me
From snares of evil spirits,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude."

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

"Lady, Mother, my maker, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Mistress, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love,
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are reborn to eternal life."

Both of these are traditional prayers from my Catholic upbringing. slightly tweaked to reflect the divine feminine. Both reflect universal concerns to people of faith. For more diverse, multicultural and woman-centered prayers, I recommend 2 books by Mary Ford-Grabowsky: WomanPrayers and Sacred Voices.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Welcome YA Author Sandra Lopez for a Live Chat (May 3rd)

Welcome to our special guest, Sandra Lopez! She's the author of two novels, Esperanza: A Latina Story and now Beyond the Gardens. Leave your comments and questions for Sandra.

Sandra C. López was born and raised in Hawaiian Gardens, California. She learned to read at the young age of two and strived to achieve the best grades in school. Her free time was spent reading, writing, and drawing. Sandra managed to be the first in her family to graduate from high school and enter college. Her first novel, Esperanza: A Latina Story, was published in March 2008 while she was still in college. Now, this young writer is a full graduate of Cal State University Fullerton with a BFA in Animation and Illustration, and she is anticipating a promising career as a writer and an artist. Beyond the Gardens is the follow-up sequel to Esperanza.

Erin O'Riordan: Sandra, when did you write your first book? How did you get it published? How long did it take?

Sandra Lopez: I wrote my first book right after high school. I couldn't even imagine getting it published, but I thought, "what the hey? why not see if you spark an interest?" So I queried like 20 or 30 publishers. Most of them came back rejected, some didn't come back at all; then I got a call from the editor at Floricanto Press, who wanted to see the whole manuscript. I emailed it to him, and then three months later, I was offered a contract. It took about 2 1/2 years to go from manuscript to completed paperback. I became a published author before I graduated college.

EO: Which do you find leads you to your best writing: your triumphs or your tragedies? Do you write from joy or pain?

SL: I say a little of both. My writing style, I've been told, has been described as "real and raw." My gift is to create true-to-life characters made of flesh and bone that grab you and take you on a wild ride throughout their story. I write what I know and feel.

EO: Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

SL: A mixture of writers, really. Ever since I was a kid, I've always thought writers were so cool....I still think that. To this day, I become star-struck whenever I meet a new writer. I enjoy the works of my fellow Latino writers like Sandra Cisneros, Luis Rodriguez, and Gary Soto along with some newer faces in the industry like Sarah Rafael Garcia, author of Las Ninas: A Collection of Childhood Memories and founder of Barrio Writers. But I also enjoy reading other stories like mysteries and horror--anything that sparks an interest in me. I'd like to say that I'm not a prejudice reader. I read anything by anyone (Black, Asian, alien, whatever). If you have a good story made of characters that you can touch, then sign me up! And if it makes me laugh, all the better.

EO: Do you read for pleasure? If so, what kind of books do you like to read? (Or, if you had time to read for pleasure, what would you read?)

SL: I'm going to keep on reading 'til my eyes fall out (and they probably will at this rate). Like I said, I read anything that sparks an interest (usually from the plot in the back cover.) If I raise my eye brows and hum, then I buy it.

EO: What has been the most significant book you've read (or had to read to you, if you were a child at the time) in your life?

SL: There hasn't been one significant book. I'd say that I've learned a little frome every book I've read (the ones I thought were good, anyways.) What I've learned most of all is that there are no right or wrong answers in writing. The art of writing is like art in general. There are many different styles in art like, Realism, Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Art, etc. There are many, many styles. And each masterpiece has a personal touch from the individual artist. Writing is just like that. A good work of fiction will not only have a well-developed plot and likable characters, but it will also have the writer's voice and personality. We need to be able to see the artist's heart and soul in the work; then it will be a masterpiece.

EO: What project are you currently working on?

SL: At the present moment, I am working on the outline of a third YA book, which will be a collection of short stories. Each story will be a personal experience I had growing up in the small barrio of Hawaiin Gardens.

Synopsis of Beyond the Gardens:

At the age of 18, Esperanza Ignacio begins her college years at an upscale Los Angeles art school, where she studies to fulfill her long-term dream in Animation. But she soon learns the truth to the old folktale: “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.” Even though she’s getting financial aid, Esperanza works a part-time job during her break from classes just to make ends meet. Her roommate, Anna, is what she calls a “chicana from Beverly Hills” because of the rich daddy and the new car she got for her quinceañera.

Things get a little confusing for Esperanza when an old friend comes looking for her, hoping to start a meaningful relationship. But is Carlos the right guy for her? She never even considered him to be anything more than a friend since high school. Then comes Jake, a gorgeous mechanic, who shares her passion for books and loves her for who she is. What’s a girl to do? Strength and determination help pave the way for the future.

As she approaches her graduation, she is faced with a difficult decision: should she leave Los Angeles and leave behind her family, her home, and everything she’s known? Ever since she was born in the California barrio of Hawaiian Gardens, she’s always had to look over the fence, wondering what she’s been missing. Now she’s taking a flying leap over to see what’s beyond the little barrio. What’s beyond her family, her friends, and her past? What’s beyond the little nothing town, where dreams don’t exist? What’s beyond The Gardens? Is it life, love, a future? The story of Esperanza is finally concluded in this wildly entertaining and heart-warming sequel.

“Sandra Lopez’s sequel to Esperanza—Beyond the Gardens—
reacquaints the reader with a compelling character,
Esperanza, her barrio past and her college present, as
she struggles to get an education and find her identity. A
heartwarming story that young, female teens will enjoy!”
—Donna Del Oro – Author of Operation Familia and
Hasta La Vista, Baby

“Readers can’t help but cheer Esperanza on as she
finds out what life is like Beyond the Gardens. Funny, smart,
and heartfelt—all that you want in an inspiring story.”
—Margo Candela – Author of Underneath it All and
More Than This

“It’s not easy to figure out who you want to be, especially
if you’re a chica from the barrio. With a crazy family
and un amigo, who has suddenly decided he wants her,
brainy college student, Esperanza, finds herself having to
make some tough decisions. In this humorous and sweet
novel, Lopez brings us lovable characters we want to root
for from page one. Don’t miss it!”
—Lara Rios – Author of Becoming Latina in 10 Easy

You can buy Beyond the Gardens at:

Dulce Bread & Book Shop (
Brewing your sabor for sweet bread and books of color.
Tel. 512.633.4327
Email. dulce (at)

Beyond the Gardens
By Sandra C. Lopez
Price: $19.50
ISBN-13: 9781432746988
Published: Outskirts Press

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Beyond the Gardens. The winner will be chosen from the people who leave the most comments on the blogs of Sandra's virtual book tour. The tour stops you may have missed are:

Monday April 26 Bonnie S. Mata
Tuesday April 27 Mayra Calvani
Wednesday April 28 Christina Rodriguez
Thursday April 29 Lori Calabrese
Friday April 30 Mary Jo

The upcoming tour dates are:

Tuesday May 4 Joylene Nowell Butler
Wednesday May 5 Terri Lee-Johnson
Thursday May 6 Romina Tybitt
Friday May 7 Leslie Toledo

So, what do you want to know about Sandra's books?