Friday, May 28, 2010

Random Funny Things My Kids Say - Part 41

My neighbor was asking Youngest who she was more like Mommy or Daddy. To which she replied, "Well, I'm like both of them. I fart a lot like Daddy and I make big gigantic burps like Mommy."

I just want to point out that unlike farting, gigantic burps actually takes talent.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Random Funny Japanese Game Show

This show is so funny. It's a batsu game where Japanese comedians have to go to a high school which is a "no laughing" high school. All the teachers are comedians. If they laugh, they get beat with a kendo stick. You have to watch the video clip with the guy counting to 100. It's the best part.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Random Funny Things My Mom Says - Part 7

A little while back my buddy Moonrat did this awesome post on "Do I really want to be published?" that could have been written about me. In fact, it was. And as excellent as Moonie's advice has always been to me, I've never been able to get to that zen state about my book. Until now. Because my Mom did the smackdown on me. And it was good.

My folks came down this weekend for a visit. They've known that I've been under a lot of stress and were worried about me. The first thing my Mom says is to get off the laptop. "All that computer does is give you stress. Turn it off and come sit down and talk."

I turn off the computer and sit down, heart sinking for the lecture that I know is coming. It won't matter if I'm 60 years old, my parents are always going to lecture me. That's life.

"Ellen, why are you so stressed about this book?" my Mom asks. "Why don't you forget about it already."

"That's impossible, Mom. I just can't forget it."

"Not forget forever. Just for a little while," my Mom says. "Listen, don't be stuck on your book. Let it go and be happy. When you are happy, really happy, then go back to it. Nothing works when your brain is filled with stress." She rubs at the crease between my eyebrows. "Your brain is all filled with worry and stress and miserableness. Why you want to put that in your book? You put that in your book - who want to read it? Happiness makes your healthy. Healthy makes your brain happy. Then you write your book."

I nod and sigh. "It's not that easy..."

"Of course it's not easy." My Mom shakes her head at me. "You and your sister got your writing gene from your Dad. He's a great writer. Great newspaper columnist (my Dad had a column in the national Korean American paper for years). But then he write 3 books and they don't do good. He's depressed and give up writing. That's why he's worried about you girls. But I'm not worried. I know one day people will applaud me just for being your mother. You will be great one day. But don't rush it. You don't have to. I will live until I am 110! You have plenty of time. Don't rush."

I begin to laugh. "Thanks Mom. Maybe one day then it'll all work out for me. It's just hard when I see all my friends succeed and I wonder when it will happen to me." (My wonderful, fabulous critique group is made up of me and 3 authors who I knew from the day I first read their work that they would all be published because they were that good. And I was right. All 3 have book deals for 2011 - and I couldn't be happier for them.)

My Mom smiles and grabs my hands. "What kind of writer will you be? Some writers will write 10 books that are all forgettable. You will be the writer that writes one book, but it will be unforgettable. I believe in you. Some people lay eggs that turn into chickens - others lay eggs that turn into eagles. You are no chicken. You are an Eagle. One day you will soar."

"Funny - I thought you were going to say swan, but I like the eagle analogy better," I say.

"Swan, BAH! Only look good on outside. Open its mouth and the ugliest sound come out. Eagle is better. Look strong, look powerful, be strong, be powerful."

"Thanks Mom, you're right."

"Of course. I'm almost always right."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bureaucratic Indifference

As some of you who follow me on facebook and twitter know, I have been in a state of blind fury the last couple of days. I'd like to tell everyone what's been going on.

Oldest is 11 and in 5th grade. She is a volunteer Safety Patrol which means she wears a yellow belt and a badge and she makes sure the kids board the bus safely and behave on the bus. She also makes sure to take the kindergartners to and from the bus. That's her job. Except our bus stop is on a very heavily congested road with heavy rush hour traffic in the morning. We deal with speeders, honkers, jerks who try to beat the school bus, a very large elderly driving population, and lots of mercedes drivers. This is a very unsafe road. On top of this, even after 10 years of complaints, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has never done anything to address this situation even though there is no safe way for the kids to cross this dangerous street. There is no stop sign - no crosswalk. Ironically, there is a no left and no right turn on an intersecting street that goes into a nearby neighborhood. That sign was put up in order to protect the property value of that neighborhood because (1) the traffic on our street is so heavy that it would devalue the neighborhood and destroy the streets, and (2) a councilmember lives there. When some crazy vandal destroyed these signs 3 times last year, DOT sent a crew to fix that sign within days of it happening.

As you can see DOT values property value over children's safety. So getting back to my story. A parent who was nearly hit several times crossing the street with her young child harassed DOT so much that they finally sent an employee to our school bus stop to assess the situation. This woman went up to my 11 year old daughter and told her that it was her job as safety patrol to walk into the middle of oncoming rush hour traffic, hold up her hands and stop traffic in order to allow children to cross to the bus stop safely. Since when did we send children into danger to guarantee the safety of other children? Should we next give them a gun and tell them to stop crime also? This is a street even adults are afraid to cross, let alone try to actively stop traffic? Did I mention that we had an excessive number of mercedes drivers in the area? We have incredibly selfish assholes who will even race around a stopped school bus in order to not get stuck behind it. We are talking about people who don't care. And I should let my child walk into that?

What is most troubling about this episode is not that this county employee was so deeply misguided enough to endanger a child's life, but that in response to repeated attempts by parents to address the danger surrounding this school bus stop that this was the only response.

This employee told the complaining parent to have my daughter stop traffic for her. The parent was misguided enough to - the very next day - follow through on the employee's advice and tried to wave my daughter into oncoming traffic. I actually stood flabbergasted watching her insist my daughter come out into the street and my daughter shaking her head, over and over until finally the woman crossed on her own. My daughter knows that she is not allowed to cross this street and refused to do as the county employee demanded even though she was terribly intimidated by this woman. My daughter knew enough to stand her ground. But what if it was a different child who maybe was too naive to question authority? What if this employee had indeed persuaded a child to walk into traffic? That idea kept me awake at night.

I've made a big stink and called and wrote to everyone I could think of. Today the supervisor of the misguided employee came to observe and to apologize for the employee's mistake. They say that there are talks of getting stop signs in and crosswalks. I'm not holding my breath. Already I'm being given the bureaucratic run around in an endless game of hot potato as different offices pass the issue off to someone else. I've spent nearly a week making my arguments. I've warned the county of their negligence for failure to address the danger. I reminded them that legally there is a higher duty of care toward children. In the end, getting a stop sign and crosswalk in place will be much cheaper. And it will help save lives. Unfortunately, in these situations, it usually takes a death to justify the expense of change. And that is depressing.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Thank you everyone for bearing with me through construction turmoil, sickness, grading hell, whining children, surly husbands, and my Mom who is in a whole other category of her own - as she should be. This semester is almost over for me and I am so happy that I think the twitch that took up residence under my left eye is finally ready to leave me. I actually have begun reading blogs again on my google reader! Hurray! And my google reader no longer says 1000+!!! It now says 498! Woo hooooo! So much progress. So much relief. So much joy.

Yesterday Angus asked me if I would take her outside to ride her scooter. I said yes without hesitation. Angus actually did a doubletake and said "Mom, you really are done with school, huh!" Oh yes I am.

So the first thing I got to do is pick a winner of my birthday contest. And the winner with the best comment has got to be Bernita Harris because -

Bernita said...

Happy Birthday, Ello! Too bad about the dust and the noise ( but it will be so nice when they've finished.) I've has a strong desire for Monako red bean paste cookies ever since I read about them in a story. The dried squid sound good too.

The only reason I can offer up as to why I should be chosen to win is that I've just sold my novel...

Congratulations, Bernita for not only winning the first ever Ello goodie basket but for selling your novel! And BTW, this is a novel I've been dying to read ever since I read her short story with the same MC. I can't wait!!!

Ok - the second winner was chosen by random drawing for everyone who commented and extra votes for those who advertised for me. We did it the old fashioned way because I told Oldest that she could pull the winner, which started a fight with Angus and Youngest because they both wanted to pick winners also. So I bribed them with some panda cookies and they went off to stuff as many of them in their mouths as they could before Oldest would be done. Poor Oldest.

So we wrote out 39 numbers and cut them up and gave a number to everyone that entered and then we put it in my Yankees hat and Oldest pulled out the number ... 19 - which is... Carrie Harris!!!! Ha ha! She most definitely will get the dried squid, no doubt about it! Thanks to Oldest for her help and for losing out on the panda cookies. She will definitely be getting a box or 2 all to herself since she also did a fabulous job on her interview the other day with R.L. LaFevers. If you haven't checked it out, please do.

Congratulations to the winners, who will have to email me their addresses and also can tell me if they have some things they are particularly interested in and not interested in - which I shall take under advisement. he he. And since they both have blogs, I would love to have them post up their thoughts on their basket of goodies after they've sampled it.

Thanks to everyone for commenting and we will definitely have to do this contest again because I need to spread the dried squid love!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Interview with R.L. LaFevers - Creator of the Great Theodosia!

Hi everyone! It's me, Summer, or Oldest as my Mom likes to call me. It's been a long time since I got to do an interview for my Mom's blog. I've been bugging her about letting me do another one, but she'd say ok, and then she'd forget. Like all the time. But I am good at reminding people about things. Especially when I really want it. Mom calls it nagging, but I object to that word.

But she finally asked if I wanted to do an interview and with who. Well, not that long ago, Mom won an ARC for THEODOSIA AND THE EYES OF HORUS, and when I saw that Ms. LaFevers signed it for my Mom, I was jealous. I was the one that read both Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos as well as Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris. I was the one that loved Theodosia! How come she got the signed copy? So I made Mom feel guilty and asked her if I could do an author interview with Ms. LaFevers because as you can tell, I LOVE the Theodosia books. Why? Cause they're awesome and different. Ms. LaFevers writes about Egyptian mythology which is super cool cause it's got curses, mummies, magic and dead people! So cool!

Theodosia and the Eyes of  Horus (Theodosia Throckmorton, Book #3)

So here is a super awesome interview with the author of the Theodosia series, Ms. R.L. LaFevers!

Summer: Hi Ms. LaFevers! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. My first question is why did you use Egyptian mythology instead of Greek Mythology?

R.L. LaFevers: Thanks so much for letting me visit your blog, Summer. When it was time to begin a new book, I knew I wanted it to have a fantasy element that I hadn’t seen in a lot of other books. Personally, I love all sorts of fantasy elements—dragons, wizards, witches, Greek mythology, Roman mythology, werewolves, and vampires—but I wanted my book to use something a little different, a little unique. So I cast my mind back to when I was eleven and really tried to remember what sorts of things fascinated me and weren’t already being used by other authors. The magic of ancient Egypt was the first thing on that list.

Summer: What inspired you to write these books?

R.L. LaFevers: I really wanted to write a big action adventure fantasy that starred a GIRL front and center. I didn’t want her to be the main character’s best friend, or sister, I wanted her to BE the main character.

Summer: I like how Theodosia is very responsible and kind and brave, what gave you the idea of her and the other characters? Does Theodosia, the character relate to you in any way?

R.L. LaFevers: Oh I’m so glad you thought Theodosia was kind! I think of her as slightly socially awkward since she’s been around so few other kids, but with a great big heart that wants to do the right thing and be nice to people. The brave part just happens; since she’s the only person who can see the curses and magic, to her it makes sense that she is the one who has to deal with them.

I wanted to write a character with both strengths and weaknesses, and then I wanted to show how sometimes, it is our very weaknesses that can end up being our strengths. So while Theo gets in trouble from her parents for being too sensitive or having too much imagination, it is also the very thing that allows her to save the day. I think that happens a lot in real life, actually, our weaknesses can sometimes end up being our best qualities, if we learn how to manage them.

There is a lot of me in Theodosia, although I didn’t plan it that way. That sort of just happens sometimes. I, too, was hyper sensitive as a kid, always sensing things the adults around me didn’t seem to notice. I was also very responsible. My parents were divorced and I had a lot of brothers (at one time, I had seven!) so I ended up being a sort of second parent to a lot of them, and I helped my mother take care of things. Plus, with so many kids and so much to juggle, my mother was preoccupied a lot of the time, so I knew what it was like to have preoccupied parents.

Summer: My Mom says I am very responsible also! I help a lot with my little sisters, although they don't always appreciate me. You say that there is a lot of you in Theodosia. So would you be like Theodosia if you switched places with her?

R.L. LaFevers: Absolutely. Although she might be a teensy bit braver than I am. And since I’ve had so many more brothers than she has, AND I had two sons, I would probably be a little more understanding of Henry.

Summer: Why did you choose the 1800’s time period and the setting of England?

R.L. LaFevers: Oo! Good question. Because the book was going to concentrate on Egyptian magic and ancient artifacts, I wanted to set the book during the heyday of Egyptology—which was the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. That was also a time when there were a lot of secret societies scuttling about, trying to learn all they could about ancient mysteries. Since the Theodosia books involved both, it seemed the logical choice.

As for England, well, I wanted to model the Museum of Legends and Antiquities on the British Museum, plus many of the great finds in Egyptology were being made by the British—or at least some of the more notorious ones. Also, England itself has an awful lot of Egyptian artifacts that have been brought over from Egypt over the centuries, like Cleopatra’s Needle, for example. It made sense that if there was going to be an organization like the Brotherhood of the Chosen Keepers whose mission was to keep an eye on cursed artifacts, they would be centered where so many of the artifacts ended up: London.

Summer: Well I especially liked how Awi Bubu had magical Egyptian powers. It was so cool! What inspired you to make his character?

R.L. LaFevers: I began realizing that since I had all this Egyptian magic in the books, and people using ancient Egyptian magic, that I needed to include those who had never stopped using it in the first place! A very secretive, elusive cadre of Egyptians who’d never let the ancient wisdom and practices die out.

I also needed him to be in London, where Theo could run into him. So I brainstormed from there, playing with different scenarios that would bring that bring someone with his particular skill set and background to London.

Plus there had to be someone in the books who knew more than Theodosia did!

Summer: When I am writing, I have a hard time coming up with names myself for my characters. But you have great names in your books. Snuffles, Fagenbush, Kimosiri, Awi Bubu. How did you come up with them?

R.L. LaFevers: I’m so glad you like all the names! I actually collect names, from real life, from books I read, from the credits on TV. I have notebooks and notebooks full of names. I really like the name to serve the story—not just be something to call a character. I think names can do a good job of hinting at the character’s personality, or being something they have to overcome, or something they will never live up to. Names are a lot of fun.

Theodosia’s last name was originally going to be Wicketts. As you know, oftentimes the only thing she can find to eat are jam sandwiches, so I thought I could do a fun riff on Sticky Wicketts, an old British saying. However, that quickly grew too heavy handed and cumbersome, so I tossed the idea out.

Awi Bubu is a combination of a couple of real Egyptian names I found in my research. Awi mean glory and Bubu means to shed light. It’s a bit of a hint, really.

Summer: So did you do a lot of research? What is your research process like? Do you use the public library and the internet? Do you like research?

R.L. LaFevers: I pretty much adore research. I have ever since I was little. I love walking into libraries and museums and feeling all that ancient knowledge sitting on the shelves, right at my fingertips.

My actual research process is kind of all over the place. I do some background research first, the stuff I’ll need to know to understand what sort of setting I’ll be creating for the book, what the constraints are, how it differs from our world, that sort of thing.

Since I’d never been to London, I needed to study that city and look at pictures and maps—but not just today’s pictures and maps, but those of a hundred years ago. The internet proved invaluable!

After I understood the historical time and place, the next thing I needed to do was to build Theo’s museum in my mind, and for that I used the internet to find all sorts of historical information, illustrations, and photographs of the British Museum. Again, the internet was a life saver! I found pictures of old buildings, Edwardian street scenes that showed early automobiles sharing the road with horses and buggies, old clothing, alleyways.

I also had to research ancient Egypt, archaeology, Egyptian funerary practices, mummies, mummification, ancient Egyptian magic rituals, secret societies. The list goes on and on! If it’s in the Theo books, I researched it in some way!

Summer: You're just like my Mom! She's always doing research also. She says research is so important for a writer, but I always thought she was just tricking me to study or something. But research into Egyptian mythology would be pretty cool. Especially the curses. So, do you think curses are real?

R.L. LaFevers: Oh wow, tough question! Let me see. I think negative energy is very real, whether its wishing someone harm or putting hate into the world. Our brains are so vastly complex and little understood. A large part of our brain is busy doing things we aren’t even aware of, and if we put out negative energy or walk through a cloud of it, it seems possible to me that it could affect the unconscious part of our brains.

Also, Carl Jung talked about the universal unconscious, which is basically the part of our mind that sees and perceives things our conscious minds aren’t even aware of. I can’t help but wonder if that is in some way tied to curses and negative energy.

I do know that when I have been near some ancient artifacts, they have a different feel to them than something new. Whether it is just a patina of all those who have ever held or used the artifact, or my own vivid imagination, I will probably never know. Do you think curses are real?

Summer: I believe that evil does exist but not curses. I mean you may have bad luck that may seem like a curse to you but I don't think curses really exist. All the bad luck is really just a lesson to you to teach you to do better. Like my Mom always says that karma is important. If we do good, good will come back to us. But if we do bad, bad will come back to us. (Or my Mom and Dad will punish us - which is also bad.)

So what advice do you have for me if I want to be a writer?

R.L. LaFevers: If you want to be a writer, you really need to do two things: Read and write. It really can be that simple. Although I’m guessing you want something a little more detailed than that, so here you go. These are the six key things I think a person needs to do to be a good writer. Keep in mind, though, that these are just one person’s opinion.

Persistence: Which is just a fancy word for stubbornness, you need to keep trying and keep learning and never give up. If you love something, and you never give up, you never fail. Even if you never get published, if you love writing and you make time to do it, you will have had the joy of writing. All the published writers I know are the people who simply never gave up.

Live: In order to have things to write about, we need to embrace life. In order to write an interesting, rich, exciting story, we must have experienced some interesting, rich, exciting things. We must get out there and experience life, do stuff, make friends, perhaps an enemy or two (by accident, of course!) It’s okay to do these things badly, no one says you have to be great at everything you try. But
do try stuff, collect experiences like you would sea shells or interesting rocks or Transformers.

Respect your own creative process: The truth is, there are many different approaches to creativity. Each writer and artist and musician does things a little differently. And while it’s interesting to learn about new ways to try things, it’s also important to respect how YOU do it. So while it’s also okay to experiment with different approaches and processes, , especially when you’re just learning, don’t ever think your way isn’t as good as someone else’s.

Be brave: The very best writers tell the TRUTH. It might be dressed up as a story, even a fantasy, but the best stories show us something that is TRUE. And it takes COURAGE to tell the truth. Not everyone likes to hear the truth. Sometimes saying what is true can get you in trouble or cause some people not to like you. But as writers we need to be brave enough to tell the truth.

Be Passionate:. We must write about things that we care a LOT about. What are those things that are important to you? What moves you to tears? What makes you laugh? What makes you furious? What terrifies you? These are the things that you are passionate about and should be at the heart of your writing.

Embrace Your Secret Weapon: Which is your wild and crazy self. It’s that part of yourself that might get you in trouble most often, or that you’re most embarrassed about. It is that piece of you that is wholly uniquely different from anybody else. Perhaps you are angry, sassy, a smart aleck, shy, quiet, a doodler, class clown, tell tall tales, too much imagination

But here’s something I truly believe: Our weaknesses are also our strengths. We just have to learn how to use them in the right way. One of our most important jobs in life is to embrace our quirks and our weaknesses and, even more important, learn how to turn them into strengths.

Summer: Wow! That is awesome advice. Thanks for sharing that with me. And thanks for writing this awesome, super cool series that I want the whole world to read!

R.L. LaFevers: Thank you so much for having me, Summer! And good luck with your own writing!

Summer: So that's my awesome new interview and I have even more super cool news! I get to interview Ms. LaFevers again for The Enchanted Inkpot on June 9th for her the second book in her new series The Beastologist!!!! And she sent me both books and they were both signed to me!!! I am already reading the first book and it is awesomeness!

Oh and lastly, my Mom said that I get to choose the winner of her gift basket prizes. And this is your last chance to win squid or seaweed or other weirdness. And if you leave a comment here, I get to include you for the raffle! So please leave a comment! I love reading comments. Bye for now!

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