Recent Reasons to Smile

♥ Janie asked me to have a Five-Minute Sit Down Breakfast with her in the middle of this morning’s chaos.  We managed two, but with a little practice . . .


Give Peas a Chance♥ Give Peas a Chance by Morris Gleitzman. A collection of kid-oriented short stories written by an Australian with an uncanny talent for balancing poignancy with humor (The first one in the collection is here).  The audio version (read by the author and the delightful Ruth Schoenheimer), which I’m listening to in the car right now is even better.  

My favorite so far is “100 Text Messages you must Read Before you Die”, which proves that actions speak louder than words and there’s nothing more actionable than a father’s love for his daughter.


♥ Friends who snark out of affection.


♥ I woke up humming a favorite song that I hadn’t heard in over a year—and it played on the radio during Two-Minute Sit Down Breakfast so I could groove to it in front of the kids.


♥ Pomegranate and Blood Orange Skittles.

Darkside Skittles





(And also the concept of “the other side of the rainbow”)


♥ Air-conditioned workplaces.


♥ Kids in superhero costumes who are happy to have a serious discussion of the merits of Batman versus Captain America with you until their parents coax them away from the library desk.

Cap Shield

Fresh Paint app♥ Children who can be bribed into vacuuming their rooms and setting the table with a pad of drawing paper and an hour on my Fresh Paint app, respectively.


♥ That I managed to discover a continuity error in my WIP and managed to fix it all by myself yesterday.


♥ A Harry Potter/Hot Fuzz crossover fanfic series that works far, far better than it should.  Especially when it calls Dumbledore to task for some of his shenanigans and eventually has Ron in it.

Potter Fuzz

♥ That I had something to blog about after all.



Random Thursday: Under the Influence of Random Potter Flashbacks

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

The kids gave me a head cold as a late Christmas present, so I’m posting under the influence of Dayquil and half a pot of Walnut Cinnamon coffee.  

Bring on the random—whee!!!


Polarius Vortexio!

Polaris Vortexio!

I’m honestly in awe of that carrot—is that real?

I just realized that this can’t be Harry Potter . . . s/he has a beard, see?


Lifting my Ban on LEGO . . .

Don’t get me wrong—I have nothing against LEGO, per se.* I think those little bricks are an amazing gateway to the imagination, even without the bells, whistles, wheels, and motors.

But I have a lot against my kids’ inability to use LEGO bins for their intended purpose of keeping all those tiny pieces under control, instead of, say, housing for itinerant stuffed animals.

It doesn’t hurt when I step on stuffed animals, except maybe psychologically.

However,  if they agreed to keep their LEGO in the garage . . .  and build Mommy a new car . . . I might reconsider.


It’s Alive—Alive!!!

Stationary Bike

To be honest, I was afraid to open the box.

But after putting this bad boy together, I’m glad I didn’t have to provide my own pulse, ’cause I had to go take a nap.


But . . . I Don’t Want to Unsubscribe

Hogwarts Spam


I Defy You not to Squee

A snoring baby hamster. ‘Nuff said.


*Though I have a few problems with their “pink will bring girls to us” marketing strategy.  I didn’t need pink to love LEGO when I was a kid, and I’m old enough to remember when people started to complain about sexism “suddenly being wrong.”

Random Thursday: Pink vs. Zombies and a bad case of Floo

Reason #1 to not let your four-year-old choose your nail polish color, even if she sticks that lip of hers out and reminds you that you promised because you let her older sister chose the last time.

She chose pink.  And not just any pink, but Bubblicious / Pepto Bismol/Dunkin’ Donuts pink.

It  matches nothing that I wear and nothing that I particularly aspire to be—harsh, but true.

And I’m going to be wearing it for a week.

Because she loves it so, so much and I did promise.

Blast it.


I managed to duck (no pun intended) the whole Angry Birds time suck, only to fall into the freshly dug Time Grave that is Plants vs. Zombies.

The premise is simple:  keep zombies from getting into your house by collecting enough sun points to sow deadly plants on your front lawn.

Included in your arsenal—at least up to level 8, which is as far as I’ve managed—are the pea shooter (and its deadlier offshoot,* the frozen pea shooter), the Wall-nut, cherry bombs, several kinds of magic mushroom, an adorable little potato mine, the Squash (which performs as you might expect),  a purple Venus Flytrap, and sunflowers (which generate enough power to keep tyou planting).

This game contains Bugs Bunny vs. Yosemite Sam type violence, and the zombies are actually sort of cute, at least according to Janie—one even sports a vaulting pole to get over your obstacles.

You can play a free version here, with numerous advertisements, or WildGames has it, too.



This morning, at breakfast:

My husband:  This brand of coffee isn’t very good.

Me:  All coffee tastes like feet to me, anyway.

My husband:  You have very strange feet.


epic win photos - Hacked IRL: What Exactly Is The Purpose of a Rubber Duck?

Yes, I’m going to see the final half of the final Harry Potter movie tonight, if my friend Grace and I can figure out how to meet up in time.  I might even see it anyway.

I’ve loved the books since I found the first one, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in a small bookshop in Canada.  By the time my family figured out where I was, I’d finished the first three chapters and didn’t leave the shop without the first two books.  I later bribed a friend of mine to bring the third one back from his business trip to England.  Lucky for me, they became readily available—by which I mean, difficult to avoid—after that.

But I haven’t been following the movies.  I saw the first one and loved it, but life—and two babies—interfered with seeing the next one and so on.  But the last one of something is always special, so a few weeks ago, when I had the house to myself, I plugged the first half of the last one into my laptop.

I have one question:  Where did Rupert Grint get those shoulders?

I don’t live under a rock, or not a large one, so I am aware that Daniel Radcliffe did Equus and has five o’ clock shadow and a nice jawline, and Emma Watson—while exactly the same size as she was in the first movie—has changed her hair and has become a fashionista.  But somehow, I expected Mr. Grint to remain the same carroty little kid he was the first time I saw him.

Clearly, he’s not. **  And clearly, I’m older than I thought.

But I’m still going to enjoy the movie—In 2D, thank you.


*Sorry.  Couldn’t help it.

** And Matthew Lewis (Neville) appears to have grown up to be good-looking, too, which, to steal a line from Genevieve Valentine, was probably a wise choice.


Floo Image courtesy of  Hacked IRL

Backstory: From Cardboard to Who Cares?

Of the many, many webcomics* I follow, Sheldon, by the talented and beyond-awesome Dave Kellett, is probably my favorite.  Janie loves it, too, and often requests that we read one of our many printed collections of the strip as her bedtime story.

It’s fun—we do the voices.

One of the reasons I love this comic is that the author is as big a geek as I am and riffs on all the cultural icons of geekdom, up to and including Star Wars, Star Trek, and, of course Lord of the Rings.**

Last night, we landed on this strip:

Click the image above and read through the arc—it’s six strips long, ending on this one:

Exaggeration aside, you know damn well that Tolkien knew the backstory of every single creature in LOTR, down to what each one had for breakfast—and second breakfast—the morning of the battle of Minas Tirith.  Even Tom Bombadil.

Writers are told to create a backstory for our characters, too—even if the character is a minor one.  Alison Janssen wrote a gorgeous post illustrating why:

Think about your character like this: He is a very small ocean when he’s young and inexperienced. As he moves through time and experiences life, the coasts surrounding him widen, and the sea floor drops. His ocean gets bigger as his character grows, containing more saltwater.

Now think about the formative events of his life — the stuff that happened to him before the story you’re telling in your manuscript. The kinds of things that led to the quirks and traits he possesses in the story you’re telling . . .   Imagine each of those events as a drop of colored liquid in the character ocean. The larger the impact of the event, the larger the drop, and the more viscous the liquid . . .

And it’s not just the immediate, most recently dropped pool of liquid that will inform your character’s actions, behaviours, and perceptions. Every drop of liquid, even when dispersed, will have changed the overall makeup of the character ocean. Wave patterns, currents, the flora and fauna — everything’s related.

This is heady stuff for writers!  Whether you make it up on the spot or your characters tell you more about themselves as you go, characterizations are nothing but fun.  And we’ve all become wary of cardboard characters and flat characterizations.  There needs to be something behind those baby blues, right?

BUT . . .

While Tolkien wrote in almost every possible historical, genealogical, and personal detail for his characters—including Tom Bombadil—it was the early 1950s. And he was Tolkien.

Currently, we aren’t supposedto use a character’s entire backstory—unless that’s what the story is about—because an infodump slows  the pace to a crawl while the reader tries to process everything,  like a kid trying to eat a sundae through brain freeze.  It can be done, but it’s not as enjoyable as usual.  And most backstory isn’t important to anyone but the characters and their anxious parent author.  It’s natural for us to want our babies to show off for the nice people, but that’s not the point.

Naturally, it depends on the audience—ten-year olds like Sheldon up there have a low boredom threshold, while professors of 19th Century Delphinapterus literature seem to have quite a high tolerance—as well as the needs of the story.   And I’m not discounting talent and skill; some authors seem to effortlessly balance any amount of backstory—or none at all.

J.K. Rowling works a couple of tons of personal backstory into Harry Potter, especially the last volume, but it doesn’t slow anything down at all—she  keeps up the pace because the details are relevant and immediately useful  to the plot.

In The Key, Averil Dean weaves the relationship between Elizabeth and her late father into the first several chapters, but these memories and details aren’t infodumpy or extraneous—they establish the character’s loneliness and explains how and why Elizabeth views the world the way she does, which also influences her actions when strange things start happening.  The details are relevant.

Nero Wolfe, Rex Stout’s premiere detective, raises orchids.  It’s one of  his signature character traits—his entire schedule revolves around his greenhouse.  I’ve read all of his adventures, but I don’t believe there’s any mention of why he loves these flowers so. Stout supplies a lot of Wolfe’s backstory,  but I’ve yet to find an outright explanation for this.^  Yet the orchids aren’t just a surface gimmick:  orchids are as fussy, particular, and agoraphobic as Wolfe himself, and serve as a reflection of himself, even to his preference for bright yellow.  Wolfe without his orchids would be Wolfe lessened.

BUT . . .

While I may find it fascinating that my MC likes flavored coffees because her first sensei used to brew hazelnut-mocha coffee  in the back of the dojo and the scent has become a sign of safety and comfort,***  interrupting the story to mention this isn’t going to help things along.

Her coffee preference is a good personal detail (at least in my opinion), but while  the reason might matter to the character—if she would even remember it it doesn’t matter to the story, and wedging it in there wouldn’t work.  She’s not the kind of person to share this kind of personal information, or naturally ponder it so the readers will catch on.  In the end, the why doesn’t matter.

It’s enough that after tough days, she always makes a pot of hazelnut-mocha,  and breathes in the steam before relaxing.  And doesn’t give a damn if her co-workers wrinkle their noses.


*Or  my “four-paneled” soap operas, as I call ‘em.

**But not, to my relief, sparkly vampires.   Bless you, Dave Kellett!

***I just made that up, but why not?

^If there is one, please let me know—and cite the story, please!