A leopard doesn’t change its spots…

…and we certainly wouldn’t want them to, would we? Because they are beautiful! This gal certainly is.leopard_drinking1 We encountered her on our last afternoon in the Okavango Delta, drinking from the river. She paused only briefly to check us out (look at that pink tongue!),leopard_tongue2

before sitting down to contemplate her dinner options, or where that handsome male leopard might be, or maybe even the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything [which we all know is 42].

We (our safari jeeps and a couple others) proceeded to follow her for almost a half hour as she leisurely strolled through the bush, apparently with no particular destination in mind or even any concern about us. You can see her pass between jeeps here, stopping only momentarily to look at us and continue on her way. I imagine this happens to this gorgeous gal a lot. (The guides who work the Okavango Delta are very good and know the animals, their habits, and their habitats. They might not be able to find every animal you wish to see, some are too rare or too shy, but they know where the big cats are hanging out!)

She decided she’d had enough of us shortly after this, walking a bit further away (I love this one picture – on the left – because I captured her in the act of lifting her foot and you can see her foot pad). She sat behind a tree for a few minutes and then disappeared into the bush.

It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the Delta.

 

Please visit “Books and travelling with Lynn”

As part of the SPFBO (details here) all the bloggers taking part have been assigned 30 books. By the end of a six month period the aim is to choose one book to put forward into the next stage. So, I’m aiming to check out 5 books a month. My list first appears here and I’ve picked and […]

via #SPFBO Spotlight : the second set of books.. — Books and travelling with Lynn

Alas…once again a semi-finalist…. (or “Ode to the Ivy”)

shriekfest-mastheadThe 2015 Shriekfest Film Festival…considered to be one of the top up & coming film festivals is fast approaching, but…alas…I am once again a semi-finalist. But I’m neither saddened nor discouraged. In the last seven years, I’ve entered four times (always in the short script category) and have been a semi-finalist twice and finalist the other two times. I think that’s a pretty good track record and, as friends pointed out, shows I’m headed in the right direction. I just have to try again next year.

2009 Mother’s Day (finalist)

2010 Babies in the Backyard [version 1] (semi-finalist)

2012 Babies in the Backyard [version 2] (finalist)

2015 Santa Needs a New Red Suit (semi-finalist)

You’ll notice the first three entries sound familiar, especially if you’ve read my Skin and Bones horror collection available on Amazon Kindle. Or if you’ve read my Mother’s Day collection – which has since been incorporated into Skin and Bones for its third edition. In fact, the 2009 entry, Mother’s Day, is an even earlier version of the same story and, of the three, is truest to the short-story on which the trio is based. I greatly enjoyed playing around with the story and its characters, seeking to better define my “senior citizen serial killer” Mrs. Fortenberry (who doesn’t make an actual appearance in the Mother’s Day script or the original short story except for her name)…her motivations…her true nature (avenging angel or crazed executioner?) and she certainly hasn’t been forgotten, but it was time for a completely new entry to Shriekfest and my neighbor’s 8-year-old son provided just the right idea at the right time: did you ever wonder just where Santa gets…uh…that red coloring for his toys?  (Yes, an 8-year-old came up with the gem which eventually became “Santa Needs a New Red Suit,” but then I’m told that young boys tend to be rather creative when it comes to concocting bizarre methods of death and dismemberment. Parents out there: is that true??)

I haven’t decided if I’ll rewrite the Santa script or perhaps turn it into a short story. We’ll see. Meanwhile, old Mrs. Fortenberry keeps knocking at my brain. I don’t think she wants to offer me milk and cookies. Instead, she keeps whispering at me…inviting me into the jungle of tangled ivy vines that have long held dominion over the backyard of our rental house. For that is where she was born: that tangle of ivy. Mommy2_ivyYou saw the ivy if you happened to see the cover of the Mother’s Day collection when it was available on Amazon Kindle. Mrs. F was born, like baby after baby to the family in the yellow house behind mine back in the early 2000s. Hidden behind the ivy and trees and bushes, every spring (or so it seemed) I would hear the wail of a newborn for a few days or few weeks…and then nothing. I could never see signs of life between the fluttering leaves, never hear the squeals of excited toddlers. My imagination began to run wild, wondering what had happened to those babies.

And then, one morning, I stepped outside onto the back patio to find a dead mother possum, with two pinkies – who had somehow wiggled out of their mother’s pouch while still attached to their umbilical cords – squirming, covered with ants. We didn’t know what to do. The pinkies obviously were too young to survive on their own and we couldn’t get animal control to come out before they succumbed to the elements and the ants. My whirling, sometimes crazy brain, put the two pieces (never seen crying newborns & dead possums) together as Babies in the Backyard.

Those children in the yellow house did eventually appear. I’ve caught glimpses of them playing in their yard in the years since…although I’m not sure I can count as many seen as I heard crying. See…there goes my imagination again.

Alas, the ivy which has inspired two stories (besides Babies in the Backyard, it features prominently in my erotica short: Ivy League) and made brief appearances in other stories, may have reached its end. As annoying as the fast-growing plants can be, our landlord may have to remove it (or at least most of it) thanks to the neighbors in the tan house (next to the yellow house). In an effort to tear down their garage and repair their brick retaining wall, they cut the ivy from its supports and it has crashed down onto itself, the weight of its own hardy thick branches working against it, breaking and dying, and is about to completely collapse onto our back patio.

While it might be nice to gain space in the backyard for family activities…will we have to say goodbye to our urban wildlife? The birds, possums, raccoons, squirrels, more birds, more squirrels, stray cats, wandering collared & belled cats, butterflies, humming birds, roof rats, and more insects than you can count. I won’t miss the ants, or the rats…or the raccoons (which seem to look at my cats – just on the other side of that window screen – as a potential midnight snack). But I’ll miss the rest.  I’ll the miss the hum of life, the cries of newborn life…however quiet…however small.

Small Business Saturday

 

 

 

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Migraine-zilla

godzilla2014_fan_posterI don’t often get out to movie theaters for the latest blockbuster flicks. As much as I love movies, especially those in the action, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres, I’m torn between spending a few bucks for a couple hours entertainment and instead saving my money for a dream two-week vacation in some far off destination. Movies do transport us to other locations we might not otherwise be able to go (or afford to go), and to different times or realities which real travel can not. Placing my feet on the ground and seeing an exotic locale for myself is something which no movie can do.

Still, I joined a friend for a rare treat tonight to see “Godzilla” in 3D, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I do share some of the same criticisms as others: Godzilla wasn’t on screen often enough; rather the other monsters had more screen time. We didn’t get to hear his famous roar often enough (that contrabass first utilized by composer Akira Ifukube). And the first third of the movie was slow to pick up steam. But the special effects were fantastic (loved that EM-pulse attack capability by the MUTOs), and the characters (human and otherwise) pulled me into their world, made me care. I wasn’t the only one cheering and clapping at the end.

It was definitely better than the campy 1998 “Godzilla” starring Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno. I must admit, however, that I do have a certain level of fondness for that film, primarily Reno’s secret agent character and Broderick’s line (in response to Hank Azaria questioning where he’d found Reno): “Uh, he’s from France.” And who could forget the original trailer for the film? So obviously a poke-in-the-eye to the “Jurassic Park” franchise. That’s still one of my all-time favorite trailers.

Unfortunately, I did walk out of the theater with yet another migraine. I’ve been doing quite well lately with the help of acupuncture and my own determination to not let the pain interfere too much with my life. But I figure between the loud volume and all the frenetic action on screen, it was a bit much for my beleaguered brain. Sure, I could’ve chosen to get up and walk out, perhaps asked for a refund, but I wanted to see this movie, and I wasn’t going to let the pain stop me. I’ll just have to take it easy, choose my movies carefully, and hope this sensitivity doesn’t last too long.

F— the monsters (my pain). Go, go Godzilla.

Next Exit: The Comfort Zone

There are many ways to test the boundaries of your comfort zone. Traveling is only one of them.  A more risky method, to some, is to put ourselves – our creativity – “out there” into the public eye. All writers, all artists, hope for accolades and sales, and fans. But first comes rejection.

We’ve all been there. Rejection letter after rejection letter. How many do you have tucked away in a drawer or shoebox? Or filed away electronically in your email inbox?  From magazine editors, to book publishers, to literary agents. From faded photocopies of impersonal form letters to scathing commentaries on your lack of creativity. It hurts, doesn’t it?

And in-person rejection? Even worse. Workshops with editors and fellow writers can be a wonderful place to find inspiration and make friends, but they can also be gut wrenchingly painful. But if you can survive being skewered by a professional book editor like the “evil Ginger” (as we referred to her afterward), you can survive anything. Even Hollywood.

Image

In 1996, I wrote a spec script titled “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother,” for the television series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” about Dr. Bashir’s efforts to save the same dying aliens who had murdered his parents. A few months later, in 1997, that script earned me the rare chance to pitch ideas to the series’ producers. I took those experiences I had at the writers workshops and steeled my nerves as I walked onto the lot at Paramount Studios. I told myself I would do better. And I did, though probably not my best. I was still nervous. I recall laughing at a non-funny comment. But I also remember a nodding head, and “interesting” while watching the producer scribble some notes on a yellow legal pad. The meeting ended cordially with a handshake and a “we’ll call you.”

I had a lot of hope that phone call would come, but it never did. That was disappointing, and depressing. But no writer can let that stop them. You have to keep trying. Keep writing. Write, re-write, edit, re-write.

Never dump an idea. I resurrected the title of that spec script for a fantasy short story published on the web. And I transformed the script into a science-fiction short story, “The Life of Words.” Dr. Bashir’s parents became the “brilliant but dead Bashins” and Dr. Bashir morphed into a linguistic anthropologist named August Goodloe. The aliens, and their terminal condition, remained the driving force of the story. Originally published in the journal of Anthropology and Humanism, “The Life of Words” is now found as part of my “Skin and Bones” anthology available on Amazon Kindle.

And all those rejection letters still tucked away in a drawer? Someday they’ll make nice kindling for a bonfire.

Skin and Bones

Cover photo for the new e-book anthology “Skin and Bones” featuring the novelette “The Fisherman’s Wife” and other stories in the horror, dark fantasy, magical realism and science-fiction genres.

SkinAndBones

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/337955
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Skin-and-Bones-ebook/dp/B00E19DQHA/