Our Mountain Walk

I've often called it the "cruel mountain." It's got a few stiff inclines and it's fairly depressing to have a 3year old lap you....a couple of times. Also, that asphalt is a lot more slippery than it looks. Still, the scenery is lovely and so it makes for a challenging yet beautiful walk.

There is a mountain tower at the top and I suspect the people of the "hood" took it over as a exercise destination. The owners of the mountain don't seem to mind.

I am amazed at the wildlife we've seen there. This mountain is just across the road from our house, but I only see the jackrabbits and rattlesnakes there. Trust me, I'm okay without having the rattlesnakes in my backyard and you know as soon as I typed that a female rattlesnake laid a clutch of eggs under our jungle gym and will raise her brood before I can say that 'I've never seen a rattlesnake in my back yard' again.

In addition to rattlers, we've seen these guys. I don't know what they are, they've got just a touch of red. Maybe a king snake?

Here's a glamor shot.

When we walk in the dark, I take a flashlight because I don't want to step on anything. I saw a lizard someone else had stepped on, not pretty.
Here's a scorpion.

This is actually a centipede. He was zipping around in my light circle about a million miles a second, I'm surprised I got at least one somewhat clear shot. I've never seen a centipede like this. It's got all these long, crazy legs and I think I heard it ask me for another shot of espresso?

This whip scorpion was so small, I almost didn't see it and I didn't know what it was until I did a google image search. Incredible and creepy isn't it? But what I didn't notice until I took this image into my editor was the teeny tiny scorpion beside it! I suspect that we interrupted some sort of circle of life struggle here. Scary to think that we couldn't see the little scorpion, makes me not want to stand still next time we walk the mountain in the dark.

One day we found this trail of green, gloppy drips. They led all the way up the mountain...

I figure it was an alien wounded from a recent saucer crash. Or it could have been a chupacabra who had just emerged victorious from a "to the death" jaws and claws match with a werewolf. Either way, we were not deterred and followed the spots even though it most certainly meant we would be greeted with a cruel and excruciating death with extreme nomming of our bones. However, there was nothing but the gate that mocks us with the promise of the danger of radiation from the tower which we disregard as well. If we ever come up missing, you'll know where to point the authorities to.

Look! It's the elusive, rarely seen, poop-bag-rabbit! Shhh....you don't want to startle it.

Speaking of poop bags;

It's amazing how many people bag their dog's poop and then leave the bag behind. I always think they're planning on picking it up when they come back down off the mountain, but then those bags are still there the next week. I think there's a disconnect here somewhere? You bagged it and that's the important thing after all...

Look at this GORGEOUS sunset! It's love, I tell you.

Here is our entire mountain walk compressed down into under 4 minutes. You can enjoy it without running out of oxygen or having a righteous muscle cramp. You also won't have to see certain people pass you like a jillion times as they easily jog up and down the mountain like the freaky freaking show-offs they really are. Fitness my ass!

  • Current Mood
    bouncy Walky!

I am the Dance Master!

At least that's what the game tells me. Which makes me feel pretty good even though most of the time I get told that I could do better, or that I need to redeem myself.

The sedentary writer is a sad writer. Our bodies were meant to move. In all directions. And stretch. Otherwise our bodies will forget what they are supposed to do and we'll be left with the words "I used to be able to..." falling out of our lips as we fall out of our chairs. How is the brain supposed to compose the next grand opus if it is mired down in sludge and Funyuns?

Walking works fairly well for me. Or it seemed to. It is problematic for reasons I won't go into. A stationary bike caught my eye and I set it up next to the non-electric, fully manual treadmill that tormented me for awhile. The bike had it's charms, but in the end we also had a parting of ways.

Then I decided to try something I had heard about....I'm not sure where. DDR! The dancing arcade game has a home version. Hmmm. I used to be a dancer. I love dancing. I'm one of those house choreographers, I crank up the music and go for it with wild abandon. With a fervor and flair that would go viral on YouTube in less than half a day becoming something I would never get over. It would be shown and talked about on the news--in a BAD way, with raucous laughter. My children....and husband would have to change their names. Oh yeah, the curtains definitely get closed everytime.

Seems that even the things we love can become problematic. When you like to dance, it's easy to lose steam. Depression also opens the door for that nasty inner critic to do her worst and the next thing I know, I'm sitting on the sidelines thinking I should be dancing but have no heart to get back up. That's when I can hear my heart beat slow and feel my blood thicken.

Dance Dance Revolution, or DDR, is a video game. I'll say it again, it's a video game. I've mentioned DDR to family and acquaintances and I've gotten this reaction twice: "What's DDR?" "Oh, that's the video game that my 5yo daughter likes to play." The Inner Critic turns inside me and whispers, "I told you so."

Well, it's either screw them or screw me and I've gotta tell you, I'm tired of being screwed over like that.

I bought my first DDR game and brought it home with a cold sort of attitude. It would have to earn my respect and in turn my love and devotion. I flattened out the dance mat and let my sons take it for the first whirl. After some technical snafus were fixed, I stepped onto the dance mat for my first time. I looked at the screen. Arrows flew up the screen and terror dropped down into my stomach. I was stupid and uncoordinated. For Pete's sake! A FIVE YEAR OLD CAN PLAY THIS!!

Too many things! WAY too many things to watch and move and overcome. The music wouldn't let me quit and trust me, I wanted to. It's not fun to bounce off a new learning curve and roll to the bottom where that damned Inner Critic wickedly grins at you and displays that ridiculous thumb and forefinger "L" upon her judgmental forehead.

In most things I find similarities to the writing process. I found the writing metaphors in DDR to be so deep I could hardly see the dance mat to hit the arrows.

I pushed through the doubts, fears and stumbles. I'm so happy I didn't quit. I feel fan-damn-tastic! I've been playing DDR on the Wii for three years now. I don't see myself giving it up anytime soon. It's working for me like nothing else has. It feeds my body, it feeds my soul and it feeds my brain. Did I say how great I feel?! I've gained back things I had lost. I also jump rope and walk a mountain trail nearby. (I will blog the mountain trail with, hopefully, a video in a couple of days.) But those don't do for me what DDR does.

I got this link from the Dance Dance Revolution facebook page. It's from The Worlds Strongest Librarian and here he has a guest blogger, Faizal S. Enu, who talks about DDR. Mr. Enu is a strength coach, he trains athletes-so this was particularly interesting to hear from a training standpoint all the benefits he finds in DDR.

The only point I would disagree with is he says that fat people don't DDR and I know that they do. Especially in the teen aged world, it is against the social rules for fat people to do anything in public, so it's true that you're not going to see many fat people on the DDR arcade pad. There is a young man who completely rocked the arcade DDR and he is listed on YouTube as "Fat Kid DDR." Nice, huh?

Go read Mr. Enu's article and if you have any questions about the home game for Wii, let me know. I "play" an hour every day, Mon through Fri. There is a new title to be released in August and I can't wait! Three years, and I'm not bored. I haven't hit the ceiling of the capabilities of the game yet either, I still have goals.

Here's a YouTube that went viral several years ago-in a GOOD way, of a FIVE year old boy rocking the home version of Dance Dance Revolution:

Here is Dance Dance Revolution being played in an arcade. These guys are at Castles and Coasters which is an arcade near me:

Here's DDR being played in an arcade freestyle. The dancers memorize the steps and then choreograph a routine around them:

Did you read what the trainer said about DDR? Do you have questions or comments?
Do you play DDR? Do you want to try DDR now?
As a writer, what do you do to keep the blood moving in a good direction and your brain engaged?

(Also posted over at aMUSEdCritic.com

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    bouncy Dancy!

Lessons Learned from Gaga

Lady Gaga. Just that name evokes strong reactions of joy and admiration or equal amounts of eye-rolling disgust. You'll get more than the first as a response from me concerning this powerful young woman.

I don't always agree with her choices, but bring me somebody that you agree with 100% of the time and I would be suspicious. The meat dress? Loved the motivation behind it, but hated the execution. However, as a writer and a creative I am beyond inspired by the woman who calls herself Gaga.

She's a one-stop shop, a "real deal." Writer, dancer, choreographer, musician, image builder, business woman; Lady Gaga is a force and a movement.

Gaga was a mentor on American Idol. I missed the show, but since I subscribe to her Facebook posts, I get to see the posted videos of what she's done. This video is the highlights from her mentoring the singers. It was interesting to watch how they reacted to her suggestions. The singers who listened to her took away some things they needed and a better understanding of performance. After all, it's more than just singing, the same as writing is more than putting those words on the paper. She said to one contestant that he needed to move and set himself free because "It puts the song in your body." I liked that image and will think about ways that I can put my writing in my own body, own it, perform it.

I felt that one of the contestants was disrespectful to Lady Gaga. He treated her as if she were the devil as he asked his god for forgiveness. While entitled to his opinion, I thought him to be rude. But I also thought for someone who wants to make a living in the performing arts, he was a hypocrite. He was not being asked to enjoy her music, but to learn from someone who is currently redefining what it is to be a pop-star. Short-sighted on his part. There are lessons here in how to behave at a writing critique and what you should be looking to take away from a crit session.

Broadway-esque performances, full force is her style. The attention to detail alarming. To say this woman is an over-achiever would be an understatement. She says that she is hard on herself. I believe that. Every interview I've seen with her is a struggle against herself. She works to project the character of the current project she is promoting while throwing all of the credit to her fans. Gaga deflects compliments and is constantly making fun of herself. There is no taking herself seriously in the Haus of Gaga, the serious stuff is saved for making her art. Here she is on Germany's Top Model. Gaga, and her dancers bring down the house, as always. Then she sits down for an interview, out of breath from giving everything to her performance.

She always talks about being weird, not fitting in. She survived the torment as a child because of her inner strength, but also because her family was supportive. I suspect that many of the kids who commit suicide don't feel accepted at home either and if you can't be accepted at home, that leaves precious few places to go. She calls her fans monsters and she is the mother of them all, Mother Monster-put your paws up. Brilliant. She's building a "home" for lost souls to gather and support each other.

Those of us who write for kids understand this feeling of not fitting in. What's interesting is that not fitting in can bring people together. Gaga knows this. Her lyrics have become an anthem for GLBQT people, and rightfully so, but she includes everyone in her words. Born This Way-is the one of the best anti-bullying campaigns I've seen. Lady Gaga said on her facebook page as she posted this next video, "You're never on the edge alone. We stand together."

Watch one of Lady Gaga's performances-the more elements, the better the show. That applies whether she's got a stage full of musicians, dancers, banks of lights, props, and pools of various liquids or it's just her and her piano out there. As you saw in that last video, she can bring the house down all by herself too. In this day of digital, she puts all of herself into her performance and does it live.

From an article in the Costco Connection, written by Gary Graff. Gaga said that her and her friends declared their own fame. They had the confidence to pull it off. I've often heard about "faking it until you make it" and that's what they did. Gaga said, "You can talk about it all day, but it's not true unless you do it."

I've seen her perform and break out of character for split seconds. In those seconds I get a glimpse of the 24 year old Stefani as she spontaneously smiles a dazzling smile because she truly loves what she does. Those kinds of smiles make me smile and feel good about the world.

The inspiration! I'm inspired, I feel like Lady Gaga is my mentor too.

*Study your craft.
*Take your art into your body, own it, celebrate it, become it.
*Don't listen to nasty critics.
*Listen to your inner self and be true to your art.
*Have confidence, fake it 'til you make it.
*Surround yourself with supportive, creative people. You cannot create in a vacuum.
*Dress the part.
*Become the characters.
*Pay attention to every last detail...and throw a few more in as long as they're relative.
*Don't take yourself too serious.
*Take your art very serious.
*Indulge your artistic self.
*Own your truth.
*Love the art you make.

  • Current Mood
    creative creative

Escorted down our 400ft driveway.

It happens often. We have a 400ft drive, fenced on both sides. When we drive up or down it, some critter will get in front of our car....and.....stay.....there. Sigh.

The drive is full of all sorts of fauna. Turn into my drive and head towards my house and the swirling flurry of birds that accompany you is reminiscent of a classic Disney movie. When the rabbits, ground squirrels, lizards, snakes or quails step out into your path, the expectation is for them to rear back and open their feral little mouths in song. Well, they do step out but the only singing you'll hear will be your own voice imploring them to move out of the way so they don't become a driveway statistic.

Husband#1 shot this video the other day as four adult Gambel Quail and a whole covey of peepers decided to escort him down the drive.

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    amused amused

Grooming Graphics

I'm not an artist nor an illustrator, yes-I know those are synonymous, but I like to think I'm artsy. I enjoy doodling around and digitally scrapbooking and I can craft with the best of them. Toss me some pom poms and tongue depressors, I'll make you a tea cozy.

My aMUSEd Inner Critic site is a template created by an artist. The color palette and flowered swirls at the top are not my creation, but the rest of the header is. Someday I may overhaul the graphics there and design the full page myself. However, I did create all of the graphics on my sister's website All Dogs Go To Brenda.

Well, Sister#1 decided to 'go mobile' as in become a mobile groomer. She ordered a grooming trailer and needed graphics for it. She called me.

I designed all the elements. The trailer graphic guy arranged them except for this side, I got to arrange it;

All Dogs Go To Brenda_1

Here is the other side, I love the spectacled dog on the door. By the way, the pup is the Mighty Fergus McFlee and he owns my sister. When Fergus and I get together, destruction occurs. I <3 Fergus!

All Dogs Go To Brenda_2

This is the back and what you would see if you were driving behind it;

All Dogs Go To Brenda_3

I also design her mailer ad coupons. Here is the one going out this month;

All Dogs Go To Brenda_4

If you need a mobile groomer in North Phoenix, AZ-now you know who you can call and Sister#1 will be at your door scissors and blower in hand. But I wanted to show you some of the other things I like to do. I think creativity informs creativity, this all fuels my writing brain too. Brain food is good stuff.

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    creative creative

Quacking the Quack with REAL writers, parts 1 & 2

There's this little rubber zebra striped ducky on Facebook named Sandy. He sits on a writer's desk but he's kinda nasty to her, he says she's not a real writer because she does not write. You would think he would know because he sits on that desk and sees all that happens there. Suspiciously, he looks a lot like the duck that sits on MY desk....but it couldn't be the same ducky because, after all, I do write.

Well, the little guy took on a project of talking to authors while he was at the Tucson Festival of Books back in March. Then I helped him put together a couple of little videos with the video clips he shot.

Sandy talked to 13 local (to Arizona) authors & illustrators about what it means to be a "real" writer, although I think he did quack with one author from New York? The Tuscon book festival has so much packed into it that things blur after awhile.

That could be part of the reason it took so long for us to complete these vids. We were just overwhelmed for awhile. If you asked Sandy, I think he would complain that he was left in the rucksack for too long. He'd probably say a bunch of other things too, but isn't he just too cute?! ***kisses Sandy on his cute little beak***

Part 1 video, Sandy quacks with;

Larry Dane Brimner
Lisa McMann
Marge Pellegrino
Juanita Havill
Laurie Calkhoven
Nancy Bo Flood

And in part 2, the duck quacks with;

Janette Rallison
Angela Morrison
Pamela Keyes
Guy Porfirio
Gwen Russell Harvey
Adam Rex
Janni Lee Simner

Find Sandy on facebook here.

You can find me on facebook here, and on YouTube here.

Also posted at: http://amusedcritic.com/miscellany/quacking-the-quack-with-real-writers-parts-1-2/
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    geeky Ducky!

Allen Zadoff & Elizabeth Law's wisdom, Cyn's brillance and a MS consult give-away!

cynleitichsmith interviews Allen Zadoff and his editor Elizabeth Law. She is also giving away a manucript consult with Egmont Publisher Elizabeth Law, click here for details.

I like Allen's approach to writing. He said a lot of things that I agree with like how he responds to editorial notes and how much he respects his readers.

Here is the Skype video interview that I did with Allen:

And the Skype video interview that I did with Elizabeth:

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    artistic artistic

Blue whales, white sharks and the subliminality of picture books.

I love a good picture book. I don't know many people who don't. Perhaps those who were born without a sense of whimsy who also have no genetic material that carries any gene markers that recognize the words 'ha' and 'ha?'

Are you familiar with Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex? In order to teach Billy some responsibility, his mother mail orders a blue whale that Billy must take care of. Which proves to be quite an undertaking. In the end, Billy take refuge in the very thing that has made his life so impossible, the whale.

Son#2 is now in college. I know, time is a cruel bitch. Today he tells me about a dream he had.

Son#2: What contact do you have that you could get a great white shark from?
Me: I got a shark?

Son#2: I had a dream...
Me: (I doubt it was the same as the esteemed Dr. King, but I pause to listen.)

Son#2: I dreamt that you got a great white shark from someone and I had to carry it around school in a plastic baggie. (Full of water, I assumed.) Between classes, I put it into a small tank. I accidentally left it in the student center in it's baggie. The shark was okay when I remembered and came back to get it, but I think it flipped me off with one of it's flippers. Everybody thought the great white shark was the coolest thing, they kept coming up to me to see it.

(In my head, I'm thinking about all the imagery. All the grown up things that are looming down at him represented by the white shark and the fact that no one cares about his anxiety because he is grown and it is for him to solve. Yes, I know they all liked the shark, but in MY HEAD he was worried about the RESPONSIBILITY. And I think back to myself when I was that age and all the dreams I had where I could not work fast enough or good enough and I was stark raving naked and nobody cared that I had no clothes on they just shook their heads sadly at me because I couldn't do the work.)

Me:.......were you wearing clothes?
Son#2: What?! Yes, of course. You know a bunch of other things happened in that dream too, it wasn't just about the shark.
Me: Oh, okay. (No sweetheart, it's always about the shark. Always.)

I think it's safe to say that Mac and Adam's picture book is sitting somewhere relatively safe inside of Son#2's mind. Writing the story is one thing, once it becomes an inhabitant of someone's mind, it can become anything. Cool huh?

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    amused amused

janni is having a cold contest.

There's been a bit of a deep freeze down here in the deserts of Arizona. I feel sorry for the lizard-sicles and tarantula-pops. janni AKA Janni Lee Simner, author of Bones Of Faerie and other most excellent books is hosting a contest in preparation for the sequel to Bones Of Faerie tiled Faerie Winter. Go here and answer her character's question.

This is my answer:

Yes, spring will come. It is inevitable, like death. The real question is when and since the planets don't seem to have much of a say about it in the world we're talking about, I would suppose that it is up to the characters to make it happen.

Go and play with janni. She's always fun!

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    good Playful!