An Evil Influence

That would be #4 Daughter, the amazing Sara Marian. She called and said she had this addictive phone game she was playing.

ME: Yeah, yeah. I don’t need another addictive game.

SARA: You have this koi pond, and they swim around and you guide them to eat insects. But don’t let them swim into the pink leaves, because that slows them down.

ME: *thinks: sounds boring*

SARA: It sounds boring, but it’s relaxing AND fun! After they eat enough of a combination of insects, they level up, and you can expand the pond and they get different insects to eat.

ME: huh

SARA: And other koi appear and the two koi get a circle around them, and if they stay in the circle long enough, they have an egg and it hatches into another koi! All different patterns of them!

ME: I like koi.

SARA: After they level up far enough, they turn into dragons!

ME: I’m in.

So now I’m SO addicted! I don’t think it’ll replace Minecraft any time soon, but, yes, it’s addictive. #4 Daughter is right: it’s calming and exciting at the same time.

Oh, the name? Zen Koi. Get it from your friendly neighborhood smartphone app store. That is all.

I’m posting at Fatal Foodies today about shoots. Sounds about right.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about ornamental fish.

MA

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My New Imaginary Literary Boyfriend THE MARVELS #BookReview

You think it’s Marcus, don’t you? You think Marcus Marvel is my new imaginary literary boyfriend. But you’re wrong. THE ENTIRE BOOK is my new imaginary literary boyfriend! The book is THE MARVELS by Brian Selznick.

People always rag on Dickens because he used coincidence a lot in his novels. That’s so unfair. Because why? Because coincidence happens, like, ALL the TIME in real life.

For instance:

I’m in a couple of email lists with Leila Taylor, the awsomesauce site-mama of Buried Under Books. When somebody posts a review to her site, she informs members of the email lists. I usually just scan them, because, let’s be frank: I already have seventeen bazillion books I haven’t read yet. This one, though, grabbed me. I’m pretty sure it was the cover. No, I tell a lie: it was the enthusiasm of jv poore, the reviewer.

I immediately hopped over to Amazon’s site and ordered the book. It arrived, and it’s MASSIVE. It’s also beautiful! Looka this book!MARVELSThe front cover is actually dark blue, though I could make it look either bright blue or black in my photo. Black is closer. The picture on the cover is shiny gold, and the edges of the pages are gold. The drawing on the spine and back typifies the high quality of those inside.

This is one of those books that make actual sense of the statement, “I like real books. I like to hold them in my hands.” Usually, I’m like, “How do you hold your Kindle, then, with your feet?” This book is a pleasure to hold, and a pleasure to look at, to turn and examine from all sides and angles.

The book, not counting the afterword, is about 650 pages. I say “about,” because over half of that is full-page or double-page illustrations by the author, also a story, or part of the same story, or ….

The afterword explains the odd experience I had while reading the text portion of the novel. It also has a quote by Wim Wenders, my imaginary directorial boyfriend.

SO ANYWAY, I gobbled up the first part of the book, beautiful drawings that lead you through the story of a shipwreck into a multi-generational celebration of family that branches and blossoms through acceptance of parental responsibility, of one’s own blood kin or of others’ children.

The text begins with a parallel story, of a boy planning to foist himself onto his unknown uncle — assuming he can find him. More teasing parallels winkle in, but the odd experience I had related to something else.

As the story progressed, I kept having the feeling I had been in this or that setting before, that I had seen this or that place, that I knew things before I was told them.

Sure enough, the afterword confirmed one of my bits of recognition. The uncle’s house is inspired by Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields, London, England, which was one of my Friday Recommends.

There was more, though, and I had to dig it out of my poor old brain. Another of my recommends, British artist Liam O’Farrell, has done a series of drawings and paintings of Spitalfields, including one of Spitalfields Market, which also appears in THE MARVELS. (If you want to learn more about Spitalfields, I highly recommend Spitalfields Life, written by “the gentle author”).

Who would believe such a double coincidence? Yet true.

Read this book. Lissen: READ THIS BOOK!

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: My favorite exercise is to take a headline from the front page of the paper and one from deep inside the paper and make them part of the same story. Or you could take two lines from two totally different sorts of books and do the same thing.

MA

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You’ll Learn Better, Soon Enough #SampleSunday

I’m just about finished with my finished draft of the story I’m writing for a collection of tales from the world of my SAGE fantasy trilogy (link is to my SAGE page on this site). I hope to finish the story by the end of the month. I hope to finish the draft of the collection by the end of September. (Crossing my fingers!)

Scrivener makes working from scraps both easier and more difficult than working in one document. Easier, because sub-documents arrange, rearrange, and access more easily than bits all smooshed together. More difficult, because … MORE THINGS!

Here’s an excerpt. Salali ran away from home to escape an arranged marriage.

You’ll Learn Soon Enough

excerpt by Marian Allen

Suddenly, she came upon a clearing. In the center of it stood a structure made entirely of wood, light shining from its slatted windows. Was this a house? It was so small. So lonely.

As she gazed in wonder, the door swung inward and a woman came out.

She was tall and brown and as slender as young Salali herself, although the woman’s plaited hair was streaked with gray and her face was gently lined. Her gown was a simple green shift with a belt of brown cloth.

She held out her hands to the weary traveler and said, in a clearer Layounnan than the farm folk had used, “Welcome! You’ve come a long way, for our home is far from everywhere. Come in and rest.”

With relief as great as her curiosity, Salali took the woman’s hands and gratefully allowed herself to be led inside.

“Put down your things,” the woman said. “Come up to the fire. The nights are cool and damp in the trees.”

Salali realized her feet were, indeed, chilly and wet. She made herself comfortable, although she was conscious of the contrast between the style of her clothing and that of her hostess.

“My name is Erda,” the woman said.

“Salali of Nishi.” She blushed, for she hadn’t been able to restrain herself from darting glances around the wooden room. “I’ve never been outside the city walls before.”

“And I’ve never been within them! Look around, and don’t be shy. Tell me how my house is different from yours, and we’ll both be amused.”

They chatted and laughed, sharing the last of Salali’s scant supplies, a loaf of Erda’s bread, a bowl of stew from Erda’s hearth, and milk from Erda’s goats.

Although she hadn’t meant to, Salali confessed her defection and the reason for it.

Erda rhapsodized on the subject of marriage, and Salali felt courtesy-bound to agree that the right groom would make all the difference.

The fire was cozy and Salali was travel-worn and footsore.

She closed her eyes, just for a moment.

~*~

A faint whiff of the sour but delicious bread she had been given the night before brought her wide awake.

She swung her sore feet to the floor, and encountered grass. Above her, tree branches woven together with living vines formed a high roof. Around her, plants and vines grew in a ragged circle to enclose her, leaving peepholes and the semblance of barred windows, but no door.

On a stump nearby her bed sat a plate holding a small loaf of brown bread, a small round of yellow cheese, and a cup of cream-topped milk. On another stump was a stack of rich green cloth with her pack holding it in place.

LearnBetter“Hello?” Salali stood in the fragrant shade. She rose on legs that nearly collapsed, they ached so from yesterday’s unaccustomed exercise. She shuffled to the living wall, inserting fingers in one of the peepholes and prying at it to open an exit. The greenery resisted. Using both hands and all her strength, she pulled at the small gap. Tendrils bound the plant material together like the tiniest stitches that make the strongest seams. She pulled again and cried out as the stems she touched sprouted a fur of tiny nettles, too small to pierce deeply, but not too small to hurt and irritate.

“Hello!” Where was Erda? Was this her doing, or was she imprisoned, too? “Erda? Anyone? Help!”

Her hostess from the evening appeared at one of the prison’s “windows,” frowning, lip lifted.

“You slept late enough. Lazy girl! You’ll learn better, soon enough.”

~*~

Ruh-roh, eh?

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character wakes up in a different place than they went to sleep. Good thing or bad thing?

MA

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