Neil Gaiman says:

Neil Gaiman says:
pic by Allan Amato

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chug Chug Chug

This is the sound of the engine running out of steam, only partway up the hill. How did that damned story go? I forget.... Sometimes thinking that you can ain't enough. You just have to KNOW it in your gut. I talked with Anders today and said, I've had block for 3 days man, 3 days! I don't know if I can do this..I'm at 32,000 words and I only have 10 days left.." And Anders said "Of course you'll make it." And that was that. Now I'm at 38,000 words, sailing right along with some other, underused characters that I enjoyed introducing way back on November 6th or something and they are carrying their part of the story quite happily.

To see how I'm doing, you can check the Official NaNoWriMo link. There's a Facebook dealie that updates my word count on my status, but I don't think I can link it here. I have captured today's pic of my progress for you to admire though, so that's fun.

It is dismal and grey outside, but the cats enjoyed gamboling around chasing leaves. They were happy to get in though, as it's a trifle cold. This time next week I'll be ensconced in my new Joe Job at Stats once more. It is surreal to me that I'm returning. Hopefully I can crank out another 12,000 words before going back so I won't fail the NaNoWriMo :-P

My story shows absolutely no intention of coming to an end neatly at the 50,000 word mark. It's funny, looking back at my "Terra del Meurto" story, when I'd reached 31,000 words over the Labour Day Weekend, that was it. It was done. I was left with the truncated bits of 3-Day novel in my lap, begging to be re-cut, rewritten and finished. I'm not even going to look at that until I finish this. And this has taken on a wondrous life of its own. It is a marvel, living and breathing on the page. The characters are fun and I don't have a clue what they'll do. I've set them up like pins and I keep throwing a ball. Sometimes I miss, sometimes I strike, sometimes the lane extends the length of two football fields. Go figure.

The joy is that barring the quote I've just added (I'm sure Adams would've appreciated the irony!) deadlines seem to be the fuel, fire and combustion I need to keep going. I forget where I heard this quote from ... Robert Genn? That: "A Goal without a deadline is a wish." Fantastic. The more goals/ challenges I have provided for myself, the more I have produced and I am delighted. It is exhausting, exhilarating and thoroughly satisfying work in which to be involved.

I'm hoping the joy and pulse of creativity can keep me sane as I return to the 9-5 drudgery of our modern life. If not, I'll try holding off the crashing and burning until the debts have been cleared up at least.


PS--thoroughly enjoying reading "Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain; 1960's hardcover edition with illustrations and unabridged. Wonderful language!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Second Week

Apparently according to the NaNoWriMo website, it's the official beginning of Week II of the challenge. My stats are a little over 14,000 words, so that's good. Now all I need is a plot..haha! No seriously, things are going ok. I've introduced my main character, set her in her setting and have peopled her environs with a few cool characters to help her on her way. I have a vague idea of where I want this to go, but so far I'm reliving my old University days. That's fine, I'm sure it'll all work out in the end (I hope.)

Now, I must go and get me some shoes. My sneakers accrued a hole. Which is not good, not when I start my new job in less than three weeks.

More to come. And to all of those who struggle under the burden (or blessing) of creativity... good luck!

PS--If you have the means, get your butt PEI bound for November 9th! It's the official launch of "Chiaroscuro" by Troy Little and IDW Publishing. It should be a fun time. I am very disappointed that I can't attend... :-(

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Yes it's that time of the year

I have decided that 2007 is my year for CHALLENGES. In keeping with my self-imposed madness, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month. For more info on what that's all about, please feel free to follow the links.

This year, I challenged myself to complete a french course, which I managed to do. I took up the challenge of getting back into animation, thanks to Nick Cross, that came true as well. I challenged myself to leave my steady job and jump into the well of creativity, and all wise-words and fear be damned! That sorta worked out... I challenged the old self to get in the car and drive East on my lonesome. That was some fun. Probably would be more fun with company, but whatcha gonna do?

The fall's challenges have been in a very creative vein! Labour Day weekend was the 3-Day Novel Contest. Carol Little helped inspire me to enter that (you can check out an awesome article about her and the challenge online in PEI's Guardian!) I completed a 131 pg. novel called "Terra Del Meurta", which as Clay later pointed out reads more like an outline for a really BIG novel :-) I think a rewrite or 3 may be in order. But the cool thing is; I got it done! Hurray Sue :-)

Onto the rest of the challenges.... October 20th dawned beautiful and sunny; the 24 Hour Comics Day had arrived. Five brave souls threw themselves into the fray (Keith Savage, Westin Church, Meaghan Quinn, Suzanne Marsden & Clayton Jacobs) and three came out, including moi! I will be posting info on that all on its own, cause I want to scan in some pics too.

And, because I haven't had enough of grueling creative exercises, I signed up for NaNoWriMo. Basically, you have 30 days to write a novel of 50,000 words (or more.) It's day 6 and I'm clocking in around 9296 words...which ain't too bad. I feel good; my fingers are a little annoyed with me (whaaat? You're doing Data Entry? Whaat?)

Finally, my biggest challenge to date...
Return to Statistics Canada. How is that going to be? Don't know... It is in a completely different Division than I was before, doing work as a Publication Assistant. So--it might even be fun? Mm, you can tell I generally see things in the glass-is-half-full light, right? ;-)

So...there will be more. Sorry for the long hiatus, and thanks for continuing to check in to see if I'm still alive and kickin'. Yeap! Still alive... Still kickin'...


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Git your game on!!

I looked at the image above on my Facebook profile and it hit home. There are only THREE DAYS AND EIGHTEEN HOURS left until the exciting 24 Hour Comics Day Event at my place (DragonHead Studio.)

So, email me, join the Facebook Group and request to be added to the Event and come out to enjoy the fun, horrifying, exciting, excruciating challenge. There will be home-made poppycock. Seriously :-)



Saturday, October 13, 2007

Official Press Release!

For immediate release
For further info about the local event, contact Suzanne Marsden at 613-836-7821. For further info about 24 Hour Comics Day, contact Nat Gertler,, (805) 499-4091

Making Comics Around-the-Clock and Around-the-World – Kanata, ON included
Cartoonists Gather At DragonHead Studio For 24 Hour Comics Day

(Kanata) To many people, comics are the hip type of reading material. To some, they’re a great form of artistic expression. But come October 20th, people will treat comics as a challenge, and a tough one at that. That’s the day when local cartoonists will gather at DragonHead Studio to join with professional and amateur comics creators worldwide in celebrating 24 Hour Comics Day, a marathon festival of cartooning.
The cartoonist’s goal on the annual 24 Hour Comics Day is easy to explain, difficult to achieve. Each wants to turn 24 blank pieces of paper into a finished comic book in 24 hours. This “24 hour comics challenge” means achieving what might normally be months of work in a single (generally sleepless) day. During last year’s event, more than 1200 cartoonists gathered at event locations in 17 countries, working side-by-side while sharing energy, snacks, and camaraderie. While not everyone successfully completed 24 pages, among them they crafted more than 15,000 pages of comics.
"The participants are a mix of first-time comics creators, seasoned amateurs, and established professionals," explains Suzanne Marsden, Founder of DragonHead Studio. "They’re spending 24 hours trying something different. Even people who have made a lot of comics find new creative techniques and inner resources when facing this bizarre deadline. When you can’t spend endless time reworking and rethinking, you learn to create on impulse, and some amazing stuff can result.”
The Comic Book Shoppe carries several books featuring 24 hour comics stories, including one edited by Scott McCloud, the leading comics theoretician who invented the challenge. McCloud had leveled the challenge at Steve Bissette, a fellow cartoonist who sketched quickly but created finished comic work notoriously slowly. The energetic and emotionally raw work that Bissette created is in McCloud’s book 24 Hour Comics, as are 24 hour comic attempts by Stardust writer Neil Gaiman and eight more. Other books feature stories drawn during each of the past three years 24 Hour Comics Days.
"We’re gearing up to provide food and drink for a batch of creatively-driven, fun-loving cartoonists," says Marsden, "and even people who don’t want to make comics themselves can do their part. Stop by the studio, see the creative effort in action, show the cartoonists your support. THE STUDIO WILL BE OPEN TO VISITORS AND SUPPORTERS FOR THE FULL TWENTY-FOUR HOURS!”
The full description of the 24 hour comics challenge is available at the website. Cartoonists who want to participate should call DragonHead Studio at 613-836-7821 to reserve a spot, as space is limited and planning needs to be done. No talent is required, just enthusiasm, a willingness to put in the effort, and someone to drive you home (driving after 24 consecutive hours of creative effort is not a good idea). DragonHead Studio is also looking for local restaurants and other vendors to help sponsor the event by providing food to keep the cartoonists going.

DragonHead Studio is an independent comic publishing house, animation and cartoon studio. Located at 37 Ballantrae Way, Kanata, ON K2L 1N3, DragonHead Studio publishes “aBraxIa”, “Ivy & Dummy” and provides creative services to a number of Canadian studios.
24 HOUR COMICS DAY is an international festival of cartooning. Founded in 2004 by comics writer/publisher Nat Gertler, the festival has experienced rapid growth. More information can be found at

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Yes, we're online... and there is still time to sign up!

Nat Gertler sent me a notice regarding the 24 Hour Comics Day Event, stating that the International start time list had been completed. The list includes DragonHead Studio's event, the ONLY host near the Nation's Capital (the next one out is The Artel in Kingston, then Hairy Tarantula West in Toronto!) This comprises 82 Events scheduled in 15 countries, 29 US states and 3 Canadian provinces! Check out the map here :-D

With the event less than two weeks away, folks must be getting excited and stoked for the exhausting, illuminating and one-of-a-kind experience ONLY this kind've gathering can evoke. I know that I am! And it is not too late to take part. Simply contact me with your interest and questions, or sign on to the Facebook group and request to be included on the event list. You will receive maps, and can participate in a carpool or shuttle bus to DragonHead Studio's cozy locale in Urban Kanata.

Ample drawing, painting & comic creating materials will be provided, along with a selection of caffeinated beverages ;-) and foods. We do support vegetarian-friendly food; just let us know your needs. We have a large collection of animals living with us, so prepare your system with anti-allergy medication (if you need it.) DragonHead has a secure area if you wish to bring a tent and camp. We also will be providing up to eight places for people to sleep, should they require napping during the event, or cannot complete their comic projects and must sleep.

You have nothin' to lose by giving this a try! You will discover creative depths in your heart you didn't know existed! If you are experiencing artist's or writer's block, this event will kick the hell out of it. You will amaze yourself by what bubbles up in the middle of the night... Go for it!

To get a feel for what others have experienced during previous events, check out YouTube. There are tons of clips showing comic artists and even a couple of interviews with the inventor of the 24 Hour Comic, Scott McCloud!

Contact me via my website, The 24 Hour Comic Book Day at DragonHead Studio Group on Facebook, or by calling 613-323-3377 and leaving a detailed voice message.

Cheers and all best

PS--Happy Thanksgiving!
PPS -- For detailed information regarding the 24 Hour Comic and what it is exactly, refer to Scott McCloud's web page. Here he explains what it is, how he came up with it and shows copious pages of completed 24 Hour Comics. Inspiring!
PPPS -- Here's a funny image detailing ways to keep awake while doing the 24 HCD.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Happy Guinness Day

Happy Guinness Day! It's Arthur Guinness' birthday, so to celebrate, folks world wide are sucking back the delicious brew. Close your eyes, drink your Guinness, and imagine John Mann and Spirit of the West singing this traditional ballad:

General Guinness

You've heard of General Wellington
Who won at Waterloo,
But there's a good old Irishman
I'll introduce to you
He comes from dear old Dublin
He's a man we all applaud
For he always finds a corkscrew
Far more hardy than a sword.
He's good old General Guinness
He's a soldier strong and stout
Found on every battlefront
He can't be done without
His noble name has worldwide fame
Preserved through hearty cheers
Hurrah for General Guinness
And the Dublin Boozileers!

This hale and hearty warrior
Is worshipped in the ranks,
For he does his task inside a cask
As well as in the tanks.
He's borne the brunt on every front,
North, South, East and West,
And he wears about ten thousand canteen
Medals on his chest.
He's good old General Guinness.
He's won the world's applause.
It was he who kept our spirits up
In the midst of all the wars.
Who was the first to flirt with
Mademoiselle from Armentiers?
Why good old General Guinness
Of the Dublin Boozileers.

All over bonny Scotland, too,
The General is seen.
They've given him the freedom
Of the town of Aberdeen.
From Inverness to Galloshiles,
They keep him warm at night
And they love to gather round him,
Auuuch! On every moonlit night.
He's good old General Guinness
He's as good as Scottish broth.
He's the one who turned the Firth of Forth
Into the Firth of Froth
All Scotsmen dance the highland fling
And shout when he appears
Hurrah for General Guinness
And the Dublin Boozileers!

(Can be found on the album "Old Material")

Monday, September 17, 2007

Take the plunge

You know you want to.

You've been aching, your fingers vibrating with the creative need to DRAW. But, you've put it off. Your boring job saps all your strength. Or even your moderately not-so-boring job takes up so much of your energy, when you get home (or hell, if you're working from home) you just don't have it in you to.. draw..

Scott McCloud
came up with a nifty device over a decade ago (August 31st, 1990), called The Dare. In this Dare, he challenged a compatriot, Steve Bissette, to draw for 24 hours straight, one page an hour, until by the time he was done, this fella would have a complete comic, written, penciled and inked in his hands. That's all it took. From that wonderful, inspired idea, the 24-Hour Comic has spread like fruit flies on a squishy mango, in other words, FAST and with much sucking of tasty, sticky juice! To check out more information on The Dare and to read McCloud's first 24-hour comic, check ze links!

No writer or artist's block can withstand the energy or will that exists in the sweat of someone working on a project for 24 hours straight. Take it from someone who has braved that valley of darkness three times and come out alive... blind, exhausted, hallucinating, but alive! Below, are panels from my first attempts: "Good Medicine/ Bad Medicine", "The Wyrm's Treasure" and "SnowBlonde" (you can read the last two in their entirety on my website, thanks to the continuing web genius of Carol Busato.)

"Good Medicine/ Bad Medicine"

"The Wyrm's Treasure"


If you're interested in reading more 24-hour comics, you can order them online from Amazon, or via the 24-Hour Comics Day site which has tons of info on the event! You can also order two of Troy Little's 24-hour comics directly from him at Meanwhile Studios ("Smoked Fish" and "Inanimation".)

Come October 20th, 2007, the entire world will host hundreds of mad, creative folks in various locales, drawing maniacally away and creating something from nuthin'! I was interested in joining the fun, but realized it would come very close to overlapping my business trip to Abbey Hill Design in Callander (near North Bay.) I heard that Hairy Tarantula in Toronto was going to host it, but thought the additional drive and then no sleep, then driving HOME would probably kill me. I looked for something closer to Ottawa and realized there was nothing.


No 24-Hour Comics Day event in ANY Nation's Capital comic book stores to encourage artists to create masterpieces on trestle tables, between multicoloured rows of comics. No fervent prophets of art and story, drawing throngs of the interested public through the doors to bring lucre to the tills. No store was signed up to host. So I thought to myself, "Self," (sfx of Arlo Guthrie talking) "Yup?" "Why dontcha host an event yerself?" "Sounds like a great idea. Then I won't end up in flames somewhere near Belleville on the way home from the stint in TO!" "Sounds like a plan." "AND I would get to see all of my comic and animation buddies whom I haven't seen in a donkey's year." "Is that an African or European donkey?"

And so on.

The 24-Hour Comics Day site has wonderful resources (like this FAQ) for hosting the DAY and I have downloaded lots of 'em. DragonHead Studio is officially on the boards at their site, and the fun starts at noon, October 20th, 2007 at yours truly. There is a Facebook Group set up for it, as well as an "Event" that you can request an invitation to.

As it stands, I have a possibility of 7 people turning up, which looks great! There is room for 5 -7 more, so if you are in the Ottawa/ Kanata area and you're keen to draw and you'd like to play with my animals and sit on my deck sipping Rev or what-have-you, drop me a line!

You know you want to.
That leetle voice you spend all day ignoring and the entire drive home from your job trying to feint left and right as its siren susurrus pleading whisper darts from ear to ear... Listen to it. Next time you're about to crank "Sam's Town", take a minute to really listen to what the Killers are saying; don't just let the sound wash over you.

"...I've got this energy beneath my feet
like something underground's gonna come up and carry me,
I've got this sentimental heart that beats
but I don't really mind that it's starting to get to me now..."

Call, write, email ( or sign up on the Facebook Group and pester me. You have 'til October 6th to get your name in! It's going to be fun!


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Troy Little CHIAROSCURO Interview!!!!!!!!!!!!

Please proceed HERE to check out Troy Little on national television in Canada, courtesy of the CBC, Compass & YouTube.

For a written version of the interview, check this out.

Please be sure to pre-order "Chiaroscuro" from your favourite comic or book stores. The release date is coming up in October (15th), so don't miss out! Information on preordering can be fond on Troy's site here. Or hit up Amazon and pre-order online.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Unaware of distant thrashings

(Above, a mock-up of me with Frank Frazetta; ha! Probably the closest I'll get to seeing him for real ;-)

I had the happy chanced stumble to find a great comic resource: "The Drawing Board" via Mick Harrison's Blog. Thanks Mick! From there I have found great Classifieds (ads that actually entice pencilers, inkers and the like with MONEY! Wow :-) For those of you who don't know.. many sites have comic classifieds that go something like this:

"...I am actively seeking dedicated comics artists/co-creators with whom to work in developing original comics properties to pitch (at least five to eight pages of finished art)... I am looking for talented artists to help in bringing these works to their two-dimensional life. Only artists with a firm grasp of sequential comic art need respond... [Insert bunch of junk to indicate the dude(tte) has some kind've credentials)
...Work is currently non-pay, but fair percentages for the amount of work done will be negotiated once a project is picked up by a publisher...."

When I got to High School at the ripe age of 14, I looked at my ink-stained hands and said "No More Freebies!" And I stood by it. (OK, barring: relatives, fund-raisers and blood-brethren (& sistren), I don't draw for free. Why should you? Why should you advertise to the world that your work is worthless? I remember my 1st year teacher at Algonquin College, Peter Adamakos, going on at length about that in one of his lectures. I don't recall it in its entirety, but basically it had to do with: Pride, not just in yourself, but in your work, and belief in the validity (and saleability) of your work.

So anyway, it was refreshing to find a professional site that had classified ads for comic artists that offer dough for art. Cool :-) Since it was 1am, and for some reason I subconsciously believed that sleep was STILL for the weak, I thought I'd poke around and see what trouble I could get into there. And I found trouble--of course! A bit of a preamble to this story though, before I get to "ze meat"

When I was growing up, the burg I lived in had a population of maybe 800 (or so.) Now I was only about 20 km away from a major urban centre, so I didn't get the "living in a tiny village" syndrome that sends many people running for big cities, to get away from ALL THE NEIGHBOURS KNOWING EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU... ALL THE TIME!

But, it was a small enough town that the grocery store (the only place to buy stuff at the time) carried a wee spinner rack of comics and a spot with magazines off to the side. This was where you would find the TWO copies of Heavy Metal that would come in irregularly. Some reprobate bought one of those Heavy Metals, and I, at the tender age of 16 or so, bought the other one. It was like buying condoms or cigarettes or something. I'd have to stand in the checkout line, trying to hide my mag under a bag of chips or whatever, and the Octogenarian ringing it through would take a good gander at the stark(ish) naked space-girl on the front cover and wonder about me.

But! Back to the story.

Between the covers of those Heavy Metal comics was a lot of crap. But, there was also an amazing amount of beautiful artwork (like Findley's "Tex Arcana") which helped inspire me to draw, tell stories, get unladylike thoughts zipping around in my fertile teenager's head and such. Included in the long list of inspirational artists that I was exposed to through the mag is the legendary Frank Frazetta. (I mention Mr. Frazetta, because eventually this gets back to how I opened the Blog today.)

I fell in love with Frazetta's work the way you fall into a swimming pool filled to the brim with Jello. Hard, fast, covered in slime and no option to rise to the surface, save to devour everything around you and try not to think what it's made of. I kept my eyes peeled for Frazetta's work and accumulated a small stack of thin paperback art books, which have sadly fallen apart, a mere 20 years later... Mostly to the fact that I went through them over, and over and over again. (Below is "Conan the Avenger" - the cover painting to the first of those art books I had.)
Unlike a lot of people who got turned onto Frank Frazetta's work, it wasn't via the actual Conan the Barbarian paperback books. It was through prints, books, reproduced illustrations, the Ralph Bakshi movie "Fire & Ice", and also the deep respect and admiration of my Dad for the work and the artist. My Dad looked at the Frazetta works, nodded his head and said "This is really great stuff."

Just Sunday, I was visiting Keith's place and we were having a nice palaver over Pad Thai, drinks, convo, Gran Turismo and stuff, when he revealed, like a Magician pulling a dove out of thin air, that he had a movie for Clay & I to watch.
"What is it?" I demanded about a billion times.
"Wait and see!"

It was "Painting with Fire", which is a documentary/ interview/ reminiscence and adulatory piece about Frank Frazetta. I really enjoyed it. I love seeing how artists work. I especially love to see their studios. When I get into an artist, like most "fans" I want to know everything about them and understand where they draw their inspiration, how they work, how they think.

It was delightful seeing the early photos of Frank, hear the story of how he built his career. Realize that even the greats can be amazing procrastinators (putting off work for a whole month, only to burn in a creative frenzy for 8-15 hours to get a piece done for deadline!) It was cool seeing his closet chock full of cameras (I piped up: "Now I don't feel so bad!" --I too have a camera fetish.) It was inspiring, and made me want to draw like crazy (which of course was the effect that Keith had anticipated.) We sat around and drew for a few hours and I was happy as a clam.

Anyway, back to The Drawing Board, poking around in Forums and realizing stuff is happening. Now, you know where I stand on the matter of Frank Frazetta. He isn't God, but he is a hell of a talented painter. Apparently there is a real fooferah between him and another artist, called Mike Hoffman. Up 'til now, I think I'd only seen his work around --maybe in Heavy Metal? Maybe in PinUps? Or magazines? I was unaware of the intense animosity happening between Frazetta & Hoffman.

I was browsing and saw a Forum topic called "Thirteen Reasons Why I'm Better Than Frazetta". Of course I had to look. I mean; c'mon! A link within the Forum lead to Hoffman's website (which I'll post here.) The vitriol and anti-Frazetta garbage that was fountaining out was astonishing. Hoffman's ANTI-FRAZETTA-FAN rage was also surprising (well, I suppose it shouldn't be that surprising really.) But, accusations aside, aren't these two professional painters in the same genre? Where does this rage, petty in-fighting, obvious jealousy sprout from?

One of the fellows (Sirspamdalot) on the Forum at The Drawing Board said: "...I can't help but think of Ash being attacked by his own hand in Evil Dead 2..."
A Hoffman alongside a Frazetta.

One of the Forum posters (visual myriad) puts it perfectly: "...on the artistic side, i think his artwork is a very pale imitation of Frazetta's work. Hoffman rips so many of Frank's artistic touches, but isn't able to use them intuitively, so his work lacks the life and energy that makes Frank Frazetta's work so timeless." - Daniel

I'm not going to waste a huge amount of time belabouring it, but after scanning through Hoffman's page, I had to write something. He's throwing accusations around like smoke bombs at a ninja convention... Yeah, some of them are true, I'm not Frazetta's publicist, so I can't put out a press release or whatever regarding the "Swipes" Hoffman accuses him of. I've watched "Painting with Fire" and yes, Frank says quite a bit of high handed things. But, my G*d man, he's 79; give him a break! If you get to 79 and every artist with two thumbs and a can of paint is killing themselves to paint like you, yes, you're allowed to refer to yourself as a "Legend".

Anyway, I'll hook up all the links, and folks can sort out for themselves what they think. All I know is that I would give a lot to have an original Frazetta hanging in the old pink house, and wouldn't give anything for a Hoffman. There, now I can be counted amongst the "intellectual dust mouse" Frazetta fans as well. Just an aside--I hopped on over to eBay following a Hoffman link and he's selling original "Death Dealer Sketches". Who's swiping what? ;-)


Friday, September 07, 2007

If you love me, you'll buy my stuff

How often have we heard that familiar phrase??
FLOG YOU MONKEYS! Anyway, for fun, I did a photo collage of all the pics I have posted recently...and, for your enjoyment, they are for sale in Poster Form at Cafe Press! For the mere cost of a large all dressed pizza, from a lower end pizza place, you can own a REAL chunk o' Marsden memorabilia! Order now from my Cafe Press shop!

I'll put up a few more nonsensical things there as I go along. But for now, enjoy the moving surrealism of pinning up multiple images of ME in your basement, rec-room or even kitchen. Watch as I sweat and curse, watch as the minutes tick by. Heck, you'll even have additional fun collectible pics of ARLO, CLAYTON, a GIANT PRAYING MANTIS, a MANUSCRIPT! Collect 'em all!

That's it, I'm spent.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mush! Mush you doggies!

(Above are the bills from Canada Post & Staples, respectively from the printing of 2 copies of the old novel AND the cost of mailing it.... :-D)

Hey there compadres, quite a hot day in O-town today. I rarely venture forth into the world if I can avoid, but I had to go to the Post Office to mail my manuscript! I took my jump drive to Staples yesterday, and instead of making me wait a day, they printed it almost immediately :-D Hurray!

The store was a-bustle with about a billion kids and their harried-looking parents. I guess it's back-to-school for all of them. It was nice being able to wend my way through the crowd to the copy desk and retrieve two copies of my... MANUSCRIPT! Haha :-D from the nice girl at the counter. I was trying to explain what the whole 3-day novel thing was to her and she seemed impressed, so that made me feel good. I looked pretty frazzled, but she didn't seem to notice.

Off we went to the Wizard's Tower where Clay found some Palladium stuff and I rooted through the dollar bins... you find interesting things in the ol' dollar bins, discontinued comics, sales etc. I found a copy of Magik #1 for $2.00 or something, but I slid her back in cause I already have it.

Anyway, enough of my thrilling adventures in shopping-land. Here's some pics to describe the fun part of my day, which was fondling my 131 pg baby, trying to ram said-baby into an envelope that was TOO small, giving up, digging up another envelope (way too big), but coping anyway.

I have a few padded envelopes kicking around from MaryAnn Harris, fabric artist and owner of Reclectica, a cool retro jewelery and antique clothing store. She is also the lovely wife of my favourite writer in the whole wide world: Charles de Lint! When I bought 88 vintage sci-fi paperbacks from her in June, the box they arrived in came with a bunch of padded envelopes to protect them (she hadn't know I was picking them up personally and they were all packaged to be mailed!) So, the upshot is, I have a few envelopes with Charles de Lint's name printed on them.

I thought it'd be good luck to use one of his padded envelopes for the transport of my novel to its eventual destination on the West Coast. So, I finally packaged the lil' sucker up, drew a sketch of the main character on the back and trotted off to the the drug store at the Hazeldean Mall to mail it off.
So, now I sit, and plot my next frantic exercise in creative zeal... I recently heard from my buddy Tracy at Abbey Hill Design and will be heading there in October for a week to work on some one-of-a-kind pieces for her. That'll be a blast!

What else? November is National Novel Writing Month, and I feel the stirrings to register for that and throw myself into another fit of passionate creativity. You get an entire month to write, not just 3 days ;-) There isn't a contest fee, and the word count is.. I think 50,000. Might be fun.. though I wouldn't call it a "riot" or "hysterical" (see Troy's Blog!)

Thanks again, everyone who has been behind me all the way, all the great, supportive emails really made the difference. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Diary of a mad woman...

Hey there all, I'll try and document as best as I can remember; I couldn't do it during the foray, because I had to bloody write, didn't I (say the last few words with a good, thick Brit accent :-) I took the odd pic of myself with my digi cam and a few pics of what I ate, the time, calendars and stuff.

The story itself is a Western, loosely based on a character I came up with for a potential erotica story (har har!) and later she actually got made into an RPG character for my friend Keith Savage's role-playing game that he invented (I won't name it here, because it's still in development!) Clayton and I are lucky beta-testers, and my character got to star in her own story with this game. (Well, Clay starred too, but my novel wasn't about his character.)

In fact, the words: loosely based are very accurate. I only used the idea of her origin in the story, and not the game itself. That would've been using KEITH'S story idea, and not my own. Big chunks of the novel wrote themselves, which is very nice. I love when that kind've thing happens.

I wrote 4 or 5 story "threads", that I attempted to pull together late Sunday afternoon. I pulled and pulled and most of them tied together, except for one connecting thread I just didn't have time to reattach. Of course I realized the futility of it around 11:58pm Monday night, and then it was too late :-P Well enough of my rambling.. here we go..

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

Got writing around 9:00am, after a pb & wildflower honey on toast brekky, with muchos coffee. Music to start the mood: William T. Stromberg's Trinity & Beyond The Atomic Bomb Movie sndtrk. This is a great soundtrack. If you like Basil Poledoris' Conan sndtrk, you'll love this. Go hunt it down somewhere! The next pieces of music I threw in were a couple of CD's I found at Big Bud's before it closed: Dad's Favorite Western Movie Themes Vol I & II. This basically set the theme for the whole book. Between other CD's, I kept switching back to those two and it really helped.

Mood-wise I was pretty upbeat and positive. Whenever I got stuck or needed a break, I went upstairs and took my friend Myra's doggies outside to walk around in the back yard and get some fresh air. Her dogs are a lot of fun and it cheered me up to play with them and just got my brain away from the story for a few minutes.

It was distracting writing with someone in the room watching TV, but with headphones attached to my massive JVC 80's style ghetto-blaster, I re-immersed myself in thematic music, which in turn, immersed me in the feel of the book.

Drank coffee and later, rye & lemonade (thanks for the suggestion Matt!), ate a mango, stretched, called friends, got back at it. Had left-over pizza for dinner, which was good, cause it didn't take much time to make. I rolled up the carpet on Day 1 around 11:45pm, thoroughly exhausted from the crappy night's sleep I'd had the night before and plumbing creativity all day. Page count: 35 My original idea, when I'd heard that the average submitted pages for 3-Day novels were between 90-120 pgs was to try to shoot for 40pgs/ day. Gahh..

Becky, the toy poodle, curled up and slept as sound as a log against my back. The little Shitsu Brody, barked for hours. Finally had to resort to earplugs...

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007
Woke late and blurry. Made scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast with Clay and was civil! :-D Took doggies outside, drank coffee and realized my brain was starting to buzz with the story. The buzzing was actually snatches of dialogue, scenes, character bits & pieces. There was the odd FLASH of "Yeah, I can link up that thread there..." Which is good, because I was getting worried that none of my story threads would link up...

Continued to drink coffee, then later switched to my homemade Margarita mix w/ ginger ale (thanks to Myra!) Ate Pringles, cookies..mmmMmm sugar... and kept typing. I found writing the second day went much more smoothly. Called Carol & Troy a couple of times & updated my insane status on Facebook to let them know I was still alive.

Music was again a very important part of the process because I had to completely submerge myself away from the TV, Clayton, the dogs, everything. I listened to a variety, again starting with Trinity, but then moving to the V for Vendetta sndtrk., Army of Darkness Sndtrk., Workingman's Dead - Grateful Dead, Indigo Girls' Retrospective, The Hulk Sndtrk... then looping back to the Dad's Favorite Western Movie Themes Vol I & II. Occasionally themes from the "Good The Bad & The Ugly" would penetrate my chattering brain and I'd go YEAH Yeah!!!

The doggies went home around 6:00pm, and were delighted to see that their "Mommy" returned for them. I've never seen dogs levitate that was kinda cool! Had TVP tacos for dinner, which were good & didn't take that long to make. Hurray! Back at it... Knocked off around midnight with a healthier page count in the 80's, thank goodness. Felt burnt and confused, as well as a bit giddy. In fact, glancing at my work after talking with Carol, I saw (or thought I saw) completely different words on the page. I laughed hysterically and sent her this pic:

Monday, September 3rd, 2007
I woke with such an intense feeling of dread and exhaustion that I wanted to crawl back in bed and never emerge. Slid out like an otter and crept into the shower. Only water and scrubbing could save me now. My mind darted like zig-zag flashes you see out of the corners of your eyes when you're sleep-deprived. The story.. the story.. it was in my head, completely entrenched in my brain. It was continuing without me even being at the keyboard. Wait!! Wait! I groaned. The answer spun behind my eyes; the HOW of hooking up the impossible chunks of story that had tormented me the day before.

I can't even remember what I ate. I just slid down the basement stairs with my coffee, booted Clay off the computer, threw a CD in the player and got typing. I was elated, and mad with the need to get it down before it evaporated out of my head. I had to make it work.. had to..

The writing came easily Monday. It flew out of my fingertips... I'd take food/ bathroom/ stretch breaks... but the urge to return to the story would draw me back like a succubus' enticing siren song. When Mom turned up in the afternoon, it was a relief to have a break, and also difficult because I needed to get back to the story. She dropped off some beautiful chairs from my friends Lyn & Ralph, to go with my lovely antique oak table (an early birthday present! Hurray :-)

After she headed off, Clay & I finished the taco leftovers & then had angel food cake with ripe strawberries and cream. That was like heaven on your tongue.. Ooooh!! Precious, delightful strawberries!! Angel food cake! Squirty cream! CHHKKKAHHHhh!

I returned to the desk, which loomed in the darkness like my personal Sword of Damocles, or Sisyphus' cursed boulder & mountain. It was a curse and also the elated freedom of running barefoot down an empty beach with nothing but wind in your hair and the surf in your nostrils. I climbed back in and dialed up music.

Monday, I listened to: Run Lola Run, The Chieftains Film Cuts (they did music for a movie version of Treasure Island, which is my fav version of the film), Thrive (the same CD I listened to when I first invented "Ivy & Dummy"), John Debney's Cuttroat Island, disks 1 & 2, Madonna "Ray of Light", the old standbys from Days 1 & 2, Starship Troopers & Robocop sndtrks AWESOME!!! Trainspotting, Signs, Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense, and Steve Earle's "The Hard Way".

The words tumbled from my mind and fingers. I did too much editing and not enough pure writing, which killed me in the end. Looked up format online and proceeded to tweak the manuscript, adding my contact info at the top, a word count (36 800), and the title at last... TIERRA DEL MUERTO

I found that a couple of elements I wanted to use in my story, which is set in the 1870's thereabouts were... invented/ published in 1921! Drag! These included Yeats' wonderful poem "The Second Coming" (which I stuck in my book anyway in the introduction), and a couple of other things I can't remember.. The 'Net and Wiki were great for doing quick & dirty fact-checking, finding style pics on Google Images for things like hats, pistols and horses. I'm lucky, because Tuesday our connection went down totally... I'm really glad it didn't do that Monday morning.

By midnight, I'd finished 131 pgs and was in the throes of a turbulent emotional mixture of equal parts elation and disappointment. I couldn't believe I'd finished a book in 3 days, and I was a bit down because I still had one thread I'd not been able to tie-up within the novel. I'm sending it anyway, connected or not. It'd be a real shame not to! The reality is, there's nothing to stop me from continuing to work on the novel and to finish it the way I'd like to... The stipulation of the 3-Day contest is simply to keep an original that is in the same shape as the one you submitted. So that is cool.

At 12:15am, I grudgingly turned off the slightly overheated computer, took a few pics, and trudged to bed, where tired out as I was, I was still buzzing from the whole process. It took far too long to fall into sleep!


I would like to thank Keith Savage for turning me on to lots of great, inspirational music! Thanks dude, it would've been a different story if I'd been listening to just Chris de Burgh, the Pogues and Hoots & Hellmouth!

I would also like to thank my folks for being behind me 110%, my friends for yelling at me to write like KENYANS and for singing the Uncle F**ker song from South Park over the phone at me, and also to all the other 3-Dayers out there, beating their brains out writing like crazies they are. Knowing we weren't alone helped.

Ooh yeah, and thanks to the organizers. With a prize incentive, it makes forays like this even better! (Here follows the incentive!)
Grand Prize: Publication
2nd Prize: $500 cash
3rd Prize: A great literary prize pack
And lots of prizes and fun stuff for everyone who makes the shortlist.

And finally...
How can you recreate the amazing soundtrack to the TIERRA DEL MUERTO 3-day novel in the privacy of your own home?

Follow ze links:
"Trinity and Beyond - The Atomic Bomb Movie" William T. Stromberg
"Dances with Wolves" by John Barry
"Small Soldiers" by Jerry Goldsmith
"Dad's Favorite Western Movie Themes" Vol I & II
Featuring The City of Prague Philharmonic, The Philharmonia Orchestra, The Westminster Philharmonic. 2 CD set with 20 outstanding "High Quality" modern digital recordings of classic Movie Themes. Featuring...... The Magnificent Seven, True Grit, Hang 'Em High, The Outlaw Josey Wales, How the West Was Won, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Dances With Wolves, Unforgiven, Maverick, A Distant Trumpet Red Sun, A Fistful of Dollars, Silverado, Gettysburg, Stagecoach, Lonesome Dove, The Big Country, The Last of The Mohicans, The Proud Rebel, The Professionals.
Army of Darkness Sndtrk by Joseph LoDuca
Track 23 From Red Sonja, by Ennio Morricone
Track 24 From Conan the Destroyer by Basil Poledoris
Track 25 from The Sword and the Sorcerer by David Whitaker
V for Vendetta Dario Marianelli
Starship Troopers, Robocop Basil Poledoris
Steve Earle and the Dukes "The Hard Way"
Cutthroat Island Disk I & II John Debney
Madonna "Ray of Light"
Indigo Girls "Retrospective"
Deep Forest
The Grateful Dead "Workingman's Dead"
"The Hulk" Danny Elfman
Prem Joshua "Dakini Lounge Remixed"
Unbreakable & The Sixth Sense by James Newton Howard
Signs by James Newton Howard
Thrive (Very hard to find)
Run Lola Run sndtrk
The Chieftains "Film Cuts"

All written material & photographs (c) 2007 Suzanne A. Marsden

Wandering in the desert

I feel hollow inside, as Margaret Atwood described once in one of her books (can't recall... Edible Woman maybe?) Feel like my skull is a hollowed out melon, with nothing left but the rind... that's it; soft, crunchy with not much nutritional value.

Still, I live to write another day... The competition was amazing; intense, exciting, exhausting and very satisfying. I found that I ran out of time (I guess that's probably a common enough complaint.) Still, I was literally watching the minutes tick down on my computer clock, going Noooo, it's only 11:51pm, I still have 9 minutes left! Of course, if I'd known all that ahead of time, I probably wouldn't have participated in the following time-wasters:

*Looked after my friend's dogs (Mind you, the breaks outside with doggies, were lots of fun and helped refresh me to write again. Brody barking for 3 hrs. at night was a drag though.)
*Gone shopping Saturday (no matter how badly I needed goodies & booze. Why didn't I go Friday? Who knows..)
*Had a shower Sunday (big waste of time!)
*Cooked food that required more prep time than 15 minutes.
*Dressed (just writing naked would probably save tons of time.)
*Had fun with my Mom. Although, breaks are necessary, and having fun with your Mom is not a waste of time. Just wish I'd postponed it 'til.. I dunno.. today??
*Talked on the phone with all my friends.<- very good time waster.
That being said, talking briefly with Carol, and longer with Troy helped with my writer's resolve.. Sometimes you NEED to hear voices of reason (or insanity) to help goad you along to your goal. So, I wouldn't change that.

Things I'd change if I were to do it again?:

*Get more sleep the previous night. I was completely wound and anxious Friday night, so I got very little sleep before the actual event. The pre-competition tiredness slowed me down for sure.
*Try and eat more healthy food and less caffeine. After 3 days of Cola, Coffee, beer and Margarita slushies (thanks to my good buddy Myra!), my gut rot was horrible and I staggered around seeking antacid before bed, every single night.
*Try not to be too irritated with interruptions, stay relaxed (Sorry Clay!)
*Look AWAY from the screen occasionally.
*Try writing in a notebook in a variety of places--that might be a nice change, plus you're not tethered to the house, computer etc. I'm sure Clay would've enjoyed getting on the computer at some point on the weekend..
*Try doing a brief outline before plunging into the exercise; probably would've helped with pre-competition anxiety.

That all being said, I would love to do this challenge again next year, and highly recommend it as a great way to kick the ass out of writer's block. Like Scott McCloud's 24-hr comic, which I've mentioned about a billion times on this Blog, having that kind've deadline really gets your heart going. You'll either make it, or you'll explode. Since our survival instincts are pretty strong, you'll find that at the end of the 3 days, you'll probably have some kind've manuscript.

It was nice getting pre- and post- emails from the organizers of the 3-Day competition as well. I found it heartening.

Pre Email:
"...Dear future and returning 3-Day Novelists...If you need a
break from your novel, there's an entrant discussion forum...But don't spend too much time there during the contest! Get outside for a walk now and then, too."

Post Email:
"...Dear 3-dayers...We hope you're not too tormented in these final hours, or, if you are, that it's valuable torment..."

I also found reading their site (ACK another time waster!!) during the competition helped to cheer me up and made me feel a little less alone and insane. Especially the "Survival Tips" section.

As for the physical part of the writing; my eyes feel like small grapes rolled in talcum powder and left on a deck to dry. Seriously. My hands and feet have swollen (probably due to an overdose of salty products in the food department.) My hands in particular feel very stiff and non-responsive, even typing this is pretty uncomfortable. My shoulders, back and neck are sore, even though I had a couple of quick massages from the Clay dude. I'm thinking an hour's massage, or soaking in a place like Crystal Seas or something would be really nice.

Well, I guess those are my thoughts. As for the work itself, I'll post another Blog about the DETAILS for those interested. Basically, at the end of it all, I was left with 131 pgs, double spaced in 12pt font, that I'll be running off to Staples later on today to get them to print 2 copies. I'll be slapping copy #1 in an envelope and mailing it off to Vancouver tomorrow (deadline is this Friday!)

We find out news on the contest winners in January. GAH. Can we wait that long? Maybe I'll knock off a few more novels in the interim.. hahahahahahaAHAHAHAHaaha...ahh..ehh.. nah. :-)

Cheers, thanks for reading & being supportive!

PS--Here's my friend Myra's great doggies, that kept me company Saturday & Sunday. Can you guess which one will get invited back next time? ;-)

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Throes of Ecstasy

Madness comes in many forms; sometimes it's the bucking, rabid Pony of Animation, that you cling to and try not to get bitten by..then fall off and chase until you can clamber back up on its back once more. Sometimes, it's the personal challenge of the unknown..the darkness that resides to the far left of the soul; the unblinking staring of the hazel eye in the reflective surface..the hollow depth of the pupil echoing back at you going: Well? WEELLL??

On the topic of Madness, I must confess, I have signed up for another tour of physical, mental and emotional challenges (not unlike the 41 hr deadline, or the 3 24-hour comics I've managed to complete.) No, this is the longest yet.. the 3-Day Novel Writing Competition. I'm not alone apparently; the loony bins have emptied their patrons.. they are staggering about the streets, typewriters in hands, stubbed pencils firmly in grip.. menacing blank sheets of paper with their gimlet eyes :-)

For some great info on the challenge, check this link! For information on my pals Troy & Carol Little and how they are coping with the challenge..check THIS link out. For info on how I'm doing.. well, you'll have to wait til Tuesday I guess... or Wednesday. The next Three Days are slated for the pure undiluted gesture of mad creativity, burning burning like Roman Candles.. Me and Jack bursting bubbles of soporific humdrum and zapping outside the megalomanic walls of existence.. until spent, one flops to the tiled floor in oozed somnolence and begs for sweet Morpheus to bear one aloft on starry steeds of sleep.

Ok, I've used up all my words;
the novel will consist of CAT
& possibly


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Plums in PEI

It is a beautiful long weekend summer morning on the Island. The sun is shining, a cool breeze wafts gently through the dark green maple and chestnut leaves, dappling the Little's new deck in cool shadow.

The drive from New Brunswick down the 11 out of Miramichi and through Shediac was fine. The road was clear and the speed limit quite high, so I made good time. Just before the turnoff to the 16, there was tons of traffic however. There had been an accident; I could see the black smoke rising from a cluster of vehicles in the distance. The sky turned dark and thunder rumbled in the distance. Rain hammered on the windshield as I listened to an old Music from the Glen (Atlantic Bridge.) I was hung up behind a huge camper with another truck and camper right behind me.

We waited, waited, waited. I turned off Cherry Bomb (the red Echo) to save gas. Also, she's been making this odd *thrummmming* noise sometimes, so I was a little worried about it. Cars further ahead decided against waiting anymore and did U-turns in the road, heading West. Some cars peeled away from the back and drove forward on the shoulder, then cut across a dirt track to try and get some headway. I thought it would be better to wait; since I didn't have a clue where the "dirt track" lead. My map said to go on the 15, and after my previous mishaps vs Lake Simcoe, I decided not to chance it.

After about 1/2 hour of sitting, cars slowly trickled out, heading towards me from the accident. One tooted joyously at the release of the jam. I threw on the Pogue's "If I should Fall from Grace with God" and found myself lurching forward as well. We spooled like thread, closer to the scene of the accident; as slow as cars trailing a hearse at 20 km/h. We passed two cars with a crumpled one between. Ahead was what I thought was a broken transport rig's cab. What it was was the front end of a tow-truck with the empty burned out shell of a huge camper hanging on it. All the belongings were charred; it was so pathetic and awful. Bicycles dangled from the back, forlorn and out of place.

The cars drove soberly by the scene, passing the rescue vehicles, police and other crew. I couldn't believe that the other truck that had driven towards us had beeped merrily like that... how could you do that if you had HAD to have seen the accident? What kind've person could jauntily honk at the sight of a burned vehicle..not even knowing if anyone had been hurt (or killed?)

I drove, listening to the Pogues and watched as the sky bled rain, then cleared. The sun burnished the clouds like pewter, then silver. I saw the Confederation Bridge and my heart jumped in my chest. I was almost there! The sea shone like silver, glittering dark where the clouds reflected against it. Over the rise of the bridge, I could see PEI's farm fields like yellow strips of gold against dotted green and black. The wind was crisp and tangy with salt. I left the mainland behind and eagerly drove the last stretch to Kensington. Finally, arrived around 4:30pm and got wonderful bone-crushing hugs in, just as it started to rain once again. Settled with beer and chats, girlie giggles from the twins and hearty halloos from Troy and Carol, I felt the last knotted tension in my back release.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mangoes in Miramichi

Well, it's morning #2 in New Brunswick, and I am thankfully well rested, happily full of yogurt, raisin toast, Bridgehead "Monkey" coffee.. ;-) and a chopped up mango. Slept well on the pull-out couch/ air mattress combo in Robbie & Bobbie's living room in their new house.

Headed off Tuesday morning after a relaxing stay up at Anders & Vicki's place on the Big Rideau (pics to come!) Needless to say that although I got up at 5:30am July 31st, by the time I was done packing, making lunches, checking the animals and generally getting my crap together.. it was about 9:45am before I finally rolled out. It still felt good though; exciting and exilarating to leave the burbs and plunge the red Echo on the hwy.

Listened to Imani Coppola, a few mixes and, as I pulled closer to Montreal, put Leonard Cohen's "The Future" in the tapedeck. Oh, glorious tapedeck! The one thing my lovely white Mustang never possessed. There was a stalled car in the tunnel of the Hippolyte, which caused back ups, but after that, it was clear sailing.

The weather was staggeringly beautiful; intense blue sky, puffy clouds that look like they'd been painted on and the changing Canadian landscape that made me almost crash as I snapped a few pictures along the way... Cruising up past Quebec City is when the St. Laurence is visible and the lovely hills beyond, shrouded in mist quite inspiring.

What was less inspiring was the interminable road-work in La Belle Province. I guess that's what you get for traveling on a weekday :-P The worst was just outside Joly, where everyone just sat there looking glum. I had an old 1987 live recording of Spirit of the West at Massey Hall in TO to groove to, so as John Mann, Geoff Kelly and Hugh Mcmillan sang Homelands, we finally rolled forward.

The Echo cruised easily, barely using gas. Including the top-up near Rigaud, then just outside Riviere-de-Loup, I spent $58 on gas. I nibbled on fruit, PB & J sandwiches and blueberries, as well as demolishing an entire bag of red licorice... too good! I finally made it to the NB and kept my eyes peeled for the turn-off to Grand Falls and the "108" which turns into the Renous, a mythical logging road that twists like an epileptic octopus through the NB highlands. I didn't have to worry; all the roads were clearly marked and soon I was on my way. During this leg of the drive, I had a "Taste of the Maritimes" mix tape with Stan Rogers on one side and a variety of folks on the other..all singable and setting the mood. When it got too dark to see, I just flipped the tape over and listened to it again, instead of rooting through the bag for a new one.

Everywhere I looked it was pure beauty; the hills rising and falling before me, the thick shaggy spruce, and the coming sunset bathing everything in pink/orange. Oh yes.. the coming sunset.. twilight.. and finally. Night. Night on the Renous. :-O Dark as pitch, not a streetlight in sight on the old logging road..which went from paved to, paved & bumpy, to crumbly bumpy (including the humourful sign: Bumpy Road, next 10k!) to gravel.. And long! It was the longest gravel road on which I've ever driven. A deer flicked her ear in the shadows of the road & a rabbit did a zig-zag jig in front of the car before darting off the road and into the shadows. During one of the bumpiest parts of the road, I remember singing "Farewell to Nova Scotia" sounding like I was sitting on a spastic washing machine..very vibrato!

Finally, the moon slid like a dusky orange peach from between the black branches. She glided skyward, brightening, buttery; a freshly risen loaf, a golden cheese! I felt amazing...on the cusp of Lughnassa, caught up in the beauty of the moon & feeling connected to the drive, the land, the movement. Some otherworldly power kept watch on me as I sped through the night and finally, exited the Renous on the other side, grateful and sighing, unclenching white knuckled hands from the wheel.

I got a little turned around trying to get to Rob & Bobbie's... inadvertently crossing the wrong bridge. Glad I topped up my cell; a quick call, a few directions and I was making my way to the final leg of the 12 hour drive. There was Rob on the lawn waving and at last the Echo ceased.. the odometer read 1038 km. Whew...

A Pump House Ale was presented, along with many delighted hugs! We sank into comfy couches and I related my tale.... More posts & some pictures to come.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Galloping legends and the meaning of Glurge

Every now and again I get jokes and the like fwded to me (I'm sure, everyone who has email and the InterWeb does as well.) Occasionally, I get sensational stories,letters urging me to fwd them to alternately: Make Money, Something funny will appear, a Number of signatures will make something happen (but one never finds out what or if something actually gets done..), etc etc...

I think the ones that irk me the most are the Email forwards that purport to be true. Whenever I get one of these, my radar goes up and before I even think of passing them on to anybody, I check Urban Legends and/or Snopes. And baby, 9/10 of the time, the "true" story is a hoax. The one I got today is a beauty and the explanation detailed enough that I thought I'd share it with y'all.

Here ya go:

Statistics Canada | 170 Tunney's Pasture Driveway Ottawa ON K1A 0T6
Government of Canada
-----Original Message-----
From: ******** ***** - OID/DOI
Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 7:00 AM
To: (undisclosed recipients)


As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be around.."

His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."

His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest, and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."

Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class."

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to."

After the children left, she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets.."

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer.... The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."

(For you that don't know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.)

Warm someone's heart today. . . pass this along. I love this story so very much, I cry every time I read it. Just try to make a difference in someone's life today? tomorrow? just "do it".
Random acts of kindness, I think they call it!
"Believe in Angels, then return the favor"


From Snopes:

"Home --> **Glurge Gallery --> Teddy Bared

Teddy Bared
Claim: Teddy Stoddard, an objectionable little boy, gives his teacher old perfume and bracelet in gratitude for her kindness — the resulting friendship turns around his life.

Status: False.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 1999]
* The child is variously named "Teddy Stallart," "Teddy Stoddart," or "Teddy Stallard."
* Some versions in circulation conclude, "For those of you who don't know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing." There is no Dr. Teddy (or Theodore) Stoddard working at the John Stoddard Cancer Center at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. Moreover, that facility was named for John Stoddard, a real estate developer who donated money for the center after his own battle with cancer.

Origins: This Scent of Momtouching tale is one of pure invention: there is no Teddy Stoddart (or Stallart) whose life was so changed by one special teacher who reached out to him, no Mrs. Thompson of rhinestone bracelet-wearing fame.

This work of fiction was penned by Elizabeth Silance Ballard in 1976 and published that year in Home Life magazine. The author's intent was far from unclear, as the piece was clearly marked as fiction and was presented as such, not as an account of a personal experience.

Elizabeth Ballard (now Elizabeth Ungar) has encountered versions of her story on a number of occasions, as she noted in a 2001 interview with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Dennis Roddy: I've had people use it in their books, except they made it as if it happened to them. In the '80s I heard Robert Schuller tell this story on one of his broadcasts. He told it as if it was someone he knew. Schuller's personification of the tale is far from unusual — folks determined to make a point will often claim a closer relationship to a story than actually exists in an effort to get their message taken more seriously. Someone charmed by the Teddy Stoddart story will thus claim to actually know the teacher or the boy, although neither

Elizabeth Ungar (née Ballard) has come to see her story attributed to others. Those who do include the author's name along with the piece almost always get it wrong, with "Elizabeth Silance Baynard" proving to be a popular choice for this form of misattribution. Yet the name "Ballard" is key to how the fictional little boy — named Teddy Stallard in the original version — came by his name, and during his 2001 interview with the author, Dennis Roddy uncovered the backstory.

A friend who was filling in as a Sunday School teacher received a gift of cheap perfume and a broken rhinestone bracelet from a grubby little boy one Christmas, and afterwards she told Elizabeth Ungar about it. Ungar combined this incident with one from her own childhood: her Christmas gift of hand-picked pecans to her long-ago elementary school teacher. The box of the pecans had caused the other children to laugh derisively, but the teacher soon quelled them with the announcement she was making fruitcakes and these nuts were exactly what she'd been lacking. Her teacher's compassionate response coupled with her friend's story formed the basis for the work of fiction we now know as "Three Letters from Teddy." Teddy's last name came from this origin: The surname of the grandmother who urged young Elizabeth to bring pecans to her teacher (Stanley) was combined with the author's then surname (Ballard) to form "Stallard."

Can one special teacher make a lasting difference in the life of a child? Yes, absolutely. Our history books are filled with instances of precisely that. But those looking for a real-life example of the importance of teachers will have to look elsewhere than this story.

Barbara "unsteady teddy" Mikkelson

Sightings: Paul Harvey read this story during his daily radio broadcast on 4 April 1998.
The Teddy Stoddard story has also been turned into a glurgerific video.
Urban Legends Reference Pages © 1995-2007
by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson
Baynard, Elizabeth Silance. "Three Letters from Teddy." In A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 1995.
In The Ten Greatest Gifts I Give My Children. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.
Roddy, Dennis. "A Story So Heartwarming, It's Unreal." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 29 September 2001 (p.1)"

**PS I didn't know the definition of "Glurge" until I read the Snopes analysis.. for those of you wondering:

"...What is glurge? Think of it as chicken soup with several cups of sugar mixed in: It's supposed to be a method of delivering a remedy for what ails you by adding sweetening to make the cure more appealing, but the result is more often a sickly-sweet concoction that induces hyperglycemic fits.

In ordinary language, glurge is the sending of inspirational (often supposedly "true") tales that conceal much darker meanings than the uplifting moral lessons they purport to offer, and that undermine their messages by fabricating and distorting historical fact in the guise of offering a "true story."

Many of us, it seems, cannot overcome the urge to glurge."