Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More on authors responding to negative reviews

Wow. When I wrote yesterday about writers cleverly flouting negative (or mediocre) reviews, I hadn't seen this news item about Alice Hoffman. So, to be clear: THIS is not what I meant! There's nothing clever about calling a reviewer a moron and an idiot on Twitter and then giving out their phone number! Really poor form from a bestselling novelist. Well, perhaps I shouldn't weigh in so strongly. I haven't read the review or the tweets -- Hoffman has since apologized, and she says the review had spoilers in it, which is bad form on the part of the reviewer, so I suppose it's bad all the way around. But the key, I think, is for authors to have grace, and when possible, to have humor. There are ways to make light of a bad review and come off as a swell person, like Brad Metzer did in the video in my last post. And then there are ways to sound like a prima donna buffoon, like Hoffman.

The above-linked salon.com article also gives other [fun] examples of ungracious authorly rebuttals to reviews. I think: best to just suck it up. It seems to me that it's just bad form to argue with a review. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion.

Thoughts? Examples?

*Oh, here's the review in question.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thoughts on Reviews, and on Advances

I have nothing against book reviewers, or movie reviewers, or any kind of reviewers. I read reviews and I tend to heed reviews. Some reviewers more than others, certainly. For example, I almost never agree with Stephanie Zacharek of salon.com, but I usually find Peter Travers of Rolling Stone to be right in sync with my tastes. Usually. There's the matter of him having liked Dogma, a movie I hated, but hey, that was like ten years ago. So. Reviewers perform an important service and I'm glad they do what they do. But I still find it really funny when a creator, let's say a writer, finds a clever way of flouting bad reviews.

Like this little commercial by Brad Meltzer, who I've never read, but Jim has:
Ha ha ha! Love that! It makes me curious about the book, which is what writers want readers to be.

Another case of a writer cleverly getting back at reviewers who'd said snarky things was the brilliant post by James Kennedy from a few months ago, which I linked to at the time. I was going to post an excerpt here, but the whole thing is just too much fun.

I was talking with some writer friends recently about reviews, and the extent to which we all read reviews of our own books. For my part, I have Google Alerts for my name and the titles of my books, so when something pops up online, I generally find it right away. There's a moment of anxiety before I know if it's a good review or a bad review, and if it's a bad review (which thankfully I haven't gotten too many of), I have a glum moment and then forget all about it. Well, almost all about it. Some among my writer friends, though, don't want to see reviews at all; they don't want that anxiety and just don't sign up for Google Alerts. I can understand that too. Perhaps it's best to focus on the writing at hand, always be moving forward through the new book and then onto the next, rather than dwelling and looking backward.

That's a good policy in general; the writing must always be the priority, and not the reviews and sales figures. I mean, of course we all want great reviews and huge sales, but if a book is performing modestly, one must learn to be okay with that and look ahead, invest one's hopes in future books. There's that great Marge Piercy quote: "Work is its own cure. You have to like it better than being loved." It's so true. Being a writer is mostly solitary work, just you and the words. The "being loved" part makes up a very, very small portion of your life -- though that very small part can feel disproportionately important. I mean, for me, getting awesome emails from readers more than compensates for the many days of isolated, butt-in-chair work. Still, if I was doing it just in hopes of being loved, and not because I love the work, it wouldn't be a very good life. You know?

I was also discussing another matter with my writing friends: the matter of a writer (not among us), who'd been paid an obscenely large advance for a forthcoming YA series. I want to say here, without going into detail, that writers get jealous of other writers for a variety of reasons; it's completely natural and very very difficult not to fall into the green-monster trap at least every once in a while. So-and-so is getting amazing marketing; so-and-so has sold X number of foreign rights; so-and-so has a movie option, and his/her publisher had a special leather-bound copy made of his/her book just out of sheer awesomeness, and presented it as a gift. There's always something going on or rumored to be going on that makes other writers' congratulatory smiles feel a little pasted on -- of course there's genuine happiness for the success of others (unless they're jerks, heh heh) but there's also jealousy, and big advances certainly invoke that.

Well, after that discussion, I mentioned the topic to another writer friend, Stephanie, who sent me this link to John Green's blog, and a similar discussion going on. The comments bring up some good points too.

So, there's a bit of writerly nitty gritty that may or may not be of interest. Cheers!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Oh, the berries

The unambitious to-do list for the weekend included: get more Oregon strawberries while they're still in season. It's a short season, a short very sweet season. Look at these:
They're small:
And they're red as rubies all the way through, and they are as sweet as a mouthful of jam. They are so good. And in a blink, they'll be gone, which is very sad, but the consolation is that there will be raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and marionberries (which are kind of like blackberries), and those seasons are longer. Soon we'll go out to this island in the Columbia River that's full of you-pick berry farms and we will get obsessive-compulsive and not be able to stop picking. With the raspberries and blackberries, especially it's like that: they're these endless walls of berries, right at eye level, and you just can't stop picking! Oregon is berry-land. Not just berries, but apples and pears in the fall, and grapes of course -- wine grapes, that is. I don't know about table grapes. And cherries! Amazing cherries. I [heart] summer.

Oh, so I was making some banana muffins today -- the third batch in as many weeks because we can't seem to eat the bananas fast enough; with the increased heat, they just turn so fast. Darn it, that means muffins! The first batch I made with coconut and sunflower seeds, the second with blackberries, and this latest batch coincided nicely with the arrival of a flat of strawberries. So:
The strawberries made the batter a little pink, which was so cute I went ahead and added a teeny bit of food coloring. Because, you know: pink! But once baked, the pink is pretty subtle. Also, I overdid it on the bananas on this batch so they're not fluffy, and not really photogenic, but they taste good.

We went to see the movie "Up" last night -- oh my gosh it's soOoOoOoOoOoOo goOoOoOoOoOoOd!!! You have to see it!!! It's the new Pixar animated movie, in 3D, and it's just wonderful, so moving and funny and beautiful. My favorite Pixar yet, and I love them [almost] all. (The car one, not so much.) Jim and I both cried behind our 3D glasses, and we laughed a lot too. If you haven't planned to see it because you think it's for kids, it's really not. I think it's more for adults, though kids can certainly love it too. It's about love and loss, loneliness, putting off your dreams, seizing your dreams, adventure, longing, friendship, and . . . more. And there's an awesome dog in it :-)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thanks for the comments!

Wow, thanks for all the great comments to the last post! It's a very rich subject -- it's so interesting to hear people's stories (not the war stories, though! Thanks for not sharing those. Not yet, anyway; maybe after. I mean, I know these intense experiences are hugely important to people and I am interested in them; I just think it's best right now to meditate on positive scenarios and enter into birthing with as much serenity as possible.)

Pre-nesting is going on all around me right now. The sheetrock is being put up in the nursery "nook" and new closet today. I can't wait to paint! Going with a tangerine orange, very sweet, and we're also repainting our bedroom and the bathroom (not tangerine orange) and getting new linens -- curtains, bedding, etc. Freshen everything up. It doesn't seem like that long ago that we painted these rooms, but it was. Eight years we've been in this house! That's the longest I've lived anywhere, by quite a few years (Navy brat).

The de-cluttering of the art studio progresses slowly; I can only handle a little bit at a time. I've been writing every morning, and that feels very good. I hear this rumor that when your window of daily creative time shrinks, you can rise to the occasion and become more efficient. I'm hoping that's true. I suppose I have to make it true!

I hope everyone has a lovely early-summer weekend. My plans are minimal, and include buying more Oregon strawberries before the very short season is over (Oregon strawberries, picked ripe, make the anemic white-inside California things we get at the supermarket seem like pseudo-fruit!), and making an ableskiver brunch on Sunday. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How To Talk To a Pregnant Woman

(image from Corbis; not my belly)

This is a quiz.

You see an acquaintance/stranger with a pregnant belly. You say:

a) Oh my god! Your belly is HUGE!!!


b) Wow, your belly is magnificent.

Which do you think? If you're ever in doubt, go with (b). Not that there's anything wrong with (a). I know I've said it in the past; I can't remember a specific occasion, but I must have. Everyone does. At least, so it seems to me now, being the one with the belly. Everyone says it, and I know they don't mean it in the spirit of, "Dang, you're an ELEPHANT!" Not at ALL. I mean, my belly is big -- maybe not huge, though. I think we must reserve superlatives for when we really need them. But that is neither here nor there. My point is just that there are better things to say to a pregnant woman. You might try:

a) You look great/beautiful/amazing!
b) Your belly is so cute/beautiful/adorable!
c) I love your belly!

Avoid words like "huge" and "gigantic." Also, make no comparisons with livestock. You wouldn't think I'd have to point that out, but people say the darnedest things. In fact, try not to suggest that the baby incubating in the belly is anything other than human. (Really!) And here's an important one: don't say, "Are you having triplets???" Or even twins -- unless you know it IS triplets or twins. Because that's basically just a way of saying, "You're way bigger than you should be. Either your baby is an enormous mutant, or you're fat."

Any other moms want to chime in here? I really don't want to give the impression that I'm offended. A lovely, dear friend told me the other day my belly was huge, and that was fine. On the other hand, a stranger stopped her car while I was walking the dog to ask if I was "due tomorrow." (Answer: "No, actually, two more months (at that time). But thanks.") Again, that's just a way of suggesting someone is abnormally large. I got the double-whammy from a very successful [male] writer at BEA; "Are you due tomorrow?" followed by, "Is it twins?" and I have to say, his tone of voice was rude, and I can't quite believe there was mere innocent ignorance at work there. Why he would try to be insulting, I can't fathom. I'd never even met him before, but he did not make a good first impression.

Abstain from comments that suggest abnormality. I mean, yes, my belly is big. I'm 35 weeks pregnant. But it's not crazy-big. It's not record-breaking big; Professor is only in the 43rd percentile for size. Have people never seen a pregnant belly before? There's a person growing in there, you know. I just wonder: what motivates these suggestions of abnormal size? You could say it's totally innocent and they have no intention of suggesting abnormality; they're just making an observation. But aren't we trained not to blurt out every observation that pops into our heads? We're not four-year-olds saying, "Mommy, that lady's fat." Right? Anyway, I don't think it's always innocent. It's a weird kind of competition: "I'm more normal than you." See, women who've been pregnant themselves totally make these comparative comments, maybe more than others, because they're coming from a place of personal expertise. They know pregnant bellies and feel qualified to comment on whether you're *normal* or not. But . . . just don't. Pregnant women don't like being told they're abnormal.

You also get a ton of "misery loves company" kind of comments from other parents:
-- "Do all your sleeping now." (as if sleep-banking technology exists.)
-- "Everything will change. Everything." (in toneless zombie voice.)
-- "You'll never see a movie or eat a meal while it's hot ever again."

And birth horror stories. People love to share those. Episiotomies and excruciating back labor and babies strangled by their cords! Why would you tell a pregnant woman that? Why? Again, it's moms who do this more than anyone. I'll really have to try to remember later not to do the same thing, because maybe you just forget what it was like to be pregnant and worry about everything, even without helpful worry-instigators egging you on. Where I am right now, I'm looking forward to birth with great curiosity and excitement; we are preparing ourselves mentally and physically and aiming for a certain [calm, natural] experience, and that's our whole focus. We don't want to hear the war stories.

It's totally okay, though, to pass on the joyous, beautiful stories about laughing and snuggling in the labor room, to gush about how awesome babies are, to tell what your child's favorite toys are and what cloth diapers worked best for you, stuff like that.

I think I sound more defensive and irritated than I am, but really, more than that I'm interested in the "psychology" of how people talk to pregnant women, as if they are in the public domain. You know? There's even belly-touching by strangers, which never happens for any other reason. And I'm interested in how one's perspective can shift with new experience. I never thought about it before I was pregnant, and that's why I'm not offended when someone tells me I'm huge -- like I said, I'm sure I said it myself, before.

To be clear, I'm not ashamed of my belly. I love it! It's awesome. It interacts with us. It entertains us. It is alive. It's the coolest thing ever. And, big as it is, my body can completely accommodate it, which is something of a revelation. I am still perfectly comfortable. I have no back pain, no discomfort of any kind, and no trouble sleeping. I can still pick a frisbee up off the ground, kneel to paint furniture (and get back up after), run across the street. It doesn't feel heavy; it doesn't weigh on me. It's perfectly integrated and balanced, and I find that fascinating. Way to go, Mother Nature! Well done :-)

So curious to hear your thoughts on this stuff.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Where do faeries live?

One of my favorite things about writing the Dreamdark books is envisioning our world, our Earth, as inhabited by faeries. A deep, ancient, mossy forest teeming with life and community that human eyes never behold: the houses tucked among the roots and hollows, the castles. The tiny cliffside cities in the Himalayas, where thatches of wild orchids bend over the rooftops like trees. Secret, carpet-draped caves in the limestone islands of Vietnam's Halong Bay. And so much more!

Well, here's a Portland artist who also likes to envision faerie dwellings, and she actually goes so far as to construct them. And furnish them too. They're magical miniatures with names like "Dragonfly House" and "Wizard House." There's even a guardhouse for the Faery Queen's protectors! Love. It. Her name is Rachel Pace and she collects odd bits of wood and interesting branches on her forest property and transforms them into tiny magical places. Looky:

I'm loving this one because it's called the "Magpie House" and is full of a faery's stash of shiny, pilfered things:

(More detail photos at Rachel's etsy shop.)

The "Majestic Wild & Woodsy Two-Level Faery House" (with working lights and resident faery):

She also sells faery furniture, if you happen to have just the right nook, or a population of resident faeries you think might appreciate a cozy new bed:

There's so much to look at in Rachel's etsy shop. I've been drooling over there, and have decided that next time I have a good reason to "reward myself" with an art treasure, it will be a faery house. I hope it's soon! I can't wait to see these in person. I won't be able to go to the Faerieworlds Festival in Eugene, Oregon, because it falls right on my due date, but if you go, you can see these in person. Lucky you!

Go to Rachel's website or etsy shop for many more wonderful photos.

She also makes faery doors. Are you familiar with the phenomenon of faery doors? These are miniature doors to be found tucked away in our own urban landscapes -- on library shelves, in gardens, alongside human-size doors . . .

I first heard about this a year or two ago on a blog . . . I want to say it was Fuse #8 but I'm not positive. Anyway, apparently, a lot of urban faeries dwell in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Who knew? This is at the library, in (of course) the Folktales & Fairy Tales section:

I'm guessing this faerie likes to read!

This shop called Red Shoes has its own faerie entrance:

Too cute. The rest of the Ann Arbor faery doors can be seen HERE.

You can also put faery doors on trees around your garden, to add a touch of magic:

Isn't that just FUN? I think I want some faery doors in my house. Hm. I'll have to think about that a little. I bet I can find the perfect spot in Professor's room, which is still under construction.

I love miniatures and dollhouses. I have a wonderful Victorian dollhouse my dad built for me when I was eleven. It lived in a crate for YEARS and now lives in the garage, looking forlorn and unloved. Now it needs to be lovingly rescued and repainted and finished. I can imagine getting very immersed in a project like that (I think it wants to be pink), but I have time: it'll be years before Professor can be let loose on all the fragile goodies I collected years ago (and who knows, maybe she'll be a tomboy and not interested). There was a company called The Enchanted Dollhouse that I don't think is around any more; they had a mail-order catalog that was a serious "wish book" filled with the most wonderful miniatures. Sigh. Well, I'm sure there are plenty of amazing sources for miniatures out there. It was fun when we traveled to collect tiny things. You could usually find tiny versions of things, like in Venice, there were likely to be tiny glass vases, and in Delft, tiny ceramics. In Turkey I got some tiny carpets; I wonder what I did with those? They must be in one of the boxes of clutter in the studio. Oy.

Goodness, look at the cottage I just discovered on this blog:
And egad! There's a dollhouse museum in Kentucky!
I'd love to go there some day.

Oh dear. Okay, that's enough for today. I'd better get to work :-)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Babies . . .

A newly designed Laini's Lady. Timely, no? She'll be available in the fall, at which time she will be adorned with beads and ribbons; this is just the design file as I sent it off to the manufacturer, along with a few other new ones.


Got some writing done today to the sound of saws and hammers; it wasn't too bad, actually. Perhaps my powers of concentration are developing. Let's hope so!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


My Google Alerts have been busy lately, and it is so cool to know that there are Silksingers and Lips Touches out there with bent spines. People might even be reading them right now! So far, what I've seen has been very positive, which makes me smile. A lot.

A lot lot lot. I'm smiley.
Here are some Silksinger reviews:

From Elizabeth Vail at Green Man Review, whose lovely review of Blackbringer was a favorite of mine. She says of Silksinger:

"With this novel, Laini Taylor demonstrates that she's just as capable of continuing a dazzlingly inventive series as she is in starting one, which bodes extremely well for future books."

Read her review for a terrific non-spoily synopsis of the book.

Some other new reviews from Sheila Ruth of Wands and Worlds and the Parrsboro Regional Elementary School Library. There are other blurbs at my website.

So there are some things that are making me smile. Another thing making me smile: Professor is an acrobat. Last night Jim and I were reading to my belly in bed (it's never too soon to start :-) and you should have seen the shifting topography! Seismic. I think she likes books! We were cracking up -- Jim has likened Professor's movements to "a shoe in a dryer," if that gives you any sense of the tumbling going on.

In our birthing class yesterday the teacher was talking about fetology and the awareness and interactivity of babies in utero, and she had lots of neat stories about parent-baby interaction pre-birth, like a dad who would touch his baby's foot (which was generally to be found resting near mom's ribs) and say the same thing each time (I think it was, "Hey chicky chicky.") -- and after the baby was born, when he'd say that, she'd stick out her foot! Isn't that cool? So I thought it would be neat to read the same bedtime book every night (in addition to other stuff); maybe she'll remember it later. You know, and drop right off to sleep. Ha ha.

Things not totally making me smile: The Massive De-Cluttering of 2009, which is just beginning. Our friend/contractor arrives any minute to start the wee remodel of the weird unfinished space that was discovered behind the wall (former extraterrestrial hiding place, I think, where an alien anthropologist lived in secret and took notes on humanity) into a nursery. While the work is underway, Jim and I shall be: de-cluttering. My half of the art studio became, when I basically stopped doing art, a repository for all things that will not fit in the closets. Which is basically everything, since in 1924 people weren't too keen on closets. My mess has spilled over into the rest of the studio, and Jim has a mess of his own going (though nothing compared to mine), and contemplating it is exhausting. I've taken pictures, but they're way too humiliating to show. Little by little, it will be tamed. I so wish I could just blink it into an alternate dimension and then blink it back some day in the future when we have a bigger house. Does anyone know how to do that? I'll pay you.

The silver lining is, of course, that it will be lovely once it's all done! Is there anything quite so satisfying as a newly de-cluttered house? A freshly painted room? The nesting phase will follow soon, and that is something that does make me smile. Like I wrote about here.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Here's where I've been:

At the pink beach house!

A three-minute walk down the road, this beach (seen on two varyingly sunny days):

We had it almost entirely to ourselves; many times entirely to ourselves, which was lovely.

There was more driftwood than I've ever seen, and not little bits and pieces, but enormous bleached trees that arrived here from who knows where to become beach "furniture" and even be turned into strange structures.

Sadly, this particular structure, which was very sturdy, was torn down one evening. The suspects: a group of teenagers we saw get out of a brand-new Hum-Vee as we were leaving. The structure was intact when they arrived, and demolished the next morning. Coincidence? Perhaps.

A few miles away, up the cape that you see framing the beach, there's a lighthouse with gorgeous views:

Something I learned from the lighthouse docent: the Lighthouse Service was its own independent government agency until it merged with the Coast Guard in 1939. Lighthouse keepers had to be married, not just because it was lonely work, but because it was hard work, and the Service needed the free labor that came in the form of wives and children!

Down the other side of the cape is the town of Oceanside, where a dark foot tunnel through the cliff connects to a little string of rocky beaches.
An island group just off-shore is a protected breeding ground for seals and sea birds like cormorants, murres, and puffins. How I'd love to see puffins! I always think of them belonging much farther north, but they're right here. Funny.

Oceanside also has good clam chowder, at Roseanna's Cafe:
(That's a Tillamook crab melt alongside it; when in the land of cheddar ... one has no choice really, but to eat cheese!)

If it seems that we were out and about seeing sights, we weren't. All week we were hermits at the pink house and walking on the beach. I dove back into my novel-in-progress, which had not seen the light of my computer screen in weeks. Jim worked on sketches for various projects, as well as doing a little writing of his own. We walked on the beach plenty, but didn't get out to the lighthouse and Oceanside until the last day of our week away, when my parents came out to join us.
Ice cream was involved. Full-cream ice cream fresh from the dairy:

It would have been madness -- madness! -- not to buy cheese while we were at the Tillamook factory. And, you know, we're not crazy. So cheese was purchased, as well as cheese curds, though I did NOT buy the batter mix they sell for the purpose of deep-frying your cheese curds. Because that sounds awful. (Awful delicious!)

Anyway. It was lovely and lazy. I could certainly get used to walking on the beach every day. I did get used to it, in fact, and our two walks in our neighborhood since we've gotten home have seemed a bit lacking. No seals bobbing in the surf, no mob of red-wing blackbirds bending the cattails in the marsh, no driftwood castles, no shells that look like faerie wings.
Sigh. Back to the land of distractions and chores. (I spent yesterday cleaning, not to mention repainting the fireplace and some kitchen cabinets and trim, and the to-do list is ridiculous right now.)

On the bright side, though, when we got home, the peonies had finally bloomed!

(Are peonies not the most ridiculous show-offs?)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Where have I been?

A week without internet! It can be done? But ... how do you fill in the time? I mean ... what else is there to do??? Ha ha! We've been at the little pink beach house I mentioned a while back, and to tell the truth, we haven't been doing a lot, but we've been doing not-a-lot with particular enthusiasm! There's a Spanish proverb that goes, "How wonderful to do nothing and then rest afterward!" Yeah. Here's what we've been doing all week:

1. Writing (and Jim = drawing); it's so good to be back to work!
2. Walking Leroy on the beach.
3. Cooking. Sort of.
4. Reading.

We're in a remote little community west of Tillamook (which you may know as home to the famous cheddar cheese, not to mention fabulous ice cream), and where we're staying there are no shops or cafes or anything of any kind (incl TV reception and internet) -- just houses and beach, which makes it beautifully distraction-free. Because it's not a "drive-thru" town (the road dead-ends, so the only reason you'd go there is to go there), the gorgeous gorgeous beach is virtually empty of people. Many of the times we've walked down, we've been the only souls in sight! And we've been pretty lucky with weather. If you know the Oregon Coast, you know it's usually pretty windy, so even a 75 degree day tends to call for a sweatshirt. Well, the first few days we were out there, there was no wind! We're only out here a couple of times a year, so I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that throwing the frisbee at the beach isn't often a reasonable proposition -- in T-shirts no less -- but we did get to do that.

I'll put up some pictures soon (they won't do it justice), but for now, I'll just put up these completely random pictures, which having nothing at all to do with our week at the beach. Just, if I were to keep goats, these are the kind I'd want:

I think they're called Nubian goats; I pulled those pics off zooborns.com (too lazy to link right now; lazy lazy lazy). Aren't they so cute with their long ears? Hm. Maybe we'll move to the coast and breed exotic goats. Ha ha! Doesn't sound bad, actually. But ... it's not highly likely :-)

So that's that. Back soon. Have a great weekend!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Bones and rats

I made reference to how we spent too much time in the "skeleton store" in Soho, and yes, it was Evolution. Wow. We had to hurry past it on Thursday in a rush between publishing offices, but on Sunday morning when we had a little time, we made our way straight there. What a place! If there's any way in which I'm like a 10-year-old boy, it's this: I love bones and teeth and beetles and claws and turtle shells and fossils and other weird flotsam of nature, and this shop is the place to find it.

Incidentally, it did not escape my notice that the other customers in the store at the time were primarily ten-year-old boys, accompanied by parents, and they were seriously like kids in a candy shop, agonizing over the selection of claws and rattlesnake rattles and trilobite fossils! Jim and I were agonizing too. If we'd been up to spending lots of money that day, we'd likely have come away with an "alien skull" and several huge tropical beetles, horned and winged, in glass frames. As it was, we purchased:

-- Raccoon penis bones
-- a praying mantis
-- a selection of carnivore teeth, some reproduction, some real (shark, tiger, bear, alligator)
-- a reproduction smilodon saber (for home defense, ha ha)
-- earrings made out of dangling iridescent green beetle wings
-- a large grasshopper in a vial
-- banana-flavored lollipops with scorpions encased in them (delicious!)
(The teeth, by the way, have a certain relevance to the book I am currently writing.)

Yes, I am conflicted in my fascination for these things, because I do not support the hunting of animals to fill morbid collections. A part of me would love to have a blue morpho in a frame on the wall, but the much larger part of me would rather that blue morpho be flying around in the Amazon. I didn't buy anything that came off any living animal that is not abundant -- raccoons, for example, probably exterminated as pests? I don't know. There's really no justifying any of it. It's one thing in a natural history museum, another in a curiosity shop, but . . . I'm still fascinated. I've always loved natural history museums, and I love stories about naturalists collecting in the field. But . . . it's also so offputting. I'm sure this is the closest I'll ever get to a kudu:
The taxidermy is exceptional, and the size of this antelope is astonishing, seen close up like this. At the zoo, they're always so far away you have no idea how huge they are. And the oryx too:
Which I recently had the privilege of seeing alive in a nice-size herd in the very zoo that rescued them from extinction by means of a captive breeding program (Phoenix). The more I think about it now, the more I don't understand how my mind didn't revolt at the sight of these disembodied heads. It's so wrong. And yet, a part of me was merely in awe, like I was looking at a wall of African masks or something, and not murder victims. Ugh. I don't know. It's all so strange. Now I'm just feeling sick about my fascination.

A store where you don't have to feel slightly sick and guilty? The Scholastic Store!
I didn't know this existed. We stumbled upon it while wandering in Soho:

There's all kinds of Hogwarts shwag, plus a life-size school bus (the Magic Schoolbus? I don't know) you can sit in, and a cafe, and did I mention books? Books books books, and not all Scholastic books, I don't think.

Window-shopping from Soho to Greenwich Village yielded some displays:

And street scenes:

And for lunch we had one of the best pizzas we have ever had:
(John's Pizzeria on Bleeker St.)
We were whipped around by the wind at the Hudson River:
(Photo courtesy of the lovely Kate Schafer Testerman, with whom we went to see the Coraline musical stage adaptation that afternoon; it was highly strange and awesome.)

Oh, and we also bought a rat that day, a New York City rat for Professor. See:

A cute rat! We did see a really live subway rat scurrying across the platform. It was kind of cute too. Oh, and we saw a stranger subway creature than that. It emerged from a manhole cover and pulled someone down:
So you see? The rumors are true. There are alligators in the sewers of New York!

By the way, speaking of Professor, Jim came up with another name yesterday. Are you ready?

Doctor Zombie Di Bartolo. "Doc" for short. Cute, noh? If we were movie stars, perhaps! I still like Professor better, myself. But Zombie is a fine middle name . . . Professor Zombie, maybe? chortle chortle. It's fun, thinking up absurd names. Coming up with actual names = much more difficult!

I had an ultrasound yesterday, by the way, and Professor is doing great. My belly had been measuring slightly big, but in fact she's exactly right for her due date, which is August 1 and will be here so soon!! I mean, she might even be here sooner than that! Each day it is more of a reality that this baby will emerge into the world and, you know, start to cry. Right? Crazy! Oh, and we could see her hair in the ultrasound!!! A little fuzzy halo. So cute. I wonder what color it is.