Monday, March 30, 2009

Through the Sniper Sights - 10 - Fox News Red Eye Gives a Black Eye to Canadian Military

On March 23rd, 2009 - only last week - the bodies of four Canadian soldiers were carried from a military aircraft at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario. They made up the 113th, 114th, 115th and 116th Canadian soldiers to die in Afghanistan since 2002.

Clockwise from top left:

Cpl. Tyler Crooks

Trooper Jack Bouthillier

Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli

Trooper Corey Hayes

Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli's flag-draped coffin was carried down the ramp first, followed by the body of Cpl. Tyler Crooks. They served in the infantry with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Petawawa. Next came the coffins carrying Trooper Jack Bouthillier and Trooper Corey Hayes from the Royal Canadian Dragoons, an armoured regiment also based at CFB Petawawa.

Governor General Michaelle Jean and Defence Minister Peter MacKay were among the family members and friends for the sombre and highly emotional ceremony. The coffins were placed in a line of waiting hearses, which headed along the highway now known as The Highway of Heroes, where every fallen soldier is saluted by ordinary Canadians from an overpass running across this highway.

A week earlier, Fox News had aired its late night talk show, Red Eye, hosted by Greg Gutfeld. "On his show, Gutfeld criticized the Canadian military for planning to take a 'synchronized break' after its Afghanistan withdrawal. 'Meaning, the Canadian military wants to take a breather to do some yoga, paint landscapes, run on the beach in gorgeous white Capri pants,' he said.

'Isn't this the perfect time to invade this ridiculous country? They have no army!' he quipped.

Panelist Doug Benson, a comedian, replied: 'I didn't even know they were in the war. I thought that's where you go when you don't want to fight. Go chill in Canada.' "

Brandon Friedman served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan and Iraq. The author of The War I Always Wanted: The Illusion of Glory and the Reality of War wrote this scathing but hilarious post about the Red Eye broadcast on the VetVoice blog:

Fox News Mocks Service of Canadian Soldiers

In it he tells of retired Canadian forces infantry sniper Rob Furlong, whom I previously saw profiled on a CBC documentary. Newfoundland-born-and-raised Furlong "killed an al Qaeda fighter from 2430 m (a mile and a half away,) the rough equivalent of standing at Toronto's CN Tower and hitting a target near Bloor Street.

Part of the 3rd Battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Furlong was one of 900 Canadian soldiers deployed as part of the U.S.-led retribution for Sept. 11, hand-picked as Canada's contribution to Operation Anaconda.

It was March 3, 2002 - the Chinook helicopter carrying Canadian Master Cpl. Arron Perry, another sniper, twisted its way onto the mountain just before dawn. Within minutes, enemy fighters opened up, feeding the new arrivals a steady stream of small-arms and mortar fire. New Brunswick-born-and-raised Perry, hauling his rifle on his back, headed for higher ground. 'Anyone who says they are not scared is crazy,' he recalls. In that first hour, Perry fired at target after target, some as far away as 1,500 m. 'His shots were incredible,' says Sgt. Maj. Mark Nielsen, a veteran of America's 101st Airborne Division. 'One shot, one kill. If I had to send him a sweatshirt, that's what it would say.'

When the helicopter returned to the mountain a few hours later, dozens of US troops spilled out the side doors and onto the valley floor, scanning the horizon. As dusk approached, mortars and muzzle flashes lit up the sky, hammering the ground all around their position. Amid the onslaught, the Canadian snipers pummelled at least one enemy hideout. Everyone else took cover.

For the next nine days, the Canadian snipers disposed of rival fighters with diabolical precision. They became an all-star unit of sorts, shuttled from hill to hill as needed, sometimes by foot, sometimes by four-wheeler. Their bullets destroyed enemy lookouts, protected U.S. troops as they moved through the valley, and, in those moments when all hell broke loose, annihilated the source of fire.

'These guys were just excellent military professionals,' says Capt. Justin Overbaugh, the commander of a U.S. scout platoon that worked alongside one of the Canadian sniper teams. 'We didn't want to give them up. I would have brought them home with me if I could.' "
- Michael Friscolanti, Macleans Magazine

" 'I don't need to remind Canadians of the actual facts, but Canadians are fighting extremely hard in perhaps the most dangerous part of Afghanistan,' said Michael O'Hanlon, a specialist on U.S. national security policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

'And in addition to having suffered such severe losses, they are also to my mind the No. 1 ally most admired by American commanders when I hear them speak off the record about counter-insurgency application, military heroism and general combat skills.' "
- Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 94 - Judgement and Acceptance

Today's found poem comes from my vampire WIP. You can read an excerpt HERE. I've used the villanelle form, but once again haven't tried to rhyme anything, as that would interfere with the found poem format.

Peredur is a Dark Age Welsh warrior who becomes a vampire. This poem is taken from two scenes where Peredur struggles with his new state of being. I've based Peredur on Scottish actor Gerard Butler.

Ride the Poetry Train - click HERE.

Judgement and Acceptance

The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes
Filled with dirt. Staggered to his feet - the grave
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

The blood lust took him hard. Had never known
What true need was, when he’d lived as a man
The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes

Smell of man came to him on a faint breeze
"Who’s there?" rang out before Peredur leaped
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

Yet how could he grieve when he could not cry?
Let loose an unnerving howl of anguish
The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes

Beat fists gainst ground. Saw two feet, hem of gown
Scrambled to knees, bent deeply, head to earth
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

A look held both judgement and acceptance
The sun went down. Peredur opened eyes
Is this what had become of him? Hunger

- Julia Smith, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Welcome! Welcome to Julia's Fantastical and Phenomenal Awards Spectacular

Gather round, come in! Come in! I know it's starting to warm up and the birds are starting to sing, but we've got an awards show to get to. Let's stop for a second and let the paparazzi get their shots - better the red carpet ones than the up-the-nose ones through the windows of the limosine. Don't you hate those?

Let's go in, let's go in. Okay - let's check our tickets. Main orchestra, center. Ooo - great seats! Oh, I'm a little bit nervous. I know, I know, I don't look it. But I just need to take a deep breath. I really don't like getting up in front of people and speaking. Blogging - yes! Public speaking - *knees knocking*

The lights are going down to a quarter. We'd better get to our seats. Okay. The curtains open. Akelamalu strides onstage.

She's handing out the You Stand Out From the Crowd Award.

"Our concern must be to live while we're alive. To release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade."

- Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

"This award is free to go to anyone whom the award recipient chooses," says Akelamalu. "For any reason!"

Oh, boy - time to head up onstage. Thank you, Akelamalu! ((hug)) I'm so pleased to receive this. You know, I've never been one to be shy about my individual nature. So this award means a lot to me. I'll be passing this along to other uncommonly distictive bloggers at the end of the ceremony.

Coming from you - whose blog Everything and Nothing always delivers on the first and completely lacks in the second - makes this award even more delightful. Though you don't think of yourself as a writer of anything other than your blog, your Friday Flash Fiction never ceases to blow me away. And your Saturday Wordzzles always take readers on a twisty journey of compact and accomplished writing. An average of 30 daily commenters can't be wrong!

Let's welcome Louise now, who's presenting the Let's Be Friends Award.

"She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind."

- Toni Morrison

Louise invites VaBookworm from Confessions of a Bookworm to join her at the podium.

"This award goes to blogs which are exceedingly charming," Louise says. "VaBookworm, you're a perfect example. Your blog aims to find and be friends with other bloggers. And it's where Julia gets her fix of sword-swinging by watching your avatar."

"Louise," VaBookworm says, laughing. "You're a perfect example of a blogger not interested in self-aggrandizement. This award hopes that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships will be propagated. Think of who you've already met through the Blog Improvement Project."

"Stop it," Louise says. "Julia - get up here already!"

((hugging Louise and VaBookworm)) Louise! Thank you so much. Your Lous_Pages is a place to lose oneself in your Egyptology feature, your abundant book reviews and your intriguing Wordless Wednesday posts. I also love your Weekly Geeks participation (a theme-inspired prompt) and Tuesday Teasers which gives us a peek at what you're reading.

And VaBookworm, your frank confessions of weirdness only endear you to all your readers. Because we spazz, too - over all the same stuff. At least you have an actual British longbow that you can shoot in your backyard while listening to Robin Hood or Braveheart soundtracks. I just write about sword swingers. I don't have a sword of my own...Yet.

"Help one another, is part of the religion of sisterhood."

- Louisa May Alcott

Dorte H now takes the stage. "I'm here to present the Sisterhood Award. I met Julia through my fellow Danish blogger, Louise. I feel we share the same sort of attitude and gratitude about the world. So come on up, Julia."

Here's a ((hug)) for Dorte H. One of the first things I remarked upon when I visited DJs Krimiblog were her beautiful tins which she used as a header for her Bait in the Box feature. 'Hidden' in the tins are excerpt clues from crime fiction, which she uses to encourage readers to guess the books they come from. I shared my collection of tins with her which she's now using for Bait in the Box, along with other submissions from sister bloggers. The beauty of our blogging sisterhood is the closeness we can share, even when one of us is in Denmark and the other in Canada.

VaBookworm takes the stage one more time.

"It's amazing what ordinary people can do if they set out without preconceived notions."

- Charles F. Kettering

"The Uber Amazing Blog Award goes to bloggers who inspire you, make you smile and laugh, give amazing information, are a great read, has an amazing design, and any other reason you can think of that makes them uber amazing. Julia - come back out so I can give you this enormous pink bow award!"

One more ((hug)) to you, VaBookworm. Oh, my. I'm really touched - really. I enjoy blogging so much because of the creative outlet it gives me, because it's a way to share ideas with other bloggers and with readers who don't blog but who stop by and read. But most of all, I enjoy blogging because I've met so many wonderful, marvellous blogging friends. Thank you - all of you - for making this blog one of the happiest parts of my day.

Now, because this is a multi-awards presentation, I won't keep to the suggested amounts for passing them along. Most of them request 5 or 7 recipients. For this event, however, I'll keep all awards to 2 nominations each, except for the Let's Be Friends Award, since I received it twice - I'll pass along 4 of those.

The You Stand Out From the Crowd Award goes to:

Apprentice Writer

The Let's Be Friends Award goes to:


The Sisterhood Award goes to:

The women at Romance Bandits
My fellow bloggers at Popculturedivas

The Uber Amazing Blog Award goes to:

Daily Mish Mash

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - 99 - 13 Questions for Ian Lurie, Co-Author of Web Marketing All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies

Once upon a time, there was a lovely girl named Dawn who went to high school and joined the choir. That was also my high school, and I joined the same choir - and Dawn and I became friends, along with a whole group of other choristers. Dawn and I shared a love of dance, and often choreographed dance pieces together for various shows which the choir would stage, besides the full-scale musicals.

This is the Can-Can we did for the end-of-the-year show that we put on for Dawn's graduating year (sniff - a sad goodbye to half of my friends.) That's me at left and Dawn in the center.

Our group of friends naturally went our own ways but always stayed in touch, seeing each other as often as we could. This is a bunch of us out for dinner in Halifax when Dawn and Maureen were back on the east coast to see their families.

Clockwise from L to R: starting with yours truly at far left, my husband Brad, Dawn, her husband Ian, Shelley's husband Hugh, Maureen and Shelley.

Ian always writes up the holiday newsletter, and from the first one I read I was impressed with his razor-sharp wit and his ease of conversational style. I was thrilled when Dawn said, "Oh, I've got something for you," on one her trips home and passed me a copy of Ian's first book, Conversation Marketing, released in 2006.

So imagine how I had to pick my jaw up off the floor on another of her trips home, when she said, "Ian's writing a Dummies book!"

Needless to say, I've been anxiously awaiting this release. And now - it's out.

Ian shared his excitement with blog readers when his book arrived at his office. Here he introduced his book to his grandfather's old typewriter.

Ian's got a wonderful promotion going on over at his blog, Conversational Marketing:

"If you buy Web Marketing for Dummies All In One, and send me a great unboxing photo, I'll send you a free copy of my e-book The Fat Free Guide to Copywriting (previously known as the The Unscary, Real World Guide to SEO Copywriting.)" - Ian Lurie

CLICK on THIS POST and scroll to the bottom for your chance to win!

For my 99th Thursday Thirteen, I'm doing my first-ever interview with Ian Lurie, President of Portant Interactive, an Internet marketing agency. Welcome, Ian!

1 - What is Portent Interactive and how did you come up with your company name?

'Portent' means an omen or sign of things (good or bad) to come. So much of what we do involves anticipating changes to the internet and particularly search, so it made sense. The 'Interactive' part I'm sure you can guess :)

2 - How did Web Marketing All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies get its start?

I'm not sure how Wiley decided to write it. But John Arnold, the book's editor and author of the e-mail section, read my blog and decided I was a well-qualified Dummies author. He contacted me, and once I realized it wasn't a put-on we got to work.

3 - Your company offers services in Social Media Marketing, which features blogging. How can your company help someone increase their blog traffic?

The number one way to increase blog traffic is to write great stuff. So we offer a lot of coaching on good web copywriting. We also help clients interact with relevant communities online. And, of course, our search engine optimization team works with many bloggers to improve their search engine rankings.

4 - What is Search Engine Optimization, and why is it so integral to growing an internet presence?

For Portent, Search Engine Optimization (known as SEO) means ensuring a site's visibility, relevance and authority through great content, link building and a technically sound web site.

Search engines generate 75% of everything that happens online. If you don't do SEO you're ignoring 75% of your potential customers. If you can afford to do that, more power to you, but most businesses should make SEO the core of their online strategy.

5 - Many authors are encouraged to start blogs if they haven't already done so. How important is it for an author to blog, or will a high profile presence in other social media such as Twitter and Facebook be enough?

Authors are particularly good bloggers. We love to write and can't really shut up. So blogs give us an outlet. It's also an excellent way to promote your books, and connect with other writers.

I don't think every author must blog, though. Blog if you enjoy the instant gratification of writing something and publishing it moment later. Don't blog if you're going to regard it as a chore, or if the internet gives you the willies.

6 - Did you ever envision yourself as a For Dummies author?

I never envisioned myself as a CEO or a father of 2 kids. It's safe to say the For Dummies gig is a complete surprise and tremendously exciting.

7 - Do you know the other three authors personally?

I didn't know Marty, John or Michael before we wrote the book. I haven't met them in person and really want to organize a get-together at some point.

Elizabeth Marsten is the head of my PPC (pay-per-click) department at Portent. I suggested that she write the PPC section. She's fast becoming one of the top PPC specialists in the country, and she was a natural for the job. Oh, and if anyone reading this tries to hire her away, I'll burn their office down.

How did the four of you decide who would write which section?

If I remember right, we all talked on the phone and handed out the sections. Marty wrote the first section on building a web site. I wrote the Search Engine Optimization, Web Analytics, Social Media and Blogging sections. John wrote the section on e-mail marketing. Michael wrote the section about mobile marketing. And Elizabeth wrote the PPC section.

8 - What if a person is a true 'dummy' when it comes to technology? Suppose a writer has no cell phone, prefers to write with pen and ink, and posts snail mail instead of blog posts? Will that person be able to understand Web Marketing All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies?

A total luddite might have some problems. They'll figure it out, but I strongly recommend learning to use a computer first. Otherwise the book becomes a doorstop in a hurry.

9 - I have been a passionate blogger for two years now. But there are still aspects of blogging that confuse me. For example, I still don't know how to tell who visits me without leaving a comment. How important is it to know who visits your blog?

There's no easy way to know which individuals visit your blog. If there was it'd represent a significant invasion of privacy (in my opinion).

However, you can easily measure total visitors, what folks most often read, and where they come from using a free analytics tool like Google Analytics.

And, if you implement a social networking tool like Google Friend Connect, you can see when other members of that network visit your site.

10 - As a member of Romance Writers of America, I was seriously thrilled to hear through the grapevine that I had buzz at last year's national conference in San Francisco - especially since I was not physically present at the conference. The buzz was generated purely through my blog relationships.

As I mentioned, it is definitely encouraged within the writing world for authors to start blogs as a marketing tool. But what if the author is not attracted to blogging and finds the whole thing a tedious, nails-on-a-chalk-board chore?

Then they shouldn't blog. Really. Blogging isn't a responsibility. It's another form of communications. Don't do it if you don't like it.

I'm not surprised you got buzz. Your blog is great!

11 - Web Marketing All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies includes a Google AdWords redeemable coupon worth $25. How would that help a writer doing promotion for a new release?

That coupon will let you get $25 worth of clicks on Google AdWords for free. Adwords is Google's pay per click advertising system. It works like an auction: You bid on keywords. When someone clicks your ad, you pay the bid amount.

If you can get some low-cost traffic, that $25 can get you 100 or more clicks for free. That's a nice way to start!

12 - What is page tagging and how would writers benefit from understanding web analytics?

Page tagging can have multiple definitions. 'Tagging' is adding non-hierarchical keywords to pages. That creates the now-ubiquitous 'tag clouds' you see all over the place.

Page tagging as I think you're using it here means adding extra stuff to links, like ?source=google, so that your web analytics package can provide you extra information about your visitors. It's a VERY powerful tool. I can't go into it here because it would take about 10 pages, but you can find several articles about it on my blog, Conversation Marketing.

13 - In your opinion, how would a beginning author best spend her marketing dollars? What would be the top three internet options that give newbies the greatest buzz for the most affordable price?

Blogging can get you the most value, if you start well in advance of your book release date. Your blog can create a built-in audience who's ready to read your book the moment it hits Amazon.

Definitely have a simple web site, even if you don't have a blog.

Also, join Facebook and connect with other members who have interests in line with your book. Don't spam people, but make a few friends.

Finally, do look at pay per click marketing. It's a very efficient way to generate traffic.

Oh, and read Web Marketing for Dummies All In One Desk Reference!

Thanks so much for the interview, Ian. Can't wait till I get my own copy of your book in my hot little hands.

Thanks Julia - I really appreciate the interview!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - 92

Monday, March 23, 2009

Through the Opera Glasses - 9 - The Ultimate Blog Party 2009

Blog events really impress me. When I stumble across one, I feel like I've pushed through into a whole new dimension - where fun reigns and where those I've never met before suddenly feel like people I want to get to know.

Come on in, everyone - there's lots and lots of room for everyone at my Through the Opera Glasses Ultimate Blog Party. Since it decided to snow with a vengeance here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I figured I'd decorate the entrance with an ice sculpture. If you can't beat 'em - join 'em.

Janice and Susan from 5 Minutes For Mom are holding an outrageously impressive week-long party at their blog. How did I find out about it?

Well, this is a great example of how Kim's Blog Improvement Project is working out. For Week 6 - Let's Get Social! I joined Twitter.

One of my new Twitter followers/people I follow is Sandwiched. This tweet showed up on my home page:

"Following a bunch of new people from #ubp09!" - Sandwiched

From within Twitter, clicking on that tinyurl link brought me straight over to the Ultimate Blog Party.

Now let's look at why Kim started her Blog Improvement Project in the first place:

"The 2009 Blog Improvement Project is a year-long challenge that will consist of twice-monthly activities to improve your blog. Possible topics include goals setting, writing better content, building community with readers, getting more readers, and blog layout and design." - Kim

And look at what Janice and Susan have to say about their blog event:

"The Ultimate Blog Party is about building online friendships.

It’s simple to join the fun and lots of ways you can get involved — from simply reading this post, to publishing your own party post on your blog and signing one of the Mr. Linky link lists.

The focus of the party is for bloggers to build genuine online friends and increase their readership in a fun, organic way.

So, we want YOU to party with us, whether you’re a mom, grandma, a dad or a single gal."
- Janice and Susan

Join the Par-tay!

The first thing partiers do is sign up in Mr. Linky. There are several headings to choose from: Family-Friendly Blogs, Not-So-Family-Friendly Blogs, Dad Blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

Next, each party-heartier is asked to visit a minimum of 20 other bloggers/Facebook pages/Twitterers. These are the brand-new-to-me bloggers I visited:

2 Witches Blog
365 Days of Christmas
Blonde Ambition
Daily Mish Mash
From Inmates to Playdates
Girly Girls Beauty Guide
Harvest of Daily Life
Just Add Dots
Ma Vie Folle
Newfies, Orchids and Minis, Oh My!!!
Optimistic Cynicism
Stained Glass Soul
Stepping on Legos
Superdumb Supervillain
Teresa's Treasures
The Art of Random Willy-Nillyness
The Italian Bella Diaries
The Nut House
The Road to Home
What She Really Wants

For my party here at A Piece of My Mind, let's go to my Mr. Dress-up Tickle Trunk and pick out a costume.

Want to be a Can-Can Dancer?

How about a Regency Gentleman?

Oh, this one looks gorgeous - a Renaissance Noblewoman.

Ooo - who wants to wear this one? I love this Medieval Knight's costume.

Now it's time to choose a mask. For the masquerade!

In a few moments, we're all going to gather on the giant inflatable Twister gameboard for some wacky masquerade fun. But first, let's listen to Deborah Kerr sing Getting to Know You from The King and I:

Thank you for coming to my soiree! ((hug)) Be sure to drop by The Ultimate Blog Party headquarters if you want to play along.

Be sure to join me on Thursday for my interview with Ian Lurie, co-author of Web Marketing All-in-One For Dummies.

Janice and Susan - just in case I'm asked which prizes I might like, here goes:

INTL 1 - Blog design
INTL 23 - Blog makeover
INTL 28 - Blog design
INTL 21 - Blog/Web ad pkg
INTL 65 - Business cards
INTL 63 - Earrings
INTL 5 - Hand embroidered journal cover
INTL 61 - $30 Amazon certificate
USC 15 - $20 Amazon certificate
INTL 30 - $15 Amazon certificate
INTL 60 - Secret Confessions of a Clean Freak

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 93 - Her Palm Stung But It Was Worth It

A very special hello today to Gautami Tripathy, who restarted the original Poetry Train when it got sidetracked. Many, many thanks! I hope you know how much that means to me.

Here is a found poem I crafted from a prose scene in one of my WIPs. Last week's poem introduced Scorpius from my dark fantasy story. Today's poem introduces Lady Elinor, whom Scorpius serves as Chamberlain of her keep. You can read an excerpt HERE.

Her Palm Stung But It Was Worth It

He just made it through the doorway
Into the Great Hall
A silver chalice sailed past his face
Bounced noisily onto the flagstones

Scorpius halted

The Master-at-Arms ducked
One arm shielding his face
Lady Elinor stood, knocking her chair over
“Rephrase that, Pahlmot.”

“I cannot recommend the Ball be held, my lady.”

Grabbing another goblet, she dashed
Its contents across the table
Into Pahlmot’s face. Scorpius caught the goblet
Square in the chest.

“The dragon sighting is confirmed. I saw it myself.”

“My guests have already set out.
They cannot backtrack now.”

Scorpius took a step forward. “My lady
The Master-at-Arms merely reports on developments.

As you requested.”

Pahlmot shot Scorpius a look of gratitude
Pulled himself up a little taller.
“I’ll continue to send patrols. Intercept
Guests we find and bring them to safety.”

Scorpius said.

Lady Elinor looked from one to the other
Her chest rose and fell rapidly
Pahlmot bowed stiffly. “If there is nothing further
My lady.”
She simply stared at the Master-at-Arms

Scorpius gave him the slightest of nods

Pahlmot backed away several paces
Turned to exit the hall
A slave picked up her chair
Lady Elinor sat as Scorpius began the

Long walk around the table to join her

Her chamberlain made his unhurried way towards her
For an employee in her household
He had an insufferable arrogance about him.
She wished very deeply he was one of her slaves

He and that stuffed-shirt Master-at-Arms

Their assumptions about what this
Dionysian Ball was really all about
The man had balls. Stepping in for
Pahlmot like that. Nearing her now

As though she wouldn't haul off and slap him

Across that perfect face of his. She waited
Till he sat in the chair beside her
The sound of it rang through the empty hall
Her palm stung, but it was worth it

For the hand print she’d left him

He took a moment to recover
Pulled his chair in
Looked her straight in the eye
His own danced with icy rebuke

His dark hair fell across his brow.
“Lady Elinor,” he said, his voice like silk
“You do have guests en route and
Alternate arrangements to make. I suggest

We address that.”

She reached for another goblet
Replacing the two she’d thrown
A slave filled it for her
And she sipped the dark wine

Entertainment. That’s what he thought of it

Goodness knows he must not suspect
What the nobles were truly up to
Why stage such an outrageous festival
If it wasn’t to distract everyone? Really –

Did handsome men have to be so thick?

“What is the point of throwing
Half of a Dionysian Ball?”
she asked
Petulantly, thinking to herself that
Half was better than none for their purposes

“You forget, my lady,” Scorpius said

“I promised you your debaucheries
Whether any guests showed up.”

A thrill erupted through her. Why would her
Chamberlain’s words give her

Such a reaction? “What did you

Mean by speaking for me
To the Master-at-Arms?”
she asked
Trying to get her mind off the image
Of Scorpius grabbing her for a forceful kiss

Where did that come from?

Scorpius took a breath before answering.
“Forgive me, my lady. I knew the
Urgency of his situation.”
“There is no excuse

For putting words in my mouth

Before another member of this household.”

She turned to look at him
Scorpius kept his head up but
Cast his gaze down. “My apologies.”

He swallowed and braced himself

Elinor’s heart beat painfully
She looked at her dark-haired, blue-eyed
Chamberlain. A delicious plan
Formed in her mind. A plan that

Surprised her by how quickly it excited

The deepest part of her.
“This keep is my home. I have no
Husband to help me run it. I have only
An endless betrothed. He’s been fighting in

Some battle or other far more than

He’s been inside these walls.”

She stared at Scorpius, willing him to
Meet her gaze. After a long moment
He looked up. She saw the dread

Lurking behind the bravado

“We will discuss the plans for the
Ball’s replacement now. But tonight
We will discuss how you will
Make it up to me - your insufferable behavior

Before the Master-at-Arms.”
Scorpius flushed

Though his face registered
Almost no change in expression.
She felt the thrill of recognition
At this discovery. Why had she not

Realized it before? He’d been here all along

Right under her nose.
“Yes, my lady,” he said, the sincere
Regret in his voice coursing through her
Like a drug. She had freed him from bondage

His gratitude made him ripe

For the kind of relationship
She liked best. A besotted chamberlain
Was precisely the ace she needed now
When dragons of all things threatened to

Pull apart a secret

Noble alliance built
Behind the scenes while
Fathers and husbands-to-be

Played at war

- Julia Smith, 2009

Ride the Poetry Train!

Friday, March 20, 2009

2009 Blog Improvement Project - 6 - Taking My New Social Media For a Test Drive

Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness nudges us to explore our chosen social media tools for our next improvement quest.

"Week 6 for the Blog Improvement Project is going to be pretty simple: trying out a new social media tool.

1. Pick out a new social media tool, or reacquaint yourself with a social media tool you already use. If you’re new, sign up and create an account.

(Check! I joined Twitter.)

Make sure to include your blog URL in your new profile so you can connect across social media platforms.

(Thanks to Cathy at Kittling: Books for mentioning Twitterfeed. That gave me instructions to link my blog to my Twitter page.)

2. Update your blog to include your new social media contact information.

(Check! I've got my tweets in my sidebar with a link taking you to my Twitter page.)

3. Spend the next three weeks actively using your new social media. For example, set a goal of tweets per day or how many comments you’ll leave on GoodReads reviews to make sure you give it a good shot.

(Check! I've just learned how to use the @ feature, which allows me to respond directly to a tweet from someone I follow or one of my followers.)

4. Don’t be afraid to connect with other people. Find authors, publishers, famous people, or bloggers that are 'bigger' than you and connect with them via social media. Don’t be intimidated, just try it!

(Check! At the moment I'm following 50 people, and 26 people are following me. High profile people I'm following on Twitter:
Gerard Butler - he's got 7599 followers
Stephen Colbert - 114,159 followers
Jon Stewart - 6931 followers
Kevin Smith - 115,411 followers
Seth MacFarlane - 13,167 followers
Seth Rogen - 10,386 followers
Ellen DeGeneres - 12,041 followers
Quentin Tarantino - 364 followers)

5. At the end of your three weeks using more social media, write up a post about how it worked for you. I’ll do another Social Media Carnival post at the end of March wrapping up what everyone learned." - Kim

So far, so good. I'm enjoying Twitter far more than I thought I would. It will be interesting to see if I notice any more traffic here at A Piece of My Mind in a couple of months.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - 98 - 13 Pictures from My Mom's and Sister's Trip to Cuba

- 1

The week before March Break, quite a few Caribbean resorts were selling off vacations before the rush. So my sister and mom grabbed at the deeply discounted chance and hopped on a plane bound for Cuba.

My sister kept her office buddies close by naming her little stretch of beach 'Reinsurance Accounting Emporium'.

- 2

Mom enjoys the shade on the gorgeous white sand beach on Cayo Coco, an island in a chain of islands along the coast of Cuba.

- 3

My sister Michelle salutes her boyfriend with his travel mug, which she took along with her. Have coffee, will travel.

- 4

This trip was just what the doctor ordered! In fact, for my mom this vacation was a special treat - as someone with environmental illness, she has not been well enough to go on a trip like this for about 15 years.

- 5

My sister, my mom and I all have chemical sensitivities as well as regular allergies. My sister and I also have asthma. We've all been treated at a forward-thinking allergy clinic here in Nova Scotia, which has helped all of us to better health than we've enjoyed in ages. Both Mom and Michelle found their resort experience to be extremely easy as far as allergies were concerned. Their heaviest exposures were at the Cuban airport (tobacco smoke - tons of it) and on the plane (jet fuel.)

- 6

Americans may be puzzled about Canadians' tendency to flock to Cuba when the US enforces a trade embargo against it. Apparently 100,000 to 200,000 Americans visit Cuba every year by travelling through a third-party country, such as Canada or Mexico.

Canada and Europe have no such prohibitions against Cuba. In fact, I would say that it's one of the more attractive qualities about Cuba for Canadians. This may or may not come as a surprise to my American friends, but an essential part of the Canadian identity is being unlike Americans.

This stems from being a former colony of Britain, while remaining loyal to the crown during the American War for Independence. What did it mean to be a Canadian? Well, we weren't British any longer. And we certainly weren't going along with that radical lot down south (the States.) So if an American did A, Canadians did B - just to be not-American. It's an old habit that has never died.

- 7

Mom suddenly finds herself in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

- 8

My sister does her best Christmas ornament impression.

- 9

This was their view from inside their villa looking onto their deck. Mom was amazed to be directly over the water with no omnipresent mold smell. It would be impossible to have a building over the water here in Nova Scotia and not have mold.

- 10

Mom peeks out of the window of their villa, built right on stilts in the lagoon. The Krystal Laguna Resort also has hotel facilities and is a huge, sprawling all-inclusive resort.

- 11

Michelle relaxes in the shade of a palm and gets down to some serious reading.

- 12

Mom gets ready for some fine dining. She and Michelle brought loads of essentials for the Cuban staff, which is the custom for travellers to Cuba. Every day they left the hotel staff little gift bags containing soap, toothpaste, hand cream, deodorant - all the things that money can't buy for regular Cubans.

- 13

Michelle enjoys a Cuban blossom passed to her by one of the resort staff.

Wordless Wednesday - 91

Photo by Michelle M. Phillips

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Through the Opera Glasses - 8 - The 180° Rule

For today's Through the Opera Glasses, I've got a definition for you from the world of film making.

All conventional films are shot following the 180° Rule.

"180° Rule - This is the rule which states that if two people are filmed in a sequence there is an invisible line between them and the camera should only be positioned anywhere within the 180 degrees on one side of the line. Crossing the line results in a certain particular jump, where it appears that the two people suddenly switched places." - Joel Schlemowitz, Glossary of Film Terms

Diagram illustration from Animatedbuzz

To show you how the 180° Rule works to give the viewers a sense of place where we can watch the events of the story unfold, here are three shots taken from Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education.

Here we have an establishing shot, which places us in a sports field and gives us our 180° line which joins the two boys in the center of the shot.

The next two shots are called shot reverse shot. They place one character in the sight line of the other, while staying on the same side of the invisible line.

This boy appeared in the establishing shot on the right side of the screen. Therefore, in a shot reverse shot sequence, he will remain on the right side of the screen.

In the second shot, the brown-shirted boy is actually in the center of the frame, but in the over-the-shoulder shot that follows, he remains on the right side. If this line is crossed by the filmmaker, it's very disorienting for the audience. The only time this would occur would be in an experimental film, or a film spoofing the 180° Rule on purpose.

Since breaking the line draws attention to the film as a film - which pulls the viewer out of the story - the decision to do this would be a stylistic one.

I'll be exploring more arts-related terminology subjects in future Through the Opera Glasses posts. Let me know if there's anything you've always wondered about, and I'll look into it for you.