Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weekend Mishmash: Mark Twain's Birthday

My thirty-third birthday is tomorrow. According to my mom, I was born at 10:21 a.m. in Metairie – a suburb of New Orleans – in a place once called Lakeside Hospital. I know this because, every year, she calls me precisely at 10:21 a.m. – just to sing me a bar of the “Happy Birthday” song. I must admit that, despite the fact that I’m in my thirties, I have yet to tire of this tradition. Actually, I find it kind of sweet.

Still, I have mixed feelings about birthdays. (Of course, who past the age of twenty-one doesn’t?) As each year passes, I’m often forced to reconsider my goals, to once again reassess my dream of being a published novelist, and to make the sad realization that I’m not much closer to achieving it than I was a year ago.

But life isn’t about such lofty ambitions. It’s about all the little moments – the memorable experiences that fill each day – and today was filled with plenty. Dan and I drove from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to spend the morning with my teeny-tiny grandmother and the afternoon with my mom. Following a Thanksgiving-like lunch at mom’s house (complete with smoked ham, cranberry sauce, spinach casserole, potato salad, and pumpkin pie), Mom, Dan, and I saw the 3-D presentation of A Christmas Carol, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And then, as with any birthday weekend in my family, more food was involved.

So, despite my misgivings about getting older, I’m grateful for what I have: a loving family, good friends, and an awesome kitty (who was in fact last year’s birthday “present”). Besides, it just so happens that I was born on Mark Twain’s birthday – which I like to consider a positive omen that my fiction-writing dreams will someday come true. Hey, whatever works, right?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Fantasies: Holiday Movies

While I dabbled on the computer today, working on my latest American Nomad post and waiting for Dan to come home from his mad Black Friday dash to Best Buy, I could sense, in my post-Thanksgiving haze, that the Christmas season was well on its way. So, to get fully into the spirit, I watched two of my favorite “holiday” movies: Better Off Dead (1985) and While You Were Sleeping (1995), both of which never fail to bring a grin to my face and to make me wish for all the Christmas trimmings posthaste.

So, what are some of your favorite holiday movies?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday: Giving Belated Thanks

By now, you might have guessed that I’m a bit of a procrastinator. I’m often late with my blog posts – and I have no good excuse, except that I’m juggling a few too many things at any given time – and I’m not certain that I’d have it any other way.

So, in classic procrastinating fashion, I’m offering thanks after Thanksgiving dinner – not before. But my thanks are nonetheless heartfelt. No matter the pitfalls, deadlines, and doubts that might plague me at times, there are several people (and other entities) for whom I’ll be forever grateful.

Thanks to my folks and the rest of my family for taking care of me when I was young, for ensuring that I was warm and fed and well educated, and for believing in my dream to be a published writer.

Thanks to my in-laws for welcoming me into the Martone fold – and for encouraging my writing, too. My mom-in-law is especially supportive of my travel guides... and my current novel.

Thanks to the teachers and editors who have taught me and believed in me. Their support has meant more than they’ll ever know.

Thanks to all the friends (in-person and online) who have touched me, made me laugh, enriched my life, and supported me every step of the way.

Thanks to Bogie, Pawws, Gypsy, and Ruby – the animals that have made an incredibly positive difference in my life.

Thanks to the universe (or genetics?) for instilling within me enough creativity, intelligence, and ambition to pursue this crazy little thing called publishing.

And thanks, of course, to the hubby. I’ve thanked him on this blog before, but it can’t hurt to thank him again! I love you, Danny (I mean, Mr. Potato Head), and I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Whimsical Wednesday: Sudoku

As expressed on previous Whimsical Wednesdays, I’m a huge fan of puzzles and games – many of which I first embraced as a child. Together, my mom and I assembled jigsaw puzzles, played silly games like Pass the Pigs, shared riddles, even passed our on-the-road time with auto bingo. To this day, we both share a passion for word games – from Jumble to acrostics to crosswords. But admittedly, she’s mystified by my love for number-based logic games like Sudoku – the ever-present diversion in newspapers across the country. What Mom finds tedious and time-wasting, however, I find curious and challenging.

The way it works is fairly simple. Each game is composed of nine grids, each of which contains nine spaces, where the numerals 1-9 must be placed in a precise order, so that each grid, each horizontal line, and each vertical line include all nine digits (with no repeats and no missing numerals). What makes it simple or tricky depends on how many numerals (and their positions) with which the game begins.

It probably sounds a little boring, but I find it soothing – so much so that Dan even bought me an electronic version a few years ago: The New York Times’ Touch Sudoku from Excalibur Electronics, Inc. Filled with nearly a thousand different combinations, this handy little gadget has followed me around the country for three years now, and I’m only on Game #253. So, it seems that I’ll be playing Sudoku on quiet, rainy afternoons for many years to come.

So, what are your favorite pastimes? Not active ones, but the kind that challenge the mind and soothe the spirit?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Travels: Fishing in Louisianian Waters

Nicknamed “a sportsman’s paradise,” Louisiana lures all manner of outdoor enthusiasts, not the least of which are fishermen – or, in my case, fisherwomen. Despite the incredible loss of wetlands – due to hurricanes, oil and gas production in the gulf, and dams along the Mississippi River – the waters of southeastern Louisiana still boast an abundant supply of seafood, including speckled trout and redfish (my family's catch of choice).

So today, my father – an avid fisherman – invited me and Dan to join him on a fishing excursion in the marshes near the Pearl River, which separates Louisiana from Mississippi. According to the local weather report, it was supposed to be an ideal day for fishing: sunny and mild, with low wind. But, if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that meteorology is an inexact science – fraught with percentages that can lean just as easily to rain as to sunshine.

Needless to say, the weather reports were less than accurate. Although the day began promisingly enough – cold but clear at six a.m., when we arrived at Dad’s house – we knew we were in trouble by the time we hit open water. The sun hid behind gray clouds for much of the day, and the wind was stronger than predicted, creating choppy seas and muddy waters that chased the fish away. In fact, it was the least productive fishing trip that I’ve ever experienced with my dad. He and Dan each caught a redfish too small to keep (per statewide size restrictions), while I caught nothing more than weeds. By the fourth time I’d snagged the marsh, my dear father and hubby started calling me “Weed Woman,” and Dad even told my stepmother (via cell phone), “Laura keeps throwing in the weeds. Guess she’s trying to catch an alligator.” Very funny, Dad.

But, seriously, despite the nonexistent yield, the scary waves at one point, and the fact that I was dressed for winter most of the time, all three of us enjoyed being out on the water, where peace and relative quiet reigned. As the old saying goes, “A bad day fishing beats a good day working,” and while Dad – who is accustomed to fruitful fishing trips (and has a freezer full of fish to prove it) – doesn’t agree with the saying, I happen to think it’s true. Even with the gray clouds and biting wind, it was a lovely, relaxing day, spent with two of my favorite people in all the world. And, hey, at least the gnats were as elusive as the fish.

Monday Munchies: Turtles Revisited

Last Monday, I shared my passion for turtles – not the animal, of course... the cookie. The yummy chocolate-pecan-shortbread concoction that McKenzie’s, the now-defunct New Orleans bakery, used to make. Since McKenzie’s closed in 2001, I’ve done everything I can to reproduce the experience of savoring their turtles – from purchasing ill-advised cookbooks to trying the local Rouses’ supermarket version. But to no avail.

Then, last week, my good pal Becky suggested that I try Tastee Donuts, a local donut shop that has apparently adopted some of McKenzie’s old recipes. So, yesterday, Dan and I located a Tastee Donuts in Metairie (just outside New Orleans), and we were thrilled to see a sign in the window, promising McKenzie’s cinnamon rolls. Where there were cinnamon rolls, there were bound to be turtles... right? Finally, Dan would be able to sample the delicacies about which I’ve been blathering for years.

But, alas, we soon discovered that the turtles on display had not been prepared from McKenzie’s recipe. They were instead Tastee Donuts’ own brand – and they were fairly unimpressive. In fact, as we each scarfed one down in the parking lot (yes, we were that desperate!), we quickly decided that they were worse than Rouses’ turtles. But then again, the jelly donut I also purchased wasn’t half-bad – a jelly donut that I’d like to dedicate to my pal Christine (she knows why!).

Well, needless to say, the search is still on... So, what about you? Do you miss any particularly elusive childhood treats? If so, what?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekend Mishmash: Must Be Awards Season

It’s been over a week since my film fest madness, and I still feel as though I’m playing catch-up. Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that we’ve moved – yet again.

Nevertheless, in honor of last weekend’s closing night awards ceremony, I think it’s high time that I pass along a couple of blogalicious awards, which two online pals were generous enough to pass along to me.

First up is the Humane Award, which Deb L. Strange bestowed upon me in late October. I’m not certain that I deserve such an award – especially since my blog focuses on the people, places, and entities that interest or inspire me, and not on humanity or causes or the “big things” in life. But I feel grateful nonetheless, so thanks, Deb!

Now, per the instructions of this award, I believe I’m supposed to accept and post it to my blog – done! – then link to the person who gave it to me – done! – then pass it to five other worthy bloggers. This part is a little tougher. Since entering the blogosphere this April, I’ve discovered a wealth of wonderful blogs out there, many of which I’ve already honored with previous awards and many more that I’d like to call attention to. But, after much thought, I’ve decided to honor the following bloggers for their remarkable humaneness, which, for the purposes of this award, I took to mean their compassion, charity, grace, and helpfulness toward their readers and fellow bloggers:

- Jennifer J. Bennett of, well, Jennifer J. Bennett, who generously offers book reviews, writing contests, and more

- Tabitha Bird of Through My Eyes, for her inspirational posts and poems

- Roni England of Fiction Groupie, who has inspired and informed countless writers with her thought-provoking posts

- Donna Hole of, well, Donna Hole, who loves to share her online finds with others

- Susan R. Mills of A Walk in My Shoes, whose fun but informative posts always give writers food for thought

Thanks to all of you for filling my head and brightening my days.

The second award that I’ve recently received is the Honest Scrap Award, given to me earlier this month by Donna Hole. And, as with the above award, I feel incredibly grateful for the nod.

For this one, I’m supposed to accept and post it to my blog – done! – then link to the person who gave it to me – done! – then pass it to five other worthy bloggers. Although I’d love to honor a wide array of blogs, I’ve decided to obey the rules and only choose five – the ones that I count on most for their courageous honesty:

- Bane of Anubis of Bane’s Blogging Blues

- Bridget Chicoine of J.B. Chicoine...Aspiring Novelist

- Steph Damore of Stephanie Damore

- Becky Johnson of Becky’s Blabber

- Deb L. Strange of Ranch Girl Ramblings

The “Honest Scrap Award” has an added requirement – to share five personal tidbits about myself – so in the interest of keeping this short, here goes:

1. My favorite color is green – from the shade of trees to the hue of mint chocolate ice cream – which would be fine, except that Dan’s favorite color is also green, meaning that we often fight over things like toothbrushes and mini-golf balls.

2. Recently, it occurred to me that, as a travel writer, I have the worst sense of direction and the strongest susceptibility to motion sickness of anyone I know. Perhaps I should switch careers.

3. Given my sensitivity to heat, aversion to spicy foods, and lack of an accent, Dan often jokes that I’m the worst New Orleanian ever. He could be right.

4. I once dated a boy who had two pythons, a tarantula, a scorpion, and an iguana, all of which ended up on me at one time or another. I AM a horror aficionado, remember?

5. I’ve had a crush on Robert Duvall ever since I was twelve, when he played Gus in Lonesome Dove, a television mini-series that has sadly not held up through the years.

For more goofy tidbits about me, check out this previous post. And feel free to ask me whatever you want. Yes, that’s right, I said whatever – although I can’t promise full disclosure, I’ll try hard to earn my “Honest Scrap Award.” Honest.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Fantasies: A Mild Case of Twitardedness

If you’ve been paying any attention to television ads, movie trailers, and Internet chatter, then you know that New Moon, the second installment of The Twilight Saga, was released to theaters today. So, in honor of my hubby, Dan, and my newfound pal Bane – two of the most vocal Twilight curmudgeons I’ve ever met – I feel that I should admit something: Despite the fact that I read all four of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga novels, I’m not the biggest fan of her work, and I thought the first film was, well, abhorrent – with the two onscreen lovers lacking any ounce of chemistry they might have had in the books – and yet, and yet, I find myself strangely curious about the sequel.

So, I have two questions: First, does that make me crazy and/or lemming-like (yes, Dan and Bane, I’m talking to you), and second, has anyone seen the movie yet (ahem, Steph D.)? Well? How bad was it?

P.S. If you haven’t already, check out Bane’s nod to Twilight.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday: Ever on the Move

You’re not going to believe this, but we’re moving again. Yes, it’s unbelievable, but absolutely true.

When we first arrived in the New Orleans area last month, the film festival was only a few weeks away, and we didn’t have much time to look for a place. So, we had to settle for a temporary spot just outside the city, while we prepared for the festival. But, now that the festival is over, it’s time to relocate to a better locale in the French Quarter – which, happily, we found yesterday.

Of course, with how often we come to New Orleans, you’d think we’d already have a permanent apartment, but you’d be wrong. Goodness knows it would make life easier if we didn’t always have to search for a sublet every time we ventured into town, but we have yet to find a permanent situation – mainly because we’re always slammed with festival duties. Hopefully, that’ll change this spring, when we return from our adventures – or should I say misadventures? – in the Florida Keys and Los Angeles. But, for now, we’ll be moving – tomorrow. Won’t the kitty be pleased?

Although, as I’ve previously reported, I’m not a fan of packing and unpacking, I do love the fact that Dan and I have called so many places home. In the decade we’ve been together, we’ve lived in over twenty different domiciles, from a flat in the English countryside to a roving RV to a French Quarter apartment with a lovely courtyard (pictured here with Dan, my stepmom, and my dad). It might sound crazy to others – including our parents – but we truly embrace our nomadic lifestyle. The scenery is ever evolving, and boredom is never an issue for us. As a bonus, when the apocalypse comes in 2012, we’ll be well versed in hitting the road. Of course, if the latest Roland Emmerich flick has it right, there won’t be anywhere to run – at least here in America.

Whimsical Wednesday: Slow But Steady Beta

I’m obviously a day behind with my blogging schedule, but I simply can’t skip this week’s “Whimsical Wednesday.” This is usually the day that I muse about my non-food/travel/movie interests, so I thought I’d chat briefly about beta-reading – a newly adopted interest in recent months.

Over the summer and after much soul-searching, I realized that my first novel, Hollow Souls, was far from ready to be seen by agents, editors, and other publishing professionals. Although my husband was confident that I could revamp the book on my own, I felt that it was necessary to have a few fellow writers look at it first. Not only does that seem to be standard operating procedure for writers these days, but I had also reached a point where I could no longer see my story clearly. In other words, I knew it needed to change, but I didn’t know how to change it – and I thought other writers might be able to see what I no longer could.

Thus, I embarked on the beta-reading process, and so far, five amazing people – Weronika, Bridget, Kristi, Elaine, and Chazley – have read my novel. While their comments have made it clear that I have a long road ahead, I’ll be forever grateful to each of them for their perspective and insight.

My only regret in this is that I have yet to return the favor to all but one (Bridget), and I feel incredibly guilty about it. To be fair, two of my betas – Weronika and Kristi – aren’t ready for me yet, but I definitely owe the other two a critique, not to mention others (like Bane and Mary Jo) whose work I’ve promised to read. I’m not, as a rule, such a slow reader – nor are these extremely varied manuscripts a chore to read (‘cause they’re not!) – I just never expected to have so much to do this fall. Between moving from Michigan, maintaining four blogs, hosting a film festival in New Orleans, and working on my latest travel-writing gig, I’ve literally been “meeting myself coming and going,” as Maw-Maw Deanne would say (yes, that’s right, we call our grandfolks “maw-maws” and “paw-paws” down here).

But I plan to spend the next week attempting to finish my beta-reading duties, and I’m really excited about it. For one thing, it’ll delay my own revision a bit longer, and for another thing, while I know that I’ll learn a lot from my beta readers’ suggestions, I find that I’m learning even more from reading their stories, which range from literary fiction to middle-grade fantasy. Though I have no doubt that they’re all miffed with me for taking so long, I hope they know that it’s my busy life that’s gotten in the way – not their talents – and that I’m really enjoying (and grateful for) this peek into their worlds. I’ve learned so much already – about plot, dialogue, showing versus telling, etc. – and I only hope that my own insights will be worth the wait.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday Travels: Embrace Vs. Erase

The only drawback to hosting a film festival in the Big Easy is that some of the visiting filmmakers – especially those who have never been here before – tend to go a little crazy in this round-the-clock party town. Don’t get me wrong – for the most part, they seem to have a good time. But there’s always one or two individuals who cross the line between embracing the lively vibe of New Orleans and erasing any memory of their experience.

This year was, of course, no different. Without mentioning any names, I’ll just say that there were several out-of-towners who drank more beer, hard liquor, and perhaps other substances than I could ever drink in a week, much less a weekend – and they were looking pretty ragged by Sunday night.

I just hope that the next time they visit, they remember that there’s more to this city than its well-stocked bars and drive-thru daiquiri shops. Sometimes, I’m grateful that it takes me little more than an Abita beer to feel nice and relaxed... but then again, I am a bit of a lightweight.

So, have you ever taken embracing another culture a little too far? Don’t worry – I won’t tell anyone.

Monday Munchies: Scrumptious Turtles

In my last post, I mentioned having turtles during the opening night party of the Big Easy International Film Festival. Now, while turtle soup, a popular New Orleans delicacy, is actually made from real turtles, the kind of “turtles” to which I was referring are altogether different. Essentially thick shortbread cookies, turtles are embedded with pecans and topped with large dollops of fudge – which are then topped with more pecans. Truly, a perfect cookie.

But I must admit – as delicious as Rouses’ turtles are (that’s a regional supermarket, by the way), they just don’t compare to the “deliciousity” (okay, so I made that up) of the turtles that were once prepared by a local bakery chain known as McKenzie’s. Ah, McKenzie’s, how sweet you were. For over seven decades, McKenzie’s was perhaps the most popular bakery in New Orleans. In 2001, however, McKenzie’s closed its doors forever, taking its much-loved recipes with it.

I was living in Los Angeles at the time, so I only discovered this sad fact upon returning for a family visit. In desperation, I bought a cookbook called New Orleans Classic Desserts: Recipes from Favorite Restaurants by Kit Wohl – simply because it promised to contain an authentic McKenzie’s turtle recipe. That’ll teach me to purchase a cookbook before looking up consumer reviews.

Now, admittedly, I’m not the best of cooks, but I follow baking recipes just fine. So, imagine my surprise when my beloved turtles ended up looking like flat little chewy cookies that, while somewhat edible, had no resemblance to the McKenzie’s turtles of old. Boy, did my dad have a field day with that one! I knew I shouldn’t have promised that I’d do the dessert for that particular family meal. Or, at the very least, I should’ve looked up the book reviews first – ‘cause apparently I wasn’t the only one who had purchased the cookbook specifically for the turtles recipe, and I was certainly not the only one who had been burned by the lack of quality control.

As one reviewer, a former New Orleanian, wrote, “Unfortunately, the McKenzie's Turtle Cookies are lacking a few key ingredients. McKenzie's Turtle Cookies were a fond memory of my childhood, which I was hoping to share with my children. As written, the recipe yields a mess of flour. With a little research: Baking soda, Salt, Brown sugar, more butter, and less flour fix the recipe right up. After this disaster, I will have to confirm the rest of the recipes before I set foot in the kitchen. My mother hated cookbooks that were not kitchen tested before publication. My mother and I now have something in common. The pictures are lovely though.”

Although a newer version of the cookbook apparently contains a revised version of this recipe, I’m still skeptical to say the least. So, the moral of this sad little tale is fourfold:

1. Enjoy yummy treats – especially local delicacies – while you have access to them.
2. Do not, whatever you do, purchase that Kit Wohl cookbook unless you have the confirmation of other trustworthy gourmands.
3. Appreciate what you do have – like Rouses’ turtles – even if they are slightly less than the ones you remember.
4. Commiserate with others whenever possible. Joining the “I Miss McKenzie’s Bakery” fan page on Facebook certainly soothes my sadness a bit and revives some wonderful childhood memories, especially the times my mom and I would gorge ourselves on turtles while watching our favorite TV shows.

But, seriously, if anyone knows how to make those little McKenzie’s balls of goodness, you know where I live.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Weekend Mishmash: Film Fest Wrap-up

Alright, alright, so I’m WAY late with my “Weekend Mishmash” post. As you might have noticed, it’s already Monday night, and according to the rules of my blog, I should be focused on food right about now... but alas, I’m still playing catch-up after a crazy film festival weekend. The good news, however, is that Dan and I survived. Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo!

Despite the stress of technical difficulties, no-show volunteers, and low attendance during the televised Saints game (darn you, football!), I managed to “enjoy all the moments,” as my pal Deb suggested. Here are the top ten reasons that I’m happy to have co-hosted the third annual Big Easy International Film Festival (even though I missed all my blogging friends amid the hullabaloo):

1. Thursday night’s party at the Kerry Irish Pub was a lot of fun. Busy, yes, but I was still able to hear some terrific acoustic music (thanks, Chip Wilson!), meet several friendly out-of-town filmmakers, and snatch a mini-muffuletta and a couple “turtles” (shortbread cookies with pecans and a dollop of fudge) from the dwindling food spread.

2. My father and stepmother attended the party, while my mother brought a friend to see a few films on Saturday. It was sweet of my folks to support our festival, and I was happy that they were able to see us in our element. So, thanks, Mom and Dad!

3. Our volunteers were awesome, as always. I loved catching up with those from previous years – like wacky Gary, affectionately known as the “dancing doctor” – and I was delighted to meet new folks, too – such as Tina, the model-turned-chef.

4. The filmmakers seemed to have a wonderful time at the festival – enjoying the nightlife of New Orleans, encountering new filmmaking pals, and getting the chance to share their stories with others. I, too, loved meeting such diverse artists from all around the country – including places like Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York, Baltimore, and Austin.

5. As usual, the post-screening question-and-answer sessions were enlightening and hilarious. Filmgoers heard funny behind-the-scenes tales, learned a little bit about filmmaking, and discovered the inspiration behind many of the films on display.

6. Dan and I were both exceedingly proud of the overall line-up. Ranging from twisted dark comedy shorts to engaging feature-length documentaries, the list of quality films seemed to impress the filmmakers as well as the filmgoers. We grinned every time someone told us how much he/she was enjoying the experience, but we couldn’t help but wonder... how come ALL festivals don’t present such equally stupendous films?

7. Although one feature – an amazing film called How I Got Lost – only attracted a handful of cinema buffs (darn you, Saints!), most of the screenings had at least thirty folks in the theater, and three of them – Trapped in Katrina, The Magistical, and King of Oak Street – lured well over a hundred people each.

8. Sunday night was a great relief. Following the brief awards ceremony, Dan and I packed up the festival paraphernalia and headed into the Quarter (and, later, the Marigny) to celebrate with the attendees, many of whom expressed admiration for our event. Despite its small size and intimate vibe, it’s well organized as festivals go, and we’re apparently more accessible and active than most festival directors – another reason to feel proud.

9. The theater staff – in particular, Brian, Jack, and David – were fun and accommodating, which definitely helped to minimize the stress of this whirlwind event.

10. I must admit, too, that I was grateful to David, who gave me, Dan, and the volunteers all the free popcorn and soda we could stomach. Although I’m paying for it now, I was more than happy at the time!

P.S. Isn’t it just like me to begin and end a post with a shot of food? Guess I honored "Monday Munchies" after all. Hehehe.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday Fantasies: The Big Easy Begins!

Okay, so I’m a little late with Friday’s post. Like, oops, it’s already Saturday. Well, that’s what happens during a hectic film fest weekend. The hours and days begin to melt together, and suddenly, it’s Monday. Wait, is it Monday? ‘Cause that would be kinda cool. I mean, uh, the fest is awesome – not exhausting or harrowing at all. I never want it to end. Honest.

But seriously, folks, the 2009 Big Easy International Film Festival is turning out to be a pretty cool event. Although we experienced some technical difficulties during tonight’s third (and final) screening, the first two films of the night – My McDiet and Trapped in Katrina – came off pretty well, our post-screening question-and-answer sessions were enlightening, and one audience boasted nearly hundred moviegoers, which isn’t bad for a young festival like ours.

I’m pooped, of course, but elated that two days are behind us. Of course, there are still two days left, so I should probably toddle off to bed. When the dust has settled, I’ll be happy to share my misadventures in the world of indie cinema. But, for now, let me just say... Happy Weekend, everyone!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday: What's Success Anyhow?

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I was thinking earlier today about the nature of success. What is it exactly? What does it mean to succeed at one’s dreams?

Okay, so, Dan hopes to win an Oscar for a film that he will someday write and/or direct, while I dream of earning a Pulitzer Prize for my writing... So, what could happen if we eventually achieve such goals? Would that be the pinnacle of our success? What does it mean to strive for something, and what happens when one achieves it? Is that it? Is there anything to crave for beyond that? And what does it mean if one never attains such goals? That success will forever be out of reach?

Despite our ambitions (however lofty they might seem), I believe it’s healthier to think of life as a series of little successes, instead of always striving for one big success that might only leave us disappointed.

I was musing about such things as I prepared for the opening night party of our film fest tonight – and I thought about it again several hours later, once the filmmakers and volunteers had left the Kerry for the night. Remembering the smiling faces, the energetic atmosphere, and the way my hubby looked as he chatted with our guests – many of whom had come from faraway towns and cities, and some of whom were getting all they could out of the Big Easy’s partying culture (if you know what I mean) – I felt an incredible sense of pride. This will be our eighth film festival weekend as co-directors – and even if our ultimate goals, such as having a film theatrically distributed or a novel traditionally published, are far in the future – we’ll always have this weekend, this little success (if all goes smoothly, of course), and that’s enough for now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Whimsical Wednesday: Making Movies

Dan’s away at the moment, running last-minute errands for our film festival, which (yikes!) kicks off tomorrow with an opening night party at the Kerry Irish Pub in the French Quarter. So, I’m using this time to write a quick post for “Whimsical Wednesday” – ‘cause heaven forbid I actually give up blogging for a week (wink). I have so much left to do in preparation for this weekend’s festival that I really have no business adding this blog to the list – which is exactly what Dan would say if he were here... so thank goodness he isn’t (sorry, honey). I mean, come on, it’s bad enough that I haven’t yet visited anyone else’s blog today (my sincere apologies for that, folks) – the least I can do is keep up with my own little blog.

Anyway, enough blathering. In celebration of the third annual Big Easy International Film Festival, I thought I’d set the record straight. You see, many of the filmmakers and audience members that have participated in our film fests over the years are surprised to learn that, as co-directors, Dan and I are more than just administrative types behind the scenes. Actually, we’re both cinema lovers from way back – having studied film in our respective colleges, sold a horror screenplay together, and dabbled in filmmaking ourselves – such as the time we co-wrote and co-produced an irreverent dark comedy (that shall remain nameless for the moment), which I then starred in (out of desperation) and he directed. The experience was, on the whole, educational – but the outcome was rather dreadful, not to mention the fact that we had a falling-out with a good friend during the process (a fact that still doesn’t sit well with me, even after seven years).

A few years after that, we co-produced a documentary about a treasure-hunting friend on South Padre Island. Although that project also didn’t go as planned, I’m still proud of us for seeing it through – and if you’re listening, honey, I’m still hopeful that we’ll soon produce something we can be proud of. After all, we have at least four co-written screenplays just itching to be made. And that lottery ticket will come in someday, right? In the meantime, we’ll continue to help other filmmakers share their stories with the world. Just know that we’re both more than festival directors. Making movies together is in fact our dream, too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Travels: New Orleans Newbies

I absolutely love being from New Orleans. Even with all of the city's problems – crime, poverty, poor schools, the potential for hurricanes – there’s no place like her on Earth. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but when I was a little girl, I used to pretend that I was talking to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show about my illustrious novel-writing and filmmaking career – and the part of my crazy fantasy that always tickled me the most was when I confessed where I grew up. Because, let’s face it, I could never run out of positive things to say about this multifaceted town: the zydeco and blues music, the fresh seafood and Creole cuisine, the historic architecture, the atmospheric swamps and cemeteries, the laidback vibe, the lively festivals... the list could go on and on.

That’s why a part of me is always envious of the out-of-town filmmakers who attend the Big Easy International Film Festival, which will be happening later this week. During the first two years of the event – and even with this year, too – many of the visiting filmmakers have either rarely seen or never been to the Crescent City. To be honest, while many of them come to view their films with an audience, I have no doubt that some use this cinematic event as an excuse to explore New Orleans. And, although I love knowing this incredible city – and feeling her sights, sounds, and smells in my blood – I sometimes wish that I could experience her magic and atmosphere for the first time, instead of being nurtured by her unique character since the womb. After all, I was an unborn child, in my mother’s belly, when I experienced my first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. So, it’s safe to say that I was a native New Orleanian from the get-go.

Which place do you wish you could experience for the first time?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Munchies: Popcorn!

As you probably know by now, the Big Easy International Film Festival is happening this week (Thursday to Sunday), and because the hubby and I are co-directors of this third annual event, we’ll be very busy indeed. In fact, to say we’re feeling harried right about now would be an understatement. From preparing ballots and badges to organizing films and programs to making last-minute calls to our volunteers, our to-do list is longer than my right and left arms combined.

Given such craziness, I should probably hang up my blogging hat this week – as my hubby would prefer me to do – but I can’t... seem... to pull... myself away. So, as a compromise, I’ll be offering shorter posts this week – all movie-related, of course.

For “Monday Munchies,” and in honor of the film fest, I’d like to mention my favorite movie snack. As if you couldn’t guess. I’ll give you a hint – it’s yellow and fluffy and salty and surely less fattening at home than in the theater. Yep, that’s right. Popcorn! In fact, I crave it so much that I’m beginning to think that I enjoy movie night just for the excuse it offers to stuff myself with those yummy (overpriced) kernels – preferably without gooey butter. Just the salt, ma'am. Just the salt.

So, what about you? What’s your favorite movie snack?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekend Mishmash: Five Fabulous Words

Apparently, there’s a new trend drifting through the blogosphere – that of creating a post around five unique words, offered by a fellow blogger. Well, yesterday, my good pal Deb L. Strange gave me five intriguing words: treasure, peace, meatball, surf, and memory. According to Deb, “you just work the five words into a post, any way you want. Some people do paragraphs for each, or a short story, a poem – whatever you like!”

Since I’m not much of a poet, I thought I’d share an edited part of my WIP, Hollow Souls. Ironically, the five above words all appear in the epilogue that has since been cut from my revision. After reading it, I’m sure you’ll understand why.

Just for fun – since it’s never going to see the light of day – I’ve decided to rewrite it in first person, from the perspective of Olivia Harper, my protagonist’s daughter:

MEMORY is seductive. It can creep in with the night, masked by dreams or, if dinner’s been eaten too late, by nightmares instead. It can find me asleep in the daytime, when my head has emptied its cares and left me open to influence. Triggered by the smallest of things: a subtle wink, a whirring helicopter, the fragrant sweet olive branch. A series of related notions, growing ever more complex, ever more remote from the initial thought, a sort of free-association train.

Memories often hide within the deep recesses of my mind, sometimes staying buried for years. They can catch me off guard and envelop my mind. Most of the time, though, memories flit in and out, only pausing to ignite their most poignant emotions.

The aroma of brewing coffee recalls the old percolator in my beloved piano teacher’s kitchen. Spying a father fishing with his child makes me long for Dad’s old boat. The electric atmosphere after a thunderstorm reminds me of my tenth spring, when I followed Beverly onto the dewy levee, to shoot off the firecrackers we’d found in her attic. Waves crash against the shore, and my cheeks burn with the memory of that last summer in New Orleans, when Nicholas told me how hard long-distance was, how it wasn’t me who’d changed, but him.

Almost always, memories are untrue, with at least a trace of misinterpretation. The years between can manipulate such events, making them seem more gleeful, more tragic, more crucial than they truly were. Hindsight often seems like foresight remembered, instead of what it really is: wisdom learned after years of inner struggle. Often, my mind leads me along hazy passages, offering mere glimpses of the past and letting my imagination fill in the rest.

So it’s always been with the tale of Ruby Hollow, a bedtime story unveiled in the sanctity of my first bedroom, recalled many times afterward, kept bottled inside for three decades. I wonder if I still see the dim tunnels clearly or if they’ve attained a mythical nature over the years. Though my present life on the island utterly completes me, I often find myself reflecting on that strange underworld, and I have to reread Jesse’s old letters or my mother’s infrequent notes to see if the memory belongs to me or someone else.

As I stand on the beachside deck, collecting the limp seaweed and other debris that Hurricane Miranda has left in her wake, I gaze across the disheveled shore and into the clear blue sky, wiped as clean as my conscience now that I’ve shared the secret of the Hollow with someone else. Michael is out front, trying to repair a broken railing. The children are downstairs, tidying up the rec room where most of our overnight guests weathered the three-day storm.

It seems so quiet now that the house is no longer filled with a herd of people and animals. Although the roof is missing a few tiles, the attic has suffered some leakage, and the debris will fill innumerable trash bags, the house withstood the tempest, just as Michael promised. Even without phone and electricity, we all survived.

We had a gas range and plenty of candles, linens, flashlights, water jugs, and canned goods – not to mention one another. Despite our uncertainty, we all did our best to keep the laughter flowing. Daryl and Samantha told corny jokes. Joe regaled us with embellished TREASURE-hunting yarns. Alec and Jess, who hoped their RV would still be standing after the storm, even shared a few of their highway misadventures. We played board games, read books, sang songs, tossed ratty tennis balls to the dogs, and tried to forget how isolated we were.

Like a makeshift community, we pulled together during the storm, pitching in wherever we could. We rotated the duties of feeding the animals and taking the dogs outside, beneath the shelter of the second-floor deck, for their reluctant but necessary potty breaks. We even took turns in the kitchen to satisfy the hungry herd down below. I made a large pot of MEATBALLS and spaghetti that lasted through the first night.

I remember chopping two potent onions for the meal. Alec’s cat kept me company in the kitchen, crouching on a cushioned chair, not making a sound. As my eyes began to water from the minced, vaporous onions, I noticed, in the glow of a few lanterns, that the slender calico cat also had red, watery eyes. She looked so sweet and vulnerable sitting beneath the tabletop, clueless as to the cause of her suffering and too scared to abandon her post. I set down the knife and gently picked up the furry feline, carting her downstairs, past a heated Monopoly game, to an empty bedroom. It was moments like these that made the house feel like a remote, tight-knit commune, protected from the elements and the influence of the world – like a smaller version of Ruby Hollow itself.

Spying Buddy on the beach below, chasing a butterfly, I’m reminded of Charlie, the dog of my youth, and the last time I saw my mother, during a secret rendezvous five years ago. Ignoring my task on the messy deck, I descend the sloping boardwalk to the beach. I sit on the soggy sand and hug my knees. As I gaze across the gently foaming SURF, I think about my mother, about her one-way trip to Kentucky over two decades ago, and the legacy of happiness she passed to me...


I awaken on the beach. I’m lying on my side, my face peppered with sand. Buddy circles me, whimpering. My recollections must have put me to sleep.

“Mommy?” Samantha appears, barefoot and worried.

I sit up, wiping the sand from my cheek. I’m not surprised by my inadvertent nap. I haven’t rested much in the past few days. “What is it, baby?”

“I think we have fleas. And Macy ate most of the Bible.”

“What are you talking about?”

Daryl appears on the dune. “The rec room’s a mess. We found a few chewed-up books under the sofa. The Bible, a couple books about famous artists, a rare one from the 1800s, and something by the Dalai Lama. They all had dog slobber on them. And it wasn’t Buddy’s.”

I look at Buddy and chuckle. Joe once told me about Macy’s pesky hobby. The willful golden retriever tends to chew books for fun, especially biographies and anything religious. “That’ll teach us to read the Bible. Now, what about fleas?”

Apparently, Joe’s dogs, who are often allowed to run on the beach and are rarely treated for fleas, have left a few critters behind. We’ll have to fumigate the house and dip poor Buddy in a flea bath, but it’s not the worst thing that could’ve happened.

I stand. “Don’t worry about it, guys. We’ll figure it all out. In the meantime, try to squish any bugs you find and keep up the cleaning.”

“But, first,” Daryl says, “we have to get something to drink. We’re both super thirsty.”

I grin. “Oh, by all means, take a break. Get some lemonade. It’s in the fridge.”

“Okay, Mom.” He heads for the boardwalk.

I kiss Samantha on the forehead, then she too bolts toward the boardwalk, with Buddy following closely on her sandy heels. I linger on the beach for a moment, watching the tide and thinking about my family. Every morning, I feel blessed to have my husband, my two children, my life on the island. Michael and I haven’t yet discussed the possibility of moving back to the mainland, but I know that surviving the much-anticipated hurricane has probably changed his perspective. It’s certainly changed mine.

If we stay here, we’ll face another fearsome tempest someday – perhaps worse than Miranda, perhaps before this year’s season is over for good. And, once again, we may have no choice but to wait it out while risking loss of life and property. As it stands, the causeway has yet to be repaired; we’re still virtually trapped on the island, and the same thing might happen again next time.

Sure, our house has survived, but Joe’s rickety old bookstore suffered a great deal of damage. Peter, the hare-brained tenant in Joe’s backyard, endured a pummel of branches on his motorhome. Alec and Jess’s trailer toppled over, and we knew at least one couple that drowned when the barge collided with the bridge.

But this is home, and every home can be fraught with dangers. Californians endure unexpected earthquakes. Oklahomans must seek shelter from sudden tornadoes. New Englanders are occasionally buried beneath a ton of snow. And nature isn’t the only unpredictable force in the world. New Yorkers certainly weren’t expecting the towers of the World Trade Center to come crashing down a week ago.

The only place that’s ever seemed safe from most of the hardships that mankind or Mother Nature has to offer is the underground world of Ruby Hollow, and even it has its disadvantages, including manmade floods and the daily threat of discovery.

South Padre Island is home for us, just as the Hollow is home for my mother and Jesse and the rest of their secret society. The island has everything we need – the Blue Marlin supermarket, Naturally’s health food store, the Island Clinic, gas stations, even an equestrian center – not to mention our dearest friends, and my very own art gallery and bead shop. We’ve made so many unforgettable memories here on the island – getting battered by the waves during our first attempt at boogie-boarding, watching romantic sunsets on Amberjack’s patio, helping the kids with an Easter egg hunt along the shore, racing dune buggies on the lonely stretches north of town. And, of course, there’s always the possibility of accompanying our pal Joe as he unearths a Spanish galleon in the sands offshore, especially in the wake of a hurricane.

“Olivia! You alright?”

Turning, I spy Michael on the deck. He’s sitting at an outdoor table with the kids, each sipping from tall glasses of ice-cold lemonade. He holds up a fourth glass, clearly meant for me, and grins that inviting half-smirk of his. I smile, dust off my linen pants, and stroll up the boardwalk.

Ultimately, my mother’s legacy has little to do with the truth about Ruby Hollow. Although the original fairy tale saw me through some rough points in my childhood and helped Samantha endure the last few furious nights, the moral of the story is that everyone has a right to be happy, to find a Ruby Hollow of her own. For my mother, that place is an underground labyrinth filled with like-minded souls. For me, it’s the unguarded island at the tip of Texas that my husband and children call home. Perhaps when Samantha’s older, I’ll take her to Kentucky to meet her grandmother and see the Hollow for herself. But, for now, I’m simply grateful for the PEACE after the storm and the family that’s waiting for me.


P.S. If you would like five words to experiment with on your own blog, let me know in the comments section. I'll be happy to oblige!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Fantasies: Movie Night!

In less than a week, Dan and I will be welcoming filmmakers to our third annual Big Easy International Film Festival, so you’d think we’d be “movied out” – but, alas, no. A passion for movies is one of the many things that bind us. We both studied film in college, and together, we’ve happily stood in line for hours to see sneak previews of soon-to-be-released films, attended cinematic events like the Sundance Film Festival, and run three different film festivals of our own. We’ve even set up our own screening room in northern Michigan, complete with a surround-sound system, an enormous screen hanging from the ceiling, and two recliner armchairs.

So, it might come as no surprise that Friday is usually our movie night, and despite all we still have to do prior to the film fest next week, we’re headed out shortly for a triple feature – yes, you heard that right – a triple feature!! Yippee!! Tonight, we’re planning to see The Fourth Kind, The Box, and The Men Who Stare at Goats. No doubt, we’ll suffer tomorrow, but for now, who cares? On with the show!

So, what are your Friday night plans?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday: Adaptability or Something Else?

Last Thursday, I mused about my dear adaptable kitty, Ruby Azazel, and what an amazing traveler the feisty little thirteen-month-old has become. No matter where Dan and I have ended up in the past year, it’s taken her no time at all to familiarize herself with our new environs. As long as she knows where her toys, food and water bowls, fleece blanket, and litter box are, she seems content – even more so if there’s an accessible window – her own personal viewfinder on the world. She’s so flexible, in fact, that I’ve begun to think that I could learn a lot from her “unabashed curiosity and enviable serenity,” as I noted last week. Perhaps I could even figure out how to apply such adaptability to my own life – not to mention my writing.

Then, just the other day, I was looking for her in her usual haunts when, lo and behold, I found her perched atop our garment bag. For a moment, I thought, “Now, would you look at that? She’s not just adaptable – she thrives on traveling. She doesn’t just mind it – she loves it!” Suddenly, I noticed her resolute expression, and I began to reconsider my misguided thought process. Perhaps her stance atop the garment bag meant something else entirely. Perhaps, after a year of experiencing our nomadic existence, she was finally putting her proverbial paw down: “No more traveling, Mom and Dad, at least for a while...”

Well, too bad for her. Because I just found out today that my book proposal was indeed accepted by the fine folks at Avalon Travel, which means that once my work for the Big Easy International Film Festival ends next weekend, I’ll be making plans to head further east to the Florida Keys, where I’ll begin researching and writing the first edition of Moon Florida Keys. After that, we’ll drive west to Los Angeles to prepare and execute our fifth annual Beverly Hills Shorts Festival, and by May, we’ll be headed north to Michigan, where I’ll soon be hard at work on the fourth edition of Moon Michigan.

So, sorry, little Ruby. When we adopted you from that rescue facility in the French Quarter, you might’ve wished for a nice little stationary family, in a nice little stationary home. Well, I’m afraid to tell you... that’s not exactly what you got. But, on the flipside, you couldn’t have asked for a Mama who would love you more.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Whimsical Wednesday: Open Mic Night

For those who have been following this blog from time to time, it might already be obvious that I have a yen for music. Once, I wrote about my attempts to play the guitar. On other occasions, I shared my adoration for Willie Nelson. In yet another post, I fiercely defended New Orleans, even mentioning one of my favorite spots in the French Quarter, The Kerry Irish Pub – a small “neighborhood” bar that offers a variety of imported beers, yummy drinks like Irish coffee, a pool table that’s often in use, a dartboard that isn’t, and a stage that boasts live music every night.

Dan and I have frequented the Kerry for so long that the bartenders (Paul and Kevin especially) and the owner (Doris) know us by name (kinda like that dude on Cheers – you know the one). It’s probably helped that we dragged a whole posse of out-of-towners there after our first annual Big Easy film festival, that we held last year’s opening night party there, and that we’ll be doing the same next week, for the start of our third annual Big Easy fest. Oh, let’s face it, we’ll use any excuse to head down there. The laidback vibe and awesome music (from country and folk songs to occasional Irish ballads to annual Beatles tributes) are just too darn tempting to ignore.

So, surprise, surprise – guess where we were last night? Yep, you got it! The Kerry! And it just so happened to be honky-tonk open mic night with singer-songwriter-guitarist Jason Bishop. After two pints of Abita Amber (a regional brew), take one guess who worked up the courage to climb the stage and sing a couple of songs with Jason as accompaniment. Yours truly, that’s who! I won’t say that I was good, but I did manage to sing the Eagles’ “Already Gone” and Willie Nelson’s “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” without shattering glasses or eardrums. So, all in all, I consider it a success.

More importantly, though, I had a total blast. What better way to celebrate life than to spend an evening in my favorite New Orleans pub, singing two of my favorite songs, with my favorite person in the world (that would be my hubby) smiling up at me! While I’ve sung in high school musicals and karaoke bars before, I must admit that this was a whole new experience – and I’m proud of myself for summoning the courage to stand before the “regulars” of my favorite bar and put my limited skills on display – even if it did take two beers and a cheat sheet of lyrics to do it.

Have you ever thrown caution to the wind and dared others to judge you? Do tell! Do tell!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday Travels: A Ray of Hope

From the end of September to mid-October, I mentioned that I was working on a proposal for a travel guide in several of my posts. I mentioned it so often, in fact, that I have no doubt my gracious readers grew tired of hearing about it. But, as some of you might know, putting together a book proposal is no easy feat – especially when you’re competing against an author who’s previously written about the region in question.

Well, without revealing too many details, I’d like to share a little good news. Last week, my acquisitions contact at Avalon Travel informed me that she’d chosen my proposal to submit to the acquisitions committee, which she’ll be doing later this week. So, that’s one hurdle tackled – I just hope the committee likes my proposal, too. After all, I'd like to have some even better news next week!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday Munchies: Sweet, Sweet Mint

I’ve been running myself ragged lately, so after my weekly Castle viewing, I’ll be “toddling off to bed” (as my mother used to say). But I can’t let a Monday pass without honoring one of my favorite herbs.

Since arriving in New Orleans a week and a half ago, I’ve already sampled raw oysters (twice) at the Oceana Grill, messy beignets at Cafe Du Monde, fried seafood (and part of a muffuletta) at Cafe Maspero, and a bite of a much-beloved Lucky Dog (on Halloween night). So, believe me, I’m happy to be in the Big Easy. But still, it’s hard knowing that I’ll have to live without a garden until next May – which means I’ll have to wait six whole months for fresh mint.

Ah, fresh mint, how I love thee – let me count the ways...

When I was a little girl, I used to love picking wild mint leaves from my grandmother’s flower bed and then alternately munching them or rubbing the leaves between my palms to release their essence. During the past twenty-five years, nothing much has changed. Just this summer, I plucked several leaves from the little potted plant in our makeshift garden and happily mashed them between my teeth.

Of course, using the mint leaves to enhance food and beverages is even better. Periodically, I would gather fistfuls of leaves, and Dan would crush them with his mortar and pestle and blend them with ice, lime juice, white rum, and homemade sugar syrup to make one of our favorite cocktails: the oh-so-refreshing mojito.

Next summer, we plan to use the mint leaves for even more yummy treats – from mint sorbet to Vietnamese spring rolls. Do you know of any more mint-related recipes that we ought to keep in mind?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Weekend Mishmash: Happy Belated Halloween!

Well, I certainly hope that everyone had a memorable Halloween – if, that is, you celebrate that particular occasion. It’s always been my favorite holiday – Dan’s, too – but this year, we didn’t get fully into the spirit, mostly due to lack of time. Although we did venture down to the bustling French Quarter, where the people-watching was at a premium, we didn’t really dress up as with Halloweens past.

One year, we were Moses and the Burning Bush. Another year, we were Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. Once, we dressed as a Killer Whore and a Dirty Rotten Pimp. But this Halloween, Dan wore black jeans and I wore a spider web-patterned dress, which some onlookers mistook for a costume of sorts – though I had no idea what I was per se. I just found it hard to stroll along Bourbon Street on All Hallows’ Eve without wearing something I wouldn’t normally wear.

As expected, there was a wide array of ridiculous, sexy, and inspired costumes on display – from superheroes like Captain America and Wonder Woman to a whole posse of Sesame Street characters to the Travelocity gnome. And as expected, a ton of drag queens haunted the bars at Bourbon and St. Ann – truly a dizzying sight.

I took some pictures with my cell phone, but I have yet to figure out how to transfer them to my laptop. So, here are a few photos from two Halloweens ago:

The annual Halloween parade passes the haunted LaLaurie House, currently owned by Nicolas Cage.

Zulu warriors prowl the French Quarter.

Mariachi performers drink and play on Bourbon Street.

As an excuse to wear a real corset, I once dressed as a can-can vampire.

So, what did you do for Halloween? And more importantly, what was your costume pick this year?