Some of My Favorite Things (Blogs) . . . (Or, the Blog of the Year Award 2013!)

Just shy of one year ago, when The Eye-Dancers site was a fledgling neophyte in the WordPress community, I received my first blog award.  Sheri from The Other Side of Ugly awarded The Eye-Dancers with a Blog of the Year 2012 award.  It was a wonderful moment.  Just starting out, unsure of even the simplest steps to take in the blogosphere, it was a tremendous boost of confidence receiving Sheri’s nomination.  I truly appreciated it then, and truly appreciate it now.



So it seems fitting somehow that Sheri has again nominated The Eye-Dancers for a Blog of the Year Award–this time for 2013!  Thank you very much, Sheri!  Your continued support over the past year has meant a lot.  For those of you not familiar with Sheri’s blog, The Other Side of Ugly, I hope you’ll take a look.  It is a gem of a site, and should not be missed.



Before going on, I would like to take this opportunity to pause for a moment, and thank the wonderful bloggers who have nominated The Eye-Dancers for several other awards over the past few months . . .

Thanks so much to Reshu Malhotra who nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Reshu has a great blog where she writes about health and beauty, sharing with her readers very knowledgeable tips and helpful advice.  Hers is a  beautiful blog, in every sense of the word!

Jennifer Marsh nominated The Eye-Dancers for One Lovely Blog Award.  Jennifer is a very talented author, and I am a big fan of her site!  Please take some time to browse through it.  I’m confident you will become a big fan, too.

Leslie from lesliesholly nominated me for The Sunshine Award.  Leslie has a very eclectic blog, where she talks about a variety of topics, and always keeps her readers engaged.  Her blog is a great place to visit!

Ampbreia’s Space nominated The Eye-Dancers for The Leibster Award.  Ampbeia’s blog is diverse, well written, thought-provoking, and just plain good.  I hope you will stop in for an extended visit!

And Sherri from A View From My Summerhouse nominated The Eye-Dancers for a Dragon’s Loyalty Award.  Sherri’s site is a treasure.  I promise you–if you stop by, you’ll want to stay for a while!

I was lucky enough to have already been nominated for each of these awards previously, but I wanted to thank all of the great bloggers above for their nominations!  I really appreciate it.


The instructions for the Blog of the Year 2013 Award are simple:

1-Select the blog(s) you think deserve the Blog Of The Year 2013 Award.

2-Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen- there are no minimum or maximum number of blogs required- and ‘present’ the blog(s) with their award.

3-Let the blog(s) that you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the instructions with them- (please don’t alter the instructions or the badges!)

4-Come over and say hello to the originator of the Blog Of The Year 2013 Award via this link :

5-You can now also join the Blog Of The Year Award Facebook Page.Click the link here:

Share your blog posts with  an even wider audience.

6-And as a winner of the award- please add a link back to the blog that presented you with this award-and then proudly display the award on your blog- and start collecting stars!


Who doesn’t love collecting stars? I can see a bright smile on your face and stop being shy. Come on! It’s all yours and grab the awards

Unlike other awards which you can only add to your blog once-this award is different!

When you begin you will receive the ’1 star’ award- and every time you are given the award by another blog- you can add another star!

There are a total of 6 stars to collect.

Which means that you can check out your favorite blogs- and even if they have already been given the award by someone else- you can still bestow it on them again and help them to reach the maximum of 6 stars! You can either ‘swop’ your badge for the next one each time you are given the award- or even proudly display all six badges if you are lucky enough to be presented with the award 6 times!

You can find all the badges and banners and information you need via this link: ‘Blog of The Year 2013′ Award Badges.


In the celebrated Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music, a defining moment is when Maria sings “My Favorite Things” to the von Trapp children.  It is one of the first moments of true bonding Maria shares with the children, and is one of my favorite scenes of the production.



So, without further delay, I would like to nominate some of my favorite blogs for the Blog of the Year 2013 award!

Some of Maria’s favorite things in The Sound of Music include “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens . . .”  The blogs listed above are some of mine.  And I’m sure they will be some of yours, too.

In this season of thankfulness, I also want to extend a hearty thank-you to all the great followers of The Eye-Dancers website.  You are the reason this is so much fun for me.



Thanks so much for reading!


Mirror Image

Stand in front of a mirror.  It can be any kind of a mirror, really–a simple bathroom mirror or an ornate affair in the ball room of some luxury seaside hotel.



Pause for a moment, and look at your reflection.  What do you see?  Maybe you’re looking great, refreshed, ready to take on the world.  Maybe you’re tired, with weary, sleepy eyes and a dour expression.  Either way, surely you just intend to see yourself in the mirror.  No one else.



But for Millicent Barnes, the protagonist of a first-season Twilight Zone episode titled “Mirror Image,” things aren’t quite that simple.

When we meet her, Millicent is sitting on a bench in an Ithaca, New York,  bus depot.



It is stormy, raining, after midnight, and the bus depot is near-deserted.  Impatiently, after checking the wall clock, she gets up and approaches the baggage clerk, a gruff older man with glasses and a perpetual scowl, and asks him when her bus will arrive.

“It’ll be in when it’ll be in,” he grouses, and says all the complaining in the world won’t make it arrive any sooner.  He tells her to stop coming up and asking him about it every ten minutes.

She is taken aback.  She tells him this is the first time she’s asked him.  But he looks at her, as if she’s speaking in an alien tongue, and shakes his head.  She’s already asked him several times, he asserts.

Dazed, Millicent approaches her bench and sits back down.

Rod Serling’s voice-over breaks in as we see a close-up of the woman’s face . . .

“Millicent Barnes, age twenty-five, young woman waiting for a bus on a rainy November night.  Not a very imaginative type is Miss Barnes, not given to undue anxiety or fears, or, for that matter, even the most temporal flights of fancy. . . . [But] circumstances will assault her sense of reality and a chain of nightmares will put her sanity on a block.  Millicent Barnes, who, in one minute, will wonder if she’s going mad.”

Indeed.  Because strange things continue to happen.  She notices her bag on the floor behind the clerk’s desk.  How did it get there?  She is sure she never checked her bag in with him.  The clerk, gruffer than ever, informs her that of course she did. . . .



Even more confused now, Millicent heads to the Ladies Room, where a cleaning woman is finishing up her shift.  The cleaning woman asks her if she’s okay–she was just in here a few minutes ago, and didn’t look so well.  Angry now, Millicent tells the woman this is the first time she’s been in the Ladies Room.  What is going on?  Are the employees in this nondescript, nearly empty bus depot all setting out to trick her, play a practical joke on her?

She opens the restroom door, about to storm out, but then turns around to say something else to cleaning woman.  In doing so, she looks into the mirror, and, with the door open, sees the depot’s main waiting area reflected there–the clock on the wall ticking, second by second; the slate-gray floor; the hard-backed bench upon which she had been sitting.

She gasps.  She is sitting on the bench.  She is right there.  But how could that be?  How could she be in the Ladies Room and, simultaneously, on the bench in the waiting area?  The woman she sees on the bench looks exactly like her, dressed in the same outfit.  It’s impossible.



She closes the door.  “I must be overtired,” she says.  A moment later she dares to fling it open again.  This time, the bench is empty.  Her doppleganger, or imposter, or the illusion she saw is no longer there.

Returning to the bench, Millicent wonders what’s wrong with herself.  “I must be sick,” she thinks.  “But I don’t have a fever, no fever at all . . .”

A young man comes in out of the cold, wet night, and joins her on the bench, introducing himself as Paul Grinstead.  He is waiting for the same bus she is–to Cortland.  From there he will go on to Binghamton; Millicent to Buffalo, about to start a new job.



Sensing she can trust this kind stranger, Millicent tells him about the odd things that have been happening to her tonight.

“Delusions,” he says.



She is quick to agree, but then says she hasn’t ever experienced anything like this before.  She is not prone to imagining things that aren’t there.  Besides, “why did that man and that woman say they’ve seen me before?  They haven’t!”

Paul doesn’t have an answer.  “This one’s tough to figure out,” he admits.

The bus arrives.  They head outside together, but just as she is about to board, Millicent sees herself already seated on the bus.  This “other” Millicent smirks at her, a glint in her eye, and she screams and races back into the depot.



Paul follows her in and tells the driver to go on along without them, they’ll catch the next one.  The next bus, however, doesn’t arrive until seven.  They will have to while away the night at the depot.  The baggage clerk turns down the lights.  Shadows crawl and gather along the floor and on the walls.  It is quiet. “Like a tomb,” the clerk tells them.

Millicent, now lying on the bench, recovering from the shock, begins to recount something she read once, a long time ago.  Something about different planes of existence, parallel worlds that exist side by side.  And each of us has a counterpart in this other world.  When, through some freak occurrence, the two worlds converge, the counterpart comes into our world, and in order to survive, it has to take over–replace us, move us out, so that it can live.

“That’s a little metaphysical for me,” Paul tells her.

Millicent is beyond hearing him.  “Each of us has a twin in this other world.  An identical twin.  Maybe that woman I saw . . .”

Paul breaks in, “Millicent, there’s another explanation.  There has to be.  One that comes with . . . more reason.”

She doesn’t listen, won’t be comforted.  She is convinced the woman she saw on the bus is her doppleganger, her counterpart, here to take over her life and identity.  The more Paul tries to calm her, the more wide-eyed and unresponsive she becomes.



Finally, he tells her he has a friend nearby.  He’ll call him.  Maybe he can stop by and lend them his car, or even drive them part of the way.

But as Paul tells the baggage clerk, who has eavesdropped on the entire conversation, he has no friend nearby with a car who will drive them anywhere.  He is calling the police.

“She needs help,” he says.  “Medical help.”

The police arrive minutes later and take Millicent away to the hospital, for observation.  Meanwhile Paul decides to settle in for the night, maybe sleep on the bench.  But as he takes a drink from a fountain, he notices a man stealing his suitcase and running out the door with it.

“Hey!” he yells after him, giving chase.  And that’s when he realizes it’s not just any man he is pursuing.  It is his double.  Himself–looking back at him as he runs away, a twisted grin on his face.



“Hey!” Paul keeps shouting, over and over, into the cold November night.  “Where are you?”

“Obscure metaphysical explanation to cover a phenomenon,” Rod Serling announces as the scene fades.  “Reasons dredged out of the shadows to explain away that which cannot be explained.  Call it parallel planes or just insanity.  Whatever it is, you’ll find it in the Twilight Zone.”




Mitchell Brant, surely, would not call it insanity.  He would go for the parallel-planes explanation.  Unlike Millicent Barnes, however, Mitchell does not limit himself to just one “other self.”  Literally, there is no end, no limit.



In chapter 12 of The Eye-Dancers, as he is about to fall asleep, Mitchell ponders this.

“‘Good night, Mitchell,’  he whispered, to himself, to all of his selves, in all of the worlds in existence.  His last thought before sleep finally took him away was of a line of Mitchell Brants.  They stood, single file, one in front of the other.  He started to count them in his mind’s eye, but the line went on and on, forever.  He was infinite, endless.

“When he counted the two hundred sixty-third Mitchell Brant, the line began to melt away, disintegrating into the netherworld of his dreams.”


So the next time you stand in front of a mirror, look deeply.  Look closely.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it is not just your reflection, and your reflection alone, staring back at you.



Thanks so much for reading!


Author Interview — Joanna Wiebe

For over a decade now, I have been a freelance proofreader for a handful of book publishers.  I really enjoy it.  I have always loved to read, after all, and the publishers I freelance for offer a wide, eclectic selection of titles to work on.  Many are nonfiction, which I don’t mind at all.  I’ve always been a big nonfiction fan.  But, of course, as a fiction writer myself, I always feel excited when I am assigned a novel.  Such was the case late this past summer, when I was asked if I could proofread a Young Adult paranormal novel with the eye-catching title of The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant.



And as I read the story, I literally forgot I was proofreading, that this was supposed to be a job.  I was captivated by the words, the plot, the characters.  It was a joy to read.  I reached out to the author, Joanna Wiebe, asking her if she would be willing to do an interview here on The Eye-Dancers blog, and she was gracious enough to accept the invitation.



And so, without further delay, I hope you will enjoy the interview with Joanna . . .

1.  Your novel The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, published by BenBella Books, is due out at the beginning of next year.  It is also the first in a series of three novels, called the V Trilogy.  Please tell us a little bit about the book, as well as the trilogy as a whole.

Well, the first book, The Unseemly Education, describes the beginning of a series of pretty major discoveries that our hero, Anne Merchant, will make about herself and the people she loves throughout the series.  In the first book, we see her very focused on what a lot of teenagers focus on: getting the hell through high school and off to college, where ‘real life’ is supposed to start.  Anne has always been a top student, so she expects to become her class valedictorian, but she finds out quickly that all the Cania kids share her drive to become what they call “the Big V.”  By the end of the book, we learn why the Big V is such a big deal to these kids, but we don’t yet know why Anne, who is a far cry from the standard Cania student, has been allowed to come to Cania; we’ll learn that in the second book, and that’s when we’ll see Anne begin to live life instead of thinking life is something that happens after you’ve got through the muck and mire of being sixteen.

2. The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant tackles the issue of regret, and the lengths parents will go to give their children a second chance.  How did you decide you wanted to write about this theme?  Did the idea for the book just hit you, suddenly, as ideas sometimes do?  Or was it something you had thought about for a while?

The lengths parents will go to was an issue I fought to keep central to the story throughout its evolution because, from where I stand, we read a lot of romantic love stories but not quite so many stories of the love between parents and their children.  I’ve experienced the way romantic love comes and goes—I mean, the guy I was crazy about in high school is essentially the opposite of attractive to me today. 🙂  And I’ve experienced how everlasting the love between parents and their children can be.  My dad essentially raised all five of us on his own, and when he died when I was in my early twenties, I felt a desperation to have him back from which I have yet to fully recover.  That said, I’m not suggesting romantic love takes a backseat to parental love—not at all!  They’re equally complex, and that’s what I hope to explore.  Of course, this book isn’t ‘about’ a girl and her parents—it’s a fantasy-paranormal-romance-suspense book. 🙂  But it does center around how desperate a parent’s love for their child can be and how vulnerable that makes them—to say nothing of the powerful feelings children have for their parents: desire to please, worry about disappointing, fear of being unable to be real with them, and ultimately, for some of us, understanding.

The issue of regret is really interesting—I love that that came through for you.  Certainly the parents here feel regret, and some of the kids do, too, but I’ll be exploring Anne’s regrets in greater detail in the second book.  So stay tuned.

3. The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant is a wonderful title!  I am always fascinated by titles of stories, and know from firsthand experience that titles sometimes do not come until very late in the game.  Did you know what the title for the novel would be before you began writing it, or did it only come to you in the middle, or at the end, of the writing process?

So glad you like the title!  A few other writers have commented on liking the title, too, which is a great relief to me because I’ve come to understand that I am terrible at titles.  When I was a creative writing student, the other writers in class would tell me how much they loathed my short story titles, but I thought they were awesome!  Stuff like “Prep School Boy’s Last Chance to Dance” and “There’s a Hole in My Boat.”  They’d groan; I’d smile.  With this book, my poor agent and editor had to wade through my suggestions very patiently over a very long period of time.  I’m like, “Shadows and Tall Trees!”  And they’re like, “You realize this is supposed to be something people want to read, right?”  Yeah, I guess I’m brutal.

It was actually my partner, Lance, who suggested “The Education of Anne Merchant” just around the time I was surrendering the final manuscript to BenBella, which happened after the book deal and then-title had been announced.  My editor, Glenn, added the word “Unseemly,” and voila.  I had nothing to do with it beyond coordinating it.  Which is probably why people think it’s good. 😉

4. There are some very memorable characters in the novel.  Were any of the characters inspired by anyone you know, or have known?

Thank you!  I actually worked with a guy named Manish, so (spoiler alert, but not a biggie) when my old coworkers found out I killed him off, they were like, “I knew you didn’t like Manish!”  But I totally do like him!  This minor character just felt like a Manish to me . . . and he needed to die. 😉

The character Stanley is my dad.  No question about it.  One of the greatest things I’ve heard about my book is something my sister Sarah said after she read the chapter where Anne and Stanley reunite; she said it felt like I’d created a new memory of our dad for her.

Oh, and the Pomeranian, Skippy, is the name of my nana’s Pomeranian we grew up with.  That dog had the stinkiest breath on earth, but that didn’t make it into the book, to my dismay.  When you’re writing a story like The Unseemly Education, where a reveal is around every corner, all the little details become clues; so giving Skippy stinky breath might have confused readers, even if it would have made my siblings laugh.

5. The setting for the Cania Christy Preparatory Academy, where Anne Merchant goes to school, is Wormwood Island, Maine.  Is there a special significance to this setting?  Why did you choose Maine as the location for Cania Christy?

Maine is just one of those locations, isn’t it?  I think Stephen King has done something to it; it seems cloaked in mystery and paranormality.  The school needed to be remote and on the East Coast, so it really came down to the Boston area or Maine.  And Maine just felt right.  Wormwood Island is named after the character Wormwood from CS Lewis’s amazing The Screwtape Letters, the significance of which will hopefully make sense to people who read the book.

6. The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant is a Young Adult novel in the sense that it tells the story of a teenage girl and her unusual experiences at the Cania Christy Academy.  (Though I believe the story will appeal to readers of all ages.)  Have you always enjoyed YA fiction?  Do you have any favorite YA authors?

I love YA.  When I was what I guess people call a “tween,” I read a lot of VC Andrews and Christopher Pike; prior to that, I read the Hardy Boys.  I guess around the time I was in grade eight or nine, I graduated to bigger books with bigger stories, like The Clan of the Cavebear series by Jean Auel and the novels that would shape my appetite since, with The Jungle and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn being chief among them.

It seems to me that the best YA writing ever is happening now and has been for the last decade or so.  I find I don’t have favorite authors as much as favorite YA books, which include The Book Thief, Fiend, and Miss Peregrine’s School—plus wonderfully indulgent reads like Smith’s Lockdown, Meyer’s Cinder, and Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood.

7. Have you always known you wanted to be a writer, ever since you were little?  Or did the calling to write come slowly, over time?

It has been a forever thing, but it really took form after my parents’ divorce, when I was eight and we moved in with my nana.  I was very shy then, and she had a typewriter.  Writing was the most natural response to where I was and how I was feeling, and that’s never changed.

8. If there was only one piece of advice you could give to a new or aspiring writer, what would it be?

Write with a deadline.  Start writing that f***ing book right this second, and tell yourself you’ll have it done exactly four months from now.  We writers make a lot of excuses, and you just know someone’s reading this right now thinking, “It would be so cool to hold my own book in my hands, but . . .”  No buts.  Just set a date, and write.  Don’t sleep.  Don’t watch TV.  One of my favorite writers (okay, I guess I do have faves) is the late Donald Barthelme.  His brothers also wrote and taught writing.  One of the Barthelmes—it escapes me which—was describing his rigorous writing process to his students; a student asked him when he found the time to sleep, and he replied, “Who said anything about sleeping?”  Carve out time to read, to work enough to cover your bills, to sleep enough to stay alert, and possibly to run outside just to freshen your head.  All the time left over is time you should be outlining your story, writing it, revising it, editing it, and ultimately querying agents.  That’s how you move from aspiring writer to published novelist.  At least, that’s what people kept telling me, and that’s what worked for me.

9. Please tell us when and where The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant will be available for purchase, and where readers can discover more about you and your work.

It comes out Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014, and it’s available in bookstores throughout Canada and the US.  If you’d like to keep up-to-date with news, new books, giveaways, and general awesomeness, join me on my Facebook page here:


Thanks so much to Joanna for doing this interview!

And thanks so much to everyone for reading!


A Milestone, a Book Tour, a Thank-You, and a Prince of an Island

On the day I sat down in front of my PC to begin page one, chapter one, of The Eye-Dancers, little did I know where the journey would take me.



I had a general idea where I wanted the story to go, and I had a need to tell it.  It felt like a cyclone was bottled up inside of me.  Years earlier, I had dreamed of the wraith-like little girl with the blue, swirling, hypnotic eyes.  And she scared me–just as she scares Mitchell Brant in the opening scene of The Eye-Dancers.  But I wasn’t able to write her story.  Not at that time, anyway.

Then, nearly two decades later, I dreamed of the “ghost girl” again.  She was as real, as vivid, as she had been during that restless night years earlier.  She stood there, in the road, beneath the light of the streetlamp, half there and half not there–the light filtering through her.  And this time, upon waking, I had it!  Somehow, some way, after so many years, the story came to me, unasked for, like a surprise gift from a capricious muse.



I felt energized, high on creativity.  I had been wanting to write a novel about growing up, facing the challenges of adolescence, of peer pressure and fitting in and learning to accept yourself for who you really are and what you have to offer the world.  Little did I know the two would intersect.  The “ghost girl” would lead the way, and Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski would follow.

As I began the story, the journey, I wrestled with the same questions and doubts every writer struggles with:  Is the idea any good?  Will I write a hundred pages and then get stuck?  Will anyone want to read it?  Will it be a failure?  And so, when, two years later, I typed the words “The End” on the last page, I felt a wonderful sense of relief.  It was done.  (Well, not really.  There was still the editing and the revising and rewriting, which would take months to complete.)  There is always a sense of loss when you complete such a long and personal writing journey.  But there is also a sense of accomplishment, and, for one brief, glorious moment, there is almost a belief that you can soar, riding the currents of the wind like some space traveler in a Ray Bradbury story.



When that moment passed, however, I realized the journey was far from over.  Yes, the story had been written.  But the adventure . . . the adventure . . . that had only just begun.

Shortly thereafter, I created this blog, not knowing what to expect, not knowing who, if anyone, would want to read about ghost girls and inter-dimensional voids and dreams and Twilight Zone episodes and old movies and comic books and ideas about writing and creating.  In the beginning, I was clueless.  I didn’t know a thing about blogging, or how to go about it.  But as I soon learned, the WordPress community is a wonderful and welcoming place.  My nervousness quickly departed.  I was like a stage performer, on his opening night, heart racing, breath coming in short, choppy gasps, worried about messing up–but then discovering that the audience is patient and kind, generous with their support, and eager to lend a helping hand.



And now, all these months later, I have arrived at a milestone.  This post today marks the 100th post on The Eye-Dancers blog.  And I can’t thank you all enough.  Your ongoing support, encouragement, and interest in these ramblings of mine are the reasons I am still here.  You make blogging a joy.  I enjoy every minute of it, and hope you all know how much I appreciate you and thank you for the ways in which you’ve made me a member of this great blogging community.



I also wanted to announce a new development for The Eye-Dancers, the novel.  Beginning yesterday, and carrying on straight through November 21, The Eye-Dancers is being featured in a book tour.  It’s sponsored by Fire and Ice Book Tours, and I hope you’ll take a look at the schedule and perhaps follow the tour as it makes its rounds through the month of November  . . .


When I was in the eighth grade, my English teacher surprised the class one gray, nondescript February morning.  She announced that, for the next several days, we would watch a movie in class.  Students cheered.  A movie?  We were all in!  When she said it was Anne of Green Gables, a recently released adaptation of the famous novel written by L.M. Montgomery in 1908, I wasn’t sure what to think.  I had heard of the classic, but had never read it.





Throughout the week, I found myself riveted by the movie.  I smiled many times at Anne’s antics, and cried more than once, my tears hidden in the dim lighting of the room.  Some of the other boys in the class proclaimed they didn’t really like the movie.  “It’s for girls,” they groused.  I didn’t believe them then, and I don’t believe them now.  They liked it.  And I . . . I loved it.  It inspired me to read the book, and then other books by L.M. Montgomery.  And I couldn’t help but notice that many of her stories took place on her native Prince Edward Island, in the Canadian Maritimes.  As time went on, I got the itch to visit Canada’s “Garden of the Gulf.”



In 1994, my family and I went.  We drove from Rochester, New York, to PEI–a two-day, 1,000-mile trip.  We stayed a week.  To this day, I maintain PEI is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.  Sometimes, when I’m out in the yard or sitting at my desk or taking a walk, I close my eyes and imagine myself strolling along one of the Island’s red dirt roads, flanked by the wild lupine that bloom seemingly everywhere, a magic carpet of color.



Or I picture myself on one of the Island’s many beaches.  Or on a particular beach, at a particular moment . . .

It was early one morning, midway through our vacation.  Our hotel was close to the sea, and, not being able to sleep, I decided to walk down to the beach.  The previous day, the temperature had soared to record-breaking heights, but now, in the silence of an Island morning, the sun rising over the water, the sand between my toes, a lone seagull calling out, its cry echoing along the beach and the dunes, it was cool, almost chilly.

I looked out over the waves, shielding my eyes from the sun.  There was no one else around–just the gull and me, and a solitary crow pecking at something in the grass a few hundred feet behind me.  And then, even the gull flew away, leaving in its absence the gentle murmur of the sea.  I peered toward the horizon.  I couldn’t tell where the ocean ended and the sky began.  They seemed to merge, melding into one silent entity–timeless, eternal.



I listened. For what I didn’t know.  Maybe, in the quiet of the morning, the sea whispered its secrets to those willing to hear them.  But more than anything, I felt a sense of exhilaration.  There was so much out there, beyond the horizon, so much to do and see and discover.  I smiled, eager to travel along the back roads and highways and hidden woodland paths on this journey.



As I stood there that morning, two decades ago, I had not yet been online–the Internet was in its infancy.  The term “blog” hadn’t even been invented yet.  If I had known then what I know now, if I had known I would be fortunate enough to discover such a wonderful community on a place called WordPress, in the twenty-first century, I am sure my smile would have been even wider.

Thank you to everyone for all the  support of The Eye-Dancers’ first 100 posts!  I hope you’ll stick around for the next hundred . . .



Thanks so much for reading!  You are the best.


More Than Meets the Eye (Or, What Lies Behind the Horn-Rimmed Glasses . . .)

She was quiet, so quiet, in fact, that sometimes it seemed she wasn’t even there.  It was as if she blended in with the beige walls, the gray metallic chairs, the very molecules and atoms in the air.  The other students would criticize and argue and critique–but she barely said a word.  The professor, a bald man originally from London and since moved to western New York State. would sometimes single her out.  “To prime your pump,” he would explain.  It was a creative writing workshop, after all.  Students were expected to participate, not just sit there, looking down at the small wooden desk attached to the right arm of the chair.



Her name was Renee.  Her wardrobe was as subdued as her manner–plain, dark clothes, sweaters, usually, and a pair of retro, black, horn-rimmed glasses that gave her the look and feel of someone from a generation three decades earlier.  She would spend much of the class period adjusting those glasses as they continually slid down the bridge of her nose.



The chairs were arranged in a semicircle, encouraging face-to-face interaction as we discussed and dissected each other’s short stories.  Renee would always sit at the back corner of the semicircle, as far away from the professor as she could arrange herself.  Every class period, four students would turn in a new story, distributing a copy to the teacher and each student in the class.  The following week, the four stories handed out in the previous class would be critiqued.  Additionally, each member of the class would write comments on the hard copy of the story, and return them to the author once the oral critique was finished.  For those students who did not participate so much verbally, this offered a way to express their opinions in a more comfortable manner.



But Renee didn’ t even do that.  Not only didn’t she participate in class, but her written comments were, to put it mildly, brief.  After I had turned in my first story of the semester, she had written, “Cool,” on the top of the first page, emphasizing it with a loopily-drawn smiley face.  That was it.  She hadn’t jotted one word in the margins, and nothing at the end.  I asked others in the class if she had offered anything more on their stories.  She hadn’t.  She just continued to blend in to the background, gray on gray.  Even the instructor seemed to give up.  By the semester’s second month, he no longer called on her.  She just sat there, period after period, saying nothing.  A locked, featureless door.



Then the day came when she was scheduled to share one of her own stories with the class.  I overheard a student, who sat close to me, whispering to another, “I bet it’s probably like two pages or something.”

But it was not two pages.  And it was not what anyone had expected . . .


Throughout the opening chapters of The Eye-Dancers, Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, and Ryan Swinton each dream of the girl with the blue, swirling eyes.   The “ghost girl,” they call her.  After all, in their dreams (or are they more than dreams?), she appears less like a flesh-and-blood creature of this earth and more like a wisp, a breath, a denizen of the spirit world.  They fear she is a ghost who is haunting their dreams.



But is she?  Is their first impression the right one?  Or is she less than she seems?  Or, perhaps, more than she seems?

And once they are transported through the void and find themselves in the variant town of Colbyville, they encounter many other things that cause them to question their surroundings, their perceptions, at times even their own sanity.  Science wiz Marc Kuslanski is there, too, and he offers (or tries to offer) a sensible, rational, scientific reason for everything.  But as he learns over the course of the novel, not everything can be explained away.  Not everything can be pigeon-holed and classified and packed neatly into its own box.

Not everything is what it appears to be at first glance.




When I took Renee’s story home that day, I honestly did not have high expectations.  I guessed reading her story would be a chore, just something to get through.  And her title, “Dead Man Walking,” struck me as cliched.  I did not give her the benefit of the doubt.

Then I read the first paragraph.  It drew me right in to a brutal world, where a dead man walks among the living, works with them, looks like them, loves them, hates them, and, every now and again, eats them.  He isn’t a vampire.  He isn’t quite a zombie.  He’s just . . . dead.  But not dead.  It was a graphically violent story, merciless in its portrayal of the lead character and the people he comes across in his experiences.  From our perspective today, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, a story like this may sound derivative, or least inspired by, the zombie and “undead” mania caused by hit shows such as The Walking Dead.



But this was back in the mid-1990s.  Renee’s story was, without question, her own, and she had a very distinct and original voice.  Her prose was edgy, yet literary, vulgar, yet elegant.  In a word, it was riveting.

When the following week’s workshop met again, there was a buzz among the students.  Even the professor, an unflappable sort, seemed off his game.

He cleared his throat, his way of signaling it was time to begin.  The whisperings and murmerings among the students came to a stop.  We all looked at the instructor, waiting.

“Our first story to look at today is ‘Dead Man Walking.'”  He cleared his throat again, glanced at Renee.  “And as we always do, we’ll let the author have the first word.  Renee?”

The class looked at her, and she looked up, meeting our eyes for what seemed like the first time all term.

“Well,” she said, with a smile, “as you probably know by now, my stories tend to be a little bit crazy.  And loud.  Very, very loud.”

For a moment, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop.  But then someone laughed, and then another, and then another.  Renee joined them.

And here we’d all thought she was just the quiet girl with the horn-rimmed glasses who sat at the back of the room. . . .



Thanks so much for reading!


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