FORTHEPROMPTLESS: AMPHIGORY – Macavity: The Mystery Cat, T.S. Eliot

Plastic Pals — Dolls of Yesteryear

My first doll. I got her for my 5th birthday in 1952. Annabelle was only produced by Madame Alexander for one year. She was my first and my favorite. I adored her and she was always with me.

Annabelle-48

This pretty little girl is a 16-inch Toni by Ideal. She is virtually identical to the doll I got for my sixth birthday. Her dress was made just for her.

Toni-16-Platinum

I thought it would be fun to take “toy lens” style pictures of toys, in my case, dolls. I used to be a serious doll collector. Although I’m no longer a doll collector, I still have quite a large doll collection.

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The three big dolls (above) were taken using a poster format. The two big beautiful girls are Madame Alexander‘s Binnie Walker (left), Winnie Walker (middle), and on the right, one of the rarer large Ideal Bride dolls. She was the last Ideal doll before they started making high-heeled fashion dolls. All the dresses were made for these dolls by a seamstress. The bride’s dress is amazing.

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Meet Cissy from Madame Alexander, one of the most popular fashion dolls ever made. This is an original from the early 1960s. There have been versions of Cissy continuously through the years, including now, though their dimensions vary quite a bit. What they have in common are joints in all the right places, height and high-heeled feet.

The lady in pink (above) is wearing an original outfit by a doll clothing designer based on an outfit she remembered her mother wearing in the 1950s. The cloth was from a dress I found at the Salvation army. I loved the fabric, so she made two of these outfits, one as a gift to me and one for herself to sell. You would not believe how expensive doll clothing is. It costs more than my clothing. A lot more.

Below is Princess Elizabeth, currently Queen Elizabeth II. Not her original outfit. The coronet is original, but broken.

From the early 1940s, an early composition Madame Alexander doll, the child who became the current queen of England.
From the early 1940s, an early composition Madame Alexander doll, the child who became the current queen of England.

Below, just for fun, is the most interesting doll in the world. He would be the most interesting man in the world. He was the most interesting doll in the world, having survived the charge of the Light Brigade to become Prime Minister of Great Britain during the second World War. Winston Churchill, one of Effanbee’s historical collection, is forever predicting victory.

Below, are two Madame Alexander dolls. On the left, Sonja Henie, an original from around 1940. She is not plastic. She’s made of something called “composition,” a combination a sawdust, glue, and paint. You have to be careful with old composition dolls. They date from no later than the early 1940s, after which dolls were made with hard plastic. If composition gets damp or too dry, they fall disintegrate. Literally. On the right is a 1976 Cinderella in a Disney-style gown. Hard plastic.

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Sonja’s wig is not original, but it is mohair as was the original. However, the original wig didn’t have bangs. I simply couldn’t find a mohair wig that was quite right. I could have gotten an acrylic wig that was the right style, but it would have been the wrong material. Sometimes, you just have to compromise. Her dress and skates are original, as are her tights.

Here are three big composition girls, Nancy Ann — on the left — is the only doll to have ever received her own letter delivered by the U.S. Postal service. At least in my house.

Composition girls

Finally, Garry’s favorites — the famous dolls. The shelf of fame contains Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Winstons Churchill, John Wayne (twice), Bogie and Jimmy Cagney (from Yankee Doodle Dandy).

The doll's shelf of fame.
The doll’s shelf of fame.

There are dolls all over the house, except the kitchen and bathrooms. A couple of hundred of them, at last count and others in boxes. They are guaranteed friendly and chat quietly at night, while we sleep.

Interview with SOLSTICE HIGH author Ardash Vartparonian

Ardash Vartparonian

The author of Solstice High discusses this and future books!

Publisher: Strategic Book Group
Urban Fantasy/Sci Fi/Young Adult
360 Pages

Solstice-High

An interview with Ardash Vartparonian, author of SOLSTICE HIGH

Serendipity:  I felt like I was reading the first part of x-men. Do I feel a series in the works?

Ardash Vartparonian: I’m actually really glad you brought this up; whenever people ask me what my book is about I answer that, in a nutshell, it’s sort of like ‘X-Men meets Gossip Girl’. I’m a big fan of X-Men, from the movies to the comics, and I’m not ashamed of announcing that it has definitely influenced my work. The line I draw between X-Men and Solstice High is that while X-Men has always been seen as a metaphor for minorities, the powers in my book are a metaphor for the struggle teenagers go through trying to discover themselves. One of the reviews I’ve had on this tour commented that the supernatural side of the novel doesn’t always seem the central aspect, and I agree wholeheartedly.

It’s obviously a really big point, and the plot point the whole novel spirals around, but at its heart I think the book is more about these four kids coming to terms with themselves, and the bumpy road that it entails.

Solstice High is a trilogy, so your suspicions are spot on. I wrote this novel chapter by chapter with a fragmented skeleton of its entirety in mind rather than knowing what would happen every single chapter. When I first started writing, I planned on it being a stand-alone book. The thing is, the closer I got to finishing, the more I realized I didn’t want to finish, I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters I had created. I felt their stories could go on. They had more to say and live through.

So I decided to not address some issues and they would be answered in later books. The second book is finished and so is the first draft for the final book. I’m hoping to make a bit more noise with this first novel before releasing the second.

Serendipity:  Will you “age” the kids — like Harry Potter aged — with the series?

Ardash Vartparonian: When I first started writing the book I had planned on making the kids a year younger, juniors rather than seniors in high school. Then I decided to make it a lot more intense and cram all three books into one school year.

The first book takes place over nine weeks, the second in just two. It’s faster and more furious than the first, but I liked playing with that. In the first book, I had to introduce the four kids and flesh them out. The slower pacing allowed more introspection. But with the second, I barely allowed the kids a chance to breathe before all Hell breaks loose around them.

The end of the third book shows the plans the four kids have for their futures when they finish school and go out into the “real” world. They are only plans of course.

One thing I wasn’t happy about with the final Harry Potter book was how fixed the endings were for Harry, Ron and Hermione. I would have preferred the book without the epilogue, allowing me to imagine what the future held for them.
So, no. I’m not aging the characters. All three books take place in the same school year, but I believe the end will be satisfying. I’d rather readers imagine how Matt, Rochelle, Daphne and Jonas’ futures play out, though I’ll definitely show what path they are on after school.

Serendipity:  Are you planning to add more characters to the core group? Or is this going to be a closed set?

Ardash Vartparonian: In the second book — because of plot points I don’t want to spoil — the character set expands and you get a deeper look into characters introduced or briefly mentioned in the first book. Bethany and Abigail, for example, while simultaneously introducing new characters. They aren’t new to the school, but new to readers.

The four main characters are still the four points of view in the next two books: Matt, Rochelle, Daphne and Jonas. As soon as I knew I was going to write a second and third book, I decided I wanted to expand the character scope.
I had to pace myself. I didn’t want to overcrowd the book with too many characters by the third book. But there are always ways to make room for new characters and remove older ones, if you know what I mean. LOL.

Serendipity: What about babies?

Ardash Vartparonian: The only baby in the books will be Harmony’s. The second book takes place in just two weeks and the baby doesn’t arrives until the third book.

When I thought Solstice High would be a stand-alone book, I planned on having Devlin force Harmony to terminate her pregnancy which would have given her a motivation to turn against him. I ultimately decided it would be too dark and touchy a subject. I wasn’t sure I was comfortable or ready to tackle it. It also gave me another plot point for the next two books.

Harmony’s baby is quite an issue. It will be the first baby born to someone with active powers. What does that mean for the baby? Or Harmony? I decided to tackle the questions I thought would be particularly interesting to explore.

Serendipity:  What decided you on making one of the characters unashamedly homosexual? This is the first openly homosexual “superhero” I’ve met. There have been a few who were probably in the closet, but Matt is obviously what he is. Did you think the world was ready or was there some other reason?

Ardash Vartparonian: To be honest, Matt being gay was never debatable for me. He just is. When it came to writing, I was at first a bit cautious about love scenes between him and Julius — as opposed to the relative comfort I felt writing about Rochelle and Jonas for example.

Then I thought “You know what? Screw it! It’s (when I was writing) 2007!” I decided I would treat Matt just like I would a straight character with the same exposure. Equal treatment in things like love scenes even if they might be sensitive subjects. Matt being gay for me doesn’t make him special. It’s who he is. So I made to give treat him the same as a straight character. All his successes and failures are unrelated to his sexuality. They grow out of his persona.

To be honest, Matt is my least favourite character. It has absolutely nothing to do with his sexuality. It’s purely based on his personality. His self-pity and angst. I’m sure I like him least because out of the four, he resembles me the most, personality-wise … when I was his age. I always find it interesting when someone says Matt is their favourite. I’m thinking “Really?”

There will always be — at least for the next few decades — people who have a problem with a gay main character. That doesn’t bother me. If you have a problem with it, don’t read the book. It’s that simple. I’m not going to turn Matt into one of those two-dimensional, “sexless” gays portrayed in lots of literature and television as comic relief. Or just add a gay label on his head and not explore that side of him to sell more books.

I think the world is ready for having a gay super-powered character. Authors need to create more of them so they become part of the norm instead of a ‘special’ character as in ‘oh, right, him, the gay one’. There should be more gay characters, but I don’t think their sexuality alone is what should make them stand out.
Marvel Comics are handling this issue quite well in their Young Avengers comics. These feature two gay teen characters who are a couple. I think we are ready for this and need more of it.

Serendipity:  Since Solstice High loses its infrastructure, will the kids finish their education somewhere else?

Ardash Vartparonian: Solstice High will be opening its gates again in the second book right off the bat. In the book, only a few weeks have passed. I won’t say whether or not it stays that way, but I think the school has become almost a character of its own. For 17 to 18-years-old, whether you like it or not, and if you realize it or not, the building where you are going to school is a huge part of your life. It’s not just the amount of time you spend in it. It’s what goes on there too. High school inevitably ends, but it leaves a lasting impression and may even influence the person you are.

About the author:

Ardash Vartparonian was born in London, but raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the age of 18 he began his début Ardash-Vartparoniannovel, Solstice High, and continued writing throughout his last year of school and first year of university, where he moved back to the UK to study English Literature at Edinburgh University. Now a fourth year student, Ardash enjoys going out with his friends, watching horror movies and reading fantasy books while trying to keep up with his university work.

Find out more at http://sbpra.com/ardashvartparonian/

Buy Solstice High:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Book Depository

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Growing up super strange – SOLSTICE HIGH

Solstice High by Ardash Vartparonian

Publisher: Strategic Book Group
Urban Fantasy/Sci Fi/Young Adult
360 Pages

Solstice-High

Reading Solstice High was an interesting experience for me. As a grandmother, my high school years are long past … but I have a not quite 17-year-old granddaughter going through the angst, misery, insecurity and social anxieties which seem an inevitable part of the high school experience. No matter who you are or what family you come from, no one is comfortable in his or her own skin at that age. You have to make decisions affecting the rest of your life, yet you are completely unready to make those decisions. Even the most mature teenage is overwhelmed as they try to do what they must and become who they should be … while their hormones rage. Everyone feels like a freak.

Solstice High isn’t your average high school either, nor are Matt, Rochelle, Daphne and Jonas typical anything. Four students beginning their senior year enter a locked room. An unknown gas is released and each begins to develop strange, unique powers. Super powers. Each copes in his or her own way. Some welcome the changes. Others see them as torture.

The plot is less important than the characters. Most books about teenagers are written by authors long past that stage of life. Solstice High is unique and far better than the typical books of this genre. The author was just 18 when he began writing the book. He isn’t far past it now. For him, the experience of being a kid and coping with its problems are fresh. This perspective makes Solstice High much better than the usual book about a bunch of teenagers discovering their powers. It makes them real. Kids with problems, trying to fit in and having no easy time of it. Add in rapidly developing superpowers and you have a bunch of kids whose lives are a fury of chaotic emotions

They support and help each other as one terrifying experience after another forces them to use their newborn powers as well as their creativity and intelligence to survive. The school principal is the villain of the piece. He has an agenda that has nothing to do with education. The school is a laboratory and all the students potential lab rats. The four youngsters must fight him, improvising as they go. Meanwhile, they still need to get decent grades and cope with dysfunctional families.

Ardash Vartparonian writes with authority and compassion. His closeness to his characters brings them to life in a way no other book aimed at young adults has done … at least not in my experience. This isn’t Twilight. It’s not Harry Potter. The magic is there, but so is suffering humanity. It’s a wonderful book for kids. Good for adults too, especially if you have teenagers in your life. It’s an up close and very personal look at the real world of high school. Read it then pass it to a teenager who’s having a hard time. Probably any teenager you know. It might help them.

This is the first book of a trilogy. The author promises the next two books will be even more intense. Hard to even imagine!

Tomorrow Serendipity will feature an exclusive interview with the author. Don’t miss it!

About the author:

Ardash Vartparonian was born in London, but raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the age of 18 he began his début Ardash-Vartparoniannovel, Solstice High, and continued writing throughout his last year of school and first year of university, where he moved back to the UK to study English Literature at Edinburgh University. Now a fourth year student, Ardash enjoys going out with his friends, watching horror movies and reading fantasy book while trying to keep up with his university work.

Find out more at http://sbpra.com/ardashvartparonian/

Buy Solstice High:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Book Depository

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