Friday, May 31, 2013

It makes me sad...

It makes me sad that today's society functions in such a way that I feel nervous being home by myself when two guys come to install a new front door.

The thought of being in the house with these two guys I don't know has been freaking me out to the point that I pretty much told a friend of mine I would be IM'ing her while they were here in case they tried to attack me or something.

To be honest, the likelihood of something like that happening is not high, but it COULD happen.  I mean, they work for a reputable company so I assume they have had background checks and all that.  But, the possibility is there so that's all I've been able to think about.

And I kind of hate myself a little bit for being nervous, because I'm treating these (so far perfectly nice and professional) men like criminals.  Or potential criminals, anyway.

But, and this conversation has been had so many times recently because of the cases making the news, our society teaches women to do what they can to not be attacked.  So,  here I am sitting in the comfort of my own home trying to take precautions against something bad happening to me.  Instead of being able to trust that the strangers I've met have been taught that it's just wrong to attack someone.

The more I write about this, the more ashamed I am about having these feelings and thoughts.  And that's just another sign of what's wrong!  I shouldn't be ashamed of wanting to protect myself.  But, as a female, I'm supposed to be nice to everyone and welcoming to people.

Ugh, I don't even know where I'm going with this.  Nowhere I guess.  It's a frustrating sign of the way society currently functions.  But, I will be online with my friend until they leave, just in case.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thursday's Children - Inspired by Benedict Cumberbatch

This post could go in a few directions, but I’m going to stick to a direction that’s 1) clean and appropriate for all ages and 2) actually has to do with writing.

I’ve been a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch (I’m sorry, you can’t just call him Benedict – it’s all or nothing) since I first saw Sherlock on Netflix.  I’m a bit of a Sherlock purist, so I was skeptical.  Set in modern times?  Pffft.  But, I loved it.  It’s so true to the original stories and he is the perfect Sherlock.  Arrogant enough that you want to punch him, but still with a quality that makes you like him.  I’m digressing; this is not supposed to be a post about Sherlock.

I’ll be honest, while I consider myself a fan, Sherlock was the only thing I had seen him in until about a week ago when I saw Star Trek Into Darkness.  I was pretty geeked about his movie in general – Star Trek, JJ Abrams, B.C. (I guess I can abbreviate) and a whole bunch of other actors I really like.

I loved the movie, I thought it was great.  But, I was really blown away by the villain played by B.C.  (I think the fact that he is the villain is pretty much common knowledge so I hope that’s not a spoiler.)  He was intelligent, he kept you guessing at times, he used a psychological approach, and he was absolutely brutal.  Surprisingly so, in some regards. 

That’s not something that he had really done before, from what I understand, but he mastered it in my opinion.  If it's possible to be poetic and brutal in the same action, his character was.  He also has one of the best lines in the whole movie…  

Chills, I tell you.

I feel like my villain worship might be starting to sound a little disturbing, but this has a point.

Watching this movie got me thinking about boundaries, and pushing boundaries; about villains that are terrible beyond anything you could imagine.  There is a story I am working on that has a true villain in it.  However, I tend to have a hard time putting my characters through too much, I want to protect them.  This bad guy has potential though.  He has goons, there are physical confrontations, a kidnapping, even a bit of torture for information.  But I don’t just want the physical aspect, I want to get into the psychological side, too.  This is nothing I’ve ever tried before, but I’m inspired to try it now.  Because I think, if you have a villain that is the stuff of nightmares, it only makes the triumph at the end that much more meaningful.

So, I guess you could say Benedict Cumberbatch has inspired me to explore my inner villain...I'm off to see what kind of evil I can conjure up.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

So, I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by the very inspiring Chris Allen-Riley.

Chris is not only a fantastic writer, but super talented at all sorts of creative, crafty awesomeness.  Check out her blog at the link above for a sneak peek at some of her cross stitch (and to learn more about her).  Also, she's going to help me build a fort with a moat and long bow archers.  How can you not love her?

As part of the blog award, we're supposed to reveal seven interesting things about ourselves and then nominate 15 other bloggers.  I'll be honest, it took me a little while to come up with the seven things (hence the time lapse since her blog post), but once I did, I got a little long winded.  Oops.

Also, when it comes to nominating people, I don't think I'm going to.  It's not that I don't find others inspiring, I absolutely do.  But instead of nominating people, I'm going to direct you to the links on the right side of the page to blogs I read/follow.  I find each one of these people inspiring for different reasons, I think you might, too.

Okay, so seven things about me.  Here I go...

1.     I am terrified of fireworks.  Not the little ones you can light in your driveway, but the big overhead 4th of July celebration kind of fireworks.  Terrified to the point where when I was a kid, I used to try to bury myself in the ground.  Now I just avoid them.  Instead, I watch Pops Goes the Fourth or A Capital Fourth on TV and see the fireworks from the safety of my living room.

2.     One of my dreams is to live in a house with a turret, with my office at the very top.  There are a few houses in my town like this.  I drive past them every so often and sigh with longing.

You can't see me but I'm there at the top being clever and creative.  :)
3.     I rarely (very rarely) swim in natural bodies of water.  Because…I was once caught in a jellyfish migration off the Gulf Coast in rough waters.  I was stung repeatedly by the jellyfish as well as detached tentacles that broke off in the waves.  I don’t recommend it.  However, side note, if you are ever stung by a jellyfish put meat tenderizer on it.  It helps with the pain but I have no idea why.  My aunt used to keep a spice jar of it in her beach bag. 

4.     I love anything related to Ancient Egypt.  One my of my life goals (I refuse to create an actual ‘bucket list’) is to learn Hieroglyphics.

5.     My cat, Noah, once saved me from being locked out on my balcony.  The balcony door had a security bar in the middle of it (as opposed to on the floor) and while I was outside, the bar fell and I wasn’t able to slide the door open.  My ever-curious kitty decided to see what was going on and started batting at the security bar.  I tapped on the other side of the door near the bar trying to get him to play with it.  Eventually (after less than 10 minutes), he wrapped his paws around the bar and pulled on it.  He moved it enough I was able to slide the door open and get inside.  He got a catnip reward for that one.

Noah in his Halloween costume, its a rooster hat.  Can you tell how happy he is? 

6.     I have this…thing, for lack of a better word, where I have intense reactions to certain sounds.  Usually it’s something like another person coughing or chewing, but basically I get incredibly angry and I have to bite my tongue to keep from yelling at the person.  I have learned that this is a real condition and there is a name for it, but I can never remember it (it has to do with sensory overload).  Instead, my husband has taken to calling it my “climacaphobia.”  (And if anyone knows where that is from, I’ll send you chocolate.)

7.     When I was little, I had a killer goldfish named Charlie.  He lived well beyond the normal lifespan of a goldfish and killed every other fish we put in the bowl with him.  He either ate them (we found the leftovers) or would somehow convince them to commit suicide and jump out of the bowl.  I think we went through three or four fish before we decided Charlie should probably just be a loner.

This blog post got totally out of control, but there you have a few things about me.  I encourage you to check out Chris' blog and the others I follow.  You will be inspired by them just as I am.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thursday's Children - Inspired by Roald Dahl

I had a conversation with a co-worker on Monday that lead to this post.  Just a bit of background…

My co-worker (we’ll call her Katherine) has three small children, but this specifically centered around her eight year old daughter (we’ll call her Fiona).  We were having a conversation about something else and it made me think of a scene from Matilda, one of my favorite Roald Dahl books.  I told Katherine this and explained the scene, and was met with a blank stare. 

“Have you ever read Matilda?” I asked.


“Have you ever seen the movie?” I asked.


“What about The Witches?”  Another of my favorite Roald Dahl books.


Okay, so, no reading of any Roald Dahl books.  I was shocked but I persevered.  I decided to ask if Fiona had read any of them.  She’s eight but I know that she reads at a fifth grade level.  I figured her teacher might have suggested one of those books (or even her own dad who teaches fifth grade).  Nothing, Fiona had never read any of them.  Now, maybe she’s a little young; but with her reading level, I don't think so.  The conversation then turned into my co-worker asking me what other Roald Dahl books Fiona should read and a list was made. 

What surprised me about all of this was the fact that she was so unfamiliar with his books.  (This story is taking a while, but I have a point, I promise.  Hang in there.)  It did make me glad to see that while my co-worker might not be a big reader, she encourages her daughter who loves it.

Then, I started thinking about this in terms of other conversations I’ve had with this person.  There was one in particular that involved her sister’s wish list on Amazon and a birthday present.  “She has three seasons of Doctor Who on here.  I am NOT buying her those.”  (I won’t even go into how mortally offended I was by her dismissal of Doctor Who.)  I realized the bigger issue; there seems to be a lack of imagination here - no whimsy, no make believe. 

Now, I’m not trying to be mean, I’m really not (although I’m sure it sounds like it).  She is a very nice person and I like working with her; we just couldn't be more different in many ways.  It’s more like I’m just now coming to the realization that not everyone grew up in a house like I did where we read books by Roald Dahl and Tolkien and with a mom obsessed with dragons and fairies.  Imagination was encouraged and was just…sort of…taken for granted I suppose.

So, what does all of this have to do with inspiration?

It inspires me to use my imagination even more than I currently do.  I feel like imagination is slipping away from society in a lot of ways and I find that scary.  Nothing is spontaneous anymore; everything is planned to within an inch of its life.  You don’t see kids just running around outside making up stories, wearing bath towels as capes.  At least, not in my little sphere of the world.  Everyone is so obsessed with succeeding or being the best, they ignore being creative.  As my husband would say, “No one’s fun anymore!”

So, I’m inspired by Roald Dahl who had a wonderful imagination and built worlds where kids saved the day.  I’m inspired to be more creative and try new things.  I’m inspired to find ways to get others to use their imagination.  And mostly, I’m inspired to never let my own imagination die.  To live without it would be, well, unimaginable.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thursday’s Children – Inspired by…well…What I Don’t Like

The Thursday’s Children blog hop is about what inspires us as writers.  This week I’m turning it around a little bit and looking at trends in current YA literature that I don’t like.  Trends that are helping me figure out what not to do in my own manuscript.

These aren’t new observations; I’ve heard/read some of them before.  Now I’m looking at them in terms of how I want to do things differently in my own work.  And not just do things differently, but do my very best to push against the tide of troubling trends I’m seeing.  Alliteration got a little out of control there, but I stand by it.

I’ll preface this by saying that I read a lot of YA that has some sort of paranormal aspect to it, so many of these observations are in that context.  But, these trends are prevalent in non-paranormal works as well.  Also, quite a few of these trends are intertwined and feed off of each other.

I’m pretty sure we can all think of examples of these trends/characteristics, so I’m not going to point any out.  Instead, after I get through the bad, I’m going to give some examples of characters that I feel go against these trends or are good examples of strong characters.

The whiny/selfish female:  Everything that comes out of her mouth or runs through her head is negative in some way.  I don’t like this, this wronged me, I didn’t get my way on this, and it’s just not fair.  Life ain’t fair, suck it up and deal with it.

I struggled with what to call this one (not wanting to betray the sisterhood), but I settled on “the stupid female”:  This one is more prevalent in the paranormal genre.  It’s the character who thinks, “I don’t have any powers but others do, but I can’t possibly let them help me so I’m going to put myself in danger and make things worse.”  I know there has to be conflict and drama, but this is nothing but frustrating to me. 

The female who has nothing else in her life but the guy:  She has no hobbies, no other friends, nothing to do but think about him and how wonderful he is.   Moreover, if the guy goes away or they break up for a while, the world ends.  Again, I know there has to be conflict.  But if someone is that dependent on another person, I think there are larger issues here.

The overprotective/stalker-ish male:  We all know this character.  His girl can’t go anywhere without him, can’t be trusted to stay out of trouble unless he’s there to protect her.  He watches her when she doesn’t know it.  While she’s sleeping maybe?  Sorry – couldn’t resist that one.  And he gets angry at her when he thinks she puts herself in danger.  Which leads us to…

The angry male:  This often goes hand in hand with the overprotective male.  The female character has to watch what she does so she doesn’t make him angry, often resorting to lying about her actions or whereabouts.  Which always leads to more trouble.  In addition, he often blames her for his anger; if she wouldn’t do certain things, he wouldn’t be so angry.

The male that treats the female like a small child:  This could be carrying her around like a piece of luggage (again, happens more in the paranormal genre) or essentially patting her on the head and telling her to be quiet any time she tries to speak.  You know… “It’s time for the grown-ups to talk now,” in the most patronizing voice you can imagine. 

There are a number of reasons these traits bother me.  When it comes down to it, would I want my daughter using these characters as role models?  No.  Okay, I don’t actually have a daughter, but I have some close friends who do.  Do I want their daughters using these characters as role models?  Absolutely not.  I want them to grow up as strong, independent girls whose lives don’t revolve around a boy.  And I want them to look for boys who treat them well, treat them as equals, and respect them.

I’m getting a little feminist here, so I’ll flip it around.  I don’t want the little boys I know to grow up thinking girls are helpless and the proper way to treat them is to lock them in the tower and tell them “Don’t worry your pretty little head, I’m a boy, I’ll take of everything.”  I want the boys I know to grow up and treat girls, or whomever their significant other may happen to be, as equal partners.  Partners that help each other and help make each other better.

As promised, here are a few examples of strong characters (in my opinion) within YA fiction:

Kaylee Cavanaugh in the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent – she does what she needs to do to protect those around her and everyone else can either help or get out of her way.  But, on the other side, she’s not a bitch about it either.  She just knows what she has to do, she is protective of those around her and will do what needs to be done no matter the cost to herself.  She has strength and integrity.

Grace Divine and Daniel Kalbi in the Dark Divine series by Bree Despain – she is powerful in her own right and Daniel accepts that (although it does take him a little bit to get there).  By the end, they are true partners and he trusts her to make the right decisions.

Rose Hathaway and Dmitri Belikov in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead – this is another example of a relationship where they are true partners.  They make each other better, work well together, and treat each other like equals.  There is still drama, and yes they are apart for a while (which seems to be a necessity in all YA series'), but it’s not what you expect and Rose does what she needs to do to try to fix it.
Dru Anderson in the Strange Angels series by Lili St. Crow – she gets thrown into a situation almost immediately that is way over her head.  But, she uses what she knows, takes help where she needs it, and fights like hell to keep herself and others safe.

Apparently, I like main female characters who take on the difficult tasks.  This may seem like it conflicts with my point above about the female who puts herself in danger unnecessarily.  However, these characters have the skills they need to pull off the tasks at hand.  They know their own power and use it, they don’t put others in danger because of an inherently flawed idea that people who care about each other can’t work together and help each other.

What it comes down to is this…  Now that I know what I don’t like, I know what types of traits to avoid in my characters and their relationships.  My goal is to write books that contain characters who are role models and who help to reverse this troubling trend.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thursday's Children - Soundtrack to a Book

First off, in case you can't tell, I'm going through a bit of an identity crisis.  I decided to change the name of my blog, but haven't decided what it's going to be called yet.  I also changed my name *on* my blog, so don't be confused.  I'm still me.  J

Ok, on to the Thursday's Children portion of this post.  This was not the topic I planned on writing about today.  The topic I had in mind is more serious and I decided I just didn’t have it in me today to tackle it.  So instead, I’m going to share my playlist for my current work in process. 

I’ve talked about a song in particular that inspired a project, but never the playlist for my current story…the one I plan to finish this year. 

I will freely admit that I have no idea why some of these songs make me think of this project.  There are songs that I hear and I think of a certain character, or scene or place.  And then other songs, it’s just more of a vibe, something I can’t really describe.

I fully expect this list to grow as I work towards the end of the book, but this is where the playlist stands right now.

Vanilla Twilight – Owl City
I Won’t Give Up – Jason Mraz
Brighter Than the Sun – Colbie Caillat
Where You Are – Gavin DeGraw
Burn it Down – Linkin Park
Brave – Josh Groban
Are We Afraid – Toad the Wet Sprocket
How Soon is Now? -  Love Spit Love
Angel Mine – Cowboy Junkies
The Boys of Summer – The Ataris
Colorful – Rocco DeLuca & the Burden
Follow Through – Gavin DeGraw
The Great Escape – Boys Like Girls
Everybody’s Changing – Keane
Walk On – U2
All I Want – Toad the Wet Sprocket
Crushcrushcrush – Paramore
The Lighthouse’s Tale – Nickel Creek
Cry in the Sun – Better Than Ezra
No One’s Gonna Love You – Band of Horses

Now that I have the list typed out and staring at me, I’m not sure how some of these songs even relate to the same book.  But they do, in my mind anyway!  Below are a few videos I pulled off YouTube, for what I feel might be a couple of the more obscure songs (and one of my all-time favorites).

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