Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Flickr Credit: *vlad*
I want to say that Wild Horse and Alyssa both posted lovely end-of-year posts, but the first especially made
me panic because it was the first thing I read yesterday morning, and I, being American, and she, being not, have different time zones. She was like, “It’s the last day of the year!” and I was like “WHAT IT’S ONLY TUESDAY HOLY CRAP DID I SLEEP THROUGH THE DAY MY SCHEDULE IS RUINED AHHH.”

And then it turned out that, in fact, that she lives in the future and everything was okay again.

Anyway, 2014 has been a glorious year, for me and for Sometimes I’m a Story, and so I’d thought I’d be a copycat and recap fourteen things that rocked for me and the blog this year. (I’d add another two thousand but that would be kinda tedious.)

1. SiaS hit 5000 views!

(Admittedly, it is 5123, but that is not a nice number.)

2. I was a fan!

(You can read the premise and the recap if you haven’t seen it yet, but these two are the most popular posts I’ve written. I worked hard to put effort into other people’s blogs for a week, and I think I’ll definitely be doing the same thing again soon!)

3. I wrote 100 words for 100 days!

(That’s not true; the lowest number of words I ever wrote was 101. However, over the course of 100 days I was able to work on a novel and have a blast doing it.)

4. I finished a novel!

(I talked about it in my Beautiful Books participation, and while I am currently distancing myself from the writing I WILL be posting a few excerpts in the coming year for some public scrutiny and maybe group fawning. We’ll see.)

5. I participated in the Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain! (Four times!)

(In August, September, November, and December I got to participate in a blog chain, which is really exciting because I think it was this chain that made me realize the importance of a blogging community.)

6. SiaS obtained followers!

(This seems kind of dumb; you can see there’s a 10 on the sidebar right there and on Bloglovin’ there are seven lovely folks who have taken interest. But before I started participating in TCWT blog chains, I didn’t realize the social aspect of blogging and now I am working on that.)

7. I finished the Walden-Bond Index!

(I PROMISE there will be one on Friday, by the way. But, in other news, after several months of hacking at it there is a 27-page guide to how I classify villains sitting on my hard drive right now.)

8. SiaS celebrated its first birthday!

(Back in November I did a huge tag post about it—it is also one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written.)

9. I wrote a guest blog post and got one in return!

(It didn’t turn out super well because I am really bad at doing things unless they are given to me in homework format. But I did like having someone else post on my blog—if that’s something you’d want to do we should talk, because that would be fun.)

10. I followed a lot of awesome blogs!

(I made a list over here, which is now a little outdated, but you can also look at the blogs I follow on Bloglovin’ to get the complete list.)

11. SiaS got a Facebook page!

(And there are fifteen likes. Fancy that.)

12. I got a handle on my focus! (sort of)

(If you go read like, July’s posts or something, no, not July, like, APRIL, I’m all over the place. I have no idea why I even started this blog. Not sad I did, but seriously I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m insane.)

13. I wrote 128 posts!

(Which is a lot, even though the silly haikus towards the beginning probably shouldn’t count. I had a dumb schedule, believe me.)

14. I got Thor: The Dark World for my birthday!

(I don’t care if you care. I just found out that I posted about it and I am so in love with that movie I don’t even care it has nothing to do with my blog. Go away.)

Here’s to hoping next year turns out even better! Thus far, these are the To-Do posts that are sitting in my folder, but who knows what will happen?

Click Me to Big Me

THANK YOU for being here. Blogging has changed from a flailing attempt to something I really enjoy and treasure, and if you’re reading this then you’re contributing in a HUGE way.

Whether writers acknowledge it or not—we really do need our readers.

So thanks.

What have been the highlights of your year?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How to Write a Book Review

Very recently I came across a bad book review. Okay, if we’re completely honest, I manage to find bad book reviews all the time—and I think I know a common problem.

Flickr Credit: Alan Levine
There are some people out there who have gotten a book review horribly confused with a book report. To clarify, a book report was that thing that you had to do where you wrote down the book name, author, wrote a short summary, and then drew a picture of what happened; and then your mom told you that you spelled everything wrong and you had to do it all over again.

A book review is that thing where you read a book and then tell people what you thought about it. It is NOT a summary. 

Well, that’s a little wrong. You should have a summary of the book in your review—but if you can borrow it from Goodreads, do it. For one thing, you and I both know you have better things to do with your time than write a summary that has already been written. My other reason, I’m sad to say, is that hand-crafted summaries are long. And kind of boring. And sometimes they only tell the story from the perspective of what they thought was important, and not what was actually important (like the plot).

The only excellent reason I can think of for writing your own summary is if your summary is the review. By that, I mean it looks something like this:

So this chick, Cinderella? I could not be more unimpressed. That weakling has spent her entire life in the ashes—no dreams, no aspirations, no nothing—until her family is invited to Prince Charming’s fab party. Cinderella totally wants to party, but wouldn’t you know it, she can’t even stand up for herself when that gargoyle (also known as the evil stepmother) makes completely reasonable suggestions about Cinderella’s time management issues. Cinderella, though, is so bent out of shape she gets all weepy until a fairy godmother comes down, probably just to get her to shut up! And, oh joy, now Cinderella’s at the party. What fun. We really care how she falls in love with Prince Charming, and her still-bad time management skills ruin her otherwise-flawless getaway. Prince Creeper decides to track down this girl with a shoe, and what I assume is some years later, he finds the one girl in the whole blanged kingdom who wears a size seven. It’s totally realistic. 

Maybe I went a little overboard. Still, the idea holds true—unless you can make your voice do the work for you, don’t spend a lot of time summarizing. You can tell I am not enamored with Cinderella’s story from the language—I probably wouldn’t need to say much beyond the paragraph itself.

However, most people don’t review like that, so I have developed this list, reminiscent of a Todd Parr book (which coincidentally sits next to me on the desk).

DO say what you liked about the book. (Inquiring minds want to know.)

DON’T focus on positives only. (Unless it is the book of all books.)

DO discuss negatives. (Otherwise it can sound like you’re advertising.)

DON’T focus solely on sensitive content. (“They have sex so mind your virgin eyes” doesn’t count.)

DO be kind. (Especially if your review will go somewhere the author will read it.)

DON’T milk it. (It’s okay if you give a negative review.)

DO be honest. (Seriously. Honest.)

DON’T let authors guilt you out of it. (Reviews are for the readers, not them.)

DO mention the genre. (Not everyone reads everything.)

DON’T (always) recommend an audience. (The “desired reader base” can be exclusive.)

DO give a star rating. (If you really want to.)

DON’T give a star rating and call it good. (Otherwise you will tell us pretty much nothing.)

DO feel free to gives spoilers. (Just give us a warning.)

DON’T spoil everything. (Watching people’s faces as they learn horrible and terrifying things they hadn’t anticipated is the greatest fun in the world.)

DO be meaningful. (If you have a particular audience, recognize their patterns and styles.)

DON’T be super particular. (Who knows who will read your review?)

And, most importantly…

DO be yourself. (Be interesting, unique, and fancy—make it said that no one reviews the way you do.)

If I had an illustrator I could probably make a Todd Parr book, honestly. 

Anyway, these are recent conclusions (don’t hurt me for former misguided Thursentaries) and certainly not the conclusive list. But, if you want to see some of my favorite reviews, here are a few I enjoyed:

You’ll find a mix and match of things I appreciate in all of those, and the various styles bloggers adopt to share their thoughts. It’s kind of awesome. 

What do you think is important when writing reviews?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Not Upset: My Boggart

(I forgot to do this on the last few posts but if you have ten minutes you might look into my nine-question-survey for Sometimes I'm a Story to help make the blog better next year. Last time I bring it up, promise.)

This is it! The last Harry Potter introspection experience. (Really, last one, promise.) Today we reach the fourth and fatal question… Are you scared?

Courtesy of Tumblr

4. What Would My Boggart Be?

Fear is tricky because it’s complex.

Getting startled is one thing—but if your little brother jumps out from behind the couch and draws the dirtiest of swears from your lips, you probably won’t live in dread of meeting him again (however annoying he may be).

Real, deep-seated fear? That’s complex. An undesirable precedent, a current problem, and the unknown future couldn’t be anything else.

Let Ron be our guinea pig: he fears spiders. As children, Fred turned Ron’s teddy bear into a spider because he broke his toy broomstick. That’s traumatic. Something familiar, even comforting, became unfamiliar and threatening. Spiders still terrify him—and I don’t really blame him.

However, even though spiders have too many legs and are disgusting, I think, for Ron, they are also a symbol. Ron was betrayed: not just by his teddy, but by his brother, even if it took him a while to understand what happened that fateful day. It’s my own supposition, but especially when he wears the locket in Deathly Hallows, Ron’s actions show that he still fears being betrayed again, even if it’s unconsciously.

Still, spiders are disturbing, right? Even if they aren’t tied up in childhood trauma. So let’s look at something most of us aren’t afraid of: the moon.

Remus Lupin’s boggart appears as the moon. And, if you are a healthy individual, you likely recognize that the moon is about 384,399 km (238,900 miles) away from us, on average [source]. It’s not like it’s going to squish us, or attack us, or eat us, or kill us. It’s the moon.

No, Lupin fears his darker nature: that of a werewolf. To my knowledge, he never killed anyone—but the possibility remains. He could kill someone. Perhaps worse, he could allow them to live; when he learns that Tonks is pregnant he completely flips out because he would never wish his curse on anyone else.

Now, the boggart could turn into Lupin-wolf, if it wanted, but when Lupin undergoes his transformation he sees the moon, not himself. The moon symbolizes his fears, and so the boggart uses that symbol to elicit the emotional ties connected to that image—it’s not the moon, but what it does, that alarms him.

Flickr Credit: Doug Wheller
So… What about me?

Making a fear public kind of sucks: it makes finding the next words tricky. I don’t scare too easily, and I don’t have a phobia, and I wouldn’t want people to think I do. But I felt scared a few weeks ago: I fear school shootings. It isn’t exactly THE fear of all fears—my boggart might very well turn into something else—but it’s a go-to thought.

A couple weeks ago, my principal interrupted my Film Studies class on the intercom: “This is your principal. Lockdown. Lockdown. Locks, lights, out of sight.”

My first thought, of course, was “oh, shit.”

I live in a state with a reputation for school shootings, and a lockdown means that somebody’s already in the building. I ran for all I was worth to one of the three doors, and in my head I was almost defiant: “you don’t kill me today, bastard.”

Before we had a chance to do the out-of-sight bit, my principal came on again, a little more flustered: someone accidentally hit the lockdown recording button, and we were actually having a lockout drill, which lasted for ten minutes and classroom business resumed as usual.

It frightened me, but I’m kind of glad it happened—I believed the situation was real, and so I acted as if it were real. And I was kind of freaking out. I had two sisters in the building, and though I was nervous about my own safety I also thought theirs. Some stupidhead could rip apart my family in minutes, and even after the drill ended my hands shook a little.

(Of course, I’m an ISTJ so I don’t think anyone actually noticed I was scared, but this is what was going on in my head.)

The point, anyway, is that I fear someone—someone I know, even, someone who I might call friend—putting the people and community I value most in danger. I’m not plagued endlessly. I don’t go rigid when people talk about shootings. I don’t cry. But I also know that if the real thing ever happened, I’d be terrified.

That’s probably what my boggart would want.

Flickr Credit: modernrockstar

That’s a wrap! I’ve speculated on answers, and presented the cases for our patronuses, love potions, desires, and fears, and I have come to a conclusion: this is a silly thing to be forever upset about. Don’t get me wrong—they’re worth thinking about. What is your character, your passion, your desire, your fear? You should explore these things!

But don’t be forever upset: they’re always going to change. Ron’s biggest fear was likely something else before the teddy bear fiasco. Tonks’ patronus only became a werewolf after she fell in love with Lupin. Harry only wanted the sorcerer’s stone in the moments he needed it.

Considering the fluidity of YOU, patience seems better than upsetness. Besides, who knows? You might be a completely different you tomorrow.

Ta-da! What did you think? Did you enjoy this Harry-Potter-based introspection? Would you want to read something like this again? I don’t know these answers: it’s all on you, partner. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Thursentary: The Art of Meaning It

I was going to post this yesterday. I had this stupid vision that yesterday after church the spirit of willpower would come over me and I'd get my Spanish and econ homework done and then work on college app stuff and then write a WBI post for today (I know, it's been two weeks and if you're into that kind of thing I expect you're missing them.)

Anyway, I spent yesterday afternoon watching Fringe and Sherlock and eating, and not doing anything I was going to get done.

Today I'm getting my wisdom teeth out, so I assume I'll probably do the same thing but with less eating.

So, therefore, if only to console myself this is the post I was supposed to have posted yesterday; you have my apologies on the timing. And if I spend the afternoon drooling like a child in front of the television, staring at Moriarty's face, then at least I've gotten this done.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, your post.


Merry Christmas!

Not for Sale on the Internet?
In that it’s the second-most important holiday celebrated at church, not to mention a Thursday, I thought I could talk about the Art of Meaning It—something that occurred to me a little while ago.

Recently I finished a 100-day devotional from Family Christian Bookstores, which I think I got for my
confirmation. Which was… over four years ago. Better read late than never, right?

Anyway, this book is called Discovering Purpose: A 100-Day Journey for Teens and originally I read the thing in a day. It was easy to do—there’s a verse, a concept, a handful of quotes, and something to think about. It’s an easy skim.

Skim I did, and skimming is where I left it.

More than 100 days ago (I figure God loves me even when I’m sick and skip to the part where I go to sleep) I started this book again, a little skeptical and a little bored. But hey, I thought. You need to do something.

So I did it. More importantly, I meant it. And when you mean something, you end up somewhere different than where you started.

More than 100 days ago, I didn’t want to be a writer. I actively resisted the idea in my brain, and refused to consider it as an idea. But sometimes I’m weird and I make bets with God. It’s not really a gamble: if I win, usually God wins too.

For 87 days, I’d be a writer. I’d make choices as though I was going to be a writer long-term, I’d try to conduct myself in a way befitting a writer, I’d try to write. And to my surprise, accepting the writer in me has brought me to places I certainly didn’t expect more than a hundred days ago.

I’m on the fourth draft of a book. Realize that I’ve never gotten through a second one—the fact that I’m here is insane. I’ve written almost every day for the past 100+ days, in part because of the Go Teen Writers’ activity, and also because to be a writer you have to write.

I’ve blogged a lot, too. The entire Fan Week? That came from wanting to mean it. Wanting to be better.

What I’ve found is that when you do a devo, there are days when you dash it aside and roll your eyes because it’s silly, but if you find a day where there’s an idea that you can mean, then something awesome and unexpected can show up instead.

It’s Christmas: welcome to the awesome and unexpected. 

The cool thing about today is that I know that today is a day that shows that God meant it. When Jesus became a flesh-man? That was a commitment. And I don’t wonder if Jesus made a bet with God the Father when he first came down, too.

For the next 33 years I’ll be perfect. I’ll heal the sick, I’ll show your love, and I’ll give your forgiveness—because that’s what a savior does. And at the end of it, we’ll see what happens.

What has happened is kind of crazy.

So Merry Christmas. I mean it.

Do you?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Honor to Us All

Photo Credit:

Sunday night, I watched Dead Poets Society with my father. It’s the second time I’ve watched it, and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. There’s so much to say about it, so much to think… But I remember the honor.

I don’t see a lot of honor anymore. Especially not the end of this movie.

The spoilers version is this: at the end of the movie, the boys who participate in the club all have to sign a document confirming that the actions of their teacher and friend resulted in the suicide of another student. It is a blatant lie. You can sign and accept the lie, or refuse and be expelled.

I was furious, the first time I watched it. It’s a LIE! It’s WRONG! My teacher patiently explained that it was a time when your school mattered; getting expelled would have been an enormous risk many boys couldn’t afford to take.

But it wasn’t just that which bothered me: if I was in that situation, would my parents make me sign my honor away?

Watching it with my dad made me feel better—not because I was any more accustomed to the idea, but I could see he was just as furious as I was. I told him, “If you made me do that, I don’t know how I could ever trust you or the school again.” To my relief, he agreed. The lie the boys agreed to in Dead Poets’ Society put everything else into question. Everything in the past, present, and future is potential fabrication.

In a situation where lying is supported by people you are supposed to respect and trust, everything is questionable.

This is where honor comes in.

To some people, honor is fulfilling a role; for Mulan it was bearing sons, for Neil Perry’s father it was becoming a doctor at Harvard. To others it’s associating with another class, having lots of money, upholding a misguided sense of righteousness. There are things people do to maintain their social integrity, and sometimes they look for it in the wrong places.

My family isn’t poor. We’re not millionaires either, but we are by no means poor. Not even by a stretch of the imagination. I go to public school, most of my wardrobe was bought at a thrift store, and I’m not going to go to Harvard.

Not exactly knights in shining armor.

In my family, we don’t have the resources or the community to build a social integrity off of rich associates or in barrels of money. A lot of the time, the my integrity and honor comes from my own actions and words—not from the opportunities that have been given to me here.

If I have a story, I expect my parents to believe it. I try to be a trustworthy daughter, to act in such a way that they can trust my actions and respect my decisions without worrying where I might be, or what might happen in my future.

A few weeks ago my sister and I were the only ones well enough to go to church; afterwards we decided to go to the library. We don’t have phones, so we just hoped that our mom wouldn’t worry and we’d explain when we get back.

She was unsurprised when we returned. “I saw you were late and I thought, ‘Oh, they must have gone to the library!’”

There’s a kind of integrity that I would want to instill in my community, one that came from being trustworthy, fair, honest, reliable, and kind. The problem with Welton Prep School was that it valued its tradition more than its honor. I don’t mind tradition horribly, but when it gets in the way of honor? I need to know I can trust more than I need to know anything else.

The end.

DPS is a lovely movie. It’s sad. Angering. It makes you think a little more on a Sunday night. And I’m glad I watched it with my dad: even if it would have been true otherwise, I’m still glad he’s assured me that he will value my integrity more than he will ever value the name of my school.

Thank goodness for that.

Have you seen Dead Poets Society? What parts of the story stood out to you?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Not Upset: The Mirror of Erised

(Just a reminder, but if you have ten minutes then I would give you resounding thanks for filling out a nine-question survey to help me make Sometimes I'm a Story better next year. RESOUNDING THANKS TO THOSE FOLKS WHO HAVE ALREADY DONE SO—YOU ARE AWESOME!)

Welcome to week three of my Harry Potter self-examination tangent! We’ve talked about the Patronus spell and our favorite potion, Amortentia. Ready for more?

3. What would I see in the Mirror of Erised?

I feel like this is both the easiest and the hardest question to answer because it deals with two separate spheres: primary desires and substrate desires. The current situation versus the dream, so to speak.

Look at Harry and Ron, when they first discover the mirror:

Harry sees himself with his parents, and in the book he actually sees his entire family. People who look like him and love him. And so while Harry wants other stuff—success in school, Quidditch victories, snacks—his driving desire is for his parents; that is, to receive the love, belonging, and nurturing he’s never received before.

Later on, this is a reason he appreciates Mrs. Weasley, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin so much: they parent him. This is also part of the reason why Harry defends Hogwarts: Hogwarts has as much home and family as he’s ever had, and he never wants to lose that again. (Also, Voldemort needed to be dead.)

Ron, on the other hand, sees himself as a Quidditch lord, school official, and bearer of many awards. This may seem like he wants the fame and glory of his brothers, but I think what he really desires is a little more humble: he wants to matter. He wants to be recognized. Ron lives in the shadow of his brothers, and deep down, he wants to be their equal.

I think this contributes, a little, to when Ron leaves Harry and Hermione during Deathly Hallows—yes, he’s overwhelmed, but Harry’s the hero and Hermione’s the genius, making him the overshadowed nobody again. I’d imagine that during his absence, he had time to realize that he wants more to uphold his loyalty to his friends than seek his own glory: his desire eventually changes.

These desires Harry and Ron have define their behavior and values; they’re substrate desires—things you want but aren’t necessarily life-and-death matters. Primary desires are closer to that mark.

When Harry faces Voldemort in the first book, his primary desire is to keep Voldemort away from the immortality rock—and the mirror shows him with the stone in his pocket, because obtaining the stone will satisfy that condition. This is not a desire that ever returns, as the stone is destroyed, but very important in the moment it occurred.

Wanting to get a snack, or wanting to not get shot by bank robbers, or wanting to not get hit by a car can be very powerful desires in the moment that such a thing becomes a problem—but unless we have a phobia, it’s unlikely that these things are an issue as soon as the situation ends. Our desires, again, are flexible to the situation.

Flickr Credit: Wendy

For me? Primarily, I’d really like to figure out how I’m going to edit my current WIP. I’ve worked on it so long that I’m almost immune to seeing the suckiness, and at the moment it feels like a big, impossible blob in my life. I want the tools and the knowhow to find the suck, which probably extends into a greater desire for perfection, but the concept of the draft is temporary, so that’s that.

In the long term, though we don’t always recognize our substrate desires, I’ll guess freedom. I keep a diary, and among my concerns as I mature is getting stuck in a life I would hate to live. That might mean a crappy job, or debt, or an awful reputation: things could really pin me down. Living in freedom, for me, means finding a future life I’ll enjoy without having to fight to keep it. I’ll have bad, life-sucks, destroy-the-world days, of course. But I’d like a place that matters and the ability to wake up without the shadow of past mistakes hanging over me. It’s one reason I know I’m sometimes hesitant to make decisions about my future, and another as to why the ideas of corporations and colleges bother me.

So I’ll have to work on that.

Anyway, I think for the mirror (though this goes for all the questions, now that I think about it) it’s important to remember that our desires can change, even as we change. Our primary concerns get taken care of, and sometimes our characters change as we enter different stages of our lives. Even if you don’t know what the mirror would show you now, there’s every chance that as you mature (even you eighty-year-olds), your desires and your ability to recognize them will change as well.

But, at least for me, that’s no bad thing.

Do you know what you’d see in the Mirror of Erised? Care to share?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

End of Year Survey (2014)

Dear You,

Hi. How are you?

It must be weird, me sitting here and talking to your face, and you sitting there, just now realizing that I'm seriously talking to you. Yes! Hi!

Here is the situation: I am here to beg off a few of your minutes. It's the end of the year, and I could use a little feedback to help me make the next one better. I have a few questions here; answer as you will. None of them are required, so you can spend as little or as much time as you'd like answering the questions.

My goal is this: to improve my blog.

If you have ten minutes, then I would be overjoyed to hear what you have to say. Even if you have five. I just filled this in with dummy answers and I did it in less than three. (Of course, I didn't think have to think much, as I already think about this quite a bit, so I imagine you could spend a little time thinking with another two minutes.)

To do this in another tab, this links to the nine-question survey I made. You can also click through on the post and the survey is at the bottom. I'll get your answers either way.

If you donate your time, thank you. If you don't, thanks anyway. You're still awesome, I promise.

Have a lovely weekend!



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Students Might Be Wrong

I hate this picture.

In fact, I hate that I hear this sentiment all the time in my Lit class, and outside of it, and oftentimes on the Internet. And it used to be funny, when I was in the dark and I was one of the rest of them.

Teacher says that the curtains are a symbol of massive grieving and pain and all the shame and sorrow of the world and blah blah blah blah blah.

No. The curtains are just blue.

But our required reading over the summer totally flipped my view on symbolism, and motifs, and all the Easter eggs that are “supposedly” in the writing. It’s really not a joke: it’s a pattern.

What I didn’t see before is that there are patterns. When we see an orphaned child who becomes a hero—Cinderella, Harry Potter, Eragon, Luke Skywalker, Alina Starkov, Frodo, Will Treaty, etc.—we won’t expect them to be the same, of course, but we can expect a pattern.

Maybe it’s the mentor character (Gandalf, Fairy Godmother) or their rise to sudden power and purpose. It could be the team they surround themselves with, their love interests, the plotline, the victory. If you look at Cinderella and Ranger’s Apprentice, I daresay you’ll find plenty of delightful differences between the two. It’s not that these patterns take away individuality.

It’s that these patterns make the story into something more.

They say something about self-actualization, about mentorship, about friendship and power and victory and evil and pain and justice and mercy and righteousness and the end game. Sometimes they criticize what is. Other times they insist on what should be.

Regardless, it’s these patterns that help us turn anything—from a ten-page fairy tale to one of George R.R. Martin’s books—into something specific.

Sure, disagree with me, whatever. But the patterns are there. Sometimes it’s hard to see. And sometimes it takes a lot of practice. Yet there’s this thing my teacher likes to bring up, called the “range of right.”

The best part about English is that there’s nothing set in stone. What to you represents betrayal to me might represent forgiveness. And that’s okay.

So, for the first part, yes, there are things to analyze in books. They’re often awesome, if you like to read, read a lot, and give them a chance.

And for the second part: you are being ridiculous if you think a book analysis IN ANY WAY takes more thought than writing a book. I’m not saying it’s not hard—I’ve run into stories that make me struggle, too.

But I’m also writing a novel right now and let me tell you: it is a crapload of work and thinking and trying to make sure I make sense and don’t suck and I assure you: those of us who are taking AP Lit tests this year are going to have to write book analyses (perhaps about things we’ve never even read before) in forty minutes.

If you think you can write a perfectly publishable book in forty minutes, then go. Do it. I’m watching. Let’s go with the NaNo novel standard: 50,000 words. Formatted right. Spelled right. All from scratch—all the plotlines make sense, all the characters are fully developed, it is compelling and interesting and doesn’t disappoint the reader at the end. Forty minutes.

I’m waiting.

Maybe that seems like a cruel demand—after all, “nobody needs to know English.” But as someone who has always loved to read, I have to say that an image like this running around on the Internet disgraces those of us who read, not only for pleasure, but to try to see the world in a different light. We taste culture, history, pains and passions, worlds we might never know: all through looking at books, and taking a little extra time to examine what the author means.

The fact is, even though math and science and computers may be the things that may get you a job in this world, I believe it’s the stuff we communicate through our self-expression, including writing, that shows why such things are worth doing.

Whoever made that teenage post: shame on you.

And everyone: remember, things are not always what they seem. Who knows? It just may be that there was an author who decided to put time and effort into their book.

What a novel idea.

Someone assure me that I’m not alone in being infuriated by this picture. And if you’re a teenager, all’s the better. But if you disagree with me—do you have a reason why? I’m curious to know.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Not Upset: Amortentia

Last week we talked about Patronuses, because hey—we all have questions that need to be answered, and as directed, we’ll be examining the next item as found with this picture:

Let the adventure continue!

Topic #2: How does Amortentia smell to you?

According to my research, the smell of Amortentia is composed of the things you find most attractive, even if you don’t realize it.

Psychologically, this is a fascinating concept, because if this potion smells different to everyone then it isn’t composed of the smells itself, but—and this is just a guess—some kind of neurotransmitter that elicits the memory of your favorite things.

This also explains why the potion only infatuates its victims: it stimulates one’s memories, and while you can become obsessed and even addicted to the emotional highs the potion brings, it creates an attachment to a feeling—not another person.

It’s like putting cocaine on Brussels’ sprouts, basically: as soon as you take away the addictive drug you don’t want to eat the thing you never learned to love in the first place.

[Editor’s Note: I don’t do cocaine (promise) but I did some research and if you were curious, you can get high on cocaine by eating it, but I don’t know whether or not that impacts its addictiveness. Also, I don’t think you should do cocaine, it was just a comparison.]

Now, the scents in question don’t have to relate completely to your ideal romantic love: Hermione, for example, smells Ron’s hair (cuz she likes him), but she also smells spearmint toothpaste—her parents are dentists, and although she isn’t attracted to them, they have nurtured her and loved her and she may un/consciously associate the smell of toothpaste with being loved.

So, if I don’t realize I’m attracted to a smell then it’s obviously not something I can list here, but I imagine there are a few things I’d probably pick out in my own brew of amortentia:

  • books—because… okay, do I really need to explain?
  • clean laundry—it smells so good!
  • must—one time I found this empty cabin in the woods and it smelled musty and I was immediately comfortable because it reminded me of my grandmother’s attic and my favorite stuffed animal, although when I put it like that my experience sounds sketchy.
  • bacon and popcorn—a weird combination, I know, but they’re two smells I’ll always associate with my family.

Flickr Credit: Yanni Raftakis

I’m satisfied with that answer. However, I think the real question is this: how can you smell all these things at the same time and not get grossed out?

The world may never know.

Do you have any ideas about what a love potion might smell like to you? Care to share?

(Remember, you’re still stuck with two more weeks of this. Check back next Monday for more. ☺ )

Friday, December 12, 2014

WBI: King Galbatorix, Part 2

If you recall last week’s post, you remember that we’re talking about King Galbatorix of Alagaesia, again. Everything Christopher Paolini writes is long. And I prefer to be short. It seems we are at an impasse.

Photo Credit:
Too caught up in his dreams of an idealistic future wherein magic is inconsequential and the playing field is leveled for everyone, the king fails to realize how much everyone hates him and dies.

[Note: This is the extremely condensed version. Look at last week’s post to get the entire shebang.]

WBI Profile

Classification :: A0278!#*
Role :: Alpha (ignorant and idealistic king)
Motivation :: chaos (end the old order of magic), idealism (make a better Alagaesia), personal gain (recruit the remaining dragons to his cause), power (monopolize magic)
Bonus :: magic (gives and takes power to/from the Ancient Language), minions (armies that cannot feel pain, etc.), lair (Urû’baen represents his domination over the elves and is strategically safe)

Click Me to Big Me!

A Study: His Characteristics

looming—though we begin this series from the perspective of poor farmers, we feel the brunt of the king’s injustice. We always know of his presence, even if it is not strictly “malevolent” as of yet.

mysterious—especially to the common people, Galbatorix has no face. Most of his characterization comes from his actions and the characters’ own musings.

dark—Galbatorix carries with him a dark motif; black dragon, fan of Helgrind, uses Urgals as slaves, Urû’baen means ‘downfall of the wise.’ He radiates darkness: he leaves an impression.

absent—we don’t see the king face to face until book four; this serves to dehumanize him and show off his power, but it also adds to lessen the threat: the more battles the Varden wins, the more conquering Galbatorix seems possible, when really it is his forces, and not him, they have weakened.

strongest—the dwarves and the elves have hidden themselves, in part because the threat the king poses is very real. There has never been confidence that the Varden will win.

bad priorities—honestly, if Galbatorix had taken the Varden out personally, he would have zero threats to his throne. He could have won.

merciless—the king knows his audience, and when they are unwilling servants he becomes the tyrannical master.

discord—Galbatorix bound his dragon to him in some perverse magical way, so although he rules with the strongest dragon in the land, he does not share the same partner-of-heart-and-mind relationship the other Riders have.

fearsome—Galbatorix is not in the habit of making idle threats; his intentions are ever clear.

courteous—he never lacks for manners, Galbatorix. He’s elevated. He doesn’t need to curse or downplay his kingly appearance to make others fear him.

smooth—surprise isn’t really his thing. He acts and fights and makes decisions fluidly.

dignified—Galbatorix maintains a certain pride in himself, and yes, to some degree it is more than he deserves, but by keeping his self-pride he suggests he is justified in his actions.

absent humanity—despite all he has done, Galbatorix never empathizes with others; his battle is that of control, not of compromise.

lack of understanding—without his humanity Galbatorix never truly understands the impact of his actions; he understands that he’s caused pain, but he doesn’t understand why that’s bad, which only makes the burns run even deeper.

Big Idea

empathy matters—Galbatorix is a handsome villain, but there’s not much to him to make us sympathize with him. He wants to equalize magic, but because he lacks the understanding to care about others, it’s hard for the reader to care about him.

empathy matters—Galbatorix isn’t wrong that magic needs to be equalized, but his failure to recognize the trials of others leads to his downfall. His actions for the people are made apart from the people; it doesn’t work well.

select absence carefully—one of Paolini’s most successful choices was a little different, too: Galbatorix himself doesn’t appear until the last book (yes, I said that already). His absence dehumanizes him. His absence hides the truth about him. His absence concerns us. Hiding the villain a way can do a lot of things to a reader, believe me.

there’s always a weakness—again and again we see Galbatorix slaughter men and women and children and species and people who matter. He don’t care. It’s not part of his grand master plan. And so while the audience sees that this is his strength, and he’s stronger in another ten ways besides, this thing ends up being the key to his downfall; even when it looks like all is lost, not all is lost.

And, as promised, a quote: “Pain…so much pain. So much grief….Make it stop! Make it stop!” (718)

What do you think of Galbatorix? Annoyingly devilish? Devilishly admirable? I promise next week we won’t do an Alpha. Is there a villain you want to WBI?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursentary: Baymax

Photo Credit:

I loved Big Hero 6. A lot. I mean, not perfect and with every chance of a round of painful sequels to follow in its wake, but still. I loved it.

Most of all, I loved Baymax.

If you haven’t seen the movie, or a preview, allow me to share a brief history: Baymax was built with the hope that he’d one day serve as a medical provider, hence his huggable and non-threatening form. He does what he can to help his patient—whether that’s a hug, downloading more information, or activating his glowy defibrillator hands—and when he is done, his patient will say “I am satisfied with my care.” He deflates, and waits for the next cry for help.


I don’t really want to spoil the movie too much (you really ought to watch it yourself) but still…

Baymax loved.

See, he’s an interesting guy—we know that computers and robots don’t really feel emotions (to the best of my knowledge). But think of love as an action, rather than an emotion.

Baymax loved.

When he hears someone in distress, he goes to see what’s wrong. He doesn’t sit and stare at you condescendingly and sigh before chucking a first aid kit at you; he doesn’t take the opportunity turn this into a lecture, beginning with the words, “You know, if you’d done a little extra thinking maybe you wouldn’t be in this mess.”

He gets up and gets to you, no matter what.

He proceeds to scan the person who is injured. He asks you what’s wrong, he asks you how you’re feeling. If he gets into your personal business, it’s only to help you, and to figure out what can make you better. There’s no teasing, no shame.

He merely acknowledges that there’s a thing that is wrong.

Then he makes the action plan. He sees that there’s a struggle, be it something physical like blood or mental like grief, and he decides to stop it. And he goes any length to achieve that. He will accept any challenge, and agree to do anything, so long as he knows it will help his patient.

This is why he is willing to follow Hiro everywhere. This is why he allows that kid to take advantage of his coding and his resources. This is why he consoles Hiro through it all and guides him to making the right choices: Baymax knows that hurting other people is wrong.

Baymax probably doesn’t feel anything. In fact, I don’t recall that he ever says anything to suggest he does. His entire purpose is molded by his task: to be the best healthcare assistant he can possibly be.

And yet, all of his actions are defined by a single, but not so simple, concept: love.

Patient before Baymax. Him before me. Them first and me second.

What’s more, from his originally programming, it’s impossible for him to do otherwise. He cannot cause pain and hurt for others intentionally. He can’t scream or curse or hate.

Baymax exists to heal and to love. The end, all done, bye-bye.

I think we should be more like Baymax. It’s hard, of course. It is incredibly easy to want things to work out for ME, because I am the one who matters here. I’m feeling that especially this week, which has been something of an emotional roller coaster and hands-on event with my innermost and most selfish desires.

But I know it’s better for the people I love if I act like Baymax. You over me. Your needs before mine.

You first.

Heather second.

Yeah, it sucks. But it works. And the fact that Baymax works is better than anything else in the whole movie. The fact that we love may be one of the best things in the whole world.

Have you seen Big Hero 6? What thoughts did you have on Baymax?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TCWT December Blog Chain: I Know Lots of Things

Click, and behold my fabulous hosts.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I signed up for this without fully understanding the consequences of this month’s prompt:

“What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?”

Which, of course, implies that I need to have been taught by example by a book. Well, darn. I don’t think a piece of fiction has ever taught me—well. Maybe there’s a few…

via Goodreads
Percy Jackson

Always keep going. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having Percy beat you at anything.

There’s always a dam pun worth using over in the Black Canyon.

Someday boys grow up, and even Percy Jackson, who I always despised, came something close to resembling a man.

via Goodreads

Be symbolic. Go for the Jesus. Enamor me and make me write assertive essays at one in the morning.

Remember, there are a lot of books worse than Twilight; don’t be one of them.

Get involved. Chill with fans. Make a movie, befriend the director. Cameo. GET FEMALE DIRECTORS TO SHOOT YOUR STUFF. Show that you can do something other people aren’t doing. And do it.

via Goodreads

Apologize when you know you’re wrong.

Be a role model to those around you.

Spend time laughing every day.

via Amazon

LSD is fun to play with, but don’t take it in real life.

Cook naked on Tuesdays.

It’s never the end.

via Goodreads

Ask questions.

The secret to making life isn’t hard, and he can show you on your wedding night.

Don’t make religion suck. Be awesome, and be real.

via Amazon


Be creative and passionate in all you do.

Eat together.

It never goes smooth.


Maintain your dignity.

A plot must have a plot. There must be purpose and finesse and regard with everything you choose to do, and whether it succeeds or not you must be accountable for the actions. Understand everything.

Make your villains BEAUTIFUL! *rainbow splashes and sprinkles*

via Goodreads

Think through your faith, your beliefs, your thoughts, your dreams. Learn.

Teenagers matter.

Keep moving forward.

via Goodreads

Love your dad.

Challenge yourself.

Don’t feel bad about having a better theory for the end because REALLY THOUGH IT WOULD HAVE BEEN PERFECT AND HERA WOULD BE REDEEMED PLEASE WHY DIDN’T IT HAPPEN.

via Goodreads

Ranger’s Apprentice

Horses are okay when they’re not real.

Accountants are always a safe bet.

Be sarcastic at every possible opportunity.

via Amazon

Vicar of Dibley

You have to love them. Even if they keep trying to marry you or have no social skills or do heinous things with farm animals—you still have to love them. And forgive them. All the time. Even Mr. Horton.

Always marry the sexy accountant. (Who is played by Thorin, if anyone was curious.)

Get married in your pajamas!

via Amazon

Star Trek

Take honor and justice into account before selfish desire.

Drink tea. Teaearlgreyhot is good, but any will do.

Make it so.

via Wikipedia

Studio C

A man’s brain is a mysterious place.

Make awesome stories at Teddy’s Story Joint.

Date the accountant.

Some are facts, some are actions I have to work at, some are other little tidbits that are interesting to read but who knows why they’re there. Nonetheless… That’s what I know.

If you ARE in the blog chain… Be sure to drop me a link so I can be sure to check out your post when you post it!

If you ARE NOT in the blog chain… What do you know? What are things that books have taught you over the years?

Prompt: “What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?”
9th – Sometimes I'm a Story—you're already here!
10th – Kira Budge: Author
16th – Miriam Joy Writes
17th – Horse Feathers
21st – Unikke Lyfe
25th – No Post Today!
27th – Miss Alexandrina
28th – A Writer's Tales
31st – Teens Can Write, Too! (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)