Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to Get Through the TBR Pile

Flickr Credit: henry...
If you’re like me you have a pile of books that you own but still need to read, and an even longer list of books you don’t own but still need to get through.

Slowly, but surely, we get through those TBRs, and I have condensed the process into an easy 14-step process. Observe:

1. read lots of book blogs 
2. keep track of the list
3. forget to look at the list and go to the library/bookstore and come home with 18 books you’ve never heard of before
4. watch Netflix for 11 hours.
5. remember that you haven’t finished that book from three months ago so half-heartedly flip through the last pages
6. make a snack
7. take a shower
8. spend some time writing, doing homework, shopping for groceries, and oh look, there’s a sale at Target
9. remove a book from the top of the pile and set it on your bed 
10. put the book on the floor so the laptop can be on the bed
11. look at Pinterest until kingdom come
12. wait for the power to go out
13. find a flashlight
14. oh yeah, I have a TBR list. Better wait until the power comes back on so I can go on book blogs for some great recs!

And that is basically how reading books works. It’s a bit more labor-intensive than the regular way, but I’m pretty sure you will have quite a time getting through your TBR list with these simple tips.

In all seriousness, what are some tips for getting through a TBR list? Or, better, how do you avoid digging into it?

Monday, June 29, 2015

June Recap

I write this Sunday night because I have no other post for Monday, and so I am hoping I will be more creative next week. As it is, here is my humble contribution to the outpouring of wrap-ups that are sure to fill your feed this week.

Blogger’s Life

The top five posts this month were:
Dear Extroverts (Another Response Letter) [this is my most popular post of all time, by the way]
Bloodlines: Who’s Your Daddy?
Five Ways Watching Movies is Better Than Reading Books
Would You Rather Tag
777 Challenge

Also, if you ever actually visit my blog using keywords like these, please strike up a conversation with me. Because these search topics are just a curiosity to me. What were you looking for?

Writer’s Life

I wrote a poem in iambic tetrameter, power-edited through the end of my then-active WIP and burned myself out. Spent the next couple of weeks just editing fan fiction and giggling at my own jokes.

Beginning yesterday (Sunday) I’ve activated my magical accountant WIP and plan to have a 35,000 word manuscript by the end of July. That sounds totally unimpressive but this is what has worked so far.

Reader’s Life

My favorite books that I read this month were The Bestseller Job by Greg Cox and Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie We’re In Trouble! by Christiana Miller.

I’m currently reading The Neverending Story, which I’m about halfway through and I don’t think I want to keep going because it is getting to a rather boring part. I was promised moral ambiguity and instead it is lackluster. I’m also reading Extraordinary Means, and if I haven’t read your review yet it’s because I don’t want to taint my opinion just yet.

The best movies I watched this month were The Giver (again), The Book of Life, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Maleficent, Robin Hood (with Javert), Inside Out, and The Imitation Game. I realize that 71% of those are children’s movies but there’s an art to children’s movies that isn’t always required by adult movies.


Fangirl’s Life

We talked ‘bout V for Vendetta and Phantom of the Opera, Clintasha, godly parents (as inspired by Percy Jackson), and Lord of the Rings. So far the topics have not been poorly received, and people keep voting, so that sounds okay with me.

Other Awesome Things You Should Read

Cait, in direct contrast to me, always finishes books
Alyssa shares some peeks into her exciting new WIP
Sunny has been reading short stories
Precious hosts another blogger spotlight
Liz discusses dystopias
Imogen elucidates irony
Aimee insists that bad guys are people too

Coming Up

  • we’re actually going to have a BOND VILLAIN in our WBI (and I don’t know if you care but I’ve seen all the movies so it kinda matters to me)
  • maybe I’ll share some more stories about books I thought I would hate
  • definitely we need to discuss my top five Disney villain deaths and probably why Hans should either be king or should have died
  • can I talk about love and death and love and death and love and death omg love death love ahhh
  • various other posts in my to-do file—I need to really do some hardcore polling to see where I should do some prioritizing

Also, I am currently locked out of my Twitter account because I’m of the 1% that does not have a cell phone. Probably it’s because I tweet more links than personal updates, but who wants to read my personal updates? That is silliness. I’ll have to think of interesting things to say if I use my account again…

Moving on.

How was your June? What was your favorite post on your blog? Share it with me!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Genderbent Lord of the Rings

The girl aspect of Lord of the Rings bothered me most of the week. Great movies, super music, seven meals a day, and not the worst portrayal of women in the world. What’s not to love? In spite of all that, I had to ask: what “girl movie” portrays nine women saving the world? Is there a “girl movie” where the central focus is about a ring, but not a wedding?

via 9gag
“Girl movies” usually focus on romance. With the exceptions of Aragorn and Sam, the fellowship goes out relatively unattached. From here, I can see the shelves that hold Princess Bride, Fiddler on the Roof, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Pirates of Penzance, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, Song of the South, Brigadoon, and some other stuff I haven’t watched. Of those eight movies, five depict lead females whose main goal is to get married, one includes women because sex, and we can talk about Padme and Leia some other time.

Of all those movies, Song of the South is the only one where the female lead isn’t obsessed with romance, and that’s because she’s like, eight.

Girls seem almost limited by romance, especially in movies, and the guys in Lord of the Rings aren’t. Some of them never get married. I wonder—how would the story be different if the nine were girls, three women were guys, and everything else in Middle Earth stayed the same?

via my computer apparently

Scenario #1: Middle Earth is Screwed

Only guys attended the secret ring council in Fellowship, and without suitable replacements, the saving-of-the-world fails. Sauron wins.

via my computer again

Scenario # 2: Ladies of the Rings, A Chick Flick

I actually have treatments of the movie trilogy drafted for a satirical post. Suffice it to say that between Frida Baggins’s accidental romance and Aragloria’s forbidden love, Gandahlia the matchmaker has a lot of work on her hands.

via my computer again I guess

Scenario #3: Against All Odds Female Characters Find Themselves on a Quest Involving a Ring and Not Marriage 

Here is a quick key to the colored things you might find in bold:

no female precedent // male requirement // no male precedent // female requirement

Frodo Baggins
Ring-bearer, Bilbo’s nephew and heir, interested in the world beyond the Shire, seeks the Ring’s destruction Ring-bearer, Bilbo’s niece, interested in the world beyond the Shire, seeks the Ring’s destruction
Sam Gamgee
gardener, Frodo’s closest companion, uneager to travel, loyal, steadfast gardener, Frodo’s closest companion, uneager to travel, loyal, steadfast
Merry Brandybuck cousin, heir to Buckland, Pippin’s best friend, hobbit-warrior cousin, Pippin’s best friend, could be a shield maiden like Éowyn; if an unsympathetic, male Éowyn would have been a warrior anyway, he might leave Merry behind
Pippin Took young, foolish cousin, engages in politics in Gondor young, foolish cousin, engages in politics in Gondor
Gandalf the Gray wise leader until death at Moria, mentor, advisor, encourager, holds Ring of Power, chief wizard wise leader until death at Moria, mentor, advisor, encourager, holds Ring of Power, potentially Maia (wizards are male, but here are 12345 examples of female Maiar)
Aragorn Ranger, heir of Isildur and Elendil, lord of the Dúnedain Rangers, Arwen’s forbidden love, King of Gondor, Gandalf’s successor  Ranger, Arwen’s forbidden love, Queen of Gondor, Gandalf’s successor
Boromir Heir to the line of stewards, warrior, wants to use the ring of the line of stewards, wants to use the ring, shield maiden
Gimli representative of dwarves, distrusts elves, falls in love with Galadriel, Legolas’s best friend representative of dwarves, distrusts elves, falls in love with Galadriel, Legolas’s best friend
Legolas king, elf representative, great archer, Thranduil’s son queen, elf representative, great archer, Thranduil’s daughter

(By the way, here are some sources I used: source, source, source)

princess, Celeborn’s wife, Celebrian’s mom, Ring-bearer, helps destroy the Ring by contributing supplies, even though it will destroy her own power prince, Celeborn’s husband, Celebrian’s dad, Ring-bearer, helps destroy the Ring by contributing supplies, even though it will destroy his own power
second elf to love a human, chooses Aragorn over immortality, guarded by her father until Aragorn becomes king second elf to love a human, chooses Aragorn over immortality; admittedly, the stories both have a female elf and a male human mating, and if Arwen’s values as a male veered away from this situation, then it could be that Arwen and Aragorn’s love would never come to fruition
Éowyn desired by Wormtongue, custodian of Edoras,  shield maiden with aspirations to achieve valiant deeds and die in battle, loved Aragorn but was rejected, led the women of Rohan to Helm’s Deep, was the last-resort heir, avenged Théoden, married Faramir  soldier with aspirations to achieve valiant deeds and die in battle, loved Aragorn but was rejected; probably would be trained in the art of war with Éomer and Théodred, so probably would not be left to care for Théoden in his illness or escort the women and children to Helm’s Deep, and probably would not have been desired by Wormtongue 

Of course, this is basically what I have from watching the movies a lot of times, reading the books once, and doing a lot of Google searches as I went. If you think you can argue for or against any of my thoughts, please let me know, because I am by no means an expert!

From the way it looks now, though I think that Sam, Pippin, Gimli, Legolas, and Galadriel could more or less have the same story if they were the opposite gender, whereas Frodo, Merry, Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, Arwen, and Éowyn might have very different stories!

via I saved a lot of random pictures to my computer in my youth okay
Having examined that, I don’t think it’s particularly good or bad for Lord of the Rings—it’s good that for some characters have roles that depended on that physical element, but it’s also okay that some characters don’t need a role that’s gender-specific to make a story work.

However, this does tell me that you CAN write an adventure story that has girls romping around Middle Earth in any way they damn well please, so if you ever feel the urge to write thusly: go ahead.

How do you think a Lord of the Rings story with girls instead of guys would go? 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursentary: The Art of Reading Ahead

Have I ever mentioned how I read Game of Thrones?

Caught Reading
Flickr Credit: Jayel Aheram
I waded in and found myself rather confused by the onslaught of characters and strange names. A fourth of the way in, I decided I only really cared about Dany, read her last chapter, and continued on to all her previous chapters in backwards order. Then I returned it to the library.

(No, I didn’t count it on my reading log.)

I have this feeling I’ve told that story before, but my point is, it’s an extreme example of how I’m willing to read books. There are four stages:

1. The Do-I-Care Stage: I read the first fourth-ish of the book and find out if I care
2. The Yes-I-Do-Care Stage: truly caring, I delve in to about the halfway mark
3. The Oh-Crap Stage: suddenly, the characters find themselves in a terrifying or upsetting situation; I flip to the end and pick out choice sections of the last chapters to see what happens
4. The Okay-Then Stage: I read the rest of the book normally but flip back if I think it’s necessary to gain more details

If I make it to Stage 2, I end up finishing the book; if I do not, then it is left in the dust. I’m well aware of the criticisms against this method. A few examples:

  • my philosophy teacher gave me “the look” when I said I read the end of Sophie’s World while I was in the middle—apparently you’re just supposed to tough through the confusion
  • while I was reading Sophie’s World, Sophie refuses to read the end of her story because reading the ends of books first is cheating
  • I mentioned that I read ahead in this post and various people were like “oh, I could never read ahead,” “you read ahead a lot,” and cheating was mentioned again

Allow me to share with you my thoughts on cheating, as told by Inigo Montoya:

via dirkkelly
The dictionary contains many meanings for cheating. For the sake of this argument, when we describe a reading style as “cheating,” it is in one of two ways: either it violates how books are to be read, or because it’s dishonest.

Now, in the absence of a binding “rules of reading” list, when we talk about how books are to be read, we’re talking about how we’ve been taught to read them. The author ordered the story a certain way—they’ll share information in good time, yes? The emotional heights grow with the stakes. We as writers design our books to be written from beginning to end. That’s how it is.

Reaching the end of a book is a noble goal. Many books make it difficult to get there. Nor is it a bad thing to want to get to the end. It’s just that a fixation with getting to the end tends to come with a focus on what is at the end—the plot’s climax, the emotional climax, the resolution, the denouement. More than that, we have that extra idea of dishonesty. It’s cheating to take something out of its time, or to spoil an ending before it is the end. You ruin the book for yourself.

I’m afraid that Oscar Wilde’s quote has become my doctrine: “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”

Authors set a story in motion, but it’s the reader who decides what they want. For me, I’m not as concerned with finding out how the story ends—as I’ve mentioned, I tend to flip to the end frequently to find out what happens. I read to find the story. I read, reread, and reread again until I know the characters, I know their motivations, I know where they live, and I know why it’s all important.

You’re of course going to see a story when you read a book from start to finish, but there’s something about studying a book that makes it richer. So I read ahead. Maybe I don’t get to anticipate any surprises, but writers I read don’t bank on surprise to make their books remarkable.

Again, that’s just my style. I’m well aware that there will always be people who don’t understand why I’m willing to spoil the ending or go against an author’s construction, but then, I’ll always be the one asking—if a spoiler ruins reading the entire thing, then why do you bother in the first place?

Do you read ahead in books? Why, or why not?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Would You Rather Tag

Our stately friend Brett from the blog he named after himself tagged me for a game of Would You Rather! True to myself, there’s no way I can answer the questions in Brett’s minimalistic fashion, but maybe we’ll have fun anyway.

Stack of Old Books
Flickr Credit: Austin Kirk

1. Read only trilogies or stand-alones? 

Trilogies. I’ve never really been a stand-alone kind of girl. BROADEN MY WORLD.

2. Read only female or male authors? 

What kind of question is that? Like, is it meant to suggest that the quality of writing varies depending on the presence of a Y-chromosome, or that the genre I prefer is most written by one or the other? Well, dear question, you are WRONG. I like books by both. I refuse to accept your hypothetical situation.

3. Shop at Barnes & Noble or Amazon? 

Amazon. I don’t have to talk to anybody! And you don’t have to buy just books! And they get shipped to your house! Unless you ordered Six of Crows! And then the other two books won’t come to your house until October! Even though they BOTH CAME OUT LIKE LAST MONTH! And you can’t change your order preference! But still. Amazon selection’s better.

4. All books become movies or TV shows? 

Seeeeeee. Only Sith deal in the absolute, and this question is similarly evil to #2, because it removes context and I am not Immanuel Kant which means yes, I care. A Song of Ice and Fire would probably have suffered as a movie franchise, and Harry Potter would probably have suffered as a TV show, as would have even shorter series like Hunger Games, Twilight, etcetera. It depends on the setup and style of the writer, and so I find this hypothetical situation also against my preferences.

5. Read 5 pages per day or 5 books per week? 

Five pages a day… yeah… I mean it would suck but it would be easier.

6. Be a professional reviewer or author? 

Reviewer, but not for books. It would be super fun to get to see shows on stage and review them. (But it’s not a job I’ll go for. I’m probably too nice, and my writing skills would not serve me in that situation.)

7. Only read your top 20 favorite books over and over or always read new ones that you haven’t read before? 

Top 20 favorite books over and over. It’s kind of like what I do anyway… Kind of.

8. Be a librarian or book seller? 

Book seller. You don’t need a degree in library science to be a book seller.

9. Only read your favorite genre, or every genre except your favorite? 

My favorite genre, if I knew what its name was.

10. Only read physical books or eBooks? 

As much as I like eBooks and the ease they bring to my reading life, physical books are better, for two reasons. 1) spacial awareness, 2) you can flip to read the end more easily. It’s an annoying hassle on my Kindle.

And, that is that! Thanks to Brett again for the game, and I shall tag Monty Python style: Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three.

All right, why don’t you answer a would-you-rather from the list above? How would you respond?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Books I Thought I Would Hate: Harry Potter

I guarantee you that any book I’ve ever claimed to be among my favorites was also a book I previously thought I would hate. I don’t really know why, but I think it’s because I’m incredibly suspicious. And I am a malevolent reader. And, books in general are suspicious things.

I thought it’d be interesting to reflect on the reasons why I was suspicious, and what eventually led me to change my mind, and we’ll start with one of the books that I had a most potent aversion to prior to diving in: Harry Potter.

via Goodreads

Why I Thought I’d Hate It:

Where other kids weren’t allowed to read Harry Potter because their parents thought it was unwholesome and dangerous, I didn’t read it because I was too busy avoiding it like the plague.

I mean, the kids who liked these books were alarmingly passionate about it, and had their own weird lingo with spells and crushes on people named “Hermione” and a strong dislike for some Malfoy kid. They couldn’t even say the name of the villain out loud. Clearly, these people were crazy. Every time I thought of Harry Potter, fear panged my heart.

Why, you ask? Because every friggin’ time we turned on the TV in a motel, or wherever we were, Harry Potter would be on (not unlike today, except there were only two movies out), and it would always be on ONE scene. Harry. In the woods. Facing a haunting figure, dripping silver blood, over a slaughtered unicorn.

EVERY TIME it was the scene in the Forbidden Forest, I tell you! EVERY TIME. I was a traumatized six-year-old. I refused to ever contemplate reading such a scary, murderous book that was clearly designed to give children nightmares and make them suffocate on their dreams.

via imgfave

What Changed:

Now, among my peers there was almost no criticism of the series. I was often told about how good it was, and how I should totally read it. I was among a lot of other students that encouraged the reading of Harry Potter, and at home, I was always encouraged to read everything anyway.

By the time I was in second grade, I was starting to feel a little more grown up, and a little more comfortable in my reading habits. There was a  “Reading Counts” program that rewarded students for reading the most and hardest books in their grade level, and in the end there were Reading Counts parties. I went to the third grade party, because I could compete better with the people who were older than me, and I was a very good reader for my age.

Prizes, pizza, drawings, getting out of class, etcetera, etcetera—I’m sure you had parties in elementary school, too. Anyway, on this day, I ended up with a prize I was willing to follow up on: a Harry Potter journal. I would read these books, I decided. I would take whatever terrors this “J.K. Rowling” person spun and be just as hardened as everyone else in my class.

via TheMetaPicture

Why It Turned Out I Loved It:

Turns out Harry Potter is a fantasy series for children, not a horror series for deviants. Just because they abbreviate their names the same way, it doesn’t mean J.K. Rowling writes books similar to R.L. Stine’s.

Initially, my parents weren’t too sure about Harry Potter because they’d heard criticisms, but they decided to read the book before me, and here we are ten years later, owning all the books, all the movies, Fantastic Creatures, Quidditch, and the Tales, and a bunch of other Harry Potter merch. I was wearing my Slytherin shirt for pajamas and then last week I realized it had been a few months and decided washing is good.

Harry Potter is a good series—there’s humor, adventure, friendship, love, tons of symbolism and references and history and EVERYTHING. My dad said recently that J.K. Rowling is a very detailed writer, and that has led to a great deal of her success, I think. She has a very big picture of the little details in her world, and it makes the story super rich and entertaining.

I’m pretty sure I’ve read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 19 times to date, although I’ve only read Deathly Hallows four times. I was a little late on the “broaden your horizons” thing. Still, by the time I was in sixth grade and the seventh book came out, I was fast enough to read it in like, a day, so I was able to move forward pretty quickly.

Anyway, from about third grade until the series finished in sixth grade, Harry Potter was my favorite series. It was everything I could have dreamed of. And it never scared me*.

*exception one: I had to stop reading in book two when Fawkes died because I was pretty sure that Dumbledore was going to murder Harry and the rest of the book was a detailed explanation of his funeral arrangements. My dad had to cheerlead me into reading the rest of the page because I was so scared.

*exception two: the werewolf scene from the third movie occasionally gave me nightmares; usually the kind where I got eaten. It’s been a long time go, so the tension has eased. Also, it’s not really J.K. Rowling’s fault.

Harry Potter. I was sure I would hate it, and then it became a love. Sometimes people do know what they’re doing.

Did you think that you were going to hate Harry Potter when you first read it? How did the book compare with your expectations?

(Also, as a last note, I breezed through the first two books in a matter of weeks, and became interested in seeing the movies. I had to see Chamber of Secrets first because it was the only one available at the library, and if I recall correctly I watched it about sixteen times in one week. Once I got into the series, the movies were not a hard sell.)

Monday, June 22, 2015

How Do You Use Twitter?

Twitter icon for a fluid app
Flickr Credit: Miha Filej
I’ll admit, for a long time I didn’t think I would like Twitter. Turns out that 140 characters can go a long way and it’s a surprisingly easy way to keep track of a lot of cool folks all at the same time. I will also admit that I am not very good at using it—I’m a newbie, and while other people do cool things, I don’t really.

I mean, I know to do some basic stuff.

1. Share Your Work and Others’

This I like to do quite a bit. It’s easy to share my own stuff and share/retweet other people’s work as well! On that note, I follow a lot of people who share a lot of stuff with me, so I’m also privileged to run into a lot of other awesome stuff!

2. Chat

I’ve really enjoyed participating in the Ch1Con Twitter chats on Wednesday nights the last few months. I find it really invigorating to be able to talk to like-minded people, and chatting is more or less my primary mode of friendship. Of course, events like Ch1Con aren’t where I tend to make my friends, but it is an effective medium to keep in constant contact with my friends (especially DMing).

3. Follow People

At first I was leery of following random people, but I’ve since learned that Twitter is not a replace-face-to-face-relationships site, but more like an information-sharing site. By following a lot of new and interesting people, I’m exposed to new blogs, news, sales, and more! It opens a lot of opportunities, and it also keeps me open to a lot of new perspectives I see out there.

4. Build Relationships

Now, this isn’t the kind of site that replaces actually hanging out, and I think that’s okay. However, it does put you in contact with a lot of people, and it’s a lot easier to give people shout-outs without looking weird. Again, sharing people’s stuff or attending to tweets helps open up a relationship, which may help you strike up a greater conversation at some other point.

So, that’s pretty much all I know about Twitter. Everything I know in 268 words. However, I’m also aware that other people have these other, super interesting and effective ways to use Twitter. And so, that is why I shall ask now.

How do you use Twitter?

As you can see, I have a pretty limited knowledge-base, so I’m open to all the ways you’ve used Twitter. How do you connect with people? What do you usually tweet? And, if you want, what’s your Twitter handle? I’m always looking for new and awesome people to follow.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bloodlines: Who's Your Daddy?

Palas Atenea, Louvre, Paris.
Flickr Credit: purolipan

I realized on Thursday night I hadn’t scheduled the Fangirl post for today, which is a terrifying concept in itself—in last week’s poll, you picked BLOODLINES, which is what I was hoping for. Today’s fandom is Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and no one wanted it two weeks ago, and I put a whole lot of work into that project, so it is definitely for sure getting posted.

This post springs from a question that plagued me throughout my adoration of PJO: Who would my godly parent be?

I took many quizzes and soul-searched and asked people’s opinions all over the place to decide that I didn’t think Athena was my godly parent, and I really, really wanted Hades to be. He was my favorite god, why didn’t I ever get him? Now I have a better understanding of why.

The quizzes tended to ask about your likes, dislikes, hobbies, even your favorite drink. There’d be twelve different answers, from water to milk to the blood of your enemies (hi Ares) and based on those preferences it would spit out a name you weren’t sure you liked.

That’s the problem: preference-based questions. The fact that you like a thing says little more than the obvious: you like it. For example, I love my dad, and he loves me, and I’d say we get along well. However, when it comes to eating eggs, my dad always pulls out Tabasco sauce. I do not—I am not a Tabasco person at all. Now, I know what you’re thinking—how could my parents still be married when I’m clearly the product of a disgusting and traitorous affair?!

Well, I’m not. Whether you like putting Tabasco on your eggs or drinking milk, it doesn’t really reflect what your parents have passed on to you. Some preferences are genetic, some are your own, but overall, I think there’s a reason paternity tests aren’t run primarily through Quibblo. Your parents rub off on you, sometimes a lot, sometimes not. My (mortal) parents endowed my sisters and me with a value for good finance, hard work, education, and our faith—you’ll also notice all four of us are VERY different people.

And that’s the thing: there shouldn’t be a different answer for every god or goddess to determine your godly parent. Many gods had the same perspectives and values, none of which had to do with eye color. My theory is that your godly parent would be better revealed through value-alignment, splitting the gods into groups and narrow down the suspects from there.

Hence, the flowchart. Using a dichotomous system, I have made not the best way to determine your godly parent, but I think the best one I’ve ever seen.

At the very least, it doesn’t ask you what your favorite drink is.

Your Options:

1) Finagle with your browser to make the image big enough to read; if you'd like you can save it and enlarge it on a photo-viewing program, or whatever.

2) Visit the Piktochart link and see it big within your web browser before you get frustrated and tired.

3) Do one or the other, but be sure you don't overthink it. I used a lot of fancy words because I didn't have a lot of space. And remember the black pictures are part of the key below. And I'm here to answer questions. (I don't think I should make more tests, but I did this so I'm going to see it through.)

The choice is yours.

PHOTO SOURCES: PBS Kids, Clker, Image Soup

I took three preference-based quizzes; they say my godly parent would be Athena, Poseidon, or Hephaestus. According to my flowchart, my godly parent would be Ares. I think he suits me much better! Who did you get? Do you think you have the same values?

We'll switch it up again! This time, pick the desired fandom!

Friday, June 19, 2015

WBI: Mother Gothel

In the way of variety, there isn’t much: we’re doing Disney Villains twice in a row. Lucky for you, Disney knows how to write some variety. We’re doing one of my favorite Lone Wolves today, folks: Mother Gothel, from Tangled.

via Wikipedia
Gothel longs for eternal youth and beauty, but when her anti-aging product is downed by the dying queen, she takes the child born of the flower as her own ward. However, when the girl skips town on her eighteenth birthday, Mother Gothel does everything in her power to get her precious flower back.

WBI Profile

Classification :: Σ3567&@
Role :: Lone Wolf (autonomous villain)
Motivation :: insanity/psychology (fear of aging/dying), lifestyle (dependence on flower), desperation (imminent death), personal/material gain (complete control of the flower’s power)
Bonus :: family ties (Rapunzel), name (Gothel)

A Study

not cruel—it’s worth noting that her original plan was not to kidnap Rapunzel, but merely take all that she needed to stay young; she isn’t hurtful for the sake of causing pain, but her ends justify her means

selfish—also, her biggest fear was sharing any of Rapunzel’s power with anyone, which says a lot about her

manipulative—her entire persuasive arsenal is used to convince Rapunzel that she’s not strong or smart or pretty enough to make it outside her tower, and it works

mean—suggesting that Rapunzel is not a strong, confident, beautiful young lady is just unkind; admittedly, Rapunzel’s low self-esteem is part of what keeps her monopoly on Rapunzel’s hair

intelligent—she can follow Rapunzel across the country and make tactical decisions about her next move, which sounds pretty intelligent to me

threatening—sometimes she draws a knife on a guy because she doesn’t have time to play the sexy wench

bargaining—other times she manipulates henchmen into joining her using her voice and the promise of her own daughter; she reads people very well

driven—Gothel repeatedly shows there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for youth and beauty; I don’t know how she knocked out those two henchmen, but obviously she packed some power in that punch

helpless—without Rapunzel’s power, she can’t stop aging, and we see that in the end, she doesn’t have much self-esteem either; without her youth, she is nothing

mostly dead—although she’s the only Disney villain to die a natural death, I think she will end up having a longer lasting impact on Rapunzel than any other villain does on any other princess; instead of a whirlwind week where everything goes wrong, this is a relationship of put-downs and servitude that lasted eighteen years!

(So, let’s all just take a moment and be grateful that even though Eugene has his faults, he is definitely not the kind of guy who is going to belittle or objectify Rapunzel and will probably be a vital component in empowering and encouraging her after so many years of psychological damage.)

Big Idea

scale the attachment—I have to imagine that after eighteen years Mother Gothel would have some affection for Rapunzel and even enjoy her maternal role. However, as much as she likes Rapunzel, her number one priority is and always shall be her youth and beauty. The end.

study manipulation—it’s a kid’s movie, so they don’t over-emphasize it too much, but Mother Gothel studies people like books and has a great power over them because of it. Whether it’s psychological sucker-punches to Rapunzel’s self-esteem or using a knife or her body or bribery or whatever, she knows exactly how to get what she wants depending on who she needs to get it from.

fine, now I’m the bad guy—as I mentioned, Mother Gothel isn’t unnecessarily cruel. Her ends always justify her means, but she doesn’t make Rapunzel’s life miserable. She could have raised her in an underwater grotto where she had no friends and no hope; however, until Rapunzel really showed signs of rebellion she was content to give Rapunzel freedom and kindness. Only when Rapunzel herself was getting in the way of Gothel’s youth and beauty did she finally become cruel and physically hurtful to her charge.

Also, can we just have a shout-out for Donna Murphy’s singing? BECAUSE IT IS GREAT THAT IS ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW. (Fun story: My parents and I watched this movie on our last vacation (all of my younger sisters didn’t want to) and I was able to give them a short bio of each of the three main characters’ actors as well as the full bridge of “I’ve Got a Dream” despite only just hearing the song for the first time in months during the movie. My parents I think were a little impressed and a little bewildered.)

So, as a villain song I love “Mother Knows Best,” to be honest, I really, really adore the reprise because she’s just so much more emotional and manipulative and it feels evil more than anything and ohoho, it is just mastery.

How did you feel about Mother Gothel as a villain? Would you ever write, or have you ever written, a character like her?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Seven Things Tag

Mia Hayson tagged me a loooong time ago for the Seven Things Tag, and now I am delighted to complete the tag now! Here are the rules:

  • share 7 interesting facts about myself
  • link to a maximum of 15 blogs I enjoy reading
  • thank the person that nominated you (thank you so much, Mia!)
Flickr Credit: Melanie Hughes

1. I was sick last week.

A cold is nothing to worry about for most people, but I have asthma, and it usually takes a good 4-7 days (maybe more!) to get back to health. It doesn’t really bother me because I’ve had it my whole life, but I’ll admit it’s never my favorite day when you wake up because you can’t breathe.

2. I have many cavities.

I didn’t take good care of my teeth as a kid, and so I’ve had to take a lot of trips to the dentist to get that fixed. It’s worked, though—brushing and flossing are a religious part of my schedule now.

3. I didn’t write very much on Thursday.

IT WAS AN ACCIDENT. My fingers were totally doing all the writing and before my brain could catch up I had killed a character and I was so sad to realize not only what I had done, but that it made the story better and couldn’t change back… I just had to take the afternoon off from that WIP. I wrote blog posts and stuff instead.

4. Most of my friends are on the Internet. 

Most of my friends and I have known each other since 2008. Through vigorous chatting and so on, we’ve carried that friendship through today. I’ve only met two online friends in real life, but I don’t mind.

5. I’ve written fan fiction since childhood.

Well, “written” is a strong word. Most of the time it has existed as lengthy stories crafted in my mind. When I was in sixth grade I realized I could write down my thoughts on paper, and from writing fan fiction I eventually turned to writing my own stuff as well.

6. I’m not sure if I want to be published one day. 

I love writing, but having learned a lot about the publishing processes (traditional and indie), not to mention watching other authors online, right now I don’t know if I want to be published, or if I even could be. For now, I think I’d rather just write.

7. This post was initially in Spanish.

I write in a notebook to practice my Spanish during the summer, so I won’t have forgotten everything by the time I get to college this fall. It’s good practice!

Well, there are seven personal-ish facts about me. I’ve done lots of tags lately… I’ll pass this time, but soon, my friends. Soon.

What is something interesting about you? 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

YA Avengers

On an impulse I bought The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on the way out of Half-Price Books when I was meeting an Internet friend for the first time. My only motivation, as I can recall, is that Sean Connery is in it, and I’ve liked his movies. Or, at least, I’ve liked him in his movies.

The premise, more or less, is that at the turn of the century, the world calls upon a group of extraordinary people—characters you’re sure to recognize from Victorian literature—with amazing gifts to discourage a new and dangerous threat. Having watched it, I have to say, it was kind of like Victorian Avengers.

I mean, between a hulking strongman, a mysterious widow, an anachronistic “angel,” a science whiz with an iron ride, a guy who’s always watching, a foreign warrior, and a grizzled leader to bind them all together, you have the cast of both movies.

I’m not going to say more because I think it’s fun determine all the characters yourself, but it did make me think: if I could pick any seven YA protagonists and one villain for them to conquer, who would they be?

via Goodreads

1. Artemis Fowl

Admittedly, the books are a little more MG, but he’s well into his teens by the time the series ends, so it counts. His skill at planning and winning his battles would be incredibly valuable, and I would want his genius saving the world’s butt. (And, of course, with him comes Butler and the power of the fairies, so I don’t see any downsides to that arrangement.)

via Goodreads

2. Linh Cinder

Well, we all needs a gadgets girl. If she could keep us from having technical problems with our getaway car, that would be great. Also, she can keep weapons in her limbs, if she needs to defend herself.

via Goodreads

3. Horace Altman

Okay, maybe not the main character, but Horace is really good at just beating people up and that is what I need at the moment. He’s a logical thinker, a skilled fighter, and a capable team worker, and those are all things I want in at least one male character on this team.

via Goodreads

4. Princess Cimorene

Sure, she’s a princess, but she’s not afraid to adventure, to use a sword, or to cart around water with soap and lemon to defeat wizards. She’s incredibly resourceful, brave, and determined, and she wears dresses without looking gaudy.

via Goodreads

5. Connor Lassiter

Connor is impulsive, but he also works as a good leader and a person who can see his goals through if he needs to. He makes lots of sacrifices, he shows a lot of courage, and even though he might screw up from time to time he has his heart in a good place.

via Goodreads

6. Tally Youngblood

It’s only fair that we have a girl who’s good at beating people up, too. And she’d make a pretty good spy. And, if every team requires a widow, she did lose a love quite a while ago, and I’m sure her emotional instability would be interesting for us all.

via Goodreads

7. Otto Malpense

Okay, he’s an Alpha, he can control computers with his brain, he’s a planner, an inventor, and a good leader. And if he weren’t so attached to the people he works with and perhaps gained an ounce of humility (why stop there, even?) I would be fully confident he could win any battle.

And the villain?

via Goodreads

Isabel Kabra

Now, this is back to MG, but even despite my love of so many terrifying villains in YA and above, there’s something about Isabel Kabra that would challenge even the heroes I’ve listed above. She’s powerful enough to impede Otto, heartless enough to challenge Tally, organized enough to thwart Connor, determined enough to match Cimorene, fearsome enough to battle Horace, connected enough to disarm Cinder, and cruel enough to overpower Artemis.

I’m still of that party who refuses to acknowledge any books that came after Vespers Rising, and I haven’t read the books for years, and goshdarnit YA is just better. And yet, here I am, picking Isabel over any other villain in YA I can think of.

Why? Because every other villain I can think of has a limit. Governments are bound by the public and their image. Individuals are bound by their consciences and their abilities. Teams are bound by loyalty and morality and so on and so forth.

And Isabel has none of that. She is feared, she is powerful, and I have every confident she is capable of giving the team I picked a run for their money.

Oh, can you feel the fan fiction burning?

If you could pick any YA protagonists to form a superhero team, who would you pick? Which villain would you ask them to go up against?

Monday, June 15, 2015

How to Write a Poem in Iambic Tetrameter

I think poetry is one of those elusive things I’m not super good at but I sure like to try (curse my paternal genes). Just before our AP test, my lit teacher gave us the crash course in meter, and it’s something I think would be fun to work at.

That being said, I’ve come up with a method to write metered poems, and I thought I’d share it because my ideas for Writer’s Life topics are running a little thin this week. No worries, for now we can chat about poetry! This can be adjusted for any kind of poem you want to write, but today I’m going to work with a poem in iambic tetrameter. Let us begin.

1. Turn on Those Jams (Optional)

I rarely write when I’m not playing music, so this is natural for me. I can imagine that other people would find it super distracting to be trying to write a poem while a poem is being sung to them; therefore, it’s optional.

2. Open the Fearsome Foursome

I have four sites open while I write my poem, and I use them all.

dictionary.com—writing with meter depends on stressing the right syllables at the right time, which the site helpfully notes in its pronunciation guide
thesaurus.com—sometimes my ideal word doesn’t fit, and so instead, I have to look up for something with a similar meaning and an appropriate syllable
rhymer.com—not all of us are Dr. Seuss and can rhyme a million words on command; this is my backup
translate.google.com—this might be the odd one; when I put it to English/English, I can put a word through if it’s plural or conjugated to listen for the stress (as the dictionary doesn’t deal with either)

3. Create the Grid

So, for anyone who doesn’t know, an iamb is a stress pattern that goes da-DUM. And if you do it in tetrameter, you do it four times: da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM. For this pattern I created eight columns for the eight syllables per line, and then highlighted the stressed syllables. (The visual thing really helps me.)

4. Fill in the Grid

This part can be tricky to get used to because you’re writing in syllables, not words. Also, it can look weird if you don’t use punctuation (I always fill mine in later).

Sometimes it helps to fill in rhymes you want to use later and approach them later.

Other times, it helps me to work backwards from the rhyme to the beginning of the line.

Or, if you wanted, you could just work from the middle.

5. Edit Stuff

In the last stanza, the rhymes I was trying to make weren’t working for me, so I altered them to fit better—and I ended up liking the revisions much better.

6. Transcribe It

Now, type it all up with words, punctuation, etcetera, so that it looks like normal writing.

7. Translate It

What I like to do last is run it through Google Translate, English to English. I’m sure there are other sites that read text out loud for you, but Google Translate is right there and I’m familiar with it and everything. For this poem, I listened to one stanza at a time and kept track of the da-DUM sound throughout the lines—if you listen to it twice it slows the voice down so you can track the beat a little more easily. Alternatively, if you listen to it fast you can keep track of the rhymes better. So listen to both.

8. Touch Up

If you feel like something sounds off or you realize that the syllables are off, then you go back and figure out a new way to work the line. However, sometimes it’s up to you whether you want to choose it or not. In the second line of my first stanza, I use the phrase, “men Death meet,” which is more of a DUM-DUM-DUM sound than the traditional iamb. However, since it emphasizes the fact that people are dying, I’m willing to keep it that way, because death is super serious and all that good stuff.

9. Own It

Now you have a poem. Go stuff it in people’s faces and be like, “I WROTE A POEM, LOSERS.” But maybe not call them losers because that is mean.

This is the one I finally ended up with:


‘Twas Fate that flew o’er battle grounds
and watched with pity men Death meet.
Aghast at frames in hasty mounds,
she picked one shrouded in deceit.

The One called men from near and far,
to conquer their unwelcome guest.
With One and Fate they shone like stars,
blind to the bolt that pierced One’s chest.

“Our leader fell!” the men all cried,
and Fate smiled from her perch unseen.
Although they mourned the One who died,
quite soon they learned that Fate had lied,
and owed their triumph to a queen.

Admittedly, this is the fourth poem I’ve ever tried to write using meter so I’m aware that especially in the last stanza there’s some stuff that’s not super-perfect. Still, I think the system works, and I’m willing to try again.

Have you ever worked with meter in your poems? How do you make it work for you?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Death of Clintasha (And Why I Like It)

In Fact: Age of Ultron spoilers, for definitely sure. You have been warned.

I was never a hardcore Clintasha shipper. I mean, it was cute, but I wasn’t an “I will go down with this ship” shipper. I just thought the headcanons people came up with were amusing. If you’ve watched Age of Ultron, you know that Clint lives in a farmhouse with an agent of some kind and their smaller agents, and Natasha is running with Bruce Banner.

via Celene Kim
Going into it, I wasn’t sure I’d like this setup. Watching the movie, I was a little concerned. But leaving? I really liked it, and the new dynamic it brings to Clint and Natasha’s relationship.

Number one, if Clint is Natasha’s friend and not her lover, there is at least one person on the team who has no sexual expectations of her. When Tony Stark first meets her, he says, “I want one.” Steve sees her flirting up-close-and-personal. She’s actively developing a relationship with Bruce. (I can’t think of anything for/against Thor—thoughts?)

via doesnotloveyou
After Natasha reveals her “initiation,” we know she’s been enabled to use even her own body as a tool, immune from consequences and distractions (unless she gets an STI, in which case moving on).

Black Widow is a weapon. Black Widow was designed to be a weapon. Black Widow is a more efficient weapon when it’s attractive, available, and can entice men to kill them in their sleep. But making Natasha a weapon dehumanizes her. A weapon is a thing, not a person, even if you give it a name. If the guys on the team only recognize her weapon, they don’t see that it’s only one facet of the human being she wants to be.

via Buzzfeed
Unlike the other guys, Clint is married. Now, marriage doesn’t keep you from noticing, or wanting, other people. However, knowing who he is, Clint’s marriage signifies a loyalty and commitment to his family. He already has someone that he loves, a lot, and because that position is filled, he isn’t asking Natasha to fill that slot for him. Instead, he looks to her as a partner, a confidante, and most of all, a friend.

On that note, making Natasha and Clint friends probably makes them better at what they do. Of course, I only assume it’s in movies where the action pauses to accommodate romantic moments (hi, Ron and Hermione), but I imagine it’s the superheroes’ equivalent of office romance. People can make it work, but when you’re dealing with life and death and explosions, I’ll bet couple drama gums everything right up. It causes collateral damage—and the Avengers are responsible for enough of that without help.

via MovieWeb
Lastly, I love exploring friendships. This is actually one of the things I truly dislike about the shipping culture of fandoms—taken as a whole, you can bet there’s no character left shipless by the time the fans are through with them. It’s fun, I get it, but it undermines the value of normal friendships and staying single if sexual or romantic relationships are patched in at every turn. Romance is nice, but it’s not for everyone—sometimes a good friend who listens is better than a boyfriend who just wants to get lucky.

This is what I want to see in Clint and Natasha’s relationship. I love that Natasha already seems part of the family, knows the kids, is friends with Laura. Clint tells her all about his home renovation plans, and then they go fight bad guys. Most of all, I’m glad that Clint always had one person on the team who knew his life meant more than just his life. When he was under Loki’s power in Avengers, Natasha certainly hit him really hard on the head because he was her friend, but she also knew Laura wanted her husband home in one piece and there were kids who needed to be tucked in at night. Being an Avenger is Clint’s job, and he’ll die for it if he has to, but I’m sure they could both think of four good reasons why he wouldn’t want to.

via bartons
And, you know, Natasha is the cool and crazy aunt who comes over and fits right in with the family—so there’s a reason the Bartons wouldn’t want to lose Natasha, either.

All in all, Natasha and Clint’s friendship is an awesome staple in the Avengers legacy, and I’m curious to see where it goes next! (And, how it came to be; Alyssa advocates a Black Widow movie for many awesome reasons, but I’d love to see how Natasha went from killer to confidante—I can’t imagine it was an easy switch, for either of them!)

Did you like the Claura plot twist? How do you feel about Hulk and Black Widow together? And, what do you like best about Clint and Natasha’s friendship?

So, what do you want to talk about next week? (You thought I'd be nice and reveal the fandom? HA!)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Thursentary: Into the Woods, Act II

Onto Act II! Today’s thoughts on Into the Woods are a little longer than yesterday’s, so if you’d like to go make popcorn or something, here is your opportunity.

All right, are you ready? Onto Act II, and all its… well, not really glory.

Here is the good thing I have to say:

via Oh My Disney

I Loved the Baker’s Character Arc

I thought the Baker’s transition from hopeful contender to only parent was both cute and poignant. While the other characters only sort-of change, the Baker grows from being a struggling spouse into a father and a leader. He’s going to be the head of a household where he will be the moral guide, provider, teacher, and stronghold for three kids who have lost their parents, and will be learning to work with a new partner at his side: Cinderella. I mean, it was like that in the musical, too, but at least watching the movie the sensation was so much stronger for me coming away than it was before.

Here is everything else:

via Buzzfeed

We Didn’t Get Our Second Round of Wishes

In the musical, Act II sets up everyone being unhappy again. In the movie, we jump to the part where the second beanstalk is a problem. It takes away from Jack wanting to return to the sky, the Bakers’ unhappiness with their home, Cinderella’s lack of a home, even in the palace. The movie almost lies to you by suggesting that life would have continued in almost-perfection if it weren’t for the Giantess—in the musical, we know that’s just not true.

via thingsmusicalstaughtme


“Agony (reprise)” was the biggest blow for me, but I also missed “Maybe They’re Magic.” We didn’t explore the wife’s almost unhealthy desire for a child; also leaving out songs like “Our Little World” left out more insight into the Witch’s relationship with Rapunzel. The Baker’s father’s song was there in spirit, but not in music. Without the rest of the songs, you miss characterization, plot, and worldbuilding details. It just… it was kind of like making a BLT without the B. Like you don’t need bacon to have a sandwich, but you definitely need bacon to have a BLT. You don’t need all the songs to have a story, but you need all the songs to have Into the Woods.

via Oh My Disney

The Princes and Rapunzel Got Cut Off

Oh, you know. They just left out the bit where Rapunzel got pregnant with twins and wandered around in the wilderness for a while with her kids. And the thread regarding Rapunzel’s descent into madness due to the abuse she suffered at the hands of the Witch. And Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and that whole affair. And Rapunzel’s death at the hands of the giantess. And the reduction of the Prince and Baker’s wife into a kiss. Cinderella leaving the prince was a lot more powerful when she had a lot more reason, and the princes had more to their characters before somebody decided they could be sacrificed.

via The Wall Street Journal

So Many Unresolved Plotlines

Did you know that Cinderella’s family starves to death after getting lost in the woods? Did you know that the princes find new women to love them after Cinderella decides that she doesn’t want an unfaithful prince and Rapunzel dies? Did you know there was an entire song about seducing sleeping women in the woods, and it was funny because it played off of “Agony” perfectly? No, you didn’t, because they decided they could let those threads hang. Hang their threads! You should know the real endings, of all the characters!

via Entertainment Weekly

Act II Was Not Act II

Ultimately, between my previous points, Act II was not Act II. They spent more than an hour setting up Act I, but then, to make Act II fit, got rid of “extraneous” plotlines, just like how the Stepmother took a knife to her daughters’ feet for the sake of marriage (That whole scene was great, by the way). What the filmmakers did not recognize from the Stepmother’s lesson is that you can’t just cut off the parts that don’t fit and expect to get away with wearing the shoe.

via thingsmusicalstaughtme

They Probably Should Have Gone for the PG-13 Rating

End game: They made this a little too kid-friendly. I mean, I don’t have anything against PG movies; I like Tangled as much as the next girl. However, for the themes and messages presented in Into the Woods, it would have been worth their while to shrink their audience to a more mature age group. You know, with G and PG-rated movies, you can cover a broad spectrum of ideas—loss, love, family, strength, fear, helplessness, I could go on. It’s not necessarily the idea that’s inappropriate for children: it’s the stakes. The majority of my favorite movies are rated at least PG-13, not because they cover more mature topics (although they often do).  Movies that are PG-13 and above can show penalties in all their messy, bloody, painful ugliness. It’s one thing to say that someone died, but when you have to watch the life leave their eyes, the story becomes that much more. And for the sake of the spirit of Into the Woods, a lot more meaning could have been put into the story if someone was a little more willing to say, “Let’s make it ugly.”

via Yahoo
Yes, the last lines are, “Into the woods, and out of the woods, and happily ever after!” There’s a new family, a new life, and evil has been defeated again. But evil’s still out there, inside and out, and if there was an Act III, we have to know that it would happen all over again.

My best friend said, “It’s like they told a different story using the same words,” but I disagree, a little. They told a different story using only some of the same words, and in doing so, they left behind some of the best parts that made Into the Woods something more than a happy ending.

And, even though I’m still going to listen the heck out of the soundtrack, I firmly believe that Into the Woods should be a three hour musical, not a two hour movie.

*deep breath* So, what are your thoughts on the mostly-absent Act II of Into the Woods? What parts did you miss the most?