Friday, July 31, 2015

WBI: Xibalba

I used to not have OTPs. Then I watched The Book of Life. Xibalba has to be one of my favorite antagonists of all time. He’s fascinating. And the movie’s cute. He’s awesome. He's half of my favorite pairing. All the way. Gah.

via Hero Complex
After becoming estranged from his wife after cheating in a wager, Xibalba grows bored of the Land of the Forgotten. In an attempt to rule the Land of the Remembered he makes another wager with La Muerte, this time over two boys, and the girl that one of them will someday marry.

WBI Profile

Classification :: Σ3567!*&@
Role :: Lone Wolf (autonomous but not really evil)
Motivation :: insanity/psychology (mischievous), lifestyle (desire for new realm), desperation (boredom, corruption), personal/material gain (Land of the Remembered)
Bonus :: magic (god), lair (Land of the Forgotten), family ties (La Muerte), name (XIBALBA)

Click Me to Big Me!

A Study

longing—after being trapped in the Land of the Forgotten, Xibalba is frustrated and bitter, especially towards the character of the human race; he desires more color in his life

gaming—he doesn’t have his wife’s weakness for wagers, but his willingness to set one up shows that he’s a little playful, even if he has ulterior motives

cheating—however playful, he also tips the scales in his favor so that his boy cannot die or be harmed, because he really does want that change in lifestyle

bargaining—much like Hades, he makes deals, for example agreeing to send Manolo to the Land of the Remembered to find Maria Posada

unwavering—even when La Muerte yells at him, sweet talks him, and reasons with him, Xibalba doesn’t change; only when he sees a move to gain more does he keep going

lacking—he’s not exactly detail-oriented when it comes to Manolo’s greatest fear, nor a true understanding of what motivates humans

surrendering—when the wager is settled at last, Xibalba doesn’t try to cheat anymore and La Muerte wins, without his tampering

repenting—and, when the wager is settled, Xibalba admits that he was wrong and his love for La Muerte should have been more important than his own desires; he asks her forgiveness, which she freely gives

loving—he learns to love La Muerte even more, and gains a profound respect for her passion for life and goodness; their relationship strengthens

changing—Xibalba seems to leave behind his harsher attitudes and unkindness, instead becoming a better man with a new perspective

Big Idea

snips and snails—though Xibalba is made of tar and everything that’s “icky” in the world, his constitution is a little more than what he’s made of. Even though he initially acts in a way appropriate for one made of bad things, he isn’t confined by his ingredients, and eventually earns La Muerte’s love back.

problematic, but not evil—he makes wagers, cheats, is rude, unfair, and even a little annoying, but Xibalba’s intents never seem to be “evil.” He isn’t out to hurt people’s feelings or kill them because it’s fun. He’s gotten a little bored down in the Land of the Forgotten, and a little jaded after watching the worst of human character decay for centuries.

ah, love—ultimately, the really, really good kind of love never dies, and this is true, even among our favorite personifications of death.

You wanna know my favorite quote, other than anything the grandma said? Do ya? Do ya? Do ya?

“Anyone can die. These kids? They will have the courage to live.”
“I’ll wager you are right, my love.” –La Muerte y Xibalba, The Book of Life

I LOVE XIBALBA WITH SO MUCH OF MY HEART. Did you like Xibalba as an antagonist? What do you think made him a good antagonist, or not?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Unpopular Opinions Tag

Miss Ally and Miss Opal tagged me for the Unpopular Opinions Tag! Except I’m sure some aren’t unpopular; it just feels that way.

A Popular Book or Series You Didn’t Like

via Goodreads
The Hunger Games—interesting idea, but SO BORING; Catching Fire stopped me twice in the same place.

Royally Lost—maybe I like history more than usual, but “moving forward” and “progressive opinions” are NOT the same as insulting historical landmarks and finding them useless; we don’t need to be proud of history’s failures, but we need to remember them.

The Book Thief—interesting idea and narrator, but not compelling at all.

Popular Book Or Series That Everyone Hates But You Love

You knew this was coming: The Twilight Saga.

via Goodreads
People dislike it, and that’s fine. But of those who do read it, very few read the same story as me. Day one of Spring Break, my best friend and I discussed how the vampires’ powers tied into Aristotle’s virtue ethics, and we freak out over the religious undertones all the time.

Obviously, it’s a romance novel. The point is love. But each character has a fascinating role to play—I love examining the socio-political turbulence reared through the Volturi and the culture made of people with messy histories and fragile futures.

And yeah—unhealthy romance, too. I’d argue that by the end of the series, Edward and Bella have a healthy romance, and because of the intricate and unwavering beliefs of the main characters, the romance had to play out the way it did. It doesn’t excuse portraying unhealthy romance, but the concrete and logical reasons of why are clearly explained, which helped me forgive it.

It’s more than caring about the hotness of Edward and Jacob to me, so it’s a frustration.

Rant over.

Love Triangle Where the MC Ended Up with the Person You Didn’t Want Them to End Up With

via Goodreads
Shatter Me—beautiful writing and okay book, but Warner never developed beyond the would-be boyfriend into a villain; he has his parents’ ghosts and whatever, but his beyond is foggier, making him a whatever love interest and anything but a proper villain.

Popular Book Genre You Hardly Reach For

via Goodreads
Christian Fiction—it’s not super popular, but as a Christian, it’s awkward to be one of the few who truly, truly dislikes most of it.

Realistic Fiction—not just boring, but not realistic at all.

A Popular Or Beloved Character That You Didn’t Like

via Upworthy
Snape—despite Alan Rickman being perfect for that role, he was still abusive towards Lily and Harry, which isn’t cool.

Katsa—I liked Graceling a lot, but she just wasn’t my favorite person ever. The villain more than made up for her, though.

A Popular Author that You Can’t Seem to Get Into

John Green—great videos, but his books don’t fall into my genres, really. Which is fine. I don’t need to appreciate every aspect of his published persona to know he’s cool.

Kiera Cass—I tried to read The Selection, but it just didn’t grab me. I’ve never tried again.

Ally Condie—I read Matched, which didn’t suit me at all, and I haven’t picked her up since.

A Popular Series You Have No Interest in Reading

via Goodreads
Divergent—my sisters liked it well enough, but when it is literally advertised to me as “the next Hunger Games” what do you think I’m going to say?

The Maze Runner—really, people need to stop promoting books as THG-esque on their covers.

Heroes of Olympus—I’ve read the first two books and really enjoyed them… but I guess another unpopular thing is to “outgrow” books but that is what I have done here.

Show/Movie Adaption You Liked Better than the Book

via Youtube
Casino Royale—not the first two versions, just the one with Daniel Craig (curse the reboot).

Bride and Prejudice—without even reading the book, I instinctively know it was better, okay?

The Giver—it was a good book when I was twelve, but the movie covers the same topics in a more mature way while keeping the spirit of the book, and that was good.

I was surprised to see so many people dislike romance under the genre question. I mean, I get it—I was fifteen once, too—but it kind of showed me that I am a different person, and what I read reflects it. I don’t read straight-up romance, but really, really adorable romances turn me into a roly-poly of happiness, and it wasn’t always that way.

Keep track of your unpopular opinions. It’s interesting to watch the change.

No tags, because I’m supposed to be packing. What are some of your unpopular opinions in the bookish world? 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

You Shouldn't Care That I Love My Kindle

I love my Kindle.

Maybe you have one too, or a Nook, an app on your phone, some other gizmo to pull out when you’re in that mood. Maybe you’ve sworn off eBooks altogether. I don’t really care.

Kindle3 Kindle Fire "on" button
via Zhao!

What I do care about is when you assume that one way is better than another.

Do you know what a book is? Sometimes I wonder if people do… I’m sure that many people think a book is a bound volume that can be set on a shelf, or a small file that can be read on a device. Those definitions appear deceptively true, but that is all they are—deceptive. No, these are simply the things that give character to a book, so that indeed it might sit on a shelf or a device. It is a dimension.

A book is not a physical thing. A book is a meal. We writers stew our words and pepper them with dreams and plot bunnies and deaths picked fresh from the vine. They are cooked and rinsed and simmered and served, so that it is not a collection of food to be consumed standing over the sink, but a meal—a real meal—to be served and shared and enjoyed among friends and comrades. They are the ideas that nourish our souls.

There are a lot of pretentious readers who assume that they receive a fuller experience because they could test the fibers of the pages with their fingers. There are a lot of pretentious readers who assume they too receive a fuller experience because they have read the book the modern way. Both are wrong.

Picture Independence Day. The neighborhood families have set up shop in the park, and your dad and Mr. Mendoza next door chat over their spatulas while they wait for the burgers to brown. Mom helps set up the food on the picnic tables—watermelon, potato chips, carrots, tomatoes, pickles, even an apple pie! A few of the other parents set up fireworks in the street, and you smile, because the neighborhood feels like home, and it is divine. 
“Burgers are ready!” Mr. Mendoza calls. Finally! You rush to the line, where Dad is passing out plates pre-filled with burgers and buns. He passes you yours, and you stare. 
“I can’t eat this,” you say. “It’s on a paper plate.” 
Dad blinks. “So?” 
Ugh, old people. “Dad! I can’t eat my food off of a paper plate. What kind of person do you think I am? Paper plates are bad for the environment! I won’t have really had anything to eat if I got it off a paper plate—I want to eat my food the right way, on a porcelain plate.” 
“Are you joking?” Dad busies himself with handing out the rest of the traitorous burger-filled paper plates. “You can’t bring porcelain plates to a picnic. Who would you expect to wash them? It’s cheaper and easier for everyone this way. Besides, what if one of them broke? There are little kids running around; it could be dangerous. Trust me, paper plates are better.” 
“It won’t be a real meal without porcelain plates,” you insist. “They look better.” 
“Well it ain’t gonna be a picnic without paper ones!” Dad retorts. “This is all we have—eat off a paper plate or don’t eat at all.” 
As the two of you argue, neither of you notice that the rest of the neighborhood has already seated itself on the picnic blankets, and are sharing sticky watermelon smiles as they wait for the fireworks to begin.

Books are like hamburgers. We can dress them up and devour them and go back for seconds, and we can all do it together, too. But whether we spend that Independence Day alone or at the picnic, the character of those hamburgers are not changed by the plates they are served upon. The character of the books we read are not changed by the manner we receive them, either. In fact, the format used says more about the reader than it does the story.

We assume that books can be destroyed by water or pen-markings or wear and tear, but I don’t believe that to be true. Books are independent of their condition. Even if you drop your hamburger into the dirt on accident it is still a hamburger. Except maybe you should get a new one because who knows where that dirt has been. Or just rinse it off in the water fountain. It is totally up to you.

When it comes to the matter of hamburgers and books, what I know is this: if you’re turning it down because of the plate it’s served upon, you aren’t really championing dinnerware dignity everywhere. You’re just missing out on a meal.

I would ask what you use to read books, but I don’t really care. Instead, why don’t you tell me about the books you’re eating right now instead?

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Blogger Was Out

away (au loin)
Flickr Credit: patrice-photographiste

You may have noticed that none of the comments from the last week have been answered and my latest tweets have all appeared at 11 AM, on the dot. Surprise, I’ve been away! In fact, this post is scheduled still (because, you know, the first thing I want to do after getting back from a trip is scheduling a post).

The rest of the week’s posts are still scheduled—although I do need to write up a fan fiction post for Saturday. I will do my best to get comments answered quickly, and if my absence has been inconvenient or anything, whoops, sorry.

Still, I think I did a pretty good job staying on top of things while I was out.

And, speaking of while I was out, I should have been taking pictures and keeping track of my daily activities—just like last year on my Spain trip, I’m planning on sharing some of my thoughts from last week all next week.

Of course, that brings us to the elephant in the room:

Where did I go, who did I go with, and why did I go there?

*laughs maniacally* I’LL NEVER TELL!

Just kidding. I will tell. One week from today. In the meantime, look forward to hearing my thoughts on paper books vs. eBooks, a few of my unpopular opinions, and oh… we have to talk about a villain. Love and death, my friends. I have never shipped anything so hard in my life.


Clearly, I’m out of the loop. Did you run into any blog posts, Youtube videos, discussions, or tweets that I HAVE to see RIGHT NOW? Share with me!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

That Harry Potter Post About Morality Some People Voted On

Don’t think I hate Harry Potter, because I don’t. It was my favorite series between third and sixth grade, and it rocked. Harry Potter is NOT a bad series, and I DO like it… it’s just that I’m older now, and Harry’s story is beginning to feel stale.

One of the reasons I read is to examine different styles of morality. In many ways, the series’ morality is cookie-cutter black-and-white, and doesn’t intrigue me as before. Even the construct of Hogwarts is build upon obvious good vs. obvious evil.

via Music Education for the 21st Century Classroom
Take the house model. Each house represents an important value to the series—bravery, kindness, wisdom, and EVIL. Wow. Very comparable. Admittedly, the sorting hat tends to divide people according to their values, not their actions (which is why Wormtail’s in Gryffindor), and Brett recently explained why Slytherin’s values aren’t “just evil.” But the concept of Slytherin that Harry interprets separates “bad people” from “good” at the very start. Does Harry ever befriend any of his Slytherin peers? Do we sympathize with someone like Draco Malfoy, not because he’s a victim, but for his own merits and personal charm? Tolerable people come from Slytherin, like Severus Snape and Horace Slughorn, but you’ll notice Harry only trusts them because Dumbledore does—not because he necessarily likes or trusts them himself.

Students are divided into spheres of morality from the beginning, and there’s little to no overlap. We isolate Slytherin, detest it, and friendship or teamwork becomes impossible. You aren’t supposed to admire a Slytherin’s character. They’re banned from Dumbledore’s army and the Battle of Hogwarts (though they’d just fight their own parents, which isn’t even fair)—there are no heroic deeds to admire from them.

I face moral conundrums. They aren’t so clear cut. There’s sympathy on the other side of the matter and people who are different from me aren’t just “wrong” the way I am “right.” Most of my favorite stories understand this, too. Will from Ranger’s Apprentice and A.C. Gaughen’s Scarlet find people to admire among their captors; though King Galbatorix is cruel and unfair, he’s also a dreamer. Cops and robbers doesn’t cut it.

There’s no such thing as a completely evil man—so I take issue with characters like Voldemort and Dolores Umbridge.

via greenmachine987
The goal isn’t to romanticize evil, but Voldemort and Umbridge were so dehumanized there was little to them BUT evil. Tom Marvolo Riddle was born INCAPABLE of love. I don’t know Umbridge’s backstory, but no one’s gone out of their way to explain why she hurts others the way she does. That’s sad to me—we can’t just assume villains are “just evil.” There always has to be an “evil and.”

Take H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden (yes, it is my favorite), Wing shows Otto half of the yin yang necklace. He explains that it is meant to remind him that the seed of evil can exist within good things, but even in the blackest heart, there’s still the potential for good.

Here are Voldemort and Umbridge lacking. They are unkind, brutal, inhuman. I have to feel like they’re missing their other halves—the Darkling’s romance, Dr. Kananga’s charm, Darth Vader’s family, Ignifex’s passion, Zira’s motherhood, James and Victoria’s partnership, Loki’s brokenness, Rasputin’s humor, Davy Jones’ loss, Ursula’s injustice, Hades’ leadership, Javert’s honor. They’re missing that part of them that makes the hero think, “maybe I could join them.”

Harry never once considers joining Voldemort. 

(If Harry had been more useful to Voldemort alive, who’s to say he couldn’t change his mind and pick Neville?)

Granted, characters like Snape and Dumbledore and Wormtail show moral ambiguity, and we must recalculate their roles. But overall, evil characters are evil, nothing less.

I don’t go for it. It’s nice when things are black and white, and certainly some things are, but sometimes the choices are between two evils or a good with unfortunate consequences. Then again, sometimes I step back and realize that what I used to think was good, evil, or irrelevant isn’t that thing at all!

The story still works. Good and evil are clear cut, the heroes aren’t tempted by the bad guys. In reality, it’s probably good small children aren’t taught to be morally ambiguous murderers and pillagers and haters of people, nor should we become that way as we age. I’ve heard that Harry Potter fans are more likely to be more tolerant and loving than other people, and that’s good.

At the same time, as I’m living out the end of my teenage years I reach for—long for—the stories that give me questions to think about, and pick up Harry Potter, with all its definite answers, less and less.

Note: This post was written wearing a Slytherin t-shirt, and has no bearing on whether or not I will continue to wear it as a pajama shirt, because it is my right, and I shall.

How do you feel about the morality in Harry Potter? Does it give enough ambiguity for your tastes, or would you rather read something where there are no right answers?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thursentary: My Top Five Disney Non-Deaths

Hey, guess what? Aimee invited me to guest post over at To the Barricade today! I'm talking about why parents might not take such an active role in YA. Be sure to stop by and check it out!

You’ll remember that last time we talked about satisfying Disney villain deaths. Because death is totally fun, in fictional stuff. Maybe not so much in real life. But in books, it’s symbolic and fulfilling and super good. But do your villains need to die for a satisfying ending? No way!

Some of my favorite villains end up living—and at least for me, I love coming up with consequences for the villains that are worse than death. Not all of these live up to that claim, but they’re still appropriate for the villains and their stories!

via Oh My Disney

5. Lord Ratcliffe

We don’t acknowledge the second movie, by the way. As it is, Ratcliffe spends the movie conquering Virginia so that he might one day be adored in court. Instead, he is returned with England to be tried and sentenced by the people he meant to impress. Way to go.

(Also, having done a project on John Smith previously, it seems as though in real life Ratcliffe and Smith didn’t have a problem with each other. We’re examining this as a work of art, not a historical document, okay?)

via photobucket

4. Lady Tremaine

Like Ratcliffe, Lady Tremaine had goals for a loftier position in society. Rather than achieving that through one of her own daughters, her disliked stepdaughter received the glory instead! Ultimately, she and her daughter remain common and separated from Cinderella (sort of—both of the sequels end up kind of contradictory) and so she is trapped exactly where she was at the beginning. I imagine this would be frustrating for a progressive kind of person.

via Tumblr

3. Yzma

Yzma decides to turn herself into a creature of terrifying proportions and known evilness—a kitty cat. After all her deals with turning Kuzco into something he isn’t and plans to take over the kingdom, Yzma is victim to her own wiles, and is forced to live as something that is neither a human nor capable of taking over the kingdom. She’s also forced to live at the mercy of Kronk and their squirrel troop, which is even harder because she is a cat.

via maybe someplace that got deleted?

2. Hades

Hades hates ghosts, more than anything. He thinks they’re dull and uncouth. He was as mean as he was ruthless, and that’s the gospel truth. When Hercules throws Hades into the Styx, Panic says, “If. If he gets out.” Hades is doomed to spend the rest of his time among the very people he hates, and he doesn’t even have the prospect of death to comfort him. He’s trapped! He always will be.

(It’s kind of a shame, because especially if you watched the TV series you’d know that Hades is even awesomer than the movies.)

via aladdingifs

1. Jafar

Sticking to the first movie alone, Jafar wants one thing: more power. Aladdin, the trickster, knows this, and he manages Jafar to wish for the one thing that will give him more power than he can imagine. Just according to plan, Jafar wishes to become a genie—and is trapped in his lamp and by the servitude required by the position! Jafar lives on, but because he’s trapped, he suffers his own doom, knowing he has the power, he’s just unable to use it.

Ultimately, sometimes it’s good for your villain to die, but other times it’s more satisfying to give them a fate worse than death. It’s ironic that to become the most powerful genie, Jafar enslaves himself, and plain humorous that Yzma is trapped as a cat for a little while.
via Disneyfied or Disney Tried?
I do want to mention that this is one of the reasons why I don’t like the ending of Frozen. Of course, I will always insist that the movie would have been perfect if Hans killed Anna and Elsa like a PROPER villain and become a better monarch than they ever could. But fine. Sure. He lives. And then his punishment is to shovel manure in his homeland?

I’m sorry, but no. One of the reasons that Hans’ beautiful villainy is kind of ruined is that he isn’t held accountable according to the magnitude of his crimes. Sure, nobody likes shoveling manure, but that’s a chore—it’s something some people have to do regardless of their behavior. A good death, or maybe a smart punishment where he does get his own land—a desert island with a bottle of rum and a pistol with a single bullet, maybe—would have been more appropriate. Maybe his lack of love, paralleling Elsa’s, could have caused the winter magic to turn upon him.

It would just be better. That’s all I’m saying.

What is one of your favorite Disney non-deaths? Why did you like it so much?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Don't Suck at Putting Your Blog in the Comments

I felt like mixing it up. No tag this week. Instead, we’re going to talk about an aspect of blogging that I personally find kind of annoying when other people do it, and tricky when I’m trying to do it myself.

Looking for love
Flickr Credit: Alan Cleaver

How can you politely invite someone to look at your blog in a comment?

If you have a blog, then perhaps you’ve gotten a comment like this before:

Nice post. Please follow my blog and leave a comment.
Some Person @ Random Blog

Essentially, they give no indication that they truly cared about what you said and are just promoting themselves—and I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me want to follow their blogs or comment on them. That would be plain silliness.

Still, sometimes there is the desire to put your blog’s name directly in a comment. I know that for me, I have three blogs associated with my account, and so there are times when I would want to navigate someone to this blog over the others. Whatever the reason, you want to share your blog without looking like an insensitive wretch.

While I don’t use all these myself, I’ve observed and approved of various ways people have used the comments to invite people back to their blog. These are my top five.

Put it in Your Display Name

One thing in common with all commenting systems is that you must put in a name, even if it is anonymous, to be associated with the statement. Usually I only use “Heather” as my name, but if I wanted, it would be easy to change it to “Heather @ Sometimes I’m a Story.” It’s a subtle indication to others that I have a place, and if they want, that’s where they can find me.

Politely Invite Them

This is different than the comment I used at the beginning. Typically, this requires a sincere comment beforehand and a gentle invitation at the end. For example:

Wow, I never knew that you could use books as hats like that. I really admire your creativity, and hopefully with your tutorial I’ll be able to make hats out of books, soon, too. I’d love to be able to create book-hats with my friends—maybe I’ll put the pictures on my blog, too. Maybe you’d like to visit me at Sometimes I’m a Story when I’ve got them up? Thanks for this great idea!

And it wouldn’t have to sound that awkward. It is my least favorite thing to ask people for things, even when this is a hypothetical situation I came up with in my own head. But you get the idea.

Tag Someone

I think this is one of my favorite bits about tags, and why they’re actually rather clever blog devices. While tags often say something about you, they’re also a community draw. If you see someone you’d like to visit your blog, you can tag them at the end of any comment: “By the way, I tagged you for this one thing, if you want to join in!” The failing in this would be if a blog has a no-tag policy, but it puts your link out there in a collaborative way, and whether they decide to join or not, they still might visit your blog.

Thank Someone

This is something I sometimes like to do when someone has commented on my blog and I’d like to invite them back or just acknowledge that I did see their comment. I’ll go to one of their posts and comment, and at the end say, “Thanks for stopping by Sometimes I’m a Story!” It isn’t much, but it keeps that relationship open.

Sign Off

This one is another popular one. Sometimes at the end of comments people like to write a little sign off, and put their blog and link at the bottom, the way you would close a letter. I have no idea why that link is more appealing to me as a blogger than the one at the top of the comment, but all the same, it’s a non-pushy way to make your comment seem inviting and personal, and help them visit your blog again.

One last thing: if you aren’t sure how to put a link into a comment, it’s plain old HTML. I don’t know any fancy HTML talk, but if you put a link in the quotes and what you want them to read in between the greater and less than signs, then it’ll work on most blogs. A link that said “Sometimes I’m a Story” would look like this:

<a href="">Sometimes I'm a Story</a>

That is my advice. Now go forth, share your blog name in your comments, and don’t suck at it.

What are some ways you like to share your blog in the comments? Are there any you dislike?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to Read Lord of the Rings

Usually I find the little introductions invariably placed at the front of old books to be quaint and bothersome. None moreso when they have the “How to Read This Book” section.

I mean, there are obviously different modes of annotation that might be useful to note, etcetera, etcetera, but once one has become literate and is able to mechanically operate a publication’s apparatus, you’re pretty much good to go.

Not so with Lord of the Rings, at least for me.

via Lianne Taimenlore
I do love the story behind LOTR, and I wouldn’t have watched the extended versions of the movies a million times if I didn’t. It’s just… the books… *shrinks* I got bored.

I’m sorry. I know a lot of people love the books and find them enchanting and fascinating but I am not one of them. It’s hard to say why, exactly, but it kind of felt like I was reading through molasses and the story kept getting stuck in between the page and my eyes. It took me a long time to read the trilogy—but if anyone is having trouble getting through, I thought I’d tell my success story, in case it will help anyone else.

via Tumblr

The Fellowship of the Ring

  1. Try getting started a few times and give up.
  2. Learn that your family is going to your grandfather’s birthday party the first weekend of July, and for the duration of the visit you will have no Internet access.
  3. Bring The Fellowship of the Ring on the trip, and following that, the birthday party.
  4. Help set up as much as possible, then go sit in the kitchen with suspicious-looking catered food and your younger sister and read for six hours straight.
  5. Get about three-quarters of the way done with the book.
  6. Finish the rest of the book during August.
via Giphy

The Two Towers

  1. Realize that you finished Fellowship of the Ring last month and should get on the next one.
  2. Carry yourself on the wings of the finished-book high through the story.
  3. Try to focus on the Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli part, because it is hard to care about Frodo. 
  4. Really though Sam is way cooler than Frodo can I get a hallelujah? 
  5. Get caught reading in AP Euro by a teacher who, coincidentally, has a ginormous LOTR poster on the wall (there’s a Hobbit poster across the room now, too)—put away the book because priorities.
  6. Finish the book and put it on the shelf.
  7. Rejoice.
via Tumblr

Return of the King

  1. The following June, as you prepare to leave for a trip to England and Spain, bring Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Return of the King, because you don’t want to read either and if you’re at the airport you can’t get distracted.
  2. Read in the airport until all the flights fall through and your trip gets postponed. 
  3. Learn that you must go back to your grandparents’ on account of your great-grandmother’s funeral.
  4. Pack Return of the King alongside other books you don’t really want to read, like The King Must Die, since you have since learned that Cinder is glorious.
  5. Read The King Must Die first, because it’s smaller.
  6. Bring Return of the King to the recently deceased great-grandmother’s exhibition-of-the-body get together.
  7. Say hello to all of the close family members you like.
  8. Claim a seat on a couch next to sister, and read for about six or seven hours straight until Mom and Dad say you can go home.
  9. Go back to Grandma’s apartment, and then stay up until midnight finishing RotK, because, gurl, you’re on a roll!
  10. Go buy the Twilight Saga because you need some kind of reward for that accomplishment and Half-Price Books doesn’t exist at home.

And then… You’re free. You’ve done it, you’ve managed, and no one can accuse you of not reading the books but still liking the movies, and can secretly harbor a preference for the movies, and not just because Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortenson look nice, or the battle scenes are choreographed better.

I hope it helps. I’m sure you’ll need it.

Have you read Lord of the Rings? Was it as hard for you as it was for me? What are some interesting adventures you took with a book?

Monday, July 20, 2015

777 Snazzing Snippets

Mariella tagged me for the 777 Challenge again, and rather than do exactly what I did a few weeks ago, I thought it would be interesting to do a little bit of a follow up. So, to start out with, I will give lines 7-14 on the seventh page of my MS to show where the plot has moved.

No. seven
Flickr Credit: Thilo M.
Prince Lucas lay in the bed, I thought, piled under what could have been thirty blankets. Only his pale face peaked out on a pillow, in drastic contrast to when I had last seen them. Then he had been strong and smiling, with a loud voice and a firm hand. Now his skin was yellow and waxy, like I could reach out and break off a crumbling piece of his chin. I knew little of doctoring sickness, but it was obvious that Lucas didn’t have long. 
Please, I thought, hoping the magic was listening. Please heal him. It was an accident. An accident! Please, it’s all my fault—I’ll do whatever you ask, anything, if you make him well again.  
After a few minutes, I wasn’t sure who I was talking to—a god or a spirit or magic itself. But no matter how hard I pleaded, despite all my wishes, Lucas didn’t change.

And that is all very well and good, of course, but you also don’t really understand what real changes have been made to the story. And so, teaming up with another linkup, I’m participating in Snazzy Snippets, hosted by Alyssa and Emily, to share something that is villain-y, personality-y, or dialogue-y.

Since the dialogue only makes up about 28% of the snippet, I’m kind of showing some villain and personality things in the snippet. Mostly because if my protagonists aren’t secretly evil I really don’t care about finishing their stories. And it is in first person. You get some dialogue.

Hugging my merchandise close, I slipped back into the hideout, where the princess scrabbled at the dirt with her fingers, looking bored. Her dark eyes flashed at me as I entered, but calmed soon after. Wary of her sharp tongue, I passed her the bundle. She looked through it and nodded. 
“Thank you,” she said. She went to the entrance to peek outside. Seeing no one, she turned her back and slipped into the trousers like I had, always keeping an eye on the door. I didn’t blame her. I wouldn’t have wanted Silverhand to see me naked, either. Nor Deuce, come to think about it, but he probably wouldn’t be harsh or mean. 
As for me, I took my dress and made a clump of cloth that at least resembled a pillow, if you were half-blind, anyway. I laid it on the ground and put my head on it, finally allowing my body to relax after hours of walking. Sleep took me over before I had a chance to think about it. 
Voices woke me—or at least, I think they did. The lamp had since gone out, and I was alone in the hideout. Just outside, there were whispers.  
“We don’t even know if killing her would help,” Bai argued. “We don’t know anything about the disease, or if it will start spreading.” 
“The furcai had better be able to help us,” Silverhand said. “With any luck Lucas will recover and it will be like this never happened.” 
“Let’s not be hasty,” Deuce piped up. “It would be bad manners to talk about killing someone when we’re all so tired. We can discuss it after we’ve slept.” 
“Don’t wake her,” Bai warned. “The less she knows, the butter.” 
“Beluga,” Deuce replied.  
The next time I thought I was awake, grains of sand dug into my face and a cough tickled the back of my throat.

Boom. Two snippets for the price of one. Thanks to Mariella, Emily, and Alyssa for giving me the opportunity to share all this good stuff.

I could tag people, but I don’t want to be that limiting. If YOU are working on a novel, then why not share some of your snippets as well? I promise to gush over the villain if you link me up to yours below!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Jesus's New Groove

May the peace of the Lord be with you. Today’s lesson comes from the book of Disney, beginning from its fortieth animated feature. Please rise.

via Tumblr
"And after tempting Jesus, Satan left him. Deep in hell, he took out his anger upon busts carved in the likeness of the Lord’s face, shattering them with his mallet of evil. Attending him was his servant, Stanley, who placed the busts before his master for him to smash. “He’s fully man!” Satan growled. “Why, I practically own him.” Stanley said, “Yeah, you think he would have given in easier.” Satan pursed his lips. “Go figure.”

"Stanley did prepare for his master many more busts for Satan to smash, and the rocks did scatter through the recesses of hell violently. “Well, it’s better you’re taking out your anger on these things instead of the real Jesus, huh?” At that moment, Satan was hit with his most favored idea yet, and exclaimed it with pride, “I’ll get rid of Jesus!” And Stanley was confused. “The real Jesus?” Satan glared at him with vehemence, and declared that they go to his secret laboratory, so that he might kill the heir to Heaven and sit upon the throne in his stead.

via Giphy
"Satan then planned the demise of Jesus.

via oodlyenough
"“Or, to save on postage, I shall crucify him!” And Satan held a small vial of evil aloft in his hand. “Indeed, in his weakness he shall not be able to resist the temptations I place upon his lips!”

via Buzzfeed
"The devil then sent Stanley to prepare for the Lord’s crucifixion. He was arrested, beaten, and mocked before the Roman guards. And when they had mocked Jesus, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

"Hidden from mortal eyes, Satan consulted Stanley upon the following proceedings. He asked if everything were ready, and Stanley showed to his master the nails and mallets he had prepared  for the upcoming execution. “Not the crucifixion,” said Satan. “You know.” “Oh, right. The temptation. The temptation for Jesus, the temptation chosen especially to defeat Jesus, Jesus’s temptation. That temptation?” And Satan’s anger burned against Stanley. “Yes! That temptation.” Stanley had Satan covered, and with a few drops in his drink all of Heaven would be his before the ninth hour. Stanley pointed out that it would be a real shame, for the post-crucifixion dessert he had prepared was creamy and smooth indeed.

"At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice that he was thirsty. With a great shove, Satan pushed Stanley to run up to Jesus with his temptations soaked into a sponge, which he did raise to the Lord’s lips upon a stick. Stanley backed away, and with a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

via emperorsgifs
"Stanley did return to the blind, where Satan waited. “Now seal him in a tomb, where he shall never return!” he said. Stanley was disappointed, for he had worked extra hard on his raspberry jubilee, and so Satan agreed to a quick cup of coffee and raspberry jubilee before Stanley finished the job.

via rebloggy
"Satan arose to the throne of Heaven, and began his cruel and egocentric reign. Many people came to Satan, with their guilt and crimes. “What is it you want?” he asked. “Forgiveness? You should have thought of that before you became sinners!”

"Three days passed. Stanley edged into the throne room, where sat his master, eating grapes. “Jesus is in his tomb, right?” Satan asked. “I need to hear these words.” Stanley because nervous, and asked if he needed to hear those words exactly. And Satan’s anger burned against Stanley again. “Jesus is alive?” Stanley said, “Well, he is not as dead as we would have hoped. And he has become a llama.”

via Rebloggy
"With that, Satan rose to his feet in a mighty fury. “A llama? He’s supposed to be DEAD.” He glared at Stanley, who said, “Yeah, weird.” And Satan knew that Stanley had taken the wrong vial from the shelf before putting the temptation to the Lord’s lips.

via Emma Davis
"Before Jesus could return to the house where his disciples were, Satan confronted Jesus on the road. “This can’t be!” he proclaimed. “How did you forgive all of mankind despite the temptation that I gave to you?” Jesus elected to let Mary Magdalene answer the question, but she said, “You got me. By all accounts, it doesn’t make sense.”

via gingerhaze
"Jesus then pounded his hooves into the ground and glared at Satan. “You have made a mistake, O evil one. You threw off my groove!” And an angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, saying, “I’m sorry, but you’ve thrown off Jesus’s groove.” With all the might of the Lord he was smote back to hell, where he belonged, and all was well.

via Buzzfeed
"The Lord then proclaimed, “Woo-yeah! Look at me and my bad self! I rose from the grave! ‘Ooh, I’m a crumbly lord of humanity, and I’m taking you with me.’ Well, not today, pal!”

via Giphy
"And he walked alongside Mary to reveal to his disciples the truth of his resurrection. Mary did not think it was a good idea for him to surprise the others by pretending to be under Satan’s power, and especially not with a creature that she was not sure existed, so even though Jesus enjoyed being a llama, he returned to his human countenance until his ascension.

via Buzzfeed
"Nonetheless, he declared to her, “Blessed are those with a llama face, for theirs is my groove.”"

Here ends the reading.

And now you know what I think about during church on Sundays. What’s your favorite Emperor’s New Groove Quote?

(Note: even if it isn’t quoted some of the lines I used are from the NIV books of Matthew and Mark, as well as the Disney movie The Emperor’s New Groove.)

Due to foreseen circumstances I don’t really feel the need to elaborate on at the moment, I am not going to be able to see votes to schedule a voted-upon post next week. I have made an executive decision about what you shall read. Enjoy. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

WBI: Diaval

I shamelessly admit that Diaval was my favorite character in Maleficent, and less shamelessly admit that I am thrilled that Sam Riley will be Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But I am not here to talk about that. I am here to talk about Diaval, the raven. He was cool.

After Maleficent saves his life from a farmer, Diaval begrudgingly swears his life to the evil fairy and acts as her servant. As they endeavor to raise Aurora from afar, Diaval befriends the girl, and agrees to fight a fight that was never his own.

WBI Profile

Classification :: Θ2457@
Role :: Henchman (Maleficent’s servant)
Motivation :: idealism (work-related items, dogs), insubordination (life debt), lifestyle (raven), personal/material gain (Aurora’s welfare)
Bonus :: Name (Diaval)

A Study

forced—Maleficent saves Diaval’s life because she can use him; rather than die at her hands, Diaval resentfully accepts life as her servant, “volunteering” to help her in her dark quest

wings—having been separated from her own, Maleficent comes to rely on him as her wings, eyes, ears, and confidant

tool—she also shapeshifts him according to the needs of the moment; his most common alternate form is that of a man, but he’s also been a wolf, horse, and dragon

obedient—despite a mild dislike for his job, Diaval never strays from Maleficent’s instructions; he is her greatest ally and most trustworthy helper

independent—though he never wavers from her instructions, Diaval also has a mind of his own; he refuses to be turned into a dog again and he lets Maleficent know if he disapproves, even if he doesn’t necessarily voice his opinion aloud

watchful—he keeps his eyes open for Maleficent, Aurora, danger, the kingdoms; even though he’s just a raven, he’s a protector in his own right

gentle—the fairies Aurora is entrusted to are so incompetent that Diaval and Maleficent are forced to raise their nemesis themselves; Diaval is a key instrument in nurturing the baby

charming—and then he goes and kisses Aurora’s hands when they’re formally introduced for the first time <3

birdbrain—do not be fooled: even though he’s a charming man, he is still a bird on the inside; he is not stupid, but he feels about things very much the way birds do

devoted—he would have died for Maleficent, even after her crazy, cruel rampage; yet, just like everyone else, at the end he forgives her, and they become guardians together

Big Idea

form vs. self—Maleficent turns Diaval into whatever she needs according to the situation; this does not change the fact that Diaval is still a bird. He still hates being a dog, because he’s a bird. Shapeshifting is always a cool concept, but we tend to give our characters human characteristics because we know what it is to be human. I enjoyed seeing the bird in Diaval.

twisted tales—in the original Sleeping Beauty, Diaval’s name was Diablo. For my friends who speak Spanish, we know that means “devil.” Diaval is closer to the English word. Diaval turns into Maleficent’s dragon, and once again, he is the only competent member of her staff. There are nods to the original movie in Diaval’s role, but allowing him to turn into a human and giving him a greater focus in Maleficent helped give him a more important role in the story.

slave to sidekick—in the end, Maleficent gives Diaval the chance to leave: it’s not his fight. He’s sarcastic and annoyed, but he follows her anyway, even when they are threatened with death. The fight was hard, he saw her murder others, take over the innocence of the Moors, and worse. And yet, in the end, when she steps down and resumes her role as a protector, he stays with her. Somewhere along the way, he paid his debt, and he decided that he was willing to stay with her still. Because that’s what friends do.

Best of all, he says the best line in the movie.

“No truer love.” –Diaval, Maleficent 

Did you watch Maleficent? What did you think of Diaval as Maleficent’s henchman?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Another Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Mariella tagged me for the Sisterhood of World Bloggers Award. Thanks Mariella!


Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
Put the Award logo on your blog.
Answer the ten questions sent to you.
Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
Nominate ten blogs.

What flowers would you absolutely need to have in a garden?

Dead ones. I hate gardening. And being outside.

Have you traveled? Where to?

I went to Spain last year and I have been to a handful of the fifty states.

Do you have pets? And if so, do they seem to have an attitude?

My sister has two rats, and one attacked the other a couple days ago. Does that count as an attitude?

Is there an album you’ve listened to so much that you memorized the lyrics?

Um, no. I don’t listen to CD’s as complete albums anymore as much as I used to. I mean, I could probably give you some Owl City lyrics from any song you desired, but I don’t usually measure my music-listening experience specifically in albums.

Any goals you want to reach this year?

I have certain books I hope to read, like How to Read Novels Like a Professor and The Scarlet Pimpernel, and I want to double my active WIP’s word count, and I’m getting the feeling I should start a new WIP because I’ll need a break from my current one.

What’s the last book you read and enjoyed?

I am currently reading Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope, and I’m enjoying that quite a bit. Nerdy, nerdy Heather.

And a book you haven’t read, but want to?

Which Hogwarts house do you belong to?

If I got to pick it would by Slytherin, if my parents picked it would be Ravenclaw, and if Pottermore picked it would be Gryffindor—but at this point I’m feeling like the house system is stilted and unfairly biased, so I think I would not want to go to Hogwarts. Maybe there’s a cooler school in America.

Do you keep a journal?

You bet I do.

Share one of your all-time favorite quotes.

“Pants. Pants are essential.” –Dave, Alvin and the Chipmunks

This week I think I’m just going to pass on Mariella’s questions, if nobody minds. I nominate:

Even if you weren’t tagged, you can still answer! Share a couple of your answers with me in the comments!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In Which I Discourage Rating Books Like Movies

Last Tuesday, Ana argued for a book rating system like that of movies. I respect Ana’s opinion and understand avoiding certain material, but still, I found the concept dubious… and yucky.

Admittedly, I’m eighteen. I don’t use ratings as much; I don’t need ratings as much. My parents don’t hover over my shoulder—when it comes to reading, they rarely did. With few exceptions, I’ve been free to read anything and everything during my teen years. That only adds to my skepticism.

Let’s start with the basics: why aren’t books rated as movies are?

First things first, understand how movies are rated (from a U.S. perspective). Between 1934 and 1968, producers enforced what was basically a censorship regulation: the Motion Picture Production Code (read the no-no list—it’s freaky). Censorship sucks, so November 1, 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating system took effect (source).

Through its most recent edit in 1996, the MPAA system culminated into the G through NC-17 scale we know and love today. Movie rating is completely voluntary and not mandated by law; however, most theaters do not accept unrated or NC-17 films. This makes unrated and NC-17 movies less profitable, which can be a major discouragement to their production (source).

(this one was just on my computer)
Say there existed a respected counterpart to the MPAA system for books. Publishers sell books. If bookstores refused to carry certain book ratings or only sold them to specific audiences, publishers would make less money. It stands to reason they would publish fewer books exceeding a certain maturity level and focus their energies on more profitable books. Some say rating a book isn’t censorship, but considering the financial decisions a publishing company makes, rating systems could cause a form of economic censorship.

On that note, check out the yearly outputs. In 2014 the MPAA rated 708 movies, about 0.23% (yes, just under a fourth of a percent) of the 305,000 new titles and editions published annually in the United States alone (source, source). I’m not intimately acquainted with the movie rating process, but it costs money and takes time—so shall it be in our alternate universe. Would the rating company keep up with the overwhelming number of books? How would prices affect indie authors, fronting the cost themselves? Would books be edited (as movies are) to achieve a desired rating so as to market to a desired audience?

via Buzzfeed
Sure, there are precedents for rated reading material, like FanFiction.Net. Writers rate their uploads according to content level; however, self-rating can lead to misrating, “just to be safe.” Publishers wouldn’t want to “be safe” and cut a portion of the paying audience. Alternately, if publishers themselves were responsible for rating books, it would be inefficient, and maybe inconsistent. That alternate universe could end up a mite confusing.

Without Walter Bishop’s help we can only speculate as to what might happen under other circumstances, but from economic and quantitative stances, a rating system exactly like that of the MPAA could have a negative, even censoring, impact on which books are recognized, published, and sold. It’s difficult to say what self-rating could do, but might also cause confusion and damage to a book’s integrity.

via popculturenexus
We aren’t in an alternate universe. We have gotten away from the practical matters of things. Maybe MPAA-style book ratings are implausible, but we are readers. We have concerns about content.

Why wouldn’t we want ratings?

Start simple: movies are for everyone. They carry a social experience—whether they be for children or adults, filmmakers have to cater to a wider audience. That means despite age, maturity, experience, values, etcetera, they want everyone drawn to the box office.

Books are not for everyone. That’s why we split them into specific genres and subgenres. Where a six-year-old, sixteen-year-old, and twenty-six-year old might like Inside Out the same, perhaps only the sixteen-year-old likes The Hunger Games among them. Books cater to specific audiences with specific expectations according to genre, and ante up the mature content according to who they expect to read the books.
via johnlawks
Movies require a rating system because they have a wide, less restricted audience. Books speak for themselves through their genres. Where movies are designed to have something for everyone, books grow to reflect the readers’ culture. Even if you don’t know a book’s contents, simply by genre you know its maturity group.

(Notice I use “maturity group,” not “age group.” Different people can handle different materials at different ages—and that’s why ratings are more like guidelines more than actual rules.)

via Tumblr
Parents and individuals alike want to monitor the media allowed in their homes according to their values, which may not include sex, violence, drugs, or other elements of the human condition. Sometimes those values aren’t equal to what is considered acceptable within one’s maturity group. You should get to decide what you read, but think about this: rating systems create a lens that everyone has to look through.

Take the MPAA system—no matter how artful the movie as a whole, one scene can box the whole movie into a single category by a single value. Regardless of the improvement an “inappropriate” topic might add to a film, dividing lines are harsh, and exceptions are not made. One set of values can dominate public perception of a movie, blinding them to the rest of the value therein.

via sick-sick-sick
Your values are your own, and you are entrusted with their keeping. But remember this: everyone else is, too. It would be wrong to impose a system of universal values on books whose freedom we value so deeply, when our values are so incredibly diverse and variable. It’s not our job to put a lens on books.

That isn’t to say you should walk into a book blind. Like the MPAA, independent book rating sites exist, highlighting value representation and content. Ana mentioned Common Sense Media, but Compass Book Ratings, Rated Reads, or Parental Book Reviews exist, too. Find a website focusing on your concerns, or a friend, librarian, contact, review, or asking site to address your questions. This is the age of the internet—the power to research is at your fingertips. Worst case scenario, you dive in anyway: you can decide not to finish, or maybe read on and into a new perspective. That is the value of freedom.

via kimberlysjoy
As for me, I’d ask books to stay unrated. Books are things that make us free—and the thing about freedom is that it isn’t free at all. It comes with the highest of costs (source).

What do you think? Should books have ratings like movies, or no?

(By the way—it's definitely good to look at different points of view when it comes to this subject matter, so in addition to Ana's original post about the matter, I'd also encourage you to look at Emily's extension on why ratings might be good, as well as Aimee's arguments on context and attitude that discourage content ratings. Check out what they say, and see what you think!)