Monday, November 30, 2015

In Which I Do Not Know Everything

When it comes to being a writer there is a lot of it that you can learn online. I mean, first, you read a lot, then you write a lot, and then there are a million people who can give you tips and tricks to edit your babies. Then, when you’re ready, you can find CPs, betas, and agents to query. In fact, you can look up and practice how to write query letters (which is an important skill, btw) and then tell all your writer friends about it on Twitter.

Writer's Block
Flickr Credit: alexkerhead

But there are things I just do not know about being a writer. They are not essential to the writing process, they are just questions I have. Are there answers? You tell me.

  1. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that “write a book” is one of the top twenty things people put on their bucket lists?
  2. Is Rick Castle actually based off of any real writers? 
  3. If published writers aren’t supposed to read random people’s work for legal reasons but then all of one author’s CPs die in a tragic plane crash while coming to visit them, how will they get new CPs?
  4. How many worthy but unpublished works are sitting at the bottoms of drawers and buried on people’s computers because they are too afraid to query?
  5. Has anyone actually ever been arrested for their browsing history as a writer or do people just want to dramatize their writerly quirks?
  6. What if there is a conspiracy of evil published writers who all give bad writing advice to maintain their sales and prestige?
  7. How many people still think J.K. Rowling is the exception and not the rule?
  8. What will be the books that last into the next century?
  9. Does every new book you write create a new universe filled with new people who maybe don’t even feature in the book but just exist to make the world a world? IS IT MY FAULT THAT THERE MAY BE A GUY NAMED ANDRE WHO LOST HIS WIFE ENYA AND UNNAMED SON IN CHILDBIRTH YESTERDAY BECAUSE I CREATED A UNIVERSE WITH POOR HEALTHCARE LEAVING HIM TO RAISE HIS OTHER TWO CHILDREN ALONE?
  10. Do we all want to make our readers cry someday and if we do does that make us bad people?
  11. Are book preferences (by genre, etc.) linked to intelligence? Has anyone studied this?
  12. What if there were super good novels from back in the day that were destroyed in the burning of libraries or because someone’s mom hated words so we’ll never know of the most creative minds in history?
  13. Is it a worse fate for a book to be read and hated or unread and never given a second thought?
  14. How long is the lifespan of writers compared to normal people?
  15. Will people ever stop reading?

So there are fifteen questions I don’t have the answers to. Again, I don’t need them to write, but sometimes they are good questions to scare myself with.

Do you have any unanswerable questions about the writing industry? What are they?


(By the way, you can still enter a giveaway to win a critique of 10 pages of your writing! Go take a look!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It's a... SECOND BLOGOVERSARY!

Hello! It will interest you to know that there is nothing special about this day, except it is my SECOND BLOGOVERSARY!


Two years. I have been blogging for two years. That’s like ten percent of my life so far. That’s kind of a lot. But then, I like blogging kind of a lot. Either way, I have good reason to celebrate.

If I recall correctly from my most boring post, I promised three things: a video, a giveaway, and a game-ish tag thing. So, allow me to get started in sharing those three things.

First, the video. Ta-da! It is me and Elizabeth, here to answer all your questions. We picked at least one question from everyone who asked, but we could not get to them all—perhaps we shall answer some more in a later post.


I have no video editing software, so you get us talking in all our uncut glory. Also, it is good I invited Elizabeth to do this with me because she and I have different skills. Hers fall into the category of looking at the camera and talking to you and being generally articulate and mine include not looking at the camera and wearing my Wicked jacket for the fifth time in a video of this sort on accident.

Enjoy!

***also, just so you know that I know, it turns out that there are still Mongols, but there are not still Mongol hoards conquering and pillaging, which is what we were thinking of. Oops.

The second order of business is the giveaway. As I said before, I’m giving away a critique of ten pages of your writing. There are no country restrictions (though I’m only going to be useful to you if your stuff is in English), but your writing will have to be in 12-point Times New Roman and all that jazz, because I have standards. Once you win, we’ll talk details.

Also, I have changed my mind from what I said earlier, and it is no longer okay to kill, maim, or otherwise debilitate other people who have entered the giveaway to ensure your win because I think that would probably be immoral.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And, lastly, in the spirit of celebrating blogs, I thought it would be fun to do a blog tag the way we sometimes do book tags. It’s always good to keep writing new posts, but sometimes as your blog gets older, some of the good ones can get buried in the mix. That is why I am bringing you this tag, so that you may highlight the wonders of your own blog for the rest of us to see.

  1. What was your first post? When did you write it?
  2. What is your most popular post?
  3. What is your favorite post?
  4. What are some particularly emotional posts you’ve written? (And it doesn’t necessarily have to be weepy—you could be ecstatic or enraged or disgusted, if that applies.)
  5. Have you ever written particularly a particularly controversial post?
  6. What is your most humorous post?
  7. Have you ever given/received/exchanged guest posts?
  8. What are some things you want to blog about but haven’t gotten to yet?
  9. What is the best thing about your blog?
  10. And, for the heck of it—what are a few of your favorite blogs (that, if it wasn’t implied, are not yours)?
And, when you’re done with that (should you choose to participate), feel free to stick it in the linky below!



Let the celebrations begin! *sprinkles confetti and sprinkles over everyone’s heads* And, to everyone, thanks for making Sometimes I’m a Story a super awesome experience for me. Thanks for your presence and your awesomeness—here’s to another year of more of the same!

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I cannot think of any good questions that do not drop hints that you should participate. Because, of course, I’d like you to, but you could be finishing up Nano or something. *shrugs* Oh well. If you won the giveaway, what would you have me take a look at?

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Lion King: Fangirling, Adoration, and Love

*fans self* Okay, so I went to see The Lion King yesterday and I kind of died inside and though I’d like to send you off with some coherent, rational response really this is just me getting out my undying love for The Lion King and probably musicals in general.

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My favorite character, beyond a doubt, was Rafiki. On stage, she’s a girl, which is in accordance to the nature of female spiritual leaders from the cultures Lion King is drawing from. She was simply amazing. She was funny and she was sassy but she was also wise and insightful. I will write a post on Rafiki some other time, but suffice it to say that Rafiki is my favorite character in the musical. Because she is awesome.

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The costumes, beyond a doubt, were spectacular. I don’t know if the job of the person who designed them was “theater engineer” but that’s totally what they were, and they were heart-stoppingly gorgeous. Maybe you can see the humans in them, so they don’t look like “real animals,” but their designs all carried the spirit of the real animals, and that was superb.

Speaking of engineering, the wildebeest scene also really impressed me—in the film, that entire scene, which probably isn’t even five minutes, took something like two years to animate simply because there were so many wildebeests. On stage, it was really cool to see the way that the animals were set up to give the impression of an overwhelming stampede without actually needing three hundred actors. I was really impressed.

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Oh, I loved the bright colors! I think The Lion King in general is supposed to be a more showy musical, but the last few musicals I’ve seen professionally produced have been things like Evita and Jekyll and Hyde and so forth—and things tend to be a little more dark in those musicals, so the costumes reflect that. The Lion King, more than anything, is not just a story of a prince reclaiming his birthright but a story of balance against imbalance, or good versus evil, as we might deem it—that even though there is sadness and darkness and pain the circle turns, bringing life, and hope, back to power every time. There is such power in those colorful costumes.

Let’s see… songs! I really enjoyed the rendition of “He Lives in You” performed during the “look at the stars” scene between Simba and Mufasa—I’ve really, really loved this song in The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride (not sure for which came first though, the sequel or the musical) and I think it’s a really enchanting song about heritage and guidance and spirituality and it seriously was amazing. Mufasa nailed it (as did his backup singers, of course).

And “Be Prepared,” “The Circle of Life,” “Shadowland,” and all the other songs were good, too. Just that “He Lives in You” shall always be my favorite.

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Speaking of “Shadowland,” Nala was perhaps my second favorite character. She had a very strong leadership presence, was graceful and fierce but also loving and kind. She was the best kind of carnivore.

More than that, I really liked the exploration of the female identity onstage, too. Of course, female lions do the hunting, and I really enjoyed the lionesses’ hunting scene, but there were other aspects, too. For example, many of the story’s main events are instigated by male characters—Simba, Scar, Mufasa, Timon, and Pumbaa especially—and considering how similar the lionesses are, how little they seem to do compared to the top guys, it seems easy to assume that they’re just extras. But that’s not how I saw it. The lionesses had many important roles without which Simba would not have returned to Pride Rock.

  • When the lionesses asked in unison, “So, where is this ‘cool place’?” they demonstrated a role of motherhood, but distinctly in a demonstration of protection and guardianship.
  • When Mufasa died, it was the lionesses who cried—it was the lionesses who mourned (also, Rafiki). In mourning they remembered, and in remembering, it was they who held onto the values of balance while Scar was in power.
  • Thus, in holding onto those values, it was the lionesses who passed on that value of balance to Nala, so that when they and Rafiki were forced to send her off, she too would remember her pride and the identity that came with it. No matter where she went, Nala would still be woven into the fabric of their tradition, which would be important because…
  • It is Rafiki and Nala who bring Simba back home again. Simba has forgotten his identity and his responsibility and it takes the women who have remembered their identities and traditions to knock sense into him and restore him to his throne.

And sure, I totally just made it sound like the role of the lionesses completely falls into that “sphere of domesticity” nonsense, but I think the real point the musical is making is not that the lionesses belong in distinctly familial roles, but rather that everyone belongs in distinctly familial roles, and the two characters who abandon their family—Scar and Simba—are really the ones who makes things the way they aren’t supposed to be. Bottom line, the best thing about the lionesses and Rafiki is that they have a distinct and important identity integral to the Circle of Life and they’re the only ones who manage to not screw things up in the whole musical. Plus, I loved their costumes.

Lastly, a shout-out to Zazu for the slight alteration of his annoying song from “It’s a Small World” to “Let It Go.” I think every parent in that theater felt Scar’s pain.

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IT WAS SO GOOD. I could not have asked for a better birthday gift (although an early gift, to be fair). I have talked so much about it, though. Just leave knowing that the king has returned.

I could not think of a more inspiring way to send you off.

Do you like The Lion King, movie or musical? What are your favorite parts?


Friday, November 20, 2015

WBI: Nate Ford

If Leverage has a main-er main character than the other main characters, then it is probably Nate Ford. His history, his haint, his hurt—it's because of his initiative we have a TV show about a career felon with an alcohol problem. Isn’t he the best?

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Grieving the death of a son who was denied treatment by his employer, a large insurance company, Nate Ford begins a trajectory of retribution against the rich and powerful around the world. He decides to provide leverage, and it all goes down from there.

WBI Profile

Classification :: A023578$#*&
Role :: Alpha (plotting and idealistic mastermind)
Motivation :: chaos (dissolution of corporations, etc.), idealism (high social/moral standards), insanity/psychology (alcoholism), lifestyle (alcoholism, revenge business), personal/material gain (revenge), power/influence (over injustice)
Bonus :: money (alternate revenue stream), minions (Leverage crew), lair (Leverage HQ), family ties (Leverage crew)

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A Study

grieving—Nate’s son Sam was eight when he died; I’ve heard it said you never get over the loss of a child, you just learn to find a new normal, which Nate semi-successfully pulls off

mastermind—Nate plans and guides the cons, so while he occasionally fills in a roll, usually he just uses his big brain to pin the bad guys

rooted—unlike certain others on the crew, Nate has a deep-set sense of morality which contributes to his demand for justice; he never wonders what is right, he just struggles to get there sometimes

outcast—after descending into alcoholism, losing his family, and withdrawing from his former life, Nate never really opens up again, making him emotionally and physically distant from even his best friends

determined—Nate rarely lets his emotions get in the way of what he wants, and when he does he refuses to acknowledge it

repressive—many times, he ignores his alcoholism, his feelings, his own suffering because he gets through it by helping other people; it drives him mad, but it is also necessary

detail-oriented—he not only pays attention to every detail, but he makes plans for multiple eventualities, so that whatever may come, there’s always something he can do about it

well-rounded—Nate’s worked airport security and insurance and many other jobs, so even if he isn’t an experienced thief, he knows the world and how people function inside of it

teacher—especially with Parker, who has been cut off from her humanity for a long time, Nate provides a voice of reason, moral council, and reassurance to other characters who need a little extra guidance

misfit—Nate doesn’t belong in the average world, and yet, despite being such a successful mastermind, it seems he doesn’t really belong in the world of crime, either

father—if Sophie is the mother of the crew, then Nate is the father, who guides, teaches, leads, and drives the team into effective, good people who have a reason to steal

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Big Idea

starting over—this series deals with Nate and his demons, for he must reconcile who he was with the entirely different person he is. This is a man who drank himself out of his job, his house, his marriage. To make the Leverage business work, he has to find a new self and control it. It’s a story of hitting rock bottom, and the climb back out to something more.

always right—Nate tends to take his decisions personally. He always wants to be right, he always wants to win, and he always wants things to come out on top, on his terms. He can be competitive and even put the con in danger because his ego doesn’t take bruises lightly. It’s dangerous, but that need for rightness also contributes to his determination, detail-orientation, and morality. He wouldn’t be Nate without it.

father knows best—Nate guides the rest of the team in a fatherly fashion, even if in some cases the age difference doesn’t make sense. He’s an honest man, and that means that he can give Parker guidance as she explores humanity, Hardison training as he reaches for maturity, and Eliot support as he reinvents himself. In the end, everything he does is for their benefit, and doesn’t give that final gift to them until he’s positive they will be okay.


And, I think I will share a version of his most famous line, from one of my favorite episodes.

“Let’s go steal the future.” –Nate Ford, "The Future Job"

Have you watched Leverage? What do you think of Nate as a villain? Would you ever write a mastermind character like him?


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Advocating Annotation

There’s this weird aversion people have to writing in their books. Even textbooks. Like, if you put a pen to the printed paper you’ll interrupt the sanctity of the story and you’ll go to Book Hell someday.

Some people feel very strongly about having virgin books.

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I, on the other hand, have no such qualms. Certainly, I’m not going to write in EVERY BOOK, especially if it’s just for pleasure, but if it is something with which I plan to do a literary analysis or it is for school, there is no way I am not doing it. And, to be honest, I would recommend a habit of annotating, too. It’s good for you, I promise.

1. You Prioritize the Important Bits

Maybe you are reading a history textbook or maybe you are reading Wuthering Heights. Either way, your ability to demonstrate an understanding of the book will not just come from memorizing names and big events—highlighting the small but significant details tracks the progression of ideas in the story and helps you pinpoint exactly what the writer is trying to say.

Questions You Answer: What are the significant details? How do they relate to one another? How do they relate to the main idea?

2. You Record Reactions

This seems like it wouldn’t be relevant in an academic setting, but I disagree. Even if your reading material is sometimes super boring, they were not actually intended to be that way 99% of the time. The point of writing something is to send a message that evokes something in the reader. By keeping track of your reactions, you can gauge whether the author accomplished that goal.

Questions You Answer: What feelings/reactions did you have while reading? How does this support the author’s purpose (or not)?

3. You Interact with the Text

If you zone out when you’re reading, sometimes I find that underlining and making notes helps me keep a better handle on what I’m reading because I have to physically respond to what I’m reading. I’ve always found that helps things sink in.

Questions You Answer: How does this text relate to me (even if that relationship is primarily my grade in this class)?

4. It’s Easier to Find Stuff

In English class you can be guaranteed of two things: verbal discussion and essays. (Well, at least at my schools.) The worst thing in either of those situations is when you want to talk about something, but you know that your thoughts have no validity unless you can yourself up with a textual reference and YOU CAN’T FIND THE REFERENCE YOU NEED. When you annotate, it raises your awareness of the book's spacial reality, and then you can be like, “Oh yeah, my thought it three pages after I made a note about Japanese sandwiches."

Questions You Answer: Where is the stuff that is important in relation to the rest of the book? How can I find it again?

5. It is Fun

My annotations are about 80% important factual details, 15% reactions, 3% vocab/small personal notes, and 2% Broadway musical lyrics. The best part of being the oldest is that when your younger sisters take your classes they can read the books you wrote in, and then you can enjoy the sound of their laughter as they find all the random stuff you put in there. It is very gratifying, I assure you.

Questions You Answer: How can I make this book an enjoyable experience I won’t regret?

Those are the five best reasons I can think of to annotate. It’s useful, it’s effective, and it is entertaining. Plus, it’s kind of like a time capsule, and you can see your thoughts as they evolve on the page!

Do you write in your books? What methods do you use?

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Disney Princess Tag

I know, I know, it’s supposed to be Writer’s Life today but I haven’t done a tag since ‘Nam (okay, just since a week and a half ago) and I have a lot of tags to clean out of my do-list. Forgive me.

Today I am stealing Romi’s Disney Princess book tag because A) I can and B) DISNEY PRINCESSES. I do so love Disney princesses, and thus you are getting an extra helping of bookish life today. You’re welcome.

1. Snow White—a favorite classic

If Pride and Prejudice and Zombies doesn’t count (THE MOVIE IS COMING GUYS), then it is Jane Eyre. I sympathized and did not get bored.

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2. Cinderella—a book that kept you reading well past your bedtime

Don’t laugh at me but I’ve been rereading Zero Hour by Mark Walden and it certainly keeps me up.

3. Aurora—a favorite classic romance

*cough* Let’s go back to that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies thought…

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4. Ariel—a book about making sacrifices and fighting for your dreams

Oh, oh! This graphic novel called Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge, because it had a familiar message about sacrificing privacy and devoting yourself to following your dreams.

5. Belle—a book with a smart, independent female character

It’s funny, because Belle isn’t smart OR independent, haha. Okay, fine. She just made poor decisions and is perpetually under the protection or influence of Adam, Maurice, or Gaston at all times and—never mind.

I liked Cynthia in Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudson. Even better, I liked the Evil Librarian. Oh, if ever there were a role for Tom Hiddleston… but I digress. Cyn is street smart and capable of dealing with demons and enjoying Sweeney Todd more than anything, and saving everybody’s butts single-handedly. I need to reread that book.

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6. Jasmine—a book with a character who challenged their world’s social conventions

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. Captives by Jill Williamson. Unethical by Jennifer Blackwood. George by Alex Gino. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Also, Six of Crows. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Cinder by Marissa Meyer. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Eragon by Christopher Paolini. The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen. Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Vicious by V.E. Schwab. Do I need to keep going?

7. Pocahontas—a book whose ending was a roller coaster of emotions

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. I had to read it twice to fully understand what happened, but once I did I had ALL THE FEELINGS and I had ALL THE HAPPIES and there was SO MUCH LOVE and WHAM POP STUPID FURIES.

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8. Mulan—a book with a kick-ass female character

Elvie Nara from Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal. If you do not think a 16-year-old who is pregnant with a space alien and capable of mechanical wonders and intelligent thought is not badass, then maybe you should redefine badass.

9. Tiana—a book featuring a hardworking, self-made character

Francisco Jiménez wrote three books about his childhood, teen, and new adult years, rising from poverty as an illegal immigrant to his success in college. His perspective on education and immigration were eye-opening.

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10. Rapunzel—a book featuring an artist

Mia’s mom in the Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot was an artist.

11. Merida—a book featuring a powerful mother-daughter relationship

I’m going to say Renée Dwyer and Bella Swan from Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer. I just find it kind of interesting that while Bella is often the more mature one of the two, Renée has her own wisdom to her and really does have Bella’s best interests in mind. It’s sweet.

Also: can’t find other girl characters whose moms are alive and/or beneficial to their lives.

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12. Anna and Elsa—a book featuring a great sibling relationship

Butler and Juliet and Artemis and Beckett and Myles from the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer. Because they are all devious and all united through bonds of genetics and love and they are all amazing. *embrashes them*


Since I wasn’t tagged, I shall not tag; however, feel free to steal this for your own book tagging delight.

All right, you know the drill. Gimme two book recommendations based off of the questions above!


Friday, November 13, 2015

The Best Part of Being a Blogger

It is incredible that there are Nanoers out there still at it—and you go, guys! For me, November has always been a busy month, and I seriously have no idea how I could be writing a novel right now at the same time. My homework took over six hours yesterday and I didn’t get to go to bed until 1:30 AM.

It’s at times like these when it kind of feels like school has taken over my whole life and I don’t get to do much I actually want to do anymore… Which is an exaggeration, obviously, but it really does replace the time I used to enjoy reading blogs and writing with time I now spend reading until my eyes glaze over.

Because of that I feel a little disconnected from blogging right now, and that is why I have decided to come up with the ten best parts of being a blogger, for my own motivation, and maybe for yours.

Blog
Flickr Credit: GotCredit

1 :: knowing you wrote something mighty fine

There are times when I write an awesome post and I’m like, “this is awesome, and everyone is going to adore it.” It’s a good feeling to have confidence in your own work! I especially felt that way when I recently linked up with Snazzy Snippets (which you should do, too).

2 :: writing something that made you nervous but then everyone loved it

The relief of realizing you didn’t write something completely bogus is always a good one. I totally did not expect people to like my thoughts on why writer’s block is like PMS—because it’s sort of a taboo subject and what if you thought I was insensitive or nasty?—and then the general response was “right on!” I liked that.

3 :: receiving messages from people about anything because WHO DOES NOT LIKE MAIL?

I love getting mail. I love getting emails. I love getting paper mail. I love when my bank sends me Air Heads through the United States Postal Service. And I love your messages—I recently caught up on responding to my inbox, and I was taken aback by how awesome my mail was. You guys are awesome. *hugs mail* I love mail.

4 :: getting to connect with a bunch of amazing humans all over the planet

I follow bloggers in countries on the other side of the world. They can share what they think when I’m asleep and then I can tell them what I think when they are asleep! Being on the Internet enables me to hear so many personal perspectives and it gives me a lot to think about and even more to learn. I have very good bloggy neighbors.

5 :: discussing subjects that are important to me

It’s a big thing just to have a place to speak your mind freely. Or, it did feel that way—it’s a very stifling thought to know your words are going to end up in your mom’s inbox every morning. Anyway, just getting a chance to send out your opinion regarding books or life has been really important to me.

6 :: receiving awesome comments

Hearing your thoughts is always a delight and a privilege. There’s only one kind of comment I dislike, and that’s spam. Otherwise, I’m always satisfied.

7 :: making friends

More than just getting to read perspectives of people on a global scale, blogging does open the doors to start personal conversations—and I really value getting to talk with interesting people on an even deeper level.

8 :: freely presenting information in fancy cool ways

I am actually really proud of my WBI page. That took a long time to make. But I finished, everything is organized, and I love it. It feels worth it.

9 :: expressing myself

Sometimes it’s just in sharing personal posts like that time I didn’t ditch Writer’s Life, and sometimes it’s in the fact that I use an unholy amount of color in my posts. I probably look infantile. But I don’t care! *colors everything*

10 :: realizing that, hey, I can actually do this!

If I want to depress myself real quick I just think about the entire value of my life so far has been placed in my academic career and I don’t have specialized skills that will help me get a job in the real world someday. But even if that is true, I can run this blog consistently, I love it, I love the people I connect with, and it makes me happy—and sometimes it is enough just to know that you can do something awesome all on your own.


To sum it up: blogging is awesome, and even if I don’t get to spend as much time on it as I’d like, it is still one of my favorite things to do as often as I can. It wouldn’t be nearly as awesome without you reading my blog, so thanks for sticking around!

What is your favorite part of being a blogger? Or, if you only read blogs, what is your favorite part of reading them?


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Books I Thought I Would Hate: Ranger's Apprentice

I don’t know if your friends ever lend you books. Mine sometimes do. Sometimes they lend me two books, and I put them in a pile and I forget about them for months on end and then realize that I’ve been keeping them for three months. And then I feel like I’ve kidnapped someone’s baby and forgotten about it. It feels terrible.

What? No, that didn’t happen to me with The Ruins of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge.

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Why I Thought I’d Hate It:

Because my best friend recommended it.

That sounds terrible, but it’s not an offense against her. She loves, adores, and promotes many awesome books and if that weren’t the case we probably wouldn’t be friends the same way we are friends right now.

Unfortunately, I also have this thing where I am a malevolent reader. I have to discover books under specific circumstances with specific things to make me want to open them. I was not compelled by the immediate introduction—I sort of had to figure it out on my own.

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What Changed:

I was cleaning my room and realized I still had the books and realized I NEEDED to give them back—but it’s not like I was going to give them back without having read them. Like it was three months. I had no excuses.

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Why It Turned Out I Loved It:

John Flanagan is FUNNY. He is INTELLIGENT. His stories are filled with ADVENTURE and EXCITEMENT and CULTURE and WORLDBUILDING and AMAZINGNESS. It is FANTASTICAL and I LOVED IT.

Vague, but true.

To specify a few things, I think it’s necessary to say that I love that John Flanagan never culminates into one of those “battle-to-end-all-battles” tropes. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Grisha Trilogy, The Inheritance Cycle, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Matrix—THE SUPER SPECIAL HERO is geared towards defeating THE GREATEST EVIL OF ALL TIME in the MOST INTENSE BATTLE EVER that will END ALL EVIL FOREVER.

Oh, really.

What I like about Ranger’s Apprentice is that the story culminates into many battles, but no matter what, it’s just another day in the life of being a Ranger. It is Will’s job to deal with these evils. And evil doesn’t come condensed into one man alone—bad things show up, they deal with them, and they prepare for the next time they’re needed. It’s just another job. And there’s a great deal of honor in ordinary jobs.

I mean, as ordinary can be. There’s internal corruption and politics and enemies, which is different than just being an accountant or something.

And again, I have to emphasize that John Flanagan makes me LAUGH. His characters each have very intricate lives, but they also are sass-masters who are bringing the country to this joyful, crazy place. It makes me happy.


There's also a happily ever after: I own all the books now so I don’t have to kidnap them from my best friend!

What were your expectations when you first approached the Ranger’s Apprentice books? Did the books live up to them?


Monday, November 9, 2015

Writer's Prejudice

I think it is fair to say that prejudice is a bad thing. Even if you haven’t seen/read/listened to Pride and Prejudice in some variety you can imagine that assuming mean things about people before you get to know them can have negative outcomes.

But I am a prejudiced writer. I have prejudices against other writers. A specific kind of writer, actually. FICTIONAL WRITERS. More often than not I hate fictional writers so. freaking. much.

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To be fair, my prejudice is not just in principle. All the fictional writers I hate belong to books I have read. And I don’t completely hate all fictional writers, and there are some, I think, that are really good.

Mostly I hate them though. And in some ways I don’t think it’s fair that I hate them, but I still end up feeling like they’re unrealistic and terrible.

First, to some extent it almost always feels like self-insertion. 

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I especially felt this way with The Princess Diaries, and I get it… if we’re writers writing about writers we’re going to bring a little bit of ourselves into the story, as well as our own experience. Still, there’s also a point where it feels just a little too disjointed with the character to really feel like it meshed with the story well.

Mia didn’t really feel like a writer to me. I mean, yeah, she wrote in a journal, but it was a very spontaneous transition. And then it didn’t come up again in Royal Wedding. When a writer is only a writer for convenience or to make a statement, then I let my gavel fall.

Second, it can be really hard to relate to. 

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This isn’t always the case. Right now I’m listening to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and Ari is a kind of writer (I assume that’s where we’re going and this is his story he wrote down, maybe) and he reminds me a lot of me when I was sixteen. He doesn’t really know what he wants to do with himself so sometimes he writes and feels stupid and really loves his family but also hates them. I get that. But even if I didn’t get it, it shouldn’t undermine the validity of Ari’s experience in contrast to mine.

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However, there are times when it is just a little too wrongly perfect to be enjoyable. I think of The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet on this one; I read it when I was in England and I was actually at a writer’s poetry conference and so it was cute and fluffy but also Ellie is the kind of character you would hope gets thrown through a wall for her own good and has the most perfect publishing experience of all. Especially because she is a teenager because when I think of the books I have read as written by teenagers lately… Let’s just say that S.E. Hinton has her side of the Venn diagram and everyone else does not get to be in that circle.

Anyway, it’s hard to relate to Ellie because her problems are just a little too perfect and her success is built almost entirely off of getting a book deal against all odds. It’s just a little corny.

And on that note, third and last, the writer character is kind of cliche.


Like, here is the TV Tropes page on it, but to sum it up, writers are the driving force behind movies and books and stuff and so then they write about themselves and it’s the most boring thing ever after a while because everybody does it.

Glancing over TV Tropes and off the top of my head, I think of She’s Having a Baby, Superman, The Princess Diaries, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, Life of Pi, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Murder, She Wrote, Castle, RENT, The Reformed Vampire Support Group, Finding Forrester, Myth-o-Mania, Sherlock, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Muppets, How to Murder Your Wife, Alvin and the Chipmunks… There are too many.

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It makes me want to be Brer Bear in Song of the South who yells, “I’M GONNA KNOCK YOUR HEAD CLEAN OFF.”

Because sure, you can write a good fictional writer, but first you have to prove me wrong. And those are my prejudices.

Do you like fictional writers? Why or why not?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Thursentary: WBI Evaluation I

I know, I know, Thursday was yesterday. Give me a break, eh? I have three papers due next week.

As I mentioned last Friday, I’ve been doing WBI for about a year. So far we’ve analyzed 25 villains, some categories more than others, and in some cases this gives me a little data to look at the details and compare them. For that reason I put together an infographic for our little analysis this morning, because we are about to evaluate Politicians and Financiers.

(And yeah, it’s a long and plain infographic but it’s my first time, okay?)

Before we begin, let’s review our characters really fast:


Prince Humperdink (The Princess Bride)—a regent prince who hopes to marry a beautiful, endearing wife and then to kill her and ignite war with a rival country (click to learn more)


Queen Levana (The Lunar Chronicles)—a queen with a complicated social life who seeks to instate Lunar control over the Earthen nations (click to learn more)


Hades (Hercules)—the disgruntled god of the Underworld who seeks to escape from his banishment and take over Olympus (click to learn more)


Prince Charming (Shrek)—a slighted prince who seeks to gain Princess Fiona as his wife, and when that fails, to wreak revenge upon Fiona and her husband (click to learn more)


Judge Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)—a powerful judge in Paris who seeks to exterminate gypsies and castigate a young girl whom he lusts after (click to learn more)

Now, let’s check out the stats:



What are some basic trends?

  • There are more males than females, but that doesn’t mean anything because I’ve only done five so far (clearly, you must recommend me more books with evil queens and evil lady presidents)
  • Only Queen Levana is from a book alone (which is The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and you should read those)
    • On that note, of our villains, three came from a children’s movie, one came from a YA series, and Princess Bride does not have a particular audience because everyone needs the Dread Pirate Roberts in their lives
  • So far, politician has mostly meant “monarch,” but again, it could just be I haven’t gotten to many non-royal villains
    • Frollo is a good counterexample because his role as a judge is very political (since he’s in charge of the law, which as election season shows is a political thing)
  • Only Frollo had a dual role between Politician and Avenger; the others were pretty dead-set politicians
  • The most common motivations were evil (the desire to hurt others) and personal or material gain (getting valuable stuff that isn’t money); the desire for more power and influence (which I hope is self-explanatory) came directly after
  • The least common motivations were lifestyle (way one must/chooses to live) and desperation (the need to survive)
    • noting on lifestyle, one could say that monarchs must be monarchs because it is hereditary, but it’s not so much that monarchs must be monarchs but monarchs have a choice in whether they will be good or evil monarchs
    • then, you might say, isn’t being an evil king the way in which one chooses to live? I suppose, but I feel like to some extent all villains are living according to their lifestyle; I personally tend to save this category for an extreme—like James and Victoria murdering people because it is their predatory nature to do so, not Prince Charming having a dramatic grudge against Shrek
  • With the exception of Frollo, everyone had family ties (because that’s how monarchies work) and everyone but Humperdinck had minions 
    • for the record, Humperdinck could be portrayed as having minions in Florin’s Royal Guard, but I’m reluctant to say so because the Guard would have loyalties to the king and queen, who are not evil
    • likewise, Count Rugen is an Assassin, and the Albino is Rugen’s henchman, so basically, I am just arguing that Humperdinck relied mostly on his political endowments rather than any mutant army he created for his own purposes (hi Levana)
  • No one had money or a cool name
    • the money thing is a fine line because yeah, monarchs are rich but sometimes it’s hard to tell whether that is state finances or personal money being used, or whether that even makes a difference
    • yeah, so their names are pretty cool, but not Kronk cool
  • Hades, Prince Charming, and Prince Humperdinck add humor, and that is important because humor must always be considered
  • Four of the five villains have romantic sub/plots that all relate to their evilness or evil plan
    • To be fair there can be an argument made for Hades’ relationship with Meg; however, I think we’re meant to imply that Hades had more fun messing around with Meg and Hercules’ relationship rather than making her have one with him
  • Lastly, if I were to rank the villains by their success as villains it would look like this:
    • Frollo: admittedly, he died, but before he did he burned down a good deal of Paris, found the Court of Miracles, killed a lot of gypsies, and suffocated Esmerelda before Quasimodo brought him down
    • Hades: forget King of the Underworld, Hades is the King of Planning, and he manages to single-handedly take over Olympus in the course of one day; if Meg hadn’t sacrificed herself, he certainly would have won
    • Prince Charming: Charming doesn’t get his ultimate revenge against Shrek and Fiona, but he does undermine their power and terrorize Far Far Away and at least cause a good deal of havoc before being squished by a prop tower
    • Prince Humperdinck: like Hades, Humperdinck had a grand master plan and I appreciate that, but while he set it all in motion he never actually got to the point where he could carry it out so he didn’t truly succeed
    • Queen Levana: Levana will abstain from this measure; I am certain Winter is going to be a fantastic conclusion that will make me freak out, but until then it wouldn’t be nice to assume she is better or worse than she really is
    • (but my favorites are still Hades and Humperdinck)

What does our image of a politician or financier look like so far?

A Politician/Financier tends to play a significant role in government, so far appearing to be a monarch or someone with significant authority over the law. Oftentimes, the desire to hurt others, whether they seek revenge or they are just cruel, motivates these villains even to the point that they will endanger their current assets and loyalties for the sake of inflicting such hurt. Likewise, Politicians/Financiers often desire power and influence because such things are addicting and everybody wants to rule the world. Both these motivations go-hand-in-hand with their other main motivation, personal or material gain, where inflicting pain, gaining power, obtaining land, or growing power are things the villain wants but cannot necessarily be translated into financial value or a particular significance to your average Joe. So far these villains do not seem innately wired for these actions (though you are welcome to debate me on that) and since most of them have money at their disposal (though it might not be theirs) they are very rarely desperate for their own survival. Most of these villains have family connections that enabled them to rise to power, and they often have underlings who help them get their dirty work done. Ultimately, their assets and skills are centered around their role as a public figure with a plot to hatch and a goal that will beat down others just as it will puff themselves up.

But, again, this is only five characters we’re talking about. Let’s not set anything in stone.


How can this help us write a Politician/Financier?

one—Politicians/Financiers are government-based villains; their characteristics, skills, and resources will primarily relate to their relationship to the law, the common person, and power

two—seeking power, personal or material gain, and harm upon others is all well and good, but also appears to come with the trade; think about ways to put unique spins on such motivations or maybe combine them with lesser-used motivations to create something different

three—these characters appear to be intrinsically tied to other characters, like the families that gave them their power or the minions who realize the evil plan; when developing this kind of villain be sure to explore and define what the relationship is between the bad guy and the people who help him take over the world

four—enter the debate; I have my opinions on what constitutes a lifestyle, but there’s a question of whether there’s really any choice at all; do these villains have a God-given right to their position, and have they been pre-determined to win or lose from the beginning?

five—consider gender norms and stereotypes; obviously I have a very limited scope of all villainy here, but I can say that traditionally speaking it’s not that weird for Levana to be alone up there because throughout Western history it has traditionally been the men in charge, meaning that there’s room to explore what it means to be a queen as opposed to a king

six—ignore what Heather says and do your own thing because that’s a legit option too


Politics. Finance. Maybe they’re things we don’t always like to talk about and maybe they seem overused, but ultimately what I see in these five villains is a contrast between we, ordinary citizens, and our conceptualization of government gone wrong. These villains represent a greater power with a malicious intent, and that can be scary for us mortals. And with that in mind, I think the best thing to remember when analyzing Politicians/Financiers is that the real matter at hand here is control, and whether or not we have it, and by whose authority other people have it. Control, after all, is not a guarantee, and collectively we do have to think about how we ought to react when control is absent from our lives.

With that, I will leave you to think about the presidential election of 2016.

Okay, how was that? Did I sound like I made sense? Do you think I was helpful? Was I just confusing? Was I clear? Did I talk about things you cared about? Did you like the infographic? Should I do it again? How do I make it better? 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Sweater Weather Tag

Ugh, how disappointing—I’m not talking about books. I am doing the Sweater Weather Tag, though. Thanks for the tag, Jameson!


And, as I look over these questions, I can say already that I feel alienated from this brand of fall crowd. Oh, well.

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Favorite Candle Scent?

I don’t really like candles. Like, why bother lighting them if you have lights and you’re just going to blow them out? Like, maybe they could be romantic, but I spend most of my time at home, and being romantic with your family? Gross. Just gimme the regular white wax for Christmas and we’re good.

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Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?

Tea. Tea, tea, tea. Black tea is good, and so is Earl Grey, and so is Lemon Zinger, and I like tea.

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What’s the best fall memory you have?

I don’t know… Usually when I think of fall I think of all the miserable things like raking leaves and midterms. I mean, I guess my birthday is technically in fall, but birthdays are not that great of days because they are just like all the other days except you were born on that one a long time ago. So fall is not really that memorable. Oh, except one time my grandpa rolled his car when he was driving here for my birthday—I remember that.

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Best fragrance for fall?

Fire. Camp fire. Chimney fire. House fire. Forest fire… Well, never mind. I think forest fire season is over mostly.

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Favorite Thanksgiving food?

Probably pickles. Pickles and bread.

Most worn sweater?

I don’t really wear “sweaters” per se, but I have worn my Fringe sweatshirt a lot because who does not like wearing fandom clothing?

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Football games or jumping in leaf piles?

What about staying inside and reading? What about making cookies? What about staying up late studying for midterms? What about voting? What about all the other things you do in fall? What about ALL THE TRAFFIC from football games (although, to be fair, they are a source of economic prosperity) and what about ALL THE SLUGS THAT CRAWL INTO YOUR SKIN WHEN YOU JUMP INTO THEIR LEAF PILES?

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Skinny jeans or leggings?

Jeans. Jeans are for always.

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Combat boots or Uggs?

Is there something particularly wrong with tennis shoes? Like, what is wrong with wearing the same pair of shoes every day of the year?

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Is pumpkin spice worth the hype?

Never had it.

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Favorite fall TV show?

Don’t get fall TV shows.

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What do you want to be for Halloween?

I did not dress up. I like looking at other people’s costumes, though! The artistic creativity of people is always awesome to see, but I think the best outfit I saw with my own eyes was a guy wearing a kilt.

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Hats or scarves?

Windbreakers are better for staying warm, to be honest. especially if they had a hood. Hats just mess up your hair and scarves are a good way to get strangled. Or… who was that chick who was wearing a scarf that was run over by a car which broke her neck and killed her?

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What’s your #1 favorite thing about fall?

The color of the trees as their leaves die as though they were sending up one last flame of passion on their wooden pyre as they are then encumbered by the weight of winter’s cold touch upon their spiny skeletons.


Definitely not a fall fan. I am half-tempted to tag a bunch of Australian people because I know they’re experiencing spring right now, but they would probably roll their eyes at me. So instead I shall tag no one because that’s how I feel right now.

I’m not tagging, but feel free to steal the tag for yourself! And, do tell, what is your favorite thing about fall?