Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Homemade Christmas

My husband and I tend to make our own Christmas trees. The first year that we did so, we bought a fake pine garland and wrapped it around his lunch box (which was vaguely Christmas tree shaped).

This year we got very high-falutin'. We used hot glued chopsticks as a base and used yarn to attach popsicle sticks to the chopsticks. Then we took that same garland from many years ago (maybe about 8 years ago) and wrapped it around our creation, which we had stuck into a beer bottle. This is the result:

We also created homemake presents in addition to a homemade tree.

I made Nigel a Bender head on a stick (if you know the character, this seems funny rather than creepy - he's a robot from the TV show Futurama who once sold his own body to make money from the scrap metal.)

Nigel made me an awesome little dragon out of construction paper, pipe cleaners, egg carton, googly eyes, and popsicle sticks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Pirate Dragons!

Because I missed posting last week, I shall share with you a photo of my glorious, crocheted dragon wearing a Pirate hat:

I feel this makes up for everything.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A YA Rant

Chepstow by Stewart Black

Good Writing Advice

Some of the best writing advice that I've seen is: Read within your genre. (Which is not to say it's the only thing you should read.)

For me, this means YA and MG sci-fi and fantasy. That's not hard for me. I've had to make more of a point to read MG because I do prefer YA, so I have my writing to thank for the wonderful MG books I've discovered in the past few years (including a personal favorite - Suzanne Collins' Underland Chronicles).

Crown by Jason Train

YA Rants

I have noticed that YA is far more likely to send me ranting to my husband, mostly for one of three reasons:

  1. The protagonist is a whiner. A certain amount of whining is warranted in the sorts of situations YA protagonists typically find themselves in. But if you scale too high on my carefully allotted whin-o-meter, I will go whining to my husband (Oh, the irony).
  2. Love triangles. Sometimes they work. Other times I can overlook them. But overall, I just wish there were less of them.
  3. This one's a little harder to explain, but it boils down to this: if any of major plot points hinge on one of the characters being madly in love with someone they barely know, I will be annoyed. Very annoyed.

In case you can't tell, number three was what set me off recently. I stopped reading a book at the 82% mark because a major plan hinged on the assumption that a male character who had been trained to defend his kingdom wouldn't bother to do so because he was "in love." Talk about a poor plan! I mean, multiple people - some of them adults! - buy into this terrible plan. To me this is just poor plotting (both in the plotting against a kingdom sense and in the plotting  a book sense). At that point I could suspend my disbelief no longer. Plus I was utterly disgusted with these characters. I gave up on them and then came onto my blog to rant a little more.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Prometheus: My Masterpiece

I made this!

Paper Mache, Styrofoam, and Spray Paint

I am leaving my current job and wanted a great gift for my mentor/boss. He likes Greek mythology, and likes to think of himself as bringing knowledge down to the people - such as Prometheus brought fire down from Mount Olympus to the humans.

It so happens that Rockefeller Center has a very iconic statue of Prometheus:

Photo by Sharon Mollerus

And so a gift idea was born.

All it took was WAYYYYYY too many hours with my hands in some very cold flour-water paste, and a LOT of tiny chunks of styrofoam all over the kitchen floor.

Initial Conception

That flat styrofoam bit in the middle is the beginnings of Prometheus' head, left arm, body, and left leg.

A lot of glue, tape, styrofoam shaving, trimmed shish kabob sticks, and even some thread went into this body transformation.

Oh, and yarn! Yarn made the face and hair possible.

That bowl is helping to shape the circular bit that goes around the base of the mountain. I'm not really sure what that bit of the statue is all about. Maybe I shoulda found out.

I had to show off the finished product one more time: Back and Front.

Hopefully you can tell - I gave him styrofoam abs!

Seriously, you have no idea how many hours this took. 
Hint: SOOOOOOOOO many!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My Writing Process

I've got my YA sci fi with a great critique partner.

I'm waiting on query feedback from a webinar for my MG fantasy.

So. What to do with my writing brain? I decided to come up with a brand new idea!

My Writing Process

Mapping out a new idea takes a while. I'm not awesome at outlining. I've found that my process is:

  • Idea!
  • Research and Brainstorm
  • Initial outline
  • Write about 20k-60k of the first draft
  • Re-outline with much better plot
  • Write "first" draft, discarding pretty much all of that initial 20k-60k
  • Edit
  • Critique partner feedback
  • Edit
  • New critique partner feedback
  • Edit
  • Husband's feedback
  • Edit
  • Query some. Fail.
  • Edit


That's as close as I come to a writing process, but right now I'm in the develop the idea, research, and brainstorm section. This is always a fun part.

I've been listening to Writing Excuses (a how-to-write podcast), Brandon Sanderson's Youtube BYU classes, and a screenwriting YouTube channel.

I've also been watching movies and history podcasts that deal with the time and place that I want to set this particular book: 1950s in the U.K.

I'm writing background, plot ideas, character ideas, etc. as I think of them.

It's an all over the place sort of brainstorming, but it's one of the most fun parts of writing. A lot of fun "What ifs?" where I get to let my imagination fly free.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What I'm Reading

I've found I'm reading some odd stuff ever since I started writing, and it's rather fun. Right now I'm the midst of the following:

Photo by Vinoth Chandar
  • Man of Honor by Joseph Bonanno - Bonanno was born in Sicily and moved to New York when he was a young man. He went on to found one of the Five Families - the five mafia families that ruled New York City's criminal enterprises (and beyond). It's very interesting hearing what he's got to say for himself, although you've got to almost remind yourself every other page what exactly he's talking about because he doesn't think he did a single thing wrong.

Photo by mjtmail (tiggy)
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard - a YA SFF that's quite fun, although it does have the requisite slew of young men in love with our protagonist. But at least she's got some cool powers, and there's a much bigger picture of a country and world at war and the fact that there's really not great solutions when one's in such a situation.

Photo of Johannesburg by Andrew Moore
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah - I'm not usually so immersed in the world of non-fiction, but this sounded too interesting to pass up. Trevor Noah took over the Daily Show from Jon Stewart, but this story is about the fact that he was born to a white man and black woman in apartheid-ruled South Africa where it was literally a crime for him to be created. I heard an interview with him, where he said that he started out writing this story thinking he was the hero of his own life, but as he was writing he realized his mother was the true hero, and he was just the scrappy sidekick.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why Diversity?

Photo by Jon Bunting

A Rural Upbringing

In my writing, I tend to include people of different cultures and skin colors. This is important to some people. Others don't see the value in it. I will explain, based on my experiences, why I do this. I'll admit this was  kind of a hard post to write.

Just before third grade, my family moved to a white, rural community with a lot of people whose families had lived in the same area for generations. I don't remember much from before that other than a few friends and experiences. My true memory of childhood is from age seven onward in this rural community.

Photo by Rafael Sato

Being Different

The other kids at elementary school taught me something: Different is Weird and Weird is Bad. Perhaps "showed" is more accurate because this was never anything that needed to be said aloud.

Different could mean any number of things. For example:

  • Poverty - the poorest kid smelled funny and had bad clothes and was teased. A lot.
  • Outsiders - I was new to the school and liked weird things like books. I was pretty quiet and never fully accepted at my elementary school. (By junior high when the schools merged, it was just my awkwardness that held me back.)
  • Religion - there was small, religious minority in my area (none of the ones that immediately come to mind). They dressed differently, had weird hair, and were vegetarian. My family was friends with one of these families, and when I was a kid, I was embarrassed to be seen with them.
  • Skin color - this one's harder because I don't remember meeting a single kid with a skin color different from mine until junior high. When I saw this kid in the hall, I remember trying not to stare. I only had stereotypes and movies to tell me who this kid was, where he came from. By this point, I knew he wasn't likely to come from some inner city or whip a gun out in the middle of junior high. I wasn't completely out of touch. But there was an underlying sense of wariness that felt instinctive.


That wariness came from a complete lack of exposure to people who didn't look like me. I was raised in a monolith, so there was a whole lot in this world that was weird to me.

My goal in writing diverse characters is to help kids feel like people who are different from them are their friends (or maybe enemies, depending on the character). But that these are real people who could be the person right next to them. I think that's important.