Archive for June, 2012

So, I went on vacation last week to Ocean City, Maryland. It was pretty good, but things didn’t exactly work out how I expected them to.

For one, I didn’t blog once. I had planned on blogging while on vacation because I sincerely enjoy it. That didn’t happen.

I didn’t write either. Not at all. I had the time, I guess, while sitting on the beach, but I decided to spend it getting injured instead.

First I got sunburn. Which would have been fine, normally. Uncomfortable, yes, but fine. This sunburn, however, was completely random. As in, I have a white patch in the middle of my arm because spray sunscreen and I don’t mix.

I also have a strange boomerang-shaped burn on my right leg.

Then I happened to cut my own ankle open with my own toenail. Yeah, I’m not really sure how that works either. But I did it.

Yay, me.

THEN. Then, I was grabbed – nay, ATTACKED – by killer seaweed. I kid you not. One minute I was floating in the ocean, enjoying the pummel of the waves (which, if you know me at all, is something to rejoice about because I’m terrified of water), when something hooks into the side of my foot. And, yes, it was the same foot I had already injured.

I don’t know what it was. It felt like a plant, but whatever actually caught me felt more like a fish hook. It was probably the only thing around for six miles and I found it.

Hooray.

After nearly drowning my best friend in an attempt to keep myself alive (glad to know my instinct to survive is nice and strong), somehow I got unhooked and made it to shore. I was barely bleeding, and I think I was more traumatized than anything.

I did mention large bodies of water scare the crap out of me, right?

So, I didn’t go very far into the ocean since that day (that was on Sunday, a mere day after we had initially arrived). But it’s cool. I was mostly avoiding the sun and having to put on more globs of sunscreen. I hate putting on sunscreen. Maybe that’s why I got burnt… Anyway, next time at the ocean, I’ll still go in. The only way to overcome a fear is to face it head on.

That night we had spaghetti for dinner. I don’t know about you, but that keeps me full for a good hour. Then I’m hungry again. My friends and I (who thankfully were hungry too) stopped at this incredible restaurant. Great service, great prices, great food, and cool chairs you can swing in while you eat.

If you can’t make it out, it says (underneath the chicken), “Big Pecker’s Bar & Grill.”

I’m just going to let that one sit with you for a minute…

On Monday is rained buckets and that just happened to be the day we went to the boardwalk. At least it wasn’t crowded.

That night we hunted for sand crabs. I’m not usually one who goes grabbing for things that scuttle and scurry, but these little guys were kind of cute. I enjoyed digging in the sand for them for a good half hour before I almost caught a REAL crab.

That ended my hunt right then and there. I’d had enough injuries for one week, thank you very much.

On Tuesday, I continued to stay out of the sun. Until my friends and I decided to walk from 77th street to 17th street. On the beach.

I’m still sore.

BUT I got to meet one of my Hypable co-workers. What were the chances that we’d be in the same city on the same day and able to meet up with each other? Definitely not according to plan, but this was one random event that I didn’t mind!

It was the awesome and incredible John Thrasher. I’ve been listening to his voice on Glee Chat for what seems like forever, so it was a strange experience to hear it coming out of someone’s mouth for once (instead of my speakers). He was super fun to talk to and I’m thinking it’s not going to be the last time we meet up.

And I saw this beauty in one of the souvenir shops and just had to snap a picture:

*sigh*

That night we caught the sunset:

And we woke up at 5:15 AM to catch the sunrise:

Then it was Wednesday. Oh, Wednesday. This is the coup de grâce. The big one. The one that beat out even the deadly seaweed plant that nearly drowned me.

So. We were driving home. It was around 3:00. We got hungry and decided to stop at Friendly’s. This was in Middletown, Delaware. We ate, we made good use of the bathrooms, and we left. We hung out in the car for a couple of minutes before taking off. Then we turned right because we couldn’t go left (which is the direction in which we had to go). We went up the road until we could find a place to turn around, and then turn around we did.

On our way back we saw smoke. Dark smoke. Really, really black smoke.

“It’s probably Friendly’s,” Deidre said.

I laughed. “Yeah, right.”

“It’s not Friendly’s,” my mom scoffed.

We drove a little further.

“That’s really thick smoke.”

“Something is definitely on fire.”

“Oh, my God.”

At this point we drove by this:

If a single car had slowed us down on the highway. If one of us had to pee one more time. If our food had been five minutes late.

We would have been in there.

That gives you some perspective on life.

No one was hurt, by the way. All the employees and the patrons got out alive and uninjured. So, really, it wasn’t that close of a call.

Still.

It took eight fire companies an hour to put it out. The building was gutted. An educated guess would be that the coolers may have malfunctioned, as they were sitting at the front of the store where the flames appear to have started. But according to this article it actually started outside the building, in the mulch, though it was ruled as accidental.

Who knew going on vacation would be so dangerous and exhausting?

By the time most of you read this I will be on the open road! I’m headed to New Jersey for my cousin’s wedding, and then it’s off to Ocean City to catch some serious rays, do a bit of writing and reading, and just RELAX. I’ll be around while I’m gone because, in all honesty, blogging and being on Twitter IS how I relax. I’m excited to get more time to do it.

So, here’s what we’re going to talk about today:

I love, love, LOVE it when I get blog awards, even though I usually don’t follow the rules when I get them. But I think I will for this one because I really want to highlight some people for all the help they’ve given me with my writing.

On June 11, I got the Booker Award from Valerie Lawson. All I can say is, THANK YOU. Seriously. I mean that.

As always, these things come with rules:

  1. This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award, the blog must be at least 50% about books (reading and writing is okay too). [That addendum is what saved me!]
  2. Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books that you’ve ever read. (More than five is okay.)
  3. You must give this award to 5-10 other lucky book blogs that you adore. [I’m sending it off to bloggers that have truly helped me as a writer.]

This first rule almost broke me. I would imagine it’s like choosing between your children. But I’m determined to be on the straight and narrow this time. I always feel strange picking those books. You know the ones – the popular ones, the ones that everyone has read. Like it’s a bad thing that my favorite books are the favorite books of millions of other people. But, you know what? They’re our favorites for a reason, and I’m picking them!

In no particular order:

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. You didn’t think I’d leave Harry Potter off this list did you? I chose this book because it is both the high and the low of the series, all wrapped up in a message so poignant that it brings me to tears every time I read it. It’s the low because it’s in this book that we find Harry broken and beaten and defeated. But it’s also the place where we learn that good always defeats evil and love truly conquers all.
  2. The Great Tree of Avalon: The Eternal Flame by T.A. Barron. This book takes place after the Merlin series by the same author. It’s set in a different but related place. I picked this book because the message of the author is so loud and clear to me: humans don’t always do the right thing. That is to say, what we think is best for ourselves isn’t always the best for fellow animals or the earth, and that we have a responsibility to choose our actions carefully in order to keep the peace between not only ourselves, but all living creatures. It’s a message that I have unknowingly included in many of my own stories because it is so important to me.
  3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This will always be my favorite book out of the trilogy. Collins tells a story that is so believable it puts knots in my stomach. This could happen. In fact, not only could this happen, but it might happen. This book is so real because everything about it is plausible – our world is becoming a scary place and Collins told us just one of the ways that our collective story could unfold.
  4. Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies. This story is an allegory and the moral is as shining and as bright as the sun. It’s beautifully written from the perspective of a deer – yes, a deer. But you know what? Replace the animal bodies with human ones and the antlers with swords, and you have an age-old story about conflict, corruption, and morality. It’s a good story on the surface, but if you want to dig deep, there’s a wonderfully philosophical tale there too.
  5. Speak You Also by Paul Steinberg. This isn’t a book for some light reading – it’s a memoir by Steinberg about his time in Auschwitz during WWII. It was his “response” to Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. Here’s the first paragraph from the back of the book, as it sums it up so perfectly: “Arrested in Paris in 1943, the sixteen-year-old Steinberg was deported to Auschwitz. As a chemistry student, he was assigned to work in the camp’s laboratory alongside Primo Levi, who would later immortalize him as ‘Henri,’ the prisoner who clung to his life at the cost of his own humanity in Survival in Auschwitz. Fifty years later, in this unsparing act of self-examination, Steinberg ultimately confirms Levi’s judgment of him: ‘Probably I was that creature, prepared to use whatever means I had available.’ But he asks, ‘Is it so wrong to survive?’”

Again, in no particular order, here are the people who have helped me so much in terms of my writing.

  1. Matthew Wright has a great series he calls Worldbuilding, in which he talks about Tolkein a lot all the little things you can do to make your story more authentic and visceral. He’s got a lot of quick and dirty tips for authors of all genres. And he isn’t just some Joe-Schmoe who blogs because he can. He blogs because he knows. (Seriously, the stack of his published works is probably taller than me. And I’m often referred to at work as the “Amazon Girl,” so that’s saying something.) Here’s one of the posts that helped me out recently.
  2. Kristen Lamb. Need I say more? Not only has she written two fabulous books (Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer and We Are Not Alone-The Writer’s Guide to Social Media), but she understands what the average writer goes through. She helps us tame the social media dragons and reminds us all to laugh once in a while. This woman speaks truth and this post right here literally changed the way I look at myself as a writer.
  3. Marcy Kennedy’s blog is one of the more unique ones I’ve come across. She picks themes and ideas from movies and TV shows and relates them so well to life. Not only life, but the life of a writer. One of the posts that helped me the most was the one about how to keep strong female characters likeable. Incidentally, it’s also the one that got me to start watching Battlestar Galactica. :)
  4. Next up is Julie Glover and her awesome posts on grammar. No one can know all the rules and – let’s face it – English is hard. It’s complicated and, frankly, it doesn’t always make sense. But Julie makes it easy! And she’s definitely taught me a thing or two. Here’s one of my favorite posts, written by Professor Punctuation!
  5. I’ll round off the list with Kait Nolan/A Round of Words in 80 Days. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a writing challenge that happens throughout the year. Writers list their goals and get together with other participants for the sake of accountability. We check in once or twice a week (it’s up to you), and tell everyone how we’ve done. I know how it sounds – just something else to add to the list. But it’s not. The support that I receive from my fellow ROWers is unbelievable. I hate that feeling of letting someone down, so it really drives me forward with my writing. I also like schedules, so this way I can draw up a list of goals, put them on the calendar, and see how much I can accomplish in a few months’ time. Each week one of the sponsors puts together a post to help us with our writing. Of particular interest was this one about how there just one single thing you can do to guarantee you’ll reach your goals: write!

Once again I would love to thank Valerie for giving me this award. You can check out my new shiny on that sidebar to the left. I’d also like to thank the other bloggers that I mentioned above, as well as the ones that I follow regularly. You’re all an inspiration to me and each of you has had a hand in helping me to become a better writer. I hope to have just a fraction of your awesomeness some day.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I just want to direct your attention to Julie Glover’s blog post where she interviewed me! It was my very first interview and it was oh-so-fun answering all of those questions. Now, this isn’t your typical interview – in fact, it has pretty much nothing to do with me as a writer. Julie actually interviewed me for her Amazing Words Wednesday post because on my work blog I post a “Word of the Week” on Wednesdays (we both seem to be a fan of alliteration!). She asked me all sorts of fun questions about antiques and collectibles, so please do me a favor and check it out! And if you could pop over to my other blog and poke around, I would really appreciate it. :)

Okay, where was I?

Oh, yes – Baltimore, Maryland! In my last post, I talked about how I got to go see Team Starkid in concert (I promise you guys this is the last time I’ll mention them for, like, a whole week!). Well, I’m the type of person who truly enjoys planning and organizing things – and I like being as efficient as possible when I do it. One of my closest friends moved to Maryland once she graduated from college. I was so terrified that we’d never see each other, but we’ve been doing a pretty good job of keeping in touch.

She was kind enough to let us crash on her couch, and we planned out a whole weekend of Baltimore sightseeing and catching up. It was a lot of fun! Check out some of the really neat things we saw and did:

(P.S. I know these pictures are BIG, but I wanted to give you closeups of everything I encountered. Let me know if they’re TOO big, and I’ll scale them back next time.)

We started the night off right once we got back from the concert: we had ice cream cake at midnight to celebrate Deidre’s 24th birthday!

The next day we went to Inner Harbor and found the National Aquarium! It was pretty expensive, but it was on Lilly’s bucketlist, so we couldn’t pass it up.

We saw this GIANT sea turtle and all three of us fell in love. It was so beautiful!

Peek-a-boo!

We all had an obsession with turtles that day.

Then we went to see a dolphin show!

This was my favorite part! We saw all sorts of jelly fish. These were just sort of bouncing around everywhere.

Look at all those jellyfish!

This one was my favorite!

My first Hard Rock Cafe experience! (And believe it or not, I resisted the B&N store!)

Then we went to the Baltimore Museum of Arts! This is a sculpture of Medusa’s head – the hand is Perseus’!

One of my favorite painters, Seurat.

Here’s a Picasso!

I get excited whenever I see a Jackson Pollock because I can usually recognize his work.

This is a Georgia O’Keeffe

This Greek-style pizza was criminally expensive, but it was SO GOOD.

Then we went to the Honfest. It’s a Baltimore thing, apparently. This was a group of singing Lucille Balls. They were amazing!

A lot of people were dressed up as Hons – meaning they wore awesome ’50s-style dresses and had their hair up in beehive ‘dos!

Wow! That was a lot of pictures. I probably took over 300 that weekend, so you can just imagine how hard it was to narrow it down to the ones I have here. Hope you enjoyed them!

Here are some questions for you: Have you ever been to Baltimore? What’s your favorite zoo or aquarium? Have you ever heard of the Honfest before? (And are you like me and when you say “Honfest,” you think of the Huns from Mulan walking around eating cotton candy and funnel cakes?) Do you have a local festival that you attend regularly?

It started out with sheer disappointment. It was October 2011 and Team Starkid was going to be going on tour. They had never done this before. Who knows if they would do it again? It was an experiment to see if it would work out. I wanted tickets so bad. But I’d have to find a way to New York City. Find a place to stay. Find a way for my BFF (and fellow Starkid) to get a couple days off work (which was pretty much impossible at her last job). And actually scrape together a couple hundred dollars to do it.

No chance.

The date to buy tickets came and went, and I was surprised by how sad I felt. I mean, I was really, really sad. It was the kind of disappointment where you shake your head and say, “What was I thinking? That could’ve been a once in a life time opportunity.”

So, I sat by and watched YouTube videos of the concert. I bought the DVD. I think I was unbearable for at least a couple of weeks, wishing that I could’ve been there. Talking about it every day. Playing their music over and over and over again.

Not that those things aren’t daily occurrences for me anyway.

Enter Spring of 2012. They had another tour planned. This time it was going to be for the West Coast. Great. There goes any hope. As much as I’d love to hop a plane to go see them in California, there’s no way that’s happening.

But wait! What do you mean they’re coming back to a few cities on the East Coast? They’re going to be in New York City again!? But…but it’s so expensive. I don’t know if I can do that. Wait – what was that? Silver Spring? They were there last time too. Hang on a second – isn’t that near Baltimore? I have a friend in Baltimore who happens to have a very, very comfortable couch.

To make a long story only slightly shorter, I threw caution to the wind and ordered tickets. And not just any tickets – Golden Idol VIP tickets. Now we’re talking!

So I planned the trip. We’d arrive in Silver Spring in time for the concert, then we’d crash on our friend’s couch and spend the rest of the weekend with her, touring Baltimore and catching up (it’d been six months since we last saw her).

Perfect!

And you know what? It was perfect!

Here are some pictures from the concert. I know that most of you have no idea who these people are, but just revel in my bliss with me, ‘kay?

Golden Idol VIP tickets meant we got to get their autographs!

Charlene Kaye was their opening act and she was seriously amazing.

The premise behind the show was that the Starkids accidentally woke up/angered a Mayan god and brought about the beginning of the Apocalypse. Oops.

Here’s the Mayan god.

Even though it is very, VERY hard for me to choose my favorites, there are two Starkids that really jump out at me. This is Dylan Saunders (who you may recognize from the Watsky post I did a while back) and his voice makes my head go fuzzy because he’s so amazing.

And this is Lauren Lopez, whose Draco Malfoy character is literally the funniest thing I’ve seen in my entire life. I laugh EVERY TIME I see it.

“What do you mean I missed the end of the world?”

Our night ended with seeing this little beauty – a batmobile limousine!

I have some videos, but I figured most of you just wouldn’t understand the context or the songs. Plus the crowd was LOUD and you couldn’t really hear them sing. Plus it was going to take 20+ minutes to upload and, well, I’m just not that patient…

Part deux will be coming up on Wednesday, where I’ll show you guys the rest of my weekend. Here are a few hints of things to come: jellyfish, Picasso, Greek pizza, and beehive hairdos.

Final ROW80 Check-in for Round 2

Posted: June 17, 2012 in ROW80
Tags: , ,

Well, this round didn’t go as planned for me. Last round was pretty solid, but life just got in the way too many times in these last couple of months. I’m not too worried about it, though. I’m going on vacation next week (I’ll still be blogging though!!), so I’m going to take that time to relax and do some casual writing and reading. The plan is – when I get back – to hit the pavement even harder than I did in the first round. I’m hoping round three is really going to be productive!

As I did with the end of the last round, I’m simply going to put together all of my successes and just forget about the things I never got to. It’ll serve as inspiration for the next round. ;)

  1. I finished Tiger’s Voyage, which I NEVER thought I’d get through, but was really glad that I did.
  2. I finished writing “The Necklace,” which was a sort of experimental short story that I decided to write for fun.
  3. I came to realize that writing short stories is one of my strengths, and that this might be a great way to get my foot in the door.
  4. I read and reviewed Oppression and really enjoyed it.
  5. I finished my short story about Cinderella for my BFF. She LOVED it.
  6. I finished writing “Trigger,” which is a part of my horror short story collection.
  7. I started “Z1,” which is the first book in a series of twelve novellas that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
  8. I hit 100 posts.
  9. Finished writing “Found,” another one in my horror short story collection.
  10. Got an iPhone, which makes my life SO much easier.
  11. I came up with a new blog schedule that has me writing themed posts throughout the week, which ALSO makes my life a lot easier.
  12. I ate octopus, squid, and kimchi for the first time.
  13. I SAW STARKID IN CONCERT.
  14. I joined Ladies Who Critique and have already met two fabulous writers who I might start working with!

Dang. Doing this always makes me feel amazing. I did all of that in the last few months, even though it felt like this round went way off track for me. There are so many things I want to get done in the next round, but I need to worry about that when it comes. Until then, I need to do what I have to before I go on vacation, and then it’s time to RELAX!!!

Much love to all my ROWers. See you next time!

I decided to go with my original plan and finish out this two part post I have going on. Details of my road trip to Maryland will be up next week! (And because I’m long winded, a huge fan girl, and have tons of pictures, it’ll probably also be a two-parter.)

So, last week I talked about how you shouldn’t alienate your audience by talking down to them. I called out sci-fi writers for doing this especially, but I think there are these types of writers in any genre. Art snobs, theatre snobs, writer snobs – they all exist. And hey, that’s okay. Sometimes you know what you’re talking about and you deserve to let people know that. But there’s a time and a place. Just make sure it’s not hurting you in the long run.

But what about the flip side of that? Some people dumb down their work so much that it’s almost painful to read. A lot of writers are worried their audience won’t “get” what they’re trying to say. Actually, a fellow blogger wrote about this last week and pointed out some ways to avoid stating the obvious. It’s a lesson I’m still learning.

But there’s something else here. Something bigger than that. Something that a lot of people in the generation that came before mine just don’t get: young adults are smart. Like, really smart.

We might not look like it. Yes, we’re addicted to our phones. Yes, we play things like Mario Bros. that teach us absolutely no real world skills, except maybe that mushrooms can do some pretty trippy things to you. And yes, we often forget about the important things in life and worry about what kind of shoes make us look cool.

But you know what? There’s a lot more to us than that. And Steven Moffat, who is the current writer of both hugely successful shows Doctor Who and Sherlock, hit this very thing right on the head. The whole interview is right here, but this is the part that really stuck out to me:

Richard Bacon [reading a text from a fan]: ‘Please tell him not to give into pressure and dumb down Doctor Who.’ Are you under pressure to do that?
Steven Moffat: No, not really. No, I mean the show’s…I mean, I think that comes from the fact that some people are complaining that it was getting very hard to follow and they had to ask their children what was going on. But, you know, I think television should complicated. I think it should be demanding and the evidence would suggest that in the case of both Doctor Who and Sherlock that the audience flocks towards complexity. I think, you know, the audience is smart. The audience will always think faster than the writer, that’s the truth. I’m running to keep up with twelve year olds and failing all the time.
RB: I wonder if in a funny sort of way the kids embrace complexity more willingly than adults sometimes.
SM: I think that is absolutely true, because they will sit and watch Doctor Who while playing Angry Birds and tweeting about both of them and following them all perfectly while explaining to someone else and having a conversation. And my brain just doesn’t work that fast. And that’s the audience. That’s the next generation on the way. That’s what we have to keep up with. That’s who we have to entertain and engage, and the idea that we should dumb down is ridiculous. Don’t dumb down, just keep up.

This is a perfect lesson that I think all of us need to learn. And I know what you’re thinking: Um, didn’t you just tell us not to sound too smart, then go ahead and tell us not to dumb our writing down too much?

Yes. Yes, I did.

But, as with anything, there needs to be balance. You don’t want to write a textbook and you don’t want to write a children’s book (unless, of course, that’s exactly what you’re trying to write). Just go with your gut, and get lots of feedback. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that writing is a process. A really long one. And it’s not something you can do alone. And you know what? It’s not something you SHOULD do alone.

I know I tend to lean toward the complex – I usually read thick novels and I definitely prefer series over stand-alone books. Since I found Doctor Who I’ve come to the realization that it is one of my all-time favorite shows because it’s so complicated, intricate, and well written. But what do you think? Do you like short and easy reads, or the dense ones? Which ones do you usually write? Do you have trouble making your books smarter or do you struggle with making your stories understandable to the audience at large?

As I’m writing this, it’s raining outside and I can hear the water on the road as the cars drive by. It drums up memories of my soggy (but oh-so-enjoyable) trip to Ireland. What better place to write about for this Wednesday’s Wandering Bard post, right?

Grab a jacket and an umbrella – you’ll need it!

Today we’re heading here:

That’s pretty much the color of the sky here too. And you know it was wet and cold – just check out my professor all bundled up on the left!

This is the Giant’s Causeway. Now, before you scroll down and sneak a peek at the pictures I have of this place, I want to give you some background information. Here’s the legend behind the creation of the Causeway…

There was an Irish warrior called Fionn who had heard about another Giant that resided in Scotland. In order to prove himself (as men so often feel the need to do), he began to build a bridge across the water. (There are several different versions of what happens next, but I’ll give you the one I like best.) When he saw the size of the other Giant (who was much, much bigger than he was), Fionn ran away. Hearing of the challenger, the other Giant made his way across the bridge and into Ireland. Fionn’s wife – being the creative an intelligent person she was – decided to disguise her husband as a baby. Upon seeing the size of the baby, the other Giant figured that the father must be enormous and decided not to risk a fight with him. He turned around and fled back to Scotland – destroying the bridge as he went.

There’s also a scientific explanation – about 60 billion years ago there was a lot of volcanic activity in this region. The lava was made of molten basalt, which found its way through beds made of chalk to form a lava plateau as it hit the ocean. When it cooled rapidly, the lava turned to stone. Due to the nature of the rock, it formed pillar-like structures. Most of the pillars are hexagonal in shape, but some have more or less sides.

Sound cool? It was!

This section was probably 30 feet tall.

It just seems to go on forever!

I wear a size 11, so you know that’s a big rock! Gosh, I miss those shoes…

The BFF. I’m on top of the hill you’ll see in the next picture…

At one point we were both up there and had to crouch down and hold onto each other. That wind was strong!

And then our bus broke down…

It wasn’t too bad of a wait. I busied myself with eating some Irish chocolate. :)

After our discussion on found art, a few of you told me you like natural-made art. This place is like nature’s Sistine Chapel. It most certainly is art in my eyes. What do you think?