Archive for August, 2012

Well, I didn’t get a blog post up yesterday. You’ll just have to forgive me for that one. It’s actually a good thing though – on the one hand, I’ve been very, very busy. Good busy. And on the other hand, I let myself off the hook, put my phone away for a good chunk of the evening, and just relaxed. I’d almost forgotten what it feels like.

So, no blog post yesterday. But you get one today! Here’s a short post on my time at the New York State Fair.

I went to the state fair a lot when I was younger, usually with my dad. The highlights were always the same three things: the Native American village, the butter sculpture, and the food. (Not necessarily in that order.)

As of late, however, it hasn’t held the same charm for me. I just don’t like crowds, especially in the heat, and the fair is smack dab in the middle of August. And with all those rides and stands? Yeah, you’re going to draw a crowd.

I didn’t go last year because there really was nothing there to draw me in. It probably would’ve been fun, for a little while, but it’s a two hour round trip and it’s just not worth it if you’re not going to be that into it.

But this year Karmin was going to be there. Yeah, yeah. I know. I talk about them a lot. I’ll save you the pain and offer up one SINGLE picture:

Unfortunately I was really, really far away this time because it was so hot out and we wanted to stay in the shade!

(By the way, they were great even the second time around. My mom said they were “better than excellent,” so you know it’s not just me being biased!)

So that’s what made me want to go, but I was surprised by how much kept me there. The stands were great this year. First we had this one:

This guy had just about every old-time movie or TV show you could think of. Mom was ogling the Jerry Lewis DVDs like they were made of gold (and you can’t find most of this stuff anywhere – in stores OR online – so they might as well be). I offered to split the cost with her as part of an early birthday present. She was THRILLED.

There were tons of jewelry stands as well. Usually I don’t pay them much attention, but I got two pendants made of glass that had flowers inside of them. They’re gorgeous. I have NO idea what I’m going to wear them with, but who actually thinks about such trivial things like that when they’re shopping??

And they had something that got the nerd inside of me jumping for joy. Posters and souvenirs for just about any movie or TV show you wanted. I picked up the poster below – it was the first one that I actually liked from The Hunger Games. The combination of the different stills and the matting really drew me in.

I saw some Doctor Who posters and almost passed out, but none of them were perfect so I didn’t settle! I also picked up an early Christmas present for my BFF, but just on the off chance she reads this (which is about slim to none, haha) I’m not saying what it is. ;)

Next up was the sand sculpture, which had an Olympic design. This thing was massive!

And then there was the cream of the crop – the REAL reason why I go to the state fair every year. (And no, that’s not sarcasm.) The butter sculpture!!!! *fanfare*

Isn’t that just about the coolest thing in the world? Every year they have a different one. This was actually one of the least exciting ones I’ve seen (but it was still awesome!). Sometimes they get really intricate and detailed.

After that I had to have some gelato. It was so good. It brought me straight back to when I first had it in Italy. Yum.

That’s wildberry on top of chocolate. Crazy!

Next, we went to this candy stand. They literally had a maze of boxes filled with old-time candy. You took a basket and mixed and matched them all. Mom and I ended up going a little overboard and spent way too much money. But it was so fun! I tried Zotz candies for the first time and I think I’m addicted now…

And what would the NYSF be without the animals? Mom got to see a cow up close and personal for the first time. (THE FIRST TIME, PEOPLE!!) We also saw ducks, chickens, geese, turkeys, a peacock, bunnies, and SO much more. Check them out below:

Not sure how I feel about this, but they were beautiful. Remember those chicks I took pictures of in Morocco? I guess this would be what they’d look like once they grew up a little bit.

These ones were weird! They’d puff their chest out so much you could barely see their heads. And then their tails fanned out like that all the time too.

Look at all that hair!

So, last week I talked about the Renaissance Festival and this week I brought you a state fair. What festivals do you attend each year? What’s your state fair like? Do you have anything there that can ONLY be found in your state?

Because what’s funnier than bloopers from a show about improv?

And because this show never gets old. Ever.

(Warning: There’s some potty language below!)


It’s going to look like I really got nothing done, but I felt like I was so busy this week! Between critiques I had to finish up and a lot of Hypable work, I didn’t get to many of my goals. Even so, I did a lot of writing (which is always a plus, no matter what it’s for) and finally started to get back into one of my stories again.

I’m happy with how this week went and wouldn’t even mind if next week looked similar. Check out the last section for a bunch of cool things to read and expect soon on the blog.

MAIN GOALS

These are the daily goals that won’t change throughout the round.

  1. Exercise for half an hour each day, five days a week. 0/5 HOWEVER, I went to the state fair AND went on a mushroom foray. So, technically, I walked around for hours each day. It probably counts as a 5/5. Or that’s what I’m telling myself at least. ;)
  2. Edit or write every day. 2/7 I only worked on my story twice, even though I did end up writing something every day. When I did work on my story, I tried to write as much as possible. I’m not totally happy with how it’s coming out, but right now I’m just trying to get the story out of my head. I can fine tune it in the editing process.
  3. Read one chapter every day. 1/7 I want to finish this up by the end of the month (this coming week), so if it’s not done by the next check-in, you have my permission to yell at me!

FLUCTUATING GOALS

These are the goals that will change from week to week.

  1. Edit story #2 in my collection. Haven’t even looked at these in a couple of weeks. My focus has shifted toward another project for now.
  2. Pick one contest or one magazine I’d like to participate in for this month. Done. I chose an e-magazine to submit one of my better horror stories. I’m going to wait until I get to editing this story before I do anything more with this goal.

ROUND GOALS

I like knowing what I want to accomplish over the course of this round, as that will help determine what my weekly goals will be.

  1. Finish The End, my horror collection. Get some beta readers. This is 100% complete and now just needs to be edited again (and again, and again, and again…).
  2. Begin editing Lifetimes, the novel I’m focusing on right now. 0% One beta reader finished and the other is getting close. Soon!
  3. Enter at least one competition or submit at least one article to a magazine. 0% Getting closer to achieving this goal! I have my magazine picked out. Now I need to edit, edit, edit!
  4. Read at least four books this month. 75% I have another week to meet this goal, and I’m right on track for doing so.

Extras

These are things that don’t warrant a full post, but are definitely items I’d like you to check out if you’re interested.

  1. Check out my latest column for Hypable, titled “Seven things we’d love to see in a Norse mythology series by Rick Riordan.”
  2. I reached (and passed!) 10,000 views on this blog. WHOA.
  3. I went to the state fair and saw Karmin again. (What!? Don’t look at me like that.) It was super fun and I’ll have a blog post for you about the fair in general next Friday.
  4. I went on another mushroom foray. This one was even better than the last two combined! You know I can’t resist blogging about that too, so keep an eye out.
  5. I wrote some more news posts for Hypable. One that I think you guys might be interested is this one – “Mark of Athena character art: Nemesis revealed.”
  6. Yesterday Hypable held a live watch party for everyone who wanted to talk about The Hunger Games as they viewed it. It was really fun and we plan on doing more of them! If you’re at all interested in something like this, let me know and I’ll be sure to remind you when the next one goes down.

Two years ago I went to my local Renaissance Festival for the first time. It was quite an experience. I didn’t realize how immersive and truly amazing it would be. It was one of the highlights of that summer and I knew I had to eventually go back.

I didn’t get a chance to go last year, so I made it a top priority this year. It’s a couple of hours away and it’s a little pricey to get into, but it’s absolutely worth it. No other festival or fair I’ve ever been to comes close to the time and effort these people put into a presentation like this.

Let me walk you through it, using pictures from both 2010 and 2012.

There are essentially three highlights to the Ren Fest, the first of which is the immersive quality. Right off the bat you’ll notice signs like this:

(2010)

And objects like this:

(2010)

These things are everywhere. Even signs for napkins said something like, “sleeve alternative for the gluttonous.” Everything looks like it came straight out of the Renaissance, with the various wooden objects supported by pullies and brute strength. Even the rides are built in this way.

(2010)

And that’s not to mention all the stands! Jewelry, clothes, accessories, food, herbs – you name it, they have it. Not only do they have it, but they’ve put a Renaissance spin on it. Jewelry is made of chain mail. Purses are leather or suede. Clothing is all in the style that was fashionable in the 1500s.

Don’t laugh. I’m sure this was all the rage back then. (2012)

And what would a festival be without the food? (Dad and I pretty much go to these things just to eat.) I can’t go to the Ren Fest and NOT eat one of these:

The vendors ask you, “Wouldst thou like that saucy or naked?” The look on my dad’s face when he was first asked that was hysterical! (2012)

Yep, that’s 1 lb turkey leg. I might not be able to eat the whole thing myself, but that doesn’t stop me from trying! It’s so worth it.

And while they do have things like Mountain Dew and plastic spoons for your ice cream, you can pretty much guarantee everything is going to feel like you just hopped in the TARDIS and landed in the Middle Ages.

The second highlight for me comes in the shape of the actors. This sort of falls in line with the immersive quality, but I feel like they go above and beyond every year.

I mentioned that the festival is a little expensive to get into, but I also think it’s completely worth it. The entire place is like one big show. Everyone speaks with English or Spanish accents and they never, ever break character. Sometimes they even perform little skits right in the middle of a road or outside a shop. Two years ago, someone came whizzing by us, holding a bag of money in one hand. A few seconds later came his pursuer – a man with a very, very large axe! It was 30 seconds worth of entertainment, but it was really funny.

If I remember correctly, the guy on the right told the man in the middle (who was just an attendee) to direct the girl on the left as if she were fighting off invisible monsters. It was pretty hilarious. (2010)

They even have camel rides:

(2010)

And a stockade where people can throw tomatoes at ruffians!

This guy was brutal! But it was really fun to watch and everyone cheered whenever he got pegged in the face. (2012)

Each year at noon, the Queen and her entourage make their way down the main road:

(2010)

The third (and best) highlight of the Renaissance Festival is the shows. They have several of them, all throughout the day, all over the village. They’re all free to get into (another reason why that entrance fee is worth it) and they have some really, really spectacular performers.

The main attraction is usually the jousting. It’s full-on contact, and they wear real armor and everything. A whole crowd gathers and you can cheer for your champion and boo for the opposing side. Here are some pictures:

Two years ago they had some prince watching the show. This year, they had the Queen (who looked much more believable than the one pictured above from a few years ago). (2010)

Dad and I happened to pick the right side in 2010 – we got Sir Orion, who ended up being the champion! (2010)

This was the bad guy, sir William. (2010)

And this guy was the moderator of the joust. Look at that sweet mustache! (2010)

He had to put the knights in their places on more than one occasion. (2010)

This year things got switched up. Our Sir Orion from 2010 became the moderator (I miss the guy with the ‘stache!) and a new knight (still dubbed Orion) took his place. There was even a third knight that illegally entered the dual! (2012)

We were on the bad guy’s side this time (and it felt so good). He ended up losing, but it was fun while it lasted! (2012)

Another show that I’d highly recommend (because these guys travel all over the place, so they might come somewhere near you!), is Don Juan and Miguel’s. These guys are right up there with my all-time favorite comedian Gabriel Iglesias.

Don Juan is on the left, and that funny looking guy on the right in Miguel. (2010)

Two years ago I just sawthe end of one of their last shows (I found out this year it was “The Weird Show,” which is probably the best one). They played with whips and swords and it was dangerous and hilarious. Plus they have cool Spanish accents. You really can’t get much better than that.

When they work with swords, they usually use the sabre – and they’re real! They also do tricks with whips, which is a lot more dangerous and a lot more exciting! (2010)

“Just keep squeezing until something happens.” (2010)

This year I pretty much went to the Ren Fest in order to see them again. We can to see their show called “The Renaissance Man,” which wasn’t nearly as funny as the one I saw before, but was still great!

The shows star Don Juan and his sidekick Miguel, plus Don Juan’s daughter Esmeralda. My dad asked her if she was new because we didn’t see her two years ago. She said she wasn’t and that she had been doing this for 18 years (Wow! She couldn’t have been much older than me!). Come to find out, she’s only ever missed one show…and it was two years ago! She was just as talented with the whip (sometimes even more so!) than her dad.

Did I buy a shirt? Is that even a question? (2012)

But the absolute best part of the whole Ren Fest was when I actually got to take a picture with these guys. They were great!!!

(2012)

This place is definitely inspiring as far as writing goes. I wanted to head home and begin working on some novel set in the Middle Ages. This would be a great place to do some light research and really get the feel of the Renaissance.

Have you ever been to one of these before? What’s your favorite part?

I am super stoked and super honored to be part of the group of people that get to reveal the cover for Jessica Therrien’s next book in her Children of the Gods series.

If you don’t remember (and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, because it was a while ago!), I reviewed her first novel, Oppression. It was an excellent and quick read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves mythology (or fantasy in general).

The next installment is going to be called Uprising. (Doesn’t that just have a cool ring to it?) I think this book is going to be even better than the last one, and I can’t wait until I can get my hands on it!

Without further ado, here’s the cover in all its glory.

Isn’t that mesmerizing? I love the way the covers are all monochrome. I can’t wait to see what the next one will be like!

There’s no book blurb yet, but she’s got an awesome teaser:

We left everything but the weapons. Clothes, food, toothpaste. There wasn’t time for things that weren’t essential to escape. The five of us went on foot in a direction that was meaningless to me. I had never seen what was outside of the edges of the safe haven, not since I’d been here.

When Mac stopped abruptly after our fifteen-minute trek into the woods, we all froze at once, bodies poised and ready to attack, eyes searching for threats.

“We’re here,” Mac announced. “What should we expect Marcus?”

I had never heard Dr. Nickel called by his first name, and it made me realize he wasn’t as untouchable as I had imagined. Just because he was here, didn’t mean we were safe.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “Maybe an army, maybe nothing. Depends on where they are.”

“Everyone best get down on the ground just in case,” Mac decided with a nod. “Weapons ready.”

As I lay belly down in the dirt, I noticed Dr. Nickel pull a gun from his belt, and my stomach gave a heave.

“When I remove the haven walls, there will be a van. Everyone get in back. If anything goes wrong…” Mac paused, uncomfortable at the thought. “It’s been nice knowin’ ya.”

The release date isn’t until February 19, 2013 (*resounding, “awww maaannn!!”*), but you can find Jessica and her books in the links below:

Author:

Website // GoodReads // Twitter // Facebook // Pinterest // Tumblr

Books:

GoodReads // Facebook

So, come on, guys. What do you think? Isn’t that cover beautiful? Are you at all intrigued by the concept of this series?

This is my second post in this series where I discuss TV shows and movies and the knowledge that we can gain from watching them. We can then apply that knowledge to our writing. As always, I never pretend to be an expert. I just like exploring my own thoughts on the matter as I write these blog posts! I welcome all comments and would love to hear what you think about this topic.

Make sure you check out my first post titled, “How to write about guilt, with Damon Salvatore.”

I’m an only child. I’ve had close friends and close cousins, so I sort of know how it feels to have siblings. But not really. Once of the best TV shows that depicts the love/hate relationships that family members often have with each other is Supernatural.

Most of you are probably familiar with the show, as it’s been around for quite a while and is already going into its eighth season. But for those of you that aren’t, the premise of this series is pretty simple: Sam and Dean Winchester are brothers who travel the country and fight demons and other evil beings.

[DISCLAIMER: I just finished season 2. I won’t spoil anything from the first two seasons – this is just about characterization. I would also really appreciate it if you didn’t mention anything in the comments from season 3 or beyond!]

Sam is the younger child. He decided that hunting demons wasn’t really his thing. He didn’t get along with his father (probably for the reason just mentioned) and ended up going off to college to study law. In the meantime, big brother Dean stayed with his dad and did what he was raised to do – kill things and protect the world.

Through a series of events that we’ll gloss over for the sake of time and spoilers, Sam and Dean are now in it together. They travel all across the United States, finding these things, killing them, and saving countless lives in the process.

But these are two very different people. Where Sam is quieter and more in tune with people’s emotions, Dean is loud, obnoxious, and sarcastic. Sam questions everything (including his father), while Dean takes his orders and just wants to get the job done.

Imagine spending years traveling the road with someone who is the complete opposite of yourself. Not to mention someone that you’re also related to.

That can be tough.

And it is. They get into squabbles here and there, and even some serious fights. They disagree all the time on the best way to handle a situation, and sometimes it gets one (or both) of them into trouble. They know each other’s buttons. They can see right through a lie. They can tell when something is wrong with the other one.

On the one hand, you have this person that sometimes you just detest. They harass you, put blame on you, single you out, put you down, and use you as a punching bag.

And yet, you love that person with every fiber of your being. And they love you too.

Families are such complicated monsters.

As someone who grew up as an only child, this is fascinating to me. I can relate to it because my best friend and I are very close. She feels like the sister that I just happen to not live with. We know each other’s secrets, we can read each other’s minds, and we trust each other completely. I love her so much.

But we still drive each other nuts.

Sam and Dean are the same way. To apply this to writing, I think it’s important to first start with a base character for each person. Build them up as an individual, each with a specific identity, and then set them against each other. Opposites will clash, and that kind of conflict is great for any story.

It’s even better if they’re related and you know that one would never actually throw the other under a bus. Therefore, that conflict will never go away, for as long as they both live.

But there needs to be something else about the relationship of your two characters, too. Sure, we all know how the younger sibling is such a brat, or the older sibling seems to have it all. That puts them at odds with each other. But what brings them together time after time? The best stories based on families are the ones that use what’s happening in their lives to get past their differences. Those events actually bring the characters together and remind them that love is so much stronger than hate.

As far as Sam and Dean go, I think a lot of it boils down to trust. They trust each other completely – and they have to, don’t they? They couldn’t do their job together if they didn’t have complete trust in one another. And at the end of the day, despite all of their differences, they also have the same goal in mind – to rid the world of evil.

It’s important to establish sibling rivalries. What have they competed for since they were younger? Girls? Money? Fame? Glory?

Give each one of your characters quirks that get on the nerves of the other. Something really stupid that one does without knowing it, but the other picks up on right away. It drives him up the wall. Why? This will give him character and depth and a back story.

Make sure they fight. A lot. Dean and Sam always argue. About stupid things. About important things. About things that pertain to the hunt and about things that don’t. Not only will it establish each character’s personality, but it’ll show the relationship that they have with one another. Does one always win? Does one always give in? Who can never say they’re sorry, and who can admit when they’re wrong?

But make sure they always make up. Even though they drive each other up a wall, Dean and Sam need each other. This is particularly evident at the end of season 2. For all the headaches that they’ve given each other, we know – without a doubt – that one wouldn’t hesitate to give up his life for the other.

What do you think? Have you seen the show, and if so, do you like it? What do you make of Sam and Dean’s relationship? How did you establish a relationship between siblings in your own stories? Did you pull from your own life for ideas?

This week started off strong, but I’ve been buried under a whole slew of new responsibilities and it’s gotten in the way of most of my goals. I’m not worried about it. I’m slowly climbing up through the rubble and back out into fresh air. It’s just taking me a little longer than usual.

I don’t have a whole bunch of things to check off the list this week, but I have TONS of updates to share with you guys. They’re really exciting, so I hope you enjoy them as much as I am!!

MAIN GOALS

These are the daily goals that won’t change throughout the round.

  1. Exercise for half an hour each day, five days a week. 1/5 Ouch. Rough week for exercising. I also haven’t weighed myself in a while. I really need to get back on track with this goal.
  2. Edit or write every day. 5/7 I’m happy with my progress here. I sat down and got super organized last weekend. I even plotted out my 12 book novella series that’s currently singing a siren song for me. I haven’t given up on my other projects, but while my beta readers are finishing up my novel, I’m glad to continue working on this one. I’m really excited I finally figured out what direction I’m going in. All that organization will pay off soon!
  3. Read one chapter every day. 3/7 I haven’t touched the book in a few days. This was more about not having time than not enjoying the story. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick it up again soon and finish it shortly.

FLUCTUATING GOALS

These are the goals that will change from week to week.

  1. Edit story #2 in my collection. Still working on this.
  2. Pick one contest or one magazine I’d like to participate in for this month. Done. I chose an e-magazine to submit one of my better horror stories. I’m going to wait until I get to editing this story before I do anything more with this goal.

ROUND GOALS

I like knowing what I want to accomplish over the course of this round, as that will help determine what my weekly goals will be.

  1. Finish The End, my horror collection. Get some beta readers. This is 100% complete and now just needs to be edited again (and again, and again, and again…).
  2. Begin editing Lifetimes, the novel I’m focusing on right now. 0% One beta reader finished and the other is getting close. Soon!
  3. Enter at least one competition or submit at least one article to a magazine. 0% Getting closer to achieving this goal! I have my magazine picked out. Now I need to edit, edit, edit!
  4. Read at least four books this month. 50% And working on another one!

Extras

These are things that don’t warrant a full post, but are definitely items I’d like you to check out if you’re interested.

  1. I wrote another column for Hypable, which you can check out here. It’s about the TV show Teen Wolf and why I think you should give it a try, even though MTV doesn’t have a good track record.
  2. And in an awesome twist of fate, I’m also covering news on Teen Wolf for Hypable now too! It was a really surprising, but really exciting (!!!), thing that just happened the other day. Extremely grateful to have this to do now as well. At the moment I’ve only written three articles, but more are sure to come (especially when the season picks up again next year). If you’re interested, you can check them out here and just look for my name under the pictures. ;)
  3. Next, I want to mention that another episode of Onceable (Hypable’s brand new Once Upon a Time podcast that I’m on) is up on the site and ready to be downloaded! We’ve also added a new member that you might know – the always lovely Jessica Chapman!!
  4. I went to my local Renaissance Festival today and it was AWESOME. Can’t wait to share pictures with you guys – looks for that on Friday.
  5. I’ve got exciting news for a friend of mine come Wednesday, so make sure you don’t miss that either!
  6. I got The Hunger Games on DVD yesterday and probably blubbered through more of it this time than I did when I watched it the first (and second!) time in theatres…

That’s all for now. Thanks for your continued support. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you guys. It’s amazing to be able to share our successes with each other and never once feel any hint of animosity or jealousy about them. ROW80 is such a community and the positivity that comes out of each and every one of you is infectious. I’m so glad I found this group, and I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of you.

I’m sending virtual hugs to every single one of you!! <3