Archive for September, 2012

The official start date for round 4 of ROW80 is just a few days away, and I’m here to let you guys know what I’ll be up to for the next few months.

This past year has been a bit crazy for me. The first round was really solid – not a perfect round, but I got a lot accomplished and really came into my own as a writer. The second round was another good one, and I learned from the mistakes of the first one. The third round fizzled out quickly because life got in the way, but it felt good to take a break for a while.

Now with the fourth round right on the horizon, I know what is feasible and what is out of reach. In general, I tend to overreach and overwork myself. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, sometimes that’s a good thing. Lately it’s been a bad thing. Here’s what I’ve got planned to remedy that habit for this round:

Main Goals:

The list is short and sweet, but it’s also mandatory. I’m keeping it easy, manageable, and attainable this round. I have to get back to what’s important for me as a writer.

  1. Write or edit every day. It doesn’t matter how much or how little. It doesn’t matter what I write, but I must write something related to my personal current project at least three times a week. (In other words, writing columns, blog posts, etc. doesn’t count.) Editing other people’s stories doesn’t count toward this goal either. I also need to make sure I keep writing and editing fairly balanced, as I’d like to work on both simultaneously and not focus on one or the other.
  2. Read every day. I don’t care if it’s a page or a chapter, as long as it’s a published book (and not an editing or critiquing project). My goal to read 25 books this year hasn’t been going as smoothly as I wanted it to, and now it’s time to step up my game.

Bonus Points:

These are goals I hope to accomplish this week. They aren’t mandatory, but if I have time I should attempt them. They can be anything from exercising to finishing a certain story to organizing my desk. This week I’ve decided on these:

  1. Plan out three blog posts for next week so I’m prepared.
  2. Exercise at least once. (I’m slowly easing myself back into this one.)
  3. Visit three ROW80 blogs and comment. (I’ve been terrible on this front for the last two rounds and I apologize.)

List of Awesome:

This is the list of things I’ve accomplished that don’t really have anything to do with ROW80 or the goals above. It’ll probably be mostly about Hypable and the things I’ve done over there, but I like sharing pictures and random things that are happening in my life. Everyone is always welcome to drop their own list of awesome in the comments below. I love reading them!

  1. I found out this week that 9,500 entries were seen by the 81st Annual Writer’s Digest contest panel. There were 10 winners across 10 categories, for a total of 100 winners. Being in that top 10% feels pretty good! I also realized that I won 6th place for the genre short story competition, which contained all genres – romance, mystery, fantasy, etc. I’d say that’s a triumph for horror for sure!
  2. This week I picked up The Avengers on DVD and The Casual Vacancy. Avengers was just as funny as I remembered it being, and I’m really excited to watch the bonus features soon. I haven’t started TCV just yet. I need to finish Eona and then I can do that. Soon!
  3. I’m about halfway through season 6 of Supernatural. The last half of season 4 and the first half of season 5 have been my favorite so far. I’m not enjoying season 6 too much, but I think it just hit its stride so I’m excited to get back into it. I mostly just wait around to see Castiel on my screen. He may or may not be my favorite thing about the show right now! (Must get caught up by Wednesday so I can watch season 8 when it begins on TV!)
  4. The winner for the Teen Wolf fan-fiction contest has not been announced yet. They had a few more entries than they were expecting and have had to read through 10,000 of them. Whoa! They’ve promised an announcement soon, so I hope everyone keeps their fingers crossed for me!

I’m going to be scoring myself this round. 5 points for each of my main goals. 1 point for each bonus goal I can complete. I like the idea of comparing scores from week to week and maybe eventually from round to round. I know some of you mentioned you like how I set up my goals and my recap at the end of each round, so just know that I have no qualms if you want to steal any of my ideas. Whatever makes the round better for you!

Good luck everyone. Hope to see you a lot this round.

What’s one thing you’re really hoping to accomplish this round?

Today I’m bringing a very special guest to my blog. Her name is Coriander and she’s just about the grooviest person I know. I met Cori in college. She was a fellow art history student and we had some classes together, and both attended Latin Club (yeah, we were cool like that).

Cori is a self-proclaimed Renaissance woman. She writes, she draws, she acts, and she sings. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing that she can’t do. Wednesdays are dedicated to art and travel, and today we’re letting our artistic side shine. Check out the short Q&A I did with Cori and see her artwork below.

It’s a little longer than most of my blog posts, but I hope you’ll stick through until the end. She’s got some great advice and definitely speaks from experience. Enjoy!

(Disclaimer: I didn’t feel the need to censor Cori’s in her images or her words. This interview is not vulgar, but there are some swears and naked ladies!)

Me: What made you realize you had a talent for art, and what made you decide to make this into a business?

Cori: I’ve been drawing ever since I was old enough to hold a crayon. I used to consume paper and actually drew on the empty backs of whatever I could get my hands on at the time…and margins of books… I don’t think it was so much of a realization, as just something about me that always was. :)

I don’t like to go into a lot of detail about my past, but as it pertains to the question I did spend a lot of my life reacting to situations instead of growing up in a traditional sense. There was a great element of lack of control and attempting to please others, which left me feeling largely vulnerable and helpless – very much a victim mentality. Turning my art into a successful business venture was something that I wanted to do for ME and me alone. I think maybe floating around in my subconscious somewhere it makes me feel proud of myself and makes me feel like I have at least some measure of control as to what happens with my life. It’s not the most popular decision I’ve made to some, but I’ve learned how to handle that. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without my Thomas though, as cliché as it sounds, he really is my biggest fan. <3

Me: It seems as though your main subjects tend to be faeries. What drew you to them and how would you describe your style?

Cori: I love faeries and I have a deep connection to them. To me it feels like something very old and familiar. They’re as intrinsic to my sense of identity as say my eyes…or my hair…you get the idea. I just simply love them, everything about them…even the dark, dangerous aspects of them. It is all so fascinating to me. I will be honest, I obsess over them…which works out for me because I honestly think people with obsessive personalities get the short end of the stick in society sometimes, lol. It’s kind of a mutual thing; I can have a focus for my obsessive personality and they get their sparkly, mythological egos stroked by being drawn incessantly, lol… ;)

How would I describe my style?…….Errr, I suppose the best way to describe it would be “multi-faceted”….yeah, that’s a nice elegant word. That’ll work. ;)

Me: Where do you draw your inspirations from? Which artists influence you the most?

Cori: Definitely from a myriad of places. I would say a good 85% of it comes straight out of my head, but I am also inspired by artwork, pictures, poses, you name it. I’m also incredibly inspired by my dreams. I have a very active “dream life,” lol.

…But as far as specific artists, I would say definitely Luis Royo, Susan Seddon Boulet, Georgia O’Keefe, and the Pre-Raphaelites and Neo-Classicists (John William Waterhouse) that came right after the PR’s. I’m also very inspired by Da Vinci and I try to incorporate chiaroscuro into my pieces as much as I can….key word here is try!

Me: No one is perfect and everyone can improve their craft. What’s one thing you are working on to become better at?

Cori: Oh that’s easy. I’m a notorious perfectionist with a heavy salting of obsessive compulsive. I’m CONSTANTLY on my own case about my problem areas. Right now what I’m really grinding on myself is landscape composition, accurately being able to draw various flora (a good idea as a FAERY artist, lol!), and trying to play around more with dramatic lighting and use less white in my shading. I am a total white-aholic when I shade.

I’m not going to even get into what I’m trying to improve on in regards to my acting, writing or singing. I’d be talking about it for weeks!

Me: If you could pick JUST ONE piece from your artwork that is most representative of you, or one that you are most proud of, what would it be and why?

Cori: Gaia Persephone from the deck I’m currently working on, The Sidhe Queen Oracle. The whole deck is just one of the most intimidating things in the world for me. It’s been a hard journey, both on the inside with my self-confidence issues and on the outside with various opinions that have been made. I kinda came out of left field with this deck, but that’s pretty much the way I do everything, lol. I didn’t and don’t want these pieces to be just pretty pictures that represent the public consensus on what Faery Queens should be. What’s the use of having an artistic voice if you’re only going to use it to reinforce the same old stuff that’s been around for centuries? No judgment to those who decide that that path is right for them, but it’s not right for me. I needed to go my own way with this deck and carve my own path and express my own ideas and thoughts about how things are. Gaia Persephone was the piece that solidified for me that my point-of-view was and is valid. It may never be more than foolish presumptions from a foolish girl to others, but that’s finally OK with me. It did take me a hell of a long time to get to that point though…

Me: Art is art in my book, whether or not you paint pictures with color or with words. What advice would you give to other “starving artists” out there?

Cori: I could write a friggin book on this subject. I think first, you need to be honest with yourself from the get go. Following your dreams fucking sucks. It is a painful path, and I hear told it’s rewarding in the end, but I’m honestly still walking it so I can’t tell you anything about that, lol. I can tell you that it’s hard, people will vilify you for things you didn’t think you could be vilified for, there’s a good chance a portion of your family or close friends will vehemently disagree with you, you will struggle financially, you will face almost constant and soul-crushing adversity, you’ll know rejection so well people will think you two have a “sexual past” (yeah…I’m still working on the “comedienne” thing…)…..the list goes on and on. Not trying to scare anyone, but there is nothing about this that is easy. If you happen to be one of the few who never have to go through these things on your path to make your dreams a reality, then you are one very, very, very lucky individual. But for most of us poor suckers, it is one hell of a hike.

Once you’re honest with yourself about what you’re in for and you decide that you still want to go for your dreams, it helps to have a financial plan. I, unfortunately, was not that lucky (or intelligent…depending on who you ask, lol). Ideally, you would put away some money but with this economy, Goddess only knows how that would pan out. However, a financial cushion makes the road less rocky so do whatever you can to cushion yourself without allowing yourself to put your goals to the side. Be very, very strict about your financial expenditures, for example; there is no real need to buy stock in bulk and store it with the hopes of unloading it for a profit at a later date with all the print-on-demand options on the internet that require zero capital start-up. Just remember that Murphy’s law friggin has it out for artists and creatives….if something can go wrong, it usually does and there’s a good chance you’ll end up looking like a leech that’s out of touch with reality. It’s just the unfortunate social stereotype that tends to hang over the heads of struggling, indie creatives and it just makes everything that much more difficult. What you can’t change, you learn to work around….or at least, you learn not to give it a deliberate reason to seek you out.

Which leads me to my next and final point. Make sure you are as self-sufficient as you can possibly be. Back to the Murphy’s law thing – don’t give people an excuse on a silver platter to make your life difficult when you are already treading a path that is not a societally popular one. The way I see it is that there are plenty of opportunities out there for people with money, but if you can’t afford it, then it was probably not the right (or ultimately fruitful) way for you to go to begin with. If you’re creative enough, you can find a way through regardless of whatever lack you may be experiencing in your personal situation. Ingenuity and resourcefulness are very handy personality traits to possess when you’re pursuing your dreams.

Other than that, I’d say never ever ever give up. No matter what happens to you, so long as you keep moving forward (even if you’re crawling), you’re getting that much closer to making your dreams happen….just make sure to take care of your nails if you find yourself crawling for an extended period of time (trust me on that one).

Me: What’s your preferred genre of writing?

Cori: I write Adult Fantasy Fiction. I used to write poetry and lyrics obsessively when I was younger. I may do so again one day when I develop enough self-confidence to record an album.

As far as reading, I am a notorious non-fiction gal. I am addicted to knowledge and learning and I’m especially fascinated by the things that society is scared of or casts off as crazy. I also find mythology very intriguing. Yep, I’m a sponge.

Me: What writing project are you working on now?

I am unwittingly beginning the first book of my massive fantasy fiction series. I say unwittingly because I had originally planned on holding off on writing until I had finished with the deck so as not to overwhelm myself (and because writing scares me). However, inspiration doesn’t bow down to the whims of “mere mortals,” so I’ve found myself starting the first book much, much earlier than I had anticipated.

The series is going to be inspired by and feature the Sidhe Queens from my oracle deck. The series will have 13, maybe 14 books initially, one for each Queen. I will not release the name of the series at this time, but the first book will be entitled, “Rhiannon.” I have released a small snippet from the first draft on my Facebook page. That is the only part of the book the public will see until it is published.

It is my hope to create my own World with this series and use the initial books as the framework for that World under which all of my other novels will piece in somehow…kinda like a cross between Forgotten Realms and how Stephen King interlaced a lot of his books with his Dark Tower world. I’m also quasi-open to the idea of making my World accessible to other authors the way HP Lovecraft did with his Lovecraftian Mythos, but that is something that I am going to extensively think about before I make a final decision.

Me: What other writings do you have planned for the future?

Cori: There are some things that I keep very close to myself and defend viciously. Unfortunately for the transparency of this interview, this is one of those things. I will say that I do have definite and grandiose plans for my future, as I set very high standards for myself and others. Additionally, I will say that by and large, I’ve learned to keep my plans and especially those plans concerning my future very loose and adaptable. Like I said, Murphy’s law has it out for me, man! ;)

Me: What experiences have you had in terms of acting?

Cori: Most of my experiences with acting have been primarily on stage, though I am concentrating on making a name for myself in film. I have completed undergraduate coursework in theatre that roughly equates to the normal credit range of a Minor. Unfortunately due to university politics that at the time drove the credit requirements for a Theatre Minor to be as high as that of an average Major, I do not have an official Theatre Minor on my transcripts. Regardless of this setback, I’ve studied acting as well as very thorough and extensive coursework into the history of theatre and the Greek plays that started it all. It makes me sound somewhat like a dork when I try to comment on various celebrity-related online venues, but I do believe that it is very, very beneficial knowledge for any thespian, stage or film to possess….that is, if they’re actually interested in developing their craft as opposed to say…flashing their silicone bewbs all over the place. Ask a plastic barbie doll who Orestes or Electra are if you’re in need of a good laugh. ;)

Me: What was your favorite role?

Cori: I played Miss Hannigan in Annie. I accidentally wore black undies under a see-through peach dress for one performance. I was in high school. The whole school saw me. Good times.

At least it made her character more believable, though for a high school production, I’m not too sure they were that concerned with character integrity.

Me: What’s your dream role?

Cori: Agh, I know I’m going to get flack for this lol, but I have no shame. I really would like to portray Anna in 50 Shades of Grey. I know it’s one of those “shoot for the stars, girl’s out of touch with reality” things, but I can’t help it. The heart wants what it wants. It doesn’t concern itself with rational, logical, statistical thinking (perhaps that’s why the heart and mind fight so much?).

I haven’t the faintest idea as to how to go about making this happen but it’s something that I desire very strongly and something that I think I would do an excellent job at. And yes, I have absolutely no issue showing my bewbs and juju to the world if the storyline is in the right place! I’m not too interested in using the naked female body as objectification though. To some there is no difference, but there is a definite distinction between the two in my opinion.

Check out some other pictures Cori has shared with us!

If you like what you see, or just want to learn more about her, you can visit these links:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Tophatter

Link to “Rhiannon” excerpt.

In her own words…

I am a Fantasy Faery Artist, Actress, Writer, Singer, Entrepreneur and Spiritualist. I am a wingless Faery trapped in a human body and I absolutely adore cats, the fluffier the better. I hold a current 4.0 GPA in the University of Crazy Cat Ladies in Training with a specialization in Feline Linguistics (I get lots of practice). I am head-over-heels in love with the sexiest tall, dark, and handsome type that pretends to be a gothic nerd….he’s not. Don’t let him fool you with his shockingly fluent nerdspeak…

An Ode to ‘Terra Nova’

Posted: September 24, 2012 in TV Shows
Tags: , ,

If you aren’t familiar with it, Terra Nova was a short lived show that aired last year on Fox. It initially took place in the year 2149 and followed the Shannon family – Jim, Elisabeth, Zoe, Josh, and Maddy – as they travelled back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

Yeah, I know how that sounds. But it was actually a pretty interesting concept. You see, the Earth was incredibly polluted and some people were given the chance to travel back in time in order to start again. This was the “terra nova” – the new Earth. Sure, they had dinosaurs to deal with, but they also had fresh air, lots of food, and plenty of space to live. With the right precautions, these people could start a new life.

The first season aired with 12 episodes before it was cut short. Did it deserve it? Probably. I’m sure it was an expensive show to shoot, with all the CGI dinosaurs and whatnot. A lot of critics called it out for having boring characters and cheesy dialogue.

I honestly didn’t notice. For me, the dinosaurs were incredible. No expense was spared in that department, or with the sets. I thought all of the acting was great, and I felt connected to most of the characters – even some of the shady ones, which is always a good thing. (And at least the actor of one of my favorite characters is showing up on Glee this year!) The plot kept me guessing, and there were some great themes and morals to be learned by the end of the season finale.

So, is this another Firefly on our hands? I wouldn’t quite go that far. I don’t think it had the same appeal, and I don’t think it’ll have the same cult following in a few years either. But it had promise that was cut short, and at least that connection can’t be denied.

I wish Terra Nova hadn’t been cancelled. After the initial plotline for the first season, there were a number of directions the show could have gone in. It was part dystopian future and part science-fiction. You had outside dangers (the dinosaurs, the jungles) and inside dangers (the people who lived there). With the future connected to this past time, any sort of danger could slip through and cause havoc.

But, alas, the show is over and done with now. You can catch it on Netflix if you’re interested. I recommend it, and the season finale didn’t leave you with too much of a cliff hanger so you won’t feel unsatisfied with the ending.

So, without Terra Nova, I’ve chosen another show to take its place. Revolution. It’s also set in a dystopian future and is labeled as science-fiction as well. This follows another family, but they don’t go back in time. Instead, they live in a future where technology doesn’t function and the world is ruled by militias and warlords. It’s an all-too plausible future, and I always enjoy shows like that. There are no dinosaurs, but I suppose – in this particular world – that’s probably a good thing.

Revolution comes on NBC at 10 PM on Mondays. Will you be watching?

#ROW80 – Round 3 Wrap Up

Posted: September 23, 2012 in ROW80
Tags: , ,

I know I’ve been MIA the past few days, and a little shoddy when it comes to making sure I have posts up. In my defense, I have A LOT of (good) things going on right now. This week, I’m hoping to get a couple major projects off my plate, like I did last week, and finally get some consistency back in my life.

As with round 2, I’m going to wrap it up with a list of everything I’ve accomplished. It’s better to focus on the positives, and I always feel better when I realize how much I actually did get done in only a few months.

  1. Finished writing three short stories, plus began editing my collection
  2. Saw The Amazing Spider-man and The Dark Knight Rises – both of which were awesome
  3. Began my obsession with TeeFury – I now have a Sailor Moon shirt and a Dalek shirt
  4. Finished a LONG overdue critique
  5. Had both my collection and my novel critiqued by beta readers
  6. Read 7 books
  7. Began editing a series of books (and got paid for it!)
  8. Became a columnist, newswriter, and podcaster for Hypable
  9. Got to see Karmin in concert – TWICE
  10. Added an accomplishments page to my blog
  11. Surpassed 10,000 goals on my blog
  12. Wrote a Teen Wolf fanfiction and entered it into a contest (hoping to find out who wins soon!)
  13. Won 6th place in the 81st annual Writer’s Digest Genre Short Story contest with my horror short titled, “The Body”

It’s a short list, but I’d consider a lot of them big, time-consuming goals. I’m happy! This round started out very strong, but got away from me about a month in. I haven’t done much with my goals lately and it’s been nice to be able to work on things that need to get done outside of my own personal projects. However, I do miss my own stories, so I’m hoping to return to them in the next round.

For my next round, I’m revamping the way I do my check-ins (again). I’m going to make my main goals easier to attain, and strive to get some “bonus points” in there. I’m also going to continue sharing some extra stuff with you (now appropriately named my “list of awesome”) so you guys can check out what else I’m doing if you’re interested.

I hope everyone had a good round – a better one than me. I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I thought I would, but I’m still feeling burnt out. I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, but I do like to stay busy. I think I’m going to have to call upon some serious time management skills if I want to continue doing everything that I enjoy.

I’m going to state my intent for round 4 soon, and I hope to see you guys there!

Glee is Back! …I think

Posted: September 17, 2012 in TV Shows
Tags: , , , ,

This is a post about my opinion of the premiere episode of Glee season 4. If you want a recap, there’s an amazing one on Hypable. The podcast Glee Chat also had an in depth discussion about it on their latest episode.

[Yes, there are spoilers for the first episode below!]

I discovered Glee when I was in college, about half way through the first season. My roommate was watching clips of some of the performances from season 1 on YouTube (yeah, she was supposed to be studying…). They were so great that I knew I was going to be hooked. And once I actually started watching, I was.

I caught up on season 1 and loved every minute of it. It was the type of TV show that had me thinking about it all day, every day. One episode would end and I’d feel like the week between that one and the next one was the longest, most horrible time of my life.

I guess you could say I was obsessed. You wouldn’t be wrong.

Season 2 came and went and I enjoyed it for different reasons, and maybe a little less than the first season. But I still felt the same way about the show. Season 3 started out great and there were definitely some stand out episodes. However, by the end of the season I was just about done with Glee.

I actually know the exact episode that turned me off completely. It was the one where they decided that Will Scheuster – the Spanish teacher – all of a sudden couldn’t speak Spanish. I mean, really? It was clearly a ploy to get Ricky Martin on the show and that was it.

So, anyway. Glee season 4.

It opens up with Rachel in New York City. All of a sudden it feels like a whole new show. It definitely had a Smash vibe, and felt a bit more grown up. Rachel was insecure, and I think that’s the best look for her. She’s come a long way from the first season and although she’s by far not my favorite character, I really enjoy watching her now.

The show also has some new characters. Brody Weston is the first one we meet and he comes to us (and Rachel) straight out of the shower. No complaints from me. Aside from the fact that he’s gorgeous (and that I loved his character on Terra Nova), he seems like a genuinely nice guy. It’s the first time I’ve ever wanted Rachel to be with someone other than Finn. It’s still early, and I have a feeling that the romance will blossom between them eventually, but I want them to take it slow. Friends first. If he’s meant to be Rachel’s new Finn, I want her to do it right this time. No stealing kisses, no cheating, no immaturity. Just an honest, healthy relationship.

Wade, who isn’t actually a new character, comes into the choir room to the shock of many of the Glee Club kids. I like Wade a little better than Unique, but I find that I truly enjoy Unique’s humor and over the top diva personality. I think both are great characters and serve their own purposes to the show. As long as he doesn’t take over, I’m quite content with him being in New Directions. (And if you’re reading this for the heck of it and have no idea what’s going on, Wade is a male student who happens to cross-dress. His alter ego is named Unique.)

We also meet Marley, who is pretty much the reason why I am watching this show. She’s honest and beautiful and good and true, and that’s everything that I want to see in a character on Glee. So many of the characters are flawed to the point of absurdity that a “normal” character is like a breath of fresh air. And the relationship that she has with her mom just about brings me to tears. I love it, I love her, and I love this show again.

Just Jake is up next and he sings beautifully. I think he sounds so much like the original, and his voice is like butter. I could listen to it every day. He’s an interesting character in that he is very similar to Puck, but I also feel like he’s a little wilder, a little more dangerous. I like that, and I hope now that we’re at a 9PM time slot, Glee will be just a tad darker than it was previously. We also hear Marley perform, while being cut against Rachel. As an actor/singer, that must be pretty intense. But she definitely held her own against Lea Michele. Where Rachel is Broadway, Marley is more like Jazz. I love both of their voices, and for different reasons.

The episode ends with Kurt in NYC and Rachel and him running toward each other and hugging. I think they’re both at their best when they’re together, honest, and trying to help the other person. They’re very similar in a lot of ways, but they also have a beautiful friendship that they use to build each other up instead of tearing each other down.

Obviously there were still problems with the episode. Every show has its issues, but unlike most I can’t just leave them be. I don’t like Kitty – the new head Cheerio. She’s a Santana wannabe, but with much more venom and a lot less humor. I could do without her. I also didn’t enjoy the glee club kids when they were trying to be popular. It didn’t fit with their characters and at this point in the show (and their lives) they should know better. But, it made a plot for the episode and I guess that’s what really matters. The courtyard number was also kind of big and ridiculous and I miss season 1 of Glee when they were trying to make the performances either solely envisioned in their minds or actually realistic.

But those are the nit-picks of a fangirl, not to mention just my personal opinions. Overall, this series harkens back to season 1. Not in the way that it has been shot or written – because it honestly feels like a different show to me now – but in the way that it makes me feel. I think about it every day, and I can’t wait until the next episode. This is how TV should be, and I hope Glee stays that way.

Did you watch the first episode of Glee season 4? Did you like it or hate it? Do you feel like it’s a whole new show now?

If you’re familiar with my backlog of posts, you’ll know that I write about a little bit of everything. I tend to focus on TV and movies, plus art and travel. I also like to post about writing, and every once in a while I throw in something random to make you smile.

I think I’ve done a grand total of two book reviews so far. It’s not because I don’t read – I do! (Though, maybe not as much as I should.) My main reason for not doing so is that I often skip over these things on other people’s blogs. Along with author interviews. I know, I know – it’s terrible! But the thing is, I follow your blog because I want to hear YOU, not someone else.

So when I do an interview or a book review, you know I mean it. It’s not just to fill space or because someone agreed to talk with me. It isn’t because I can’t think of anything to say. It’s because I feel like I’ve found something that needs to be shared with the rest of the world.

Enter L.T. Ryan. He wrote Noble Intentions: Season One. This is a collection of five separate “episodes” that have been put into one volume. They are standalone stories, but each one is part of the whole.

Here’s my disclaimer: I edited three out of the five books for Lee. Does that make me biased? Maybe. But I have plenty of friends and acquaintances who have written books that I’ve critiqued and I haven’t featured them. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think they good enough for my blog (I would NEVER think that). It just means that I think Lee’s book is different. I can’t stop thinking about it, and my only outlet is my blog.

Noble Intentions follows the story of Jack Noble, assassin for hire. He doesn’t hesitate. He doesn’t feel remorse. He does it for the money and his conscience is clean. Until one day when he stops to help a lost child. He doesn’t know why he did it, but it begins a series of events that will take him all around the world.

And that’s just in the first episode.

I can tell you that Jack is a pretty awesome character. He’s a cold blooded killer, but you can’t help but like him. He’s smart, funny, and someone you definitely don’t want to piss off. But the best thing about him is that even deep down under all that blood on his hands, he’s still a good guy. He still cares about a handful of people.

His best friend’s name is Bear. He’s is probably a terrifying guy to look at, but he’s got his own soft spots too. And Mandy is one of them – she’s the little girl that Jack accidentally took in. Then there’s Clarissa. She’s not a damsel in distress at any point of the story, and you know that if there’s one girl who can keep up with Jack, it’s her.

If you read this book, you’ll travel to different countries, hear different languages, and meet a whole slew of characters. They’re all different, all unique, and all lend themselves to this story.

But, you might ask, how’s the writing? It’s quick and to the point. Jack’s a hired gun – he doesn’t have time to beat around the bush. His thoughts are like words on a flash card: factual and concise. No time is wasted and his actions are always calculated. This story is funny, smart, and exciting. It’s a page turner. And before you know it, you’ll be at the end of season one and you’ll be begging for season two. I’m sure of it.

Lee recommends the story for anyone who likes Jack Reacher, John Rain, or Jason Bourne. Even if you’re not usually into those sorts of things, I would still tell you to give it a try. It’s an adult novel about an assassin, so there is violence and strong language but nothing is vulgar.

So, without going on and on about how great this series is (which I could mostly definitely do), please just trust me on this and give it a try. I don’t get anything out of it except maybe the knowledge that my opinions can sway you guys into action. And that’s always a good feeling. :)

If you want to just try out the first episode, you can find it on Smashwords and Kobo FOR FREE. I love free stuff, don’t you?

If you want to buy season one, you can purchase it for $4.99 right here.

You can see my reviews of each one on the book’s Amazon page. If anyone has any questions or wants me to go into any more detail, the comments are open to you! A second series is in the works now and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

If you do end up purchasing any of the books, please see this post by Fabio, which gives a GREAT list of how you can help out authors after you buy from them.

You can also find Lee’s website here and the Facebook fan page for Mr. Jack right here. If you end up reading any of his books, please feel free to leave a comment for the author and I’ll be sure to pass along your kind words!

This post is not for writers. Writers understand what I’m talking about. This is for Average Joe who thinks writing a book is easy. Maybe he’ll never read this post, but I have to write it anyway. For the sake of my own sanity.

Some background: I’m not a professional writer, nor am I a professional editor. However, I do both. On a daily basis. I call myself a writer and I call myself an editor, but nine times out of ten, I don’t get paid for it. I think I’m pretty good at my job, but – as with anything – I could be better. Even in the past year I have far exceeded even my own expectations and write news stories and columns for a website, as well as edit for the same site. I even have a copyediting gig of my own that pays me, although work tends to be sporadic.

Still. If you put me up against Average Joe, I know what I’m talking about. When I freelance as an editor, I come across all sorts of writing. Money in my pocket is, well…money in my pocket, so I take what I can get. This means that “all sorts of writing” mostly translates to “bad writing.”

People who don’t know how to properly use semi-colons.

People who don’t know how to form dialogue.

People who don’t know what a comma is or think it should be placed between every other word.

These things all annoy the crap out of me. But what’s worse is the person who thinks that writing is easy. They think you just pick out some words and throw them on a page. Tell a story, slap a title at the top, and ship it off to agents and editors like it’s the next Harry Potter.

Um, no.

That’s why I said that this post is not for writers. You guys understand this. You know that literal blood, literal sweat, and literal tears go into writing a book. The time it takes to complete one when you’re first starting out is astronomical. I claim my writing “career” began in the fourth grade, but the only novel I ever finished was started in 2008. That was four years ago. It’s undergone about three revisions over the last few years and it’s still not done. And it won’t be for a while.

There are some powerhouses out there like Rick Riordan who write two books a year. That’s pretty fast, but still. Imagine working on only TWO projects in one year. You find an idea, your write it down, you tweak it, send it off, and move onto something new. That’s a heck of a turnaround time for what we do, but that’s still only two projects in a whole entire year.

And then people come up to me and say, “Yeah, I wrote a book. I’m just going to have someone edit it and then I’ll publish it.” And they self-publish and sell three copies and they have no idea why. It’s because copyediting isn’t enough. Correct punctuation and grammar isn’t enough. You need to have three-dimensional characters. You need an enticing story. A convincing villain.

You need to be an artist.

The page is our canvas. Words are our paint. The image that unfolds before us holds just as much beauty and emotion as Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus or as much horror and tragedy as Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes.

Anyone can come up with a cardstock character. But can you make them flawed, yet relatable? Can you give them strength without turning them into a robot? Can you give them a purpose to their actions? Can you make us love them?

Anyone can create a villain. But can you make them so terrifying we have trouble sleeping at night? Can you make them believable and realistic? Can you make them evil, yet human?

Not everyone can. It’s something all writers have trouble doing, even NYTBS authors. But hey, we can’t all be Michelangelo from the get-go, right?

And you know what? That’s fine. It’s better than fine, actually. There was already someone named Michelangelo that went down in the history books. There’s no point in trying to follow the same exact path. That makes you a tracer, not a painter.

So, for Average Joe I say this:

Writing is an art form. It’s hard. And no, not everyone can do it. Can you write a book? Yeah, probably. And hey, good on you for getting 60,000 words down on paper. A lot of people can’t even do that. But can you write a good book? That’s up to you. Just because the book is finished and you made a shiny cover for it in Photoshop doesn’t mean that you understand this concept of writing as art. You may be a writer, but you’re not an artist.

What do you think? Am I totally off my rocker, or is this like music to your ears? I’m sure most of you have come across someone who thinks sitting in front of your computer all day and typing is just about the easiest thing in the world. What kind of response did that get from you?

This is my third 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 previous post titled, “How to be brothers, with Sam and Dean Winchester.”

There are a lot of strong female characters in literature that, as women, we can look up to as role models. Some of the more modern ones include Katniss and Hermione, to be sure.

There are countless others, but I won’t rehash them here. Who they are and how many there are is less important than understanding how to create a character like this. Most of the time when you have a strong female character, other feminine attributes tend to get overlooked. This is especially apparent to me in Katniss – she’s definitely got female qualities, but I find them to be muted for the sake of her strength.

Of course, we can’t blame her (or Suzanne Collins for that matter). Katniss has been through a lot and she’s adapted her personality to survive. She’s a cold character, especially in the beginning of The Hunger Games. But she has to be. There’s a lot of hardship and death in her past (and her present and her future…) and her strength and introversion are a result of this.

So, how do we make a female character strong, but still compassionate and emotional? My suggestion? Study Emma Swan from Once Upon a Time.

Emma is one of my favorite characters from the show, and for good reason. She’s a totally badass character, but she’s still beautiful, feminine, and expressive. In the beginning of the first season, we see a little less of this softer side, though you can still tell right away how vulnerable she is.

In the pilot, Emma’s son (whom she gave up for adoption) comes to find her and bring her back to his hometown. He thinks there’s a curse on the town of Storybrooke and that Emma is the only one who can break it. You see her panic just a little bit. When you give up a child for adoption, you don’t exactly expect them to pop up in your life one day and beg you to follow them home.

Her immediate plan is to take him back to his adoptive mother and get the heck out of there. But she doesn’t. She sticks around and we now have the makings of a great TV show. We see her quickly fall in love with this boy that she gave up. Her motherly instincts come out (much to her surprise, I think) and she feels protective of him.

Emma’s personality doesn’t change to accommodate this strange half-mother, half-friend role she’s taken up with her son. She’s still an introvert, still walled off from the world. She doesn’t get close to many people, and even when she does she continues to be guarded.

Does that make her “strong”? Maybe. But I think her strength comes from other places. She makes tough decisions. She always tries to make the right choices, even when the opposing team is playing dirty. She’s fair and forgiving, but she also doesn’t let people take advantage of her.

And yet she’s still feminine. She’s beautiful and well-dressed. She cries, she feels. She isn’t hard or cold. She can sympathize, and that makes her stronger and that allows us to connect with her.

So, how do you make a strong female character without turning her into a robot? Give her emotions, give her feelings. Make her cry, but don’t turn her into a wimp. Don’t let people control her. Make her the type of person that falls down and gets right back up. The type of person that takes control of her own fate, no matter how intimidating that notion might be. Give her some obstacles and watch her knock them all down.

Who’s your favorite strong female character? Have you written a strong character in the past? If so, what qualities did you give her (or him!) that made them human and believable?

By the end of this week, it’ll be halfway through September. Just let that sink in for a minute. And then it’ll be October. OCTOBER. I’m a summer person myself, but I’m really, really looking forward to Halloween. Not for any particular reason (well, other than the obligated candy-eating), but just because that time of year makes me happy and I enjoy watching family-friendly Halloween movies.

This week was a busy week for me again, though not in terms of checking off goals. Just like before, I’m still pretty happy with what I got done, and I’ve got some cool things to share with you in the “Extra Stuff” section. Hope everyone is having a good September so far, even if it hasn’t been very productive.

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 At this point, I think we can just say I’m obviously avoiding this goal…
  2. Edit or write every day. 3/7 Better than last week! And yesterday I wrote ALL day. I did about 4,000 words on a Teen Wolf fanfiction that I turned in for a contest. I pretty much started it yesterday (I wanted to rewatch the second season and that took longer than I had expected) and it was due at midnight. When I finally finished at about 10:00 (yeah, PM…) I had to cut 1,000 words and edit it still. I ended up turning it in at 11:58. WHOA. But I did it. I wish I could’ve read it over again, but I’m pretty happy with the story. Please wish me luck – the winner gets to meet the creator of the show (Jeff Davis) and visit the writing room. HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE?
  3. Read one chapter every day. 0/7 Man, I really meant to finish this book this week. I’ll try to do it this time around!

FLUCTUATING GOALS

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

  1. Nothing to report here.

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. Nothing to report here either.

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 ended up having an online Hypable staff meeting yesterday that lasted for nearly three hours. It should’ve been boring and uneventful, but it just solidified my love for this team of people that happen to live all around the world (bummer). We need to work on getting offices and stationary and t-shirts ASAP.
  2. My latest column was called Battle of the archers: Who’s your favorite? It only got 20-some comments, but over 400 people voted in the poll. That’s amazing! Who would you pick as your favorite? (And it doesn’t have to be one from the list if you have a different choice!)
  3. We also recorded another episode of Onceable, Hypable’s Once Upon a Time podcast. This one is called “Fairest of them All” and we talked in depth about Snow White/Mary Margaret. I also reviewed the DVD bonus features, which I thought were really good.
  4. I’ve also been reporting on some Teen Wolf and Rick Riordan news (he wrote Percy Jackson) if you’re interested. You can check those out (and other updates) by clicking on the “Accomplishments” tab at the top of this blog.
  5. Lots of my favorite shows are starting up this month. I wish I had a DVR!!

How have YOU been doing? What’s one awesome thing you’ve accomplished this week, big or small? Are you looking forward to Halloween?

You may remember that my last mushroom foray was a little bit of a disappointment. It’s not that it wasn’t fun, just that we didn’t find too many mushrooms. The year had been dry up to that point, and that doesn’t bode well for fungi-obsessed folk.

But this foray was incredible. We found so many mushrooms, it filled two entire tables. And they weren’t small tables. I love searching for mushrooms because it’s like a treasure hunt for me. How many can I find? How many types can I fit into my basket? There’s always a little spike of excitement every time I see something I’ve never seen before.

And this foray was filled with tons of those moments!

I started the trip off right away with this beauty:

No idea what they are, but the tree was just covered in mushrooms. It was too neat not to take a picture of it.

You know what else we discovered right away? A beehive in the ground. That got our blood pumping early in the morning! It’s a good thing I can run faster than most of the other people in our group. ;)

One of my favorite finds was this cool purple mushroom. (Disclaimer: This time around we found so many mushrooms that I can’t even begin to tell you what most of them were. About 99.9% of them were inedible anyway.)

We also found tons of Russula’s. This one is a very nice specimen (don’t I sound smart!) because it was still quite young, very vibrant, and hadn’t already been partially eaten.

About the time I found this one, one of the guys from our trip showed me another mushroom. It was white and he cut it open, then told me to touch the tip of my finger to it and taste the liquid that came out of it. At first nothing happened, but a few minutes later my tongue started burning just a little bit. It tasted a bit like pepper and was just a tad spicy. That stayed with me for a good half hour at least. It was kind of neat!

It’s a wee bit blurry, but this one is called Old Man of the Woods. This is a young one, which is quite light still.

Here’s a picture of an older one that’s a bit darker.

I liked these because they were really soft and fuzzy!

We also found whole patches of Crown Coral mushrooms.

And here’s just a neat picture of two different colors of the same (?) mushroom.

Here’s a nice picture of the gills of a mushroom:

And these are some GIGANTIC puffballs. I’ve never seen them this big before! Some varieties of puffballs you can eat, but not these ones.

These are chanterelles, which is what we were really after. I didn’t find any (bummer!) but we got a nice handful here. No tasting-testing this time though, because I had to leave early. :(

I also found this crazy mushroom on a tree. No one was really sure what it was, but it was HUGE!

And Dad found these itty-bitty guys. Aren’t they cute?

One of the guys in our group found this thing. No, you’re not seeing some strange new mutation of mushroom. That’s a skull. I think it fell out, but the reason why he picked it up was because a mushroom was growing inside of it! Anyone have any idea what it could be from? They thought it was a raccoon at first, but if you look along the bottom portion, it actually has a tusk!

Wasn’t that just loads better than the last foray? I walked away feeling proud and satisfied by how much I found. And considering there were about 20 people in our group, we came backs with TONS of mushrooms. Check out these tables:

I didn’t get a picture of it, but the best part was when the president of the mycological society showed us a “blue staining mushroom.” It’s whitish-yellow on the inside for just a split second when you cut it open, but then it turns blue! I’m not even joking!! You can see it in real time in a video on YouTube right here.

Now tell me that’s not about the coolest thing you’ve ever seen?

So, what do you think? Quite the haul, right? Which one did you like best? Have you seen any of these varieties before?