Archives for posts with tag: writer
barbie-careers
Okay, so this is my rant for the day…
People have been ragging on Barbie since I can remember for all kinds of thing. People are acting like it’s news that she’s not anatomically proportional, but I’ve got news for you: I learned that as a kid. And now, people are protesting and petitioning the Girl Scouts to end their partnership with Barbie/Matel because of unrealistic body image issues.
I’m sorry, but enough is enough.
Have you SEEEEEEEEN the other dolls out there? If you haven’t, go image search Bratz, Monster High, Fairy Tale High, or any of the others and tell me how they’re anatomically correct. (Not to mention some of the scandalous outfits and completely anti-girl-power messages I’ve seen on some of the boxes.)
And yes, as a girl was it a sad day when I realized I would never grow Barbie’s Class A rack? Lol, sure, but if it wasn’t Barbie it would have been something else. I hit puberty in the 90s – The Land of Silicone. While I realize that some girls do get some body image issues from Barbie, I would argue that with everything else out there, a lot of those girls were probably going to get those issues anyway. The point is that they GET OVER them. Get stronger. And move on.
Which brings me to the last point of my little rant. Barbie taught me to be strong and do what I want with my life. Sure, every year you’re going to get the newest Swimsuit Barbie out, and sure, some of them are only there to fill cross-promotions with things like Spongebob or Troll dolls (back in the day), but Barbie also does a TON of other things. Growing up I watched Barbie be a teacher, lawyer, equestrian, paratrooper, ambassador, firefighter, astronaut, chef, photographer, politician, screenwriter, cheerleader, and of course, princess. She did all kinds of amazing jobs that weren’t just “girl jobs” and taught me that I could be those things, too. When I wanted to be a zoologist, I remember seeing Barbie be one. Now that I’m working on becoming a published author, I can think back on those days I played with Barbie and two dozen of her friends with my sister and our friend A.J. Just ask Rachel – we did NOT play normal games. Barbie to Ken ration in our house was like 5 to 1, so Ken usually played twins or triplets, with all sorts of awkward misunderstandings in between. There were earthquakes, floods, relationship dramas, friendships, and (my favorite) bridges going out and leaving the hot pink limo suspended so that everyone had to climb across the car to safety. (Not everyone made it on those times. We had many casualties!) Looking back now I can safely say that some of my best training for creativity that has lasted into adulthood was not just the books my mom was constantly buying for us, but sitting secluded in our shared room, working out amazing (if completely unrealistic and drama-filled) stories for our Barbies to go through. While I have no problem with the desire for the existence of a more realistic-looking doll, I don’t think that pressuring the Girl Scouts into NOT joining with Barbie to yes, cross promote, but also encourage girls into a completely worthwhile organization is the way to fix anything. (And yes, I was a Girl Scout, too. All the way up to 4th grade.)
Thus concludes my rant. Thank you for your time 🙂
barbie

 

So turns out, I read a lot of books in 2013.  I mean a LOT.  62 in fact, according to Goodreads.  So what else is there to do but do a Top Ten list of my favorite reads of 2013?

Nothing, that’s what 🙂

So, without further adieu:

My Top 10 Reads of 2013 (in no particular order)

1.Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender

353 pages

Reminded me of: The Uninvited (movie)

6 bad girls don't die

So this is one of those books that I put off reading for a long time.  I picked it up over and over at the book store, but for some reason it just never clicked enough for me to buy it.  But then I saw this:

I know I’ve mentioned this book trailer before, but it really is a piece of greatness, and also pretty effective since it got me convinced to finally give this series a go.

The thing is, I don’t normally do ghost stories.  A lot of time they’re just not that great and they don’t pull off what a good ghost story is supposed to do: scare you!  But this one…man this one pulled it off.  Creepy backstories, possessions, scary freaking dolls…this book is like reading a good scary movie.  Actually gave me chills and I already picked up the next one! 🙂

“I’m a giant pimple on the face of humanity.”

2. By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

225 pages

Reminded me of: Thriteen Reasons Why by James Asher, After by Amy Efaw

6 by the time you read this i'll be deadThis is another one I’ve seen floating around for a while, but I’ve never been able to find it at Half Price (with an addiction like mine, you can’t afford to pay full price for every book you want to read).

This book tells the story of a girl who, after several failed suicide attempts, has found a website for “completers”.  She signs up to follow their plan, giving her less than a month to work through any doubts she might have to finally seal the deal.  Only now, of all times, someone is reaching out to her, trying to find their way inside her severely damaged and well-built shell.  A relatively quick read, I wouldn’t suggest this one if you’re squeamish on bullying issues or, obviously, suicide.  It was definitely blunt and a bit harsh about both issues.  I felt like the story was incredibly well done, and that the potential love-interest was awesome in that he wasn’t a typical book-boyfriend.  He challenges Daelyn in ways that are so perfect and yet completely dorky all at the same time.

“Everything seems to be working.” Except me. I’m broken.”

3. Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

336 pages

Reminded me of: The Hourglass Door Trilogy by Lisa Mangum, The Witches by Roald, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (in a good way!)

6 darker stillOkay, so this one was definitely my guilty pleasure book of the bunch.  One, it’s got a boy trapped in a painting, the idea of which has freaked me out ever since watching the movie adaptation of The Witches when I was a kid.  That, and you have some mystical, passionate romance going on with awesome gowns and a hunky, troubled boy.  I mean, who doesn’t love that??  Really, it’s not THE most amazing book ever, but if you like paranormal romance, the heat in this one will bump it up a while star level on your own personal scale.  Trust me 😉

“I was in love. With a two-dimensional object. A mute in love with a painting. Lovely. Just lovely.”

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth

501 pages

Reminded me of: Twilight and The Hunger Games (This series is the next big thing in YA movie adaptations unless they screw it up!)

6 Divergent_16So yes, I finally broke down and got around to reading this book, and of course I loved it.  Still haven’t made my way into the sequel, mostly because I’ve been reading other things, but a little bit because I’m still scared of how this series will end.  Too many people were NOT happy with it.  That said, the first book was fast-paced, intense, unique, had GREAT sexual tension and adventure.  And I have to say, unlike Harry Potter where you read it and most people immediately lean towards Gryffindor because that’s where your main character lives, this book almost immediately made me say no.  No.  I will NOT be Dauntless.  I like to NOT jump off of buildings and get beat up, thanks! 🙂

“Peter would probably throw a party if I stopped breathing.”

“Well,” he says, ‘I would only go if there was cake.”

5. My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

319 pages

Reminded me of: Prom Dates From Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore, Beastly (movie.  Haven’t read the book yet.)6 my fair godmotherFirst of all, I LOVE stories where a superficial character gets the chance to make something more of themselves.  So many of the YA books (especially paranormal) are about the deep, misunderstood, loner outcast.  I love a good story where someone who’s never had to try that hard in life gets the opportunity to become something more and then takes it.  That is Savannah.  It may not be easy going the whole way, but it’s worth it to ride to the end.

Besides wonderful ways in which the title works as a double entendre (Chrissy isn’t a wonderful fairy godmother, just a fair one.), this book is absolutely hilarious.  Don’t believe me?  Have a couple of quotes:

“Adults are constantly telling teenagers that it’s what’s on the inside that matters. It’s always painful to find out that adults have lied to you.”

or “Aren’t fairy godmothers supposed to be nice and make you feel better about yourself?
She rolled her eyes.  “No, you’re confusing fairy godmothers with sales clerks.”

And finally: “…elves who write the memoirs of teenage girls have the unfortunate habit of returning to the magical realm with atrocious grammar….and for no apparent reason occasionally call out the name Edward Cullen.”

See?  Fun and quirky 🙂

6. Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore

322 pages

Reminded me of: My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison, Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

6 prom dates from hellAs I’ve mentioned before, the reason I finally got around to picking up this book is that the author was coming to our Teen Writing group at the library and I wanted to read something of hers before she got there.

And again, I absolutely loved it and should have started this series a long time ago!  Maggie Quinn is one of the most entertaining, sarcastic characters you’ll ever meet.  I seriously don’t think I’ve laughed as much over a fictional character since reading Percy Jackson.  The story moves at just the right pace, and has just the right amount of action.

“My major vice is sarcasm with a side of caffeine addiction.”

7. The Dead by Charlie Higson

484 pages

Reminded me of: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, Everlost by Neal Shusterman

6 the deadSo I love every book in this entire series, but the only reason I’m picking this one over the others is that it was the first one I read (even though it is the 2nd in the series.)  Also, this one is the first book I’ve read in a long time that reminds me of Everlost, which has become perhaps my favorite YA book of all time.

The series follows groups of  kids around London as they fight off a zombie plague that has hit only those 16 and older.  The books also layer in interesting ways, some happening right before or right after the ending of the previous book.  The series is also an example of head-hopping done right, with the audience getting to experience the story for all different sides, which makes the action scenes (which happen a lot!) that much more dramatic, and makes things that much more shocking when one of the kids dies (which also happens a lot).

And if you’re not a big fan of gore in your zombie books, this one is a good choice, because even in the gross parts you can generally skip to the next paragraph and you’ve missed absolutely nothing but the gross stuff 😉

“Even after everything that happens, when the whole world changes forever, when everyone knows that the video wasn’t a hoax but the start of something terrible, people remember the Scared Kid. His poor frightened little face.

It’s like the last thing everyone saw before the lights went out.”

8. The Selection by Kiera Cass

352 pages

Reminded me of: I think the blurb on the book does it best: It’s the Bachelor meets The Hunger Games. (Even though I don’t watch the Bachelor…)

6 the selectionSo I’m a little annoyed at my friend for getting me interested in a series that hasn’t freaking completed yet!  Now I’m sitting around, like thousands of others, waiting for The One to come out so I can finally see how this thing turns out!!

The reality TV aspect of a search for a princess was a neat twist to your classic love triangle story.  Now you’ve got a girl that’s trying to compete for a prince that she’s not even that interested in.  And while you want to hate Prince Maxon for some of the shenanigans going on around the castle, you also have to remember that the poor kid is learning how to date for the first time on national television.  No pressure!

Also the awkward moments and misunderstandings in this series are just generally funnier and better written than most that you run into in these YA romances.  Definitely a good read, but I’d understand if you want to wait until the last one comes out.  Heck, maybe things will finally work out with the CW and they stinking pick up the pilot for this series! (They’ve turned two pilots down so far…)

“I hit your thigh!”
“Oh, please. A man doesn’t need that long to recover from a knee to the thigh.”

9. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

242 pages

Reminded me of: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

6 the statistical probability of love at first sightNow, while I may want to kill my special friend for getting me interested in The Selection, I guess I’ll have to thank her for getting me hooked on this lovely little stand-alone.

Honestly I almost never read contemporary YA.  If it’s just a book about how to find a boyfriend or what snarky things the group of mean girls is doing at school, I’m probably not interested. (Honestly, the only thing to get me interested in a Sarah Dessen book was listening to her talk about how the boyfriend in Dreamland starts beating on his girlfriend and I went, “Ooh…I should read that!)  But with this book it’s not just a love story about a boy and girl who meet on a plane, it’s also about both of them coming to grips with incredibly difficult father issues, and learning what it means to make mature decisions about your own life.  I mean, Hadley’s on her way to be a bridesmaid for the woman that was her dad’s mistress and is about to be his wife.  Can you blame her for being grumpy and not wanting to go???

Really touching and poignant.  Good, fast read!

“It’s one thing to run away when someone’s chasing you. It’s entirely another to be running all alone.”

10. Variant by Robison Wells

400 pages

Reminded me of: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Pulse by Patrick Carman

6 variantAh, Variant.  Can you say “Holy freaking plot twist, Batman?!?!?!?!”  Seriously, I can’t even begin to describe to you how awesome this plot twist is and I can’t tell you about it or it will ruin everything.  It’s like when I had to convince my friend to read Catching Fire because the games were the only part of The Hunger Games that she even liked!  I had to just promise her that the plot twist in the middle would make it all worth it.

Trust me, this one’s worth getting to.

So this one’s (initially) about a boy selected to go to a super-cool private school, even though he’s a nobody foster kid.  Except, oh wait, there’s no adults here and everyone’s trapped upon penalty of death.  Oops.  Did we forget to mention that in the brochure?  Now Benson has to navigate your typical high school cliques, with the added bonus that if you make a wrong move you might end up in detention…where you die.  No biggie, right?  Then, and oh my freaking goodness, there’s a huge plot twist and everything gets turned on it’s head!  Ahhhh!  Read it and we’ll discuss! 🙂

” ‘This isn’t one of those scare-you-straight schools, is it?’ I asked Ms. Vaughn, as we passed through the heavy chain-link gate. ”

And of course I can’t JUST do 10 books!  I did reread a few books this year, but my favorite that I reread was:

Everlost by Neal Shusterman

340 pages

Reminded me of: The Dead by Charlie Higson, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

6 everlost-coverOkay, so I won’t go on and on and on and on and on about this book, even though you know I could.  But this year I decided to reread this book and I’m seriously glad I did.  Not only did I get to meet the author of said book in person (EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!), but it also solidified in my mind a question.

One of the author panels at the Austin Teen Book Festival asked this question:  If you could be any character in YA, who would you be and why?  Of course there was a Hermione in there and a couple more interesting ones, but as I sat there thinking about it I realized, I actually had an answer for that one. I actually had an all-time favorite female character of my very own:

Ally the Outcast.
Seriously.  I love her spunk, I love that she doesn’t take the partyline for an answer, and I love that she knows right off the bat that Mary Queen of Snots is not to be trusted.

This is a clever and fascinating story of children trapped as ghosts, and it offers explanations from every thing to what happened to the Twin Towers when they fell to why you see ghost repeating the same actions all the time.  If I’m lucky, someday I’ll write something as awesome as this 😉

“And next to Allie, the screamer, once more reminded of his job, began to wail in Allie’s ear. Reflexively Allie clapped her hand over his mouth. “That,” she said, “is totally uncalled for. Don’t do that again. Ever.” The screamer looked at her with worried eyes. “Are we clear on this subject?” said Allie. The screamer nodded and she removed her hand.
“Can I scream a little?” he asked.
“No,” said Allie. “Your screaming days are over.”
“Darn.” And he was quiet thereafter.”

And, since all of these so far have been Young Adult books (I know, shocker), here’s my favorite adult book read this year:

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

290 pages

Reminded me of: The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy, Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

6 brain on fireThis book is the true story of a girl that went from being relatively average and normal, to acting like a schizophrenic, to a practical waking coma all in the course of a month.  And the bizarre thing is that Susannah Cahalan doesn’t remember any of it.  She’s had to piece things together from friends and family, doctors, and tapes of her in the hospital, recording her outbursts and randomness for Susannah to uncover later, like an archeologist discovering bits of someone else’s life.  Really a fascinating read, and a little scary to tell you the truth.  You never know when your health might utterly fail you, and this book definitely makes you think about it.

“Someone once asked, “If you could take it all back, would you?”
At the time I didn’t know. Now I do. I wouldn’t take that terrible experience back for anything in the world. Too much light has come out of my darkness.”

IMG_3893

When my family moved from our home in base housing in Nebraska to a tiny, old town on the edge of the Texas/Oklahoma border, I was not the happiest kid.  Though military family are known for for their constant moves across the country and even across the world, my family had lived in the yellow duplex for over four years, and moving from a place of vibrant seasons and ridiculous snowfalls to a place of pale greens and browns and ice storms was not my ideal.  But over the years, I’ve definitely changed my mind, and I love to call the South my home.yes4

There are any number of reasons I can list for you as to why I love the south.  Southern cooking, warmer winters (usually), Southern hospitality (which can also border on nosiness), and believe it or not, I even love the hot, humid summers! (As long as you have A/C to retreat into!)

But the other day I was reminded of something else I love about living in Texas: Southern black women.  More specifically, older Southern black women.  Here’s what happened:

We’d made a stop at B&N for Black Friday to pick up The 5th Wave (for less than $10!!) and I had to run and make a bathroom stop.  While taking care of business, I heard the following conversation between and younger woman (whom I never actually saw) and an awesome older black woman (who I did see upon leaving):

Young Woman(sounding very flustered): Oh!  I’m sorry!  So sorry!

Awesome Older Black Woman: That’s all right, sweetie!

YW: I’m sorry, I just needed to come in here to check myself.  I’m really nervous!

AOBW(sympathetically):Why?

YW(sounding terrified): It’s my first date, and I’m really nervous about it!

AOBW: Oh, honey, don’t be nervous!  You look great!

YW(a little more relieved):  Thanks.  It’s just…it’s my first date…ever.  This is the first date I’ve ever been on I’m really scared about it!

AOBW(amazed): Don’t be scared!  You’re gonna do great!

YW(reapeatedly): Thank you, thank you…

AOBW: There ain’t nothing to be worried about honey!  You look good and you’re going to have a great time!  Don’t worry about a thing, baby!

YW(sounding much more confident than when she entered):Thank you so much!  Seriously. Thank you.

By the time I got out to wash my hands, Date Girl was already gone and the AOBW was there, smiling away at me.  I won’t lie, I had a little bit of tears in my eyes.  And yes, I do tear up at the most minute of things sometimes (you do NOT want to see me watching the end of Meet the Robinsons or Lilo & Stitch!), but really this little act of kindness made my Black Friday a little brighter and sweeter, even though this didn’t happen to me.  I left saying a small prayer for that poor nervous girl luck, that her first date ever might go better than most, even if nothing ever comes of it.  I’ll never know her name or what she looked like, but I hope everything went okay for her.

One day, about ten years ago, this AOBW that I worked with at the mall, suggested the radical idea to me that maybe I didn’t have to focus just on Biology as a major, and that since I had an interest in writing, I should probably pursue that, too.  Now at the time, I was thinking more along the lines of Journalism – I didn’t think I had the creative skill or dedication to do fictional writing.  Now here I am, working out the story for my 3rd (unpublished) novel, shopping for agents for the first, and waiting on the 2nd to finish marinating in its first-draftiness so that I can pull it back out and work on the next round.  I volunteer with the local library’s Night Owls Teen Writing Group, helping teenagers to explore the joy of creative writing, and really learning scads from them on how not to put limits on your own creativity, that when you get a “create your own fictional religion” assignment, it’s much more fun to think up an epic, heavenly battle between the Waffle God and the rebellious Pancakes than the idea I came up with.

Whenever I think of that AOBW I worked with, who helped set me on the right path more than she will ever know, I say a little prayer for her, too.  Like so many coworkers of days gone by, I cannot remember her name, but I’m grateful to her and her Southern Hospitality, and that little bit of pushiness to convince me to get over my own insecurities and just enjoys things instead.  So to all the Awesome, Older, Southern Black Women out there, I say you rock, and God bless 🙂

IMAG0240

So I psyched myself up and went to go see Sea of Monsters this weekend…

First of all, let me explain.  The reason I had to “psych myself up” in the first place, is that the first Percy Jackson movie was just So. Dang. BAD.  Seriously, I am not a fan.  And it’s not that i don’t love the books!  I do!  In fact, my best friend and my non-boyfriend (now husband) all read the first one together on a road trip, and to keep up with tradition, we still read Rick Riordan books whenever we’re headed out of town.  In fact, I’m looking forward to House of Hades coming out in October, partly so that we’ll have something to read on our anniversary trip!  (Finally almost done with Mark of Athena!)

HOUSE OF HADES_Cover Final

Also, let me tell you that I am NOT one of those people who can’t accept that the movie is going to be different than the book.  Hello?  Film major here!  But even varying greatly from the book isn’t an excuse to make a bad movie.  It just isn’t.  As book lover we all love to say that the book is better than the movie, but that’s not always true.  In New Moon they fixed my biggest problem with Jacob by leaving out his Emo “kiss me or I’ll let myself die” speech.  (Sorry, girls, but any boy that tries to force you into a romantic encounter in order to prevent their suicide isn’t worth your time.  Or a romantic.  Or someone you should continue to associate with at all…)  Or, in Stardust, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman (who I LOVE), I actually like parts of the movie version better.  In the book, Yvainne doesn’t meet up with the witches until the very, very end of the story.  I like that she’s got something scary to run from in the movie.  It makes things more intense.

stardust

Ooh!  Or what about all the songs about bathing or Tom Bombadil that we cut from Tolkien?  I could have done without those in reading the books…

But The Lightning Theif was just BAD.  There were parts of it I liked, sure, but as the discrepancies kept adding up, and the film problems kept mounting, I think I hit my final roadblock when creepy Persephone started hitting on Grover.  Ew.  Just ew.

And you KNOW a kids’ movie has missed the mark when the 9 yr old girl behind you suddenly says “No, Mom, I’m sorry.  But this is not like the book at ALL!”  Kids should just be impressed that the book character has come to life in a magical way.  If you miss that, then you fail.

And if you’re one of the people that loved the first movie, then I apologize.  Like what you want.  I’ll watch Twilight or the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie any day of the week for some good campy fun, and I can attest that there is such a thing as a good bad movie.  But for me, this one just wasn’t it…

buffy

So, needless to say, I was a little nervous about seeing this one.  In fact, my husband refused to go see it with us.  I think he was almost convinced until he saw the Mist turned into a spray in the trailer and then he checked out again.  But like I said, I’m willing to let a certain amount go…  Plus, Nathan Fillion AND Anthony Head AND Stanly Tucci…I’m willing to give it a shot.

All that said, Sea of Monsters was WAAAAAAAY better than the first one!  Anthony Head makes a great Chiron.  Tucci is great as always.  As is Nathan Fillion.  Leven Rambin (who you might recognize from playing Glimmer in Hunger Games) made an EXCELLENT Clarisse.  Seriously, I was routing for her even when she was up against Percy.  She’s pretty freaking awesome.  Plus after The Host, I have to say that I now have a deeper love of  Jake Abel (oh, and did I mention that I met him in person and got an autographed poster of that movie and how super nice he was? 🙂  )

sea of monsters

In this one, the special effects better.  The storyline is truer to the original work.  And it’s FUNNY.  They did a lot to make sure to bring the funny in this one and it paid off.  And sure, they had to change some things, like making the prophecy say “reach the age of 20” because, let’s face it, these actors were already way too old to be pulling off 14 yr olds in the first one, but you could really feel them trying to fix some of the mistakes made in the first movie, so much props there.

sea of monsters clarisse

But the relationship Percy and Tyson develop is great, and really makes Percy have to change his way of looking at things.  He also provides a great way of Annabeth to grow and change as well (just like she did in the books).

sea

So, if like me, you were a bit disheartened by the first movie, you should definitely go and see this one.  It’s much better.  I know I’m making the hubby see it now.  AND it appears that they’re trying to make the rest of the 3 books into movies as well (which they really should have been trying to do in the first place).  So yes, I say you should see this one, it’s a fun adaptation, and good even if you haven’t read all the books.  Though, I must say, if you’re a Rick Riordan fan and you aren’t following him on Twitter (or Facebook) you totally should.  He’s on their regularly, responding to fans, and you get fun insights, updates, news stories that relate to his books, and fun little tidbits like this:

RT: Christ4Everyone 13 Aug

My wife with our daughters, Thalia & Annabeth. Thanks @camphalfblood for giving us such beautiful and unique names.

rick

 

How cute is that???  And GREAT characters to name your girls after.  Strong, intelligent, fierce… I love it!  So follow him @camphalfblood .  For serious.

 

And one last thing before I let you go…if you like reading YA or love stories at all, you should totally check out The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith.  Seriously.  It’s awesome.

statisticalAnd this is coming from a person that does not read straight contemporary YA romance…like ever.  Generally there needs to be some kind of mystical, fantastical, post-apocalyptic element in there for me to get really into a YA romance.  This one I finished in two days and just devoured it.  it’s a boy and girl who meet on a plane while the girl in on her way to her father’s wedding….to the woman he had an affair with to break up their family in the first place.  There’s just something compelling about Hadley and her issues with her dad, and the sweet (did I mention British) Oliver and their intense, sudden connection that makes you hope desperately for Fate to keep intervening on their behalf.  Haven’t we all had one of those “You’re Beautiful” moments where we meet a person in passing, and are left wondering “What if?” as soon as the moment is gone?  Seriously, check out this book.  It’s pretty darn good.

First of all, can I just say that I am going to see Much Ado tomorrow and that I’m super excited?  Yeah for Joss Whedon and yeah for him always bringing back the actors we love.  Smiles! 🙂

la_ca_0522_much_ado_about_nothing

So, as I have mentioned before, I do some volunteer work with the library, specifically with the library’s teen programs – the theater group and the writing group.  Now usually when I go to the writing group I try and participate with whatever the challenge is because I think it’s good practice, and if someone needs help I can better relate because hey, I had to write from the weirdo/difficult/magical prompt, too!  So we write for about 20-30 minutes and then the teens all share.  (I generally don’t just because it really is supposed to be a group about them, not me.  Also, on the weeks when we have like 15 students, we really don’t have the time.)  But!  In the last couple weeks I’ve really enjoyed the prompts we’ve had and since I haven’t gotten to share my results with the group, I figured I’d share them with you nice people 🙂

So…here’s the prompt from last night…

And here is my story….

BEING HUMAN

Pedro sighed.  Being human wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

From the day he’d hatched he’d never been like the other birds.  While they flew and chirped and caught bugs, Pedro hung out downtown and watched the humans.  Sure, there were other pigeons there, and sure, they’d eat whatever human food fell their way, but when night came and the streetlights flickered to life, the others all went home.

But not Pedro.

Pedro was fascinated by humans: the way they walked, their hands, their cars and clothes.  All he ever wanted to do was be a human.

And so, each night, Pedro visited the windows of the local hospital, peering in at the sick and newborn and dying, and wishing for just a piece of their hidden lives.

That was how he’d first met Frank.

Frank was pushing 40 and hopelessly miserable about his life.  Confined to a bed in the psych ward after his 3rd failed suicide attempt, Frank spent his days staring out the window and dreaming.

Pedro liked Frank.  He had fun hair that looked like a nest, and he always kept his TV on at night, illuminating the room and giving Pedro a window within a window to spy on countless human experiences.

So Pedro came by often.

At first the staff had discouraged Pedro’s visits, setting out poisons and banging on windows.  But once they saw the effect Pedro had on Frank, that Frank had taken an interest in something, they encouraged Pedro’s visits, and even allowed Frank to leave bits of bread and seeds on his windowsill.

Then came the day Frank had been dreading: the day when Frank would have to leave his bed, and Pedro, and go back home to his nothing life and his nothing apartment.

He didn’t want to go.

As he sat with Pedro, shoving bits of stale cornbread through the opening in his window, he wished he had the freedom of a bird, to just fly away and never come back.

If only he could just go.

Little did he know that at that same moment Pedro, the human-obsessed pigeon, was making the exact opposite wish, just has he did every night he visited Frank.

The thing that happened next almost kept Frank, or at least his body, from leaving the psych ward for a very, very long time.  Luckily for Pedro, he’d retained enough of Frank’s memories to play off his initial freakout as a bad reaction to a crazy dream.

And oh what a dream it had been.

At first.

Pedro didn’t understand these humans.  Not like he’d thought he did.  They didn’t like it when you went through their trash, to help spruce up your home.  They called the authorities when you followed them home, just to watch what they did at night.  They gave you strange looks when you snatched fallen food from the ground, even if they weren’t going to eat it themselves.

Pedro sat now, alone on the bench, watching a lone pigeon peck the ground at his feet.  Could that be Frank? he wondered, as he did every time he saw one of his former brethren.  A tear fell behind the reflective sunshield of his brand-new space suit.  He’d thought it’d make him friends.  The astronauts on TV always looked so interesting.  Plus they got to fly.  Pedro missed that more than he’d expected.

He thought he understood now Frank’s depression, and why he’d wanted to leave this life behind.  He wondered if he’d have the courage to do it himself.  He doubted it.

Pedro took a shuddering breath and prepared himself to go.

Just then, a frazzled mother passed, dragging a sticky toddler behind her.  As the mother stopped to answer her phone, the rosy-cheeked tot stopped and stared at Pedro.

Pedro braced himself.  He’d gotten used to the judgmental taunts and stares.

“I like your shiny helmet.  It’s pretty.”

Pedro sat up, his head darting from side to side.  Had she just said something nice to him?  His human memories told him she had.

“Here,” said the girl, handing him her half-eaten sucker.  “You want some?”

Pedro nodded, his face beaming behind the mask of his shiny helmet.

The mother finished her call, and yanked the toddler behind her once again.  “Bye-bye, Mr. Space Man,” the child called as she disappeared around the corner, her tiny fingers waving.  Pedro had just enough time to raise his hand before she vanished out of sight.

Pedro started back towards home, the stick of his watermelon lollipop bumping against the inside of his helmet.  Maybe, he thought, I could get the hang of the human thing after all.

Tadaaaaa!  Hope you enjoyed it!  I really considered letting this one end on a negative note, but I just couldn’t do that to poor, miserable Pedro.  He just seemed so sad!

Oh, and if you’re looking for a puppy update, Dyson and Lizzie are getting along better and better, though they’re still nowhere close to being best friends.  Lizzie’s just to full of squiggles for Dyson to tolerate for long.  But hey!  I’ll take all the baby steps I can get!

I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere between putting pen to paper 5 years ago (has it really been that long???) and these last few weeks, I’ve started to actually feel like a writer.  My first story, Journey to Chimera, I started sometime before 2008.  I don’t remember when exactly – I didn’t put enough dates or year listings in my notes then.  But sometime around then I got the initial idea for the story.   It stayed floating around in my head for a while until I finally decided that I needed to start working on…something.  I had 3 different stories I wanted to work on, and really I had started off with another one.  But this one kept pushing its way through, demanding to be told first.  So I let it.

It started with forcing myself to write, every single day, no matter what happened.  I pushed myself to keep writing more and more everyday until I finally found my rhythm.   And so I wrote.  And wrote and wrote and wrote.  I think I worked on the groundwork for the story for over a year.  I worked on it until I couldn’t legitimately find a reason to put off starting the actual book anymore.

I remember that first day I started writing.  It was a little bit terrifying.  Who was I to write a book?  How did I know it would be good to anyone else but me?  Oh my gosh, this thing is turning out to be waaaaaay to long!

And then, somewhere along the way, somewhere between Draft 1 and Draft Whatever-number-this-is, I’ve come to feel like the thing is actually completed.  Sure, there’s more touch-ups to do here and there, and my dad hasn’t finished reading it all yet (6 more chapters to go!), but I think when I hit the point where I started researching what it would take to get a real, live editor, that’s when it finally hit me – I am allowed to be a writer.  Because whether anyone else agrees or not, that’s what I am.

IMG_3702

So today I’m working on a story that originally started out as a short story, but quickly turned itself into a short novel.  No, that’s not true.  It started as a scrap picture from a high school dance my sister went to several years ago.  I carried the tale around in my head for a while, but never got around to actually writing it down. It doesn’t end well.  I figured for a first novel I might go with something a little more traditional, and then work up to this one.  That is if you call a story about Elves, Sasquatch, and gypsies typical.  (Which I do.)

Once I sat down to start writing this one, though, it decided all on its own that it wanted to be a longer story.  So I’m thinking, once finished, it could be one of those nice 200-250 pg novels you pick up and read through in a couple of days.  But we’ll see.  My plans for length often end up far short of the finished product.

So today when I was writing it I started to do some research for the thing the mystical woman could give to the troubled teen, to help him out along the way.  But it needed to be symbolic, even if you never bothered to look up the symbolism.  Well, after searching for a while and not finding anything, I finally stumbled across a whole new angle for my mystic.  It’s good, and I like it, but once again I have the same problem staring me in the face: how much is too much to reveal?

On the one hand, I write Young Adult Fiction.  Younger readers are not stupid, by any means, but they’re definitely not as well versed in mythology and ancient literature.  So I could afford to be a bit more obvious, and assume that while some of the clues will be missed, the easier ones will be picked up on.

On the other hand, I’m the kind of writer who never likes to give anything away.  I don’t like to tell you what I’m working on while I’m working on it (you’ll notice I gave very few details here), and I don’t want the layering to be too obvious.  Obvious is easy.  Better to be too deep than to be too easy.  (Remember this girls, it will be on the final exam!)

Then again, if it’s only going to be a 200 page book, how much subterfuge do I really need?  Especially when the mystic isn’t the point of the story, the kid is.  She’s more of a secondary character.  So I guess I could afford to be a little more open, right?  Probably.  Besides, it isn’t like the mythology I’m referencing is one of the most commonly used ones, so I’ll probably be fine.  Then again, I’ll let you know whenever I get around to the second draft.  As Hemingway once so eloquently put it: The first draft of anything is s***.