Monthly Archives: August 2013

A History of My Life as Told by Books – The Early Years

I’ve wanted to do another post for a while now, but I recently caught a cold that has left me quite angry at the way my immune system is running things.  You’d think after more than twenty years of practice it would’ve gotten its act together, but no.  So here I am, kinda feeling crappy and wanting to write a blog post, so I’m going to take the easy way out.  I’m going to give you a brief history of my life using the books that I remember most fondly.  We’ll be starting, obviously, with my early childhood.

My younger years were populated with picture books like any other kid’s.  I grew up with the company of such characters as Amelia Bedelia and Aunt Isabel.

I learned to bake bread…

…well, maybe not.  I don’t think we ever did try any of the recipes included in the book, but boy did they sound tasty!  That’s got to count for something.

The most vivid memories I have are of Bill Peet’s wonderful stories, namely No Such Things and The Whingdingdilly, though How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head was later thrown into the mix.

I was a huge horse fan (as you will see in one of my next posts).  Still am.  The horse-things on the cover of No Such Things appear later in the book, and my mother used to make black-and-white copies of their pages so we could color them in with our own designs and patterns.  I’m sure she even has some of those pictures saved somewhere.

I have another memory of when I was first learning to read.  There was a picture book about two sisters that I was reading to my mom.  I don’t remember the title or even what happened in it, but I remember coming to the word “any” and guessing correctly that the “a” was pronounced like the “e” in “pet” and not like the “a” in “cat.”  Which sort of leads me to something else…

I think the point of children’s books is that you are supposed to learn a lesson from them.  And maybe I did, without even realizing it.  I certainly learned to love reading.  And maybe Stephanie’s Ponytail did teach me that I should be proud to be my own, unique self.

I don’t remember what Elizabeth and Larry taught me, but it did make me laugh.

I even read it out loud to my first grade class.  They laughed, too.

These books didn’t necessarily shape my childhood, but they were an important part of it.  I could really go on for hours about all the ones I read and loved.

Winnie the Witch taught me that you shouldn’t try to change others, and that thinking outside the box can help solve your problems…

I read my brother’s Magic School Bus books…

It took us two nights, but my mom and I loved every minute and every page of The Best Loved Doll

These books will stay with me for a long time.  And I hope to be able to read them to my own children one day.  So that maybe when they’re all grown up they can blog about it.  Or whatever futuristic equivalent they’ll have.

It makes me very happy to share these with you.  Below I am pasting some more covers of books I remember and love, just because I believe they deserve to be recognized.  If you think I left out any good ones, you should let me know.

Word of the Day: Inchoate (adj) – Not yet completed or fully developed; rudimentary.

I have some ideas for comics, but they are inchoate, and I am infirm.  So comics will resume when both of these setbacks are overcome.

P.S. Yeah, I know it wasn’t quite a history of my life, but it is a history of my literary life.  That has to count for something.

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A Short Story/Photo Essay

Before we begin, I would like to bring your attention to this: http://writerightforstudents.webstarts.com/

That link will bring you to the website of one of my friends.  The site is for students who need their papers edited.  For a very affordable rate.  Remember how I used to intern for a literary agency?  The founder of this site was a fellow intern, so I can vouch for her editorial prowess.  So if you or someone you know needs help with their essays and other such projects, give that link a click.  It will help a budding businesswoman and your life will be blessed with good fortune or something.  Probably just that first one will happen, but the law of numbers says that someone who clicks on that link will also have a life of good fortune.

Anyway!  On to this little writing project of mine.

[Begin writing project]

I buy earrings the way some people drink alcohol – often and religiously, as if each pair has the potential to save my life and cure me of all my ills.  I have so many earrings that I could probably coat my dog in them.  I tried, but he got confused after the first pair…

Radar confused

Though he eventually accepted his fate…

Radar with earrings

…I decided to stop trying.

What I get a lot from people is that I have too many earrings.  And that may be true.  Every now and then I do get rid of a few pairs.  But what people fail to understand is that almost all of my earrings have stories.  And I cherish those stories as much as the jewelry.  They hold memories, not just of the time they were purchased, but of all the subsequent times they were worn, too.  They also hold feelings – many were gifts.  I understand when a person offers me a new pair that they are saying, “I care enough about you to know that this is the only kind of jewelry you wear,” or…

“I thought of you when I saw these.”

Feather earrings

Some earrings hold memories of places I’ve been.  Even if it was just an Old Navy…

Owls

…I still remember that it was the Old Navy on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.  I went there with my two best friends and bought a pair of cute owl earrings.  Before we left, one friend lent me a shirt that I ended up keeping (with her permission, of course).  I still have it to this day, even though this was years ago.

Beyond the 3rd Street Promenade, there was the Corning Museum of Glass…

Corning

The Museum of Science and Technology (MoST) in Syracuse, New York…

MoST

Evansville, Wisconsin…

Evansville

Mexico…

Mexico

My stepmom was trying to haggle with the guy selling us these earrings.  She told him all we had was forty dollars to spend, and I stupidly corrected her, saying, “Actually we have forty-one.”  He made us pay forty-one dollars for the earrings.  I still feel guilty about that, but I also remember the cruise that got us to these earrings, the dolphin encounter where the instructor told us we could pet the dolphins, but to avoid touching their genitals.  I have a picture of me getting a “kiss” from a dolphin, my untamable hair swallowing up the over-extended hair-tie that was desperately trying to do its job.  The smile on my face was genuine.  It is one of the few pictures of myself I actually like.

There was also London…

London

And Greenwich, which is still in England but is not London.  Or maybe it is since we could take the Tube there.  Maybe London just is England.  I don’t know.

Greenwich

Granted I do buy some just because they’re pretty…

Pretty

And others just let people know what foods I like to eat…

ice cream

Other earrings are special to me because they were handmade.  Like these, which my mother made for me…

Mom-Made

One pair is special to me because it reminds me of my passion for writing by representing the subject matter of my first book…

Dreamcatchers

Sometimes I feel empowered when I wear a particular pair of earrings.  Sometimes I feel silly (but in a good way).  This pair says…

Jack Skellington

“Yes I know everyone and their mother has something with Jack Skellington’s face on it.  I don’t care.  That movie was awesome!”

No matter what the earrings say, where they came from, or how much they cost, every pair I own makes me happy.  Wearing them makes me feel beautiful.  When people say I have too many, I smile and laugh and agree, but inwardly I tell myself that these are more than just earrings.  They are memories.  Places.  People.  Feelings.  They have value to me, and I keep and wear them with that in mind.

My earrings are me.  And I love them all.

Me and earrings

[End whatever that was]

Just a short vanity piece.  It was fun to write and photograph.  I didn’t originally intend to have Radar in the last picture, but he decided he needed to be there.  The earrings I’m wearing in that picture I made myself.

That’s all!  Don’t forget to check out my friend’s website for all your essay editing needs!

Word of the Day: Indolent (adj) – Having or showing a disposition to avoid exertion; slothful

Speaking of which, while I am usually an indolent person, I actually put in the effort to draw a comic for today’s post!  Here you go:

Writer's-Block-Strip-37

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Kanji-mation

This post has nothing to do with writing.  Today I decided I wanted to practice my animating/GIF-making skills, and I thought I would do so using Japanese Kanji.  As you may recall, I am a huge fan of learning languages, so I thought I’d incorporate that into my animations.  A little background before we start: Kanji make up one of the three alphabets used in Japan (the other two are Hiragana and Katakana).  Kanji are actually borrowed from Chinese characters.  Most are drawn exactly the same and have the exact same meaning, though some have taken on different meanings and/or are drawn differently.  I’m only telling you this so you don’t think you’re learning Chinese from me.  Even if it looks like you are, you’re not.  It’s Japanese.  Anyway, enjoy!

Sun-Kanji

Sun-Kanji-Shines

Wind-and-Clouds

Rain

Flower-Kanji

Bowing-Mini-Bex

Kanji-Translations

That’s all!  Hope those were as fun to look at as they were to make.  I even have a comic and random Word of the Day for you!

Word of the Day: Fusillade (n) – 1. A simultaneous or continuous discharge of firearms.  2. A general discharge or outpouring of anything.

Writer's-Block-Strip-36

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A (not so distant) Look Back – Grotesque

Two YA novels in a row that left me disappointed.  I wrote a review about one of them.  The other one, written by Amanda Sun, is called Ink.  I am not writing a review of it because my criticisms are very similar.  In short, I don’t like this idea of female main characters both fitting the role of Damsel in Distress and falling for guys who treat them terribly.  Does anyone have a suggestion for a good YA novel?  I’d take General Fiction as well.  Let me know in the comments.

So.  Grotesque.  Want to know what it is and maybe read a chapter of it?  Click here.  Want to see how I used it to illustrate the horrors of character development?  Click here.

Now that you’re all caught up, let me talk about it a little bit.  Besides HellboundGrotesque is probably the only book I liked after I finished writing it.  To me it actually seemed worthy of being read by others.  But this was a problem in and of itself.  As I often say: It’s okay when you are your own worst critic; it’s when you’re your own biggest fan that problems start to arise.  It wasn’t until my friend Micah and I went to IHOP to discuss the book that she pointed out some ways to improve it that I would never have thought about on my own.

The biggest thing she pointed out was that Serrafiel – the Grotesque – comes to life pre-programmed with a set of morals.  He knows what’s right and wrong…

“There’s a forest just beyond the village.  Look there.  And make sure the villagers get a glimpse of you.  I want them scared.”

I feel my stomach clench as my feet begin moving to do Master’s bidding.  He wants people to fear me.  I don’t want to be feared, or seen, or hunted.  I don’t want this life, this body, this master.

He’s not at all curious about sex…

I bend my legs up and down to try and get the kinks worked out, and that’s when I notice the thing that’s dangling between them.  I raise my eyebrows at it, and then the word for it, as well as what it’s typically used for, comes to mind.  Heat rushes to my face as I look away from that part of my anatomy.  I definitely won’t be using that anytime soon.

And he understands that his master is evil, which causes him to begin rebelling the moment he’s made to do something bad…

My mind works furiously to find a way around Master’s orders.  He ordered me to be seen, but, I realize, he did not command me to make the villagers scared.  All he said was that he wanted the villagers scared.  But I could give someone a glimpse of me without scaring them.  I’d have to be fast, though.  If I’m going to draw any attention to myself, I want the people who see me to not be sure of what it is they are looking at.

What Micah pointed out to me was that, if he is so new to the world, he wouldn’t automatically know/feel all these things.  Even more importantly, his master would definitely force him to enjoy being enslaved, simply by commanding him to feel that way.  (His master’s magic binds him and forces him to obey direct orders, much like Ella from Ella Enchanted).

Now, I had my reasons.  I wanted to avoid the Frankenstein’s Monster cliche.  You know, where everyone sees a monster and immediately assumes the worst?  I wanted people to fear Serra, but learn very quickly that he is not what he seems.  Just to mess with people’s expectations for the story.  But Micah pointed out that my way of going about it was impractical, and I have to agree.  What’s more, I have to admit that a character who is a flawless hero from the very beginning of the story isn’t very interesting.  A redeemed hero is much more attention-grabbing.  If Serrafiel is made to be happy to do the wrong thing, and then finds out what he has done, his journey to seek forgiveness from himself and others would involve a much more definitive character arc.

My problem, I realized much later, was that I fell into the trap of liking my character too much.  I wanted to protect him from bad things, so I made him dodge around his master’s commands from the beginning, and I made people like him almost instantly and exclusively.

Serrafiel

In the end, I had to face that sometimes bad things have to happen.  Even if it’s hard to write.  On the plus side, changing the things I talked about above will help keep the book from being so formulaic.  As it is now, it’s kind of like: Master gives command, Serrafiel finds way around command, Serrafiel is emo about being commanded, Repeat.

I haven’t started editing yet, because I am very, very lazy.  Also this book requires a lot of knowledge about things like politics and history, which my spurious understanding of the subjects cannot accommodate.  Maybe once I’ve done my research and finished a significant portion of the editing, I’ll share an excerpt from the revision.

That’s all for now!

Word of the Day: Spurious (adj) – not genuine, authentic, or true; not from the claimed, pretended, or proper source; counterfeit.

P.S. I was too lazy to draw a comic.  Again.  Sorry.  I can promise this will happen a lot.

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Writing Wish List

I have decided that I do want to talk about Grotesque briefly (Or as briefly as I can manage.  What I’m saying is it won’t be brief), but first I wanted to get a different post out of the way.  It’s something I’ve been wanting to write for a few weeks now, and I have to admit it is more for my benefit that for my readers’.  That said, you might find it interesting.  What it is, as the title of the post suggests, is my wish list.  There are several books that I want to write, some that I even have a shaky plot for, and I’m hoping to get them written in the coming years.  What I’m going to do is share this list with you, as well as my reasons for wanting to write that particular book.  Obviously I will be excluding all the books that I have already written (including the three I have reminisced about in my last few posts) since I think I have made it clear that I want to write them.  Having written them once already.  So, let’s start.  Keep in mind that they’re not in any particular order.

1. A werewolf book – Say what you will for vampires.  They’re okay.  Hell, I’ve enjoyed some vampire novels in my time.  But none so much as werewolf novels.  Mercedes Thompson is one of my favorite fictional characters to date.  And I am a fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Raised by Wolves series as well.  Why?  Well…um….because wolves are cool?  Look, I like the idea of exploring pack-mentality that’s been forced onto people.  In a book I’ve tried to write several times over, entitled Lupine, a group of friends makes a pact that turns them into a pack of friends.  One of them suddenly becomes the Alpha and they all have to learn to reconcile their human friendship with their newfound wolf pack instincts.  I want to write that book.  As soon as I have a strong enough plot.

2. A book in which the protagonist is deaf – I have a shaky plot for this one, too.  Inspired by a dream, as so many of my books go.  A human baby girl is found on a prison-planet of sorts that is ruled by tyrannical “enforcers.”  The girl is adopted by the rebellion leader and his ragtag group of aliens who are not convicts, but descendants of convicts, treated just the same as their less-than-law-abiding ancestors by a ruling class that is no longer kept in check by an apathetic government (galactic government?  I don’t know.  I don’t usually do sci-fi).  It soon becomes apparent that the baby girl is deaf.  The book, which I’ve been calling, The Bamboo Pole, for reasons I’ll explain only if asked, would center around the deaf protagonist and her Enforcer love interest.  Why?  Because I think Sign Language is fascinating.  Not just because it is a beautiful, visual language (and that’s a HUGE part of it; I love studying language), but also because it evinces humankind’s remarkable ability to adapt.  I would want to encapsulate that in the book, but I think I’d need a Deaf consultant first.  Wouldn’t want to accidentally insult anybody, after all.  And while I’m not a huge proponent of “Write what you know,” I do feel some background knowledge (besides my stumbling grasp of basic ASL signs) would be required for a project like this.

ASL

3. A book about a writer – I have a feeling that I am not alone in saying that there is a very strong, egotistical drive within me that wishes to put my struggles and experiences as a writer into well…words.  That’s what I do best.  Or what I claim to do best anyway.  The problem is that my several attempts to write such a book have fallen flat.  Firstly, because I can never get a good plot in mind.  Secondly, because I am terrible at writing realistic fiction.  And Thirdly, as my sister once pointed out to me, a book that is cathartic for me to read and write would not necessarily interest anyone other than myself.  Not that I shouldn’t sometimes write just for myself…hmmm…maybe I’ll write a book just for myself.

Anyway, that’s where I’ll stop.  If I think of others I’ll write them in a new post.

Word of the Day: Catharsis (n) – the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.

Writer's-Block-Strip-35

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