the cutest blog on the block

Friday, December 30, 2011

Gosh DARN It!

You realize what this means, people? 

It means I am going to have READ the dang book, WATCH the dang movie, and possibly develop another ridiculous book obsession. 

I hate that I am so easily swayed by a song from one of my favorite artists.  

Over & Out,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Day After (...Or Two)

Two days after Christmas and now I choose to update??!!

Wow, I'm lame.

Anyways--great news, wonderful news, fantastic news, absolutely awesome and amazing news!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I HAVE A NEW LAPTOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After four years of struggling with my old one, which I've had since I was twelve, which is now sort of the family hand-me-down (though I wouldn't wish it on anyone), which by today's standards is like using a horseless carriage, or being powered by steam or coal, I write this entry on a beautiful, shiny new Acer laptop. My sweet girl handles like a dream, she does.

Did I just call my laptop a girl? Even though I've never understood that practice and I've always teased my brother Aaron about calling his laptop 'girl'?

Why yes. Yes, I did. And I totally get it now, even though I still think it's a little weird.

My mom and dad, who are the BEST parents in the history of parents, surprised me with this one for Christmas on Sunday. I totally and completely didn't even see it coming; all I saw on Christmas morning after coming home from church was a large wrapped package sitting away from the general debris. My brothers were handing envelopes in wrapped paper, which turned out to be the order forms for their new laptops, since they do need them. I was happy for them, of course, though I do remember thinking, "Okay, well, now that they have new laptops, maybe I'll get one of their old ones." It wasn't the brand new, shiny laptop I originally had in mind, but I figured, Okay, I can still work with that.

Then my mom said the mysterious wrapped package was me.

I had a thought in my mind, Oh, maybe it's a new laptop, but I dismissed it almost immediately. I knew I was getting a new laptop in the spring. That's what I was saving up for. I thought it was a new pair of boots. A very tall, heavy pair of boots, but I was okay with that too.

Then I started unwrapping it.

I saw the brown box first, with the words Acer on the side. I knew Acer was the same people who made my old laptop, but it didn't really register in my mind. It was like my brain was saying to my eyes, "I know that word, I know what it means, but it couldn't be, could it? Could it?" 

It was.

I screamed then, one sharp, short sound of joy and hysteria combined, ear-splitting enough to make Aaron protest, "Woman!" from the other side of the room. Then I started crying. Full on tears of joy were shed in my family's living room, my hand over my mouth and shoulders heaving. I kept saying over and over again, "You didn't? ...You did! You did, you did, you did..." like a broken record. It must've been five whole minutes before I could compose myself enough to lunge across the room and lock my father in a hug, sobbing and saying, "Thank you...thank you...thank you..."

Like I said: Best parents in the history of parents.

My cup runneth over that day, because of the generosity, the love, the blessings that my parents shared with us. And also more importantly, because of the blessings God has given to us, last year and this year. Two days after the fact and I still can't believe this beautiful machine is mine.

We're gonna catch fire, my girl and me. Just watch us run.

Over & Out,

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pretty Things and Lovely Pictures

I. Have. REVIEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you libraries who provide the books I desperately want to read, but am too lazy (or too cheap, take your pick) to buy for myself. But think of it as a way to discern if I really want to the book, or am I just seduced by a pretty cover.

The being seduced by a pretty cover bit is more likely. And do I commit that worse of childhood sins by, in fact, judging a book by it's cover? Yes. Yes, I do. I am not in the least bit ashamed. Ha-ha!

Anyways. Moving on. So, first up on the review docket is a book I've heard some really great things about, from critics and other published authors. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, is her debut novel and what a debut it is. The Night Circus takes place through the 19th to the early 20th century, all around the world. It's main setting is Le Cirque des Rêves or the Circus of Dreams, a name that suits it perfectly. It's fantastical circus where the kind of beauty you only dreamed of exists, and as you read the book, you find yourself wishing that it did in the real world, just so you could see it for yourself. The story centers around two young magicians, real magicians, Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair. They have been trained since childhood for a mysterious and fierce competition, Celia under her careless, sometimes cruel magician father, and Marco under an enigmatic man in a gray suit. Despite being competing against each other, Celia and Marco eventually fall in love, with Le Cirque des Rêves being the backdrop. 

As I read the book (devoured it, really), I kept thinking of one of my dearest friends, Jamie. I kept thinking, Jamie would love this book. The kind of beauty and elegance that exists in The Night Circus is exactly the kind she and I could spend hours gazing at, simply marveling. And I'm pretty sure the costumes and the acts described within it would send her into raptures too, if she were to see them exist in real time. Ms. Morgenstern write the story like a fairy tale, like a myth, like Shakespeare (and that is the highest compliment I can give anyone whose works I read). I kept skimming back through the pages, reading beautiful descriptions over and over. So, anyone who wants to get me a Christmas gift? The Night Circus is at the top. 

My next review is a children's book, the debut novel of William Joyce, best known for the Rolie Polie Olie animated series, Dinosaur Bob and Meet the Robinsons: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King. In this work Joyce, along with Laura Geringer, take on what he calls the Guardians of Childhood, those mythic and elusive figures that only children can believe in, and maybe a few special adults. Starting with, just in time for Christmas, the one and only St. Nick, alias Santa Claus. But before he was St. Nick or Santa Claus, he was Nicolas St. North, dashing bandit and mythic highwayman of Russia. 

Nicholas St. North, the daring devil.
Yes. Santa Claus as a bandit. The Bandit King, no less. He is described as "he once defeated an entire regiment of cavalry with a bent steak knife--while he was eating." Remember what I said last entry about their being fantasy for children and then there was fantasy for children? I'm honestly not sure where this one lies. Because me, the incorrigible child at heart? I enjoyed this book, and I think any child under the age of twelve would too. And any child over the age of twelve might enjoy, but in the same way they might secretly believe in Santa Claus--they'd never admit it out loud. 

It's pretty much exactly the kind of book that only a really special child would enjoy, where the children are the heroes, the adults are kind and wisely (and in the case of Nicholas St. North, a swashbuckling buccaneer of fun and good times), the magic straightforward and simple (light--good, darkness--bad), and the villains are creepily evil. The story is again, simple enough. Pitch, the Nightmare King, has returned to do battle on earth and send every living thing nightmares. The only one who can stop him is the Man in the Moon, Tsar Lunar and the great wizard Ombric Shalazar, the last survivor of the great city of Atlantis. Ombric lives in Old Russia, in the enchanted village of Santoff Claussen (sound familiar at all?), where he teaches all who live within it's magical borders magic, curiosity and the languages of creatures (insect is included). When Pitch, the Nightmare King, returns to the land, help comes from an unlikely source: the titular Nicholas St. North. At first, Nicholas could care less about the oncoming onslaught of nightmares about the unleashed on the world. He just wants treasure, adventure and excitement. But the children of Santoff Claussen convince him to help them and the adventure begins. 

This is the book for a child who already knows and the adult who remembers what it was like, to believe in something so fiercely, it could come true with the power of that belief. 

I have a couple more reviews, but I'll save them for next time. To whet your appetites, as it were. So y'all come on back now, y'hear? I am chock full of devious, people. 

Over & Out,

P.S. The next book in The Guardians series is E. Aster Bunnymund and the Battle of the Warrior Eggs. 
...I'm honestly not sure if that's really awesome or just extremely silly. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Return of the...Blog

Ahem. There are lots of things I could say, such as "I had work" or "I had school" or "I had fleas" (no, I didn't actually have fleas. No, really. That's just me making things up). Or I could just say, "I am a lazy bum and I humbly beg everyone's forgiveness for not updating earlier."

Yeah, I could just say that.

So yes. I'm back! And hopefully, more entries will be coming up here soon and I won't be acting like there aren't people waiting on me to actually open my mouth and say something. Though I'm pretty sure you guys all have lives of your own and do not, in fact, wait with baited breath for a new blog entry to come up here (though I wouldn't mind if you did. It would make me feel like my ramblings are worthwhile).

Apologies out of the way now? Good.

So it's a bit of a mark of embarassment for me (or at the very least, mark of a lack of ambition) that most of my reading material comes from the children or young adult fiction section at the library/Barnes & Nobles/Amazon. And okay, yes, I still read picture books. But only the ones with pretty pictures and good stories! I have my standards. They may be low, but I have them.

I have a whole list of children's books that I need to get on. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (because the movie looks beautiful and I want to read the book before I see it), The Humming Room (inspired by The Secret Garden...loveliest book about gardens ever), The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book II: The Hidden Gallery (it's like Jane Eyre, for the younger generation) and just, a whole bunch of them, okay? I don't have time to name them all.

But I'm keeping up with the trends! I'm staying aware! I know what kids like to read, what works and what doesn't. And what goes beyond even my extended realm of disbelief. There was one book I tried to read, The Mousehunter. It's this alternate reality where there are different breeds of mice that are extremely valuable and there are pirates and sailors who hunt them down to sell. Now, I love me a good mouse story. Brian Jacques fan, right here. But even this one was sort of like..."You're risking life and limb for a special kind of mouse?" They weren't even talking mice, either. They were like...really specialized dog breeds. And sort of absurd, honestly. So that didn't work. Then there was this other book, Dormia, about a young boy who can do all kinds of incredible things, like karate or climb walls...only when he's asleep. And if that's not enough to raise your eyebrow, he's also the heir to an underground kingdom, whose royal line is apparently defined by this sort of thing.

There is fantasy for children and there is fantasy for children. The trick is knowing the line between the two. Another trick is writing well enough, passing a message important enough, crafting a story believable enough for adults to enjoy them too.

 And don't even get me started on the young adult genres. They go through trends like my little sister goes through tennis balls. I mean, first it was vampires and werewolves. Then it was fallen angels and angels falling in love with humans. Then zombies/ghosts/undead had to get in on the action. Then there's the mash-ups that have vampires, werewolves, fallen angels and (just for the heck of it) magic-users and let's throw in the Knight Templars, just for fun! Yes, I've read a book just like the one I described above. It wasn't that great, for obvious reasons.

I promise you all, there is a reason for my wandering ways. It's because I'm teaching myself, what makes a good book for children/teens to read? Is it a believable plot? A touch of fantasy? An inhumanly good-looking boy with mysterious origins? (They do seem show up quite frequently, I've noticed). Or (amazing thought!  Shocking thought!) a story that be enjoyed by everyone. It can be done. It can be done with amazing results. It's not impossible.

But you've got to educate yourself. What sounds good in your head can be completely ridiculous on paper--trust me, I've had a lot of experience with that one. And keep reading! Always read! That's why I'm always happy to see writers who actually published still read children and young adult books. It means I am not alone and that there are others who share my philosophy. Or my lack of motivation/ambition.

Over & Out,

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Wow, November's almost done and I couldn't be bothered to post once? I truly am a lazy bum.

So, quite quickly, here are some things I'm thankful for (though I know it's two days late):

1) My brother Aaron came home for Thanksgiving, which is always a source of thanks.
2) Halcyon House is coming along quite nicely. Angsty-Ayden isn't really my thing, but it's kinda fun to indulge my inner emo-girl.
3) All the new books I've been reading over the past few weeks. Thank God for libraries and requesting. I have so many reviews to give you people!
4) The wonderful Thanksgiving dinner I shared with my family. *dreamy sigh* It's only once a year, but good heavens, it's worth it.
6) I've been accepted into Warner-Pacific University in Portland, Oregon.
5) That the Lord was gracious enough to bless me and my family with another year and provided for us in all ways.

I hope the rest of you also had a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you went shopping on Black Friday, God help  you. I swear crazy things happen when people's blood is up and there's bargains to be had. It's like we revert back to our primitive, "bring-home-the-biggest-prize" caveman instincts. I'll stay home and watch Indiana Jones, thank you very much.

Over & Out,

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Love The Smell of Plot in the Morning

Or late last night, if you want to be specific. Finally, finally, finally getting over that blasted hump I was stuck at! Now I can go on with the regular schedule of fluff and UST (because we all know how much I love UST). Sydney and Ayden were kind of balky at first, but I think we're over it now. And Violet is just hanging out in the wings, waiting for her chance to pounce and in an terrible awful author kind of way, I'm sort of looking forward to the havoc she's going to wreak. Drama's always fun...*evil grin*.

And even better, I got three more new songs on my iPod! Jackson by Johnny Cash and June Carter, because you all know I had that one playing on a loop in my head for over a month. I'm singing it all over the place now.  Rolling in the Deep by Adele, which drives my brother Adam nuts, but that's just him. I like her. She sounds like Carole King to me, strong and soulful. Lastly, A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. I have no other reason for this song except that's it's pretty. It really is a lovely song. It's one of my few "I'm feeling unabashedly romantic at the moment" songs. Mostly those consist of Taylor Swift and some Paramore, but this song feels like a nice addition to the list.

Hmm...what else can I blather on about?

Oh, wait, I know. A book review! Because that's always good fun. I get to put on my critic hat for a bit.

Today's victim...ahem, candidate is The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. It is much darker than my usual fare and I think I just want to talk about it. The Replacement is about a young man Mackie Doyle living in the dark and mysterious town of Gentry, where children go missing every seven years and no one talks about the inhuman things that live underneath the slag heap. People still use charms, amulets and spread salt across window sills to protect themselves from the Other Ones.

Mackie himself is what old folklore would call a changeling--a Faery baby left in the place of a human one. He's allergic to iron, blood and consecrated ground and slowly dying in the human world. His father is the town pastor, trying his hardest to do what's right and protect his son from questions and stares.  His mother is withdrawn and quiet, trying to overcome her own Faery-related traumas and his older sister Emma does her best to treat Mackie as normally as possible.

The oldest trick in the book is "Put an extraordinary or unusual character in an ordinary high school and see what happens."  Ms. Yovanoff does that here with darkly fascinating results. Mackie just wants to be normal--play his bass guitar, hang out with friends and maybe go out with Tate Sawyer, the angry, defiant girl who's just lost a sister and refuses to keep quiet about the circumstances surrounding it. But normality eludes Mackie, who knows every trip into the outside world, even being inside his own home is dangerous to him--iron and steel are everywhere and slowly killing him. Mackie is eventually drawn into the Faery Court of Mayhem, home of the Morrigan and her living dead girls. Mostly with the promises that they can temporarily relieve him of his pain.

It's a dark, scary place, populated with rotting princesses and sadistic Faery executioners. Namely, Cutter, who straps his own body with cold iron just to cause those around him (and himself) pain. He's one of the scariest characters I've encountered in recent young adult literature. Mackie is a decent young man trying to live normally--he loves his sister and tries to obey his father and Tate's loss  pains him sincerely. It takes a while for him to finally pull himself up by his bootstraps and become the hero, but I couldn't help but cheer for him when he did. I loved Tate, who drives Mackie to finally accept his abnormalities and goes toe to toe in armed combat with Cutter--and wins. She's hard-core, this girl. I love it.

This is not a light, happy story--it's dark and intense and there's use of strong language, but at least sparingly in times of stress. One of my pet peeves is authors who make their characters drop swear words like adjectives or metaphors. I don't care if it's "real," "intense," or "gritty," it's lazy language skills, plain and simple. But back to the book--if you want a scary, hypnotic read just in time for Halloween, read this one. One of the best things about it, to my mind, is Mackie finally accepting that, replacement or not, he is loved by his family. He has friends. And that drives him to be brave.

Taking Off My Critic Hat, I am Over & Out,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Happy Anniversary...

To me! If you want to be specific.

Yesterday was the one-year mark, an exact year to the day when I first started this blog on a whim in my English 1A class. I couldn't help it, I was bored and needed distraction. Facebook was out for that moment, so I impulsively set up a blog, on my then-new Google account. Not the most inspired way to begin a blog, true, but I have to admit some of my best acts come from impulse and instinct.

I would've posted yesterday in honor of the date, but I was up to my eyeballs in biology review (mid-term today...ARGH!!!) and I didn't want to be distracted. But I CAN be distracted now, since I'm going to review with my best friend Kirsten later today! In the half-an-hour before class, no less. But I'll manage somehow.

I've had a lot of fun posting up on here. Sure, there's been some spats and angry impulses (all on my part, I will concede), but the good kind of outweighs the bad, in this case. I've posted what few writing advice I can give, recommendations/reviews for books, my music preferences, and every so often, did some shameless fan-girling (the last post...heh heh) and maybe (possibly, more than likely) bored you all to tears chatting about people I made up in my head and their trials and trouble. I've changed the background of the blog more times than I care to admit and will probably change it again once the season does. (I'm thinking some cute Thanksgiving/fall/harvest motif. What say you?)

There are times (more than a few) when I doubt myself. That when I start thinking that my family and my loved ones are just humoring me, that my writing ability isn't half as great as I think it is. That all I am is a twenty-year old college student who still lives at home with her parents, and dreams about growing up, getting out, getting a job, a license, getting married and one day, having kids. Oh, and winning the Pulitzer Prize and getting on the New York Times  best-seller list.  And becoming a librarian. These are the extent of my ambitions at the moment. Am I up to it? I wonder. Am I just fooling myself with delusions of grandeur?

It isn't really the fear of inadequacy that I have. I already know I'm inadequate, in more ways than one. What frightens me more than anything is the prospect that I am as good as people seem to think I am. I'll look at what I write and think, This is not that great. I don't even know what I'm typing half the time, I'm just putting words together in my head and I think they sound okay.  I get nervous when my brother Aaron, who I know loves me and is always honest with me about my work, tells me that I am a better writer than he is (though he's the better story-teller, we both acknowledge). Surely the twenty-year old who has never been out in the world on her own, the twelve-year old who was scared and bullied, the fifteen-year old who was socially awkward and angry at the world, can't come up with anything that particularly brilliant, insightful, or interesting.

But  those of you who read this strange little blog of mine seem to think my tangent-riddled, rambling style of writing is worth reading. Even amusing and funny. Even insightful and interesting. That my words mean something, that I am better than I hope. And for that, I thank you all, most humbly.

Stick with me, good people, and we'll go far. Farther than I could ever dream or hope or imagine. I hope you all are watching. The day is coming when I'm going to light up the sky. So I hope and pray.

Over & Out, I remain, Your Blogmaster,

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Fun Part

So some of you (the few, the proud, the related...) know that I am big, big fan of the TV show Bones. I've been watching it since 2005 and well, I'm love it. Not right now, 'cause the executive producer Hart Hanson decided to make the main character pregnant (for no apparent reason), but the actress in real life is pregnant herself and I guess it adds something to the story line. But I still don't like it. I do not appreciate that kind of twist coming out of left field!

It's beyond me how Beckett resists this face. I couldn't.
So for lack of Bones, I watch Castle. Because I need something to distract me until November 3. (And the David Boreanaz withdrawal. I miss my favorite fictional FBI agent so dang much, Netflix notwithstanding. It's not the same as seeing new episodes every week.) I am an unabashed Nathan Fillion fan-girl, after watching all 14 episodes of Firefly (the entire series...darn you, the network!!!) and the movie tie-in Serenity. Do you see the picture and the caption to the right? Because, holy mackerel on a shingle, seriously!


Because if you thought the UST (Unresolved Sexual Tension) was bad in Bones, it's a hundred times worse in Castle. I didn't even know such a thing was possible. But it is. And it does.  

Nathan Fillion plays the lead character Richard Castle, a murder-mystery writer tagging along after the NYPD and more specifically the hot female detective Kate Beckett (played by Stana Katic, prettiest brunette in television) and her band of merry sidekicks, Detectives Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito (both of whom I already love inordinately). I'm barely in the fourth season and I'm already screaming (in my head, really quietly, so no one else hears) at Castle and Beckett just to put us all out of our misery and shut up and kiss already. And I haven't even seen the three seasons that came before it. 

Why is Castle worse than Bones, though it hasn't been around as long? Because Castle admitted to loving Kate at the end of the third season, just after SHE GOT SHOT. By an still-unknown assassin. AND WAS LYING IN HIS ARMS, BLEEDING OUT. And then she told Castle she didn't remember, but she admitted to her therapist THAT SHE  DOES. While Castle is trying really, really hard not to push her too much, while it's so freaking obvious what they're not saying to each other. And what everybody else around them already knows. So that's what we have to deal with the rest of the season. That's infuriating. 

Am I taking the whole thing just a little too seriously? Maybe. But the fun in watching it kind of makes up for the frustration we feel at the characters.  

So yes. I am inexorably, irrevocably drawn to TV shows where the main female/male leads drive everybody crazy with their unspoken attraction and covert glances and wordless communication. And everyone else around them is going, "You like each other, just get over yourselves and make out already!" Probably because that's what I write and what I'm good at.

And really, that's the fun of it! Where's the fun in having the main romantic leads just admitting to their affections, right off the bat? Where's the story? The plot? The twists and turns? The conflict? It's just not worth watching/reading if there's no conflict. Not there's nothing wrong with an early declaration of affections. But there needs to be some kind of balance of the mushy-gushy romance bit. You admit it, that's great, but after that, then the conflict comes after admitting it. 

There has to be a real conflict and disrupting of the relationship. An crazy, obsessed tracker-vampire does the job pretty nicely (depending on the story) or an unknown assassin. Just make sure to put the relationship back on track...or at the very least avert the danger so the characters can go on making everybody else around them nuts, not to speak of themselves. 

And that's my story/character spiel for the day. And my shameless fangirling. Heh. 

Over & Out,

Friday, September 30, 2011

We Got Married in a Fever, Hotter Than A Pepper Sprout

 This is the first video I've ever put up the blog, so call it a kind of milestone, I guess. The reason for this particular song is because it's been playing in my head in a kind of loop for about two weeks now and I keep having this image in my head of Sydney and Ayden singing it together. I have absolutely no idea where it would go in the story, but there you are. Half of my inspiration comes whatever music I listen to on a daily basis and when it hits me hard, I don't question it. I don't know, this whole song speaks of Ayden and Sydney to me. The playful antagonism, the banter you can hear even while they're singing. It strikes a very strong chord (no pun intended). What can I say? 

How can you not love Johnny and June dancing around and singing together, and Johnny's guitar playing and pseudo-clogging/tap-dancing thing that he's doing? And June's cute little sixties dress? They're adorable. 

Simply because I feel like going kind of crazy putting up videos here about the songs I listen to while writing, I'm going to put up two more (and only two! For now) songs that I love and seem to have playing constantly in the iPod of my mind. And have impacted the story in some kind of way. Here is Florence + the Machine (live on Letterman) and Taylor Swift, singing the two songs that make dance around like a crazy person every time I hear them.  And provided a lot of inspiration for the plot. 

So there you are. 
Over & Out,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What I Do For Fun

Besides write. And clean. And read. And breathe. Breathing's all kinds of fun--don't underestimate it. I can spend whole hours breathing.

So anyway, my beloved bromide, the Most Honorable and Upright Aaron and I came up with a writing exercise for us both sometime ago, looking for something hip and relevant--theme-writing. 

Why, Rachel, what's theme-writing? What brilliant idea did you and your genius brother come up with? I can hear you ask. Well, I'll tell you.

Theme-writing is our way of focusing one aspect of a character by giving them a word or a phrase: "Light" or "Defiance." The themes can be as concrete or as abstract as you like. They can be as long or as short as you want them to be; the only restraint is that they can't be more than a page. Two to four paragraphs is kind of the limit; if you want a real challenge, you would keep them to only one to two sentences. They can be told first, second or third person. I personally prefer the omniscient third person narration, because it gives the supporting cast a chance to talk for a bit on a certain subject. I started to better understand and expand upon the first draft of Katriona's character due to some of the earlier themes that I wrote for the Seventh-Born Chronicles.

Sometimes we'll do twenty themes, sometimes fifty. The ultimate goal is a hundred themes, one after the other. I've given Aaron a Hundred Themes for his own epic fantasy sequence, Stranger at the Door and other works-in-progress of his. He's given me a hundred for the fantasy series I'm doing, the one this blog is named after.  I've been after him to give me some for Halcyon House, but I haven't gotten them yet. I'll start pestering him once I get a chance.

The first series of Themes I wrote was for the fantasy sequence: some were short, some were long, some were funny, some were me indulging my inner-romance and fluff loving girl. Some were downright angsty. Most of them were me giving myself the chance to let some romantic and tender moments take place among the cast, things that aren't (or can't) happen onscreen due to the current plot line. Once I start doing some for Halcyon House, I look forward to peeking into Katriona's, Sydney's, Silas's, even Neil and Violet's head. It promises to be revealing, at the very least.

Over & Out,

Monday, September 5, 2011

School Begins

I change the blog's background like some girls change their clothes. But I found it fitting, for the beginning of my school year. It was better than the high school one.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I Do Love Me Some Girl Talk

Now that I'm done talking like a pseudo-hillbilly, let me 'splain.

As some of you know (or most of you, I should say), I was bullied in middle school and junior high. By girls, mainly. The boys didn't take much note of me, a fact for which I am now profoundly grateful. It was girls, and it was your usual girl-world politics, not dressing in the latest style, being tall and gawky and skinny and wearing glasses. And wandering around talking to myself in the school yard, not joining in with the crowd. And having my nose stuck in a book all the time. Just me being me, but awkward and angry. I had this attitude of, "You don't like me? Well, that's just fine, I don't want to like you either." I was (and still am) very proud and would have rather died than let any of them know how badly I wanted to be friends with somebody, anybody.

It took a very long time for me to unbend and finally let go of the death grip I had on my pride and survival instincts. Mostly due in part to the girls who are now my best friends, the ones I met at my current church's high school youth group. They were patient with my strangeness, and nice to me from the beginning, even when they didn't have any motivation or any prior knowledge about me. I grew to love them like they were my own sisters, and still do. I'm not lying when I say some of them saved my life when I was in high school and from a future of social awkwardness and stubborn pride. And also the close group of grown-up teacher friends I had back at my old middle/junior high school, who I'm pretty sure considered me their surrogate niece in a lot of ways.

So I'm not one of those girls who've had friends since kindergarten or first grade and life onward. Looking back on it now with the eyes of an adult (well, more or less) I think God guided me to friends when I needed them most, when I was angry and hurt and distrustful of the world. When I needed the company and example of other godly, honest, true-to-the-bone friendly girls who were willing to take a chance on lonely, prideful, introverted bookworm.

What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Well, I'll tell you.

I've hit a certain part in Halcyon House where Ayden has to be in the company of Izzy and Katriona for more than a few hours. The whole day, really, spent with discussing and scrutinizing Ayden's wardrobe, because they're having a not-really-but-they're-going-to-call-it-that-anyway housewarming party. For the greater part of the story, Ayden's been in the company of men, half of whom are related to her directly by blood. A girl needs a little reinforcement now and then. So Izzy and Katriona seem to have taken a shine to each other straight off, much to Ayden's confusion and alarm. Currently, they're both ganging up on her on account of her wardrobe choices (Ayden and I share a conviction that comfort should take precedence over style any day) and prettying Ayden up for the big night. Ayden, being a librarian and a practical one at that, doesn't really understand their reasoning, but she's willing to do it anyway, for the sake her friends.

One of the nice things about having an author avatar is that I can project my own uncertainties and doubts about myself (not being pretty, capable, taken seriously, etc.) and to a certain extent, give them to Ayden and help her work through them, as a way of helping myself. Ayden's luckier than I am in the sense that she has good friends that's she had a long, drawn-out relationship with (Izzy) and those she can trust to be honest with her (Katriona). I didn't have that for a good long time growing up, and Ayden has been fortunate enough to have a best friend for life and one now when she really needs it (trust me, she's gonna be glad in a very short time that she's got Katriona in her corner).

This brief plunge into girliness in this chapter is my way of honoring and acknowledging that no man is an island and girls even less so.

Over & Out,

Friday, August 26, 2011

Going Forward while Looking Back

Two posts in one week! This is a definite sign of getting back in the groove.

So two days ago marked myself and my twin brother Adam's twentieth birthday. I've officially been alive for two decades (time flies when you're having fun) and well, I was just thinking about how much things have changed for me--how I write would be the least of it.

I have no actual proof of this, but I'm convinced that after I kicked my brother Adam out of the womb (it was crowded in there and he took up too much room), I was born at 12:07 AM on August 24, 1991 with a notebook in one hand and a pencil in the other. My earliest memories consist of reading and/or being read to. The Story of Ferdinand and Stellaluna were immense favorites. When I got older (try seven or eight) my brothers and I were introduced to Mary Pope Osboune's The Magic Tree House series, and now I'm pretty firmly convinced that the titular magic tree house was, in fact, a smaller TARDIS. I mean, come on! It's bigger on the inside. It travels throughout time and space. It appears and reappears when you least expect it. That's pretty convincing proof, if you ask me. But I digress.

I was maybe six or seven when I actually tried my hand at writing an story of my own. I can't even call it my own, because it was just Cinderella, with my own words and pictures (illustrated with stick figures by yours truly, of course). I think I also did Rapunzel, but my memories are a little fuzzy on that point. I do remember writing and illustrating another book for my cousin Pablo's birthday, one about a girl who ate so much sticky foods that her hands stuck to objects around the house, but who knows what happened to that one.

A couple years went by, mostly consisting of me wandering around and talking to myself in the school yard and at home. I still read a lot, but I didn't do any original works. Then the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring came out. Inspired by the books (and a good deal by the movie) I tried my hand at writing my own version of Tolkien's world, by inserting an original character, Aragorn's long-lost sister, Annie, then later named Rowan. Eventually Rowan became Ayden, who is pretty firmly established in my head nowadays. I still have the pink composition notebook that I wrote the whole thing down in. I'll take it out every now and again, just to remind myself of how far I've come, writing-wise...and how little I've changed in other ways. It also serves as a nice way of humbling myself when I get too cocky.

My LOTR phase must've lasted as long as each movie came out, and then it was series of TV shows that I watched my brothers...mostly Japanese cartoons. Though I never had much use for Dragon Ball Z. My brothers loved it, but I didn't care for it very much. I tried to mesh my two favorite TV shows at the time into one story and I had great plans for it...but that didn't pan out either. Really, now that I look back on it, most of my stories back then were glorified fan-fiction.

And all this time, while I wrote my silly little stories, I read and read and read and read. Ella Enchanted, Loch, Roller Skates, Gypsy Rizka, The Lost Years of Merlin, His Majesty's Elephant, The Iron Ring, The Princess Dairies, Redwall, The Jungle Book, Howl's Moving Castle, The Girl with the Silver Eyes...there were a lot of books. Lots of them. And you can find every one of those at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, if you don't believe I actually read them all.

The Seventh-Born Chronicles took possession of me for a whole year and it's still percolating at the back of my head. Halcyon House is my more urgent and in a lot of ways, my much more fun project. My writing has changed a great deal. I like to think it's stronger and more defined, and my characterization and description has also become sharper. My reading tastes have matured too, a great deal. (Though I'll still read Brian Jacques when I feel like I've gotten too far away from what I originally loved.) I've become a fan of Shannon Hale's lush, glimmering prose and even Stephenie Meyer's hypnotic, heart-stirring, intense turn of phrase. I love Maureen Johnson's quirky, witty writing and Deb Caletti's intelligent, flawed characters. I've just started reading some Neil Gaiman and to me, his works read like a Beethoven sympathy--intense and epic at turns and then soft, melancholy and gentle at others. The Graveyard Book is one book I recommend for children and adults to enjoy equally. 

Twenty years' worth of reading, writing and imagining new worlds and characters. I think it's a worthy legacy for least until I get on the New York Time's Bestseller List. And maybe win the Newberry Award. We'll just have to see what happens.

Over & Out,

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Heroes...New Challenges

Not for my heroes, not at the moment. We're getting there. Slowly. But surely. No, I am referring to my early birthday gift from my dear friends Jamie Orozco and her mom, Sharon Orozco.  It's called The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. It's an adult book with a child narrator, eleven year old Flavia de Luce. Flavia is one of the most ferociously intelligent, shockingly complex, amazingly self-possessed and brilliantly awesome heroines I've ever met in recent literature. She's the youngest in a family of three girls, a father and a deceased mother, eleven years old and a exceptional chemist with a passion and specialty for poisons. Morbid? Perhaps. But it suits Flavia down to the ground.

Did I mention that the book takes place in 1950's England? Where girls weren't encourages to ride bikes, much less practice chemistry? But living alone with her tormenting older sisters Ophelia and Daphne (Flavia refers to them as Feely and Daffy) and her absent-minded, postal stamps-obsessed, British-to-the-backbone father and with her mother Harriet dead (died at Flavia's birth in a tragic mountaineering accident), Flavia finds ways to amuse and entertain herself. Mostly consisting of studying her mother's old chemistry book and using her skills to take revenge on her older sisters. Flavia is not a believer in turning the other cheek--she concocts cunning plans of vengeance against Ophelia or Daphne. And it's a treat to watch her go after them with a firm belief in tipping the scales of justice her way.

Tucked away in her private chemistry lab, Flavia waits for something interesting to happen in the sleepy rural English village of Bishop's Lacy. And something interesting does happen--a mysterious stranger turns up dead in the backyard of Flavia's estate Buckshaw...just after Flavia witnesses the said stranger arguing violently with her father. Flavia is privy to the stranger's last moments and words, a cryptic Latin utterance--"Vale."   Flavia is far from frightened--she is fascinated and enthralled. Soon she's zooming around the countryside on her trusty bicycle Gladys, ferreting out long-past secrets from all the suspects and even her own family. She confounds and amazes the local police force by being able to comb through the red herrings and twists and turns of the plot. It's full of rare and priceless stamps, British boarding school politics, old-fashioned illusions and magic tricks and murder most foul.

Flavia is no saint. She reminds me of Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden, only prior to discovering the garden itself. Only a brilliant chemist and maybe in need of some intense psychotherapy. But she's a treat to watch and her intelligence and adult shrewdness makes me want to hug her--if I didn't think she'd poison me with arsenic after I did it. Flavia is a genius at understanding how to distill poison ivy plants and inject it into her older sister's lipstick (one of her more wonderful revenges)--but she has no idea to bridge the gap between her and her withdrawn father, the only member of her family that Flavia is truly attached to. Her older sisters, in her own words, she can do without. Flavia is the kind of girl who could grow up to be a master spy, or a detective every bit as worthy as Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. Either that or a criminal mastermind who would kill off her enemies with untraceable poisons. But it's one heck of a roller coaster ride keeping up with her.

Go meet Flavia de Luce. You won't regret it.

Over & Out,

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Glories of the Nice Guy

Halcyon House is actually undergoing some real progress at the moment. I've just introduced the current "nice guy" of the cast, Neil Watson!

*fanfare, cymbals*

Neil Watson is a reporter for the Bethany Falls Herald, the local town newspaper. He's grown up in Bethany Falls, where there are lots of stories about Halcyon House and the McKenna family. Less than flattering stories about old Aidan McKenna and Eamon McKenna especially, much to the alarm and dismay of Ayden and her brothers. Neil inadvertently lets the information slip in a decidedly less than tactless way. Ayden is not amused. See, that's the thing: Neil means well. He always means well. But his intentions sometimes get the best of him and make him trip up. And therein lies the problem.

Now, the common misconception is usually "Nice guys always finish last," which is why the "Bad Boy" trope is currently so popular among the female audience. There's not much opportunity for conflict, drama or interest when it comes to nice. BUT--but--I happen to be very fond my Neil Watson. I think he's great, though he is kind of oblivious and he tends to babble and/or go on and on. As you can imagine, this does not often endear him to the rest of cast. (Sydney thinks he's just annoying, while Ayden considers Neil to be amusing at the very least.)

But I, the writer, think Nice Guys don't get enough credit. Don't they make the best of friends? Or make the best jokes? They're reliable, patient and oftentimes, just kindhearted. I think that's sorely missing from the usual cast of characters today. I offer for the consideration of the court Atticus Finch, or Razo and Finn (not my Finn, but another one) of the Forest from Shannon Hale's Books of Bayern (which I really, really, really encourage everyone to read) or the ubiquitous Jacob Black. They're all Nice Guys, and as far as I can see, they definitely don't "finish last."

So, I like Nice Guys. They don't get enough screen credit. They're often pushed away in favor of the "Bad Boy" or the "Brooding Boy," or the "Troubled but Cute" Guy, or usually a combination of all three. However, I must admit that again, there's more scope for better story-telling and drama with anyone of those types than just your average Nice Guy. However, once the Nice Guys have revealed hidden depths and then there's something that gets in the way of his "niceness." And that is usually when things get...interesting, shall we say.

And should they get interesting, you've got to take care that the Nice Guys comes out with his niceness intact, or exchanged for a more experienced, more cautious form of nicety. The Nice Guy is nice--but he can't be a doormat. That's when you know that whatever they went through didn't really change anything. He has to become the "Nice-but-Wiser-Guy" for you know that the lesson he went through really stuck. For instance Sydney, contrary to popular opinion, is nice...but he'd never admit it. Mostly because he's been very badly hurt because of being nice to someone who most decidedly did not deserve it (yes, Violet, I'm looking at you) and doesn't fancy having it happen again. But, like another favorite hero of mine, his heart really is quite soft, beneath all the tough outer coatings. He just needs some help getting back there.

Which is what Ayden is for! *grins*

Over & Out,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dead Man's Party

Liam McKenna has finally decided to put his oar in, in the words of Marilla Cuthbert. He's been chatting up a storm lately, until I can hear him as clearly as everyone else. He's...a character, that Liam. More snarky than I realized. He's where Ayden gets her strong sense of fair play and justice. He doesn't like his dad, but then, Eamon's sort of a power-hungry, money-grubbing jerk, so Liam's justified. He worries about his younger brother Seamus, who hero-worships their dad and wants to emulate his tough-guy, indomitable persona. And his future wife, Lucia, scares the crap out of him. She's a feisty and fiery Italian, and she's not scared to get up in Liam's face about his jerk dad. Ayden takes after her more than she does her own parents.

It took me a good hour to figure out the generations and the years that the McKenna family would have to span to come up with one twenty-three years old girl living in the present day with her six brothers! Near as I can figure it, the first Aidan McKenna (you know he's not our Ayden because the spelling is different) was born to Michael McKenna before the Civil War, and then had another red-headed son who was named after him--Aidan McKenna II--and that son made his fortune selling to both sides (he's an Irish merchant who doesn't care much for American politics) to build Halcyon House. Eamon is the son of Aidan McKenna II. Liam and Seamus are his only children, and their mother Maeve died in the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918.

There's a LOT of work going on here, in case you haven't noticed!

But all things aside, I've been scribbling away in my notebook, writing Liam's journal and trying to see how life would've worked for him. I want to see how the families of these two very different people would've interacted. Liam is the son of a wealthy Irish merchant with one brother and a house full of servants. Lucia is the daughter of Italian butcher with four younger siblings and the woman who runs the house when her perpetually ill mother can't. Liam is quiet and keeps his own counsel, while Lucia is going to get up in your face about whatever displeases her. And yes, their relationship does mirror Ayden and Sydney's since I am, as my brother Aaron tells me, completely transparent when it comes these sorts of things. I can't help it, I'm told these things are hereditary. Besides, it's what I understand. I'm no Stephenie Meyer, I can't do heart-stopping, life-changing declarations of love. That's not my forte. What I'm good at, what I do, is funny, snappy, occasionally sincere and emotional banter between intelligent and articulate people.

Also, Ayden and Sydney would each have my head if I made them say something like, "I would rather die then stay away from you." Kill. Me. Dead. They're very opinionated! And very stubborn. If that's how they felt, they'd never admit it in a million years.

On another, happier note, I got The Penderwicks at Point Mouette last Friday...eek!! You will remember from the "NOT the End" entry that I was super-excited for it to come out and now I own it!!!!

*wild, joyous jumping*

One of the main characters is Jeffrey Tifton, who is now my favorite male protagonists in children's literature, right up there with Percy Jackson and Huck Finn (who is much better than his best friend Tom Sawyer). This will be a SPOILER-FREE zone, but at the end of the book, I wanted to give Jeffrey this big ol' hug, I was so happy for him. That's all I'm gonna say!

Over & Out,

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Heat

California summers are only any good if one is at the beach, having bypassed the blazing hot sand and poky things inside said sand (who leaves their plastic forks on the beach??!! Haven't you heard of littering, people!) and enjoying the cooling ocean breeze.

Otherwise, they kind of suck eggs, pardon my French. Especially if your house DOESN'T HAVE ANY AIR-CONDITIONING.

Am I whining? Maybe a little. I'm too hot to feel that bad about it. But, besides the heat slowly killing us all, there's not much room to complain. Today, there was a wedding and babies (though the people getting married did not have babies--yet), in that order. (I babysit for a couple from my church and the couple getting married was a friend of Aaron's from high school.) So it wasn't a bad day, by any means. Then there's Fourth of July on Monday and then a family trip to Yosemite on Tuesday! So we've got that to look forward to.

Other than that, there isn't much to say, sadly. Halcyon House is plodding along, and will hopefully see some real progress over the next few weeks. On a housekeeping note, I kind of changed the title to The Summer of Halcyon House, but I'm still calling it Halcyon House out of habit. I think I like the added The Summer of just a little bit better. To me, it seems to describe what goes in the story so much better. Also, it's my take on the oldest story in the book--going away somewhere new for the summer and coming back completely changed...with a romance thrown in along the way. Hey, did you see "This One's for the Girl's" entry? To me, that's the fun part!

Over & Out, Rachel

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Anyone Out There?'s summer? And this is the only excuse I have for not posting any new entries?

Okay, okay, it's a lousy excuse, I know. But it's the only one I got. So take it or leave it.

On that note, I've actually been quite busy with reading all these new books that I got from the library. More specifically, I've been catching up on my Rick Riordan, with his new series, The Heroes of Olympus, the sequel series to Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I've also acquired the second book to his The Kane Chronicles, The Throne of Fire, which has Ancient Egyptian mythology, as opposed to Ancient Greek/Roman.

One of the things I admire most about Riordan's writing for children (and the young adults who read them) is that it is the voice of an authentic twenty-first century kid, whether it's a boy or girl. Not many writers, male or female, can pull off writing in different perspectives of either gender and still sound realistic. The first series, Percy Jackson, was written solely in the point of view of the male main character, the titular Percy Jackson. The Heroes of Olympus is written in three different perspectives, two separate boys and one girl (Jason Grace, Leo Valdez and Piper McLean). The Kane Chronicles is written in two perspectives, brother and sister, Carter and Sadie Kane.

I speak from experience when I say it's hard to write in the voice of a boy. I do what's easiest for me, writing in the voice of a girl, an fairly intelligent and articulate girl.  Riordan doesn't only do just a boy's voice, but a girl's as well, in first person (in Kane Chronicles) and in third person (The Lost Hero). That's a lot of voices, plot lines, backgrounds and characters to keep track of!

Ancient mythology can be confusing, heady, and complex, not to speak of more than slightly morally questionable. Ancient pagan religions and all that. But Riordan applies all these in a way that actually makes sense to a reader of the twenty-first century.  I mean, Greek mythology? It's sad. It's depressing. There's hardly ever a happy ending. People die in a variety of horrible ways, maimed, betrayed, losing limbs, families, friends and homes. Then they're sent to a decidedly sucky afterlife in the Underworld, where they spend the rest of eternity either doing nothing, or being horribly tortured on account of whatever hideous crimes they've committed while they were alive. Only a very few are sent to the only happy place, Elysium and the Isles of the Blest. And Egyptian mythology is even darker--families pitted against each other, kings usurped, torturous journeys, never-ending battles. Their version of the afterlife is hardly better than the Greeks.

But Riordan infuses these worldviews with hope, energy, and change. It isn't just stagnant, it comes alive with the kid's life and excitement. His characters are funny, flawed, intelligent and fully aware of the problems in their world. They're not content to leave the problems alone, but to go out and actively change them. They face loss, death and heartbreak. The monsters Riordan's characters face are real, scary and very dangerous. There are examples of completely jerk gods.

But the characters don't ever give up hope. They keep moving forward with determination, courage and a well-placed very funny quip here and there.

I give full props to Mr. Riordan for creating these worlds and giving kids a chance to explore these ancient mythologies for themselves. And not only that, for giving kids a chance to love reading, to devour 500-plus page novels in one sitting, and for giving also adults (like myself, more or less) a chance to enjoy the energy that accompanies reading his novels.

Over & Out,

Monday, May 23, 2011

NOT the end

The voices in my head have become too loud to ignore, so I'm back. I basically stopped the blog in a fit of bad temper. There's no excuse for that, so I apologize. But I got over it. So here I am, ready to start writing again.

So this week's entry is me shamelessly procrastinating studying for my American History final (I could TEACH that class by now) and doing some fangirl squealing over some things I am really excited about. The most important thing is currently the fact that ALL THREE LORD OF THE RINGS SPECIAL EXTENDED VERSIONS WILL BE SHOWING IN THEATERS NEXT MONTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am very excited about this. In case you couldn't tell.

I am saving my pennies to go see them with my brothers and we will go watch them and our heads will explode with the awesome-ness that will no doubt ensue. In all fairness, it will mostly be mine and Aaron's heads that will explode, since Adam isn't as big a geek as we are. But we have so much fun doing it. The showings take place over the course of three weeks in June, the 14th, the 21st and the 28th. They are showing in AMC Theatres, and whoever wants to go with us, put a comment on here! It would be so much fun to go as a group to this *coughcough--hint--coughcough*. Geeks of the realm, unite!

Another thing that, I personally, am looking forward to is The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall, also coming out next month, on the tenth, to be precise. The Penderwicks is an excellent book for someone too young for Little Women but who has outgrown Little House on the Prairie (yes, I know Mom. No one can outgrow Little House on the Prairie). I highly recommend it for anyone (even guys. They'll like one of the male characters, Jeffrey).

So, other thing I'm practically chomping at the bit for--in December, just in time for Christmas an The Adventures of Tintin movie is coming out--and it's being directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson and the screenplay is being written by STEVEN MOFFAT. Of DOCTOR WHO fame.

*inarticulate fangirl flailing*

I am so excited for this, it's not even funny. I mean, come on! How can you go wrong with that incredible crew like that??!!  I tell you, for once the stars have aligned in favor us geeks and nerds and readers of obscure Belgian graphic novels and they have brought us a movie that will no doubt go down in the annals for history for the epic-ness!!!

Yeah, I'm totally full of it. And I'm being super silly. But in all seriousness, I really can't wait.

Other things of note--Cowboys & Aliens is coming next month, I believe. I am going to go see it just for the sake of finding out how Jon Favreau has managed such a concept. I mean, if you're going to be patently ridiculous, you might as well go for the gusto, is what I say. And it's got Daniel Craig (me like) and Harrison Ford (Not-Quite-Yet-Retired Badass) and Olivia Wilde (that one girl from Tron). The trailers look pretty cool (but then, that doesn't really tell you anything; most trailers do) and hey, it's Indiana Jones and James Bond all decked out in cowboy gear. What's not to love?

That's all that comes to mind for now. Oh! Before I forget...

Izzy Talbot would be...Kristen Bell! Only as a brunette, and not a blond, but I'm willing to make a few concessions.  

Over & Out,

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This One's for the Girls

Beware men. This blog entry is going to delve deep into the realms and minds of the fairer sex. You have been warned.

With that said, I'm really just going to hammer out some ideas as to what things look like. Because I like pretty things. (See the "Modern Dilemma" entry for similar sentiments.) 

Ayden,  as some of you already know, is a feisty and fiery red-head. In my head, she looks like Karen Gillan who plays Amy Pond from Doctor Who, only American and maybe a little taller. And with brothers. No TARDIS, alas, but we can't have everything in life.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not to sure as to who Sydney looks like. I know what he looks like. He's tall, taller than Ayden with unruly black hair and gray eyes. After some thought, I think the closest approximation would be Matt Bomer, who plays Neal Caffrey from White Collar. I majorly dig the suit. I am a sucker for suits. My Sydney would be somewhat scruffier, though. No suits for him, at least, not yet.

Silas is easy. He looks like Ayden, only in more masculine form, with a stronger build than Sydney is. (Sydney's lanky and tall. I like 'em that way.) He would be...hmm. Chris Pine, I think. Oh yeah. I like this, quite a bit actually. I think I'll keep it. (Heehee.)

Katriona is Taylor Swift, doing a fearsome "big sister" turn, and maybe a bit of a man eater, but never trashy. My Katriona is always classy. Maybe a bit more conservative in dress than this picture. But you get the idea.

That's really all I can think of, for now. The more inspiration that comes, I'll let you all know. And put up more pictures!! *fangirl squeeing*

Over & Out,

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The PlayList

The following is a list of all the songs you are bound to see in Halcyon House. They double as chapter titles. They are also used for helping me, the writer, figure what goes on plot-wise.

  1. Streets of Gold, by Needtobreathe--the Beginning and the Reveal
  2. Deal With It, by Last Tuesday--the Explanation
  3. Out of Control, by Capital Lights--the Turmoil and the Compromise
  4. Careful, by Paramore--the Departure
  5. Awakening, by Switchfoot--the Meeting (a rough draft of which you can see in the "So It Beings" entry.)
  6. Hanging on by a Thread, by the Letter Black--the Disclosure
  7. Crushcrushcrush, by Paramore--the Discussion and the Advice
  8. Dog Days are Over, by Florence + the Machine--the Deal and the Sister
  9. Abracadavers, by the Classic Crime--the Past and the Condition
  10.  Dearest (I'm so Sorry) by Picture Me Broken--the Talking and the Barriers Coming Down
  11. Caraphernelia by Pierce the Veil--the Catastrophe
  12.  Breathe You In by Thousand Foot Krutch--the Decision
  13. Girl Named Tennessee by Needtobreathe--the First Sight
  14. Take Me As I Am by FM Static--the Making of Friends
  15. A Hard Day's Night, by the Beatles--the Family Arrival
  16. The Outsiders by Needtobreathe--the Construction 
  17. My Brain Says Stop, but My Heart Says Go by FM Static--the Possibilities
  18. The Way I Loved You by Taylor Swift--the Other Boot Dropped
  19. Playing God by Paramore--the Fraying of the Threads
  20. Grave Digging by the Classic Crime--the Unexplained Conversation and What Happens to Eavesdroppers
  21. Death of Me by RED--the Desperation
  22. Won't Turn Back by Needtobreathe--the Past Resurrected
  23. Haunted by Taylor Swift--the Losing It
  24. White Blank Page by Mumford and Sons--the Shattering
  25. What Becomes of the Brokenhearted by Joan Osbourne--the Withdrawal
  26. The Call by Regina Spektor--the Return
  27. Love Song by Taylor Swift--the Declaration and the Lunacy Put At Last into Action
  28. The Only Exception by Paramore--the Return Home
  29. Epilogue: Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford and Sons--the Future and the Changes
As you can see, what comes after in Italics is so I can keep track of the plot. I also use a lot of Paramore, Needtobreathe and Taylor Swift, because that's what I had on my iPod and listened to when I first started writing it to begin with. You can find the vast majority of these songs on my iPod, should you ever see it, and each one of them caused an inspiration of the plot in it's own way. I'll leave it up to you to see if you can figure it out!

Over & Out,

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Containing of Multitudes

There is a line from Walt Whitman's poem Song of Myself that I have taken as my own.  It is fairly simple, straightforward and to the point, but it sums me up quite neatly:

I contain multitudes.

My brothers are quick to tell me that it makes me sound like I'm schizophrenic, but hear me out in this entry, and then you can concur with them--or not.

As some of you may have guessed by now, my tastes in books, music and movies are highly eclectic and considerably vast. I am reading constantly, whenever and wherever I can. I was raised on reading Lewis, Tolkien and Alexander, and when I got older, I read Tamora Pierce, Patricia C. Wrede, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Diana Wynne Jones and Brian Jacques. I enjoyed Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Secret Life of Bees (the book, though the movie was quite good too) and The Secret Life of Prince Charming, by Deb Caletti. I loved Maureen Johnson's Suite Scarlett, Scarlett Fever and Girl at Sea.  I am a fan of Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries and 1-800-Where-R-You series, as well as her standalone novels, Teen Idol, Avalon High and Pants on Fire. I'm still trying to figure out how James Patterson's Maximum Ride series is going to end, because I'm wondering how more outlandish and over-the-top it can possibly get already. I have read The Twilight Saga, and I understand why it's so popular...though I am not blind to its faults. (That disclaimer to is keep anyone from hollering at me about it.) 

I made an attempt to read Pillars of the Earth a very long time ago, but there was too much soap-opera and not enough history or architecture for my tastes. Stephen R. Lawhead's the Pendragon Cycle is one of the best retelling of the Arthurian myths I have ever read. The Perelandra Series by C.S. Lewis is also a favorite. Sherlock Holmes is good for a rainy day, though I find I prefer other authors interpretation of the Great Detective; especially those who put useful female characters in them that are not solely limited to Irene Adler. Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes series is a fabulous version for young children and teens, and for a more adult frame of mind, Laurie R. King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice is one I highly recommend.

This is just my reading preferences. I have been known to watch The Lord of the Rings, How to Train Your Dragon, and Tangled all in one week. I've watched The King's Speech and Doctor Who only days apart, along with Fringe and Bones. Crime, drama and sci-fi are two things that stick with me. I haven't much use for reality shows (American Idol, Survivor, and The Biggest Loser come to mind) mostly because there don't seem to be many actual stories for the contestants--it's all drama and soap-opera. I did enjoy Extreme Makeover: Home Edition because it did tell actual stories about people and it was a nice dose of heartwarming to begin the week. I don't watch as much as I used to though; I need to fix that.

All of this to say, I've noticed a bit of a trend in female authors when I read their blogs and interviews and what-have-you: their characters talk to them. They become real people, at least to those who write about them. I've asked Aaron about this, and he says he doesn't have that problem. His characters seem to be able to bend to his will pretty easily. They aren't voices in his head, like I have. Lest anyone start wondering whether or not to ship me off to a mental institution, I mean to say that my characters become very real to me, as real as anything is that matters. I hold conversations with them and they do get out of hand sometimes--as some previous blog posts can attest to. I haven't perused that many male author's websites or blogs or what-have-you, but I'm not sure guys have this strange tendency to give life and free will to the characters they create. This is, of course, mostly pure conjecture on my part. You have only to read Shakespeare and Twain and Dickens to find characters that could very well be flesh and blood people. But then again, no doubt Shakespeare and Twain and Dickens and the like had friends of both genders, men and women. And no doubt they talked to women and had relationships with them. Virginia Woolf's essay What if Shakespeare had a Sister? comes to mind. Hemingway, for instance, never had this, I don't think. He was a well-known misogynist, and the female characters in his books are two-dimensional to the point of insult. Which is why I have no patience for him.

I may contain multitudes, but it's ever so much more fun.

Over & Out,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Confessions of a History Geek

So I've been putting Halcyon House on the back burner for the next few weeks, since I have a 2000-3000 word research project to churn out for my history class. I've chosen to do mine on the Civil War, so I've been up to my eyeballs in history books all this week. I have a stack of them on my desk in my bedroom. Since there was a variety of ways I could've done the project, I decided to do it in historical fiction format, which is my home turf. But now I've run up against a burning question: Was General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson present at the Battle of Antietam???

Because if he wasn't, that kind of blows my whole project out of  the water. I'll have to make the switch from Stonewall to Robert E. Lee, and while both men were incredibly cool, I think I prefer Stonewall.

Why, you might ask? Well, Stonewall Jackson was odd, first and foremost. He wasn't perfect. He was shy, a hypochondriac, completely befuddled by the stirrings of romance, and tended to be a bit of a slob in his dress. But--he was an excellent soldier. There was no one to his equal on the battlefield. His men adored and worshiped him. Stonewall and Lee were also both devoted Christian men, especially Stonewall. He was known to give prayer services among his staff when on the march. Lee was almost a little too perfect, if you ask me. It gets to the point where a little boy once asked his mother, "Mother, I'm confused. Was General Lee in the Old or New Testament?" Stonewall proves to be the more interesting personality-wise, though both men were legendarily humble (if that's not a contradiction in terms).

While I was studying up on my Civil War Confederate generals, I also stumbled upon another book of Civil War history: Chasing Lincoln's Killer: The Twelve Day Hunt for John Wilkes Booth, by James L. Swanson, which is an adaptation of his book Manhunt: the 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer for younger readers. This is going to make me into a A-level history geek, but I love that kind of stuff. I love the depth, the nitty-gritty details, what people said or thought or acted during that time period. I love the idea of fully understanding why Booth wanted to kill Lincoln, who helped him, the aftermath of the assassination, and the frantic chase across the Eastern Seaboard. It's one of my goals in travel to visit Ford Theater and the boarding house where Lincoln breathed his last breath, and the Smithsonian Museum, where they keep the very bullets that the physicians dug out of Lincoln's brain and the tools they used. I love that kind of stuff. I really do, I can't say why. Maybe because it's history in its purest form, as opposed to reading about it in textbook.

I really am a history geek, now that I think of it. Favorite period to study about are World War II, the Civil Rights Movement and as previously mentioned, the Civil War. Top favorite is World War II. I think it's the writer and story-teller in me, because that time period specifically makes for such a terrific story. You have your villains, the worst of the worst in history's hall of rogues, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini. You have the kind of heroes that make one be proud solely for being human--Oskar Schindler, the Bielski partisans, Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower, the thousands soldiers who stormed Normandy Beach on D-Day. You have the unimaginable tragedy and loss of six million lives, and those who survived.

It's a great story. One of the greatest in history. So now you all know why I love it learning about.

Getting off my soapbox, I am Over & Out,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How Do You Solve a Problem Like

...The somewhat depressing entry of last week. It's sad news and I kind of tear up whenever I see it, and I wanted a change. So now the blog background is different. Again. To a cute little bird in a bird cage tweeting and a very nice shrubbery in the background (and I didn't even have to cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring to get it). To something suiting my current mood, since Spring has finally decided to start acting like it. February/March/the beginning of April in California is crazy, at least weather-wise, but I digress. Also, note the picture to the bottom left--daffodils, my favorite spring flower under a lovely blue sky with clouds. If that can't cheer anyone up, then there's no hope for them.

So, yes. Happy news. Why is it harder to think of good things as opposed to bad things? Good things are nicer to remember, but bad things come more quickly to mind. Why is that, do you think?

Happiness! So, Halcyon House is nearing the 100-page mark, which is always a milestone for a writer. Last time I checked, it's word count was 57,586. The only reason it's just reached the 100-page mark is because I prefer using Verdana font for my personal work. If it were something like Times New Roman, it would be over 120 pages by now. At the least. But it isn't. It's almost a 100 pages and all the better for us.  Apart from that, there isn't much to tell at the moment. 

Ayden's having a minor nervous breakdown because only some of her brothers (Silas, Dante, Matteo and Finn) are coming to Halcyon House to help her renovate it, and Sydney keeps having to give her speeches, much to his own dismay. Our boy hates having to give speeches. Silas is more than just a little apprehensive about having Katriona at the house, while Katriona is looking on with barely concealed interest, because she's been waiting for almost twenty pages to have Silas come back, and she hasn't been all that patient about it. Liam too, keeps piping up, insisting on having his say. "It's only fair," he told me, "that I get to say my piece in this tale. There's a lot of questions that still need answering."

Liam, like he is in most matters, is quite right. Violet is still skulking in the background. Ayden's promised violence and suffering if she tries to sneak in before her time, and Violet's taken her at her word. Sensible of her. Even I can hardly control Ayden when she promises violence and suffering. The girl keeps her promises.   

Over & Out,

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Memento Mori

Again, I use this blog to call attention to the works of two great authors, the ones who shaped my writing and characters. I have just found out that both Brian Jacques and Diana Wynne Jones have passed away quite recently, Brian Jacques last month and Dianna Wynne Jones last Saturday. Brain Jacques was the author of the Redwall series and Diana Wynne Jones penned one of my favorite books of all time, Howl's Moving Castle.

I really don't have words to describe what I'm feeling right now. I feel like I just lost two well-loved, trusted friends. I have never met either author, but their works have imprinted themselves so indelibly on my mind and my writings that it's like I might as well have known them.

I read the first Redwall book when I was in the fifth grade, by my brother Aaron's urging. He said it had talking animals in it, like Reepicheep in Narnia and I would like it. I borrowed the book from one of the library of a teacher at my school. That was the first book I ever stayed up until two o'clock in the morning to finish reading, because I couldn't bear to wait for morning to finish it. I couldn't believe how much I already loved this book, and I had only read it once. Brian Jacques made his creatures so real it was easy to forget that they were animals, and not, in fact, humans with paws. After that, I read every one of his Redwall books that I could get my hands on. From Brian Jacques I found noble, heroic mice, dashing, perilous hares, daring, cheeky otters and squirrels, steadfast and sensible moles, and fearsome, war-like badgers. I learned heroes didn't have to be huge and tall and epic, they could be small, humble and unassuming--like a mouse. From Brian Jacques I had the fortune to see the good guys always win, and the bad guys suitably punished. From him I learned some hard, unhappy, unchangeable facts of life--that sometimes, good people die for no reason and we lose dearly beloved friends. But I also learned that we honor those we lose by our actions, to pick ourselves up and to keep calm and carry on.

I read Howl's Moving Castle out loud over one spring vacation to my brothers in my father's hometown in rural Mexico. Diana Wynne Jones had my brothers and I helpless with laughter at her clever, inimitable one-liners, her incredible plot twists and characters who seemed to speak the words in the head of the readers as they thought them. From Diana Wynne Jones I found bossy, sensible, downright heroines, and glib, slippery, sly heroes who, despite all evidence to the contrary, have quite soft hearts. I learned magic from Dianna Wynne Jones, how to catch a falling star, and get a child with a mandrake root. I learned about dwimmer and griffins and unicorns, how cats are indeed immensely magical creatures. I learned how sometimes, those with authority don't seem to always know what they're doing, and how we have to think for ourselves.

Brian Jacques taught me courage, honor and selfless sacrifice. Dianna Wynne Jones taught me cleverness, strength and belief in yourself and how to tame a fire demon. I am not only sad because they have passed on, but because two great lights of children's literature and fantasy have gone out--and we might not ever see their like again.

My thoughts and prayers are left with their surviving families.

Over & Out,