Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 31, 2011

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays despite the cooling weather. I got to dress up this week twice, since work let us come in costume all week. However, only a few of us did so. But at least I got lots of compliments. Thursday I went as a gypsy and yesterday as a pirate. I cold have dressed up on Saturday when I took my son to the mall for their trick-or-treat event, but I was too tired to mess with changing. We finished in half an hour by skipping the middle shindig. The line was obscene for what he'd be getting. But he was happy with his modest haul anyway, especially the KitKat bar from our first stop. Simple pleasures. :D

This week is going to have different goals. I want to catch up on my expanding reading list, at least to get through my new books. Anything else I get done of my regular goals will be bonus, though I intend to still do my rounds of visiting other check-ins. I'll be doing lots of winter preparedness this week, the joys of living out in the country. We did get the majority of the snow fence put up already. But there's finishing it, attaching the snowblower to the tractor and removing the mower deck, cleaning the garage, packing the emergency essentials bag, fixing the truck and attaching the plow, and so much more. Oh joy. Boo winter.

I finished Fangtales and enjoyed it. Vampires are not my thing, but every story was at least a 3. Don't always get that with an anthology. I've been though some books that ranged from 1-5. I'm currently working my way through CassaStar, up to page 42 so far. Pretty good even if my reading has been so chopped up that my focus hasn't really dug into it yet.

Midweek reflections

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

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I don't really have much to comment on today. Sort of in a reflective mood but it hasn't really come out in words much yet. So check-in goals and random stuff it is then.

However, goals: I did read and comment on at least 5 of Sunday's ROW80 check-ins. I started at the bottom of the list and then popped on a few of the ones I've been on more than once. I've put in at least an hour of ponderings each day since Sunday on Broken Destinies. Haven't written much yet, still brainstorming what the characters are going to be doing in the last third, but after discussion with my husband, we worked out more of the hidden story going on during the already completed part, plus a couple areas I need to develop more. But then most of the completed part was done during NaNo last year, so it's fast and loose and has parts where I have comments like "write more about ___ here." Still going to try to have plot hashed out by this upcoming Sunday, but even if I don't make it, I'm getting back into the feel of the world and the character goals.

This is post 2 for the week, so coming along there. Still have to do my two crits, will try to get one of those done this evening. Had a bit of a scare on Saturday or Sunday when our whole group had been banned from the forum for spam. Turns out to have been a mistake regarding an ISP thing, so in less than a day, it was corrected. But it was still freaky.

Big news for me was getting the books I'd ordered. I'm currently halfway through Fangtales now, and most of the stories have been pretty good so far, which should be taken as high praise since I am NOT a vampire fan at all. I give it a fairly consistent 3-4 throughout the first half.

The other fun thing was today's worldbuilding hangout on Google+ hosted by Juliette Wade. We talked about magic systems. Next Wednesday we'll be talking about gender. So if you want to jump in the discussion or just join to listen, it'll be at 2pm EST. Hope some of you will stop on by.

Have a great rest of the week.

Sleepy week

Sunday, October 23, 2011

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I'm not going to bother listing each goal individually today. I got little done this week, though I did poke at my story somewhat. My brain just kept fizzling on how to follow up on the suggestions my crit group made.

A couple days ago, I decided to set it aside for a week or two and switch to another WIP, a novel that's supposed to be book 1 of a trilogy. So far I've read through to the end of what I'd already done and now trying to figure out what's going to come next. It's about two thirds of the way through, but I'm not sure if the middle third actually works for the overall plot. The main antagonist for that part isn't developed well enough yet. There's some good stuff though.

This week's goal: plan out the arc for the last third of what I've tentatively titled Broken Destinies. It's actually a co-authored piece I'm doing with my husband, so at some point when he has some spare brain power (he's had a rough week), I'll get him to do some brainstorming with me.

Whahahahaha!

Friday, October 21, 2011

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I just got back from seeing the new Three Musketeers movie. Loved it loved it loved it. Even though I went into it with knowing a few witty bits of dialog and "OMG Airships!" from the preview, it was fantastic from beginning to end.

Maybe later when I come down from my state of sheer giddiness, I'll think of things that maybe could have been done better, but right now I'd turn around and go watch it again if I had the time. My husband and I saw it in 2D, unsure of how the action was going to go (and 3D started too late to watch it today since I have to leave for work soon). But I think it will be phenomenal in 3D.

Other giddy news is that I've ordered 3 books by people I know and bought a gift card so I can order an ebook by a 4th.

Fangtales with a story by Kelly Said
Cassastar by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Darkfall by Janice Hardy
and the ebook will be Honor the Pack by Kaycee Looney

Squeeee!

Have a wonderful Friday everyone!

Checking in and other thoughts

Thursday, October 13, 2011

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For 10/12 check-in: (yes, the fairies are nagging me that I'm a day behind)

goal 1: one hour every day working on a story task, either new material WIP or revising RRH: umm, coming back to this one

goal 2: read and comment on minimum of 5 posts for each check-in: I don't think I did any for Sunday's, and haven't hit any for yesterday yet either. Gonna get on that. Probably won't go back to Sunday but will snag yesterday's.

goal 3: post on my blog 3 times a week, one of which must be a check-in: This post makes 2 so far, should have another tomorrow.

goal 4: Crit 2 posts each week on WD: None so far, but I did go read a few earlier today. I'm thinking what to say on one of them.

goal 5: Have and complete 1 specific goal each week on primary project, this week's being revising scene 1 of RRH. I started tweaking based on comments from last week. Now I have to work on the broader changes like grounding the setting better, clarifying support characters descriptions and relationship roles, and trimming out unnecessarily repeated information/mild info dumps.

Some of what they pointed out surprised me but are valid concerns like the mention I have of a dead character. The way it's written, he could be either her brother or lover, and it makes a big difference. (Her betrothed, just so you know.) So that all is the harder part, but at least everyone likes the style, characters, and world setting. And they want to read more.

Okay back to goal one. I have to admit that while I've been doing lots of writing, it hasn't been on a publishable story. Some of my friends and I are doing a roleplaying game (TORG, for you gamer folks out there who may know it) online via Obsidian Portal where we have a forum and internal wikis of things, people, and places. It's an immense amount of fun, and it's helping me understand in practicality many of the things I've been learning about culture, especially culture clashes, from Juliette Wade's worldbuilding posts on TalkToYoUniverse. But it doesn't exactly help me finish my WIPs. I didn't count the time spent on writing my character's entries when I checked in on Sunday, and I don't really count them now, but I have definitely put in more than an hour a day of writing time.

I think I may talk more about the game sometime next week, because I really have learned some interesting things from the game regarding culture that I'd like to share with you. Even something that appears familiar can be very alien in feel, and that makes for some fascinating culture clashes and culture shock.

ROW 80: Check-In 10/9/11

Sunday, October 9, 2011

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Okay, first week update:

1. Spend 1 hour every day working on a story task, whether writing new material on any WIPs or revising RRH.
--First half of the week: I kept up. Last part of week: weak. Too much going on and feeling vaguely unwell.

2. Read and comment on a minimum of 5 posts each check-in.
--Success! Checked 8 blogs for Mon check-in, 7 for Wed's.

3. Post on my blog 3 times a week, 1 of which must be a check-in.
--Got 2 of them in: Mon (check-in) and Fri (song/book feature).

4. Critique at least 2 posts each week on the SF/F crit forum over at Writer's Digest.
--Halfway there, got one done.

5. Have a specific smaller goal each week regarding my primary project.
First week's goal: Finish writing the beginning of RRH and connect it to the existing draft.
--It was a bit rushed at the end, but I did finish the scene. Next scene will be right before she goes into the woods, which is essentially where I originally started. Much happier with this draft. My crit group made some minor suggestions of things I overlooked, gave me some ideas on adding more description (my weak area), and pointed out where the scene ending was lacking. I'd call this a success.

This next week's goal: Take suggestions from crit group and revise first scene.

Here we go aROWnd again...

Monday, October 3, 2011

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It's time for a new set of goals. Round 4 of ROW80 2011 starts today. After studying the kinds of goals other people had and how vague some of my goals had been, I'm starting off clearer and to more purpose. It also includes care of this blog and support to my fellow writers, since none of us exist in a vacuum.

1. Spend 1 hour every day working on a story task, whether writing new material on any WIPs or revising RRH.

2. Read and comment on a minimum of 5 posts each check-in.

3. Post on my blog 3 times a week, 1 of which must be a check-in.

4. Critique at least 2 posts each week on the SF/F crit forum over at Writer's Digest.

5. Have a specific smaller goal each week regarding my primary project.

This week's goal: Finish writing the beginning of RRH and connect it to the existing draft. Hoping that third time's the charm. Yes, this is attempt three. First two went to scrap file as they didn't fit overall character and story goals. Feeling good about this one, good enough that my crit group may actually get to see it. Currently, it's sitting at 1557 words. Another 500-1000 should get me where I need it to go.

And happy blog-o-versary! My blog is two years old now. It was technically last week, but I don't care. I'm impressed that I've kept it up this long, that I have more followers, and better yet, more readers. Thanks to all of you for supporting my endeavors.

Blog-cation time!

Friday, September 23, 2011

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I just started a new job this week, and right now it's sapping my energy. For good reason though. I'm helping open a brand new Michaels store here in town! Very exciting, but exhausting. I'm taking a week off from the blog to give me a chance to adjust to my new schedule and will be back on Monday October 3rd. Energy permitting, I will try to keep up on my reading and commenting.

Have a great week!

End of my first Round

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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My goals for Round 3:

Write an hour a day: certainly feasible but didn't keep it up. I just needed to kick my own tush more. I'm going to have less time at home starting tomorrow (new job), but I think I might be able to give this goal another whack during Round 4. We'll see.

Hmm, I intended to rough out the second half of one novel in chapter summary format. Never worked on that. Oops. Kind forgot that one.

I did finish the first draft of Red Riding Hood. I'd hoped to be done with the first pass through, but I've at least received feedback from my two alpha readers who have given me some ideas.

All in all, though I didn't stick to my goals very well, I did better than I might have. I also have a better ideas of how to make clearer goals for the next round now that I've seen what other people have used. Progress goals will be more incremented to have steps I can check off. And I'm going to post my goals somewhere on my desk where I can see them and remember what they are.

Talk Like a Pirate Day 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

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Arrrr!!! Didja all have a grrrrreat day of talkin' pirate? (Myself, I was a little busy with orientation at my new job. Not much room for pirate when listening to videos and explanations.) To wrap up the day, here is Tom Smith's Talk Like a Pirate Day. Hope you all had a blast with your piratittude. Yo ho!

Filk Friday: I'm a Pirate

Friday, September 16, 2011

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Avast! Monday be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Just getting me voice warmed up for good 'ol pirate speak. Make sure that on Sunday night you skip the ZZZZs and get plenty of ARRRRs instead.

To help you landlubbers get ready for a day 'o pirate fun, here's Cap'n Slappy, 'Ol Chumbucket, and lil Chumpail singing an original ditty by Cap'n Slappy hisself: I'm a Pirate.



And for a bonus, here be George Harrison sneaking his own pirate song onto Eric Idle's show back in 1975. Never knew he had it in him. Yo ho ho!

ROW 80: Check-In 9/14/11

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

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I slipped the past few weeks on working on my goals. Not enough effort even though I had time on most days. On a few I had good reason to not write, but most of the time, I have no excuse. I need to do better. The last couple weeks of August had been great.

My RRH story is not really any closer to being ready for crits. I've made progress on the second version of the new beginning. Today I looked it over, then read the original draft. I think I've lost something. Probably the story focus. It's much closer in line with what I was going for than the first attempt. That one I've made a quick sketch-up on how I can use it in something else. But this one bothers me even it reads okay. I'm hoping one or both of my alpha readers have time to look over the whole thing tonight. I need a fresh opinion.

I hadn't made it a stated goal, but I've also slacked on reading check-ins. I've only been on a couple people's lately. So for the last week I plan to visit 10 new blogs plus the ones I've been to before.

My writing spark

Monday, September 12, 2011

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Joshua asked: What made you want to be a writer? Was there a specific event? A specific person?

For the most part I've kind of slid into the mindset. I had fun writing stories in 5th and 6th grade, but I didn't pursue it that much. I don't really know why. It would have helped me work stuff out, and I was already a heavy reader. I only wrote stories for school even through high school. Then my first few years of college, I wrote nothing creative at all.

But then my roommate my 4th year of college got me playing D&D and NERO, a live-action roleplaying game. NERO in particular resparked my creative drive. I created a couple characters. To best play someone other than myself, I had to make up backstory and motivations. At some point, I realized that this process was sort of like prewriting for a story. It made me think that maybe I could actually make stuff up and have fun with it.

I started working on a novel with just an idea of the two main characters and what had just happened right before the story opening. Worked on it during the summer. In the fall, I took a creative writing class as an elective. My professor allowed me to keep working on that story for the class even though it was fantasy and intended to be a novel rather than a short story. I learned two major lessons about writing from that class: people way outside the target audience tend to not understand/appreciate genre characteristics and when you change the rules to how the world works, you need to define them somehow.

Well, and some people are simply clueless about clues. (My piece was titled Chapter One: The Rescue, because it was the first chapter and it was about a rescue. One person complained that the story didn't make much sense because it didn't read like a short story and who would name a short story "Chapter One" anyway? *headdesk*) That story has been tabled ever since, but mostly because I hadn't decided where I wanted to take the story from there.

Even though I haven't gone back to that one yet, it got me kicked off. My next bit of writing was a brief bit of backstory about one of my larp characters. I really want to tell her story in greater depth at some point, but I haven't worked out what to make the overall plot. It's sort of rambly right now and the beginning keeps shifting. For now, it's a tabled project.

The story that really pushed me into writing with the goal to share began with a dream. It had been so vivid and the characters so compelling that I wrote down as much of the dialog and setting that I could remember when I woke up. It made me want to know what had led to the confrontation. Even after a few days, I still felt it pulling on me. Thus began a several year long project I have never completely put aside, even though I still have a long way to go to completing a draft.

Currently, I cycle between that story, three other novels, and a couple of short stories. Having multiple stories may seem scattered, but when I get flustered or muddle-headed on one because I've narrowed my focus too tightly for first draft work, I can switch to another project. It's reduced my chance at being hit by Shiny New Idea. That's how a couple of my current projects began. I took too long of a break with no writing, and SNI bit me hard. Considering how my focus has improved and my non-writing intervals have shrunk, I'd say it works for me.

But I wouldn't have gotten past the puttering stage on that dream story or spawned any of the other stories if it hadn't been for Writer's Digest. The forums on the website connected me to other writers, especially ones who appreciated the kind of stories I enjoyed. The class may have been a nice start, but I've learned more about improving my writing skills from my forumites and the bloggers I've stumbled onto because of them. Even this blog exists only from the encouragement they gave me in starting one.

It's been a long slow ride for me to get this far as a writer. I wasn't sure how serious I was about it at first, more like yet another hobby. (I have many.) Some writers describe their drive to write as this powerful urge, their passion, something they've always had. I don't have that. But the longer I continue on this writing adventure, the more I want to keep going and the better I get. And my stories won't leave me alone.

Filk Friday: Dark and Stormy Night

Friday, September 9, 2011

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This is one of my (many) favorite songs from the Valdemar collection. Dark and Stormy Night refers to a bit of backstory that happened during the time of Tarma and Kethry, though they hadn't been a part of it. It's first referred to in Arrows of the Queen when Dirk sings the song. Then at the end of Oathbreakers, it's brought up again as something that had actually happened fairly recently before the song had been written. (Oathbreakers was written after Arrows, but chronologically it happens before.)

Some of the Valdemar songs are ones that characters actually know in the stories, while others are simply from their point of view about things going on. Heralds, Harpers, and Havoc has some of both, and it's just one of several CDs. I got sucked into the music at the same time as the books thanks to a couple friends. Been a fan ever since. Hope you enjoy the song even if you have no interest in the rest. You certainly don't need the books to appreciate it except to know that the Heralds mentioned in the song act on behalf of the Crown as messengers and peacekeepers, among other duties.

My writing nook

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

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DL asked about my writing process, if I curl up in a corner or spread out across the kitchen table. (Meant to post yesterday, but forgot to schedule it Sunday night then was out all day yesterday.)

It's changed over the years. I used to use a notebook almost exclusively and write pretty much anywhere, including work lunch breaks. Then I wanted to do more on the computer. Word was okay, but I had to juggle multiple documents. Sort of annoying. Due to a shoulder injury when my son was about a year old (which I didn't even get a fun way), I couldn't sit at a desk for longer than half an hour before it ached too much. That's when I got my first laptop, an iBook G4 which allowed me to try out Scrivener. It's become my favorite writing program, but I won't go into that now, other than it saved me from having to deal with Word. Working on a laptop meant I could sit on the couch or a comfy chair where my back and shoulders could be supported. I still use my notebooks, but I mostly work straight on the computer.

Recently, I determined that I finally needed to work at a desk again. Sitting in the chair got too distracting with people watching tv, plus it made me feel less productive. The kitchen table was fine except I couldn't leave my stuff set up and kitchen chairs aren't designed to be on them for long periods of time. My mom-in-law had a desk she wasn't using, so she helped me shift things around and bring it upstairs. Now I have my own workspace where I can put my laptop and work materials and not worry about them ending up somewhere else when other people start cleaning. My new desk chair is simple but supportive. Also proud of it 'cause I bought it and put it together all by myself.

The window has a lovely view of a grassy field (farm country). My desk has a bamboo plant, plush black and orange dragon, fairy sculpture, pair of scented candles, desk sized Ott lamp, pencil/pen holder, the necessary tissue box, and (of course) my laptop. I also usually have a glass of water and/or a mug of tea on hand. The shelves to the side hold my notebooks, sketchpads, and colored pencils. Plus right now they also have some of my crocheting stuff and other miscellaneous items. My shelves are messy, but I'm trying to keep the top fairly uncluttered. The clean look helps me work better. It's probably a Feng Shui thing.

So what's your writing nook like?

Filk Friday: Creative use of self parody

Friday, September 2, 2011

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Carla Ulbrich knows how to apply humor to her own embarrassing incidents and health issues. I like her unique voice and would love to meet her in person. This video clip was a recording she made just a few days ago as part of an interview with Michael Stock. She tells about an embarrassing fall she made when she was recovering from kidney failure and stroke. (She even made a whole CD entitled Sick Humor, humorous songs about medical procedures, after being in the hospital.) Then she shared about how she lost weight during the recovery to the point where she'd lost too much. It had inspired her to write "What If Your Butt Was Gone?" Not only is it entertaining, but it's a parody of one of her own songs.

Some of my favorite songs include "If I Had the Copyright" (the F Words Song), "Sittin' In the Waiting Room," "Therapy Works," "Duet With a Klingon," and "How Old Are You." Hope you enjoy the video. If you do, you may want to check out her website: The Singing Patient. She is a spunky woman as well as a remarkable singer. What an inspiration.

Monday questions

Monday, August 29, 2011

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Sorry this is so late. I was wiped out last night (went to bed at 9pm, crazy early for me) and my internet was down today until around dinner time. Here are answers to Emily's questions. I'm going to save Joshua's and DL's questions for the next couple Mondays.

Emily asked: What's the weirdest food you've ever eaten?

Hmm, this is hard. Possibly starfruit and kumquats. Starfruit for the taste and kumquats just because they're like itty bitty oranges that you eat whole. I've had quite a bit of international foods, but I'm not sure I'd classify any of them as weird. Though I'm sure some people might think of tadig that way. It's rice that's been deliberately cooked into a crunchy crust.

If I could be any of my characters, which one would I be?

Another toughie. I love many of them. But possibly I'd go with Captain Daira or Jana. They're from the same story and balance each other's weaknesses.

--Captain Daira is tough and disciplined with a mind for strategic planning. She's loyal to her country and fights for justice and honor, even when others think she has none. Right now she's trying to maintain her ideals but she's no longer quite the noble leader she'd hoped to be. She's fixated on proving herself innocent of the false charges which has made her a little bitter and tarnished her ideals. Managing an assorted lot of men doesn't help her focus when some of them are actual criminals.
--Jana is a kind-hearted artisan who gets brought into Daira's camp after her father is hung as a traitor and has to learn all sorts of things about the wider world she'd never dealt with before. She'd been sheltered, but she will be learning how to be a leader even though she won't be the same sort as Daira. Instead she has a willingness to listen, generosity, and encouragement to draw people to her. Jana never sees herself as a leader, but Daira and her men come to recognize those quieter leadership traits.

This whole leadership difference is a major theme. Daira's the obvious sort of societal leader. She commands a group of people with her dominant and confident personality, and they do what she tells them. (Mostly) But then there's a more subtle sort of leadership, leading by example. Jana's kindness and willingness to help others revives Daira's ideals and inspires better actions from most of the men in camp. She becomes as much of a leader as Daira, though each with different strengths. Daira is the sword; Jana is the heart. Together they are a powerful force.

I've always wanted to be a dynamic leader like Daira, but I've come to know that not all leaders have to lead in the same way. Jana is a reflection of my ideal self in the lead-by-example manner. This story is probably dearest to my heart of all of them. I work on it, feel incapable of expressing it, work on other projects, learn more, come back and work on it. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I won't give up on their story. This is the one especially for the girl I was many years ago and all other girls like her.

Saturday Question

Saturday, August 27, 2011

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Just a quick morning post, since I didn't get anything posted yesterday. (Sorry, I had something, but it sounded like I was trying too hard for the voice. Still working on it.) I'm trying to think of post ideas for the next couple months. Other than getting in some more book reviews and my periodic ROW 80 check-ins, I'd like suggestions for topics to write about. They just have to relate to spec fic in some way.

Also, do you have anything you'd like to know about me? Several of you have recently joined me here in the dragon library, and this seems like a good time for some questions. They can be wacky or serious. You can even submit more than one. I'll start answering questions on Monday. Have fun thinking up ponderables.

And have a great weekend!

Stubble It! And other vulgar phrases of 1811

Monday, August 22, 2011

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If you wish your writing to be in fine trim when using language of the 1800's and not sound like a puzzle-text, check out The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence. I am not tweaking your nose when I say this book can help you add some flavor to your riff raff. Just be careful that your writing cronies don't nip the book from your possession. Make them get their own copy. If necessary, you can find it on Project Guttenberg.

So roll the bones and take a chance to have some fun with vulgar language. Put your characters in a pickle with some rogues. You'll discover naming jokes authors have used such as Fflewddur Fflam's name in the Prydain Chronicles. (Flam is a lie or sham story.) And some words may surprise you with their familiarity. I used a few in this post, can you find them all?

(Puzzle-text - an ignorant blundering parson)

ROW 80: Check-In 8/14/11

Sunday, August 14, 2011

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This week hasn't been too bad for working. Though I haven't written as much as I'd hoped to, I've made progress. Part of the time spent was on Behind the Name. The MC now has a new name. It took me long enough, but first I had to let myself get pulled deep enough to be more open to names that suited the mood, setting, and her personality. After narrowing it down to two names, I took the one that sounded prettier and tried it out. It fits really well and adds to the flavor of the setting better than I thought.

The new beginning is moving along. I'm still not sure how I'm going to mesh it with what I already have, but I'm not quite up to that point yet. I just hope that my crit group will think it makes sense. They're looking forward to reading it, which is always a nice feeling.

I've also started researching where to send this piece when I get it polished up. Not in depth with that part yet, since I'm only in round 2 of the draft. (Round 3 is my crit group.) But just to start getting ideas and see if there's any deadlines I may want to keep in mind.

My goal for the week: finish the new beginning and connect up to the previous beginning. It'll take a bit of rewriting, since I made a few setting and story changes, but I hope it'll be even stronger.

Friday video: Panic at the Disco

Friday, August 12, 2011

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My husband stumbled onto this group while checking out The League of Steam. I'm not sure if the video was linked to their site or if it was just the steampunk connection. However it happened, this video rocks. The song is modern pop yet a bit alternative, and the video is all about the steampunk. Panic at the Disco has a few albums out. The Ballad of Mona Lisa is on Vices and Virtues.



For those not sure what is going on in the video. The rules that they show are part of a funeral tradition. (I don't know which one, only what my husband explained to me.) The spirit is thought to hang out near the body until after the viewing and funeral. In this case the lead singer is playing double roles for the vid; he's both a singer at the funeral and the spirit of the murdered man. No one can sense him until the end when the little girl finally understands his message and shares it. He's still very freaky looking, but the video was so cool with the steampunk costumes and setting.

ROW 80: Check-In 8/7/11

Sunday, August 7, 2011

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Goal: to begin working on the revision for RRH story. Check. I'm not very far, but I started. I got far enough that I decided I needed to do a bit of research. First was to work on renaming the characters to better fit the feel I was going for. I still haven't settled on the MC's name, but her dead bethrothed has had his name tweaked. The two other named characters haven't been renamed yet, but since their names don't come up much, not a big deal. I'll probably come back to theirs after the current revision round is over. Second bit of research: to read a bunch of other fairy tale type stories for a look at the pacing, language, and tension use. So I cracked open my copy of Happily Ever After, an anthology of fairy tale retellings. I'm about two thirds of the way through it and getting some ideas to keep me on track with my story goals.

Goal: to spend an hour every day on the writing. Err, not great. Sunday I gave myself a break of excitement for finishing the story. M, T, F, and Sat have word counts. I did think about the story on Wed and Thurs, but I spent those days doing a bunch of things with my son, like the weekly trip to the library. So, that was cool. Better than I thought. Today, I haven't done any writing yet, but I'm still reading through my book. I intend to sit down and do a bit of writing later but at least I've decided where I'm going with the first scene.

I've read some great books this week. One of my favorites was Murder and Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensics Questions for Mystery Writers. I posted a review on Tuesday, so if you didn't catch it, I hope you'll check it out. Fantastic book, and not just for mystery writers either. It's for pretty much any genre; the questions simply came from mystery writers. If anyone wants to check out what I read, visit my shelves on Goodreads.

Have a great week on your goals!

Murder and Mayhem (for writers)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

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The full title of today's featured book is Murder and Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers. D.P. Lyle M.D. compiled the top questions from his The Doctor Is In column for a couple newsletters for the Mystery Writers of America. I discovered this book at my library while looking for Howdunit Forensics, another book he wrote.

The questions are organized into three major sections: Doctors, Hospitals, Illnesses, and Injuries; Methods of Murder and Mayhem; and Tracking the Perp. These are further subdivided into chapters such as Traumatic Injuries and Their Treatment, Medical Murder, and The Police and the Crime Scene. Each question is headed by its simplified form, followed by the scenario and questions given by the submitter.

His answers are clear, even when he uses the medical jargon, because he explains what the technical parts mean. His light touch of humor glimmers in some of his responses. One writer asked whether drinking brandy while waiting for help to get out of a half frozen lake would enable the character to survive, if it would act like antifreeze. The brief answer, "Sorry, but your character is doomed, and his actions would only hasten his demise." Then Dr. Lyle went on to explain why and what would happen instead.

My favorite question is in the Odds and Ends, Mostly Odds chapter at the end. The writer had a teenaged girl whose father was having an affair with a young mom. The girl wanted to punish them both, so she was going to tamper with the diaphragm (contraceptive device) the woman was using by putting some sort of "hot" substance on it but wanted something that wouldn't be readily detected. The writer wanted to know what the girl could use. The answer began with "Tabasco. No contest." He gave a short explanation of why and what would happen, including how a spermicidal jelly would affect the onset of the burning, then finished with "What a totally diabolical question." It sure is, and I hope I get the chance to use it in a story sometime. Is that bad of me? ;D

Even though I'm not a mystery writer and have no plans to be one specifically, this is an awesome reference. He even stated that this is for all genres to keep from rehashing info from books and tv or using wrong or misleading info from the internet. It's going to my to-buy list, and I highly recommend that you read it at least once. None of us need any blunders that will cause our credibility to plummet.

An accomplishment for my check-in

Sunday, July 31, 2011

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I haven't posted a ROW 80 check-in for awhile. I've been a bad writer and blog reader. I got lazy and didn't write much or read other people's check-ins. This past week though I pushed myself to quit messing around and do more work. I decided to pull out my short stories and see what I could finish off for the sake of typing the end to something at long last. (So many WIPs, sigh)

The short story push is partly from reading a bunch of other people's short stories like The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales, The Secret History of Fantasy, and Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded. I also have Dragons and Dreams from the library and Happily Ever After from the bookstore waiting for me to read them.

My troll story didn't pull me much. I'm still not sure how I want to tackle the middle. I gave my wolpertinger story a try and on the 26th I wrote 343 new words on it and then cut them off and moved them to the remnant file. The direction it took didn't sit right with me. I added 195 words to my half-orc bard story on the 27th. Those weren't bad, but my brain didn't want to stick with it.

But on Friday, I pulled out my Red Riding Hood story, determined to get something finished. I knocked out 1685 words, one of my top word tallies. (300-500 is more my typical sort of count) And yesterday I came in with 731 words including The End. Ding ding ding! Yippeeee!

Oh, it still needs massive work: a completely redone beginning and an expanding out of noted bits I'd had to skip to keep me from bogging down. But I completed it. I've proved to myself that I really can finish a story. I was totally giddy yesterday when I did it. And then I went through and read several check-ins from Wed to cheer on other folks.

I'm still way behind on reading my blog roll, taking today to work on that, but I want to say thanks to the unspoken pressure to get something accomplished on my goals. Finishing a story wasn't technically one of them, but it is something I've had hanging over me for the past few years. Everyone who has ever said good luck, or hope you make it, or some other variant of encouragement here on my blog or other online places I hang out: Thank you.

My other goals might get tweaked later since by the end of this round, I intend to finish the first round of revisions on the Red Riding Hood story, maybe even come up with a title other than RRH. I'm not sure how I want to break down the revisions into smaller check-off-able chunks yet, but I'll work on that too. I'm also behind on posting book reviews here, so I intend to have 4 books reviews during the month of August. Hope you'll check back for them. I think I already know which one I want to cover first. It'll be up tomorrow (if I write it tonight) or Tuesday (after I get back from the Buffalo Museum of Science).

Hope everyone has a productive week!

Filk Friday: Cat Macros

Friday, July 29, 2011

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I'm in the mood for something silly, so here is Tom Smith's Cat Macros. If this video ever comes down, I will be very sad, because the pics perfectly fit the lyrics. I'm sure some of them were the ones that inspired the words. Hope you have fun watching this. Cat Macros and other Tom Smith songs are available on iTunes.



I'm still lousy on my overall writing goals, but today was fabulous: a thousand words, and I'm going to go back and knock out some more. I'm closing in on finishing the first draft of a short story I've had sitting around. The beginning needs to be totally redone, and I have a couple gaps to fill in, but this might be the first piece I get to type The End on.

Filk Friday: The Doctor And I

Friday, July 15, 2011

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After a little poking around this morning, I found this gem. Yes, it is really John Barrowman singing The Doctor And I, a parody of "The Wizard And I" from Wicked. Jack Harkness is a great character. According to a comment, Barrowman knew the composer of the original song and got permission to change the lyrics. I wish I could get it on iTunes, but from what I understand it was a special release on iTunes UK a year or so ago. I don't know if it's still available.

And now I'm wishing again that the new Torchwood episodes weren't on STARS. Sigh.

ROW 80: Check-In 7/10/11

Sunday, July 10, 2011

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Sorry that I didn't do much on Blogger at all this week. It's been crazy here with getting my father-in-law packed up for his new contract job (he'll be gone for a year, aside from breaks) and helping Mom-in-law with "spring" cleaning (not done yet, but getting there). I also did lots of weeding in the front garden. It was overrun with clover.

This meant I didn't get as much accomplished on my writing as I'd intended. So many house projects needed done that I felt bad sitting at my computer when they were working on the list. The past few days have had zero writing time, but at least I wasn't goofing off. Earlier in the week, I did get my daily hour in, but it was hard to stay focused with various interruptions.

The chapter I'd been working on for almost a month is finally done, but I'm going to try writing it again. After looking back over my chapter goals in my plotline, the chapter doesn't match, and what I'd intended makes more sense than what I wrote. The chapter has great stuff in it. My crit group has said that the characters are cool, the tensions interesting, and the woman's backstory revealed in this part fits smoothly. But it's off track. I think that's why the characterizations have been so hard to keep a grip on.

However, it's still useful. I have the woman's backstory in her words and I have some judgements from the old man. I may end up keeping it and then tweaking to fit better, but I want to see what else I can come up with. Most writing advice would say to leave it and just keep charging forward, but this part has critical moments between the two characters. I can't just leave it unless I have the what-happens and what-is-said pegged right. Those matter to how much the two main characters learn about each other, which will affect how chapter 3 plays out.

I'm off to get as much done as I can on the alternate version of chapter 2 before supper. Later tonight, I'll start reading through the blogs I've missed this week and stop by some of the other ROW 80 check-ins. Thanks to those of you who came by on my first check-in.

New to the ROW 80 challenge

Monday, July 4, 2011

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Well, I haven't been a Monday poster for awhile, but today is the first day of Round 3 of A Round of Words in 80 Days. You can be in the midst of a WIP, starting a new draft, working on revisions, or any combination of steps. Any project counts, even non-fiction. I just heard about it yesterday, so I'm not real sure yet what I'm doing with my goals.

It's very different from NaNoWriMo. Instead of focusing on a huge number of words in 30 days, the idea is to develop long term writing habits that take into account that most of us have lives we can't bail on. As it was described, NaNo is like a sprint, but writing a novel is more like a marathon. And many people, including myself, cannot write quickly or consistently.

I'd done pretty good with NaNo last November. Until Thanksgiving week that is. Then because everyone was underfoot due to first my son being sick and then my mother-in-law getting the crud, they didn't go to my sister-in-law's like they'd planned. That effectively derailed all my plans and threw off my stride for the next few months. Around February, I started to push myself back into a writing schedule, and at the beginning of summer I made some writing goals. I'm not great at following goals, but having reasonable ones pushes me to do more than I might otherwise.

My writing goal had been to write 60,000 words by Aug 31. I'm sitting at 9767. Yeah, I should be about double that by now. If I'd written every day, I probably would be right on track. It wasn't all on my novel, but I counted the words I wrote toward my article for the culture share on Juliette Wade's blog.

The nice thing is that ROW 80 will help me toward my summer word count goal. Here are my tentative goals for the challenge. I may adjust after I see what other people are doing.

1. Finish rough plotting my WIP (it's about half done). My sort of plotting--when I do any in advance--is essentially chapter goals. Any details beyond that are brainstorm ideas that may or may not get used.

2. Write a chapter a week. This may or may not be as silly for me as a word count goal. Some scenes write easily and some are really tough. I have one scene right now that is really long and still not done yet. It's also an emotional one, making it harder to write.

3. Write 60 minutes every day without getting on the internet. This is my BIC goal. It's easy for other distractions to take over my day. And an hour is a reasonable amount of time I can get my family to leave me alone for. Today will be hard with being a holiday, but I will try for at least a portion of that. I'd say 5 days a week, but it's too easy for me to lose momentum if I take a couple days off. Now if I get in a phenomenal day's work, I might take the next day off, but otherwise it's better to keep going.

If anyone wants to join this challenge, here are the rules and the theory behind it. There are check-ins on Sundays and Wednesdays. You can jump in at any time, even midway through the round. You are the one to set what your goals are, so it doesn't matter when you join.

Book Blogger Hop

Friday, July 1, 2011

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Book Blogger Hop


Today's question:
What keeps you reading beyond the first few pages of a book, and what makes you stop reading a book and put it back on the shelf?

I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to books. Even ones that don't totally suck me in will still pull me through the pages, but they won't keep me up reading late into the night. I can put them down, walk away, come back sometime later when I feel like it. Only curiosity to know how it turns out makes me keep reading. I just don't read those ones again or often. The ones I sacrifice sleep for have brilliant writing and characters that grab me.

Ones that do make me put them down, assuming I picked them up in the first place. Excessive unreasonable violence, MCs doing things I cannot root for and antagonists who are just as bad (stories from the villain's view where I can root for the antagonist aka hero are different), excessive swearing, a sequence of events I cannot find at all plausible in the context of the world setting, a total snooze fest, or very confusing.

Guest post today at TalkToYoUniverse

Thursday, June 30, 2011

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I don't normally talk about my religion, but I hope you'll come by and read my post on growing up Baha'i in the American Midwest. It's my contribution to the Writer's International Culture Share feature that Juliette Wade started on her blog.

Who's the tank?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

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One of the people in my gaming group showed me this on Sunday: a modern interpretation of the old Abbott and Costello "Who's on 1st" routine set in World of Warcraft terms. I was laughing so hard. My dad used to have a cassette of the old routines, so I've actually listened to them many times. The guys who put this together have the entire thing nailed from beginning to end with all the emotions. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Even though I know some of you aren't gamers, it still makes sense from a fantasy standpoint. Hehehe.

Trailer for The Guild's new comicbook

Friday, June 24, 2011

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I found out about Felicia Day from Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog. That's what pointed me toward her web series called The Guild, a funny look at MMORPGers. I've been hooked ever since, though I'm behind on the latest season (#3). Whether you've played an online game before or not, you might have fun watching the series. And now this week, their new comic book comes out. I plan to pick it up sometime this summer.

Check out the new trailer for the comic book. Then go watch some of the webseries. :D

Fun video Friday: B5-diets in the future

Friday, June 17, 2011

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Just to do something a little different, and because I'm on a Babylon 5 kick at the moment, here is one of my many favorite episodes in which Dr. Franklin gives the rest of the Command staff new diets. Food plans. Whatever. Garibaldi is told to cut back on the fats and salt, Sheridan has to cut back on meats and add more veggies, and Ivanova has to add fats and minerals. As you can guess, none of them are very happy about it. Though it's nearly cut off in the transition between excepts, listen for Franklin's final comment to Ivanova's exasperated metaphor.

Though Babylon 5 has many serious moments and episodes that focus more heavily on the conflict, there are the more ordinary (and humorous) moments like this scattered throughout the five seasons. I love these characters.

Sleepy day

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

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I've been dragging all morning. It's afternoon now, and I still don't have much oomph. But days like today are good for curling up with cozy books like Redwall and Mossflower. I don't know how many times I've read them, but something about the series is relaxing.

Wanders off with the one of the books and finds a comfy nook in the dragon cave not already crowded by sprites.

Filk Friday: Roll a D6

Friday, June 10, 2011

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I can't believe I almost forgot to do my Friday post again. Well, since gaming is on my mind, here's a parody on "Like a G6" called Roll a D6. For those of you less familiar, a d6 is a six-sided die used in many roleplaying games. D&D usually uses several different dice: the d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and the d20. Sometimes you have to roll a d3, but for that we usually use d6 (1-2, 3-4, 5-6 for 1, 2, 3).

Now my gaming group doesn't this deep into our roles, but technically we do play in the basement at our friends' house. Both the husband and wife play, so I'm not the only gal there. But the guys are all pretty cool. My husband is our Gamemaster, and he comes up with some tough challenges of various kinds, a nice balance between hack-n-slash and roleplaying. It's the sort of balance that makes for great retelling later.

Ah the stories I could tell from various campaigns I've been in... But I digress. Enjoy this catchy bit of gamer filk, grab some friends, and roll a d6!

And the writing creeps forward

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

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I haven't gotten very far on the writing goals yet this month. 993 new words written, 1824 if I add in the count from May 31st. I had a good start, then realized my scene had the wrong emotional overtones which meant the characterization didn't fit with the first scene. Even the history and political structure had changed based on the tidbits I'd thrown in. I reread my original notes and decided that I preferred the old context. The whole scene went into my cut file. 3k words=ouch.

After taking a few days to study what pulled it out of alignment and read up on various empires for ideas to solidify my basic concept, I got trickling forward again. Some of what I'd had has been recycled back in. New stuff is trickling in, but I think I'm picking up momentum again. Whether I finish the scene today is questionable, but I will try.

Do any of you have similar stories you'd like to share?

Summer goals 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

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Since many of my fellow bloggers have been talking about summer goals, I came up with some for myself. By the end of August 31:

I will write 60,000 words towards one or more stories. That's an average of 652 words/day, entirely doable for me, even with the days I know I won't have much time to write, such as my birthday this month and the family picnic next month. (Write on those days at all? Mmm, probably not.)

I will get my craft business underway. Writing is slow and painstaking, and my family could use some extra money coming in now. If I can make some without having to go anywhere but the store and the post office, I can stay home to write. And crafts make a nice change of pace from the storytelling.

I will stay positive about my work and not let anyone convince me it's worthless. Okay, so that's an ongoing intangible thing rather than something concrete I can point to as saying I accomplished it. But it is an important thing to remind myself about.

Anybody else have any goals for this summer?

It's been a writing week

Saturday, May 28, 2011

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Sorry I didn't have anything for you this week. I'm working my way through a book of fantasy short stories, so I'll post of review of that this upcoming Tuesday. The first couple stories are pretty good. Hopefully, the rest of the collection is just as interesting.

I've also been getting back into daily writing mode. Earlier this week I spent all morning on a long letter to a relative. And then I got back into a story I started over the winter. I had the first couple scenes written and chapter plot notes to carry me halfway through the book. The third scene called to me, so I've been working on that this week. Plus we had a writer/editor visit our critique forum yesterday to tell us about his new releases and look over our opening lines. For my story he pointed out a couple minor places for clarification and some things I did well with voice and tension. Overall he liked it and would keep reading. I still feel a little giddy. On previous visits, he considered my openings to be weak, so I've gotten better. Yippee!

Now I've gotta go finish scene 3. The two main characters both have secrets and gruff attitudes, so there's much fun in their interactions. How's your writing coming along lately?

Filk Friday: Playing D&D

Friday, May 20, 2011

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I've been playing D&D for almost 12 years, one of the good things I discovered while in college. I learned to respond quicker to situations, think in alternative ways--thereby improving my outlook on problems, and build a stronger self-confidence. It also led me to larping and from there to my hubby. So between that, the many hours of fun I've had with tabletop and live action games, and the inspiration that got me writing creatively again, D&D is pretty special.

This week, one of my friends linked a video on FB. The singer is the lovely SJ Tucker, who as it turns out, is a friend of a friend of one of my other friends who is not connected to the one who shared the video with me in the first place. Funny how that works sometimes.

So here is "Playing D&D," produced by Dead Gentlemen Productions. You can download this song for free from SJ Tucker's album "Mischief" at http://www.strowlers.biz/ according to the Youtube description.

Labyrinth

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

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One of the classic movies I grew up with is Labyrinth. It was utter magic to me. Even though I faced different issues than Sarah was going through, I felt a certain understanding for her character. Maybe it was that we were both fantasy-absorbed. She was escaping her changed family life, and I was escaping my changed social life. (I discovered the movie a few years after it was released.)

Plus it's a Jim Henson movie. Goblins are almost cute as muppets. From IMDB.com:

15-year-old Sarah accidentally wishes her baby half-brother, Toby, away to the Goblin King Jareth who will keep Toby if Sarah does not complete his Labyrinth in 13 hours. 

The labyrinth was never what she expected, but its changing ways--influenced by her choices and words--forced her to discover and accept changes in herself. If she had reached Jareth's castle easily, she might have still failed in saving Toby. It was her self discovery along the way that allowed her to succeed.

Not only was the story meaningful to me, but the music is catchy. In fact this post was going to be about something else, but then I popped on the Labyrinth soundtrack. I decided to share this favorite from my collection instead.

Who else is a Labyrinth fan? What is your favorite quote?

Here is one of my many favorites.
Jareth: Hello, Hedgewart.
Sarah: Hogwart.
Hoggle: Hog-gle!
(and 11 years later we get Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, hehe)

Here's another one: Too bad the image is distorted, but it's still a gem of a scene. Sarah gets advice from a worm.

Thor, the fantastic God of Thunder

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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On Mother's Day, I went with my husband to see Thor, the new superhero movie. Now I'm not a big superhero fan-that's more my hubby's shtick-but the play on Norse mythology looked like fun. (Plus the actor looked fantastic in the previews. But we won't go there.)

After reading some reviews, we chose to see it in normal 2D mode, because they said the 3D did nothing for the movie. After seeing it, I'm glad for the decision. The fight sequences were not choreographed suitably for 3D. Too much stuff moving on the screen at high speeds combined with the camera motions meant I'd have have been sick to my stomach from vertigo.  In 2D, the scenes were fine, though still a bit on the dizzying side in a couple places.

The story: Thor is a good guy, but he's too brash and arrogant for his father's comfort. What king wants to pass his power to a young man who is overly eager to pick a fight now matter how skilled he is at fighting? Even though that son possesses all other worthy traits. Thor's ego gets him into trouble and he is banished to Earth without his powers. But a father's hope for change sends Mjolnir, Thor's hammer, to Earth as well.

The movie was lots of fun. I had no preconceived notions about the story other than the preview and what I could remember of Norse mythology, which wasn't much. I haven't been able to get into the Iron Man movies, because Stark's character just rubs me the wrong way. But Thor, despite his arrogance, still comes across as worthy of respect. Someone I could root for. (It didn't hurt that some of his mannerisms remind me of one of my friends.) All he needed was the right situation to make him realize the additional qualities his father was trying to teach him. By itself, being sent to Earth wasn't enough to trigger the change of perspective, but his interaction with scientist Jane Foster, plus a personal setback that I won't spoil for you, does the job.

I'm not sure I agree completely with the story structure of the first half. It opens with a brief bit where a trio of scientists are following this storm and find Thor the hard way (smacking him with the van), then a jump to all the stuff that led to Thor being there, before finally going back to that scene. It took much longer than I expected to return to the opening teaser, making me question why they'd even started with it or why there was so much backstory. Not a movie killer issue, just a mild concern. It might only bug me because of studying story structure for my own writing. But I will say the teaser did help with waiting for all the post-banishment tidbits shown in the preview. And Thor was fun to root for even from the beginning.

Over all, I highly recommend that you go see this movie. Even if you don't care about any of the teasers for the linked movies, it works just as well as a stand alone. I'd give this one 4.75 stars. I'll probably also go see the next movie in the Marvel-verse.

My First Blog Hop

Friday, May 6, 2011

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Book Blogger Hop

This is my first time doing a blog hop, but this one looks like fun. This week's question is, "Which book blogger would you most like to meet in real life?"

This is a little tough, since several of my online friends do blogging about books, but I think I'd have to say Jennifer and Cannwin from The Literary Soundtrack. I stumbled onto their blog via someone else's and stuck around. They have similar tastes in books to what I like, and I love how they find songs to correlate with themes in the books they review. It's a fun angle to combine previously unrelated stories and music.

Filk Friday: Fairies Stole My Keys

Friday, April 29, 2011

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I'm sure we've all had those days where something we need has come up missing. We might wonder if  a bit of mischief has waylaid our belongings. In this playful song, fairies are the ones responsible for the missing object. Fairies Stole My Keys has a bouncy beat and light hearted lyrics, which makes it fun to sing. I hope you enjoy this song from Emerald Rose as much as I do. You can find it on iTunes if you want your own copy.

The Wish Giver

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

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I hope you all had a wonderful week while I was on vacation. I'll be working on catching up on my blog reading over the next few days. For a little something today, here is a book I read years ago and stumbled on again last week at Goodwill down near my mom. The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain is a quaint MG novel about wishing without considering the consequences. Set in New England, it carries the flavor of early Americana stories of strange happenings. 

It's told from the POV of Stew Meat, the owner of the Coven Tree General Store. Thaddeus Blinn promises him and the three youths willing to listen that he can grant them each any one wish for only 50 cents. They aren't sure he really can, but he suckers them into paying him. He gives them each a white card with a red spot on it. All they have to do is press their thumb on the spot and state their wish aloud. But he tells them to give it plenty of thought because he'll never be back again.

"Take great care when you wish," Blinn called after us. "For it will be granted exactly as you ask for it."

Though Stew Meat simply tucks his card away and laughs at himself for nearly believing the wild tale, the youngsters each find themselves willing to try out their cards. Blinn's warning was just as he said, for their wishes come true more directly than they imagined.

Be careful what you wish for.

I can see why The Wish Giver was made a Newbery Honor Book. Though some people get rather funny regarding magic in stories, I think this is well worth reading for the allegory aspect to it. Polly, Rowena, and Adam each learn something about themselves and the people around them. That's where the real story is. The wishes simply highlight each issue, and make them think more about their actions and abilities.

Did anyone else read this when they were growing up?

Filk Friday: The Duke's Eldest Daughter

Friday, April 15, 2011

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I'm sure we've all heard quite a few stories where mortal-immortal relationships turn out badly. The Duke's Eldest Daughter has a different ending. Poor Jane was considered unremarkable by her own people but treasured by the elf folk. This song can be found on Freedom, Flight, and Fantasy at Firebird Arts.




I will be on vacation next week. I get to spend some time with my sister-in-law, at least one friend, and my mom. A bunch to pack into one week, especially when they aren't all in the same city, so I won't be posting while I'm gone. I might sneak in some internet time to read a few of your posts, but otherwise I'll see you all when I get back.

Have a great week!

Random blargh with drawing

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

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I've frittered away much of the day so far trying to find a decent drawing program for my computer. So far, everything is a fail for what I want a computer program to do. I want to make perfect/nearly perfect nine-pointed stars in many variations. You know, like sunbursts, flowers, long points, and short points. I also want something for creating designs for cross-stitch, needlepoint, and filet crochet. Not all on the same program, mind you. One for the drawing and one for the graphing.

For now, I'll stick with paper to make my stars and charts. ;) I've already charted a small teapot and a 33 square wide 9-point star. The star turned out better than I hoped. If I can add a fairy or dragon to it, I'll have the perfect symbol to combine my Faith with my love of fantasy. Back to the drawing pad, I guess. At least I'm not feeling so blargh anymore. :D

10th Kingdom/Mamma Mia crossover

Friday, April 8, 2011

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I was going to attempt a blog hop today, but the one I was watching for hasn't posted the topic yet. So, since I still want to offer something for today, here's something I ran across this evening: clips from 10th Kingdom set to Mamma Mia. I'd been trying to find one of those fan vids, but pretty much everything I'd seen gives away too much of the ending. This one didn't; it's just fun. The song is performed by the A *Teens.



If you haven't seen the 10th Kingdom, you should. The story is fantabulous. It's well worth the 417 minutes to sit through the whole mini series. And watching it on DVD will spare you the agony I had when it came out and being forced to wait a week between each segment. Here is the trailer:



The show more than lived up to the promise. If you need more of a teaser, here is one of my favorite songs from it. It's gorgeous and acted as one of the strongest hooks to pull me in at the beginning.

Three great YA fantasies

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

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A couple weeks ago I picked up some crafting books and three YA fantasies. Last week, I made it to the novels. Wonderful. All three of them rang with their own harmonies.

First was Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara. I admit I picked this one because it said dragon. But I really enjoyed how the author used the mythology and setting of ancient Japan to create her world. Saya is thrust into the conflict between Light and Dark and comes to realize that it is not a matter of good versus evil like she'd been taught. She must accept her birthright and figure out the meaning behind an ancient legend regarding the Wind Sword in order to save her world.

For a retelling of a Grimm's fairy tale, Shannon Hale does a great rendition of The Goose Girl. Princess Ani starts off timid, but it's hard to learn confidence or social graces with such a dynamic mother. Nothing is ever good enough. After the king's death, her mother declares her to not be fit as Crown Princess and sends her to their neighboring kingdom as bribe, err, bride to prevent the larger country from carrying out possible plans to invade. But on the journey, Ani's maid stages a coup and usurps Ani's place and her name, sending Ani fleeing for her life. The former princess must learn to both survive and find her strengths in order to save her old home, her new home, the people who've accepted her, and the man she loves. When you wants a cozy fairy tale but with more scope than the typical one, this is a fun read.

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson is another fairy tale rendition. This one has the feel of India, something that intrigued me because of my friend Jai. Out of the three, this book was probably my favorite. It has a gorgeous cover: lovely sari fabric and golden bangles above hands decorated with henna tattoos and a large pink blossom cupped between them. In the original tale, one sister is sweetness and light but bossed around and made to do drudge work. One day at a well, she is kind to an old woman who turns out to be magical who grants her the gifts of jewels and flowers dropping from her lips when she speaks. The other sister, in jealousy, goes to the well herself but is haughty to the old woman. As punishment, the magic woman makes toads and snakes to fall from her mouth. The kind sister gets to marry a prince, while the mean sister is driven into the wilderness.

This version is wildly different in how the story happens, beginning with the characters. The sisters love each other, though they each have their unique talents. Diribani isn't used to working so hard, but she tries her best in order to provide for her stepmother and stepsister after her father's death. While fetching water at the well, she is kind to a goddess disguised as an old woman. She is granted the first gift. Tana, her sister, feels unworthy next to Diribani's goodness, so when she meets the goddess herself, she feels she deserves the unpleasant gift. Diribani is taken up by a prince and Tana is forced to leave her home. However, blessings and curses are not always what you expect. A gift may be both. Wisdom, good fortune, or death. Which fate will each girl find?

I recommend all three books, but if you can only find time for one, get your hands on Toads and Diamonds. *mutters* Now to go find Tomlinson's other books.

Filk Friday: filk from Parnell Hall

Friday, April 1, 2011

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The next time I go to the library, I really need to remember to look for Parnell Hall's books. Authors who can write filk get a step up in my reading list, and the Puzzle Lady mysteries have sounded neat. Here I have two filk songs that he did: Signing in the Waldenbooks and Kill 'Em.

Signing in the Waldenbooks is about the woes of trying to get noticed once you get published, a humorous lament. The part where he's seated next to Mary Higgens Clark at a con is one of the best parts. Kill 'Em is a guide for writing murder mysteries. He has some great chains of rhyming.



To err is human...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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...To really foul things up requires a computer.

I thought I was going to be all big-girl and all and transfer my files over all by myself. I'm not too shabby at working a computer. I know what things are, and I use my regular programs just fine. I shouldn't need my hubby to do this for me.

Ha. Haha. Funny me. I knew just enough to get myself messed up.

The salesman at the Apple store told us about Migration Assistant. It can move my programs over for me. Bad idea. Because I knew less than I thought I knew, I tried it instead of doing the safe and slow way by copy/paste from old to new over the home network. I know how to do that, but I thought I was going to be clever and use the speedy way. Speed is not good when you don't know exactly what you are doing or what to expect when it happens. Speed just makes bad things happen faster.

MA doesn't copy then paste, so that you can go back if you mess up. It cuts and pastes. If you delete anything to try again because it didn't do what you expected, too bad for you. You now have no copies of those files.

So, bye bye iTunes library. I have a bunch of empty folders. Even though iTunes has no obligation to restore my purchases--it's in the terms and conditions--I still wrote them to explain what happened and beg them to do so anyway. Even if I can't get everything back, getting a significant portion of it will go a long way to helping me out. The free podcasts are easy enough to redownload, but even with taking out the songs I loaded via CD, I had a lot of music on there, not to mention the couple movies and several show episodes I'd purchased via iTunes. That's a lot of money. I'm hoping whoever reads my plea will take pity on me. My most recent purchase was just a few days ago, too. Pout.

In using MA to transfer my music over, I also let it move my documents and photos over. They suffered the same fate. However, those aren't completely gone since I did copy ALL of those onto my flashdrive. I am quivering at how close I came to destroying a few years of work, not to mention lots of cute pictures that may not be on any other device. Scary! Since I avoided that fate, I am merely sniping at myself for idiocy rather than being in a severe depressive fugue right now.

Backup, backup, backup. You've heard it before. It's no joke. I don't backup as often as I should, but I am so grateful I did yesterday.

But other than proving how fast a computer can help a human wipe out tons of data, I do love my new one. I just finished loaded my documents via my flashdrive, so I will try to do a little work this afternoon before my son gets home. It'll be easier to write now that my battery lasts more than a couple minutes and my power cord isn't half broken. (I can sit where and how I want again.) My screen image isn't affected by the angle of the screen to my eyes. And the MagSafe cord connection is so cool.

New computer! (and blog thoughts)

Monday, March 28, 2011

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Squiggly happy dance! I am on my way to go buy a new laptop at the Apple store in Buffalo. My iBook G4 is finally wearing out, but it has survived long enough that I can get files transferred over. I made backups of my documents, photos, and bookmarks (almost as important as the documents). Even though I could get a PC laptop for considerably cheaper, Macs just appeal to me more. The MagSafe power cord connection is just one significant selling point of the MacBook Pro. No yanking the laptop off its perch again because my feet snag the cord when I'm getting up. *sheepish look* The MagSafe ones just pop off. (Not that I plan to do that again, but I'll feel better anyway.)

New computer. Squeee!

For other news, I am shifting my posting schedule. Mondays just have not been working well, since they have turned into errand and activity days (my hubby's day off) and I don't get much chance to write stuff up on the weekend. But Wednesday/Friday feels like a lopsided week, so I will give Tuesday/Friday a try. I'm also considering some of those blog hop events. Meeting people is fun, and most of the hops seem to be on Fridays. Since I don't want to stop my regular feature or double up, I'll just alternate weeks. Please tell me if you have any favorite blog hops.

Filk Friday: A Wizard's Staff Has a Knob on the End

Friday, March 25, 2011

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This is supposed to be a filk for Terry Pratchett's Discworld. The words don't begin until a minute into the music. But it is catchy. A Wizard's Staff Has a Knob on the End starts off sounding like early Final Fantasy music, and when the words begin, it picks up a sort of Clancy Brothers feel. One of the top comments is, "Seen on a chalkboard in Hogwarts: "I will not teach first-years to sing 'A Wizard's Staff Has a Knob on the End'."



And as a bonus: here is Death's Job Interview from a production of Terry Pratchett's "Mort."

Filk Friday: Cost of the Crown

Friday, March 18, 2011

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Filling several places in my favorites list, the Valdemar books feature many characters that I can honestly say I admire, even feel inspired by. Talia, Skif, Alberich, Dirk, Kerowyn, Elspeth (post-brat stage), Karal, Master Ulbrich...the list goes on. Cost of the Crown highlights Queen Selenay's inner thoughts. She's only a primary character in Exile's Honor and Exile's Valor, but she plays an active role in many books beginning with the Arrows trilogy.

For those of you who may be less familiar with Valdemaran politics, the Monarch of Valdemar must also be a Herald, Chosen by a Companion. They may look like horses, but Companions are incorruptible sentient beings with the ability to judge a person's heart. Ethics, duty to others, and compassion are among the traits they look for. Heralds serve the people by scouting, serving as arbiters as needed, fetching and delivering critical messages, and uncovering information needed to keep the kingdom safe. Just to name a few of their roles.

The law that the Monarch must be a Herald is a safeguard to ensure that their people would always have a leader who would care more about the people than the power of position. You might say it was divinely inspired. (Read the books; you'll understand.)

Queen Selenay took the crown as a young woman, barely in her twenties, after her father was killed in the final battle against the Tedrels. Though she'd been raised as the Heir-presumptive, then Heir-In-Right after she was Chosen, being queen was harder than she'd thought.

This song not only shows why I admire Selenay herself but also served as inspiration for one of my own characters: King Reynard. They have different personalities and problems facing them, and of course no Heralds or Companions in my story, but they share many of the same leadership traits and views toward their role to their people.

Shandeen O'Neill's phenomenal voice just makes this song even more achingly beautiful. You can find it on the Lovers, Lore, and Loss album, available at Firebird Arts.

End of March reading list

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

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Sorry about Monday. I totally spaced on posting anything. I was running around doing errands like the urgently needed dump run. I did make it to the library though, and since my brain is a little fuzzy today from my head's aversion to dust (I started spring cleaning yesterday), let me tell you what I'll be reading over the next few days. These were all selected by browsing the first row of the teen fiction section except for the last one.

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
The lettering of the title caught my eye. Then it still looked interesting once I pulled it out. It's the first book of the series, which is good. I don't like starting in the middle.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
I've seen this at the bookstore and been wanting to read it for months. Now I'm going to. It sounds like a book I may want to add to my shelf.

A Matter of Profit by Hilari Bell
Not sure what prompted me here. The lettering and title didn't tell me much, but the face on the spine made me think desert story. I liked the stylized painting look. But when I opened it and saw it was actually SF rather than F despite the man holding a sword on the cover, I had to take it with me. It's been hard to find SF books that interest me, and the jacket description sounded like my sort of plot.

Fortune's Journey by Bruce Coville
Not SF or F or even for children, but it's still a Bruce Coville book. It's been over 10 years since I read this historical fiction for teens. Just seemed like a nice balance with the other three books I picked up.

The Black Cauldron (audiobook) by Lloyd Alexander
Another one I'm familiar with already (very familiar), but that's what makes it such a great choice for listening to while I'm working on sewing this week. And I think James Langton is the same person who read for the Book of Three audiobook I'd checked out a few weeks ago. He gave each of the primary characters different voices. Wonderful to listen to even if I did always imagine Gurgi with a higher pitched voice instead of a deep one. Probably because of the cartoon version of the stories. If it's the same reader, I'm sure I'll enjoy this just as much.

Filk: Friday: Golden Eyes

Friday, March 11, 2011

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Golden Eyes was inspired by Andre Norton's Witch World series. Later Mercedes Lackey turned the song into a short story called Werehunter. You can find the story in her anthology called Werehunter, along with some other wonderful stories, or you read it on firebirdsart.com, where it has been reprinted with permission from Baen Books.



I prefer this version over the one on The Horsetamer's Daughter. The melody is the same, but the arrangement on Magic, Moondust, and Melancholy captures the emotion better in my opinion. The guitar and flute balance well with the vocal and give the song a softer ambiance. I'd almost call it a quiet elegance, though that may be an odd description for a melancholic song.

Historic Costume: a sampling

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

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Those of you who are writing fantasies, especially historically based fantasy, here is a book you may want to look through for ideas about clothing: Historic Costume In Pictures: Over 1450 costumes on 125 plates. These costume plates were originally published by Braun & Schneider between 1861 and 1890 and re-released by Dover Publications in 1975. They illustrate a period from ancient times to late 19th century.

It is in no ways a complete catalog of garments, but it is great for the sampling of garb covering regions across Europe and the near side of Asia. This is particularly helpful if you don't know which time period or region you want your story to fit. By zooming in on a time and place, it allows you more time for meaningful research.

The pictures have a wonderful depth of detail. Folds and ripples in the fabric are meticulously shaded in. You can't see enough of the outfits from a single viewpoint to recreate them with any significant degree of accuracy, but with the help of someone who knows fabrics, you can narrow down types of fabric used and get a feel for how layers affect the total look.

In addition to the ideas the clothing can give you, since the plates show people wearing the outfits, study their hair and head coverings. A historic look isn't complete with simply clothing; it's the the styling and accessories that go with it. The assortment of items such as weapons, bags, instruments, walking sticks, and baskets being held by many of the figures also add to the setting flavor.

If you find this book helpful, there are additional Dover books on fashion. They are likely to be out of print, but if your library has them, you are in for some great ideas.

Milestone winner

Monday, March 7, 2011

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Well the drawing had a smaller turnout than I was hoping for, but I was still glad to see a couple lurkers pop out long enough to say something. I'm keeping this brief, since my internet may cut out at any time. (happened once last night and twice this morning already, modem issues, not happy) Our six contenders in the hat are Emily, Jai, Brandi, Joshua, Heidi, and Brad.

Shuffling the names...shaking them in the hat...and the winner is...

Emily!

If you would send me a quick note about whether you'd like your gift card from Borders or Barnes & Noble, I will get that for you and send it out. Thanks to everyone who participated. Have a great Monday!

Filk Friday: Ragged Man

Friday, March 4, 2011

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I don't think I've shared much from Heather Alexander yet. Ragged Man vaguely reminds me of a story one of my fellow WD forumites had been working on a couple years ago. I wish I could remember who it was, so I could ask how the story was coming along. Even without the tugging on half remembered characters, this song has a pull all on its own. The delicate touch on the guitar enhances the yearning in her voice. I wonder how many different stories could be inspired by these lyrics.



Remember, today is the last day to put in an entry into my milestone drawing. Only five people have entered so far. It's easy peasie lemon squeezie, to borrow a term from a writer buddy. Go to Monday's post to enter. (*melodramatic whisper* $10 gift card, $10 gift card)

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

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Last week, Juliette Wade was talking about the "why?" question when it came to stories, especially with first lines, whether they're at the beginning of a story or simply at the beginning of a paragraph. Wanting to know why something happens is our motivation to keep reading. Authors who include plenty of why moments will hook their readers. But if they never answer them, they will disappoint those same readers.

Just look at the story of Rumpelstiltskin. Haven't you ever had question after question when reading the basic story? From the back of The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde:

Why would a miller claim that his daughter could spin straw into gold? Why would the king believe him? And why would an odd little man that can spin straw into gold do so in exchange for a tiny gold ring? The story is just silly.

In an attempt to make sense of this wayward fairy tale, Vivian Vande Velde provides six alternative versions of the classic account, each of which is far more intriguing and revealing than the original.

These stories are:

A Fairy Tale In Bad Taste
Straw Into Gold
The Domovoi
Papa Rumpelstiltskin
Ms. Rumpelstiltskin
As Good As Gold

Not only are the stories fun, but the author's note in the beginning is a must-read. She begins by comparing the game she used to call Gossip and that I know as Telephone to the way fairy tales have changed over time from oral retellings. Each time the story was told, it was a little different based on time and place. Eventually, so many details would have been changed or lost that the story made no sense anymore. Just like gossip, and just like this story in particular. She goes through the story and elaborates on what doesn't make sense. Her assessments and asides had me chuckling throughout. How many author's notes can you say you've actually enjoyed?

So if you like fairy tales, especially ones that make sense, you should go find a copy of this book. I like to think that even Juliette's daughter would find her why's fully answered.


Quick reminder: if you haven't already, go to Monday's post and enter in my milestone drawing. All you have to do is tell me how you found my blog and what made you decide to follow me. Yes, even if I know perfectly well how we became acquainted. I'm seeing who is paying attention. You have through the end of Friday, so what are you waiting for? ;D

Milestone fun and an easy contest

Monday, February 28, 2011

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Wow! I just noticed I picked up a new follower bringing me up to 50. (Hi, Melissa!) Even though a few of those 50 are inactive bloggers, it's still feels good to reach that milestone. I'm such a homebody even on the internet. I don't really go places where I'd pick up new readers. Since the first question that comes to mind when I spot a new person around here is "What brought you to my little pocket of the blogosphere?" that sounds like the perfect question for... a drawing!

Yes, that's right. Tell me how you found my page and what made you decide to add me to your blogroll, and you will be entered in the drawing for a $10 gift card to either Borders or Barnes & Noble, winner's choice. You have from now through Friday to share your comments. I will choose the winner in good ole luddite fashion: write the names down, put them in a hat, and pull one out. Check back on Monday to find out the lucky reader.

The winner will get the card, and I will get a current idea about what you enjoy about my blog. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Filk Friday: Firefly fanvid: Ballroom Blitz

Friday, February 25, 2011

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Today video is brought to you from the powers of browsing. It's not a filk vid like I usually post on Fridays, but it was too much fun to let it slide. The scene snippets were well chosen. And yes, Mal really did have a sword fight (over Inara's honor, no less) and in another episode ended up in the buff. Have a jiving time watching this teaser. Shiny!

Delving into the Middle Ages

Monday, February 21, 2011

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Today has been a crafting day at our house. Our son had today off from school for Presidents' Day (and tomorrow, too), so we've been doing projects. Our son painted a little birdhouse for his aunt, while I crocheted a dishcloth for her. I just finished it and realized I hadn't posted anything yet. Oops.

Though crocheting doesn't have anything to do with the Middle Ages, having not been created yet, I figured I'd offer a Middle Ages resource for those you who might be interested. This is a page of links connecting to a wealth of other pages. So the dragon at the top is appealing, but I 'm really sharing it for the links covering a wide range of information from food to fashion, religion, history, technology, and more. If you don't know much about it, this might be a great place to get you started.

So I invite you to come romp though the links with me while we listen to the strumming of a harp. Welcome to the Middle Ages.

Filk Friday: High On Firefly

Friday, February 18, 2011

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I've got a fun combination for you today. Tom Smith's High On Firefly song with animation from Last Exile, something that looks interesting on its own but also worked really well with the song. I can't help bringing up Tom Smith every so often. The man is a song genius. If you want to check out more of his work and upcoming appearances check out his homepage. Oo shiny! He's going to be in Cinci next month. Too bad I probably won't be able to go.

But back to the song. Catchy tune and witty lyrics make for fun singing. He even worked in a reference to J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5. Hehehe. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Do. Ah heck, I'm playing it yet again. (I love Firefly, I love Firefly, I love Firefly. Yah dah dat dat dat dat dat)

Happy Valentine's Day! (and a funny song)

Monday, February 14, 2011

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In light of today being about romance and sweethearts, I don't intend to be here long. But to still offer a little something, here's one of my favorite songs on the Oathbound: Vows and Honor CD from Firebird Arts. Lovers Untrue is a hilarious song about lovers swearing love and faithfulness until death should part them. You'll see just how deeply they meant those vows. Hehehe...



Now I'm off to enjoy my husband's day home. Whether you have a sweetheart or not, take some time today to tell someone you appreciate them. I appreciate all of you. Have a great day!

Filk Friday: Wanna Be a Hero?

Friday, February 11, 2011

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Here are a pair of songs for people who think they want to be heroes: Space Hero and Advice for Would-Be Heroes. You can learn quite a bit from these two songs. Being a hero is not all it's cracked up to be. It's often work and not particularly pleasant.

Space Hero
has a wry humorous look at what might be in store for the hero wanna-be's by poking fun at heroic assumptions. Julia Ecklar and Anne Prathor sing this rendition. I like the one I have better, but I can't remember who sings it. Advice For Would-Be Heroes doesn't mock the wanna-be's, but it does have sound advice that can be applied not only to fantasy and science fiction but to real life as well. Despite the fact that we don't use horses and swords in combat much anymore, it still makes sense. Leslie Fish is the voice of Tarma from Oathbound.



Random movie blooper reel

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

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My brains may have become discorporated from my head and been blown from my nose, so this is the best I have for you today: Blooper reel from Men in Black 2. Kinda goofy, but I do like the MiB movies. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones make a great heroic duo.



(I really hate colds.)

We are all connected...by science

Monday, February 7, 2011

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While I'm figuring out what to discuss first about Firefly (and since I spent this morning goofing off with my hubby), let me share this great video with you. Even if you've seen it before, it's still worth listening to again. We Are All Connected from the Symphony of Science series highlights Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman, and Bill Nye. I am impressed with how musical it turned out. If you want the lyrics and/or the mp3, you can get them at http://www.symphonyofscience.com./

And we're made of star stuff. If that doesn't give you chills, it should. The universe is much grander than we often remember in our day to day lives. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by events or simply like a lonely speck, just remember that we are not just our humble forms, but connected to the universe at large. Even Delenn reminds John Sheridan of that fact in one of the episodes of Babylon 5. I think it's one of the most inspirational phrases to remember. So just to reemphasize it, I'll say it again.

We're made of star stuff. And we are all connected.

Filk Friday: Mal's Song and Browncoat Anthem

Friday, February 4, 2011

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No, I'm not done with Firefly yet. There is more I want to say about it if I can get my head wrapped around words enough to describe why it's so moving to me. For now, here are Mal's Song, a filk written about the show specifically, and Believe In You, a song from another show's soundtrack but fits Firefly just as beautifully. Both of these songs give me chills.

Mal's Song


Believe In You (as a Browncoat Anthem)

Great lines from one of the best SF shows

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

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So my mind was a little blank about what to write about this morning, except that I wanted to do something about science fiction. It's been a bit heavy on the fantasy around here, not that I mind, but SF needs some love, too. I'm going to try to be focusing on it this month.

While I work out the rest of this month's itinerary, here are some of the best lines from one of my two favorite SF shows and its corresponding movie: Firefly/Serenity. You may need to hit pause for some of the longer quotes. It flips a little quick. But oh, they are worth it. I bow in honor of the writers' wit in coming up with so many great quips.

Bookmark fun: Nautical links

Monday, January 31, 2011

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For those of you writing fantasy involving boats and sailing, here are some links I found while researching for a short story I never finished. I got distracted by some other story. (Yes, I get Shiny New Story Syndrome pretty bad sometimes.)

Not sure what that nautical term means or looking for a suitable word to describe something on a ship? Check out The Phrontistery. They have a word list of nautical terms.

Wikipedia also has a glossary of nautical terms.

Marine Waypoints has a glossary and more. Their database has blogs, articles, a directory, books, news, photos, and the current tides and weather.

Ever wondered about the history of the astrolabe? The Multimedia Catalogue has a page about them featuring the planispheric, the universal, and the Rojas universal astrolabes. If you click the glossary link up at the top, you can find other science related terms, not just nautical terms and equipment. The few I've read through are well written. Some of them even have pictures.

Hope you find these helpful at some point even if you don't need them right now. Enjoy!