Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Express Yourself: Favorite Character

The Express Yourself Weekly Meme is hosted by Jackie @ Bouquet of Books and Dani @ Entertaining Interests.

The prompt for this week is: Name one favorite character you have written or read about.

There are so many characters to choose from!  Can I really only pick one?

Well, since I can only choose one, I'll go the easy route and choose a character from my WIP, A Silent Soliloquy.  I've essentially got the rough draft done, though there are a couple of major changes I'm considering making to the story. I've been so busy preparing for A to Z that I haven't gotten a lot of time to work on it lately, but it's still very much on my mind.

Tippie is not an ordinary girl.  She became a ward of the state at birth, and a new personality was programmed in her mind, forcing her real self into the background.  All she can do is watch while the government sends her out to perform tasks that make her waking life seem like a nightmare.  She cannot interact with anyone as herself, leaving her completely isolated. The only way she can create the illusion of human connection is by creating stories for the people she sees in the world.

To say the least, this is not an easy perspective to write from, but I'm enjoying the challenge.

There's one important question that Tippie has to grapple with, and that question comes up when she sees Kali, a woman who has been driven mad by the knowledge of how her existence has been used to hurt people.  The question is this: If there is only a choice between suffering and madness, is it wrong to choose madness?

I love this character because I find her deeply fascinating.  By living through her struggles alongside her, I feel like I've learned a lot as a writer.  That's more than enough reason for me to count her as one of my favorites.

Which character, whether one that you've written or read, is your favorite?

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Great & Powerful A to Z Theme Reveal

April is right around the corner, and that means it's almost time for A to Z to begin!  For those of you who have not signed up and may be interested in doing so, you can do that HERE.

Today, a few of my fellow A to Z bloggers are revealing their theme for this April's challenge. You can sign up HERE if you'd like to join in on the fun of the great reveal.  A theme isn't required for A to Z participation, of course, but having a theme can be helpful.  It makes it easier to plan your posts, and if a reader is interested in the theme you've selected, they'll keep coming back to your blog.

My theme for this blog is: DRABBLES

For those of you who may not know, a drabble is a story that is exactly 100 words in length, and this word count does not necessarily include the title.  I know I didn't include the title, anyway.  In such a short piece, every word counts!

Last year I wrote an ongoing story, which turned out to be quite fun.  I knew I wanted to dabble in fiction again, but I also wanted shorter posts, and I wanted it to be something that someone didn't need to necessarily read from the beginning.  That's why these drabbles are stand-alone pieces.  I used a random word generator and combed through dictionaries to come up with a word for each letter of the alphabet, and each word inspired its own little story.

All of my drabbles are written, and the posts are scheduled.  I think readers will enjoy them, because they're quick and entertaining.  Some of them are funny, some sad, and some of them are just plain weird.  There will be a little something for everyone!

Celebrate the Small Things-March 21, 2014

It's Friday, and that means it's time to Celebrate the Small Things with VikLit!

Overall, it's been a pretty good week.  On Monday, the always-awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh announced that I won the grand prize in his Epic 2000 Followers Giveaway!  That means I get an autographed copy of each of his books, a $10 iTunes gftcard, and a free t-shirt from Jeremy Hawkins' Neat-O Shop (I chose a Ninja Army shirt).  A copy of each of Alex's books is also being donated to the library of my choosing.  Overall, I'd say that's an amazing prize!

I also had a successful cooking experience this week.  I've always loved apple fritters.  They go great with coffee, and I just generally love anything with apple in it.  I found a recipe for apple fritters on Wednesday, and as it turns out, I had all the ingredients necessary to make them, so I decided to give it a try.  I can honestly say they turned out way better than expected.  Here's a picture.

They tasted great!  The kids loved them.  I loved them.  My husband loved them. I definitely plan to make them again.  For anyone interested, here's the recipe I used.  The only difference is that I added a little vanilla extract and cinnamon to the batter.

What would you like to celebrate?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Express Yourself: Writing Advice

The Express Yourself Weekly Meme is hosted by Jackie @ Bouquet of Books and Dani @ Entertaining Interests.

The question for this week is: What is some advice you've received on writing that you'd like to share?

One critical piece of advice I've heard many times is that you should write every day.  If you aren't feeling inspired, you need to write something, even if it's only a few words.  Those few words might trigger a spark of something special.  Or perhaps they will serve as inspiration later on when you least expect it.

I also love the following quote, and I keep it in mind whenever I'm struggling with a piece of writing.

"The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can."
-Neil Gaiman

Not only does this serve as inspiration, it happens to be remarkably true.  We are each unique, so that which we bring to our writing is bound to be equally unique.  We may occasionally feel insecure about our writing and how it differs from the writings of authors we admire, but we can't let that insecurity get us down.  We need to embrace that uniqueness rather than fear it.  

And lastly, here's something that I would recommend for any writer.  I have plenty of half-finished stories, notes about ideas that have never come to fruition, little stand-alone scenes, and deleted scenes from completed stories.  I never throw any of these away.  I keep them, because you never know when they might be handy.  When you are struggling to find inspiration, going through this treasure trove of writing odds and ends might light the flame of creativity.

What writing advice would you like to share?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Celebrate the Small Things-March 14, 2014

It's Friday!  Let's take the time to Celebrate the Small Things with VikLit!

The weather here is getting warmer.  We've had a couple of really warm days, so the insane amount of snow that we've had blanketing the ground for months is beginning to melt. There are still mountains of snow all over, and there are rivers of water running through the streets (and huge puddles everywhere), but it's all hinting toward the arrival of spring.  Bring it on!

Taking advantage of the warmer weather, I've taken the kids for walks a couple of times this week.  Going to the park is out of the question since a good portion of it is too wet from the melting to be advisable, but that will surely dry out soon enough.  Well, maybe not soon enough for the kids, but we'll get there.

The time change left my kids confused about their bedtime, and it took a couple of days to adjust.  Fortunately, they're heading back toward a normal sleeping schedule, which is a relief to me.

I also read a couple of good books this week, which is always worth celebrating.

What would you like to celebrate?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Express Yourself: Catchphrases and Sayings

The Express Yourself Weekly Meme is hosted by Jackie @ Bouquet of Books and Dani @ Entertaining Interests.

The question for this week is: What saying or catchphrase do you say ALL the time?

When I'm frustrated, instead of saying that I'm going crazy, I say "This is driving me nucking futs!"

I also often say something along the lines of "If I'd ever been sane to begin with, my sanity would be in peril right now."

Sometimes, when I'm in a situation where someone might say that "you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't", I'll say "Well, there's my Kobayashi Maru for the day!"

When someone I'm close to uses poor grammar (correcting the grammar of strangers tends to endanger my health for some reason), I'll inform them, "Your assault of the English language is unwarranted.  Please desist at once."

So yeah, I can be a bit annoying at times.  Oh well.  That's simply who I am, I guess.

What catchphrase or saying do you use?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Wormfest 2014!

It's time for Wormfest!  It's going on all week, so feel free to jump in!  It's going to be lots of fun, I can promise you that.

This event is hosted by Stephen Tremp, L. Diane Wolf, and Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Here are the rules:

For 2014, the theme is to name one thing where science advances mankind, and one where technology with unforeseen consequences will go too far and set mankind back. Example: De-Extinction, or bringing back extinction species through back breeding, genetic engineering, and cloning. With all the breakthrough discoveries mankind is on the cusp of, are we playing God?

As technology grows smaller and more powerful, it's bound to become more integrated with our bodies.  The idea of implanting microchips into the brain, either enhancing humans in some way or allowing human beings to network with one another used to be placed firmly within the realm of science fiction.  Yet, as often happens, science is catching up and aligning this once seemingly far-fetched idea with reality.

Right now, implants in the brain are being used for medical purposes, helping people deal with medical conditions such as epilepsy.  This has been happening for awhile, and it's definitely encouraging that we are learning to relieve the suffering of others through such technological advancements.

Scientists are also hoping to use microchips to implant memories into patients with damaged brains.  This could potentially assist those with memory loss induced by accidents, are those suffering from Alzheimer's.

It would be great if this technology could be used to help people, but we also need to be aware of the potential dangers.  I'm not saying we should desist in this line of research, but if we want to avoid the pain its misuse would cause, we need to be aware of the possibilities.

Could someone use such technology to implant false memories?  What if someone witnessed a crime being committed, and someone wanted to alter their memories of the event?  What if the government decided that reprogramming convicts to make them into more productive members of society was the way to go?  Could such a thing even be done, and what are the ethical consequences of such an action?  Would this be considered legitimate therapy, or is changing the core of who a person is going too far?

And what if we used microchips to plug into the internet, or to network directly with one another?  It might make interactions more efficient, but there are also potential dangers involved.  How would a virus transmitted through the internet affect the human brain?  How would we ever have any privacy?

Science is a wonderful thing, as is science fiction.  While scientists work to make groundbreaking discoveries that will transform the world in which we live, science fiction will mull over the possibilities, bringing to light the potential consequences of technological advancement.  It also entertains us at the same time, which makes it even more amazing!

Oh, speaking of amazing things, I should mention, Escalation by Stephen Tremp is available today!  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Celebrate the Small Things-March 7, 2014

It's Friday!  Let's take a moment to Celebrate the Small Things with VikLit!

I just finished making a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies.  My boys were hovering over me the entire time, begging to lick the beaters or to lick the bowl.  It brought me back to a time when I was little and I'd watch my mom bake.  There are some good memories there, and it's fun to make more of them with my own kids.  And my husband seems to turn into a kid when I make chocolate chip cookies.  He was just as excited as they were!

My boys created an elaborate train track the other day with their Thomas the Tank Engine Trackmaster set, and they built buildings out of blocks and legos and anything else they could find.  It took over the entire living room, but it was neat to watch them work together to create something so cool.  I have a couple of little architects on my hands.

I'd also like to celebrate the fact that we're having meatloaf for dinner tonight. I've always loved meatloaf, and I have a great recipe for it that seems to make everyone happy.  I just have to make sure I don't mess it up.

Hmmm.  Two of my celebrations were about food.  Oh well.  I can't help it.  Food is an essential part of life, and a good home cooked meal can always put a smile on my face. Provided, of course, I manage to ignore the number of dishes I dirtied in the cooking process.

What would you like to celebrate?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: March 2014

It's time for another meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group!  The group was created by the ever supportive Alex J. Cavanaugh as a refuge for writers who struggle with their neuroses.  And there certainly are a lot of us!  So many, in fact, that Alex has conscripted a group of minions to help him in his duties.  The minions for this month are Tina Downey, Elsie, Elizabeth Seckman, and Julie Flanders.  Good luck minions!  Your task is daunting, but the rewards are great!

Be sure to stop by and visit the IWSG website as well!  It's a fantastic gathering place for writers who want to either air their frustrations or offer support.

Now, for the subject of this post.  I would like to talk about shame.  I've grown tired of people trying to shame others for the things they choose to read or write.  This writing community of ours is one of the most supportive places you can hope to find, but the outside world isn't always so kind.

Sure, there are types of stories that may not appeal to our individual tastes.  A story that may be well written and tell a tale that is compelling to many may not resonate with me as a reader.  At the same time, I would never dream of shaming someone who cherishes that same story.  Why should I?  We all have different tastes, and I'm grateful that there are so many wonderful writers out there to fill the demands of readers everywhere.  A world filled with imagination is surely better for us all.

Growing up in a small town in Iowa, I was always an oddball.  As the sci-fi geek who carried a writing notebook everywhere I went, I struggled to make friends. Our school was small, and I didn't exactly fit in with any of the groups that inevitably formed.  As I grew up, and even as an adult, people keep asking me why I write science fiction.  I know plenty of people who dismiss sci-fi as stupid and far-fetched, and more than a few of them have tried to shame me for my love of the genre.  Some have tried to convince me to write something else.

I know of many people who dismiss romance as frivolous and silly.

I know of people who wave off YA as if it has nothing of value to offer.

I'm tired of all the judgment and hatred.  If a genre doesn't appeal to you, don't read it.  You don't need to take it upon yourself to tear down someone who loves it.  It's petty and non-productive, and I shudder to think how many fledgling writers may have been discouraged by those who dismissed the kinds of stories they loved to tell as unworthy.  

If we all enjoyed the exact same things, the world would be a boring place.  We should celebrate the diversity.

I know I'm ranting, but I've been stewing over this for the past few days.  It was instigated when I read an article by writer  Lynn Shepherd where she claimed that J.K. Rowling should stop writing because her success doesn't leave enough room for others.  (Nevermind the fact that top selling authors make publishing companies enough money that they can afford the financial risk of taking on an unknown writer.  And I personally don't think the success of others diminishes me.  If anything, I diminish myself if I succumb to jealousy instead of viewing that success as an inspiration.)  Anyway, the actual subject of the article could have led to some healthy debate about the nature of publishing, but I had no interest in that after reading the first paragraph of the article.  That's because I, along with many other readers, was shamed for the kinds of books I love to read. Shepherd admits that she's never read a word of Harry Potter and hasn't seen any of the movies before she proceeds to say that she thinks it's a shame that so many adults read them.  Apparently she doesn't deem them stimulating enough for an adult's mind.  It felt like she was judging me and many others for the reading choices we make, and I felt like, as a fellow writer, she should have known better than to do this.  It's just not cool.

I'm an adult.  I love Harry Potter.  I read a mixture of many things.  I read sci-fi, fantasy, YA, philosophy books, science books, and various other kinds of books that capture my interest.  I write the stories that form in my mind and appeal to me, and those are frequently science fiction.  I do not feel ashamed of any of it, nor should I.

Have you ever been shamed for the things you read or write?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Express Yourself: Autographs

The Express Yourself Weekly Meme is hosted by Jackie @ Bouquet of Books and Dani @ Entertaining Interests.

The question for this week is: Do you have any autographs?  If not, whose would you love to have?

I own an autographed copy of Aberration by Lisa Regan, and an autographed bookmark from Cherie Reich.  I also have autographs from every member of the University of Iowa men's basketball team from the 1996-97 season.  I got that on a field trip we took to Iowa City in 5th grade.  That was definitely a memorable experience for me.

Even though it's not a requirement, I'd also like to list a few autographs I would love to have: Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Morgan Freeman, Joss Whedon, and J. Michael Straczynski.  There are plenty more I could list, but these are just a few of the creative/amazingly gifted people whom I love.  An autograph from any one of them would make my year.

Do you have any neat autographs?  Whose autograph would make you spaz out in happiness?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

BREATHLESS Cover Reveal!

Today I'm helping the talented Krista McLaughlin with the cover reveal for her upcoming novella BREATHLESS.

If you ask me, this cover looks awesome, and the story sounds just as captivating!

BREATHLESS by Krista McLaughlin

Book Summary: 

Eighteen-year-old Lainey is the only witness to her best friend losing her life to the depths of the ocean. She stays close to the water, a small part of her hoping to surrender to the same fate. On her birthday the waters almost overtake her, but a mysterious young man rescues her and disappears.

Lainey can't stop thinking about the stranger from the beach, and one night she finds her rescuer naked and bleeding on the shore. Jon doesn’t know what pancakes taste like, how microwave popcorn cooks, or own shoes, but he seems to be just what Lainey needs. As the anniversary of her friend’s death looms, Lainey opens herself in ways she never thought possible. But when Jon’s identity comes to light, Lainey has to save him before she loses another love to the sea.

Publication Date:  April 1, 2014

About the Author:

Krista McLaughlin graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Child, Adult, and Family Services, and a minor in English.  She was born and raised in the Midwest with her nose stuck in a book and her hand smeared in pencil lead.  When she is not cuddling with little ones she nannies, she is reading or cross-stitching.  She loves J.R.R. Tolkien and all things Star Trek.