Thursday, June 22, 2017

The One Where I Update You On My Life

Could this be considered an Ishness post? I've never done one before, so I'm not exactly sure of the protocol. Let me know in the comments! 
For the uninitiated, "Ishness" is hosted by Deborah O'Carroll. She and other participating bloggers talk about what they've been doing lately... I want to talk about what I've been doing lately. So. Let'sa go-o.

I got a job! After several stressful weeks of searching, a local hardware store hired me as a cashier. If you ever happen to visit... first of all, how did you find out where I work?? Second of all, do not ask me to direct you to the ladders because I do not know where we keep the ladders. We carry everything from paint to propane to potting soil, from things that kill bugs to things that kill moss (I live in the Pacific Northwest where moss is a Big Problem), from whitewood-that-is-actually-gray to hula hoops. I don't know where any of these things are.

I don't know who made this gif, but I want to give them all the credit because Totoro hula hooping is just too cute. Also, I'd like to thank them for making a hula hoop gif that doesn't feature a half-naked woman. 
I've never cashiered before, so this is a good learning experience for several reasons. 1) With cashiering skills, I can now get a job at any store. 2) I'm forced out my cozy eggshell in order to politely and happily interact with strangers for long periods of time.
My (far more) introverted (than I thought) soul did not, initially, like interacting with strangers for long periods of time, but now that I am getting used to it and have worked on changing my attitude, I don't mind it as much.
Plus, it's a great opportunity to people watch! There are many, many, many different types of people who peruse hardware stores.
Here are some of the most interesting people that have come through my line:

-The old woman who bought $600 worth of soaker hoses. I asked her, "Do you have a big yard?" and she said, "No, but I have a lot of plants." Her plan was to hook up all the hoses and snake them through the yard so that she wouldn't have to use a sprinkler to water her plants.
-The man with the Star Wars t-shirt and the Chihuahua named Yoda.
-The old, deaf couple who told me "Thank you" with their hands, their eyes, and their smiles.
-The woman who wore her blue tape as a bracelet and looked far more regal than royalty.
-The man whose money made the cash register smell like cigarette smoke every time I opened it.
-The man who yelled at me for double checking that I got a price right.
-The talkative woman who went on and on about how easy it is to hide the true nature of things. Even people can put up a facade and you would never know until you marry them. (That story went from very philosophical to very sad in a very short amount of time).
-The woman who said she was having a s*** day (quite literally) because her husband had stepped in dog poop.
-The lady trying to discourage her elderly father from buying Mountain Dew.
-Oh, yes, and the two teenage girls trying to beat up their friend who had taken refuge behind the service counter. That was an interesting morning.

I also got an Instagram account where I post pictures of books with (what I hope are) witty captions.

My goal since finishing the fourth draft of my novel has been to write a short story a week. So far, I've written two and edited down the VBS skits to an acceptable length.
My first story is about a musician whose mother always sits in the front row of his concerts. The second story recounts the Terror of having to evacuate one's dorm at 3:30 AM because someone on the boy's floor burned orange chicken and set off the fire alarm (based on a True Story).

Somehow, I've managed to read seven books so far this month. I read Rosie the Riveter, which is about women in World War II. This is research for my next novel, which I will talk about in another blog post. What did I learn from this book? Mainly that if women in the 1940s could leave their homes and children to do hard, physical labor and raise the production of planes from 60 a month to 360 a month (and all while maintaining their waved hair and makeup-ed faces) so that their men could win the war overseas, then I can be a part-time cashier without bemoaning my life.

Contrary to popular belief, THIS is Rosie the Riveter, not the lady with her sleeve rolled up saying, "We can do it."
I also read The Magicians of Caprona and Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones (the third and fourth books in the Chrestomanci series). I enjoyed them immensely. I liked The Magicians of Caprona better, though, because of the parts with Punch and Judy. Also because of Benvenuto the Cat.

I dunno about you, but I drool over these editions of Diana Wynne Jones' books.
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, however, took up most of my reading time this month. Several people whose bookish opinions I trust raved about this series. I tried reading it a year or two ago and couldn't get into it because of the clairvoyancy. This time, however, I pushed passed the first two chapters and read the entire series in two weeks. There is SO much in The Raven Cycle to talk about. I'd like to re-read the series and do a full review on it sometime in the near future. What I'd like to say now, however, is that, yes, Maggie Stiefvater's writing style is just as beautiful as people have said, her characters are flawed and real and wonderful, and her plot is unique and wacky. Also, yes, this series does have "questionable" content if you are a Christian. I say "questionable" in quotation marks because I have a lot of thoughts about this content. I would like to address this in a separate blog post, but, as I said, I'd like to re-read the series before I talk about it more on my blog. For now, I will say that I enjoyed the series a lot, but if I were to recommend it, it would be with extreme caution (at least until I can explain my thoughts about it). 

One thing I can say without re-reading the series is that THESE COVERS ARE SO GORGEOUS.
Now, I'm reading The Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve in preparation for the movie that Peter Jackson is making. I'd forgotten how much I like Philip Reeve's prose! I also plan to start the fifth Chrestomanci book soon. 

I watched Sherlock Season Four and it was So. Good. The middle episode was my favorite (mostly because of Mrs. Hudson). I had to pause the last episode several times to say "WHAT??!" I didn't like season three or the Christmas episode, so I was glad to enjoy Sherlock again! If Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat were to end the series here, I would be happy because they wrapped up the storylines and character arcs fantastically.

And now it's time for a confession:



I love sitcoms, and I have been watching quite a bit of Friends and Cheers since getting home from school. I started watching Friends at school, and I started watching Cheers again because I wanted a show where I could take a break from all my worries (sure would help a lot). Y'know, sometimes I want to go where everybody knows my name, and they're always glad I came. Cheers is a great show to make you feel that way.

I've been listening to my usual variety of contradictions. Jazz followed by '70s rock followed by classical music followed by Christian rock from the '80s followed by the Hamilton or La La Land soundtrack followed by heavy medal Middle Earth music.
The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band had its 50th anniversary a few weeks ago, so I've been listening to that a lot. In fact, I had to force myself to stop listening to it so that I wouldn't get tired of it. It's an incredible album, though. I watched a documentary on how the Beatles made it, and they pioneered several techniques and sounds with this album. They were a truly legendary band (but perhaps that's another blog post, too).

Let me know what you've been up to recently! What have you been reading? What have you been listening to? I love getting comments, so don't be shy. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Beautiful People: June 2017 // Draegond

~Beautiful People is a monthly linkup for writers hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky at Further Up and Further In.~

Meet Draegond. He's married to Lynnie, who featured in last month's Beautiful People post! He'd like to answer this month's questions himself, so I shall turn The Blog over to him.

1. What's your favourite place you've ever visited?
I love to travel, though I haven't done as much of it as I would like. Before defecting from King John's guard, I had never traveled outside of Kasteel City. After I defected, however, I went straight to the mountains and crossed over to the desert beyond. It was so beautiful! And so sparse. I loved it. I would love to go back someday with proper supplies. Last time, I didn't bring enough water and passed out from dehydration and heat exhaustion. Finn's mentor found me and they were able to bring me back to health.

2. What's one mistake you made that you learned from?
Well, I definitely learned not to enter a desert without proper supplies! Ha ha ha. Another mistake that I made was returning to Amery after I defected. If you are going to defect, don't come back to the country that you defected from. Similarly, if you are going to do something that goes against order (like spy on your superiors, for instance...) make sure that you are not caught. You may not get a chance to learn from your mistake if you are caught! I was given the death sentence for defecting from King John's guard, but he had mercy on me and only demoted me. 

3. What was your favourite subject in school? Or favourite thing to learn about?
Much of my schooling prepared me for entering the king's guard, which I hated. It was all fighting and marching and riding and more fighting. Students preparing for the king's guard do get to take two classes of their own choosing, though (they're for if you are discharged from the king's guard, you know another trade). I chose art and craftsmanship. I enjoyed those two classes the best out of all the ones that I had to take. 

4. What's your favourite flower/growing thing?
I like small, round cacti. There were a lot of those in the desert. They have beautiful flowers. I also like those tiny, little daisies that grow in fields. 

5. Have you ever made someone cry? What happened?
I'm ashamed of this... I made my wife cry once. She still worked at the tavern, then. I had had a long day of work, and she had had a long day of work. At home, we got into a silly argument about how often the floor should be swept. I snapped at her. Then, she cried. That's another mistake that I learned from: even if you've had a long day, you can still act civil to your wife. 

6. Would you consider yourself a reliable or unreliable narrator?
I'm always reliable to those who deserve it. (This does not include King John, but don't tell him I said so, or he might actually have me killed this time.)

7. What do you dream about at night?
Sometimes I dream about the desert. Sometimes I dream about Lynnie and I picnicking in the fields around Kasteel City. Sometimes I dream about dark forests and the dark things that they contain. I don't often remember my dreams, but when I do—whether they take place in the desert or the fields or the forest—they always have dragons in them.

8. You've gone out for a "special meal." What would you eat?
Hmm... I do like a good leg of lamb when I can get it. Garnished with potatoes and potatoes. Mmmm.

9. What's at least one thing you want to do before you die?
I want to return to the desert and see dragons. That's why I went there in the first place, but I never saw dragons. 

10. Do you have any distinguishing or unique talents?
I like to fancy myself a good artist. That's not too unique, but it's my only hobby (beside adventuring, that is). I suppose I have the unique talent of looking intimidating (when, according to my friends, I'm really just a harmless turtle. I don't like going too fast, and I like sitting in the sun). 

Thanks for letting me answer these questions. Life as a dungeon guard is pretty boring when you only have one person to guard.

(I heard that!)

Finn! Quiet! This is my interview. 
Ignore him. He's just salty because he's been stuck in this dungeon for five years. He gets pretty bored, too. I should go back to him. Thank you again. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Wonder Woman Review

I have a confession to make. Before last week, I had never seen a DC movie. I've never seen a Superman film. I've never seen a Batman film. *holds out card* Here's my Nerd Cred. Take it away from me. I don't deserve it. Or, maybe you could be lenient because I did see Wonder Woman? You don't have to give it back right away... Why don't I tell you my thoughts and then you can decide whether or not I deserve my Nerd Cred back?

If you've seen the trailers for Wonder Woman, then this review won't be too spoilery. If you want to avoid all of the spoilers of ever, then I suggest you see the movie and come back here at a later date. 

Plot: Diana grows up among the Amazons—a society of women trained for war—on the secret island of Themyscira. In addition to being the daughter of the queen, she is also the only child on the island. Despite her mother's hesitation, Diana learns to fight, and she also learns that the gods created the Amazons to protect the world from Ares, the god of war.
One day, a plane flies through the barrier hiding Themyscira from the rest of the world. It contains Steve Trevor, a World War I spy. He explains the Great War to the Amazons and Diana is convinced that Ares has returned and that she must fight him. And So. Diana leaves the protection of Themyscira and travels to London and the trenches with Steve Trevor so that she may meet Ares in battle and destroy him once and for all so that the hearts of men will no longer be corrupted by his evil.

Wonder Woman spends a long time setting up the story. There is a lengthy introduction before the inciting incident (AKA Steve Trevor, if we're going to name names) happens. I felt that this threw off the pacing of the movie, as the audience spends a lot of time watching Diana grow up without having a reason to root for her yet. Also, throughout the movie, there is a lot of telling instead of showing. The Dump Truck of Exposition unloads several revelations on the audience instead of letting the Paver of DISS* smooth the information on the audience over a period of time.

*Disseminating Information Super Slowly.
Friend, Abby. Text message to author. 7 June 2017. (<---- This is my attempt to cite my source in MLA format. I think I deserve my Nerd Cred back now. Thank you.)

While I didn't enjoy the pacing of the movie, I thought that the plot and sub-plots were well done. I enjoyed the plot twists, too! They actually managed to surprise me.

Characters: Diana Prince (AKA Wonder Woman, if we're going to name names) is a lovely blend of innocence, femininity, and kick-butt deadliness.

She is innocent because she grew up in an ancient civilization while the rest of the world advanced for 2,000 years. She knows nothing about the world outside of Themyscira, which is humorous when she reaches London. Her innocence also shows itself in her mission. Her goal is to find Ares and she won't let herself get sidetracked, even if that means messing up the plans of others and looking like a fool. She doesn't know what constitutes acceptable behavior in WWI-era England, and so she does what she knows is right despite cultural standards. This turns her innocence into strength, for it allows her to stand up for her beliefs. I think we've all had times when we don't stand up for what we believe it because we are afraid to look foolish. Diana is a good example of standing strong in one's beliefs, even when everyone else is against you.
And she does it in a dress.
Despite being a warrior princess, Diana (and all of the Amazons) remain feminine. And their costumes aren't too revealing/distracting either (at least, I didn't think so)!
Diana is not only strong in conviction, but also in muscle. Countless times in the movie, she is the one to save her friends or march into battle first. She is no damsel in distress. While I have no doubt that she would have marched into battle just as quickly if she wasn't searching for Ares, her motivation is to find Ares. Her enemies stood in the way of her ultimate goal, so she fought them. Her determination and courage are just as inspiring as her strength of mind and confidence.
I think Wonder Woman is an excellent role model.
While it was hinted throughout the movie that she has more power than she thinks, it does not appear until the end. I wish that they had done a better job of building to this moment rather than giving her a Rey-like explosion of sudden power at the end.

Steve Trevor is a spy, soldier, and flying ace. Like Diana, he has a mission to accomplish.

Steve's mission is to destroy a new form of poison gas that can break through gas masks.

Are you my mummy? (I'm so sorry. I've been watching Doctor Who, and I couldn't resist.
While Diana is single-mindedly trying to find Ares, Steve is single-mindedly trying to find Dr. Poison and her concoction. He and Diana help each other, but they remain very focused on their own missions, which I liked. They understand that they will need to sacrifice even their friendship to save the world.
I loved the way they wrapped up Steve Trevor's storyline. It's not one that I've seen much before, and I highly approved.

There are many other characters in this movie. There are the Amazons (namely Hippolyta, who is Diana's mother, and Antiope, who is Diana's aunt/teacher), Steve Trevor's secretary Etta Candy, and Steve Trevor's friends Sameer, Charlie, and Chief. Because we spend so much time with the Amazons at the beginning of the movie, Steve Trevor's entourage aren't developed very well. They are more like caricatures than actual characters. I felt the same way about the villains.

Setting: As my dad's friend pointed out, Wonder Woman is set during World War I, which is odd for movies, since they usually focus on World War II. As someone who thinks World War I is more interesting than World War II, I loved the setting! I liked the historical touches, such as the fashions and the inclusion of chemical warfare. The characters even visit the trenches and No Man's Land (I loved that part). There were some jokes and slang that seemed a little too 21st century for the 20th century... but, mostly, I thought they did a good job representing the time period (especially since this is a superhero movie and not a historical film).

Themes: I was not expecting there to be such a deep theme in Wonder Woman. The main theme is that even though humans are evil, there is still good in the world and love conquers all.
According to the Amazons, humans were basically good until Ares came along and corrupted them. He is behind every war and every mean comment and every evil deed. Diana's worldview is shattered, and she realizes that humans are evil without Ares' help. She also realizes, however, that there are decent and kind human beings out there, too. And, ultimately, love conquers.
This is a message that needs to spread in today's day when terrorist attacks are normal, weekly occurrences; when homeschoolers are no longer the anti-social ones (I'M JOKING! DON'T LYNCH ME), but everyone feels lonely; and when the only way to win an important position is to attach your opponent's name to wild horses and have it dragged through the mud. In this kind of world, messages like Wonder Woman's are hopeful (and hopefully helpful).
While the moral of Wonder Woman is not an intentionally Biblical parallel, we can draw a parallel anyway. Humans are sinful, but there is still kindness in the world. Jesus' sacrificial love conquers evil and it conquers death.

Wonder Woman has its faults, but its titular character and its theme are strong. If you like superhero movies, or stories with strong female characters, then check out this movie!

Have YOU seen Wonder Woman? What did you think of it?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Long and Winding Editing Road—Did I Finish?

Did I finish the fourth draft of my fantasy novel by June 1?

And one week early, too.

As usual, editing went much smoother than I expected. I changed a lot of major things in this draft from last draft, yet it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be! I had a lot of fun making changes, spending time with my characters (they have become very familiar to me over the past years [even Finn, the little troublemaker]), and just reading through the draft. Maybe next draft I'll pay attention to all of the references I make and put them into a blog post, for I cannot seem to write a novel without including the titles of Beatles songs and other such inane foppery (my favorite was a rogue Tim Hawkins quote. Yes, this is a fairytale-fantasy).

So, what's next? Well, I know that I'm too close to this draft to see any flaws, so I'm going to send this draft to a few friends to read. I'm excited for two reasons:
1) My writing/reading/NaNoWriMo-ing friend/doppleganger from school Abby with No E gets to read it.
2) For ease of reading, I'm ordering two paperback copies of this draft! Eep!!

Here are some stats-
Draft: Four
Started: December 18ish, 2016.
Finished: May 25, 2017 at 10:35(ish)PM.
Worked on: Mostly December, April, and May.
Chapters: Sixty
Word count: 147,839

And, for the first time ever... here is a snippet:

Rozella led Finn and Ronan up the sand dune she had just climbed in her anger. She had found a surprise waiting for her on the other side. Now, she and her friends stood at the top of the dune looking down into a sandy valley. The light from the half-moon glinted off of at least a hundred scaly monsters.
“See, look!” Rozella hissed to her friends. “Dragons!”
Dragons, indeed. Dragons as far as the eye could see! And they were just waking up from their daily slumber. Their backs were easily twenty feet high. They were mostly brown and black, but there were also dark green, blue, and purple dragons. Occasionally a gold or silver dragon broke the monotony. Scales covered their entire bodies and they had horns protruding from their snouts and the tops of their heads.
As the four travelers watched, the dragons became more and more active. The beasts woke, stretched, yawned, and began walking around. Some groomed each other with reptilian-like tongues. Some tasted the air with those same tongues. Some fought. Some flew.
“Look!” gasped Rozella, as the first dragon alighted into the air.
Its powerful wings beat slowly at first and then faster as it rose. Wind from the dragon’s wings hit the travelers full in the face and they stumbled backwards. In a moment, hundreds of other dragons began flapping into the air. The gale force winds forced the travelers back down to their campsite where they hastily extinguished their fire. They desperately hoped that the dragons wouldn’t mistake them for prey.

I hope you enjoyed it! Now, I'm going to read.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Beautiful People: May 2017 // Lynnie

~Beautiful People is a monthly linkup for writers hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky at Further Up and Further In.~

Lynnie is one of the minor characters in my fantasy-fairytale novel. She is Rozella's maid. 

1. Overall, how good is their relationship with their parents? 
Overall, very good. Lynnie is a little distant from her father because he works so much, but she knows that he is always there for her if she needs something. She is closer to her mother, or, rather, her mother is closer to her. Lynnie's mother has many sons, but Lynnie is her only daughter. She relies on Lynnie a lot and can sometimes be annoying in a way that only a mother can be to her daughter, but Lynnie loves her nevertheless. 

2. Do they know both their biological parents? If not, how do they cope with this loss/absence and how has it affected their life?
Yes. (That was an easy question. :P)

3. How did their parents meet?
Lynnie's father was a humble mill boy... Lynnie's mother was a humble farm girl. One day, she was sent on a mission to his mill to tell him that the next portion of wheat would be arriving late. He was very kind about it, even though he should have been angry since it was going to put the mill behind schedule. From that day on, she made sure to walk by the mill every day on her way home from the field, even though it was out of her way. One day, he followed her home and, after that, he walked her home on his way home every day, until his home became her home, too. 

4. How would they feel if they were told “you’re turning out like your parent(s)”?
Lynnie would feel that it was a complement if someone told her that she was like her father, for her father is reliable and kindhearted. If she were turning out like her mother, on the other hand, Lynnie would be appalled. Her mother loves learning the latest royal gossip and spreading it to whoever will listen. She is also very particular about her children and grandchildren; people call her a hen. Lynnie doesn't like to gossip, and she would rather have her children as free-spirited as possible. 

5. What were your character’s parents doing when they were your character’s age?
Lynnie's father was working hard at the mill and Lynnie's mother was expecting their first baby. 

6. Is there something they adamantly disagree on?
Lynnie believes that King John's treatment of the lower classes (of which her family hails from) is deplorable and that they should do something about it. Her father agrees that King John treats his peasants horribly, but he thinks that it is too dangerous to speak or act against the king. 
Lynnie and her mother disagree on celebrity gossip. Lynnie thinks that her mother should find better things to engage her time, but Lynnie's mother is convinced that one day her knowledge of All Things Royal will come in handy one day (it turns out that she is right).

7. What did the parent(s) find hardest about raising your character?
Lynnie was never content to stay at home to learn mending or cooking. She was always out exploring the countryside with her brothers. This was fine, except that Lynnie's parents didn't always know where she had got to! When their family was forced to move to the city, Lynnie explored it on her own. Often, she wandered into parts of town that she was not supposed to go as a peasant. Her parents spent many afternoons wondering where she had gone and if she was going to come home that night. 

8. What’s their most vivid memory with their parental figure(s)?
Lynnie remembers refusing to learn to sew as a little girl until her father came to her and asked her a special favor to him to learn to sew so that she could help her mother mend the clothes for the family. Maybe someday, he said, she could help her mother make the quilts that the family made for extra money, and then Lynnie would be a productive member of the family. From that day on, Lynnie decided to love sewing. 

9. What was your character like as a baby/toddler?
She was an amiable baby. She hardly ever cried and smiled a lot. When she learned to crawl, she never stopped until she learned to walk. She has been going place ever since. 

10. Why and how did the parents choose your character’s name?
"Lynn" was the name of Lynnie's grandmother. Her parents wanted to honor Grandma, but they also wanted to make their baby's name unique, so they added "ie" at the end of her name.