Monday, December 3, 2012

Awesome Commenters!

I got a blog award!!!

More than that, I got a blog award for one of my favorite things -- comments!!! Brooke R. Busse, a young writer at Paper Mountain (a blog I really enjoy) gave me this award. Head over and check out her blog. :)


Seriously, comments are my favorite thing about blogging. I can scream into the void all day, but I'd much prefer to have a conversation. Comments are important. Without discussion, I don't really see the point of blogging. That's one of the things I liked so much about NaNoWriMo -- the forums.

In blogging, I've encountered a bit of an attitude of, "Well if you disagree, then just get off my blog! I only want 'you're fantastic and all your opinions are gold!'" comments.

Yeah, no. As much as, "I loved this! I want to read more!" comments make me smile in self-satisfaction, I like comments with a little more depth. I also try to leave comments with a little more depth. Why did I love this post? What am I going to take away from it? Did it change my opinion, or did it affirm everything I've already been thinking?

Or -- horror of horrors -- did I disagree with the blogger's opinion? 

This happens. It's fine. If you disagree with me, please be sure to say so so that we can talk about it. "I love every word that drops from your fingertips and sheds its enlightening glow on my computer screen" comments are great and all, but they don't open any doors to further discussion. Disagreeing civilly and politely, on the other hand, does. Mine is not the only perspective in the world. Meeting to talk about these things on a blogging platform can help us understand each others' point of view.

Also, I like comments because they make me feel like people are actually reading this blog. :)

The comment award goes to Ty Unglebower, a blogger and an actor friend of mine who always leaves long, thoughtful comments. Say hi on his blog or read some of his comments on this one.

In other news, the Fall/Winter 2012 issue of Outrageous Fortune launches this evening. Go check it out here! We have a shiny new website that looks very nice.

Happy December!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Books I'm Waiting On

This year, I made a resolution that I was going to read as few books for fun as possible -- the better to focus on the chaos of college.

Well, I'm miserable.

The only "for fun" book I brought along was Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch, and I've already finished it. I'm itching for new books to read. I'll have to wait until Monday for the library to open, sadly. Specifically, I'm dying to read:


Ahh! Look at those costumes!!!
The Republic of Thieves is the sequel to Red Seas Under Red Skies, and what with the way that one ended, I need to read the sequel. It's not a want anymore. It is a NEED. RSUR was a fantastic second book, but the ending was just...depressing. While The Lies of Locke Lamora could be read and enjoyed by itself, Red Seas Under Red Skies is clearly a part of a series that is meant to continue.

So far, my only complaint about the series is that amazing characters from the first book got dropped for the second. That makes sense since it completely changes place, but I hope this doesn't become a pattern -- develop great new characters for each book and then abandon them for the sequel.

I'm going to find The Republic of Thieves and then Bastards and Knives and then whatever comes next.


UK cover of Envy
The second book I'm looking forward to -- also a sequel -- is Envy by Elizabeth Miles. It's the second of the YA paranormal/horror Fury trilogy about the Greek Furies and their victims. In Fury, Em cheated with her best friend's asshole boyfriend, Zach. Zach juggles different girls and hookups like other people his age juggle homework assignments. In the Epilogue, we see a beautiful blonde woman (just his type; see cover right) come up to him and give him an orchid -- the mark of the Furies. DUN DUN DUUUUNNN.

I haven't read any reviews of Envy because I want to be surprised, but I sincerely hope that this Fury makes Zach fall obsessively in love with her and then cheats on him a lot because that would be lovely, lovely karma.

Also, I think this series poses a lot of problematic questions about revenge, crime, and punishment, especially because the main characters are the Furies' victims. What deserves vengeance? Is revenge justice, or does it just add to the cycle? Will I end up liking Zach by the end of Envy? (I seriously hope not, but I'm willing to turn the first page with an open mind.) I loved Chase from Fury, after all, and he did something far "worse" than cheating.


The third book I want to read ASAP is The Kingmaker's Daughter, Philippa Gregory's latest War of the Roses novel. Having done Shakespeare's Richard III this summer, I am extremely interested to read Gregory's interpretation of the life of Anne, Warwick's daughter, daughter-in-law of crazy Henry VI, and later wife of infamous Richard III.

I loved Gregory's take on the Boleyn family, and her bold storytelling choices with The White Queen and The Red Queen. I didn't read Lady of the Rivers -- Jacqueline just wasn't a very interesting character to me -- but I'm dying to see how she interprets Anne. Like many historical women, she's often mis-imagined or callously dismissed by the people who write history...namely, men.

Obviously, Gregory writes historical fiction, not history -- but so did Shakespeare, and we have tons of misconceptions about historical figures thanks to him. Richard III wasn't a hunchback, did you know? Neither did he poison Anne -- she was always sickly, and came from a sickly family. In fact, he sobbed openly at her funeral. Also, Anne and Richard knew each other as children, and all the evidence points to a genuine romance. Once Anne was widowed, Richard rode to her home in the middle of the night to propose.

Also, Richard III fought with a warhammer in one hand and a sword in the other. The guy was a boss.

Yeah, Richard III was probably a horrible person for all that -- but I really want to read about him through his wife's eyes.

The Republic of Thieves, Envy, and The Kingmaker's Daughter -- forget reading for class!

Friday, October 5, 2012

The REAL reason we're all screwed in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse

I feel like a zombie lately.* Symptoms manifest most commonly in first period music theory class. Pale skin. Dark, baggy circles under my bloodshot eyes. Slack-jawed drooling. Blank stares. Groaning "Uhhhh...." in response to questions and conversation. Always looking for brains, more brains, brainsbrainsbrains. (I hear you're supposed to have those in college.)

I think I'm so sleep-deprived that my body and brain are staging a revolt. Hence the zombie-like symptoms. Not strange, then, that I'm thinking of the zombie apocalypse when I should be sleeping.

If the zombie apocalypse happens, we're all screwed. But not for the reason you probably think.

You see, we have nuclear plants all around the country. Maintenance of these plants is performed by highly trained crews of professionals who have to meet extremely high standards. For example -- radiation diving. It's a thing. Divers repair and maintain the parts of nuclear plants that are underwater -- intake pipes, etc. It's very dangerous and very important work.

What if those people fell victim to a zombie outbreak?

Cue the nuclear meltdowns. We'd all be screwed.

Say they didn't become zombies or die in the ensuing chaos. Even then, the zombie apocalypse would hardly be the time to start training new radiation divers. These people have to be fairly young and athletic for such a demanding job. They undergo years of training as professional divers, and specified training after that to work as radiation divers. Institutions providing such training would probably shut down. Divers might die as a result of age or accidents or zombie attacks. And in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, who the hell thinks "Oh, now would be a great time to get my diver's certification"?

Nuclear meltdowns. We'd all be screwed.

To say nothing of the rest of the staff that keep nuclear plants running on a day-to-day basis. What if something happened to them?

Meltdowns. Disaster.

Of course, the government might decide that the best thing would be to let the nuclear plants blow, hopefully wiping out the zombie problem while the survivors huddled in an underground lead bunker, Dr. Strangelove style.

We'd all be screwed.

What if the government-protected survivors emerged only to find that the nuclear meltdowns had only created radioactive super-zombies?

We'd all be really screwed.

All right, I'm sure there's some government emergency plan to implement in case of the zombie apocalypse. It probably involves shutting down nuclear plants. After all, dealing with the loss of electricity is preferable to dealing with the consequences of nation- and worldwide nuclear disaster.

I want to be on the committee that decides things like this. They probably have a science fiction consultant.


*I hear they usually call that depression.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

If You Can't be a Good Example: Taking Care of Yourself

This blogpost is going to be something of a PSA, inspired by Kiersten White and Ilana at Mommy Shorts. (They're both pregnancy PSA's, but no, I'm not pregnant.) Mainly, I'm writing this because I don't want other people to do the same bad things that I have done. What's the phrase? "If you can't be a good example, then be a warning." Ahem. I hereby acknowledge my hypocrisy before you even read this. I'm working on it, OK?

Anyway, it's my blog and I can write what I want! Nyah. Ahem. So. Down to business:

I went to the doctor yesterday.

Wait, let me repeat that. I went to the doctor yesterday, instead of ignoring my symptoms in the hope that they'll go away, or in the delusion that I can take care of them myself. I know no one wants to go to the doctor, but I have been practically pathological about it to the point where it's almost self-destructive.

To give an example: One time in high school, I knew my parents would take me to the doctor if I told them what was really wrong. I didn't want to go because I knew (or at least, I thought) they wouldn't believe anything was wrong. But I still wanted to stay home from school because I was feeling terrible. So I kinda gargled and swallowed a mix of mouthwash and bleach-based bathroom cleaner until I was feeling and looking sufficiently nauseous.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.



 
I wasn't always so terrible about this. However, childhood doctors didn't exactly inspire me with confidence or leave good experiences to think back on whenever I considered getting help for sickness. Didn't help that when I went to the doctor, they'd always look me over and say nothing was wrong. "She's just acting up again." Add that to the fact that I'm also one of those people who is perfectly fine with needles but starts to hyperventilate anytime someone comes near me with a throat swab, and...let's just say that I wasn't the most popular patient.

And then I went to the lady doctor for the first time, and all was magically revealed. "THIS is what's wrong with you!" "OH." *lightbulb* Mind you, I had to put my foot down to even get this appointment in the first place. "You don't need to go to that doctor! You haven't had sex yet! You're a virgin, aren't you? Aren't you?!"

Regardless of sexual experience or lack thereof, you should go to the lady doctor at eighteen, if you haven't already. This will doubtless seem extremely obvious to some of you, but it wasn't to me. Sex ed in high school was pretty thorough. Actual sexual health education wasn't. And in college, both are pretty much nonexistent.

Dear young women of high school and college age (like myself), please be aware: if you come from conservative families, you may encounter some difficulty in seeing the lady doctor. In being allowed to see the lady doctor. Do not let this deter you! It's a very basic women's health checkup that needs to be taken care of for peace of mind if nothing else. Virgin or not. NEWS FLASH: virgins can get sick too!

If you come from conservative families, you may also have to have a fight with your mother over medication. Again, do not be deterred. I wasn't. (Yes, I do take birth control for medical reasons. It's nothing to be ashamed of. You can imagine how I feel about the political agenda on its restriction.)

Even then your mother might passive-aggressively let you go off to college without the medication that's supposed to correct hormonal imbalances. Just because it's, gasp, birth control.  Even if you go to a women's college and don't have a boyfriend and aren't in the habit of random hookups. Even THEN your mother may be determined to deny you access to your medication...even if she would never admit that that's what she's doing.

She was all "Don't worry, I'll get this filled and send it to you the first week of school" and I was crazy enough to actually believe her and trust that she, as a WOMAN, as the woman from whom I inherited these hellish hormones, realized how important it was.

Anyway, it's October now, but she delivered eventually (with lots of nagging). As I said, stand firm.

Take care of yourself. Know what "taking care of yourself" means, and how to do it, and when to seek professional help. Fortunately, ever since I got a bad case of mono last year, I've been (trying) to pay more attention to my health. DON'T be like me...meaning, don't poison yourself because you don't want to go to the doctor.

Also, vote. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Resurrection Blogfest & Giveaway in November!

This may be the best idea for a blogfest I've stumbled across yet.

Mina Lobo, a follower of mine and a romance writer at Some Dark Romantic, is approaching her first blogaversary! To celebrate, she's hosting the Resurrection Blogfest. You can still sign up until Wednesday, November 7, 2012.

The idea is that during that first year of blogging, it's hard to build your audience. Your favorite posts languish with no comments. People don't really read your blog yet, so your start-up posts with all those brilliant thoughts get neglected. Doomed to a dusty grave in some obscure corner of cyberspace.


The Resurrection Blogfest is an opportunity to resurrect some of your posts from your first year of blogging! A blast from the past, as it were. I'm really excited, myself -- although I will admit, some of the stuff my overenthusiastic first-time-blogger 18-year-old self wrote makes me wince. :P

There's also a contest and a giveaway, judged by Mina and her lovely readers. I promise to find something good for you to vote on. :)

Until then, visit Mina's blog for a full list of rules and a contest entry form. (When you click on the link, it'll ask if you mind proceeding to a site that contains adult content. That's just because she's a romance writer and adult relationships contain sex. Shocker, I know.)

NaNoWriMo and the Resurrection Blogfest -- I'm looking forward to November! Are you?

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Three-Sentence Trick

I've discovered a miraculous new writing trick this summer.

Whenever I'm feeling stalled on a project -- be it short story, longer WIP, or even a poem -- I force myself to write three sentences. Or, in the case of poetry, three lines.

Three sentences isn't much. So it's pretty easy to do, no matter how frustrated and stalled and emotionally strung out I am. "Just three sentences, and I can stop. C'mon. Not that hard." And if I honestly can't think of anything else to write after period #3, I allow myself to put down that project...until I have to write another three sentences, of course.



However, that doesn't happen very often.

The three-sentence trick often gets the wheels turning just enough to launch me into pages and pages of writing. It's a great way to trick your own brain into thinking you're not going to write very much. It's just enough to get you started, to ignite the "OMG I forgot I actually love doing this!" spark in your writerly brain. Even if it doesn't spark any sparks, it's a good start to the discipline of writing something -- even as little as three sentences -- every day.

Perfect for those of us who lack the time and/or discipline to write every day. By tricking ourselves into thinking we don't have to write as long or as much -- it's just a measley three sentences, after all -- we trick ourselves into writing more.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How to Support Your Weird Artist-y Friends

I had quite the interesting conversation with my mother on my way to work yesterday.

I am currently stage managing for a production of Shakespeare's Richard III. Stage managing isn't all that different from babysitting in some ways...except that the actors never try to redecorate the bathroom with poop. At least, not yet.

Before you ask, no, I don't get paid. Not in money.

Also, that's not really any of your business (but I am getting to my point in a minute, I swear).

So why do anything -- if not for the money?

A million reasons. Job experience. Internship credit. Because I love the theater (and Richard III). Because it gets me out of the house this summer, even though it's not a paying job. Because I can put it on my growing resume. Even because other opportunities for employment might come out of this, directly or indirectly? Well, yeah. All that.

But mainly because I've decided that theater is going to be my career. I am going to work in the theater in some capacity. Honestly, I don't think I would be happy otherwise.

Unsurprisingly but still disappointingly, this is a concept beyond the grasp of my parents.

Not that I need their approval. And to be fair, they do support me up to a point. After all, the only reason I had the aforementioned lovely conversation with my mother was because she was driving me to rehearsal (having refused my offer to borrow the car and pay for gas). Which is nice and lovely and appreciated.

And then she says something like this: "You're not an actor."

Me: *blink blink* "Yes I am."
Mom: "No you're not."
Me: "Um, yes I am actually. I may not be acting at the moment, but--"
Mom: "You're an actress."
Me: "They're used interchangeably in the U.S."
Mom: "Whatever. Anyway, you're not an actress. You're a stage manager."
Me: "Yeah, that too. At present."
Mom: *sigh* "Yeah, but what's your backup plan?"
Me: *laughs* "Stage managing!"
Mom: "Not like that pays much."
Me: "More than acting."
Mom: *knowing sigh* "You're not an actor or an actress or a stage manager. You're just a silly wittle giwl."

What do I say to that?!

Well, this silly little girl is twenty, and will be making her own little girly decisions about her own little girly life.

Enter the concept of support. Support is important. Especially for those of us who are musicians, writers, actors -- anyone whose job doesn't necessarily include a monthly paycheck. We speak in the language of contracts, gigs, and part-time waitressing jobs.

That can be scary for parents and friends outside the arts. I get it. Your 13-year-old says he wants to be an actor, fine, smile and nod. He has lots of time to change his mind, after all. But for the love of God, don't beat down his dreams out of hand. Here's a hint that your kid, friend, or family member might be serious about it: your 20-year-old says she wants to work in theater, and is actively seeking -- and finding -- job experience. It's not just a silly wittle giwl's silly wittle dweam any more.

So don't treat us like that.

Theater people need support. We need friends and family to come see our shows. To spread the word around town. To listen to our lines, our workplace drama, our audition anxieties. It's much the same with musicians. Please come to our concerts and recitals. Please don't turn up the TV when we're trying to practice scales. As for writers -- we write to be read. So read our stuff, pretty please with a cherry on top.

Maybe this is asking too much -- a tangible show of support for the people you know and care about? If that is too much, settle for other meaningful, verbal, and completely cost-free means of support. "I think what you do is cool." "It's great how you stuck to it." Or, if that's still asking too much and you just can't bear to express your support and approval, at least refrain from being judgmental and demeaning. I'm not asking for fucking compliments. A little less outright disdain would be nice, though.

And, fellow artsy people -- let's not forget to support each other.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Music Monday at Midnight: George Winston

OK, so it's more like Music Tuesday at 45 minutes past midnight...but it's George Winston, so who cares? Perhaps this music posting will become a regular thing.

Anyway, "Woods"  is what I'm listening to right now.  Winston's music is transcendant. It never fails to remind me what a beautiful, versatile instrument the piano is. I'm excited to possibly be getting sheet music for some of his work, which is great, because it's surprisingly hard to find. With enough practice, I hope not to butcher it too badly.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

And, I'm Back

It's been more than a month since I last posted. Miss me? I would like to think you did. :)

"Laura, where did you go?!?? What have you been doing all this time???"

Well, between vacation, a family crisis, a new job/internship*, and Skyrim (kidding), I haven't had a lot of time for the Internet. So rather than try to juggle everything, I went on a self-imposed Internet hiatus.

Observation: My productivity did not increase. Weird, I know -- turning off the Internet is supposed to limit your distractions and create time in which to get shit done. Apart from being too stressed out to do anything, though, I realized that most of my "productive" time happens on the Internet. Or at least on a computer. However, I barely touched my computer for all of June.

Result: I didn't do any of the work, reading, writing, connecting, stalking -- I mean, talking -- and relaxing I normally do online. And in place of this computer time, what exactly did I do? Write? Practice the cello? Knit? Read? Nope, nope, nope, and nope. At least, not any more than I normally do.

Conclusion: I call B.S. on "the Internet is a time-waster" and "the Internet makes you frigid and disconnected" and "The Internet is such a distraction! If you just turn off your computer, you'll get so much more done!" LIES, I tell you. The truth is, if you don't want to be productive, then you won't be. You'll find your own distractions -- you don't need Facebook to create them for you.

Turning off the computer doesn't solve the real productivity problem -- which is not really wanting to do anything. There will always be distractions, online or off. The way you solve that is to grit your teeth and ignore them. Determine to do something, and get it done. Blaming the Internet is the easy way out.

However, there's nothing wrong with taking a vacation. And I needed that vacation. But now I'm back, and nothing can save me from having to check my inbox.

Bring on the emails...



*Unpaid, but it still counts as work experience! Woot!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Tale of the Cucaracha

Well, I'm back from Mexico.

I'm not exactly ecstatic about this, but I suppose I'm glad to be back. I've missed my friends and roommates. Now I have about a thousand pictures to go through and upload! But hey, I'm not complaining.

Before I return to my normal blogging schedule, however, I HAVE to tell you the story of the Cucaracha. ;)

We were at Los Arcos late last Friday night -- a restaurant/bandstand where people order food and dance the salsa. I'm a novice salsa dancer, but I was wearing flip-flops that night and not planning to dance much. So I didn't feel guilty ordering drinks at the 2-for-1 cocktail happy hour. But the thing about the drink menus was that they only listed the drinks...not what goes into them.

Lesson learned: DO NOT order the most dangerous-sounding drinks on the menu.

I asked for a Vampiro and a Cucaracha. Then I realized that, with the 2-for-1 deal, I'd end up with 4 drinks. I flagged down the waitress and asked her which one I should pick -- Vampiro or Cucaracha? She hadn't had either, and said she didn't know. So I asked her what was in each one.

THIS IS WHAT SHE TOLD ME: The Cucaracha had rum in it, and was stronger than the Vampiro. I figured, hey, rum is supposed to be sweet, and I was going to be eating a burger and fries, so the alcohol probably wouldn't bother me. I asked for the Cucaracha. She warned me that it would make me very "happy"...but I insisted.

She told me it had rum in it. She failed to mention that it also had tequila in it. In fact, the Cucaracha is just a shot of rum + a shot of tequila.

Oh yeah, and she never told me that IT WAS GOING TO BE ON FIRE.

So, picture this: I'm at the table with my friends and my food, chatting, and the waiter comes over. He's got a glass with a shot of tequila, and a shot glass of rum. He sets both down and I wonder, am I supposed to mix them myself? Or throw both shots back? I wasn't expecting this. Then he picks up the tequila...and takes out his lighter.

The waiter fires up the lighter and begins to move it around the rim of the glass, heating up the alcohol. I'm looking a little worried at this point. You drink it hot? I ask. Wait a minute, he says...and gives me a straw. I look at the straw in confusion, completely unaware of what is expected of me. Last time I checked, you don't slurp shots through a straw. Meanwhile, the waiter continues to heat up the tequila. He's got the lighter in the glass now -- and when the tequila reaches a certain temperature, it catches fire.

A pretty tongue of blue flame curls up from the glass, fading and then strengthening as the waiter continues to work the lighter. We clap and make appreciative noises. Up till two seconds from now, I've been thinking that this is just a trick he does, and I'll have to drink it hot once the fire goes out. But when he keeps heating the drink, and the flame becomes steady, two seconds from now hits and I realize I HAVE TO DRINK THAT. FUUUUCK.

Once the tequila is burning steadily, the waiter pours the shot of rum in and starts heating THAT up. Soon the Cucaracha is flaming and everyone at the table is watching in gleeful expectation. I'm sure my face at this point is absolutely terrified. You have to drink it through a straw, my friend explains, and suck it down fast, or else the straw will melt. Classy.

Finally the waiter asks Are you ready? I grab the straw -- YOLO -- and nod. He slams the drink down, I slam the straw down, and suck up the Cucaracha while my companions cheer me on. I CHUG it through a STRAW while it is ON FIRE.

I make it all down and I keep it all down, despite the burning sensation and the aftertaste. My face twitches a bit and tears start to my eyes. The waiter gathers up the glasses while my companions clap, laughing. I grab for the french fries -- anything to get that bizarre aftertaste of hot tequila + rum out of my mouth. I'm in a state of shock, my taste buds still not entirely sure what the hell just hit them. Now I know why they call it the Cucaracha -- it's strong enough to kill a cockroach.

Then I realize -- happy hour is 2-for-1 cocktails.

I've got another drink coming.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Internet is Distracting! (This post brought to you by Captain Obvious)

The Internet is distracting!!!

Thank you, Captain Obvious. Now that you have stated the obvious, what exactly am I going to do about it?

The problem, you see, is multi-faceted. The Internet is distracting, but also necessary. I need to check my email, edit my group paper/project in Google Docs, look up sources and articles etc. online, read the news and the weather, make the occasional appearance on Facebook so that my friends don't think I've forgotten them, etc. I spend at least an hour a day on checking my email and other necessary -- often school-related -- Internet tasks.

What I don't need to do is get into pointless arguments with bigots in the comments section of YouTube, spend forever on Pinterest, tweet 24/7, debate the merits and flaws of Communism and religion with people I only know via Facebook, defend against stereotypical/cruel/bigoted comments directed at social groups I may or may not belong to, or spend hours on Goodreads analyzing some random novel I liked. Also cat video marathons. You may laugh, but you know you're guilty of this too -- you watch JUST ONE VIDEO of a cat doing something adorable and it's like you need another hit of cuteness. At least I don't browse reddit or 4chan.

Usually I don't worry about my Internet use, but I had a sudden realization earlier today. It was occasioned by a Facebook discussion where a friend of a friend of an acquaintance commented: "Jesus's teachings: let's camp out in the desert and eat bugs and talk about how good we are rather than doing anything to actually combat violence." Seeing that, I chuckled and almost commented: "Lol that's John the Baptist actually" before I realized that a) they wouldn't get the joke, and b) they wouldn't care.

That actually really bothered me for a little while, until I realized that I shouldn't care what random people on the Internet think. I KNOW. Huge revelation, right? :P If this person wants to spread misinformation, nothing I can say will change that. Similarly, if YouTube-comment-bigots want to rant about how feminism and interracial marriage are destroying the world (examples of all the word-vomit out there on YouTube), then a comment from a random person won't exactly change their worldview. Hell, I don't even know them. Why do I bother?

This gets back to a personal problem, er I mean characteristic, of mine. I have a capricious tendency to play devil's advocate to almost anything,* because I believe that if you can't defend your views against the counterargument, then maybe you should rethink your views. Or at least, how you defend them. I can do this because I recognize that debate and discussion are not the place and time for emotion and personal investment. In other words: attack on my argument does not = attack on my person. Therefore, I might want to prove you wrong because I disagree, but it's not personal. Gay marriage destroys family values? Evidence please. Jesus was the ancient Middle East version of Thoreau? Ok, please explain. And kudos to you if you can convince me you're right.**

However, most of the Internet is not the place for reasonable discourse. This is why Goodreads is such a Laura-trap, and a place where I waste a huge amount of my time. On Goodreads, you are encouraged to have reasoned discussion and analysis of books. I, as you may have figured out, am a sucker for that kind of thing. It's also nice to find somewhere on the Internet where people are expressing their opinions without devolving into finger-pointing, name-calling, or grammatically nonsensical paragraphs.

So what can I do to cut down on my Internet time?

1. I shall avoid Goodreads discussion pages. I've already been doing that for a while; usually I just add, rate, and review books. And since I'm only reading one book for pleasure right now, I can safely cut all time on the site until I actually, you know, have time for it.

2. I shall not friend or talk to people on Facebook who I don't know in real life. There is one exception to this rule; I am going to ignore the rest.

3. I hereby give myself the power to not give a fuck! This is actually extremely difficult because I tend to care a LOT. However. The Internet is not the time and place to care, beyond signing petitions. (But if I meet racist bigots in real life, I make no promises.)

4. I shall henceforth ignore the comment section of YouTube/other sites. This will both save me a lot of spoilers and preserve my faith in humanity.

5. I shall not cultivate a new Internet addiction after Pinterest.

6. If I don't have anything interesting or revelatory to tweet, I shall not tweet.

7. Twitter time shall become an exercise in multitasking. By which I don't mean keeping Twitter and Facebook open at the same time; I mean working on a paper and tweeting on the side.

8. I shall begin a to-do list of things that cannot be accomplished on the Internet. And then do them. And then go on the Internet.

9. I shall subscribe by email only to the blogs/newsletters/groups whose posts I am 100% sure I will actually read. I also have some email subscriptions I almost never read; I shall unsubscribe to those.

10. I am not obligated to comment on every blogpost I read (although I try to do this for most of them, as a matter of courtesy if not always actual interest). Luckily, I'm helped in this by WordPress's extremely irritating login and Blogger's almost-as-irritating word verification. Dammit, WordPress, sometimes you just want to comment as "Anonymous" even if your email already belongs to a WordPress account. And Blogger, not even humans can read those word verifications. Thus, more bloggers are disabling them altogether. Congratulations -- in your attempt to block spam, you've actually achieved the opposite effect. It's easier to delete spam comments than read those squiggly words.




*I should just be a lawyer.
**Because that's kind of hard to do.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

If you Liked The Hunger Games, Read These

Before I recommend anything, first allow me to geek out a bit.

I saw The Hunger Games movie at the midnight premiere, and let me just say, it was fantastic. It's the kind of book that is very well suited to be made into a movie -- suspenseful, action-packed, with lots of great character stuff going on as well. I was gasping, laughing, wincing, flailing, and at one point honest-to-God crying (along with everyone else in the theater). The acting was spot-on, the costumes induced extreme envy, and the script (which Suzanne Collins, a screenwriter, worked on) was great. I may be alone in this, but I thought the jerky camera techniques were very effective in showing emotion and atmosphere.

Favorite character: Cinna, although I also loved Rue.

Kiss rating: epic but not overdone.

Seneca's beard rating: F/ING EPIC. My awe was such that I was completely distracted by The Beard of Awesome. "Is...is it real? Psst. Psst, Katherine!! Look at his beard!!!" "I can see his beard, shut up!!"


*Ahem* Moving on with the review...

Poetic justice: a little too heavy-handed.

Speaking of poetic justice, Cato: He made me sad towards the end. I was really annoyed with him in the beginning, mainly because the actor looked almost exactly like the actor playing Peeta and I kept getting them mixed up.

Speaking of heavy-handed, implications for the modern world: I find it ironic how obsessed people are with a movie about excessive voyeurism and love for cinematic violence. Suzanne Collins, you have made your point quite effectively. Also, there were some really grim references to American history. I was wincing at the police shield-and-club riot control -- especially when they sprayed water on the rioters from District 11, most of whom were African-American. And then we have rebellions, mushroom clouds, propaganda videos, glorification of the military, and the extreme poverty of District 12 which is a sad reality for parts of the real-life, present-day US. Most of this I liked. However -- and this might have been just me -- did the decadence of the Capitol give off a vibe of anti-LGBT? I'm probably reading way too much into it, but it was enough that it made me uncomfortable.

"Ship"/Opinion on the "love triangle": I got the impression from fans that Peeta was this perfect guy, and I was happy to see that he wasn't. He was flawed, just like Katniss, and that made him more likeable than if he'd been this goody-two-shoes baker boy destined to be with Katniss. Also, the "love triangle" as of this book/movie doesn't really exist, because Katniss and Gale weren't exactly a "thing." And neither are Peeta and Katniss, outside the Hunger Games. 

If you liked The Hunger Games, there are many similar books out there -- dystopian, survival stories, war stories, revolution stories, competition and game stories. Here are a few suggestions. In the interest of keeping it short, I'll limit it to three:

The Quillan Games by D.J. MacHale is basically The Hunger Games before there was a Hunger Games. The premise: Quillan is a world controlled by a giant corporate monopoly, Blok. (Like Wal-Mart gone evil. Oh wait...) Bobby Pendragon becomes trapped in the Quillan Games, a kind of twisted Olympics run by Blok where people bet on different Challengers. The games and betting statistics are televised to the population. The poverty on Quillan is so extreme that people bet things like a quarter's rent, food, or their job. If they lose and can't pay the price, Blok sends them to the nuclear dump, where they spend the rest of their short lives cleaning up radioactive waste. Bobby meets an underground organization that uses him to spearhead a revolution -- in defiance of Blok, people stop betting on the games.

Review/recommend: Like The Hunger Games, this is a first-person narrative about games in a dystopian world. There's even a shade of a love triangle -- but like The Hunger Games, it's not played up very much. Unlike The Hunger Games, however, The Quillan Games is not the first book of its series. Enough backstory is given so that you could probably read The Quillan Games without having read the previous books, if you're quick on the uptake. Without giving away any spoilers, I would also venture to say that's it's even darker than The Hunger Games. It's a bit of a send-up to 1984, and, well, you know how that one turned out...

Review/recommend: I recommend this one chiefly because of the survival story aspect, which was a large part of The Hunger Games. The commentary on government is another huge part of it -- the entire book is an allegory for society. Also, Cato and his gang remind me of a certain character and his followers from Lord of the Flies. While The Hunger Games is an every-man-for-himself fight to the death, Lord of the Flies tackles a different challenge: getting everyone to work together to survive. It's very dark, there's lots of psychological scarring, and some favorite characters die -- just like in The Hunger Games! Yay!

Happy reading, and if you haven't seen The Hunger Games movie I highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Read: Hush

Title: Hush
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Genre: Historical fiction, young adult

What it's about: Irish princess Melkorka is a young woman with dreams. She is the first daughter of the king and she loves stories, especially tales of warrior princesses. Her dreams are shattered when she and her younger sister are kidnapped by Vikings and sold into slavery, to live amongst people her culture considers to be less than human. To survive, she must change everything she is and everything she knows. In defiance of her captors, Melkorka takes a vow of silence. She might not be a warrior princess, but she finds an inner strength and power in her silence.

Why I recommend it: Hush is based on a true story about an Irish princess who was kidnapped by slavers. Donna Jo Napoli is not afraid to be bleak; Hush is a tough book in many ways because of the brutality of Melkorka's situation. Slavery, rape, abuse, and fear all feature prominently, but they are all handled tastefully.

For me, the best part of the book was Melkorka's character development. She starts out as a naive, sheltered, and privileged girl and becomes a very strong woman. The story also doesn't resort to the princess-with-a-sword type, which is really a superficial way of making a female character look "strong" without any actual development. Melkorka is strong in a more profound way. Through her silence, she forms bonds with her fellow prisoners, inspires a superstitious fascination in her captors, and captivates the man who buys her. She manipulates him into improving her life, but the book doesn't employ a Stockholm Syndrome "romance." She is a true survivor.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 2, 2012

21 Minus Blog Tour Launch!

Hello and welcome to the 21 Minus blog tour! Are you excited? Good. You should be. :)

21 Minus, hosted by Anna Waggener, aims to showcase writers 21 and under. With that in mind, I present my interview of 15-year-old writer and blogger Nick Hight   from New Zealand. He doesn't know who interviewed him yet, and I don't know who interviewed me. That's part of how you win the contest -- but more details on the rules after the interview.

Interview with teen writer Nick Hight:

1. Why did you decide to start a blog?
Because someone I know -- who’s not even one of my mates -- told me I should. Seriously, that’s the only reason. She said I should give it a go, and I thought, why not? At the time, I didn’t intend to meet other writers online or post about writing or anything like that at all -- it was just a way for me to rant to the world.

2. What is your favorite book or movie and why?
This is a tough one, because I have a whole heap of favourite books and movies. Can I list a couple? I admire the scope of Tolkien’s imagination in The Lord of the Rings, the absolute suspense in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and the story of Eragon by Christopher Paolini. They’re all really my favourite, but all for very different reasons.

3. Who's your favorite character -- from any book or movie -- and why do you like them?
He’s from a TV show, rather than a book, but I have to go with Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Without a doubt. Yes, it’s a kids’ show, but Zuko has a depth of character that just astounds me. I like him because his character arcs dramatically. He’s so set on his father restoring his honour at the beginning; by the end, he’s been able to restore his own honour.


4. How and where do you put yourself into your writing and your characters?
Mainly through the way my characters act and react, and the events that they experience. Story is a metaphor for life, so with every action, reaction and event I express my view of the world. It's like me personally saying to the reader: "Look at this. This is how I believe people in real life act. This is what I believe life to be like." So, the majority of my self-expression comes from what happens inside the world of my story.

5. What are your plans for the future? Do you intend to keep writing seriously?
Of course! I wouldn't be serious about it if I intended to stop! The dream is to write full-time, but on my journey there I'd love to go to university and study English, travel, possibly teach, and possibly get an internship at an literary agency. The options are many. But I'm shooting for full-time writing above and beyond anything else.

6. Cat or dog person? ;)
Well, I'd like to say I'm a dog person, although I've never had one as I pet. I've got a cat, but a think dogs are a lot more fun.

7. If you had to describe your WIP in one word, what would it be?
"Awakening." If you interpret that in every sense of the word, I guarantee that whatever you come up with will feature heavily in the novel. So much so that this might end up becoming the name of the series.

Thanks Nick for the great interview! Head on over to his blog to read his interview of another participant. And now for the contest rules:

- Participants and readers are entered into a drawing for a list of prizes, found here. There are some really great ones -- including a signed ARC of Anna's soon-to-be-released novel!

- You get additional entries in the drawing for tweeting, reblogging, posting about, and otherwise promoting the blog tour.

- You'll notice Nick described his WIP as "awakening." Every blogger has been asked the same question, and responded with their own one-word answer. Your goal is to read each interview, collect each answer, and email the list to Anna (anna[at]annawaggener.com.) This earns you more entries in the drawing.

- Finally, I encourage you to read and comment on every interview! This won't get you any more points (at least I don't think so), but that's not the point. Not the point? Get it? OK, never mind...

EDIT: For a complete list of all participants and the official contest rules and entry form, go here!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What Do YOU Like to Write?

Today, one of my professors asked if I had considered taking the Short Fiction creative writing course next Fall. Another professor was teaching it, she said, but it would be a good idea and I would probably like it.

My response: meh. First of all, the short story form and I are not the best of friends. Arguably, that's all the more reason for me to take the course -- but I also happened to know that the professor teaching it does not like "genre fiction." He'll read it, critique it, even let someone do a project on it, but he Does Not Approve.

Most of my short stories are horror, some sci-fi, a couple variations on fairy tales, humor, straight-up adventure or survival, and the occasional abandoned attempt at something literary. While I believe that genre fiction holds itself to the same technical and, yes, literary standards as literary fiction, the general opinion in academia disagrees with me. This isn't the only professor I know who dislikes genre fiction -- compared to some others I've talked to, his stance is pretty mild. But still -- I don't want to take a class where the professor's attitudes might discourage me from writing about whatever the fuck I want.

"Whatever the fuck I want" is a pretty large category. About 85% of it is occupied by fantasy in some form or another.* Then there's the 5% horror and death category. Humor, parody, etc. gets a 6%. 1% each goes to romance, science fiction, historical, and "other."

I could probably entertain you with tentative titles and descriptions of project ideas -- like the space pirate idea or the quest-for-a-magical-amulet-that-doesn't-actually-do-anything-in-the-end idea -- but I'd much rather hear from you. What do you like to write about? What's your favorite thing you've ever written? Do you have a favorite genre, or is anything up for grabs? And would you take a class with a professor who might devalue what you write because he doesn't think it's "serious"?


*I just like magic. Don't judge me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

21 Minus Blogfest Teaser!

As you already know, I'm participating in the March blog tour 21 Minus, which showcases writers and bloggers who can't legally drink. (Sorry. Mardi Gras is making me resent my age.) I don't want to tell you everything, but there will be anonymous interviews and a sort of treasure hunt where readers try to figure out who asked and answered what. Fabulous tour hostess Anna Waggener will be giving away a copy of her soon-to-be-released novel Grim to the winner. But that's not the only giveaway -- I know for a fact that one of the other prizes will be donated by me, and it will be...

...a bag of coffee. Coffee and writers and college students kind of go together, don't you think? ;)

If a free bag of coffee doesn't get you excited for this blog tour, I don't know what will.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Monday, February 20, 2012

What's the Worst Thing You've Done as a Writer?

Heh. This should be interesting...

What's the worst thing you've done, had to do, or had happen to you as a writer? Did you kill off a favorite character? Did you delete your unfinished novel in a fit of despair -- or worse, did you delete it by accident? Were you laid off from your writing job? Did you get really drunk one night and write an orgy scene in the middle of your children's novel? Violate Godwin's Law when raging at the publishing industry? Offend someone critical to your career or cite incorrect facts? Yell "FIRE" in a crowded library just to get some peace and quiet? Make horrendous grammar mistakes, misspell your own name in a query letter, or make a really embarrassing typo involving the name "Denis"?

Tell me. I want to hear your horror stories...and I don't mean the Stephen King kind. Although if your Worst Thing I've Done as a Writer story involves Stephen King, by all means, please tell.

Now it's my turn. *evil laugh*

The meanest thing I've done as a writer was create a character, present him in such a way as to be a fangirl heartthrob, let my mom and a good friend read up to a certain point and develop fictional-character-crushes on him -- and then reveal with glee that he dies in the end. I don't think they've forgiven me yet.

The worst thing that's ever happened to me as a writer was getting laid off my freelance writing job, along with a ton of other writers who used to write for the same web magazine. It was an issue with Panda, pageviews, and how many writers they could afford to pay. They basically stripped down their staff to the editors and their content to a few core areas, eliminating everything and everyone else. I don't resent them -- it was probably necessary to stay afloat -- but it came at a really bad time, when I really needed a job. I ended up having to lie that I still had that job in order not to be kicked out of my house.

The worst thing I've done as a writer was get a professional critique. That's $40 and a lot of self-esteem I'm never getting back. Don't get me wrong -- the critique of my query was extremely helpful. I just threw it in because the package called for it, and ended up scrapping the query and starting over based on his advice. However, when it came to the critique of my first ten pages, it's clear in retrospect that they were not a writer of the genre and probably not the best person to get feedback from. They didn't like my voice, and the closing thoughts were degrading and unconstructive. At the time, I took this critique very much to heart -- they were a professional, after all. I can say now that it really hampered my ability to sit down and just write, because I became so worried about judgment and whether I was "following the rules." I still struggle with this.

Your turn!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Quick Note on Whitney Houston, Drugs, Etc.

It amazes me how preachy people can be about the shit that happens in other people's lives.

Especially in regard to celebrities. It seems that celebrities are either upheld as icons or vilified. I know that when you are a public figure, much of your life becomes open for scrutiny -- but still. What we tend to forget is that these people aren't angels or demons. They might be famous, but they're still just people.

On that note, I think taking a moment to talk about Whitney Houston is in order. In particular, the attitude I've been seeing around the Internet that she doesn't deserve to be mourned because of the problems in her life. For example, on Twitter:

"I think it's more tragic when someone who isn't famous for going to rehab dies"
"I find it more tragic when someone who is not a washed-up drug addict who has pissed away their talent and career dies young. #justsayin"

My response: until you've been there yourself, you have absolutely no right to judge the people who have. Drug addiction is hard, whether you're a famous singer or an ordinary person. "A washed-up drug addict who has pissed away their talent and career"? Why such hatred? A better response would be compassion, sympathy, support -- whether the drug addict in question is famous or not. This "anti-Whitney Houston" attitude is disturbing in that it shows disdain and contempt not just for her, but for all people who have been in her situation.

This reminds me of a post I wrote a while back in reaction to the death of Amy Winehouse. I only occasionally listen to her music and probably wouldn't have written a post on it, but I was shocked to see her mother quoted as saying, "It was only a matter of time." Even disregarding that, the general attitude at the time seemed to be that she deserved it.

For crying out loud, people, have some compassion. It could happen to you. It has probably happened or will happen to someone you know. So don't pretend you're a saint; no one will believe you. Anyway, a saint would care. A saint would have compassion.

We are all human. We all fuck up -- some worse than others. But just because you have a steady job and an apartment doesn't give you the right to spit on the homeless guy as you walk past him on the sidewalk. You don't know how he got there. You don't know what he's feeling. And even if you did? What if you knew the exact circumstances that led to the utter ruin of his life? Even then, it's not your place to judge.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why Your Comments Are Important

Every time Laura goes to check her blog and sees no new comments, this happens:

Sad face. :(
I don't have that large of a following, but I like to think you guys read my posts every so often. However, pageview counts don't tell me what you're thinking. Comments, on the other hand, do! I assure you, my eagerness to read your comments is not born from a narcissistic need to see my opinions and thoughts affirmed by random people on the Internet. I really value your comments because...

- you do things like correct my grammar/spelling/facts when I have a brain derp
- you give alternate opinions and perspective
- you share your own experiences
- you give feedback
- you click the little "subscribe by email" link to get follow-up comments, and respond to what others are saying
- you leave links to your own blogs/profiles
- ...which lead me and other commenters to your own blogs, there to read and leave comments and maybe become members and consistent readers. So you see, commenting helps everyone!

Mainly, comments turn this from Laura yammering to herself into something that resembles a dialogue. And dialogue is great. Dialogue is fun. Dialogue is, in my opinion, the whole point of social media. Even if you're out to sell a product, you'd better engage potential customers in some kind of dialogue, or you're just another spambot tweeting links into cyberspace.

Notice, I'm not trying to sell you anything. I blog about my wips a lot, but I don't have a finished book. The purpose of me blogging about writing, reading, and whatever comes to mind is to engage in a dialogue with interested people. I genuinely want to hear your thoughts and opinions. I see no comments = I think I'm doing something wrong. As a blogger, I constantly wonder if I'm writing new and interesting content (or if I'm just being boring), and what you think about it.

I know you're busy and I know my posts occasionally get a little long (like last week's YA Friday, which definitely needs some comment love) -- but even if it's just a "this was great!" or a "this sucked!" it will probably make my day. (Yep. I'm that bored.) Remember: Laura loves opinions. All opinions. She also loves talking about herself in the third person. 

Ultimate irony: this post will get no comments.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

YA Friday: Some Good YA Scifi

I could be wrong, but it struck me recently that scifi is underrepresented in YA lit. I could rattle off lists of romance, contemporary, paranormal in every shape and size, fantasy, horror, and other genres and sub-genres. But I don't think there has been a really popular YA scifi book out for a while now. I don't count The Hunger Games. Dystopian novels are "in" right now, but dystopia isn't scifi -- it's its own thing.

I happen to enjoy a good scifi novel. So this Friday, I thought I'd do a short list of YA science fiction novels that I or my friends have read and enjoyed. Please feel free to comment on them or add your own!

The Pendragon series (Merchant of Death, The Lost City of Faar, The Never War, The Reality Bug, Black Water, The Rivers of Zadaa, The Quillan Games, The Pilgrims of Rayne, Raven Rise, The Soldiers of Halla) by D.J. MacHale

Pendragon is a ten-book series about Bobby Pendragon, a kid whose uncle is a Traveller -- someone who can travel to different territories, or worlds, through wormholes. Uncle Press drags Bobby away from a basketball game to become a Traveller, and he reluctantly embarks on the quest to save the world. Or rather, worlds.

I liked these books because of the imagination that goes into the territories, each of which are vividly drawn. My favorite character is from a territory completely covered by water. The Never War is set in 1930's Earth. The Quillan Games is the original Hunger Games. And then there are all the great female characters, which make feminist me very happy. The villain, Saint Dane (Saint? Really? I don't think they ever explain why he's called Saint) is also lovely. In an evil way. :)

Heir Apparent
This is a fun romp through a virtual reality fantasy universe. Giannine uses her birthday gift card to Rasmussen Gaming Center, an RPG company, on the day angry parents are protesting the corruption of children. Said angry mob later breaks in and damages the equipment, trapping Giannine in the game "Heir Apparent" so that she can't be unplugged without risk of brain damage. She has to win before the damaged circuits cause brain damage and death. Heir Apparent is one of the most complicated games, with infinite ways to win (or lose). Her character Janine, an illegitimate child of the late king, has been named heir -- over three legitimate sons. One's a muscled thug, one's a werewolf, one's really cute, and they all want her dead. Also there's a dragon...

Yay for being a 90's child! If you've ever played Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, or basically any other fantasy RPG out there, you will appreciate this. Even if you haven't, Heir Apparent is still fun -- and funny; I like VVV's sense of humor.

Cinder

Cyborg Cinderella! Also, it's ironically truer to the original fairy tale than many Cinderella retellings out there. Cinder the cyborg has the usual evil stepmother and wicked stepsister. She also has an assortment of malfunctioning parts -- so it's lucky that she's a mechanic. Skills that come in handy to a certain Prince of New China...

Shade's Children

Aliens/beings from another dimension have invaded Earth, killing everyone over the age of fourteen and breeding and harvesting the rest in Dorms for use in their war games. (This is what REALLY happens in college.) There is one adult left on the planet -- Shade, a scientist who downloaded his personality into a computer. He leads a band of escaped children, but his motives are, well, shady.

If you like scifi and horror, this book is for you. To be honest, it gave me nightmares. Hell, it still gives me nightmares. That's not to say I didn't like it, but damn...I can understand why it was banned. 

Uglies
Personally, I hated this one, but I've heard enough people rave about it that I feel I should include it. I mean, it's not bad per se (except when it is). I guess it's the "Let's hit them over the head with a moral hammer!" thing again.

In this future society, a city is divided into two parts: one where people have "surged," or altered their appearance with plastic surgery, and one where they still have the appearance they were born with. The surgery takes place once you come of age, and the people who have surged are called "Pretties" while everyone else is an "Ugly." Pretties are air-headed, goofy, and obsessed with pleasure-seeking. Our heroine is an Ugly who discovers a group of runaways/rebels who are trying to accomplish...something; I'd stopped paying attention at that point.

Ender's Game
Decades ago, aliens attacked Earth and were defeated only by chance. Now all the efforts of Earth are focused on preparing for their next attack. Siblings Peter, Valentine, and Ender are child geniuses, but Ender is the one the chosen for Battleschool training. While Ender undergoes grueling training to command the last defense of Earth, Peter and Valentine plot to take over the world via blogs. And it actually works.

I wasn't sure at first whether to include this one, because it's not really YA. However, it is about children, and I know it's commonly read by teens -- in fact, someone in my middle school recommended this, and I've never regretted it. Ender's Game (and its sequels, which are definitely not YA) are on my bookshelf. But apparently Orson Scott Card is kind of a dick, so maybe rent this from the library instead of buying it. 

Questions? Opinions? Scifi suggestions? Comment away!