Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Best Book of August

Every Wednesday, YA Highway asks their readership a simple question to answer on your blog. Once you answer, you link your blog in the comments for other readers to hop on board. This is Road Trip Wednesday. 

Today's topic: What's the best book you read in August?

With Real World Cape Cod at the start of the month, I expected to read more books than I did because who doesn't love reading while baking on the sand? Alas, it was also Camp NaNoWriMo, so my reading suffered a bit. This month I only read six books.

Six is impressive anyway.
Thanks. What's awesome is that I had a good run of reading material. Wanna see what I read? Of course you do.

So many plots...
Out of the six, Kody Keplinger's sophomore novel, SHUT OUT* was the best by far.

Blurb from Goodreads:  
Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part, Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention.

Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: she and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. And Lissa never sees her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling, coming.

What I Liked About It: The modern bent on Lysistrata was executed perfectly. On a geeky note, Lysistrata is one of my favorite Greek plays. The characters were three-dimensional and believable. Oh, and Cash.

What You Should Know: About three weeks later and I'm still thinking about everything regarding the book: the characters, the plot, the subplots. This was a much stronger book than The DUFF. So if you liked The DUFF, definitely pick up SHUT OUT.

Have you read any good books this month?

* I was lucky enough to win an ARC from Jennifer Hoffine last month. 
_______ hit of the day: Gravestone Hill by Lunatic Soul

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Things that Amuse Me: Laugh at that Rejection

After a year spent revising, last night I started querying again. A good chunk of The Lurkdom knows the ups and downs of querying: how it's a waiting game where you can go from super manically happy to downright suicidal in the course of the day*.

This being the case, let's have a laugh at rejection today on The Pie.

Disclaimer: The staff at The Pie does not endorse writing snarky, rude response letters to industry professionals or ranting about said rejection in a public forum. We at The Pie understand rejection is part of the road to publication. As yours truly said to her father during her first driving lesson: "Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger."

* We won't even go into how many times I've checked my email since I woke up this morning. OCD doesn't even cover it.

_____ hit of the day: Bereit by Panzer AG

Monday, August 29, 2011

Writing Lessons from Step Up 3D

This weekend while we were supposed to be ravaged by Hurricane Tropical Storm A Lot of Wind Irene, I spent more time hammering out my latest WIP. I got tired of watching bad 90s television for background noise and decided I would see what entertainment On Demand had for me.

Don't judge
The first two movies in the Step Up franchise are among my guilty pleasures: awesome dance sequences, decent enough plots, and predictable love stories totally rock my world*.

Step Up 3 (as my On Demand called it) is part of a series of loosely-linked movies. It's also one of the first dance films using 3D technology, the first (as far as I can tell) is StreetDance 3D, released a few months prior. Today I'll focus on both aspects and how this applies to writing.

Whose story you're telling might change. You start your current WIP talking about Hunky Henry and his love of metal sporks, but somewhere in your drafting process you find out that Ginormous Jennifer is involved with both the Italian and Russian mafias, so you chase that plot bunny instead. When this happens, it's important that you go back to the start of your novel and revise accordingly, because we probably won't care about Hunky Henry in the long run.
Example a la Step Up 3: The movie starts with us seeing Moose (a secondary character from Step Up 2) starting NYU as an electrical engineer major. Moose has promised his father to stop dancing hence the major choice. Then Moose meets Luke and Luke's dance crew. When this meeting occurs, the storyline shifts to something that is more interesting which is Luke and his crew's story. Throughout the movie we see Moose, but not enough to warrant him being one of the first characters we see in scene.

Consistency matters. Writing a novel takes a long time, a series even longer. No matter which way you roll, there are certain things you have to remember. Did your antagonist have two minions or three? Did your heroine fail that make-or-break math exam? These small details help enhance your story.

Example a la Step Up 3: Moose and Camille are best friends and have been for years. According to Wikipedia, Camille is the adoptive sister of the main character from the original movie. She was never at MSA and all subtext in the movie hints that Moose's family is relatively well off. What I want to know is how these two met and became best friends because I seriously doubt that they ever went to the same school.

Write the story you want to write. You have a solid YA contemporary about a girl who lives on a llama farm. The llama farm is in danger of closing due to PETA hating on all things animal. The problem is these types of stories aren't hot right now so what if you make the story about a mergirl who is being raised by llama farmers? And that PETA threat is no longer about closing down the farm, but rescuing her?

Example a la Step Up 3: I watched the non-3D version of this movie, so all the effects that were created to see with the 3D glasses fell flat (literally). Every dance number had at least three moves where a member of the dance crew lunged head-on into the camera, designed to pop out at the viewer if they are wearing glasses. In non-3D land this detracted from the initial dance concept. It ruined the original vision.
Further Example a la Step Up 3: This is basically to support the above example. I present to you: THE TRAILER.

Have you learned any writing tips from movies lately? Is there a movie I should review? Do tell!

* Confession: if the movie involves dancing, I love it by default.
______ hit of the day: Lord of Hate by Death Angel

Friday, August 26, 2011

Twice More on the Trapeze!

Hello, readers! You get a double dose of Miranda this week! Alicia has handed over Pie duties to me today. I'm guessing she is preparing for the hurricane of doom that is soon to be hitting the East Coast. So to all you people in that area, I hope you stay safe and that you keep your power and internet! Stay indoors!

While you are stuck inside, I thought I would bring even more flying trapeze your way since I have gotten positive feedback on my less the normal hobby. So today, I have two videos to show you. In them I am performing the set split trick. Yes, this is basically doing the splits on a trapeze bar and then throwing yourself off to be caught. Sometimes it goes really well, as you will see directly below... and sometimes it goes, well, not so great. But it's good to see even the worst attempts because it helps to learn where you mess up and how to avoid it in the future.

And now for the not so great attempt--

If you happen to live in the Chicago area, tonight, August 26th, there is a free trapeze performance down on Belmont Harbor at TSNY where I take lessons. I believe it starts at 7 with a show by a trapeze camp and then at 8 the "Intensive Flying Workshop" class will be putting on their showcase. Costumes and everything! So come by and check it out, and maybe think about signing up for a class or two!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Livin' for the Apocalypse

Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.

It's rare that a blog topic will just fall into my lap. But this week it did! While watching some ridiculous show on TLC (most likely "Toddlers & Tiaras"... don't judge), I saw a commercial for a new special called Livin' for the Apocalypse. It was instantly exciting for me because the show illustrates perfectly what I was talking about a few weeks ago-- survivalists!

The show airs this weekend, Sunday, August 28 at 9pm Central time and 10pm for you East Coasters (check your local guide though to be sure). From what I can tell, it is a documentary style show that follows four different families who are all survivalists. They have shelves of canned foods and gas masks (yes, really). They raise rabbits to slaughter and eat for food when the apocalypse hits. And they have guns. Lots of guns.

While the focus isn't on zombies, it still shows the lengths at which people will go to and gives a flavor of truth to zombie survival movies and stories. Unlike other shows about survivalists, apparently the TLC special doesn't interject with experts speaking about how unlikely these events will be or how crazy these people are. The families are the focus and no outside opinions on the matter are given. One man, known as the Survival Doc, made a video describing his experience being filmed and talks about the show. Unfortunately, he is incorrect about several things including the name of the show and that August 28th is in the fall. Other than that, he seems like an entertaining character.

The greatest thing about the "Doc" is that he also has his own survivalist website full of pages and pages of information on how to prepare for the end. In his video, he seems a bit weird, but harmless. However, as I further explored his massive website, it becomes apparent that he is a fairly strict Republican. And he thinks President Obama is Hitler and that our country is becoming a Socialist hell. So... yeah. Check it out!

I will definitely be viewing this special on Sunday night, and I encourage anyone in learning more about survivalism to check it out as well. If you have to miss it this weekend, knowing TLC, they will probably air it multiple times.

What are some of your thoughts on survivalists? Is there some truth to what these people are doing, or do you believe it's overkill? Feel free to discuss after watching the special as well!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Surefire Methods to Beat Writer's Block

Every Wednesday, YA Highway asks their readership a simple question to answer on your blog. Once you answer, you link your blog in the comments for other readers to hop on board. This is Road Trip Wednesday.

Today's Topic: How do you beat writer's block?

Sometimes I think the ladies at YA Highway read my mind. I'm beginning to burn out from my frantic writing pace for Camp NaNoWriMo* and the other night I started five separate scenes before I found one that I could actually write. I can feel the writer's block creeping upon me.

Here are three things I do to trick writer's block into retreating.

Free Write. I open up Write or Die and set the timer for at least fifteen minutes. During the free write I examine why I'm blocked, what directions the story can potential go to, and use the word "cheese" or "blah."** Fifteen minutes is usually long enough to clear out whatever is trapped.

Exercise. If the free writing doesn't work, and I'm not in some crazy writer attire, I'll step away and go for a walk. Usually to Dunkin Donuts because what's better for writing than moar caffeine? To be honest, even when I'm not in writer's block, I think about story and plot when I'm exercising***.

Do Something Else. When I talked about writer burnout previously, I said that one important thing to do is to give your brain a break. For me this involves a lot of bad TV and crochet projects.

Your turn, Lurkdom. Do you have any awesome tips to beat writer's block?

* Yeah, that completely laid back attitude I had here? Non-existent. I want to win dammit.
** "Cheese" and "blah" get used a lot.
*** This is only when I'm not about to pass out from exertion. An athlete I am not.

___ hit of the day: Nowhere by Murderdolls

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

WIP Snapshot: Phoenix Rising

The following has been shamelessly poached from the following people: Kiersten White, Pam, and Quita. (Though I did first see on Kiersten White's blog and thought, "Hey, this is a wicked good idea. *I* should do the same.")

Title: Phoenix Rising

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Pages: 330

Chapters: 20...ish

Word Count: 66,500

Draft Time: I've done two drafts, totaling about 3 months. But I did spend a lot of time being proactive and outlining and letting the idea germinate in my brain.

Origin: I had the idea of everyone talking about the new boy on campus, but there had to be a reason why he was drawing so much attention. I definitely didn't want to do another YA contemporary so close to finishing revisions on my last one and NaNoWriMo was coming up, so I thought it was time to do something different. I read a lot of paranormal and UF, so that seemed to be the logical choice, but I didn't want to deal with the usual suspects found in that genre* either.

Beverages and Music of Choice: Phoenix Rising was sponsored by Diet Coke and Rockstar Low Carb Energy Drink. The soundtrack was a lot of atmospheric and prog rock, with the majority being Anathema's most recent albums.

Random Facts:
  • While drafting, the character Pike morphed from a 40-year-old, lecherous, not-on-the-level police officer to an early-20s, conflicted, hot, top-of-his-game specialized police officer.
  • Phoenix Rising has the least amount of F-bombs ever used in any project I have written.
  • To compensate for the lack of said F-bombs, the initial draft of Phoenix Rising had several too-graphic sex scenes**.
  • Because of the spells used in Phoenix Rising, I now have an English-to-Latin translator bookmarked.

There you have it: Phoenix Rising in a nutshell. I'm waiting on two more crits on this before I revise and send out for querying. To be honest, I'm more confident about this project going somewhere than my other, but that's because I planned this one better.

I'd love to hear about what you are working on!

* I'm looking at you vampires and werewolves.
** Much more graphic than what my awesome beta readers, the WOA girls have seen. Yeah, this isn't YA.
_______ hit of the day: The Final Countdown by Europe

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Shinies

My calendar is telling me it's Monday, but my brain is in disagreement. This has everything to do with the fact that when I left my Camp NaNoWriMo WIP last night, I was in Tuesday. This should tell you how completelyy entrenched I am with my fictional friends and trying to figure out exactly what is up with my protagonist and her male sidekick.

Because of this, it's time for Show and Tell, web badge edition.

The first is the Liebster Award. Christine Murray handed it over almost a month ago. It's for blogs that have under 200 followers. In turn, I'm supposed to hand it out to 5 people, but The Pie likes to break the rules, so I'll hand it off to one.

Glenna at The Blue Lipstick Samurai.

I enjoy lurking around her blog. It's professional, fun, and she has an awesome blog title. You should all follow her.

Today I joined Rachel Harrie's 3rd Platform-Building Campaign. It's designed to help writers connect with each other while cultivating a better platform on the blogosphere. A few people I know have participated previously and had great experiences it with. If you're a writer and a blogger*, you should sign up as well and soon as sign ups closed on August 31.

If you have come from the Platform Campaign, welcome. I'll be popping by shortly.

Tomorrow I hope to go back to some worthwhile blogging, but that will only happen if yours truly can exit her head. Seeing that the majority of today has been spent talking plot for that co-authored project**, those odds are low.

What shinies do you have to share today?

* Which, chances are, you are.
** Which this week is contemporary YA.
______ hit of the day: One in a Million by Trixter

Friday, August 19, 2011

Top 5 Applications for Writers

It's Friday. That means it's time for Paper Hangover's Friday Fives. Today's topic?

Oh, apps. You little things that can become such a time sink for yours truly*.

I don't really have an addictive personality, but there are certain things that make me forget outside things exist. Take this example: back in dial up only days, The Lou had an old computer in our basement. This computer had Tetris. I would shoot down there for a "quick game" only to re-emerge five hours later.

So because my favorite non-productive apps are games like Tetris, I should probably focus on things that tie into writing. You're shocked, I know.

Write or Die. I actually paid the $10 for the download so I can use it when I'm not attached to the internet. You set a word count goal and a time limit and -BOOM!- you write to your heart's content. It kinda forces you to turn off your editor.

Freedom. My love of all things shiny runs deep. This means I have a constant need to check Twitter, email, Facebook, more email, Blogger, more Twitter... Freedom shuts off your internet without you needing to disable anything. I'm paying the $10 for this application too.

Scrivener. If I wasn't already with Hubby, I think I'd marry this program. Drafting is so much easier with this. It has notecards that you can shift around. It has a name generator. Scrivener is much more user-friendly than Microsoft Word and if I could, I'd use for the day job too. While the Windows version is still in beta, the Mac version has been around for a long, long time.

Google Docs. Even with all my Scrivener love, Google Docs is also awesome because I can keep things there that I need immediate access to, even when I'm only working from my phone. Collaboration is awesome for this because I no longer need to email a document back and forth.

Evernote. Like any good writer, I <3 post-its and should own stock. With this in mind, it shouldn't be a surprise that I love the sticky notes feature on my home laptop. They're colorful and useful for things like plot ideas. The sad thing is that they aren't transferable elsewhere and sometimes I get an idea when I'm at the mall. This is why I love Evernote. I can write a note on my phone and it will sync up with my home laptop and my day job one. It will also be available online. Did I mention that it's super easy to use? Because it is.

What are some of your favorite apps?

* I'm looking at YOU, Mahjongg Dimensions. Oh, and you too, Bejeweled.
____ hit of the day: In My Dreams by Dokken

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Settings to Switch Genres For

Every Wednesday, YA Highway asks their readership a simple question to answer on your blog. Once you answer, you link your blog in the comments for other readers to hop on board. This is Road Trip Wednesday.

Today's topic: What is the most inspiring setting you’ve ever visited IRL?

As I get deeper into my writing journey, I pay more attention to things I should have paid attention to a loooong time ago. One of these being location.

But Alicia, isn't setting an important piece of fiction?
Erm, yes.


In my earlier pieces, my setting was laid out soap opera style where there were only certain pieces selected and described in detail. Everything else was the sound stage of my mind. You'd be happy to know that since then I've gotten MUCH BETTER.

Last year, during The Real World Cape Cod, Season 2, I decided that I have to have a story that takes place on the beach. This story will also have to have sun, cute boys, and kissing. So at some point down the road (when I burn all my other literary irons), I'll be writing a teen romance with a beach community as it's backdrop.

Trust me, no one is more shocked about that development than me the perpetual cynic.

This might mean I'll have to listen to pop music.

This also means that I'll have to research pretty pictures. Fortunately for me, SIL the Younger has an awesome photographic eye and loves taking pictures of everything*. So something like these will be in this future WIP:

Taken by SIL the Younger
SIL the Younger and two of her friends are silhouetted on this stretch of beach on Oak Bluffs by the pier.

It's a great shot, it just sucks that the ocean around Massachusetts always has this steel blue-gray quality.

Taken by SIL the Younger
This second shot was taken while we waited to board the ferry back to the mainland from Martha's Vineyard last week.

SIL the Younger has some other fantastic photos that I fully intend to knick for my personal use for the future WIP that I swear I won't work on until I get my other three WIPs in first draft form.

Your turn: what places inspire you?

* And I do mean everything. She had over 500 photos from two days.
 ____ hit of the day: Bang Bang by Danger Danger

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Takeaways from Real World Cape Cod

Apologies for the radio silence yesterday, but my brain was still set on vacation mode. This meant a lot of staring at objects trying to figure out how they worked. Like the day job's phone and the internet*.

Last week I was in Cape Cod with my in laws. Not the most glamorous of vacations, but it was free and I was guaranteed a lot of reading and writing time. We did have some organizational snafus**, not to mention one bathroom for ten people***, but overall it was a good vacation. This was our third year down with Hub's family and certain things are a given like mini golf, too much ice cream, and family outings.

The 2011 Real World Cape Cod crew, courtesy of SIL the Younger.

The best part of the vacation (aside from being away from the day job) was all the live research Writer Alicia got to do. We all know that writing is primarily a solitary affair where we spend a good amount of time chumming around with the people in our head, so it was awesome to watch this group interact.

Family dynamics. As an only child, I have tons of experience on how to write characters that are more dependent on themselves in a family environment, but I have crap knowledge when it comes to sibling dynamics****. So I spent a lot of time watching how SIL the Younger and SIL the Elder***** were with each other, Hubs, and their parents. To say that a family of five is different than a family of three is an understatement.

Boys. There were ten of us for most of the week, and, as you can see from the above photo, an even split of the sexes. As a girl, I know how we work in a group mentality, but it was something to watch a couple of the guys scramble to be the alpha male of the house. It was like some strange passive aggressive game of King of the Castle. Of course, to balance out the testosterone charged atmosphere, they then spent almost an entire night chasing bugs with an electric fly swatter.

Being camera ready at all times. This is something yours truly isn't, nor have I ever been. In the course of a week I watched SIL the Younger spend 20 minutes on her hair to get in a ponytail. SIL the Younger's college roommate expertly slapped on eyeliner to go deep sea fishing. There was hair product for the girls on a couple of instances. I think this might be an appropriate time to remind you that Real World Cape Cod takes place five minutes from the beach.

These are just a few of my takeaways from Real World Cape Cod. Season 4 has been green lighted so far and unless funding is cut short, we will do this again.

Lurkdom, tell me: what do you notice on family vacations?

* Am not kidding on that. Truly.
** For instance: never mention "bike rack" to Hubby or SIL the Younger unless you want to watch a seizure.
*** We did have an outside shower, which was a bonus. Otherwise, it would have taken all day just for people to leave the house especially since I was the only non-girly girl.
**** Unless you count the multitudes from the Gregoire Clan, which I don't as I've never spent an entire week with any of them aside from my parents.
***** Elder as in just older than SIL the Younger. Hubs is actually the eldest of all.
_____ hit of the day: Hard to Be Vain by Vains of Jenna

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Fives-- Authors I'd Die to Meet!

Welcome to another Friday at 'The Pie!' Alicia is still on vacation, so you get to see my thoughts on the Paper Hangover's Friday Fives. This topic is kind of difficult. Fan conventions, book signings, and other events make it easier than ever to meet your favorite authors. Case in point-- I've already met my favorite author of all time, Clive Barker! Of course I would absolutely love meeting him again... but I've already been fortunate enough to spend an entire weekend with him.

Here at 'The Pie,' you probably already know we like to break rules. I'm going to interpret that "authors I'm dying to meet" means that I would have to be dead to meet them. And so... the Five Deceased Authors I Would Die to Meet!

5. Charles Darwin-- This man still sparks tons of controversy, not to mention "founding" a set of pretty funny 'awards.' I don't know what I would ask him, but he would just be cool to meet!

4. Freud-- Whether you believe in the science of psychoanalysis or not, how influential have this man's theories been? Think of how many times a day you have a "Freudian Slip" or say to someone, "you know what Freud would say." His teachings are such a part of our popular culture!

3. Gaston Leroux-- the author of The Phantom of the Opera. Such an interesting story, one of the best examples of a gothic romance. And the tale has become so prolific, I would love to see if he ever imagined the story would spawn so many versions.

2. Dr. Seuss! I'm not even sure if I have to explain this one. Such an icon and prominent in so many children's lives. But did you know he also produced World War II propaganda and also won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature? That's pretty amazing!

1. Edward Gorey! I'm just a huge fan. He's for adults and for children. He wrote poems about death, and stories about a sex machine sofa. He was also a recluse and a huge fan of pop culture and music. I'm sure he was a fantastically interesting man, and I'd love to spend a day with him and see into his eccentric life!

There are my picks! Be sure to stop by the Paper Hangover to see the picks of others and to add your own!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Max Brooks Discusses Zombies

Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.

Greetings! And a spooky Thursday to you all! With the summer months still actively heating the world, and fantastic holidays like Halloween seeming so far away, some of our newer readers may be confused about all the zombie and horror posts that appear here each Thursday. To our newest members of the Lurkdom-- welcome! Feel free to check out the "Why Zombies?" tab for more information and join me, Miranda, back here each week.

As I was in Walgreens today to purchase nail polish remover, I was beyond excited to see that candy corn and candy pumpkins have already graced the shelves of impulse items right by the registers! Even though it's summer, fall is right around the corner... which means soon I'll be seeing even more horrific decorations and items in stores. Huzzah! As we gear up for the greatest season of all, especially for us gothic folks, I thought it might be nice for a refresher on our undead friends.

I encourage you to go back and read one of my very first posts on zombies-- all about the power of voodoo! For those who want to see a crash course on the subject, here is an awesome video from (of all places) Animal Planet that features Max Brooks and some legitimate scientists discussing zombies.

EDIT: Even though the embedded video is showing up in my blog preview, when I published it, it doesn't seem to be appearing on the actual page. If you are having trouble seeing the video, go HERE to the Animal Planet website to view there!

What are some activities you are looking forward to doing this autumn?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Flying Trapeze-- Whip Trick!

Hello again, dear readers! Miranda here. I apologize for missing yesterday. As it turns out, when one is used to working second shift (typically a 2-11pm shift), it is a bit disorienting to switch to working from 9am to 6pm. As such, I crashed and crashed hard when I got home last night.

Unfortunately, I also had this entire blog typed out and finished when Blogger decide to go into 'Read Only Mode.' While I thought it had saved everything I had just finished typing, it did not. Once the blackout period was over, I came back to publish and it was all gone. Except for the first paragraph above. GRRRRRR. So, I apologize it is being posted so late.

Today is Wednesday, so normally it would be reserved for the YA Highway post. Unfortunately, the topic for today was specific to writers and at what times of the day do they like to write, etc. Unlike Alicia (and probably a lot of you all), I am not a fiction writer. So I couldn't give any answers. But I encourage you to follow the link above and check out the other answers and add your own!

So, for now, you get more FLYING TRAPEZE! Today I actually have a video *of me* which is exciting. I learned a new trick in my last class-- the whip. We were allowed to try three catch attempts. I was only able to do one catch perfectly, and sadly that wasn't the catch I had filmed! Boo! But, at least you can see exactly what I do and see that I am still learning and not every flight is perfect. And... it is fun to fall in the net! Although, it is more fun to drop gracefully after your catcher releases you.

I also took the leap and signed up for a nine week Intensive Flying Workshop, or IFW as I may also refer to it. I hope I'll have more to share with you as my skills grow and I get better!

Summer is almost to an end-- what are some activities you are looking forward to doing before it's gone?

Monday, August 8, 2011

American Sign Language

Hello, lovely Pie readers! Surprise! You get another week with me, Miranda! Alicia is off vacationing in the "Real World House," so I volunteered to take up the duties over here on the blog. Hope you all don't mind. So without further ado--

Another small fun fact about me is that, while in college, I actually minored in American Sign Language. There was no real reason for this. I had already met the language requirement for my school by taking seven years of French from ages 9 to 16. So, I didn't even need to take ASL. I just really wanted to learn a new language. After the first semester, I loved it and wanted to learn more, so I continued and was able to make it my minor.

Some of you may be familiar with ASL, maybe you know a person in the deaf community. But it's also likely that many of you may have no experience with the language and culture beyond learning how to finger spell many years ago in grade school. I'd like to give you some interesting facts about the language and maybe inspire some to go out and learn more!

One common misconception is that American Sign Language is just signed English. It is definitely not! ASL is its own separate language with its own set of rules and grammar. And just like any language, it can be complicated and takes many many years to truly learn and become completely fluent. An easy and singular example of how ASL is very different from spoken English is this-- while Americans and those from the UK share a common language (English), American Sign Language is completely different from British Sign Language and do not resemble each other at all. Also unlike English, ASL does not use tense or articles as we are used to speaking (for example, there is no sign for 'the,' as that word doesn't really exist in ASL). And just like there are different accents around the United States, there are different dialects of ASL. The sign for Starbucks on the East coast is not the same as the sign for it on the West coast.

Not all ASL signs are "transparent" signs. In fact, most are not transparent at all. A transparent sign is one in which the meaning can easily be guessed by a non-signer. A great example is the sign for throwing up. If I were to show it to you without telling you what I was signing, you'd probably figure it out right away. A translucent sign is one in which the meaning is easily understood and remembered once it is explained. An example of that may be the sign for arguing. If you saw it, you wouldn't be able to intuitively know what it was. But once you learned, it would make sense. Most ASL signs are opaque and have no obvious relation to the action performed in the sign itself. As a non-signer, you would be completely lost.

The culture of the deaf community is very different from the hearing community. ASL is a much more blunt language and mentality. Hearing people tend to be discreet, stay away from "taboo" subjects, etc. But in the deaf community, the more knowledge, the better. Often when two deaf people meet for the first time, it's not uncommon to ask about everything-- what school did you go to? How many people are in your family? What type of home you live in, etc. It's a very information sharing community. A great example is in a hearing school, if a student is late, they probably try to sneak into class as quietly as possible so as not to be noticed or disrupt what is going on. In a deaf class, that would never happen. It would be expected for you to fully explain why you're late, what happened, are you alright, etc.

There is so much more that I couldn't possibly describe in a blog! Most importantly, I can't teach you the signs. My best advice if you're interested in learning is to check out some YouTube videos to learn simple signs, or check out some video podcasts. If you're really serious, enroll in a course! But make sure the professor is deaf. Best way to learn is by full immersion!

What other languages and cultures do you guys know?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Inspire Me

YA Highway asked this question a few weeks ago. Then I shared pictures of the day job's complex, which is the setting for the assassin project. Since I did that already, I didn't want to cheat. So today's post is going to be split into two parts: pictures that I'd like to write something about and pictures of people who inspire me.

What I'd Like to Write About

A few years ago, I went to the MFA for my birthday. In the Roman section, I saw this earring.

Look at the detail of this thing. I think something like this would make a great piece in a cat burglar story or something like that.
This was the view from our cabin when Hubs and I honeymooned to the Caribbean. This was about 6 AM as we came into St. Thomas.

I'd love to have a story set somewhere like this. (Side note: This was the best vacation ever. I've never been so stress-free in my life.)

Those Who Inspire Me to Continue On

My parents. I've mentioned before how I draw a lot of character traits from my extended family, but my parents have always been a fountain of support. My mother was the one who got me sucked into reading, not to mention that she's always asking questions about my work and how everything goes down. My father is just awesome. I mean, look at the expression he has on*!

While they don't inspire me per se, the Stripey and White Ones have been around for most of my writing journey. While The White One likes to hinder my process, Stripey will sit while I work. It's like they know where the kibble train comes from.
This wouldn't be a post about inspiration if I didn't include Hubby. As another creative person, he gets my writer angst. He knows how to deepen certain elements of a story and is great when it comes to brainstorming. Not to mention he's an awesome titler.

The best reason for him being on my inspirational list is that he believes in me, which in turn, strengthens my belief in myself. It's one of the many reasons why I love him.

Don't forget to stop over at Paper Hangover to see what others are saying!

* I might as well mention that The Lou always has this expression on his face when it comes to take a picture.
____________ hit of the day: Earn the Crown by Backyard Babies

Thursday, August 4, 2011

2012 Survivalists... the "Real" Zombie Apocalypse?

Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.

As zombie fans, it's fun to speculate about what it would be like to live during and after a zombie apocalypse. There are movies, television shows, books, etc. that are all designed to give a somewhat accurate portrayal of what our lives could be like with little food and water, no electricity, and with the world in chaos and riots. A great show that exists is the "reality" show The Colony which has participants spend seventy-two hours in a simulated quarantine before joining forces to form a survivalist community. They forage for food, set up battery operated generators, ward off roving gangs trying to steal their supplies, and generally try to adapt to a new way of living as if the world has been destroyed by a highly contagious super virus.

But even that show is under controlled circumstances. There are obviously camera crews following them, producers pulling cast members to the side for the "testimonial rooms," and I'm sure there is medical help just waiting beyond the cameras in case something goes really wrong. Even so, it is fun to watch and imagine what it would be like to live in such a world. No computers, no internet, no cars, no entertainment. Just surviving.

While a zombie attack may be a far fetched idea (for now), there is something else coming that has survivalists all panicked. 2012.

While many of us will laugh at the notion of the world as we know it ending and new type of existence beginning in December 2012, there are others that are absolutely convinced this will occur. I recently watched a special on msnbc (I believe) about 2012 survivalists and the lenghts at which they are going to be prepared. And it's not just a matter of stock piling water and canned goods in their basements. Many of these individuals are purchasing land and building survivalists' communities in the hills of undisclosed locations. Some properties go for hundreds of thousands of dollars, just like buying a vacation condo. Don't believe me? Just check out this disturbing example of a website-- Place of Refuge 2012.

For those too lazy to click and explore, the gist of it is this-- for two acres of land with a 99 year lease, all you have to pay is $7,500 to join the community to make it through the coming storm. Of course, this does not include a house, etc. Just the land and a spot in the group. According to the site, only one spot is left. Also worth viewing is their "why" page with many examples of the signs that 2012 will be the end.

Humans seem to believe that the worst thing that can happen to us is death. And yet... every single one of us will die eventually. Humans seem to have this unwavering devotion to life. If the zombies attack, we'll fight. We'll fight to live another day in undead hell. If 2012 turns out to be real (and I for one believe that I will be waking up on December 22, 2012 and heading to work as usual) and the world falls in to chaos and despair, we'll fight to live in tiny colonies up in the hills-- modern mountain men and women. Is it really worth it? Why do we fear change and death so much?

Maybe that is why the world is so fascinated with the ideas of various apocalypses-- The Rapture, 2012, and zombies. Especially zombies. We fear death and wonder what could possibly be worse than that? In the case of zombies, the only thing worse than death is reanimated death. Better to shoot yourself in the head first than be turned into "one of them." Or fight to live in the hopes that the world order will be restored and life will somehow go back to normal. But after such an altering event, is normal even possible?

It's a lot to contemplate, and it's difficult to believe that there are people in the world right now who are selling all of their possessions, quitting their jobs, and are leaving their families so that they can live in one of these survivalist communities. Watching the special on television, I felt sorry for these people, I felt bad. As I'm heading into another day of work on December 22, what will these people think when they wake up and see 2012 being mocked on the morning news shows as just another hoax?

What are your thoughts on 2012 and the fear mongering websites that always seem to pop up around these events? Are these people serious or just out to steal money from people's fears of death?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hone Your Senses!

Every Wednesday, YA Highway asks their readership a simple question to answer on your blog. Once you answer, you link your blog in the comments for other readers to hop on board. This is Road Trip Wednesday.

Today's topic: The Five Senses. How you use them in your writing, how you are inspired by them, pictorial essays, that character with smelly socks, books that have used them well, the ones that are currently missing from your work, etc.

For someone who writes, I'm one of the least observant people I know. I have to make sure that I pay attention to things like the exact smell of grass or the nuanced flavor profile of Hubby's chili* or I get nothing. This totally explains why my initial drafts of anything lack detail**.

One way to help notice more of the details around you is to do an observation exercise.

Sit somewhere with paper and a pen. For five minutes, jot down everything you observe: smells, sounds, sights, textures, tastes. Don't worry about being clever with your description, the point of this exercise is to report.

Your truly likes to practice what she preaches*** so I did the exercise now. My five-minute observations include:
  • smacking of flip flops
  • ringing telephone
  • distant chatter of kids
  • tang of orange juice
  • rumble of garbage truck
  • dryness of air
  • the whir of a lawnmower 
  • smoothness of keyboard keys beneath my fingers
  • the murmur of the radio

In the final minute I realized I totally forgot to list the items directly in front of me. So I scrambled****:
  • computer monitor
  • ceramic tangerines designed to look like cats
  • stuffed chococat
  • black mesh pen holder
  • empty dark orange chili bowl with a white plastic spoon inside
  • battered laptop
  • red aluminum water bottle
  • ping pong frosty the snowman
  • crumbled napkins
  • orange juice carton
  • small giraffe eraser
  • small penguin eraser
  • small brown sign that reads 'danger zombies run' in white.
What did you find in your five minutes?

* Which I'm eating now. Too bad delicious wasn't actually a flavor.
** There's a reason why it's a shitty draft, you know.
*** Sometimes
**** Please note that these weren't the only things going on, but this exercise is a challenge when the day job is happening alongside it. Yours truly recommends you do this exercise during writing time, not day job time. (Unless writing is your day job. If it is, go nuts.)
_______ hit of the day: Back in Flesh by Wall of Voodoo

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pansters and Plotters

When I first started writing, I was totally a pantser. Whatever came to my head in terms of scene, I'd write. While this made for a fun first draft, it proved to be utter shit for my revision process*. As I progressed in my writing, I tried different things. Like plotting something out.

Talk about life-changing. My drafting time went from three years to two months. In turn, my revision process went smoother.

After years of pantsing, I've become a plotter. This November will mark my second plotter anniversary. With a few years under my belt, I thought it would be nice to give a rundown of what's different between plotters and pantsers.

  • Go into a project with a rough idea. The key here is rough. They might only have a piece of a scene.
  • Work more off of premise. Battling robots might sound awesome, but it's not enough to build a 50,000 word novel.
  • Have more writer's block. They write themselves into a corner and can't figure out how to get back other than trashing everything and start over.
  • Jump right in, sometimes the instant a shiny new idea hits the noggin.
  • Get distracted easier. With nothing firmly next on the writing agenda, it's easier to walk away to "think about what comes next."

  • Go into a project with a full realized story. They know the key players, how the story starts, develops, and ends.
  • Take a premise and examine it to see if it's strong enough to create a story around. If those battling robots were created to protect the town from the ongoing dragon raids, they have more to work with.
  • Have writer's block, but it's not as severe. If they write themselves into a corner, they can just skip to the next scene.
  • Take their time. They do research, draft outlines, fill out worksheets. It's like useful procrastination**.
  • Know where they're going. There's no need to take a long break to figure out the next scene when it's already there.
Plotting doesn't need to take the fun out of writing. If you plot loose enough, you still have the flexibility of a pantser, only with more structure. With the best of both methods at your fingers, you should find that your plots are stronger and still surprising as well.

What method works best for you?

* I'm looking at you, first book.
**Unlike Bejeweled.
______ hit of the day: Christine by Siouxsie and The Banshees

Monday, August 1, 2011

Vacation Books

This time next week I'll be an active participant of The Real World Cape Cod and let me tell you: it can't come soon enough. This summer has been somewhat of a suckfest so getting away for a few days is a definite must.

One thing I always make sure I pack for vacation are books. The more, the better. I think about this before the all-important clothes issue*. Back in June, I declared this summer the fluff read summer. While I haven't been entirely successful, I'm aiming to continue on next week. And because it's Monday, I thought I'd share my book packing list with you.

The Real World Cape Cod Book List

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols
Possession by Elana Johnson
I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It by Adam Selzer
Withering Tights by Louise Rennison

I know. That's a lot of reading material to devour in between writing and organized activity**, but I like to be prepared.

What books have you been reading this summer?

* This shows you where my priorities lie.
** Like countless rounds of mini golf and ice cream.
______ hit of the day: Doctor Doctor by UFO
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