Monday, December 30, 2013

December Favorites

Hmm…I wonder what will be on this list? Gifts of the 25th, perhaps? ;) (I also apologize for the quality of these pictures. I had to take them quickly last night and didn't have the greatest set-up or lighting. It's been a crazy week!)



1) Unspoken by Dee Henderson


 

Unfortunately I accidentally discovered I was getting this before Christmas, but it didn't lessen my excitement at all. This is Henderson's new book, and seeing as I consider her one of my "mentors," I am beyond excited to start reading this!

2) The 5-Disc Extended Edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey



This Christmas was rather filled with Hobbit/Lord of the Rings gifts…which was fine by me ;) This awesome set came from my brother, and I didn't even know of its existence yet! I know what I'm doing on my next day off.

3) Hobbit Door Locket


This was also known as the "International Christmas" as several of our gifts came from around the world (most of them from my brother - he was in the Navy and got many of our gifts while on deployment); this locket came from Australia and was ordered through etsy (I believe by seller ReadingFanGirl, but I'm not positive). It's simply gorgeous.

4) Reversible Mug Cozy



Gifted from my mother but made by my sister-in-law, this is the perfect cozy to use when drinking tea while writing ;) Not only is the color green perfect (did you know just looking at the color green can enhance creativity?), but one side says, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit" and the other side, "A safe fairyland is untrue to all worlds." Perfect for this fantasy-lover.


5) Leather-Bound Journal




How. awesome. is. this? Another gift from my brother, this little journal came all the way from Hong Kong. The Chinese word on the front is "dragon." He knows me so well.

6) A Kindle


Shock. I got a kindle?! Well, yes I did. This was not something I asked for, and don't worry - I'm still strong for paperback books. However, this kindle was my gramps'; my gommie gave it to me (along with an awesome pen/stylus), and it really is quite a convenient thing to have. Even though it's just a piece of technology, it was my gramps' and so I'm going to treasure it for as long as I can :)



I hope you all had a very merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I went to see The Desolation of Smaug with my brother last week. Having loved The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (more than the original 3 installments…wait, I didn't say that…), I was beyond excited to be seeing this after waiting a year.

**Unlike most of my reviews, this contains a LOT of spoilers. Skip to the very end to get to my overall thoughts**




The Desolation of Smaug begins twelve months before the essence of the movie begins, when Gandalf and Thorin meet. From there, we jump right into where An Unexpected Journey left off. My mind had to piece together everything very quickly, so I wish I had been able to see the first movie right beforehand, but I caught up easily enough.

This. movie. was. AMAZING. Charm and hilarity mixed with awing action scenes and special effects is what you get when you mix Tolkien and Jackson.

First I'll address the main concern I had walking into the theater — Tauriel. We all know butt-kicking, rebellious female characters are more often than not overplayed in movies, and more than anything I didn't want that to be the case. It wasn't. I actually really enjoyed her character and found myself likening her to a mix of Arwen and Eowyn. Besides, her name means Daughter of the Forests. How awesome is that?

The budding "romance" between Tauriel and Kili was more interesting than anything. I wouldn't say I didn't like, I wouldn't say yet that I did. However, Tauriel is not your typical she-elf, and Kili is set aside as being different from the other dwarves, and they are both a bit reckless and rebellious. I think their romance is more of a curiosity and wonder in each other than something that could develop into a relationship. It's fun to think about though ;)

And Legolas…now, I don't know about you, but he's one of my absolute least favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings movies. However, this time he has more than just looking off into the sunset and saying a line of importance (we have Balin for that now, it would seem). His fight scenes…honestly, some of the best stuff I've seen in ANYTHING.

Mirkwood. Ever since reading the books and seeing the first three movies (and having not read The Hobbit), I've always dreamed about what Mirkwood was like. How was it different from Lothlorien? What was different about the elves living there? Mirkwood has somber feeling, like Lothlorien, but also an air of strong will, rebellion, mysteriousness, and danger. Oh, and you hated the spider, Shelob? Just wait, oh unsuspecting non-viewer…just wait.

The one thing I felt off about the movie was Esgaroth (Lake-town). It could just be this very human aspect is nothing I've ever seen before in Tolkien's universe, even with Rohan, and I'll love it the second time around, but the Master played by Stephen Fry seemed so… common.

However…Smaug. Smaug. SMAUG. After spending a year watching Merlin and being dulled down by the horrible dragon in that TV series, I was mind-blown. I've never seen anything like him look so real on the screen. Benedict Cumberbatch is the best dragon yet - can we just pause and take a moment to appreciate magnificent portrayal?


Bilbo was just as funny and charming (no one but Martin Freeman could play him), though we start to see his descent as the ring begins to take hold. I'll be interested to see how Thorin plays out in the final installment after seeing all the treasure in the Lonely Mountain. Plus, can you say CLIFFHANGER?! I'm doing a bit of rebelling myself and NOT reading The Hobbit before watching these movies (*gasp*), so the movie ended and I was just like, "Wait…wait, this is like when Sam and Frodo were going to die at the "end" of The Return of the King, right? It hasn't been 2 1/2 hours yet. Wait, why is Ed Sheeran singing that awesome song? NOOO."


Overall thoughts: You haven't seen The Desolation of Smaug? Get yourself to a movie theater! 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Blogging Tips and Tricks

So, the new year is almost upon us. If you're *coughcheesycough* like me, you're already thinking of what will be making it to the final cut of your New Year's Resolutions.

I know most of my followers — if not all of them — have their own blogs, whether they be on writing or some other subject. However, It began thinking that maybe some of you just aren't satisfied with your blog, whether you don't like the format, the look, the schedule, or constantly have mental blocks on what to post.



I'm going to share with you some tips and tricks on how you get make 2014 YOUR YEAR of blogging and finally set aside those worrisome blogger woes.

TIP #1: Determine if you need a schedule

When I first started blogging, I posted whenever I wanted, whether a month went by or a day. I finally figured out that didn't work for me, and I made a commitment to blog every Monday between 10:00-11:00 AM (since then I've gotten job with a flimsy schedule, however I do still post every Monday.)

I'm not saying this is for every blogger, but if you a) like structure and rules, b) are struggling with keeping up on posting ANYTHING, I would suggest at least trying it out for a month or two and seeing if it could work.

Take a moment to examine each day of your week, and determine what day and time would be best for you not only to post, but also to get the post ready the night before. Then stay focused. It'll be tough, but remember: this is a trial session.

TIP # 2: Carry a notebook

If you're a writer, you probably already carry a notebook in your pocket or in your purse wherever you go. I suggest either sectioning off a certain part of your notebook or buying a completely separate little one specifically for your blog.

Whenever an idea comes to your head, whether it just be (taking writing as an example) an observation in a book you're reading, a character's trait you love, or simply a title — write it down. No idea is too small or ridiculous when it comes to blogging ideas. I've found that  sometimes the ideas that don't seem important now but still nag at me to write them down end up sparking an entirely different line of thinking.

TIP #3 Tell people about your blog

This may seem obvious, but I struggle with this. However, not only will sharing your blog via pinterest, twitter, Facebook, ect. and telling people you know increase the circulation of your blog but will also hold you accountable. The more people you know are checking your blog, the more you'll start to take your commitment to posting more seriously.

TIP #4 Examine other blogs

Don't think your blog is quite where it should be? Don't like the design of the page? Do some snooping on your other favorite blogs. How do they format their posts? What about their design layout or colors to love? Are the blogs down-to-earth, clean and simple, or wild with colors and fun images? How often do they post? What are they posting about? (**Remember when you take ideas down to be cautious of plagiarism**)

TRICK #1 Small Paragraphs

My weakness is getting long-winded and writing long blog posts. When you come onto a blog, chances are you aren't going to want to spend twenty minutes - half an hour reading one post. So make your paragraphs small. (I haven't quite mastered this trick, but I'm working on it ;) )

Though it may seem choppy to you at first, by making your paragraphs smaller you allow the reader to glance over your posts and quickly find which one he or she wants to read. Plus, we all know it goes faster if you're not staring at one paragraph that takes up half the page.

TRICK #2 Put things in order

Not every blog post or style will require it, but see how each point is labeled bold and I keep the tips and tricks together? I find when I have blog posts subjects/posts structured this way, I get a lot more views on the blog.

What helps keep you blogging? 






Monday, December 9, 2013

Which Story Should I Write?

(Apologies in advanced for the font issues, I can't do anything to change it. No idea what caused this, but I hope to have it figured out by the next post)

Probably all of you know by now that I finished the first draft for my WIP "Drasia." While this is the prequel to three more planned books, I couldn't help but feel energized to start another story idea completely separate from the fantasy genre. (I have a pretty short attention span and like to move on to the next thing before the first is finished…a horrible habit to have, in case you had no idea). 




I had determined I would start planning a modern day "action/mystery" story or a 1940s-set story, however I couldn't decide which idea to go with. After a week of mercilessly wrestling between the two, I finally said these words to myself: ""Well, I probably really wouldn't want to start writing the modern mystery/action story because I'll be distracted by the other Drasia books, and I want to give my whole attention to the modern idea when I start writing it."

Anyone else see the utter idiocy in that statement? The moment I said it I realized I'd said something…well, stupid. However, this opened my eyes to several things: 1) I had made my choice between the two story ideas, 2) I thought I had been considering the 1940s idea not to be that important, 3) the modern idea was clearly more developed than the 1940s story,  4) now isn't a good time to start a completely different story because my focus will be elsewhere - let me rephrase that, it SHOULD be elsewhere. 

Again, I thought I had chosen the modern over the 1940s because it was more important; HAAAAAALT. No story idea isn't important. If you've created it, love the idea and love the characters, it is important. As I just mentioned, all this meant was that it wasn't developed very well. After examining each story, I came to the conclusion that the difference in my mind, preferring one to the other, was because I had already a set goal and theme to the modern story idea, whereas the other was just a jumble of things I love or in which I am interested; it wasn't fleshed out enough to become a real story. Now, in the future, when I go back to the 1940s idea, I'll remember this and know this book will need some major reevaluation before the writing process begins. 


Now, does this mean that I can stop everything I'm doing now and write that first story? NO! I've already made a rather serious commitment to the Drasia books (I spent a whole year on the prequel, for goodness' sakes). However, I also don't want to lose any ideas or excitement for this modern story.

But here's the thing: If there's a great story within you that speaks to your soul, you will not lose your faith in it. Sure, the excitement might fizzle every now and then, but it will always return with an explosion. This modern story idea has spoken to my heart and already feels very dear to me, even before any serious planning, and while it's hard for me not to work on and write it, I'm pretty confident I can wait and not lose momentum forever.

Story ideas will still spring to mind as I continue to work on my Drasia books, and I will develop them as far as I dare go without losing sight of my current project. There's no harm in letting those ideas soak in for a while; the great ones will never leave you. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

No Post

There will be no post today - taking a break for this week. :) 

Remember to check out the Contact Me page if you have a writing question or suggestion for a post! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Character Naming Part 3: Are Significant Names Important?

In parts one and two we discussed how to first gather names and then organize lists to help you choose the perfect name for your character. However, if we jump back a little, think about this: you want to find the perfect name, but how much thought do you wish to put into your research? We all drool over and revere those creators who used something so simple as a name to convey a greater meaning; is this best for your story?




For example, though I haven't read the Harry Potter books, I know author J.K. Rowling is rather famous for her anagram names and names with a special story meaning them. Hermione is the female verson of Hermes, who in Greek mythology was the patron saint of high magic. If you've read the books or seen the movies, you'll know that the character Hermione is very gifted in her powers. Though I personally will not read Rowling's books, I have great respect for her care in the names she chose.

Another example is from the movie Inception. Nearly every character's name has a meaning, but specifically Cobb's wife; she is called Mal, which means "bad," and she was portrayed as evil in many of Cobb's dreams. A simple but significant meaning.

(**If you're interested in discovering if more of your favorite characters have significant meanings in their names, I suggest starting with The Hunger Games. There are a couple of articles written online about the characters' names, and I found it quite fascinating.)

If you've ever researched the meanings of names from different stories, it can be very inspiring, and you may find yourself pumped to do the same thing. However, I will warn you: it could hold you back.

Searching for special names with specific meanings can be a lot of fun, and also at times frustrating if you can't find a name to fit the perfect meaning. I remember one time I was developing a character name, and I spent hours trying to find the perfect name. I finally had a few names that had the right meaning, but none of them fit the character otherwise. I was exhausted, upset, and I still kept searching. Eventually, I just had to stop and search for an average name, and I ended up finding the perfect name.

Sometimes a character just doesn't want to cooperate with your grand schemes. They need simple, tried and true names. Yes, having a character name with special significance can add depth when you first discover it, but remember, adding meaning to a name for your benefit and for curious readers' benefits can be interesting, but the character himself doesn't have any idea, and it doesn't add his story.

If you enjoyed this little series on naming characters, please vote on the poll to the top right of the blog! :) (closed)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Character Naming Part 2: Organizing and Minimizing

In part 1 of Character Development, I threw around some ideas of how you can compile a list of names for your characters. (How many of you were able to try some of those methods in the past week? Let me know in the comments!)

So, now that you have your (probably) long list of favorite names, here are some ideas on how to start organizing and minimizing your names.



Taking the example of just searching for one particular character, I'd suggest organizing the names into alphabetical order. Separate the first, middle, and last names either into 3 separate sheets of paper (or 3 piles of index cards, whatever you used) or, if you used a program like Stickies on your computer, sort everything into 3 sticky notes.

Go down through your first names and read them out loud; whichever name doesn't immediately jump out at you or at least give your mind a little tug, eliminate. (Tip: Don't get rid of that name forever. Get it out of sight, but save it in another document or on another piece of paper. Later on if no other names work out, come back to it, or save it for future characters.) Chances are, if you don't feel a tug towards the name right away, you won't later.

--> If you have a picture you use as inspiration for your character, now is the time to keep it nearby. As you read off names you can see which ones look and sound best with your character.

Go down through your "revised" list several times, trying different middle and surnames with each name. Don't get discouraged if your favorite name doesn't sound right with the surnames you picked. You can probably work around it by at least choosing a different surname (or perhaps you might discover having a surname isn't all that important to the story!).

At this point you might find yourself with two or more names that you think are perfect, or at least close to it. Don't stress; in fact, it's probably better that you do, because the elimination process isn't necessarily over. There's still a lot to consider in deciding on the perfect name.

However, you may have one name that you keep thinking about. If so, take that one and, if you have any other character names picked out for the same story, make a "cast" list. You'll want to make sure that you don't have all your names starting with the same initials or containing the exact same amount of syllables. You might find that right there will help you determine which name from your minimized list is the best.

One last step in this process: google your final contestants. You may not realize it, but that brilliant name you just pieced together might be the name of a famous scientist, or the name of an already existent character. Just as an example, I've been toying with a story idea for a few months now. I used many of these processes I'm discussing with you in creating the male lead's name, and finally decided on Aaron Palmer. I adored the name, but something wasn't setting right. It sounded so...familiar. A month after I chose the name, I was in the store and saw a can of Arnold Palmer tea. It had taken me forever to make the connection consciously, but obviously something in the back of mind was trying to force me to use a name I'd already heard before. Definitely be cautious in this area; you don't want people to think you're copying.

In part 3 we'll close with discussing if "significant" names are important to a story. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Character Naming Part 1: Where to Start

My favorite part about planning a new story idea isn't necessarily pulling together the plot and outline (mainly because I make most of that up as I go and don't usually flesh out an outline). For me the excitement is in developing the characters, from their physical appearances and characteristics to background story and future actions. For the next few blog posts, I'm going to share with you how I go through the process of naming my characters.



For some people, like me, this comes fairly naturally. I can spend hours picking out a specific name for a character yet have fun doing it. Others can just pick any name they want and be fine with it - which is totally okay, too. However, maybe some of you struggle with figuring out the perfect name, or maybe you want to learn how to flesh out your development process. Here's how I begin:


First and foremost - baby naming sources. Like candy in the middle of a salt factory. Baby naming sources can be in the form of books, from specific baby books to character naming books (I own The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook 2nd Edition). However, for a quick search, and what I use mostly, some websites to try out are babynames.com and behindthename.com (heads up: different sites can contain different origins and meanings. Occasionally you may have to try a few different sources to make sure you have the most accurate). Not only is there a nearly unlimited resource of baby names on these sites, but you can also refine your search for specific gender, origin, and meaning. Do you have an strong-willed Irishman as your protagonist? Perhaps you should call him Liam.

If you want to try a different route other than baby name sources, one idea is to simply compile a list of first, middle, and last names of your family, friends, and acquaintances. You might have a best friend named Emily Jane Gould, a cousin named Hannah Rae Devore, and a co-worker named Audrey Monroe. Mix it together, and perhaps you like Audrey Rae Gould.

Another fun way is to pop in your favorite movie or TV show and take a look at the credits; what are your favorite names on that list? This is also a great resource to use if you want creative names. C'mon, we've all seen those names roll by and do a double take - they're pretty crazy awesome.

The "easy" way out is to look up a name generator site. I'm not condemning this method at all (sometimes I will use it for surname ideas), but for me personally, it takes the fun out of the process.

>>Next week in part 2 we'll flesh this out and discuss how to organize your compiled names.<<


How do you compile a list of favorite character names?

Monday, November 4, 2013

November Favorites

 


November is a hard month for me. I say goodbye to the far-too-short Autumn, the weather starts to turn cold, snowflakes are beginning to spit here and there, and days grow darker. However, I can come to this list and be made cheery again. So here we go!


1) New tabs

I've mentioned a couple of them before but just wanted to remind y'all, plus I added a new one. Underneath the blog header, as you probably saw, is a series of tabs leading to other pages in which you can learn more about the blog and me. The 2 I want to point out today are the Ask Me! tab, where you can leave a comment about anything from a question about writing to suggestion for a review, and the new tab is my Contact Me. I've added some new ways in which you can contact me and follow updates on my writing + the blog, so please check those out! :)


2) Geek sweater



    My bestie gave this to me for my birthday last month - is this not the best sweater you've ever seen?! Not to mention it's probably the most comfortable sweater I own now. Plus, if it's angled certain ways, as you can see here, it also says EEK. Win win. It's a favorite this month because, well, it's awesome, plus this is the sweater I wore when I did an incredible amount of writing last week. Maybe it has powers…. *cough*

(And an extra picture because…I got bored trying to find the best picture to show off the sweater ;) )





3) New desk




    I finally got my new desk! Thanks to a friend for putting it together last week, my room is finally starting to feel complete (for those of you who don't know, I just repainted it and am completely changing the decor. Mwahaha. Also, ignore the ugly carpet). Isn't it perty?




4) First draft of my novel



If you follow me on pinterest or check the blog regularly, you probably saw that I completed the first draft of my WIP last week! I'm thrilled to be finished and a little anxious for what's next, but ready to meet the challenge. More on that to come.



5) AlyssaBeth Photography



My best friend, Alyssa, just created a blog for her freelance photography. She doesn't have many posts up yet, but I'd highly recommend checking the site within the next couple months. She does amazing work, and her pictures can be so inspirational for a story :) Check out her blog here.




6) My Writing Playlist



I don't always listen to music while I'm writing, but occasionally I'll bring up the ol' iTunes and let my "writing playlist" roll. I created this playlist probably around 9 months ago. It's a very wide mix of songs, and most of them work well with my current WIP (I have several different playlists depending on which genre I'm writing). To just give a glimpse, a few of the songs on my playlist are Mordred's Lullaby by Heather Dale, Skyfall by Adele, Skyrim by Lindsey Stirling and Peter Hollens, a couple Imagine Dragons songs, and Arwen's Vigil by The Piano Guys. There are ten other songs, which I shall keep a secret for now ;) 
(Who would like to see a full recommended playlist? Leave a yes or no in the comments, and as a bonus you can tell me what kind of music you usually listen to while writing, and I'll create one! You can comment on pinterest as well. If you would like one made specifically for YOU, find the Ask Me! or Contact Me tabs under the blog header comment using one of those ways. C'mon, who doesn't like playlists?) 


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Announcement: Update on my WIP

Well, my dear followers…I have a rather big announcement to make.

At 4:00 PM, October 30, 2013, I completed the first draft for my current WIP, The Descendants of Drasia: The Prequel.

I. am. SHOCKED. Literally shocked. Lately I'd been setting a goal of getting the draft done by the new year, but yesterday I began writing like a madman. I don't know how it happened, but I was hit with immense inspiration and couldn't keep my fingers from the keyboard. I wrote and wrote and everything just started coming together. Halfway through yesterday I decided I'd probably be done by Thanksgiving, and then I started writing today in another fevered manner. Next thing I knew, I was writing the final words of the epilogue.

My hands are shaking but there is still so much work to be done. Editing, revising, figuring out what to do from here, outlining and planning the next books to follow… However, today, I'm going to set it all aside and simply revel in the feeling of accomplishment ;)

I want to thank EVERYONE who has given me encouragement, advice, and support since I began this story in September 2012. On to the next adventure!



Monday, October 28, 2013

Character Examination: Tony Stark

 

     Last week I reviewed Iron Man 3. I was asked afterwards to dig a little deeper into Tony Stark's character in this new movie, being questioned on whether or not Stark was more vulnerable here. The answer being yes, I decided it would be a good idea to examine how his character changed from Iron Man to The Avengers to Iron Man 3.

    If you haven't seen any of these movies, you may not be able to relate to this in the fullest sense. However, I'd still encourage you to read it for two reasons. 1) It's always good to read about how a character grows through his/her story, whether you're completely familiar with the character or not; it can give you ideas on how to add growth and depth to your own characters. 2) My slightly selfish reason: I'd like to know what you think of the post and if you'd like to see more "Character Examinations" in the future.

Tony Stark

     In Iron Man, we met Tony Stark, a genius on just about everything scientific, mathematical, and...who knows what else. He was arrogant, self-confident, and you could almost allow with good excuse; he is, literally, a know-it-all. I don't know about you, but I enjoy characters with such personalities and knowledge. I'm by no means even slightly knowledgeable in those areas, so it's fun to watch someone else who is, plus his snarky attitude can be a fun character on which to play off. Also, usually a character such as he comes with baggage, a ghost, some sort of secret. (Throughout the movies, we discover a big factor with this in that his father was also a genius and didn't show his son much attention or love.) 

      Does this stop Tony from being his usual self-serving persona? Nope, not really. We do discover he has a heart, of course, but a personality such as his can never truly be changed; at least certainly not overnight, or for that matter over the course of a couple movies. 

      In The Avengers, we see Stark is still ticked off about not being chosen to join the Avengers Initiative, the elite of the elitist. However, when he is finally recruited to join the ranks, his ego is boosted and his pride replenished. We start to see probably his first sign of real change in this story, though. For instance, his repulsion at being called a soldier by Captain America. Why do you think this is? Perhaps he doesn't want to be associated with the government; he'd rather keep himself free, dependent on only himself, not hindered by someone telling him what to do. Perhaps it's the association with war, death, and tyrants that makes his blood boil. Maybe it's because he's reminded of the soldiers he traveled with that died in the beginning of Iron Man
        He also makes a self-sacrifice by risking his life in order to protect his fellow superheroes and friends and the earth itself; a seemingly very contradictory action to his usual. 
        Finally, he opened himself up completely to a relationship with the woman he loved, Pepper Potts, and at the end of The Avengers we saw they were engaged (which, if you read my review on Iron Man 3, was never mentioned afterwards...annoying!!)

      However, in Iron Man 3, we see a side of Tony Stark that is shocking and never-seen-before. The confidence is gone, the self-reliance still there but full of doubt. He experiences PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and panic attacks (which, I pause to say as someone who has experienced PTSD and has anxiety/panic attacks, those scenes were done quite well). He's literally scared to open up to anyone, to be close to Pepper, though his only desire is to keep her safe. As he said to her, "Things are different now. I have to protect the one thing that's important to me. That's you." Vulnerability isn't something we're use to seeing in this character, and yet you could say "overnight" it became his biggest issue.  
        When one's normal routine is heavily interrupted and the things we love most threatened, it's natural that we should experience raw emotions and discord. Stark's transition is a human process, but due to his previous disposition, the addition of these elements is a bit of a shock for the viewers. Empathy more than likely will arise with this character we are so used to, and the writers have employed this to catch our undivided attention and make us care about Stark's journey through dealing with his struggles.
        This brilliant component is a great tool for writer's when adding, as I mentioned before, growth to a character needing depth. In warning, though, just be sure not to give your character an immediate reversal. Stark still had his sense of humor and sarcasm. He wasn't made a new man from this experience, just a changed one.
       
What did you think of Tony Stark's change?
Have you ever written a character who had a complete turnabout as result of trauma?
Would you like to see more Character Examinations? 
            

Monday, October 21, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

I've seen Iron Man 3 twice now; once just watching for pleasure with the family, the second mostly for taking notes for this post.


Again, I do my best to not reveal spoilers, or at least major plot points. So let's get started.


First, I will say this movie would be very confusing if one hadn't seen The Avengers (or Iron Man 1, for that matter), though there is one quick flashback to the battle in New York and viewers could get the idea of what's happening. Still, you'll be better off if you make sure to see The Avengers before this movie.

The first 10 minutes are a rather confusing style as far as filming goes. The scenes skip around a little, making you wonder if you missed something small in the story. Most of this confusion, however, in the story aspect is explained later on in the film. I do feel like they could've fixed this to make it a little more understandable without giving away the plot for the rest of the movie, however this could just be a personal preference. I don't mind a little skipping around, but for the most part I like my movie to be straight on in the action and story.

Another little "issue" I had with the plot line is the relationship between Pepper and Stark. The movie takes place immediately after The Avengers, and at the end of that movie we saw that Pepper was wearing an engagement ring. However, in Iron Man 3, not only was their engagement not mentioned once, but she wasn't even wearing the ring. Diiiiid they forget???

As usual, the dry, sarcastic wit of Tony Stark was enjoyable; I always enjoy his kind of personality in characters. However, in this movie it was the weakest. I almost felt as though the writers were overdoing his usual, "subtle" comebacks, pushing for him to be so snarky that Stark's dialogue ended up being weak. His comebacks were forced, as if the well of inspiration had been run dry.

However, on to the positive points. For those of you who have seen the movie, who else loved the kid?! Ty Simpkins played Harley, a mini Tony Stark. This is a great kid actor that I hope to see again. And as far as his character - I wonder if he'll reappear? I got the feeling he was introduced now so as to become a major character in the future. As far as I know, he's completely fictional and not even in the comics, but still...I wouldn't mind if he reappeared!

The acting, as always, was top-notch (Ben Kingsley's performance was amazing), the action sequences were great, and as I said I enjoyed it enough to watch a second time.


Sarah's Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ask the Blogger!



Now, before you accuse me of taking the easy way out of a blog post, just hold your horses. I have a few blog post ideas I'm currently working on developing, but due to some personal things that have come up these past few weeks, I honestly haven't had a lot of time to work on my blog.

So, I thought while I'm fleshing out those other posts, why not ask my followers what THEY would like to see on the blog? This is your chance to contribute and get any sort of your questions answered!

What kind of questions am I looking for, you ask? Absolutely anything! Just to get you started:

1) Some of you know more about my writing specifically - do you have any curiosities that need answered (though I'm not guaranteeing I'll be able to answer them if they give huge spoilers ;) )?

2) Do you have a question about writing and can't seem to find the specific answer anywhere else?

3) Did you just read a great book, fiction or writing-related, and want to recommend it for me to review? Or what about a great movie?

4) Are you currently working on a story or finally getting that manuscript published? I might consider setting up a short interview for promotion of the story/yourself.


It's your turn to let your questions be made known. Underneath the header of my blog you'll see a tab that says "Ask!" I would prefer you ask your questions/give your recommendations in that section, however I won't be too upset if you just comment under this post. If you're unable to comment on the blog, you can also comment on my pinterest board (link given specifically for the board, please comment on the picture corresponding to this post: http://www.pinterest.com/secoons/my-double-living-my-blog/ ) I'm counting on you! :)


Monday, October 7, 2013

October Favorites

Once a month I'm going to share with you a few of my favorite things - a favorite book, a picture I thought was extra inspiring, an interesting article...just about whatever, all somehow tying into writing, movies, and/or inspiration. I thought this would be a fun little post to lighten things up and hopefully give you something to look forward to at the beginning of each month.


Let's not waste any time!




1) Half(dot)com

This place is awesome. It's a part of ebay, and you can find extremely cheap books, some just a dollar. (You do have to be careful and read the descriptions on each price to make sure you're getting a book that's still in good condition). Now, I am cheating a little; I haven't actually ordered anything yet. I've been trying to figure out which books to get for starting me off in my online writing studies, and so far I've tallied an almost $200 list of books. This site cuts that at least in half; I'm going to be able to save a lot of my graduation money! Definitely check this site before any purchases (they also have movies and and games and music)!



2) My High School Diploma

A little random, but I can't help but include it. I graduated from high school this summer, and I'm finally ready to really embark on focusing on my writing career. I'm anxious to begin my studies at home (which begin this month), schedule everything myself, and take classes only I want to take (I'm not going for a particular degree). The diploma symbolizes a measure of freedom for me that I've been waiting for a long time.



3) Exhortations by Elizabeth blog post "Intelligence."

(**Elizabeth's own blog header)

Elizabeth Lewis has a wonderful blog, exhortationsbyelizabeth.blogspot.com, on which she posts anything from book reviews and inspiring music for her stories to hosting writing contests. However, today I'm drawing attention to one particular post she labeled, "Intelligence." Like me, Elizabeth is a die-hard fan of the BBC series Sherlock, and for any of you who have seen this amazing series or at least know of Mr. Holmes, he loves to make life deductions based on the tiniest of details. Elizabeth creatively took this idea and wondered what Sherlock Holmes would deduce about her if he stepped into her room, and so she wrote a little piece on what he just might see. It was so inspiring and fun to read, I couldn't help but feel a little giddy.
However, she didn't just stop there. She then went on to explain different parts that play in intelligence, and by so showed us her amazing mind and grip on her characters themselves. I would rant and rave on a little longer, but I've already written enough. You'll just have to go read this tremendous blog post (copy and paste link in tab - I'm no technological whiz kid; I still don't know how to do direct links):

http://exhortationsbyelizabeth.blogspot.com/2013/07/intelligence.html



4) My typewriter book ends:



(I celebrated my birthday this month and these were my "big gift." I ADORE them!! Thanks, Mom and Dad ;) )




Do you have any favorites for this month? Sound off in the comments!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: The Miner's Lady by Tracie Peterson

**I received a free review copy (my first!) of The Miner's Lady through the Bethany House Publishers/Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.**




The Miner's Lady by Tracie Peterson

I've read three other of Miss Peterson's stories and greatly enjoyed them; having 90+ books under her belt, she's certainly a pioneer in Christian Fiction publication. However, I wouldn't list this book as one of my favorites.

The story is rather cliche and predictable; as I read, I felt like I had read another book similar to it. Nothing - and I mean nothing - happened until chapter 6, followed by 12 chapters of several conversations between characters on issues we as readers already knew, and I have to say I found myself bored. Once chapter 18 hit, I finally became interested in the story, wondering how everything would turn out, and for that I was relieved.

While I enjoyed the relationship between the two leading couples, Chantel and Dante, nothing original was brought to the scene; Isabella and Orlando, siblings of the previous couple, had a relationship mirroring Romeo and Juliet. The characters were likable and relatable, but one-dimensional and nothing entirely special.

Still, the book has good themes on forgiveness and God's grace, made me chuckle a few times, and was a fairly enjoyable read once events starting taking place. It wouldn't be my "go-to recommend" book, but if someone asked I would still recommend it.


Sarah's Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Don't Think About What You're Writing

Don't think about what you're writing while you're writing it.

Say "whaaaat?"




At the moment, I am majorly stuck on one of my chapters in my WIP. I can't even count how many horrible weeks I've just brought up the document, stared, and then walked away - which is something I've preached vehemently against in past blog posts.

I think my discouragement and writer's block is floating into other parts of my life as well. One being this blog; it's taken me all week to come up with a subject for this week's post. So, instead of thinking of a great, stirring post that will captivate readers, I'm just going to give a little bit of advice that I'm trying to use myself: Don't think about what you're writing while you're writing it.

No, I don't mean write willy-nilly (yes, I use that phrase, what of it?) anything and everything whether it adds to the story or not (or if it's even part of the SAME story). Consideration must still be present. However, we can get hung up on one scene. Even if we know what's going to come after it, it's as if a crucial part of the bridge hasn't arrived and we have to wait for it to be imported from a country millions of miles away. We can't move on until that one scene is perfect, and nothing else matters until it is completed.

Take a deep breath...and then chuck that idea out the window onto the street and hope a truck will run over and smash it into the ground. I'm obviously referring to first drafts here, and so you know what? The most important part of a first draft isn't necessarily the quality, preciseness, and beautifully crafted sentences - it's about getting your ideas on paper, no matter how mashed and messed up they may be. There's a beautifully little tool called "editing" used for filling in those details later.

So instead of pouring 50 cups of coffee down your throat and suffering from headaches and bleary eyes, just don't "pay attention" to what you write. Write some (excuse my language) total crap, or make a note to come back to that scene and fill it in later (provided you have another following scene you know where to head with). Write with your eyes closed, and don't think about it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Book Review: Love on a Dime

A few weeks ago I was in Barnes and Noble (my little bit of earthly heaven) and found a book for under $4 - SCORE. Well, I just finished it last night and thought, "What better time to review it?"




Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James. Book 1 of the Ladies of Summerhill.

I believe this is Miss James's first book, for which I say bravo. What drew me to this book as I read the back cover was not just that it sounded like an interesting story, but that the main character was a writer.

Lilly Westbrook secretly writes dime novels under the nom de plume "Fannie Cole" in order to donate her earnings to charity. She knows writing these stories, stories her society thinks is trash, in secret isn't pleasing to God, but she struggles with the good she does in spite of it. Her stories are pure and focused on God, which she uses as an excuse for her behavior.

Lilly runs into serious trouble when her former flame, Jackson Grail, comes back after several years and reveals he's buying the publishing house to which Fannie Cole is attached. On top of this revelation, a man named Colonel MacIntyre, operator of a gossip paper, is threatening to come forth with Miss Cole's real identity. Torn between coming out in public and shaming her family or accepting help from her previous beau, Lilly must decide which decision is the best not only for her future and for others, but what is pleasing to God.


The story had potential to be exciting, but it fell flat, I'm sorry to say. This story wasn't enjoyable in the fact that though there was conflict present, it never gripped you, and I'd say it leaned more towards boring and repetitious. The most interesting part was the mysterious backstory of a minor character instead, of which I won't go into detail with spoilers. Reading the book was like watching a movie in which the actors have no chemistry.

The ending was also a disappointment. Everything was resolved in a rush at once, and the way things resolved seemed rather unrealistic. The author had something to say but couldn't seem to tie it all together and so she snipped the ends and left it.

Would I recommend this book to another reader? No. Would I read another book by this author? Surprisingly, yes, I'd give it at least one more chance. I've read the summaries of the other books of this series, and they too sound like good stories. I would be curious to see if the author's writing has improved.


Sarah's Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Trouble Question: "What's Your Book About?"

"What's your book about?"

I'm guessing a lot of you internally react to that question like this: "ACK, NO! NOT THE DREADED QUESTION! MUST RUN, MUST HIDE! I CAN'T ANSWER THAT QUESTION! WHAT DO I DO? I'M DOOMED!"


Am I getting the main idea at least? I know a lot of people struggle with having this question asked of them, even if in their minds they have a strong hold on what their story is truly about. Sometimes having someone point-blank ask you, however, is intimidating and can make you freeze, if not even start doubting the strength of your story.

Have no fear; it happens. One simple suggestion I could make, if you're far enough along on your story, is to take a day to experiment with different explanations of your book, whether it's a one sentence summary or a full-blown explanation of the plot (just don't make it too long-winded). Be prepared.

However, we can all get caught off-guard. So what do we do when this happens besides nervously laugh it off and say you have a hard time explaining the story to others? These answers are easy but big no-no's, and you'll probably lose respect if you respond this way.

Instead, opt for saying you aren't sharing the details with many people at the moment, but give the genre of the book and maybe the age group if you have a specific one. For me, it's easy to say I'm writing fantasy, because that sparks someone to ask more questions (such as "Will there be dragons?" to which I can respond yes ;) ). If you're writing a historical romance, give the time period, whether in the Western 1800s or Victorian England. This shuts the door on having to provide a detailed account of the story, but it also gives the listeners something to latch onto so that they can be engaged with completely turning them off.

If you have a strong hold on the conflict for your character, that could work as well. For instance, you could respond with, "The story is about a girl who moves from the East to the West as a mail-order bride in the 1800s, and she has to learn to adapt to the ways of the West." (Just a generalization, not thinking of a particular story.)

Basically, don't be intimidated. Being asked this question doesn't mean you have to divulge every plot line and conflict in your story idea; start with a vague explanation if you're caught off-guard, or if you prefer, and go from there. The key is to still remain in control and confident in your answer so that people can see you're serious about your writing. We should be able to answer this question with excitement at sharing our work.

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On another note, I've got some exciting posts coming up in the future. For a sneak peak on one of them, I had shared with all of you that I signed up for Bethany House Publisher's review club, where I receive free copies of books to read and then review on my blog. I'm excited to let all of you know I just received my first two books! (There is usually one book per month, but this was a special month.) I have a busy schedule right now, but I will have at least one of the books reviewed by the end of this month.
Don't forget to vote on the blog poll at the top right of the blog, too! Let's get these votes in, people! :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Endings vs. Sad Endings

In the 2007 movie Becoming Jane, Miss Austen (her character) says, "My characters shall have, after a little trouble, all that they desire."
For those of you who have read Jane Austen's works, you know that this is true of her stories; though they struggle financially and in the realms of possible marriage trials, each female character has a happy ending. These stories make us feel confident and good, don't they? I love a feel-good story.


But what about those stories that end badly? What if he doesn't get the girl, her best friend contracts a terminal illness, a husband perishes in war, or (*gasp*) the main character dies? Such turn of events, though often foreshadowed, are still shocking to us readers. What if you travel through a book, placing yourself in the same journey the main character goes through, feeling his emotions, only to have him or her die in the end? Do you feel lost and just plain mad?

When a character doesn't have a happy ending, I, at times, want to abruptly close the book and never look at it again...at least until my emotions calm down. How dare the author string me along for 300+ pages and then "ruin" the ending? It isn't fair!

...Or is it? Is it really a matter of being fair? Life isn't always fair - we don't always get what we want... death comes to us all; it's just a fact of life. By adding these surprising elements to a story, the author is creating a truly believable account of a fictional life, accurately mirroring the real world. Can we really go as far as to judge the author wrong for wanting to put forth a realistic account?

There are books out there you KNOW will have happy endings because it's just that kind of book. Austen's Persuasion leaves you hanging for a while, wondering if Wenworth and Anne will ever come together in the end, but eventually of course they do. Bronte's Jane Eyre certain includes many trials for the couple Jane and Rochester, and though Mr. Rochester is maimed at the end of the book, they are reunited in love and contentment. But others you can't be so sure. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne loses both her husband and the father of her child, one to greed and shame and the other to death, and as speculated in the book, possibly her daughter. In Tuck Everlasting, young Jesse and Winnie make a promise to love each other for eternity, but Winnie makes the choice to not drink from the spring that gives life. In the end, Jesse returns to find Winnie has died.

Do these sad endings make the book horrible? A little less enjoyable at times, perhaps, but not horrible in my opinion. In the case of Tuck Everlasting, though the ending is sad, I feel content with the fact that Winnie lived her life instead of choosing to live in possible near agony (as Mr. Tuck portrayed), even though it left Jesse alone once more. I actually think these endings can make the story stronger.

There is a right way and a wrong way in creating shocking scenarios for your stories. In one sense, you don't want to string your readers along and crush their dreams in the end, yet you don't want to over-forshadow and give no suspense and conflict to the story. Basically, experiment with what you prefer. If you decide to give your characters happy endings like Jane Austen, make it strong and beautiful. If you decide to kill off your main character, as long as you execute it tactfully (no pun intended), congratulations on taking the plunge.

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I'm considering creating a sort of "fave five" series (won't be called this) for the blog, either every first Monday or last Monday of the month, or once every two months. I'd be including anything from favorite books to resource materials to simply random things I love at the moment (such as inspiration places like Pinterest, an inspiring photo, ect.). I might pair them with a short movie or book review or leave them by themselves. Do you like this idea? If so, PLEASE vote on the poll for which week you would like to see the "segment."

Monday, August 26, 2013

Never Say These Things to a Writer

Being a writer can be hard, we all know this. What makes it even more difficult is when we are confronted by people who don't always know how to respond to your passion for writing. So, today I'm going to have a little "fun" and list some of the worst things to say to a writer; most of these have personally been said to me.




1. "Oh, you want to write? What else do you want to do?"

Um...did you not just ask me what I want to do or what I do? I understand writing isn't the highest paying job and at some point I'll have to go out and find more work, but consider for a moment that, just maybe, I want to focus my attention on writing, not another profession. After all, that is what I responded with first, not becoming a secretary or nurse.


2. "Stop planning so much and just WRITE!"

Okay, I'm not saying that no writer ever gets stuck in a rut and doesn't *purposely* put off their work. However, unless that's the obvious, particular issue you're addressing, never EVER say this to a writer. Planning and research can be the most time-consuming part of being a writing, and you should never rush into the writing until you're confident that your story is ready to be written. I've had people say something similar to this dealing with other things I work on as well, and let me tell you, I want to fly through the roof when the words hit my ears. If you don't want to be written into that writer's story and killed off, take some friendly advice and take an interest in their research - don't push the writer.


3. After hearing about the story concept: "Oh, that sounds like 'such and such' story/movie!"

Unless you've read the written manuscript and it obviously contains identical plot points and characters (plagiarism), don't say this. Just don't. It's insulting and discouraging to the writer. Think about it - a lot of stories have a similar premise or similar qualities in characters, but they can be completely different. Writers (should) know how horrible plagiarism is, and more than likely they're thinking something 100% different for the direction of their story than you are. You are not their mind, they are not yours - stop pre-judging.


4. "You write (genre)? I never cared for (said genre)..."

Ah, good. Thank you for taking an interest and then squashing me. You may not intentionally mean this in a bad way, but watch your words before you speak. Personally, I know not everyone cares for fantasy or has read much of it, and that's totally fine; everyone has their own interests and are completely entitled to their opinion. However, instead of saying "I never cared for fantasy," try just saying something like, "I never got a chance to read much of that genre," or instead ask the writer what her favorite authors/books of that genre are. Be sensitive.


5. "Can't wait to see you on the bestseller's list!"

This is just a personal preference. While sometimes this can be very flattering, and personally makes me blush, it can be a daunting thing to say to a writer. Someone at my church said something similar to this (several times, actually), and I wanted to hide. For me, it puts on wicked pressure because I'm shy to let anyone read my writing (I know, not a good quality) and then I end up feeling I'm going to let people down. Try switching this statement to "I can't wait to see your book on the shelves." To me, that's much more encouraging :)


6. "You want to do what? Write? Oh, that's tough. You can't expect to someone do the work for you."

Oh, really? Rats. I was hoping I wouldn't even have to write all the words; I thought there was a secret robotic mechanism for authors that wrote down their ideas into stories.
I had something similar said to me once (and no, I didn't respond as I fired off above). If you have the deep-setted passion for writing and getting your work published, whether you're an introvert like me or not, you WILL work vehemently towards your goal. Everything is difficult at some point, everyone has to work hard to reach their goals. Don't try to discourage me by saying I can't do it; I'll laugh in your face when I personally hand you a published copy of my book. (No, I wouldn't do that...I'm not that mean. It's passion and determination, that's all. ...Really.)


We as writers can also learn from this. These statements said aren't just limited to those who aren't writers; at least a couple of those said to me was said by someone in the creative field. When you meet a fellow writer or author, think before you speak and consider if you'd want the same questions asked of you.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Should We Use the Word "Aspiring?"

So far, no one has come out and said they don't agree with my little logo above about being an aspiring author. However, I have read multiple blog posts from other writers who discuss this particular word, the meaning, and the dangers of it. What I've come across is that most people really despise the word and look down on others that use it. While I completely see other blogger and writers' points, I'm here to give encouragement, not beat others down just because they use one little word to describe themselves that someone else may not agree with. Let's begin with considering the word aspire, which according to Webster's Dictionary means to seek to attain or accomplish a particular goal. What is it you seek as a writer? To simply write? To be published? To gain fame? To get your story out of your heart?


I refuse to say I aspire to "write" when people ask what I do or what I'm planning for college. I already write; I've written a novella and am working on an even bigger story at the moment. I am a writer, whether people like my words and want to publish them or not.

So, shifting gears for a moment. Shouldn't I be using the word author the same way if I wish to take on the mentality of not caring what others think of my passion? In one way, yes, I should. Webster's says that an author is one that originates or creates (don't those words give your heart a thrill?) or the writer of a literary work, as a book. A writer is simply one that writes. I'm a writer, and so therefore I'm already an author. Just to clarify, I'm not intending to be presumptuous and hope no one would take me for being so, but by this definition, am I not right?

Today, however, we associate the word author with someone who has a work already published, and that's an acceptable term. Therefore, let me clarify what I personally mean when I say I'm an aspiring author; what I mean is that, though I'm a writer and creator of stories, I'm someone whose goal is to get my work out on the shelves, to spread my stories to others. I haven't accomplished this goal as I would like because I'm in the "newbie" stages of being a writer, and I don't have anything published. I am constantly trying to gain knowledge of the subject of writing so as to better my stories, better my craft, and gain experience. I am aspiring to become the best writer, or author, that I can be. In one sense, I will always be aspiring.

When I say I'm blogging for aspiring authors, I'm not attempting to bring anyone down, to tell them that they aren't already writers. If you write, having a passion for telling your story, you are a writer. I gear myself towards those who are also in my stage of writing or haven't picked up the pen yet - I, as a "young" writer, wish to encourage them with my own personal experiences with writing.

Don't be condescending if someone uses this term, but instead applaud them for the efforts they give forth in pursuing their dreams of becoming a writer. Using the word "aspiring" doesn't mean you have to categorize someone in an "always try and never 'win'" situation; we are always aspiring to become the best that we can be.


***Just a reminder I will probably not be posting between 10:00AM-11:00AM in the following 2 Mondays as I'll be on vacation, but I still will be posting on Mondays. In the meantime, check out the new tabs at the top of the blog underneath the header. :)***

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I'm Going on an Adventure

Hey all,

I'm going on a three-week "vacation" to my friend's house starting Monday. I still plan to post the next three Mondays, however I have no idea what my schedule will be and so it more than likely won't be between the regular 10:00AM - 11:00AM.

I'm sorry to throw something different out there again right when I was getting into a regular schedule, but again, keep checking on Mondays :) Thanks!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Movie Review: The Help

Last week my mom and I watched The Help again. I think this movie might just make it to my top 10 favorite movies - of course, the main character being a writer adds about 100pts extra.


First off, for those of you who haven't seen this movie, I want to give a warning that there is quite a bit of language. (You can check out IMDb's (imdb.com) content advisory on the movie if you prefer to read the content before watching something). A few of the words said aren't always mentioned in a swear-form, and others are said because it is relevant to the time, but at the same time it doesn't hide the fact that the language is there. Anyways, just wanted to point that out :)

Again, this is a movie review, and I haven't read the book so nothing will be said on that matter. I always try to avoid major spoilers in my reviews, though I will say there are a few plot points I mention in here. They don't really give anything away, however.
~

Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (love the nickname, Miss Skeeter) has just returned home from her 4-year college and finds a job with the local newspaper writing a column of household cleaning tips under the name "Miss Myrna," which she argues is at least a start. To help her write the column (since Skeeter isn't much of a household person), she enlists the help of Aibileen, a black housekeeper. Through this, Skeeter comes up with the premise for her breakthrough book - a book from the point of view of "the help." A dangerous idea, for both her and the black women who serve the southern families, she eventually recruits only two maids - Aibileen and her friend, Minny. However, as the story goes on and the truth behind the treatment of these women unfold, Skeeter and the maids find the courage to stand up to the prestigious, racist Southern women of prominent families.

Emma Stone plays Skeeter and is phenomenal; Emma has a unique edge in her acting abilities that makes whatever character she plays come to life with realism. Skeeter is a different character compared to her social circle of friends; she's independent, not focused on chasing down a husband, and sees the world through clear eyes (or wants to, at least). Awkward but confident, I felt a connection with her immediately as she pursued her writing dreams relentlessly and took a stand against the common view of everyone around her.

Viola Davis beautifully played Aibileen Clark, a quiet, sad maid who loves the babies she raises for the "white folk." Aibileen turns her focus not on the way she is treated, but in making sure the babies she cares for know they are important, despite the fact that their biological mothers don't seem to care for them. I'm sure many of you have at least seen her catchphrase floating around: "You is kind, you is smart, you is important." Her change from keeping silent to speaking out is both a bit chilling as you feel her pain and thrilling as you want to stand alongside her.

Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for her performance as Minny Jackson, and well-deserved it was. Minny was the maid who has trouble keeping from "sass-mouthin'" and can manage to laugh despite her circumstances. A to-the-point, strong character, she brought the best element of comedy to the movie - but careful. You'll face her wrath if you burn the fried chicken.

Other characters to note are Hilly Holbrook, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, a spoiled, racist character and best friend of Skeeter, and Celia Foote, played by Jessica Chastain (who was nominated for an Oscar in the role), a real Southern, bubbly woman who ignores the issues of black and white and treats everyone with kindness, though she's hated by most in the town for reasons I'll leave untold.


This is a solid movie. It has plenty of comical moments, made brighter by brilliant actors and actresses, but it also addresses the serious issues of racism during the 1960s. This movie certainly opened my eyes a bit and reinforced how disgusting the racial issues were - and still are in some places - in especially the South (the movie takes place in Jackson, Mississippi). Entertaining and thought-provoking, the story is a must-see.

Monday, August 5, 2013

How to Know When to Write : 5 Motivation Tips to Keep Yourself Writing

On average, I can write about two chapters without having too much trouble with fluidness, but when I hit that third chapter, something breaks down. Sometimes I'm tired and my brain seems to refuse to work, or I just have to sit back and think about what I want to come next. Sort of a "you can only see so far in the headlights" moment. However, that action of stopping my fingers on the keys brings my thinking brain to a halt, and unless I have a really good feel on where I'm going, I get hit with writer's block.

What do you do in those situations? Well, one option is to walk away, give it a rest for a while and work on other things. However, is this really the right solution? Sometimes it is. There are times you just know you have to stop and take a break or you'll shut down. However, when I completely stop and walk away, I often lose my motivation to go back to writing, and that feeling can last for days. So the real question is, how do you know when to walk away and when to keep plugging along?

My advice: always take 5-10 minutes, or even longer if you prefer, to push yourself to keep writing. If you aren't already to the point of pulling out your hair but determined to give up then and there, this is going to make you lack in your discipline. Here are some suggestions when going the latter route of plugging away:


1) Using an example of the computer, since that's where I do my writing, don't even lift those hands off the keys. Someone wrote that simple piece of advice on a blog once (apologies I don't remember where!), and it stuck to me. I tested it out: the next time I had writer's block, I kept my hands on the keyboard and within just a few moments I was back to writing. The next day, I again hit a wall with the story, but this time I lifted my hands off those keys. Wham - motivation and inspiration gone; I felt tired and wanted to walk away. So, keep yourself poised on those keys (or around that pencil if you prefer paper) and simply wait until a word comes to mind that will get you started back into your great story.


(apologies for the incorrect link on this graphic)

2) Take a limited break. Set a timer, go do a quick chore, step outside for a moment, or grab some brain food. You might just feel reenergized to get back to that story.


3) Set a deadline. For me personally, being under a deadline adds pressure. I don't care for the feeling of the clock tick, tick, ticking away in my brain, screaming WRITE, YOU FOOL! However, I know that some people have the opposite personality and do their best work when given a deadline. Ask a friend to hold you accountable (you can determine on something like a set word count/number of pages or amount of chapters) and ask within the day or week if you met your quota. Knowing someone is going to ask you a specific question about your work will urge you to get the job done. (This is also perfect if you have a writing assignment for school or want to become a regular blogger.)


4) Remove distractions. Something drawing your eyes away from the pages? Remove it! If it's a picture of friends in a frame on your desk, reminding you of the hangout at the game you're missing, hide that frame in your desk drawer. If you're writing on the computer, exit out of or at least minimize those internet windows behind your word document. If you're phone keeps sending you text alerts, turn it off. Flee from temptation and focus on your writing!


5) Promise yourself with a reward. Hey, treats aren't just for dogs! If you come to a point in your story where you're truly stuck on a particular scene, whether you're not sure what should come next or a character is giving you trouble, determine something special to do after that scene is written. Try these suggestions if you're unsure:

-- You can't listen to your favorite song until you get through that scene.

-- If you get through that scene, take a quick break and browse some inspiring and calming pictures on pinterest.

-- You can take a break and go for a walk in the sunshine afterwards.

-- Go buy that new notebook or buy a cheap book for your kindle if you have one (yes, keep this money reward cheap - it is, after all, just one scene or blip, and I don't know about you, but I haven't been finding any extra money in the backyard trees of late).


Knowing for sure whether you need a break or need to keep plugging along doesn't have any definite answer to it. You'll often feel it deep within yourself whether you really do need to take a quick nap or if you're just being lazy and need to keep plugging along. Just don't lose hope and don't let yourself fall into the rut of bashing your work over one little scene. Everyone struggles at some point; you just have to climb over a few rocks to get to the peak.

What's your technique of staying motivated? Will you try any of these techniques? (If so, come back and share how they worked for you!)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Changes and Announcement

Changes? What? Again?

Yes, I'm afraid so, and I apologize. Only this last week I told you of the new address change for my blog. Well, today I had an opportunity give out the link to my blog to a friend, and I also signed up for something (which I will explain in a moment), and I just realized how ridiculously long it was. So, now, officially, the blog URL is www.mydoubleliving.blogspot.com. I'm sorry for inconvenience!

Now, on to the announcement, and thankfully it is something exciting; I just signed up on Bethany House Publishers to become a reviewer for their books! Each month or so I will be receiving a free review copy of a book, and I'll have a month to read and review it on my blog. I'm excited for this little opportunity to get myself reading more (who doesn't love a free book?) and to be able to share some new book reviews with all of you. I don't have to receive a new book every month if I so choose, which is nice if I find myself getting a little swamped between my own writing and classes, but hopefully I will be able to keep up with it and have fun. So be on a look out within the next couple of months for some regular reviews!

**Remember to come back to the blog tomorrow between 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM for a new blog post; since I've been changing things so much lately, I'll give you a little sneak peak at the post title, which is: How to Know When to Write: 5 Motivation Tips to Keep Yourself Writing.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Change of Address

Hello, everyone! I just need to let you guys know that the URL address for this blog is no longer writingexploration-sarahellen.blogspot.com. It has been changed to mydoubleliving-sarahellen.blogspot.com. A bit easier to remember I figured, and in the future I might take my name off as well, but for now I'm keeping it as I've just shown you. Thanks, all! Hope this didn't confuse anyone.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Dangers and Wonders of Pinterest

ANNOUNCEMENT: Posts will now be every Monday between 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM.

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Ah, Pinterest. What was my life before you came into it?

Well, let's see. It was dull. Boring. Unimaginative, quiet, tasteless, uninspiring, and more stressful.

It was also filled with family time, pet time, reading time, writing time, creative time, and slightly less obsessiveness on certain things.

There are pitfalls to this wonderful sight full of every image and recipe and idea imaginable, and yet I don't know what I'd do without it. Not only has it given me wonderful inspiration for stories and characters, but it has opened up interactions with other writers, blogs, and has done its job spreading word about my WIP to a tiny little section of people, which is way better than no one at all. So right now, I'm going to explain to you how I personally use pinterest to aid my writing.


1) Writing Blogs

Pinterest has led me to find multiple new writing blogs and posts that have already taught me things about writing and inspired me to better myself. You can find just about any post imaginable, from various genres and types of writing to posts on specifics like writer's block and personal inspiration. One of the most encouraging ways I have found to boost my writing is to read another writer's blog and get a feel for how they keep on going.

2) Research

Links to articles on every subject. True, google is helpful as well, but there are times when I want visual aids. ;) I can find specific posts dealing with subjects on how to write such and such a thing, history, psychology, life in 1912 Britain, research and writing technique books, ect. One of the things I most love finding are costumes; I can find hundreds of photos of old dress from the medieval ages to 19th century Great Britain, and that's a great help in visualization as well.
It's a great source for a quick fill on your knowledge.


3) Character Inspiration

Obviously, and what I feel most writers like me use it for, is you can use Pinterest to find that perfect face, that face that represents what your beloved character looks like, his emotions, his actions. A simple picture can inspire one to think of a whole new scene in a book, or an entire new story itself. Who would say no to that?


4) Interaction

I have been able to connect a little bit to a few other fellow pinners and budding authors, and just by discussing our opinions on a certain look a character is giving or how we imagine a scene following a particular piece of music. This interaction has been vital to me, since I have no other friends who write, and it has been encouraging.

Also, I've been able to gain fifteen followers on this blog, and I'm guessing that most of them came from Pinterest. (Check out the new poll for the blog - perhaps I'll be proven wrong! ;) ). By this, I have been given encouraging words from complete strangers who have never read my writing, saying they are interested in my story and wish me luck in my future endeavors. I want to take this moment and say thank you, because that means so much and gives me a boost to continue writing that next scene!


If you click on the button in the bar off to the right, you'll find my Pinterest account. I have boards to describe myself as a writer, a board to gather useful research and encouraging tips, a reading list, and most importantly, the boards to gather inspiration for every story idea. I have a tendency to forget things or move on without writing something down and then losing the idea later on, and Pinterest has given tremendous help to pull my thoughts together. Many of what I think will become great story ideas have originated from a picture on pinterest, most recently my 1940s book idea I came up with last month. Each board encourages scenes, characters, and emotions to come alive as I write, and it has been the most inspiring thing in my writing so far. I can't praise the site enough.

However, you all know we have to be careful. Pinterest sucks us in until we look at every single character profile or piece of costume that tugs at our hearts and eyes. I find Pinterest extremely relaxing when I'm feeling anxious about something and go there often.
As writers, we have to be careful. Too often I've popped onto Pinterest and found an hour or two has slipped by without me realizing it. There are times I'm doing research that is important to my story, but many of the times I'm just gazing at the enchanting photos. Precious time has been wasted on that site, time that should've been spent actually writing in my novel or creating character sketches. I encourage you to set a time limit on this site; I know we've all had this happen before. Yes, it's so much fun, and most of the time helpful, but you can't let it become an excuse for not writing, and that's the danger of Pinterest.

Priorities must be set; either figure out exactly what you want to look for when first getting on the site and stick to those elements, or set a timer to remind yourself it's time to get off and start writing. Again, I'm not saying your time spent there is wasted every time, to me it's essential for inspiration, but there has to come a time to get down to the nitty gritty.


Do you use Pinterest to aid in your writing?