Fantastic Beasts Post: What would you have in your suitcase?

wp-image-726289597jpg.jpgSo, I was having a thought the other day about the new movie by J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, Fantastic Beasts is about Newt Scamander, a self-proclaimed Magizoologist, or a person who loves and is enthusiastic about the care and protection of magical creatures.

Awkward Newt Scamander seems to get a long with creatures better than with people, and on a trip to New York City to help one of said creatures, he finds himself on an adventure of a life time.

During his trip, he carries a suitcase, but he doesn’t have clothes in his suitcase like every other no-mag (American term for a person who doesn’t have magic), instead, his suitcase acts as his own work space, and is where he keeps the rare creatures that he cares for.

Step into Newt’s suitcase and you’ll descend stairs and find yourself in a work-shop of sorts; full of what Newt needs to care for his creatures: extra boots and gloves, medicine for ailments, food for the animals, etc. And beyond that…his suitcase is basically a zoo, really, complete with climate and wide open plains for various creatures. Because, you know, why not?

Anything is possible with magic!

My question is this: If you could have your own suitcase like Newt’s magical suitcase, what would be in yours?

Mine would hold my office, a library, a reader’s nook, kitchenette and bathroom complete with Jacuzzi tub.

Beyond that, you would find yourself on a beach, where the air is warm and the sound of waves wash over you as you step along in the soft, soft, sand.

Follow the boardwalk and you’ll find yourself in a park, which leads to a huge, green forest with miles of walking trails, up and over hills and ravines and to a lake.

Back on the beach if you walk the other way down the boardwalk, you’ll find yourself in a food court with the option to try all different types of foods of the world.

Maybe tucked in somewhere, there will be a pool next to the office and a great patio, etc.

A dream place to go, to relax, to create and to be myself.

I’ve told you mine, now its your turn! What would you have in your suitcase?

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Have You Seen It Yet?

I went and saw Fantastic beasts on Saturday and I loved it! I was at the book store earlier that day and bought the screen play and it is so great; J.K. Rowling is forever my favorite writer.

So, this is what I got going on tonight: curled up in bed, got something funny on TV, and reading while the snow falls softly outside.

What about you guys? Have you seen Fantastic Beasts yet?

When to Kill Off a Character?

I’ve been working on one of my short stories lately, because I want to at least try to get something published this year…and I ran into a little snag. On Sunday, I finished a rough draft for it, but it didn’t seem complete.

I had alluded to the idea that one of the characters does pass away earlier in the story, but when I got to the end, there she was a live and well, and I was happy with that. She was so good, sweet, and compassionate and I wanted to keep her, was that such a bad thing?

But the story seems to lack a climax, a moment that resonates with the reader, that draws the story to the close, to some kind of satisfying end or resolution. It kind of struck me in that aw man, type of way, when I realized that the death of one of my favorite characters might just be the sacrifice that the story needs to make it complete, but I’m dragging my feet.

How do you know when a death in a story is really necessary?

I did a little research, and the overall idea, it seems, is to incite some reaction from your reader (which is what I need,) and it should advance the plot, (which this would.)

The fact of the matter is: I don’t want to kill her! I love this character and the idea of just offing her in some grand sacrifice, makes me feel kind of sick inside. But if it upsets me, surely it might be necessary to the story?

I guess I was wondering your take on the matter?

Do you guys know when it is the right time to kill off a character? And are you finding it as difficult as me?

I guess I’ve never given it much thought until now…and I can’t imagine what J.K. Rowling must have went through when she had to face the death of Dumbledore…(yeesh!)

Hope everyone is having a great night! Happy Writing!

Why J. K. Rowling is My Hero

My much-used Harry Potter books. :P

My much-used Harry Potter books. ūüėõ

The other day I was thinking about how much I admire J. K. Rowling; how I tend to think of her lately as my own creative writing hero, how much I admire her writing style, her books, and her determination.

I admire her because she is such an inspiration. Most of us know her story; she was a single mom living on benefits, and while she was struggling to get by and in the years previous, she created a novel: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

She didn’t know what was going to happen, but she had a story that she wanted to tell, characters that she loved and she created a home for them.

I have a friend at work who likes to write like me, and every time I ask him about his story, he gives a sigh of frustration and says that he can’t seem to finish what he has done, and that it’s taken him four years to get a rough draft finished.

“Four years?” I always reply, “It took J.K. Rowling about ten.”

To this he gets a thoughtful expression and then, “I didn’t know that.”

I think a lot of writers put too much pressure on themselves, (myself especially) and we forget that greatness doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t always happen to everyone, but if we have a story that we love and that we want to write, we can’t forget that story. We can’t give up on it.

J.K. Rowling is my hero because she didn’t give up on Harry Potter, even though things in life, new jobs, relationships and heartbreak sometimes get in the way. She might have had doubts, she might have thought that it was useless, but she kept writing, and because she kept writing she kept true to herself.

I sometimes forget how empty it feels when a writer doesn’t write. How much of myself I miss when I don’t see my true voice down on the page. (As you might guess, I’m not always the most articulate when it comes to having to explain myself by actually speaking.)

But J.K. Rowling is my hero because she wasn’t afraid to love her characters so much that she took ten years to write their story. She could have forgotten about it, she could have stopped writing – just imagine it: would you want to live in a world where Harry Potter doesn’t exist?

I must admit, I get a bit sick feeling thinking about this…kind of like when people say Star Wars and Star Trek are the same thing (shudders) what a cold a dismal world we would live in!

Anyway, I must mention J.K. Rowling at least once in every other blog post, but I think she is worthy of admiration. She is a great writer, a great story-teller, and an inspiration to anyone that has an idea that we can’t let go.

Keep writing everyone! That’s all we can do!

My Plot Points are too Weak?

I’m actually sitting down to work on the plot for one of my stories tonight. Woo! This is progress!

However, I have a few questions. How do you know when your plot points are too weak? This is my problem:

I’ll sit down to write out a few scenes or scenarios for an outline, and suddenly doubt creeps in the further I get into the story. Suddenly, I’m filled with doubt and questioning my motives and my characters motives: would someone really do that? Am I going overboard with my character’s emotions?

So of course, turned to google for some answers. I found my answer here, on this blog, who uses J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as an example of a book that has great plot points; which makes for a compelling story as well as evokes an emotional reaction in its readers. (I mean kudos already goes to this blogger who references my hero, J.K. Rowling.)

I guess the important thing to note here, when it comes to plot writing, is to make sure that your character is influenced emotionally, (so emotion is great!) you want your character to change/face some obstacle in someway, but you also want your story to resonate in the mind of your readers. Huh.

Not too difficult I should think? Right? Do you guys have any insight on how you go about plotting your stories?

Happy Writing everyone!

 

 

Terry Pratchett and Questioning Gender roles in Fantasy Literature

I’ve been listening to Terry Pratchett’s The Slip of the Keyboard at work recently; it’s basically a collection of essays about his life, writing and his struggles with Alzheimer’s.

pi7KxKpdTIn one of his essays, he mentions how women are portrayed in fantasy. If there is a witch, she is generally evil and crouches around like an old hag, spitting curses at everyone. If she is beautiful, she is seductive, using her sexuality as a means to an end. (I think many Disney villains can be used as an example here: Ursula, Wicked Step Mother, Malificent, etc.)

Gandalf-2On the opposite scale are the Wizards, who are male, wise, and that mentor that most protagonists seek out in times of great peril. Think Gandolf in Lord of the Rings, or Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea.

I guess my question is: Why is this so?

One of my own stories has a witch as its main villain, and I inadvertently made her beautiful, seductive and evil. I did this without thought, yet I’m wondering if this isn’t the time to mix it up a bit? Isn’t it time we had an evil wizard? Or a kind, yet sexy witch, who is not evil?

(J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books don’t really count in this musing, I suppose. As plenty of her witches are very nice, beautiful intelligent people. And Voldemort, a.k.a most evil wizard, ever.)

One thing I love about Terry Pratchett’s writing is that he doesn’t write characters that are predictable. Everyone (of the characters I’ve read so far) are unique and one of a kind. They don’t fit a basic formula, and they aren’t comfortable, which is completely fine. By comfortable, I mean you don’t always know what you can expect from them: one minute they might be performing an act of heroism, the next, you might question their sanity a bit.11751426_10203753735158590_4103356951849478425_n

The point: Terry Pratchett creates real characters that don’t fit into the formula of basic hero and that’s fine. (He also made the point that not all best-selling fantasy books are the best written either.)

This is something I agree with. But I guess what gets me is this whole idea of how women are portrayed in Fantasy. If she is a witch in some stories, why do we assume she is evil?

Do we automatically assign gender roles to specific aspects of fantasy? Do we like when witches are evil? Is the old hag expected to bring bad news? Or is this what we’ve just seen time after time, and so, we use examples of literature before us and think: ‘this the way it’s supposed to be.’

Or, if these gender roles are missing in the novel, does that automatically make it more unique than others? Just a thought.

What do you guys think? Any examples you can think of?

How I devoured 20 Books in less than Five Months

Right now, I work in data entry, I’ve been there about five months and as far as boring jobs go…well, this one takes the cake. I don’t really mind it though. It’s not stressful, the people I work with are alright, and I don’t have to deal with customers, or customer service, or retail, (which I hate.)

And I can listen to music, AND audio books while I work, and this arrangement works well for a book-nerd like me.

spy8I’ve come to realize I have this obsession; I told myself that if I wasn’t in Grad school, I would absorb all the books that I could, and perhaps learn something new.

I guess I didn’t realize until now, (late twenties now and I’m just starting to realize) that I really do have a terrible attention span. I’ll watch a video for 20 secs, and I swear if it doesn’t insight some kind of meaningful reaction in that very short life span, I’ll exit and find something else to look at.

I think this is also the reason I love young adult and children literature. For that genre, you really have to start out in the middle of the action to catch its readers, it is immediate, it takes you along for the ride.

I love a great story, but sometimes I don’t have the attention span, or time to sit down and try to absorb a thousand pages of high fantasy with a trillion characters, and numerous worlds, but I CAN listen to an audio book and I’ve absorbed my fair share in the past couple of months:

The books I’ve now read (listened to):

Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling (all seven of them)

Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin (all five)

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

American Gods, by Niel Gaiman

Still Foolin’ Em…Where I’ve Been, Where I’m going and Where the Hell are My Keys? By Billy Crystal

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris

Virals, by Kathy Reichs

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling

If I stay, by Gayle Foreman

Where She Went, by Gayle Foreman

The books are pretty much in order from how I listened to them. I started with Harry Potter first, because, let’s face it – it’s the best! I’ve already read the books about a thousand times, but I do love listening to the audio occasionally.

And because it’s a list, I thought I’d do a little bit of ranking…

My favorite:   Harry Potter, of course.

Least favorite:¬† Virals, by Kathy Reichs. It wasn’t as original as I thought it’d be.

Funniest: Billy Crystal’s Still Foolin’ Em

Saddest: If I Stay, Gayle Foreman

Most thought-provoking: The Book Thief and American Gods

Most Surprising: The Casual Vacancy. The book was just different from what I was expecting. I think I expected more of a mystery-type novel from the way it is described, but the book is really more of a look into the heartbreaking world of human emotions.

And Most Inspiring: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. It inspired me to journal more, and write more non-fiction of my own.

And I guess that’s it. There really isn’t much else to this post except that I’m going to sit back and admire my own list and think about how awesome I am. ūüėČ

I am contemplating listening to the Wheel of Time series next. What do think? Any suggestions?

What is your favorite book?

Have you read any of the books on this list?

20 Random Questions about ME

Here’s something a little different…in case you were curious about the person behind the blog. I’ve posted a lot of posts, but nothing very much about me. So I made some of my own random questions…Maybe we’ll find out that we have something in common! ūüôā

1212122120 meeeeeeee

1. What room am I in right now?

I am sitting in my office. I can hear traffic outside my window right now, and the weather is kind of gloomy and grey, but it is so nice having my own writing space. Even finally put curtains up this morning! They are purple.

2. Margarine or Butter?

Butter all the way! I grew up with Margarine though, yuck. I think butter is the best for cooking, though.

3. Who is my favorite celebrity crush?

For guys? Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth. For girls? Mmm…Keri Russel? She is soo pretty.

4. What is my favorite kind of food?

Italian food, yum! Anything with sauce, cheese, pasta, some kind of chicken or mushrooms…or meatballs, siigh, or garlic! Getting hungry thinking about it.

5. What is my favorite TV Show?

Right now, Game of Thrones. But LOST still remains a favorite.

source: zdnet.com

6. Who is my favorite author? Who do I most admire?

J.K. Rowling, of course. If I could come close to the depth and detail that she has created in her worlds, I would be alright, I think.

7. What do I order when I am out for breakfast?

Pancakes and sausage, home-fries and fried eggs over-easy. Last time I ordered bacon and ham, too.

8. If I could have a superpower, what would it be?

Superman powers – super strength, speed, X-ray vision, ability fly. Yeah, it’d be fun to just like jump over a building and be where you need to be.

9. What is my favorite animal?

There are so many. I really like sea creatures. Whales are probably my favorite; Blue whales, humpback whales and killer whales but I also like frogs, and turtles too.

10. What is one of my favorite books?

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore.

11. What music do I listen to on a day to day basis?

On Pandora:¬† a lot of 90’s hits, but also Ingrid Michaelson, and Disney songs

Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.

Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.

12. If I could travel anywhere in the world, where would I go?

New Zealand. I want to see all the gorgeous scenery that was viewed on all the LOTR movies, it’d also be extremely cool to visit Hobbiton, too.

13. Fiction or reality?

I have a theory influenced by the movie, The Words, that writers struggle with living in fiction or reality. They can chose one or the other, but after awhile, one or the other becomes the reality. The idea is to find the balance between the two, but is that truly possible?

14. Car or truck?

I have a tan Toyota Camry 99. Trucks are cool for those that have something to haul around, but I have no need for it. Plus, I love my Camry.000_0010

15. What do I like best about summer?

The heat! I like being so warm that’s it’s like there’s a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. I can wear flip flops and a dress and at 8 o’clock at night it is still 80 degrees… yeah, that’s my idea of a nice summer.

16. If I were to fix dinner right now, what would it be?

Something simple and comforting. Probably some kind of chicken breast, mashed potatoes and peas.

17. Why do I write?

I write because I feel like half myself without expressing myself on the page. Because there is some kind of peace, some kind of balance in myself when I get the ideas down on the page. One day when I was fourteen and in  English class, I decided I wanted to be the one whose words were quoted and cherished, like something sweet and savory in your mouth. I wanted to be the one to impress people with my words.

100_010718. What was my favorite pet’s name?

His name was Patches, he was a black and white cat who was a goofball and very mischievous. I have never had a cat with such personality before. He’d pounce the other cats when they were sleeping, he’d follow them places, he was a loud mouth, he had terrible luck when it came to hunting mice.

19. If I could live in an alternate reality, where would it be?

I sometimes think about worlds out there other then our own, I wonder what it would be like to live if the sky was purple, the grass was blue and the water was pink? What if we have five limbs instead of four? What if our whole world was underwater?

20. Where do I see myself in 10 years?

Published. No doubt about it. Settled down someplace warm with my graduate degree. In some kind of academic career, or writing professionally, perhaps with a family of my own.

 

Hope you enjoyed! Thoughts below if you got ’em!

Rainy Writer’s Block

It is raining here¬†in upstate, New York (thank you, hurricane, Isaac,) and I am having one of those days where the couch, a nice, warm blanket is where I want to spend the rest of my day. Suffice to say, you might think that this might be a nice time to write…NOT.

A view from my front porch; rain dripping off my mother’s hummingbird feeder.

The more I know I need to write, the more I can’t. When writing becomes an obligation, it becomes not fun anymore and then I¬† get that dreaded writer’s block. (This has been happening more often than not lately, now that I’ve given myself a deadline for this eBook and definitely want to see this one completed! I think I’m going to aim for November. I want a draft and some finalizations for November at the latest.)

I’m reminded of a fantastic article I found on Patricia Briggs’ website. (Patricia Briggs is one of my favorite authors…she writes primarily Urban Fantasy;¬†the Mercy Thompson series…amoung other things.)

Anyway…where was that article again?

Ah, well I couldn’t find the article I wanted…buut, at any rate, the main gist of it was this: to find a way to make writing fun again.

  • ¬†Go out¬†for a¬†walk, take a break from it, phone a friend…etc.
  • Try another project than the current one.
  • Write in a different character’s perspective for a while.
  • Think outside the box…think outside the current chapter you are working on.
  • Start writing in another place.
  • Research.

What I do sometimes: Take a character in your novel or current idea and have that character write a letter to another character. The end result is this: You get to know what your character is feeling, you know their relationship with that other character based on the letter that he or she wrote, and you get a better understanding of the motivation behind why he or she does what he or she does.

I like this technique because it is very personal and because it’s so¬†personal, you can really understand and¬†hear¬†the particular voice that your character has. (I’m not just talking about the voices that writers hear in their heads, although, there is that too.)¬†I’m talking about the voice, the mannerisms of your character; why he or she is the way he or she is.

Anyway, perhaps, I’ll go follow my own advice now…

Because when it comes down to it, only 20% of what you know of your character actually gets on the page; so you better know that character 100%! And who is a grand example of this? Only J.K. Rowling of course!