Halloween Q&A

A few days ago I was tagged on Twitter to do a sort of blog dare.  I’m given a set of questions to answer on my blog, then tag someone else to do the same.  It’s a fun way to get to know other writers and share our friends’ blogs.  For this Halloween themed Q&A I was tagged by @AuthorHFerry, so let’s get right to it!

1. Are you a scaredy cat or a horror aficionado?

I can barely watch the beginning of Finding Nemo.  This kitty is quite happy in her cozy blanket fort of safety, thank you very much.

2. Would you ever consider writing a horror novel?

Unless I’m going for the book version of Sharknado, probably not.

3. What is your favorite bookish costume you’ve ever worn?

If I’ve ever dressed up as a book character I don’t remember it, but last year I attempted Rey to complement my son’s Kylo Ren costume.

4. What is the best bookish costume you’ve seen someone else wear?

Again, not very bookish, but I love Firefly cosplay, especially the groups.  I’d love to dress up as Kaylee some day.

5. What literary villain is your favorite?

When I first read this question I assumed I’d wind up picking some classic villain like Gollum or Voldemort, but to be honest, my favorite has got to be Levana from Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles.  She’s so complex and disturbing.  Reading her book, Fairest, was like a car crash.  It was disturbing and awful, but I couldn’t stop reading.  I was almost able to sympathize with her, and sympathetic villains are by far my favorite.

6. Will you be visiting a haunted house this year?

Hahahahaha! No.

7. Would you rather go to a Halloween party or go Trick-or-Treating?

Um, can I just wait until the candy goes on sale and hide out in my blanket fort while I eat it all?

8. What’s the best Halloween song?

I don’t really know that many Halloween songs, so I’m gonna go with the classic Thriller.

9. What scares you the most about the writing process?

Submitting to agents and publishers.  I haven’t reached that point yet, but it sounds stressful and terrifying.

10. Monster Mash – if you had to say your antagonist was a mix of two traditional monsters, what would those be?

Probably an elf and a demon.

11. Would your Main Character be more scared of being left alone in a dark forest or an abandoned castle?

That one’s tough.  Ann would probably be more scared of the abandoned castle.  She loves plants so the forest wouldn’t scare her, though she’d not fond of the dark.  But if she were to become locked in a castle, no matter how big, she’d probably start to freak out.

12. Does anyone in your Work In Progress believe in ghosts?

Not at the moment, but that may change at some point.

13. What character would last the longest in a scary movie?

Maddie, hands down.  Ann might survive on accident, but Maddie would be the one fuming at the idiots going into the dark basement without even a flashlight.  And yes, she’d absolutely say, “I told you so.”

14. Good witch or bad witch – do you enjoy torturing the characters in your Work In Progress, or do you feel bad about it?

It depends.  I feel bad about the horrid things I’m inflicting on Ann, mostly because she’s so much like me, but I know they’re all necessary to make her a stronger person.  Maddie though, I’ll throw crap at her all day long just to see if I can break her.  So I guess that makes me a bad witch?

15. Pick a love interest from your Work In Progress – would they be most likely to scream like a little kid or punch someone in the face if they were scared abruptly?

Nic would scream, and then attempt to punch them, but the damage will have already been done.  Rogan wouldn’t even be scared, he’d just punch them out of annoyance.

Well, there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed the Q&A! And be sure to check out H Ferry’s answers on his blog, ferryfiction.com

10 Things I Should Be Doing Instead Of Reading

As appealing as being stranded on an island with nothing but books is, there are some non-reading activities that simply can’t be ignored. Well, at least not for long. Like, as long as it takes me to read another chapter?

1. Clean the house

It looks like a bunch of cows tromped through here and the pile of laundry is beginning to rival my TBR mountain. Maybe if I hide a book under it, it’ll motivate me to fold it all?

2. Eat something

Why do I always get hungry when I have three pages left? Seriously! It’s like my stomach has synchronized its schedule with my reading habits. I guess this is why finger food was invented.

3. Finish that overdue assignment

I really should have finished it before starting a new book. But it’s a pretty short book. Well, sort of short. Maybe if I read really fast I’ll have enough time to finish the assignment too.

Challenge accepted!

4. Go to the store

I know we’re getting low on just about everything. But going to the store means getting dressed, and being out in public. I might have to actually talk to someone!

Now I need to read to overcome the shock of such a terrifying idea. Bummer.

5. Finish knitting my friend’s baby blanket

Seriously. I’m going to have to give it to her next kid since the first one is in kindergarten now.

But I just got to a really good part! I’ll get to the blanket after I find out what happens next.


6. Exercise

I’m in such terrible shape. I can’t even make it up the stairs without panting. Maybe if I leave a book on the top step?

7. Catch up on my emails

I’ve been trying to ignore that angry red number in the corner. Who knew numbers could be so judgmental? I mean, most of them are probably spam anyway, right? Right! Okay, back to reading.

8. Bake the cupcakes for my sister’s birthday

Bake cute cupcakes, or read a book? Cupcakes, or book? Cupcakes, book?

If I bake them now I might end up eating them all before we leave. I can’t let that happen. Book it is!

9. Pack for the family camping trip

Aw man, I guess I’ll have to leave my … Wait. Who goes camping without books? Isn’t that a rule or something? Sweet! I’ll start packing … as soon as I finish this page.

10. Go to sleep already!

Just one more chapter.

Okay, one more page.

It’s 2 am?! Yikes! I’ll put it down after this paragraph.

Wait, is that my alarm clock?

Why My Face Turns Off Sometimes

It started as daydreaming. The blank look when the teacher asks a question four times before you figure out she’s talking to you. Then it escalated to distraction. Getting in trouble for looking around during a test only to find myself in the time out corner tracing flower petals on the wallpaper.

Then my siblings gave it a fun new label: turning my face off.

I wanted to be upset about it, but the description really does fit. They even took a picture once to show me what it looks like. There’s no other way to describe it.

Turns out I have a switch in my brain somewhere. It appears to activate my imagination, but it’s also directly wired to my face, and sometimes my ears. Imagination turns on, face and hearing turn off.

I’ve tried overriding this switch, rewiring it, unplugging it. Nothing seems to work. Occasionally I’m able to switch it back before whoever’s talking to me realizes it’s been activated, but those days wind up feeling weird. Like when you have to answer the door before you’ve finished pooping. You just feel constipated until you’re able to finish the job. (It’s gross, but you know it’s true!)

In this case my brain feels constipated all day until I can flip the switch back and turn my face off for a while.

On a more serious note, one of my best memories relating to this “problem” centers around a beautiful card my sister gave me for my fourteenth birthday. On the front is a picture of a gorgeous fairy surrounded by butterflies in every color, shape, and pattern. I’ve kept it in a frame by my bed ever since. Though I’d been teased, belittled, and disciplined for my little “problem,” her words written in the card that day have helped me overcome the pain all these years.

“I wonder, is this where you go when your face is blank? We laugh at that place you space off into, but don’t let that stop you from going there. That place of butterflies and breeze-song will be an oasis later. Cultivate it. Decorate it with your songs and paintings and dance, there among your memories and knick-knacks.”

She was right. This is where I go when my face turns off. So, if you’re talking to me and notice I don’t seem to be paying attention, just give me a minute. I’ll turn my face back on when my imagination is satisfied.

And to those who relate to this “problem,” you are not broken. You are not a mistake. That place you go to, whether it’s decorated with butterflies, spaceships, haunted houses, or flowers; it’s your oasis. Cultivate it. Decorate it. And above all, don’t let anyone stop you from going there, even if it means turning your face off.


Podcast Ponder 2: Writing Excuses

Writing Excuses: 9.13 Three Pronged Character Development

First let me introduce this podcast. It’s one of my favorite writing podcasts, put together by published authors Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and the creator of the hilarious comic Schlock Mercenary, Howard Taylor. Since I started listening to this podcast, the quality of my writing has skyrocketed.

This particular episode, along with its companion episodes (links at the bottom), introduced a brand new concept for me that I have since used multiple times. The Three Pronged Character Development concept is comprised of three sliding scales: 1. Sympathy Slider, 2. Competence Slider, and 3. Proactivity Slider.

Since listening to this episode, diagnosing character problems has become so much simpler and quicker. In this first episode, they introduce the concept and give a few examples of characters with varying Slider levels to start off. It helps to show why we like certain characters and not others. It’s a fun exercise to try yourself, too.

For example, they explain how Harry Potter’s Competence Slider and Proactivity Slider are both low while his Sympathy Slider is quite high and how JK Rowling accomplished that. They do the same for other well known characters as well.

When they get into moving sliders around to improve characters, it instantly helped me understand what I was doing wrong with my own characters and how I could fix it. Which brings me to another big point they make. This concept is not necessarily ideal for developing characters from the beginning, though it can help. It works best as a simple diagnosing tool and I can attest to its value and usefulness.

So if you’re having trouble figuring out your characters, or you want to make them more relatable, or you’re just curious about character developement, then I highly recommend giving this episode a listen. Then check out the companion episodes where they talk about each Slider in depth. I guarantee your characters will thank you.

Ep 9.25: Adjusting Character Sympathy
Ep 9.26: Adjusting Character Competence
Ep 9.32: Adjusting Character Proactivity

The 4 types of knitters

I learned to knit when I was about 10 and have dabbled with it off and on ever since. I’ve made wash clothes, scarves, hats, gloves. At one point I even learned to crochet (gasp!).

I also know quite a few knitters and I’ve learned that there are basically four different types.

Type 1: Pattern required, fiber snob

These knitters yarn shop in two interchangeable steps. 1. Find perfect yarn. 2. Find perfect pattern. Sometimes they find the pattern first, sometimes they find the yarn. But rest assured, they cannot leave the yarn shop without both (or at least not without plans for fulfilling the other step). There is hardly ever any free styling for these knitters. If it doesn’t have a pattern, they won’t be knitting it.

They are also yarn snobs, or as my mother says it, fiber snobs. There is nothing fake in these knitters’ projects. You’ll never catch them fingering anything acrylic, polyester, or synthetic. If it didn’t come straight from an animal or plant, they won’t even notice it. (Unless the tags are missing, but they don’t talk about those embarrassing moments.)

These are the most organized, structured knitters you’ll ever meet. Give them a pattern and they’ll find the exact yarn needed for it, then churn out a perfect sweater that looks just like the picture. (Don’t tell my mother, but fiber snobs also find the softest yarn.)

Type 2: Pattern required, fiber opportunist

These knitters need patterns as much as Type 1s. Give them a skein and tell them to knit whatever comes to mind and they’ll panic.

However, give them a pattern and they will knit with whatever is available. Oh sure, they love exploring yarn shops as much as any knitter (it’s a therapeutic experience, feeling all the delicious yarns), but they aren’t picky about what it’s made of. If they like it, they’ll take it.

These kind of knitters almost always go for the pattern books first. They love feeling the yarns, but are rarely inspired without a pattern to look at first. They’re also a lot of fun to explore yarn with since they touch first and read tags second.

Type 3: Free spirit, fiber snob

These knitters are commonly seen sitting in waiting rooms, bus stops, and coffee shops while their needles seem to have a mind of their own. They never need a pattern, and some actually find patterns too confining, but they will knit from one if they happen to like it. They also never knit with anything fake and a good chunk of their wardrobe they made themselves. (It’s not uncommon for these kind of knitters to be health foodies as well.)

They’re constantly creating and often find ways of putting discordant things together to make something surprisingly beautiful.

Type 4: free spirit, fiber opportunist

These knitters are generally hobby knitters. They find patterns confining and overwhelming and almost always prefer to knit without them. They’re less concerned with learning new stitches and techniques as simply knitting whatever they feel like.

These are the knitters you see most often in Michaels and Walmart (though they’ll wander a boutique yarn shop for fun too), and they aren’t nearly as familiar as fiber snobs with the horror of needing more of a particular yarn only to find that it’s been discontinued. Any kind of yarn will do for them and they don’t really care if what they’re making doesn’t come out just right. They simply enjoy the experience of making something with their hands.

For my part, I’m an occasionally snobby Type 4. It’s unavoidable when your mother is a brilliant Type 1. (Love you mom!)

Any other knitters out there? What type of knitter are you?

Podcast Ponder 1: I Should Be Writing

I Should Be Writing Ep. 378: Preparations

This episode of I Should Be Writing is actually a good one to start with if you’ve never heard the podcast. About halfway through, she explains what it’s all about and even a little about her other podcast, Ditch Diggers. One of my favorite aspects of this podcast is how each episode feels more like a conversation with Mur Lafferty than like she’s imparting invaluable wisdom from some lofty pedestal. When I feel alone in my struggles, I can come to this podcast and feel like I’ve got someone in my corner rooting for me.

In this episode she talks about her struggles with being prepared and how being a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants) makes that difficult. Even though I’m an outline junkie, I can still relate to the constant state of unpreparedness. No matter how much I outline, research, plan, etc. I never feel ready to start writing or keep up with this blog. For instance, this post was supposed to have been written this past weekend, but I never actually got around to it until yesterday. In fact, I’m typing this up while my two year old is climbing on me and shoving a bottle of kids vitamin gummies in my face. (For the record, he’s already had two and I know all too well what too many of these can do to your digestive system.)

I suppose part of that unpreparedness has something to do with all of the various responsibilities life and motherhood come with. It’s exhausting trying to be prepared all the time! And any time I’m fully prepared in one area, I’m therefore lacking in another.

Mur addresses this as well with her example of feeling ready to record a recent Ditch Diggers podcast episode, only to discover an important part she’d forgotten to prepare for. It’s like getting the dishes in the sink done only to find more in another room later on. Or finishing a school worksheet only to get marked down the next day for not doing the work on the back you hadn’t realized was there.

Then she brings up the usefulness of checklists. I have to admit to a bit of a chuckle at that point. Not because it’s not a fabulous idea or an excellent tool. I know they work wonders for many people, but even though I enjoy making lists (outline junkie, remember?), I have two main problems with them. 1. I always lose the lists or can’t remember which app I saved them in, which means I spend more time looking for the lists than using them. 2. The minute I make a to do list, something major inevitably crops up to put a huge dent in my plans for the day. Like the results of too many vitamin gummies.

Mur then spends the last half of the episode giving practical suggestions and tools to help prepare for writing. She never says you have to do any of them to be a successful writer, though. They are simply tools and methods to try out in order to figure out what works for you. I use some of them and am intrigued by others. Mostly though, I’m just grateful to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t have it all together. That any time I’m feeling like a failure and that I’ll never amount to anything, I can always turn on this podcast and be reminded that not only am I not alone, but that success isn’t dependent on always being prepared for everything.

Do you ever struggle with being prepared? Or are you one of those rare breeds who manage to remember everything? More importantly, have you ever had too many vitamin gummies? It’s quite unpleasant.