New Year’s Things-I Will-Most-Likely-Fail-At

You can’t say you didn’t expect it. Everyone’s blogging about it this time of year. And I don’t want to be the oddball not telling the world everything I’ll fail to do. Swimming upstream is exhausting. So here are my resolutions for 2018.

1. Exercise more. Specifically one week more than the one week I managed last year.

2. Clean up the house by finding a new place to pile all the books I can’t fit on the bookshelves.

3. Eat more vegetables. And by vegetables I mean chocolate.

4. Start organizing my kid’s school papers, then give up and dump them all in the trash.

5. Stop letting the cat boss me around. For a day. Because we all know how that will turn out.

6. Continue to fool the other #turtlewriters into believing I actually know what I’m doing.

7. Save more money. Then wonder where it all went by March.

8. Think about getting out of the house more. Because, let’s face it, actually leaving the house is terrifying.

And there you have it. My resolutions for 2018.

At least they’re realistic.

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Winter’s Thaw

          Icicles shot up from the wet snow as Tabor let out a frustrated growl. He glared at the frozen spiderweb clinging to the pine tree, its chittering music filling the forest clearing, mocking his pain. He scraped his hands down his face and through his shimmering silver hair.

          He had weeks; weeks to get his first contribution for the Water Festival to work. Fists planted on hips and he took a few deep breaths. Kiel would have had the whole forest sparkling by now, but then Water Song had come more naturally to his best friend. Everything came more naturally to Kiel. Tabor’s chest squeezed as he remembered the Fire Fae explosion that had killed him three years ago. The anger and bitterness had never gone away.

          Tabor had to get this right. For Kiel’s sake.

          He took another steadying breath as he picked out a new patch of pine tree to practice on. He paused, then whistled out the Water Song command for the hundredth time. Nothing happened. His flexed arms crossed. Then delicate drops of dew began to collect on the needles, dripping down and connecting to gradually form a watery imitation of a spiderweb.

          “Yes!” He pumped a fist in the air in victory. With a quiet crack the spiderweb froze. His arm fell. His lips pinched. With a roar he stomped around the clearing smashing every infernal frozen spiderweb he’d made that afternoon. More icicles shot up in his wake, obeying his rumbling commands.

          “Looks like winter likes you.”

          He stumbled, then spun around the forest clearing until he spotted a wisp of red Fire Fae hair peeking out from behind a tree. His eyes narrowed.

          “What would you know about it? Spark?”

          She flinched at the slur and the wisp disappeared. He smirked. Fire Fae didn’t belong in the snow anyway.

          “I just noticed the snow tends to follow you.”

          Tabor frowned. Sure enough, it had started to snow again. He hadn’t heard the flakes’ tinkling melody over the booming of the icicles.

          “Wait, have you been following me?”

          After a moment, the wisp reappeared. “The Water Fae fascinate me.”

          Tabor’s hands curled into fists and he marched across the clearing. The scrawny Fire Fae girl cringed when he came around the tree. She couldn’t have been more than eight or nine, with so much bushy red hair he could hardly see her face. Had she even gone through metamorphosis yet?

          “And what exactly do you find so fascinating about us?”

          Two piercing blue eyes bored into him through a curtain of curls.

          “What? I think I deserve to know why you’re watching me.” He swiped a hand at the annoying flakes swirling around his head. A smirk flashed behind the red fluff. He glared and it disappeared.

          “All I know of Water Fae is what I’ve heard. I wanted to know if it’s all true.”

          His glare softened with concern. Had the Fire Fae been blaming Kiel for the explosion?

          “What have you heard?”

          The girl crossed her arms and jutted her chin out. “No better than what you’ve heard of us.”

          The twitchy smile growing on his lips froze. “What would you know about it? Have you even morphed yet?”

          “What does my metamorphosis have to do with it?”

          Tabor looked her up and down. “Not a thing.” With a growling purr, he sang icicles up from the snow to pin the girl’s clothes to the tree behind her. She tugged at them as panic widened her eyes. She was trapped and at his mercy. “Some of us don’t need to hear things to know what Sparks are like.”

          She flinched at the term again. “My name is Felicity.”

          “I don’t care, Spark. See some of us have first hand experience of the damage your kind cause.”

          She sneered. “And I thought some of you might be understanding.”

          “Oh, I understand plenty.”

          “Yeah? And what is it you understand?”

          He growled again and a new spike rumbled up to point at her middle. “I understand that a Spark killed my best friend.”

          She stared through red curls, then smiled wearily. His chest squeezed. Why did he feel like he’d just lost?

          “So it was you,” she whispered.

          “What was me?”

          “You’re the one who convinced the Guerri to punish the Fire Faerie.”

          Tabor crossed his arms. “Of course they punished him. He needed to be brought to justice.”

          Her chin fell. As her face disappeared behind red curls, he again felt the twinge of an argument he’d lost.

          “I take it no one told you what happened after he was exiled.”

          How did a pre-morph kid know so much about all this? He waited for her to continue. After a long pause, blue eyes reappeared through all that red.

          “The day after we left the village, I found my father in a creek, impaled on a spike of ice. It was the middle of summer. I was five years old.”

          Tabor’s stomach clenched.

          “Apparently someone didn’t think exile was enough punishment for an accident.”

          Tabor swallowed the bile rising in his throat a few times. For three years he’d shut out everything but the mourning. For three years he’d allowed his heart to freeze over. For three years he’d thought of nothing but his own anger. Only now did it occur to him to see it from another point of view. With a quiet purr the spikes melted away, setting the girl more firmly back on her feet.

          “I, uh …”

          She tugged on her now damp shirt, digging her toe into the snow. “Yeah.”

          The snow hushed its tinkling. The nearby creek paused its low warble. Even the trees, whose Earth Song he could sense but not hear, seemed to hold their breath. But how could he just let go of three years of anger and hate? His prejudice may have been proven unwarranted, but his best friend was still dead.

          “Who was it? Who killed your father?”

          She swept a hand through her curls and for the first time Tabor saw her face clearly. Sunken cheeks, clenched jaw, and blazing blue eyes reflected all his hurt and bitterness.

          “I don’t know. I’m only eight. Who’s gonna believe an eight year old spark?”

          Her glare seared his skin, burning away the edge of his anger. He growled a melody and swiped at the flakes collecting in his hair. The snow between them compacted with cracks and rumbles until a tiny flame made of ice sat at the girl’s feet.

          “I believe you. Felicity.”

          After a tense moment, she bent and lifted the sculpture in her small hands. She blinked a few times. The tiny smile that stretched her lips softened the harsh light in her eyes. He found himself smiling back.

          “Thank you.”

          “You’re welcome.”

          “I guess the Water Fae aren’t all bad.” She winked.

          He chuckled. “You’re not so bad yourself.”

          They nodded their goodbyes and he watched her disappear into the forest, vowing to ensure her family was cared for. It’s what Kiel would have done.

          As he returned to the clearing and the one frozen spiderweb he hadn’t smashed, he sighed. The world had made a lot more sense when he’d first made it. Water Fae were good, Fire Fae were bad. Now he was wiser, but more confused. He blew out another sigh and closed his eyes to refocus on making spiderwebs. At least those were still simple.

          Felicity’s soft smile floated up in his mind and he whistled out the command one last time. The dew and snow surrounding him answered, but he kept his eyes shut and continued whistling. The music grew and grew, melodies and themes layering on top of each other until the whole clearing crescendoed and Tabor ran out of breath. The music continued, though a bit subdued and he took a nervous breath before opening his eyes. His jaw dropped.

          The entire clearing sparkled and shone with so many watery spiderwebs, Tabor had no hope of counting them all.


I recently took part in a fun game on Twitter called #WriteWars.

How it works is the organizer, Sam Baker @SamBakerWrites, has sorted the contributing writers into three different groups (Yellow Faction, Blue Faction, and Green Faction). On predetermined weekends she gives us a prompt with which to build a story.  For the next two days each group writes their own story on Twitter. At the end, whichever story is shown to be the most popular wins that individual battle. When the last battle is over in December, all the wins will be tallied and the #WriteWars champion crowned.

I’m one of four writers in the Yellow Faction and I was so proud of the story we put together (in two days, no less!) that I thought I’d post it here for all of you to enjoy. And if you’re on Twitter, be sure to show some love to Jack @MrGuiver, Laura J @ljrwritenow, and Laura G @LauraKudey whose contributions were invaluable. It was a group effort and wouldn’t have come together this well without them. And yes, our story won the first battle!

A bit of context before we begin:

I’ve written the story here as close to what it was on Twitter as I can, which means that nearly every line break indicates a new tweet. Some lines were split into two tweets though, so I’ve combined those. Otherwise it should read just like it does on Twitter.

I’ve also done a little editing to fix concessions made toward fitting tweets into 140 characters (this was before Twitter gave everyone 280 characters). That is the only editing I have done though, so each writer’s unique voice is still evident in their lines.

Lastly, remember that this story’s most impressive feature is the fact that four people wrote it from conception to final form in two days, and in an unconventional format. It’s not perfect, but given the circumstances I find it an impressive effort!

Now to the story.

#WriteWars Battle 1

The dawn broke through the rich velvet drapes, casting distorted shadows on the stirring figure buried in comfort.

Kelsea tucked the down comforter tighter as she tapped at the tiny screen, desperate to save her comrade before the day demanded her return to normal life.

Normal life? Kelsea considered her life. Is this normal, she wondered? How normal is it for a seventeen year old’s life to be in the hands of parents?

She heard a gentle knock on the door. “Kelsea, your dress fitting is at 10:00. Would you like breakfast in the dining room with your parents?”

I’d like to not go to a dress fitting for a wedding that shouldn’t ever happen! She wanted to scream. Make that, won’t ever happen.

She pounded the screen, slicing her lightning sword through the shoulder of the 10 ft. Mechdroid cornering Daewon.

The blade melted through metal. The robot’s arm fell, vibrating her screen as it hit the ground.

At least Daewon and his world allowed her moments of escape from her own disappointing existence. “Take that filthy beast!!”

The mechdroid fell at her feet and she let a cry of triumph pass through her lips. “Kelsea!!” Her mother shrieked.

Kelsea was strong enough to defend herself in one world, yet powerless in another. She needed to apply her battle skills on the home front.

Kelsea planted her feet on the floor and straightened herself, bracing for the real battle with her parents and their plan to marry her off.

“What’s for breakfast then?” Any starter that took the conversation away from ‘that dress’ would do for now.

“We need to keep your figure flat for the fitting, so your dad made a one egg white omelet with spinach and half a grapefruit.” Kelsea grimaced.

She stomped down the stairs with a grumble. The sooner she got it over with, the sooner she could get back to her conquest with Daewon.

“Nate, sound the horns and ring the bells, our daughter is up.” Shar called out in derision.

Nate turned to his daughter. “You look lovely honey, our young bride.” Shar wasn’t in such good spirits. “You’re late! Breakfast is cold.”

“It’s spinach and grapefruit mother. For pancakes and bacon I’d have moved a little quicker.” Her dad’s favourite might keep him on her side.

“Well, stop complaining and hurry up. Your sisters have left without you already. What good are bridesmaids without a bride?”

“That’s true though, Shar,” Nate offered with a chuckle. “It feels like a pancakes and bacon kind of day.” Kelsea smiled as her dad diverted.

Shar gave him a look Kelsea still couldn’t decipher and her dad clammed up. So much for him being on her side.

“You know mom, maybe it’d be best if I skipped that fitting today …” Her mom gave her a menacing glare. “Ah … well … I can do some some work here.”

Kelsea choked down the disgusting calorie counted meal and wondered how her virtual life had come to feel more real than this nightmare.

Suddenly she was startled by the phone ringing. Her dad answered, then quickly hung up. “Well, it looks like you’ll get your wish Kelsea. Your mom and I are needed to deal with a … well it’s an emergency, we’ll leave it at that. The fitting will have to be postponed.”

A triumphant shout leapt to her throat, but she clamped it down. “Oh? That’s too bad.” Her lips trembled.

Her parents pulled on coats, muttering about unmarked packages and incompetent mailmen. The door clicked shut and Kelsea raced to her room.

Kelsea raced through the castle, back to her beloved game, whispering, “Daewon, I’m on my way. Wait for me.” She had dodged the bullet of her parents, the dress fitting, and a future in a merged kingdom where her powers would be diluted for now.

Daewon greeted her warmly as she entered the game. Before she knew it they were assaulted by a hoard of green and blue cannibals!

“What took so long?” Daewon asked as he blasted another green droid. “Your parents still being pieces of goh-se?” Kelsea gasped.

“Language, Daewon!” He just chuckled and pounded a blue cannibal in the jaw.

Satisfaction filled his body as he saw the blue cannibal slump to the ground.

Warmth grew as the blue cannibal fed the flames of the battlefield. Kelsea’s cheeks changed from pink to red. She considered the reasons.

It was more than the heat of the rising blue-tinged flames. Her eyes met with Daewon’s dark chocolate eyes, the flames flickering nearby.

“Kelsea.” The name came out rough. That world might be virtual, but his fingers grasping for hers felt more real than the carpet beneath her feet.

“Hey,” came a voice from above. “In case you two lovebirds hadn’t noticed, we’re in a war here!” Kelsea looked up and smiled. Their golden angel had arrived.

At that moment they were snapped back to the fight as the drumming of blue hoards cresting the hill on the horizon echoed through the valley.

Only this time their golden angel had their back. The enemy surely didn’t have a chance with the three of them charging together!

Deawon thundered brazenly beside her and their friend, the golden angel, beat his wings fiercely from above. Kelsea gave a war cry, but then she saw it…to her right a second hoard appeared on the horizon. This one painted with green war paint. “Don’t worry, Kels, we’ve got this.”

“Which of them is closer?” Daewon asked, knowing that charging one hoard would expose their backs to the other.

Kelsea scanned the area, looking for anything that might help. Her smile grew mischievous as she spotted the droid arm she’d chopped off that morning. “I’ve got an idea.”

Grasping the droid arm with each hand, she split it into equal shards of metal. Tossing one to Daewon, eyes locked on his, they yelled “Yes!”

Together they were stronger. There’d be time for exploring that strength later. After defeating the blue cannibals and the green mutants.

The three chose to charge at the blue hoard first. Thunder clapped as armor met the enemies’ metallic scaley skin. Victory seemed eminent but Kelsea’s hope soon plummeted as green mixed with blue and red flashed before her eyes.

“Daewon!” she shouted. Before she could leap to his aid, Golden Angel dove. Time slowed as the blade aimed at Daewon sliced into the angel’s side. “No!” With her agonized shout, brilliant golden light exploded around her.

Green and blue melted away against the onslaught of her awakened power. Kelsea fell to her knees, nearly every drop of energy depleted.

The enemy finally ran in defeat, but instead of feeling the joy of victory Kelsea was consumed with anguishing pain and sorrow as she beheld her fallen friend. Daewon ran to her side and propped up the golden angel to help ease his wheezing lungs. “Why, why why!?” She shouted.

Golden angel grasped her hand and smiled through the pain. He whispered “I’m not going anywhere until we feast on those pancakes and bacon.”

Kelsea gasped. “Dad?” His smile turned sheepish. “Hey, sport.”

Golden Angel’s eyes blinked slowly, as if in Morse Code. Kelsea couldn’t decipher the message. Daewon crouched nearby, his eyes like saucers.

“Golden Angel is your father?” Daewon touched an escaping curl from Kelsea’s blonde braid. The angel’s eyes fluttered shut, he fell asleep.

Kelsea knew the healing power of rest. She leaned over, kissed her father’s cheek, & turned to face Daewon. Smoldering fires surrounded them.

What had once been bright blazes of blue & green, were now only crushed embers. In contrast, the fire between Kelsea and Daewon grew hotter.

Kelsea reached up curving her fingers around his neck, pulling his lips to hers. Their first kiss! The rest of the world faded for them both.

Until it invaded again. “Hey!” her father interrupted. They broke apart like they’d burst into flame. In some respects, they had.

“You couldn’t wait until I left first?” He shook his head, then stopped with a groan. “Dad?” Concern quickly replaced embarrassment.

“I’ll be fine, Sport. You two can close up the game.” He winked at Daewon. The boy rubbed the back of his neck as his cheeks reddened.

“I’ll head out and get this taken care of at home.” Kelsea frowned in confusion. They usually returned to base to refuel for the next battle.

“Sport, this isn’t just a game. It’s never been just a game.” He winced. “Sir?” Daewon sounded just as confused as Kelsea.

“I’ll explain everything when we all get back home. Now get on with it already.” Her dad gave them both another wink then faded away.

Alone together again, Kelsea wanted to kiss Daewon again. She reached for him but he grasped her hand and started walking. They felt crunching underfoot as they marched over the traces of blue and green burnt shards. They climbed together, matching steps up the mountain.

At the top he dropped to one knee to profess his love. Tears rolled down Kelsea’s cheeks. “My parents have promised me to Little Peter in marriage.”

Daewon should’ve been angry but the name Little Peter made him laugh. “Is that his name or a description?” Daewon smirked, still holding on.

Kelsea’s tears stopped as they laughed together. “I’m not marrying him! I won’t! And BOTH, to answer your question. Come back with me.”

“What do you mean by ‘back’?” Daewon stated with confusion. Kelsea’s face fell. “I thought, I hoped when I saw my dad … aren’t you real?”

“Of course I’m real! I’m as real as the blood on your chest, as real as the armies we just vanquished. I’m as real as the three moons there!”

Kelsea dropped Daewon’s hand and backed away. “No, don’t do this to me. I was sure of our love! How could you be simply a part of this game?”

With that, Kelsea removed her virtual head set and collapsed in sorrow and a flood of tears. She longed to die and be reborn into the game.

“Kelsea! If you don’t get down here and try on this dress right now, there will be hell to pay!!” Couldn’t her mother give her one moment?

She pounded the carpet, cursing whatever higher power had decided to torture her. Little Peter didn’t deserve her, no matter how advantageous the match might be. Kelsea stood and scrubbed the tear tracks from her face. She was done being her mother’s plaything.

Kelsea steeled herself to face her mother. If only Daewon was here for moral support. She only had two weeks until impending doom – the wedding.

“Where’s Dad,” Kelsea asked. She stood in front of her mother, hands poised on hips looking ready for another life-or-death battle.

“On an errand, I expect him back any time. Peter will be here for dinner.” Kelsea glared. “Fine, we can tell him over dinner – no wedding! Mother, I’m not letting you ruin my life. Little Peter may be coming for dinner, but that will be the end of this immensely awful idea!”

“Not this again. You know what this marriage means for our country.” Shar’s voice dripped with derision.

“I know it means becoming someone else’s slave and I’m not doing it.” The door banged open and her father stepped into the hallway. “Change of plans, dear.

“Shar, Kelsea doesn’t belong with Peter.” Kelsea looked like a death row inmate who had been pardoned by the governor. “Daddy! Thank you!”

“There’s someone else we all need to thank for his part on the battlefield, keeping Kelsea and I safe today,” Nate added, looking at the door.

Kelsea couldn’t believe her eyes as she followed her dad’s gaze. A rugged, tall, and familiar looking gentleman walked through the door.

His clothes looked foreign on him. She was used to battle armor. But the green tunic brought out his chocolate brown eyes. “Daewon?!?”

Daewon’s grin lit up Kelsea’s world like a Christmas tree. “But, how?” She exclaimed in rapturous joy.

“Your father is a true Golden Angel,” was his simple response as he produced a wrapped package from behind his back. “I have something for you.”

“Your presence is gift enough!”

Nate piped in, “I think you’re going to like this gift, Kelsea. Daewon found this on the corpse of a blue cannibal. A lost Christmas gift.”

He winked. “This present suites you immensely more than whatever girlish monster the intended target was.” He chuckled while Daewon waited.

Nate looked at him, got the message and nodded. Daewon took Kelsea’s hand. Shar began to weep as he got down on bended knee and opened the box.

Kelsea covered her mouth and began nodding before he could even ask the question. “Kel, will you -”

“Yes!” She threw her arms around him and sealed the promise with a fierce kiss. For the first time, her future was in her own hands. And it was bright as gold.

The End

I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as we enjoyed writing it. It was an exhilarating experience, for me especially because I’m such a hardcore outliner. I’m not used to starting and just seeing where the story takes me, so I learned a lot and look forward to seeing what we come up with in the next battles.

Did you like the story? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

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,

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.


Categories Fun

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