Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Writer Wednesday

So today for Writer's Wednesday, I thought I'd let you in on what in my opinion is the most important tool in a writer's arsenal, your support system. It great to have family and friends rooting you on, but that's not necessarily what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about other writers you can turn to for advice and help, critique partners and beta readers.

A writer's mind is a very unique place. The average person goes through their day cataloging events that seem important for later recall. A writer on the other hand, is constantly cataloging every minute detail that would make for interesting characters. Every twitch, fidget and overly loud phrase becomes fodder for use to feed into the giant maw in our heads that chews up our day and spits out compelling fiction--or at least we think it is. The ordinary people in our life just don't get that while our conversation about the person they sat next to on the bus is very interesting, our minds are recording every detail of the strange man pacing while yelling into his cell phone, creating his back story and possibly even a little bit of plot for him. It's not our faults, it's just so hard to turn off. And everywhere we go there is a story.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Character Monday

Please forgive the late post, in the hustle and bustle of getting ready to leave home I forgot to schedule my blogs. Today I am pleased to welcome Amelia Hoffman with this weeks Character Monday post.

I am honored to be invited to share with you all this lovely September day. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Amelia Hoffman. I'm just about to turn 16 (later this week) and I live in Jacksonville, FL. At least for now. It's been a little crazty for me the last year,  but things finally seem to be calming down now. 

When I first was invited to share a post I had no idea what I should talk about, but I finally found a topic i could discuss. Sotoday I'm here to talk to you about some of the organic things I use, since my body can't handle anything man made. 

Do you have any idea how impossible it is to cut all chemicals out of you life? The hardest one for me has been water, but after many mishaps I discovered the answer to this one is actually very simple. I use regular tap water and boil in a special bottle that passes the vapors through a tube and cools them until they condense back into water again. All the impurities and chemicals that were added are left in that white film on the sides of the now empty bottle. It looks somewhat like a mad scientist's experiment or maybe a moonshiner's still. It's a little easier for me since I have some connestion and get regular shipments from a Gaia colony in Canada  who get the stuff from glacial springs.

Makeup wasn't easy. I was lucky that my mother was really into makeup and taught me everything she knows. There are a couple brands that use natural products, and thanks to the internet they're available everywhere. My favorite brand is Aveda, though I have to read the ingredients because a few of their products have preservatives. I do a lot of holistic things, like olive and almond oil instead of lotion for my skin. If I wanted to color my hair, there are options for that too, most notably henna (though why would I want to make it redder?). There are options to make me look like any other woman in the world, I just have to work a little harder at it. But if you think about it, the ancient Egyptians had both makeup and dye, so there has to be things out there to use. 

Aside from makeup, food has been a major obstacle. I can't think of a restaurant that I can eat at, because the need to mass produce things doesn't allow for things to grow naturally. My food comes from my garden with a little bit of supplementation from an organic market. But it's hard. Even organic food sometimes still uses some man made substances, and I can taste it if the farmer's field was down wind from a farm that sprayed pesticide. 

I tell you what. Kermit the frog hit the nail on the head. It ain't easy being green.

Thank you for stopping by, And thank you Amelia. Hopefully next week I will have our first guest post for character Monday, but we'll see.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fantasy Friday

With the premeire of Secret Circle airing last night (I did not watch it, though I wanted to.) I thought the perfect topic for my first Fantasy Friday would be the topis of the changing roles of witches. Today they can be found everywhere, from televison, books and movies to your local Borders (Errr.... Maybe not anymore, but that's where they used to meet here...). My, Boomhilda, how you've changed. So how did we as a society move from mass killing in the name of religion to Samantha and the Halliwell sisters?

Witches have been around for as long as there have been men struggling to understand the world around him. In the bible (Exodus 22:18) it states "Suffer not a witch to live." And the word witch appears in seven other scriptures, all declaring witches as an evil force to be gotten rid of. And witches have played the villain countless times throughout history, both in fiction and real life. Whether the play that must not be named (*cough*Macbeth*cough*), the witch-goddess that turned Odysseus's men into pigs, or a green faced hag after her pretty, witches were believed to have struck a pact with the Devil in return for unholy powers.

So how did we make the move from die, witch die to which witch to watch? In the middle ages some "white witches" or "wise men or women" (You, one belief on the Biblical travelers is that they practiced white magic), so there have always been good witches. But the shift didn't really start in force until the 19th and 20th century, with the rise of neo-paganism, or Wicca. 

A change in thinking, a fall off in rabid religious views and a young country where people were free to practice whatever religion they chose brought the witch out of the shadows and began to paint her as the misunderstood hero. We still get evil witches, but now there's just as many if not more good witches. It has been a long and terrifying journey, but the witch is back and i don't think she's going anywhere anytime soon...

Edit:  Sorry, stupid Blogger didn't actually post this this morning...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writer Wednesday

Welcome to the first edition of writer Wednesday. For my first post I thought I'd tackle a topic near and dear to me, pen names. Before I get started I want to make things clear. I use a pen name. No, I am not a hypocrite, I chose my name for good reason, which I will discuss. But in general I don't think they are the best option. 

I've heard three reason for people to use a pen name:
  1. Privacy
  2. Seperating the writer from the everyday life
  3. Marketing
Now there might be other reasons people choose pan names, but these three are the main ones, so let's discuss them.

I can't begin to tell you how many writer's I've heard say they use a pen name becuse they are a private person. While I apologize to these people, I'm about to burst that bubble. In these modern times, there is no such thing as privacy. Anyone who knows how to use Google can take the facts from your author's bio and figure out the "real" you. Every post you make has the potential to point people to you. Even something as simple as an author photo can now be used to find you. Don't beleive me? Do a Google image search with your author's photo and see what comes up. 

The thing is, using a pen name gives you a false sense of security. People are going to figure out who you are. you need to be ready for the thin facade to come crumbling down. You don't want to look like the "Great and Powerful Oz, manipulating your fake persona while everyone stares at you uncovered.

Separating the writer from your everyday life
I get people, honest. You don't want strangers looking at photos of your kids. You don't want Great-Grandma to read the smut you write. You're terrified of the person at the next desk eyeing you askance wondering if you get up to the same crazy exploits of your characters. Sadly, a pen name doesn't portect you from these things. As listed above, anyone who know how to use Google can find you. And while I don't see Great-Grandma tracking you down herself, it has been proven in the media that someone is always willing to look and they will not keep quiet. In fact, they will see your attempts to hide as a reason to dig. This was made all to clear when the local media outed Julie Buranich as erotic novelist Judy Mays. As a result parents rose up in outrage, but Judy kept a level head and came through the fire storm, but it definitely proves the point that the truth has a way of coming out. 

Now here we find the reason for my pen name. I am very open about the fact that i use one and in fact, my real name appears on my Library of Congress application. Why did I feel the reason to change my name if I don't believe in pen names for the most part. Because some names just work against you. I'm not talking about an unpronounceable name like Dostoevsky or bland names like Dan Brown (see what I just did there, made my point fairly effectively, I think.). But some names just don't work. I'm not going to buy a used vehicle from Tom Raper (and anyone who's driven I-70 through Indiana knows I'm not making this name up) and I don't know if I would buy a book from a girl named Dull. So I decided it would be easier to market myself as Sharp, which for those not following along at home is the opposite of dull. As for Elizabeth it was my grandmother's name and sounded better.  AS long as I was changing my name, why not? 

Honestly, if I could go back I don't think i would do it again. It's been a pain maintaining two separate online personas. People in my personal life want to keep hearing from me, but I also have to spend time networking and building a platform. And sometimes I feel like I don't know how to turn Elizabeth off and just be in my life. And maybe these are just my weird issues and you can call the nice young men in the clean white coats now. ;)

So hopefully you aren't furious with me. I understand that I'm not going to put an end to pen names and that isn't what I'm trying to do. I'm just trying to make people think before they embrace an alter ego, simply because they're afraid of their personal life being changed. Trust me, it's going to change with or without a pen name. And if you do decide to use a pen name, I'm not judging, i just want to make sure you have all the facts first.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Character Monday

So for my very first Character Monday, I thought I'd spend some time discussing my favorite characters. And I know I've done this before, so to shake things up, I can only use characters from books I've read in the last six months. And since it seems like a nice round number, we'll go with a top ten list.

10. Kaylee Cavanaugh ~ Soul Screamers Series by Rachel Vincent
Ok, so this one is really stretching the six months mark, but I read a book from the series in May, she just wasn't in it for the most part. I absolutely loved the Soul Screamers books. There are so many werewolves, vampires, and fae out there, it's nice to know I'm not the only on who realizes how much untapped lore is out there. And Kaylee is a very human character that I can relate to. She makes the wrong decisions, is sometimes too hard on people, but it is her flaws that make it easy to connect with her.

9. Miki Kendrick ~ Go Fetch~ Magnus Pack Book 2 ~  Shelly Laurenston
Miki is a kick ass girl who doesn't take crap from anyone, earning her a place on this list. She's tough as nails and not afraid to wade in despite the fact she's severely outgunned. She is fiercely loyal and protective of her friends. The only thing this girl doesn't know how to handle is smoking hot Viking shifter,  Conall VĂ­ga-Feilan. Definitely on the spicy side and not intended for younger readers.

8. Tiff Banks ~ Along Came a Demon~ Linda Welch
Tiff's life has been stunted by her bizarre gift, but nothing could prepare her for the journey she's about to embark on. With a wonderful blend of strength and vulnerability, she sets out to discover who killed one of her neighbors and winds up discovering a whole world she never knew about.

7. Sidney Venery ~ The Kindness of Strangers ~ J.A. Titus
Perhaps I relate to the character more because of my own past, but Sidney's perseverance got her onto this list. Despite her horrible past and continuous setbacks, Sidney somehow manages not only to soldier on but to be optimistic about it. I felt for her every step of the way.

6.Wendy Everly ~ The Trylle Trilogy ~ Amanda Hocking
Say what you want about Hocking, but I truly loved Wendy. Her refusal to give up no matter how many times people told her it was impossible was admirable, but it was her doing what she felt was right despite what her heart said that truly endeared her to me.

5. Jazz Tremaine ~ 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover ~ Linda Welch
A beautiful mix of sassy wit and tough witch, Jazz has a soft spot she doesn't want the world to know about. From chapter one her snarky comments dripping with sarcasm kept me enthralled. And let's be honest, who doesn't love snarky sarcasm?

4. Nicole Keenan ~ Burden of Blood ~ Wenona Hulsey
Nicole has been suffering with her ability to hear the worst thoughts the only way she knows how, by shutting herself away. Watching her struggle as things get weird, you have to admire her strength and her determination. Yet despite the fact that she is locked in a devastating struggle, she refuses to let go of what makes her human.

3. Gwen Sparks ~ Craved ~ Stephanie Nelson
One part sassy witch, one part emotional woman and all parts wonderful, Gwen is fairly well rounded individual. She is still heart broken, but she's not going to stop living her life. As her heart drags her kicking and screaming back into action, she is soft and feminine, but still tough. And she certainly isn't afraid to wade in to trouble to protect the people she cares about.

2. Ree McKenna ~ Mortal Obligation ~ Nichole Chase
In the start, Ree is very soft and vulnerable. It is her ability to adapt and roll with the punches that makes her stand out of the crowd. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is at times terrified, yet she pushes through it. This is what makes her so loveable.

1. Ella Reynolds ~ Dark Corners ~ Liz schulte
Ella is delightfully flawed, and she knows it. And she's ok with it. Her pure stubbornness and refusal to change, despite her own acknowledgement that she is broken makes her one of the my all time favorite characters.

So there you have my top ten favorite characters. It wasn't intentional but they're all leads and all females. Wonder if that says something about me?

Now it's your turn. Who's your favorite character?

Friday, September 9, 2011

New blog setup

So I'm working out a blog schedule to keep things new and fresh around here. I'm thinking this will be the basic line-up...

"Character Mondays" I will be writing posts as various characters, giving you info about a character, interviews, muse photos, whatever, it will be related to characters. Mine or someone else's.

"Writing Wednesday" I will have tips, tricks and info about writing. I might look into getting some other people I admire to guest post here.

"Fantasy Friday" will look at all those things that go bump in the nights. Myth origins, other works that fall within the realm of Urban Fantasy that I would like to discuss, and any fun topic that touches on the supernatural beings that are living amongst us.

The other two days are for fun and random, possibly not dealing writing at all. We'll see how these three go and perhaps more themes will emerge... Join me Monday and we'll see how it goes! :D

Sunday, September 4, 2011

DragonCon Day Three

So today was the final day of seminars. Tomorrow it is back to reality. DragonCon has been a unique experience and I have learned so much. I highly recommend anyone who wants to write to attend a seminar like this. DragonCon is an experience I won't soon forget. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

DragonCon Day Two

I spent most the day in seminars so I didn't get to do much people watching. So far this has been very informative and I highly reccomend if you are interested in writing and get a chance, you should attend a seminar hosted Michael Stackpole.

Ok, moving on.

One of the things i attended today was a panel on Young Adult fiction, The Darkness: What is Appropriate for Teens. Four YA authors discussed their opinions and reaction to the New York Times article about teen fiction being too dark nowadays, and the follow up movement by Cheryl Rainfield against it. The issue raised by the panel is that young adult literature has been around for forty years. There has been trends through the ages blaming everything from rock n' roll to comic books to video games. Now it's books turn. The thing is, teenagers have built in censors that say "Don't do that." Admittedly sometimes they aren't as strong as they should be, but heck there are some adults I can think of that the same could be said about. The thing is that the teens predispositioned to act on these ideas would find them somehow, or would find something else. Blaming books, or tv, or anything else for that matter is a cop out.

One major problem addressed by the panel is that the author only looked at the books available in their local bookstore. That's like looking at a classroom of students and deciding since most of your students have red hair, most the children in the world have red hair. It's kind of absurd if you think about it.

The reality is our world is darker today. Teens are subjected to all manners of darkness and violence in their day to day lives. A child that has not been abused personally might know someone who has. I think it's ridiculous to blame fiction for modern problems. If you look closer at some of the very works she rips apart for their content, you find not a only a story that greatly appeals to teens, but also a message that they may relate to, maybe even need in their lives. don't blame the fiction. If you are concerned with what your teens are experiencing, you're gonna need to invest in a barrel. The truth of the matter is you can't protect them forever. The idea is to be proactive, stay ahead of the curve. Try to have discussions with your teen about the themes they are encountering in books you think might be too dark for them. And don't be afraid to read some of these books yourself. You never know what it might make you think.

The books aren't getting darker, they're just more plentiful. I hope the people who complain about The Hunger Games  is aware that young teens are reading To Kill a Mockingbird, A Clockwork Orange, The Jungle and other titles in school as assignments.

How about you? Where do you think the burden of responsibility should fall when it comes to the dark content in teen fiction? The author? The parents? The publishing companies?

Friday, September 2, 2011

DragonCon Day One

So there was a lot of fun today. As an author, I am a people watcher by nature and there is no better place to engage in this amusing pass time.

 Where ever I looked there was so much going on my brain had trouble taking it all in. Fortunately my camera had no such problems with that. Otherwise I would have missed this glorious shot of Moses and a Federation officer in deep discussion.
We discussed what we would do if we saw a Zombie, but fortunately Shaun of the dead was on hand to help us keep them at bay.
I might have whiplash but it was worth it. My brain is so full of ideas I don't know if I'll be able to get them all down and I still have two days left. And the best part about it was getting to share with two good friends.
So I learned a lot that you don't want to hear about (except when you read my books) but for me, the true highlight of the day was getting to see the creativity of other people. I'm so looking forward to the next couple days. So for now I leave you with the parting thought, that in all my people watching, I found Waldo. (He wasn't that well hidden.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dragon Con

So the adventure known as DragonCon began today with a road trip that began in St. Louis and ended in Atlanta. Now perhaps I am a little odd, but I love to road trip, and I have finally found the perfect road trip companion in Liz Schulte. My only regret for the day was that we didn't have time to linger and check things out more. In the end, it was more or less nine hours of me chattering and Liz tossing in a word or two here and there.

Along the way we did stop and check out a couple of sites. We visited Metropolis, IL (it's a real city, but the comic came first) and caught a few shots of the statuesque gentleman the town is centered around. It was rather cool, but really only took a few minutes. After a short time convinced we were lost when we weren't really, we stumbled upon the interstate and were back on our way.

Crossing out of Illinois into Kentucky....
 via this awesome bridge,  we stopped at the welcome center to pick up a free map. (Yay, cheap souvenirs!) This is one of the regrets, since the welcome center was a gorgeous old farm manor (this was way more than a house) and they did tours, but if we didn't get back on the road we'd never make it to Georgia.
And we hit the road again. We made decent time, getting a little caught up in the crazy traffic of Nashville, but all in all not too bad. And it was definitely a pretty day. It got cooler ass we headed south which was pretty wrong. All in all, not a bad trip. And tomorrow it's off to DragonCon. Is Atlanta ready for this?