Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why I'm Almost a Vegetarian

Truth? I can't give up hot dogs. Which is the absolute worst meat out there, I know. You don't have to tell me the gory details. I do my best not to think about it as I bite into those savory meat tubes, usually slathered with cheese. Sometimes onions and good.

Everyone thinks that's odd. But my reasons for not eating meat are not the usual ones. I do care about animals. But I also wear leather boots. I use sugar in my coffee. Eat eggs. Cheese. Seafood. I don't like to lecture people on what they should do. I don't like to put myself in boxes. I really don't eat meat because it grosses me out.

I live in fear of that chewy piece of cartilage you find in your chicken salad. The bit of grissle on the edge of a piece of steak. That string of fat that gets caught in your teeth. The rubbery ends of a strip of a bacon that take hours to chew. That smell of a raw turkey. The juice leaking off of it, filled with salmonella. When I cooked with meat, I would have to wipe down my entire kitchen with Clorox wipes and went to bed worrying about that one missed spot, teeming with the animated on the bacteria on the Lysol commercials. I would take a bite of my dinner wondering, "Did I cook this enough? Am I going to get sick?"

You don't have to worry about that with tofu. It doesn't matter if zucchini is under cooked. You can eat it raw. I love the taste of veggie burgers. Veggie sausage. Tempeh. I don't feel disgustingly full after gorging myself on a salad. But I kept thinking, "Why don't I just go all the way. Why can't I give it all up?"

Then I met a woman at a party who said, "My new philosophy? Do it ninety percent. It's better than nothing."

I don't know why I needed permission to hear that. I think because we like to put ourselves into little categories. "I am a vegetarian. I am a heterosexual. I am a web designer." It leaves little room for you to do anything else. You've categorized yourself. You're afraid someone will judge you for breaking out of the category, which they probably will, and so you start lying, hiding, or criticizing yourself for reaching beyond your self-imposed box.

That sucks.

You can't expand if you've closed yourself in a cage. You shouldn't have to feel guilty if you want a hot dog. Or want to change careers, Or fall in love with a woman instead of a man. Leave that open door. That 10% (or more) that allows you to do what you want.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Ultimate 90's Alt Playlist

I've been building my iTunes 90's mix and decided to source my friends for the results, because ya know, we grew up in the 90's, and many of my friends moved onto college where we worked at the college radio station together and needless to say...I know a bunch of music experts. And they didn't fail me. So here it is, to share with the world, the ultimate 90's alt playlist. The only thing it's missing is a flannel shirt and Doc Martens.

10,000 Maniacs - These Are the Days
Alanis Morissette - You Oughta Know
Alice in Chains - Would?, Man in the Box
Beck - Loser
Belly - Feed the Tree
Ben Folds Five - Brick
Better than Ezra - Good
Bjork - Big Time Sensuality, Hyperballad
Blind Melon - No Rain
Blur - Song 2
Breeders - Cannonball
Bush - Everything Zen
Cake - The Distance
Cardigans - Lovefool
Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic
Collective Soul - Shine, December
Counting Crows - Mr. Jones
Cracker - Low, Eurotrash Girl
Dandy Warhols - Not if you were the last Junkie on Earth
Dee-Lite - Groove is in the Heart
Dishwalla - Counting Blue Cars
Elastica - Connection
Filter - Hey Man Nice Shot
Flaming Lips - She Don't Use Jelly
Garbage - Stupid Girl, Only Happy When it Rains
Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy
Green Day - Welcome to Paradise
Happy Monday - Step On
Harvey Danger - Flagpole Sitta
Hole - Doll Parts
James - Laid
Jane's Addiction - Jane Says
Juliana Hatfield - My Sister
L7 - Pretend We're Dead
Lemonheads - Mrs. Robinson
Lisa Loeb - Stay
Live - Lightning Crashes
Local H - Bound for the Floor
Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye
Machines of Loving Grace - Butterfly Wings
Marilyn Manson - Beautiful People
Mazzy Star - Fade into You
Nada Surf - Popular
Nine Inch Nails - Closer, Head Like a Hole
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit, Lithium
Our Lady Peace - Superman's Dead
Pear Jam - Alive, Jeremy, Evenflow
Portishead - Glory Box
Proclaimers - 500 Miles
Radiohead - Creep
REM - Shiny, Happy, People
Sarah McLachlan - Building a Mystery
Screaming Trees - Nearly Lost You
Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight
Sonic Youth - Sugar Cane
Soul Asylum - Runaway Train
Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun, Spoonman
Spacehog - In the Meantime
Spin Doctors - Two Princes
Sponge - Molly
Stone Temple Pilots - Big Empty, Vasoline, Interstate Love Song
Superdrag - Sucked Out
Suzanne Vega - Luka
Temple of the Dog - Hunger Strike
The Cranberries - Dreams, Linger
The Presidents of the United States of America - Lump
The Verve Pipe - The Freshmen
They Might Be Giants - Istanbul, Birdhouse in Your Soul
Third Eye Blind - Semi-Charmed Life
Toad the Wet Sprocket - Walk on the Ocean, All I Want
Tool - Sober
Tori Amos - Cornflake Girl
Weezer - Undone (the Sweater Song)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fifteen Types of Scenes

I can't remember the last time I picked up an adult fiction book, and I really can't remember the last time I cracked open an adult non-fiction book. Probably in college. It's not that I have anything against learning, I love learning! I would just rather be reading about dragons and aliens and sword fights and teen drama.

However, a fellow writer suggested this book, which is incredibly good and helpful, but I find myself mentally translating it into language I can understand. So for you, I've done that below, for the segment on the fifteen different types of scenes. But please, if you're looking for ways to punch up your writing, pick up the entire book. You might not need to translate as I have.

Scene 1
Theirs: Climax Scene
Mine: The Hell Yeah Scene
This isn't the big battle at the end, this is the mini-battle somewhere in the middle, where your character wins a fight but not the war.

Scene 2
Theirs: Contemplative (or Sequel) Scenes
Mine: The What the Hell just Happened Scene
Some stuff happened in the previous chapter, now I need to think about it.

Scene 3
Theirs: Crisis Scenes
Mine: The Oh Crap Scene
Kind of the like the Hell Yeah scene except the opposite. It's not the big letdown. It's a little letdown. We can still recover.

Scene 4
Theirs: Dialogue Scenes
Mine: Dialogue Scenes
It's pretty self-explanatory.

Scene 5
Theirs: Epiphany Scenes
Mine: I Totally Get it Now
"It finally makes sense, why he disappears during the daytime, why he doesn't eat food, why he can move fast, and has no reflection...he's a vampire!"

Scene 6
Theirs: Escape Scenes
Mine: Escape Scenes
Again, pretty self-explanatory.

Scene 7
Theirs: Final Scenes
Mine: Final Scenes
This is the big explosion at the end, where Luke destroys the Death Star.

Scene 8
Theirs: First Scenes
Mine: First Scenes
The first few chapters where you lay everything out: the setting, the characters, and the dilemma.

Scene 9
Theirs: Lay-of-the-Land Scenes
Mine: Those Boring Scenes where You Describe the Paintings on the Wall

Scene 10:
Theirs: Love Scenes
Mine: Make Out Scenes
There had better be some "lips pressed hard," somewhere.

Scene 11:
Theirs: Recommitment Scenes
Mine: This Sucks, but I'm Doing it Anyway
Frodo gets stabbed by the Wraiths and keeps plugging along for Mordor.

Scene 12
Theirs: Resolution Scenes
Mine: The Scene at the End where the Big Explosion has Happened and Now We're Going to Neatly Tie it Up
If you're smart, you'll also leave an opening for a sequel.

Scene 13
Theirs: Transition Scenes
Mine: We're on a Boat. Now We're on a Plane. How Did We Get There?

Scene 14
Theirs: Suspense Scenes
Mine: The Nail Biters
What's going to happen? I can't watch.

Scene 15
Theirs: Twister Scenes
Mine: This is How M. Night Shyamalan Built His Career
What? Bruce Willis is a ghost? OMG!

And that's it. As the book suggested, combine all 15 of these scenes to make exciting storylines!

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Smashing New Trend

I think I've uncovered the latest trend in YA book covers---breaking stuff on a black background. Check out all the smashing new finds below.

Friday, May 13, 2016

How to Get from A to B

I've encountered this problem twice in the past couple of weeks, once in my own writing and in a fellow writer's work at group. You have your story all laid out. The next move your character makes is to charge into a burning building...but why?

(please keep in mind, these are made up examples)

My writer friend had her MC charge back into the building to get his phone. This method of getting him into a flaming house made him look...

A: dumb
B: superficial

Neither of these fit with her character, who is actually very intelligent and not materialistic. But she did want him to come off as a little naive so I suggested she have the antagonist trick her MC into the building by saying there is a little girl trapped in there. Her hero rushes off to save the girl, discovers he's been fooled, feels like an idiot, and we, the reader, feel terrible for him (because we've all made mistakes like that.) We also love him for being so selfless to try and save a little girl, and we hate the antagonist that much more for tricking our hero into the burning building.

In my own example, I had everything figured out. My MC was going to rush into the building to save the little girl on his own, because he was the typical all-American selfless hero. Then, tooling around on Goodreads I found a review that struck me.

Oh goody, another book about the all-American good guy, running into save everyone.

She was right. It was probably new a hundred years ago, but it's old now, and struggling to break into a competitive market, it's imperative to be different. I didn't have to re-think my entire plot, only the motivation and character aspects. Instead of my MC going into the burning building on his own, I had him dragged in there by my antagonist. Now I have something interesting. Why did the antagonist pull him in there? How is my MC going to get out? I can still showcase some of his more heroic aspects by how he resolves the conflict, and I've created a question that will (hopefully) keep readers reading.

And on a side note, I encourage everyone to go on Goodreads, start following the heavy readers and reviewers and take note on what they say. They probably read almost as much as editors and agents, and I've gotten many ideas on what to do and what not to do by what they find unoriginal or overdone. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016


I've started reading Manga books, as research, because I have an idea for a book that involves a character who is an aspiring graphic novelist, obsessed with Manga. I'm not new to the Manga-verse. In high school, during my *cough* periphery raver days, I used to rush home after school to make sure I caught the latest episode of Sailor Moon. I also had a crush on a boy who introduced me to some of the darker Manga like  Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll and Wicked City.

In college, at the video store, my friend and I discovered Ranma 1/2, the slapstick series about a boy who turns into a girl when he's hit with water. It's hilarious. It's also a graphic novel, so it was about time I read some Manga instead of watching it.

And it's amazing! As in the animated versions, the plotlines vary from the serious, to the hokey, to the slightly demented and strange. The artistry also remains unchanged. Characters with large eyes, small noses and scenes captured in alternative angles. I always remember one from Ghost in The Shell where the entire scene was portrayed in the reflection in a pair of sunglasses in the rain. Beautiful.

So I'm enjoying my research, also becoming a fan myself, and learning other writing skills. Specifically, the inciting incident, the moment where your character's life changes and the plot of your novel begins. You're supposed to make this happen quickly. In fact, if you're following a formula, it's basically...

Introduce your character's normal world - Now change it. (inciting incident)

In YA, sometimes this can take a while. Or sometimes there's a page of introduction - inciting incident - then pages and pages of backstory. But what I've noticed in my Manga is a quick turnaround. The one I'm reading now had 1 page of normal life right into BAM! inciting incident. I read one a couple of weeks ago that had only a few pages of normal life before the inciting incident. And I like it. I like not waiting for the action to happen, and not flowing from there into tons of backstory. I think as novelists we worry, without the background, no one will care about our characters. But I do care about these characters. I learn just enough about them in those first few pages to keep reading.

I'm not sure if the skills can completely translate without the imagery, but it's inspiring me to try.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Where Have I been? The Phone

This was going to be a post about the house. With pictures. But then I lost the pictures because you see, around Halloween, I dropped my phone, and not just a little, "oopsie," the screen basically shattered. Thank goodness, I had that screen protector. Not to protect the screen apparently, but to keep the little shards together and protect my finger from getting cut by them.

I used it like that for a few months because one, I had just gotten the glass replaced at one of those mall kiosks before the break and hated to spend more money on it, and two, I went to the Apple Store during Christmastime and quickly ran away when I saw the crowd. I finally went back, and well, here is my Yelp Review about the experience, a delightful second person narrative.

You walk in. You tried to come in once before, but it was a weekend and you could barely get past the doors. Tonight is a Monday night. The entrance is deceptively clear. You're greeted by a chipper, red-shirted girl who asks what you need. You say you made a service appointment. She leads you up the thin aisle, between tables neatly set with Apple products. The deeper you go into the store, the more crowded it becomes. The long, thing room seems to shrink around you.

You are introduced to another person in a red shirt with an iPad. You tell him you made a service appointment. He taps away on his screen and you fidget from foot to foot. Are there more people in here than there were a minute ago? Loud voices bounce off the metal walls and jab you like prodding fingers.

He tells you no "geniuses" are available at this time. You snicker at the pompousness Apple has at calling their store associates "geniuses" and wonder how he can say it with a straight face. You're told to sit at a crowded table with the others and wait your turn.

As always, in waiting situations, you turn to your trusty iPhone. Names are called (not yours) and you wonder why they bother making appointments when they make you wait longer than you do at the doctor's office. You check Facebook. Again.

More names are called (not yours) and more people crowd into the store. A bead of sweat rolls down your cheek. You can feel the anxiety setting in. This would be your own personal hell if they started feeding you brussel sprouts and made you watch Fox News as well.

You start to hate yourself for allowing yourself to be treated like cattle all for the sake of this tiny, handheld computer. Ten years ago you lived very happily without it. Now you wait in a long, thin sarcophagus and fidget like an expectant puppy at the shelter for you to be chosen by one of the "geniuses".

Finally, your name is called. You meet with a bearded, 24-year-old hipster with an iPad. He asks you some questions. You answer them. He runs a diagnostic to tell you what you already know, your phone is broken. You're also screwed. There's nothing they can do except sell you another one.

He tells you at least he didn't make you wait an hour and half to tell you that, like you should be happy they're trying to rip $600 from your pocket now, instead of 2 hours from now. You bite your tongue to keep from swearing at him. It's not his fault. He's just another cog in the machine. You take your broken phone and storm out of there.

You're happy to finally be free, but you're also angry that they won't fix your phone. You swear you're going to get a Samsung, or something else, but you know that's not true. You also know it won't solve the problem. No matter what phone you get, you'll have to sign up for 2 years of service. You'll always be owned by someone unless you move to a cabin in the woods and live a self-sufficient, disconnected life as a hermit. But you also know that won't happen. So you leave, feeling angry, disappointed, degraded and disgusted with yourself that you're going to let them win. You're going to pay the $600 dollars, and you're going to continue to be a slave to the technology machine.

But you're going to order the phone online, because by God, you are never going into that store again.

As you can see, it didn't go well, so I had to bite the bullet and get a new phone. From AT&T, not the Apple Store. I had done my iCloud back-up, but when I restored my files, not everything came through. I lost most of my pictures AND a good chunk of my 90's mix. (So sad!) To top that off, the computer we had it all backed up on was stolen when our house was broken into right before we moved. Bad luck, huh? Overall, though, I've tried to be positive. We still might be able to get the pictures off the Cloud onto a new computer, and at least I didn't have any nudies there.