Weekend? What weekend?

It’s been one of those weeks where time seems to compress itself together and you find yourself blinking and wondering where the days went. Which is not to imply a lack of fun. In fact, much fun was had, what with the celebrating of my brother’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Chase!) and the throwing of a Stella and Dot trunk show — both of which involved family, friends, laughter, and just the right amount of liquor.

What I’m Reading

Well, I was reading Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton. However, there’s an entire page missing — just one whole page gone — near the beginning and it’s thrown me off a little bit. I keep trying to figure out how best to read the missing page, while deciding if I should just keep on reading even though my brain is screaming at me that there might be vital information within that page regarding plot of character.

I can’t even tell you about the story, except that there are dragons, because of the horror of the missing page. *wails*

What I’m Writing

I’ve started redrafting my scoff retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Connecting to the tone I want for a story is a large part of my ability to actually finish a short story, and I seem to have the right tone now. So, I have hopes.

A deadline to a writing market sprung itself on me last week. It was a today, what do you mean today, I haven’t written the thing moments. In the past, this has meant me just giving up on the idea of submitting to the market. But last week, I decided, hell no, I’m writing the thing. So, I wrote the poem in an afternoon and submitted it. I feel pretty good about it, too, although I’ll wait to pat myself on the back until I get a response from the publisher.

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

“You don’t need more motivation. You don’t need to be inspired to action. You don’t need to read any more lists and posts about how you’re not doing enough,” writes Jamie Varon in her post to Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind In Life.

Hanna Brooks Olsen on Why Women Smile at Men Who Sexually Harass Us — “In my life, it has become abundantly clear to me that there is no way for me to end the constant barrage of unwanted conversation and touching and sexualization of my body. There is nothing that I can do to stop giving tiny pieces of myself and my time on this earth to the men who demand it because there is nothing that I can do to stop the demand. That’s not on me.”

A huge international study of gun control finds strong evidence that it actually works. Surprise, surprise.

You Are Awesome

Spent a sunny Saturday at Boogie on the Bayou in Campbell with my Bestie, drinking several beers, eating giant sausages, shopping at the many booths, and getting sunburned. While out and about, we came across a rather awesome young woman, holding a “You are Awesome” sign. So, I had to take a picture.

And, Darling Readers, in case you didn’t know, you are awesome, too. (^_^)


What I’m writing: I posted another Friday Flash, called “Beyond Borderlands.”

What I’m reading: Amal El-Mohtar posted a great essay on Reading Dialect in Celeste Rita Baker’s “Name Calling,” which lead to some interesting discussion. The reading and discussions lead me to actually reading Rita Baker’s rather fantastic story itself – posted first in the edited version (toning down the dialect) and second in the original version (with dialect as it was submitted).

Other Thingies: I actually got off my bum, braved the heat, and went for a run this weekend, which felt fantastic.

It’s going to be busy week as I prep for my trip. Not sure how much I’ll be able to accomplish beyond Get Ready for Trip, but here’s hoping.

How are things going with you?

Good Reads for Writers — On Plotting

While scrolling through my blog cue today, I noticed two very good blogs that talk about why stories work and why they don’t. Both posts look at how to approach plotting, coming to similar, but slightly different conclusions. Each has me thinking about my current stories and how I approach them. Hopefully, you find them helpful as well.

Carrie Cuinn – “It takes three points to make a plot, or, how to write an interesting (complete) story.

“While a story can have any number of events, for it to be interesting and complete, it must have three event points on its plot. Less than that, and the story is either incomplete (a vignette or character study) or it usually fails to be interesting. Often, a plot with fewer than three events is both incomplete and boring.”

Lisa Cron on Writer Unboxed – “What Kindergarten Got (And Still Gets) Really, Really Wrong, Part One

“What I learned from working with the incredibly dedicated teachers, the curriculum, and the state mandated tests is that the “story is a bunch of big, eventful, unusual things that happen” idea is firmly planted in kindergarten and nourished from there on out — which is why it can be so damned hard to uproot. It’s at the foundation of how narrative writing is taught, and a major reason why so many kids (not to mention former kids) hate writing. And, for those of us former kids who love to write, it’s a major reason our manuscripts fail.”

Lisa Cron’s post also have me think about how the idea of plot/story being problems can also help writers in another area — creating dynamic characters. Often characters will be seen as too being too passive in stories. However, characters are likely to be less passive, if they have a problem that requires them to act in order to resolve it. So, thinking of story as problem provides a solution two two writer dilemmas — plot and character — with one stone. Very cool.

If you’re a writer, tell me what you’re writing these days? Did these articles help you?

If you’re a reader, what are you reading? Is it well plotted, or does it fall flat in the way these articles describe?

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Reality has been kicking my ass lately, but I’m managing to get a few swings in finally. Bits and pieces of life are starting to fall into place, resembling at least an amalgamation of order.

The sun dappled through the trees as I took my run this weekend, a little more warmly than I would normally like, but it was lovely out nonetheless. Since falling off my running habit a few weeks ago, I’m not quite back to where I was in terms of distance. I only have the rest of this week to train, because the She Is Beautiful 5k is on Sunday. I’m sure sure the adrenaline and energy from my fellow runners will help me get through race day with a smile.

Writing progress has been minimal at best. I opened up my laptop this weekend with the intent to write new chapters for The Cold Nothing Taste of Winter (formerly Under the Midday Moon), but couldn’t jump into the groove of words and sentences and paragraphs and all that lot.

So, instead I gathered all my printouts and started putting together a spreadsheet of chapters written and chapters yet to write and problems that still need to be addressed — which I consider to be good progress. I have more work to do on the spreadsheet and it’s helping me to wrap my head around what I need to get done and how I might approach things, which is a relief.

To Do This Week

  • Finish the novel spreadsheet
  • Edit “The Shadow’s Flight” short story to meet flash fic markets and send it out
  • Write and/or edit one of the poems on deck
  • Run the She Is Beautiful 5k!

Good Reads

1. The Bare Knuckle Writer presents an awesome blog post on “Character EDC.”

EDC = Every Day Carry, or the things you always take with you no matter what.

“The things a person always has on them tells you what kind of person they are. A sentimentalist? A minimalist? A survivalist? All those people will have different things.”

This immediately had me thinking about the characters in my novel and what they always carry with them. Claire, for example, always carries the keys to her dad’s cage around her neck, even though she only needs them at home. So far, I’ve only referenced the keys a few times in the story, the times when she’s needed them. But since she always wears them, even when she doesn’t need them, I can see her wearing them as a kind of charm, a comforting talisman when things are going wrong.

Now I’m going to have to think about other characters and what they carry around and what it means to them, even if they’re not conscious of it.

2. The Winter 2014 issue of Goblin Fruit is out!

Go forth, friends, and read beautiful things. (^_^)

Batkid Saves the Day!

In October of this year, I traveled to Italy and along the way bought myself a $300 Italian leather jacket. It was a huge expense for me, more money than I probably should have spent. But the jacket was gorgeous and fit me perfectly and came with a wonderful little story, and I didn’t once feel any regret about the purchase.

I came home and showed the jacket off and received positive responses from family and friends, assuring me that it was a great purchase.  “It’ll last you forever,” several people said.

Except that today, I discovered that I somehow managed to tear the jacket, a solid two-inch rip in an awkward place just above the right pocket — which just about breaks my heart. I know it’s just a thing, an object I don’t need to hold attachment to, but dammit, between the cost and how much I love wearing, it hurts.

Apparently, there might be a shop near my office that does leather repair, so I’ll take it in and see what they can do to fix it.

At the moment, though, I’m just taking deep breaths and trying not to loose my sh!t.

Fortunately, for everyone, there is this story to make everything all better.


Miles Scott, a 5 year old boy who’s fighting leukemia, just wanted to be a superhero, specifically, he wanted to be Batman. So, Make-A-Wish Foundation worked to put together a special event, turning San Francisco into Gotham City for a day. Miles as Batkid and accompanied by Batman, was driven through in a “bat-mobile” and was able to partake in a series of death defying rescues, while thousands of people cheered. The miniature hero got ot help nab arch-villains Riddler and the Penguin and save a damsel in distress tied to the city’s famous tram tracks.

The internet exploded with glee at the event, and every Batman, from Adam West to Christian Bale congratulated Miles on his heroism.

Here is a nice Batkid video for some smiles. (^_^)

Three Things I Would Like to See in More Novels

Book of love

As a reader, I can’t help noticing patterns that emerge in the stories I read. Sometimes these stories are spot on, and sometimes I find myself longing for different kinds of stories than what I see on the pages. Here are a few tropes or plots points I would like see occur in more books.*

1. Books That Start with the Characters Already in a Romantic Relationship

So many stories, from romance novels to YA fantasy, begin with two strangers meeting for the first time, having instant attraction, and ultimately finding their way to love. These stories are great, and I enjoy them just as much as the next person.

But these stories seem to stem from the idea the Falling-in-Love aspect is the only interesting or challenging part of a relationship. If our two heroes can just get past these hurdles, then they’ll realize it’s True Love and they’ll be guaranteed their happily ever after.

The reality is that relationships are hard work. It involves day-to-day acts of compassion, understanding, and compromise in order to stay in love.

Staying-in-Love has the potential to be just as compelling and romantic a trope as Falling-in-Love, and would be great to see more stories begin with characters already in a relationship, which they have to hold on to through the storm.

2. Non-Romantic Relationships

Again this is me not so much turning away from romance, but wanting an addendum to it. Many stories, particularly in YA books, focus on the love story to the end that other relationships fade to the background. Sometimes that happens, a person falls in love and is so wrapped up in the feeling, they can’t make the other valuable relationships with friends and family fit in.

But I think life tends to be more multilayered than that and with all the levels of relationships and love — mothers, fathers, siblings, best friends, cousins, etc. — there is a lot of room for emotional complexity. I’m not saying ditch the romance (though I kind of am with my book), but alongside falling in love, lets have some of the other kinds of relationships, too.

3. Quiet Moments

Roger Ebert talked about quiet moments in an interview he did with Hayao Miyazaki:

I told Miyazaki I love the “gratuitous motion” in his films; instead of every movement being dictated by the story, sometimes people will just sit for a moment, or they will sigh, or look in a running stream, or do something extra, not to advance the story but only to give the sense of time and place and who they are.

“We have a word for that in Japanese,” Miyazaki said. “It’s called ma. Emptiness. It’s there intentionally.”

Is that like the “pillow words” that separate phrases in Japanese poetry?

“I don’t think it’s like the pillow word.” He clapped his hands three or four times. “The time in between my clapping is ma. If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just busyness. But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. If you just have constant tension at 80 degrees all the time you just get numb.

Reading this, I thought about how many stories just power through to the ending in one action sequence after another without allowing that space to breathe and feel something.

Placing a quiet, still moment into a story seems easier in a movie, because it’s a visual form. But I think it’s possible to achieve in books, too, and I would like to see more stories, normally rife with action allow a space for the reader to feel about the characters before plunging in again.

What are tropes, plots, ideas that you would like to see appear in more novels?

*And, as I long to see these things, I find myself drawn to writing them in order to fulfill that desire.

 * * *

Since this is supposed to be a Friday Five post, here are two more unrelated Things you may be interested in checking out:

1. An awesome blog post analyzes the concept of the “Man Card”, which basically a way of metaphorically and jokingly measuring a person’s manliness:

“The Man Card concept specifically, however, is insulting to men and women in what it’s saying about our respective roles. Men are supposed be this way, not that way. Do these things, not those things. You’re not a man if you don’t fit society’s (or some section thereof’s) definition of one, and, unfortunately, people who joke this way are denigrating empathy, sympathy, respect for women, honesty, sensitivity, and responsibility. They’re saying real men prize getting their way over cooperating or compromising. Real men don’t care what their girlfriends or wives think. Real men do what they want.

This is dangerous.”

2. Check out Malinda Lo’s Guide to YA. Malinda Lo is the author of a great Cinderella retelling, called Ash, and she’s writing a multitude of posts YA novels, particularly those with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender characters or issues. If you’re a writer at all interested in writing about GBLTQ characters or issues, then I highly recommend working your way through this reading list.

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” – Philip Roth

Goodness, it seems it’s been almost two whole months (!) since I’ve last posted a Monday Update. During that time I have completed next to no writing and, while I have been doing my weekly training at the gym, my running days have been sporadic at best. Since all my traveling is done for the year, I’m planning on hoping back on the wagon and getting some thinks done by the end of December in the hopes of completing most, if not all of my primary goals for the year.

November is NaNoWriMo, in which writers from around the world attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Technically this is supposed to be a new novel, something you haven’t touched before. But since I really want to complete the draft of my werewolf novel, Under the Midday Moon, I’m planning to use the challenge for that purpose with the hope that 50,000 words will be enough for me to finish the draft. If I can get this done, then next year’s big goal can be focused on editing the dang thing.

As for the running…, it is still possible to reach my goal of running three complete miles by the end of the year, I suppose. So, I will still keep working toward that goal. If I can get to where I’m running one mile, though, I’ll be happy. I’m also thinking of buying the zombie runner app, just because I think it would be fun and would add some variety to my training.

To be accomplished in the coming week:

  • Write a minimum of 5,100 words on Under the Midday Moon as part of Nano challenge
  • Submit something (poem, story, whatever)
  • Do a minimum of two runs.


Good Reading: I’ve found two posts that could be helpful in my own goal setting this week.

Visuals for goals make an impression” talks about how adding a visual element to your accomplishments can help spur continued progress, like awarding yourself gold stars on the days you workout or pinning up your race bibs as Lisa J. Jackson did. I’m thinking a calendar for the year for posting stars would be great. I might also incorporate not only stars or smileys for exercise, but also for when I submit some of my writing for publication and/or when I receive an acceptance. I’ll have to get a variety of stickers for that purpose. Posting rejection letters, acceptance letters, and/or race bibs is also a great idea, and I may do that as well. 🙂

And on Courage 2 Create, Ollin Morales talks about “How To Add More Time To Your Day (AKA: How to Make The Most of The Time You Do Have),” something that I’ve been definitely feeling as a challenge lately.

“I have tried to see how I can literally add more time to my day. Unfortunately, I have learned that there is no way to actually add more time to your day, but I have learned that there are ways to make the most of the time you do have, and also how to make it appear as if the time is stretching out longer, rather than shrinking at a rapid pace.”

His advice is pretty darn good, and I’m going to try to practice a few of his suggestions in the hopes of getting done what I need to get done.

We’re in the fourth and final quarter for the year. How are you doing with your year long goals? Or, how are are you doing with your day-to-day goals?

The Gun-Toting Macho-Babe: A Review of Riddick

Trigger Warning: mention of violence and rape.

Another Fair Warning: This post contains spoilers for a couple of movies, including the Riddick, which released this year.

I loved Pitch Black (2000). The story involves a ship full of passengers that crash lands on an unknown planet. As they are trying to find their way off this world, they discover that something much more sinister lurks beneath the surface.*

In addition to having a cool, fast paced story with awesome and stylish use of lighting, as well as fantastically scary creatures, the movie also had a diverse cast with three awesome women — Shazza Montgomery (played by Claudia Black of Farscape fame), a free-settler who easily pulls her own weight; Jacke/Jackie (played Rhiana Griffith), a kid who becomes digs on Riddick’s bad boy appeal and tries to emulate him; and Carolyn Fry (played by Radha Mitchell), one of the ship’s pilots and the lead in the movie. Carolyn is especially interesting as she’s the most complicated, starting out as a coward by wanting to jettison the passengers at the beginning of the movie to save herself and then growing into the leader of the group, one willing to risk herself to save others.

The movie also introduced the audience to the bad-assery that is Riddick and made Vin Diesel a star.**  Riddick was presented at first as the villain, a criminal and murderer, who later turns out to be less of an evil than Johns, the bounty hunter who tracked and caught him. In the first movie, Riddick is far from perfect, but has some depth with his own sense of morality (he refuses to kill a kid and leave her for dead in order to protect the group from monsters, as Johns wanted to) and his own perception of god.

Following Pitch Black, came two sequels (one of which is animated), each of which was of far lower quality than the first movie, and neither of which I saw. So, I went into the third sequel, Riddick, with very low expectations. We really only went to see it, because both my friend and I love Vin Diesel.

Following right after the events of The Chronicles of Riddick, in which he apparently had become some sort of king, Riddick starts with his being betrayed and left stranded on a desert planet, at which point it eventually becomes a sub-par rehashing of Pitch Black and Vin Diesel grumbling out some of the same lines from the first movie. The bigger threat this time is small, mud creatures with scorpion-like tales that seemed like less-intelligent versions of the creatures from the Alien franchise, once the rain started and released them en-masse. The story itself may have been redundant, but, in and of itself, it was entertaining enough.

But I really, really didn’t like the way the movie treated the women, of which there are two. And, in fact, as I’ve thought about it more over the past couple of days, I’ve come to realize that I’m actually rather pissed off about it.

The first is a nameless black woman (played by Keri Hilson),*** chained inside the bounty hunter Santana’s ship, who has clearly been abused at the hand of the bounty hunter (and based on his later behavior, also raped). Santana decides to let her go on the grounds that he has more important things to deal with, only to shoot her in the back as she is fleeing. She locks eyes with Riddick, who is hidden from the bounty hunters behind a rock, and he stares at her passively as she takes her last breath. It’s just so clear that her only role in the movie is to show viewers that Santana is a bad, bad man. And it’s gross.

The second is Dahl (played by Katee Sackhoff), a gun-toting macho-babe. She saunters in leather-clad, carrying weapons, and sporting an attitude. When some dude, like Santana, says something she doesn’t like, she punches him and makes him bleed. Other than that she doesn’t do much, stand around looking sexy, and taking some choice shots with the sniper riffle.

Now, I don’t inherently have anything against the Gun-Toting Macho-Babe. She can on occasion be awesome, providing there is more to her than being a gun-toting macho-babe. It depends on the level of power she’s actually allowed to have and how the men around her treat her and her response to that treatment.

At one point, the scum that is Santana, propositions her. At which point, she punches him again, and says, “I don’t f*ck guys, but I do occasionally f*ck them up.” (And I thought,” Oh, okay. She’s gay. Cool.”)

In the continuing interplay between Dahl and Santana (she rarely interacts with anyone else), he throws her to the ground and tries to rape her. After she escapes his brutality and is asked why there’s so much blood, she explains with a smirk, “I had to kick his ass again” — because rape is obviously something to laugh about.

Later, Riddick explains to the group that he’s going to go “balls deep” in Dahl. Her response is to roll her eyes and essentially say that that’s never going to happen. (And I, after grimacing at his awful and sexist dialog, prayed that she wouldn’t, all the while knowing better.)

Because what happens at the end when she lowers down on a wire to extract Riddick? She straddles as she straps him into the harness, smiles sweetly, and says, “Let me ask you something sweetly…”

Apparently, his manliness is so manly that Dahl could not help herself and had to f*ck him. It was just so “oh, look, Riddick, you won the impossible prize that none of the other less manly men could win!” that it made me want to gag.

I don’t understand how the same writers and director who did the original managed to work their way into creating this mess of a movie without any layers. I can picture them sitting there, talking about what a strong woman Dahl is, while smugly smiling at how awesome they are.

Which reminds me of Sophie McDougall’s excellent New Statesman article, “I Hate Strong Female Characters,” in which she expertly explains the problem with the concept of Strong Female Charaters. She says, “Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong.”

As I think back to Pitch Black, I would describe the women there as intelligent, capable, complicated, brave, cowardly, disciplined, troubled, conscious-stricken, honorable, and/or dishonest, depending on the woman. They are closer to people, closer to being layered.

Not one of them was a gun-toting, macho-babe (which is not to say that the women in Pitch Black never carry or fire weapons, but that they do so out of necessity, not as a matter-of-fact).

Not one of them is a hot sex bot in leather.

Not one of them is a nameless victim, either.

Not one of them is reduced to an one-dimentional object for the men to play off.

Like Sophie McDougal, I want a women to be more than strong, more than the what the writers and director of Riddick reduced both the nameless woman and Dahl into being. I want more, because I know it’s possible for writers and directors and creators to do better. I’ve seen better. And I’m sad and disappointed that more creators don’t seem to even try.

Comments are welcome, but try to be constructive.


Recommended Reading: “Somone Like Me,” by Cindy Pon is an article about diversity or lack thereof in fiction and movies. She writers, “I play “Spot the Asian” when I watch movies. I remember doing this for The Avengers recently, and feeling disheartened near the end of the film when I had yet to see an Asian American face on the big screen. The movie redeemed itself in a montage of post-conquering-the-bad-guys scenes in New York City, where I saw Asian faces as extras in the background and even a brief cameo of an excited Asian American boy with actual lines to speak. For those who are not people of color (PoC), this might seem an odd ritual. But imagine growing up and rarely seeing someone who looked like you in the media—not even in commercials, much less on television shows, in films, or in magazines. I was a voracious reader as a child, but it was only as an adult, looking back, when I realized that I had never read a book with a character who looked like me.”

Read the whole thing. It’s a great post and includes a list of books at the end that the author recommends.


*This btw represents one of my favorite horror movie tropes. Put people in an already scary situation (crashed on a plant with no sight of help and no easy way off), then escalate the situation by having something worse crawl out of the woodwork.

**Well, Pitch Black, along with his followup roll in The Fast and the Furious a year later in 2001.

***There is a separate, but equally important discussion to be had about race, and the fact that the nameless victim was a black women, as well as the fact that yet again, the only survivors were white folk.

****It should be noted, by the way, that while Riddick never seems to be bothered by Santana’s continuing attacks on women, he finally gets angry and kills Santana for the crime of killing his dog.

Monday Update with a hearty helping of Link Soup

First, I present to you some Link Soup.

  • Poets might be interested to learn that submissions are open for a Mermaid Anthology from Sundress Publications that is “interested in poems that push the mermaid myth and figure into a new light. Submissions should not simply retell the mermaid and her classic story but establish new facets in which to read, question, admire, interrogate, and fear this fantastical siren.”
  • Historical fiction, fantasy, and movies have done a lot to erase people of color from mainstream consciousness, to the point that many writers and readers argue that including POC in stories is unrealistic. Medieval POC is a fantastic blog that presents historical evidence of POC existing in Europe in the middle ages.
  • Maleficent is a new live action Disney movie coming out that will tell the story of sleeping beauty from the villain’s point of view. I’ve long thought Meleficent was cool and I have hopes that this will be decent. I just hope they make her a strong complex character without letting things get too corny.
  • I’ve recently found out about the Disposable Film Fest, which presents short films created with “low cost video technology: everyday equipment like mobile phones, pocket cameras, DSLRs and other inexpensive devices.” I keep trying to figure out when the fest is presented in San Fran, so that I can go and I’d also like to try to put together and submit a film. In the mean time, I’m loving the shorts on the website, like this year’s grand prize winner, Malaria, which is amazing.

* * * *

What got accomplished last week? Not much. I got my running days in, but nothing else. *sigh*

That which must be accomplished in the coming week:
– Finish second half of Chapter Six of Under the Midday Moon
– Submit something (poem, story, whatever)
– Workout at least three days with two workouts being running training (0/3)
– Do three morning yoga workouts (0/3)
– Practice my Spanish
– Get stenciling done on art project for niece’s bedroom

– Make Progress on Organization (do one or more of the following):
• Find a minimum of ten items (big or small) that can be gotten rid of and get rid of them
• Take all items to donate to Goodwill