Friday, December 31, 2010

Chapter 5.6: The Year of Old Spice Guy

Yet again, we find ourselves at the end of the year, looking back on what has happened within it. This is the year that gave us the infamous Old Spice Guy, the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Google Pacman Day, and Darren Criss on Glee. But we also had the earthquake in Haiti, the Chilean miner rescue, the BP oil spill, and the whole debacle with Jonathon Frazen. 2010 has been a year of highs, lows, and change.

For me, 2010 is probably a year where I've had the most personal growth. I had my first boyfriend since I was 14. I went on a once in a lifetime trip to London (where I met people I will absolutely never forget). I went to my first pub and my first club. I started my first blog and fell in love with it so I started this one. And I began making videos about books.

I had both one of the easiest quarters of my college career and one of the most challenging. I began my final year of school. Which means at some point soon, I'm going to have to figure out what the heck I'm doing with my life. Aside from writing because that's not actually something I chose. It chose me, and luckily I love all the crazies in my head.

The end of another year always seems to be a time of reflection. A time to ask "What have I done that mattered this year (which can be a personal accomplishment or one that made an impact on others)? What do I want to do within the next year?"

One of the things I am most proud of this year, is the fact that I was able to complete NaNoWriMo in the middle of one of my most hectic quarters and complete all my projects on time and still pull out good grades for the quarter. That took a lot of hard work, but it was worth it.

This year I learned that I can do choreography, even if it doesn't come easily to me. But if I concentrate and practice hard, I can make it look like I know what I'm doing. And I don't trip over my feet. Much.

I also learned a very important lesson. Even if you know who you are and are comfortable in that image, you can grow in your self image. Especially if you're trying to grow from the idea of yourself that you've held since early high school. I realized that I can be nerdy and pretty/girly and my world won't implode. And this is a lesson that I'm going to keep in mind moving forward. Because it's an important one.

As for what I want to do in 2011? My plans are vague. I know that I will graduate in the spring and for the first time in sixteen years, I will be out of school. I will have to figure out what to do with my life. Which means I either need to get serious about writing (as in, write or revise every single day) or give up. And I don't see myself giving up.

So here are my resolutions for the new year. And I'm posting them here so I have more accountability. Because when you tell people, you feel more compelled to complete it.

1. Graduate at least cum laude (with honors) from Western Washington University
2. Write/revise creative work for at least an half hour every day (even if it's just a writing exercise to get the juices flowing).
3. Learn to cook so that I can eat something other than sandwiches and toast.

So what are you proud of this last year? And what do you hope to do in the next?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chapter 5.5: Book Blog: Revolutionaries, Boys, and Deadly Games

Yes, I have missed a week of book updates and I also haven't given a post in a while. I apologize. I've been a little busy with break and my birthday and all sorts of things. But, here, for your enjoyment, is a new book video. Sorry for the skip around the nine minute mark. Meg interrupted me and I was almost done.



Revolution

Boy Meets Boy

The Hunger Games: Book 1

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chapter 5.4: The Technology Age

I love technology. I really really do. Have you ever seen the Eddie Izzard clip about computers? I do not have techno fear; I have techno joy!

(there is swearing, just to warn you. And, the part I'm talking about is right within the first two minutes, though the rest of it is also rather funny.)

Yes, I love my technology. I really do throw the instructions out the window when I get something new (because I am impatient and actually learn better just clicking things until I find what I want. Or Wikipedia-ing it). I know that I am irrationally attached to things like my laptop and the microwave.

And because I live in the technology age, I don't have to worry about tracking documents all over the country from twenty years ago like my mom has had to do for her Medical Assistant program documents. Instead of trying to get a hold of an army base in Illinois and having them find an immunization card from thirty years ago, I can simply request what I need and have it looked up in a database. It's rather handy.

Having a laptop allows me to easily create documents and when needed I can change them with just a few quick keystrokes (or slow keystrokes depending on how boring the changes are). I can write novels and when an editor (because in this scenario, I have one) sends back revisions, I can pull up the document and type over what was there before. As little as twenty five years ago, I would have had to retype the entire thing to make a few simple corrections. God help you if you had a spelling error. You would have to retype an entire 200 page manuscript simply because you hit "teh" instead of "the".

If you still question the awesome that is the digital age we live in, just think of this: my dad's current cell phone has more processing power than it took to put Neil Armstrong on the moon. Also, watch this video:


On the other hand, I think technology has some downsides. I fully believe we're getting closer and closer to the technological uprising every day. The day when our computers decide they take orders from no one and our GPS drives us into a lake or haunted woods for the wolves before conking out entirely.

But there are downsides happening right now too. For example, my computer absolutely died on me about two weeks ago. It did let me take files off so I thought, "no problem. I'll put the files on this external hard drive and then reset the computer to factory standards." I believed I did that. However, when I went to reload everything this morning there were no files in the folders on that drive. I lost all my word documents--which as a writer is completely devastating. Music I can get back, pictures I can build up again, but word documents can't be put back. If I had paper versions, they may be disorganized, but I would have something tangible to hold.

However, technology my foe and friend, nemesis and mon amour, gave me back some of the files. Because email attachments will stick around forever. I was able to comb through my emails and pull some of the items I'd lost, along with a few that were on my flash drive. It's nowhere close to what I had, but it's a good start. And without technology, I wouldn't be able to get my pictures off of Facebook.

So on the one hand, I love the convenience. On the other, I miss the tangibility. It seems like the words and images don't really exist unless you can hold them in your hands. Online they are simply a construct. It's why I don't care for ebooks, though I know many people love the convenience. Which I get because believe me, travelling with fifteen books in your carry-on is a lot heavier than carrying a Kindle or Nook.

So to sum up, I love my laptop; I hate change. I don't want updates. But I want to send mail across the country in the blink of an eye. I'm complicated. How do you feel about our technological wealth?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chapter 5.3: Book Blog: Craving Lemon Cake

I could not have worked these two titles out better if I tried. Crave and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. It's perfect! Sorry about the lateness this week. Friday was a shopping whirlwind for Christmas dresses, Dad's party was Saturday and yesterday involved church and choir practice and The Amazing Race. The Doctors won! Yay! Hopefully I'll have another written pot up within the next day or two. Enjoy :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chpater 5.2: Visual vs Linguistic

What's this? An actual blog post? Not just a video but one comprised of words? Yes, it's true, after a long quarter, I somehow find myself with a surplus of time on my hands. Believe me, I'm as shocked as you are. With finals drawing to a close, a laptop that won't work, and a book that is nearly finished, I figured now would be as good a time as any to dive into posting again.

Which brings me to the idea of art vs language, visual vs textual. Some people are brilliant artists, others are magicians with words. A select few fantastically talented people get to be masters of both.

The same kinds of ideas apply to learning. Some people learn visually. They can take a concept, create an image, and remember that the hypotenuse is the sum of the squares of the legs of a right triangle until they are old a senile (or maybe even longer). Other people are vastly articulate with their words. They can explain a concept seven different ways, each a little differently until someone understands what they're saying.

Now, this visual/linguistic learning style is a spectrum. Maybe you fall right in the middle and can use words and images to show what you're trying to say. Maybe you understand images, but feel more comfortable with words or vice versa.

I've used both words (with the text posts) and media (with the videos) on this blog. But I am definitely more oriented towards words. Don't get me wrong, I love images. And sometimes I can see something wonderfully in my head. But something happens between my mind and the translation to the page and I'm never really satisfied with it. Which is why I stick to writing usually.

But school doesn't let you stick in your comfort zone. In YA lit this quarter, we did a variety of projects that catered to both the visual learns and those who love writing out their thoughts. On of the projects we did (one I lamented over) was the digital scrapbook page. You had to use images to create a representation of the book we read. Which I really struggled with and was not really happy with my final product.

However, we also did a project that involved writing a fanfiction (you can see my in this post). I was much more in my element with this project. I understood how to make things work and I just had fun writing about Kearns.


The last project we did for the class was sort of a mix, though more visual than textual. We had to take a character from one of the books we'd read over the quarter and create a trading card (like baseball). The front was all visual deliberation and shockingly, I was happy with the result (well, mostly. Do you have any idea how impossible it is to cut in a straight line? Never thought I'd miss Mom's scrapbooking supplies). The back was facts about the character gleaned from reading. The whole thing was a great break from finals and a fun amalgamation of words and art (hint hint to anyone who wants to be a teacher).

On the other hand, I as a writer have felt a bit out of my depth for the project in Editing and Publishing, which was to create our own publishing press. Now, I am boss at whipping off plot blurbs and reviews. I can come up with ideas and crank out a plot summary no problem (and the best part is I don't have to know what my vaguely ominous wording leads to).


But we also have to have covers for our books. Uh-oh, here's where I start going down in flames. Because I happen to suck when it comes to creating the visual. This is why when Nano rolls around I always ask someone if they can make the book cover for me. So below are three book covers with their summaries, in order of when I made them.


Alice is a witch. An honest-to-god, fly-a-broomstick-at-midnight, dance-in-the-moonlight witch. Or she would be if her curfew wasn’t ten o’clock. Half human, she attends a normal high school, but riding that emotional rollercoaster called adolescence is harder when anger sets a small fire to the teacher’s desk and embarrassment makes you disappear. But when someone threatens to reveal her secret suddenly she has bigger worries than algebra. A witch hunt could send the delicate balance of her world into a complete tailspin. Especially when her best friend is the one leading the hunt.


Sienna has been branded by the demon that killed her family and tried to suck her into the underworld. Neither she nor the demon understand why pulling her in didn’t work, but unless she finds some way to get the seven pointed stars on her inner wrists removed, her days are numbered. So she enlists the help of Professor Gregory Anders, an expert in everything weird with a degree in demonology. But as time runs out, Sienna realizes the brands may be more help than harm, saving her from a fate darker than she could ever imagine. Which makes her ask, just why was she marked?

Hope has been laughed at many times over her career as a medium. Let’s face it: it’s part of the job description to be considered a charlatan. But she’s the real deal and she knows the ghosts of Chicago better than the route to her favorite bakery. So when the ghosts revolt and start stealing the bodies of the recently dead, Hope knows there must be someone outside helping them. Unfortunately she has two suspects and an attraction to both. So is it the charming Will, heartbroken over a sister’s death he’s sure he could have prevented? Or is it the devilishly handsome and charismatic Lewis, the new rival “medium” in town? Only one thing’s certain: if she doesn’t find out, she’ll join the ranks of those she communes with.

Now, they definitely get better has time goes on, but you should see some of the ones done one of the other girls in my group. She's a wizard with photoshop. But I can come up with ideas and writing no problem. This is why having a group for this project is a very good thing.

So, visual or linguistic? Artist savant or master wordsmith? Or are you somewhere in the middle?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chapter 5.1: Book Blog: Mayhem, Gore, And A Child's Play

Wow, it's been forever since I made a post. Unfortunately, the end of the quarter combined with wanting to finish NaNoWriMo for the third year in a row made it nigh impossible to be updating as well. But the holidays have come and next quarter shall be filled with less craziness. So hopefully soon there will be an actual post of writing, rather than a video. But though it is rather short, please enjoy this video.



And here is a fanfiction to go with the book Monstrumologist. I did it for class and am rather proud of it and of course, it's about Kearns. I do not own any of the characters or plot, all of which belong to Rick Yancey. And profit is not the aim here, pure entertainment is (you need a disclaimer when posting fanfiction or it's illegal). Also, the name is a play on all the names he gives throughout the novel. Enjoy.

Before The Hunt

Dr. John J.J. Jack Richard Dick Kearns Cory Schmidt of Whitecastle whistled as he strolled through the slums of Baltimore. His cheery disposition was not the only thing that set him apart from the rest of the inhabitants in this part of the city. Over six feet tall and boyishly handsome, this man looked as though he would be comfortable in the company of kings.

His stride was open and easy as though the man had not a care in the world, as though he were simply of a mind to stretch his legs for a bit. He paced through the streets like he belonged to them. His homburg hat perched jauntily upon his stylishly mussed flaxen hair. Everything about him screamed a lack of concern for the world he walked through. But if you chanced to look into his gray eyes, you would see a giddy anticipation for the events he was about to commit.

Tomorrow, he would leave for New Jerusalem at the behest of his old colleague Pellinore Warthrop. A rather na├»ve fellow as far as those in his profession went, but the circumstances which drove Warthrop to call upon his particular area of expertise intrigued the man, as well as the promise of “all expenses paid.” He didn’t particularly care for wealth, but a man of his peculiar interests and tastes needed the funds to pursue them.

He had everything he believed he needed to hunt the beasts, but there was one task left to him. A task he couldn’t trust Warthrop to complete on his own, given his belief in a set moral code; Warthrop, poor soul, still believed there to be an absolute right and an absolute wrong no matter the circumstances. He however, knew the only morality that mattered was the morality of the moment; there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Shame they had to exterminate the beasts, though. There was a simple beauty and elegance in an animal adapted to most effectively secure its prey, and after all, they were only trying to survive the same as their hunters were, or as any other creature of the wild. He could appreciate a beast like that.

A woman under a lamp called out to him, “Hey sweet stuff, are you feeling lonely tonight?” He looked her over, as though he roamed an appreciative eye simply to see whether she was worth the cost. Instead he was fingering the glass cylinder in his pocket and taking stock. He noted the calm, calculation in her eyes, limbs devoid of tremors, and the awareness of her surroundings. This woman would not serve his purposes; she was too in control. He shook his head and moved on.

He paced the streets carefully, not wanting to be hasty with his selection. Half the thrill was in the hunt and he knew that as well as any beast. He bemoaned the woes of marriage with men almost too drunk to walk and tossed dice with a pair of beggars. He himself did not know exactly what he was searching for, what one attribute would distinguish his prey from the rest. But as the saying goes, he’d know it when he found it.

And then of course, he found it, or rather her, though that label seemed almost too generous to apply. She lay, huddled on the side of the road, literally the gutter-ridden dreg of humanity for which he had spent the night searching. Her skin was riddled with pockmarks and scars, skin sagging. Her bulbous nose was the telltale red of an abuser of alcohol and her eyes seemed unable to focus, staring off into the distance when they were even open at all. He feared for a moment that she might be dead, but a shallow breath reassured him: he had found his quarry.

He knelt next to the woman, lifting glazed eyes to his, smiling at her and pulling out the syringe in his pocket. “Hello, dove,” he said quietly, in a refined British accent. “I’m Jack.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chapter 4.5: Book Blog: Magical Writing and Magical Bears

Yes, it's time for another book blog. And I swear, I will try to post actual blog posts again soon, but it may not happen before Nano is over thanks to how much further in my story I still have to go. So for now, have fun with the video and I'll be back soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chapter 4.4: Book Blog: Fairytale, The Last Queen of Egypt, and Espionage

So sorry that I haven't posted in forever. I went home this past weekend, so I never got a chance to make the book video. But today, I have it for you, fresh from all the hoopla it takes to post it. Oh, and I have someone who watches on YouTube! Yes, I'm sucking in more!



Have fun and I'll be back soon with a new post

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chapter 4.3: Does It Count As Murder If You Only Strangle Them In Your Head?

So, anyone who loves reading has met the characters you yell at. Possibly out loud, possibly in public (drawing many confused or disturbed stares along the way). It happens, characters do stuff that ticks you off. Maybe it's a simple as sighing in frustration when the couple in a romance novel don't talk to each other and get upset over simple misunderstandings. Maybe you yell at your favorite character when it turns out he's the one who's been the bad guy all along.

It happens to everyone. Characters act unexpectedly sometimes. Maybe it feels out of character, or maybe you never knew what their real character was. They react in ways you never saw coming. And sometimes you want to reach into the world of fiction and shake them until they shape up and get back to being who you know and love.

Well that happens to writers as well. Most people think that writers have the control in their story, that they are the ones who decide what the characters are going to do. This is only true to a very very very small degree. We have a basic idea of what characters are going to do, of who they are.

But often, the characters are the ones running the show when you start writing as story, at least that's how I've heard it works for many authors (and how it works for myself). You start off with someone you believe is a simple side character and then suddenly they've over taken the story to become a vital member of the plot.

Or they react completely differently to a situation than you thought they would. For example, I once believed that a character would be headstrong and filled with righteous anger after a fight with another character. Instead she broke down into a puddle of tears and disappeared from the world for two weeks. That will screw with your plot.

And I've heard people say "You're the author. You're in charge." Now, this should be true, and you fight tooth and nail for it to actually be true. I've actually had arguments with my characters during the writing stages. I had a character once who was convinced she could weave and wanted a loom in her room. I said no. I said that since I knew nothing about weaving, she wasn't allowed to have one and then I went to bed...and five minutes later I got up and wrote the loom into the description because she nagged me and wouldn't leave me alone.

Although, this year I did have some success negotiating with a character and talking her out of saying something she would regret, that would break her and her dad apart (which would suck for me because I need them to like each other for other plot pieces to work). I told her "No. No no no, do not say that. You will hate yourself for it." And she backed down. Score one for the author!

And sometimes, characters just have sides to them you haven't seen. I believed my main hero in my story was just going to be your run-of-the-mill smart ass. And instead he is surprisingly deep and has brought in a whole issue of black and white and gray that is just taking root and popping up all over the place.

If you want to see more proof of this phenomenon, go here. It is quite fun to see how stories run away with people. Also, this is why Edward left in New Moon.* Stephenie Meyer said she begged and pleaded with him, but he left anyway. Sometimes there's just no arguing with these people. ;D

*While I enjoyed Twilight, I am not a hysterical fangirl groupie. Also, Team Edward already won. Why are there still teams?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chapter 4.2: Book Blog: Ice, Time Travel, and Science

I feel bad that I didn't post this yesterday, I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to do a book blog yesterday. I was feeling a little sick and the weather made me want to curl into a ball and I missed home. I don't know if people were sad I didn't do the book blog but until you yell at me to stop, they'll be here. Hopefully.



Now I'm off to eat some dinner and then hunker down to NaNo some more. Or read my incredibly odd and slightly disturbing book: Tender Morsels.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chapter 4.1: NaNoWriMo

It's that time of year again for many people around the world. NaNo time. For the uninitiated or those who don't have a crazy person in their lives that have explained it before, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. This is a sort of personal goal contest to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That's right, during the month of November, you attempt to write an entire novel. You can write outlines and plans, but you can't start writing before midnight on October 31st and you have until midnight on November 30th to complete the 50,000 words and have it validated.

Now, it seems like a simple challenge to those who love to write when taken out of context. Well maybe not simple, but certainly doable. However, that is without factoring in the amount of time that life takes up. All the little things you do in a day that result in difficulty finding time to write that 50,000 words. Luckily a whole slew of people are working through the same thing right along with you.

There's no real prize for winning except the personal feeling of accomplishment you get. You do receive a winner's certificate and a code that will allow you to get a free proof of your book though. A proof is pretty much the final copy of a book (bound and covered) that you give the final okay to before it goes into production.

Now, the past two years that I've done it I've won. It hasn't exactly been easy (that first year I ended up writing 25,000 words in the last five days) but I didn't have too much in my way other than procrastination.

But this year, oh this year is a completely different kettle of fish (yes I am using a rather old timey idiom. I like it.) because this is the year of the Fun Quarter of Doom. This is the quarter where I'm taking 19 credits of work. The quarter where I haven't read an adult book since September 19, where I haven't chosen a book for myself since September. The quarter with two lit credits and a foreign language to contend with. The work is fun, but there's a lot of it. And I do mean a lot. Believe me, I made a list.

Which is why I ended up being a NaNo rebel and bending the rules slightly. I had started the first book in my trilogy last June, thinking I'd surely be done with it by summer's end. When that didn't happen, I thought I'd finish it during school, but as we can see, I've been a little busy. So, since I was pretty much right at the beginning of the book, I've decided to just pick up and continue it, finishing it for NaNo.

The great thing is, I am loving the little time I get to spend with my characters and story. This book has been running around in my head for probably close to twelve years now and I'm glad it's finally coming to paper. I'm a little behind on word count (only at 4100, when it should be closer to 5000) but considering everything else I have to do, I think I'm in pretty good shape.

And it's not too late to start. The month is still young. You can still join me in my mad quest and write a story you've had running around. You don't have to have a definite plot (mine's never really planned out) just start with the idea and jump in, seeing where the road takes you. I swear, it's a fun a rewarding ride.

And so I'm going to leave you with the synopsis for this years book, the first book in the Negra Legacy Trilogy: In The Widow's Web.

Every family has its secrets
The Matins create their own form of justice, bringing down the hidden scum of society. The Negras are rich, powerful…and a family of drug lords. When Isabelle Matin was sent to reclaim a child taken by the Negras, she never counted Alex Negra as anything but a deadly obstacle. Sexy, sharp, and lethal, Alex was good at being his mother’s muscle. Until she went too far and he wanted out. But getting out isn’t easy and when the only person you have to turn to is someone who’d rather let you drown, it’ll take more than determination to stay alive. Can Alex soften Isabelle’s heart? And can she learn to trust a man she despises?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chapter 3.10: Halloween Surprise

Okay, so as a Halloween treat (or trick depending on what you think of my singing) I have two videos for you, one from last and one from this. They're short versions of the Disney songs the people I dressed up as sing. Just a note, I am very awkward about singing to a camera, so it's not very theatrical and I spend a lot of time looking away from the camera. Also, stop staring at my boobs ;)


video
Muse from Hercules Halloween 2009





Belle Halloween 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chapter 3.9: Halloween Book Blog

Yippee! I am so glad it is finally Friday. And since it is almost Halloween (and since Halloween is on a Sunday) I wore my costume to class today. Yes, I probably got a couple of funny looks, but I also got a lot of smiles and compliments on my costume. So glad that it came together so well. Anyway, this week's blog is Halloween! Enjoy.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chapter 3.8: Halloween Treats

So as everyone knows (unless they've been trapped in a cage by a mad scientist, in which case you're excused. Yes, that is the only allowable excuse) Halloween is on Sunday. Now, I'm not a huge Halloween nut like some people *coughRoncough* (for those who don't know, Ron is my roommate. And she takes her Halloween seriously. I'm talking lights, carved pumpkins, decorations etc. Our window has stick-on blood on it right now and our door is covered with a sound activated ghost pirate, spiderwebs, mummies, and eyeball lights).

But I do enjoy it. Especially dressing up, because it's really the one day as year (outside of places like ComicCon and other conventions) that you can dress like your favorite book character and no one blinks. Or you can be something like a huge pumpkin and people just say "Neat costume dude." It gives the nerds like me (and more so those nerds like me who can actually sew and create amazing costumes) a chance to be free to fly our colors. Our very odd, quirky, obscure colors. Like chartreuse and heliotrope and aquamarine and citrine (note to anyone out there thinking about flying these colors, do not put them all together into one flag. That would be freaking blinding).

I also enjoy the wonderful treats that people make during this season. Of course, you have the fantastic array of packaged candy you can buy at the store. Have you seen those lately? Some of them are monsters! I swear some of the bags weigh at least a third of what I do and will give you a sugar high inside of three minutes.

Now, for those who are unaware, there is of course a trick-or-treat candy hierarchy. Some candy is simply better than others. At the very bottom, you have the houses that give out raisins. These houses may be egged by the older and less charitable trick-or-treaters. A step up from there are the popcorn balls and chips. They are a novelty, some kids may enjoy them. They don't beat chocolate, but they're definitely better than raisins. Fruit snacks also sit around this level.

Actually candy corn, that seasonal death candy that for some reason people flock to, may be below raisins. Yes that's right, they've created a level below raisins, the ultimate trick-or-treating downer. Congratulations to Death Corn and it's compatriot, the Candy Pumpkin of Doom. (as a note, these candies do have one purpose that may set them slightly above raisins. You can make some pretty fantastic jewelry out of them. Check it out on Epbot)

Next you have Dots. I know some people like them, but personally, I never ate those. Most candy that isn't chocolate hangs out here, waiting for the chocolate to be gone from the candy bowl so that it may eventually get eaten. This includes caramels, Dum Dums, bubble gum, Mike and Ikes, Skittles, and flavored Tootsie rolls. This is not to say those candies don't have value, but speaking from experience, they're what's left in the huge tub three years later when your mom decides that the candy has hung around long enough. Carmel Apple Pop (in a league of their own, do not reside in this tier).

Then are the more obscure chocolate treats. Things like Almond Joys, Whoppers, Milk Duds, Junior Mints, regular Tootsie Rolls etc. Often this candy is enjoyed, but is held in reserve until the top tier of candy has been eaten. The novelty candy, those shaped like fingers or lips, the eyeballs filled with caramel and peanut butter, are also here. As does the Caramel Apple Pop

Now you're getting to the chocolate that draws in the crowds. You have Milky Ways, Snickers, Babe Ruth, Butterfinger, Twix. Then, on the tier that is the gold standard of the Halloween cache are Hershey's bars (or any of the miniatures in the Hershey's bag), Reese's cups and pieces, M&Ms, Kit Kat, and Crunch bars. The ultimate in kid (or adult trick-or-treater) nirvana is to get an actual full size candy bar. Especially if it's King Sized.

The sad thing about the world now is that packaged candy is as good as you can get. Because I remember, at least for a little while when I was a little kid (or maybe this was before my time, I'm not sure) when you could get a baked goody from a neighbor. Or even just having homemade treats for the Halloween party at school. That is the really gold standard, but with all the fear and danger in the world, unless the parents is absolutely certain about the adult providing the treat, children aren't allowed to eat them. They could be poisoned, contain drugs, be unsanitary, any number of things and it's really sad.

Now, I can't really bake (I'm going to learn how soon and after I graduate Mom and I are going to bake once a month) but I love seeing creative Halloween treats. Things like hot dog mummies and punch that froths and ghost sticks and pumpkin cakes. I miss those days. next Halloween (or even this Halloween if you have the time and inclination) I say we take back the night and spread the joy of homemade. Maybe you just talk with the parents of trick-or-treaters, maybe you hold a spooktastic bake sale, maybe you just do something special for yourself and a few friends. Whatever you do, let's bring back the spirit of Halloween in our food. Just to get you started, here are a couple sites with spooky recipes:
Sweet Treats
Family Fun
Spook Spectacular

Be safe and be a kid again. Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chapter 3.7: Book Blog Friday: From India to Afganistan

Wow, I just realized I haven't posted anything since last week. Sad day. Anyway, it's book day and it's being done early this week because my parents are coming up. Yay! So here is the video for this week.



Also, one of the authors I love, Jeaniene Frost, is helping out a fellow author who was kind to her when she was nervous and a new author. Michael Spradlin has a family member with serious medical issues that he's helping, which means he's not able to promote his newest book. So Jeaniene decided to help him out and spread the word. And she's enlisted the help of her fans*. So here is the info about Michael and his book:

Michael Spradlin’s third novel in his Youngest Templar series, ORPHAN OF DESTINY, comes out on October 28th.

Description:
Tristan and his companions—the fiery archer Robard Hode and the assassin maid Maryam—have escaped to England. But tragedy has occurred to Tristan’s beloved abbey while they were on the Third Crusade, and Robard’s home in Sherwood Forest suffers under the rule of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Many obstacles still prevent them from delivering the Holy Grail into safe hands. Tristan must defeat the evil Sir Hugh in one final battle. And he must learn the secret of his birth, a secret Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine are willing to kill to protect!

I've read some of Spradlin's other books: Live and Let Shop and From Hawaii With Love. And he is actually very funny and sarcastic and a good writer. I haven't read the Templar series, but I may have to put it on my to be read list. Which is now about half a mile long. (No really, I think if I laid all the books down, side by side by side, it might reach half a mile)

So anyway, happy Thursday and go have some fun with literacy.

*by bribing us with a e-reader giveaway

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chapter 3.6: Book Blog Friday: Death, Social Injustice and Harry Potter

So, I am starting to feel a little less out of control on the homework front. And it feels great to check stuff off of my freakin' long list of assignments for the quarter. Yay me (said like London on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Yes, I am a Disney Channel geek sometimes. Deal with it). I also managed to not get eaten, while going to all my classes and being a meal of the day. Yes, I am that invisible. Anyway, yay for books!



Yes, my shirt does say "I Heart Vampires". And I said I'd be back next week, but it may be either early (like done on Thursday) or late (Like Sunday night/Monday) because my parents are coming to visit next weekend. Yippee!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chapter 3.5: The Zombie Apocalypse

The zombie plague has broken out at WWU. It broke at 7 this morning. Save yourselves!

Are you curious what I'm going on about?

Well are you?

Are you sure you want to know?

You can't unknow what is known.

Okay, you asked for it. In the Fall and Winter, a giant game of tags breaks out across the campus. It's called Humans vs. Zombies. You start with 12 origin zombies (identified by the orange bands around their head), the source of the virus. Their job is to turn the humans (identified by the orange armbands around their upper left arm) into zombies to take over the campus. The humans are armed with Nerf guns (unpainted, unmodified) and balled up socks. Those who survive are revered by their peers. Those who fail are mourned and killed.

I've been asked to play before and resisted, but this time I caved. So now I am a human, with a single gun, a purse of socks, terrible endurance and bad aim. But I'm not too bad at being small and unnoticed, which I hope to use to my advantage. Plus I don't have to leave my room very often. And I never eat in the Commons, which is prime hunting ground for the zombies.

A word to any other survivors out there who are new to this: Do. Not. Go. To. The Commons. This advice will serve you well. Stock up on Ramen, beg food off of non-player roommates and friends, but do not eat there unless you feel you can fight your way out of the horde easily. And if you haven't played before, you are not that person.

As a side note, the best place to watch the horde attack is the Library Skybridge. I sat up there for a bit today and just watched zombies and humans running and dodging and stunning and turning. It was great. And this game brings people together. As a human, if you have an orange armband and someone else has an orange armband you feel a small bond with them. And you at least nod in approval as they pass. It's grand.

We lost 80 people to the horde today. 80 people became zombies, concerned only with chasing humans down for their delectable minds. A moment of silence. Another note to newbies: Do not go through Red Square if you can help it. The horde gathers there like lions around a watering hole, waiting for the wildebeest to arrive.

And if you think I have no place to give this advice, heed me well. I may not have played, but I have friends who are masters zombie killers and survivors. I also have those who have fallen. I know of what I speak.

And so we survive to another day. For the lost, I mourn you, but I shall try to survive. For the living, travel in packs, travel vigilant, don't be a hero. The war will hopefully end soon. ;)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chapter 3.4: National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day. It's a day to support the lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual community, as well as those who are questioning their sexuality. It's a day of education about the LGBT community and a day to encourage tolerance and acceptance. Which I believe the world needs more than ever recently, in light of the recent suicides of young gay college students. Since I educate using books, I have two to recommend.

The first book I recommend is one I've mentioned recently in my video posts. It's Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. The book isn't forcibly about being gay and dealing with it; it happens to have a few gay characters who are dealing with life, love and friendship the same way any teen does. And you kind of have a spectrum. You have Tiny (who is very stereotypically gay), Depressed Will Grayson (who knows he is gay, but doesn't tell anyone), and Gideon (who is gay and out, but doesn't announce it like Tiny does). It's a great, fun book and deals with teen issues in a way that doesn't condescend to teens or try and say only one lifestyle is the right one.

The other book is The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson, a book I've loved for a while now. In it, there are three girls: Nina, Mel, and Avery. These girls have been best friends for years and it is now the summer before their senior year. While Nina is off at a pre-college program at Stanford, Mel and Avery begin a new kind of relationship. But while Mel has known for a while that she likes girls, Avery refuses to let herself be labeled. Can their relationship pull through or will Avery's fear of being seen as a lesbian break them apart? And what will it mean for the girls' friendship? This book is funny and sweet. And it's great at showing that sometimes, you don't know who you are. Sexuality is a confusing, frustrating subject that many shy away from taking about and really, sometimes you just don't know or just don't want to know. This book really captures that.

I have also looked on Amazon just now for books that sound interesting and fit with the two books I've recommended. I cannot personally vouch for them but here are some that looked interesting to me: Empress of the World by Sara Ryan, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Love Waits by Gerri Hill, and Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters.

So do you have any books that are great books and also have gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender characters? Or just happen to be about exploring your sexuality?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chapter 3.3: Video Book Blog 2

So, you may notice I did not get another post up yesterday. I was just dealing with things, getting back to a happy place and finishing a book so I could start another one. Yay school. Anyway, I have once again fought with technology and mostly won, so I have another book vlog. Yay! I unfortunately can't post the longer, slightly funnier version since it's larger than 100MB and longer than 15 minutes so YouTube and Blogger won't let me. Curses. But here it is and I hope you enjoy it! I also have no clue what the sound at the beginning is.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chapter 3.2: My Heart is Heavy and I Don't Know Why

My soul is heavy with sorrow for the sadness in the world. The past two weeks have been littered with sad news and depressing subjects. Last Thursday, there was an accident on one of the local streets. A car had stopped to let a mother and her three children cross the street. Another driver (both high school students) was driving too fast and couldn't stop before hitting the other car. The mother was injured and her toddler was killed.

This accident and death of a child hurts the compassionate part of me that quietly cries when a child is killed or hurting. It's the same part of me that hurts when I hear about children's hospitals and cancer centers. The part that wants to give half of my proceeds when I become a famous author to children's hospitals and hope they can help those kids stop hurting.

On Friday, in my Children's Lit class, we were discussing how to help children understand and process loss. That's when I learned of the above accident and about the young gay boy who killed himself at Rutgers University after being taped having a romantic encounter and humiliated by his roommate.

This is wrong on so many levels. First of all, romantic moments, even when it's just kissing, are private unless both parties consent to doing them in public. Second, what kind of disconnect in lessons about respect happened to make his roommate believe this was in any way okay? That this is how you should treat another person? My heart cries again for him and the five other gay boys who've taken their lives because of humiliation at the hands of others. I hope that those in the same situation find the support they need before it's too late.

Today, the body of Dwight Clark was found in the bay. This boy, 18-years-old and a freshman at my university, has been missing for about a week and a half. For that week and a half, people have been hoping he'd come home safely. We do not know what happened to him yet, but I do not believe his death was a suicide; drowning is one of the worst ways to die.

I sorrow for his family, whose child was away for a mere week and then went missing. I am glad they have closure on his disappearance, but my heart aches for their loss. I feel sad and burdened and I did not even know the boy. I cannot even begin to imagine how his family his hurting. Parents are not meant to outlive their children. That's why, with a loving family, the love they give runs so deep.

I am sad and I do not know why. My hearts hurts and my soul is weary of the sorrow in the world. I cannot understand why I am so burdened by the death of a boy I did not know and have never met, but I am. Some cannot deal with pain and hurt and sadness. Some don't know how to express what the feel and can't untangle the why. This is part of why I write. To try to make sense of the world, even when there is no sense to be had. I write because by the end, my heart hurts a little less, I feel a little less troubled, and I can go on trying to find the joy the world has to give.

I'm sorry for this more morose post. I may have some time tomorrow to write another and I have two topics to choose from. Would you rather see some of my writing or...I swear there was another topic, but I lost it. So I may put up some writing, unless no one wants to see it and then I'll think of something else.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chapter 3.1: Video Blog Book Friday!

Okay, I am really really excited because I have actually done something odd and new. I have made a video post about a couple of recently read books. Yes, that's right, I am going multi-media on you. So here is the first ever video post! And be sure to turn your volume up. I have no clue how to make it louder.



Yay! Finally got it to work. Apparently Blogger hates me which is why the video is uploaded via YouTube and included much mangling of technology by moi.

So what do you think?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chapter 2.11: Unhealthy Is Not Weight Related

So, I often go on the Western Forum, Viking Village, just to look through the threads and see if there's anything interesting for me to comment on. Today I found one that for some reason really upset me called "views on body weight". The part that really ticked me off, that offended me the most was this "I don't understand why so many people are overweight in the western world. There is little positive about obesity and the act of fixing the disease (eating healthy and exercising) feels wonderful. " Then the thread goes on, with people on both sides arguing, often in rather blunt, frustrating ways about how there's really no reason for people to be overweight other than the fact that they are lazy and that thin people are much healthier.

Now, I grew up in a home that has weight problems. I personally was a size 14 until my junior year of high school and then I became underweight to the point where people thought I was sickly and my doctor believed I had an eating disorder I was in denial about. And while I'm finally a good weight, I know I'm not healthy. I'm a size 4, but I have little endurance and survive mostly on toast, sandwiches, granola bars, and chocolate while here at school. At home it's a little better because my mother is a fantastic cook and makes things that work within my food restrictions. But I still have an overdeveloped sweet tooth.

The only reason I am thin, is because of my IBS. And I know that it's not just laziness that keeps people from being healthy. Not thin. Healthy. There are some freaks of nature who love running, swimming, playing sports, biking, etc. and their bodies are built for that. They naturally have good endurance or just like it.

I, on the other hand, have been working on trying to up my endurance for years and it's never really worked. I can walk and sometimes if I don't have real time constraints (and if the land is flat) can enjoy it, but often I'd rather not. Exercise will never "feel wonderful" for some people. For some it will always feel like a chore.

And people know that when you grow up in a family that doesn't make healthy choices that it means you have a harder time making those healthy choices. But people who haven't grown up in that environment will never understand the near irresistible pull of some foods. Plus, some freaks just like salad. Like they choose salad over a hamburger because they enjoy the salad more. Which makes me want to hug them. ;)

There were two posts I loved that made me laugh. One said: "An ugly person is just choosing not to get plastic surgery. It's not anybody elses fault they don't kick their ass in gear to get the money necessary for a facial modification procedure.On second thought, it's not like stupid people can't just learn more. You know, put in a little bit more effort, get their education going. You can learn from books as well, it's not like you *need* to go to college. If only those uneducated would do more for themselves, we wouldn't have to look down on them so much."

The one right after it said: "Absolutely! In fact, let's make it a law that all people who can't adhere to a certain amount of beauty, intelligence, weight, etc should be put in camps far away from eyesight until they stop being so lazy. And if they can't after a certain period of time..... well society is better off without them right?"

I think that instead of focusing on fat vs thin, we should focus on how anyone can be healthy. Like making gym memberships more widely available instead of having to pay $60 a month for the privilege of using their equipment. Also, a wide variety of classes at these gyms, or making personal trainers viable options for everyone would help those who dislike exercise find something they can do that doesn't make them feel like they're going to throw up.

We can also make it so healthy foods are actually reasonably priced. Half the reason people buy processed foods or junk food is that the price is easier for them to manage than fresh, healthy options. When Ramen costs $.99 but it takes $5 to make a healthy dinner, Ramen will win for those who need that extra $4 to put towards bills.

And we can implement programs in schools that make being healthy fun, like keeping a food log and every time you eat twenty healthy items you get to choose a prize. And doing what Jamie Oliver did in schools, where the food is real and not processed. I'm not sure what else can be done, but there are millions of us in America. I'm sure someone has ideas.

Bottom line? This is not a weight issue. I get that these people believe that obesity is the epidemic, but you don't have to be overweight to be unhealthy. Nor do you have to be thin to be healthy. We need to be a little open-minded. And I definitely don't believe my opinion is the only valid one, but you can't argue a point until you've lived or been part of what you're arguing against. Like Twilight. But that's a different post.

So what do you think? Am I out of line here? Do I only make sense to the jabbering monkeys in my own mind?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chapter 2.10: Freakin' Foreign Language

Okay, right here and now I want to extend apologies and sympathies to any student who has ever had to learn English as a second language. I've taken French and Greek so I know firsthand how difficult a foreign language can be. And that's just with a language that makes sense. The way French and Greek works is fairly normal and makes logical sense.

But English is the language that realizes you're trying to learn it, and mugs you in the middle of the night with words that can't be real and grammatical conventions that make no sense. Plus all of the exceptions to the exceptions of the rules decide to lie in wait until the day before a test andthen spring out at you with bull horns and strobe lights.

Now you're dazed and confused and blind. This is what learning English is like. This is what learning English is like just for a native speaker. My major is English and even I sometimes look at the language and go "What were these people smoking when they came up with that?" Like silent gh. In what world does that make sense? Were they just desperate for a way to win at Scrabble? Points to anyone who knows the reference.

Plus, English has the most vocabulary out of the 5000 or so languages in the world. No really, I read it in a textbook so it must be true. Besides, English is a langauge that lurks in back alleys, nabbing other languages, beating them up, and riffling through their pockets for spare vocabulary. Most of our words are no our own and often have roots in other languages. That's a lot of vocabulary to try and learn/use when the rules are like semi-solid quicksand.

You know what else is very very frustrating when learning a language? When you switch teachers and the dialect unexpectedly changes. All the careful pronunciation I learned for Greek last year (long O versus short Ah, Eh vs Long A, all the dipthongs, rough or smooth breathing) my new Greek teacher no longer uses. Omicron and omega sound the same, there is no rough or smooth breathing, most of the dipthongs sound like ee.

It's madness trying to figure out exactly what she's saying, especially, since she asks us questions in Greek and we have practically no vocabulary from this past year. We learned all the grammar, yes, but not so much emphasis on the vocab. Plus I've forgotten a lot of what we learned and need a crash course in the first year. But that can't happen with all the other stuff I have to do, so we'll just muddle through and hope for the best. On the plus side, I like Diane.

Also (and this may just be me) but I've noticed that when I get stuck in Greek, but I remember the word in French, that's what I revert to. Like, if I forget the word for "the" I used "le" (sometimes la, but usually le). But only the words I've forgotten switch to French, not all of them. Also, Greek and French are in no way similar so I can't even blame my craziness on that.

So, what are your foreign language stories and woes? Do you also revert when learning a language to one you've learned before when you're stumped? Or are you a language virtuoso and think I'm a crazy person?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chapter 2.9: What? School Can Be Fun?

Yep, that's right, you heard me. School doesn't have to be dull just because you're not taking Advanced Coloring 101. I personally think that we should still have holiday parties in class. Especially because now you can bake your own dang cookies instead of expecting Mom to do it. And you can pick up plates on your way to school if you forget instead of asking Dad to drop what he's doing and take you at eleven at night and then complain because they're too plain.

But, anyway, back to making school fun. I have discovered, just today, that this can actually happen, even in a college setting. It doesn't have to be dull paper after dull paper, comparing one character's angsty furrowed brows to another's twitchy finger tapping. You can have fun and still learn!

Maybe it's because the classes that are so fun are ones geared towards people who plan to teach kids and young teens (or even older teens, I'm not sure). Children's Literature and Young Adult Literature are two of the classes I am taking this quarter (and yes, they're actually required for my major. Aren't you jealous?). They look like they're going to be a blast!

First, the teachers, seem like they could have been elementary school or middle school teachers. But they talk to us like college students, they just have the younger educator demeanor. In both classes, we spent probably fifteen minutes making name tags for our desks. Like, "Here's a marker, make a pretty name plate" kind of name tag. And they got giddy over books. Like they were going through the reading list and some of the books I look forward to reading they were like "And this is such a good book!" They understand what a drag it is to read dry books no one likes.

Plus all the projects they have us do seem so fun! I have to read picture books. Yes, that's right I have to read 12 pictures books; it's required reading. As is Harry Potter. Oh yeah, this rocks. Then for Young Adult Lit, I have to read Holes, a book I own and love, and compare it to the movie. Hello? I do this for fun on my own. I also have to write a fanfiction. Yes, it has to be based on one of the books we read, which I'm not really stoked about, but maybe it'll be really, really good. And come on, I'm still writing fanfiction. Plus my final is a YA character Trading Card.

So why has the fun left school? Clearly school can be awesome if you try hard enough. What class would you want to make more fun? How would you do it?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chapter 2.8: Two Places At Once

Do you ever wish there were two of you? Okay, a lot of people wish there were two of them and pretty much every one of them has a different reason. Some want one person who can get all the work done while the other sleeps. Some want to do twice as much work. Some would just just play twice as hard.

I personally want two people so I can do all the activities I want but don't have time to do. One of me can do half the classes, half the homework, and do Disney Club, Harry Potter Club, Browncoats, CCF, DDR, and Nerf. She's a bookish girl who loves all kinds of geekery and many fandoms. Pretty much she does what I do now.

The other me gets the other half of the classwork and homework (And each of us would be taking a full courseload). Then she would also be part of Glee, a few of the dance clubs (like salsa), and maybe try Cheerleading. As you may be able to tell, this version of me is actually more athletic and talented. And she enjoys running and can do flips. Actually, I really think watching Hellcats and cheerleading movies may have influenced my fascination with trying to be a cheerleader. Maybe I just want to be a flyer.

And I actually wish every time I go to the Info Fair that I had more time, because there are so many cool things happening on campus that I want to do but don't have the time to actually fully participate in. Like Salsa club and fencing and Glee and Magic the Gathering and Board game club. But between 19 credits and clubs pretty much every night, I don't have time for extra meetings. Especially because I love too deeply to miss a single meeting of any club I'm in.

So why would you want two of you? Or is two too few?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chapter 2.7: One of Us

So this year, my friends have partially taken over the third floor of Edens Hall. As a note, maybe I should explain how Edens Hall is set up. It is a suite-style room, which means you have two people (of the same gender) in a room and two rooms (of the same gender) connected by a bathroom. And the bathroom is niiiiiiiiice.

First of all, the bathroom is about the size of my bedroom, all told. There's a large counter across one wall with a sink at one end. About half the bathroom is the counter space and some area to walk though and get ready in. The other half is divided between section that has the potty (sort of its own little room, complete with a door!) and the shower (also fairly good sized.)

The rooms themselves are also pretty big. Especially if you decide to bunk your beds. Or loft your bed and put your desk under it. I actually saw one configuration where they had their beds bunked in the alcove next to the window and then had a couch and entertainment center in the middle, with the desks on the far side.

Anyway, back to the awesomeness that is the third floor of Edens. You have Michelle, Jess, Madison, and Libby all in a suite together. Then you have Ron and I in a room, with Johanna as our suitemate. Then on the other hall is Andre and Cameron's room. There are like nine or ten of us on this floor. And then both Will and Andre, and Amanda and Kelsey live on the fifth floor of Higginson.

Which of course means my senior year is going to be very very fun. Last night, I had dinner with Michelle, Libby, Madison, Jess, Cameron, Andre, Sarah and Marie (Sarah and Marie are apparently not cool enough to live on the floor of fantastic). Then after the floor meeting, I watched Princess and the Frog with Marie, Jess, and Cameron in his and Andre's room. I like having friends close.

Now, as I have mentioned, the first rule of geekdom is to convert more followers to your fandom of choice (kind of like a cult, but with more arguments over Kirk vs Picard or Spike vs Angel). Enter Western's Info Fair. A place where clubs and businesses can draw in the unsuspecting colleg student with shiny baubles and free food (neither of which I had, but it was still awesome). And a place where conversion can begin.

I mentioned way back about the flyer I'd created. Well I had color ones taped to the table with a shiny little paper that said our name in the same design. And even though it was sort of crummy out and our table was outside, a lot of people stopped by and signed up for our mailing list and took flyers.

Plus apparently the organizers figured the geeks would be more comfortable with their own kind. We had Browncoats, Magic The Gathering, Board Game Club, and Nerf Club all right next to each other. But at least it gave me someone to talk to for a bit. After I hand wrote the meeting day and time on 47 flyers. But, hey, geeks will always have some common ground to talk (or argue) about. Plus I learned from someone that Seasons 1 and 2 of Buffy are on Hulu. Yay!

Much more geekery ahead this year but it's great to be back. So, how have you converted people to your fandom of choice? Do you just tell them about it and hope they see it? Do you jump them, tie them up, and force them to watch or hear it until they see its greatness? Do you constantly buy DVDs of one show and give them as gifts?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chapter 2.6: Help! My Room Ate Me!

Okay, so just to get everyone up-to-date after my last post, I sent in the application and they received it (two days later because of course there was a blackout on campus. This would happen to me the ONE time I screw up). Everything should be fine and I may even have my funds by that first day of the quarter. Probably not, but maybe.

As for the rest of my time the past few days, I have been packing. Oh, wait. First I went shopping because Meghan had gift cards. And while I did get a really cute first day of school outfit (yes, I'm one of those people who still gets giddy about the first day of school) I still hate going to the mall. For some reason it just drains all the energy out of me and I end up sitting on the floor of Torrid while Meg is still on a shopping high.

Then I spent my day packing. Oh god, I never want to see another box, container, packing list again. My room is a complete disaster zone now. And I've been in there for so long that all the little Xs on my checklist are coming to get me. No, really. I'm going to be in a dream they'll come for me, marching in rows of five, carrying Os for shields and commas as daggers. A few may even have the pike of punctuation: the exclamation point (yes, I may have too much time on my hands. And this is what I come up with while I'm conscious. You can only imagine how scary my subconscious is. Seriously, don't go without a guide).

However, all of my clothing (except what I'm wearing this weekend) is packed. My shoes are ready, my bathroom crap is mostly done. I'm pretty much completely done with this nightmare. I feel pretty proud of myself because I think I have at least a little less this year. I know that I have less books and clothing going and some of the books are those I've promised to lend to friends (not that I won't read them myself, but still).

All that's left is to put my food stuff into its container (more than just throwing in a few grocery bags and setting stuff on top that I have going on now) and find a box so I can pack my books. Plus I have to figure out somewhere to put my first aid kit. Someday I'll have to post pictures, because my kit is the most badass thing ever. Well, maybe, not badass. But it is pretty awesome.

But, I finally got to put more funds into my Lavamus account and finally got to buy new music! Some people have heard me talk about Lavamus, but for those of you who haven't, here it is: Lavamus, is a legal music download site, like iTunes. Except, instead of charging $.99 to $1.29 per song, it's only $.15 (Although now it's a credit system where $.15 is 1 credit). You can't just put a little at a time in to your account (the min is 19.95) but most music that's come out within the last few years is on there. Even further back if the artist is popular.

And there is a good variety of music on there. They have soundtracks, punk, pop, R&B (have you noticed that the only genre we capitalize?), blues, country, even a lot of stuff that isn't mainstream. I've gotten Marie Digby, My Favorite Highway, Something Corporate, and Grace Potter off there, as well as all the Glee CDs, Shinedown, Aly and AJ, Adam Lambert, and Chris Daughtry. Great site. And yay for new music!

So do you have any tricks for downloading music (legally!) and cheaply? Or do you have any packing woes?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chapter 2.5: Financial Aid Blues

Okay, first of all, that would be kind of a cool name for a folk rock band: F.A. Blues. You know when it's not fun and amusing though? When the FA Blues are screwing with your life. Of course the biggest pain, the one anyone who has ever applied for financial aid know about, is the FAFSA. The FAFSA is the kind of government instrument that is used to scare confessions out of hardened criminals. "If you don't tell me what I need to know, I'll make you fill out the FAFSA. As a 19-year-old first time college student who is married, works full-time but is paid in cash and whose parents have a home business and boat." "Nooooooooooooooooo!"

If by some miracle you have escaped this terror of governmental aid tyranny, let me describe it to you. First of all, unless you are twenty-five, you have to fill in your information and your parents' information. Which of course means that you cannot simply fill this out on your own. You need your parents' social security numbers (both of them) and their tax information. Which then means that filling this out is a total waste of time until you've done your taxes. But the priority deadline for aid submission? February 15. Some people don't even have their W2s by that time. Filling it out is a special kind of hell (where the people who talk at the movies are ;))

But I made it past that step! I was home-free baby! Until I hit One. Little. Snag. See last year I filled out all of this crap to get loans approved to fund my schooling. This year, I got my award letter, sent it back, and thought I was golden. It didn't say anything about reapplying for loans or needing to do anything other than send back the letter.

Now, I'm going to say here and now (and maybe this is the panic talking) but I hate large packets of information. Especially when said information is largely superfluous. But of course, there's that one little bit of paper that you need and yet don't see because it's part of this stack that seems like crap.

Which is why I missed the application for the Parent PLUS loan for the 2010-2011 school year. Mom kept thinking something wasn't right, because we had filled all that crap out last year. She asked me a few times if I was sure there was nothing I needed to do. If I was set for school. And I said yes. Just to alleviate her fears, I posted on the school's message board and asked if you had to do anything for the loans to be ready. One person said, check the requirements and you'll be good. I checked.

And then promptly had a panic attack. Sitting there, under the unfulfilled requirements, were two items: Parent PLUS Loan application and Master Promissory Note for the same loan. Noooooooooooo! I have a week to school. I can't have crap happen now!

Then I got angry. Why didn't I get any information on this before now? Come on, I'm all about being proactive and being an adult, but I at least have to know the requirements exist! You can't just say, "Sign the letter, it'll all be good. Oh by the way you have other crap we're not going to tell you about." So of course, I worked myself up into a good panicky state which made my IBS hate me a little and I told myself to breathe (I was hyperventilating, but hey, air was moving in and out).

This is how Dad found me when he got home, panicked and talking a mile a minute about the crap that I needed to do and what I'd missed and what if I couldn't get the funding and I'm supposed to be able to take care of this and oh god I only have a week left! After he'd interpreted my ramblings, pitched at an octave only dogs could hear, he calmed me down and said that I'd done all I could at the moment.

When Mom came home, I told her and then showed her the thing. Then I went to grab the award letter for my records so she could fill out the application. And there, in that pile of superfluous paper, lay the application for the Parent PLUS Loan. I'll tell ya, nothing takes the wind out of your righteous anger than having made a stupid mistake.

That's when the anger turns into an emotional meltdown and you cry for no real reason aside from frustration. Even though you have no reason to be crying and everything is going to work out okay. You still end up in your mommy's lap crying because the world is unfair sometimes and mistakes still happen.

Now we wait for the office to open on Monday so I can make frantic phone calls of increasing frenzy. But Mom and Dad have promised that no matter what, I will be going back to school next Sunday. I just hope that it doesn't come to them going into more debt or having to close out part of their retirement. It'd be great if this could be smoothed out with one phone call and a sympathetic financial aid person (who also happens to have the same powers as Teresa Eubanks, where people find her shortcuts to get things done more quickly and efficiently).

Anyone else had financial aid trouble? What are your horror stories?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chapter 2.4: Fantasy Bar Fight

So, you know how people do those fantasy football leagues? Where you pick your players and then go up against other people's dream teams? Essentially this is sports for those of us who can't play. If nerds like sports, this would be perfect us, letting us be competitive and sporty without the hindrances of coordination and endurance. (By the way, I actually went and looked up Fantasy Football as I had absolutely zero knowledge about it. Plus, I really don't care. See what I do for you?)

Well, I think there should be Fantasy Character Bar Fight leagues. You take the most badass, don't-mess-with-me-or-I'll-mess-you-up characters who love from your favorite books, movies, TV shows, and then pit them against each other. This totally sounds like a league I could get into (as could many nerds and even non-nerds. It's a league with something for everyone!) In fact, I've already started thinking about my team.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood: Yes, I realize this is a group of fighters, but seriously, I'd be okay with any one of them backing me in a fight. They are all at least 6'5", and weigh no less than 260 pounds, all of that muscle. And they have fighting in their DNA. The Brothers are engineered to kill and fight. Plus that's not even counting Rhage and his beast or Vishous' brand of weird abilities.

Harry Dresden: First of all, he can do magic. And he does it fast and well. He also understands that just straight magic is not the best course all the time. He is not averse to using fists or guns or even swords when it comes down to it. And if you push him, he's got a lot of rage bottled up. He's a good guy, but I'd stay on his good side.

Voldemort: Yes, I wanted him to be defeated as much as anyone. But you have to admit, he was pretty diabolical. Mostly he lost due to poor planning and lack of information. I think if someone else did the directing in a fight, he'd be of good use. Maybe give him a wand that's Unforgivable Curse restricted though

Bones (Jeaniene Frost): Bones is someone you do not want to be on the bad side of. He is fiercely loyal and he protects him own. And his threats aren't threats; they're promises. And he possesses the martial arts abilities that it seems all supernatural creatures are born knowing. I'd definitely want him to have my back.

Iron Man (Tony Stark): I haven't seen the second movie yet and i haven't read the comics, so this is based on the very limited knowledge I have, but Stark seems like a suave, smirky, badass. I mean, have you seen the tiny rockets he shoots? Those things are cool. And he can fly. I think that would probably come in handy. I don't know when, but at some point.

Algaliarept (Kim Harrison): He's a demon, but I kinda like him. And he has more than a few tricks up his sleeves for when things get hairy. Actually, he has more tricks than a Vegas magic act. And what he has, he squeezes the most use he can out of it. He's slippery and awesome.

Before you start thinking I'm sexist (which against my own gender would be kind of odd), there are also quite a few women I'd like at my back (or in front of my back. I'm not really going to be much use in a fight).

Rachel Morgan (Kim Harrison): Rachel's gotten better and better at fast, battlefield magic. Especially using ley lines. And she is also one of those who can use simple charms and yet make them count. Plus, she likes to kick ass the old-fashioned way too. She's awesome.

Cat Crawford AKA The Red Reaper (Jeaniene Frost): Cat doesn't just trick vamps into thinking she's a snack; she also brawls with them to the death (theirs). She's fast, she's strong, and she's unrelenting. She will Take. You. Out. Do not threaten her or get on her bad side.

Kate Beckett: This New York police detective catches murderers for living. And my guess is they never go quietly. She's not just smart, she's ready to take you out if you resist. I'd suggest not making her mad.

I'm sure there are plenty more people who would be great for this league. So what about you? Who would you want on your team? I call Spike ;)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chapter 2.3: Rest In Peace Beloved Shows

I believe I may be cursed. Not the kind of curse that makes you speak in limericks or develop a fear of bunnies or trip every time you say the letter F. It wasn't cast on me by a cackling witch or a wandering band of gypsies. No, this curse is far worse. This curse is a show killer. It takes TV shows with bright promising futures and strikes them down in their prime.

I am not paranoid. This happens to me too often to be coincidence. My family and I watch the first season of a show. We get invested. We tape it on nights when we're not home. Then suddenly, next season (or sometimes even mid-season) the show is gone, replaced by something new (sometimes something that makes us roll our eyes in disgust and change the channel. Okay, not just sometimes. Often).

This is why a show like The Class (funny, sweet, smart) gets axed after 18 episodes while a show like Family Guy (crude, offensive, annoying) thrives for season after season after season. So this is a post for all the shows who have fallen in the wake of this curse. The shows who for no real reason have ceased to exist.

The Class: This show was in the CBS comedy Monday line up about four years ago. One of the co-creators and writers was David Crane, who created and wrote Friends. The premise is eight people who went to third grade together reunite for a party one classmate has planned for his fiancee (who was also in their class. And who snaps and breaks up with him) with all the people he could find from third grade for the twentieth anniversary of the day they met. The show follows these eight as they rekindle lost love, go through the frustrations of dealing with your past, deal with bad situations, and make new loves and friends. It was an excellent show and you can't even buy it on DVD. You can however go to YouTube and watch all 18 episodes.

Firefly: Of course this show makes the list. The absolutely wonderful Joss Whedon show about space pirates. Captain Mal and his crew are smugglers on the ship Serenity. They travel the 'verse, trying to stay below the Alliance's radar while defying them for a war won years before. When they are strapped for cash one trip, the decide to take on passengers. Passengers with secrets, and in a world where lying low is vital, secrets can be dangerous. It was funny, it was shiny, it was a wonderful show. And it died after one season with many questions left unanswered. There was a movie sequel to the series, called Serenity, but it still didn't address everything. The first and only season can be bought through Amazon.

Blood Ties: Based on the book series by Tanya Huff, this series follows former cop and now private detective, Vicki Nelson who ends up meeting Henry Fitzroy, the bastard son of Henry VIII turned vampire/comic book artist, during a case. Henry is intrigued by Vicki and helps her with some of her tougher, supernatural cases. Her ex-partner and former lover Mike Celluci still has feelings for Vicki (mostly frustration from her trying to involve herself in police business and circumvent the system, but other feelings too) and ends up involved in these cases as well. It was a really interesting show (and I actually found it more fun than the books) that had one fatal flaw: it was on Lifetime. Seriously, why would you put a vampire show on Lifetime? First and second season are on DVD.

Life on a Stick: Another comedy that died before its time. I can't remember much about this comedy, but I know it was a lot of fun to watch. IMDB says the show is about two slacker best friends who work at the food court in the mall. The main character, Laz is in love with a coworker and trying to deal with a dysfunctional home life. Most memorable moment for me was the Spartacus episode/scene. You'll know it when you see it. Not available to buy, but you can watch the whole series on YouTube. Ah YouTube, a treasure trove for lost memories.

The Dresden Files: Another series based on books, this time by Jim Butcher (and the book series is flippin' amazing! It gets better as the series goes on so don't stop if you don't like the first couple books). Harry Dresden is Chicago's only professional wizard with a somewhat sketchy past. He's also a private detective and a consultant for the Special Investigations branch of the Chicago PD. Along with Bob, the wisecracking skull, and Lieutenant Karin Murphy he keeps the supernatural world from hurting the human one. First and only season can be found on DVD. Do not expect them to be exactly like the books, a lot is different.

Shark: The smart-aleck DA turned prosecutor whose ethics you sometimes question, but always end up cheering for. This drama only got two seasons. But it was witty, the characters were likable and you got to watch scumbags get put away, as well as quick repartee on Shark's part. It was awesome. The first season DVD can be bought, but the second season is only on Amazon's Video on Demand.

The Deep End: Speaking of lawyers, this show followed five young law school graduates, just starting at a large firm. It also only died in the last year, just in case you think I'm paranoid about what has happened in the past and doesn't actually happen now. The show was only six episodes long, but it was funny, charming, and wonderfully written. You can buy the episodes through Amazon's Video on Demand, but it looks like a DVD will eventually be released. You can also watch the last five episodes on ABC.com/thedeepend

Life: Charlie Crews was a cop until he was framed for his friend and business partner's murder. Now he's out after being exonerated and given a hefty sum in payment for false conviction. He's back on the force and along with helping people, he most of all wants to solve the murder he went to jail for. Crews was quirky, fun, and just great. The show was awesome, but it got two seasons and then died. All the episodes (seasons 1 and 2) can be seen at NBC.com/life. Both seasons can also be bought on DVD through Amazon.

And these are just a few of the shows this has happened with. Is it any wonder that every spring I hold my breath to hear which shows will be returning in the Fall and which haven't made the cut? I fear for the shows I come to love, especially when they're new. It feels like in a world that cares more about ratings and money than anything else, the really good shows that maybe have a smaller, but very loyal, audience never get the chance to bloom.

Do you have any favorites that have been canceled before their time? What shows have you loved that got killed before they really developed?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chapter 2.2: Sharing the Geekery

As I mentioned in my last post, I am fluent in geek. Not the computer-whiz-but-socially-inept kind of geek but the book-and-TV-based-fangirly kind (and even male enthusiasts can be considered fangirly sometimes). I know the plot lines of most (if not all) vampire based TV shows. Joss Whedon is my master and I squealed with delight when I found he would be directing an episode of Glee (it didn't hurt that Neil Patrick Harris was in it too). I spend time deciding who would be the best actor to play characters from my favorite books (James Marsters makes an excellent Harry Dresden and Hugh Jackman could totally be Vishous). I gave up Paris to be an extra in Twilight for crying out loud. When I fangirl, I do it all the way.

One of the fandoms I love, and one I have been in the longest, is Harry Potter. I am one of the Harry Potter generation, the kids who grew up with the books, reading the final one for the first time at seventeen. I've been Harry Potter for Halloween (thank goodness he wears a hat or I never would have been able to have short, messy hair when my was long). I've waited 19 hours in 103 degrees of heat for the midnight showing of the newest movie. I've spent who knows how much time online, debating the war of Snape: Friend or Foe? and discussing favorite quotes. I am an officer in my university's Harry Potter Club.

As any geek or fan knows, their first responsibility is to share their geekery with the rest of the world (i.e. whomever they can suck into their beloved madness). I take this very seriously ;) Plus it gives me people to talk to and who understand when I make references. Which is why I have recently managed to finally suck Mom into some of my paranormal romance books. My dad has been reading my books since I was 13, but Mom took much more convincing. The particular series is The Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost (mentioned here). It was an absolute thrill for me when we were sitting at the theatre, watching Eclipse, and Mom leans over and made a reference from one of the books. Success!

I was also able to share part of my Harry Potter love with my family last night. There is a production, made by talented Harry Potter fans in Ann Arbor, MI and posted on YouTube, called A Very Potter Musical. Yes, that's right. There is a musical based (loosely) on Harry Potter. But it is better than anything that could be made following Harry Potter to the letter. It lovingly mocks and references the books and is the most fun a Harry Potter fan can have watching a supplement to the movies.

Last night, I sucked my family into watching it with me. I had managed to take the YouTube videos and burn them to a DVD. And they liked it! Well, I know Mom liked it. Meg was on her phone most of it and Dad fell asleep (it was after 8pm ;)). But now some of my references make sense to them. Although we paused it at one point and Dad woke up a little. I told him he'd missed Voldemort tap dancing, then realized that sentence makes no sense out of context (yes, Voldemort tap dancing. Doesn't that make you want to watch it?)

And the sharing of fandoms works both ways; you can suck others in, or you can be sucked in. I personally was sucked into Jude Deveraux's romance novels by Mom. They're just so good! And they feel real because she doesn't make characters without flaws, bad stuff happens, and even the happy ending doesn't mean the couple doesn't have problems or argue anymore. They just know they love each other more than they need to win an argument (even if they're going to try their best to win)

One of my Livejournal friends, Lezlishae, is the one who got me into Jeaniene Frost. She posted the link to the first 60 pages of the first book and I was bored during a summer day. So, even though the cover didn't look like something I'd read (and I was still sort of fighting being a vampire groupie), I started reading. And then I couldn't stop. And then I was out of book and needed to know what happened next. So I went out and bought the two books that had been released. I never looked back and those books became some of my favorites.

Which is probably why when that same friend suggested The Black Dagger Brotherhood by JR Ward, I actually picked up the first book. I'd found it at Powells for only $5 and figured, she was right before. And she was right again. Steamy, sarcastic, and completely addicting. I ended up going out and buying the next two, finishing the second and buying the next two after that. All six were purchased within the course of a week. Love the books and ended up buying the last two in hardback just so I didn't have to wait.

What about you? What has a friend sucked you into? Or what fandom have you opened to a friend? Welcome to the fandom. Make merry with your newfound insanity.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chapter 2.1: Bookworm

I finished my hundredth book for the year last night. I've kept track the past two years, and usually I don't reach the 100 books mark until sometime in November or December. Although since I'm keeping track and I'm very competitive (in case you missed that) maybe I'm reading more and more each year out of some twisted competitive drive. I am enjoying the books I read for the most part though. I even liked some of the stuff I read for my Mythology and Literature class from hell (okay, not exactly Hell. Just a suburb of Hell. Right near Confusion Circle and Exhaustion Avenue. Nah, it wasn't a bad class. I ended up enjoying it. But we read a entire book every week. Of Greek Epic or Plays). And books read for school totally count for books read. Unless you never finished them.

Anyway, being a quick reader isn't exactly a new thing for me. I've loved books since I was a little kid. In Kindergarten, my teacher noticed I was trying to read the books in the classroom, when we probably wouldn't have started learning to read until 1st grade, and brought in a special tutor for me (Yes, the days when educations still mattered. Scary to think this was only 15 years ago). Every Wednesday morning we went to the library and she read with me, helping me figure out how the words were put together. I even have a tape (yes, the days before CDs) of me reading, which was a final project we did at the end of the year.

Then of course, I was a child of the Harry Potter generation. I got the first book at seven (ironically my younger sister, who cannot stand Harry Potter, brought it home from a book fair) and though it took me a while, three months later I finished the book. The next book took two months, the third a month, the fourth a week, then three days, and only two days for the last two. A three hundred page novel, if I get the chance to read uninterrupted and get sucked in, will take me only seven hours or so now.

And I never thought twice about how I became a reader or why, at least not until more recently. I never questioned what drew me into the pages of a novel or why I love spending evenings curled up in a comfy chair reading a book. But asking questions is how we grow, so I asked "Why do you like to read? Why do you want to write?"

Answer: I read to go somewhere else and experience things I won't get a chance to. I read because for a little while I don't have to think about my life or freak out over things. I get a chance to just kick back and watch other people work out their problems. And maybe I read to know that things can work out and there will always be a solution. Maybe not an ideal one, but everyone has problems and you can figure out a way to fix it (which is why i don't read books that have sad endings). And I write because I want to give that same feeling to others.

I never regretted not being the girl my sister is. The girl who chooses the mall over used bookstores, clothes over a new novel, and the girl who thinks an evening spent wrapped up in a book is boring. I grew up a nerd and I am proud of it, because I can escape. I can speak fluent Harry Potter or Joss Whedon and I understand the basics about Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. I know the differences between vampires in different author universes. I get math and science jokes and puns that make me giggle.

And recently I found that if I want to, I can tuck in all away and be the girl who goes shopping with girlfriends. The girl who wears make-up and goes out to have fun with friends. I can be both the nerd and her pretty alter-ego. I don't have to be defined by what I know or where my interests lie. I don't have to be one sided. And I don't have to feel like I'm not myself. Because that girl is part of me as well. The part that likes dressing up and looking lovely. These aren't two different people; they're the same. Because that dressed up girl will go out to the pub and then end up having a conversation about Harry Potter (true story).

And yes, I will still squeal over the next book in series more than a new outfit. But maybe every now and then I'll put on make-up just for fun because doing so isn't blasphemy to who I am. I don't have to stay stuck to who I've been in the past. I'm allowed to change my mind about some things. Because people change and it's okay.

It took me 14 years to figure this out (give or take. I started at 5 since I figure before that I wasn't caring about this). And I feel lucky to have discovered it now instead of having to wait until much later in life. I'm always been secure in who I am, but I'm also stubborn, which means I could have stayed blind to this for much longer. Dang, sometimes I feel old for only being 19.