Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Since Last We Met (#2)

The positive luckily continues to outweigh the negative in life, and things are slowly starting to fit together in a manageable way. Over six posts I intend to highlight some of the progress I've made, show you sneak-peeks, and share useful tips I've picked up along the way.

#1: Work
#2: Novel-writing
#3: Book illustrations
#4: Painting
#5: Game Design
#6: Random Experiences

#2: Writing is still going slowly. From what little I managed to do when I played catch-up over NaNo (ya know, all of one typed page of actual drafting *ahem*) I did come up with a decent opening for a new story, set in a world with a never-ending struggle between Home and Gateway..

But it's not enough to come up with a pretty idea and think about what you can do with it. Putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, is the only way to make it from start to finish.

Meet Naime, our cat-anthro protagonist:

My best friend, Dem, has died forty three times. Our commander has died at least a hundred.

I've never experienced death, and it terrifies me.

They say it's no big deal. It hurts, sure, but it goes away after a few minutes. Burnt to a crisp. Electrocuted. Drowned. Poisoned. Eaten. Sliced open. Gutted. Bled out. Of course the best part is the complete relaxation that follows, when your soul leaves your body. It's no big deal.

After all, the Home Crystal keeps us safe. When we die, we simply reappear at Home, organs intact.

Still, I'm terrified.

What if I didn't come back?

Of course I couldn't neglect my main project, so about two days in I decided to hell with Dungeon Thief until Mura/Tsirash is done. Well done, NaNo, you distracted me for a whole 48 hours. *slow clap*

I am currently rewriting a section that sloppily stuck two scenes together without a clear transition or relation between them. Or rather, I'm rewriting the rewrite of that section, because it sucked. Badly. However, I am confident that the first 22,000 words are now at maximum capacity for greatness. At least, they've won over two writing groups and a few other readers.

Now, to get this manuscript polished before the upcoming pitching contest at LTUE... I don't know if I can work that fast, but I've got to try, right?


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Since Last We Met

The positive luckily continues to outweigh the negative in life, and things are slowly starting to fit together in a manageable way. Over the next six posts I intend to highlight some of the progress I've made, show you sneak-peeks, and share useful tips I've picked up along the way.

#1: Work
#2: Novel-writing
#3: Book illustrations
#4: Painting
#5: Game Design
#6: Random Experiences

#1: Work is a time- and energy-sucker.

I went back to recertify in manual restraint this week--an unfortunately necessity in my classroom. The training is really about "treating others with dignity and respect" and "developing positive relationships." But sometimes it's not enough, so it's also knowing what to do if you absolutely must physically intervene.

And, oh yeah, people die doing this. Rarely. But yeah, there's a whole section about catecholamine levels (one of your stress hormones) causing rhabdomyolosis (muscle-cell breakdown), and positional asphyxiation and all that horrible stuff that happens when done improperly. Which is why, again, manual restraint is only for when there is a very real, believable, and immediate threat. when your coworker is being choked.

But I'm making it sound like my class is death and it's not really like that.

See? Ahaha.

Liz is my sister, and the subject of this drawing. One of our students drew it just before she left our room. In reality Liz is gorgeous and really good with kids--but when you work in special ed and one of the kids tries to draw a picture of you, it usually looks, well... special. In truth, we all found the drawing hilarious. And heaven knows we could all use a little laughter. Sometimes even the naughty ones have their moments. You just have to remember to start over every day with a fresh pair of eyes, and see mistakes as what they are: mistakes. Forgiveness around here is absolutely essential. 

Friday, November 23, 2012


I know, I know. I'm still sorting out this mess that is me. But I wanted to stop by for Thanksgiving, because there are some things I've really been thankful for during my time away.

Starting with my little sister. We've always had our conflicts, but in the last year she's been a really amazing friend. She read my book and gave me honest, helpful feedback. We wrote letters about stupid little things and when she started working in the classroom with me, talked about anything and everything. She's saved my skin many times there, and though she's leaving, I'm super grateful for the experience. I don't know if she reads this blog or not, but I love her and I'm thankful for our good relationship.

I also want to thank you, fellow bloggers, for your inspiring posts and support. There's one out there who's been especially encouraging with her thoughts and comments. Heather Holden, you have no idea how much it has meant to me to have your support here and on Twitter. Thank you so much. (And everyone else, go follow her!)

And of course, I'm thankful for the arts, for their ability to show the things I suck at saying, for the way they calm my uneasy spirit, for the way they inspire me. Music, with its soothing melodies. Painting, with its temperamental brush strokes that force quietude. Drawing, with delicate lines hinting at something deeper. Writing, with its ability to make sense of the chaos of words, with its power for moving the soul to greater things, with its whisperings of secrets, with its creation of countless worlds.

Happy late Thanksgiving, everyone. :)


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bite Me

I love my job as a Special Education aide. I do. Although I hate going to work at 9:00 am (I am Night Owl--hoot hoot) and I hate being in the lunchroom (which I swear hasn't really been cleaned in decades) and I hate diaper duty (who doesn't?), there are a lot of things to love, namely, children.

I love the adorable faces that greet me every morning. I love their eagerness, their innocence, their willingness to learn. And I love teaching them. There are some teeth-grinding moments (Why can't they get this? We've practiced it fifty gazillion times!) but they're usually followed by moments of relief. It's a long and exhausting hike, but the view is worth it. 

There are those moments of triumph, those moments where something finally gets through and all of the times you corrected "me" with "I" finally made her say, "Me... I mean, I did it." There are those moments that make us laugh, as we did when he told us he needed his "socks" to keep his hands warm, or she told us the gym smelled like "puppies being borned." There are those moments that are so sweet and beautiful that they make you cry, as I did when a dear little artist drew balloons with my favorite color to cheer me up.

And then there's another kind of crying.

It's been so, SO hard to stay positive. I've been so stressed over work that it doesn't stay at work anymore. It comes home with me every day. I can't work on the things I love; I hardly have the energy to type a stupid blog post. All I want to do all the time is sleep. I make it to the gym a couple of times a week, and I still go to my regular writing groups and game groups. I still get a few things done, but I don't feel like it's quality stuff.

And I'll show you why I feel this way.

Okay, so it's not the greatest picture ever. You can see how swollen it was, but the natural color of my arm tends to hide things like bruises. So let's mess with the color levels for a minute so you can see the size of it...

One week ago today I was bitten. Through my thick, furry jacket. And you know, it might be okay if this was the first time it's happened. But, of course... it isn't. This is the third time since school started again. Last year there was an incident that led to worker's comp (you may be able to see the scars on my hand and wrist, but my hair grew back to cover the damage to the back of my head, thankfully) and more importantly emotional trauma.

Sure, we've made major improvements since the beginning of last year. We don't have to restrain or use the seclusionary time-out booth nearly as often. But every day, every little thing is still a battle. And with my little sister now acting as a one-on-one assistant for this kid, I now watch my sister take a portion of the same abuse that I took. Slapping, pinching, scratching, pushing, kicking, spitting, choking. Ripped-out earrings. Smudged mascara. Boot prints and visible finger marks. And manipulating as much as possible, trying to get out of the consequences of a poor decision.

Dirty diapers I can handle, given gloves. But this--what's the solution for this? Wait until the kid becomes someone else's problem? I can't just shrug these marks off like gloves and throw them away. I'm stuck with them, some of them permanently. So when do you say enough is enough? How do you handle a job where you have to take this kind of abuse?

Truth is, I just... want to shelve books, write the stories in my head, draw my silly pictures, and sing my simple songs. I want to leave. But until I get that phone call, until someone gives me a better offer, I won't do it. I can't just drop everything and do nothing. I'm not that kind of person.

I just pray that the good things about work continue to outshine the bad. So far, God's been pretty good about answering. As long as there's such things as green balloons and ice cream, I suppose I'll be okay.

Okay... That sounds... okay.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

OCR in the Car

Amid all the chaos, music can be one of the great calms in my mind. And the time I get to listen to it most is in the car. Which is probably why I love driving so much. My husband hates driving, because it tends to bring out the worst in people. Perfectly nice neighbors sometimes turn into road-raging warmongers. But as long as I can blast my music, I'm okay with that.

When I'm in the car, I've discovered that I kinda need heavy beats and a strong melody. Things like progressive trance would really appeal to that beat, but it's classically-oriented songs that hold the strongest melodies. So where to get the best of both worlds? OverClocked ReMix

I've always loved video game music, but good ol' NES stuff was really limited on presentation. In fact, it's only been the last few years where real orchestras have taken the place of synth ones. So it should come as no surprise that people want to represent their favorite games through upgraded sound. And that's where OCR comes in. I needed a new mix CD when I started taking my husband to work every day, and searched OCR for the best. Remember, heavy beats, strong melody.

Coming in at #3 is a remix from Banjo-Kazooie. Heavily influenced by Mario64 but with its own silly twists, Banjo-Kazooie took a bear and a bird on a journey to save a girl from an evil witch. And the area Mad Monster Mansion seems highly appropriate for Halloween.

#2 is from one of my newer favorites, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The series takes the gamer on a set of turnabout murder cases, with a few supernatural elements. This song comes in as Phoenix puts pressure on lying witnesses...

And #1 must come from the greatest game series of all time, The Legend of Zelda. Link's Awakening is an odd duck in the family (similar to Majora's Mask) where Link is whisked off to a foreign land and must gather all of the magical instruments, which together create this song, the Ballad of the Wind Fish.

Does this style of music appeal to you? What do you like to listen to while driving?


Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Hello, Blog World. Between all of the crazy things I have going on, I've been scarce, except maybe on Twitter. I know. That's because I've only had about 5 minutes at a time to spare, not long enough to catch up on all of the blogs I love so much. 

My head is exploding, and as much as I've tried to appear happy and sane, I haven't been. If you see a smile on my face, it's me trying to linger on the little things that keep me going. You know, the stuff that keeps me from perfect darkness. Because right now, it's all this body can handle. I'm in survival mode, and it may be that way for a while. 

But know that I'm still here, still spending spare moments on reading whatever I can. Your stuff is part of what makes me smile. That, and chocolate. So even if you haven't heard from me, it doesn't mean I hate you and never want to read another post again. It just means that I haven't had the time or possibly energy to leave a comment.

When I get this all figured out, I may have something to share. But until then, know that I'm still here and still love you all. Until then, know that you are awesome and you make my day.

Until then.... Peace.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I find it so important to keep a journal, as a writer, yes, but just... as a person. I fall into cycles, and thoughts I had several years ago come back with more force. And being able to see the way that I pushed through things helps me overcome those feelings.

I was reading my old blog, which has been hidden for years, today. I did this for many reasons, the first of which was to look for poems and other writing that may not exist anywhere else. It's important to me to save that stuff. But as I was reading, I came across this post:

"I've been reading my journals obsessively. I went through, annoyed that a wannabe master of English would make so many spelling and grammatical errors. I made a lot more when I was 8, 10, 11, 12... back in 2001 when I started my yellow journal I thought I was a decent writer. I used too many commas. I spelled things wrong, sometimes because I was going too quickly to care, sometimes because I was crying as I wrote and couldn't even see my own hand, and sometimes because I'd never actually seen the word before--I'd only heard it. Words like "ornery" I consistently spelled as "awnry" because I'd never seen it on paper before. I spelled it the way it sounded in my head. In my earliest journal days I talked about things that were happening like they were in the past tense, saying "I went to sleep and dreamed" instead of "I'm going to bed now. I hope I have pleasant dreams."

My completed journals, beginning my life journey as of 1998.
Certain writing sparked memories to return. I wrote, "Sorry, this is random, but I liked his hair that day." and suddenly I remembered exactly what his hair looked like. Other things surprised me, things I'd completely forgotten. In the last entry of one journal (which took up 18 pages) I had a lot to say about how things were that day, writing every thing that popped into my head. When I lost my train of thought, I'd start on something else. In my last entry, I made a comment about how everything reminded me of Jaron. He was inextricably glued to my thoughts, his puzzle pieces taking their place in random areas of mine.

I also mentioned in that last entry that I was so vague. Jaron didn't want me to read his journal, but I read the last entry anyway, and I remembered how he described everything. He had written what it felt like to kiss me. I never said anything like that in my journal. I was afraid to even admit it to my journal. My journal, which no one was ever supposed to see but me, and I was still too scared to write anything in detail.

I had decided to change that. But I noticed that after that day, I fell into old habits again and didn't say what I wanted to say. I'd only said it once.

I didn't talk to my journal the way I did with Jaron. And he called me vague and mysterious. Shows you how much I included in my diary."

So what did this mean to me? 1. I'm not perfect and never will be, and I can accept that. 2. Feelings that I have now are not isolated. At some point, I experienced them before, and I can draw on that experience to help me deal with and overcome challenges now. 3. Memory returns much better when I include striking details. 4. Things that I didn't write down are often fuzzy or completely gone.

Journals are your journey. To me, it's not only important to keep a journal, but to write in it often, including extremely personal thoughts and feelings. When I realize that there's something missing, that I kept some detail to myself, I mourn the loss of that moment. I guess that's why they say writers should save everything. Every bit of work you've done is worth something. Doesn't matter if it was the crappiest manuscript in the world--it's a part of you, and you are valuable.

Don't sell yourself short. Keep a regular journal.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer Goals

So it's been a week since I started school/work again, and it's been surprisingly easy. Right now it's mostly stubbornness and laziness that are irritating me, and the one I thought would be trouble has been like a little angel (although I'm sure that's just a honeymoon phase). Also, a few of the kids this year have some sad circumstances at home, and it always shows when they come to school. My heart goes out to them and their families, and I wish I could do more to help. But for now, I have to be content with talking to the kids and helping them cope during class.

The beginning of the school year also means I failed at a few of my goals. I haven't finished my rewrite, regardless of the many late nights and hours spent poring over my manuscript. I still have several heroes, a Rex, and Starfire to finish painting. I haven't drawn all of the character combinations for Dungeonball yet. I got close with all of these things, but I'm just not there yet. I could blame it on my bad habits, on playing too many video games (particularly Xenoblade and FFXI), on stress, or on the distractions the internet provides. But the truth is, I don't care what the reasons are. I don't want to fuss over those things, because they don't matter. All that matters is that I keep going, and that I get these things done. And I will. Soon.

I started a sticker chart for my home-based writing group a few weeks ago, and I know it's helping. Being held accountable for stuff, even in small ways, motivates me to be responsible.

Actually, I know why I haven't met my writing goal. But I won't bother to whine about it or try to excuse myself, because I don't need that. I just need to write.

Well... I'll leave off with a list of things I did accomplish this summer:
  • Read 5 books, and wrote at least 3,000 words per week.
  • Painted and varnished every small monster, treasure, and spawning point, 4 heroes, and a Rex, meaning I've completed over 40 miniatures.
  • Created 31 original characters for Dungeonball.
  • Storyboarded, researched, and begun drawing for the children's book I'm illustrating.
  • And yes, finished a few video games.
So, not as bad as I'm making it sound. Regardless of my failure, I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish. Now the question is, will I be able to make my goals by the end of the year when I have to work every day?


Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Anyone else out there ever play Final Fantasy XI? It's the massive multiplayer online version of Final Fantasy, and while I don't think it should have been numbered (call it FF Online or something, since it's not like any of the previous games) I do find it fun. Especially with friends.

It's nice to be able to share your experiences with others and help each other out. One of the best things I've always thought about the game is that the users are nice people. "Here, want a Linkshell? Here, have some gausebit grass; I've got extra. We're training in the dunes, anyone interested?" 

I can tell you how much of a difference it makes when an online group of strangers treats each other kindly and respectfully. The trash-talk I've gotten merely for being a girl in places like Warcraft III (and no, I haven't played WoW. I never will, for this very reason), compared to a random white mage walking by and casting Protect on me, made me love going back to it every day. 

The world is huge, the story is intricate, and the combinations of the familiar spells/classes/actions with the new in battle is great. There's also crafting from cooking to sewing to blacksmithing.... I mean, I could probably waste years on this, if I had no life outside of it. I admit it's a little frustrating to be one of the casuals there--I swear some people must play 24/7--and come back hoping to team up with the same people and discovering they're now level 99 and would rather hunt rare monsters than help me get a subjob. But I liked being part of a world that was full of conflict and war and yet peace between players.

The first time I played was three years ago, and I shared an account with my husband, so we never got to play together. But thanks to the 10th anniversary and super-cheap prices, I ended up playing again--this time with people I know in real life.

And now it's even more awesome. Pretty much the only thing that could make it better would be having more people join us. We could use another Warrior. ;)


***FFXI is a pay-to-play game, but the first month is free, so if you want to join us, you can get the Vana'diel Collection on Amazon for $9. It has most of the expansions and you won't have to hassle with the Steam version like I did. We play on the Shiva server. ;) And if for some reason you don't like it, I mean, it was probably the cheapest RPG you ever bought.***

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Healer - Human

Dungeonball time!

This is a healer, reminiscent of the "white mage" class. She may not look tough, but she's one of the only characters who can restore hearts to your warriors during battle. If you want to keep the monsters from the satisfaction and bonus for killing your heroes, you'll want her on your team. :)


Monday, August 20, 2012

Back to Work

No revelations or advice tonight, as I've been pretty pensive for the last few days.

Work for me starts again next week, and it's a bittersweet thing. I'm tired of lounging around the house every day, though being home alone allows my creativity to blossom. It's been a productive summer. Not quite as much as I hoped, I'm afraid, but I still got a lot of stuff done, improved my craft, and had fun. But seeing the awesome people I work with and spending time with those kids is something to look forward to. 

I miss working. Working with children, helping them through their struggles and cheering them when they triumph, is so inspiring. I thought when I started the job that I'd be out in a year, on to bigger and better things, and that I didn't have the patience to continue. And then I fell in love. Every child is unique and beautiful, and watching their journeys has been so fulfilling.

On the other side, I'm actually a bit scared. Last year was physically and emotionally draining. I made it through okay, but walked away with scars. My arms are a physical reminder of how hard it was, my memories a mental one. And I know that this year may be almost as difficult. I have so much respect for those who make teaching their life, but I am not one of those people. I love my job, but my dreams lie elsewhere.

For now, I guess, all I can do is go back to work and hope for the best while creating in the background.

I do have a question to pose, though. Authors, artists, musicians, creators out there, where do you work--assuming you don't make enough money with your creations to pay the bills? Does it interfere with your creativity? And if so, how do you manage?


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Villages: Distant Lands!

Good news! Villages, a rummy-style card game I've had the pleasure of playtesting, has just released its first expansion, Distant Lands!

For those who haven't heard, Villages was developed by my best friend and husband, Fridgecrisis, and published through The Game Crafter. We took it to CONduit earlier this year, and sold out. It catches people's attention with its adorable 8-bit pixel art, and its roots in old-school video games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. But they stay because it's fun, easy for kids to get into, and strategic enough for adults. Play it safe and just build villages, battle for cards you want, or give your last few cards away to get a bonus for going out first--the unique properties of each unit help make the game awesome.

The expansion adds 9 new units, plus new animals and buildings, and a set of locations that change the game every round. We've worked really hard to make the game the best it can be. So do us a favor and check it out here!



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ersjaran Poetry

It's been difficult to make my rewrite into everything I want it to be. There are already some things that I want to fix--mostly to do with the fact that it's autumn at the time it starts; the leaves are changing colors, the air is colder, and farmers are traveling in the opposite direction as Octras and Tsira. Stuff like that.

What I've really liked about the rewrite is harder to pin down. Their interactions, particularly, and the way Tsira has been portrayed. One of her most identifiable habits is quoting stories and poetry. She has a deep love for the written word, and the way that it sounds when spoken aloud. And because she's bilingual, a lot of what she says makes double the work for me. Writing poems in Ersjaran is très difficile. (Or in Ersjaran, tsuk tana.)

But the result is something I find quite beautiful.

oake ni aoke
thelao andao-is
oandaomn fuj snefe
aomn lo ehioris

peria-is a cathela
ni nomaria dejthi
pana ris vit rastmn
lo tetasimn ari

inward and outward
the tides are my breath
inhaling through nostrils
exhaling with depth

my face is the ocean
and eyes are the clouds
but right now it's pouring
with pattering sounds


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Strong Female Character

Recently I've seen a surge of media promoting the strong female character. You know, strong females have to be leaders. They have to be determined. They have to be able to fire a gun, or arrows, or some sort of powerful weapon. This shift is a good thing, because it means we're starting to stray from the stereotypes, right? We're showing women with inner and outer strength.

Well, not exactly.

See, people often confuse "strong female character" for "emotionless kicka** character."

There were a lot of complaints when Metroid: Other M came out. Samus Aran, coolest bounty hunter in the galaxy, and hot blonde babe under the mask, was one of the strongest females in video game history. And then they supposedly ruined her. "She's such a girl." "Too soft, 'Lady'." "She's not gonna use her weapons just because some guy tells her he has to authorize it first? I mean, come on!" (Aside from the fact that this was an excuse for the mechanic of unlocking powers without her losing them again...)

So what changed?

She was shown as feminine.

Heaven forbid she has respect for her former commanding officer, someone who acted as a sort of father figure. Heaven forbid she talk about her feelings as she explores the Bottle Ship, and her underlying fear of her nemesis Ridley. Heaven forbid she has any feelings at all. This, in many people's eyes, made her into a weak character. Emotions, in women, are associated with weakness--and that's a major problem.

The fact that Samus is able to conquer her inner demons and most definitely kick alien trash as she uncovers various mysteries and lives through explosions, gravity shifts, Metroid queens eating her, and watching men around her die proves that she is very strong. So why all the complaining? Again, because emotions are seen intrinsically as a weakness. 

What has happened, I believe, is that in creating a standard for the strong female character, we've taken away the feminine part, and created masculine characters that happen to have girl body parts. This is not the way to remove a stereotype, it is a way to perpetuate it. If Samus was instead a man, and said that he'd feared Ridley, that he respected Adam enough to follow his orders, it would be seen as a military understanding, as strength. But because Samus is a girl, and feminine girls=weak girls, the character was "ruined."

However, there is hope. Just as bad as people complain about Samus losing her awesomeness status, the female Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect series is adored and praised. And she shows many times throughout the games just how sentimental she is. How much she's affected by the deaths of those around her. How well she manages a romantic life alongside her duties as a military leader.

And that really is what a strong female character can be.

In my book Tsirash, there are two girls traveling with my strong, yet struggling, POV character Octras: Tsira and Shenra. Both of them have dealt with loss, pain, and fear in serious ways. They're capable of feeling respect, love, empathy, hope, sadness, and longing. There are feelings that drive them, motivate them to push forward even when faced with adversity.

Perhaps people will see Tsira and Shenra as they do Samus in Other M--weak. Every character has weaknesses, you know. But emotion is not inherently bad. If people can see what strength there can be in emotion, perhaps then they'll see the girls as I do.

I strive to create strong female characters with feeling. What about you?


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Summer Sketches

Writing has taken a back-burner to art for the past few weeks. I'm still working on my rewrite, but I admit I'm having a hard time... I don't feel very productive when I write little over a page in four hours. (What am I doing with all that time...?) So, I go through phases of creativity, and art took over last month. I hereby present samples from that shift, Summer Sketches!

Oh, and some finished minis from SDE.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mad World

I've loved Gary Jules' version of the song Mad World for a long time. There's something beautiful about the despair in this song. As I'm sure I've told you before, I've struggled with depression since long before I could really understand how destructive it would eventually become. But there's a level of comfort in the darkness, and it fuels creativity like nothing else I know. Anyway... I shouldn't talk about it any more. Just... enjoy the song.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Story Starters - A Walk in the Woods

(Reminder: Please vote on my poll! -->)

Because of my recent vacation, I've stumbled across some new stories. But because I have enough on my mind to last a century, I'd like to share those ideas with you. This post is for writers, for those looking to start a new story or perhaps elaborate on something you've just begun. Anything you get out of this is yours to keep!*

You're walking in the woods, the trail just wide enough for one person, leaves rattling in the breeze, the scents of trees and fresh flowers wafting toward you. Now, you don't have to do this in real life to benefit from it. As a writer, your mind is full of ideas. You just have to ask yourself some questions to tap into that creativity.

Who are you? Are you yourself, or are you a creature of the woods? Are you an adult or a child? For the purposes of this exercise, I'm going to say I'm a human child, a little boy with dark hair and blue eyes. Take a moment and think about it. Who are you?

Why are you here? Your answer can be as narrow or as broad as you want. Are you here because you're camping, or hunting, or live here? Are you here because your god sent you? What about those you left behind--perhaps you were kidnapped by trolls and left to die here. Or perhaps you were just hiking with some friends.

Okay, so you're here. You're walking, running, limping, or frolicking along this narrow path... and suddenly, you come across this.

Is this what you've been looking for? Perhaps not--it's a surprise to see this hole through the roots of the stump. But what could its purpose be?

What's so special about this tree stump? Did a squirrel hide its nuts in here, or is there a venomous snake living in that hole? Or... could it belong to fairy folk? The little boy I am decides to put his hand in the hole, searching for something he needs. A magic gem, or a rodent for roasting.

It may be a silly sidequest, or a waste of time. But maybe, just maybe, it might just be the beginning of the adventure you've been dreaming about.

Happy writing!


*Seriously. I don't even care if you credit me. :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Vacations

First order of business! I have a new poll, asking if you'd be interested in an art giveaway. It would be the sort of stuff I sold at CONduit, meaning:

Now for the actual purpose of this post: I just got back from a short vacation at a cabin in the woods, 165 miles away from where I live. It was the sort of cabin that's like a glorified camp zone. The water came from a stream (clean and ice-cold) and there was no electricity. That kind of cabin. What this usually means is that I'm constantly swatting insects and checking for spiders (because I'm not sitting on that chair if there's a spider within ten feet). 

But this year, I got lucky. Not too many bugs, and almost no spiders (thank heavens). And while I was there, I had the opportunity to do some very fun things. So!

The 5 Best Parts of Vacation (in the middle of the woods):
  1. Stargazing - On Sunday night we drove a little ways out to a clearing where we had a clear view of the night sky. In the city, you don't get to see all the stars because of the light pollution, but there are infinite stars out there. And when you think about it, the light from those stars takes years to reach Earth. It's fun to point out any constellations you know and listen to people contemplate the universe and our place in it.
  2. Going on walks - You see a lot of interesting things and get a chance to notice details you normally don't think about when writing--the way you get sticky with sap if you touch a tree or certain rocks, the way the ground crunches under your feet, the scent of pine and the echo of nearby streams. It gives me a lot of good material. Not to mention you might see pretty flowers or animals.
  3. Cooking in a campfire - There aren't many restaurants that can compete with those fire-roasted and tin foil dinners. By the way, if you ever get the chance, try roasting a Starburst. It's amazing what the fire does to them. Mmm.
  4. Quiet time - You can't connect to the internet, and you're away from the distractions of work and friends. Perfect time for cuddling up with a good book, playing card games, drawing pictures, or writing.
  5. Spending time with people you love - I won't elaborate on this one. You know who those people are.
The worst part of the trip? Potty time ('cuz I'm a girl, okay?). Or bugs. Or worrying about bugs during potty time. Yeah.

What are the best parts of your vacations?


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hookers and Hangers

I missed the first day of the bloghop over at Falling for Fiction, Hookers and Hangers, but I still wanted to participate. The basic idea is that you post some hookers (the first lines of your MS chapters) and some hangers (the last lines of your chapters). Since I'm still working on my rewrite, I'll only post a couple. But this should be fun.

  1. The air was rancid with the stench of ale.
  2. A strange melody greeted the mercenary's ears as he shook himself awake.
  3. Crescent  was rightly named, as the high white walls curled around the city in a half-circle.
  4. "Vvelwe-is jash yimn, ni shenra wjero pana ero. Rijn nania ykakimn, ni aesj swin tana maomo."
  5. Octras had never seen so many spices on one piece of meat; he wasn't sure what animal it had come from.
  6. A distant scream pierced his thoughts.
We'll stop there.

  1. He shook his head as he followed, wondering what in heaven or hells he had agreed to do.
  2. "Rest well, milady."
  3. Metal scraping stone, rhythmic hammering, and the great breath of giant bellows beat against his thoughts, and he forgot the hollow feeling in his chest.
  4. The man turned the corner and was gone, leaving Octras alone with his doubts.
  5. Cyreth traced the scar on his cheek, nudging Octras. "Ready?"
  6. He was not going to fail. Not again. Never again.
I'm excited to make the rounds and see what everyone else came up with! :)


Tuesday, July 17, 2012


You know, I just can't keep up with all the media that's out there. Books, movies, albums, articles, blogs, Facebook, Twitter... yes, tweet tweet. I tell myself I don't have time for these things... but the truth is, I'm always making time to absorb more. And I couldn't help myself. I finally caved and got a Twitter account. All of the fun comments my husband gets on his phone all the time, plus the challenge of the 140 character limit... resistance was futile.

But since I'm new to this tweeting thing, I need your help! Start by following @tsirachel then leave me a comment with your Twitter handle so I can follow you back. The more people there are in my feed, the more fun Twitter gets, so if you have any suggestions--like your favorite authors, etc. on the site--I'd appreciate those as well. 



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Leaving dA

I've been thinking about leaving deviantART. The truth is, I don't visit there often, and I know that basically no one visits anything of mine. I'm usually bored when I go there. Sure, I've followed some amazing artists, my favorite being *sandara. (If I had my pick of artist for my book covers, I'd commission her.)  And I've had some really interesting conversations with different types of people.

But you know, there's... a big gap built into dA, and it's become a problem. See, it's really hard to find the lesser-known but fantastic artists. Basically it's built into two sections--most popular and newest, which seems like an okay idea... in theory. You can sift through the newbie pile or go straight for the stuff that's "guaranteed to be good." But what actually happens is, the people with lots of followers continue to stay popular forever, regardless of the quality of the individual piece, while blooming artists can't even find their own work without going to their home page, which is hard to find without. You have what amounts to a one-second chance of snagging a viewer. So unless you're posting constantly, you slip between the cracks.

Despite what I feel is quality work on my part, I have all of twenty followers, sixteen of which were following me in the first month I joined. I've been on deviantArt for more than three years. And while I am saying now that I rarely visit, that wasn't always the case. I've done my share in entering competitions, following and commenting on others' art, and sharing stuff that I liked, and it's just not satisfying the way this blog is. Writing there goes basically unnoticed, because the visual art gives instant gratification, where writing has to be slowly digested. So I shifted from showing off poetry to showing off sketches and colored works.

But that meant little.

I won't rant about the details or the statistics of failure there, but I and dozens of other great artists are practically invisible. I'm just tired of trying to be noticed by a place that tries really hard to push those like me into the voids of the millionth page. I gave and gave and got nothing in return, and I'm just done. I need to move on and show my stuff to someone who cares. 

Because dA certainly doesn't.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


My rating: 2 1/2 of 5 stars: **^

Well, I was disappointed with this one. For one thing, I was hoping for a book about a shape-shifter. Instead I got a heroine who is supposed to be a shape-shifter but pretty much isn't. The Mistwood, along with the “intrigues of the court” mentioned in the description, are glanced over, but never actually explored. I still kinda liked it, I guess, or I wouldn't have finished it... but at the end of the day, all this book ever made me feel was, “Eh.”

The first thing that tipped me off about this book was the use of the mirror trick. You know, as a writer they always tell you not to describe your character by having them look in the mirror. It's hard to describe your POV character, sure, and it works when writing rough drafts. But if you see it at the beginning of a book, it's usually a sign of laziness. Often throughout this book, days at a time are passed over in a few paragraphs, which basically tell us that Isabel is good at getting information from people and playing court. It doesn't show us how. And every time someone feels something, it's told to us. “Anger crossed his face,” or some such. People don't give cues, we're just told what they're feeling. Which makes all the emotional moments fall flat. Description=failure.

Dialogue was also not the author's strong suit. Everyone sounds the same, their conversations feel forced whenever something important comes up, and the people think they're so good at keeping all of these secrets and getting other people to do what they want. And good old Clarisse is master at this game, because the author says so. Not. Because Isabel is so sweet and trusting, counter to the Shifter's given personality, she falls for Clarisse's tricks, falls in love with Rokan and Kaer even as they spit obvious lies at her, and still somehow ends up with the truth. Probably thanks to Ven—the only character I liked (even though he was an eager cliché of a character).

My only real investment in the book was in the concept: inhuman creature somehow losing the ability that makes her unique, invulnerable creature able to feel pain and fear. I wanted to know what happened in that past of hers, what made her run away... while the basics were obvious, the details were fuzzy, and I was hoping for a nice flashback or realization that went beyond those basics. (Spoiler alert: there are no details. You'll never find out what spell was used on the Shifter—it gave the badguys five seconds. That's all you get.)

The world around that concept, though, fell flat. I had a hard time understanding the magic system—sorcerers take so much time to develop spells but anyone can buy those spells and use them, and there seem to be an infinite supply of teleports in the world. How is that supposed to work? It doesn't make sense. Also, there's mention of politics but they have no substance. I guess that comes back to the “intrigues of the court” that supposedly exist in Mistwood.

Eh. Disappointing.


Thursday, July 5, 2012


I've been rather lazy lately--really I just procrastinate too much. Sometimes I worry that I should be more formal here. More... professional. It keeps me from posting. And every day, the world says that I should. "If you want to be a professional, you have to act like one." Regular posting and good advice means professional blog. So they say. But I can't spout that stuff all the time. Eh, I don't know what I'm saying here. No great advice today, no professional thoughts to speak of. (Eww, I've said 'professional' four, er, five times in one paragraph.)

The week has been slow as I've settled into my summer freedom. 

After a month of creative explosions, I can only say that I finished painting the kobold minions I was working on, drew a bunch of characters that may or may not be included in Dungeonball, and wrote a little over fifty pages of my rewrite... meaning that I fell short of my goals. I still have a good twenty chapters ahead... and basically sixty days to write them. Still have lots of artwork ahead of me, still have lots of manuscript to pore over, still have to make "hay" figurines, still have, still have... blah.

Looking at all that I've done, though, I feel okay. The fact that I've completed four drafts of a novel... that's the biggest thing that makes me happy. I'm not a quitter. I don't leave work half-finished. One step at a time, things will get done.

Plus I just beat Mass Effect 2. This is what I do when I procrastinate... video games are great at eating away time I don't have. But hey, it was fun. Jaica Shepard brought her whole team (aside from the crew... sorry, Kelly...) back, and she's happy loving Thane for the rest of his life. 

She looks pretty dang evil, though, with the glowy scars. We thought it was a good contrast to my husband's beautiful, angelic Alyce, so we kept them... It's fun to see the differences built into the game between being a paragon and renegade.

My husband's character Alyce, Paragon, loves Liara.

My character Jaica, Renegade, loves Thane.

Well, okay, so I've been a little obsessed with playing it in my lazy state. But it's over now, right? Right? mean there's another one...? Crap.

Until next time. Peace.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Relive, Not Rewrite

Ava Jae over at Writability recently wrote a fabulous post about "reliving" instead of "rewriting" your stories. (Go check it out here!) Basically, instead of having a scene on hand for reference, you can let your creative mind flow without that reference and become a better writer. Your characters will thank you for it.

Relive the scene. That's something I've been striving for since I started my so-called "rewrite" this month. But when I have both the old version and new version open at the same time, it stifles the flow that may have otherwise come through.

I think that's why I had trouble with a certain scene recently. I was so stuck on a transition that made sense in the other draft but didn't make sense for this one. I had changed some things. Moved the order around. Let the conversation flow more naturally. And this transition... it was forced. I could tell it was forced, but because I had the other draft open, I couldn't see how to fix it.

Luckily I have an amazing husband who knew just what it needed.

When it was fixed, thanks to his genius, I let him take a look at the final product. He's always very honest with me, tells me what I need to fix... but as he went over the last six pages, he didn't say a word. I was worried.

"So?" I asked. "What did you think?"

"Actually... I'm impressed. It's really good."

And that was it. My brain didn't want to believe it. But that's what happens when you "relive" a scene instead of "rewrite" it.

Thanks, Ava Jae, for your inspiring post. :D Now back to writing.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Life is making me cry.

As a kid, I was always a crybaby, and people pointing out that fact made me cry even more. But somewhere around eighth grade, when I started getting depressed, that all went away. I didn't... feel. Luckily I found the help I needed to get better, to enjoy life without tears. For the past week or so, though, everything makes me cry again. I get emotional over the stupidest little things. Stuff that shouldn't make me cry. TV shows, movies, music, reading a stupid manga, thinking about my sister, writing a post or a page of my book... things that don't normally make me upset.

I can't help but wonder... is that because I'm going back to the way I once was, did something traumatic happen to my subconscious, or is it the very belated side-effect of a medication change? It's hard for me to know what's "personality" and what's "psychological disorder." The world has blurred the lines there. Is someone spontaneous, fun, and easily distracted just that way, or are they suffering from ADD? Anyway. I've always had a lot of empathy, even for complete strangers and fictional characters, but I'm telling you, this crying thing now borders on ridiculous. I could start bawling if my cat meows, for crying out loud (whee).

Would that bother you, being around someone who cries at stupid stuff? It's embarrassing for me as the crybaby--and of course, that embarrassment will just make me cry some more.

Somebody slap me in the face and tell me I'm crazy. *oww* 


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jack of All Trades

I give myself too many projects. Right now I have a children's book to illustrate, board game artwork to draw, my book rewrite, critiquing someone else's book, miniatures to make, painting on other miniatures, music to score, this blog to continue updating...

But that's the fun part.

See, as a creative mess, a multi-talented individual, you never get bored. With so much to do, you could switch tasks whenever it starts to feel monotonous. "Hmm. My eyes hurt from staring at the computer screen. Let's go paint." You feel productive all the time--because no matter what you worked on, you were getting things done. And if you get really burned out (not very often, but it does happen) there's always books and video games to rejuvenate your mind, or exercising to rejuvenate your body. 

There is a catch, though.

You're not considered to be the best at any one thing. Jack of all trades, master of none. That's the saying anyway. People who focus on one talent supposedly progress a lot more quickly than those who try to do everything. If you take a look around you, seeing the product of the single-talents of the world might be more daunting than it is inspiring. You look at a piece of art and say, "Wow. I'm never going to be that good." Artists are constantly drawing. Musicians are constantly practicing. Authors are constantly writing. Me? The only thing I do consistently is sleep. Draw for an hour. Practice if there's a piano nearby. Take four hours to write fifteen hundred words (not joking, writing can be that slow at times). But you get better, still striving to be master of all.

The question is, Is that good enough? Are jacks of all trades good enough at what they do to be worth it, or are they doomed to produce second-rate work forever? What do you think?


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Luna's Birthday

So... my cat Luna's birthday was last week, and the horrible mommy I am, I completely forgot about it until Monday. It's not just any kitty celebration--sure she gets special food and treats and stuff, but this birthday was special because it represents a milestone in both of our lives.

Luna was born when I was twelve years old, in 2002. I kinda can't believe it, but my baby is ten years old. She's been with me for half of my life. These past ten years, we've shared some losses and some gains, and we've learned so much about each other.

She loves cuddling, nuzzling, and sleeping under the blankets next to me--something Jaron had to adapt to when we got married. She goes crazy over my hair elastics, and I find a few in her water bowl every morning. She likes the taste of earwax, eating paper, and sleeping on electronics. And... I know that she loves me. She can tell when I'm having a hard time, and she takes good care of me on those days. She responds verbally when I talk to her... and if Jaron and I are not home for a long time, Luna worries about us, sometimes so much that she makes herself sick.

Luna is the prettiest, and maybe sweetest, cat on the planet, and I'm not just saying that because she's my baby. She has the cute shape of an American Shorthair, but the coloring of a Siamese. Most cats don't like visitors, but she definitely does. People who generally hate cats love Luna, no joke. Luna is special. Just see for yourself.

Happy birthday, kitty. We love you. 


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Giveaway at Fresh as a Daisy!

Okay, guys, Daisy Carter over at Fresh as a Daisy is giving away some awesome stuff, like this book, over on her blog! She's also giving away a Barnes&Noble gift card, and most exciting of all, a first-page critique! :D

Just go to her page (here), follow her (you know you want to--she's awesome), leave a comment, and enter to win one of her three great prizes! :) The contest ends this Friday, so get over there now!


Monday, June 11, 2012

The Mistborn Trilogy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars: *****

I feel like I must review this trilogy as a whole, and not as individual books. The reason for this is that it was intricately laid out from the beginning. There are no points where something was thrown in last-minute, and the three books, Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages, are sewn together in so many places that you're really doing yourself a disservice if you only read the first one.

This is coming from someone who is notorious for not finishing the stories I begin, so you can be sure that I mean what I say. The books get a solid five stars, my first ever for a novel. I'll try not to spoil too much in this review--I know, I'll put them at the end, with a warning. I like to dissect books a bit into categories; I'd like to look at characters, description, dialogue, setting, and plot.

Characters: I loved them, of course. But what really made them great was their levels of complexity. Sazed, with the weight of the knowledge he carried; Vin, a beaten, but not broken girl who had to change from hidden to hero; Kelsier, whose ideas extended much further than anyone knew; Breeze, who talked up selfishness as he helped others in ways they never understood; Spook, who others dismissed when he had a strength no one else could see... each character goes through their own transformation, their own developmental arc as the story progresses.

Description: Mr. Sanderson has a great talent for words. While I did feel a little overkill on the part of the ashfalls, he never gets into the info-dumpy, repetitive area of world building. He created vivid images while leaving many of the details up to the reader. It was a bit gory sometimes (like when someone's cut completely in half) but the world is a dark place where horrible things happen. Creatures like the Inquisitors and koloss were simultaneously horrifying and fascinating.

He also did something very interesting. At the beginning of each chapter, pieces of a certain person's knowledge were revealed, depending on the book (it was different each time). There's always a mystery behind those words, too, and I found myself guessing who was speaking, or how that knowledge was useful, as I went along. I also found myself going back to those titles to connect the dots.

Dialogue: It was usually pretty clear who was speaking even without dialogue tags, which is a great sign for both characterization and dialogue. While the way the characters spoke was a bit strange compared to what we're used to, it fit into the world perfectly. The line that was employed several times throughout the books was, “There's always another secret,” but my favorite scenes were the conversations between Vin and the kandra.

Setting: The world is already dying when the story starts. We know, from the very beginning, that a hero came along to save the world and instead, ash falls from the sky, the people are oppressed, and the Lord Ruler has sat as their supposed deity for a thousand years. He's already stamped out anyone who opposed him, the common people, or 'skaa,' are broken, and the nobility live extravagantly while the others suffer. It also becomes clear, as time goes on, that the problems with the world extend far deeper than the Lord Ruler. We meet new creatures, like the kandra and koloss, and discover things the world hasn't known since before his reign.

The magic system has always been Sanderson's strong suit. This world employs three of them, all metal-based, and does so expertly. Allomancy, the magic of the Mistborn, is done by ingesting metals and then burning them. It retains the mysterious properties of magic (how can people 'burn' the metals inside themselves?) but also sets some clear limitations (if your metal runs out, no more Allomancy, and if there's anything left inside overnight, it makes you sick). Each metal does something specific, but is employed in creative ways.

Plot: I'll say it again. This trilogy was laid out intricately from the beginning. Things that appear to mean nothing in the first book come to fruition in the third one. Everything ties together. There were a lot of mysteries to be solved. I'm one of those people who tends to know how it ends five hundred pages before it does, but there were too many surprises to catch all of them. Some things were obvious to me, though it felt more like inevitability than anything else. What I really loved was when I was totally caught off-guard by something—it made me enjoy this book all the more. Plus... there was no fat in this book. Everything that was there needed to be there.

That's probably why, when the ending came, I cried. No, not just cried, I bawled. Everything culminated in a beautiful way. The loss of certain characters, although sad, felt right. I had such a strong emotional reaction because it made sense, showed the ultimate courage and defiance of the heroes, and restored the balance of the world as it ended. It was beautiful, heroic, and powerful.

The Mistborn trilogy represents the greatest work of fantasy fiction I've ever read. Go read it. Now.



The only thing that ever bothered me while reading about the characters was when Vin, as Valette, first met Elend. This girl who hated everyone, distrusted everyone, immediately trusts and connects to the spoiled rich kid. It didn't make sense at first—but after several encounters and learning to love Elend, I accepted it. I just wish it hadn't happened so quickly. She blubbers over him like a baby when he tries to leave her, too. The first book actually only got four stars from me for this very reason—though as I said, I later came to accept it as another side of Vin's character.

I've seen it argued many times over that the religious tones of the last book, with Sazed dissecting and finally understanding and holding the truth of the religions, is obvious pro-Mormon, pro-faith preaching. I don't see it. I just don't. Ruin and Preservation... the Hero of Ages, that stuff doesn't even slightly resemble the things I learned as a kid. Perhaps Sazed coming to realize that all of the religions he learned are illogical, flawed, or otherwise untrue resembles Joseph Smith saying “none of them were true”—but the only reason this is even being argued is because Sanderson himself is LDS. It's a work of fiction with a lot of pages to validate any theory—you could also argue, more justifiably, that the ending is pro-Atheist. He comes to understand Ruin and Preservation as a force, and sees the scientific value of all religions.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Building Your Own Computer

You may recall that I've had trouble with my lemon computer--it's left such a bad taste in my mouth, so bad, in fact, that I will probably never shop at Worst Buy (because it definitely wasn't best) again. After a year of struggling, repairs, lots of money, and much frustration, we finally decided it was time to build our own computer.

Of course, we're not experts, but we learned a lot of things along the way. The essential pieces of a computer are as follows:

  • A Case - You'll want one that's roomy, with lots of ventilation, a dust filter, and its own fans. It also helps if you can take off both sides of the case (it helps with the wiring).
  • A Motherboard - There are tons of them out there; the important thing is that it's compatible with the other pieces you buy.
  • A Processor - The CPU (Central Processing Unit, for the tech impaired) is, as its name implies, the center of your computer. It's a fragile little chip. Putting that piece onto the motherboard is scary business. You don't want to put any pressure on it, lest you bend or break the pins underneath.
  • A Hard Disk Drive - This is where your computer stores information and programs, so you want one with lots of room. (You can also get what's called a solid-state drive, which performs the same function--but it's much faster. It's the difference between a game cartridge, which loads instantly, and a game disc, which takes some time to read. They're small and expensive, though.)
  • RAM sticks - RAM stands for random-access memory. It stores stuff that's being actively used. More memory is better. We have two plugged in, though you can also get sets of four.
  • Graphics/Video Card - A lot of  motherboards come with what's called "on-board" video, but if you're gaming, you're going to want one anyway. Ours makes Mass Effect run smooth and   look gorgeous. ;)
  • An Optical Drive - That is, if you want to be able to read CDs. I'm guessing you do.
  • A Power Supply - This is where a lot of pre-built computers skimp, but it's the thing that gets power where it needs to go, so it's pretty darn important. It's better to have a modulated one, so that you're not stuck with a bunch of random cords... unfortunately ours is not.
It's actually a pretty simple thing, when you think about it, although the first build takes a few hours. It's mostly just putting in tiny screws and routing wires. And it's messy.

Ours is a Frankenstein's monster--we stole a few safe parts from the lemon, so there are pieces from that one lying around, too.

We got some help from Newegg tutorials while doing ours, so we didn't end up breaking something or putting something in the wrong place. I'm typing on our new build now--my husband suggested calling it Genesis. A fitting name for our first creation! It's working beautifully. :D


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Paladin - Human

happy tummy + no work = super productivity

I'm already changing things for my rewrite. Having started a second book where you get to see other perspectives has really helped me to develop Tsira's personality into something more likable. She's still really weird, of course, but not so bitter. I like the direction she's taken. 

Without work getting in the way, I've also been free to finish my miniatures, work on Dungeonball, read Juliana's manuscript (yay!), and of course, play lots of video games.

So. Dungeonball has taken some fun twists in mechanics, and we've ditched a few character classes... so technically, I shouldn't have to do as much artwork. But because I'm me, and I like making things difficult, I'm still planning on drawing every possible combination. This means that even though you've seen the wizard, you'll also get to see the feline wizard, and dragon wizard, and undead wizard. You'll also get to see bonus characters we dropped, like the detective. :)

As the title says, you get to see our human paladin today. He's not my favorite of the first batch, but he's still pretty cute.