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.

-Tsira

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crybaby

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* 

-Tsira

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?

-Tsira

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. 

-Tsira

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!

-Tsira

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.

-Tsira



***SPOILER SECTION***

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

-Tsira

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.


-Tsira

Friday, June 1, 2012

Story of a CONduit

Rewrite begins today!

I'm making a note here: huge success. :) As in, CONduit was a big success. Jaron sold out of Villages, and I made enough money from prints to cover the cost of printing plus some. (I still have some prints left over, and I just might be giving them away when I'm finished with my rewrite...)

So, I've decided that I love going to cons. There's this air of familiarity, willingness to share, and overall good feelings. Plus there's something to be said for a place where people are just walking around wearing amazing homemade costumes like this one:


Sorry for the horrible lighting. The hotel was pretty dim. I had a lot of fun, though, and I made some new friends, too. For instance, sitting at the booth next to us was Travis Austin Lee, who was selling books--he had one that he'd written as well. When we started talking about writing, the way that he writes and edits just sounded exactly the way that I do. It's not the 'recommended' way--but I can't ever completely tune out my inner editor. It can take me an hour to pen a paragraph. Well, anyway... they say that great minds think alike. Let's hope that's the case, since I ended up buying his book. Couldn't help it. He was such a nice guy.


Paul Genesse was also there; he had a pizza party on Saturday night to celebrate the release of his third book in the Iron Dragon series. I remembered seeing him at LTUE; seems he remembered us, too. He talked to me for a while as we waited in line to get ice cream--and he even bought me a scoop! (They were only 25 cents, but it was still so cool that he did that. +10 awesomeness points to Mr. Genesse.)


Well, I'll be back to make the rounds soon. It's been too long since I've checked the blogosphere. I'm going to keep busy with all of this writing, but since today's the last day of work in three months, I'll try to be more active around here. Until then, bonus points for those who recognize the reference at the top of this post. More bonus points if you can identify the pin I'm wearing in the pics. ;)

Peace.

-Tsira