Monday, December 30, 2013

Frozen

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, everyone! The holidays always get a little crazy, but there have been a lot of things I want to discuss. We'll focus on just one of those things today: Frozen.


My rating: *** (3/5 stars)

So... This movie was over-hyped for me, to start. My little sister claimed it's so great that she'd already seen it multiple times and had the soundtrack (the music is suited well to her, I give it that). But it hardly lived up to this "best movie ever" standard. Graphically, the movie is practically identical to Tangled, which isn't necessarily a bad thing on its own, but... Sven was just another not-so-funny version of Maximus (Remember the horse that acted like a dog? That was funny! Let's recycle it, but using a reindeer--because Christmas.) and Kristoff is not the charming, interesting character that Flynn Rider was.

Story Time

So the movie starts off with a sad story about two little princesses, one of whom--Elsa--has ice magic. They love playing together, until Elsa accidentally hits her little sister in the face with her ice powers. From then on, their horrible parents teach Elsa to fear and hide her powers and make the little sister, Anna, forget that she has them. Parents go off on a trip and die, leaving a broken Elsa and naive Anna to care for the kingdom. (To the composer's credit, "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" was a fabulous song.) Elsa is to hide her powers while she's made queen, while Anna is looking for love.

So Anna, of course, meets a handsome prince who sweeps her off her feet. She hangs out with the guy all day and they sing a song about true love and getting married. So she goes to Elsa wanting approval--thankfully Elsa has a good head on her shoulders and does not give her blessing. But, Anna provokes her, and she ends up using ice magic. Some people start to call Elsa a monster, and because she's emotional and her ice skills have been stunted by her crappy parents, Elsa runs away to protect everyone from herself.

As she does so she plunges everything into an eternal winter by accident. Anna vows to find her sister and get her to stop the snow and come home. Kristoff and Sven and Olaf the snowman are nice sidekicks there to help her on her quest.

A Frozen Heart

"Aww, adorable!" ...no. Just no.

***Spoilers After This Point***
Elsa accidentally hits Anna in the heart with her magic, starting a countdown to death. Central to the story is this idea that the only thing that can cure a "frozen heart" is an act of true love. Assuming that "true love's kiss" is the thing that will save her, Anna rushes back to the kingdom, where she'd left the man she met that day in charge. When she left him there, my husband and I exchanged a few words: "You can't do that, you dummy! He'd better turn out to be the villain!" (You know, the real villain, since Mr. Weaselface was a boringly obvious red herring.)

Of course, true to our prediction, he states, "If only there was someone who loved you," leaves Anna to die, and proceeds to take over the kingdom and declare Elsa a traitor. Oh noes, who will perform "true love's kiss" now, thinks Anna, and proceeds to go after Kristoff. 

There are a few major problems with this, the first of which was addressed beautifully by my mother, who said,
"A kiss is not an act of true love. True love is demonstrated by your everyday actions, how you treat the person, and the sacrifices you make."
The other major fallacy, of course, is that "true love" is only possible between a couple in a relationship, and not through friend and family bonds.

If you've seen the show, I know what you're thinking right now: "But Rachel, the movie debunks these myths! Didn't you watch it all the way to the end?"

And I'm getting to that. But first remember that a great deal of the movie is spent focusing on this notion of "true love's kiss" and even deals us a horribly stupid song about how much men suck without a woman to change them, reinforcing those stereotypes about romance and gender roles. If it weren't for the last five minutes of the film, and Kristoff had indeed kissed Anna better, as was the set-up, this movie would have been a total disaster.

*makes gagging noise*

Redemption

There was so much focus on the stuff that made my eyes roll that if I hadn't spent money on it (and I was on my own), I might have walked out. It was boring, predictable, and... well, unsatisfactory. It wasn't until those last few minutes that it redeemed itself. I would have been so disappointed, especially thanks to all that unnecessary hype, if "true love's kiss" had saved the day in yet another Disney princess movie (and since they didn't even remotely follow the book, there's no excuse). Luckily, it was Anna's love for her sister, and her willingness to sacrifice herself to protect her, that caused her heart to thaw (though not without some added drama). It was a beautiful moment, and I was glad the movie got something right.

So, eh. Ultimately it was decent, but not up to my usual standards.

-Rachel

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Olive

Between the holiday prep, starting a new job, and a frustrating illness, I've been a bit preoccupied over the last few weeks. But none of that was quite as fun or as stressful as dealing with this:


This is Olive, an adorable, energetic kitty that needs a home. I already have a cat, Luna, but Jaron and I were considering looking for a second one when we were asked if we could take Olive. "...if you're for cereal about getting rid of her and don't have any other takers, then yes, we would make her at home here," I said.

Of course, this would all depend on whether or not little Olive would get along with Luna.

For starters, there's a big gap in the ages there. Luna is a senior cat, 11 1/2 years old. Olive is 2 1/2. Olive is very playful, running around, exploring everything, and quickly moving from one interest to another; Luna is content to sit in your lap and sleep. So while Olive was excited to be in our home, Luna was not so thrilled.

Secondly, Olive is deaf. She can't hear you call her name, or tell her 'no'. That's never stopped her from being an adorable ball of cuddly, or from learning the rules--squirt bottle training was pretty effective--but it did stop her from hearing how unhappy Luna was with her. She couldn't hear Luna growling at her whenever she tried to play with her. She was completely oblivious to it, and it frustrated Luna to the point where she actively sought Olive out to hiss in her face.

For reference, this is not like Luna at all. At all. Even when we babysat a kitten, Luna was pretty submissive and let the other cat stomp all over her territory. When she met Olive, she didn't seek out confrontation--she hid under the bed while Olive explored. We were sure to let Luna know that the space was hers, but she avoided her. Until Olive tried to play.


Aside from Luna's issues, it was a pretty interesting experience. Olive tried to follow me into the shower. She played with Luna's cardboard castle so much it kinda broke. She curled up around my legs and demanded petting and attention, but she was not afraid to nip at me if I did something she didn't like. And because she can't hear herself, the way she drinks water is adorably loud. But, after a week, we had to let Olive go. The trial period was over, and Luna was not happy.

Olive still needs a home, so if you know anyone in the Salt Lake area who is looking for a cat, please share this with them. She's a total sweetie who loves lots of attention, and I'd hate to see her go to the shelter.

-Rachel Frost

Friday, November 22, 2013

New Job!

I have a new job!


And not just any job. I've been trying to become a library shelver for years. YEARS, I tell you. My husband was a shelver up until last September, and so I knew exactly what I would be getting into if I was hired. And it's awesome. Spending all day with books, sorting stuff, pulling holds, and getting to work with some of the nicest people on the planet.

Of course there will occasionally be screaming children, messes to clean up, and the dreaded carnivorous DVD people to deal with, but it can't possibly be worse than a bad day at my previous job. Honestly, screaming kids are cake.

It's been a long road. I've taken the shelving test at least three times, and it's designed to be confusing and difficult. Technically 34/45 is passing, though the higher the score, the higher your chance of an interview. It asks things like (pretend you're putting these on a shelf):

"Which would come third in this set?
A. Schneider, Amy
B. Snyder, Andrew
C. Schneider, Carrie
D. Schnieder, Amanda
E. Sneider, Marc." 

Seriously. Every question is like this. And it's timed. (Awesomeness points for those who get it right!)

Past that, I've been to many, many interviews. I had started to think there was something wrong with me since I was passed up so many times. Schedule wasn't right for me. Couldn't work right away. Simply didn't get a call back. Told my appearance wasn't professional enough (I had a legitimate excuse for that one--besides, shelvers get to wear jeans).

So when I interviewed on Wednesday and got a call back two hours later, I assumed it was bad news. I was thrilled to be wrong. So thrilled, in fact, that I claimed my place as queen of the crybabies as soon as I hung up. Words cannot adequately describe how ecstatic I was.

 Cheers to not giving up on dreams. :)

-Rachel

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Twists and Turns

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... Audiences were stunned by Darth Vader's words to Luke: "No. I am your father." It's a classic plot twist. Done right, it has a lot of impact. Done wrong, it's predictable and boring.

Lately I've wondered about such twists and turns in the stories we digest. There's not much that surprises me anymore. My husband and I watched Thor: The Dark World last night, and... I was disappointed. Don't get upset when I say that Loki is predictable, because there are some fantastic moments in that film and almost all of them come from Tom Hiddleston. (In fact, he's the only character to show some real emotional depth.) But it's true. Loki is really predictable.

One could argue that Star Wars was predictable, but since I first watched it as a little kid, I was thrilled by the worlds and characters, and what I see all the time in other things now didn't feel so cliche then. The mysterious and powerful mentor must die for the hero to grow into his own. The rogue runs to a friend for help and is betrayed. The bad guy turns out to be the hero's relative. Put them together and you either have an amazing story or a really lousy one. 


How can this be?

It's all about storytelling. It is our jobs as writers to tell the story properly. The plot thickens. It twists. Everyone knows and expects this. What matters is how this is shown. You can do this three ways:  

1. The obvious way. It's the lazy way; this is how, say... Catching Fire comes across. Hints are dropped every five seconds just in case the reader misses the first hundred clues. The protagonist is miraculously stupid even when literally everything points at the truth. (Really, Katniss? How can you be so blind?!) 

2. Subtle foreshadowing. This is tricky, because if you don't heed the word 'subtle' here, it will turn into the obvious. A good example comes from what now seems like an old film, The Sixth Sense. It was talked about to death after everyone had seen it, because while the clues were there, they were easy to overlook. (Since it came out over ten years ago, I feel no shame in sharing spoilers.) Dr. Crowe never moves anything, and doesn't ever have a direct conversation with anyone but the kid. (The Anniversary scene was brilliantly acted, by the way.) Then when you find out he's dead, you suddenly want to go back and watch the movie again. And you realize, all the signs were there.

3. Present it right away, then let them watch it unfold. My favorite book--or rather trilogy--right now is Mistborn. There is a huge 'secret' throughout that's easy to deduce once the third book starts, but as soon as you notice, instead of being put off or disappointed by it, you want to see just where the author is going with it. And as all the little pieces tie together, you marvel at how amazing the whole story was, and how even the expected had an unexpected twist. (Then you cry so hard that you can't even see what you're reading anymore... ahem.)


Now you may say, "But what about random twists? Out of the blue, for no reason?" Random stuff happens in real life, but not in fiction. It needs to serve a purpose. Even a book that claims something random just occurred proves a point while doing so. Pay attention to what you're doing, and don't ever force the story to change just because you think you need a plot twist. That's the most important thing. Don't force it. Your audience can tell.

I wish you luck. Now go write.

-Rachel

Monday, November 4, 2013

You Can Do This

Blogging is hard, guys. Harder than writing a novel, apparently. My last post was in September. I skipped a whole month! I'd never skip writing for that long. I'd probably die if I did. My brain would drip out my ears from idea overload. But... Blogging? I have no ideas about what to say, what would be proper. What would make me sound awesome and smart.

And maybe that's okay. Because I'm not awesome and smart. No, I'm not an expert by any means. But it doesn't take an expert to share with others what knowledge you have. If it did, we writers would never be allowed to publish any books. Artists would never sell any paintings. Musicians would never record an album.

What a boring world we would live in, if everything was required to be perfect before leaving our fingertips! There's such beauty in learning and growing as we go along, and watching others do the same. I've recently read a lot of research on a few inspiring figures in the creative world. Oscar Wilde. Georgia O'Keeffe. Erik Satie. I can tell you now that they made a lot of mistakes before they got things right. And debates still rage over the quality of their works.

But they persisted. They wrote and painted and played even when no one was around, even when it got hard, even when they worried that they weren't awesome or smart or good at their respective art.

So I'll be back, soon this time. And I hope the rest of you will continue to share your words with the world. Whatever your worries are, whatever your struggles, you can do this. I know you can. Even if you don't believe in you, I do. 

Good luck!

-Rachel

PS. Melissa, this post exists because of you. Thank you. :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pokémon-A-Day

Near the end of August, I finished revising Tsirash. While I am still writing other things, this is my main one, and I'm still waiting for feedback. (Thanks, those who have already finished it!) Suddenly I had some extra time on my hands. 

I decided to focus on my drawing skills. I've wanted to try a few things over the years, like making chibis of my entire family (which I did back in 2010), drawing my own versions of every class from Final Fantasy Tactics (way too ambitious for someone at my level), or personifying all of my favorite animals (...). But after my husband hired a creature artist to make up animals for a card game, I thought I needed to work on creatures myself. The fastest way to learn? Drawing Pokémon.

I love Ken Sugimori's artwork, and while I think it's completely crazy of me to attempt to draw over 600 of them, I can spend a half-hour or so every day and take it bit by bit. Thus Pokémon-A-Day was born. Here are some of my favorites so far:




-Rachel

By the way, the easiest one so far has been Cyndaquil, while the hardest was Feraligatr. I've already picked up a few things from this, especially about shape. Lots of these creatures are just ovals and rectangles.

Friday, August 23, 2013

From Fourth to Fifth

My fifth draft of Tsirash is finally done.

While I was somewhat downhearted that my fourth draft was so easily cut down (especially near the beginning), I also realized that I wasn't happy with it, either. It needed something. I just wasn't sure what that was until after I'd already started sending out queries. So I opened up a new document, made a list, and started over. And it took a lot longer than I thought it would. I set my goal for a month, thought three months, ended up with over a year's worth of work.

I was afraid that it just wasn't good enough. "No one wants to read this," I'd think. "Well, I do, but I've read so little that I'm not qualified to write it." My husband knows this, because I'd ask him at least twice a day, "You like my book, right? You like my characters?" Of course, the answer was always yes, but it didn't do much to make me feel better. "He's married to me--he's obligated to like it," I thought.

At this time, my job was literally hurting me. I was emotionally and physically drained at the end of each day. All I wanted to do was eat junk food and play video games when I got home. It made writing really difficult. My ever-supportive husband told me I could quit if I wanted to, because he was finally making enough money to pay for stuff. So I took his offer. I quit, promising myself that I'd do productive things every day, lose weight, and write like it was my career. 

It's like living in a dream, to actually have the freedom to sit and write as long as I want. It's such a great opportunity, and I'm grateful for every minute of it. I mean, I still have bad days and problems... but I finished my book. It had taken over a year to get barely 25,000 words in. It's now over 70,000 words and it's finished.

I've been told many times that "writers don't make money, so keep your day job," the odds of getting published are slim, and that "you should do something productive with your time, like going back to school." Those things used to bother me. Now they just make me all the more determined to prove that I can do this. That's because I love my characters, I love my story, and I want to share it with the world.

I finally feel like it's good enough.

-Rachel

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Piano in Fiction

My mother started teaching me to play the piano when I was five years old. I loved it so much that by the time I reached third grade, I was composing my own pieces and submitting them in competitions. I made it all the way to state level once. I learned to play the organ for my church, and got to the point where I could sight-read any hymn. I played for school choirs many times. I even accompanied a piece on live television. 

So when I tell you I'm pretty good at playing the piano, that's where I'm coming from. I'm no professional--I could never practice for more than an hour or two a day, and I'm by no means perfect at the songs I play. Sometimes I'm asked to play a piece and have to bluff my way through it because I only have a week to practice--and did I mention there's no piano at my apartment? But I'm pretty darn good at it, and have some knowledge for writers out there.

1. There is a proper way to play. Tips of the fingers on the keys, fingers curled, wrists up. A lot of kids play with their shoulders slumped and their wrists down, so they're often reminded not to do that. It's okay to lean in, to drive more power into it, but slouching will make your back ache after about half an hour. There are some examples of awesomeness who break the rules, though, like Ben Folds, who often plays standing up.

2. Most adults can reach an octave or a little over one. Rachmaninoff, I am told, had a ridiculously huge reach, like 12 white keys instead of 8. I can stretch to 10 if I really have to, with my left hand. Right hand, not so much. Also, the right hand usually plays melody, so being left-handed can be a challenge when you're supposed to bring out the melody and your stronger hand is naturally on accompaniment.

3. Know what the words "arpeggio" (broken chord), "forte" (written as f, it means loud), "piano" (written as p, it means soft), "scale" (a string of ascending and descending notes), and "octave" (interval between say, C4 and C5) mean, so you don't fall into the mistake of using them improperly. 

4. The notes go from A to G and then start over. b stands for flat,  and # stands for sharp. Also note that Cb is actually a B, B# is C, Fb is E, and E# is actually an F. So unless the sheet music would use those two because of  weird keys and accidentals that exist solely to confuse us (I swear, it happens) don't say, "She played E sharp." You'll avoid snickers from the musicians.

5. Do NOT do what Twilight did, because it was obvious that somebody did not understand what constitutes impressive piano skills. Debussy wrote some fun and beautiful pieces, but Clair de Lune is not hard to learn. If Edward were really a hundred-year-old musician who wanted to impress, he'd at least choose something like Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# minor, which requires all ten fingers and speed coupled with pianissimo delicacy. That piece also includes a lot of accidentals, so it's mighty hard to read the sheet music.

6. You have this thing called muscle memory. When you've repeated a motion often enough, your body remembers how to do it even if your mind isn't paying very good attention. It's what helps you type the right words on the computer so quickly. It's also the reason I can daydream in the middle of a song and still play the piece well. It also works the other way around--my mind sometimes gets in the way if I suddenly stop daydreaming, and suddenly I can't play it anymore. My fingers know where they're at, but my mind has no clue.

7. In real life, there is one question I am constantly asked which drives me insane. "Can you play Fur Elise?" Does this happen because people like that song, or just because it's the only classical piece they know? Either way, it makes me crazy because one, it's ridiculously easy; I can play it by ear. Two, I hate that song; it's so clunky and loopy and gross. So don't ask. I will prolly sigh and roll my eyes at you. I won't be offended if you ask for that other song everyone knows, though. Ya know, Clair de Lune. The one I just told you was not impressive. Why? Because, as I also said, it's fun and beautiful.

Well, I hope this is at least somewhat useful. Feel free to comment or contact me if you have any other questions. Happy writing!

-Tsirachel

Monday, July 22, 2013

Gaialite

If you've been following me for a while, you may remember that I said I was writing music for a video game. That would be this one:


While it was a fun and exciting project, especially for a few of the "official" testers, after hundreds of hours of sprite-making, programming, glitch-patching, revising story lines, etc., Fridgecrisis Games gave up on the project. It was a great learning experience, but as skills improved, a few things became obvious. One, it was far too big a project for basically one person (with a little help in the music department) with no time to work on it. Two, ah, forget about two. And three, the program it was developed in, called RPG maker VX, was severely limiting gameplay-wise. 

With this in mind, however, the game as it stands is fully playable, really fun, and kind of hilarious. So, because we love it and want to share it, you can download the full game at The Fridge. Enjoy!

-Rachel Frost (tsirachel)

PS. +10 points if you caught my reference!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Bad, the Worse, and the Ugly

Bad things come in threes... or so I've been told.

A week ago today, my husband and I were driving to his mother's house when my car suddenly died. While we were going forty miles per hour. It's had troubles kind of like this before--this is the same car that was running on miracles with a shredded serpentine belt, leaky coolant cap, and basically no transmission fluid. Thankfully, my stepfather-in-law runs a towing company and knows a heck of a lot about cars. He replaced the fuel pump for us, and while he was at it he drained the water from my tail light and put a new bulb in it. 

But before the issue with my car was fixed, someone stole my husband's car. Yep. It was one of those easy-to-break-into Hondas, and in fact that very car had been stolen before. We thought, "we'll, there's no radio in it, nothing at all valuable about it, so what are the odds of it being stolen again? There'd be no point!" Turns out, we were wrong. By the time the police found it, there was only one wheel left on it, and the people who towed it (not the previously mentioned company, but another one) are charging more to get it back than the car is worth, at this point. So we're leaving it there. That worthless hunk of junk is cursed.

But remember, that's only two things.

On the Fourth of July, I hit my toe on my couch so hard that I heard a loud pop before I found myself on the floor in tears. It was kind of hilarious, actually, because such a little thing was so painful. You must know how badly a stubbed toe can hurt. But as the hours went on, the burning sensation didn't dissipate; it just got worse. My toe swelled like a balloon, and by the time I was going to bed, it had turned completely purple and black. So I started to worry it was broken. I looked up: sprained vs. broken toe. Unfortunately the symptoms are so similar that unless the bone is protruding from your skin it can be hard to tell. I gave it a day. I wasn't walking much anyway.

Finally I had to go to get an x-ray. If it was broken, it needed to be set, and even if it wasn't, I didn't have gauze and medical tape to buddy my toes together. 

And am I ever so glad it's not broken. Just bruised, ugly, and sprained. So I have to be careful for a few weeks while it heals. I think I pushed it too hard today, walking around everywhere. I still feel pretty silly, wearing this big old boot on my foot and limping like a baby over a tiny little toe. But hey, toes are important.

...and that's how my week went. 

-Tsira

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A New Leaf

I've written a dozen posts and scrapped them since last time. I had different reasons for doing so, generally because it wasn't professional or it would be easy to misinterpret or it sounded like whining.

So instead of my horrible attempts at explaining things, I'll just direct you to these amazing posts instead. Adventures in Depression, and Depression Part Two. (Language warning.) See, not everything there explains perfectly how things worked out for me, but she explains it in a kind of hilarious way. I can laugh at things. And I cry at all the things. But... there hasn't been some miracle cure, and I sometimes slip back into old habits.

Anyway, it's just been a while, and I owe it to you to let you all know that I'm doing fine, turning over a new leaf.


No, not that New Leaf, although it's an addicting game. (Anyone have cherries? Cuz I still need those.)

June has done wonders for my physical, mental, and emotional health. I can write and write for hours without interruption (save the noise my neighbor makes as she steals shopping carts). I've been painting and cleaning and taking good care of my body. Well, mostly. I say that because it's now... 3:44 am.

Still working on that one.

-Tsira

Sunday, June 2, 2013

4 More Days

4 MORE DAYS.

I have to tell you, the end of this school year can't come quickly enough. It's been really hard to do the simplest things, like getting out of bed on time. (The constant sleep battle and morning migraines do NOT help with this issue.) The kids have all basically checked out, and so have I. You could say it's kind of like senioritis, because I know I'm done and don't want to be there anymore.

See, the thing is, I really am done. This is my last year with the school.

I've worked there for several years, and as much as I've helped my kids grow, I've grown personally. I've gone through so many trials that tested my strength (physically and emotionally), capacity for love and for pain, and especially my patience.

I've dealt with my biggest pet peeves and faced my arch-nemesis--not the kid you're thinking of, either. (No, my nemesis would be the one who touches. freaking. everything. and thinks he's oh-so-funny. and smells like cigarettes. and urine.)

I developed a strict, angry voice, because I didn't have one before working with kids. I played and laughed as a zombie, criminal, dog, sports star, and superhero. I gave some of the most important advice I'll ever give. I've had more pictures of spiders thrown in my face, and drawings of myself with arms poking out of my head, than I'm sure I will have for the rest of my life. I've acted as a mom, a nurse, a babysitter, a cop, a buddy... and oh, yeah, a teacher.

Teaching is one of the hardest, and greatest, things in the world. I respect and admire those who go to school and deal with regulation and ever-changing curriculum and infinite tests and roomfuls of crazy children and angry or stupid adults. But it's not what I want to do for the rest of my life, and it's time for a change.

4 more days, and I can leave her and the way she hurt me behind. No more scars, no more crashing into sleep over stress.

4 more days, and I can treat writing as a career instead of a hobby.

-----

I've been neglecting you guys, I know. That's going to change, starting today. Along with my good news about leaving work, here's some from our fellow bloggers:

--Kimberly Chase is releasing her book, The Apollo Academy, in August.
--Kelly Lynn's book, Fraction of Stone, is already out. I recently got my copy in the mail and I'm so excited to finally have time to read it! Plus she's got a surprise in store for us...
--Heather Holden's comic, Echo Effect, is in full swing and going strong.
--Cassie Mae also has a book coming out next month. Friday Night Alibi sounds like a fun romance.
--My husband Jaron took his game Villages to CONduit and sold out for the second year in a row! We're taking the game to KickStarter this fall, so I'll be sure to post some reminders when it gets close.

Anyway, thanks for your support, everyone. It's been kind of a rough month or so, and the nice comments, emails, and tweets have really helped. Now seriously. 4. more. days. *whoop*

-Rachel Frost
(aka Tsira)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Battling Demons

The other night I had a dream where I prepared to battle a demon. I gathered my weapons and allies, facing hard decisions and different paths I could take to reach the snowy mountaintop where the demon awaited me. The journey strengthened me, yes, but also her. And when I woke, I realized two things. One, this would make a good video game (at least I thought so). Two, this was a good analogy for my current struggles. 

"Let's focus on the negative,"
Is how my brain is wired to live.
I am not funny, lovely, or cool.
I'm not even smart; no, I'm just a fool.
A fool with a terrible crushing disease--
Disease of the mind, one forgotten with ease.
You don't know you hurt me, and I don't want you to
Because I think I'm bigger than that. So do you.

But if I think I'm funny, you're serious,
And if I am sincere, it's hilarious!
So what if I write? Fascination
With such things is just recreation.
Real careers, made of more solid skills,
Are what I will learn. So what if it kills?
"That's what life's all about: making money
Is what brings people happiness, honey."

I'm 'pretty,' but not someone he'd ask to dance.
He'll always pick someone else, given the chance.
Because naturally, there's nothing wrong with my face,
Since you praise me with statements of beauty and grace.
Yet I still watch his eyes as they scorn me,
Scolding my hair and the clothes that adorn me.
"You need all the exercise that you can get,"
But no matter how much I burn off, I don't fit.

I have this strange thing they call social anxiety
Where I curl up and shut down and lose all propriety.
She either ignores me or treats me as one
Who would like nothing more than to ruin her fun.
I don't mean what I say, or say what I mean.
And I seem like I'm angry or ill, when this thing
That's inside me is yelling, "Get out and go home!
They don't love you anyway! You're all alone!"

Then the words on my tongue make the ugliest sounds:
Awkward, inelegant, too quiet, too loud.
(Words are so fickle on days like today;
It's only on paper I can make them obey.)
And I say something stupid about how I feel,
But it sounds like a joke, so you laugh. No big deal.
You've forgotten about this disease in my mind.
I don't look how I feel so I must be just fine.

When I tell you, "I'm fighting my demons tonight,"
Remember that I am not feeling all right.
And it isn't your fault, not usually.
My brain tries to keep me from being free.
Little things that you do often keep me from falling,
Bringing me little gifts or simply calling
To ask what I'm doing, to show me you care.
That's all I need--to know that you're there.

-Tsira

PS. ...About that social anxiety I mentioned? If you believe in prayer, pray for me, but I don't want to discuss my issues in person. Seriously. So don't ask.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Let Me Help You

I was told once that my book would make a better graphic novel. While I don't think I could do my story justice in that medium, I do love to draw my characters. Usually it's cartoony stuff, because that's what I'm best at. But I like to try my hand at realism every once in a while... like today.

I guess it's because I'm at this point in my rewrite, and because I'm free to do what I want for a few days. Free, meaning my brain won't leave me alone unless I'm working on a project at every waking moment. But I needed to take a break for an hour, so this was the least productive thing my brain would let me do. ;)

"You'd leave us all in your wake with no clues and let us all drown. But I, I want to understand you. Let me help you."
-Tsira

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Music Boxes

I love the plinky, metallic tones of a music box. It may be partly due to nostalgia; after all, I had a music box as a child, which played one of the songs I had learned for a recital. I often danced to the little music box waltz in The Forgotten Carols. And sometime in my late teens, I wrote a melancholy music box piece off a ditty my little brother played once. I still remember it. 

There's something hauntingly beautiful about that sound, about its repetitive but elegant loop, about it slowing down and finally stopping--sometimes in the middle of the piece it's playing. So when I find a good one, I'll wind it up and listen, then wind it up again...

...or in today's world, I set it to repeat on YouTube.

As we toyed with the idea of making a visual novel, my husband downloaded a "game" called Juniper's Knot. While I can't recommend it for language reasons, I did enjoy the story and the music, particularly the song that follows. (I'll give you a hint: it's a music box melody. See, no random tangents here.)


-Tsira

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Frenemies

my heart was a tree
its branches interweaving
entangled, i could see
the chaos she was leaving
her wake broke off sticks
as she traveled right through
she made other trees sick
and ruined their hue
and trying in vain 
in confusion i sunk
i saw she was rain,

and her heart was a stump

-Tsira

(It's kind of an oldie, but I revised it today.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Of Octras and Jake

I had a crisis at work two weeks ago, and while I was angry and hurt, there was something positive to come out of all of it. I was wasting so much time, I thought; I was letting her dominate me. So much stress led to so much slacking, and I truly was taking work home with me every day. Determined not to let this ruin my life, I set aside time immediately after work to write. And I've been writing every day since.

I would like to share some of that with you. 

Hopefully, this shouldn't need too much context... you can read under the tab Tsirash to find out who these people are, if you don't already know. This is shortly after Shenra and Jake are introduced, and they're at their atha (Ersjaran for house).

Octras wasn't sure how long he sat on the bed, leaning against the wall. He could feel the girls' voices on his back. Tsira's was a low hum and Shenra's had that boyish ring. What they were talking about, he could only assume, with the wall taking half the words and leaving only vowel sounds.
It reminded him of Tsira's reading lesson, how the vowels were also the senses. Her name had an ami and ah in it. With everything else that had happened, he hadn't dared ask for another lesson. And with her arm broken, she wouldn't be able to teach him anything, unless along with all her secrets she was also ambidextrous. He doubted it.
The voices stopped, breaking up his thoughts. But it didn't seem to be over. After a moment their sounds started again, mostly Tsira. He wished he could hear them, but they were probably conversing in Ersjaran, anyway. And there was another wish, to understand that stupid language. He'd known a few people who spoke it, and all he'd learned was yes and no, ta and ash, and a bunch of random, useless words. Things like yellow was karia and ten was onza.
Okai sju, Shenra,” he heard. Jake was home.
Octras expected a response from the other room, but Tsira and Shenra just kept talking.
There was a thump, and then footsteps coming toward him. The boy came in, his face lighting up at the sight of Octras. “What are you doing?”
“A whole lot of nothing.”
“Well, I know a game we can play,” Jake said, opening a drawer. “With these.” He held up a knitted bag.
“Not today, kit,” Octras said. “Maybe later.”
“All right. Are you bored? No? Then why are you sitting like that?”
He folded his arms. “Could you be quiet for a moment?”
“I can't. Londrea tells me so. She says I'm the tsie kio because I talk so much.”
“I see. Why do you call Shenra by your mother's name?”
“She hates it. Almost as much as I hate the obe in my name. If I do it enough she'll have to call me what I want. That'll show her.”
“And what if she calls you by your father's name?”
He puffed up his chest. “Then I still win.”
That was no surprise. If his father was a mercenary and he loved them, it made sense for Jake to want that title for himself.
“So you're from Calvador, Octras, sir? What's it like? Is it far away? What's your papa's name? Was he a mercenary, too? Is that normal for Calvador-orians?”
“Calvadians don't talk a tenth as much as you.”
“I told you. My sister said so.”
“I see.”
“But I shouldn't. I'm sorry. I know I'm being rude.”
Octras shrugged. “You know, there's a league here called the War Dancers. If you ever stop by there, I'm sure one of the readers would be happy to tell you whatever you want to know.”
Jake pressed his lips together, looking up at the window. “What league are you in?”
“I'm not.”
“But don't you have that black thing they wear?”
So the boy had seen it, too. “It's not mine.”
“Then whose is it?”
Octras took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “A friend's.” He pretended to yawn. “I think I need more rest. Yesterday was stressful. Would you mind closing the door on your way out?”
“But, but...” The boy's expression dimmed. “I can do that.”
He took his knitted bag with him when he left, leaving Octras alone with the hum of Tsira's voice.
-Tsira

Sunday, March 3, 2013

LTUE 2013

Two weeks ago, I loaded my car with writing buddies and drove to Provo for LTUE. Standing for Life, the Universe, and Everything, LTUE is a Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror writer's conference. It's a good refresher and a great motivator, since I got a ton of writing out after the conference was over. 

Through no fault of the panelists, the conference suffered this year. You see, last year it took place at a college campus, and this year it was in a hotel. The hotel had uncomfortable chairs, there weren't enough spaces to get into a couple of panels I was interested in, and at one point it got so stuffy and hot that I got anxious (claustrophobic) and had to step out.

But of course, there were some fantastic panels and lectures that made up for it. Some of my favorite notes from this year's LTUE:
  • Lies are all about truth. In order to lie effectively, you must understand the truth.
  • Respect your readers--if you call attention to something, it needs to have some significance--it needs to be seen again.
  • The reader should not see you.
  • Any time you give numbers, make sure they add up!
  • Author is short for Authority.
  • If you don't know something, don't try to cover it up. ("How does it work?" Don't pretend that you do. Say, "I dunno.")
  • Internal consistency is most obvious when you don't have it.
  • If you're pantsing, the first draft is your outline.
  • The prop in a fight has to be right for the time and person. (Teenage girl with a longsword? ...No.)
  • Too many details in an action scene slows the pace.
  •  Every fight has consequences.
  • Sometimes we get too close to our characters to see the problem. 
  • Let characters create themselves. Let them speak.
  • Every word in your book needs to have a job. If it doesn't have one, give it one or get rid of it.
 -Tsira

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Break of Reality - Vintage

Music. One of those amazing things that connects everything and everyone. One of the few things in life that's truly universal. And there's nothing I love more than finding a fantastic song that I can just set on repeat and listen to again and again without getting bored. 

Through Pandora, I discovered a song from the album Spectrum of the Sky which I really wanted to hear again. So I told my husband about it, and wonderful man that he is, he bought me the album. It stayed in my car's music player for over three weeks straight--something that almost never happens. It evokes powerful and soothing emotions in me, and I'd like to share my favorite song from that album with you.

Say hello to Vintage.


-Tsira

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Procrastination Nation

Before I get to the fun part of this post, I should probably mention a few things. First off, I didn't get the library job. :( But one of the interviewers called me to tell me that I was a great candidate and should keep trying at other libraries. She did mention that someone else complained about my attire--I had come straight from work, and with all the crazy things that happen there, I don't dare wear anything really nice. But it's hard to go into an interview and immediately apologize. It doesn't look so good.

The other thing is, LTUE is next weekend. For those who don't know, that's a SciFi/Fantasy/Horror writer's conference that takes place every year in Utah. I went last year, and I'm looking forward to going again. If you live close enough to make it to Provo every day, or even if you don't and can make the drive to stay in the hotel where it's taking place, I'll direct you to ltue.net for more information.

Okay. So now the fun part. A couple of weeks ago, someone ran across my post on procrastination and contacted me about an interesting graphic about that topic. As it states at the bottom, the graphic came from OnlineClasses.org. Thanks, Allison!

Internships Infographic

Are you a chronic procrastinator? I'm pretty sure I am... shoes. And I'm always trying to justify it. And I already have people to keep me accountable, and I do set deadlines for myself. I just give myself waaay too many projects for my own good.

-Tsira

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Since Last We Met (#6)

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



#6: I missed last week because I attended something called the Global Game Jam. We were given a theme (in this case, the sound of a heartbeat), and 48 hours to create a game. My husband and I came up with an RPG idea for a boy searching for pieces of his heart to impress a girl... After we teamed up with two programmers, the idea morphed into a platformer mixed with a rhythm game. (Ambitious goals for 48 hours, we now know.) It resulted in a bit of a mess, but I'm proud of my little boy and girl artwork and my little song for the game.

It's called Haunted Hearts, and while it may be glitchy (press R if you get stuck) the first level is playable here.

In other news, I have a list of things to share regarding my time away from the blog world. These are the things I've learned, in no particular order:

  • Having a job at the library would be the greatest thing ever. I interviewed last week... Hopefully they like me.
  • You can get pulled over by a cop just to be informed that your brake light on your passenger side is out.
  • Even garbage can be used to create something beautiful. 
  • My Little Pony is actually a good show. So don't diss on Bronies.
  • I really like Unagi... That is, eel. The texture of fish eggs is really interesting, too.
  • Giving someone a hug does not make your bad choices go away. You have to take responsibility and accept the consequences, whatever they may be.
  • Guns serve one primary purpose: to kill or maim living things. They cannot be compared to cars or birth control pills, because those serve another function. 
  • I have a hard time distinguishing a Melissa from a Michele. I always get those two names confused. :P
  • Peanut butter is delicious on apples.
  • Sometimes, happiness is not a choice. Say hello to all the depressives out there, and try to understand that there is something chemically wrong with their brain, not their soul.
  • It's possible that when you tell someone you are in a writing group, they'll think you said 'riding group' as in riding horses. Haha.
  • Twitter is awesome. But sometimes you need room for more than 140 characters.
TTFN, blog buddies. Enjoy the game! :)

-Tsira

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Since Last We Met (#5)

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
 
#5: Games are fun to work on, but they are work nonetheless. My husband runs his own little company, Fridgecrisis Games, and while he's good at pretty much everything he touches, even he can't do everything by himself. So I'm helping him out with Dungeonball.
 

Dungeonball is as it sounds--roaming a dungeon, slaying opposing team members, with the ultimate goal of scoring points with a special ball. And before you ask, NO. It is not based on Dungeonbowl, which is a boring, technical fantasy football game with orcs. But I can see why you might be confused. The title Dungeonball may or may not stick.

Dungeonball is an asymmetrical game, with one person playing as heroes and the other as monsters. The heroes have 4 members total, while the monster player may have up to 13 out on the field at once! It's a tricky thing to balance a game like this, but we think we're pretty dang close to being finished. Finally. At least as far as gameplay goes. As far as the artwork, I've been drawing little dudes like crazy. And even though I know most of them won't be included in the game, I thought it would be fun to better my drawing skill by creating each race/class combination for the heroes.

So here we have an undead, human, feline, and dragon, all magic users. (And you can see they're all in different levels of development...) This means I'm throwing way more into it than necessary, but ya know, it's also fun. 
 
But this is not all rainbows and cuteness. Remember what I said about work? Yeah, there's a lot of that going into making a game. There's a lot of tweaking little things, random stuff that pops up while playtesting. Playtesting... is kind of a misnomer. It's fun to sit down and play the thing, once it's functional, but more often than not there's something wrong and you try to fix it and some other problem pops up and you give and get advice and try it again and again and again until finally it seems just right but then someone else plays with you and it's broken. It's frustrating and hard and repetitive. Very repetitive.

I'm not much of a playtester. I don't think I'd like being QA on a video game, because instead of getting to enjoy the game for what it is, you're going out of your way to break it, over and over and over again. So I have to apologize to my husband for dragging my feet when he wants to test his game. 

Don't get me wrong--I LOVE Dungeonball. If I didn't, I wouldn't be drawing for it. But I'll leave the game design to those capable people over at the Board Game Designers Guild of Utah. Some people are meant to do this stuff.

I am simply not one of them.

-Tsira

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Since Last We Met (#4)

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
 
#4. Painting has always been one of those things that I wanted to do but never could. It may be a tad embarrassing to admit, but I used to love watching those painting shows like with Bob Ross or other such artists sharing their techniques. My mom had acrylics for painting ceramics she'd gotten at the craft store, but the most I'd ever done was paint pine trees for her Christmas village, and she was very protective of her fine-stroke brushes. In all my art classes, I'd barely touched a brush. (For me, the weapon of choice was the pencil.)
 
But when my husband and I decided to get Super Dungeon Explore, I knew I HAD to paint the figurines. A whole year later, I've even almost finished the first set--just in time for the expansion. *sigh* It's tons of fun, but also a ton of work. And I've definitely given myself plenty of it.
 
I only had to redo her mouth twice. Hooray!
 
Lessons for painters: 
  • Paint the hard-to-reach places first, like the underarms and such, because if you have to come back later, you may get that color on something that would already have been done.
  • Brushes need to be stiff. Really stiff. 
  • Wet the brush first. 
  • Don't get paint more than 2/3 of the way up the hairs, or it'll gum it up... and it's basically impossible to get out. So don't do it.
  • Don't freak out if you make a mistake. With paint, you can even cover black with white. 
  • If you want it to look nice, you'll need 2 or 3... or maybe even 6 coats of paint, depending on the color's consistency. (Curse you, yellow!)
  • It can give you a headache to squint at a quarter-sized dude for an hour straight, so get up, walk around, and go to the bathroom once in a while. 
  • Listen to music. Because you know you want to.
  • Eat something before you begin--it calms shaky hand syndrome. Really.
-Tsira

Friday, January 4, 2013

Since Last We Met (#3)

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
 #3: Story time. 

Once upon a season ago, in the faraway kingdom of Salt Lake, there lived a girl named Rachel who loved a good story more than... well, pretty much anything. This Rachel happened to have some talent in creative arts, and an interest in writing. So she decided to attend a speculative fiction writing group. At this group Rachel met many wonderful people who liked her stories and shared some fantastic tales of their own. They told tales of fairies and dragons, of angels and demons, or of ordinary people living not-so-ordinary lives. She loved it, and ended going back for (almost) every meeting.

One day, another writer brought a beautiful short story about inspiration, believing in yourself, and a little girl who helped others to accomplish great things. Rachel was moved by the delicate simplicity of the writer's prose, and so Rachel sketched the little girl to show the writer what she felt.


This made the writer happy. 
Now, the story is being made into a children's book. It's up to me to make the art as good as it can be; I'm about a third of the way there so far. And our little protagonist has come far from that first sketch.

 By the way, I hope you all enjoyed the holidays as much as I did. It was good to get away from stress for a few days... but I'm glad to be back. :) Happy New Year. My resolution: finish these illustrations!

-Tsira