The Winter Blues

I have a newsflash, people: S. A. D. is real. (For those of you who don’t know, S. A. D. stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood disorder obviously named by scientists who thought they were hilarious.) And, more importantly, I think I have it.

I’m a Florida girl. I’ve lived in other places, sure, but when we get down to brass tacks I really enjoy the presence of sunshine in my life. Winters are pretty smooth sailing Down South, even in North Florida, where I’m from. January temperatures occasionally drop down into the teens at night, but usually warm up to sunny, bright, light-jacket weather in the afternoon. And by the time late February rolls around, cold weather is nothing more than a distant memory.

Pretty much this.

Well, folks, I live Up North now, where winter is a sadistic, soulless entity bent on crushing everyone’s hopes and dreams under an impenetrable layer of ice and snow. Darkness falls mere hours after the sun has risen (not that you’re likely to actually see the sun behind the dense grey clouds shrouding the world). Don’t even bother to look good: no one will be able to tell under the eighteen layers of clothing you’re wearing, and the snow will ruin those cute shoes. Ruin them dead.

I don’t understand why this white bullshit keeps falling from the sky.

I like the beginning of winter just fine. November’s still sort of autumnal, and December is full of holiday cheer and good will towards man. January? No. Just, no. The Winter Blues have officially set in, with an attendant host of fabulous and enjoyable symptoms.

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Famous Last Words

"Alas, poor Yorick…"

“Alas, poor Yorick…”

I went through a phase as a teenager of really loving Famous Last Words. Something about the idea of all these famous people uttering pithy sentiments at the very moment of their passing struck my fancy. Famous last words are always a great blend of personality, wit, and self-awareness, revealing both the state of mind of the speaker and how they viewed the journey into the great beyond.

Gone are the days of poring over famous last words while feverishly composing my own words of passing, but I still enjoy hearing about famous last words, especially when I haven’t heard of them before. So, with no further ado, and in no particular order, I present to you my top seven Famous Last Words!

“Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.”

Said by Voltaire, when asked by a priest to renounce Satan. A respected philosopher and humanist, Voltaire still manages to sees the humor in the human condition, even upon his deathbed. Where will he go after death? He has no idea, and is okay with that.

Moreover, Ludwig didn't think the comedy was very funny.

Moreover, Ludwig didn’t think the
comedy was very funny.

 “Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est.” (translation: Applaud, my friends, the comedy is finished.”)

Ludwig van Beethoven purportedly spoke this on his deathbed, the formula traditionally used to end a performance of commedia dell’arte. Combining cynicism with erudition, irony with dark wit, these last words are a fitting sign-off for a man whose very life was rife with irony. This was my favorite as a teenager (yes, I was a hipster).

“Die? I should say not, good fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.”

Spoken by John Barrymore, actor extraordinaire. I wouldn’t expect anything less theatrical from a person whose life revolved around drama.

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9 Fictional Besties You Wish You Had in Real Life

Have you ever wanted to hang out with your favorite fictional characters? I know I have! Here’s my top nine (I’m an iconoclast that way) fictional besties I wish I really had.

Step. Off.

Step. Off.

1. Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games

She’s tough, she’s loyal, and she’d be willing to sacrifice her life if it means saving yours. Best friend and security detail. Plus, the odds are apparently always in her favor. Can anyone say Las Vegas?

2. Cameron, from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This guy would (reluctantly) let you steal his dad’s precious sports car to go joy-riding around the city while you play an elaborate game of hooky. That’s true friendship.

3. Dr. Watson, from Sherlock Holmes

The best case scenario of random roommate assignments: John Watson. He doesn’t mind when you flash your erudition, dazzling everyone around you with your brilliant genius. He also doesn’t seem to care if you shoot up cocaine and play your violin all night long (I mean, if you’re into that kind of thing.)

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How (Not) To Be a Good Writer

So, you think you want to be a writer? Have you read a few too many mediocre novels and subsequently thought to yourself, I bet I could do this whole “writing a book thing”? Have you gone so far as opening a Word document on your computer and staring at it for a few minutes? Perhaps even searched Google for ways to be a good writer? Well, today is your lucky day, because I have a few fail-proof ways to turn you into the best writer ever.

How To Be a Good Writer in Five Easy Steps*



1. Wait for inspiration to strike. Everybody knows that real writers have oodles of inspiration that comes blazing down from the sky like the lightning of imagination. None of your ideas or words will be worthwhile unless you wait for this moment. And no point in practicing until this elusive moment arrives–you wouldn’t want to waste any of your words. Save them up for your moment of brilliance.

2. Ignore the world around you. Pop in those headphones and hide yourself behind sunglasses as much as possible. As a writer, the most important world is the one inside your head, so don’t bother studying human behavior, listening to people engage in conversation, or observing the ways of the real world. Furthermore, never take note of your own experiences or emotions. This is all useless when it comes to crafting believable characters or building a fictional world. It’s better if you make it up entirely and don’t base it on real life.

3. Put down that book!!! What are you, crazy? Who told you to read any books other than the one you’re trying to write? This is madness. Other writers will only confuse you with their differing literary styles and unique structures. Remember, brilliant literature only occurs in a perfect vacuum. How else can you hope to be unique?

Don't let that bother you. Use it anyway.

Don’t let that bother you. Use it anyway.

4. Verb adverbly! I’m going to quickly introduce you to adverb. She’s your new best friend who will help wonderfully. Use her eagerly after every verb. In fact, I’ve heard rumors that you can even adverb nounly and adjectively. Just try it carefully. You’re not a writer without a big bag of adverbs helping you faithfully.

5. Never revise. Since you’re waiting for inspiration to strike before you write, then it stands to reason that your first draft will be pure creative genius straight from the mouth of the gods. You wouldn’t want to ruin that masterpiece by changing any of it, would you? Of course not. What if you accidentally removed one of your precious adverbs? Quelle horreur! Your writing should be perfect the first time. If it isn’t, then you probably shouldn’t be a writer.

Adhere to these simple steps and you’re well on your way to becoming a real writer! Now go stare at that open Word document a little bit longer. You never know when inspiration might strike!

*Yes. Clever girl. This advice is 100% tongue in cheek. Please do the reverse of this advice if you actually want to be a decent writer.

Open Sesame: Great First Lines

Maybe be a little more creative...

Maybe be a little more creative…

Happy Monday, folks! This Monday has afforded me the dubious pleasure of starting work on my third round of revisions now that most of my beta-readers have gotten back to me with edits. Although I gotta say, so far work has been going very sloooowly. On the upside, I’ve been able to take a long hard look at the way my novel opens: first line, first paragraph, first chapter. And it’s got me thinking a lot about openings in general.

There are so many amazing first lines in literature. No two are the same, but all share one important feature: they hook the reader’s attention, and then make the reader ask questions whose answers only lie in the following pages. Some begin with a musing or a remembrance from the main character. Others employ the technique of beginning a story in media res, dropping the reader right into the middle of the action without any context or background. But all great opening lines make the reader want to continue reading.

So, with no further ado, I present to you my top 10 favorite opening lines from literature!

10) “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

9) “I’d always welcomed war, but in battle my passion rose unbidden.” Nightshade, Andrea Cremer

8) “A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins of a word of praise in exchange for a story … a writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.” The Angel’s Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

7) “There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” Holes, Louis Sachar

6) “Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.” The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater

5) “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

4) “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen

3) “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” 1984, George Orwell

2) “Birthdays were wretched, delicious things when you lived in Beau Rivage. The clock struck midnight, and presents gave way to magic.” Kill Me Softly, Sarah Cross

1) “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” The Gunslinger, Stephen King

Do you have favorite opening lines in literature? What do you think makes a successful opening? Leave you thoughts in the comment section below!

Top 5 Badass YA Heroines

A lot of discussion has been flying around recently in both my writerly circles and the media about the lack of female role models in most of geek culture. There’s this great article by Tor railing against the classic female superhero pose–you know the one. Artist Michael Lee Lundford has created a series of drawings depicting female superheroes if they were fully clothed. Emmie Mears recently wrote a blog post  about the appalling number of female superheroes compared to male superheroes. Spoiler–it’s way lower than you think it is.

Katniss Everdeen, strong female role model.

Katniss Everdeen, strong female role model.

And it got me thinking about female role models in the genres I read and write; namely, young adult fiction. In the past five years, there have been a ton of really strong and powerful female characters dominating the YA genre, which is as it should be. Young women like Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior rise up to the challenges they face with tenacity and courage, sacrificing themselves for the things they believe in. They don’t need a man to protect them or marry them to feel complete. But Katniss and company are hardly the first strong women to leap from the pages of YA novels. So, I though I’d share my favorite fictional strong female role models from my childhood and teenaged years. They may not be superheroes, but they inspired me to be independent, forge my own destiny, and raise my voice against the world’s injustices.

1. Alanna of Trebond, from the Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Coincidentally, Alanna rescues the Prince fairly frequently.

Coincidentally, Alanna rescues the
Prince fairly frequently.

When her widowed father sends her to a convent to learn how to become a lady, Alanna decides to make her own plans. Disguising herself as a boy named Alan, Alanna travels to the Royal Palace in the city of Corus to become a knight, something no woman has done for hundreds of years. Although small of stature and weaker than the other boys in training, Alanna’s fierce character and stubbornness carries her through many trials and adventures, and she eventually learns that in addition to wielding a sword she also wields a kind of magic. She is incredibly loyal and steadfast when it comes to her friends, and a deadly opponent to her enemies. She is strong on the battlefield, clever with her magic, and tender with those she loves. Alanna is a warrior and a sorceress, but most of all she is a woman.

2. Hermione Granger, from the Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

Wingardium Leviosaaa, bitches.

Wingardium Leviosaaa, bitches.

As a character, Hermione is incredibly complex. When we first meet her she is a nerdy bookworm with frizzy hair and buckteeth who is shunned by Harry and Ron until she proves to be of use to them. But over the course of the series Hermione blossoms into the kind of woman every young girl should strive to be; intelligent, competent, loyal, funny, self-assured. She is incredibly multi-faceted–she can be stubborn to the point of being obstinant, clever to the point of being a know-it-all, loving to the point of being mushy. But most importantly, Hermione stands up for the things she believes in and doesn’t let anyone tell her she can’t do what the wants. Also, the girl loves to read. I can get behind that any day of the week.

3. Meliara Astiar, from Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

Meliara, complete with a black eye.

Meliara, complete with a black eye.

Although Meliara (known as Mel to her friends and family) promises her dying father than she will save the kingdom of Remalna from tyrannical King Galdran Melindar, she has no experience in battle or intrigue. But that doesn’t stop her from launching a rebellion with nothing but a few poorly armed villagers and her own wits and determination. Although essentially illiterate at the beginning of the novel, Mel has a thirst for knowledge and seeks out any opportunity to better herself as a scholar. She is often self-conscious about the way other people view her, but rarely lets that stop her from doing the right thing or saying what she means. Mel describes herself as “quick to laugh, quick to act, and much too quick to judge,” but she is also kind, brave, and selfless.

4. Meg Murray, from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Funny, I don't remember a winged centaur in this book.

Funny, I don’t remember a winged centaur in this book.

Like Katniss Everdeen, Meg is a reluctant hero. She doesn’t particularly fancy running around trying to save the world or making a stand against evil, but when situations conspire to throw her into the middle of a dangerous adventure, she rises to the occasion. When Meg and her younger brother Charles Wallace follow their scientist father through a “tesseract,” or a wrinkle in time, they find themselves on the dark planet Camazotz where everyone is controlled by IT, a giant evil brain. In the end, only Meg’s great love for her family and her strong will can protect her brother and Camazotz from the wicked machinations of the disembodied brain who seeks both the destruction of individuality and the end of free will.

5. Princess Eilonwy, from the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander

Jeez, but her mom looks mean.

Jeez, but her mom looks mean.

Anyone who has read the Prydain Chronicles cannot help but love Eilonwy, the snarky, headstrong princess who accompanies Taran on his far-flung adventures. Eilonywy is descended from the Royal House of Llyr, a line of powerful enchantresses, but the princess has no interest in behaving as a “true lady” should. Rather, Princess Eilonwy is hot-tempered, stubborn, and sharp-tongued, and although she has no formal training in the usage of weapons she is a formidable opponent when it comes to battle, resorting to teeth and nails when she has no other weapons at her disposal. While she is often sarcastic and short-tempered, Eilonwy is also loyal and caring with regards to her friends and companions, and often uses her wits and determination to get them out of sticky situations.

Well, there you have it! It was actually a challenge for me to narrow down my favorite strong female role models from my childhood–they were more plentiful than I expected! While there is definitely a paucity of female superheroes in Hollywood, I think it’s great that there are so many strong young women dominating children’s literature and the young adult genre!

Do you have favorite strong female characters from your childhood or teenage years? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

10 Reasons I Love Doctor Who

*Author’s Note: the below post contains mild spoilers for Seasons 1-3 of the modern Doctor Who BBC television show. 

I was not making that up. *shudder*

I was not making that up. *shudder*

Now, before I dive right into all the reasons I love Doctor Who, I should say that I’ve had people telling me I should watch Doctor Who for years now. I would always brush these people off with a “Sure, sure, one of these days” comment while inwardly laughing at the very idea that I might enjoy such a thing. I think my resistance stemmed from the fact that when I was very young I watched a few of the 1970’s era Doctor Who episodes on PBS and they scared me silly. Seriously scary. Nightmare inducing scary. I remember one particular episode where extremely tall mummies ran around strangling people with their concave chests.

But I finally caved, and started watching from the beginning of the modern reboot, with Christopher Eccleston as the 9th Doctor. I am now halfway through the 10th Doctor’s stint. So, with no further ado, and in no particular order, I give you…

10 Reasons I Love Doctor Who

1. The camp factor. Even as a child, I realized that Doctor Who was pretty campy (not that that made it any less scary). The special effects were, to put it kindly, primitive. I remember one particular episode where a lizard alien stumbled on his entrance and you could see the zipper of his costume coming undone. The modern Doctor Who uses much more sophisticated special effects without trying to make the show something it’s not.

2. It’s British, and it knows it. Nearly every episode contains some kind of cheeky reference to British culture, class divisions, history, or linguistics. Not to mention that fact that despite the TARDIS being able to travel anywhere in space/time, the Doctor and his companions spend a majority of their time on Earth, in the UK, usually in London.

Victory through extermination!

Victory through extermination!

3. Daleks. God, the Daleks are scary. But part of me wants to chain one up in my basement and teach it how to love. Exterminate.

4. There are no real laws of physics. The science in Doctor who is incredibly soft. The shows frequently bends the laws of physics in insane and unexplained ways, and when the Doctor does bother to explain something scientific it’s usually techno-babble designed to entertain the audience more than anything else. On top of that, even when there is a “law” of some kind, it is invariably bent or broken sooner or later. Some people might find this irritating, but I love it. So many science fiction shows or movies get bogged down in the hard science while missing out on the important stuff.

5. The companions. Let’s face it, the Doctor has a soft spot for pretty girls. But he also likes his companions tenacious, intelligent, brave, and fun. So far (and I’ve only met a few of them) none of the Doctor’s companions have been brainless arm-candy whose only purpose is to act the damsel so the Doctor can save her. No–he’s chosen witty, deep, courageous women to accompany him on his larks across the galaxy. And that’s a preference I can get behind.

The Face of Boe.

The Face of Boe.

6. Hilarious and amazing aliens/future humans. The Face of Boe. Slitheens from Raxacoricofallapatorius. The Ood. Tree people and cat people. Oh, and in one recent episode I discovered that when a cat-human hybrid from the future mates with a pure human, they have kittens. No, seriously. Kittens. I don’t know who comes up with this stuff, but I adore them.

7. The sonic screwdriver. Can I get me one of these? From opening locked doors to performing medical scans to deactivating killer robots, this thing is truly a multi-purpose tool.

8. Meta humor, running jokes and recurring references. Oh, where do I even begin? Doctor Who fans know that something bad will always happen on Christmas Day, and Bad Wolf refers something more than a fairy tale. There are catchphrases: “Fantastic!” and “Allons-y, Alonzo!” And, of course, let’s not forget: “I’m the Doctor.” “Doctor who?”

9. The TARDIS. A 1960’s era small blue British police-box disguising a gigantic alien spaceship designed to travel through time? And that flashing light on top? And that iconic noise? WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?!???

Also, that eyebrow.

Also, that eyebrow.

10. The Doctor himself. Who is the Doctor? He is so many things. A madman in a blue box. The last Time Lord. A true outsider, alone even when surrounded by people. He is fiercely protective of those he cares about, but cruel to his enemies. Intelligent, eccentric, spirited and resourceful, the Doctor roams the universe fighting injustice, tyranny and exploitation. He is not human, yet his humanity is his greatest weapon in the endless war against evil spanning space and time. He wears many faces to the outside world, but his one true identity is a horrible secret, buried in the ruin of a once-great civilization.

Also, he’s pretty cute. Maybe I’ll tie him up in my basement and teach him how to love.

Are you a Doctor Who fan? What about the show do you love? I’d love to hear your comments below!

Harry Potter and the Illiterate Wizards: Part III

*Warning: Spoilers for all seven Harry Potter books and movies follow. If you haven’t read the complete series, step away from the computer. Also, what rock have you been hiding underneath?

If you haven’t read Part I and Part II of this blog series, I highly recommend you toddle on over and catch up before continuing with this one. Also, lest any of you read too deeply into my criticism and get all steamed up, let me remind you that I love these books and this is meant to be a humorous take on the Harry Potter universe, not serious literary criticism.

So, now that’s over with, I present to you the third (and final) absurdity in the Harry Potter books that I only considered as an adult…

3. Deus Ex Machina

At least I'm good at Quidditch, right? Amirite? Anybody?

At least I’m good at Quidditch,
right? Amirite? Anybody?

Harry Potter is nominally the hero of all seven Harry Potter books. Obviously. But when you really take a long hard look at each and every triumphant moment in the books, it quickly becomes clear that Harry isn’t much of a hero at all. Not to say that he doesn’t have heroic intentions,  but from a purely literary perspective, Harry isn’t even much of a protagonist. He is a generally passive character whose fate frequently gathers him up and sweeps him along at a brisk and dangerous pace. And Harry is absolutely a survivor, but a hero? I’m not so sure. Because nearly all of Harry’s successes in the books come down to one of two things: “other people” or “by accident.”

In the first few books–which solidly fall into the children’s lit genre–Harry’s characterization works. He is lost, confused, and ineffectual, bobbing along in a swift current made up of the history and politics of a world he doesn’t fully understand. He’s also eleven. And these sorts of “everyman” characteristics made it easy for child readers to relate to Harry, to put themselves in his shoes. He wasn’t supposed to be a hero yet–just the Boy-Who-Lived, someone whose destiny has big plans for them. But then the third book came along, and the fourth, and still an adolescent Harry lurked in mediocrity, relying on his friends and elders to support him through the trials thrown at him again and again.

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Harry Potter and the Illiterate Wizards: Part II

*Warning: Spoilers for all seven Harry Potter books and movies follow. If you haven’t read the complete series, step away from the computer. Also, did you have a childhood?

On Monday I talked about some major failings in the wizarding educational system.  Today I’m going to discuss another huge absurdity in the Harry Potter universe that I only considered as an adult. Namely…

2. Cultural Xenophobia and Market Blindness

I mean, no one thought this turban was questionable headgear...

I mean, no one thought this turban
was questionable headgear…

First, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that witches and wizards are a global minority. Considering the fact that Hogwarts is the only wizarding school in all of Britain, and every magical child is obliged to attend, and all the wizarding families all know one another…yeah, definitely a global minority. Now let’s take a look at the wizarding community’s relationship with the Muggle world. That’s right–they don’t have one. Witches and wizards actively eschew any dealings with the Muggle world, and when a witch or wizard (like Arthur Weasley) shows any interest in the technology or culture of Muggles he is assumed to be a bit mental and generally shunned. And that’s the best case scenario.

And when forced to go out and interact with the Muggle world, witches and wizards seemingly take great pains to dress like idiots. The Minister of Magic himself, who is the only prominent magical personage to have any official dealings with the Muggle world, is described as wearing a pinstriped suit, scarlet tie, long black travelling cloak, pointed purple boots, and lime green bowler hat. Lime green bowler hat? Really? Where would one even acquire such a thing? It seems to be a badge of pride in the wizarding world to have absolutely no clue about Muggle customs or culture, and behave as though Muggles don’t exist, despite the fact that they outnumber the wizarding community a thousand to one. read more…

Harry Potter and the Illiterate Wizards: Part I

*Warning: Spoilers for all seven Harry Potter books and movies follow. If you haven’t read the complete series, step away from the computer. Also, shame on you.



Let me preface this post with this statement: I love Harry Potter. My granny gave me The Sorceror’s Stone as a Christmas present when I was eleven, and I was hooked. Harry and friends aged at almost the exact same rate as I did. When I turned twelve having never received a Hogwarts acceptance letter, I was secretly devastated. I was nearly fourteen when Harry, also aged fourteen, entered the Triwizard Tournament, and fifteen when Harry suffered the great loss of his godfather and battled Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic. I have reread most of the books countless times, attended midnight book releases, gone to midnight film screenings and read Harry Potter fan-fiction. I am, for better or for worse, a fangirl.

But while my love for Harry Potter has not lessened as I’ve matured, my ability to be more realistic about certain aspects of J. K. Rowling’s beloved series has grown. Now, when I look back on the series or rewatch the films I find myself bothered by certain facets of Harry’s world. So, with no further ado, I present to you: the first of three absurdities in Harry Potter’s world that I only considered when I was an adult.

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