Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Hours of 2012

Well, it's been a great year. I've started this blog, released the first Vallanie Sharp book, and made some great friends, so thank you all so much for being a part of it. Wishing everyone the best on this new years eve (and new years day, in some parts of the world). Hope you have a great (safe!) celebration- see you next year! 


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guest Blogging

Today I was given the opportunity to post over at the book blog Letters Inside Out. It's just a short little autobiographical story full of holiday and wintery goodness.

If you're in the mood for something sweet (besides the left over holiday goodies), stop by and take a look. Anyone who does so is automatically awesome! :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Magical Time of Year

I hope everyone is relaxing and taking time to enjoy the holiday break! I've been keeping busy with friends, relatives, holiday celebrations, and... oh yeah, work. But I've recently been working on a fun little project I thought I'd share. While trying to improve my relations with photoshop, I've indulged me fairy tale obsession and made some fantasy inspired portraits. Enjoy: 

Josi, the wolf child

Me as a maiden (or princess in hiding)


Josi and her Puppy, Pippin

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More Hobbits!

For those of us who have been waiting for our trip back to middle earth, the Hobbit Trailer is now here! Take a look:


What do you think? I'm thinking it looks amazing :D

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Studying and Getting Ready for the Holidays

Well, it's the middle of december, which means cold weather, exams and some holiday shopping. I thought I'd make the best of my hours indoors (and five hour drive home) by listening to some Christmas music :)

Here are some that I've had on repeat: 

Silver Bells (Plumb)

It's Christmas time (plumb)

A Charlie Brown Christmas (Piano)

Early happy holidays, everyone. Good luck to those of you who are taking exams!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fairy Tale Heroines (who actually do stuff)


So I’ve been watching ABC’s Once Upon a Time and it’s gotten me on a fairy tale kick. I tried going to the library and looking for a book of fairy tales, but there were so many, I didn’t know where to start. I asked myself if there was something specific I was looking for, and I realized there was: I wanted a story with a female heroine.
Not just a female main character, but a female main character who actually does something (other than wait patiently to be rescued). Don’t get me wrong, I love Cinderella and Snow White and all the Disney classics, but I wanted to read about a girl who took her life into her own hands.

After a lot of googling and a surprising amount of dead-ends, these are some of the lesser known stories I’ve found that sound like they have some pretty awesome heroines:

  • “The Master Maid” where the main girl helps a prince complete three tasks to overthrow her master, an evil troll.
  • “The two Kings Children” in which a king gives a prince three tasks to complete in order to marry any of his daughters. The youngest daughter completes the tasks in secret.
  • “The water nixie” in which a brother and sister fall into a well and are enslaved by a water nixie. The two help each other to escape.
  • “Molly Whuppie” is a (rather violent) Scottish fairy tale about a young girl who travels off with her older sister and consistently gets them out of trouble, most often against a giant. 
  • "Mr. Fox" and "Bluebeard" are two variants of the same story in which a girl is engaged to a man who turns out to be a murderer. In both, she exposes the truth, saving her own life. 
Anyone have any more they want to contribute? 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

When Being A Writer Comes In Handy

We all know it's a great feeling to have the world know you're a writer through your top-selling novels... or, at least, we can imagine such a great feeling. But, other than the connection, inspiration, and (just a little) ego-stroking a best-selling novel would being, here are some often overlooked perks of being a writer: 


  • When you feel like you finally have a reason to listen to your crazy relatives life histories or gossip in the office
  • When it comes to writing holiday cards
  • When it comes to making speeches
  • When it comes to putting together a resume
  • When you can look at jury time as inspiration
  • When you can look at any disagreeable event as inspiration
  • When you can impress friends by predicting the end of a TV show or movie 
  • When you can read or watch TV and say it’s “research”
  • When you have a perfectly reasonable explanation of eavesdropping 

I hope everyone was thankful for their writing on Thanksgiving :P Hope you had a happy one! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

When writing gets buried...

What do you do when what you want to write is buried under everything else? Does your list ever look like mine?


To do list:

  1. 15 page paper for History of Psychology
  2. 10 page paper for Psychology of Personality
  3. 12 page Creative-Nonfiction piece 
  4. 2 page creative writing homework assignment
  5. Homework
  6. Study 
  7. Work on my novel(s)
Or maybe you have a job that requires writing, but it just seems so unpleasant compared to writing what you want to write. Or maybe you have a day where you really don't want to blog, but you feel like you should.

Sometimes, you just have to buckle down and get through the writing you don't want to do, in order to make time for the writing you want to. In such cases, here are a few things to remember that will (hopefully) make the work a little more fun:

  • Look at it as research for your stories (if possible). (Here's where being a psychology student comes in handy, because psychology can be related to any story that has a character.) 
  • Look at it as practice. Every sentence you write is bettering you as a writer.  
  • Keep an eye out for things to steal from yourself. 
  • Remember, you could be having to do Math instead :P
Hope everyone has a great weekend! Good luck with Nano!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Most Human Non-Humans


So, we all love reading/watching stories about aliens, vampires, werewolves and demons, right? These fantastical creatures have powers we can only dream of, often accompanied by responsibilities we’d crumbled under. But what is it that makes us so attracted to them (other than their great looks and “charming” personalities, of course)? Their humanity.

It’s strange how the most adored non-human characters are often the most human. Take a look at these three for example:

Dr Who
Wicked smart and extremely resourcefull, this Time Lord is anything but human. He saves planets on a daily basis, travels around in a blue police box, and has two hearts, but inside, he’s all human.


Spock
Emotion-free and extremely logically, he’s an often funny, entertaining character. But it’s the times he actually “slips-up” and shows emotion that make us love him.



Angel 
Before vampires were mainstream, Angel was the most human a vampire could get. Retaining the powers of a vampire and the need to drink blood, he dedicated his life (or well, living-death) to helping the hopeless, caring for people in a way only a human could.  



Who would you say is the most human non-human character you’ve come across?  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo Cheers

So, it's November, and we all know what that means: hand cramps, murdered pens, overheated computers and lots and lots of writing!

I'm not sure if I'm doing NaNo this year or not... I'm extremely busy, and I'm much more quality over quantity when it comes to writing, BUT, I'm going to kick my writing into high gear and set my own personal goal at 30,000 words. (Which, if all goes well, may increase to the 50,000 required for Nano).

For those of you who are participating in NaNo, best wishes! Hope you're starting off strong.

Remember,

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world" (or write 50,000 words in a month!)
-Harriet Tubman

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Hope everyone has a fun safe night tonight! I'll be in class and studying for tests until the sunsets, and then I plan on dressing up and going down town with a few friends for an hour or two-nothing too exciting, but better than nothing.

Then I plan on coming home to finish reading a book of scary stories and maybe watch an episode or two of Buffy, and maybe prepare a bit more for Nano (National Novel Writing Month).

Any fun plans for the evening? Any cool costumes I should be jealous of?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Casting Call

I came across this blog hop co-hosted by MelodieLisa, and Carrie at So You're a Writer earlier today and it looked like so much fun, I had to sign up and participate. It's open until the 28th, so feel free to join in if you haven't already.



Vallanie (Val) Sharp

The spunky sixteen-year-old narrator of The Chronicles of Vallanie Sharp was genetically designed by her artist mother to embody the perfect balance of intelligence and creativity. She's about as tough to cast as she is to catch in her dystopian homeland, but after spending a good hour searching google images, I've narrowed it down to three strong contestants:

The first has the hair right, and the somewhat more innocent (yet possibly suspicious) gaze I'm sure Val mastered at a young age. I could see her as how Val starts out in the early chapters. 




The second is closest to what I imagined her to look like (her hair is dark, though she dies it blonde).

But if I had to cast one of these gorgeous young ladies as the heroine Val, I would cast the third-she looks almost exactly as I imagined Val to look in the end, and she has the attitude down. Just suit her up in some dark futuristic clothing and she's good to go!



So I finally got around to watching Twilight...

I'm going to start by saying I read the first book when I was in high school, and loved it. I read the second book, and hated it. Then someone told me to try the third, so I did, but I wasn't a fan. I made it half-way through the fourth and gave up. I'd seen part of the first movie before, but it didn't look great, so I never thought to rent it.

Over the weekend my roommate borrowed all three movies from a friend and had a mini-marathon. Twilight was OK, if not a little boring (I mean, half the movie is just Edward and Bella looking at each other). The book was appealing because of the whole sort of day-dreamy mood we got by being in Bella's head, but it just didn't translate to screen well. It was a book about emotions, which is hard to base a movie around.

I skipped New Moon because I disliked the book so much.

And then I tried eclipse because I'd heard it was much better and... it was much better! I was pleasantly surprised. It was neat to see more of the other Cullens and their backstories. Bella still annoyed me, but other than that, there wasn't much to complain about. It felt a little more balanced between the romance story-line and the supernatural plot, which I personally think made the romance part more valuable.

I'm curious to see what other people think. Any twilight fans? Twilight haters? I'd be curious to know what's so appealing about it, or what's so unappealing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Novel Attraction

What is it that attracts us to the books we love? Is there a difference between what stories males find attractive and what stories females do?

Over the past week, I've seen many questions raised over the issue of gender and novels. We all know women are more likely to pick up a romance book than men are, but what about a generic piece of fiction-are women more likely to read a book with a strong female protagonist or a hansom masculine hero? Are men likely to choose an action-packed plot heavy piece, or one that really delves into the characters?

From a psychological standpoint, it would make sense that females are drawn to more character-centric pieces, while men are drawn to more plot-centric works. Why? Because females, in general, tend to be relationship based (not exclusively in a romantic sense, but we focus more on emotions and interpersonal relations (think connection, friendships, gossip, etc)) while men, in general, focus more on activities and achievement. Whether these are innate or culturally infused, it would make sense that we carry these natural interests into the books we read or the movies we watch for entertainment.

This could, perhaps, also play a role in the characters we're attracted to. Men tend to want to read about the characters who show strength or accomplishment, while women look more towards the characters with emotional insight or turmoil? That's just my guess, but I've found it to be the case more often than not with my own acquaintances.

It would be an interesting topic to research, but I'm curious as to what you think: Are there differences between the types of books and/or characters males and females want to read about?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

High School

For a YA author, it's important to know a thing or two about high school, because chances are, that's where your characters will spending most of their time, or, in the case that they're from another realm in which school is outlawed, that's still where your readers are. 

The thing about high schools, is they can be so different. Not only can two schools be structured entirely differently, but two people in the same school-even in the same classes- can have two completely different experiences. 

For my next non-fiction piece, I think I might write about high schools, so I've been thinking about them a lot lately. It's been almost four years since I graduated (which seems WAY too long), so I thought I'd propose a fun few questions that can hopefully help anyone writing YA of any genre:

What was your high school like? Did you enjoy it? Did you despise it? Was it pretty, disgusting, or something in between? Best parts, worst parts, strongest memories? 
I was not a fan of my high school experience. We had over three-thousand students, but it was designed to hold about a thousand, so some of us had to have classes in trailers. I made some really great friends, but I met a lot of people I wished I hadn't. The lower classes were full of people who didn't care and cheated just to pass, while the upper-level classes had a few stuck-up snobby kids who called their parents in to argue for them if they made a B or lower. 

Have you ever read a book that really seemed to really capture high school life for you? 
For me, Perks of Being a Wallflower and Speak seemed to really recreate that feeling of a social environment more or less controlled by the students, who could be exceptionally mean, or incredibly nice. They captured the atmospheres of both being accepted and excluded (and how that could change a person dramatically) very well. 

Have you ever read a book where the school life was so off, you stopped reading it?
I feel like this has happened to me before, but it was so long ago, I have no idea what it was. I just remember reading something once where all the pretty teenage girls were complete brats, and yet everyone seemed to love them, and the main character who was nice and sweet was always a target by the other students and adults alike... wait, did I say one book? I meant a few...


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pop Culture References in Writing

Want to make a reference to your character with a scar like Harry Potter, or a smile like Jennifer Aniston? When can we use them? In high school creative writing classes, the rule is generally: never.

But. What if it's really good? What if it's really funny? What if it's an important part of the character or the way people interact with them (a kid who looks like Harry Potter is bound to get a few snide comments now and again)?

Here are some guidelines:

  • Does it really offer anything? Move the story forward? Shape the character? If it doesn't have a purpose, it shouldn't be there. 
  • Will it be recognizable in ten years (or, as long as you expect the piece to be around)? Classic icons are usually a better choice than modern sensations. If a reference is too obscure, it's more likely to alienate a reader than anything else. 
  • If you choose to use a reference to describe or compare someone, don't put too much weight on it. For example, "his white hair stuck out in every direction, resembling Albert Einstein" is better than "he looked like Einstein" because the second one requires the reader to know who Einstein is to get the image the author is trying to convey, while in the first one, if you've never heard of (or seen a picture of) Einstein, you're not thrown out of the story. 
  • Know you're audience. If you're writing a short story for a teen music magazine, references to modern pop-stars are much more acceptable than they would be in a sports magazine.

How do you feel about authors referencing other works of fiction or celebrities in their work? Have you come across any that worked? That didn't?

Monday, October 3, 2011

October- a full month of halloween


It’s October :) Which for me, means time to drink up the pumpkin lattes and start preparing for Halloween. It’s supernatural time.

I love reading scary stories this time of year. It's when I catch up on my dark fantasy and read about all those vampires, ghosts and goblins. I'm planning a supernatural movie night with some friends, which will involve many (not too scary or gross) suspenseful horror films. 

I also love to make my own short films, and this month, we decided to step up to the occasion and do one about a demon fighter in true Buffy fashion. I’m writing the script, and so far, it’s pretty funny. We have a girl who was charged to protect the city, but doesn’t want to, and does everything she possibly can to get out of the responsibility, including trying to make deals with the demons. Then a ghost of a vampire hunter shows up asking for help, and she can’t seem to get rid of her.

So that’s more or less what I'm looking forward to this month, along with the usual school work.

Anyone else already preparing for Halloween? Planning on taking out the dark and scary books anytime soon? Or maybe you have a different October tradition?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Editing Tips

I can't believe it's almost the end of September already! Time flies when you're busy. Speaking of which, I have exams this week, so I don't have as much time to write and blog as I would like. That being said, today's post is quick and to the point.

Some tips to keep in mind when Editing:

  • If possible, give yourself some time between drafts. A fresh pair of eyes are always strongest. 
  • Pay attention to grammar. In other words, make sure it "sounds natural." Try reading it out loud, printing it out, or changing the font so it looks different. 
  • If you see/hear a word to often, try to vary it with something else that means the same thing, or vary the sentence structure. (For example, a lot of times it's hard to write in first person with out starting with "I" a lot," you can very this by changing phrases like "I twirled my ring" to something like "Twirling my ring around my finger...")
  • Pay attention to transitions. If something seems jarring or confusing, chances are the transition needs to be a little smoother.
  • Always have someone else read over your work. It's hard to catch things that are missing when you know the whole story- you might know the main character is a female, for example, but if you forgot to mention that, it wont effect your reading of the story as it would someone else who assumes she is a boy. 


Any other advice? Anything you usually have trouble with?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dreaming about Dreams

Do you dream each night? Do you keep a dream journal? Can you control your dreams (a technique called "lucid dreaming")? Have you ever written anything inspired by a dream before?

In my non-fiction class, another student wrote his piece on how he tried to learn lucid dreaming. In order to do so, he started a dream journal and wrote down his dreams in order to look for patterns in them.

After reading it, I found myself thinking a lot about my own dreams, or more, my own process of dreaming. Sometimes, I know I'm dreaming and I can control what happens, but I'm not always aware of it. In fact, many times, I'll be going along wherever the dream takes me, believing it, until something happens that I don't want to (for example, I'll be hiding from someone and they'll find me) and I'll be, like, "Nope, that didn't just happen" and "undo it." This only worked so long until my brain eventually figured it out, and now most of the time when I change something, the next thing I know I'm "waking-up" in my dream, only to realize I'm still dreaming because the room isn't the right one, I'm not in the right place, clothes, etc. Once, I "woke-up" six times before I woke-up in real life. It's a lot like the movie inception, only I can't do into other people's dreams, just my own :P

As a psych student, I hear a lot about dreams and dreaming and all the different theories of what they are and how (or even if) you can interpret them. The truth is, all they really know is that, even though everyone dreams, it is a unique, individualized process and no one knows for certain what they mean... but if anyone could figure one out, it would be the person who dreamt it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rainy Friday

So it's friday, which means it's time to relax, write and (in my case) do homework. It's been stormy the past few days here, so I've been finding myself snuggled under a blanket on the couch a lot, which brings me to my question: What is your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?



Read? Uplifting fantasy books or hardcore dramas? 

Write? Those heart-wrenching emotional scenes, or some fast-paced action?

Something else? ...I need ideas... the forecast is saying the rain will be here all week....



Here are my favorite things to do:

Watch a movie I've never seen before
Drink tea/coffee/hot chocolate
Read a mystery/suspense novel
Call up a friend I haven't talked to in a while
....I feel like I'm forgetting something?... oh yeah, write! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Animals in Writing

Everyone loves playful puppies and cute kittens, right? Here's how they can provide much more than simple adorableness in a story:

  • Characterization: yes, you can give the animals character (in fact, I hope you do) but they can also reveal things about your main character. What kind of pet does she have? What did she name it? How does she treat it? How does she treat her neighbors pet? How does she respond to other characters interacting with her pet?
  • Comedic Relief: so, it wasn't the evil stalker vampire sneaking in at the middle of the night this time, but the puppy getting tangled in the sheets?
  • Plot devices: "..... what's that strange thing Furball has in his mouth? Is it a magic amulet? Evidence from a crime scene?"
  • Motivation: Yes, so it might be a bit far fetched to have the bad guy kidnap the hero's trusty pet, but if the cat gets out, would the kid not be more likely to approach the scary forest he had promised never to go into?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Personality through storytelling

If you’ve ever taken a creative writing class, or been fresh out of story ideas, there was probably a time you turned to a picture for inspiration. While it’s common knowledge this often is a helpful creative writing technique, who knew it was also a psychological study as well? 

The Thematic Apperception Test is a projective psychological test where a subject is shown a picture of an individual, asked to describe how the character is feeling and make up a story based on it, that must include a beginning, middle, and end. It’s used for the psychologist to get to know the individual better, as it’s said to reveal personality and outlook on life.

We were shown a few samples in one of my psychology classes, the other day. The professor would randomly call on certain students to try the exercise, and would then show how their answered differed from those that may come from more psychologically disturbed individuals, whose answers would be much darker or "less realistic".

Humm… I wonder where a creative writer would fall in this? Especially someone who, like me, loves to add a bit of fantasy or surrealism to everything. Take this picture for example: 



What is the boy doing? Why, obviously he’s trying to move the violin with his mind. And does he succeed? Well, it wouldn’t be as interesting of a story if he didn’t…

It's probably a good thing my professor didn't call on me. I think this test may be a bit biased against creative writers :P

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If I could be anyone, I'd be...

In honor of Talli Roland's new book becoming available electronically, she's hosting an online "if I could be anyone party" here, where you basically sign up and tell the world, if you could be anyone, who you would choose.
So, I'll start off by saying I really do like being me, but that aside, if I could be someone else, I'd be someone fictional. Now, that's kind of hard considering most of my favorite characters lead very depressing lives. I thought about maybe Hermione or Ginny, since, though bad things do happen to them, they do end up happy and still made a difference in the world. But since comic books have been on my mind (with the new X-men movie released on DVD over the weekend) I'm going to choose Kitty Pryde:

She's funny, witty, can walk through walls, and is part of the X-men (what teenager doesn't want to go to school in a mansion?). She's got all the perks of being a superhero and, though she still has to deal with the stereotypes of being a mutant, doesn't have any of the overwhelming drawbacks that could cause her to accidently harm someone. Plus, she has a pet dragon, which is pretty freaking cool :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Boys Vs. Girls


One of the things we talked about in my psychology class today was how many of the behavioral differences between boys and girls (ie, boys tend to be more aggressive, strong, dominating, while women tend to be polite, calm, caring) are not hereditary, but learned.

There was an experiment (and probably more, since then) where they took a small child, dressed him up as a girl, and filmed adults interacting with him. Then they made the child look like a boy and had the same people interact with him (they thought it was a different child) and, without a doubt, the treatment was different.

In essence, we teach boys and girls to act different, because we think they already are.

I always get annoyed when I meet guys who think girls are naturally less intelligent than them, or girls who think it’s OK for their boyfriends to lash out because “that’s what guys do.” We’re more a like than we're different!

Any male/female stereotypes you hate to hear (or love to write about)?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Super Friday

It's friday (yay!) and it's also the day X-men: First Class comes out on DVD, so tonight, after a long day of classes and writing, I will be sitting down with some friends to watch it in our cramped but awesome apartment.

In honor of such excitement, I thought I'd pose the question: If you had a super power, what would it be? 

I've thought about this a lot, for some reason, and yet I can't seem to make up my mind. I think it would be neat to have telepathy, but I'd feel too bad using it on anyone that it'd rarely come in any use. I've also wanted to walk through walls, but that was more because I liked Kitty's character rather than I actually wanted the power. I hate driving, so teleportation would be useful. I'd take pretty much anything that didn't come with an extreme drawback (ie, Rogue, who can't touch anyone without sucking the life out of them, or Scott, who can't ever take off his sunglasses) if I could go to the X-mansion.

Happy Friday :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Best Scenes are Multitaskers


There are many things that make a scene entertaining, including outstanding dialogue, well-placed description, unique characters, and a fascinating subject. But even a beautifully written scene could get in the way if it doesn’t serve any purpose to the story. On the other hand, a plot essential scene can come across as an information dump if it’s not carefully sculpted.

As with anything, our goal as writers is to find a balance: a balance between being entertaining and informative (or moving the story forward).

Have you ever written something that was way over the word count? Maybe a short story for a contest, or a novel you’re hoping to get published. A great way to condense is to look for scenes that serve only one purpose. Sure, maybe it’s entertaining, but do we really learn anything about the characters? Does anything change during/because of it—a relationship, character, society? In essence, we’re really asking: does it move the story forward, or does it slow it down? I’m sure you know which one we’re going for.

So, once we recognize a scene as a problem (though we hate to admit it), how do we fix it? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually. You have a few options.

  • Scratch the scene entirely—I know it’s hard to hear, but sometimes, it really is the best option

  • Merge the best parts into another scene—it can be as small as a single, great line of dialogue, to an entire conversation. Or perhaps you keep the setting, and replace the third conversation that takes place in the dull school cafeteria to the local arcade that was so greatly described in your problematic scene.

  • Make up for what it’s lacking—If you absolutely love the scene, you can try to build it up. Was it mostly just fluff, but the sweetest scene you’ve ever written between two characters falling in love? Why not make that into a crucial moment in their relationship. Make that the first time he kisses her, or the moment she realizes she likes him as more than a friend.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why can't we all be like Peter Pan?

When did it stop being OK to dress up? To say what we really think? To play on playgrounds? To pretend to be someone else for a day?
When did we stop singing at the top of our lungs? Stop dancing in front of others?
When did they take away craft day? Nap time?
When did we start caring that our clothes had to be anything more than comfortable? That our meals have to be more than tasty?
Why was it that, when we were little, we wanted to do anything to be grown up, but once we got there, it didn't seem quite as fun as we thought?

Let's start out the week right: I challenge you to do something child-like this week, whether it's as simple as finger drawing in the shower or as complicated as building a fort (or, if you're really in the writing mood, have a character do something child-like). Happy Monday :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

When reality gets in the way


Do you ever get so wrapped up in a story you’re working on, that when it comes to real life, you just can’t seem to focus? Your thoughts keep wandering back to that scene you were writing, or pondering what’s going to happen next.

Simply put, you’re daydreaming.

This is one of my personal favorite times of writing, when it occurs when I’m safe at home, but it’s one of the most annoying times when I’m preparing for a hectic day. As with anything, there’s a time and a place for day dreaming… it just isn’t while you’re driving down the highway or sitting in math class (as much as I tend to forget that second one).

Has this ever happened to you before? If so, what do you?

I’ve found scheduling time to sit and think about my work, even just ten or fifteen minutes between obligations, and scribble down notes will usually satisfy my imagination to go back into hibernation for a while. But sometimes, I just can’t seem to get it to be quiet. Maybe that’s just one of the side effects of being a writer. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ever had a fictional character who reminded you of... well, you?


So it’s Monday, the start of my first full week of school. After a hectic weekend of being evacuated for the hurricane which (thankfully) didn’t hit here, and returning yesterday afternoon, I’m surprisingly prepared and ready to enter back into the university routine. The class I’m most looking forward to (apart from creative writing) is Psychology of Personality. Since I have personality on the brain, I thought I’d tie it into my post.

So we all love fictional characters, right? But which ones are we most like? The myers-briggs personality test classifies people based on four categories:

E/I -Extravert/Introvert

N/S- Intuitive/Sensing

T/F-Thinking/Feeling

J/P- Judging/Perceiving

(Ever heard someone say I’m an ENTJ, or ISFP? They’re (probably) referring to their myers-brigg type)

Now take a look at popular fictional characters and their personality types:

Who do you match up with? Anyone you like? Anyone you hate? Have you ever been told you acted like someone (who is or isn’t) on the list? Would you agree?

If you haven’t had enough already... here are some more fun links.
At Personality CafĂ© you can type in your letters + “fictional characters” and see what a number of people have come up with.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Blogging Schedule


Do you have a blogging schedule? Have you ever tried one? Do you find it better to have more structure and organization, or to go with the flow and wing it? 

Since I've started this blog, I've been more of the second type, writing what I felt like writing when I felt like writing it. And it's worked so far. I'm just a very organized person by nature, and now that school is back, I like to have as much of my schedule as planned out as possible-and that includes blogging now. 

While considering whether or not it was time to start organizing my posts, I came across this article: “Stop Being an ‘Aspiring’ Writer" For Anyone who is just starting to blog or write, or anyone who has ever doubted themselves, I would recommend reading it. In addition to delivering good informative advice, it was what I needed to crack down and organize my own blog. So, from the next few weeks I’m going to try a temporary schedule and we’ll see what comes from it.

Here’s my plan:
Monday Musings- posts of philosophical or psychological nature pertaining to literature, media, and or writing
Writers Wednesday- dedicated to writing tips, prompts, inspirations, etc.
Fun Friday- the day I’m leaving open for anything- memes, jokes, news, anything noteworthy and lighthearted that is fun to write and (hopefully) fun to read.

How does that sound? As always, I’m open to suggestions.

I hope everyone has a great (and safe!) weekend. I’ll be back bright and early Monday morning for my first musings :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Chronicles of Vallanie Sharp

This past week I've been busy, with visiting relatives, moving back to university, classes starting up again, and... (drumroll please) publishing my first book.

Yes, I'm glad to announce my debut novel "Novice," the first in a series titled The Chronicles of Vallanie Sharp has been released. It's now available electronically through both amazon and smashwords. It's a young adult, sci-fi adventure story that takes place in a seemingly utopian society (but we all know what that means, right?). For a more detailed description, see the tab "My Works"above.

In other news, I've started my courses this semester which are very heavy on Psychology-I'm looking forward to them though. I'm sure they'll inspire many thought provoking posts.

I hope everyone is having a great week (and for everyone else who just started back to school, a great semester).


Monday, August 22, 2011

Star Trek As We Know It: Blogfest

Today is the Star Trek As We Know It Blogfest, (hosted by Ellie Garratt, here) where you're supposed to post your top five favorite star trek characters and episodes/films. 

Let me start by saying I’m somewhat new to star trek. I was actually introduced to it during my freshman philosophy class, when our teacher showed us scenes from Next Generation to familiarize us with philosophical content. Then the new movie came out and my friends and parents dragged me to see it, though I’d never seen the originals. I stated really watching them early this summer so, at this point, I’ve only seen the movies, the first three seasons of Next Generation, and a few of the original episodes.

Favorite Characters

5. Spock- So smart and serious it’s hilarious.

4. Dr. Beverly Crusher- Every crew needs a smart woman. She's kind and caring, but doesn't let anyone push her around.


3. Captain James T. Kirk
Um… he’s Captain Kirk! Need I say more?



2. Lt. Commander Data
I find him absolutely hilarious. Especially when he’s trying to be human. And the fact that he’s looked down upon for being an android just makes me love him more.

1. Captain Jean-Luc Picard
His morality and attempts to peacefully resolve conflict are what makes him my favorite. Though he’s an intelligent, resourceful captain, he still listens to other’s opinions, considers their advice, and then forms his own solution.


As for my favorite episodes, I don’t think I’ve seen enough to choose. The new movie was great. My mom made me watch “trouble with tribbles” with her recently, and I found it hilarious. I love the Sherlock Holmes episodes with data: Star Trek in London and Data as Sherlock Holmes… what’s not to love!?


Since my family has become recently obsessed with this you tube music video (and it fits just perfectly with this blogfest) I felt obligated to share (If you haven't seen it, it's hilarious):


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Moment to Ponder


Have you ever wondered what it really is that makes stories so captivating? Realistic, fascinating characters? A unique and engaging plot? An exquisite setting?

Or maybe it’s something more. Something much deeper, beyond an individual author or story, and perhaps what brought us all here to this online avid reader community.

How is it that, from spending two or three hours staring at ink on a page (or lights on a screen), we can come to know fictional characters and places better than some real ones we’ve lived around for years?
 
How strange is it that, even in a different part of the world, you can meet a complete stranger who has read the same book, and suddenly you have a whole world in common-filled with people you both love and hate, places you both remember, and adventures you’ve shared.

It really is a marvelous form of communication- not just from author to reader, but then from reader to reader as well.

I was just thinking of this for no particular reason last night, as I was falling asleep, remembering how many friends I met through a mutual interest in specific books, movies, or TV shows. There were a surprising number of them (a few of which I still consider good friends), and I just thought “Wow… it’s so crazy that you can go to a completely new place, with completely new people, and have so much in common from a single book.”

Have you ever bonded with someone over books? Would you say that, after discussing a story with someone else, it changes your perception on it, or your experience with it?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back to Work: A Bit About Bios


After a (mostly) fun filled family vacation to Seattle, Washington, I’m back to the hot Carolina heat and looking forward to staying inside and writing!

I'm glad to announce that my first book, “The Chronicles of Vallanie Sharp: Novice” is now (almost) ready for publication. It’s as revised as it’s going to get, edited, and formatted for Smashwords. I’m satisfied with the cover. All that’s missing is the summary and the bio.

Hence my post for today: Writing a Bio.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on this. Other than my resume, this is the first time I’ve written one. However, I’ve found some helpful sites including:

A perfectly timed post by go teen writers: Writing a Bio

An e-zine article, How to Write an Author Bio has some good tips to keep in mind. 

You can find some decent examples here.

I also looked up some of my favorite authors and read their bios, which were interesting, but not quite as helpful, since they mostly just listed their numerous credentials and publications.

After some experimentation, here is what I came up with (feel free to offer any advice- like I said, I'm no expert):

Morgan Feldman currently resides in North Carolina where she is earning her BFA in Creative Writing and her BA in Psychology. She considers surviving high school her greatest accomplishment, which must have contributed to her passion for writing teen novels. Seeking anything that engages her imagination, she spends time reading character centric books, making student films, and psychologically analyzing fictional characters with her sister.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vacation

Sorry I haven't been posting or commenting much lately- I've been on vacation. I'll catch up when I get back next week, and I'll try to organize this a little better (maybe start a posting schedule... we'll see how well that works). In the mean time, I'll leave you with these photos I took of cool "Middle Earth" street signs:





Monday, August 8, 2011

Crossover Madness(& Fun!)

I thought I'd start the week of with a fun little Meme (Totally taken from Eleatintil's post Of Bob the Tomato, Han Solo, and Bellatrix Lestrange... which was so hilarious, I knew I had to do one myself).

First, list twelve characters from any fandom, then answer the questions below.


1. Harry Potter

2. Charles Xavier

3. Frodo Baggins

4. Obi-wan Kenobi

5. Elizabeth Swann

6. Buffy Summers

7. Fox Mulder

8. Anakin Skywalker

9. Shawn Spencer

10. Sherlock Holmes

11. Pippin Took

12. Kitty Pryde



1. Who would make a better collage prof, 6 or 11? 
Buffy or Pippin? Haha, wow, I’d love to take either’s class, but I don’t think I’d learn anything! Although, Buffy could make a good self-defense instructor (I’d be sore for days!). Pippin could teach… uh… how to get out of trouble.


2. Do you think #2 is hot? 

Charles Xavier- The only man who can be bald and in a wheel chair and still run a school, peacefully negotiate, and kick ass…What could be hotter? Maybe a film about his pre-professor X days where he’s played by James Mcavoy? Now that would be hot ;)


3. 12 sends 8 out on a mission. What is it? Does it succeed?

Kitty sends Anakin out on a mission to get her pet dragon a healing potion from his alien homeland. It would succeed… hopefully without Anakin upsetting multiple alien species who develop a vendetta against earthlings…. hopefully.


4. What is or what would be 9's favorite book?

Shawn? Any with few words and lots of pictures.


5. Would it make more sense: for 2 to swear fealty to 6, or the other way around? 

Charles Xavier and Buffy Summers- Neither are really the fealty swearing type. Though Charles is better at giving orders and Buffy is better at carrying them out, so I’d say, if it came down to it, she’d be more likely to swear allegiance to him.


6. For some reason, 5 is looking for a roommate. Should (s)he room with 9 or 10?

Should Elizabeth Swann room with Shawn Spencer or Sherlock Holmes? Well, that depends, does she want an immature over-confident roommate who’s always hitting on her, or one who remains quiet for days conducting scientific experiments with flys and randomly shooting at the wall? Either way, if there is ever a crime committed, she’ll have someone to solve it for her!


7. 2, 7 and 12 are going out to dinner. Where do they go and what do they discuss? 

Charles, Mulder, and Kitty... well, I image the restaurant would be somewhat fancy, and all the surrounding tables would give them strange stares as they talked about aliens and extraterrestrial encounters (“No, Mulder, for the tenth time, we did not see your sister”).


8. 3 challenges 10 to a duel, who wins? 

Frodo challenges Sherlock Holmes? Poor Frodo, dumb decision, because you would most certainly loose :(


9. If 1 stole 8's most precious possession, would (s)he get it back? 

Harry stole Anakin’s most precious possession-which would be either his lightsaber, or padme (since Anakin seems to view her as his possession)-either way, there would be an epic battle before he got it back.

10. Suggest a story title in which 7 and 12 both attain what they desire. 

Mulder and Kitty? Humm, a story in which the aliens come and return Mulder’s sister, then attack the world only to be stopped by mutants who are then looked upon as heroes... the title? Mutants vs. Aliens.


11. What kind of plot device would you have to use if you wanted 1 and 4 to work together? 

Well, Harry Potter stumbles across a strange object in the Room of Requirements that he accidently activates, which transports him to a galaxy far, far away, where he is found in the desert by an old man named Obi-wan Kenobi. Though Harry would miss Hogwarts, he’d be glad to get away from all the action and adventure for a while, take a break from fulfilling prophocies and fighting evil, you know, and just see what life is like as a normal teenager, like this “Luke Skywalker” they seem to have mistaken him for.


12. If 7 visited you for the weekend, how would it go? 

When Mulder comes to visit, expect life-endangering situations, alien invasions, conspiracies, and a supernatural overload.


13. If you could command 3 to perform any service or task for you, what would it be? 

Frodo? I think destroying the ring and saving the world was enough. But, other than that, I’d say invite me to the shire and feed me for a day :)


14. Does anyone on your friends list write or draw 11? 

Of course Frodo writes pippin. And Kitty probably drew hearts around his name in middle school… does that count?


15. If 2 had to choose sides between 4 and 5, what side would (s)he choose? 

Charles has to choose between Obi-wan and Elizabeth- Sorry Elizabeth, I think he’d side with the Jedi.


16. What might 10 shout out while charging into battle? 

Sherlock Holmes- “The battle is afoot!”


17. If you had to choose a song to best describe 8, what would it be? 

A song describing Anakin Skywalker: humm,.. something angsty and dark. “Animal I have become” by Three Days Grace


18. 1, 6 and 12 are having a dim sum at a Chinese Restaurant. There is only one scallion pancake left, and they all reach for it at the same time. Who gets it? 

Out of Harry, Buffy and Kitty: I’d go with Buffy. There’s something about fighting vampires that I’d imagine comes with good reflexes.


19. What would be a good pickup line for 2 to say to 10? 

Charles Xavier to Sherlock Holmes: “Has anyone told you your mind is exceptionally groovy?”


20. What would 5 most likely be arrested for? 

(Elizabeth) That’s easy: piracy.


21. What is 6's secret? 

Um, she’s a super awesome vampire slayer who’s died twice. And she used to be a cheerleader.


22. If 11 and 9 were racing to a destination, who would get there first? 

Shawn would beat Pippin, hands down… unless they were racing for food, and then it would be a close call.


23. If you had to walk home through a bad neighborhood late at night, who would you feel more comfortable walking with, 7 or 8? 

(Mulder or Anakin) I’d take the FBI agent over the mass murderer.


24. 1 and 9 reluctantly team up to save the world from the threat posed by 4's sinister secret organization. 11 volunteers to help them,but it is later discovered that s/he is actually a spy for 4. Meanwhile, 4 has kidnapped 12 in an attempt to force their surrender. Following the wise advice of 5, they seek out 3, who gives them what they need to complete their quest. What title would you give this fic? 

Harry Potter and Shawn Spencer’s reluctantly team up to save the world from the threat posed by Obi-wan Kenobi’s sinister secret organization (the jedi!?). Pippin volunteers to help them, but is actually Obi-wan’s spy. Meanwhile, Obi-wan has kidnapped Kitty in an attempt to force their surrender. Following Elizabeth Swan’s advice, they seek out Frodo, who gives them what they need to complete their quest (the ring!?).

Title: The end of the literature.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The First Spark


As it is a dreary (desperately needed) rainy day, I’m feeling up for something nostalgic.
So I’m posing the question: What book first turned you on to writing? Or reading, if that’s your preference.

I can’t remember exactly when it was I first wanted to write. I’ve always loved making up stories. When I was in first grade, people would ask what my favorite subject was and I would say “writing.” Then they’d ask what my least favorite was and I would say “spelling.” I found it incredibly confusing that people would always laugh.

The first book I remember really falling in love with though, was The Grand Escape by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.



I was probably eight years old the first time I read this juvenile book, and ten years the last time, but for some reason, this cute comedic story about two runaway house cats really stuck with me. I had to have read it at least six times in a row. And then I went out and bought the sequels. I think I'd memorized half the dialogue. If there was ever a book that made me want to be a writer, this was it. 

I started writing my own "cat adventure stories," trying to re-create The Grand Escape feelWhen people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said “a writer, like Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.” So I guess you could say she was my first role model... that wasn't fictional :P 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I want to be a real boy (or girl)

Ever opened a book and read about a character that you felt like you knew by the end? Ever fallen in love with one? Have you ever closed a booked (or muddled through with a determination greater than mine) because the characters seemed flat, unrealistic, or didn’t make any sense? As a writer, we want to be remembered for the first, and not the second.

So what exactly is it that seperates the two?

Personality: this is obvious, but sometimes it seems to be shoved aside when another character or a complicated plot is introduced. Every character that has a line of dialogue should have a personality. You don’t need to figure out every last detail of the guard’s life if he’s only in one paragraph, but do decide if he’s a typical guard (serious, commanding, intimidating) or if there is anything different. Different is often more interesting. People are more likely to remember the frail, worried guard on his first day than they are the “cut-out” of normality.

Motivation: What is it that is motivating your character? What are his or her goals? They should have two: one, which is tangible and they are aware of (ie: destroy a ring, save the cheerleader, or win back the girl of their dreams) and one in that lies deep in their subconscious, which you as the author are away of. This second is much larger, and usually is to be loved, to be feared, to be accepted, to be admired, or something very similar. This should never be stated explicitly, but the readers should be able to figure it out by the end of the book (which category does Bella fall into? Harry Potter?)

Self-image: Often times, the most interesting stories are when a characters self image is quite different from how they are perceived. They see themselves as worthless and cowardly, while their actions show they are actually quite brave, but perhaps not in a way they don’t think of as typical bravery. Or, they see themselves as heroic and inspiring, but are crushed when they realize everyone else sees them as self-centered and cocky.

Background: it’s good to have at least a general idea for a character’s background, even if it’s never mentioned. Were they properly educated? Do they have a strong accent?  Are they close to their family? These factors are going to change the way they behave and influence the other characters perceive them. The larger role the character will play, they more you should spend time creating their background.

Interaction with others: this is the most important part. It could really have a whole post to itself. A character can be described as funny, but no one is going to buy it unless they see for themselves. “Funny” is such a generic word, because everyone has a different sense of humor.

Relatable: This doesn’t mean all young adult books have to take place on earth in a suburban high school, but it does mean it has to be relatable to people in that setting. Loss of innocence, witnessing injustice, introduced to new situations, and becoming overwhelmed with emotions are all trials we face as young adults, and are therefore often explored in the YA genre.

Simply put, people want to read stories about people (or at least, characters with human qualities) so character development is a crucial part of the writing process.

What are some of the “most real” fictional characters you’ve been introduced to? What do you think it was that made them so real?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Keep on going

Sometimes we all hit walls, whether it's in our writing, our work, our education, or our personal lives. We may come up against a decision we don't want to face, we may start regretting a decision we made, or we may feel like our lives are spiraling out of control. At times like these, it's good to remember we are not alone. Here are a few quotes that I've found inspiring and encouraging both in my writing and in my life: 


"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live."
-Dorothy Thompson

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do."
-Mark Twain

"To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go."
-Mary Oliver

"I think somehow we learn who we really are and then live with that decision."
-Eleanor Roosevelt

"Your work is to discover your world and then, with all your heart, give yourself to it."
-Buddha

"Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact."
- William James

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."
- C. S. Lewis

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
- Martin Luther King Jr.
Any others you would like to share? 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Scene Setting


Have you ever read a book that took place somewhere (real or fictional) you’ve never been, but you can picture it like you’ve lived there? If the answer is yes, chances are the author did a great job depicting the setting and atmosphere (either that or you just have a great imagination :P).

So how do you write a scene that tricks your readers to believing they’re in an ancient royal palace or futuristic spaceship instead of reminding them they're staring at ink on a page in their familiar living room?

It’s not that hard. There isn’t really any deep secret or meticulous method. It’s mostly just including the right details in the right places. Here’s how:

Picture the place in your mind. Make note of everything, every color, every line, every object for your own personal reference. Then move on to sound. And smell. And touch. And, if necessary, taste. Try and imagine yourself taking a short walk through your setting, as if you’re a director arriving on set, preparing to make a film. You have complete control over the setting: if you want to tear down a wall and put in a fountain, go ahead and do it! Resources are free in your imagination.

When writing the scene, try to sneak in small details here and there instead of describing a room at once. Any more than two or three sentences of description can appear dull and loose your reader’s interest, especially in young adult novels. Unless the setting is breathtakingly beautiful or eye-opening to your main character, the description should be interspersed with dialogue and action. Have people sit in the chairs of soft blue velvet, or drink from the gold goblets encrusted with dragon’s scales. Try and include details in the setting that serve a duel purpose, maybe revealing something about a character (paint splatter on the walls for an artist) or a mood (every ghost story needs fog and mist, right?). 


(Sometimes color can be a great way to convey the mood)

Be consistent. If you have Sweet Mother Sally open the cabinet by the fridge to get a mug, don’t have her daughter open the cabinet over the stove to get the same object two scenes later. If the cat’s collar is pink, don’t have it suddenly change to blue (without a reason).

Any other advice? Do you have a favorite place like you to “visit” by opening the pages of a book? 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

To be afraid or not to be afraid... that is the question

Fear is powerful. It can cause people to do atrocious things, and keep them from doing outstanding things.
"Fear is the Mind Killer."
Frank Herbert, Dune 

And yet, it’s a gold mine for writers. Just think-where would Stephen King be without it? 

I had a dream the other night where I was walking through a forest covered in snakes- which I'm terribly afraid of- and it inspired me to do this post. They were everywhere, twisting around branches, slithering under water, coiling in the dirt- and I was trying to meander my way through them. At one point, I wanted to turn around, but the two people who were with me encouraged me not to give up. I took a few steps and realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought. As long as I left the snakes alone, they minded their own business. None jumped down from the trees to attack me, or latched on to my ankles or anything.

When I first woke up, I thought maybe it was my subconscious trying to tell me something. Maybe it meant I was letting my fears keep me from taking the right path. Then I started thinking maybe it was the opposite: why waste your time taking a short cut full of obstacles, when you can take a longer, clear cut route? Being my usual indecisive self, I couldn't decide, so I let the interpretations fade to the back of my mind as I went to work.

Less than two hours into work, I was sent out on a story that took place at a serpentarium. Coincidence much? I, of course, didn’t tell anyone I was afraid, but walked through the main entrance with a forced sense of courage. And, much like my dream, it was surprisingly painless. Most of the snakes were asleep, but a few lifted their head and slithered around, and I watched them without being afraid. Thankfully, we didn't have to touch any or open their cages (hey, everyone has their limits, right?).

Maybe all my dream meant was that it’s time for me to face my fears and realize that, as long as we’re aware of them, there isn’t really all that much to be afraid of.

Isn't that what reading is all about? Facing fears from the comfort of our home? Watching others make mistakes and deal with devastating consequences without any risk to ourselves (other than perhaps loosing a few hours or being glued to a book)?

While we shouldn't let our fears hinder us, they can serve a purpose in our lives. In addition to alerting us to danger and heightening our senses, they enhance our writing. Fear can provide a great source of motivation for a character and a cause for empathy from a reader. Because... let's face it, we all get scared sometimes.  

What are some fears you've overcome? Are there any you haven't quite mastered, but want to? Have you incorporated any into your writing?