Satisfying my obsessive compulsions through the pursuit of creativity and personal betterment

Saturday, June 4, 2016


No names, no faces, no colors.  Just this picture I drew 6 months ago which tells a very big spoiler for the next several years of the Scepter Continuum.
This is actually a pretty decent drawing for 6 months ago.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I love the Raven Cycle Series Because....

I came in expecting a typical YA pile of mush and was left with really unique, intriguing characters, intelligent discourse, a twisty, unexpected plot, and one of the most original books I've ever read.

This is for an ARC contest of her third book :)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Story Tucked into a Game of Solitaire

I follow this tumblr that is basically a wellspring of writing advice and prompts and really cool stuff to just get people out and WRITING.    Today I happened upon this little gem and I let it carry me into the afternoon.

"When I'm looking for an idea, I'll do anything--clean the closet, mow the lawn, work in the garden."

--Kevin Henkes

And underneath that one of the tags read:  "That's where stories tend to hide."

This afternoon we had a preemptive Not-Back-To-School party where we took off the afternoon of homeschool and ate doughnuts and played games.  I was goofing off, losing games of Solitaire in succession, when this little scene began to manifest itself in my head.  Solitaire is really good for things like that:  it doesn't require even a third of your concentration to play it well, and I find myself drifting off into writing land frequently.  There was one lyric out of a song that stuck in my head, and I couldn't tell you what it originally was, but it transformed into a man saying, "You know we don't do this, (name)."  What "this" was slowly transformed into this scene.  Don't know if I'll do anything with it, and I left in the original note where I could expand into more background story, but it's actually rather self-contained as it is, and I'm proud of that.


Roark's surprise was revealed by the slight straightening of his spine, by the pause before he resumed pulling his shirt back over his head. The scars that cross hatched his back gleamed slightly before being covered by his shirt. All past weaknesses concealed by a plain grey covering. His face was turned to a profile, but she didn't bother trying to study it for a response. Roark was too good to show his emotions. His voice was as stiff as his shoulders.

“You know we don't do that, Leesa.” He turned toward her then, a carefree look on his face that didn't quite reach his eyes.

She hugged her knees closer to her chest. It was these moment she felt the most vulnerable, when she let her walls slip down far enough that these conversations were possible. <optional expansion>

“Why don't we do this, Roark?” She heard her own voice in her ears, and to her disgust it sounded like she was pouting. She sat up straighter, dropping her knees and instead holding the edge of the blanket.

“We're both consenting adults. We are free to make these kind of decisions ourselves--”

“Exactly,” he interrupted her by foregoing getting dressed and crawled into her space. He knelt in front of her, nearly in her lap, and she felt his hand on her cheek. Her face had cooled from the flush it held earlier, and the warmth of his hand was welcome. She leaned into it, and tried not to look at his eyes.

“We are making the decision to not complicate this. You know this line of work doesn't have a long life expectancy. Let's just have fun when we can and not worry about anything else, okay?”

She heard the earnestness in his voice, but she couldn't bring herself to look at it in his face. She never knew whether he was trying to convince himself or her of that anymore, and she was tired of trying to guess which it was. She sighed, and relented.

“Sure, Roark.”

He ruffled her hair like he would a kid sister. “Good girl.” He leaned away from her and she didn't bother to hide her glare as she watched him shrug into his shoulder harness. He checked both guns with a sliding click before re-holstering them and locating his boots under the bed. He glanced over at her as he laced them up, and didn't flinch at her scowl. He saw her tank top tangled in the sheet and tossed it her way.

“Now get dressed Lee, we've got work to do.” He finished his boots, and slid a black overshirt on to conceal his gun holster. He gave her a playful wink as he shouldered his duffel bag.

“That prince isn't going to assassinate himself.”

Her gaze followed him as he left the room, and she was irritated when it was blurry with tears. She scrubbed her eyes clean, and quickly found the rest of her clothes. She muttered angrily to herself as she shoved her legs into her pants.

“A simple “Love you, too” would have sufficed, asshole.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Love Letter to a Wayward Friend

Once upon a time in a world full of stories,
two hearts of different backgrounds
wandered into sight of each other.

One heart was full and round and red, and was
filled with so much goodness that it spilled out of it
in ribbons of light that trailed behind it on the floor.

One heart was shrouded, but if you lifted the hood,
you'd see that it was covered with old closed up holes
and scars of past threads.

Here, you said, as you held out a shining thread of your hair.
Take it, it is free, and I am giving it to you.
I wish to know you better.

No, I replied, I am afraid.
I am full of too many scars, and I don't know if I could handle it
when you left me behind.

The heart plucked a thread out of its head,
broke free one shining piece of goodness,
and pressed it into the other heart's hand.

It is only one small piece, I whisper to myself,
and it glows so bright.
And it binds together the holes that are in me.

You may keep it. I have enough to go around.
Only when you are ready, spread your own
goodness to others in the same way.

In the beginning the thread only shone when
the hearts were together, and retreated into darkness
when they were apart.

The thread that was freely given took root
and from it grew more threads that healed over the old scars
and slowly made them beautiful.

The shrouded heart found it no longer wanted to hide.
There were other hearts, both brilliant and faded,
and they were all good in their own way.

All the heart had to do was offer up one shining thread
one gesture of acceptance,
and those hearts began to shine in return.

I have to leave, you whispered.
There are others that need my goodness and light,
and I have to help them.

I am not afraid, I whispered back.
I can shine with my own light now.
It is time to give out my own threads.

I am not afraid, because where you were
is not a hole or a scar, it is simply on hold
and waits for you to fly home.

Because the spot where you reside in me
is the shape of colorful rainbows,
desert landscapes, and flowing rivers.

It is everything good and beautiful
that reminds me of you, and
I do not fear pain of loss.

Because love does not injure
and only makes us grow into
more than we ever thought possible.

I throw off my shroud as you wind your path away from me.
I do not need it anymore, because the only marks you left on me

are proof of love. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Let it Go: Subtly Undermining a Powerful Message

Like every other family that has children, my entire household has been taken over by Frozen lately. Middlest girl minion meets me at breakfast in a blue lace cape and doesn't take it off until school time. We have the soundtrack on repeat in the background. We took the dvd in to the library for movie time to share with any unfortunate souls that have not been bombarded yet. We did not see the movie in the theatre, so when I decided to finally listen to all the “Let it Go” craziness after the Academy Awards, and let the kids listen too, they were ravenous to watch it. Two week of counting down until we bought it, and many tears shed when they had to wait until after showers and breakfast that morning.

I had heard a lot of crazy things about this movie: that it was actually about these two sisters, that “true love” wasn't the focus, and that they imparted common sense advice like not to get engaged to someone you just met. I had a lot of interest in a movie that wasn't all about the girl trying to get the guy, or that true love is immediate and supersedes everything else, or that you fall in love with someone as soon as they kiss you. You know, a movie marketed to children that wasn't over the top, and yet threw out a lot of the anti-feminist mantras that most princess movies shove in your face. I was excited to watch and excited to share it with my girls (and boys!).

Now before I continue I would like to point out that I usually don't consider myself a feminist in the traditional sense. I prefer equality and respect, but I prefer it in both directions, and I feel it is incredibly unhelpful to look down on women who choose to take traditional roles or have traditional families. There is nothing wrong with that. I have a uterus. I make babies. I take care of them. I am a woman, and it is okay that I do that instead of trying to play both the role of a man or a woman. For that matter it is okay if someone chooses to do the opposite that I do as well. When I use the word feminist in this article, I am talking about the practice of treating women like valid human beings instead of property or sex objects. You know, basic human rights.

That being said, “Let it Go” is really a feminist song, in all the best ways. There is a young woman who has spent her entire life trying to conform to very restrictive life by society's norms, and it has continuously grown harder and harder for her to keep her true self hidden. In a moment of weakness, she reveals that self to the rest of the world, and amidst a sea of backlash, runs away. This song is where she finally throws away her attempts to blend in, and is just herself. I recently saw a funny gif where someone had photoshopped the words “fuck off” into the snow magic that Elsa is creating. Crude yes, but also pretty accurate: she is past the point of trying to please everyone, and they can just deal with it and leave her alone.

Although I believe the song translates across all genders and walks of life, it very clearly points at feminine issues. All her life a woman is held to a ridiculous amount of standards: she must be demure or she is called a bitch. She must dress in a certain way or she is called a slut. She must hold certain kinds of jobs or she faces at the least a lower pay rate, and usually harassment or not being taken seriously. In action movies she is relegated to the sex icon or love interest: weak, without personality, and just there to look at. In this song, Elsa throws off the prejudice that society pins on her for her gender, and refuses to play by their rules anymore. She can dress however she wants. She can behave the way she chooses. She can play the hero of her own story.

In a way, every single person that hears this song feels a little bit of this power. Everyone wants to rise above the part of the victim and be heard. Everyone wants the freedom to make their own choices without persecution. More than a song about finding true love, or any other dribble that princesses usually sing about, this song speaks to the heart and soul of everyone and gives them control over their own destiny.

Which in a round-about way finally brings me to the point of this essay: the pop version of “Let it Go” is a sad mockery of the original and shows just how far we still have to go as a society.

Now, the remake itself was not that bad. I am fond of the driving beat they added to it, and they reworked the song to have a true chorus and have more of the traditional structure of a pop song. There were a few lyric changes but they fit in well, I believe. The person that they chose to sing it has the tone quality and obviously has the ability to hit all the notes well and hit it out of the park. The problem with the entire thing though? She chooses not too.

At the end of every phrase, she takes an exaggerated breath. She does not have to do this: there are other parts of the song where she holds notes for longer and strings longer phrases together with no issue. Why would someone have such pronounced breathing in the middle of a hit song then? There's only one explanation for it: she is trying to make it sound more sexy.

That is not the only issue: there are several times in the song that Demi Lovato goes in to hit a note and instead of “letting go” and belting it out, she pulls it back, and sings in this breathy, soft voice. Again, she does not have to do this! There are several times in the song where she hits a note hard, on pitch, with no hesitation. This is all a ploy to make her sound weaker, sexier, and inviting to men.

So here you have a song that is all about throwing off sexist labels and being yourself, and in order to make it palatable to the rest of the world, you take all the power out of it. You rework it so that it sounds like an immature girl trying to engender sympathy to her sad situation (which sounds suspiciously like a breakup that she is trying to get over) by getting the attention of the men around her.

One step forward, twenty steps back.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Scepter: A Look Back

Around this time three years ago, I wrote the first chapter of Scepter.

Now when I say the first, I mean the first WRITTEN chapter. This chapter would later be dubbed number fourteen, and now, as it sits here open on my desktop, waiting in the queue to be edited and then updated to my fanfiction account, it bears its final number, twenty-three. There are twenty-two chapters before it, and possibly that many again after it. My chapters average around 3000 words each, so thus far I have amassed over 75k words in chronological order in those three years. That in itself is the size of a respectable novel, and we're a little over half-way through the story now. I really do expect this thing to hit over 125k words in its entirety.

The story has been through many changes in that amount of time. When I wrote that first chapter, I was a different person than I am now. My family, and myself individually, were going through a very difficult and dark time, and when I first jotted those notes down in a folder and thought I might do something with it, the plot line was depressing and vague. There was a hunter, and her name was Zarabethe. She was a loner by choice. She embarked on this quest, and became obsessed with finishing it. Even though she found love, and possible meaning for her life, she threw it all away in search of this quest. This quest was so old and defunct that it was obsolete, and would mean nothing to anyone except her if she finished it.  So really it was meaningless to everyone except her.  The personality of Zarabethe was patterned off what I felt I would be if left to my own devices and never felt love or acceptance. She was cold. She was violent but precise. She ignored her own needs until it became an emergency situation. The rest of the world and even her own kind were alien to her. She did not seek out companionship and did not desire it. She obsessed to the point of neglecting herself and the people around her. She was never happy but always sought after the next quest, never realizing what she needed or wanted. She was like a robot with one dial that turned in the direction of what she was seeking, and it never wavered. She was emotionless. I feel like even though I've wasted nine sentences describing her in the exact same way, I can't stress enough how extremely unlikeable I made this character. She did nothing but destroy her entire life over this quest, and then she died alone.

For a long time this was the end of it. She achieved what she wanted: to be by herself. To find what she was questing for. And it consumed and destroyed her. The end. After all, that's a realistic ending, right? We hear stories about that all time: addicts who go on unchecked and are found overdosed in the alleyway, penniless and emaciated. Sure, a lot of addicts reform, and some even ride that line between power and ruin, but a lot just pass into the next world without even an ounce of regret.

I wanted her to be a mother in the story, possibly to heighten the similarities between the two of us. But I didn't want her to be a good mother. In the very darkest corners of my mind, just a shadow really, not even a fully formed idea, the child did not survive. She would never out-right kill a child, not even I could write that atrocity. But maybe she just didn't care about her own personal safety, and fell too many times, and caused a miscarriage. Maybe she took such poor care of herself that when the baby was born it was too frail and died. The most likely scenario though, was that she was so obsessed with the quest that even after carrying a baby to fruition, then giving birth, she would simply strap the child on and keep going. Maybe she would successfully care for the child and they would both make it. Maybe she wouldn't, and it would die alone in the wilds somewhere. Maybe she would become self-aware enough to realize how poor of a job she was doing, and give the child up to someone who could care for it. There were a range of possibilities, and none of them happy.

I wrote the first chapter of Scepter in early spring of 2011. Then I set it aside, and did nothing for at least twelve months. My home life was busy. During that time, I got pregnant with my seventh child, and things in my marriage were getting wrung out and then fixed. I looked deep into myself and came to a lot of realizations about the kind of person I was. Some of it was downright scary, but they were not the only parts, and definitely not the ones I intended to let lead my decisions. I gave birth to our seventh and last child at home in our bathroom. My husband went back to school to pursue something he loved. We joined and then left a church. The rest of the kids grew and lived. Sometime in 2012, around June I think, I sat down and wrote another chapter. By this time I'd decided that no matter what, the child would live. Zarabethe would realize at the last moment that she was responsible for this life, and she would step up to it. I started to think seriously about actually plotting this story out and completing it. I wrote three or four chapters during this time, and I really began to get into the joy of writing. Around this time, I started to talk to my husband about the story, as I wanted to incorporate his character into it. It was stop and start, and I was a little reluctant to involve him creatively. This was my BABY, after all. It was sometime during that period that I decided that the story needed to change again.

With the way I had written Zarabethe, no one would like her. Most importantly, the romantic lead, a man of normal emotional depth, would have no interest in her at all, and even if he did initially, she would very quickly put him off and he would not pursue her. And I realized I did not want that kind of ending. Inadvertently, my life had changed for the better so much that I believed in a happy ending again. I didn't want her to destroy her life for this quest anymore. Which meant I had to make a decision: happiness and family, or finish the quest. With it boiled down to that, I added one small but crucial personality detail to Zarabethe. She was still all of the above, but she knew that she was not normal, and she desired to change.

The details of the story are still going through alterations, but since I made Zarabethe want to grow and change, everything finally clicked into place. I set all my chapters aside, opened up a new document, and started chapter one. By the time I got to chapter four, I made a fanfiction account and admitted to myself that I was dedicated to seeing this through.

There have been a few deviations. With the success I was finally having at writing out the story of Zarabethe and Elforen (who now had equal billing, and wasn't just a side character), I began talking with the husband about how our other Warcraft characters interacted. They didn't all have to pair off into romantic couples, but maybe they were siblings, or just worked together. My husband can be quite creative himself, and he spun me a tale of his death knight, and what kind of person she had been before she had been turned, the details of her capture, and what kind of person she was now. We tended to pair his death knight with my priest, and I had always thought of my priest as this innocent, compassionate person who just wanted to help people, and with the knowledge of his death knight's past, the story just seemed to fall into place. I wrote the first chapter of Mercy in two days, and I was really proud of it. I had started out writing one thing, ended up with something else, but it did exactly what I wanted it to without really trying. My husband loved it. He had been a little interested in Scepter, especially since his character was involved, but Mercy he would not stop talking about. Other people who read it kept talking about it. I felt the first strings of the idea that maybe I could write something good enough that other people would want to purchase it and read it.

I wrote the four long chapters of Mercy in between writing parts of Scepter. I still tended to write things out of order in Scepter: the story was so long and winding and had so many good potential emotional turns, that I wanted to write the good stuff first. I stopped publishing out of order around chapter nine, and took down all the chapters I had written a long time ago until I could publish them chronologically. I was getting serious now. During this time I also started writing other things: I realized that if I really did want to publish something that I wrote, obviously fanfiction was not where I needed to spend all my time. It was surprisingly hard to create my own world though. Fantasy is my favorite genre to read and write, but making a working and believable environment for your story to exist in is exhausting. There are so many details that you have to either research or completely make up, and even then you have to research enough to know if what you made up makes sense. I decided I wanted to create a nomadic race that was similar to the gypsies, or the Romany. I very quickly realized that I knew NOTHING about eastern European history, and all the little ideas I had like putting in bits and pieces of other languages, and making different customs, down to even naming commonalities and religious quirks, required hours and hours of research and reading and by the end I was more confused than enlightened.

At this point in the timeline of Scepter, we are kind of at a difficult place. Our romantic leads are separated. Zarabethe is continuing to ignore her growing symptoms, and Elforen is in a state of denial about what's going on in his heart. It's gotten a little stagnant, and although there will be some resolution soon, it's all very angst-ridden. Although I've been really good at staying in order for awhile, I find I've been wandering in my mind to happier times, to a point where things are coming together, where the plot really picks up and MOVES. If I were reading this story, I'd be getting bored, but plugging along, knowing that better times are coming. The anticipation of writing those parts and then giving them to YOU, giving them to my teeny tiny army of readers, and then sitting back and watching as you gasp and awe and get excited for what's happening next right along with me, is incredible. I am SO EXCITED you guys. I've been sailing this ship for three years, and we're no longer in uncharted territory, we are smooth sailing now, as fast as I can get my fingers to type it.

There will still be delays. Life continues on apace, so to say. I have house to keep, kids to raise and teach, amazing costumes to create, and unlike three years ago, I have friends and community now that I look forward to interacting with. Things may slow down and pick up in waves, but I will not leave you hanging one moment longer than I have to. We will pilot this course together and land safely on the other shore.

Onward and upward!