<![CDATA[Right Brain, Left Brain - Blog]]>Thu, 28 Jan 2016 12:35:36 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[2015: The Year My Reader Came Back Home]]>Wed, 27 Jan 2016 19:32:26 GMThttp://www.faithkingwriter.com/blog/2015-the-year-my-reader-came-back-homePicture
Okay, first off: A rockstar blogger I am not (and probably never will be). This we know. Moving on!

Last year was a big year for me, mostly centered on moving to Mexico for the Day Job. Which is very interesting and I probably should blog about it, but for now I'm going to narrow the scope, lest I risk overwhelming my three whole blog readers with too much disparate information in one dump.

What I want to talk about today is this:

2015 was the year I became a reader again.

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I started writing fanfic in 2002. It wasn't long before I was working on original writing as well. It was fun and exhilarating and led me to hundreds of wonderful places in my life (sometimes literally-- there's a direct cause/effect sequence of events between me, Stargate fanfic, and my first ever trip to Europe). One small negative side effect of all this writing, however, was what it did to my inner reader. Effectively, it sent her into exile. Suddenly everything I read was an exercise in comparison to my writing. Every book left me feeling intimidated, superior, impressed, or frustrated. To thoroughly lose myself in someone else's story without any of this baggage was a very rare treat. Plus, with only so much discretionary time at my disposal, I could either spend it reading or writing. Most of the time I chose writing.

But time marches on and my relationship with writing has been going through some evolutionary pains the last couple of years. Day Job has become something I actually find very stimulating, and something I care deeply about cultivating and doing well, no longer just something to tide me over until maybe my ship-of-the-lucky-artistic-breadwinners came in. Additionally, ten years of trying to get published without any (truly) notable results can take their emotional toll. Writing has lost much of its lustre. Some of that loss is permanent. Some, I hope, is only for a season.

Early last year I decided to take a sabbatical from the pressure of writing. I was moving to another country, which is a pretty difficult change to navigate without adding unrequisite pressure.

Around the same time, (late 2014) I had just invested in a beautiful new set of IKEA bookshelves (pictured above) and was taking great delight in seeing all my books in one place instead of scattered between several mismatched shelves. One evening, out of curiosity, I went shelf by shelf and, with a few special exceptions, pulled off every book that I had purchased (or been given) but never actually read. My book-reading energies may have been subdued for ten years, but my book-buying energies were suffering from no such strain, so the resulting stack was considerable in size, around thirty or so books. I made a Pinterest board called "The Forgotten Bookshelf" and pinned all the covers of the books in my stack.

I started tackling The Forgotten Bookshelf stack in December of 2014 and made it my 2015 New Year's Resolution to finish it off by year's end.

And, I'm pleased to say, I did it.

It was a really fun experience. Some books were more challenging than others. I'm not drawn to stuff that doesn't read like a story, so non-fiction and or collections of anecdotes were challenges to push through (fortunately, these were few in number). I'm also proud to say that I read my very first complete book in Spanish, a beloved children's book from Chile called Papelucho. It was a gift from my Chilean host mom when I studied there. (I really wish I could share this book with some of my English-speaking, children's book-loving friends, not to mention my niece and nephew, because it is SO CUTE, but as far as I can tell, it's only been translated into English once, for a short time, and was only available in Chilean markets.)

I discovered a lot of new favorites. One of the early books sitting around on my shelf was The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima, first in her Heir Chronicles series. Even though Book #1 was the only book that applied to the Forgotten Bookshelf project, I liked it so much that I took a detour to read the whole series, which was just the sort of thing I hoped would happen.

Even though the Forgotten Bookshelf was my reading road map for the year, the momentum I got from working on it spilled over into a lot of other books. I could sing the praises for The Lunar Chronicles all day, a series very deserving of its hype and popularity. 

Alas, the Forgotten Bookshelf pinterest board in its original form does not exist, since I kept moving pins off it as I achieved them. Perhaps I should've preserved it for posterity, but I didn't. It still exists to keep track of those new books I've bought and still need to read, which is a pile that will probably never truly be down to zero, but maybe I should change the name since they're hardly forgotten anymore.

Anyway, when all was finished and counted, I read 80 books last year, and I wouldn't trade a word of it. (Pinterest Board)

My inner reader is back and I hope she sticks around for a while.



 

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<![CDATA[The Lord's Prayer Playlist]]>Tue, 14 Apr 2015 12:25:06 GMThttp://www.faithkingwriter.com/blog/the-lords-prayer-playlistSo I've been thinking a lot about prayer in the past few weeks. Mostly because I'm pretty bad at praying. My thought process when praying goes something like this: "Well, hello, Lord. You, um, already know everything I need and everything I'm going to ask for and how much I love you, so saying it all again feels redundant to my accountant brain."


This, of course, is a lie of the enemy because prayer is really much more about fostering an intimacy with the Lord than anything else, and in listening to it, I'm only robbing myself. Fortunately, for me, the disciples must have had a similar problem because they asked Jesus to teach them to pray and he gave them a very specific template. But does it seem strange to anyone else that Jesus would give such a specific prayer and then in another place warn against vain babblings (Matthew 6:7)? So what, then, are we to learn from the Lord's Prayer about the how of praying?



For me, it's about (1) including everything (2) keeping things in perspective. The prayer is bookended with sentiments of praise and the big picture. In the middle we treat on things that pertain to walking in a sinful world. (We need daily bread, we need forgiveness, we need to know how to treat the people we meet, etc). But at the beginning we remember, before anything, that God is holy and at the end that He's got everything under control.



In thinking about all this, I thought it might be a fun exercise to match them up with some of my favorite songs. Inspired gospel music has always been a launching point for much of my own spiritual reflection, which, insomuch as it is meditating on the Lord, I would certainly count as a form of prayer.


So here's what I came up with.


 
Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Just praise, pure and simple! For this I chose my most recent favorite song, which I've been playing almost nonstop the past few weeks, and will probably never get sick of.


Thy kingdom come...
When it comes to Sara Groves music you could play a really fun Christian music game. Kind of like the Kevin Bacon game, except instead of matching any actor to Kevin Bacon in six movies or less, you match any Christian theme to a Sara Groves song in one song or less. She writes about all if it, and all of it hits me where I live. Such a blessing she's been in my life. Really, I could have done this whole list with just her music, but I managed to limit myself to only two.



Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
This was the only song where I didn't have an immediate candidate. I turned to some friends for help, just to get the gears turning, though in the end I finally remembered this song on my own.


All of my ambitions, hopes, and plans.
I surrender these into your hands...


(It's tough to do sometimes, am I right?)


Give us this day our daily bread.
And here we have the Sara song #2...


And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Kind of a two-part sentence. Arguably I could have split it into two songs-- one about God's forgiveness and one about the forgiveness he asks us to demonstrate. However, for me, accepting God's forgiveness is much easier than practicing it myself, so this line always tends to make me focus on the forgiveness I'm called to give. This is probably my favorite (non-Sara) song about human forgiveness, mostly because it expresses so well how unnatural, vulnerable, and sometimes even foolish it can make us feel as humans to practice it.


And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
This song is a masterpiece and hits the nail on the head.


For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.


I cheated here and picked two songs because I just couldn't decide. But hey, it's a a sentence with a LOT to say!


(Let one of the songs be the "Amen"-- how's that?) ;-)
And there you have it! My Lord's Prayer Playlist. I hope you enjoyed and got a blessing from it. And if anybody feels inspired to put together their own Lord's Prayer Playlist, please leave a link in the comments!!
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<![CDATA[Tall Girl vs. Vintage]]>Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:44:50 GMThttp://www.faithkingwriter.com/blog/tall-girl-vs-vintageI love vintage inspired fashion, especially circa 1940's and 1950's. But when it comes to off-the-rack purchase options, let's just say that these styles of clothing do not return my affection. First-world tall girl problems: Every up and down measurement in my body is too long for standard commercial fashion sizes, and when it comes to something with a fitted waist, there is a "no-fly" zone where I either just let the dream die or look and feel a bit silly wearing something that doesn't quite fit me right.

The best I can figure, people who design off-the-rack clothing design an "average" sized dress and assume that a larger size has the same up and down measurements and they're just fatter. This means that when I see a dress that I like, I need the larger size to be able to fit it around my body, but then everything up and down falls way to short of where it's supposed to.

For those of you who are more visual, look, I made a chart!
I have an "in the flesh" example too. I refer you to the picture below. See that band on the hem of this dress? Yup, I added that so the dress would be long enough for me. And even though , but it's still a wee bit lacking in the waist length too. And because my shoulders are broader than the average woman's, I feel a little bit cramped when I wear it. (I was pleasantly surprised how good it looks in the photos, but then, I'm just standing still here. Believe me, I'm a girl who demands a certain range of motion from my clothing).
(I'm honor-bound to mention that while being freakishly tall makes it hard to wear 50's-esque fashion, there are upsides too. I can wear a maxi dress like NOBODY'S BUSINESS. Mwuahaha).


Anyway...



One of the greatest benefits of learning how to sew over the last five years is that it helped me break free and clear forever from the pressure of feeling deject when something I love at the store doesn't fit me in body the way I want it to in my heart.   I've come to appreciate the vast difference an inch can make here or there, and how luxurious and amazing you can feel when you're wearing something that was made specifically for you.


That being said, buying direct is always a nice option, and I'd really like to be able to feel comfortable in this dress. Part of the reason I took these photos is because I'm on a six-week intensive excercise quest and I'm curious to see the before and after. I chose this dress as my proving ground. It's possible if I can lose an inch or so around that I can get just enough interest on the up and down to make me happy with the fit.

But there's a chance that plan won't work and I still won't feel comfortable in this dress. And if that happens, that's okay. I have another option, if I want it badly enough. I can pull it apart and somehow add to it or use it as a template to make one that fits me.

So we'll see! One week down, five weeks to go!!

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<![CDATA[Dragon Con 2014]]>Sat, 07 Mar 2015 14:00:03 GMThttp://www.faithkingwriter.com/blog/dragon-con-2014 So... six months ago was Dragon Con 2014. In the grand tradition of me being the world's biggest slacker of a blogger, I've had this post 90% ready to go for most of that time but haven't taken the trouble to polish it off and get it posted. Until now. Hah!

Instead of doing a chronological play by play of every waking moment, I decided to instead organize my con experience into my top ten favorite moments, from least to greatest.

Here goes! Enjoy!



#10. Going to the tenth floor of the Marriott

This was my 5th Dragon Con but I had never been above the lobby levels of the Marriott, which is such an impressive piece of architecture that deserves to be enjoyed from all perspectives. Since my roomies and I had the benefit of getting to Con early, we took advantage of the light crowd to ride the elevator up a bit. The views are equally lovely from on high looking down. I also found a cool spiral staircase, and spiral staircases will always demand to be climbed whenever possible.
#9. "The Empire Striketh Back" table reading

Last year, through the astonishing means of "just ask and see what happens" I got to be part of the Star Wars track's table reading of Shakespeare's Star Wars "Verily, a New Hope". They invited me to participate as Greedo and I had a blast. So this year, naturally, I asked again, and was surprised and delighted not only to be asked back, but with a promotion! I got to be C-3P0. In honor of the part, I bought some round gold sunglasses, though they're kind of hard to see in the photos below. The panel was once again a riotous good time. My cast-mates were talented and funny, and my friend Cassie even got to come up as a volunteer reader, playing Boba Fett! Thank you so much to Carol White for coordinating this fun panel, and I hope the Jedi Doth Return next year!
#8. Meeting New Friends

One thing I knew that would be special this year, no matter what else happened at Con, would be meeting up with my friends Cassie and Becky, some of my very good Christian nerdgirls from New England whom I persuaded to come see what Dragon Con was all about. Most especially, Cassie, because while I was lucky enough to briefly meet Becky once in Maryland a few years ago, Cassie and I had never met in real life before, even though we're very close through fandom, chats, emails, and phone calls galore. So giving her a big big BIG hug in the airport before we even got to the convention itself was a very special moment.

I also got to meet my very first "agent-mate", Nicole Conway, who was able to come briefly to sit as a guest author on a panel all about dragons. Why? Because she is a writer of dragons! And after listening to the description of her stories, I'm definitely looking forward to reading them. Check out her website and/or follow her on Twitter.

Finally, I got to meet another "friend-of-friend", named Josh, from my extended church family that I never met before in real life. After I'd posted my first batch of Con photos on Facebook, his sister commented, "Hey! Josh is at that thing!" So we made sure to meet up before it was over and that was a fun, if very unexpected, occurrence.
#7. Hobbit Lass Costume

Two years ago when I debuted my Red Riding Hood costume, I made the observation that if the skirt were shorter and I didn't wear the cape, it made a pretty darn good "Hobbit Lass" costume too. So this year I took that idea and fleshed it out.

(1) I put gathers in the Red skirt to shorten it, which also had the added bonus of making it all cute and poofy.

(2) I made a half-apron to add to the "hobbity" look, complete with a ruffle on the bottom which is so cute!! It was easy, too. Only about an hour or so with the supplies I already had on hand in my sewing domain.

(3) HOBBIT FEET. This is the best part, and all the credit goes to Cassie. She found some cute "fur" yarn that we wrapped liberally around the straps of a basic pair of brown flip flops for easy, economical, ADORABLE results.

Due to being in Chile last year, I didn't get to make any brand new epic costumes for Dragon Con 2014, so I think that's why I loved pulling together this cute impromptu hobbit lass so much. It felt enough like a brand new costume to get to enjoy that feeling. Also, it gave me something Tolkein-y to wear to the Evening at Bree. But we'll get to that later...
#6. Meeting Beverly Elliot

Way way back in the initial stages of Dragon Con planning, I wasn't going to bring my Red Riding Hood costume, at least not in full. But that all changed when Beverly Elliot was added as a guest. She plays Granny on Once Upon a Time, so, um, obviously? She is an amazing, lovely, talented lady and she was a great sport in helping me with the MOST ADORABLE PHOTO OP EVER.

... man, I love this picture!
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#5. Once Upon a Time Panel

In addition to Beverly Elliot, there were some other great Once guests at Dragon Con this year. We managed to catch the Sunday panel, which featured Beverly, Sean Maguire (Robin Hood), Robbie Kay (Peter Pan), and Rebecca Mader (The Wicked Witch of the West).

It was a really fun, entertaining panel. Probably the funniest bits were all the different ways Sean Maguire had of saying "No, I can't tell you what's going to happen with Robin and Regina in Season 3" (which felt like every other question). He makes the funniest facial expressions. He also had a hilarious story about not knowing how to shoot a bow and arrow his first day on set as Robin Hood.

And did I mention, that, among her many other talents, Beverly Elliot has a gorgeous singing voice? I didn't take this video, but yes, we were there. It was definitely a highlight. (Bonus feature: proof of Sean Maguire's capacity for funny facial expressions).

#4. Hobbit guests panel (with bonus Haldir)

This was the very last thing we did, right before fetching our luggage and heading to the MARTA. Monday morning panels are so great, largely because they're easy to get into, but when they end up being as hugely entertaining as this one, well... so much the better.

These guys are just flat-out hilarious. In fact, Craig Parker is guest starring on Reign this season and I haven't been able to take him seriously after Dragon Con. For starters, there should be a whole panel just devoted to him saying "banana" (34:15, in response to someone asking "What's been your favorite part of Dragon Con?")

Feel free to watch the whole thing if you like, but if you only watch one thing in the link below it definitely needs to be Jed Brophy demonstrating Martin Freeman's attempts at doing a forward somersault. (Timestamp 43:00)
#3. Tolkien Costume Contest

The same hilarious gentlemen who made that Hobbit panel so brilliant were also key players in the next item on the countdown-- the Tolkien costume contest. Alas I don't have any stellar pictures or videos, but contestants for the contest were brilliant. There's are separate categories for movie inspired vs. book inspired. My two favorite costumes were both in the book inspired category:

For craftsmanship, the Entwife. I wish I had a picture of this one to share. It was utterly breathtaking, crowned with this elaborate headdress made of delicate twigs and greenery, complete with bird's nest. Craig Parker would not stop fangirling about it behind the costumer's back, even after he'd gushed to her face.

For performance, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, who "tripped" while walking across the stage and spilled a whole bunch of spoons all over the ground.

Also, the guy who came as Thranduil really killed it with his diva performance, and he and a very convincing Thorin kept glaring at each other all night.

Really looking forward to next year's contest!


#2. Evening at Bree

The costume contest was just one part of my favorite Dragon Con party by far: Evening at Bree. Why do I like it so much? Well, the costume contest is certainly part of it, but mostly it's the dancing! This is my third year attending Evening at Bree and I dance the night way. A wonderful celtic band, Emerald Rose, does the music every year. All the other parties I've tried have that loud, dark, pulsy club music that doesn't do much to inspire me, and I've left those parties within fifteen minutes of arriving, but at Bree the dancing is all folksie jigs and the like (with all of us just making it up as we go along). I have the most wonderful time just moving my feet and clapping my hands. I even found a video from my very first Evening at Bree as an example. (I'm the tall one in the shiny orange shirt).

The dancing is the reason I don't like to bring a phone or camera with me to Evening at Bree. Don't want to stress about babysitting those items. It's also a pretty great workout!

Below some fun Bree-related pictures. The three of us waiting in line, a group picture of all the "Shire folk" who came to the party (I am by far the tallest Hobbit in the history of time; sorry Merry and Pippin), and that one time I asked Avatar Aang to dance and he said yes!
#1. Meeting Tony Curran

"Vincent and the Doctor" is my all-time favorite Doctor Who episode, and we were so fortunate to get to meet and thank the actor who did such a brilliant job bringing Vincent van Gogh to life in that episode. Even if you're not a fan of Doctor Who, I would recommend watching it if you can. It's available on Netflix. Tony shared with us how many people have been touched by that episode. And he loved Cassie's tiny TARDIS so much that she gave it to him as a gift! Just a lovely, lovely man and definitely an uplifting experience to get to meet him.
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So that brings my official countdown to a close, but there were definitely lots more "honorable mention" moments. I've compiled a gallery of some of my favorite cosplays that I managed to document.


Oh yeah. THIS happened too. Hee!
(I think we're exactly the same height. He looks taller because: epic hair)
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The good thing about posting this Dragon Con report so late? We're already halfway to NEXT YEAR's Dragon Con!!
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<![CDATA[Lest we forget why we art.]]>Thu, 25 Sep 2014 18:34:58 GMThttp://www.faithkingwriter.com/blog/lest-we-forget-why-we-artI've got this friend. We met online a long time ago, back when we were both writing Star Wars fanfic. We were pretty good friends, even then, but only casually, mostly tied together by our online chat group (which, admittedly, was a pretty EPIC chat group, all things considered. Anyone who was in it at the time will tell you that, but that's a different story).

Life happens. The Epic chat group slowly, slowly drifted apart as a cohesive unit. I talked with Friend (her name is Megan) on and off, maybe two or three times a year. "Hi, how you doing?" "Great! How about you!?" etc. It was always nice to chat with her, but it was definitely on and off.

Then, one day, about six years ago, I got this idea for a theater fantasy book. 

Megan being one of the primary thespians in my life (AND a writer), I couldn't wait to tell her about it. I hope I still have the chat transcript of that conversation because it was so energized and excited. She caught on immediately to what I was hoping to achieve, asked all the right questions, made some fun suggestions.

I wrote the book, sending her updates every single day (even when it was a rough draft). She was with me through every iteration, every painful growing experience. Cutting X character, changing names, darning up plot holes. 

At the same time, something else was happening. In between caring for this love child of ours, we were growing closer as friends. Through job changes, joys and hardships in love, and going through a very similar heartbreaking experience in our respective immediate families, we achieved a closeness I think we'll be enjoying for the rest of our lives. 

All because of one little Book that Could.

It hasn't been published. At least not yet. Agent Java and I are trying to sell it, but it's a tough niche. But even if nobody ever wants to buy it, IT DOES NOT MATTER ONE LITTLE BIT. Apart from being my first standalone original work, creating a world I love to live in, and meeting characters who are part of my very fiber, this book gave me one of the most precious friendships of my life in the real world too.

I'm not sure what inspired this post, exactly. It's not Megan's birthday or anything like that. Just a serendipitous moment of abstraction as I was walking back to my desk from a snack break just now. I felt compelled to write it down, because there are times when I need to remind myself in the middle of frustration, rejection, and creative doldrums that the beauty of creating art really is in the journey. Every one of my books has a similar real life story of its own, even the fanfic. This is just the example of choice for the day.


Love you, Megan. Thanks for everything. We'll definitely do it again sometime!

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<![CDATA[From the Bookshelf: Vampire Academy]]>Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:29:08 GMThttp://www.faithkingwriter.com/blog/from-the-bookshelf-vampire-academyPicture
I read all six Vampire Academy books in the space of ten days. And not just read. I devoured these books, surprising even myself. "What? Faith read a vampire series?" you may ask. My boss certainly did, as she nudged a plate of foot-in-mouth pie my way (across continents, no less) when I texted her to inform her of the fact.

Yes, that's the main reason the series was never really on my radar before now, despite its popularity. Let's face it, we were veritably drowning in vampire books there for a while, and I've done my fair share of superior eyeroll disdain on the matter. Truth be told, I'm still neither here nor there on vampires in general. I don't really get the widespread fascination, but if you give me a really great story I won't really care.

And this was a really, really great story.

How did I get sucked in, you may ask? 

(...Oh, lord, there I go again with the unintentional puns. I didn't mean it, I swear!!).

Well, to be quite honest... because of the movie. I first watched the trailer several months ago, because, saturation of vampires notwithstanding, I'm usually game to watch at least the trailer for any genre or YA-based book adaptation. And I was intrigued-- partly by the levity of the sales pitch and partly by the premise of Princess + Bodyguard that was the central relationship in the story. I love the trope of loyal knight/bodyguards in fantasy. As many of you know, one of my favorite niche fandoms is the Naboo Handmaidens from Star Wars. So skimming the information about the book series, my interest was piqued. But it was still a vampire book, and I had a disinterested, superior image to maintain. So I tucked away my interest and went about my business.

When the movie came out last February I pulled the interest out again, dusted it off, looked furtively around, and found a friend to go with me to see it. And I loved it. I still didn't read the book, though. Although this time it was more because I was just getting hardcore into my overhaul of The Superhero Thing, and I don't read well when I'm writing.

Flash forward to fourteen days ago. Superhero Thing is between drafts. I'm on a well-deserved break and I'm craving something satisfying to read. Something new. I've just rewatched the Vampire Academy movie. My interest is still tweaked. I open my laptop, click "buy" on the ebook, and off I go.

This story, you guys. This story. How do I enumerate my love for it?

Why, with bullet points of course!




Richelle Mead has concocted the perfect blend of fantasy storytelling, balancing the three great legs of the triangle: Characters, Plot, Worldbuilding

  • The characters - At the end of the day, I think the secret ingredient to whether or not a reader loves or just likes a particular story all boils down to the characters and whether or not you, the individual reader, are interested in them. Vampire Academy is the story of two girls and their friendship and I love both of them so much. 

Rose, our snarky protagonist, is so different from me-- bold, aggressive, reckless, but fiercely, fiercely loyal. 

And Lissa. Oh, Lissa. 

The dialogue about what constitutes "strong female characters" continues to circulate throughout fandom, and I have a particular interest in the focus on "strong" not being automatically synonymous with "kick-ass"--(i.e., said heroine needs to literally be capable of kicking someone's ass in order to be deemed worthy of our approval). We all love the snarky, irreverent Roses of fiction. They're funny. They tell it like it is and don't take crap. But as someone who isn't overtly aggressive, who isn't very bold, who loves "girly" things, I was always on the lookout for the heroine who didn't grumble over her needlework and pine for her brother's sword lessons. Me? I personally love needlework in almost every form. This is why Tamora Pierce's Sandrilene fa Toren, in particular, is one of my all-time favorite fantasy characters (and why I named my sewing machine after her!) Or Princess Cimorene, who does love fighting with a sword, but also loves cataloging treasure, conjugating Latin verbs, and cooking chocolate mousse and cherries jubilee (for dragons).

Add to the ranks of these (my favorites): Princess Vasilisa Dragomir. Gentle, kind, timid, empathetic, insecure, vulnerable... and so, so strong. While Rose fights the physical demons, Lissa wages a constant battle with her own, unseen demons-- how not to abuse her unique and considerable magical talents, how not to succumb to the spiraling depression that comes as  result of using them.

She makes a lot of mistakes. They both do. In fact, quite often they're both very, very weak. Which brings us back around to this idea of "strong" characters (male or female). I think we all know, at the end of the day, that what we really mean is just... well-written. And varied. And Rose and Lissa's sisterly love story is one that I cherish even more than the romantic 'ships (and I love the romantic ships).

Then there are all the secondary and tertiary characters. I can always tell when a fandom is a particular favorite by how itchy I get to write or read fanfic about All the Supporting Characters!! In this case the list is pretty long, though there's no need to quench a thirst for more Sydney Sage the alchemist, because, lo and behold-- spinoff series to read when you're finished with the first one!! Yay!!

There are the respective romantic interests of our two ladies, of course-- Dmitri and Christian. These two gents are each as unique, intriguing, and distinct as the two leading characters are from each other.

Then there's Mia. And Mason. And Adrian. And Eddie. And Jill. And Sonya. And Abe Mazur. (who, if they continue making movies, desperately needs to be played by Alexander Siddig-- how can we make that happen?) And pretty much, just... all of them.

  • Plot: I won't go into a lot of detail here because I don't want to give too much away, but I have a healthy respect for the fast-paced but organic twists and turns of the stories in these books, sometimes fueled by external events, sometimes fueled by the characters' choices, and most often a realistic combination of the two. It's just the sort of thing I'd like to achieve in my own stories. I think I have a ways to go until I can achieve such a tidy weave, but reading this series a couple of times more can teach me plenty.

  • Worldbuilding: Here I have a lot more to say. I feel like Vampire Academy is a fantastic example of elegant simplicity in worldbuilding. Which is not to say that a world should be thin or flimsy, but that a sturdy foundation made of a few basic guiding principles can lead you to troves of amazing, organic nuance.

In this case the basics are this:

Moroi = Good guy vampires, mortal. Magic users. Their existence is secret from the human world, and their species is under slow threat of extintion.

Dhampir = Half Moroi, half human. Because of interspecies genetics, they depend on the Moroi to survive. If the Moroi disappear, so do the dhampir. Because of this, the central cultural ideal of the dhamphir is to safeguard the existence of the Moroi. "They come first"

Strogoi = Evil, soulless, immortal vampires. They're not born, they're made, either willingly or by force. Any species (Moroi, Dhamphir, Strigoi) can become Strigoi. These are the baddies that unite the rest of us in the common good.

I think it's the species survival aspect of the Moroi and Dhampir cultures that gives this series some real kick for me. The Dhampir exist in a form of perpetual servitude to the Moroi which causes class and racial tension that is difficult to circumvent because the system, as it is, is in many ways very necessary. Even Rose, who is the first in line to buck authority when she deems it appropriate, doesn't really question this establishment until over halfway through the series, and even then only a little bit, to just honestly acknowledge that yes, there is a teensy tiny seed of resentment in the knowledge that her existence is primarily defined by Lissa's. In the end, this isn't too much of a life obstacle for Rose because she loves Lissa and would protect her no matter what race she was, but overall it's still an existential question that I've always found fascinating. How do our priorities change when survival is on the line? It's definitely what sucked me into Battlestar Galactica (and kept me going throughout that show's various ups and downs). It's good to have the big bad soulless Strigoi to fight against, but capturing the struggles of right and wrong within the good guys are what separates the good from the great, and we definitely have it here.

(Oddly enough, the same rules should probably attract me to The Walking Dead, but where I'm willing to tolerate vampires, I really don't care for zombies. Except for Warm Bodies, which is sort of an anti-Zombie story, anyway).

And, like any great story, once we set up the rules of our world, we get to watch our heroes and heroines test, challenge, and change them. And so Rose and Lissa do. In beautiful, thrilling ways.

By way of content advisory, there is teenage sex, language, and, well, vampires doing their thing. 

So yeah, I loved this series, and will undoubtedly be re-reading at some point, as well as eagerly anticipating anything else Ms. Mead decides to write for this world. I'm currently on Book 4 of the sequel series and, in a beautiful case of timing, Book 5 comes out tomorrow!





















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<![CDATA[Veronica Mars, the Experience]]>Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:19:26 GMThttp://www.faithkingwriter.com/blog/veronica-mars-the-experiencePicture
A Long time ago, I used to be a good blogger, but I haven't updated lately at all... (Okay, let's get real. I've never been the steadiest of bloggers, but it seemed a cutesy way to segue into the fact that this blog entry is FIVE MONTHS overdue).

Yes! The Veronica Mars premiere did happen! And I was there!! And then the moment I got home I flew into a flurry of last-minute-preparations-for-six-months-of-living-abroad-and-the-blog-entry-kind-of-fell-through-the-cracks.

But enough about that. Let's get to the good stuff.

March 11th, 2014.  I arrived in Los Angeles about 9-ish pm. local time, the night before the event. My date for the duration, the lovely and talented Diana Peterfreund, picked me up at the airport. We went back to the hotel, got some late dinner, and promptly crashed-- two east-coast girls in California after a long day. What can you do?

By virtue of the same, however, we were up about 6:00 the next morning (even though we didn't need to be), and killed the time just chilling and talking everything from religion to Star Wars handmaidens. It's always, always so much fun getting to know new nerds.

The Also-Lovely-and-Talented Margie Stohl invited us to her home in Santa Monica for brunch, and that's exactly what we did. I haven't gotten around to reading any of Margie's books yet (READING LIST-- TOO LONG!! ¡Qué imposible!!) so it was kind of an unusual experience, getting to meet her beforehand. Fun, but backwards from how I usually meet authors. (Then again, Diana and I met in the Dairy Queen line at Dragon Con when all I'd read of her work was the prologue to For Darkness Shows the Stars, so maybe it wasn't that unprecedented). Sadly, I was very lazy and didn't take any pictures of our brunch experience. Suffice it to say, it was a gorgeous, mail-order California day. Everything you could hope for in kicking off one's California vacation.

(This is us waiting to make a left turn onto Sunset Boulevard.
Yes, it was a very steep red light).


From there, it was on to mani-pedis and getting our hair done for the big evening. The hair place, called The Dry Bar, was really fun. They specialized in shampoo and blowouts only, and all the styles on their "menu" are named after cocktails. I got the Straight Up. OH YEAH, and we go mimosas!! (er, real ones, not cocktail-inspired hairstyles).

And can I just say, wow, my hair after the professional blow-out was spectacular! I felt just like a heroine on a CW show must feel the first three seconds after she tumbles out of bed each morning! And no, I do not have a picture that showcases just my beautiful hair. Sorry. But here's one of Diana's beautiful hair being prepared:
After that, we were T-minus two hours to the red carpet. For dinner, we opted for In-n-Out, and scarfed everything down in a tizzy before getting dressed. I'm glad I got to go to In-n-Out as part of my general California experience. Evidence:
Since the hotel we were staying at was within spitting distance from the Chinese Theater, we had originally planned to cut through the mall between them and take the piano stairs down into the theater plaza area. Only to find out that this route is closed off for premiere events (whoops-- it does make sense though), so we had to double back and go around the long way. HOWEVER, it ended up being totally worth it because we were passing this candy shop in the mall and I noticed the signage and made Diana stop so we could get this picture:
Best. Serendipity. Ever.
(For my non-VM friends, fans of the show are called "Marshmallows")


We made it to the correct entrance, picked up our tickets, and I inadvertently took the following selfie when I thought I was taking a picture of the theater:
Hey, I was new to the iPhone! But there's something really endearing about that selfie, so I thought I'd throw it in there. I did get things turned around, however, and take the picture I meant to take, which is the one at the beginning of the blog entry.

Being the OCD rule-follower I am, (the email instructions said to proceed as soon as possible to our seats!!), we didn't spend any time outside near the red carpet, sadly. Some fans were bolder and got great pics of the cast coming in, but we just... found our seats. And did some squeeing. Evidence:
Being settled early, however, did give me the chance to briefly meet Rachel Caine and some other YA authors. I had no idea when I first embarked on this adventure that there would be so many authors involved! I have since learned the reason-- Rob Thomas got his start in YA-- but it was still a very welcome perk. (Later, at the after party, Rachel signed my copy of Prince of Shadows, one of many of the evening's highlights).

The movie was a lot of fun. I most enjoyed watching it in a giant room full of super-fans, who know every last detail, every last inside joke. I haven't actually gotten to see it again since then, though my sister (who is the true die-hard VM fan of the family) did help herself to my DvD copy whilst I am in Chile.

Then the movie was over and it was time for the after party!! But not before a quick snapshot in front of the theater once we were back outside.
I had an amazing time at the after party. Which is really saying something, because I do not typically like loud, dark, pulsey parties. I think maybe because I had a year in advance to decide that "I will have fun at this party!!" And so... I did. 

Like I said, early in the evening I got my book signed by Rachel Caine. Shortly thereafter, Diana and I got to meet Rob Thomas. We made a couple "turns about the room", by which I mean elbowed our way through all the other elbows. We ran into Ryan Hansen, who I think in many ways just plays himself on Veronica Mars. Diana complimented some of his other shows and I mentioned seeing him in a Caitlin Crosby music video, which earned me an enthusiastic LOL for obscurity points.

I had this tentative goal of, at some point during the evening, shaking Enrico Colantoni's hand and say something eloquent along the lines of "OMG GALAXY QUEST SQUEEE!!" and lo and behold, whilst Diana and I were turning about the room the first time, we suddenly found ourselves very near the man himself. He was conversing with a lady we didn't know. We hovered at a polite distance, and when it seemed he was about to wrap up his conversation, I made ready to pounce (in a non-scary, polite fan way, of course).

ENRICO COLANTONI: [hugs and cheek-kisses LADY he's been talking to] Nice to see you, Diana.

[LADY leaves]

DIANA P [to ENRICO COLANTONI]: Oh my God, was that Diane Ruggiero?!?!?!

ENRICO COLANTONI: Yes.

DIANA P: Okay, thanks! Bye!!! [dashes off in pursuit]

It was so funny that I couldn't help it-- I left Enrico Colantoni standing there and followed. We caught up to Diane Ruggiero (co-writer and co-producer of the movie) and proceeded to have a wonderful ten minute conversation with her about the show and writing and stuff. I mostly listened, but I loved every second. Diana P's enthusiasm was infectious. The whole "blow off the movie star because THE WRITER just walked by!!!" moment will always be one of my favorite memories from the entire night.

I never did get to Galaxy Quest!Squee at Enrico Colantoni, but I did get to see him dancing to "Single Ladies" later in the evening, which, really, was just as good. Maybe better.

We got our pictures taken with Jason Dohring, who was very sweet, mild, and reserved (basically NOT Logan Echols in the slightest). I more or less carried Diana away on a stretcher for whatever it was we did after that, until her knees were sufficiently able to hold her up again.
Ah! That's right. After that we finally decided to wait in line for the photo booth, where Kristen Bell had been patiently stationed the entire night. I think she was there three hours straight at least, with various members of the cast at any given time. When we finally made it to the front of the line, Ryan Hansen and Martin Starr were also there. I showed Kristen our "Marshmallows" picture from earlier in the evening and Diana told her how much her 3-year-old loved Frozen and then we asked if we could do Charlie's Angels for our photo. To which Kristen Bell responded by lighting up her whole face excitedly, turning to her cast mates, and announcing 'Charlie's Angels! Charlie's Angels!" like she'd passed a former life as a stage manager.

We got three pictures, but I was still trying to figure out what to do with my phone and didn't quite make the pose in time for photo #1, so this happened:
To which both Kristen and Ryan were like, "Oh, no, your purse! Do it again! Do it again!"

We got it right the second time around.
And #3, all smiles. I stuck with Charlie's Angels. Mostly because it all happened really quickly.
Also, they must have been using some kind of patented "Hollywood Glow" camera and/or lighting because, dang. I do not recognize my skin in those photos. LOL

Bit by bit, the crowd began to thin, enough that there was enough of a dance floor for people to actually dance on. I love dancing. I kind of wish parties such as this would mix it up a bit more, though, and play something other than pulsey club music. The kind of dancing I enjoy is less banal grinding and more goofball jumping around, more like you see at weddings. Nevertheless, I made do and had some goofball fun on the dance floor. 

(*mini-rant-- a dubstep sounds cool, but how do you dance to it?)

As it turns out, another person with a goofball style of dancing is Rob Thomas himself. And how do I know that, you may ask?

It was getting on about, oh, one-o-clock or so, which to Diana and I felt like four, so I informed her that, unless she had any objections, I was ready to start winding it down for the evening. So she said, okay, but can we take one last turn about the room? I said, sure, I'm not quite gone yet, just starting to begin to think of bed. 

So turn about the room we did. As we passed the dance floor again, she pointed out that Rob Thomas was in the mix and we thought, hey, what a fun way to end the night, so we jumped in for one last go. But the best was yet to come.

There we were, having a fun, goofball time, when out of nowhere comes a juggernaught human-esque cannonball in the shape of Chris Lowell (who plays Piz in Veronica Mars). And then he danced with me and Diana for, oh, at least a minute or two. There was goofballness galore! And a Piz sandwich! No, I have no photographic evidence.

At that point we decided that the high note had been achieved, and giddily made our way back to our hotel under the bright Hollywood street lights. 

The fun wasn't quite done-- the next day we met up with my friend Rachel at Disneyland who played perfect Disneyland hostess, just as she did for me four years ago in my first visit to her fair state. I bought a fabulous Star Wars t-shirt. (You can also still kind of see the fabulousness of my hair, which carried over somewhat into the following day).
Then, after that, it was back to Ohio, and the whirlwind of preparations to come to Chile.

About a month later, I was sitting in a café in Valparaíso, chatting with some girlfriends I made from my time there as a student. I hadn't seen them in a really long time, and due to the constraints of distance and language, we hadn't really been in day-to-day touch for a while. At one point the conversation turned to TV shows and they asked, "Did you ever watch Veronica Mars? Have you gotten to see the new movie?"

At which point there was much chuckling. And pulling out of iPhones.

The end.
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<![CDATA[City girl, Writer girl. Stuff.]]>Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:27:45 GMThttp://www.faithkingwriter.com/blog/city-girl-writer-girl-stuffI made it out of doors last Saturday and went to a beautiful tree and sculpture garden along the Mapocho river. Enjoy the statuary (and other, more relevant photos) as you read my Life Ramblings in this update!
So... 2014 is halfway over. And I've blogged, oh, what, seven times? Ah, well. Such is life.
I've been in Chile for four months now, and have just over five weeks left to go. My Spanish is probably as good as it's every going to be, unless I moved here long-term, but one thing this experience has reinforced for me is that I do not like living alone. At all. I'd at least need, I don't know, a roommate. For sure some cats.

The point is. Love my second country, love experiencing another culture, but home is home. I want to be back now.
But enough of the melancholy. What about the good? Work has been getting easier, enough that I'm tentatively hoping to kind of cruise through my three weeks in August as I wrap up my assignment. I've spent several weekends with my friend Georgina-- either going out to Valpo to visit her and go to church, or playing hostess with her visiting me here. Two weekends ago we went to see Giselle at a nearby theater. It turns out that ballet is a delightful cross-cultural experience to share with someone. It's been a while since I went to the ballet. Had a fantastic time!
I also went to see How to Train Your Dragon 2! In Spanish!! This is a big deal because it's the first time I've ever seen a movie 100% in Spanish (no subtitles of any kind) without already knowing the story or dialogue. I had to depend entirely on my language skills. I would just say listening skills, but it's not entirely true. Seeing the story on the screen helped me fill in a lot of gaps with context clues. I probably missed a lot of subtle story points, but overall I think I got about 75% of the Spanish, which is better than the 50% I think I'd have gotten at the beginning of my trip. So I was very proud of me. Loved the movie. Can't wait to see it with the English voice actors I know and love from the first movie. I need my Scottish Vikings!
Other significant Chilean experience: The World Cup. THAT was a whirlwind. I definitely got caught up in the national spirit here in Chile. Every Chile game day was an unofficial national holiday, and I watched every single one. The hairsbreadth loss against Brazil had me depressed for two whole days. Still, getting to be here for it was an experience I'm never going to forget. Fútbol is gaining popularity in the good ol' US, but down here... here it's kind of like a religion. And the writer in me couldn't help but being swept up in the romantic underdog excitement of it all.
Chi-Chi-Chi!! Le-Le-Le!!! Viva Chile!!!
Speaking of the writer in me, I finished the second official draft of my superhero novel, and it is very strong and I am very excited about it. Not that there isn't room to take it to the next level, but the steel framework and most of the guts are definitely in place. Now it's just a matter of trim and detail. I have faith that this one is going to sell!
My writing plans for the rest of the year tentatively involve getting my YA fantasy novel, Oathborn, into a similar state, but I can't get started on that yet, even though I'm starting to get a little bit itchy to do so.

Why? Well, because I left my notebook with all my detailed worldbuilding notes in Ohio, of course. And I simply cannot start working out of another notebook and divide the notes between two notebooks!! Left Brain would revolt!
Besides, my time off between manuscripts is when I do a lot of my reading. Since I'm not suffering from "You should be writing" guilt I can chow down on reading other people's books at about five times my normal rate. And that's not an exaggeration. I'll start working with Oathborn once I get back to the States (and my subsequent vacation is over). Still don't know how quickly it will go, though, since I'm going to audition for a play in September. Finishing that overhaul in 2014 might be a tall order, but I'll take it a day at a time.
Meanwhile, I will do my best to enjoy every moment of my last five weeks in Chile. And hopefully, squeak out another blog entry or two while I'm here.

Cheers!
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<![CDATA[Scene of DOOOOOM unstuck. And, you know, stuff.]]>Mon, 05 May 2014 12:04:13 GMThttp://www.faithkingwriter.com/blog/scene-of-dooooom-unstuck-and-you-know-stuffPicture
I liiiiiiiveee!!!

No, seriously, though, it's kind of sad how overdue this blog post is. But you know what? I've had a lot going o
n! Trips to L.A., moving to another country, navigating a new job...

All in all, I'm giving myself a free pass on the whole "neglecting to blog" thing. Which is funny, considering I have tons of interesting things to blog about right now.

The picture above is me this past Saturday, from the top of Cerro San Cristobal in Santiago. I finally emerged from my hidey-hole and did something touristy. I had planned to spend the afternoon writing, but wel
l, winter is coming (YES, I said it! Sometimes you need to just SAY IT in REAL LIFE, okay?) here in central Chile. It's going to start getting cooler and rainier, so I figured better safe than sorry. Better climb that hill while everything's still pretty.

(In fairness I only climbed the very last bit of it. The funicular did
most of the work, and I was happy to let it).

I should take the opportunity to say that I probably won't be blogging much in the next month either, because I'm working really, really hard on finishing the second draft the Superhero Thing (code title), a manuscript I'm really excited about. I made a schedule and everything! I want to give 100% of my writing energies to that. Then, hopefully, when I'm on break between books, I can catch you guys up to date with a few more fun details about life here in Chile.

(I also owe the internet a blog post about the Veronica Mars premiere, though I missed my window of when everyone would've been most excited about it... Whoops! Oh well.)
I do have one specific writery thing that I wanted to say today, however. Kind of my motivation for emerging.

It's about the Scene of DOOOOOOM.

Much of my novelizing work over the past two months (when I could squeeze it in between all the moving, working, and reuniting with of old friends--you'll meet some of them later), was focused on completely reinventing the beginning of this novel. Beginnings are tough, and this one needed to be replaced almost entirely, so it's been a lot of hard work. And totally worth it.

In gutting the first draft, I needed to replace one key event and recreate it in the second:

One character-- let's call him Chris-- is a team leader, and needed to be crucially injured for plot purposes. Another character-- let's call her Mary-- needed a stronger opening for her character journey, which is, in part, learning to keep control of her power. In the first draft, Chris is injured in one of the scenes I cut and Mary's early character journey was really quite flimsy. So in outlining the new beginning I said, "Ooooh, how about we have Mary's lack of control be the cause of Chris's important-to-the-plot injury?"

Elegant, right?

Oh.
My.
Goodness.

Easy enough on paper, but trying to figure out how to pull this off-- scientifically (or at least sci-fi-tifically), geographically, keeping everybody in character, etc, etc--proved to be a monumental challenge.

I got help. I have one friend who lives in San Diego, where the scene takes place, and another who works in a trainyard, where I eventually set the confrontation. I could make this post all about how it takes a village to write a book, how you should find experts, ask your friends, make lots of friends who are Experts at Things so they can help you with the things you don't know (which is usually most of it). All of those are true and might make great blog posts some day, but that is not the lesson I want to showcase from this story.

It's about being in the trenches. Getting your teeth and your knuckles and your kneecaps all bloodied, bruised, and muddy.

There are times when I write a chapter or a scene or even a whole sequence that just seems to flow so easily from word to word, from paragraph to paragraph. The bits all fit together, I see the panorama, the characters are models of good behavior. These days are brilliant and wonderful and there are very few things that make me feel quite as good as they do.

Then there are days that aren't quite so splendid, but they're still tolerably okay. It might not be the most brilliant thing I've ever written, but there's a nugget or two. It took a couple of hours' quiet time but I got something down and I think I can make something out of it. This is
most days of writing.

Then there are days when you Just. Cannot. Get it. Not with all the best intentions or hours of ruminations. When even the muses who live in your shower have abandoned you. When you have to pull that critical scene out of your fingertips word by painful word. When none of it is easy. When not one stroke of it feels inspired and the effort leaves you deject and drained.

I had the notion, for some reason, that having to work so hard for one measly scene meant I was somehow less of a "true writer". That it wasn't doing it right because the words weren't pouring off the pages in torrents, or even happy, modest streams.

The scene of DOOOOOOOM has taught me differently.


This is writing too.

It's done, by the way, the scene. And probably won't be anyone's favorite scene in the book, but finishing it felt like a big, enormous weight off my chest. The skies cleared up and I could see for miles.

Much like they did in Santiago two days later. Friday's rain settled some of the city's dust and smog and you could actually see the tops of the mighty, breathtaking Andes. So I took my triumphant mood and rode the funicular up to the top of the hill to see them.

Awww, real life imitated my art!!!


Until next time, when, hopefully, I'll have a whole manuscript giving me a happy sense of fulfillment, not just one bloody scene.


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<![CDATA[A "seeming" problem. Declunkifying the prose.]]>Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:36:10 GMThttp://www.faithkingwriter.com/blog/a-seeming-problem-declunkifying-the-proseA few months ago, when I was re-reading Awakenings for the first time in years, I noticed that I have issues with over-literalizing everything to the most minute level. It makes for some extremely clunky writing. I shot off an email to Laura, my coauthor, venting about the bad habit. I cited the following example. It's a breakdown of one tiny sentence and how my OCD brain wants to make things worse.
I think we can all agree that the first sentence gets the idea across, especially since the narrator is a very young character with a straightforward, uncomplicated view of the world.

Another irritating sample:
Again, when describing this scene my brain whispering to me as I write: "You can't say that she heard him throw something metal to the floor. How does she know!?! She can't see it!"

I particularly want to point out the following little bits and pieces:
There we have it. My "seeming" problem. I use the word 'seem' a lot, and nine times out of ten, it's not really necessary. It's true that my narrator here doesn't know one-hundred percent what's going on, since she can't see it. But she's got the benefit of context clues. For starters, she's ten feet from the alcove in question. It wouldn't take a super genius to know that the clash she's overhearing doesn't seem to be coming from there. It is coming from there.


More importantly, in this particular case, the narrator is an extremely self-assured individual, to the point of outright arrogance. She's the kind of person who assumes that her supposition about any situation is correct, without even thinking about it.

Even writing with a more reticent character, though, there are crisper, and more varied ways to seed in a little doubt than just using the word seemed every time. The character can put his or her uncertainty into the form of an inner question, perhaps. And it's okay for a character to jump to conclusions. In fact, it can make the conflict jump ahead in leaps and bounds, or add small, subtle layers to the trouble you're already building.


I'm also a recent and enthusiastic advocate for Mark Twain's advice about the word "very".

Here's my revised paragraph (for a future re-print of the book).
Much tidier, wouldn't you say?


I'm glad I'm aware of my seeming problem. Or, you know, my very real problem. So much that I'm going to be specifically doing word searches for "seem" in all my future editing passes and, 4 times out of 5, finding a simpler, better, or just plain different way to say it.
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