Thursday, September 30, 2010

If, If, If

I want to play a game today. 

Well, it's not really a game but I'm drowning in schoolwork and want to be entertained. So, of course, I thought of you. (Cause you've  never let me down. Now you feel obligated to participate, don't you?)

We're going to play the IF game. Your if can be anything you want, I won't discriminate or hate on them. I will love each and every single one. Promise. 

I'll start.

If I were a stand-up comedian, I'd be in for a whole lot of awkward because I'd be the only one laughing.

If the voices in my head ever stop talking, I'd be very lonely. I'd also never finish my book (and I have enough problems with that already - family, why do you encourage post-secondary education?).

If I were a character in a novel, I'd be the villain. Everyone knows they have more fun. Until the hero gets lucky and kills them....

If I wrote books based on my dreams, instead of producing a bestseller like Twilight, I'd produce something as nonsensical as Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass (minus the hidden meaning and general awesomeness). Readers would think I took too many hallucinogenic drugs and in my stupor decided to write a novel.

Okay, your turn. Any if you can think of will do. Also, I promise I'll have a real post on Friday. 

I feel like I'm making you a lot of promises today. Oh well. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Most Compelling Character

A fellow blogger, Margo Berendsen, challenged me to explain why I said Severus Snape is the most compelling character I've ever encountered. Now, let me preface this post by saying that I have many other favorite characters, and certainly characters that I've loved far more than Snape. But he is, without a doubt, the most compelling.


Because I've hated him, suspected him, pitied him, laughed with/at him, cried for him, loved him, and forgiven him (among other emotions but these are the strongest 7). I've never crossed a character whose single handedly made me feel so many different emotions - frequently, at the exact same time.

Because Severus faces everything he loves and hates in the world every single day - Harry Potter. James Potter was the leader of the group that terrorized him, making his school years awful. If you think about it - which Snape surely has - Harry could have been his. But Harry looks exactly like James - Snapes reaction is, admittedly, unfair but I get why. Lily - the love of his life - died to protect him. She lives on through Harry. To top it off, Harry being alone, Lily being dead - it was his fault. His mistake. What horrible prospects to face every time he looks at this boy. This all makes for excellent internal conflict.

Because Snape made a mistake. And he spent the rest of his life trying to make it right. Who can claim they'd do the same? Not many characters, or people, for that matter.

Because Snape is rude, sarcastic, mean, intelligent, and he's nothing but shades of grey. There is no definite good or bad in him - he's both predictable and unpredictable at the exact same time (and how many characters can both prove and disprove a label like predictability simultaneously). He is gorgeously flawed and complicated.

Because he's a Slytherin who showed more courage than any other Gryffindor when he killed Dumbledore. Could you kill the only person who really believed in you, who meant so much to you, who you respected, even if you'd save hundreds of lives by doing so? Even if, in reality, it was out of mercy because your mentor was dying anyway? Maybe I'm naive but I doubt many could. I couldn't. I'm selfish and would probably let the other hundreds of people die if it meant just a little more time with someone I cared about.

Because he's mysterious. When I first met him, heck...for the majority of the series, I never expected him to be one half to such a tragic, beautiful, could-have-been love story. He did so much for the girl he met on the playground. Not all of it good, mind you, but I've never crossed a character who's had such unwavering love and devotion for another, so long after they've gone and with nothing in return. Lily was Snape's  one true love. Maybe he wasn't hers but that's okay, he loved her enough for the both of them.

It doesn't hurt that he's played by Alan Rickman....just saying.

Who is the most compelling character you've ever read? Why?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Blogging Experiment

I don't know about you but I hated the Stepford Wives. They were so boring - if I knew one, I knew them all. When you read a lot, characters can start to blur together, faces, attitudes and actions merge into a handful of different people.
How do we avoid this happening to our characters? Keep them from getting lumped into the masses?

We can give our characters quirks, habits that are unique to them alone. The more strange, outlandish, and different we make these quirks, the more readers will love them. Right?


It seems like this is the best option, that our characters will stand out and leap off the page. And they will. They'll leap off the page and stab your reader in the eyes. 

But, if the realization isn't obvious: no one can read if they can't see. 

Any quirks we give our characters need to be relevant. There needs to be meaning, a purpose (Harry Potter's lightning bolt scar, for example. Can you imagine how stupid it would've been if he really got the scar in a car accident and he was just walking around like that, for no real reason, on top of all the wizarding stuff?).

So if layering quirks to give our characters an edge isn't the best way to go about writing compelling characters what is?

We need our characters to have strong motivation - they may not always know what it is, at first, but maybe our novel is about them realizing their motivation (which is, in turn, it's own motivation - ironic right?).

We need to take from life by bringing real emotions to the table. As writers we must live their pain, relish their triumphs, cry and laugh, and worry with them. If we can't feel it, neither can our readers.

Our characters should be complicated. The reader needs to see the surface while innately knowing there is more to them than they could ever hope to know - like when we meet people in real life. 

And last (and arguably the most important thing) to avoid writing bland, cloned, most-annoying-characters-ever is to make our characters rough. Flawed.

As both a writer and a reader I say this with complete and utter conviction: your characters aren't lovable in spite of their flaws, they're loved because of them.

To read more entries about writing compelling characters as part of the great blogging experiment go here. I encourage you to go check out as many as you can. My goal? Do.Them.All.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Supportive Mothers and Delusions

After the first day in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter I got back to the hotel and spent several hours writing letters to a bunch of people. After I wrote the letters, I sealed the back with wax and pressed my house crest into it. I sent them by owl later on in the trip.

While with most people I simply told them random bits about Harry Potter World, the conversation with Mom was very different. 

We have a lot of these sort of (hypothetical) conversations - about anything and everything. 

Here's a glimpse into our relationship.

My owl to Mom:

I write you with ink-stained and aching fingers. The Three Broomsticks offered a hearty and filling feast - I was unable to eat until 10 hours later. A refreshing mug of butterbeer chased the heat from my body and Ollivanders was a chilling experience - this is meant positively, of course. Classes begin soon and I hope this owl reaches you before I am overcome with deadlines, textbooks and experiments gone horribly wrong. Do you notice I'm stalling? Hopefully your Gryffindor bravery will not fail you know. As you may have feared I've been sorted to Slytherin. Ramona - as expected - has gone to the pansies - I mean, Hufflepuffs. I asked a Gryffindork the time and they could only show me their watch, they couldn't read the arms. The language barrier has nothing to do with it. I've had one too many cauldron cakes and I fear my dreams will be of the Horntail and dementors. 
<3 Melissa

As I feared my letter came AFTER I returned home and started school, it arrived last Thursday, while I was in class. She responded immediately via Facebook:

An owl just landed for me!!! I suspected you would be sorted to Slytherin, perhaps you will be able to facilitate an end to the animosity between the houses. Speaking so derogatory of members of the other houses...Gryffindork and not the greatest of starts. Sigh......I am sorry I am responding via Muggle technology but the owl  ate a bad mouse and is quite ill. See you at break my little snake. Study hard.

I know family is supposed to be supportive. But it's no wonder I have voices in my head and issues dealing with reality - what with her supporting all of my delusions so flawlessly. 

Do you have relationships in your life where you have this sort of fun? Have you told your family you love them lately (cause you should!)? Anyone as silly as I am?

Word Of The Day: Phantasm - Illusion.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Zellie "Be The Adventure You Dream"

September fifth Zellie Blake - fellow writer, friend, and inspiration - passed away. She had type 4 lung cancer and I am not being poetic when I say the world is a little duller for her absence. She was light - a ray of sunshine - positive and cheerful and supportive.

She never let the cancer bring her down. From personal experience of battling pneumonia I know how hard this can be. I let the fluid in my lungs drown me and lost a year of my life to severe depression and sickness. It wasn't cancer but dealing with any severe, debilitating illness, is excruciatingly difficult. When I think of Zellie and how sick she was, how positive and bright she stayed until the very end I'm amazed. Inspired. Shocked. Awed. I can't understand how she did it. Knowing her, both as a person and how well she coped, has shed new illumination on my nine year struggle with reoccurring pneumonia, made me appreciate my life and every single day (no matter how bad it may seem) in an entirely new way. She was such a strong, encouraging person.

Callie, her best friend, came up with the brilliant idea to make 1,000 paper cranes for Zellie, to use the power of positive thought to heal her. She ended up with 1,500 but that's the kind of support a person like Zellie inspires. I'm so happy that the cranes I folded were with Zellie before the end, because all my wishes and thoughts and, in turn, (I like to think that) I was with her in some way.

Zellie,  her dedication unwavering, got her book - that she worked on for ten years - self published. My copy is in the mail and should arrive this week. Now, I get to keep a bit of Zellie with me forever. I know she was talented, I've seen a few snippets of another novel she was working on and she always had insightful advice for me when I shared some of my own work with her, Erica and Callie. I'm so excited to read it. To hold it. To know that, in some way, Zellie will never truly leave us.

I feel incredibly blessed that I got a chance to get to know her, to experience her wit and charm and vivacity.

You can get to know her as well by purchasing her book Lightning Spliced because as writers we know that a piece of us, of our soul always finds its way into our writing. Here's the cover flap description:

When sickly Analee welcomes a cure for her gene disorder, a side effect makes her the most powerful weapon in a war between patients like her and the genetics corporation that betrayed them.  Awesome, except her touch is lethal. Wielding lightning, she faces off against a control-freak CEO, her adopted father James Gandon.  As if her disobedience didn’t piss him off enough, she falls for his first victim.  Skilled with knives, Jared is vengeful, fiercely loyal and way hot.
But Gandon's got kamikaze soldiers on his side and his latest plot stinks worse than his egg salad breath. He doesn't just want to just kill Jared. He wants Analee to do it. Yeah, right. Not gonna happen. Until she discovers the reason everyone obeys him like a pack of brain dead pit bulls: mind control. She must derail this experiment or become his next slave

You can purchase the paperback for $20 or the Ebook for $7.99 from LULU and all proceeds are being donated to the American Cancer Society. In 6-8 weeks the book will be available on Amazon and Barnes& if you feel more comfortable with these forms of online shopping.

So far, the first royalty check has been sent to the American Cancer Society which is super exciting.

You can learn more about the book by going to Zellie's website

Also, feel free to spread the word about Zellie and Lightning Spliced. If enough people get involved, maybe we can get her book into bookstores. Eragon did it. So can Lightning Spliced. With your help, of course.

I also urge you to check out these great posts about Zellie (because they are touching and articulated much better than this attempt.):

J.C. Hutchins, her favorite author.

Callie, her best friend, critique partner and fellow Chimera.

Erica, friend, critique partner and fellow Chimera has one, two, three(writing advice by Zellie).

Callie also made a gorgeous memorial slideshow that captures the kind of girl Zellie was.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, checking the links, and (if you decide to do either of these) for buying her book  and spreading the word.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Contest Winner

Sorry for posting this so late in the day - homework called and unfortunately, as much as I love the blog world, I can't justify placing it first. Especially when I am doing chemistry homework and will (hopefully) be dealing with hazardous chemicals tomorrow so I need to be prepared and all that.

As long as my eyebrows and hair aren't harmed in the explosion I'm hoping for, life is good.

I will preface the announcement of the winner by saying I really do wish I could give ALL of you something. Unfortunately, I am not rich. Not even close. Student salaries don't really allow for personal riches, unless of course you come from Old Money or something.

Anyways, on to what you all care about.

The winner is the incredibly lucky (though I'm sure that has more to do with how much she invests in any and all contests) number 14. Which I'm sure means nothing to you.

Randomizer.Org selected number 14 which was alloted to Jen Daiker.

Imagine falling confetti and fireworks (magically altered of course, courtesy of the Weasley twins).

I'll have to organize another contest in the next couple of months because I think every single one of you deserves something!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Remember when I admitted to crying on my eleventh birthday because I didn't get my Hogwarts letter? How I knew then that this magical world I clung to since I was nine couldn't be real because if it was I'd be a part of it?

My childhood wasn't the greatest and these books, this world, tethered me. Kept me sane. And when I didn't get my letter, the small bit of childhood I maintained despite circumstances, was crushed. But I never stopped believing in Harry Potter. For a long time it was the only thing I'd talk to Mom about - one of our only connections, aside from blood and all that. The books and world offered me glimpses of real happiness and these feelings the books inspired are a giant part of why I want to write my own novels.

So, to put it lightly, I had HIGH expectations. Honestly, I was terrified I'd be disappointed. While certain details aren't a hundred percent accurate to the books - most probably wouldn't notice but I've read them hundreds of times (no exaggeration!) and am crazy- they managed to capture the essence, the atmosphere.  Their attention to detail is astounding. The park may be new but it feels ancient, like thousands have walked the streets and halls for centuries.

A bubble encapsulates Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, a charged, magically infused dome fueled by dreams, belief and wonder. Stepping onto the street I froze, more positive emotions slammed into my chest then I've ever felt in my entire life. Instantaneously. No matter how happy I've been in the past, all the shadows have never been chased away, a little of my darkness always remained. Not then. There was nothing in me but light and positive emotions and they swept through me in a typhoon and I (the girl who refuses to cry anywhere but in private, who absolutely never cries in public) burst into tears.

Can you see the childhood I thought I lost slamming back into me? Can you see my dreams coming true?

For the next two hours as we went through Hogwarts and rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, walked around Hogsmeade and rode the Hungarian Horntail I alternated between trying to choke back tears and stopping myself from hyperventilating to the point I fainted (and I was close!), never mind the augmentation in my fidgeting - it was only so Ramona wouldn't notice my entire body shaking with emotion.

The Forbidden Journey is the best ride in all of Orlando. Hands down. And this isn't just coming from the Harry Potter nerd, Ramona - a future Disney animator - agrees wholeheartedly. We did this ride 15 times. It never got boring, there was always another smaller detail to notice. It is intricate and flows beautifully between Real3D (no glasses necessary) and live sets with mind-blowing, scream-inducing animatronics. I choked on a face full of Hungarian Horntail (dragon) flames, had spider webs wet my clothes (terrifying for someone who is deathly afraid of spiders), narrowly escaped the whomping willow, and I lost my soul (yes I'm certain, you will see when you do the ride for yourself).

Waiting is half the fun but there is also a leisurely walk-through of the castle. (Tip - if you don't mind being separating from your party go in the singles line, you can do the ride SO many more times even with other people waiting two hours - in slow season!)

Hanging over your head in the defense classroom, you get this pretty bone ensemble.

We drank butterbeer which is delicious - especially frozen - and somehow fills you up in the same way the novels says it does as well as pumpkin juice. We ate breakfast at the Three Broomsticks (How cool is this to say? I still can't believe I can and I lived this!)

There was a bloody brilliant school bullfrog choir (If you're on my facebook I'll be posting a sample video of them later today.) that played in the square.

There was also a spirit assembly where we got to witness the Durmstrang boys do amazing flips and battle with staffs. The girls of Beauxbatons performed breathily, gracefully twirling streamers. Ron would have fainted.

The Dragon Challenge offers you a viciously twisting coaster in the form of the Hungarian Horntail or a speed happy ride that leaves you a bit faint on the Chinese Fireball (which finds it slot as third best ride in all of Orlando). The two dragons almost collide. Twice. 

The Flight of the Hypogriff, supposedly a children's ride, is still fun and the animal's nest and Hagrid's hut are definitely worth seeing up close. 

Ollivanders wand experience. I had chills. Enough said. 

Portraits speak to you and each other. Each shop window has tiny, wonderful, details. Moaning Myrtle never shuts up when you go into the girls lavatory (which, when your trying to pee is actually a little uncomfortable). Gryffindor employees treated me with scorn for sporting my Slytherin pride with my shirt (that a lot of people wanted but I bought years ago) while my Slytherin peers never failed to high-five, salute and acknowledge me.
I'm sorry this post is so long, there was just so much. Trust me I could gush for ages more... I was there and even after 17 hours (yes I counted. No I don't care that you think I'm psycho now :D ) I could hardly believe how they managed to exceed my expectations. An OWL of Outstanding, plus special notations in the Ministries record books, plus a plaque, plus statues, plus a monument, plus my soul - fifteen times over (Okay so the last one isn't really an option because they sort of just took it) is what I give to them.

These pictures fail to capture the magic. My words aren't enough. If you have any passing interest in Harry Potter I suggest you go. Heck, if you HATE Harry Potter (are you crazy?) it's still an amazing park and there will be something there for you. There's talk of them expanding the park in two-three years - if they are lacking for ideas I have at least a hundred rides/shops/things they could do. I'll be back again. Soon (as I can afford it).

My Grandparents made one of my childhood dreams come true. They got me to Hogwarts. Man, they are amazing. I can't get over it. Everyone, help me thank them and congratulate them on making it to their 55th wedding anniversary. Which was yesterday. (Pretty please?)

Do you have any dreams that have come true lately? That you are working towards? What's your biggest childhood wish? 

I'm posting the winner on Sunday because Monday's post really needs to stand alone. I will contact the winner (if they happen to miss it).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sea World

Mom raised me with a healthy appreciation for animals. This means a place like Sea World (and Animal Kingdom) is sort of like giving me a blank cheque and telling me to go for it. Except instead of material stuff  and a wad of cash I get, the much more valuable (not to mention, long lasting - unless you have a memory like a cheese grater), experiences.

Aquatica - Sea World's water park - offers fantastic beaches, excellent rides and rapids. If you're feeling lazy you can grab a tube and float under an aquarium or catch a glimpse of the dolphin tank. If you're looking for something quicker you can take a speedy plunge - through a dolphin tank. Just don't close your eyes like Ramona and miss the underwater show!

Sea World's new ride Manta wins the second best ride of ALL of Orlando's rides. And I can say that because we did all the rides at Universal, Disney and Sea World. So if you're in the area, do it. It's a thrill. It's an especially exciting experience after you've pet a stingray.

Let a mushroom sit in water for two days, touch it and you'll get a replicated experience of touching a stingray for real. (Although, maybe don't hold me to this because I don't know how long you should leave the mushroom in water, but it should have a little give and be a little soggy. Also, I figure touching wet produce won't be as fun. And hopefully not as alive...)

Stingrays also give excellent high fives. Though they give them frequently it took me a while to get this shot - Ramona kept missing her cue.
I saw Cirque de Soleil years ago and it was an unforgettable experience. Sea World has a show, Allure, which is sort of like a half hour long unofficial version of the show with amazing acrobatics and will leave you slack jawed. I had enough presence to get one (unfortunately not in action) shot. This girl was dangling and doing tricks on this thin piece of cloth (How do they do that?!)
Blue Horizons - their dolphin show - incorporates live (and gorgeous) birds, acrobatics and dolphins. My favorite part of Sea World, for sure. It was awe-inspiring.

If the show wasn't enough we got to feed the dolphins shortly after. Please note my hand on its chin as well as the fish not quite in its mouth. Dolphins feel like rubber!

And look, a nursery! (There were also baby manatees but those aren't nearly as cute.)

And let's not forget about Shamu the famous Free Willy (who lived at the Vancouver Aquarium for most of his life..and this is obviously not him but I like calling all Killer Whales Shamu. It's a lot friendlier and makes them seem more approachable, don't you think?).

Don't forget to come back tomorrow for the big Harry Potter reveal. (I know this is killing you Jen.) 

Also, don't forget about my contest!

See you then. 

Anyone else been to Sea World or another all Animal park they loved? Anyone actually get to SWIM with Dolphins (I'm SO jealous!)? Anyone who didn't appreciate stingrays now think they are awesome (I hated them before. Now I think they rock!)?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Disney World

Disney World offers people of all ages so many opportunities. 

You can travel the world at Epcot. 

See mexico,



and the United Kingdom. (Where they totally had an entire shelf dedicated to the Harry Potter!)

You can jet into space, see the future, explore the old frontier and fantasy at Magic Kingdom. And let me tell you, no one does story rides like Disney. The imagineers know how to capture the essence of classic Disney stories and retell them with music, visuals and the occasional voice over. Phillar Magic is an awesome 3D show featuring the hilarious Donald Duck and showcasing some of Disney's best songs.Magic Kingdom is also home to one of my three favorite Disney attractions - Space Mountain. 

You can go on the Rock 'n' Roller coaster featuring Aerosmith at Hollywood Studios - an excellent ride (one of my top three at all Disney parks). 

You can also see the infamous stone table from Narnia. (That's Ramona, also she's representing her (wishful) Ravenclaw pride if you note the lanyard around her neck. She REALLY wishes she wasn't a Hufflepuff!)
You can watch animators create before your very eyes or participate in your very own drawing lesson. 

Hollywood studios also features Fantasmic every Thursday  night. This isn't a show I'd miss, if your in the area. A brilliant usage of water and video projection, actors, music and fireworks. Seriously, awesome. 
And I'd say the other 8000 people in the stands agreed with me - if the cheering was anything to go by. 

Also, they set the entire lake on fire. I knew then they were after my (pyromaniac) heart.
Animal Kingdom, though, is my favorite park. You can see baby gorillas (clinging to their mothers), baby elephants (rampaging around the watering hole with a branch wrapped in their trunk), baby warthogs (annoying their mother, I think, with their frolicking) and baby giraffes:
Animal Kingdom is home to the third of my three favorite rides - Expedition Everest where an encounter with the ancient Yeti will send your troop backwards down a rickety coaster!

If that isn't enough, you can watch gorgeous birds perform and swoop over your head (one nearly nicked Ramona's ear), you can explore ancient ruins in Asia and go on an African safari. Throughout your adventures you'll encounter numerous species, here's a SMALL sample:

and Lions (who have a striking resemblance to my pretty kitty....okay just kidding, but she's got presence too.)

All in all, Disney World was Fantasmic! (haha, get it?.... Okay, I know that was lame could be kind and give me points for effort.)

After leaving, I have a vicious desire to watch all my favorite Disney movies. As soon as I get settled in at school you know what'll be occupying my free time (after I catch up on reading Mockingjay, Clockwork Angel and Paranormalcy, of course!).

Have any of you been to either Disney Land or Disney World? What was your favorite park? Favorite rides? Best or Worst experience?

Also, don't forget to enter my contest

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Guess What?

I'm back! Miss me? (I missed you!)

Look how excited I am to be home.
 Actually, this is me, right after we entered Islands of Adventure...right before I started running to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But, you'll agree that's totally beside the point, won't you?

Anyways, as I said before I signed off I want to share some of the awesome of Harry Potter with all of you. So I'm having my first ever contest.

The winner gets an "I Must Not Tell Lies" lanyard and a jar of U-No-Poo (candy covered milk-chocolate). U-No-Poo (for those of you who either don't recall or haven't read the books) is one of the creations of the infamous Weasley twins. The say it best with their slogan for the product:

Why are you worrying about You-Know Who? 
You should be worrying about U-No-Poo - the Constipation Sensation that's gripping the nation!*

The contest is open to any and all of my followers who reside somewhere in North America. 

Here's how you enter.

+1 for leaving a comment.
+1 new follower.
+2 old follower.
+3 for a sidebar link.
+5 for a post that mentions the contest.

Just leave all necessary links and your points in the comments on this post and the winner will be chosen over the weekend and announced on Monday!

The rest of this week you'll get a mini photo diary of my vacation. Disney World on Wednesday, Sea World on Thursday and the big (and may I say, totally awesome) reveal of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Friday. 

Midnight on Friday is also when I will stop accepting entries to the contest.

*Copyright belongs to JK Rowling and Warner Brothers and all other people involved with Harry Potter.