Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Songs That Inspired Me For No Apparent Reason

A couple weekends ago I wrote two short stories.  I plan on submitting one of them to a short story contest, but I'm not sure which. However, this post is not about those stories, it is about the songs the I listened to about fifty times while writing them.
First of all, I never listen to music while writing.  Ever.  Unless my mom happens to be listening to some classical music or jazz.  But the music I listened to that weekend was country music, and it actually had words.   I'm not sure how my brain managed to make it work, but it did.  Quite well.  It's bizarre.  The first story I wrote is a ghost story.  The song I listened to was Just a Dream by Carrie Underwood.  The lyrics don't fit my story at all, but the mood felt right, and I listened to it over and over and over while writing.  I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY I LIKE THIS SONG! It's horrible and sooo sad! And kinda pathetic. I truly don't understand.  I hate sad songs.  But this one makes my soul sing.  I don't get it.   The other story I wrote is about a rescue mission. The song I listened to over and over for it was Beer For My Horses by Toby Keith and Willie Nelson.  It's kind of a dumb song.  But again, it fit the mood of my story.  It's got the whole justice/catching bad guys thing in it.  I can actually understand why I like this song.  Ever since I was little I've been catching imaginary bad guys, so it makes sense that I like a song about catching bad guys.  But it really is weird.  I mean, beer for my horses?  Seriously?

Whatever part of my brain caused me to be inspired by those two songs must be completely insane.  At least I know that if I can get inspiration from Just a Dream, I can get inspiration from almost anywhere.  Come to think of it, this is the second time I've been inspired by that song.  The first time inspired a story where the romantic lead in my Lizzie Evans series dies.  Don't worry, he wasn't really dead, just MIA.  I'm not sure it's something I'll ever use, but I was inspired enough to write parts of that story down in my notebook.  Go figure.  The human brain is complicated, especially when it contains multiple realities.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dystopia vs. A Resistance Force

I really don't like dystopia.  It creeps me out.  For instance, The Giver by Lois Lowry creeped me out.  (Check out my rant about it in this post)  This is why I'm reluctant to read the Hunger Games.  Do I really want to read about a society that's so screwed up that it kills twenty-some teenagers every year merely for entertainment?

However, I do like resistance forces, such as the Varden in the Inheritance Cycle by Christoper Paolini. They were awesome.  Whilst pondering my preferences, it dawned on me that you can't really have a resistance force without a dystopian setting, or an evil king.  This intrigued me.   Could it really be possible that something I really don't like was necessary for one of my favorite things?  Of course. So, I decided to figure out why it was that I liked the Inheritance Cycle but not the Giver.  The answer was simple: a resistance force is a bunch of people fighting for what they believe in and winning their freedom.  That's awesome.  In the Giver, classic dystopia, Jonas is alone, no one will help him, he runs, and you're not sure whether he's alive or not at the end of the book.

If a resistance force starts out as one person and then grows, I like it.  They outsmart the bad guys, the corrupt government falls, and everybody's life improves.  But if the one person just runs away, it's not as fun to read.  You can't cheer for someone who's running away like Jonas did.  You can cheer for those who stand up for what's right and fight for what they believe in.  Unless of course they're fighting for something really ridiculous. Like free elephants for everyone.  Or the abolition of dihydrogen monoxide. 

I currently have a rebellion plot line running through my head where there's a resistance force trying to topple a crooked government.  All this thinking has helped it a bit. Bring on the combat boots and battle strategies!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Recommend to Someone Who Doesn't Read Fantasy

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.  Check out their blog for more Top Ten Tuesday posts. 

This week's TTT topic is: Books I'd recommend to someone who doesn't read [insert genre here].  I chose fantasy, my favorite genre.

This week's topic was a bit tricky for me, but I did it. Here are my recommendations, in order to be read by the person you're trying to get hooked on fantasy:

1.  The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.  I suggest this one first because it's such a good story, and it can be appreciated for the themes and messages as well as for the magic and creatures.  
2.  The Dark Mirror series by M. J. Putney.  These are about teenage mages that time travel between 1803 and 1940.  They're a bit lighter on the fantasy element, they could be called sci-fi, but they're adorable.  And all the romance is pretty clean, always a bonus. 
3.  The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, which is about a camp of demigods. These are funny, and the characters are lovable.  Based around Greek mythology.
4.  The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan.  The continued adventures of some of the PJ+O characters.  Based on both Greek and Roman mythology.  I actually like this series better.  Cinnamon good for harpies!
5.  The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan.  These are about two kids whose lives are messed up by members of Egyptian mythology.
6.  The Paranormalcy series by Keirsten White.  This series is about a paranormal creature containment agency.  Well, actually it's about a girl who works for the paranormal containment agency.  These have lots of weird creatures, including evil faeries. 
7.  The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.  This is written for middleschoolers, and it's pretty hardcore.  Dragons, magic swords, witches, wizards, princesses, etc.
8.  The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini.  This is true hardcore fantasy.  Dragons, dragon riders, an evil king, a resistance force, more dragons, dwarves, elves, a witch, werecats, awesome battles, the works.

On my list I also include:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (about a boy raised by ghosts and a society of murderers out to kill him) and The Phantom Tollbooth (about a boy who goes to another land via a tollbooth that shows up in his room and his endeavor to save the Princesses Rhyme and Reason) by Norton Juster, but I'm not sure where I would put them.  They're fantasy, but they don't really fit int with the other books I listed.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Books I Wanted to Throw Across the Room

During my exploration of the teen writer blogoshpere, I discovered a monthly blog chain run by Teens Can Write Too!.  Unfortunately, I found it too late to be part of this month's chain, but this month's topic sounded fun, so I decided to do a post even though I'm not part of the chain.  The topic is: What are examples of books you've thrown across the room with force.
WARNING: this post contains spoilers!

1.  The Giver by Lois Lowry.  I hated this book with a passion.  It's a futuristic dystopia novel set in a community where there is no war, no racism, no free will, no color, and total governmental control. Here's how your life would go if you lived there in a nutshell:  You are born to a woman whose only job in life is to have three children before she's sent to work in a factory forever.  You are immediately taken away from her and are taken care of by some people until you are given to the family that will raise you.  Each family can only have two children, a boy and a girl, neither of which are the actual children of the parents. When you turn twelve, you are given a job by the Elders (the government).  You can reject their choice, but you will most likely be "released" (murdered). You live your life doing your job.  You can apply for a spouse, and the will Elders find someone for you to marry who THEY think will suit you. You can apply for children, and at the giant Ceremony at the end of the year the Elders will give you a baby.  Eventually, you will be placed in the retirement home, where you will live until you are released.  Oh, and did I mention that the Elders keep all the memories of what our civilization is like in the head of someone called the Receiver? Yeah, they do.  So only one person in the entire community has an idea of what love and happiness and independence and music and duty and friendship and loyalty and mercy and any emotions are like. Yes, the people who live there have no real emotions; they just have the shadow of emotions.  So the main plot is this kid called Jonas getting the job of becoming the new Receiver and discovering how awful their community is.  At the very end of the book Jonas and a baby he rescues from being released (the poor baby wasn't sleeping through the night like the other babies, so he was going to be killed) run away, and on the last page there's this horrible scene where Jonas makes it to our society, but you don't know if he's dead, hallucinating, or if he actually made it.  He's in another one of Lois Lowry's books, so they made it, but you can't tell at the end of this one.
Wow, that felt good.  That's all the stuff my mom wouldn't let me put in the book report I had to write after reading the Giver. That society is so twisted it makes me sick. At one point Jonas's dad (who's a doctor) kills a baby just because it was a twin. There has to be an exact number of babies every year, so if you're the smaller of a pair of twins, you die.
Okay, rant over.  Promise.

2.  Billy Baker's Dog Won't Stay Buried by M. T. Coffin.  I was so disappointed in this book.  It sounded funny.  But in the end, all the ghosts of all the pets buried in the local pet cemetery go and attack their former owners.  It's really scary.  The main character, his mom, and the vet (who is in love with the mom) end up leaving town and running away from all the ghosts, but every now and then they still see the stupid ghost dog again.  And of course there was a nutty church that predicted the comeback of the ghost pets.  It was just disturbing.  So much so that I actually burned the book.  I didn't want to give it to Goodwill and have it disturb someone else.

3. The last hundred pages of Inheritance by Christopher Paolini.  I LOVED the Inheritance Cycle.  Then he has to go ruin it by [spoilers spoilers spoilers]. (I won't spoil the actually happenings of the story)  Everyone is SO unhappy!  I cried.  Both because a series of books I'd loved for years was ending, and because all the characters were crying.  I felt so betrayed.  Irrationally so, but still.  After all the energy I put into loving (and hating) the characters and cheering in the battles, and waiting three years for the last book, I would have liked an ending that left me feeling like there was some closure. This ending only ripped a wider whole in my sadness.   It took me two days to completely recover from it.

4. A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn.  Sleeping Beauty falls asleep and wakes up now, sounds great right? Wrong.  I should have stopped reading the moment I met the "prince".  Or when "Prince" took Sleepy-head to a party where there was alcohol (they were no older than 18).   The end was not worth slogging through all the inappropriate yichk, which was quite plentiful.  I might have been able to forgive the end had all the boys not been so girl-crazed.

I had no idea how satisfying it was to blog about this stuff.  I'll have to remember that.  I may start doing book reviews, but that might be too much like homework.  I don't know, we'll both see. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Short Story Contest

Last July I heard about a short story contest for highschoolers that I was interested in, and now I have the information about this year's contest, and I'm going to share it with you.  If you want to see all this information plus the judges bios in the setting from which I borrowed it, please visit this page.

2012 “Imagination begins with you…” - Annual High School Short Story Contest

Contest Description: Short story, less than 1,500 words.

Prizes: First place winner receives $50 and $50 to school library
Second place winner receives $25 and $25 school library
Third place winner receives $10 and $10 school library

Deadline: emailed or post marked by March 15, 2012

Submission: email to bclaspell@gmail.com (no attachments please, just include story in the text of the email) or mail to Brian Claspell - 104 Ivy Hollow Ln - Mooresville, NC 28117. Include: Name, email address, high school and year in school, word count, and title of story.

Winners announced in May. Winning stories will be posted on Brian Claspell - Author Facebook fan page. Some entries, including winners, may be published in a collection of short stories (Note: Any proceeds from the sale of this collection will be used solely for future short story contest and educational charities).

Criteria: Short stories will be judged on creativity and imagination. Any genre (fiction/non-fiction) is acceptable.

Complete Guidelines: Short Story Contest
• First, second and third place prizes will be awarded. Awards will be Fifty US dollars ($50), Twenty-five US dollars ($25) and ten US dollars ($10) for each the author and the author’s school library.
• The winning story and other finalist stories will be posted on the “Brian Claspell – Author” Facebook page.
• Winners will be announced in May 2012.
• Contest is open to all High School students in the United States who are currently attending a public, private, alternative or home school.
• There is no entry fee.
• Entries must be postmarked or emailed by March 15, 2012.
• All entries must be unpublished and 1,500 words or less. Works must be submitted in English. The work must be your original work and you must own the rights to the story (cannot have previously sold it or use copyrighted material without permission).
• The author (you) will retain all rights to the story, and will grant the contest sponsor the right to publish on Facebook and/or in a short story collection.
• Only one entry per person is allowed. More than one entry will result in all entries being disqualified.
• All entries should be emailed or mailed or Brian Claspell at bclaspell@gmail.com (no attachments please, just include the story in the text of the email) or 104 Ivy Hollow Ln - Mooresville, NC 28117.
• Every entry should include: Name, address, email address, high school and year in school, word count, and title of story (NOTE: Your personal information will not be sold, distributed or otherwise used except for purposes of this contest). The stories will be judged blindly, so do not include your name or any other identifier in the text of the story.
• The winner will be announced in May 2012. The winner’s story will be posted on Brian Claspell’s Facebook fan page “Brian Claspell - Author (Imagination continues here)”.
• Some entries, including winners, may be published in a collection of short stories (Note: Any proceeds from the sale of this collection will be used solely for future short story contest and educational charities).
• Stories should not contain degrading material.
• The decisions of the judges are final.
• Note: Every effort will be made to make the contest fair and unbiased. Stories will be read by the judges without any identifier of the author’s name or location. Immediate family members (children and siblings) of the judges are not permitted to be winners.

I'll be submitting a story this year, though I don't know what about.  I was going to send one about a band of thieves, but one of the guidelines (in case you didn't read them) was "no degrading content".  I'm not entirely sure what defines "degrading content", but I'm going to err on the side of caution, just in case.  I'd like to do something funny, but I have a ghost story haunting (ghost, haunting, get it? Yeah, it's bad) my thoughts, and I thought it might be fun to try.  I'll see.  I'll probably end up doing something I haven't thought of yet.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I wish would write another book

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.  Check out their website to see Top Ten Tuesday posts from other bloggers.

Okay, I could only come up with four this week.  So these are the top four authors I wish would write more books:
1. J. K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter. 
2. Jane Austen, author of the best romance novels ever. 
3. Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mocking Bird.
4. Christopher Paolini, author of the Inheritance Cycle.

I'd love to read more by all of them.  Yes, I know Jane is dead and Harper Lee is in her 80's, and it's not likely that either of them will write again.  But maybe J. K. Rowling will write some more.  Christoper Paolini just published the last book of the Inheritance Cycle, so I probably won't see anything from him for a while, but maybe in the long run he'll write some more.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The TARDIS vs. The Imagination

Last night I was lamenting the fact that I was going to the French Revolution without the TARDIS, and I realized that the imagination is just as good.  Okay, for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I stared Les Mis last night, and was sad that I was using my imagination to go to revolutionary France instead of the awesome, time-traveling, blue phone box from Doctor Who.  You can learn more about the TARDIS here.  WARNING: That page does include spoilers. The one that clicking on the words "Doctor Who" takes you to might also.

Anyway, whilst pondering my misfortune, I realized that the imagination is just as good as the TARDIS, if not as cool.  Below is a list I created that compares the TARDIS and the imagination.

1.  The imagination can take you to more places and to more times than the TARDIS can.  But the TARDIS actually takes you there. You can feel, smell, hear, see and taste more when the TARDIS takes you somewhere. You're actually there.  Whereas the imagination can't really take you anywhere.  Generally.  Only those with very vivid imaginations can actually go to imaginary places. (Yes, I'm one of them)

2. The rules for the imagination are...well, actually there really aren't any.  Whereas if you travel by TARDIS you have to obey the rules of time travel and the Shadow Proclamation.  Like no messing up the future or the past, there are fixed points in time that have to remain a certain way, blah blah blah.  Nothing is certain or fixed in the imagination. You can change anything you want.

3.  The TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside.  In a way, the imagination is bigger since it can contain multiple universes.

4. The TARDIS is an awesome blue phone box with all sorts of buttons and pully things and telephones and zig-zag plotters and weird screens and universal translators and a swimming pool and a library (and sometimes a swimming pool in the library) and an engine that wheezes and whorps.  Here's an example of the noises that the TARDIS makes. The imagination is a probably disgusting looking lump of brain tissue.

In conclusion, both the TARDIS and the imagination are very nice way to travel.  If you want to go in style though, go with the TARDIS. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Swear words that aren't

I need a break from editing, so I'm going to talk about one of my favorite things to write: swear words that aren't (singular-swear word that ain't). Here after referred to as SWTAs.  
A SWTA is an alternative to swearing.  For example, "Drat" or "Sugar".  While I was developing my characters, I decided that they each needed their own SWTA.  So I did some research. I had no idea that looking for synonyms for swear words was so much fun.  It's almost as fun randomly picking names out of the phone book, or looking for first names that mean "Stupid" (there aren't any, in case you were wondering).  Anyway, my favorite SWTAs are as follows, in no particular order.
  • Holy Buckets
  • Flapdoodle
  • Blinken (I actually use this one)
  • Malarkey
  • Balderdash
  • Shazbot
  • Carp (as in the fish)
  • Shitake mushrooms
  • Shin bucket
  • Crummidy crumb crumb
  • Sugarfoot
  • Skamble
  • Bushwa
  • Fumadiddle
I enjoyed finding SWTAs so much that I actually created a character who "collected" them.
What are your favorite SWTAs?  Do you have any I can add to my list?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'm excited to read in 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.  I've read it before and now that I have a blog of my own I thought it would be fun to participate.

Top ten books I'm excited to read in 2012:
1.  Endlessly by Keirsten White.  The third and final book in the Paranormalcy series.  Comes out in July.  Will Evie stop the evil faeries?  I can't wait to find out.
2.  Dark Passage by M. J. Putney.  The third book in the Dark Mirror series.  Comes out this spring.   Does it get better than the 1800's, time travel and magic?  Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but these are wonderful.
3.  The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan.  The third Heroes of Olympus book.  Comes out this fall.  I spent two (maybe it was three) days reading Son of Neptune out loud to my sister (so we didn't have to fight over who got to read it first). Oh, my, gosh. So funny, so full of adventure, and with great characters.  Rick Riordan is one of my favorite authors.
4.  The rest of the Leven Thumps series by Obert Skye.  Liam of This Page Intentionally Left Blank recommended this series a few weeks ago.  I've read the first one and it's hilarious. Leven has to save the World of Foo (the land that allows us in reality to dream) from many dangers, along with a thirteen year old girl, a furry little cross-between-a-rodent-and-an-elf creature named Clover, and a  King turned talking toothpick named Geth.
5.  Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  I traded two of my assigned reading books for this one.  I love being homeschooled, mom is willing to negotiate schoolwork. 
6.  The third Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan.  Comes out this summer.  I don't actually know the name of this one yet.
7.  Something by Regina Doman.  A friend of mine recommended her to me.  She writes modernized fairy tales. And, unlike some I've read, they're clean.  Romantic and clean.  So much better than books like A Kiss in Time, which not only had a disappointing ending, but also had too many girl-obsessed teenage boys. 
8.  The Enchantress by Michael Scott. The last (I think) book in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. Comes out in May.  The last one had a great cliff hanger at the end, and I really want to see the bad guys taken care of. 
9. Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.  Another one a friend recommended.  All I know about it is that there's romance and Mara is a double agent.
10. The Black Cat Diamond by myself.  Comes out this summer.  For obvious reasons.

Hmm, looking at that list, I notice that four of them are number three in a series.  Go figure.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Things I do to procrastinate

This is a list of the things you are most likely to find me doing instead of homework or editing.

1. Playing on the internet
2. Listening to music
3. Playing on the piano
4.Writing blog posts like this one
5. Fantasizing, day dreaming, visiting fictitious lands, talking fictitious to people, or some other form of hanging out in my head instead of reality.  This ones especially bad for algebra homework.
6. Plotting someone's plans for world domination
7. Planning the resistance force that will bring said world dictator down
8. Pretending I have magic/super powers 
9. Looking at the birds that hang out on our bird feeders

There are more, but that's all I can think of right now.