Friday, March 29, 2019

Story Report March 2019

My story reports are a review of all/most of the stories I enjoyed within a given month. I was a little in-depth with some of my reviews, so skim the bold for the quickest way through this post.

New Reads

Failstate: Nemesis - the second book in a Christian YA superhero series by Pastor John W. Otte, I found the beginning to be slow. Then, about a quarter of the way into the book, the plot and action roared to life and I struggled to put the book down. 
It's hard for me to say much about the plot, except it went a few places I didn't expect (which was nice) and it satisfied the superhero craving I was having when I picked it up. Failstate faces not only traditional enemies, but ones he's not expecting - people he's supposed to be able to trust.

Scorched - The Siren Prophecy book 2 by a group of authors. This was a fun read. In some ways, I found it more interesting and satisfying than the first one and I appreciated the way certain twists were fore-shadowed. In other ways, the teen romance was a little annoying at times. I also didn't like the "one more surprising change" for the main character. I was feeling like she was a little "much."

Outliers: The Story of Success is a thought-provoking non-fiction read by Malcolm Gladwell about the makings of the most successful individuals in history and today. What it really takes is 10,000 hours of practice (or more), a good community, and some (but not completely) innate intelligence/talent and practical/emotional intelligence. He did also mention the "timing" factor - all of the big tech names (Gates, Allan, Joy, etc.) were born between 1954-1957 and got their 10,000 hours in before 1975 due to various circumstances. He also discusses work satisfaction. He basically states this: autonomy, complexity, plus a connection between effort and reward = work satisfaction.

I'm not sure I completely agree. I think the autonomy factor and even the complexity factor vary based on personality type and the sense of purpose one feels about work.

Wow! I picked Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz at the library, and I found it so compelling and beautiful I read the entire book in one go. It's a young adult novel as a slightly dark, steampunk, scifi retake on the 12 Dancing Princesses fairy tale. Strange bouts of memories that don't fit with Penny's life as she knows it keep her from being entirely comfortable with her role as a lead dancer for the Master, a sinister but compelling man who rules the ballet school where she lives as one of twelve orphan dancers who long strangely to please him and him alone. Penny's flashes of memory tell her something is seriously wrong, but who can she trust and what is she really remembering?

Again, wow! I think I hit the jackpot in books this month. Illimunae: the Illuminae Files_01 is a thrilling SF novel written in a unique way. The story unfolds through a series of redacted files, old e-mails, and recorded interviews, weaving a harsh tale of a colony caught in the middle of a corporate war and a rogue, potentially crazy AI, all while they attempt to survive long enough on broken down ships to make it to a jump-gate. If that isn't enough, there's a mutating virus on the loose.
(Yes, I created those strike-through areas to give you the feel of the book.)

Okay, admittedly, there were a few books I picked up from the library that I will not be reviewing at this time because they just weren't the right books at the right time for me, or they really weren't that good. Best not to mention those. Some I didn't even finish.

Ongoing Reads and Re-reads

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand is a continuing read and a re-read for me as I'm teaching with this in my College Prep class. It's a gritty tale, but I have a fondness of redemption stories, so ... my poor College Prep class is struggling through this one. We'll finish it in early April. Next, we read Hamlet! Mwahaha. 

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood is one of my all-time favorite middle grade historical fiction reads. Blackwood did an excellent job with the historical details, with one exception: Queen Elizabeth started the first public schools in England. The only reason Widge (the MC) wouldn't have been able to get an education is because he wouldn't have had the money to have a slate and other tools required for school. So public school students still needed to have enough wealth to get the supplies.
Anyway, other than that, The Shakespeare Stealer is spot-on with the details from the time period and with some of what we know about how William Shakespeare worked within his own company of players.

One of my classes is finishing this by the beginning of April - then, they will be reading Romeo and Juliet. Yes, I end my year with all Shakespeare plays.

I checked Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest out from the library because it was part of a huge display of books with green covers in honor of St. Patrick's Day, and I love it! I am putting it on my To-Be-Purchased List/Wish List because 1) I really love short story anthologies 2) I love Green Man mythology (it's part of the backstory behind "that" superhero novel). 
I'm reading it slowly on purpose to savor each story before I have to check it back in - I've already re-checked it out via the online platform so I can keep it at home for another three weeks.

Job: a Story of Unlikely Joy is a Bible Study by Lisa Harper. She has an in-depth, seminary-trained approach to scripture lightened by a wonderful sense of humor.

My Saturday Bible Study group chose this book for our current study, and I found it meaningful. Highly recommended!

Technically, I've finished this book, except the last few chapters, because I'm just lingering over it and all of the craft help it's given me. I'll just keep it on my desk for a while.

This isn't really a big final review, except to say - read it!

New Films/Screenplays

I loved this movie! So much more than an origin story, Captain Marvel gives us a chance to understand Carol Danvers and her powers, the origin of her name and her outfit, her friendship with Nick Fury, and more! In addition to all of this interwoven information, the plot is action-packed, thrilling fun! 

I was worried about how far we were going into the whole "girl-power" theme, because I don't like it when men are bashed to make women feel good about themselves (that's just as bad as male chauvinism), but I was glad to see this was a girl-power movie I could really enjoy. 

This is not in the movie, but it's my favorite Captain Marvel quote from the comic books: "Fear is not a choice. What you do with it is."

The Dragon Prince, Seasons 1 and 2 on Netflix - If you haven't seen this yet and you have any interest in anime, check this show out! It's action-packed, thought-provoking, and heartfelt. Sharing the journey of two princes and an enemy-turned-ally, The Dragon Prince leans into fantasy tropes while still adding in twists and turns to satisfy viewers. I want to say more, but I'm tempted to fill this with spoilers, so I won't. Just, thank you, Netflix. I am now waiting impatiently for Season 3.

Silver Linings Playbook is an award-winning movie for good reason. I really appreciated the combination of drama, comedy, and romance in a movie focused on how a man with bipolar and a woman with her own issues come to find a way to live with their problems and find their silver linings. I'm not sure exactly how much to say without ruining the plot for those few out there who haven't seen it yet, but I recommend this movie, even to those shy about watching dramas.


If you've read the Winnie the Pooh stories, you might know about Pooh's Thinking Spot, which was the original reason behind my original blogspot name: Tyrean's Writing Spot. I love Winnie-the-Pooh, but I couldn't convince my family (nearly all grown up daughters) to see this in the theater and I admit I wasn't sure if it would be faithful to the Pooh I love. So, I waited, and finally I watched it, and it was wonderful! If you love the heart of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, you will enjoy Christopher Robin.

"Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something."

Hairspray, a musical about teen image, integration, and acceptance had its golden moments, humorous moments, and its blah moments. I didn't love it, but I did like it, and I think it makes a nice counter-point to the all-white, all-skinny Grease. 

Teen daughter commentary: "Wait, is that a young Zac Efron? Is this before or after High School Musical?"
We thought it was before, but it's actually after the first one. And, if you didn't know High School Musical is Romeo and Juliet, Disney style, and because of that, I made my daughters watch it.

Screenplays Viewed Again

RED, retired and extremely dangerous, is an action-flick about a retired CIA agent who is targeted as RED. I enjoyed when it first came out and I decided to watch it again. I still enjoy it although I'm not a fan of the kidnapping part. 

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I decided to re-view all of the Indiana Jones movies, but this one, just, oy. The actors did well with their lines and the corniness of it all, but the romance was so annoying and I found myself really wanting to write an awesome female explorer adventurer to counter the screaming American singer character. With the exception of Marion from the the first and fourth movies, Indy seems to have a penchant for woman who fake-bicker with him and pout. However, I did like the relationship between Indy and Shorty - a little overdone in some parts, but still good. Goonies actor Jonathon Ke Quan did a great job!
(BTW, Temple of Doom is actually a  prequel of Raiders, so chronologically it should be watched first, if you are re-watching the Indy movies.)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It's such a relief to watch this one after Temple of Doom. The opening sequence gives a great bit of backstory, although it's still saddens me to know we've forever lost River Phoenix (he plays boy Indy). I love the byplay between Indy and his father (played by the great Sean Connery), and I loved getting to see some of my other favorite characters from Raiders - Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot) and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies). The romance is, again, an epic fail for Indy and I'm pretty sure we're all supposed to feel much smarter than he is when he makes his big mistake. Although I planned to take notes, I forgot until I reached the halfway point and then had to back-track through, looking for scene changes and road trip marker placement (airplane rides).

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull pleasantly surprised me when it came out and as I watched it again, I felt like I was welcomed back in the world of Indiana Jones with all the great humor, action, and excellent dialogue found in movies 1 and 3. I really appreciated getting Marion back on the scene and loved how this was done! I also appreciated the nods to Brody and Dr. Jones, Sr.
However, I don't want to see Indy remade with another actor ... ever. That's just the way I feel about it ... which is weird because I would love to see the stories continue. I just really like Harrison Ford as Indy and I'm not ready to see the part played by anyone else.

How some of the stories have affected my writing life: 

Overall, I have enjoyed watching the Indiana Jones series again, but what it did make me realize is that my "K" novel really isn't an Indiana Jones movie, although there are artifacts and adventures in it ... some similarities, but many, many differences, especially considering it's set in a future of colonial expansion across the galaxy and the artifacts are from old Earth and a few other planets. However, having said that, I must regretfully admit to having been pulled away from "K" into another project or well, two projects. More about that is coming in my IWSG post on Wednesday.

Happy Reading and Viewing!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring is Here and Reflections on an Old House

News First Today:

I didn't get carried away with the IWSG April lnstagram Challenge for one main reason:
Family is a priority for me. My family and I are in the process of making a big decision for our younger daughter's college choice. We want it to be her decision, which means we are visiting colleges, helping her make pros and cons lists, and just praying over this big decision. Plus, we have a mini-vacay planned for four days (two traveling...).

However, I will post insights from the IWSG blog posts, motivational quotes, and other fun sorts of things in addition to the following highlight days:

The IWSG is partnering with DIY MFA this spring to bring you a great program for writers.
Before we announce details, we’ll be sharing several of their learning videos. 
The first one is Episode 234: A Master Class on Character — Interview with David Corbett.

Also, The IWSG has new merchandise available. There's something for everyone!


I am thankful and feel immeasurably blessed to live in the Pacific Northwest on gorgeous spring days which come mid-March, right before the calendar announces the first day of spring. We have daffodils up in our yard and other bulb leaves poking through the ground. The storms of winter have been over long enough for the birds, squirrels, raccoons, and rabbits to gather nest-building materials from the storm-blown tree branches, pine cones, and leaves while their human counterparts do the heavy lifting of clearing large branches and fallen trees.

I have realized my dog plays with sticks less often than I do. He usually watches with some confusion, amusement, and finally, boredom, as I trim bushes and clear branches from the ground, cutting them into smaller pieces and moving them into a pile which is waiting to be cleared away. One of our ancient, moss-covered apple trees fell down in the big snowfall and wind so the current brush-pile is nearly four feet high and eight feet wide. I still have more tree limbs to cut into manageable pieces.

My family and I live "off the road" down a gravel driveway, despite living just a half a mile from the nearest cute little neighborhood and a few miles from the nearest movie theater complex, county library, and "uptown" shopping center. It's a strange mix of rural and suburban life, just five miles from the downtown of our small town in one direction and five miles from a large city in another direction.

I often take it all for granted, or sometimes with trepidation for the yard work and the house projects which are never-ending and often in various degrees of completion, or not fully completed for years' worth of time for there's always something more, something else, some other thing that breaks in our 60+ year old house built by a couple from Florida who didn't realize flat roofs and prize-winning greenhouses built in Florida-esque ways would not survive well in a temperate rain-forest with occasional snow.

The greenhouse was falling apart when we moved into our house and we replaced it with a one-car garage - a one-wall remodel sort of thing attached to the "workshop" and the two-car carport which are separated from our house by a small garden bed with a palm tree in the center of it. The palm tree actually does well here because it's a specific breed of palm, and because it is right next to the house where it can get heat all year-round. It's the sort of thing which people notice when they drive up - "whoa, there's a palm tree growing out of the roof."

Palms are not normal fauna for the Northwest. Our two giant cedar trees in the back yard are more expected, although they are also old enough to be dauntingly huge - it would take at least two people to span their individual trunks while holding hands with their arms outstretched. Their tops are between one hundred and two hundred feet up from the ground. My daughters used to climb the bigger of the two, before an aggressive squirrel family chased them down one afternoon. Our squirrels are not the fat tame things of cities. They are rude, lean, and bold. The wildlife in our area eat our garden plants, steal our nuts and most of our fruit, and are afraid only of our nine pound cat. (This includes the five-point bucks which roam through to eat our apples - they will actually run away from the cat, but not us, not our dog, and not the cars.) It's sort of like living in our own wildlife refuge, but I try to avoid the black bear and coyotes.

We still get some amusing "sell as-is" advertisements in our mailbox - offers to take our old fixer-upper off our hands for a "good" price. We've lived here for 17 years and are still not keeping up with the neighbors, and I'm not sure we ever will. It's a project house, an old house, one in which the pipes don't always work correctly even though we had it re-plumbed six years ago. My college-aged daughter was unprepared for how to operate a food disposal when she first moved into an apartment off-campus last fall. Her roommates thought it was hilarious to find her surprised and awed by such a simple thing as a food disposal in their sink.

It's a rambling sort of old house without any of the old-house charm which one might expect, but it is home. It's kind of like this blog. I have "lived" here for a while online. I've thought about changing over to something newer, snazzier, with fresher paint and less trouble, but I'm still here.

I'm coming up on my 10 year blog-aversary in April. I'm not sure how to celebrate. Fresh paint? New plumbing? Any ideas?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

#TheIWSG March 2019 Hero or Villain?

Alex J. Cavanaugh, the founder, noticed a lot of blog posts from writers mentioning their doubts, concerns, and lack of confidence. He also saw the positive replies they received and realized that the writing community offered an abundance of support. Writers want to see other writers succeed, which is how he came up with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This group would act as a form of therapy, letting writers post about situations where they need encouragement, or to offer words of encouragement to others if they have experience. 

On September 7, 2011, Alex launched the monthly blog posting of the IWSG and it has been going strong ever since.

In addition to the hop, we have a website to assist and encourage all writers with tips and help from professionals. We have helpful admins who run groups on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Instagram. Plus, we have a newsletter and we work with the Write-Edit-Publish community for flash fiction contests. Go to the site to find out about all of these and more!

For March 2019, the blog hop co-hosts are:

Optional Question for March: 

Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

I like heroes, but sometimes I like writing villains more. 

I rarely write from their perspective so maybe it's because it's a change of pace. 

Or, it could be because I find it easier to give a villain something "good" inside them that's been twisted to something bad than I do to get the right balance of strengths and flaws with my heroes.

Or, it's because I like redemptive story arcs. 

Example: I have a tendency to write heroes with too many issues - hence, they almost sound like villains. One of my betas thought my main character of that-superhero WIP (which I thought was finished) was going to go villain because he longed for the world to "just understand" him and he wanted to "share his knowledge" with the world. I re-read that section and realized it did sound like he was going to force his views on people so I had to go back and change it. Agh. It might have been easier to make him a villain, but that's not exactly the story I wanted to share.

I do want my MC and both of the other point-of-view heroes to have big problems and make mistakes so they have heroic redemption arcs. They get to save their world despite all of their flaws - loneliness, anger issues, trust issues, family issues, power control issues, etc. These are not teen Captain America heroes; they are more like a mixture of Hulk, Tony Stark, the Black Widow, and Poison Ivy. 

Do you struggle to balance your heroes' strengths and flaws?

My goals update:
My goals took a bit of a hit with some health stuff and snow this month, but I did do these things:
1. I kept stepping when and where I could. I managed to get in over 5,000 steps for 21 days, and out of those days, I did over 10,000 steps for 15 days. (These are tiny steps, not stride the globe kind of steps or "climb every mountain" kind of steps - just moving in the right direction steps.)
2. I received a rejection letter for my novel, but I decided it was okay. (See problems above). I count having a good attitude about this as a win.
3. I had four stories rejected, one poem and one 100-word story published. I have two more submissions of short stories floating around out there. I also received a "maybe, if we can make changes" kind of acceptance but I haven't seen anything from the editor in a week, so I'm thinking it's a no.
4. I revised the entire Anomalies novel again (again, again, again). This means, I made some small changes at the beginning which worked their way through the entire book. I also chopped two chapters and added three chapters. 
5. In the first days of March before this post, I began a new novel which I'm going to keep under wraps under than to say it's SciFi, and the working title starts with K. 

I had some exciting news just on Monday - My flash fiction piece "Captain's Log" earned runner-up for the 28 Days WEP Challenge!
Thank you, WEP!!!

Also, if you are interested, 
Both were accepted and published in February. 


Reedsy (an IWSG partner) has started a new paid-for-review service for authors.
Check it out at Reedsy Discovery
Reedsy has several helpful services available for authors. 

The Goodreads IWSG Book Club is having a discussion on description in Rebecca on March 20th!

The newest IWSG Anthology will be out in April!

How are you marching forward with your writing goals in March? 
And do you struggle to balance strengths and flaws in your characters?

The IWSG blog hop needs co-hosts for the next three months! Please check out Alex J. Cavanaugh's site for details!