Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Prompt Assignment or To Pen a Villanelle

Other than the pantoum, the villanelle is my favorite poetic form. There is something about the form and rhyme scheme that stretches my ability at word play and phrase construction to get my point across.
The form is an old Italian folk song, usually sung by the people who lived in the countryside. It has maintained its poetic structure since the 17th century. Now that's something. Dylan Thomas's "Do not go gentle into that good night," is one of the most popular villanelles you'll find.

The villanelle as a basic aba rhyme scheme with three lines per stanza and five stanzas. The sixth stanza has four lines with an abaa pattern. It takes a little work to write something that conforms to the structure, especially the rhyming. But with a subject that feels right for you, everything should fall into place.

After having so much fun with the Merry Sisters of Fate prompt contest, I wanted to recapture that energy with a picture of my own choosing. Below is "The Unicorn and the Maiden" by Boris Vallejo and my villanelle.


Evil infuses every step that I take,
Though I try to keep my thoughts pure.
Entering these woods is a damning mistake.

Salvation is not for those who forsake;
those who capture unicorns with virginity lures.
Evil infuses every step that I take.

I am not alone on this trek I make.
The hunters follow, wanting a horn to procure.
Entering these woods is a damning mistake.

Selling my soul for a pocket of coin, makes my stomach ache.
Every capture unravels the realm of magic, I am sure.
evil infuses every step that I take.

The unicorn appears and my confidence shakes,
my touch is a disease from which there is no cure.
Entering these woods is a damning mistake.

There is more than this innocent life at stake;
waiting for me is eternal perdition to endure.
Evil infuses every step that I take.
Entering these woods is a damning mistake.

Fun and Fancy Free Verse or Exploring My Softer Side

Aha, you say, a free verse poem is not a rarity like the other poems you’ve presented, Nicki. Yes, you are right, but for the beginner poet, free verse can be the easiest form to write.

There is no rhyme scheme, no meter, no sense of a rigid mold into which you must cram your work of art.
The popular practice of free verse poems date back to 19th Europe, in
particular, France. Free verse is a very organic poem based on natural breaks in speech, the intensity of your mood, or just how you want the words to appear on the page.

This form can start out as an exercise in prose that is broken up to create poetic lines and phrasing. Free verse, for me, is like writing in a diary. A place to cleanse my soul…or whatever. To read an excellent example of free verse poems, check out Hilda Doolittle, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashberry, Sylvia Plath, and Frank O'Hara, just to name a few. There are many more poets worthy of mention, but you'd be here all day. Not that I mind.

While I am a dark poet, I do have a romantic, sensitive side. Here is a poem I wrote in college, exploring that cautious adventure of falling in love.

Secret Serenade

They breathed softly in the words you nervously stuttered
   In the longing glance that your eye shyly gave
   In the touch that made m tremble

The whispers of your buried secrets
Singing the lyric that your heart once guarded
The tender song that you wished to keep still

Melodies of sun-soaked laughter transition
Into moon-laced walks of harmony
A sweet chorus that danced freely through your kiss.

Embedded in silken ruby leaves
Lay a symphony of secrets
Revealing that you are  



       deep within your heart’s embrace
       deeper inside the music of your soul
       deeply in love

And since I can't keep well enough alone, here a bonus poem for your reading pleasure.


would you believe me if the words never came?
if they trembled on my slippery tongue
hoping that the thread of my breath
would pass them
and leave them untouched


of the abduction: a painful seizure
that would transport to your ear
the components of unrequited adoration. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Triolet: A Poem of Three or A Rare Form of Expression


A triolet (tree-o-lay) is an eight line, French poem from the 13th century. Medieval poets such as Jean Froissart and Eustace Deschamps nurtured this short and sweet poetic form. It is one of the rarer forms you'll find out in the world.
Triolet means "three" as in the first line repeats three times. There are also 2 rhymes and 2 repeating lines.

While most triolets are playful and cheerful, often celebrating love, I have taken a darker path with mine. I apparently have a gift for dark and broody, though, I'm no Sylvia Plath. And yes, I was also having a rough day.

Rhyming pattern

Line 1 repeats in the 1st, 4th, and 7th line.
Line 2 repeats in the 2nd and 8th line.

Lines 1, 3, 4, 5 have the same rhyme scheme, while lines 2, 6, 8 echo each other.

To add a twist to your own poem try,
1)   using a slant rhyme instead of a perfect rhyme. Slant rhymes echo similar sounds, such as “time and fine.” A perfect rhyme is well, perfect, like “fell and tell.”

2)   Varying some of the words in the repeating lines. For example, the line in my poem “treading a fine line” can be altered into “treading a silk line.”

This form is too short to stress about, so have fun!


treading a fine line
between saving myself or slaying my dream
faithless existence for wishes of mine
treading a fine line
over chasms of prayers waiting to align
a criss-cross of fingers over jagged seams
treading a fine line
between saving myself or slaying my dream

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lost and Found or A Poem I Didn't Intend to Write

A Found poem can be a list, pieces of conversation, or newspaper articles — something that has a poetic tone or elicits the same emotional response as a poem. If the original intent of your Found poem is to be poetic, then it is not true.
The beauty of this form is that you find a treasure amidst the clutter of your life. Also, there is no altering (adding, deleting, or omitting) this poem. To keep it in its pure form is to stay true to the heart of the Found.
My Found came from a short story I wrote. Reading down the left margin, I used the 1st word of every line. This is the result:


You know, World
Perfectionism befriends children

Your insides scream your name
Shut up.
Ignore it.
Tired of perfect.

We all want that.
Learn from  vixen smiles and
Smoky cold sentences

Ambition loves you
Away from disappointment
Slurred secrets in someone’s yard
Don’t matter

Impurity picks you up
Frantically dissolving innocence
Rebellion crawled under her eyes and
Sat next to me
Can you see a silver lining?

What have you "Found" lately?

October: A Month of Poetry or Ways to Celebrate My Birthday

My true introduction to poetry happened in my 6th grade English class. We had a poetry section, that I found quite fun. I still have the little book of poems I wrote and bound as part of our final project.
Here is my haiku from back in the day:

Small, plump chipmunks sleep
in the warm sun, slipping through
the windows of trees.

(yes, I did write this when I was 11. Good, huh?)

Poetry is a form a writing that conveys emotions, world events, even humor, in a way that is lost in a longer narrative. The short space and sometimes the rigid form, in my opinion, is what gives a poem its power. To boil all those ideas and feelings into the essence of what you’re trying to say is an art in and of itself.

I took a poetry class in college and really found my stride. I pushed myself to write about things I’d never experienced, explore the topics I loved, and critique the work of my fellow classmates. I grew as a poet that semester and miss the delving into those lesser known forms on a daily basis.
My intent for October poetry month*, is to rediscover a piece of my writing persona that I have neglected. I hope that you learn something here or are inspired to pen your own poems. Either way, lets have fun! Feel free to participate in the comments, if you’d like.
I’ll be using The Teacher’s & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms edited by Ron Padgett as reference.
*My birthday is this month, so why not celebrate with some writing exercises?

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Splintered Lands Results or A Surprise Outcome

I wanted to thank all of you who voted for my story, “Blessed,” for the Splintered Lands contest. I truly appreciate the time you spent to vote and for the support you have given me in regards to this story.
This contest was a fiasco of epic proportions. Not only was it mishandled, Deepwood Publishing all but admitted through a tweet that “They could change the votes if they had to.” Well, perhaps they did.
What the results boiled down to was three of the four finalists being “disqualified,” leaving the sole author as the default winner. Not how I would have like to win, but a publishing credit is a publishing credit. They claimed that there were too many “voting inconsistencies that led to multiple authors being disqualified.”I did email Deepwood asking why my story was DQ’d, but have heard nothing from them. Unfortunately, I really don’t expect to.

For the record, despite the insinuation, I am not a cheater, nor did I ask anyone to cheat for me. Mostly, I am angry because I spent over six days crafting a story worthy enough for their anthology, only to have them toss it out for reasons beyond my control.
So, when play is not fair, how do you hope to win?
I am left with a story I am immensely proud of. When time allows, I’ll tear it down and build it up in my own world, with my own rules.
Varinia Sulan shall live on!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Shout Out to My Honey or Married Seven Lucky Years!

This one time, at summer band camp, I met the man who would become my college sweetheart and eventually, my husband.
The first day I met Mega Man, it was like I had known him all my life. It was strange and kinda cool in my eighteen-year-old mind. I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, but I wasn’t going to not take a chance on him. With that being said, my college relationship with Mega Man can be defined by one break up and reconciliation after another. We were young and selfish and not sure if this love thing was the real deal or sparked by infatuation. But over the years, we grew up and realized that if we wanted to be together, that we were going to have to fight for each other. 
And fight we have.
No one tells you that you will be asked to compromise or surrender all together to keep your relationship on track. You might be called upon to make a sacrifice for the good of your marriage.  We’ve made it seven years and have had to do all of these thing and more. Trial by fire will either strengthen your relationship or burn it to a crispy crunch.
We’ve encountered many challenges and heartbreaks — surviving Hurricane Ivan during our Jamaican honeymoon, joblessness, lean financial times, and fertility issues. It’s easy to see why people don’t want to commit to their marriage when life tries to beat them down.  A 60% divorce rate says a whole lot about people’s willingness to honor their marriage vows of “for better or for worse.”
But despite the struggles, we have had some great fun. Road trips to triathlons, an Alaskan cruise, buying a house, having our daughter, Princess (yes, she's named after a princess, but it's not what you think), and getting the chance to fall in love with each other again and again. There are many more adventures for us to have and many more struggles to endure. But with Mega Man by my side, we have more than a fighting chance.
Thank you to all of our friends and family who have supported and loved us all these married years. Couldn’t have made it without you all. We owe the strength and deeping love of our marriage to God, who has guided and protected us through the years.
I love you, sweetheart! Happy Anniversary.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Contest Finalist or Vote for Blessed (short story)

Howdy all!

I entered a contest for the Splintered Lands anthology This is a post apocalyptic land where magic has torn the world apart. Magic wielders and technologists are despised and hunted, while the Knights govern what they can and destroy the rest.
My story, "Blessed," is one of the four finalists. Who ever wins, will have his/her story as part of the anthology to be published by Deepwood Publishing.

So if you have some time, go to the website and read the submissions. I have some tough competition. Your vote is greatly appreciated. Tell all your friends, neighbors, and paper boys. I don't know how long the voting will stay open, so hurry, hurry, hurry!

Thank you.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Merry Sisters of Fate Watcher Prompt Contest or Touching Up My Poet's Roots

The Merry Sisters of Fate (Brenna Yovanoff, Maggie Stiefvater, and Tessa Gratton) are hosting a prompt contest on their blog. One winner will receive these fabulous prizes: a signed ARC of "Scorpio Races" by Maggie, a signed ARC of "The Space Between" by Brenna, and a signed hardback of the recently released "Blood Magic" by Tessa.

The picture, "Meeting on The Turret Stairs” by Frederic Burton, was too perfect not to write for.

This poem is a pantoum, a poetic form based on the oral telling of 15th century Malayan literature.


My heart is consumed by Hellfire.
Loving you brings a thousand deaths to my soul.
Save me, my God, from this wild desire,
An unquenched passion that shall not be consoled

Loving you brings a thousand deaths to my soul.
We married in haste, those we did not love
An unquenched passion that shall not be consoled;
Dreaming of you is but a curse from above.

We married in haste those we did not love,
Though it saved you from courtly scorn.
Dreaming of you is but a curse from above
And I mourn, oh the loss of you that I mourn.

Though it saved you from courtly scorn,
I have no choice now but to become a thief.
And I mourn, oh the loss of you that I mourn.Stealing a glance or smile disguised is a moment’s relief.

I have no choice now but to become a thief,
To hold you against me on darkened stairs.
Stealing a glance or smile disguised is a moment’s relief,
Your reluctance to leave, renews my despair.

To hold you against me on darkened stairs,
A touch not deep enough to sustain me.
Your reluctance to leave, renews my despair.
This is not how I wish us to be.

A touch not deep enough to sustain me.
Save me, my God, from this wild desire;
This is not how I wish us to be.
My heart is consumed by Hellfire.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Exercising Your God-Complex or Becoming your Own Puppet Master

If only you had control over the world.
Depending on your personality, diseases could be eradicated, singles would be coupled, and the fashions of the 80’s never would have existed.
Never fear. If you have a fairly active God-complex, you too can be in command of your own world. All you need is a little imagination and the ability to type 50 wpm.
You get to play the role of the Almighty when you write fiction. Yes, it sounds like work, but hang with me. When else can you create others in your own image, dictate the events of their lives and coerce them into doing questionable things? No wonder the Greek gods had so much fun.
Here is a world where you have power over everything —every person’s name, every character trait and flaw, every wonderful and devastating thing that happens to them. Instead of cursing your sister out for not taking your advice and calling that hottie from work, take your frustrations out on the fictional version of her. In your world, not only will she hook up with him, he’s so totally into her.
But like the true Master of the Cosmic Design, just when you think you have everything in place and are ready to enjoy what you’ve created, your people rebel. They build a tower into your sanctuary and steal the reins from your hands.
“What?” you say. “That can happen?” Oh, but it can and it will, if you’ve done your job correctly. You’d think that the people you created would do exactly as you say, but something happened that moment you breathed life into them. They started to live.
Now who’s controlling who?
I wonder what kind of conversations God has with the angels about the crazy things we’re doing down here. Is he laughing? Crying? Shaking his head and wishing he would have taken an extra day off instead of working six days straight?
Writing has been a great way to work through some issues, test out improbably solutions, and dream of things just beyond my reach. I often hear the voices of my characters (sometimes praying for me to get back to their stories) and must remind myself it is a symptom of my imagination and not a genuine psychosis. See, crazy or creative genius.
If you descend from your god-like throne and mingle with the characters, you’ll only find that you haven’t really left the real world at all. They are dealing with the same stuff you and I are, except you’re solely responsible for helping your “children” out of it.
So the next time you’d like to strike down the neighbor, who lets his dog crap in your yard, remember it can be done*. In fiction.
*While you might have more time to write from prison, the trade off isn’t quite worth the homicide.
** I intend no offense by this divine analogy. There is no need to pray for the safety of my soul. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

How Revising is like Gardening or Making your Novel Show Worthy

I am deeply entrenched in the revising of my first novel, The Puppet Mistress. After I typed “The End,” I looked back on my work with pride. Here was my shiny new novel, ready for its debut.
Now that it’s had a chance to sit, I’m finding that perhaps my novel is not as worth of the Better Homes and Gardens cover as I thought. It’s not bad, but maybe should be moved to the back yard. So here we go with the new landscaping plans. (yes some of these points apply to editing as well, but when you're doing an overhaul, everything smooshes together)
1)   Gardening means pulling the weeds: Revising also means reevaluating those prosy phrases your married to, killing all those extraneous words and pulling out the other fluff and crap you’ve managed to cram into your scenes.

2)   The soil has to be top notch quality: it doesn’t matter what you write, if the foundation of the story is shotty. A great tale needs the support of great characters and a compelling plot if it’s ever going to come to fruition. And keep your readers attention. Is your particular voice engaging? Is the tale a twist on an old favorite? Are your characters believable and have the ability to change?

3)   Adding a splash of color increases curb appeal: Some chapters need to be tightened and shorted or deleted entirely. Other chapters have room for expansion to further develop plot or character. I’ve done both with pleasing results. Here’s the chance to add a detail here you may have missed during the first draft.

4)   Pruning will help the roses bloom: Simplification and clarification are great tools. Tightening the story telling not only balances out the pacing but it also keeps the reader buckled safely in their seats. Nothing’s worse than killing the pacing by having dinner table conversation or an info dump.

5)   Sweat equity applies to the garden too: No one said this was going to be easy. In some ways, it’s almost harder that writing the novel ever way. But considering the amount of time you spent on the first draft, your work deserves the scrutiny and rewrites that will only serve to improve the story. I have the blisters to prove this work is worth it. A tight, well-written, and compelling story is what agents are looking for during judging.

Writing Puppet Mistress was born out of my need to prove I was a legit writer. With that experience under my belt, I’m now proving to myself that I’m a legit self-editor. I’m glad I had a chance to make The Puppet Mistress over. Cause if you thought she was cute before, wait till you see her now.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Critique Group or Surviving a Beat Down

Been off the grid for a month, but now I'm back in the blogging game.

First, let me say that I love my critique group. It amazes me how such a diverse collection of people can come together to accomplish the same goal. The friendships I have formed in here are one that will haunt me for many years to come. Come on, it's funny and you know it.

If you aren't currently in a critique group, I highly suggest finding one. I've been with my critters (critique partners) for nearly four years now. My writing has grown and matured in ways that I never conceived. It excites me and makes me want to write even more tales. My review of other's works has improved so much, I wonder sometimes who hijacked my pen and wrote all those interesting comments on the pages. Mostly importantly, I have learned to accept constructive criticism like a pro. A necessary tool in this subjective business. Good thing too, because I am a very sensitive person. But that's a post for another day.
Whenever my books are published, you can be sure that my critters will get a shout out on the acknowledgement page.

There are times, however, when I wonder if I'm in the midst of an exercise in mob mentality.
I'm talking about those meetings that seem to be more "beat down" than "hey, you have a comma splice here." It happens and the best thing one can do to survive in tune everyone out or fight the whole group. None of which I advise. Things can become very frustrating, very quickly, but better your friends tell you something doesn't work than an agent or editor (if you get that far).

Because of my highly sensitive nature, I have enlisted a process to receiving and processing criticism. If grief has its five stages, why shouldn't critique?
Note: This is my own personal process, and not reflective of the writing community as a whole.

Stage 1: Sit and Take it
This is where I sit and listen. I mark my pages with comments, random thoughts that apply to the storyline, or find mistakes I should've caught before submitting. As the person's assessment continues, I quickly move into the next stage.

Stage 2: WTF?
There are times when a comment comes out of deep left field and I'm left wondering where the hell it came from. Most often they arrive because the reader misread what I wrote. Other times, something I've written, triggers a strange reaction which illicits a strange remark. I tend to shake my head, holding back laughter or a snarky comeback. But sometimes, one of these odd ball notations sends me hurtling toward Stage 3.

Stage 3: You Wanna Fight?
This is where I get combative in a verbal sense. I feel like I have to explain my writing, to justify word choice, or character motivations, or a line of prose I'm particularly attached to. I try not to argue or sound as annoyed as I feel, but sometimes it's VERY hard. I have to monitor myself so I don't sound like a brat. After awhile I shut up and seethe. I'm surprised no one has seen steam coming out of my ears.

Stage 4: Not Worthy
I hit this stage hard usually on the drive home or after I've reviewed everyone's comments. A depressive thread runs through this stage, which does nothing to help my feelings of being a hack writer. I brood. I get grumpy. I want to pull the covers over my head, never to read ever again. It sounds melodramatic, but I can't make this stuff up.
Back when I was a naive little fledging, I auditioned for my group, believing I was a writing genius (or at least could survive on raw talent alone). After receiving my evaluation, I went home and cried. What did I really know about writing? How could people say such mean things? Why did I ever think I could do this?
I had my little fit and then I got pissed.

Stage 5: Bring It
For the record, don't make me mad. I have learned to channel my emotions into some pretty spectacular writing. But I have a tendency toward passive aggressiveness, so things may not be so nice for your or our relationship. For a little bit, anyway.
After that first critique, I have felt this incredible drive to prove my writing worth. It's a bit of an underdog mentality, where if you say I can't do, I'll do everything in my ability to prove you wrong. Even now, when I get hammered for something like weak motivation, I return to the scene of the crime and hit the chapter with such a makeover, it hardly recognizable. In an "OMG you rock," kind of way.
Stage 5 lasts as long as it takes to vindicate myself. After that, I emerge from the emotional haze a much stronger and driven writer. Definitely with a lot more attitude.

Despite the negative things I have spoken about, critique groups are an invaluable resource, as everyone brings something different to the table. You might have a grammar goddess, a captain of continuity, or an action scene aficionado. One can learn much from all these talents and the people who use them. Critters are there to keep you honest, to cheer you on, and most of all, help you tap into the energy of the kick-ass author inside you.

Food for thought. After a meeting a couple weeks ago, a few of the critters and I stood outside the library, talking and loitering. We were to have a visitor observe the next meeting.
Critter 1: "We should tell him (guest) that we laugh too much."
Critter 2: "Laughing is a good thing. Especially when you're getting hammered in there." (not by alcohol, btw)
Me: "Otherwise, it's going to be a crime scene."

May your critique partners raise you up today.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Inspired to Write Or a Shout Out to Maggie

I like to say that when I read, I devour books, I go through them so fast. Every time I pick up a book only to put it down a few days later, completed, Mega Man is stunned to silence (if you know him, you understand the power of this).

Last June, I stumbled across a listing on Amazon as I was searching for something new to read. What caught my eye was "Shiver" by Maggie Stiefvater (pronounced steve-otter). I think I killed the book in two days. As I reached the end and closed the book, I was reminded of the power of words and the magic that seeps out of a well crafted story. It's a tale about the intensity of first love with a paranormal (werewolf) twist. I'm a HUGE fan, but not of the stalking variety. Okay, I lurk on her blog, but that's all I'm admitting to.

Her writing reminded me of why I started writing. So I wanted to give a shout out to Maggie for helping me to reconnect with the young dreamer inside me.

To read a book through the eyes of my younger self was an unexpected treat. Those dreams and expectations of my youth came back in such a rush, it was hard not to want to reach out and embrace her. I hope she is proud of the stories I'm telling because her hand has always been on my writing. A long time ago, I promised her a story. And when it's published, I want others to devour these words and be consumed with the magic she helped create.

If your interested in joining the journey of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy, at least bring tissues. And a snack to share would be nice. For an autographed copy by the goddess extraordinaire, please visit
I'm particularly fond of the music she writes for her book trailers and the latest stop motion creation for "Forever," doesn't disappoint. This woman is so talented, it's blows my mind. If I could achieve just a quarter of her success, I'd be one happy writer. She has inspired me to conjure the magic within myself and put on a show for the world.

 Just a side note: Maggie is currently hosting a trailer contest, and while this post does coincide with said contest, I would have posted this entry anyway. Gotta give credit where it's due.

The Wolves of Mercy Falls: A Stop Motion Trailer for Forever. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I heart Link or Animated Hero Worship

Disclaimer: If you are disturbed by a non-existent love affair with an animated character, then this post is not for you.

For anyone who has had the unique opportunity to experience my quirkiness, knows that I am irrevocably, obsessively, and otherwise fantastically in love with Link. Don’t ask me why, maybe it’s the ears or the fact that he's the strong silent type. My former college roommate was WAY more in love with him than I ever could be. It was a little frightening.
If guys can fantasize about Lara Croft, then Link can save my life any day. In fact, a certain character of mine is loosely based on my cyber boyfriend. Though to confess, Mega Man (the video game robot, not my hubby), my was first love.

The latest installment of the Legend of Zelda series was just announced some time ago. “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” is due to be released sometime in 2011. All I can say is, “I have to have it.” Ever since the debut of “Ocarina of Time,” I’ve had all the LOZ games in my possession during debut week. Crazy, right?

Link has come a long way since the first LOZ on Nintendo in 1986. I don’t count the games for the Gameboy platform, as it could never do Link any justice as far as his good looks are concerned. Link was cute then, in a flat, two dimensional kind of way. But his hotness factor was elevated with the time warping, flash forward of “Ocarina of Time.” Then the engineers slapped us all in the face with that insipid, ridiculous, cartoon version of our Hyrulian hero in “Wind Waker.” If you ever have the displeasure to see a pic, vomit on it. He looks horrible! I swear there must be more complaints written about his looks, than there were actual game/strategy walkthroughs.

Obviously, someone was listening because in “Twilight Princess” Link became a hunkalicious taste of animated eye-candy! Don’t call the psch ward, I swear I’m ok. It was all I could do to keep the drool off my chin while I played. Great game, BTW. The werewolf thing totally works for him.

While “Skyward Sword” looks great, the engineers must have stopped listening to the fans. While Link has retained most of his “Twilight Princess” looks, there is that slight “Wind Waker” cartoon sheen about him. Not happy. But they have plenty of time to fix the problem before the game is released. *hint, hint*

Anyway, it looks like an amazing game. And how can you beat the music! I think that the score/soundtrack of most of the Zelda games are are definitely worthy of an Oscar (in my non-professional, yet musically trained opinion). Beautifully composed. Beautifully played. Beautiful.

Friday, April 22, 2011

My First Video Game Tournament or How I Buckle Under Peer Pressure

Vaila Grayson is my seventeen-year-old protagonist in the Paladin of Mariposa trilogy. She is a video game rock-star, complete with her own celebrity status.

Back in March 2008, Nintendo released its Super Smash Brothers Brawl for the Wii.
Game Stop, a video game store, sponsored a Smash Bros. tournament.
I thought it would be fun to revisit the day I channeled my inner Vaila during my first video game competition. Let me tell you that peer pressure is such an ugly color to wear.

Mega Man (my hubby, not the video game robot) and I had signed up in the official bracket, with competition to begin around 10:30 pm. As we entered the cramped store, we found ourselves surrounded by youngins (majority age range 14-18). While we were some of the oldest contestants, somehow, we fit right in. Much can be said for maturity. Or lack there of.

Each round was a 60 second knock down, drag out. Each contestant's character was randomized by the computer. Mega Man's main goal was to beat at least one person. My unrealistic goal, was to make the top 5.
Here is how it all fell apart. We were using a Wii controller and nunchuck. It was like they gave me chopsticks to eat with. And the end results would have been the same.
Mega Man was called first. He was selected to battle as Princess Peach (aww, how pretty). He got lucky. The other guy got Warrio, who is very hard to control, which led to him self destructing (SD) three times. So Mega Man attained his goal and moved onto the next round.

I was called awhile later. I was given Pikachu, a character I'm familiar with from the Game Cube series of Smash Brothers. However, I was not given time to review the Wii button controls and had to fend for myself. I had some lofty ambitions and since I was the only girl, and I felt more confident then perhaps I should have been permitted. Just because I was writing about a female video game champion, didn't mean I was one.

The other guy was Dr. Mario. The level we played on was flat. Easy enough, or so I thought. Then the middle of the field fell out. The good Dr. jumped to the other side of the screen in a safe zone. I was exactly in the same position on the other side. Then the crowd started to chant, "Jump, jump, jump...." Well I'm not one for getting a win like a pacifist coward. So I tried to jump the divide and was rewarded with my first SD. Then my second SD happened shortly afterward. Can't even remember what I did for that to happen. Hard to believe, but the other guy won.

I realize that in 60 seconds, anything can happen. I should have walked away a gracious loser. If you really knew me, you would be rolling on the floor laughing. I was polite, but under the surface, I was seething.

In Mega Man's second round, he squared off against MetaKnight from the Kirby series. He actually lost in a fair fight. We watched the rest of the tournament, admiring the awesome graphics and enjoying the re-emergence of MIA Nintendo players, like Pit from Kid Icarus.

The top four characters of the tournament were 2 MetaKnights, Pit, and of course my handsome Link. Note, all these guys have swords. Actual swords, get your mind out of the gutter.

Suffice it to say that I am no Vaila Grayson. But my experience made Vaila a stronger character. Don't they say, "Write what you know?" Since I know where my skills don't lie, its off for more research. Anyone interested in a good brawl?

I love the Food Network or How Cooking Compares to Writing

I am going through withdrawls.
My husband and I are of the frugal sort and have recently decided to disconnect our cable. So that means no Food Network for me. And no ESPN for him. We're even.

I have ADD when it comes to food. I get bored with it quickly and so I spend a disgusting amount of time watching cooking shows and searching recipes on the Internet. The Food Network puts all the good stuff on one channel and so I park it on the couch, make like a sponge and absorb.
I especially love the competition cooking shows like Iron Chef, Cupcake Wars, and Food Network: Challenge. I'm mostly obsessed with the ability of these chefs to create beautiful works of art (and yes, food is art) within crazy time constraints or even crazier ingredients. While I'll never be the next great chef, I can apply the same principles to writing. Promise I won't eat the paper.

Chopped is a competitive cooking show on the Food Network. Four chefs are each given a basket with mystery ingredients. Then they must use said ingredients to make an appetizer. After judging, one chef is chopped and must leave the competition. The three remaining chefs receive another mystery basket and must make an entree. The final two battle over dessert and then the winner is takes home a cool $10,000.

Despite what anyone tells you, writing is a competitive activity. You have your basket of ingredients: compelling characters, gripping plot, goals, motivation, conflict. You have your skill set: voice, world building, scene setting, realistic dialogue. What differs in each author's basket is talent, experience, and ingenuity.

Writing, like cooking a mastery of skills using the ingredients in your basket. Take four writers of the same genre, have them write the first chapter of a novel given the prompt: David wants to surprise his girlfriend for their anniversary. He sneaks into her apartment and finds the place overturned. There is blood splattered on the carpet. His girlfriend is missing.
I guarantee there will be four completely different starts to the story and four different styles of storytelling. This is where talent, ingenuity, and experience will set the four apart. And that's even before their creations reach the judges (or agents).
While Judge #1 may not like the Asian cuisine you prepared, he thinks it was well made. Judge #2 may hate what you made, but admires your creative use of "thinking outside the box." Judge #3 wanted a little something more, but enjoys what you have presented.

It is the subjective nature of the beast. Even though you have created a masterpiece, you may still receive rejection letters. It may take time to find that agent who digs your cuisine.

But until then, stay in your happy place and write. Use your basket of the greatest ingredients on earth (or in your head). Master your skills to create a tasty, can't put down, pièce de résistance.
Tasty dish or delicious reading, there's a palate for that.
Bon appetit!

Monday, April 18, 2011


This is about my writing journey toward traditional publication and I hope you'll enjoy the adventure.
Let me premise this post by saying that I while I'm creative, I am, in no way, shape or form, a bonafide genius. But imagination can go a long way.
Now, I'm not admitting to being crazy either. Although, you have to have a mind that thinks slightly left of center if you're going to create worlds filled with cursed artifacts, magic spells, and teenagers.
Trail mix is for sharing. Off we go!