Sunday, May 25, 2014

Etsy Shop Spotlight: KGkitten's Korner

So as you saw yesterday, I've been working hard to get our old office into top shape for a new writing room! I have most of the furniture finished at this point but I still need to get fun things on the bookshelves and on the walls. Though I'll be adding some of our papercraft shadowboxes, I also wanted to find some things on Etsy. I wanted to showcase a really cool shop I found... 

KGkitten's Korner

What drew me to this shop and my item spotlight is this gorgeous Doctor Who Melted Crayon Art which goes for $28-$38 depending on size...

The item is described as:
I know I'm not the only one who's had days or moments where I wish the Tardis would appear and take me away. Well this piece was inspired by one of those moments. When you really need an umbrella, The Doctor's got you covered.

*This is a made to order item and pictures are an example of what it will look like.*
Melted Crayon on canvas, with a glossy glaze finish.
14x18 inches
I think this is a classy way to display fandom because of the simplistic art. Plus, I love how the melted crayons look. I'm planning on ordering the larger canvas this week for my room!

But if Doctor Who isn't your thing, she also has two other cute versions.

Melted Crayon Art Girl ($20)

Melted Crayon Art Couple ($20)

How do you feel about the melted crayon art style? I think it could translate into a lot of cute fandom things like Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, Peter Pan and more!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Writing Room Refresh

My house has kind of become a war zone lately with our newest business. Papercraft has claimed our dining room, the room next to the kitchen and our extra bedroom. Chores have begin to slip through the cracks, especially right before convention time, and I've gone a little insane. Because of all this, it has become nearly impossible to write in my own house. 

When I sit down to write, I really need a clear head but how can I get to that space when there are cut paper kits sitting next to me that need to get done and sweeping? So my husband and I agreed that I needed to carve out my own little section in the house for a writing room.

Over the last few weekends, every moment of my free time has gone toward remodeling our office area into a calming oasis to write. I wanted to chronicle this journey since I am so proud of it!

The Bookshelves

The first thing I knew I was going to need was storage. I have two other bookshelves that are weighed down with books but I knew I wanted something to keep all my other things on. After searching the local thrift shops, I found twin tall bookshelves that were perfect. They costs me $75 for the pair (though since I got the desk with them, the whole thing only cost me $100) but they were pretty ugly. You can see what the looked like on the top left picture.

My best friend helped me pick out a color to spray paint them and then we decided to try our hand at wallpapering the backs. The top right photo is a picture of me laying the first piece of wall paper and the bottom left are the bookshelves just as my friend finished spray painting them. We brought them into the room, stapled the backs on and completed the first piece for the new writing room.

It took us about a day to finish sanding, painting and papering the shelves and cost me about $150 total. However, I think they look incredible and I imagine they would retail for a lot more than $150 so I am really pleased.

The Desk

In searching for a desk, it quickly became clear that the type of desk I wanted would need to be made. So after searching thrift stores, I picked up that mess of a thing in the top right and left corners. I really hated the black paint but I thought we could make it work.

My friend and I decided on a metallic silver for the desk because we thought it would make the room appear brighter. After sanding and spray painting it, we realized that there was a really big split in the front. If I had wanted the desk to face a wall, it wouldn't of mattered but I wanted the desk out. In order to hide the crack, we found some fun printed bird fabric and using spray adhesive, we cut the fabric to fit the desk panels.

In all, the desk took about half a day to transform. I'm still planning on getting a cute lining for inside the drawers but for now, I am really pleased with it. I wanted something big with lots of storage and this really fits the ticket. 

In a few weeks, I will order this to go on top of the desk exactly as it appears in the picture with a cute vase!:

Book Ornaments by Meiorigami

The Rest

After snagging a lighting fixture I'd already ordered and purchasing a rug and two chairs, my writing room is mostly complete! I'm still looking for fun decorative things on Etsy to fill the room with my personality but I am so pleased with the way it is coming out. Check out my awesome before and after picture:

The top left is before, the top right is during and the bottom two are after. Here is a photo of all the fun things around the room including my light fixture:

And here are two close ups of the room and the desk with the fabric panel on it.

The only things left to do are to get my computer set up and find a chair for the desk. I want something comfy, compact and stylish so I have a feeling I'll have to do a little looking. There is still some clutter on the other side of the room that we need to ship off but it is only a few sweeps away from being perfect. I am so proud that I was actually able to make this vision come true with a combination of purchasing and re-purposing. The bookshelves and desk have become my favorite parts!

Do you have a place where you go to read or write?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Some of the Reasons I Write and Read YA

Hey, I never claimed to be a whiz at titles...

Lately, I've been thinking about why I write YA. I know it's a question a lot of YA authors are asked for one reason or another and it's something my co-workers and people around me have starting asking me too. And when I explain what my book is about, I get this reaction:

"Oh, you wrote a book for teens? Isn't that nice."*

That reaction coupled with the fact that my husband and I have been on a nostalgia kick lately, really has me thinking what drew me to YA so strongly. But I guess to discuss this, I want to reveal when I found YA.

I've been writing ever since I can remember. The first thing I ever actually wrote into completion was a play for my third grade class about the planets. With the help of my classmates, we transformed the classroom into a space station and traveled space for a day. My classmates would read from a script I wrote when we arrived at each planet and I knew as I saw my words come to life that I wanted to be a writer.

I didn't seriously start writing until I was 15. I began writing this epic fantasy for 4 years that totaled about 400k words. When that book didn't pan out, I was kind of lost. I knew I wanted to write and I loved books like Maria V Snyder's Poison Study series. But I had no idea where to find them. One day I was walking up and down the bookstore aisles, trying to find something with magic and the exuberance I found in the pages of Garth Nix's Abhorsen series when I saw a book that caught my eye from across the store.

It was like love at first sight, like the powerful, overwhelming stuff I was soon going to be reading about in my books. It was a first.

That book was A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray and what was underneath that beautiful cover was even better than I'd hoped for. I found passion, magic, and a hunger I hadn't been able to find in "adult books". What's more, I found the newness of firsts. First loves, first kisses, first parties, first drinks, first friendships. And I was hooked. I'd finally found a section in the bookstore I was passionate about.

The reason I write YA is because of all the things I mentioned above and one more. It goes back to that nostalgia kick I spoke about.

I'm going to make a statement: YA is fiction.

But that doesn't mean all fiction is made up.

I met and started dating my husband at the same age I started seriously writing. At 15, I knew I had found my soul mate, the person I was meant to be with. But no one would believe me. I saw the look in my parent's and other adult's eyes when I told them I loved Brian, that he was going to be around forever. They didn't believe me because we were young so we couldn't know, right?
Young Love by FDLphoto

I write YA fiction because I believe in it. I believe that a girl and a guy can see each other across the room at age 15 and know that they are in love, that they are meant to be because I lived it. Those feelings are powerful and hypnotic and I love reliving them. I love knowing that every time I write a good teen romance, I'm proving my parents and those other adults wrong. Even if the leads don't stay together, they have that time together and those feelings are real.

I write and read young adult fiction because it speaks to me and it makes me remember what it was like to experience firsts with a wild abandonment, unburdened by bills and paychecks and Important Adult Decisions. It allows me to fall in love over and over again for the first time.

I feel so honored to be part of a community that is so passionate about what they believe in and unabashed to show it. The YA community is one of the most supportive, kind and amazing communities I've ever experienced and I can't wait to continue reading and writing and living more firsts from all different types of protagonists.

Why do you love YA fiction?

* It should be said that this isn't always the reaction but I've been getting my fair share of it already.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Query Kombat 2014

I wanted to post a link to this writing contest that I found on Michelle4Laughs. I entered the manuscript that I found an agent with in several contest last year and though I ultimately didn't find an agent with those contests, I learned a whole lot about my writing. Contests are also a great place to meet fellow writers and hone in the ever elusive query letter.

If that isn't enough to convince you, yours truly will be a judge! You can meet all the judges here.

I think this contest is going to be really cool because it isn't going to be just one person that will decide which queries are going to go onto the next round. It's going to be multiple people that vote and the winner of each round will advance.

Also, we'll all be chatting on Twitter with the tag #QueryKombat.

Here are the basics on how this contest works straight from Michelle4Laughs blog post:

Query Kombat will host 64 kombatants in a single-elimination, tournament style query-off. Entries will go head to head (one on one) with one another until only ONE entry remains. There will be a total of six rounds in Query Kombat. 64 entries in round one, 32 in round two, 16 in round three, 8 in round four, 4 in round five, and 2 in round six.

As we said, some things have changed. We’re doing away with tournament brackets this year. Instead, Kombats will be matched up based on target audience and genre. We'll continue grouping that way until it's no longer possible. 
If you secure a spot in the tournament, your query and the first 250 words of your manuscript (to the end of a complete sentence) will be pitted against another query and first 250 words. Judges will read each match-up and vote 'Victory' on the best entry. Remember, this is subjective. Considering last year, votes may come down to personal tastes. 
The entry with the most ‘victories’ at the end of the round will advance to the next round until only one champion remains.

One of the biggest changes we’re implementing this year is doing away with the mentor round. Why? Because we're moving up the agent round. Yes! You read correctly. This year the agent round will be held right after the first round. That mean 32 entries will make it into the agent round. 32!.
The submission window opens May 22nd AT NOON and will close at May 23rd at 11:59 or until they received 225 entries.

If you have a completed and polished manuscript, you should definitely consider entering. Not only could an agent see your manuscript but you can get lots of advice on how to make your query stronger.

Have you ever entered a writing contest before?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Pros to Beta Reading

I've been stuck in the editing cave for the last few weeks. Not only have I been working on my own novel but I've been lucky enough to beta-read one of Katie's (over at One Page At a Time YA Books) manuscripts as well. I'm a very slow reader so sometimes it's easy for me to become engrossed in my own work and forget to read other things. Going through this other manuscript has reminded me why it is so important to read stuff besides my own words. I thought it might be nice to share a few things I've learned.

1) Gaining a fresh perspective- I know that a lot of the time, I get stuck in my own head. That means that I only see situations from one side. Naturally this bleeds into my characters and sometimes they react in predictable ways. Instead of looking at a situation from multiple perspectives, I opt for the one I think about first and assume that is the natural reaction.

Not so.

Beta reading has helped remind me that people react differently to every situation. Just because I would assume one thing doesn't mean another person would react in a different way and that's good. All my characters have different backgrounds and should see situations in different lights.

2) Admiring another writer's strengths- I know there are things I'm not great at. We all have flaws when we write and sometimes seeing how someone else handles things we are bad is a great learning experience. I'm not saying to outright copy what that writer is doing but it is interesting to break down how they handle a situation that you are bad at.

3) Allowing your mind to think about other plots and characters- I find myself daydreaming about this book I'm reading like I would my own work. I think about how I would write certain scenes and where I would take the novel. I play the guessing game and see if I'm correct in figuring out where the plot is going. This gets my mind active and I find that when I return to my own characters and stories, they are richer for it.

4) Having fun- This kind of goes hand and hand with the last one but I find that I have a lot fun beta reading. I think it is because I get an inside look at how a story takes shape and sometimes I can help make it better. It doesn't hurt that I don't have to do all the work that comes after. =P

Do have you beta read for someone or are you thinking about it? I haven't done it too much because I'm such a slow reader but I think I need to start doing it more, I'm really enjoying it and I'm learning a lot along the way.

What are some of the things you learn when you beta?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Etsy Shop Highlight: NiftyNeat

I've been working on redoing my library and changing it into a writing room. I want a place where I can walk in, close the door and just write. So I knew I wanted to be surrounded by stuff that will inspire my creativity. I redid some bookshelves that I'll post about in a few days but I wanted to highlight a shop I found on Etsy that I plan on ordering from shortly.

The shop is NiftyNeat and I found it because I was looking for something adorable to hang from my ceilings. Then I found these:

Book Mobile 1
They are made from books and this shop is selling them for a very reasonable $32.00. How cute are these for a library/office? 

Here are a few others from the shop that I love:

Book Mobile with Hearts $35
Book Mobile 2 $32
Rain Cloud Mobile $35
Rain Cloud Mobile w/ Mint Drops $60
As I mentioned, I'll be ordering two of these in the near future to hang from my ceiling. I think they are going to look adorable. Would you considering snagging a book mobile or trying to make one yourself?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Amazing Spiderman 2: Gwen Stacy Discussion

There are going to be a lot of reviews on The Amazing Spiderman 2 and they're most likely going to tell you that it is a mess. I think this is a pretty accurate description. This movie suffered from trying to fit too many story lines into one movie- Peter discovering his father's role at Oscorp, the intro and rise of the Goblin, Electro and his origins plus his subsequent fall into insanity, Gwen and Peter's relationship and more. Seriously, no wonder most of the plot lines got frayed!

But I don't want to talk about that because that's not what sparked my interest in this film. What I want to talk about is the treatment of Gwen Stacy. So if you haven't seen this movie and don't want the ending spoiled for you, STOP READING!


 Alright, if you get it spoiled now, don't say I didn't warn you!

I feel like I need to start this out by saying that I have never read the comics. I mean, maybe when I was little on rainy days but nothing that serious. So I didn't know that Gwen was written to die until I watched a comics review a few weeks ago where they predicted that this movie would end in her death.

Now, in the comment section of a recent The Mary Sue review, there is a war raging about whether or not Gwen Stacy's death worked or if it was just a cheap ploy to motive Peter's character arc.

The term they are using is "fridging" which refers to "putting women in refrigerators". I wasn't familiar with the term so I looked it up. It's basic definition is the act of killing off a female character to further motivate a male character and boils down to the female only being important because of the role her death plays to the male's point of view.

Basically, Gwen Stacy in the comics. She is only there to be eye candy and when they wanted to give Parker's character have more motivation, they killed her off so he could deal with the guilt of not being able to save her.

I do take issue with this trope. I don't have any issue if writer's are striving to change it.

Now, I totally get both sides of this argument. Yes, the movie made Gwen into this pretty cool chick that was a super smart and savvy girl scientist. She made her own decisions--choosing to end things with Peter when he flaked out, choosing to go to Oxford over Peter and finally choosing to go help Peter defeat Electro. But they took away her choice to be involved when the Goblin came and stole her to get back at Peter. Her involvement with that fight wasn't by choice.

But where I have an issue is that because she doesn't have a choice in that one incident, it somehow negates the fact that she has been her own woman since the beginning. In life, we can't chose how we impact other people, and I get that in fiction, the writer's do, but if Gwen was going to die, isn't it better that Peter, the person who loved her, felt that impact on a personal and professional level? Just like if Peter were the one that ended up dead, she would probably struggle with feelings of remorse. After all, when she was in the tower when they were fighting Electro, she made the decision to pull the switch. What if it had killed Peter and the series went on focusing on how that impacted her? Would we still be having this discussion?

I feel this is especially important because I really believe the writer's strove to make Gwen Stacy more than a plot device in these movies. They wanted her to be more than the girl who died. They wanted her to be the girl that lived, that Peter could have been happy with, that had a mind of her own, that made her own choices even if that meant walking away from the person she loved and even if it meant putting herself in harm's way. So the fact that she did die when she knew she would be in danger, when she knew that being with Peter was dangerous, when she lived in a city attacked by mutant villains, doesn't mean she was fridged. Her death didn't negate the fact that when she was alive, she lived. It just meant that she made her own choices that lead to her death.

I think I also have a big problem with this entire idea, especially in modern fiction, because it seems like the only way around this definition is for a female character to chose to die and while that is beautiful, life doesn't always work that way. A lot of us sure as hell wouldn't chose to die in most circumstances. We'd fight to live and we want our characters to fight too. So yes, maybe Gwen's character could have fought a little more but I still don't see how the outcome would have changed. Sometimes even super powers don't make us fast enough.

I guess I'm taking issue with this entire thing because I write fiction and sometimes, people just have to die, especially when it is right for the story. Heck, even when I create a story, I have a good idea before I even go in to write a single word about the fate of my characters and I know which ones are going to live and which ones need to be sacrificed for the greater good of the storytelling. It doesn't mean those that are going to die are any less than the ones that live unless I'm failing at my job. If I don't make these characters breathe and feel and strive and love before they die, then there is an injustice. That is where the problem lies.

I think Gwen did live. She was unpredictable, strong, smart, funny and forward thinking. She was willing to give up everything to accomplish her goals and she continued to fight against Peter's assessment that his world was too dangerous for her. She reminded him over and over that it was her choice and when he couldn't accept that, she left him.

She lived.

And just because she died doesn't make her life onscreen any less. Just because we saw how it affected Peter doesn't cheapen her. It just makes it real. Because if life isn't sloppy, unpredictable and dangerous and if loss doesn't make you think then it loses its beauty.

Personally, I think Gwen blew the doors off of the refrigerator, stretched her legs and told Peter to go get her a beer. And we'll be thinking about this newer version of her long after we've forgotten which villain belongs to which movie.

Friday, May 2, 2014

It's Girl Meets World

Since I seem to be talking about things I loved as a 90's kid, what better to talk about than the new Girl Meets World trailer that Disney just released?

With it, they've also released a series premiere date which is June 27th!

Check out the trailer below and then we'll discuss the good ol' days:

Growing up there was no better couple for me than Cory and Topanga. I mean, come on, they loved each other since they were like 7 (I know in the show they say 3 but we ALL saw the earlier years and we know that Cory just thought Topanga was goofy). When I think about the 90's this is the first show that comes to my mind. I loved watching Cory and Shawn get into trouble when they were little and grow up together, experience firsts of all sorts and go off to college. When the show ended, it truly felt like my childhood did too.

When I heard they were making a sequel show, I was VERY skeptical. Could they really capture what I loved about the original show? Because that show was magic. By all accounts, it wasn't all that different than the other 90's family sitcom--Full House, Step By Step, Growing Pains--yet, it always felt different to me. Funnier, more gripping and loaded with heart. I found myself caring about each character.

Then Disney announced that it was bringing Bed Savage (Cory Matthews) and Danielle Fishel (Topanga Lawrence) back and was going to focus on their daughter who will be the same age as Cory when the show originally aired. That was promising. Then all the other old cast members were visiting the set. We started getting photos of them with their younger counterparts and all of a sudden, I found myself believing in it.

I'm so excited to experience this show again but this time I'll be like Cory and Topanga, watching their daughter like she was mine. It'll be fun to feel like just part of the old gang and seeing new adventures.

I found these photos from EW of a cast photo in the beginning and one now that just makes me smile:
I can't stop smiling just looking at them all grown up and I really can't wait to see how the new show is going to work.

Are you guys as excited as I am?
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