Monday, August 29, 2016

Dracula Vlog

Hello, all! Because I signed up for the Haunted Half Marathon this week and because I typically get excited for holidays way before their seasons, this post is brought to you by my Halloween hype.

I want a Dracula vlog show.

You know, like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

For those of you who haven't seen the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I recommend watching. It's a fun modernized retelling of Pride and Prejudice using modern technology. Here's the first episode, for your viewing pleasure:

Anyway, this show, as well as a few other vlog-type series based on classic literature exist. There's also an Emma show, a Little Women one, and a Frankenstein one. However, I think the best, most exciting option has been sadly ignored.


Think about it. Yes, vampires are out of style now. But I like the story. Dracula is quite possibly my favorite classic work of horror (I like the characters). It's one that is still well-understood by modern audiences.

But that's not why I want it as a vlog show. No, that has to do with Dracula's interesting structure.

Dracula is a story told through a variety of media: journals kept on both paper and wax cylinder recordings, a doctor's notes on a patient, newspaper clippings, letters, etc. See what I'm getting at here?

Can you imagine what a web-based show could do with this? We could have a show that isn't just a web diary. We could have a show that uses the characters' web diaries, video notes, surveillance footage, news reports, Skype calls, etc. Imagine. One episode might be Jonathan Harker's electronic journal as he stays in Dracula's castle. Another could be a video interview between Dr. Seward and Renfield. We could have a news report on the Demeter showing up full of dead men. We could have surveillance of Dracula coming to Lucy and Mina. We could have more than one of these in one episode!

The possibilities are exciting, and as far as I can tell, no one has done it. (If you can prove me wrong, PLEASE DO! I want this.)

Do I have the means to make this myself? Sadly, no. I think it could be done really well, and I wouldn't ruin it with my lame amateur efforts. I hope someone capable might take this assignment on, because hey, wouldn't it be cool?

If anyone out there knows someone I can talk to about making this happen, let me know.

In other news, I just joined the Swanky Seventeens, a group of novelists who are debuting in 2017. Here's their page: Swanky Seventeens. They're a bunch of great, talented people, and I look forward to learning more about them and their books as we all get closer to publishing!

I'm also attending Salt Lake Comic Con this weekend! Expect a report next week, and I hope to see you there if you're also attending.

Monday, August 22, 2016

No, You Don't Understand

Have you ever thought about how weird and inadequate language can be?

This might sound weird coming from a writer, who's supposed to be able to find the right words to convey any idea or emotion. However, I think my closeness to the English language gives me a different perspective on the uses of language, in that it is REALLY HARD sometimes to truly say what you want to say with the words available.

I've been having a hard time saying "thank you" lately.

Oh, I don't mean I don't say it. I say it. I say "thank you" to the waiter who brings my food, to the crossing guard, to friends and family when they help me in some way...whenever I want to show appreciation to someone and remember my manners. I sometimes forget, but I'm trying to be a polished member of society.

No, I mean I feel like sometimes those words are woefully inadequate. How weird is it that we use the same words to show appreciation to someone who helped us out a little and to someone who helped us out a lot? Why is it that English provides me the same words for when someone steps aside to let me pass while I'm on my morning run and for when my brother physically and emotionally supports me through a very difficult race? Or to express gratitude to my parents for all they do?

Isn't it bizarre that they're the same words? As a writer, I could find a deeper form of "thank you," like, "I am deeply grateful for all you do," but too often that kind of thing comes across as sarcastic, and it doesn't really work in social contexts.

For example, if I'm about to take a test and I'm missing a #2 pencil, I am deeply grateful to the person who lends me one, especially if it's an important test and I have to take it now. I say "thank you," and the person may say something like, "No problem."


I have the same problem with "I'm sorry." Why do we use the same words when we bump into someone on the bus or when we hurt or offend a close friend?


Also, they're the same words for when someone doesn't hear you correctly and needs a repeat, ("I'm sorry?") or when someone has lost a loved one.

I just think it's weird that the words are the same for all. It makes me want to express thanks and sorrow with actions and gifts, because if I don't, how can they understand that I don't mean the simple, casual "thank you" for a small convenience but the larger, from-the-heart one? I want to use flowers or hugs to show that I really am sorry and not just apologizing because it's a nice thing to do. It's so easy to lie about feelings when the words are the same for shallow and deep feelings.

Am I alone in this, or have you ever wished that language was better suited to expressing deeper emotions without sounding flip? Because I find it weird and sometimes frustrating, though I admit that the ambiguity can make for some interesting double-talk in stories.

Thank you for reading this post. (NO YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THANK YOU.)

Monday, August 15, 2016

This Is Sparta!...Everything Hurts

Lately, I've been between books (that I write, that is). I am waiting for responses from readers on one book, and I am brainstorming a new story. However, though these are still a writer's work, I feel like right now my main task is having life experiences that I can later use in my writing.

Like the experience of being so sore that turning over in bed requires me to wake up, gather my courage, and ignore how my muscles feel one sharp move away from snapping like a broken rubber band. Where's that when the main character in a story has just done some great and uncharacteristic feat of strength, I ask you?

What brought this on? As I've said before, this past week I competed in a Spartan Super race with my brother. For those who want to learn more about this kind of race, see the link here.

Anyway, I spent months preparing as best I could (spoiler alert: it wasn't enough) to race with my brother. The race itself would be 7.6 miles and would have 24 obstacles. The obstacles differ from race to race, and some are surprises for the racers. Here are some pictures that should give you an idea of what kind of race it is:



An obstacle race. A hard-core obstacle race. If you fail an obstacle, you have to do 30 burpees. I preferred the obstacles.

My brother loves these races, and this year I agreed to do one with him. Like I said, I spent a lot of time preparing, but the day of the race came and I wasn't able to do a pull-up yet. I knew there'd be walls, so how would I manage to get over them?

The race day was nice. It was a sunny day, warm but not sweltering, in Eden, UT. David, my brother, and I got to the race area early, where we watched the elites (the best of the best) finish. Our heat would start later. While there, we saw that the Tyro (crawling along a rope) and the rope climb itself were the last 2 obstacles. They're also two of the hardest. Joy.

The race itself is typically wet and muddy, but perhaps because of the venue (mountains in Utah), there wasn't much water. I mean that; in the last mile, we had our last water station before having to complete 10-11 more obstacles, and the hardest at that. I was parched before we finished three of them, with no water coming except some we had to wade through (not fit for drinking).

Most of the race was spent hiking/running up and down the ski mountain we were on. The trails were shady, overall, but layered with either long grass that became slippery when flattened or at least an inch of loose brown dirt that filled the air when stepped in and coated every inch of us in dirt. So, overall, it was dry, dusty, full of changes in elevation and incline, and while we had plenty of water at the beginning of the race, the end had almost nothing when, I felt, we needed it most.

Seriously, I can't remember being as thirsty as I was when the race ended. It had gone beyond "dry mouth, dry throat" and had become an urge I felt down to my soul. I felt like I couldn't get enough water, even when my mouth felt moistened again.

Here are the obstacles we completed, as my brother and I remember them:

* - I needed my brother's help to finish this one
# - Failed this one, did 30 burpees

*Climbing over a wall into corral - This comes before the race even starts
Climbing over hurdles - Hurdles are about 5-6 feet high.
Over-Under-Through - Over a wall (5-6'), under a wall, through a hole.
Two shorter walls - 5-6'
*7' wall - David boosted me over this wall.
Memorizing word and numbers - This was an intellectual challenge, but you still had to do burpees if you failed it. David and I helped each other
Inverted wall - Wall leans toward you. It had handholds, so I was fine.
A-frame (with nets on top of mountain) - High, but not hard. Basically climbing up and down a big net.
Plate drag - Sit down and haul a plate with a weight toward you with a rope. Then drag the plate back to position.
Traverse wall - Rock wall, but you go sideways and the wall bends.
Uneven monkey bars - I can say confidently that I was good at this one. A worker said I had perfect form.
Sandbag carry - Carry a sandbag a distance. We went down a part of the mountain and back up.
Barbed wire uphill - Crawl under barbed wire. This one hurt. I have scratches all over my arms and knees from this. At least I didn't get a gash from the wire (some elites did, and they were bleeding pretty good.)
Bucket carry - Fill a bucket to a set level with rocks. Carry it a distance.
[Last water station]
#Javelin throw - One shot to hit a dummy with a spear. Most people fail this one.
#Rings - Like the monkey bars, but with rings, knotted rope, softballs, and bars. It was uphill. A lot of people failed this one too.
-Recited memorized code-
Atlas carry - Carry a heavy rock a distance, do 5 burpees, and carry it back. I struggled with this one.
"Slippery" rope wall - Go through mud, grab a rope and use it to help you climb up a slanted wall.
Barbed wire downhill - Same as the other, but downhill. I rolled most of it, but some wires were so low I had to shimmy under on my back.
In mud water, going under wall, then briefly wading through more mud water - This was nice. We were in water, and the wall was easy to go under.
Herc hoist - Sit down and use a rope and pulley to lift and lower a weight to a certain height.
*A-frame with wall and slats - Slanted wall, then slats up and down. David helped me over the wall part.
*Tyro - Hang from a rope and slide along it to reach a bell. I fell off twice before David helped me stay on.
#Rope climb - Exactly what it sounds like. We both had to sit and gather energy before we could consider this one, but we were both so spent we ended up doing burpees.
Logs - Races traditionally end with racers jumping over fire, but since this one was so dry, it was probably a fire hazard. So we jumped over cold logs.
So, that was the race. We finished tired, thirsty, and dirty, but pleased with ourselves.


I'm not that tan. That's dirt. It took me a while to fully wash it all off.
And once I did? I discovered all kinds of bruises and scratches I didn't realize I was getting.
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Yep, that's all from the race. I don't know if they're from the barbed wire crawl or climbing over walls or from the Atlas rock. Probably all combined.
But, as hard as it was, and as tiring and dry and painful, I kind of enjoyed the Spartan. I don't know if I'll do it again (ask me again when I'm rested), but I feel like I put myself to the test and came out proving that I was strong and capable. The hurt is a good hurt.

My favorite thing about this race was the lack of ugly competition. The elites race first, and they are eligible to win prizes. All other heats are normal people who just want to complete the race. So it doesn't matter who comes in before you. This leads to a super friendly race where, if the obstacle allows it, you can help others or get help from others.

It was a very positive experience. No one rushes past others in a competitive way; everyone is there to compete against themselves. So, you have perfect strangers giving and asking for help. I see it as a metaphor for how life is and should be. Everyone finishes at their own pace and the prize is the same for everyone. The race itself is about being your best self and about helping those around you on their way. For that, I can see myself racing this again.

Better heal up first, though. It hurts to move my arms. It hurts to straighten them.

Before I end, lots of love and gratitude to my brother David for getting me to compete with him and for helping me through all the obstacles. I couldn't have done it without you!

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Craziest Week of My Summer

 Hello, all.

It has been a crazy week, as suggested by the title of this post. But I don't think you fully understand what I mean. I'll begin by explaining what I took part in.

I participated in GISHWHES this week (follow the link to the activity's page). If you didn't follow to the link, let me just say that "GISHWHES" stands for "The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen." It is run by Misha Collins, an actor from Supernatural who is known for doing things like this:


This alone should give you an idea of what I've done this past week.

So, the scavenger hunt runs for a week. During that time, teams of up to 15 people complete tasks from a list. Each task is assigned a point value based on difficulty. Items are judged by Misha and others and if they don't pass muster points are deducted. Bonus points are given to exceptional entries. So, it's a hunt that calls for actions, not looking for items.

So, here's the thing: I'm an introvert. I like people and I enjoy doing the occasional crazy thing, but it wears me out to do so. I burnt out all my energy reserves this week doing my part for the team. This week I plan to sit inside and read, a lot. Which works out well because I'm doing a Spartan Race on Saturday so I 'm allowed to rest and recuperate.

You're probably wondering what I did this week. Well, since there's no way to explain many of these except for "it was for GISHWHES," here are pictures and videos of what I did and made without explanation. Enjoy:

 (It's made of artichoke leaves. That should be said.)

And last, but not least:

This is only what I signed up for and I left out the writing assignments (except for the binary poem). This doesn't include the videos and projects I helped my teammates complete. I'm exhausted.

Anyway, that was GISHWHES. Now, I'm going to try to get back my sleep, energy, and dignity. Until next time!

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Magical Weekend

Hello, all!

Just so you know, this week I'm participating in GISHWHES. If my media looks weird, that's why. More about that in a future post.

Anyway, you know how I said I had one adventure worth talking about this summer? Well, I'm going to talk about it now.

About a month ago me and three friends went to Universal Studios California and Disneyland. We had planned this trip for about a year, so anticipation was high. Sometimes, when this happens, the trip doesn't live up to the hype. Sometimes disappointment sets in.

Not this time. This trip exceeded my expectations.


That's me on the end in the black shirt.

I'll spare you all the details in favor of a brief overview: we spent one day at Universal and two days at Disneyland, one day for Disneyland itself and one day for California Adventure. We spent a day driving there and another driving back, making the trip 5 days total.

We rode many, many rides and spent all our time well. I can't think of anything I regretted doing or not doing. The company was wonderful as well: my companions were three women who know how to have fun and give in to the magic of these places without becoming irresponsible.

Highlights: Harry Potter World. Harry. Potter. World. I've been to the one in Florida, but I had friends with me who were experiencing this for the first time, and it made it wonderful. The butterbeer was, as always, perfect.


The ride in the castle was great, but I felt like the 3-D glasses got in the way. Water splashes on the lenses ruined the effect for me (but not by much!). One thing I learned was that there are passwords that let you jump to the front of the line. What was ours? Not telling. We were given it by a kind worker trying to make our first time in Hollywood magical.

And it was. I learned a word that lets me do things I can't do on my own. Ergo, I learned magic.

From there we went to Disneyland and attacked the rides with such energy, so early in the morning, that we were the first riders on the Haunted Mansion (and it wasn't our first ride of the day). I had several great moments of the day, and here they are in pictures:


Here was meeting Rapunzel and Flynn. The best part about this was that each of us had something we were celebrating. One friend was getting married. One had a great job. One had parents coming home from a mission in Nicaragua soon. And me? I was publishing a book. The characters commented on our buttons, and Flynn asked me about mine. Here's how that went:

Flynn: You're publishing a book? What's it about?
Me, smiling, knowing this is going to get a good reaction: It's about a thief, actually?
Flynn: Is it about me?

The conversation continued in that vein, and both Flynn and Rapunzel told me I need to tell Belle. And guess what? I got the chance!


She said she'd look for Under Locker and Key in the Beast's library. Score!

Other highlights included riding Splash Mountain for the first time:


(I know it's grainy. Let me keep my dignity.)

And also eating at Earl of Sandwich:


Best. Sandwiches. Ever!

The next day was in California Adventure. I had never been there, but I knew it was the more intense park. Hyperspace Mountain (I like the new changes) is not as intense as California Screamin'. So, I was nervous.

I didn't have to be. I loved all of it! We started with Soarin', which has been changed. It now has landmarks from all over the world: we saw the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, Pacific islands, among other things. It was nice, though I miss the orange trees.

One highlight was me finally defeating the Tower of Terror. I rode it with my family a year ago, but I was so scared that my mom had to hold my hand. I'm an adult. I enjoyed the ride, but the fear from that first apprehensive ride stuck, and I was still scared. Even a year later, I was still dreading the ride.

No more. I rode again, twice, hoping to paper over the fear with thrill. I enjoy the ride now, and here's proof:


That's me, back and center. Great ride!

I also enjoyed California Screamin' a lot. I rode it three times. After the first, the line was short, so we got back in for a moment before having to leave because the ride broke down. As we left the line and went to find our one friend who didn't want to ride, I looked up and noticed that there were people still on the coaster.

Two or three trains were stuck on the rails. It was a hot, sunny day. If we had been a little later or earlier to the ride, we might have been the ones stuck. The people were down in about 20 minutes, but we were glad to be eating lunch then, not waiting on a stalled coaster.

We got to see the Frozen show. We also met Captain America and Spider-Man. Photographic proof below:


 It was a magical weekend, full of beauty and perfection. Our timing worked out so well; not only did we not get stuck on the coaster, but we were in California during a stretch of beautiful weather. I've missed it since I came back to home and reality.

I've been thinking about places like Universal and Disney and how they're different than other places. I go there and I feel something beyond just fun. I feel magic. When I'm there, I really feel like dreams are coming true. The effect was heightened by celebrating my own dreams coming true while I was there.

I think the world needs places like this, in the same way it needs books and movies, good stories told. Magic like this helps us feel like dreams do come true, even when they don't seem to. It lets us live out fantasies of being a hero or an explorer, just for a moment. I think that helps when life gets hard and we feel like regular old people again. It's hard to completely get the glitter of being a hero off.

So, when the monsters attack and the villains laugh and times are hard, it becomes a little easier to wipe the blood off your lip and say, "No. That is my castle, my happily ever after, and you don't have a prayer of keeping me from it."

I'm oversimplifying, but it's what I felt when I was there. It was a very real, very beautiful kind of magic. I hope the glitter of it stays with me for a long time.

Thanks for an enchanting time, ladies!

Tl;dr - I went to Universal Studios and Disneyland. I learned magic, flew through a castle, hobnobbed with fictional characters of all kinds, went to space, flew around the world, conquered my fears, achieved hopes and dreams, and took a little magic home with me.