Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays!!!

Snoopy Christmas Pictures, Images and Photos

I'm taking a little blogging hiatus and dreading enjoying the time off with the girls. After the winter break, I'll be back crazier  stronger than ever. (pray for me!)

From all the Ohs to all of you - Have a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Zombies and Farting Women

I was putzing around with my statcounter and clicked on the popular pages listing. I was surprised to find that this post was one of the most popular pages. Furthermore, "do zombies shit" was the second highest search term bringing people to my blog, right after "do women fart?"

The farting one is not a surprise. After all, for the past few years the number one search term for people finding my blog was "Queen of Farts." But I find it interesting that so many people have wondered the same deep existential question that I did - "Do zombies shit?" And after rereading that post, I realized something else - I crack myself up. It's nice to know that I find myself so amusing.

But I have an addendum to that post.

Lately, Angus has been sneaking peeks into Oldest's Twilight graphic novel which technically she's not supposed to read because she's only 9 and because Oldest is violently possessive of her things. So she came over to me and asked "Mom, if all vampires only eat or drink blood then when they pee, is their pee red?"

I looked at her in confusion. "Uh, I don't know."

"Well," she continued. "If they don't eat food, then they don't poop, right?"

"Sure, makes sense to me," I said. And because I couldn't help myself, I asked "What about zombies? Do they poop?"

"Of course!" Angus said, looking at me like I was a dummy. "They poop out mini brains."

Ah, ha! That explains so much.

Lastly - To all the single guys wondering if women fart, the answer is watch this video.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

How can we combat poor body image in young girls?

As a research and writing instructor, I have read many papers but the one that really struck me was a recent paper on Women’s Studies and Middle School Girls. The paper discusses the fact that it is in middle school when puberty strikes and young girls are most susceptible to the bombardment by the media and peer groups that they must look and act a certain way. My student’s hypothesis was that if middle school administrators were to include a course on women’s studies, it would go a long way to help young girls combat issues related to poor body image. To teach them to accept who they are as individuals and to be proud of who they are and how they look, regardless of what pop culture says.

I thought this was brilliant. I began talking about this idea with various people and I was surprised to see the divergence in views. Some believe feminism is too radical, too political – an idea that would only harm girls into always viewing themselves as the victim and men as the victimizer. Others believe feminism isn’t taken seriously enough and should be taught as young as grade school, after all, we see eating disorders crop up in girls as young as nine.

This is not the argument I want to be involved in. What I want to discuss is the fact that women continue to be objectified by the media. It is a woman’s body, a woman’s beauty, a woman’s sexuality that is forced down all of our throats. Look at the cover of any woman’s magazine and a media appropriate beautiful woman will stare down at you along with large slogans for helping your love life, losing that extra 10 pounds, finding the perfect man, etc. Music videos are filled with images of thin, sexy women gyrating in skimpy bikinis. Even Disney and Nickelodeon put out television and music stars who all look like the personification of what the media says is “beauty.” It is not what I believe is beauty. Not what I want my children to believe. But how can we combat the incessant drone of this message?

Objectification is not merely a problem for women. It is also one that affects young boys and men. Young boys can be just as susceptible to issues of poor body image. But for purposes of this post, I want to focus on young girls. We must no longer allow the media to dictate how our girls view themselves. We must teach them to get rid of that third party view and to look at themselves with their own eyes wide open. They mustn’t look in the mirror hoping to see someone who looks like a model or actor. They must look in the mirror and see who they really are and to be proud of what they see. By allowing women’s studies to be introduced into a middle school curriculum, young girls can start to understand what objectification is and how psychologically harmful it can be. By having this conversation with our daughters, we can expose the lies that the media forces us to accept as gospel. Beauty is not the end all. Beauty is only skin deep. Self-worth is where true beauty lies.

So regardless of what you feel about feminist literature, I think there is much merit in discussing historically where women were, where women continue to be in our society, and what we can do to help institute a continuing change for the better. There is great value in critical discussions of body images, objectification, psychology as it all relates to gender studies. These are all issues that you would find in college courses so is it wrong to ask for it to be included in the middle school curriculum? I say no. I say this is the best time to begin this conversation. That it is good for boys and girls. Education is the most effective tool. Providing these feminist theories at a younger age arms our girls against the pervasive danger of media objectification.

I’d love to know what you all think. I’d love to know if this is a plausible idea and if it, what can we do to make it a reality.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle

Hi everyone who reads my Mom's blog! It is Oldest again with another author interview. Since my Mom is an original member of the Enchanted Inkpot, she has a whole lot of author friends and one of them is one of my favorite authors. Ok, actually many of them are my favorite authors, but today's interview is with Deva Fagan, the author of Fortune's Folly and her latest book The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle.

Fortune's Folly
was one of my favorite books ever. But now I love Prunella just as much. What I loved about the book is that the main characters, Prunella and Barnaby, are not your regular fairytale characters. She isn’t a beautiful princess – she’s a young bog-witch. And he’s not a handsome prince. Well, he’s handsome, but not a prince. She’s an evil witch who’s not evil and he’s a hero who’s not really a hero. This book is magical with tons of excitement and unexpected twists in the story. I loved it and I think more people need to read it! Plus it is one of the prize books that is being given away right now at the Enchanted Inkpot! Go here for a chance to win Prunella and many many more books! (My Mom made me say that.)

Oldest - Hi Ms. Fagan! Thank you so much for letting me interview you.

DF - How in the world did you come up with such an interesting character like Prunella? And why did you choose a bog-witch as your main character?

In the original version of the book, Barnaby was actually the main character, and Prunella was a secondary character he met along the way. So in many respects she came to being as his opposite—someone who would challenge his expectations and behaviors. So since Barnaby was a dandy, Prunella was practical in her clothing choices. Barnaby cared what people thought of him, so Prunella didn't (mostly!). Barnaby was charming, Prunella was prickly.

But I think the very earliest seed of Prunella probably came from my love of the musical WICKED by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman, loosely based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. It's one of my all-time favorite stories, and I just love the complex character of Elphaba the "wicked witch" and, especially, how she grows and changes due to her unlikely friendship with "good witch" Galinda. I didn't realize it at the time, but now that I look back I can see how those same themes must have resonated with me and inspired some of the themes in Prunella's story: what does it mean to be "good" and how do our relationships with other people change who we are?

Oldest - And what about Barnaby? why did you decide to make a thief your hero?

Barnaby Bagby was primarily inspired by a character my own husband Bob played in a roleplaying game: the youngest of a clan of ne'er-do-well brothers who ran away to become a hero. Fortunately when I asked if I could use a version of the character in my book he said yes!

Of course there are many wonderful thief-hero characters in fantasy (including the ever-popular Eugenides from Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia books and Con from Sarah Prineas's Magic Thief series). I think a lot of us enjoy the idea of a wily character who is capable of doing bad things, but chooses not to. If you're capable of stealing the greatest treasure in the realm, for example, what do you do with
that power? Do you use it just to become rich, or do you attempt to make the world a better place?

DF - What were some of the challenges that you faced in writing this book?

The biggest challenge was having to throw out the entire first draft! Eep! I wrote an entire first draft from Barnaby's point of view, but it just wasn't working. In that version, Barnaby was more of a hero right from the start, so there wasn't enough change and conflict. Plus it had an overly-complex, tangled plot, and too many characters were caricatures rather than real people. In the end, after a talk with my agent and spending several heart-wrenching days huddled in a teary lump, I decided that first draft was too badly flawed to revise. I had to throw it all out and start over.

It was one of the hardest things I've had to do as a writer. Sure, I'd thrown out entire books before, but this was one I'd already sold. It was February at that point, and the book was due to my editor in August. Worst of all, it was a blow to my confidence: I began to worry that my first published book, FORTUNE'S FOLLY, was a fluke. I wondered if maybe I just didn't have another book in me.

But when I finally pushed aside my fears and sat down to start the new version, from Prunella's point of view, it all started to flow. Prunella was such a fun character to write about, and seeing Barnaby from her perspective gave me new insights into his character too. I am so glad I didn't give up! In the end I wrote a new draft that was almost completely different from the first, but I felt so much better about it!

Oldest - One of my favorite parts was when Prunella saves the town and townspeople, even though they were set on burning her. And I really liked that Barnaby also got them all to realize that Prunella was a hero too, even though she was a bog-witch. I thought this was a really good message. What is your favorite part of the book?

I'm glad you liked that part! That was actually one of the sections that my editor and I worked hardest on, because it is a big turning point for Prunella. So I have a soft spot for it as well!

My favorite parts to actually write were all the bits that feature the spooky monsters and weird flora of the bog. I had a lot of fun creating the menagerie of weird creatures that inhabit the Bottomlands, and I also really enjoyed trying to find the beauty in it too. Prunella really does love her home, no matter how much Barnaby complains about the mud! It was an interesting creative project to try to create a place that could be both creepy and beautiful.

Also, I must admit that I enjoy writing food scenes! Even though they make me hungry!

DF - There are so many wonderful characters in your book, like wights, will o wisps, jacks, etc. One of my favorites was Pogboggen the Pondswaggle. Did you create him or is he a real monster?

I created him -- actually, he is a refugee from a book I wrote ten years ago that I've put in my trunk. Since I don't plan to ever try to revise or publish that book, I decided to give Pog a new home in Prunella's world. And that's one of the nice things about writing: nothing is ever wasted. It all helps you grow, and even if you set things aside, you can keep bits of them with you, to be reborn later in new worlds.

Oldest - What kind of research did you do for your book?

I always envisioned Prunella and Barnaby's world as being a little like the American south (especially the Louisiana and the Florida everglades) so when I was writing it, I surrounded myself with a lot of pictures of the flora and fauna of those areas. For example: pictures of alligators, paddleboats, wrought-iron balconies in New Orleans, saw palmettos, swamps and bayous.

But it is first and foremost a fantasy setting, so a lot of the "research" was delving into my own mind to fill in the details of the world.

DF - There was so much good stuff in your book that I was wondering if you had lots of stories that didn’t make it into the final draft. Maybe a whole other book of legends and myths of the Uplands and Bottomlands. Am I right? And wouldn’t it be great if you could publish such a book? Hint, hint…

I'm so glad you enjoyed the hints of the underlying legends and myths. I do indeed have a bunch of notes on the history of the Uplands and the Bottomlands (and beyond!), which I needed to write down since (as you know) a large part of the book involves Prunella and Barnaby unraveling the true history of their land.

There are also many aspects of the world, and of the characters themselves, that I would love to explore further. There's a sunken citadel out in the bog that I never got to write about, for example, and there's those mysterious Palm Islands with their haunted ships and kraken. Plus there are elements in the characters' lives waiting to be explored: Prunella's parents, Barnaby's brothers, Rencevin's history.

Oldest - I really loved Prunella and Barnaby? Will you write another book for them?

DF - I would love to-- in fact I have outlines for other books about Prunella and Barnaby sitting on my computer. But whether I get to write them and publish them depends on how well this first book sells. And as of now I'm afraid it's not enough for the publisher to be interested in a sequel. But we can keep our fingers crossed!

And I do have another new book on the way in the fall of 2011, though it's set in a different world, with different characters. CIRCUS GALACTICUS is the story of Trix Ling, an Earth-girl who runs away to a life of adventure and danger as part of an intergalactic circus. I had so much fun writing it! It combines a bunch of my favorite things: adventure, mystery, sequins, ice cream, stars, and dashingly cute alien boys.

Thank you so much for the wonderful questions, Summer! And thank you for hosting the interview, Ello! Happy reading!

Oldest - Well you heard Ms. Fagan! Prunella needs help! Please go and buy this wonderful book because you won't be disappointed! And enter the Enchanted Inkpot contest, because my Mom said so!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ninjas vs Cowboys

I am a slobbery pile of drool over this movie... If the girls hadn't gotten all pukey sick these past few days I would have seen it already! They were supposed to go to my sister's for a sleepover and Da Man and I were supposed to go see this AWESOME movie. But instead I had to clean up vomit all night long. Now I must wait until next Saturday and so I shall rewatch this trailer many, many times and enjoy Geoffrey Rush saying Ninjas? Damn!

A martial arts western? Can you get any cooler?!!!!!! And it stars Korean superstar Dong Gun Jang in the lead role. Seriously, this movie could suck and I would still see it cause he's in it! But it won't suck, do you know why? Ninjas vs cowboys, baby!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Writer's Constipation

I've been constipated and my WIP has suffered. Partly because it is the end of the semester and I've got senior capstone papers to grade. Partly because I've been handling legal stuff for my folks. Mostly because the knowledge that I'm back on sub has my stomach all tied up in knots. It's been over 2 years since I've been on sub. But it feels completely different now. Not only because I have a new agent, who is amazing!, but also because I feel like it's a new book - a brand new shiny book with that brand new shiny smell. It's been 2 years with a major change in POV, major shift in story, major increase in magical elements. It even has a brand new name! It just ain't the same book. It's so much better. And I'm so grateful to my agent because he worked so hard with me to make it so good.

But now I have to unclog myself and get back to my WIP. Writer's constipation is different from writer's block. When you're blocked nothing comes out. With constipation you sit at your laptop and push and push and work really hard too eke out a few words that are utter crap and you are left completely unsatisfied. So since I was constipated, I worked on a short story. For the first time in years. And it was a really fun exercise. Turns out I'm not constipated all the time. Just only with this particular WIP.

So I'd been thinking about why it was and I realized something. It was because I was working on something completely different. Something I hadn't seen in any other published book out there. No one's done it. It's the kind of thing that people might scoff at. Asian steampunk. How ridiculous! Steampunk is only Victorian! I'm constipated because I'm worried that I'm doing something really different that no one will like. And then it hit me. I'm working on something very different, very original. Never been done before. And the story is really good, damn it! What the hell am I worried about?

Well, the truth is, I can't not worry. That's just part of who I am. But I love this new story. It's really fun, really cool - and it's got leather kimonos! It's the first time a story made me want to be a fashion designer. So I need to push past the constipation and get back to work. It's 2/3rds done but the hard part, revising, is yet to come.

I think I need more motivation - or some ass kicking.

I will gladly accept both.

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