Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group

It's the first Wednesday of the month and time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Thanks again to Alex J. Cavanaugh and his wonderful co-hosts for hosting this outlet for writers every month! So here's my insecurity for December . . . 

I’m sorry for my recent absence from blogging. I found out at the beginning of November – right after the last IWSG post in fact – that a friend of mine from college passed away. Death is always hard, especially when someone dies long before their time. But I found this death particularly hard to cope with upon learning that my friend Bethany had been murdered, and that the man responsible for her death was her husband of two months.

It’s times like this when I struggle to keep writing. It’s hard to sit down at a computer or pick up a pen when there are so many other things on my mind. Remembering my friend alive and happy. Wondering if she suffered in the end. And so I simply stopped trying. Of course, I did my best to keep working on my current manuscript. I even made some progress, for which I’m grateful. But I stopped blogging, and I stopped writing in my journal, something which I typically do three or four times a week.

But a month has passed now and my friend and family have encouraged me to try revisiting my old writing routines. In some ways it helps to get it all down and exorcise my sadness via writing. And in other ways it feels like I have to drag each word out in a way I’m not used to. This blog post has taken me easily twice as long as normal to complete.

Perhaps my insecurity for the month isn’t an insecurity so much as a hope that writing will start feeling more natural again – and a fear that it won’t. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, and time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Thanks again to Alex J. Cavanaugh (and this month's co-hosts  LG Keltner and CM Brown) for hosting this outlet for writers every month! So here’s my insecurity for November . . .

I have to admit, I haven't felt very inspired in my writing these past few months. With all the publisher rejections and continued assurances that "it takes time", I feel a little like a hamster in a wheel going absolutely nowhere. But since I cannot sit here staring at a blank screen any longer, I thought I'd look to some of my idols for inspiration. If there are any other writers out there that feel the same, I hope this helps:

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” 
- Madeleine L’Engle

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” 
- Ernest Hemmingway

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” 
- Stephen King

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.” 
- Isaac Asimov

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it's always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” 
- Neil Gaiman

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I'm afraid of. ” 
- Joss Whedon

“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” 
- Jack London

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” 
- George Orwell

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” 
- W. Somerset Maugham 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Bloghop and Road Trip Wednesday

As I looked around at some of my favorite blogs today I couldn't help but notice the plethora of Halloween posts . . . which reminded me that I had been remiss in my own Halloween related posts this October. So I thought I’d rectify this problem by participating (last minute) in TWO bloghops.

The first is YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday. It’s been a while since I've participated, but when I saw the topic for this week’s post, I couldn't resist: What's your favorite scary book or movie?

I must admit that I’m somewhat of a wimp when it comes to scary movies; I’m the one hiding under a blanket when the creepy parts happen. However, I do have fond memories of watching The Poltergeist with my parents when I was in 8th grade. We watched it around Halloween time and it terrified me to no end. To this day I’m a little nervous around old-fashioned TVs and I can’t shake the fear that I’ll be suck into one.

Despite my anxiety when it comes to horror films, I’m a big fan of the classics thrillers – specifically Alfred Hitchcock’s. Movies like The Birds and Psycho keep me on the edge of my seat, eyes glued on the screen the entire time. He’s a real master of suspense and I love his creepy classics.

As for scary books, I’m going old-school Stephen King with this one. Probably the scariest book I’ve ever read it the 1977 classic The Shining. I watched the movie when I was in middle school and then decided, since I guess I just hadn’t quite terrified myself enough, that I’d read the book. And boy was I ever not able to sleep for a month. And this may sound crazy, but the book’s warning about room 217 terrified me so much that I have since made a solemn oath to never stay in room 217 (or 237 – thanks to the movie) at any hotel. Ever.

Some call me a wuss – I prefer to think of myself as appropriately wary of the supernatural . . .

The second bloghop is the aptly named Halloween Bloghop hosted by the amazing Jeremy Bates. If, like me, you’re only just stumbling upon this, check out the details here.

As I mentioned the other day, I’m a fan of the monster genre – therefore I have a quite extensive list of favorite monster books and movies to choose from. However, if I’m only able to pick one of each, then I think I have to go with Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Technically I’m cheating a bit with Buffy, since I’m actually referring to both the movie and the TV show created by Joss Whedon, but I figure it’s a day for tricks (and treats), so it’s okay. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my absolute favorite show in middle school, and remains at the top of my list to this day. I love that she fights all manner of monsters and demons as well as vampires, and that she saves the world time and time again with the help of her “Scooby Gang”.

As for Frankenstein, I was greatly affected by it when I first read it in 9th grade. Shelley’s masterpiece manages to be both darkly terrifying and somehow poignant at the same time. I can’t help but feel pity for Frankenstein’s monster, even as he commits atrocious acts of violence. I truly believe that it’s one of the best novels ever written.

Last but certainly not least, Halloween costumes! Though I usually do my own thing in terms of costumes, but this year my friends and I decided that we’d all go as superheroes together. I, of course, lobbied that we all go as Marvel characters, but we wound up with an unfortunate mixture of DC heroes as well. Still, we looked pretty awesome in our costumes and had a great time fighting crime . . . uh, celebrating the holiday at the Natural Science Museum’s epic party. It's always fun at the museum since people there are pertty serious when it comes to Halloween. The guest list reached nearly 4,000, all of whom were trying to top each other's costumes, so you can imagine how amazing some of them were. Definitely a night to remember. 


Monday, October 29, 2012

Tales of the Gothic: The Castle of Otranto

Unlike Robert Louis Stevenson or Oscar Wilde, Horace Walpole is not a name readily recognized. However, he goes down in history for his significant contribution to the literary field. His attempt to combined elements of ancient Romanticism and modern realism into a new writing style were very effective; his most famous novel – The Castle of Otranto – is considered the very first Gothic novel.

Written in 1764, The Castle of Otranto sets the standards for the Gothic fiction. Components of the novel would later define the genre, including:

Gothic architecture
Lines of succession
The decline and fall of an ancient bloodline
Psychological terror
Questions of incest
Fantastical horror and supernatural events
Tyrannical patriarchal power
Threatened female
Ancient prophecy
Dark omens

With these elements Walpole skillfully sets the stage for generations of Gothic fiction to come. And yet we can see how the foundations of the genre pull from older literary works. For example, I think one of the most interesting things about The Castle of Otranto is its Shakespeare overtones. Walpole draws heavily on Shakespeare’s works – specifically Hamlet and Macbeth. From characters inspired by King Claudius and Malcolm, the son of a slain king, to ancient prophecies and ghostly appearances, Otranto echoes many of the dark mysteries in Shakespeare’s work.  

I personally deem The Castle of Otranto one of the most fascinating ghost stories I've ever read. It’s mysterious and Gothic, full of ghosts and villains – not to mention a tragically beautiful love story. If you've never read it before, I’d highly recommend it. Especially during this darkest time of year . . .

Monstrous Monday Blogfest

Today is all about monsters. Hosted by Timothy Brannan from The Other Side, this bloghop is a chance to post about monsters you love, hate, or are featuring in your latest novel. So sign up for Monstrous Monday if you already haven’t and join the monster-madness.

When it comes to monsters I have to say, it’s hard to pick just one – so I decided I wouldn’t try. Instead I’m going to post about two very different monsters that provoke two very different reactions. The first is a creature I became familiar with in my early childhood thanks to a little movie called The Princess Bride . . .

The R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size):

R.O.U.S.s are large, rat-like creatures that are known to be incredibly vicious. They live in Fire Swamps and frequently attack human beings brave enough to venture into their lair. As a child these R.O.U.S.s terrified me – because who wouldn’t be terrified with a giant rat that eats people? Still, I always liked to pretend that I was in the Fire Swamp, battling an army of these strange creatures beside my hero Westley. If I ever come across an R.O.U.S., I’ll grab a sword and start swinging.

The second monster I want to discuss is a creature which absolutely petrifies me. The very idea of it makes me skin break out in goosebumps  . . .

The Mothman:

While R.O.U.S.s are make-believe creatures from a beloved childhood novel and film (at least, I hope William Goldman made them up), the Mothman is an ominious creature with a number of sightings. The most well-known incident occurred in 1966 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Police recorded several sightings of a seven-foot creature with long wings and glowing red eyes. These reports continued up until the 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge, which killed forty-six people. Though some claim to have seen the Mothman standing on the bridge the day of the collapse, following the disaster the creature was never seen in Point Pleasant again.

The Mothman is a dark omen, bringing death in its wake. And while I think R.O.U.S.s are amusing, and feel confident that I could handle myself against most monsters (my wealth of Buffy knowledge would aid me such an event), the idea of facing a Mothman is not high on my list of fun activities. 

Beware . . .

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tales of the Gothic: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Next up on the list of Gothic novels is The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I think it only fitting that it should follow The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde, as the two share a notable theme – mankind’s dual nature and the torment of a soul divided.

As I previously discussed, the pieces of a man’s soul in Stevenson’s masterpiece are quite literally split into two different personas – Jekyll and Hyde. In Wilde’s novel on the other hand, we see the soul divided between a man, Dorian Gray, and his portrait. Upon seeing the youth and beauty eternally captured within the painting, Dorian longs for it, rather than his own features, to alter with time, offering up his own soul as payment. Unfortunately, he gets his wish. With his conscience stripped away, Dorian is able to indulge in pleasure and debauchery without suffering the consequences of his actions, for it is his portrait rather than his physical form that bears the manifestations of his sins. However, he cannot escape his guilt entirely. The fissures in his psyche become more and more pronounced with each visit to the painting. As he obsessively watches the “most magical of mirrors” to his soul become increasingly grotesque, it becomes clear that he remains tethered to his guilt by the portrait’s constant presence.

Apart from its Gothic tone, I think the most interesting thing about Dorian Gray is the question of reality within the text – namely, the reality of the altered portrait. Does the painting really change, or is it a figment of Dorian’s imagination? Apart from Dorian himself, no one ever sees the alleged changes; his account of the portrait’s increasingly mutilated features is never corroborated. It’s not until his death that anyone other than Dorian lays eyes on the painting, only to find it in the exact same condition as the day it was completed. Which begs the question, did it ever really change at all? Is it possible the Dorian maintained a fa├žade of purity and youth in public, thus giving the appearance that he’d frozen in time, only to drop it in the presence of the painting? Like the mysterious “damned spot” on Lady Macbeth’s hands, perhaps the changes he sees in the painting are simply projections of the guilt he’s buried within.

Whether you believe in Dorian’s eternal youth or think him mad, the fact remains that The Picture of Dorian Gray is a Gothic classic. Its delightful darkness and wicked repercussions warns us that a man’s soul is a precious thing so easily forfeit. And it reminds us of the age-old adage, be careful what you wish for . . . 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Did I Notice Your Book Blogfest

Today I’m participating in the Did I Notice Your Book Blogfest hosted by Ciara Knight and Alex J. Cavanaugh. If you’re interested in participating, here are the guidelines:

You can choose a book that you’ve read, something you saw on a blog or social media site, Goodreads, or a sales website. Anything that caught your eye because of a great cover, blurb or reviews, but DON’T tell the author that their book has been noticed. Instead, shout out on social media sites, and encourage others to do the same, until the author finds his/her book. Leave a blog comment with Alex or Ciara when the author finds their book. 

Only two rules: 
1) You can’t post about your own book. 
2) The book shouldn’t be on the New York Times or USA Today bestseller list. This is your chance to shout out about a book that might not have been noticed by others.

Sounds fun, right? And what book have I chosen for this contest?

Villain School: Good Curses Evil by Stephanie S. Sanders.

Rune Drexler, Big Bad Wolf Jr., and Countess Jezebel Dracula are students at Master Dreadthorn's School for Wayward Villains. It's like military school for the children of famous villains; it's where you learn to be bad. But Rune is failing at his villainous studies, so when he lands himself in detention (again), Master Dreadthorn assigns him a Plot. In one week, Rune and his friends must find a henchman, steal a baby, kidnap a princess, and overthrow a kingdom. There's only one problem: Rune's not very evil. In fact, his behavior seems suspiciously heroic . . .

I read this book a few months ago and thought it was a hilariously clever idea. And not just because I wish I could attend a school for Master Dreadthorn's School myself. But what could be more fun than reading about a young boy who’s trying desperately to squelch his inner heroism and become – like his father before him – a villain.

So if you haven’t read it before, check it out! And don’t forget to blog, tweet, or shout out about Villain School: Good Curses Evil. If you'd like to know more about author Stephanie S. Sanders, check out her blog here

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tales of the Gothic: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

To kick-start my series on the Gothic novel, I thought I’d begin with one many people are familiar with – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Recognized as one of the most significant tales of the 19th century, Jekyll and Hyde is a fascinating representation of the inner struggle of man’s dual nature during the moral climate of the Victorian era.

Let me begin with a little background information about the piece. Published in 1886, Stevenson wrote Jekyll and Hyde during the height of Victorianism (which lasted from the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign over England in 1837 until her death in 1901). Founded on repression, Victorian society was predicated on the suppression of passion and sexuality, and a strict adherence to a social code of conduct and outward display of respectability.   

This was challenging, however, because of the existence of mankind’s dual nature – the moral half, and the sinful. Like different sides of the same coin, these two pieces are the basis of the human soul. And yet, in order to exist within the era’s concept of morality, one had to bury their immoral thoughts and project only their virtuous side to the outside world. Little empathy was shown for mankind’s struggle between these twin personality halves.

It’s in this very struggle that Stevenson’s ominous tale takes shape. Dr. Jekyll’s attempt to separate the two halves into distinct entities demonstrates the desperate lengths humanity will go in order to ease the torment of denying the darker – yet equally real – half of our nature. As Dr. Jekyll states, “If each could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable.”

Unfortunately, the experiment does not go as planned. On the one hand, he succeeds in creating a new persona for his evil side – Mr. Hyde. Hyde represents this moral freedom, able to follow his every whim without a hint of remorse. However, his other half – Dr. Jekyll – is wholly the same, unable to rid himself of his sinister urges and yet forced to abide by Victorian edicts.

Still, under the mantle of Mr. Hyde, Jekyll is able to embrace a life of sin and freedom. It is this very freedom that he longs for, even as he tries to suppress it. At first he secretly enjoys this ability to pursue his dark desires as Mr. Hyde while walking through society under the mantel of Dr. Jekyll’s respectability. With his two halves separated into different men, he can exercise his demons without violating the Victorian code of conduct. However, it’s not long before his double life starts to collapse in upon him.

This sense of the soul’s impending doom inherent in the novella firmly roots in in the Gothic tradition. Furthermore, there’s a clear warning in Stevenson’s tale – one assuring us that no matter how well we suppress our wicked nature, it will always find its way to the surface in the end. Stevenson suggests that the more we attempt the separate our two halves, the worse the consequence will be. The only way to avoid becoming the darkest versions of ourselves is to accept the darkness within us.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Soon I will put up the first post in my Thirteen Tales of the Gothic series, but first it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Hosted by the amazing Alex J. Cavanaugh, this is a group where we share our writing woes and support one another through this challenging (and often demoralizing) process.

This October I thought I’d do something a little different and talk about the support I received after my gut-wrenching rejection last month (the subject of my last IWSG post). All of my friends, blogging buddies and critique partners immediately came to my aid with words of encouragement and offers of comfort (or in some cases, blueberry pancakes, my favorite comfort food). But one person in particular stands out as the most helpful during that depressing time – my Uncle John.

He sent me an email that said:
- Walt Disney's 1st animation company went bankrupt.
- Vicent Van Gogh sold just one painting in his lifetime - and that was to a friend.
- John Grisham's first book, A Time To Kill, took 3 years to write and was rejected 28 times. 
- Steven Spielberg was denied two times to the prestigious University of Southern California film school. Instead he attended Cal. Tech.
- Stephen King's 1st book Carrie was rejected 30 times and he threw the book in the trash. His wife retrieved it and the rest is history.

Rejection is painful, and something every writer dreads. But if everyone who’d ever been rejected quit, there’d be no Lion King or Little Mermaid, no E.T. or iconically bloody proms. Not to mention Harry Potter, which was rejected by twelve different publishing houses before it finally found a home at Bloomsberry.

So for anyone who – like Disney, Van Gogh, Grisham, Spielberg, King, Rowling, or myself – has faced rejection, follow my uncle’s advice and keep fighting.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tales of the Gothic: An Introduction

Let me start off by apologizing for my recent absence from the blog-o-sphere. September was a busy, high stress month for me, and my blogging paid the price. But it’s finally October and the beginning of what I like to call the “spooktacular season”, that magical time of year when the pumpkins come out and my inner child goes wild. And though I will undoubtedly write a few posts narrating my epic battle with jack-o-lantern carving, costume construction, and many other Halloween related festivities, this year I wanted to dedicate the month of October to a discussion of my favorite genre of classical literature – the Gothic novel.

Since my time as an English Lit major in college, I’ve always found this particular area of the literary canon most fascinating. Characterized by mystery, supernatural horror, epic castles and dark romance, Gothic novels act as reaction to the extreme rationalism of the Augustan literary era and stand out as the unique offspring of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They’re ghost stories and accounts of the living dead, paranormal affairs and tales of the macabre. And above all, they're an investigation into the inner workings of the human psyche. Gothic novels are a perfect fit for the Halloween season, and I could think of no way to honor them more than a blog series devoted to the authors who so splendidly captured the soul of genre.

So check back and stay tuned for Tales of the Gothic . . . 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Genre Favorites Blogfest

It’s time for another blog hop! Thanks so much to Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting the Genre Favorites Blogfest, where those of us participating get to discuss our favorite genre of books, movies, music, and as an added bonus, our favorite guilty pleasure genre for one of the three.

Here goes nothing . . .

I must admit, I have very wide and eclectic taste when it comes to music. I enjoy everything from classical to bluegrass (a love inherited from my Appalachian-grown mother). However, if I had to narrow it down to just one favorite, it would probably be Classic Rock. Rolling Stones, ACDC, Queen, Guns n’ Roses, Dire Straits, The Police, Def Leppard – the best. I listen to it when I force myself to go running, when I’m writing a particularly bad-ass fight scene, when I’m jamming in my car, and anytime in between. FYI, Eye of the Tiger . . . best song ever.

When it comes to movies, I have a clear genre favorite – Science Fiction. As the daughter of sci-fi enthusiasts, I was raised on The Terminator, Aliens and Star Wars. If it’s about time travel, clones, aliens or automatons, I’m there.

As both a former Literature major and novelist, books are pretty much my life. Thus, of the three categories, I found picking a preferred genre of books the most challenging. On the one hand, I love Middle Grade Fantasy. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Chronicles of Narnia . . . all personal favorites. My own manuscripts all happen to fall into this very group. However, if I really have to narrow it down to just ONE category, I’d have to go with classical literature. Ridiculous as this may seem, I love reading novels from the literary cannon. Authors like Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, Charlotte Bronte and James Joyce are among my favorites. If a novel would make it onto the dreaded “summer reading list” for high school students, chances are it’s one of the books I love most. That doesn’t mean I don’t like a good mystery novel, and I go through science fiction books like potato chips. But at the heart of it, I’m a classicist.

Guilty Pleasure:
And now for the best genre – guilty pleasures. For this one, I decided to go with the “movie” category. I believe I’ve already mentioned that I’m a sci-fi fan; however, what you may not know is that I not only love well-respected films like Blade Runner and The Matrix, but I also secretly adore the really terrible made-for-TV movies produced by the SyFy channel. And I don’t mean enjoy them in ironic sort of way. I genuinely love them. Anyone seen Hammerhead: Shark Frenzie? A classic. Revenge of the Swamp Thing – phenomenal. And if you’ve never seen Lake Placid 2, you’re seriously missing out. Mock all you want, but it’s cinematic gold.

So, those are all my genre favorites. If you’re interested in sharing your own, hop on over to Alex J. Cavanaugh’s blog and sign up!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, and time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Thanks again to Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting this outlet for writers every month! So here’s my insecurity for September . . .

I’ve been trying lately to be more positive about manuscript rejections. When you’ve gotten as many as I have, you have to stop taking them so personally. And my wonderful agent has assured me many times that if I just hang in there a little longer, we’ll find the right fit. And after all the self-indulgent moping I've done, I figured enough is enough. 

However, while I’ve done my best to prepare for editors that just don’t get my “vision” (to their everlasting regret someday, you know, when I’m a bestseller and making my publisher rich). But what I haven’t yet mastered is the art of brushing off a rejection from an editor that loved my work. 

Yesterday my agent forwarded a rejection in which the editor said they loved my “whiz-kid” protagonist, emphasis on self-made heroes, and revisionist historical elements, as well as likening my novel to Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kalavier and Clay – one of my favorite books. And while I found these comments terribly flattering – and will perhaps later think of them as a balm for my scorched soul – it only made it that much more painful when said editor rejected my manuscript because they were already representing a novel about superheroes and thus didn’t have an opening in their literary lineup.

Talk about heartbreak.

I fear that in light of yesterday’s rejection, I’m not able to muster up any words of encouragement for other insecure writers this month. But if there’s anyone out there going through what I’m going through, just know that you’re in good company. I’ll be sure to lift a glass for you at my pity party. Cheers!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bourne and Generic Engineering

A few days ago I went to see the new Bourne movie and found myself completely caught up with the science behind the film. For years now this concept of genetic engineering has both fascinated and terrified me. As the daughter of a brittle Type 1 diabetic, I’m torn on the subject of scientific tampering. On the one hand, I pray for the day when we’ve progressed far enough to eradicate hereditary diseases and rid human evolution of this kind of genetic weakness. On the other hand, where is the line? How do we know when we’ve venture too far from our benevolent aims and begun tampering not only with DNA, but with human nature itself?

This is a common theme in the science fiction genre, and in nearly every literary and cinematic example, we see the terrible effects of cellular tampering. Like the Larx-03 agent from The Bourne Legacy. Spoilers: While physically he proved very advanced, ultimately he seemed to be little more than a human robot, completely devoid of emotional responses. They achieved their goal of creating an agent – or assassin – capable of immeasurable violence and destruction, but they sacrificed his moral understanding of the world in the process. Larx-03 seemed closer to a robotic Terminator than a human being.

This concept of creating a ‘supersoldier’ isn’t a new one. In fact, it’s pretty common these days with the popularity of comic book films like Captain America, and war-related video games such as Halo and Resident Evil. But what keeps me up at night is the very real possibility that governments are already developing scientific projects to create genuine ‘supersoldiers’. The truth is, having never underestimated the lengths to which political powers will go, I have no doubt that this is already under way. Government agencies like DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) devote their energies to the pursuit of any and all scientific and technological advancements that might give us a military advantage. They’ve delved into behavioral sciences already – why not genetic engineering?

Whether it’s for medical or military purposes, I fear that this concept of improving humanity could potentially lead us down a dark road. When does eradicating diseases or creating better soldiers transcend into something else – something more extreme?

When does it cross over into eugenics?

Historically we’ve seen the terrible repercussions eugenics can have. Segregation, marginalization – even sterilization, infanticide and genocide. This quest for enhancing human genetics is dangerously flawed. And while I approve of attempts to lesson mankind’s suffering via genetic exploration, I’m apprehensive about any scientific endeavors which could lead to such deadly consequences.

I’ll leave off here with one last thought. The human race is an imperfect one – to try to make us perfect is going against our very nature. I just hope we never lose sight of that as our scientific exploration of the human mind and body continues on its amazing path forward.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Trouble with Television

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT one of those people who whines that there’s nothing good on TV. Quite the opposite, in fact. I love TV. I think many television shows these days are inventive, have wonderful characters and plot lines, and show genuine literary and cinematic merit.

What I do NOT love is the fact that the duration of said shows  are based on ratings rather than sustainable storylines. Time and time again I fall in love with a new TV series, only to have it ruined a few years later by some film exec who said “yes, let’s absolutely write a sixth and seventh season”.

Why do they do this? Why do they insist on ruining wonderful shows by keeping them on too long? The answer, of course, is money. If a series is doing well and the ratings are high, there’s no way they’ll pull the plug, even if they've run out of fresh material.

Which is exactly the disappointment I recently faced when watching what was once one of my most anticipated television shows – Bones. It was one of those series I looked forward to every week. Until last year, that is, when the show that I once adored finally ran out of steam. I trudged along, hoping it would get better until it got so terrible that I finally had to admit defeat. But what’s really disturbing is that in a month or so it’s going to begin airing again, beginning its eight season. Never mind that the plots have become ridiculous and the characters stilted – people keep watching so the executives keep ordering more episodes.

The same could be said of many other shows I once loved. The Office. 24. Even Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the beloved show of my childhood. Though it remains one of my favorite series to this day, I will never understand why they felt the need to make seven seasons. They really should have stopped after three of four. The only thing that consoles me about Fox’s premature cancellation of Firefly , Whedon’s later masterpiece, is that they never got the chance to run it into the ground with too many seasons.

Perhaps that’s why at the end of the day, no matter how much I love certain TV shows, I love movies more. There’s a certain conciseness about film that I find reassuring. Movies have a beginning AND an end, rather than this endless stream of cliffhangers we see with TV. Though of course there are certain film franchises that make the same mistakes as their television counterparts and produce too many sequels (to the detriment of artistic integrity)  that's right George Lucas, I’m talking to you  in general film is a little more conscious of quitting while ahead. 

Thought I must admit, I’ve become a bit concerned with the number of sequels, threequels and prequels being made these days . . .

Let me say one more thing on the subject of over-producing before I end my little rant here. I’ve been incredibly concerned with people’s interest in the continuation of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I constantly hear people saying things like “when is she going to write the next book?” and “I’d love to see what Harry’s like when he’s all grown up and working for the ministry”. To which I respond – ARE YOU SERIOUS? 

The seven Harry Potter books are some of the best young adult literature I’ve ever come across. THE best, if I’m being honest. It’s an epic, seven-part tale that should NOT be tampered with. There’s no way the series can ever be better than it already is, and to try to expand on it is to risk diluting that which is already perfect.

So please, think really hard before you ask for another book, another season, or another sequel. Because these days, you might just get what you wish for.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What Was Your Childhood Monster? Blogfest

In honor of the release of her novella, Fearless (click here for more details), author and blogger Christine Rains is hosting a brand new blogfest – the “What was your childhood monster?” blogfest. Click here if you’d like to join and tell us all about the monsters and minions that plagued your adolescence.

As for me, I didn’t have ONE childhood monster. Oh no – I had hundreds of them. I blame this partly on my overactive imagination (both a blessing and a curse to a future writer), and partly on my parents’ eagerness to share with their one and only offspring their love of science fiction films. They called it “my education”, and as an adult I find myself very appreciative. But as a child, it had some unfavorable consequences. Namely, my terror of Poltergeists (and being sucked into a TV), aliens, Predators, T-1000 terminators (I’ll never be able to look at a black and white checkered floor without a sense of panic), killer Great White sharks, vampires, zombies, gremlins, graboids . . .

And the list goes on.

My response to this long list of threats was – apart from spending a lot of time wedged in between my parents in their bed (punishment for letting an eight-year-old watch Aliens and The Terminator) – keeping the doors to all the closets OPEN.

Now I know that’s not the typical reaction. Most of my friends and family have assured me that it’s better to keep the closet door closed so they can’t get out. But anyone who’s ever seen Terminator 2 knows that to the T-1000, a closed door is no real barrier. And really when one thinks about it, a closed door really isn’t much of a challenge to most monsters and/or demonic creatures. So I maintain that it’s better to keep the door open and maintain a visual at all times, thus ensuring that said monsters can never surprise you. If you can see them coming, at least that gives you a fighting chance of getting away, am I right?

Here are a few simply creeds I follow for combating childhood (and present day) monsters:
- Check the perimeter: It’s best to do a full sweep whenever entering a new dwelling, and a second sweep upon entering an empty room.
- Keep closet doors open at all times: Or at least until they’ve been checked thoroughly. Same goes for shower curtains. And if there’s any sort of dust ruffle on the bed that obscures visibility beneath, I’d suggest lifting that up (or removing it entirely) as well.
- Stay in shape: Be prepared to run faster than any monsters that may be hiding inside closets, under beds, etc. Or at least be prepared to run faster than other occupants of the house. Good rule of thumb, never be the slowest person around. That’s like the monster equivalent of being the slowest gazelle in a herd being chased by a lion. Not good.

And always, always, always remember the immortal words of one Mad Eye Moody: “Constant vigilance”.

I hope these tips come to your aid in future battles against any nameless monster-foe in your future. And share with us, what are some of your childhood monsters and/or tips for combating them?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

New York, Take Two!

Last week I had the pleasure of taking a trip to New York City, one of my favorite places to visit. It was an amazing trip, not only because I got to stay at the Marriott on Times Square (and thus had a view of the famous Broadway billboards from our hotel room), but also because it was the second year in a row that my mom, cousin and I got to go together (which with our crazy schedules is not easy). Hopefully we'll do the same next year and make it an annual trip. 

The theme of last year's trip was Harry Potter. Though we didn't plan it that way, it seemed everything we did had some sort of connection to my favorite book series - we stumbled across a Harry Potter exhibit we hadn't known about, there were billboards everywhere for the upcoming eighth and final movie, and best of all, we got to see leading man Daniel Radcliffe light up the Broadway stage in How to Succeed in Business (which was incredible). 

This year wound up having a theme as well - superheroes. What a shock, right? It seems this whole summer has been all about the heroes, and this trip in particular was just full of them. From all the posters hailing Nolan's final Batman masterpiece to the Marvel Avenger's exhibit on display at famous Madam Tussauds wax museum, New York was practically raining masked vigilantes. Not to mention the action packed Broadway play we saw . . .

And yes - it was terrific. We happened to be in the "fly zone" and quite literally had Spider-man flying through the air right above our heads. I even found myself ducking down a time of two when he came swinging in very close to my chair. Here are a few other highlights from our trip: 

Crazy New York cab drivers. 
Spider-man . . . and, uh, Spider-Allie.
Hamming it up with The Hulk. 
Me RUNNING from The Hulk.
Dark Knight Rises billboards on Times Square. 
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Needless to say, it was a wonderful trip. I cannot wait for next year - and I'm already wondering what our theme for that one will be!