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Archive for the tag “Alex Kourvo”

The Most Rebellious Thing I Did While Growing Up

I feel as though this blog post is going to be an overwhelming disappointment. Of the five of us kids, I was really the least rebellious.

For instance, I  wasn’t the sibling who relandscaped a neighbor’s lawn with my car and relocated their patio furniture (also with my car) into their inground pool. That wasn’t me. That was my brother who’s two years younger than me.

I also wasn’t the sibling who ended up on Cops (and virtually every news station in the U.S.) because we got pulled over and my girlfriend stole the cop’s car and ran multiple barricades and had to have the tires shot out. That was my brother who’s thirteen years younger than me.

Nor was I the sibling who staged a fake hit and run accident that alarmed the old lady down the road who then called the cops. That was my brother who’s fifteen years younger than me.

Lastly, I wasn’t the sibling who cut off a huge chunk of below-the-ass length hair from the top of my soon to be sister-in-law’s head. That was my sister who’s eighteen years younger than me.

Most of my rebellious transgressions were the civil disobedience kind. And interestingly enough, most of my rebellious acts featured the same person…

  • Protesting and pushing the limits of the flagrantly sexist dress code at the Catholic high school I attended. (I spent a bit of time in detention for that.)
  • Protesting the preferential treatment the football players received at said Catholic high school by staging a walkout of my religion class with my forever friend, Alex Kourvo.  (More detention.)

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    These weren’t our detention outfits. This was just us being cute af.

  • Starting a literary magazine, with Alex and some other friends, and getting shut the fuck down by the administration. Yes, that happened. We put together a chapbook type collection of original fiction and poetry. We all contributed, someone’s dad bought us paper for printing and cardstock for the cover, and we distributed it to students at the school. And we all got in trouble. We were called into the office and reamed out. There was nothing offensive. Nothing problematic. But there were six or seven kids who dared to be creative, and that was a transgression that wouldn’t be tolerated.

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    Recently found a copy of contraband literary journal.

  • A final bit of rebellion was the garage band I was a member of–again, with my girl, Alex and several of our other friends. Our name? Rebell and the Ions. (If you put it together, it spells, Rebellion – get it?)
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    For some reason, the grouper fish was our mascot.

    You may have noticed a bit of a theme here. We’re still amazing forever friends, we’re both still writing, and we’re both still rebelling.

    Also? Neither one of us has been on Cops.

Be sure to check out Jess, Jessica, and Deelylah’s post and see what kind of shit they got up to.

Favorite Writing Advice

#writelifeapril

Advice is a lot like music. Or styles of underwear. Use what works for you, and leave the rest behind.

Obviously, I can’t tell you what’ll work for you, I can only share what’s worked for me, but look around. You might find something you like. Try it on. See how it fits. If you like it, it’s yours.

So, these are my favorite bits of writing advice.

Emotional Meat Grinder – The first book I ever finished had zero conflict, and my very wise forever-friend, Alex Kourvo told me that it doesn’t matter how much I love my characters, I still have to grab them by the back of the head and shove them face-first into an emotional meat grinder and make their lives hell. Then, when it’s really bad, I need to make it worse.

Write What You Love – There are some people who advocate writing whatever’s popular in hopes of riding genre coattails to fame and fortune. Here’s the thing about that. If it’s not a genre or subgenre you truly enjoy, it’ll show. I saw it often in when I edited for small presses, and I still see it now with my editing business.  If you’re writing something in hopes of a paycheck instead of writing it because you love whatever it is, it’ll never be as good or satisfying for you or the reader than if you’d written something you were passionate about.

Who Has the Most to Lose? – Someone in a long ago and far away critique group had some brilliant advice about POV (point of view) that’s stuck with me to this day. When you’re writing a story with multiple narrative POVs, you’ll have to decide whose POV each scene should be in. Ask yourself who has the most to lose. Who has the most to lose physically? Who has the most to lose emotionally? (Especially emotionally.) Nine times out of ten, the character with the most at stake (in the moment) is the POV you’re going to want to write that scene from.

If You Want to be a Writer, You Need to Make Writing a Priority. – (Full disclosure: I can’t remember who said this to me–in reality, lots of people–but I have to remind myself of it on the regular. Sometimes daily. Sometimes all day long.) This isn’t to say that life–the busyness that comes from living and interacting with other people, a day job, and the world at large–can just be ignored. But if you’re finding it hard making time to write, you may have to take a long hard look at how you’re spending your time and decide where you can cut back to make room for more writing time. Also, make use of whatever tiny pockets of time you have.

Please note, I’m not including depression or other illnesses in the list of busyness. Those are a whole n’other ballgame. But as someone with multiple mental and physical health bullshit going on, I’m reminding you to be gentle with yourself. Constantly beating yourself up isn’t going to suddenly make you more productive. Trust me…I know intimately of which I speak. Be gentle with yourself. Accept help when it’s offered. Ask for help when you need it.

Trust the Story. – Background to this. It’s a paraphrased Neil Gaiman quote. More backstory. Jess Jarman, Kris Norris and I have had a three way text chat going on for almost four years, now. It’s incredibly rare that a day passes that we don’t text each other. I came across this Gaiman quote: “Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.” and shared it with them because I loved it so much.

While we were all working on newer to us genres and sort of stepping into the literary unknown (for us anyway) of self-publishing, we were having a lot of of doubt. Certainly, self-doubt, but also story doubt. We’re all mostly pantsers as opposed to plotters, and we’d often find ourselves second-guessing where the characters and the plots were heading because it wasn’t where we’d thought they’d be going. When that happened (and still, today, when it happens) we always tell each other, “Trust the story.”

Thus far, trusting the story and going with my gut has worked beautifully, and it’s brought me to places I hadn’t had any intention of going, but the books are better for it. I’m sure that one day, it might backfire and I’ll end up with a mass of revisions, but so far, this works for me, and I’m going to keep doing it.

Do you have any writing advice you swear by? What is it? Be sure to go check out the other bloggers’ favorite writing advice. Jess, Gwen, Jessica, and Deelylah.

Nostalgic Notes: Movies

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It’s time for another Nostalgic Notes post, and this time it’s movies. There are a ton of movies that I have massive nostalgia for. And nearly everyone of these is quoted regularly around our house.

Labyrinth (1986) Original

Unless you’re new here, you had to know this one would be at the top of the list. Yes, I know there are aspects of it that are a bit creepy. But I still love it – problematic themes and all. Incidentally, I hadn’t known Jenny Trout for very long when we both quoted the same dialogue in this movie in response to something someone else had said. I knew then that we were going to be awesome friends. I was right.

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Speaking of problematic themes, there are definitely some in here (discovered during later rewatches) but I have happy memories all around this one. See also:

Adventures in Babysitting

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie. But, I can tell you that I haven’t seen it near as many times as my sister has. It was one of her very favorites. And the Elizabeth Shue singing the Babysitting Blues is one of my favorite things, ever.

The Princess Bride

I was about to type, ‘who doesn’t love this movie?’. Then I remembered my dear friend Roxanne. She doesn’t love this movie. She also loathes musicals. And thinks Labyrinth would be better without the songs. (!!!!) But I love her anyway.  I first saw this, when Alex Kourvo came home from college, showed up on my doorstep and kidnapped me to take me to the movies. It was one of the best dates I’ve ever had.

Alex and I saw a lot of movies together. And often repeatedly. Like these gems.

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I will never not love these movies. Never.

The first Terminator movie will always be my favorite Terminator movie – even if it did inspire a real and terrifying phobia of AI and Skynet. And who the fuck doesn’t adore Kiefer Sutherland as a vampire?!

My deep and abiding love for Winona Ryder began here. And Beetlejuice is one of those movies that gets quoted constantly around here. Particularly, “If you don’t let me gut out this house and make it my own, I will go insane, and I will take you with me!” And “My life is one big, dark room.”

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This, along with The Grinch, is our annual, must-watch Christmas movie. Usually while we’re making Christmas cookies. It’s also quoted year-long. Hans Gruber is hands down my favorite villain of all time. I. Love. Him.

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Okay, now, I know there are some people who say that Tim Curry phoned in his performance in this movie, but I don’t care. Tim Curry is precious. As are all of the Muppets. The songs are pure gold. And hilarious. And were the soundtrack of my life when my kids were wee.

Speaking of kids, I loved these two when I was little and so did both of my kids. Both still get quoted on the regular around here. Particularly, “Oh, bother.” and “I will bite you, Chuchundra.”

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I fucking love The Animaniacs, and Spooky Stuff is my very favorite compilation video. Not that I can watch it anymore, or you know, any video. I wish they’d make a DVD of this one. It’s brilliant and we quote it all the time.

Last, but certainly not least, are these. My brothers and I often quote Highlander – in fact, one of them just texted me a Highlander quote the other day in response to something I’d said.

And whenever I pick up someone’s baby, I almost always say, “I stole the baby!” And when someone responds with “Stupid Daikini!” or something along those lines, I’m always delighted.

Okay, that’s it from me, this week. And holy crap, apparently, there are a lot of movies I feel nostalgic about!  How about you? What movies do you get the nostalgic feels for?

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ nostalgic picks.

Paige

Jessica

Jess

Gwen

Kris

 

Writing: My Strengths and Weaknesses

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Sooooooooooo, it’s come to this.

The inevitable strengths and weaknesses post.

*pushes up sleeves*

Let’s do this thing.

I’m going to hit weaknesses first. Why? Because I’m more comfortable in this arena. More on that in a bit.

 

Conflict – I struggle with conflict. The first book I ever wrote had zero. Like, literally none. My dear, dear friend, Alex Kourvo, told me something that’s stayed with me all these years. She said, “You have to love your characters enough to grab them by the hair and shove them face-first into the meat grinder.” So, when I feel myself struggling and wondering if I’ve got enough conflict, I hear Alex in my head, and I tighten my grip in my characters’ hair and try to shove a little harder.

Plotting – Ugh. I want to be a person who has an outline and a full-fledged plot. I, however, am not that person. Instead, as I told, Jass Takhar, in this nifty interview she did with me and Jess Jarman last week, I am the pantsiest pantser who ever pantsed. I struggle with plots because I only ever have a sort vague idea of where any given story is going and no real clue on how to get there. I sort of feel my way through the story and blindly shove the pieces together. If they don’t fit, I take them apart flip them around and try something different. Often multiple times. It usually works out in the end, but I feel like I waste a lot of time and energy getting there.

Making writing a priority – Remembering to make as much time for my work as I do everything else in my life is a common problem. Often, I’ll put off my own work in favor of working with a client on an edit, cleaning the house, doing something for someone else that could have waited a bit, making curtains, unclogging the freaking kitchen sink. Though, to be fair, that last one really couldn’t wait. But the point here is that I go through periods of not making my writing as much of a priority as I should – as much of a priority as it needs to be. Then, when I do make the time to write, it’s extra hard to get back into it again.

Out of the three of these weaknesses, this is the one I’ll be working the hardest on.

Okay, I guess it’s strengths time. I want to preface that part, by saying that about a year or so ago, we did a post about having mad skills at various things. This was a really hard post for a lot of us. As women in our society, we’ve been socialized to feel that saying something positive about ourselves is the equivalent of bragging. Even the simple act of saying “thank you” can be painfully difficult. Because saying “thank you” can/is often interpreted as, “Yes, I agree. I’m fucking fabulous.”  When faced with a compliment, many women I know, myself included, have an incredibly difficult time, just saying thanks. More often than not, we feel compelled to point out all the flaws in whatever we’ve just been complimented on or explain all the ways it could have been better because we’re so uncomfortable. No one wants to be seen as agreeing about our relative awesomeness.

Interestingly enough, when men say something positive about themselves, they’re usually perceived as being confident. When women do the same thing, they’re perceived as being stuck up or stuck on themselves. They’re bragging. Look at those terms – they’re junior high leftovers back with another heaping helping of questionable self-esteem.

But, in a continuing effort to try to break this fucking pattern, I’m going to list what I feel are some of my writing strengths. And I’m going to do my level best not to point out all the flaws in said strengths or tell you how I could be doing any one of these things better. Even if it kills me.

*deep breath*

Characters – I genuinely like my characters, and for the most part, I think they’re pretty great. I feel like they have realistic strengths and flaws and are far more character than caricature. If they actually existed, I feel like they’d be fun to hang out with. Maybe at some sort of dinner party – nothing too fancy or too hipster – no…a cookout. That seems like a better venue for them.

Dialogue – I feel like I have a good ear for the way people talk. Probably because I’m nosy and, hey, if you’re gonna have that conversation in front of me in the middle of the cereal aisle, I’m probably gonna walk a little slower and “read” the nutrition info on all the boxes of granola.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. I think I do dialogue well because when I’m not feeling especially hermit-y and introverted (hey, it happens) I enjoy talking to people and listening to the way they use language. I find it fascinating that you can have five different people say the same basic thing, and there will be five different underlying meanings because each speaker’s experiences vary so greatly. I love the nuances of language and I like to that shows in my dialogue.

Incorporating a feminist perspective – Over the last few years, I’ve been noticing a lot of tropes in romance that make me uncomfortable: lack of  or questionable consent, lack of respect for female characters – often from the “hero”. The heroine only has outside interests or friends until she gets a man. I think the one that makes me most nuts is the every other female is somehow competition for the heroine. She’s constantly comparing herself to other women. The hero compares everyone to her. The pretty girls are all mean. Slut shaming. Everyone is after her man – oh noes! In a lot of romance novels, I’m seeing a lot of internalized misogyny, and that creeps me the fuck out. Most of these books are written by women, and and I feel that as writers we can do a fuck of a lot better than that. I make a very conscious effort to avoid these bullshit tropes, and I try to turn them on their heads whenever I can. Especially in my latest releases, I feel like I’m doing a good job with this.

Check out the other bloggers’ strengths and weaknesses by clicking their names.

Kris

Jessica

Gwen

Jess

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