A strange history: search history, that is

I was tagged by H.L. Burke in a sort-of blog hop. Basically, you have to post some of the weird things you’ve searched for and explain what in the world was going through your head at the time. I thought, well, I search for weird stuff. Let’s see what Google has learned about me.

The Rules:
  • Access your browser history
  • Pick at least 5 of your strangest searches you’ve had to look up as a writer
  • List them below with an explanation as to why you had to look them up
  • Tag 2-5 other bloggers

I do most of my searches on my ipod, and it doesn’t give up search history easily. I had to go to my search tab and start typing in letters to see what it spit out. So here they are, more or less alphabetically.

Accuweather hurricane: I was following Hurricane Irma pretty closely last week.

Bugs Bunny vs. opera singer episode: I wanted the title so I could show the kids. Incidentally, the title is The Longhaired Hare.

Bidoof: To show the kids how dorky-looking it is.

pokemans_399

Daz3d victorian dress: To see if they had any in their shop so I could put actual clothing on my 3d models. Yes, they exist. No, they don’t fit any models I actually have. *shakes fist*

Heist movie formula: I needed the formula for heists because all heists follow them and I was writing one.

Jami Gold romance. I was looking up Jami Gold’s fabulous Romance Beat Sheet to send to a friend.

Key West after Irma. Yeah, I was having a morbid day.

Tallest termite mound Kenya. The kids wanted to see it. It’s tall.

african-termite-mound

I guess most of that didn’t really pertain to writing. I mean, some of it did. I just search for things I’m curious about.

I was going to tag other bloggers, but everybody I know who blogs has already done this one. So … do it if you want to?

Advertisements

23 book reviewed in a minute

I was reviewing the last book I read, and I thought, “You know, I should put that on my blog.”

Then I thought about the 23 books I’ve read this year and how I ought to review them on my blog, too. But who has time to read 23 book reviews?

So, I present to you, with apologies to Rinkworks, 23 BOOKS REVIEWED IN A MINUTE! That means very, very, very short reviews of each.

Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings by Lydia Sherrier

Lily: I’m a wizard.
Sebastian: I’m a witch.

They solve PROBLEMS with MAGIC.


The Firethorn Crown by Lea Doue

Twelve princesses are cursed to DANCE EVERY NIGHT until LILY agrees to MARRY her BLACKMAILER.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Revelations by Lydia Sherrier

Lily: Sebastian, are you keeping secrets?
Sebastian: Yes. Lily, are you keeping secrets?
Lily: Yes.



Fire Water by Domino Finn (book 5 of Black Magic Outlaw)

Cisco goes to the ELEMENTAL PLANE and there learns an INTERESTING FACT.


Dragonfriend by Marc Secchia

A girl named HUALIAMA is TOO TOUGH TO DIE because DRAGONS. Also GRANDION has secrets TOO.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Allies, by Lydia Sherrier

Lily and Sebastian don’t TRUST EACH OTHER because they’re a WIZARD and a WITCH with TERRIBLE HOME LIVES.


A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones

VIVIAN SMITH is FAMOUS for RUINING ALL OF TIME. See: nuclear war in WWII.


Spellsmith and Carver, by H.L. Burke

Auric: I hate my crazy dad.
Jericho: I love your crazy dad.
Auric: I hate you now, too.

CRAZY DAD runs away into the FEYLANDS.

Auric: I take it back.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Legends, by Lydia Sherrier

Lily and Sebastian go to ENGLAND because of MORGAN LAFEY.


Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

A bunch of KIDS go to MARS to escape ALIENS but find aliens ANYWAY.


Cities of Gold by Douglas Preston

A couple of guys try to retrace the path CORONADO took from Mexico up through New Mexico. The desert SUCKED back then and it STILL SUCKS.


Coiled, by H.L. Burke

Brothers: One of us turns into a snake when somebody looks at him. The other turns into a snake when nobody is looking.

Sisters: One of us has healing powers but gets uglier when she uses them. The other gets more beautiful the more cruel she is.

Now they have to GET MARRIED.


Excalibur by Tim Marquitz

Captain: We can fly this alien ship even though it was designed by BUGS

BUGS start KIDNAPPING PEOPLE

Captain: Let’s rescue these people.

BUGS HATCH OUT OF THEM

THE END


Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Anna is a WEREWOLF OMEGA which means she can CALM DOWN OTHER WOLVES. So when a WEREWOLF starts hearing VOICES she can CALM HIM except the voices are caused by an EVIL WITCH.


The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Valancy has a WEIRD NAME and a BORING LIFE. Then she finds out she has A YEAR TO LIVE. So she IS RUDE TO HER RELATIVES and GETS MARRIED.


The Tethered World by Heather L.L. FitzGerald

HOMESCHOOLERS go to a FANTASY WORLD that is really the GARDEN OF EDEN with ELVES.


Dragon Lyric by Bethany A. Jennings

Dragon: Wives are beautiful. And delicious.


Fabled, by Kara Jaynes

A girl can’t go to ARCHERY SCHOOL so she runs away and FIGHTS FAIRYTALES INSTEAD.


The Midnight Queen, by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Sophie is studying MAGICK even though it’s IMPROPER.

Gray: I am disgraced and accused of murder. Shall I teach you magick?

Sophie’s father: I have a plot to kill the king and pin it on Gray.

Sophie and Gray GO ON THE RUN.


 

14 things I learned from urban fantasy

Urban fantasy is fantasy/fairy tales that takes place in modern day, but especially in an urban setting. Buffy, Grimm, and Supernatural are all examples of urban fantasy in TV shows. In books, big hitters are the Dresden Files, Mercy Thompson, and the Iron Druid series. I love the genre and hope to write in it properly. Since my list of fairytale tropes was so fun to write, I thought I’d do one for one of my other favorite genres.

Angels-Wings-Singlet-Jeans-font-b-Fantasy-b-font-Girls-font-b-urban-b-font-girl

  1. There are fairytale monsters out there. Sometimes the world knows about them. Mostly it doesn’t. The uninformed populace are easier to eat.
  2. Magic exists. Most people don’t know about it, but a few people find out they can use it, mostly when they blow something up accidentally.
  3. If you have magic, 90% of the time it will be fire-based. This is why there are so many “gas explosions” in the news.
  4. Most magical creatures dislike being burned. This is why if you have magic, fire magic is the best. Flamethrowers for the win.
  5. Werewolves can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll eat your face.
  6. Vampires can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll drink your blood.
  7. Zombies can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll eat your brain.
  8. Fairies and elves can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll make you a deal you can’t refuse and keep you a slave forever.
  9. Angels can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll cost you your soul/immortality/magic power.
  10. Demons can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll eat your soul, your body, your emotions, your friends, your relatives, and your dog.
  11. Any kind of magic involving spirits and the dead is usually a Bad Thing. Except when it’s not.
  12. Fairytale logic sometimes holds true (favors repaid, strange bargains kept, strange instructions followed).
  13. Night clubs are where monsters hang out and eat hot girls, usually in the inevitable alley outside.
  14. Most magic systems are pretty basic–the elements are shaped by the will. If it was good enough for Dresden, it’s good enough for you.

Menacing lizards (little dragons?)

Today we were menaced by a collared lizard. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

We had been out for a walk at about 8 AM. In Arizona. When it’s supposed to be (only) 109. (It was 116 yesterday, so I’d say 109 is an improvement.) Anyway, the heat has made the insect population explode. By extension, the lizard population has also exploded. They’re everywhere, lots of different kinds, all looking at you sarcastically as you walk by.

Great_Basin_Collared_Lizard_Close_Up_(19976768155)lizard-zoom1condescending-lizard

This lovely guy is a Great Basin Collared Lizard. Look at the condescension in his eye.

Anyway, we were walking along one of the nearby washes, which is full of brush and animal life. A good sized collared lizard ran away from us into the bushes as we walked along. Suddenly its mate popped out onto the sidewalk.

Great_Basin_Collared_Lizard_(14816245668)
Not my photo–it’s from WIkimedia Commons

He looked like this one. Only with more red. He flattened himself to make himself look bigger, and extended his throat dewlap thing, which I’d only seen iguanas do when afraid or scared. Then he started doing pushups.

Lizard Pushups

This is a display of aggression. He was warning us to leave his territory, he was top lizard, and we were unwanted predators.

I sat and laughed. I mean, getting menaced by a critter the size of my foot is pretty funny. His resolve faded as we walked closer, and he zipped into the bushes again. Poor lizard, I don’t mean to laugh at you, but you’re just so funny.

Now imagine if he was elephant-sized and doing an aggressive display to lurking humans. That right there is a dragon.

I think it would be fun if somebody wrote a story with an actual reptilian dragon that actually exhibited reptile behavior. Imagine the huge dragon basking on a rock in the early morning, watching his domain and hoping a female shows up. 😀 Who shows up to ruin his day? Some irritating dragonslayer. Cue the aggressive head-bobbing and pushups, man!

dragon_on_the_rock_by_antimad1-d6hpw24
Dragon on the rock by Antimad1

Five worldbuilding tricks I learned from the show GRIMM

Grimm’s final season aired a few weeks ago, and there was much lamenting among its fans. People are hoping for a sequel. It was a fun show for those of us who wanted something a little darker than Once Upon A Time. It was a police procedural show where the hero cop is a Grimm. That is, he has the supernatural power to see Wesen–fairytale monsters who live among us in human form. Basically, it was urban fantasy.

Each week, we tuned in to see some new wesen committing some interesting crime, and to see our sleuth figure it out while trying not to reveal his Grimm secrets to the world at large. Over the course of five seasons, friends became enemies, enemies became allies, and layers of intrigue are slowly revealed as the Royals (the princes and princesses of fairytale fame) try to take over the world. Yet somehow, the human populace at large remains unaware of the wesen subculture, even though their lives are being impacted by the politics of fairytale creatures.

The worldbuilding was great fun for a TV show that pretty much only got off the ground because of the werewolf sidekick. Here’s what I picked up:

If your fairytale monsters live in plain sight, make sure they’re tied tightly to folklore. Ghosts, aliens, Krampus, sewer gators, and the Loch Ness Monster are all various kinds of wesen. Each species has its own motivations and needs that make them sympathetic. For instance, the episode with the aliens mutilating cattle turn out to be a type of bioluminescent wesen whose women have to eat beef ovaries as they get ready to give birth. Oh, and other wesen hunt them for their glowing skin.

blutbad meme

The government makes sense. Over the course of the series, we meet the Wesen Council, a governing body of monsters who make sure that the monsters don’t reveal themselves to humans. The Royals, on the other hand, function like some kind of Austrian mafia. They have far-reaching dealings with humans and their governments. We also meet a secret government organization that tracks the movements of wesen and Royals and tries to neutralize threats.

helloladies-grimm

If your hero has superpowers, make sure they’re explained. Over the course of the series, Nick gains not only the power to see wesen in their true form, but also crazy powers of hearing, strength, and the ability to hold his breath for long periods. But it feels logical, because we see him go through crazy, terrible stuff, and the powers are the side effects of almost being dead. Or something.

Don’t be afraid to jump the shark. Urban fantasy, in particular, seems to revel in this. Whether it’s the wizard in the Dresden books raising a zombie T-rex, or Nick taking off his sunglasses in the middle of a wesen wedding (wesen identify Grimm by their eyes), or a formerly dead character reappearing as a brainwashed superweapon. This genre is all about following the worldbuilding to its logical conclusion. And that means finding the most bonkers, broken thing you can and slapping the audience in the face with it.

quadruple-homicide-grimm-face-off-season-2-13_o_2207303

Don’t forget the cozy elements. Every week, I’d chat with my mom about the latest episode. “It was so nice,” we’d sigh. It didn’t matter how grisly the murder had been. That wasn’t why we watched it. We tuned in each week to see if Nick was going to tell his girlfriend that he was a Grimm, or see if Monroe and Rosalie would get together, despite being different species of wesen, or to see if Monroe would trot out some obscure wesen factoid with his typical nerd delivery. We watched to see how Hank, Nick’s partner, handled wesen murders without understanding anything about that world, and if anybody would ever tell Wu, the other cop who always delivered the best one-liners. We loved the character development.

thatssosweetgrimm

I’ve noticed in other urban fantasy that if they can nail these particular elements in their worldbuilding, I’ll typically follow those series through hours of TV or multiple books. Sure, there’s plotholes. But we stick with it because we’re so invested in the characters that we don’t mind.

grimm-funny-memes-0

Five things I learned from my old terrible fanfics

My kids recently got interested in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. This interest waxes and wanes, depending on who is raising chao at the time.

Anyway, this time when they got on a Sonic kick, I said, “Do you guys want me to read you my old Sonic stories?”

Their answer was Very Yes. So I started trying to read them the very first one I wrote when I was 15.

If I knew then what I know now:

melodramatic

1. Melodrama is not plot. I had pages and pages of little random dramas, but nothing really moving forward in the story.

There’s also quite a few loops. Professional writers use them to hit word counts. A character goes out to accomplish something, fails, and winds up back where they started. It adds nothing to the story, but hey, it added 5k more words. This is why fantasy books are so thick.

Solution: cut that fluff and keep that story moving. If I did this with the fanfic in question, it would go from 50k words of wandering fluff to 13k of tightly-written awesome.

kneel_before_your_master
This actually happened in a Sonic game. It was awesome.

2. Bring the Big Bad in EARLY. In that first story, Metal Sonic is the main antagonist. But he doesn’t show up until about the 3/4ths mark. My enthusiastic teen self built the plot like a Lego tower. Let’s add on THIS and add on THAT and who cares if it makes sense? The plot muddles around with weaker secondary villains before finally settling on the Big Bad.

Solution: have Metal Sonic actively oppose the heroes from the start. He’s terrifying. Let him terrify the reader.

cast-of-thousands

3. Casts of thousands work fine for epic fantasy, but not for smaller-scope urban fantasy. I had eight main characters. Count ’em. Eight. And I really only liked four of them. So that’s who got all the character development.

Poor Tails. I apologize for always leaving you out in the cold. You get more love later in the series, I promise!

Solution: cut everybody not necessary to the plot. They can stay home and have an adventure next time.

idiot_ball_by_seekerarmada-d5irhmw

4. The idiot ball: don’t give it to anyone. Ever.

This is when a character who has been competent up to this point does something randomly stupid to move the plot along. Horror movies are full of these.

“Don’t go into the house alone!”

“Why are the lights out?”

“I’m going to ignore the spooky sound coming from the back of the house.”

“We know the bad guy attacks girls when they’re alone … let’s go hunt for him and leave our girl alone!”

Solution: Characters have to do things that logically follow. Sure, people are stupid in real life. But this is fiction. It has to make sense. Give the characters some freaking survival instincts.

mary-sue

5. You know that perfect character who is perfect and never gets scared and has all the answers and is better than all the other characters? She’s called a Mary-Sue. She’s the author’s self-insert into the story.

:tears out hair:

Solution: Give her some freaking FLAWS. Let her make MISTAKES. My GOSH. I hate this character so BADLY. And she’s MINE.

I apologize to everybody who waded through my old stories. They’re awful and painful and … :whispering: … still available. I’d take them down, except I still get the occasional message from a fan who remembers them fondly.

Long story short, the kids and I skipped the first five stories. We’re just going to hit the ones where new characters get introduced. We’ll see if my writing gets any more succinct as we move forward in time.

When chickens turn evil (or just hungry)

Once upon a time, I had chickens.

We raised them in our backward, and they laid eggs for us. One of my favorites was an Arucana (Easter Egg) chicken named Benadictine, after another chicken story from Readers Digest. She laid olive-green eggs, and she was a stinker.

One time my brother and I had let the chickens out on the lawn. He went and made himself a ham sandwich.

chicken-story1

Benadictine wanted that ham.

chicken-story2

So she sneaked up on him …

chicken-story3

… and pecked the ham out from between the slices of bread.

My brother was not happy.

chicken-story4

He stormed inside and made himself another sandwich. Meanwhile, I laughed myself silly.

Benadictine ate that whole slice of ham, and was very happy about it.

Minecraft as history – the Pilgrims

The kids and I have been studying American history. To make sure they understood the events of Jamestown and Plymouth, I couched it in Minecraft terms.

So, you log in to a new map with some guy. He’s never played before.

“Okay, you start out by punching trees to get wood blocks,” you say.

“Nope,” he replies. “I’m a gentleman. Work is beneath me.”

“But,” you say, “when it gets dark, the zombies come out.”

“You do it,” he says.

“I’ll gather my own resources,” you say, starting to feel miffed.

So you punch trees, get wood, make tools, and start gathering stone and coal. The Gentleman wanders around, looking at the scenery and picking flowers.

By night, you have a shelter built. He has nothing. The zombies come out.

  
“You have to let me in!” he yells from outside.

“No!” you reply. “You should have gathered your own resources!”

Everything goes quiet. The sun comes up, and the Gentleman has vanished.

But as the sun is going down, he appears with a sword and a bow and arrow, kills you, and takes your stuff.

That’s what the gentlemen in Jamestown did to the Indians. 

The Pilgrims at Plymouth, on the other hand …

You log into a new map with your Pilgrim friend. They immediately begin punching trees. They chat pleasantly as they gather stone, mine coal and iron, build furnaces and shelters.

Within a few days, your map looks like this.

  
And there you are. When it comes to being a pioneer, you want to be a Pilgrim, not a Gentleman.

Jurassic World’s raptors aren’t feathery and that’s okay

Ever since the Jurassic World trailer came out, people have been throwing a fit about it. Particularly scientists, those all-knowing folks who look closely at fossils and say, “OMG it had FEATHERS.”

microraptor-fossil-1

“The dinosaurs don’t look like dinosaurs” they shriek. “They still look like LIZARDS. We want BIRDS.”

Well folks, filling a theme park with giant carnivorous ostriches wouldn’t sell many tickets. Especially since this is a SEQUEL. And you kind of have to, you know, use the same monsters as in the original movies. Admittedly, these monsters look much spiffier than they did in 1993.

jurassic-world-poster

No scientists are squawking about the GENETICALLY MODIFIED D-REX, the star of the movie. Which, going by the buzz, means we finally get the rad dinosaurs from the Lost World book that could turn invisible.

Nope, all that matters is that the raptors and gallimimus don’t have feathers. Yep.

six-foot-turkey

Nevermind that the velociraptors in JP are technically utahraptors, and only a couple of fossil fragments of them exist–therefore we don’t know if they had feathers. (Seeing as their smaller cousins did, we can assume they did, but we don’t KNOW.)

The point is, Jurassic World is a movie. Likely a GOOD movie. With the sorts of lizardy dinosaurs people expect from the series. Scientists can go off and make another season of Walking with Six-Foot Turkeys, if they’re going to whine so much.