Monday, February 22, 2010

The Path Not Taken

1
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

My biggest dream right now is to become a published author. Maybe it isn't exactly what I imagined when I decided that I wanted to write as a ten year old. By that in my life point I knew that I loved books. They were, and still are, my favorite things in the world. I couldn't believe that I could possibly create something so special that I could share with others.

Now, as an adult, I think about what kind of writer I could become. This thought reminded me of a blog post by Shannon Hale called Choosing Your Path. She talks about how her husband asked her after her first book sold, "What would you rather have happen--your book becomes a best seller and makes lots of money or is hugely critically acclaimed?" Hale then talks about four examples of writers after they were all published fifteen years and what paths they have taken-- The Award Winner, The Best Seller, The Mid-Lister, and The Life Changer. Examining each one, I can see a bit of satisfaction in all of the descriptions and determined that I cannot chose which path I would want to dream of taking. Hale says of all four paths, "There are no guarantees that any path will bring happiness. Because that's what these are--paths. Not ends. Finally getting your book published isn't the end, or becoming a best seller or winning an award or getting fan mail. They're all just part of the path." My dream has always been about finally stepping onto the published author's path. Once in a while, I feel like just abandoning my dream and then I realize that I cannot give up so easily. Giving up is the guarenteed path to failure.

I had one of those moments just last week. Over the past year, I have been given many challenges with my family, moving into our new home, and losing our beloved Cherrie. I have been working a lot for our local science fiction and fantasy convention and it started to leave me quite overwhelmed. I didn't think I could handle anything at that moment, and I have felt quite disappointed in my progress of writing. All those other things have been getting in the way.

I decided that I need to start a different path where I can decide what limits my abilities and what can expand them. I decided to stand up to my challenges, but overall, my writing is what gives me the most heart in this life. It has been a part of my life for so long and I cannot live without it. Finding the right balance will result in trial and error, but I am going to keep moving forward. I cannot let those burdens get in the way of my dream.

I have been talking to other unpublished authors that are trying to find their way to publication. They have a lot of the same concerns that I have about finding time to write, contemplating classes, searching for agents and publishers, working their day job, and looking for people to edit their work. Through it all, our common goal is that dream of publication. They turn to me for advice, and sometimes all I can give them is encouragement. Maybe that is all we really need sometimes to help reassure ourselves that we aren't crazy in our pursuit.

As a published author, Hale gives the advice that I think I can even take heart from as an unpublished author: "I've come to realize that the only thing useful to me is to make goals that are achievable, like writing a book, rewriting a book, sending it out there. It would be useless for me to pin my hopes of happiness on publication or any honors or celebrity that might happen after publication. I try to enjoy my life now, every moment, living it all, in the present. Work that book, work for the opportunity to share it, but never let that dream become everything. We want to be writers because we want to tell stories. Nothing else really matters."



I graduated from college five years ago, and eight months later, I finished my first real novel. I am still working on it, and will write the sequel to it next. My goal is to always get published, but I think that I am willing to take a little bit more time to learn about myself as a writer. To take the challenges of balancing a work schedule while writing at home, keeping up on my reading, finding people to read my work, taking a class or doing writing exercises, but most of all, write write write.

Natasha

P.S. Check out these Ten Rules for Writing Fiction by various authors.

Picture: Climbing the Glastonbury Tor in England on December 7th, 2008

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The World of Sweet Valley Revisited

My previous post about Sweet Valley High movie was something quite unexpected. What is even more surprising is the news that Diablo Cody is writing it and planning on taking it back to the 1980's where it originally began. I really love that idea and who knows if we might see some of the things in the cover arts in action! (That is my idea, not something I have read.)

The latest news is that the creator Francine Pascal is writing the next series called Sweet Valley Confidential with the twins as adults in their late twenties or early thirties. She promises that we will be shocked and fans have been speculating what that could mean. There is also a lot of people wondering who we will see again besides Elizabeth and Jessica.

I am going to admit that I am going to the movie when it comes out and going to read at least the first book of the new series. This is guilty pleasure of mine and I cannot hold back my peaked curiousity. I have read at least one book from every Sweet Valley series. I started reading them in elementary school. Sweet Valley Twins books were in my library in ugly brown hardbacks with blocked white writing on the sides. I remember going to Ben Franklin and my mother bought as many as she could for me when the store went out of business. I kept the books I liked while going through them a few years ago and donated the rest to the library.

I have wondered for years what the twins would be like as adults, especially now that I am one. I am hoping if this comes out as a series that it will be more strutured for the adult readers. I may be stretching it, but I can hope. I am curious to see how things like Facebook and cell phones will change their interactions with people from their past. It will probably depend on the storyline.

I would maybe like to see the twins as reunited after some time. Possibly one of twins moved to New York City to chase their dream (Jessica for acting, Liz for journalism). I think some minor success would be great, but not very much. I think they should be on the verge of a great opportunity that have been working for, but haven't already attained. I think one of the twins will need to make a big decision or seek change. And, of course, they turn to each other and their friends to help them decide. Otherwise...

I would like to see Elizabeth as a Lois Lane-like reporter. In a Sweet Valley Twins book, The Charm School Mystery, is what I always wished for Elizabeth's spirit as reporter. She was twelve years old in the book, but it really brought out the adventurous part of her character. I like to see her single and she has some source that will eventually become her love interest. Also, she keeps going on stories that relate to old friends or connections.

Jessica wanted to act, but I don't see her doing it. I see her possibly working in theater and taking joy in the attention of being behind the scenes. I imagine her as being fashionable with some fake glasses and making costumes. Maybe she will be a newlywed, and then a bunch of things in her past come into her life that she never told her husband (and who knows what that could be!). Maybe something happens at the community theater she works for and Elizabeth needs to come in to report and solve the case?

Lila and Bruce were married, but on the verge of having a nasty divorce. They will have two kids and run a charitable organization. They then find out that there are some illegal actions happening in the organization and they distrust each other more. Eventually, they realize that it isn't either one of them and somehow they can fall in love again.

Todd is a cop with a mustache. Could he be Elizabeth's source, or secretly in love with his work partner?

Winston hosts a popular podcast where he can crack jokes, talk about geeky things and interview different people. He is a single dad with a little girl. What awkward things can happen to him?

Wishful Thinking: I would love to see Mandy Miller, from Sweet Valley Twins and The Unicorn Club books. I don't know why, but I really liked her. I think she had the most refreshing first person voice out of all the books, and really, that is why she became President of the club. Maybe she could become Winston's love interest?

Now that was fun! It really entertaining to see what everyone's takes on the new series will be over the next year as we wait.

Links:


Update: Review of the book that I was actually expecting (which is really too bad). The end quote is what I was afraid of: "And as much as you long to see what your favorite youthful literary characters became when they grew up, that longing dissipates quickly when you learn the answer is 'idiots.'" Check out the review if you don't mind spoilers to see what she means. It is a bit of a shame, really.

Natasha

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Little About Myself

Ten years ago, I turned eighteen.
I was in my last semester of high school. I joined the North Dakota National Guard and was to attend boot camp that June. I spent lots of time working as a co-editor of the yearbook and in FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America). I didn't know much about politics, but was getting ready to help host a forum for several state candidates, including our future governor. I had the best friend I could ever ask for, a cat named Fern that adored me and I adored her, and I was not quite an aunt yet. I read a lot, and wrote poetry. I lived in a place that people would think exists as myth in North Dakota, in a place of hills and acres of trees. I held anger in my chest like a hot jewel. I fought with my family a lot, especially my mother. I was a geek, and that is who I wanted to be, and who it seemed few understood.

Today, I turned twenty-eight.
I didn't stay in the military, but instead moved to Fargo and went to college at Minnesota State University Moorhead. I earned my degree in English emphasis Creative Writing back in 2005. There I won writing contests, put together potlucks, and made new friends. I met my future husband at a K-Mart check-out where we both worked, and we bonded over Star Wars. I have attended Star Wars Celebrations, Comic Con, Central Canada Comic Con, and am now helping run a sci fi and fantasy con called Core Con in Fargo. I've seen actors, directors, writers... too many to list. I have become stronger in my beliefs. I've been to Orlando, LA, San Diego, Indianapolis, London, and Paris. I've touched Stonehenge, been knighted a Jedi on the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, climbed the legendary Tor of Avalon, dug up piece of the Sarlaac Pit from the desert sands... and all with my true love by my side. I've become an aunt four times. I had a sweet kitty named Cherrie who I miss terribly. I have kitties Topher and Sophie to bring me new joy. Reading is still my favorite activity. I've written almost three books and am still learning so much about writing and myself during the process. We bought our first home surrounded by mature trees and parks. And, just yesterday, I laughed with my mother on the phone.

Those are just flashes.
There is so much to say about ten years, and I don't want to say too much about the past. I wanted to think about the now, of what I still want to do.

What do I want the next ten years to hold?
I want children. I want to become a published author. I want to walk down the streets of NYC, drink tea in Ireland, and lose my breath in the Highlands of Scotland. I want kindness. Lots and lots of kindness. With acts of kindness, brings the different words for happiness.

In which cake isn't a lie.

I had a great day today. Yes, I worked my regular job. I went out with friends to the local Mexican place to have my free birthday meal. I opened lovely gifts. We chatted about the things that are fun for the heart. We ate cake at our home, watched the kitties play, and talked and talked. I wrote my 2,000th tweet while listening to my friend sing on the radio.

28 doesn't seem so bad from here.

Natasha

Zombies, Zombies, Zombies

Husband Joey and I have started a blog that is everything zombies. We are posting whatever we can find, including comics, books, movies, video games, music, everything! If you have something to include, send it our way!

Shambleupon
http://www.shambleupon.com

E-mail: zombies@shambleupon.com

Natasha

Monday, February 8, 2010

nook review

"The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Back in October, the nook was announced. I wrote about my reaction to the announcement. That very night, I ordered it and waited until December to have one in my hands.

Why haven't I written about my nook yet? Well, I've had one problem with it that I was hoping to get resolved. It isn't anything wrong with the unit, but I am unable to register. That means that I am unable to buy books right on the unit. The nook uses AT&T for their phone service for accessing their online store, and well, in Fargo, ND we don't have AT&T coverage here. After much troubleshooting over the phone and at the local Barnes and Noble, I found out that I will have to wait until May when I go to Minneapolis to register my nook, or drive out to Barnesville, Minnesota. It is a little disappointing, but really, I am still able to sideload my books from my computer so I am very fortunate. Other e-readers might not have that option for reasons I cannot explain.

That being said, what are the great things about the nook:

  • I thought it was fun to name my nook, and after a few minutes of thinking about it, I decided on London. I want my nook to give me a sense of peace, and when I think of London and England, nothing gives me more than a bit of peace in my mind.
  • I think the wallpapers and screensavers are fun to have and knew what I had to have after I named the nook. My main screen is a picture I took in King's Cross train station in London of a cart from Harry Potter halfway through the wall (see picture). I then used other pictures from our trip as my screensaver that rotates each time I put it to sleep. They are really easy to set up. Just drop the images in the folder when connected to the computer, and the nook does the rest.

  • The screen. I really do like the e-ink technology that the nook, Kindle, and Sony readers use. It is easy on the eyes and looks like paper. Every time I pull out the nook and show people, they almost seem to gasp at it. I missed my bus stop one time as the result of a gasp.

  • Epub is the standard for e-books, but I am happy that I can also put on PDF files.

  • The size is perfect for me. I like how it fits in my hands, especially in the outer cover I chose for it.

  • I do like the touchscreen. I have heard some complaints about the speed that I think is pretty much fixed a bit from the first update, but I haven't thought too much about it at all. I expect updates to help situate things like this. I mean, it is a first generation product. For me, it is user friendly most of the time and I haven't gotten used to using it.

  • Upgradeable memory. When I look at most tech items, this is usually a must for me. (That is one reason this girl still doesn't own an iPod).

  • I can charge the nook when connected to my computer, or it uses the same cord (Micro- USB 2.0) to convert into a wall charger with the included AC adaptor. It is great having two different options for charging with one cable.

  • Android. To me this spells out potential. The nook has access to Google Books and who knows what else will come from this relationship.

Things I still need to try:

  • Edit my manuscripts PDF format. I still haven't tried the notes and highlight features yet.
  • Using audio for music or audio books.
I looked over all my options before deciding on buying the nook, and even the rumors of the future e-readers that are going to come out in 2010. I am still confident with my decision and don't think I will be second guessing my choice any time soon. I recommend if you are in the buying mode for an e-reader, look at all your options and think about what you want from your purchase. Just because the nook is great for me, doesn't mean it is great for you. I do want to say that the nook is worth looking into when you are doing your research. Demos are available in stores right now.

Natasha

Monday, February 1, 2010

Badge

Last night I watched a video of an author with bookshelves behind her. I could recognize the spines of a lot of them, and then I was a bit sad.

I have been reading quite a bit on my nook, but really, will e-books give you a badge of honor that you can show people when you are finished?

I am reading a lot more than ever already this year. I am doing audio books, my e-books, and regular books. I am thinking of taking a break and catching up on some comics based on the TV show Angel. My reading has really taken a new direction over this past year.

Reading has always been my favorite thing, even as a child. I knew at age ten that I wanted to write because I loved to read so much. We had great programs in school, like Pizza Hut's Book It where we collected stickers on pins they gave us. If we collected so many stickers, we earned a free personal pan pizza. What can you not like about that? It was just something extra for myself who loved to read and we collected a few free books as prizes from our teachers.

I am just so happy that I am now loving comics books and have access to both e-books and audio books on top of "regular" books. I now can do what I love most even more, and I guess, the badge of honor really comes from being able to say that I read that and walked in so many shoes. I am still going to buy hard copies, but maybe just not as many. I guess, maybe, I am just cutting down on the heavy things to lift the next time we decide to move. That, and I am reading things I might not have enjoyed before. How can I complain about that?

Natasha

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