The Beauty of “Weird” Music

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According to some people I like weird and unusual music. This is true, I like a lot of non-mainstream music. I listen to steampunk, dark music, symphonic metal, celtic folk, indie rock, musicals, Japanese, instrumental and any other sound which catches my fancy.

I was thinking about why I love many of these genres today and decided the root of it is because they makes me think. For me good music teaches me something or gets my mind working. I’ve learned new words from steampunk songs, history and folk lore from celtic folk, and delved into the depths of human emotion and motivation with indie rock and alternative music. I love instrumental because it offers no restrictions except for the mood of the sound and allows your imagination to take off. But the common thread is it gets me thinking and challenges me.

What’s some of the unusual music that you guys like? I’m always on the lookout for new music (;

~~Lady of the Pen~~

Three Hobbies

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I found this quote awhile ago. “Find three hobbies you love: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative.” That quote has stuck with me ever since. I can see the importance of having variety in my passions. My hobby to be creative (hopefully one day my career) is writing. But if I only focus on writing than I’ll be sitting in front of a computer screen all day and that’s not healthy. That’s where my hobby for keeping me in shape comes in. I’ve been practicing martial arts since I was 13. I took a 2 year break and have recently gotten back into it, but it’s made a huge difference in my life. I’d decided that I’d just focus on my writing and sure I might miss martial arts, but I don’t really have time or money for it. Well some doors recently opened up, by the grace of God, and I’m back into it and I’m a lot happier for it. It’s important to exercise both the body and the mind. As for a hobby for money…well I’m still working on that one. I hope that writing will one day be my hobby of creativity and money, but I’ve also played with the idea of photography or making jewelry as a side gig to bring in a little extra cash.

Whatever your hobbies may be, it’s important to have duality and balance in our lives, it makes us healthier more rounded people.

~~Lady of the Pen~~

Distractions

study_distractionsWriting regularly is a challenge. People who are serious about writing have to treat it like a job, a fun, amazing job which lets you create worlds and people, but a job nonetheless. When you have a job, even if it’s one you love, there will always be days when you don’t want to go in, days you’d rather watch Tv or hang out with friends. With most jobs you shrug off these feelings, because you have a boss and it’s not acceptable to just not show up because you didn’t feel like it.

In writing, or many of the arts, we don’t have the luxury of someone standing over us cracking the whip. At least not when we’re first starting out. Later on we might have agents and publishers breathing down our necks to meet a deadline. But starting out all we have is our self discipline and our dreams to keep us going. So many days, even though we want to create, it’s easier to get caught up in the immediate. But the problem is that if you’re a writer and want to get published you have to put the time in and that’s not easy. Somedays it’s the last thing you want to do. But the question becomes do you want to look back in ten, twenty years and say you watched a lot of tv and wasted time? Or do you want to look back and see a trail of books–or art–that you created through the years?

I, for one, have so many ideas running through my head that I know I’m going to have to writing more and faster if I’m ever going to keep up with them. I have ups and downs with my writing, as do we all, but rarely am I writing as much as I know I should. I know that I need to start treating my writing as a priority if I’m ever going to capture all those delightful–sometimes dark, sometimes beautiful, perhaps a little twisted–ideas running rampant in my head.

I hope that all of us, in the coming year, can say no more often to the distractions and yes to The Work.

~~Lady of the Pen~~

Book List of 2014

This is a list of books I read during 2014, I’ve been making an effort to finish more books. I’m getting to that place in my life where I have trouble finding time to read, I remember when I was younger wondering how that was even possible, but I’m starting to understand. A lot of times it isn’t even that I don’t have enough time, it’s simply that I don’t have enough energy or focus. After a long day it’s so much easier to veg out in front of the Tv, instead of reading. The problem is I’m a reader, I love to read, and when I don’t read I feel like I’m failing myself in someway. So I’m working on regaining an attention span that’s been stolen by hours of tv and the internet. At the end of 2015 I hope to post a longer list.

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Supervillian Hunters: International

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Dreams and Shadows

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Supervillains of London

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Regan O’Reilly: Private Investigator

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Writing your Novel from the Middle

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Fortunately the Milk

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Steelheart

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Chasing the Star Garden

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Emperor’s Soul

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S.H.R.A.I.D: Shadow Play

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The Alchemist

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Superhero of the Day

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Shadow and Bone

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Lady of Devices

download (6)The Girl and the Clockwork Cat

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The Night Circus

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The Book of Kindly Deaths

download (9)Ocean at the End of the Lane (reread)

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In Silence Waiting

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Alice and Wonderland

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Coraline

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Slow Regard of Silent Things

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Dragons of Dorcastle

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Stormdancer

Stormdancer

pressStormdancerUSI recently read a book called Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. It caught my attention because it’s Japanese steampunk and what could be more glorious than Japanese steampunk?—I mean seriously!

After reading it I have to give it 3 out of 5 stars. I liked it a lot, but there were elements that stopped me from liking it as much as I hoped.

Setting: The setting was fantastic! There’s rich, colorful world building, it’s something you can really sink your teeth into. The story is set in the Shima Isles, which would likely translate to Feudal Japan in the real world. But Shima has airships, Iron Samurai, and chainsaw katana. All of which is fueled by lotus flower, a plant which poisons the land and has turned the skies red. It’s a fascinating setting and one which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Story: The main character is 16 year old Yukiko. Her father is Masaru, the Black Fox, the Shogun’s Master Hunter. They are sent on a mission to capture a Griffin—a creature of legend, a Thunder Tiger, that is said to be extinct—for the Shogun. Failure means death.

     To everyone’s surprise they find a griffin in the heart of a storm and manage to capture it. Masaru clips its wings to control the beast, but soon after the airship is torn apart by the storm. The crew abandons ship, but Yukiko can’t allow the Thunder Tiger to die like this. They end up stranded in the wilderness. Yukiko has an ability called the Kenning, which allows her to touch the mind’s of animals. She discovers that the Thunder Tiger has a very unique mind. Yukiko and the Thunder Tiger are forced to form an unlikely alliance in order to survive.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in a story full of corruption and intrigue.

Characters: I liked the characters. Yukiko’s character is forced to be the responsible one in her family, her father is a lotus fiend and makes a habit of smoking and drinking himself into stupor. Her relationship with her father is complex and interesting. She’s relatable and has strong potential. Yet I wasn’t entirely satisfied with her character arc. I didn’t feel like she did enough on her own, it seemed like she was always getting help from someone else and I wanted to see her stand on her own more.

There’s a cast of fascinating characters, many I became quite fond of, sadly most of them didn’t get as much page time as I would have liked.

Style: The author likes to paint a picture for the reader, sometimes this is a far more vivid picture than is necessary. The descriptions are often weighed down by elaborate metaphors and similes. While many of these helped add to the atmosphere of the setting, it bogged down the writing in places. The author also did a fair amount of character hopping. This doesn’t bother me as long as the changes are clearly marked, but there were times when I wasn’t sure who’s mind I was reading from. My final peeve with the writing was that during intense action sequences the author switched from third person past tense, to present tense, which was obviously an attempt to make the action more immediate, but I found it jarring and annoying.

Conclusion: I loved the setting and enjoyed the book, but not as much as I hoped. I have started reading the sequel and so far I’m enjoying it more than the first and I’m hopeful that it will rectify some of my complaints. Because I truly love the idea of the books and there’s so much potential there. So despite it’s imperfections I still encourage anyone who likes dark fantasy, steampunk, or Japanese culture, to give these books a shot.

Prophets of Science Fiction

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 “Science fiction is our speculations, our dreams, and our fears of what the future will bring. Many of these ideas are seemingly far fetched and wild, things that would only be accepted in fiction, but those ideas open the door of possibility…”

For the rest of my blog post go to Vaguely Circular, run by several of my writing friends. This month they’re having an awesome blogathon entitled “Imagine This” focused on speculative fiction. Be sure to check out all the great blog posts!

~~Lady of the Pen~~

Hard Truths

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I’ve been working on editing and polishing my novel ‘Train to Everywhere,’ which I wrote during NaNoWriMo back in November. When I finished the 2nd draft I was high on writing. I’d never gone beyond the first draft of a book before and I was thrilled. I felt that the end was insight. I just needed to make a few more changes, polish up a scene here and there and I’d be done. I could upload it onto Amazon and show it to the world!

But as I’ve gotten a little distance from the 2nd draft I’ve begun to realize that it still has issues. I tried to deny how much work it really needed. A couple of friends had read it and loved it, but part of me knew they weren’t thinking critically enough. But recently I finally got a critical opinion from one of my friends and she confirmed what I already knew, that the story still needs a lot of work.

Accepting this has given me a lot of freedom. Before I didn’t want to make major changes, so I was trying to patch up problems when what they needed was reworking. But now I’m not looking at the story as a solid piece of work, but a number of elements. Elements which can be changed, rearranged or cut of necessary.

So while I’m disappointed that I still have a long way to go on this novel, I’m excited by the possibilities it allows me.

Wish me luck!

~~Lady of the Pen~~

How to Train your Dragon 2 Review

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In the world of sequels, this is a pretty impressive one. The animation is gorgeous and if you spring for 3D there’s a whole added depth. John Powell once again does an amazing job with the soundtrack, though it didn’t quite have the same magic as in the first one and that is something I’ll say about the entire movie.

The movie is very good and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Where the first movie was a story about friendship and finding your place in your world, this is a coming of age story. It’s five years later and a lot has changed in our favorite viking village of Berk, dragons have became a part of the culture. Things seem perfect, everyone is happy and content–everyone except Hiccup that is. He’s a free spirit and flies far from home, creating maps and searching for dragons. But his father believes it’s time to retire and for Hiccup to take over as leader, this is an honor Hiccup is not thrilled about. The story goes on from there, it’s solid, but not terribly imaginative.

SPOILERS ahead! I found it interesting to discover Hiccup’s mother was actually still alive, but it’s definitely not the most original move. Part of me was happy that Hiccup and Stoick were so understanding as to why Valka has been gone for 20 years. It warmed my heart, but my brain had some trouble with it. I feel like there would have been some anger or hurt going on, it didn’t need to be extreme, but I didn’t feel her explanation as to why she left and stayed away was very convincing. But I will say it was very sweet, especially the scenes with Stoick and Valka, which of course was put in to twist the knife later on.

The idea of the dragon army being amassed by any angry, scarred man, with a grudge against dragons, was rather typical. They went from a heart warming story about a boy who befriends a dragon to a typical action adventure story about fighting an ultimate foe. I liked that Hiccup had to grow up, learn, and take responsibility, but killing Stoick to do it felt like another cliche. I don’t think these things would have bothered me with most kids movies, but after the magic of the first one I had such high hopes. I will not say that those hopes were dashed, because I did truly enjoy the movie, but I did leave feeling disappointed.

I think my final point and perhaps the one that annoyed me the most was that Astrid didn’t play a larger role in the story. I wanted to see her and Hiccup working together more. They’ve been dating for 5 years and are apparently going to get married one day, but aside from the promising beginning there wasn’t much of them working together as a team. It’s not that Astrid wasn’t present throughout the movie, but her scenes weren’t important for the most part and we didn’t get to see much of the relationship between Hiccup and Astrid. I was also disappointed that Astrid and Valka never had a scene together. I would think that Hiccup’s mother would want to get to know the girl who is likely to become her daughter-in-law. It could have been a great scene but it appears they were too caught up in their giant dragon battles to fit that in.

I know this is all rather negative and it is by no means a bad movie, it’s beautiful and has some great moments in it, but after the simple magic of the first, I feel like this one could have been so much more than the big action film it turned out to be.

~~Lady of the Pen~~

Liebster Award!

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I was nominated for the Liebster Award a couple weeks back by Desiree B, I’ve been really busy and haven’t had time to do it until now. I’m going to start by doing the first part, answering the questions, and then I’ll write my own and find nominees.

The rules as I understand them are simple. I write 11 random facts about my self, then answer 11 questions my nominator, Desiree B, wrote, I then nominate 11 people who have around 200-ish followers and write them 11 questions to answer. Being busy I haven’t gotten to the second part yet, but thought I’d at least do the first half 😉

 

 

11 Random Facts About Me

1. I love dark clouds, stormy weather, and the rain.

2. My favorite seasons are the transition seasons, Spring and Autumn.

3. I’ve been known to walk in the woods with swords.

4. My favorite flavor of ice cream is chocolate orange, made locally where I live.

5. I love being existential at times, especially while star gazing.

6. My favorite comic book is X-Men.

7. I love Japanese anime.

8. My car’s name is Little Blackie after the horse from True Grit.

9. Live entertainment (music, plays, performers) are one of life’s great pleasures.

10. My favorite Playstations games are Final Fantasy, but my Nintendo 64 game will always be Zelda and the Ocarina of Time.

11. I’m sitting at the kitchen counter procrastinating making dinner.

 

Answers to Desiree B‘s Questions

1. What’s your biggest goal for the month?

Surviving and having written as much as I can.

2. What milestone are you hoping to accomplish in the next five years? 

I would like to have self-published a couple of books within the next five years.

3. What’s the biggest milestone that you’ve accomplished thus far? 

Writing a book and getting it past the first draft stage into the second, that and my blackbelt in TKD 😉

4. When you started your blog, what was your first expectations for it? Has it changed?

I don’t know if I really had an expectation. I thought it would be fun to litter a blog page with whatever I want and I still do. What really surprises me is that anyone reads it 😀

5. Aside from writing, what other activity captures your interest?

I somehow feel that reading is a given. I think the martial arts would be my second great love. It’s very empowering and satisfying when I beat up the guys 😉

6. Where is your favorite place to read or write.

Those are two very different places. I love to read at home, usually sprawled on a couch or my bed. When it comes to writing I love to write in coffee shops. Getting out really helps me focus and it’s nice to not completely be alone while I write. I can also people watch if I’m having trouble writing anything down.

7. Who is your favorite author?

Why such hard questions? Growing up it was Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Most recently I’ve been extremely enamored with Neil Gaiman’s books, but there are so many wonderful books and authors out there.

8. What keeps you going when things get rough?

Stubbornness and a masochistic desire to torture myself lol. I guess I don’t really give myself the option, at least when it comes to writing. I know it’s what I want to do. But it does get hard and I usually get through with a lot of prayer and ranting to good friends.

9. If you could give one life tip, what would it be?

Try to understand people and don’t overreact. So many of life’s arguments are simply miscommunication between two people trying to make themselves understood.

10. What genre interests you the most and why?

I’ve become very interested in steampunk. I love the style and the mashup of old and new. It’s fun to see old ideas and technology turned on its head and made fresh.

11. Out of all your favorite books, which character do you wish you could be? (Oh, and you can’t use your book) 

That’s a really hard question!…Maybe Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” series. I thought it was really cool when I was a kid to have a girl who wanted to be a knight. She was pretty B.A. too.

~~Lady of the Pen~~