Category Archives: Thursday’s Children

Thursday’s Children – Inspired by Benedict Cumberbatch


This post could go in a few directions, but I’m going to stick to a direction that’s 1) clean and appropriate for all ages and 2) actually has to do with writing.
I’ve been a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch (I’m sorry, you can’t just call him Benedict – it’s all or nothing) since I first saw Sherlock on Netflix.  I’m a bit of a Sherlock purist, so I was skeptical.  Set in modern times?  Pffft.  But, I loved it.  It’s so true to the original stories and he is the perfect Sherlock.  Arrogant enough that you want to punch him, but still with a quality that makes you like him.  I’m digressing; this is not supposed to be a post about Sherlock.
I’ll be honest, while I consider myself a fan, Sherlock was the only thing I had seen him in until about a week ago when I saw Star Trek Into Darkness.  I was pretty geeked about his movie in general – Star Trek, JJ Abrams, B.C. (I guess I can abbreviate) and a whole bunch of other actors I really like.
I loved the movie, I thought it was great.  But, I was really blown away by the villain played by B.C.  (I think the fact that he is the villain is pretty much common knowledge so I hope that’s not a spoiler.)  He was intelligent, he kept you guessing at times, he used a psychological approach, and he was absolutely brutal.  Surprisingly so, in some regards. 
That’s not something that he had really done before, from what I understand, but he mastered it in my opinion.  If it’s possible to be poetic and brutal in the same action, his character was.  He also has one of the best lines in the whole movie…  
Chills, I tell you.
I feel like my villain worship might be starting to sound a little disturbing, but this has a point.
Watching this movie got me thinking about boundaries, and pushing boundaries; about villains that are terrible beyond anything you could imagine.  There is a story I am working on that has a true villain in it.  However, I tend to have a hard time putting my characters through too much, I want to protect them.  This bad guy has potential though.  He has goons, there are physical confrontations, a kidnapping, even a bit of torture for information.  But I don’t just want the physical aspect, I want to get into the psychological side, too.  This is nothing I’ve ever tried before, but I’m inspired to try it now.  Because I think, if you have a villain that is the stuff of nightmares, it only makes the triumph at the end that much more meaningful.

So, I guess you could say Benedict Cumberbatch has inspired me to explore my inner villain…I’m off to see what kind of evil I can conjure up.

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Thursday’s Children – Inspired by Roald Dahl

I had a conversation with a co-worker on Monday that lead to this post.  Just a bit of background…
My co-worker (we’ll call her Katherine) has three small children, but this specifically centered around her eight year old daughter (we’ll call her Fiona).  We were having a conversation about something else and it made me think of a scene from Matilda, one of my favorite Roald Dahl books.  I told Katherine this and explained the scene, and was met with a blank stare. 
“Have you ever read Matilda?” I asked.
“Have you ever seen the movie?” I asked.
“What about The Witches?”  Another of my favorite Roald Dahl books.
Okay, so, no reading of any Roald Dahl books.  I was shocked but I persevered.  I decided to ask if Fiona had read any of them.  She’s eight but I know that she reads at a fifth grade level.  I figured her teacher might have suggested one of those books (or even her own dad who teaches fifth grade).  Nothing, Fiona had never read any of them.  Now, maybe she’s a little young; but with her reading level, I don’t think so.  The conversation then turned into my co-worker asking me what other Roald Dahl books Fiona should read and a list was made. 
What surprised me about all of this was the fact that she was so unfamiliar with his books.  (This story is taking a while, but I have a point, I promise.  Hang in there.)  It did make me glad to see that while my co-worker might not be a big reader, she encourages her daughter who loves it.
Then, I started thinking about this in terms of other conversations I’ve had with this person.  There was one in particular that involved her sister’s wish list on Amazon and a birthday present.  “She has three seasons of Doctor Who on here.  I am NOT buying her those.”  (I won’t even go into how mortally offended I was by her dismissal of Doctor Who.)  I realized the bigger issue; there seems to be a lack of imagination here – no whimsy, no make believe. 
Now, I’m not trying to be mean, I’m really not (although I’m sure it sounds like it).  She is a very nice person and I like working with her; we just couldn’t be more different in many ways.  It’s more like I’m just now coming to the realization that not everyone grew up in a house like I did where we read books by Roald Dahl and Tolkien and with a mom obsessed with dragons and fairies.  Imagination was encouraged and was just…sort of…taken for granted I suppose.
So, what does all of this have to do with inspiration?
It inspires me to use my imagination even more than I currently do.  I feel like imagination is slipping away from society in a lot of ways and I find that scary.  Nothing is spontaneous anymore; everything is planned to within an inch of its life.  You don’t see kids just running around outside making up stories, wearing bath towels as capes.  At least, not in my little sphere of the world.  Everyone is so obsessed with succeeding or being the best, they ignore being creative.  As my husband would say, “No one’s fun anymore!”
So, I’m inspired by Roald Dahl who had a wonderful imagination and built worlds where kids saved the day.  I’m inspired to be more creative and try new things.  I’m inspired to find ways to get others to use their imagination.  And mostly, I’m inspired to never let my own imagination die.  To live without it would be, well, unimaginable.
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Thursday’s Children – Inspired by…well…What I Don’t Like

The Thursday’s Children blog hop is about what inspires us as writers.  This week I’m turning it around a little bit and looking at trends in current YA literature that I don’t like.  Trends that are helping me figure out what not to do in my own manuscript.
These aren’t new observations; I’ve heard/read some of them before.  Now I’m looking at them in terms of how I want to do things differently in my own work.  And not just do things differently, but do my very best to push against the tide of troubling trends I’m seeing.  Alliteration got a little out of control there, but I stand by it.
I’ll preface this by saying that I read a lot of YA that has some sort of paranormal aspect to it, so many of these observations are in that context.  But, these trends are prevalent in non-paranormal works as well.  Also, quite a few of these trends are intertwined and feed off of each other.
I’m pretty sure we can all think of examples of these trends/characteristics, so I’m not going to point any out.  Instead, after I get through the bad, I’m going to give some examples of characters that I feel go against these trends or are good examples of strong characters.
The whiny/selfish female:  Everything that comes out of her mouth or runs through her head is negative in some way.  I don’t like this, this wronged me, I didn’t get my way on this, and it’s just not fair.  Life ain’t fair, suck it up and deal with it.
I struggled with what to call this one (not wanting to betray the sisterhood), but I settled on “the stupid female”:  This one is more prevalent in the paranormal genre.  It’s the character who thinks, “I don’t have any powers but others do, but I can’t possibly let them help me so I’m going to put myself in danger and make things worse.”  I know there has to be conflict and drama, but this is nothing but frustrating to me. 
The female who has nothing else in her life but the guy:  She has no hobbies, no other friends, nothing to do but think about him and how wonderful he is.   Moreover, if the guy goes away or they break up for a while, the world ends.  Again, I know there has to be conflict.  But if someone is that dependent on another person, I think there are larger issues here.
The overprotective/stalker-ish male:  We all know this character.  His girl can’t go anywhere without him, can’t be trusted to stay out of trouble unless he’s there to protect her.  He watches her when she doesn’t know it.  While she’s sleeping maybe?  Sorry – couldn’t resist that one.  And he gets angry at her when he thinks she puts herself in danger.  Which leads us to…
The angry male:  This often goes hand in hand with the overprotective male.  The female character has to watch what she does so she doesn’t make him angry, often resorting to lying about her actions or whereabouts.  Which always leads to more trouble.  In addition, he often blames her for his anger; if she wouldn’t do certain things, he wouldn’t be so angry.
The male that treats the female like a small child:  This could be carrying her around like a piece of luggage (again, happens more in the paranormal genre) or essentially patting her on the head and telling her to be quiet any time she tries to speak.  You know… “It’s time for the grown-ups to talk now,” in the most patronizing voice you can imagine. 

There are a number of reasons these traits bother me.  When it comes down to it, would I want my daughter using these characters as role models?  No.  Okay, I don’t actually have a daughter, but I have some close friends who do.  Do I want their daughters using these characters as role models?  Absolutely not.  I want them to grow up as strong, independent girls whose lives don’t revolve around a boy.  And I want them to look for boys who treat them well, treat them as equals, and respect them.
I’m getting a little feminist here, so I’ll flip it around.  I don’t want the little boys I know to grow up thinking girls are helpless and the proper way to treat them is to lock them in the tower and tell them “Don’t worry your pretty little head, I’m a boy, I’ll take of everything.”  I want the boys I know to grow up and treat girls, or whomever their significant other may happen to be, as equal partners.  Partners that help each other and help make each other better.
As promised, here are a few examples of strong characters (in my opinion) within YA fiction:
Kaylee Cavanaugh in the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent – she does what she needs to do to protect those around her and everyone else can either help or get out of her way.  But, on the other side, she’s not a bitch about it either.  She just knows what she has to do, she is protective of those around her and will do what needs to be done no matter the cost to herself.  She has strength and integrity.
Grace Divine and Daniel Kalbi in the Dark Divine series by Bree Despain – she is powerful in her own right and Daniel accepts that (although it does take him a little bit to get there).  By the end, they are true partners and he trusts her to make the right decisions.
Rose Hathaway and Dmitri Belikov in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead – this is another example of a relationship where they are true partners.  They make each other better, work well together, and treat each other like equals.  There is still drama, and yes they are apart for a while (which seems to be a necessity in all YA series’), but it’s not what you expect and Rose does what she needs to do to try to fix it.
Dru Anderson in the Strange Angels series by Lili St. Crow – she gets thrown into a situation almost immediately that is way over her head.  But, she uses what she knows, takes help where she needs it, and fights like hell to keep herself and others safe.
Apparently, I like main female characters who take on the difficult tasks.  This may seem like it conflicts with my point above about the female who puts herself in danger unnecessarily.  However, these characters have the skills they need to pull off the tasks at hand.  They know their own power and use it, they don’t put others in danger because of an inherently flawed idea that people who care about each other can’t work together and help each other.
What it comes down to is this…  Now that I know what I don’t like, I know what types of traits to avoid in my characters and their relationships.  My goal is to write books that contain characters who are role models and who help to reverse this troubling trend.

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Thursday’s Children – Soundtrack to a Book


First off, in case you can’t tell, I’m going through a bit of an identity crisis.  I decided to change the name of my blog, but haven’t decided what it’s going to be called yet.  I also changed my name *on* my blog, so don’t be confused.  I’m still me.  J

Ok, on to the Thursday’s Children portion of this post.  This was not the topic I planned on writing about today.  The topic I had in mind is more serious and I decided I just didn’t have it in me today to tackle it.  So instead, I’m going to share my playlist for my current work in process. 
I’ve talked about a song in particular that inspired a project, but never the playlist for my current story…the one I plan to finish this year. 
I will freely admit that I have no idea why some of these songs make me think of this project.  There are songs that I hear and I think of a certain character, or scene or place.  And then other songs, it’s just more of a vibe, something I can’t really describe.
I fully expect this list to grow as I work towards the end of the book, but this is where the playlist stands right now.
Vanilla Twilight – Owl City
I Won’t Give Up – Jason Mraz
Brighter Than the Sun – Colbie Caillat
Where You Are – Gavin DeGraw
Burn it Down – Linkin Park
Brave – Josh Groban
Are We Afraid – Toad the Wet Sprocket
How Soon is Now? –  Love Spit Love
Angel Mine – Cowboy Junkies
The Boys of Summer – The Ataris
Colorful – Rocco DeLuca & the Burden
Follow Through – Gavin DeGraw
The Great Escape – Boys Like Girls
Everybody’s Changing – Keane
Walk On – U2
All I Want – Toad the Wet Sprocket
Crushcrushcrush – Paramore
The Lighthouse’s Tale – Nickel Creek
Cry in the Sun – Better Than Ezra
No One’s Gonna Love You – Band of Horses
Now that I have the list typed out and staring at me, I’m not sure how some of these songs even relate to the same book.  But they do, in my mind anyway!  Below are a few videos I pulled off YouTube, for what I feel might be a couple of the more obscure songs (and one of my all-time favorites).

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Thursday’s Children – Where Did the Inspiration Go?


I’ve missed a few Thursday’s Children blogs recently (darn that annoying day job), but I’m back.  Maybe not with a vengeance, but back nonetheless.
The Thursday’s Children blog hop is focused on inspiration and what stirs us to write and create.  This time I’m going take a slightly different route…
See, I’ve been experiencing a lack of inspiration for going on about a month now.  A complete and utter lack of inspiration.
Usually I have a few things that help when I’m feeling uninspired.  Music is almost always a surefire way to get me, well, fired up.  Reading something that someone else has written is another one.  A lot of times I’ll go back and re-read one of my favorite books and that will help get the mind moving again.  This time, nothing seems to help.  I don’t want to read.  I don’t want to write.  The idea of writing makes me feel squeamish.  Even writing this blog has been an exercise in sheer willpower.
As frustrated and disheartened as I am, I know that this too shall pass.  I’ve gone through periods of little or no inspiration before (although not this bad) and I’ve made it through.
But I’m not very good at waiting for things to happen on their own.  I’m more of a “make it happen” kind of person.  I see the outcome I want and I go after it.
So, the fact that I’ve been trying to get inspired and have been failing miserably is nothing short of soul crushing.  (And yes I’m aware that I’m being overly dramatic – it’s my inspiration crisis and I can be as dramatic as I want.  J )
I have some serious goals for this year, two books that I want to finish.  Both books are plotted and started, so I’m not going at this without a foundation.  But that’s a lot to work towards, I know that.  And I’ve lost almost a whole month already.  I need to figure out how to turn this around and get back on track.
What do you do when you are suffering a lack of inspiration?  Do you have any tried and true tricks that help pull you out of it?

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Thursday’s Children – 2013 Writing Goals


I know this might be a bit cliche, but in honor of the new year I’m putting my writing goals for 2013 in, well, in writing.  I haven’t done this before, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this serious about my writing before.  I’ve recently received some very positive feedback and encouragement which has helped me focus.  For the first time in a long time I feel like my goal might actually be attainable.

I know there are different thoughts on goals; make them achievable, make them in small increments, make them specific, make them vague.  I’m not sure what is best for me, so I’m just going to make my goals the ones I want most to achieve.  If not done in small increments, they are at least simple, in appearances.

Writing Goals for 2013:
1.  Finish first draft of The Elementals – Book 1
2.  Finish first draft of Juliet Falling
3.  Achieve my monthly goals for my writer’s group (this is where the small increments come in)

While I know this is going to be a lot of work throughout the year, I think I can do it.  No, I know I can do it if I just stay focused and work hard.

So, here goes…

Thursday’s Children – My Dark Secret


I have a dark secret I don’t tell most people…I write.

If someone does find out (which happens from time to time), it becomes one of the most awkward and uncomfortable conversations to have.  I’m usually met with skepticism (“you’re writing a novel?”) and sometimes even suspicion.  I don’t understand that part.  It’s as if people don’t know how to talk to me now that they know “I write.”  Like it changes who I am or more specifically their idea of who I should be.

There are, of course, the inevitable questions. What do you write?  Where do you get ideas?  Why do you write?

I recently had a kind of embarrassing experience when a group of people I just met found out that I write.  It shouldn’t have been embarrassing, but I didn’t know how to handle the questions.

I started a new job a couple of months ago and the weekend after the second week was my writing group’s annual conference.  Of course I got the inevitable question about plans for the weekend, so I told one of my co-workers.  She was…shocked, I guess is the best word to describe it.  It was obvious that the idea of going to a writing workshop was something completely foreign to her.  And honestly, I could tell that she thought it was just really strange.  But I got through the conversation, it was just one person.

Then the next Monday after the workshop my whole department ate lunch together and once I again I got the question about my weekend and my co-worker told everyone about the workshop.  I don’t know if I can adequately describe how uncomfortable it was to have everyone peppering me with questions.  I usually try to avoid answering questions about a specific project I’m working on, but it’s hard with six people all staring at you waiting for an answer.  So I gave them the bare bones, I focused on the fact that it is set in Grand Haven.  I work in Grand Haven and most of the people I work with live near there, so I thought that might be an interesting little tidbit.  It almost seemed to offend them.

Then the judgement really amped up.  What are you planning to do with it? Are you actually going to try to get published?  How much time do you spend writing?  Does your husband mind?

If I had said I knitted I wouldn’t have gotten this response.

Do you run into situations similar to this when people find out you’re a writer?  Do you ever avoid telling people?

I guess I don’t understand where the suspicion comes from.  So for now, I’ll just keep it to myself.  Maybe I’ll bring it up again if I ever get published.  That’ll show ’em.

Thursday’s Children – Inspiration Out of the Blue

There have been discussions in various Thursday’s Children posts about music and how that helps the writing process.  I think a lot of us (and by us I mean writers) have playlists or maybe certain albums* that we listen to more when working on a specific project.  Sometimes we create specific playlists for each story. 
But, have you ever been listening to a song and a line out of it speaks to you and suddenly you have a kernel of an idea forming?  Or maybe the whole story just jumps out at you from start to finish. 
This didn’t happen to me recently, but I’m still working on the story that was the result of it, so I think it’s relevant.
Raise your hand if you remember the group from the 90’s called Veruca Salt?  Anyone, anyone, Bueller?
I wasn’t a particular fan of the band, I’m not sure I could even name one of their songs to tell the truth.  But after they split up their lead singer, Nina Gordon, put out a solo album.  I adore it.  It has gone many places with me over the years on various travels and I’ve listened to it countless times.  One day, probably four years ago now, I was listening to it and a line from one of the songs drilled its way into my head and stuck there.  Mind you, this wasn’t an obscure track, this was maybe the one and only single so I had heard this song hundreds of times, easily.  The lyrics are:
                Down to the earth I fell
                With dripping wings
                Heavy things won’t fly
                And the sky might catch on fire
                And burn the axis of the world that’s why
                I prefer a sunless sky
                To the glittering and stinging in my eyes
                (Nina Gordon – copyrighted 2000)
I heard that and boom, story!  I pictured an angel falling to earth by choice to remove himself from the battle for heaven.  He thought he could be persuaded to join the other side and if he did, heaven would fall.
That was just my first thought, but the idea has grown from there.  I have two great main characters and a mostly fleshed out plot.  I’ve been working on it off and on for a few years now, but one of my 2013 goals is to finish the first draft, finally.
That was a lot of rambling to get to the point of this post.  Have you ever found inspiration from something that you’ve heard/seen/read a million times before?  Something that wasn’t new but for some reason it spoke to you at that time.  I’m curious to hear (read, I suppose) your stories of any similar lightning bolts of inspiration.
*Just a side note, but what are we supposed to call albums now?  I can’t remember the last time I actually bought a physical product for music, so I know CD isn’t appropriate anymore.  Welcome to the digital age where nothing is tangible anymore. *Sigh*

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Thursday’s Children – The Voices in My Head


This week I’m not thinking about what inspires me, but rather what kills inspiration and how I can defeat those pesky harbingers of doom.  I’m thinking about the voices in my head.

I seem to have a multitude of voices distracting me from my life (as I think I a lot of writers do).  Do you ever feel like you need to tell them to just leave you alone?  Telling is a nice word, usually I want to scream at them. Sometimes they are helpful when it comes to writing, I’ll admit that.  There are those voices that turn into characters or are already characters that tell me where the story should go next.  Although mostly it seems like those pesky characters tell me that the direction I was planning on going is totally the wrong way.  There are voices of those who encourage, telling me they believe in me.  Sometimes I have so many voices shouting at me that I don’t listen to what’s going on around me.  And doesn’t that make for fun dinner conversations?  My husband has to deal with a lot “huh?” from me.

But in and amongst all those helpful voices are the evil ones; the ones telling me I’m not good enough.  The ones telling me this story is stupid, it doesn’t make sense, it’s not going anywhere, it’s been done before, it’ll NEVER GET PUBLISHED.  In case you can’t tell, I’m suffering with a crisis of confidence right now.  I know I’m not unique, I know every writer goes through this.  But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t flat out suck when you’re in the middle of it.

Those evil voices are the ones I want to learn how to quiet.  They may be right.  I might not be good enough and my story might not make sense to anyone but me.  And, in reality, there is a good chance I will never get anything published.  But that shouldn’t matter when I’m writing.  If those voices would just leave me alone I might be able to make some progress and move the story forward, instead of being paralyzed by fear and indecision. 

Do you have voices whispering in your ear?  How do you quiet them when you want them to let you be?  

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Thursday’s Children – A First Taste of Adventure


I’ve been struggling with what to write about this week.  For some reason I’m not feeling very wordy, or poetic, or thoughtful.  But then I saw a movie advertisement online and inspiration hit!


When you’re a child, a towel tied around a your neck can become a cape that helps you fly or a bike ride through a cemetery at night becomes a harrowing escape from ghosts.  But, where do those ideas come from?  Would a child be afraid of riding her bike through the cemetery if she hadn’t read or heard something like that before?  I don’t know.  But, I do know that what we read informs our imagination and leads us on adventures.  So, what was your first taste of adventure?

I read a lot as a child (and still do).  I read a wide range of books, everything from The Babysitter’s Club to books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and one of my all time favorites, Little Women.

But when I was six, on the nights when he didn’t have class, my dad read The Hobbit to me as my bedtime story.  I can’t imagine a scenario where that book wouldn’t plant ideas of adventure in a reader’s mind.  Now, did I remember every detail of the story from when my dad read it to me?  No.  I was six.  And there were lots of extraneous conversations involved about “reading it right!”  My dad sorely wanted to do all the voices and I wouldn’t let him; I was a willful child.

But I digress.

When the book was finished and I started reading more and more on my own, I may not have remembered all of the details, but I remembered a group of companions traveling in order to recapture their homeland.  I remembered hobbits, who seemed to live wonderful lives in their houses with the round doors and fully stocked kitchens.  I remembered a wizard dressed in gray who provided me my first taste of magic; something I still enjoy reading and writing about to this day.

But most of all, I remembered the adventure.  The travel to distant lands, and the encounters with new people and species.  I remembered a man named Bilbo who went against the nature of a hobbit and stepped outside his round front door and went on a adventure.  How his life changed with that one decision!  And it had a lasting impact on him, and his family (although I wouldn’t know about Frodo until years later).  Just knowing that books like this existed made me want to keep reading so I could follow more characters on their journeys; and it inspired me to have journeys of my own.

So, I guess my question is this.  What was your first taste of adventure?