Monthly Archives: September 2011

Wise, Witty, and Wacky Wednesday

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Photo by Jersyko

Photo by Jersyko


Ignorance is bliss. Most people laugh when they say this. “Like ha ha ha if only I didn’t know how many rat droppings were in hot dogs it wouldn’t be so difficult to eat them. I guess ignorance really is bliss. Ha ha ha.”
It is also the truth. Being a home schooling mom and a writer has ruined many things for me. An example, pirates and historical romance in general. My son wanted to learn about pirates and castles when he was six. I was all excited. I love pirates and castles! So off to the library we went and gathered up a bunch of books full of pictures of life on a man of war ship (they didn’t have pirates specifically) and castles. There were cross sections, descriptions of their daily life, what they ate, and how they died.
As I read the books to my son my romantic notions of pirates, princes, knights in shining armor, and the buff stable boy all vanished never to be seen again. There was a distinct lack of personal hygiene that I require for romantic sexiness. No going back in time for me! I like toothpaste, toilet paper, and hot running water.
I have found the same issue in become a writer (yes the lack of personal hygiene has decreased the sex appeal of writers for me). But also knowing how to put together a good story has taken a lot of the enjoyment out of movies, TV, and books less- and my ranting effects my husband’s enjoyment of too.
I find that I am frequently critiquing instead of just enjoying. I rant about books that jump into ‘teen fantasy realm’ and the author didn’t take the time to make it real. I moan when a characters growth from last season is ignored in the next season, or behavior that doesn’t fit with what the writers have already created. But I won’t bore you with my mad ravings, I keep that for my hubby and close friends who happen to call me at the wrong time.
The upside of this means when I find something I really like I rave about it. It also means I’m hideously insecure in my own work because what if there is some gaping hole that I and all the people I have forced to critique my novel have missed?? ACK!


Do you find yourself wishing for a time before you knew better? Is ignorance really bliss?

Music and Musings Monday

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After several lovely comments and my own need to put something in my blog I am going to expand upon my eight steps towards adding more cultural diversity into your life and your writing.

Tip one is all about perspective and cheating. My YA series Phoenix Child has many characters from different cultural backgrounds and as the series continues they will be traveling all over the world. So how will I deal with all of these different POV’s, different cultural backgrounds, and how it affect the characters?
I won’t. I cheat. My book is written in first person which means I only need to write about the world and people from one perspective. My main character, Sara, is culturally bland and standard American. Sara, was raised in group homes in San Francisco, so she has been exposed to many different cultures but doesn’t have a specific one of her own.
For those writers concerned about offending people but who want to have diverse characters first person is a great compromise.
I hear the wailing in the back- but I hate first person I can’t write in first person!! Don’t worry, calm down, its okay this idea can also apply to third person. I am currently writing an adult romance, in third person. My hero is half Japanese and half Native American. He also grew up in a big city. While he grew up in a rich cultural household he also grew up in a large American city which lets me show that he has cultural knowledge and influence, over a basic ‘bland American base’.
Bland American base- this is the basic thought patterns, morals, goals and lifestyles shared by the majority of Americans. It is true everyone is different, and yes this can change significantly depending on where you grew up. I use San Francisco as a base because I spent my teen years there so I’m familiar with it. Think of a Bland American base as a 5×9 square canvas and lets say all Americans, raised in America, have this basic canvas. It’s what we use to paint and what we paint that shows the difference in us. Someone from another country might have a round canvas, or a huge canvas, or pottery- and these are much bigger differences in perspective and outlook on life. Okay so this analogy is really lame- but I hope you get the idea.
And yes even in America people can have different canvases. They can live in a place with a strong cultural influence, or with parents whose beliefs and morals are different and are passed down to their kids in way that creates something different. If you feel you know a different culture well enough then write them. This post is about cheating and one way I cheat is the Bland American Cultural Base.
Some stories take place over a short period of time. Sometimes we only get a small glimpse into the strong beautiful cultural background of a black woman raised in Harlem when our exposure to her is short. We don’t need to know her favorite jazz singer, the racism she suffered, or her family’s secret soul food recipes. If she’s on a one week cruise and falls in love then that is the base of the story. While her background may show in how she acts it isn’t who she is.
Another great cheat, “It’s not a real Universe”. Do you write fantasy, sci-fi, or steampunk? If yes, there is no reason you can’t have diversity of characters. It is simply a matter of having them, and showing their differences without it being an issue. But Alica, we can’t do that- um yes you can, go back and watch Star Trek. Roddenberry wrote characters, and they were different, unique, and equal all at the same time. You don’t have to bring our social issues into your fantasy world. Why the hell would you want to? Although you can in creative unique ways that won’t step on any toes, again watch star Trek.
These tips are not for someone wanting to show how prejudice still runs through our society or the difficulty of an immigrant in America. These tips are for adding diversity to your writing where the persons skin color, sexuality, religion, etc. isn’t the dominate force in the plot, but simply a part of who they are.
Here’s a funny video by Henry Cho as an example of what I’m talking about.

Now for the Music section of my Monday blog. I’m sticking with Korea as a theme- so today you get Rain- he’s the lead in Ninja Assasign’s 🙂 This is a love song from a boy band in Korean. It’s slow and I guess sweet- but I don’t know Korean. There are sequence and if you wait it out he takes his shirt of and does a very lovely body roll. 🙂

Foreign Film, 10 things, and Friendly Blog Friday

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Okay as you can see this is a wild variety Friday post. I’m late posting my 10 Random facts post, then I’ll give you my review for your perusal, then to end this blog post a check list to see if your blog is user friendly.
But to start with I got an award!!!

The wise and witty Rance Denton gave me this lovely award. There are rules of course. I need to post seven facts about myself- I’m cheating aka using my time management skills- and my 10 random things will be used for this too. I also need to give the award to 15 other people. I’m not sure who these people will be. I’ve seen this award of other people’s blogs so I want to make sure I give it to new people. So I’m not giving it to anyone in this post.

Okay I was supposed to do this on Monday- then I said I would do it Wednesday- but ranted instead, so here finally are Ten Random Facts about me.

1- I am a minister with the Universal Church of Life as is my hubby. I preformed a wedding for a dear friend and my hubby married my mom and her second husband.

2- I have a certificate in past life regression hypnotherapy.
3- I have lived in 5 states- Georgia, Colorado, Alaska, California, and Arizona.

4- I used to be a dula and certified in Bradley Natural Childbirth education.

5- I hold my breath when a baby is born until it cries.

6- I started my writing career in fanfiction- it is 83 chapters long and got over 2,000 reviews I’m very proud of it.

7- I married a man who will be able to take care of me during a zombie apocalypse- yes I knew this before I married him 🙂 He also cooks and cleans.

8- I almost burst into tears when Comic Con ended this year.

9- At a party I played spin-the-bottle for two hours. In San Francisco who the bottle lands on is who you kiss regardless of gender- fun times 🙂

10- I have done a vision quest- sitting in the woods for four days with no food, only eight ounces of water (we live in the desert I got a perk) by myself seeking enlightenment. I totally got something- no I won’t tell you what is was, but coming back and losing that focus was painful.

Now for my wildly popular Foreign Film

The sixteenth foreign film I’ve chosen … drum roll …. The Host, a Korean horror movie about a mutated – well I don’t remember what it started out as- but it winds up being a nasty people eating monster. Kang-ho Song is the hero- and a very unlikely one at first, he’s a great actor and I will watch a film because he’s in it at this point. The director Joon-ho Bong is also someone I look for in my Korean movies.
Anyway back to the film. There are some jump out of your seat moments, and many fingers crossed moments, and a kind of happy ending- but this is an Asian horror movie which means things don’t work out as you think they will.
Not only is it an original look at the classic monster movie, but because it isn’t American I can’t anticipate exactly what’s going to happen. I’m not saying there isn’t a formula for Asian horror, but I haven’t caught on to it yet which makes the movies fun.

Is your blog reader friendly?

As I read through all of the flash fiction posts there were blogs I wanted to follow but found several things lacking- you might want to check your blogs for these items.

1- Tags I would look for tag lists to see what else the person posted and see if any of the topics interested me. Many blogs didn’t have a visible tag list. Can people see what topics you blog about easily?

2- I couldn’t figure out how to subscribe to the blog. I use wordpress this means if you use blogger I can’t hit the follow button and get updates on your blog. And while many of you had Google+ I don’t use it. Can people subscribe to your blog by email?

3- If I couldn’t figure out how to subscribe to your blog then I would look to see if I could follow you on twitter. Frequently I couldn’t find this either. Do you have a button so people can follow you on twitter?

All of these are widgets which can be added to your blog. Did anyone else find things they were looking for but couldn’t find on blogs you’ve been visiting?

Wise, Witty, And Wacky Wednesday

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With all the uproar over this post here about agents and editors asking for characters who are gay to be cut or made straight and characters of color to be made white- or represented as white on the covers I wanted to put in my two cents. This pisses me off and is yet another reason to self-publish my works. I have several characters of different ethnicity in my books as well as gay and lesbian characters. I don’t want my books to be Bleached and Ironed.
It saddens me when I see authors talk about this and then say that because they are white they don’t feel they can write characters of color. To me this widens the gap between people dividing us into us and them. That’s not what writing is about. Writing offers us a chance to connect people and open us up to other worlds, experiences, and lives.
So, instead of just madly ranting, I’m going to list the things that I do which make me feel comfortable writing diverse characters.

1- I cheat. My YA series which has many people from different cultural backgrounds as well as taking place in different countries is done in 1st person. And my MC is female who was raised without an ethnic culture of her own, but was exposed to many cultures and lifestyles growing up in group homes in San Francisco. I don’t have to know how the other characters cultural background influences their perspective- I only have to know what they show my MC. And yes they do show cultural differences, but this is not as in depth as other POV’s need to be.
2- I read books written by people and about people from many different backgrounds. I also watch foreign and LGBT films. And yes a media portrayal of people from other countries isn’t necessarily a clear picture. Neither is my book. It’s a fantasy- a story of fiction, and the books and movies allow me to add little details that make my characters come through clearly. They also help me to break stereo types.
3- Basic research. I read travel books- specifically children’s books as they give a greater since of culture flavor. I also watch travel shows- Bizarre Foods and No Reservations being two of my favorites.
4- I’ve take classes on writing about people from other cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Two of my favorites were How to Write Realistic Native American Characters and How to Write Realistic Gay Characters. I loved both of them and learned a lot! I learned what stereotypes are and what things are culturally true. I learned that like everyone else there is a huge range of personalities and backgrounds. IF YOU CAN TEACH A CLASS ON HOW TO WRITE REALISTIC CHARACTERs OF ETHNINTICIY, SEXUAL PREFERANCE OR RELIGION PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO AND LET ME KNOW HOW TO SIGN UP!
5- I’m not afraid to offend people. I don’t go out of my way to offend people, however if I want my curvy blond to be panting for the sexy black waiter with the great round ass, then that’s what I’m going to do. That being said- I will do research and ask someone who is black to read my story and see what they think. Is every black person going to be happy no- but I can’t make everyone happy anyway. There are white characters I don’t relate to at all. I ranted through the movie 30 Days of Night because I lived in Alaska and there were big technical errors- it happens. Tell your story, research, get advice, do your best, and write.
6- Not everyone grew up in a cultural household. I’m mostly German; you wouldn’t have any idea of that by watching my life. I have a friend who is Zuni. Going into her house gives you no sense of her cultural background and she grew up on a reservation and still practices the Zuni religion. I have a friend whose family is Italian. At Thanksgiving they have turkey, stuffing, smoked octopus, pasta, and pumpkin pie. You get a sense of her culture because that is how her family lives.
Just because your character has brown skin doesn’t mean they identify or were raised in an ethnic and cultural environment. You don’t have to be perfect, you can stay within the things you know and are comfortable with. Maybe your Chinese character has a Buddhist alter in their home and hates egg rolls. Mix it up!
7- We are all people. Under the bindis and jeans, bling and manicures, Chanel no 5 and sandalwood, we are all people. We want to feel safe and loved and special. We want a home, a family, and to be happy. What that looks likes differs from one person to another. A home in the burbs with two kids and a dog can be the dream of an interracial couple, a lesbian couple, yet might be a nightmare for an Indian couple.
No matter what your skin color or who catches your eye, lust, longing, love they all feel the same. Does the shape of a mouth change the passion and nervousness of a first kiss?
8- It’s okay for them to have flaws. While stereotypes are wrong concerning everyone of a race, religion, or sexual orientation some come from a problem, issue, or quirk that is common within that community. There is an alcohol problem among Native Americans; they also have a higher risk of diabetes. Not all Native American have either of these issues, but they are a concern within the Native American Community. Don’t believe me, go to tribal websites and see what programs and services they offer, many have drug and alcohol programs and some have nutrition/diabetes programs. People have to deal with drugs, alcohol, abuse, and gangs- it doesn’t matter what color they are, who they have sex with, or how much money they make. Having a character dealing with these issues doesn’t mean you are stereotyping them.

We are all people with stories to tell. So tell them. Be brave and see your characters uniqueness. Don’t Bleach and Iron you’re books, no one wants to read that. Delve into your creativity, your heart, and your mind. Imagine what life is like for someone else- you do it all the time- unless some of you really are vampires and werewolves.
And for those of you creating whole new worlds- there is no excuse for not having more diversity in your characters. You don’t have to deal with social issues in a steampunk alternate universe with dragons- just let that go and have people living together peacefully (well except for the soul sucking demons).
In a moment of self-refection I wondered why this upsets me so much. It’s horrid that this is happening and that this is still the mindset of many publishers, editors, and agents, but why am I furious?? The truth is I feel like I spend 80% of my life bleaching and ironing myself to fit in at work. I work for a Christian based organization and they do great work and I work with great people, but who I am really isn’t acceptable for work, and because I live where I work I have to fake who I am all the time. Now I do have a few co-workers who I can be honest with- but I am very selective about when I share those parts of myself. Also I SUCK at hiding and toning down who I am – I mean I really really suck and if anyone from work were to read this they would think- um no Alica we know who you are, you can’t hide anything. I do I self edit all the time, and I do my best to hold my tounge and tone down who I am because who I am would be judged as not right or good enough for work. Because of this I’m always afraid I’ll be fired at the slightest thing- which is really my writer brain going crazy because at every review I’m told I’m doing well and appreciated. So it’s just my own fear reeking havoc on my psyche.
My writing, my books, and what I read should be a safe place. A place where I don’t have to edit- except for commas, a place where I can express myself and explore the world, people, and cultures without fear.
For anyone who read or even skimmed this long ass post thank you. Sorry for the rant and the soul revealing truth bit. I’ll try and have something light hearted and funny next week.

Music and Musings Monday

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All right- I am trying to expand my blogs- make them more interesting and engaging, and more then the twenty words I normally post lol! So Monday will now become—– Music and Musing Monday. I like to muse and ponder about all sorts of things- which leaves what I will write about wide open and hopefully a deeply exciting treat for all of you as you face the dreaded Monday. I will still post music, from around the world to help you shake off your Monday blues. I’m not going to try and make a theme from my musing and the music- I’m just not that clever.
So for my first musing we are going to talk sports. But Alica, you don’t know anything about sports. This is true, but I do know how important it is to pick your sports teams. I have two favorite teams and I want to share with you how I picked them.
From what I understand people cheer for the team they grew up with, or the city they live in, or which team colors they look best in, or maybe based off the players themselves. But this is just silly, you need to pick your sports teams based off of truly important factors.
One of my favorite teams is the New Zealand All Blacks they play rugby it’s similar to football without the wussy pads and helmets. Why do I adore the All Blacks? One they do the haka- which is awesome, because I love you all you get two teams each doing their own version of the haka 

Now the haka isn’t enough—oh no I’m much pickier then this. The all Black also give to charity which is very important. What is so special about their charity you might ask- well I have no idea- but they play the game naked, which is why they are my favorite team of all time.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find the article about the charity game as it was years ago I read about it. But here is an article about a naked rugby game between the All Blacks and the Welsh Leeks – and yes there is a picture.

http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/players-bare-all-for-true-rugby-test-20100621-yql6.html

My other favorite team- the Kolkata Knight Riders. They are a cricket team from India, and happen to be the favorite team of Shah Rukh Khan my favorite Bollywood actor. He does the theme song for them. I give you two versions of the theme song- because I love you and I’m and sharing person, the second one is my favorite although the first has more shirtless men in it.

Now if you’re like me and know nothing of sports you might not know these two games, so I have a clips from both rugby and cricket to share with you. I can’t actually watch rugby- it scares me.

Highlights from a cricket game- it’s long- you don’t have to watch the whole thing. Or any of it really you’re a free person.

All Blacks Highlights

I just noticed that my song and musing melded into one happy post today- I doubt I will always be this lucky. Anyway what are your favorite teams and how did you pick them? Any important ‘how to choose a sports team’ tips that you wish to share?

Foreign Film Friday

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Black Books from BBC is my pick for the fifteenth Foreign Film Friday. This is a quirky show which takes place in a bookshop. The owner Bernard Black is drunk, rude, and will use a broom to shoo customers out of his shop just because he can.
Next door his long time best friend Fran jumps between encouraging his bad behavior and trying to keep him in line.
Our third player is Manny who is sweet, kind, loyal,neurotic, and gets a cramp in his leg when he gets stressed out.
Black Books is hysterical, the comedy is sometimes visual with a lot of the more dry sarcastic bend British sit-coms are known for. I fear by describing the characters I haven’t done them or the show justice- which is why I never review this way! These are like-able dysfunctional characters. We laugh with them and frequently at them, but none of them are horrid people- well not completely horrid people. So far I have watched the first two season and howled with laughter the whole time, as did my hubby and my two kids. I would not recommend this show for young children as there is a lot of drinking, smoking, talking about sex, and cussing.
I couldn’t find a season one trailer,and the other two videos I picked wouldn’t work- but here is a scene from season two. I’m renting season three tonight!

Sorry guys all the good stuff has the what-evers disable- go ahead and click on youtube and check it out- it’s really funny.

Wise, Witty, and Wacky Wednesday

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I’ve decided to do the first campaign challenge for my Wednesday blog- the rules are below. I’ve never done any flash fiction because my grammar is so poor I get horribly nervous posting anything that hasn’t been reviewed several times over- but I don’t have a blog for today so here we go 🙂

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: “the door swung shut.” (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

The door swung open. For a moment Zopher wondered whether this was a good idea. The room was disgusting. Filth and vermin covered every surface. The young man he’d come for shook as he knelt naked on the floor, his bruised, yellow, body barely more then a skeleton.
Zopher stepped out of the light and into Scott Hillman’s personal hell. “Could you please put the syringe down so we may speak?”
Blood-shot eye slowly raised, taking in Zopher’s translucent form. “Am I already dead?” Scott pulled the rusted needle from his arm, leaving a trickle of blood.
Zopher smiled and knelt on the floor. “No you are not, although your soul cries out for death.”
“I do. I want to die.”
“I have a deal for you. Let me have your life.”
“Like a vampire?”
Zopher chuckled. “No, Scott. I will enter your body and you will walk through that doorway. I will accept all your karma from this life, and you will move on.”
“Will it hurt?”
“No.”
“Do it.”
Zopher slid into the body. As pain and stench assaulted him Zopher wondered if he’d made the right choice, but it was too late. The door swung shut.

Here it is- hope you enjoying, and it’s exactly 200 words.

Okay I couldn’t leave you without something wacky- so here is a literal video- if you haven’t seen these before I hope you enjoy it- it cracked me up.

Music Monday

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Elitsa & Stoyan was the 2007 Bulgarian entry for Bulgaria. I love the older traditional music woven in with modern beats.

I have been reading We Are Not Alone by Kristen Lamb- it’s amazing and over the next few weeks I’m going to be adding to my blog, hopefully making this more interesting 🙂 So please chime in let me now what you like and what doesn’t work for you. Have a great Monday!

Foreign Film Friday

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I picked Enlightenment Guaranteed for my fourteenth Foreign Film Friday.

Most of us have at one point or another sought enlightenment, greater spiritual understanding, and higher purpose. Some of through prayer and meditation, some through pot and sex, some through physical activity. We searched in our late teens during college, when we hit our Saturn Return at 28, some later once the kids had grown and putting food one the table wasn’t as much of a struggle.

For two German brothers their journey begins in middle age, one who is a devout seeker of enlightenment and the other who’s marriage has just fallen apart and has no where else to go.

Their journey into Japan and the Zen Monastery where they will find enlightenment is hysterical, heart-warming, and painful.

One of the things I love about foreign films is learning about another culture. This film is unique because we get to see Japan for the perspective of a confused and overwhelmed outsider.

Both my husband and I really enjoyed this film, and have recommended it to friends many times. The ending might surprise you, but it’ll leave you feeling happy and maybe a bit enlightened.