Friday, November 30, 2012


I'll search for a fun GIF to add to this post later, like when my brain decides to work again.

But for now I would just like to shout to the blogosphere that I WON NANOWRIMO!!!!


(Also, I told you I was a competitive person ;D )

It's almost 1 A.M. and I need to sleep, but whatever, I'm doing a victory dance around my apartment first (luckily, roommates have gone to sleep already!)

I've still got quite a bit more to draft with my ghost story, though, and it's gonna need revisions like no one's business (because writing a simple ghost story was TOO HARD so I put about ten million different layers/plot threads/elements into it).

So, yeah, miles to go before I sleep.  And many more miles to go before I'm done with this book.

But I'm totally okay with that :)

Sound off if you've won, too!  Or if you've done anything awesome in the month of November, 'cause I WANT TO KNOW!

Monday, November 26, 2012

'Tis the season to be in contests, fa la la la la...

La la la -

Wait.  It's not December 1st yet, ya'll. My Grinch flag is going to fly high until then, as I mourn the loss of Halloween and the quick, silent passing of Thanksgiving.

We hardly knew ye.

Once December 1st hits, I'll be all about various winter holidays...

But today is not December 1st.

So, onward to the point of my blog today.  Once the first couple of weeks in December have passed, I'll have news on a few contests fronts!

The first contest to provide me with news (of the good or bad variety) will be the Windy City Chapter fo the Romance Writers of America's Four Seasons Contest.  I entered this contest way back in September, hoping for some good feedback on my YA Sci-Fi annnnnnnnnd I ended up placing in the finals in addition to getting good feedback!

Proof of my unexpectedly awesome surprise can be found right here!!!!!  That page might also be bookmarked under ASTRAL CONTEST DOMINATION TIME.  Not that I'm expecting anything other than being a finalist (but I'm also a competitive person, so...yeah.  There's that.).  As a finalist, I get a certificate.  It's getting framed.  For reals.

They'll announce the winners for that in the first week of December, so my breath will be held ALL. WEEK.

Contest the second is this lovely little thing called Pitch Wars!  I'm submitting applications to three awesome mentors, so fingers crossed someone picks me!  Even if they don't, this might be the most fun I've ever had with filling out an application! :)

And if I do get picked...well...then my mentor might have a new BFF who loves to send chocolate and Starbucks giftcards to people...but that wasn't a bribe or anything :P

The last contest I'm in is kind of a secret.  And it's not really a "contest" - buttttttt my super secretive/slightly superstitious ways won't let me spill any more details.  Let's just say that I really, really hope my odds are in my favor for this one. 

So, are YOU in any contests or will you be?!?  And have you started getting all "Holiday Spirit-y" yet, or are you waiting until it's officially December to start being festive?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ghost Story updates!

So, for NaNo I'm writing a (sort of) top-secret ghost story.  Here are some random updates/thoughts:

  • I've been digging deep down to find my inner creepster, and have totally started to freak myself out.
  • My biggest default when writing is to churn out some dialogue.  I love having people talk to each other - it's so extreme that a good amount of my words so far fall into the "talking" category.
  • Ghost shows are, like, the best things ever for inspiration :)
  • Seriously, last night I had a hard time falling asleep 'cause I kept hearing noises.
  • My bad guy - erm, ghost - is pretty awesome.  And by awesome I mean evil, murderous, ruthless, and terrifying.
  • I'm gonna have to buy my MC ice cream or something at the end of this, because I'm halfway through the first draft and she's really not gonna have it any easier in the second part of the book.
And, because I can, (and because you're still reading) here's a completely non-spoilery (and non-creepy) bit of dialogue from my try at a ghost story.  My MC is talking to a new-found friend, who has a penchant for hacking into old databases...enjoy!

He nods.  “Which led me to root through old newspapers, yearbooks, pictures – anything I could find.”
“And it was all legal?”
“How’re you not getting caught?  Can’t they trace this stuff?”
“I don’t know, the police, the government, James Bond - ”
“James Bond?”
“Yeah, not the best reference.  How about Skynet?”
“Skynet?  Why would a computer system that causes the apocalypse be interested in our town’s brutal, mysterious history?”
“Maybe it gets kind of boring plotting world destruction and creating Terminators.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What I'm Thankful For!

Right now my law book is sitting in front of me, taunting me in the way it so often does with its complex legal jargon and need to assert its intelligence and prestige (but not "The Prestige" - it's not about to kill any birds for the sake of a magic trick, though maybe if it did I would care about Higher Ed law a little more).

Anywho, this blog post shall not focus on my law paper struggles (but, seriously, send chocolate and hugs my way!).  Dear, dear, blog readers - this post shall be a celebration of the seven (ish) things I am thankful for!

I'm thankful for whoever brought in the pumpkin pie AND made this awesome cupcake!

So, first and foremost, if you're reading my blog, I'm thankful for you!  Because, if it weren't for you, I'd be facing that whole "if a tree fell in a forest" conundrum (also thankful for the word "conundrum"), because no one would be around to hear, er, read my thoughts!

Secondly, I'm thankful for the AMAZING writing community!  Seriously, I'd be adrift in a sea of self-doubt and purposelessness if I hadn't found some wonderful writing friends through Twitter, contests, blogging, LitReactor classes and the internet in general.  I love all of you.

Thirdly, I'd like to give a special "I'm thankful for" shout-out to the BEST CP EVER, Jeannette, who not only tolerates my (sometimes amusing) emails about life, writing, and random thoughts (both good and bad), she actually responds and gives the best feedback on my writing that a gal could ever ask for.  So thank you, Jeannette, for being a wayyyyyyyyyy more awesome CP than I deserve!  I'm so glad I creeped on you and that you didn't think I was weird when I randomly wrote that I hope bears don't steal your pic-a-nic basket during our first round of CP emails.  You're not only the BEST CP EVER, you're also an awesome friend :)

Oh, and she's Canadian, too!  How cool is that?!?

Fourthly, I'm thankful for my family, even though they still don't know that I'm trying my hand at this whole writing thing.  They'll find day...

Fifthly, I'm thankful for my friends who do know about my writing ambitions, and who didn't laugh at me when I told them that I like to write stories in my free time.  You know who you are (seriously, thanks for not laughing at me!).

Sixthly, I'm thankful that I can spend my "free time" *cough* grad school *cough* doing something that I love!  Writing has always been something I've done for fun, and I don't intend on quitting anytime soon!  I'm also thankful that I haven't run out of stories to tell - I hope that's something I can always be thankful for :)

Seventhly (and finally!), I'm thankful for grad school, because as much as I complain about being busy (sorry about all of that), and as hectic as it's been trying to balance my assitantship, classes, and writing, I'm in a program I love, and being trained to do something that I also love.  So much love, love, love.  Also, I'm thankful that I'll be job-hunting soon (and I'll be even more thankful if my job-hunt leads me to a coast!).

So, yeah, that's my list of seven (ish) things, and just in time for (American) Thanksgiving!  What about you, dear readers?  What are you thankful for?!?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My TBR stack o' books :)

Well, it's Sunday, which means that grad school's a-callin' yet again.  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love learning, school, and discussions...but I'll also be glad when I don't constantly have papers to write.

Lots of papers.

And, when my only purpose for using Word is to write stories, I'm going to be over-the-moon-ecstatic :)  But that won't happen till this summer.  Until then, I've got these wonderful books to keep me company over the fast-approaching Thanksgiving and Winter Break!  My goal is to have all of these read by the end of the year.

Can I do it?!?  

Stay tuned to find out!

(Also, do I need to read more "adult" books?!? I'm thinking the answer is no haha)

Friday, November 16, 2012

In which I respond to gun violence.

I originally had a happy, puppies and kittens and rainbows post planned for today.

But then news came down the pipeline of a foiled future shooting at a screening of the new Twilight movie.

Now, I am someone who goes to the movies quite often.  In my perfect world, I'd probably be there at least once a week (which is usually the case during summer).  I'm a fan of midnight showings, because you're there  in a theater full of people who love something as much as you do (or maybe even more) and you all laugh, cry, get mad, and are shocked by plot twists together.

I was at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises this summer, albeit I was in Minnesota and not Colorado, and, like many people, didn't hear about the murders that happened there until the next day.  I was shocked and saddened and, unfortunately, reminded of a wound that still doesn't want to heal fully for a lot of my friends from college (and, to a smaller extent, to me, too).

I am proud, so, so, so proud to call Virginia Tech my home.  It's where I became who I am, it's where I made my closest friends, it's where I believed that, for the first time, I could make a difference in this world.  A real, honest to goodness difference.

And, if you haven't made the connection yet, my senior year of high school was when the place I loved was torn apart by tragedy.

My home, my friends, were all put at the mercy of one person with a gun.  A person who shouldn't have been able to buy that gun, that ammunition, in the first place, but somehow, someway, he did, and 32 members of my family died because of it.

I watched in horror as the death count rose, but never for a second did I reconsider going there in the fall.  I was horrified that things had been allowed to escalate that far, that someone who clearly needed help didn't get it in time, and that someone could be filled with so much hate and confusion that they would take it out on  classmates and professors.  On an RA who was just trying to do his job.  On anyone he could get close to.

My friends lost friends that day, and although I'm lucky enough to not be able to make that terrible claim, my heart still aches for the 32 people who died just because they chose to go to school or work that day.  When my freshman year at Tech started, we were still healing, still figuring out how to move on while honoring everyone we lost.  And we did move on, we are trying to heal - but, just like most things, that takes time.

I share this because, as I read about the possible Twilight shooting today, memories of that day - and the anniversaries of that day - filled my mind.  And, I'll admit, I'm writing this through quite a few tears.  I remembered the Dark Knight Rises shooting this summer, the Sikh Temple shootings that occurred not too long ago, Columbine...the list can go on and on and on.

And that's the unfortunate thing.  All of these communities are torn apart through an act that is so hateful and callous that it shouldn't be allowed to be real.  It shouldn't exist, these deaths shouldn't have happened to people who just wanted to learn, or watch a movie at midnight, or pray.  But they did happen, and sometimes it's hard for me to make sense of it all.

After the murders at the Dark Knight Rises screenings, a lot of people united, with rallying cries of "Keep going to the movies!  Don't let the shooter win!" It's a sentiment that I've seen echoed a lot when injustices like this happen - people demand a return to normalcy, a way to show the perpetrators that no, you didn't take our power away.

And, to an extent, I'm all for this.  I went to the movies the day after it happened, just to prove that I wasn't afraid.

But, you know what?  That was a lie.  I was afraid.  Not afraid of the exact-same-thing-happening, but still, I was on edge, I worried that something might happen.  Maybe not in my theater.  Maybe not in that state.  But the worry that it was possible - that another place I loved dearly had now been defiled by unwarranted violence and death - made me worry about, essentially, everything.  Would there be no safe place now?  When public squares, movie theaters, schools, universities, military bases, houses of worship, become scenes of chaos and loss, of confusion, unending sadness, and trauma, what's left?  And will we, can we ever truly be safe?

Well, the answer to that question is a resounding no.  Safety, although a nice thought, is no more a reality than anything that happens in the books, movies, and TV shows that I love so much.  But there are steps to lessen the gap - there are so many steps, so many small things we can do to prevent these hideous things from happening again.

First, if you think someone needs help, you can either a) reach out to them or b) help them get to a counselor, therapist, someone, anyone.  They might not be a threat to themselves or others, and if they are, then I certainly don't advocate putting yourself in danger, but, I promise you, even the smallest kindness goes a long way.

Second, if someone's doing something suspicious, like buying 2 rifles and 400 rounds of ammo, like this alleged Twilight shooter, call the authorities, like his mother did.  Even if it turns out to be nothing, you could end up saving lives.

Third - well, third would be me talking about gun control laws, and if you've read this post I think it's pretty clear where I stand there.

Finally, GO TO THE MOVIES.  Yeah, I'm taking up the torch that was dropped earlier this summer.  Go to the movies, go to the mall, the grocery store, the library, class, go wherever the hell you want.  Fear is sometimes a useful thing - like, if you come across a bear in the woods, you have every right to be terrified - but it can also hold us back.  If you stop going to movies, if you stop living - well, then, you're giving the people who carry out these crimes with perfect clarity exactly what they want:

Fear and chaos and distrust.

And I, for one, don't want to live in a world where we feed off of those things.  I'd rather live in a weary world, scarred by the past, yes, but willing to move on.  Willing to try to be better, to try to rebuild when it's the last thing that anyone wants to do.

I've seen it happen.  I've seen mourning and sadness, so much mourning and sadness, first hand.  Every year at Virginia Tech those feelings never left our campus.  But every year they weighed down on us a little less.  But that's only because we chose to honor our 32 family members by living the lives that were so unceremoniously ripped from them.  We rebuilt, we're still rebuilding, and I hope the same can be said by the other communities touched by the same tragedies.

So, with that long-winded discourse out of the way, I leave you with my weekend plans.  I'm going to see Pitch Perfect, Wreck-It Ralph, and Breaking Dawn: Part 2 - because, even though Twilight and I might not like each other that much anymore, I've already seen the other movies and am totally willing to sit through two more (and final!) hours of K-Stew making the same face over and over and over.

I have a free small popcorn coupon.  You'd better bet I'm upgrading that to a large for $2 more.

And, hey, maybe you'll join me.  I'll be the one sitting there, smack dab in the middle of the theater, with a the biggest damn bucket of popcorn I can buy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Random LOST Tangent

I had this post all prepared that was going to be a vague update on my querying process.

But then I deleted it, 'cause I'm kind of superstitious and don't want to jinx myself.

And I know it's silly, but just stay with me for a second, because I have a point.  And that point involves Lost.

I think.

Lost will forever and always be one of my favorite shows.  I think that's where I learned the fine, fine art of answering questions with more questions and, let's face it, those "cursed" numbers kind of made math cool again.

So, naturally, my MS was influenced a little by Lost (and Fringe and Minority Report, of course).  And, I kind of didn't realize it until today, but I definitely carried one of the major debates/themes from Lost into my MS.

And that theme/debate/struggle is:
John Locke (Man of Faith) versus Jack Shepard (Man of Science)

I realized today, as I sat there refreshing Querytracker, that my two narrators are a little like Lost's frenemies (we're going to go with John Locke know..."the change" and if you don't know what I'm referring to, Lost is an amazing show that you should watch!).

Sora, the soldier/future predictor/remorseful killer who wants atonement would be Jack.  What little faith she had in herself, or in humanity, really, has slowly been drained away by watching people die.  A lot.  Sure, sometimes she can stop it, but sometimes she can't...much like Jack, who couldn't save everyone with his surgery skills. Sora and Jack rely on facts, and (at least in the beginning) aren't willing to believe in something if they don't have tangible proof.  They're also determined to fix things - and to keep trying, even when something can't get fixed.  For Sora, the puzzle she desperately wants to solve is how to avoid killing Bastian.  For Jack - well, that would be a spoiler, and I don't believe in spoilers (somewhere out there, a spoiler just died).

Bastian, the one who tries to hide his abilities/harbors some father issues/just watched his girlfriend get blown up would be John Locke.  Bastian's father is the only one left alive in his broken family, and he hasn't seen him in years.  But Bastian is able to believe in not only himself, but his friends - and Sora - when she needs it the most.  He pretty much puts his life in her hands with the belief that she won't kill him.  John Locke's progression through Lost would include some hefty spoilers, but he's essentially the yin to Jack's yang.  Locke is ready to believe in the Island - to believe in something bigger than him - and makes his choices based on the feeling he has that the Island is an entity of good.

When I came up with this thought, I also thought it was a little funny that Sora, the one who has the more arguably "psychic" power would be the one who needs proof in order to accept something.  Bastian, on the other hand, grew up with a scientist father, and, although he doesn't run around making every decision intuitively (not that there's anything wrong with that, I intuit things all the time), he's willing to discard the facts, if he needs to, in order to help a friend.  

Although these viewpoints can sometimes war with each other, I think both sets of characters learn that you sort of need both to be whole.  You need the cold, hard facts sometimes, and other times, you just need to believe - believe in yourself, in others, in the great spaghetti monster in the sky (it's a thing, look it up).  

So, what am I trying to say?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I'm just a blogger, talking about Lost, asking you to love her (erm, and her characters, too haha).

But seriously, thinking about this Person of Science versus Person of Faith thing made me realize how much Lost actually seeped into my MS without me even knowing.  I do hope I did it justice.  And I also hope that I can continue to explore that interesting dynamic as I keep on writing :)

Right, now that I've babbled, what say you, friends?  Have you noticed any external influences on your writing, either while you were writing or just when you were sitting around, putting off working on...something?

I'd love to know!  Happy Monday (or Tuesday Eve, as I like to call it haha)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Random Wedding Post (AKA HELPPPPP)

So, taking a break from my querying/contests/submissions/NaNo mania to talk about something totally unrelated to anything that I will ever write about.  Ever.

If you couldn't tell from the title, this post shall be about weddings.

And, before you ask, NO I'M NOT GETTING MARRIED.
I'm not even in a relationship, friends, and I'm also 23, so I think I've got some time to do that whole thing...if I ever find a person that's willing to put up with me for the rest of their lives (good luck to whoever that poor sap turns out to be!).

Anyways, it's Alex's confession time:
I've never been to a wedding before.

Yeah, that's right.  Never ever.

Now, part of this is due to the fact that my Dad's family lives in Maine, and my Mom's family is in the Philippines.  So, even when family members tied the knot, my Mom, brother, and I couldn't really make it from little old Virginia Beach.

The point in all of this is that I have two weddings to go to this summer, for two of my best friends.

I'm the Maid of Honor for the first one.
Remember when I said I've never been to a wedding before?
Yeah, I'll let that sink in.

I'm in the bridal party for the second wedding.  
So, for those keeping score at home, that's:

Weddings: 2
Alex: 0

I have NO IDEA how to be a Maid of Honor OR a Bridesmaid (minus what I learned from Bridesmaids, and I don't know if that's the best reference point), and am freaking out.  My roommate has a couple of books that I've read...but still...I don't know what I'm doing.

Also, I think it's hilarious that the first two weddings I'll ever go to, I'm also in the bridal party.

Thanks life :P

So, does anyone have any advice?  Resources? Words of affirmation?!?

Or wedding stories in general?  

Thanks in advance for any helpful hints!  I'm off to find old episodes of Say Yes to the Dress...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

NaNo Updates AND an Election Day Plea

I promise not to get all political with this post.  GO VOTE pretty much sums it up.

But an email that we got today at my school - an email that reminded everyone to be civil to each other no matter what the results are - got me thinking.  About things.  Which can be a terrible, terrible idea.

I promised I wouldn't get political.  And I won't.

So here's me not getting political.
And here's me revealing a bit more about my NaNo project, which is VERY DIFFICULT because I'm the type of person that likes to keep their secrets a secret.

One of the big things I wanted to address in this new story is racism.  And, along with that, both perceived and overt prejudice and the effects it has on people.  

Which people?
People of color, bi-racial or multi-racial individuals (like myself), every kind of socio-economic status, political affiliations, (and, since it's in a boarding school) prejudice in different cliques/circles.

There's more to it than that, obviously.  I still have a Shakespearean play to work in, and of course, it's a ghost story, so I would be remiss to not mention any ghosts.

But at the heart of it all, my MC is a bi-racial girl struggling to figure out where she belongs - or whether or not she should belong to any one category.  

I think it's a struggle we all face.

This struggle is also something I'm very passionate about researching.  To get my Masters, I'm going to examine students of color and their experiences at predominantly white colleges and universities.  The lens I'm using to narrow this topic (because it's a broad, broad topic) is involvement in student organizations.

Essentially, I want to see if being involved in an org that is based on one's culture, like the Asian American Association or the Native American Student Association makes a student of color feel like they belong more to an institution than if they were in something non-culturally based, like a Residence Hall Association.

I've already written a few papers on perceived prejudice, and currently work in an office that promotes and supports multicultural student life.  I pretty much love this stuff, and find issues that revolve around prejudice quite fascinating. 

So I guess I figured I would try to put those interests into a story.  We'll see how it goes :)

Right. Now that you know more than you ever wanted to about my research interests, I leave you with this parting thought (in a terrible attempt at tying everything together).

Whatever happens with the election tonight, please, PLEASE, treat everyone with the dignity and respect that they deserve as human beings.  DO NOT go out of your way to make someone uncomfortable, or feel threatened for their safety because of their beliefs, the color of their skin, their religion, etc.

It's ok to agree to disagree.
It's ok to be disappointed with a result that you didn't like.
It's ok to be mad.

But don't take it out on anyone else. 
No matter what, just remember that we're all entitled to our own beliefs.  We're all entitled to feel safe.

Just remember that we're all people.  We all have hopes and dreams, fears and insecurities.  We're all more fragile than we'd like others to know, but strong and resilient when we have to be.  To paraphrase Shakespeare (a different play from the one I'm using),

If you prick us, we bleed.
If you tickle us, we laugh.
If you poison us, we die.
We're hurt by the same weapons, fed by the same food, subject to the same diseases.

See?  Even in Shakespeare's time, he was trying to make the case that we're all the same.  I'm going to over-look the rest of that speech, where Shylock talks about getting revenge, 'cause that totally messes with the point I want to make.

I'm also over-looking it because Shylock in Merchant of Venice warrants his own blog post.

But I digress.

In summation:
Although the email I received initially made me a little worried about tonight, I hope, I HOPE that the students at this school, and everyone in our community, takes the message to heart.

Actually, I hope the whole country takes that message to heart.


And then play nice.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Observations from the NaNo frontlines (AKA all of my best ideas happen in the shower...What?)

I'm taking a mental break from grad school stuff to catch up on my NaNo word count - we had a lot of things to do for our office this weekend (Homecoming! woo!), so I wasn't as productive with writing as I wanted to be.

But that's ok, 'cause NaNo is a whole freaking month dedicated to getting to 50,000 words.

So, as I try to get to par today (6,666 words...uhh creepy, right?) I've had an interesting thought running through my mind.  And the thought, dearest writer-friends, is this:

About this ghost story...there's one aspect that I've ALWAYS wanted to keep in there, but up until now I was trying to figure out how to make

Before you start to let your mind wander:
A) It's seriously not what you think.
B) For reals, though.  It's not what you think.

Right, so my update on ze ghost story is this:  I FINALLY figured out a way to get around my little "I don't think this could plausibly (and legally) happen in real life (yes, I'm having a logic war with my ghost story).  But then I took a shower, and, as with all of my great ideas, I had an awesome light-bulb moment - a moment that I shall now turn around and around in my head for a few days while I write.

In the meantime, I'm going to get to that 6,666 word mark in one and a half hours...I think.

Anyone else have weird shower revelations?  Or just weird times for revelations in general?

Also, revelations is a word I should use more 'cause it sounds cool.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Hey hey hey!

This post shall be ever so brief, because I have a limited amount of free time this weekend, and I would like to spend it upping my NaNo word count :P  This is my first year NaNo-ing (that's a word, right?) and I'm loving it so far!

My ghost story is quite brutal (even though I'm only a couple of chapters in), and I absolutely love having it set at a boarding school, 'cause I get to do a few fun things that aren't really possible at public high schools (I'm not knocking public high schools, I received a top-notch education from mine!).

My goal tonight is to get to at least 3,000 words, which is a little under par, but I'm ok with that...because I'm going to win this thing.  I'm going to get to 50,000 words by the end of November like a boss (haha) and thennnnnnnnnnnnnnn actually finish my first draft.  And then edit it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  First thing on the agenda is to get about 600 more words typed before I go to sleep!  Wish me luck :)

Oh, and some departing questions.. Are YOU NaNo-ing?  If so, what's your story about?  ALSO if so, feel free to friend me on the site!  I'm Alex Brown (and I love having more writing buddies!)