Hello, and welcome to my little corner of quirkiness. The purpose of this blog is to make it easier to connect with my readers. It's really that simple. The name of the blog, "Quirky Dreams," is relevant only in that my dreams are often quirky, unusual ones, and they are also where I get many of my writing ideas from. I dream in full-length, color, high-def story lines, and if they are remembered, I write them down. Parts or all of these dreams may enter a story. A story might be based around a single dream or an idea from a dream. Regardless of which it is, this is my writing blog, so kick back in your chair, bed, recliner, or airport terminal, and enjoy the blog.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Ugly Kids: To Hell in a Handbasket

The sequel to The Ugly Kids is finally done. That cover just didn't like me. It was actually easier to write the story than draw the cover!

Anyway, The Ugly Kids: To Hell in a Handbasket can be obtained on Smashwords. I suppose they'll eventually ship it out to other vendors, but for now, it's only on Smashwords.

I hope you all enjoy it!

Happy reading!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Vacationing From Vacation

It was a glorious dragon vs. Pikachu battle. The dragon growled and bit and bit and bit and...bit some more. Pikachu jumped on its head.

Then the food came, and Mark's daughter and I put down our toys.

I went to Otakon (the biggest anime convention on the east coast) this year, and I met Mark and his family for the first time. Kind of odd knowing someone for years and only now just meeting them, but it was fun.

There were lines everywhere. I'd been to that convention maybe...I want to say five?...years ago, and it had been pretty easy to get into things. MUCH less people back then too. This time, there were lines for everything. If you wanted to get into a popular event, you had to be there at least an hour in advance.

Regardless, it was still fun. Pictures can be seen here. I'm still working on getting more off my (and my boyfriend's) phone, so more will appear. Probably when classes end.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Social Networking

I know it's been a while since my last post. I don't exactly know how many people read this religiously, but I apologize if you do. Things have been a little chaotic.

Something I almost feel overwhelmed with lately is the fad of social networking. Let me start out by saying that I'm not knocking it. It's really great to be able to find the people you went to high school with or someone you lost touch with.

But I have to admit, as interesting as people are, we do tend to go overboard sometimes. Just look at all the people who post hundreds of pictures of their children on Facebook. Yes, your kid is adorable. I get that. I know you love the little rugrat. But I really don't want to see the picture of his first successful potty training. I don't care how cute you think the drool spot is. Really. One or two pics please. I'm not that interested in your kid.

Marketing. That's usually enough to send me running. As someone learning to market her ebooks, I have to say, I think a lot of us go about it the wrong way. I think very often we are so inundated with internet marketing that we usually just train our eyes to pass over the stuff. I know I do that with Twitter spammers. They use a program like Hootsuite to send out spam links to their own material on a timer. I don't know if this actually works, but I find it severely annoying. I thought Twitter was to connect with people, not to provide a one-way marketing spam site. I've had people recommend that I do something similar. I just can't make myself do it. If that kind of thing annoys me, why would I subject other people to it? I'd rather have meaningful little conversations with people who actually want to talk with me.

LinkedIn. Tried it. Everyone told me "It's great for making connections for when you need a new job!" Well...the problem is that by the time you need a new job, you've already linked yourself to all your coworkers, and they now know that you're looking for a new job. How long before your boss knows you're sniffing around competitors? The entire company? It felt to me like Facebook could do the same thing at any rate. Why manage another one?

Lastly, Google+. Seems like a decent social networking site, but I'm just not sure if I really want to manage another one. I'm on it for the sake of some friends, but unless those friends give me a nudge, I'm not all that interested. Maybe I'm just burned out.

I know social networking is the hot thing and has been for a while, and there are some really nice benefits to it, but I think perhaps the way it's used is starting to burn me out on certain aspects. I don't check my Facebook nearly as often as I used to. I like Twitter a bit, but the spamming desensitizes me to new posts. Maybe you readers can pull something useful from my ramblings to market your own stuff, maybe not. I hope you do. Making the internet a better place and all that, one rant at a time. ;-)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Good Memories

I was talking with Mark today about my high school writing days, because I had a friend in my classes who used to read as I wrote. Almost a co-author, though she did no actual writing. She was a literal genius who would run amok, pat people on the head, and call them "fluffy." Occasionally someone was "ew...not fluffy" and took offense.

I'll be honest. My writing was awful back then. But it was so much fun to write with someone. I did it for the fun of it (still do!), but it was never so much fun as when writing with her.

What amazed me though were the similarities between her and Mark. No, Mark does not pat people on the head and call them fluffy. However, both of them come up with the most outrageous ideas that make me laugh. Mark has his blaster ballerina moments, and this friend of mine had her "Give him a feathered boa!" moments. On another occasion, she wanted me to put a character in a diaper. At one point, I wrote her into a story, because she was just a character in and of herself.

I guess this is me just reminiscing some, but it explains a lot of things when I think about it. Blaster ballerina or feathered boas, I just like writing with someone who's a little crazy. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Video Game Stories, Part 2

I'll admit I can be a very critical person at times. I often focus on the negative and ignore the positive. This is not because I'm a negative person. It's just that I'm constantly looking for ways to improve things, myself included.

That said, I think it's just as important to look at a good example of story use in a video game as it is to point out poor use. Knowing what constitutes a poor game story only tells us what not to do. It does not tell us what we should do.

To that end, I want to take a look at some of BioWare's Forgotten Realms games. For you non-gamers, Forgotten Realms is Dungeons and Dragons setting on which a series of role-playing games was based where you design and play a character in that particular fictional world. Games that BioWare created, such as Baulder's Gate, are often spoken of as the standard that other fantasy role-playing games are held to. One of the reasons for this is the outstanding story lines and use of story in a gaming environment.

For the sake of this post, I'll only be looking at Neverwinter Nights, but many of their games follow the same rules. I highly recommend Baulder's Gate as well!

In Neverwinter Nights, you start off with a cut scene that sets the tone of the story. You're stuck in a plague-infested city, with limited hope for a cure. The walls are sealed as part of a quarantine, which effectively limits your exploration, but in reality, the city maps are huge, so there's plenty to do even then.

The cut scene explains the setting and why you are where you are. No more. It does not insult the gamer's intelligence. It does not try to teach you anything in a video tutorial. It doesn't cause your character to perform any actions you don't want him/her to do. It just tells you the state of things and why you are standing in an Academy. Perfect! I'm caught up in the story, and I'm ready to play it out!

The first part, as in any game, is the tutorial. You go through Academy training. The great part though? You can skip the training completely if you want and get right to the game!

Sometimes these things are worthwhile to play through though simply for the dialogue. This is a great aspect of the Forgotten Realms series. You have dialogue options to choose from. Depending on what your character says/does, different results occur. I often play through the same game story line several times in several different ways just to see all the neat plots that I missed the first time around! I will admit that this was probably a lot of work. You're basically creating dialogue trees or loops instead of straight dialogue, which can increase the size of the project exponentially. But the ability to choose what you character will and will not say is wonderful. Maybe you don't want to run a quest for someone who is mean to you. Maybe you want to slay an innocent peasant and play the villain. Maybe you want to trick someone into giving you more gold. Maybe you want to donate gold to the person who needs it. That's the best part! You decide.

The story in these games is actually played through. Don't get me wrong. This still requires a writer. Only the writer plays the computer side of things (the NPCs, or Non-Player Characters). Bad guy is discovered? You actually go through the portal and haul him back for a trial. Trial time for a minor character? You get to play the defense attorney or judge! A cure needs to be created? You get to do all the hard work of finding the components! The writer just makes sure that you have the ability to get the information you need to complete the story line. Sometimes the information is buried in dialogue choices. Sometimes it's obvious. Intelligently, the main story line information is usually easily found. Optional side-stories are sometimes not and must be searched for.

The "levels" of the game are broken up into "chapters." One of the really neat things about the game was that the completion of a chapter rewarded you with seeing the results of your actions in a narrated cut scene. Maybe your actions, as well-intended as they may have been, brought misery to someone. Maybe they brought hope. Either way, you get to see what far-reaching effects they had, and you are set up for what is to come next. It's a pleasant and engaging reward for work well done. The cut scene wasn't too long, and again, it didn't presume to have your character act for you. It didn't reveal anything it shouldn't for that moment.

Which brings me to the last item I want to talk about. The story was often filled with twists and turns that left me staring at the screen and wanting to know more. I played for hours just to find out the next part! I felt like I was living a book, and that is what really grabbed me. I think this is a series of games any fantasy reader could really get into, if only for the story.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Video Game Stories

So, I'm an avid gamer, formerly a game-a-holic. I no longer play multiplayer anything due to my tendency of spending several long minutes wondering if I really need to get up and tend to that emergency, and is it worth letting my character or someone else's character die. I miss World of Warcraft, but it's not worth the loss in writing productivity. I only play games with pause buttons now.

This new single player me has led me to pay more attention to game stories and how they differ from your typical book or movie.

Lately, I've been playing Settlers 2, which is an older 2D game from the 1990's. I love strategy games, and this one is particularly entertaining. Then I noticed that Settlers 7 had been released this year! I quickly bought it based on enjoying Settlers 2 so much.

Well, it's not quite all that I had hoped it would be. They have a multiplayer aspect which they seem to be pushing. I'm not going to bite. Multiplayer is off limits. Instead, I turned my attention to the campaign, which, for you non-gamers, is single-player mode where you follow a set of scenarios and achieve objectives.

It opens with a story. I'm excitedly watching it...and watching it...and watching it...and...attention slipping...annoyance setting in...scowling...

FINALLY we begin. But by now, I've already determined that I'm probably on the wrong side of the fence in this battle. The story has given me TOO much information right at the outset and ruined the twist that I can sense coming further down the road. Worse! I had to sit through the many cut scenes and dialogues without doing anything! So now, we've already started off with the following problems:
  1. I'm bored because instead of actually playing my hero through the story line, it's been all laid out for me. This is appropriate in movies and books, because those are passive stories. You're sitting back and waiting to have the story unfold. Games should first be played through, then show cut scenes, and only THEN display text. The key is to engage the player. By time I get to the first level, I'm annoyed and bored.
  2. I already know where the story line is leading me. They've hinted that I'm fighting on the wrong side of a battle far too strongly. Great. Any writer or reader can tell you what the problem with that is. Only, it becomes much more of an irritating issue when you're working toward a goal you know is probably wrong, and you have no options to refuse that course of action. To progress, you have to pretend to be stupid and go along with it. If that's the case, what was the point of introducing the "role-playing" aspect to it?
Alright, annoyed, I begin the tutorial and complete the first step of the campaign. Yay. I turn it off, go do something else, then come back to see if it's any better in level two.

Nope. It's more tutorial. Finish that. Third level. More tutorial. Fourth level. More tutorial, and still no sign of the twist that I already know is coming, despite EVERY villain hinting at it! I'm also constantly getting lectured on new items and things to do! Really, it's not that hard!

How long does a writer spend introducing the characters and world before launching into the story? Usually, not very long. The characters, world, and rules are all learned during the course of the story, quite often without very much explicit explanation.

By now, I really don't want to return to the game. The story has lost me. The characters are so stupid as to be ridiculous. I have to play dumb to play my character. I already know the coming twist. Every level of the campaign has been annoyingly preachy and restrictive (whatever happened to a "turn off tutorial" button?!).

On more of a game design note, it doesn't even feel like a strategy game, so much as a mission-based game now. I can't use the map creatively anymore. I'm enclosed by the geography, so there's no exploration. I feel like cattle in a chute. There's only one way to move.

Bottom line? I think I'll stick to Settlers 2, where I am playing out the story line and I decide how to progress. That, very basically, is the difference between game writing and other story forms. The player needs to act out the script whenever possible. Not the writer.

Monday, June 13, 2011

PoC 4

So, I finally saw Pirates of the Caribbean 4. I was really excited to see it, having loved the first three. The first three had a great story, great character interaction, and great dialogue. Not to mention that I love seeing Johnny Depp's acting.

Unfortunately, PoC 4 didn't hold a candle to the first three. It was quite a let-down, especially if you know your history.

***There may be some spoilers ahead, so stop reading if you haven't seen the movie!***

Firstly, Ponce de Leon did not make the fountain of youth himself. He set out to discover it and failed miserably. So, what I'd like to know is why there would be Spanish-made cups required for the ritual. And why would the words to gain entry to the fountain be in Spanish? If anything, I can only imagine that they'd be in some Native American language!

If Ponce de Leon was living in his ship and admiring his treasure and map until the day he died, why wouldn't it have fallen back then? Why wait until Sparrow and Barbosa get there to tip over wildly? Wind and sea would have done it years ago! :-S

Ponce de Leon did not die on his voyage, so don't go updating the history books just yet.

The romance between mermaid and priest was rushed. Very rushed. And I'd like to know why the mermaid just decided out of the blue that the priest was different, never having spoken to him, and decided to save him. I mean, come on! Most of us can't even decide that someone is perfect for us after a month, let alone at first sight. And here, a creature depicted as being blood-thirsty is swooning over her FOOD as soon as she looks at him! Please!

Speaking of the priest, I wasn't all that happy about a guy who is willing to get up in Blackbeard's face for the sake of his faith, then suddenly throw it all away for a pretty tail. But hey, I can live with it. I guess it happens. A few priests today throw it all away for an altar boy.

The dialogue between Captain Sparrow and Blackbeard's daughter was a bit off, but I really enjoyed the scenes with interaction between Barbosa and Jack. They always make a great pair!

The leaping through coconut trees was too far fetched. Seriously. That would require the luck of a two-sided coin. In other words, you'd have to cheat, which movie makers do.

I love how a magic sword just happens to pop up. Where did it come from? I mean, I can suspend my disbelief, but for something that powerful? You need to at least explain where it came from and how it works in a world where magic doesn't just run rampant (aka, everyone is not a wizard who can make these things).

Blackbeard, historically, was never into voodoo. If Hollywood really wanted to throw voodoo in, they should have made the voodoo practitioner one of his crew.

The 3D really didn't make the film. It would have been just the same in 2D for me. There were no really cool effects or anything to make it worthwhile.

So, I know I'll probably get some flak from die-hard PoC fans for saying it, but PoC 4 really didn't live up to my expectations. It felt very rushed, and I think the plot could have been thought through better. Johnny Depp and a select few did their usual stellar performances, but I think I might just pass on seeing the next PoC film in theaters. It has seriously surpassed my ability to suspend my disbelief.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cat o' Nine: Courtship of Knives

The second book of Cat o' Nine is finally available. It probably just feels like "finally" to me because I did a lot of the typo fixing. We had an extra pair of eyes look it over (thank you to Barbara), so it should be cleaner than book 1. We will, however, be revising book 1 for your reading pleasure. I really think we rushed it out of excitement, so there are typos we missed. They will soon be eradicated. I promise. Book 2 is much nicer.

You can get it for Kindle on Amazon, or find it in other formats, such as .epub, .pdf, .rtf, and more at Smashwords.

In addition, the price of the first book of the Cat o' Nine series has been lowered to $0.99, so if you haven't read it, now's a good time!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


So, Cat o' Nine 2 is just about done. A friend of Mark's is giving it one last look over before we publish it. We're currently working on the cover for it. With some luck, it might turn out better than the last one (definitely a good thing - I don't think I was ever quite satisfied with the cover for book 1). We're also planning on including some maps, so maybe Mark and I won't get so confused about where our characters are heading now (we frequently argue over what towns/cities are located where and have to look this up)!

Cat o' Nine 3 is pretty much outlined. It's time for a journey to the frozen north. I won't say much more beyond that.

We have nine books planned at this point and very vaguely and tentatively outlined. The entire plot is still open for revision. Nine books wasn't our idea, but it was a good one, so we went with it. One of Mark's friends came up with it, but I'm not sure who, exactly.

In other news, the second The Three Irks book is slowly coming along. Very slowly. I'm fiddling around with the outline again. There are some parts I'm just not happy with yet (luckily, I haven't written up to that point yet). This book is from Virk's point of view, and readers can get to know her a little better.

I'm tossing some ideas around for a one-off book. I don't like how everything I write lately becomes a series, and I don't know how wise it would be to marry myself to more than two series at once. I think that'd be biting off more than I can chew, especially with working full time and going to school. Besides, it'd be nice to write something where everything gets wrapped up nicely at the end!

College classes finally started for me, so my writing will slow a little. I'm prepping for mechanical engineering, but ironically, I'm taking a required writing course. I'm hoping to learn something useful, but I'm not sure how well a research paper course will apply to creative writing. I have an excellent teacher though, so I can't complain too much. It's a four hour long class, so I appreciate his ability to hold our attention. A boring professor for that long would be absolute torture. I just wish the reading assignments weren't so dry.

So that's the latest update and why I've been so quiet here for so long. So much writing to do and so little time!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Formulas and Middle Men

Let me first say that I'm not traditionally published. I've never dealt with a publishing house before, nor ever submitted my work to them for consideration.

That said, I do read articles written by published authors, and I do listen to what others have to say regarding the entertainment industry.

One of the most complained about problems with story lines, whether in movies or books, seems to be the formula stories. These are the ones that follow a tried and true formula, but they become almost predictable in the process. They are a much lower risk for publishers and television networks though, so they tend to be considered over truly original works.

I think this is why I value places like Smashwords and Amazon. They provide a place for indie authors to be heard, no matter what is written between the covers of a book. In essence, indie authors are cutting out the "middle man." The result is that more original content finds its way into my library (and probably the libraries of others). Smashwords and Amazon do the same thing for writers that Youtube does for amateur film makers. The beauty of it all is that the reader/viewer gets to decide what programming to watch or not watch.

Now, one writer explains this trend toward formulas as a "stabilizing" of the industry. For example, some writer makes a tremendous change, and it's a sensation, so from that point forward, publishers follow a formula to achieve that same success. Writing has gone through many shifts. If it hadn't, we might still be writing like Shakespeare, for all we know. Even good ol' Earth needs calm periods after changes like earthquakes.

I'm starting to suspect though that people are about ready for another shift again. While I'm not exactly sure where that shift may come from (maybe even the gaming industry--who knows?), I do know that many people are sick of the "formula story." When I can make a bet as to how a movie I have never seen will end, and actually win that bet, there's a problem. While there's nothing wrong with the comfortable and familiar, it's stories that give a unique experience that I'm craving now. After all, that's what fantasy and sci-fi are supposed to be, are they not?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Go the F**k to Sleep

So, I'll admit, those words caught my attention.

Go the F**k to Sleep is a book that at first glance looks like a children's book. The cover displays a child sleeping with adorable looking tigers.

In reality, it's described as a bedtime story for adults, specifically focusing on parents with children who just can't sleep.

What's even cooler is that this book made it to the #1 spot on the Amazon best seller list.

I'll admit, I think the idea of creating a bedtime story for adults is genius. I'm even tempted to buy the book for myself. It looks fun! Even more interesting is this article though, which details how the book became such a success.

Just goes to show that nothing beats a shocking title and a sense of humor!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Unreliable Narrator

This is probably my favorite literary tool. So what is it? It's when the person through whose eyes you are looking is not reliable, or their understanding of events is "compromised." Some good examples in movies have been American Psycho, The Sixth Sense, or Shutter Island. I won't go into details and spoilers for each of these, but for those of you who've seen them, you'll understand. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an example in literature, where the character only sees the good sides of people, so the reader's viewpoint is just as limited.

The unreliable narrator isn't a new tool. In fact, it's very old, but I think it's one that could be used more often (are you listening, film industry?!) to add new twists, turns, etc. Finding out at the end of the novel that everything you thought was going on was really skewed makes for a really unique experience. Nothing beats that "Wait, wait...HUH?!" reaction at the end of a book or movie, especially in a time when a lot of what the entertainment industry produces is so utterly predictable.

So next time you're thinking about writing, or filming, or even if you're the one doing the reading or watching, give a thought to this neat little tool and how it can make things so much more interesting. :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ad-Ventures With Kindle

So marketers are looking for all new ways to get our attention again. This time, the medium isn't email, or television, or annoying pop-ups. The medium is the Kindle.

For just a few dollars less than the normal retail price, you too can be bombarded by ads!

Amazon put out a Kindle that is $25 cheaper in return for displaying a stream of ads on it. You'd think that for having to put up with a slew of annoying marketing, they would give you a slightly larger discount.

I can't speak for everyone else, but I very much enjoy my ad-free Kindle. I'm incredibly burned out on internet ads. My eyes are trained to skip over them, unless they happen to be entertaining. If an ad is too annoying, I leave the page, especially if it has obnoxious audio or irritating flash sequences.

So why would I buy a Kindle that displays the very things I can't stand looking at?

Not everyone thinks the way I do though. Some people are happy to save an extra $25 on price if it means they just have to ignore a few ads to use their Kindle. Cool. Go for it. Enjoy yourself!

This writer though is tired of ads appearing in every possible medium. I'd like to keep my Kindle pure and unsullied, even if it means paying a little more for that luxury.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mary Sue - Irritating Character or Literary Tool?

Someone I once knew found out I was writing, and he said to me, "It's not a Mary Sue story, is it?"

I went "Huh? What's that?" and this person proceeded to direct me to a Mary Sue test.

Now, for everyone who is currently just as confused as I was in that moment, let me provide a definition. Wikipedia defines Mary Sue as "a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author or reader." See the link for more info about the origin of the term and other details.

My first characters were very Mary Sue (thank goodness I never actually published those stories). I was never quite satisfied with my writing until I began writing about characters who were so little like me as to be completely alien. It ended up being the only time I could be objective and craft a decent story.

To be honest though, there have been successful characters that are overly idealized, have hackneyed mannerisms, lack noteworthy flaws, and still managed to succeed as a character. James T. Kirk from Star Trek has been pointed out as one such character.

So, this makes me wonder. Why do we pick on Mary Sue characters if they can be used to some good in story lines?

Well, you really only have to read some fan fiction to understand that. Most of the time, the Mary Sue character isn't used very artfully. They can become sickeningly sweet, or angsty over non-problems to the point of nausea.

Now, we can probably all agree that no one likes to read a story about Little Miss Perfect or Mister Wonderful and their wonderful lives with tiny little molehills that turn into mountains. However, I wonder if you could take a Mary Sue character and put them in abnormal circumstances to make a meaningful and interesting story. I believe the movie Pleasantville did something similar to that. It started out with the perfection of an old TV show that eventually became more "real" thanks to the invasion of real life. It was interesting because the characters in the movie started out Mary Sue and eventually became real.

I'm thinking, though, that it could be interesting to take a Mary Sue and place him/her in circumstances that make the very act of being a Mary Sue type character awkward or inevitably disastrous. For example, take a wonderful, handsome, perfect man who every woman wants, and place him in a situation where he is out of his element. Such as an accidental member of an all-male submarine crew. Or take your typical Mary Sue type woman and force her to make a decision that has no good answer.

The argument can be made that because you're no longer being nice to your "Mary Sue" character, they're no longer Mary Sue. But perhaps that's a good alternative to completely revamping a character. To be honest, I think there's a very fine line between a Mary Sue-like character and a literary tool at times. I believe the real difference is how attached the author becomes to the character.

It's always important to keep in mind (when writing) that characters are tools. You're helping others to live vicariously through them and experience their lives, if only for a few hours. You, the author, however, need to remain slightly detached so that you can mercilessly torment them, challenge them, and even kill them off (not entirely detached though - we do need to consider what the character would do by putting ourselves in their shoes!). I think Mary Sue really becomes Mary Sue the moment an author stops treating a character like a tool, and in my (very) humble opinion, anything else is an exaggeration of the term.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Ugly Kids

There is a new, free short story available on Smashwords here. If you enjoy comedy, ogres, goblins, fish, and garbage, it is probably for you. The title of the short story is The Ugly Kids.

In addition, I'm thinking about turning this short story into a series or mini-series. If that is something you'd like to see, feel free to let me know by replying to this post!

I hope you all enjoy it!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

If I Only Had a Brain...


Lately, I've been reading more and more about blunders or problems caused by those algorithms that automatically set book prices based on competitor prices. In one case, this actually caused the price of a book to soar to over $23 million! While this is great publicity for the book, I doubt the author is making many sales, which is a problem. The issue was that two competing vendors were automatically adjusting their prices to each other according to a programmed algorithm. The result was a rapid increase in the price of the book.

Machines, and software algorithms, are brainless. The algorithm was doing what it had been programmed to do. It can't sit back, look at the price, and think, "Hmm. I might be going just a little overboard here. No one is going to buy at that price."

This is why I'm not a big fan of these algorithms.

Another issue I read about a little while back was where Kobo was having some kind of problem with bugs in its software. Book prices were getting unintentionally slashed. Not a big problem in itself. Simply contact Kobo and get the book price fixed, right? Well, kind of. The problem was that when Kobo slashed prices, Amazon's automatic pricing picked up on it, and slashed that book's prices to be slightly cheaper than Kobo. This meant that some authors lost money. In one case I read about, quite a bit.

It's a little messy. Overall, I would guess the system works as intended, given that I haven't seen a massive outcry against it, but it's good to know what risks you're taking when you put your books up for sale. Like the Scarecrow, if it only had a brain...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Fire!

My co-author (Mark) and I have never met. We collaborate online to write, but we live in separate states. We've never seen each other face to face, and never spoken on the phone (or Skype for that matter). We communicate solely in text.

That said, I have more fun writing with a co-author than I ever had writing alone. Why? The answer is simple. Mundane things become hilarious.

Mark and I were writing a tear-jerker scene. Without giving too much away, a character was speaking with someone dear to him who had died. It was a little heart-wrenching. Especially when they started parting ways. Then, right at the most poignant part, what do I see Mark writing?

"And then, she burst into a fireball."

I nearly died laughing.

Now I can't stop writing, "And then X burst into a fireball," to Mark's dismay. I say it in conversations, which surprisingly enough works to elicit laughter.

Because I tease him so harshly, and because I have so much fun at his expense, and because he's so easygoing about it, every now and then, I just have to say thank you to Mark for making writing so much fun!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

How to Train/Kill Your Dragon?

First of all, Happy Easter! Hope everyone's enjoying chocolate bunnies, marshmallow peeps, and...cadbury eggs (I wait all year for those).

Recently, I've been reading the How to Train Your Dragon series. It's a cute series. Probably a little too young for me, but I'm still enjoying it.

However, I have to point out that while I expect movies to take liberties when they are based on a book, How to Train Your Dragon took the cake. It's VERY loosely based on the book. Without any spoilers, let me point out one of the biggest differences: The Vikings never kill dragons in the book unless they happen to be dangerous ones. There is no war with the dragons. In fact, they really do catch and train them to do tasks for them.

Stoic is much...much...less intelligent in the book, and Gobber is much, much meaner. So far, I've not seen a single dragon called a "Nightfury," and I'm on the third book right now, but we'll see. Hiccup isn't half as impressive as his alter-ego in the movie, and Fishlegs definitely plays a bigger part. No Astrid exists in the book either (so far). I guess Hollywood thought the movie would be better if there was a romantic interest.

Honestly, to enjoy both book and movie, I had to treat them like they're completely separate stories, but I'm liking both now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Amazing Brain

It's really weird when you're in a dream, looking at something from reality that has found its way into the dream, and thinking Hey, that looks familiar. Where have I seen that before?

Last night, I had a very disturbing dream that I hope isn't a vision of things to come. My friend Kevin would point me toward this video that tells me it's all mathematical chance if I have prophetic dreams, but this is probably more of my brain playing out possible scenarios for the future.

Anyway, back to the point. In part the dream, I saw a garden consisting of solely pea plants. I was trying to figure out why I knew that their flowers should be white or purple, because that isn't something I normally go and find out unless I have a reason. I woke up, and thought, "Oh yeah, because that monk guy who was the father of genetics worked with peas, and I was reading about him." Another part of the dream involved these little cars that work as a team. I had seen them on the show Numbers. That was pretty cool...until the little cars started working to find people to hurt them. I saw a museum, which ended up being a random museum I've never seen in my life. Some of my own personal worries and stresses manifested too.

The interesting thing is how the brain can just piece together random elements from both reality and your imagination. It's like it pulls images and concepts from wherever seems best. Not only that, but it was complete with an entire plot line, mystery, twists and turns. I have no idea how you manage to keep a mystery from yourself, but my brain did a great job of that last night. I wish that worked for writing too!

Friday, April 15, 2011

More On Short Stories

The next short story I'm working on is outlined, and I'm prepping to write. Lots of goblins, lots of garbage, and lots of fun. I feel like I have to make up for the sad story I wrote last time. I'm a bit of a hypocrite that way I guess. I hate sad stories, but it's okay if I write them. When I write them, it doesn't reduce me to a puddle of quivering goo, because I'm too busy looking at the story analytically.

I much prefer humor though. I read a book called Karl and the Prankster God a little while ago, and while it had typos, and I found the start of it a little slow, the book was really great. The idea of Princess Di riding a golf cart around in Heaven and trying to whack paparazzi with a golf club is priceless. I definitely recommend the book if you like religious satire.

Back to humor though: I'll admit, I write it better than I speak it. I have my own quirky sense of humor that sometimes people just don't get when it's spoken. It seems to do alright when written though. The Three Irks is riddled with it.

Anyway, looking forward to writing this short story, and hopefully I can put together a decent cover for it too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Conversation Questions

Sometimes, I really enjoy bringing certain questions up in a conversation because they can really get a fun and interesting discussion going. You never know what will pop up from them (including story ideas).

  1. If you were going to a deserted island, and you could only bring X number of things, what would you bring?
  2. What weapons would you use if there was a zombie apocalypse? How would you survive?
  3. What year were you born? (Followed by proceeding to check which Chinese astrology sign they are)
  4. If you had a million dollars, what would you do?
  5. If you had X amount of time to live, what would you do?
  6. How would you commit the perfect murder?
  7. If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I could go on and on with these, and I'm sure a lot of people have been asked at least one of them. I enjoy these conversations because it not only elicits creative responses, it's almost social research. What do people do? Why do they do it? All very important things for writing.

Happy chatting!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Character Paradox

One of the things I read all the time when I'm trying to work on my character design is that you have to treat your characters like tools. This is something I can understand. If you get too fond of your characters, you can't bear to kill them off, everything good and wonderful happens to them, nothing very bad ever occurs in their lives, and overall, they can end up being hollow shells of characters, as opposed to deep and believable people.

The other side of the coin is that once you've created a character, you need to get into the character's head and act out what the character would do. It's a little like role playing, for those of you who play Dungeons & Dragons. You're constantly thinking, "Okay, I'm X. How does X react to Y? What do I do?" Eventually, you learn to slip into the mindset of the character very easily. You can sympathize with him/her/it. You share their emotions, their hopes, their dreams...all because you need to get into the character's head to write consistently with your character design.

So what do you do? Do you stay emotionally detached and clinical with your characters? Or do you throw yourself into them?

I've come to realize that the trick (at least for me) is to find a middle road. I design characters who do not think or act like me. Kind of. I might throw little parts of me into them, but if I do, it's small enough that I can't mistake the character for being just like me. This huge difference between the character and me helps me regard them more objectively. I make a character profile. The profile gives me a guideline to follow for the character so that if it ever feels like I'm deviating from the true essence of the character, I can go back and look at the profile (this is something I learned to do from playing role playing games online).

As far as getting into the head of the character(s), it's often a bit tricky. One of the biggest problems I saw in role playing games was the inability to separate the "you" out of the game and the "you" in the game. This goes for any role playing game.

Writing isn't so different. Writing is just a role playing game where you play all the characters, so it's very easy to have a favorite character and easy to get the urge to make everything go well for this character, because it can become a projection of you, your thoughts, your feelings, your beliefs, etc.

This second part is the most difficult. I have to be able to get into my character's head without becoming attached to the character. To be honest, I hate killing off my characters or finding other ways to get rid of them. I don't mind throwing problems at them, because in truth, there is no story without problems for the character to solve. I do have some attachment to my characters, but this is necessary (to an extent) I think, because it tends to be a side-effect from playing the character and staying true to the character design. The trick, and I think the method is probably different for everyone (but who knows!), is to walk that fine line between attachment and detachment.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tsunami Debris

So according to a CNN article, the debris that was washed into the ocean from the Japan tsunami is predicted to cross the Pacific, pass Hawaii, swirl around the west coast of the US for a time, then boomerang back and finally settle near Hawaii.

Now, I know that no one wants an island of garbage forming in what is usually considered a tropical paradise, but I can't help but be fascinated by nature.

The place the garbage is predicted to settle is the North Pacific Garbage Patch. It's a nice big whirlpool where garbage grinds against garbage until there's almost nothing left of it. It amazes me that our waters can basically turn a heap of trash into a natural blender.

One thing I worry about is how much trash this whirlpool can handle. Will the "garbage island" be ground down over years and years? Or will it just clog the drain so to speak? Too many questions. Not enough answers. I suppose we'll find out within the coming years.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pets, Part 2

We got a new parakeet (Blackberry) as a companion for our first one (Kiwi). This time I made sure to pick a bird that looked bright-eyed, alert, clean, energetic, and confident. I even paid a little extra for what they call a "rare" parakeet just to get one that looked healthier than the rest. A "rare" parakeet is a nice little marketing scheme that means a parakeet bred to be a different color from the standard blue and green parakeets. I'm convinced it's an excuse to charge a little more for the animal, since I often see these "rare" parakeets mixed in with normal parakeets and going for the same price as the normal ones...but okay. Fine. I saw a very healthy looking bird and paid the extra $7 for it.

This is an experiment to see if my co-author is right. Perhaps I really don't check them thoroughly enough before purchase, or perhaps I just gravitate toward animals that need help.

I'm also hoping that a very healthy bird can teach Kiwi a few things. Like maybe what a cuttlebone is really for. I don't want to traumatize the little bird by taking her to get her beak trimmed. She's barely hand-trained.

So, let the experiment commence!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I have the strangest luck with pets.

I always seem to get the pets that have something wrong with them. I'm not sure if it's that I somehow can sense an animal that needs special attention, or if they can sense that I'm the poor sap who can't look the other way when they need help, but every pet of mine has had an issue, whether physical or mental.

Cat #1 (Luna): Stomach problems, weight problems, and a victim personality. I actually had to train the poor thing to use the litterbox.

Cat #2 (Sinbad): Aggression issues, behavior issues. This cat actually sent me to the hospital, earning a grudging respect.

Cat #3 (Link): Anxiety issues and knee issues. Poor thing freaks at the slightest thing, tries to run off, and his knees pop. Then he limps painfully away. It's going to require surgery, the vet says.

Parakeet: Refuses to use the cuttlebone, refuses to come out of the cage most of the time, and dumps her food on the floor. Takes a sadistic joy in squawking loudly to wake everyone up on weekend mornings.

Ball Python: Shedding issues. The poor girl just cannot shed properly and constantly ends up with patches of skin covering her eyeballs. I have to help her out of her birthday suit.

2 Hamsters and 2 Gerbils: Perfectly normal little rodents, but this is because they belong to my boyfriend. Not me.

I don't think I have even once had a normal pet with no issues who behaves as a pet should. It always involves more than the usual amount of effort for me to take care of them. Not that I'm complaining. I love my pets, and I wouldn't trade them for all the money in the world. I'm just boggling at how I always end up with the difficult cases. Two of the cats I didn't even choose for myself. My grandfather picked out Luna, and I agreed to take Sinbad from a coworker before even seeing him (he was found in a parking lot, all alone, just a little orange fuzz ball).

Even before all this, I somehow found a kitty that was born with one kidney. She routinely had UTI problems and eventually died from kidney failure, despite everything we did.

There has to be some explanation. One day, I will figure out what that is!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Return of the "Typo King"

So that title was my co-author's exact wording when he let me know he was back from his vacation. Writing can now resume since he has returned from his exile into the lands of dial-up connections. I didn't know people still used dial-up myself. Learn something new every day.

Writing for me isn't half as fun without Mark around, even when I'm writing my own stuff. There aren't the endless puns to groan at, the odd scenes that don't make any sense to stamp out, and there's no joking around with his wife at Mark's expense. No fun at all.

I'll admit, I've even been slacking in my writing. I recently got a Kindle, so I've been reading instead, and pretty voraciously too. I've never liked the idea of not being able to hold a book in my hands, but the Kindle has changed my mind. The only thing better, in my opinion anyway, is a hardcover book. I tend to destroy my favorite paperbacks simply from reading and re-reading, and I still enjoy the feel of a real book. But for books I'd probably buy in paperback anyway, the Kindle is great. I no longer destroy them.

This week though, it's back to writing. I think I needed a break myself. Proofreading and editing two books in a row can really wear you down.

So, anyway, welcome back, Mark. Now write, dammit! ;-)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Free Short Story

I've written and published a free short story on Smashwords. The title is Mommy, Where Do Baby Unicorns Come From?

I was sort of thinking about the medieval belief that only an innocent young maiden can trap a unicorn. You can see tapestries depicting the famous unicorn hunt in the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (I highly recommend the trip if you're close enough and enjoy art), in which a maiden is used to lure the unsuspecting unicorn in.

Also, throughout literature, the unicorn is often shown as a creature that can only approach the innocent and that shuns the...erm...let's go with the term "worldly."

So I got to thinking. If a unicorn shuns the non-innocent, how do unicorns make a foal? A unicorn couldn't shun itself, certainly. So how do unicorn foals come about? Take a look and find out!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fitness Competition?

Some people I know have decided to have a fitness competition. This perked my interest at first as I remembered doing JROTC in high school (it was mandatory where I went) and having to run a mile and a half for their PT test. Well, turns out that it's not quite like that.

The challenge isn't how many situps can you do, or how far you can run. Nope. It's how much weight you can lose in two months.

Now, this sounds good at first. A lot of people getting together and losing weight. Wonderful! It's nice to see people taking an interest in their health. Only, when you make it a competition for money, I'm willing to bet that there are going to be people who work themselves too hard or try the starvation approach. It's not healthy to lose weight too fast.

Another problem is that it excludes the skinnier people from participating. Maybe they'd like to bulk up or work on their endurance. Fitness is not just about weight!

Lastly, and least importantly, fairness is an issue. If you go by the percentage of body fat dropped, it's much easier for someone who is extremely heavy and never worked out to drop weight than someone who has been working out and is currently trying to work their way off a weight plateau.

All in all, I'm just not sure that this is the healthiest idea these people have ever had. It's not like those reality shows who have doctors and nutritionists at their beck and call. There are none of those to make sure the participants aren't hurting themselves.

That said, I think I'll abstain from this competition and hope no one develops a disorder.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dreams, Radiation, and Islands

I've been having a lot of very strange dreams lately, especially regarding my family. My family isn't the most normal one. Nor is it the strangest one. We've got our problems and our good points. It's been a little strained there lately though, so my brain is probably telling me to get off my butt and fix it. I can't wait to get back to normal dreams. Sometimes dreams of being in a plane and plummeting toward earth or dreams about World War II are preferable to family stress.

As for the whole radiation mess, I have to admit that I've been following the news as much as I can. I'm kinda wondering just how bad the area is going to get. When the plume of radiation made for California, a friend out there told me that the entire area he was in had sold out of geiger counters. Not that they got a huge dose of radiation. It's supposed to be very low. All the same, a friend's blog made me wonder where all that water they're spraying into the reactors is going. Radioactive water is still radioactive, after all. I'm no scientist, but that doesn't exactly conjure up good images.

On another note, I am looking to find out how the shrine and hostel on Kinkasan Island did with the quake and tsunami. It was supposed to be the closest island to the quake. Anyone know?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Outlines and Blogs

The outline for the second Irks book is finished finally, and I'm back to the normal routine of writing. It feels good. I also have a couple short story ideas in my head that I'm slowly working out when I have a moment or two to breathe.

My co-author is on vacation for a while, so no Cat o' Nine writing is being done for at least the next week or so.

So, I had an annoyingly stupid moment trying to create a Wordpress blog. I figured it allows you to customize more, so it would be a nice thing to do, and maybe I could add new things to the blog. I'll admit that I'm not the most savvy person when it comes to working with CSS or HTML. CSS may as well be ancient Egyptian as far as I'm concerned, and HTML...well, I can speak it as well as a two-year-old can speak English.

I created the blog, and immediately was frustrated by the UI. Alright. I counted to ten and began poking around. I'm not a patient person...at all. So with the help of a friend, I eventually played around with themes.

The blog ended up very weird looking, so I figured I could do something similar to what I did with this blog. I thought I could delete it and start from scratch. So I deleted it. I ignored the warnings about never being able to recover it (I thought this applied to your settings, text, artwork, and all the configuring you've done).

Then I find out, that nope, they really meant it. Can't recover the blog at all.

Well, I messed up. I'm frustrated beyond belief. And I don't think I'll ever use Wordpress again. I've come to the conclusion that it's just not for beginners who like to leave the mystery of HTML and CSS to others. If anything, I'll make a website in the future. At least I won't have a weird UI to sort out, and I can learn HTML and CSS at my leisure.

So, take something away from my moment of stupidity. If some website assures you that you cannot recover something when you delete it, do a little poking around before you actually do.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Writer's Block

So, I was suffering from a bout of writer's block earlier today. Mark helped me past it, but I thought that I'd share a few things I do to get past writer's block today.

1. Outline, outline, outline. I start with main points that I want to hit in a story, then further detail the outline until the section I'm writing is mostly scripted out.
2. Brainstorm with my muse (Mark). Sometimes just having someone to discuss with and throw out ideas can help you generate your own again.
3. Play games. Other times, my mind just needs a break.
4. Sleep. This is the ultimate "reboot brain" tactic.
5. If all else fails, I consider the idea that I may have just wrote myself into a corner and consider revising.

Hope this helps others out there with their own writers block. If anyone has any tips of their own, I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cat o' Nine

New book has been published with co-author Mark Turton. It's called Cat o' Nine. You can pick it up at Amazon.com currently. Going to get it up on Smashwords as soon as I can.

I'm hoping that I never need to publish two books in the same week ever again. It's far too much proofreading and editing all at once. I think I'll be trying to stagger them as much as possible from now on.

I think I'm going to keep this post short. I just returned from Wing Chun, and my arms feel like lead. Take care!

Friday, March 11, 2011


I'm starting to think that maybe I spend a little too much time in fantasy books and movies.

I saw the awful news about Japan. Earthquake + Tsunami = tragedy. I stared at the computer screen in horror as a burning building was swept along over fields and houses. I felt for those poor people.

But I couldn't silence the side of me that just seems to find the humor in everything either. After an earthquake, and a tsunami, and a whirlpool that had me looking for Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones, I was sitting back and thinking, "Now how cool would it be if Godzilla just rose from the sea?"

Also, seeing the blazing rubble riding atop a tsunami, I couldn't help but think "Wow, that's cool looking!" and start humming "Surfin' USA" while imagining a surfer navigating the mess of debris.

Somewhere out there, an angel is making a note of this and shaking his head.

Maybe it's because, compared to some of the things I see on the news, I really haven't had too many calamities befall me. I'm not saying my life is perfect. Just, I've never had my home and everyone I love swept away in a matter of moments. Seeing it happen on Youtube and CNN...perhaps humor is my mind's way of coping with things like that.

I really couldn't believe what I was seeing when I saw it. My heart goes out to all the people who have lost either their homes or loved ones, and I hope my friends there are safe and well.

To find out or give information about someone in Japan currently, use Google's Person Finder.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Read an E-Book Week Promotion

So, every March over at Smashwords.com, they have a "Read an E-Book Week." It's a pretty nice idea, I thought, so I downloaded an e-book myself from an author who only posted it maybe four days ago.

Well, the storyline is good, but I'm having issues with the sheer number of typos in it. I wish authors would proofread their work more often than they do. Every time I come across a typo it literally jars me out of the world the author has created.

Typos aside though, The Three Irks is currently discounted on Smashwords as part of Read an E-Book Week. Enter the code RAE25 at checkout to take advantage of it for the next few days!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

First-Time Author

Well, I did it. I finally finished that book I've been working on. And it's on Kindle and Smashwords (see the links at the side of this page if you're curious).

Doesn't sound like much when I put it that way, but it feels good to get the first one done. It clears the path for more to come, and makes it seem like a much less daunting task going forward.

I've already begun working on the outline for the second book, but it's going slow at the moment while I edit/proofread a different book with a co-writer. That's something I never knew: how hard it is to manage different writing projects all at one time. Add that to a full-time job, and it takes up almost all my spare time. I enjoy it though. Very much!

Anyway, I hope this is the first of many blog posts. Welcome to the site and enjoy.