27 July 2015

Roleplaying-A New Adventure

I am not a roleplaying game girl. I think I've been roped into playing Dungeons and Dragons twice. The first time there were some very cute kittens in my friends basement that I really wanted to go play with, so I asked the dungeon master to kill me. Don't judge, I was like 9 years old. The second time was slightly better with a group of four on a long weekend in a cabin. I died then too, but not exactly on purpose.


Obviously I'm not an expert, but my husband is a huge fan of roleplaying games, and I've been through it a few times. What happens is this, you spent copious amounts of time assembling a character including what they look like, their chosen attire, their skills, their weaknesses, their favorite band, their least favorite beer...I feel like with some games this could take a good two to three hours. And that's if you're quick. I spend less time on my novel characters. Anyway, once your character is assembled, you plop them down into a campaign that the Dungeon Master has thought up where they join with the other player's characters in a mighty quest to defeat evil and win the day.

The fighting bits are fun. Even though my eternal shunning from the dice gods always gets me more wounded than I would like. It's the bits in between that are, for me, annoying.

Pretty much, the players (that's me) pretend they are their characters, and have conversations as if everyone playing were there characters. This isn't the annoying part. This part can be totally fun. No, the part that makes me want to punch something is when the characters aren't sure what to do, and someone always jumps ahead and starts doing something stupid that is likely to get all of us killed, or they argue back and forth until someone gives (which hardly every happens) or the assertive person in the group forces them to stop and focus on what part of the quest we have to do next.

I'm a fan of cooperative board games, but not this.

I think it's because I'm used to being the author. My characters really don't talk back to me, nor do they generally question my orders. In this world I have no control, which then makes me grouchy and reaffirms to me why I never played team sports. Sometimes I'm not a team player. Plus, I can't run to save my life.

So the other night my brother-in-law put together a campaign for a game called Feng Shui. It's not as complicated as D&D (my character only took about 15 minutes to assemble) and since it's based off of action movie tropes and characters, it doesn't really take itself too seriously.

The only reason I agreed to play is because my hubby said I could play as Agent Bunnynose.




For those of you not familiar, I wrote 5 seasons of a spy satire called Babes in Spyland.  It's hilarious, and is hardly ever serious. Agent Bunnynose is one of the main characters. So I caved and said I would join the campaign.

...And it was kind of fun. Playing her. Trying to get into her head and figure out what she would do if she actually had to work with the Techno guy who regularly uses his laptop as a shield and drives random cars off of docks as a distraction, the Killer who literally fell on her face when she was trying to pull a Chuck Norris and round house kick three guys in the head at once, and some crazy mystic from the future that sucks souls to power her flying boots. And she couldn't just shoot them.


I know a handful of authors that actually do this sort of thing all of the time. I almost see the appeal. I also see why so many people who play Dungeon Masters a lot feel like their campaigns could be books. I also see what most of the time, that's a really, really bad idea.

20 July 2015

Walking in Someone Else's Shoes

There is a story in the Book of Mormon about an iron rod. A man, Lehi, has a dream that he needs to get from the darkness to the tree of life. He spots an iron rod that leads him along the narrow path that he must follow in order to reach his destination. Along the way there is fog and a cliff and a river and a building that people are hanging out of, making fun of those using the rod. Lehi holds onto the rod and gets to his destination. In the parable, he reaches eternal life and the love of god. If you want to check out the scriptural account, go here.

I had the opportunity to go with some girls in my church congregation to camp for a week. One of the evenings, we participated in an iron rod walk. It was a few hundred yards long, over rough ground, up and down dirt hills, over boulders and under trees. Throughout there was a literal iron rod that the girls could hold on to. They were blindfolded before they started.

As a leader (whoever thought that was a good idea was delusional) I got the assignment to watch a section of the rod and make sure the girls didn't have too much trouble. But I wasn't allowed to help unless they signaled, and I wasn't supposed to move any of the many logs and rocks that were on the path.

Most of the time I still consider myself young. I often act much younger than my almost 40 years, and I'm good with that. But standing there, watching these girls struggle along this rod, trying to get over logs and not twist their ankles on rocks, I was suddenly  thrust into a very different perspective on the exercise.

For the girls, they held onto the rod and got to the end. They might have struggled, but there was help when they needed it.

For me, I learned how hard it is to watch people you care about struggle with something you could simply take away.

I'm not a parent, so this revelation probably comes to most people much earlier than it did me. Standing there watching, not being able to tell them to just step a little farther or to hold on tight in a certain section almost killed me. I felt like those kids in school who raise their hand so high that their butts come out of the chair. I wanted to help that bad.

But I couldn't. If I had, the girls would have been cheated of their experience.

It must be hard as a parent to watch as your children start to spread their wings and fly off into the world. It must be even more difficult to bite your tongue as they share their woes and sorrows-things you could solve for them, but know that you shouldn't.

Another part of the exercise that I found interesting was how each girl approached the course.  Some almost floated over the obstacles, while others very deliberately put each foot down before moving the other one.

At the end we asked the girls to share their thoughts. One girl said that she had a hard time not clearing the obstacles as she got around them, because she knew there were people behind her that might trip.


It's amazing how a little exercise can get you thinking out of your own perspective. 

15 July 2015

Perspective

Perhaps you've heard this story. There was a dad on a crowded bus with his children-maybe three of them, I don't remember exactly-and they were misbehaving. Enough so that a woman turned to him and asked him to control them. His glazed eyes focused on the woman, and he apologized for their behavior, saying that his wife, their mother, had just passed away that morning.

If that isn't enough to make anyone feel like a heel, I'm not sure what is. Any situation can be turned upside down by simply coming at it from a different perspective. Maybe another woman on the bus was silently crying because her child has cancer and can't play, or a grandmother who was inwardly cheering the kids on because she knows those years don't last forever, and to squelch them at such a young age could make them grouchy adults.

You just never know.

And that's one thing that makes writing both exhilarating and challenging. In order to write a great story, each character needs their own goal and motivations. Sometimes they may align, but things get infinitely more interesting when characters have a different perspective on a matter.



One of my favorite examples of this is Magneto and Professor X of the X-Men comics. They live in a world where mutants are popping up everywhere, and each of them has a very different perspective on how the people of the world will treat them.

I stole this off of wikia in their villains section.

Despite once being close friends with Professor Xavier, the two became enemies when Xavier championed the co-existence of mutant and human kind working together. To Magento, a Holocaust survivor who had seen and felt first-hand the worst ways human beings could treat those they deemed different, such a system was impossible and he instead championed a violent pro-mutant stance, one which saw humans as the enemy in a genetic war and promoted the idea that mutants should become the dominant species on Earth.

Later in the entry, it states that Magneto's goal is protect mutantkind.

The character lived through the Holocaust. Of course he's not going to easily believe that humankind will simply accept mutants. They're different, which means they will be hated.

Professor Xavier didn't have a traumatic childhood. He went to college at Oxford, for crying out loud. Naturally, his perspective is going to be different than Magneto's. This is what wikia hero says.

Professor Xavier's ultimate goal is a world were all people are equal regardless of their origin...

Each character fights for their cause. Sometimes they align in their goals, other times they are directly fighting with one another. Is either character tragically wrong? The comics show us again and again that no, they're both right. And they're both wrong. That's what makes the conflict so interesting.


Can you think of any other good examples of this?

06 July 2015

Independence Day

There are a lot of things that symbolize freedom, especially here in the United States: the flag, bald eagles, the statue of liberty, soldiers, fireworks, a BBQ, family, flowers at cemeteries...the list goes on and on.



I only have a few ties to the military on my side of the family. My husband has three brothers and one brother-in-law who have served or are still serving.

I honestly have no idea what it feels like to pick up a weapon in defense of my freedom. Someone has already done that for me. And I am deeply grateful for those men and women. I am indebted to them in a way that I cannot fully understand. Maybe in the next life I will have the chance to comprehend it, and thank them.

One 4th of July tradition I have is to watch the movie Independence Day.

Don't make fun, I love that movie. It's funny, there's some disaster porn in there, the characters are awesome and the action is great. The part that gets me teary every, single time I watch it is when the President of the United States gives his speech just before the final battle against the aliens.





Over 200 years ago, a tyrannical government pushed hard enough to unite people who were willing to sacrifice everything they had to come to this land. Then they had to fight to keep it free from restrictions on what they described as their inalienable rights.

Our world is tilting dangerously, and parts of it may crumble soon. My hope has always been that we can find a cause bigger than ourselves-find something that can help us rise above our petty disputes and work together toward a better tomorrow.

That's what our forefather's did. It wasn't easy. Many lost their lives or the lives of those they loved most, but they didn't give up, because they knew what kind of a world they wanted their children to live in.

In Independence Day, the characters simply wanted a world where their children could be born. Today we need to take a step back and think about the world we will leave to our children, and I'm not just talking about "green", but also society. Are we kind? Are we tolerant? Are we willing to allow someone a difference of opinion from our own without criticizing them or lashing out? Can we rise above our past mistakes and move forward? Can we put away our pride and focus on compassion?


I don't know the answer, but those were my thoughts as I was watching the movie and pondering those that came before me. What are your thoughts?

15 June 2015

Shards-An Interview with the Authors that Stole My Title

Not that Fiona and Matt knew that I was thinking of naming my latest book Shards, but I'm still going to pretend to be really upset for about ten seconds.

Pause.

Okay, I'm finished.

Today we have the writing duo of Matt and Fiona. Their second book, Shards *cough* is out and about in the world.

They foolishly asked me to host them on my blog. Silly kids.

Here's the giveaway that you absolutely need to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Shards is the second book in the Prospero Chronicles. The first is Splinters. You'll want to read that too.

Here's the Skinny on Shards:

When autumn descends on Prospero, California, Ben Pastor hopes that the normality of the new school year may offer a reprieve from the town's recent paranormal horrors. Mina Todd, however, knows all too well that there are no reprieves and no normality in this town, especially after she starts having crippling, unexplained hallucinations of the dead. But even she can't prepare for what the coming year holds. 

On top of a brewing civil war that threatens all of humanity, inside the walls of Prospero High, Ben, Mina, and their expanding network face a sinister campaign that aims to destroy their friendship, a newly human Haley Perkins struggling to readjust to life, and an assassin of untold power who is picking off human rebels. 

Ben and Mina's one hope may rest with a mysterious figure hiding in the woods outside of town; a living legend who may know how to stop this dangerous new breed of supernatural foe. That is, assuming the figure doesn't first kill everyone himself. 

And now, this is what Matt and Fiona have to say for themselves:

Only using colors and sounds, describe how you feel about mornings.

Matt: Blackness. Moans of despair. Clock radio talking. Clock radio smashing. The deranged laughter of one running freely away. Light blue sky. Resigned sighs of someone remembering responsibility and getting ready for work.

Fiona: Clock radio display red, whining mumbles about how I want to cuddle with Matt forever, Coffee with just enough milk brown.

If you got to pick the shape of a stress ball (one of those squishy ones that you can squeeze in your hand when your plot isn't working) what would it be?

Matt: I could really go for one in the shape of my enemies heads on a pike. I mean, I'd have to get some enemies first, but it would be really cool.

Fiona: I've actually been trying to find one in the shape of the companion cube from Portal. I can't believe they don't make them. I rely on stress balls, but I don't really project what's frustrating me onto them. I wouldn't want one in the shape of something I feel like crushing. They're more like little friends who don't mind siphoning off my aggression so I don't have to deal with it. A companion cube would be perfect to attach to and anthropomorphize in a creepily unwarranted manner.

Obviously you can write. Name one talent you wish you had? Why?

Matt: Now if you asked for superpowers, I'd have a good million answers for you. For this, though, I'm drawing a little more of a blank. I guess I'd like to be able to sing better than I do, at the very least it would get fewer complaints from the neighbors every time I take a shower.

Fiona: Ooh, tough choice, there are a bunch of these. Practically, I'd probably choose speed reading without reduced comprehension. I'm a very thorough reader (i.e slow), which is a great help when it comes to absorbing examples of writing done well down to the most detailed level, but my to-read list is forever overflowing, and I hate how strict I have to be about prioritizing what makes the list. Less practically, vocal mimicry! It's a skill that's always fascinated me and that I have none of whatsoever.

Has your favorite color ever influenced a major decision in your life?

Matt: While my favorite color is purple, I cannot say it's decided much of my life, sad to say.

Fiona: Unless you count what color I picked for my prom dress, wedding dress trim, or first car as important life decisions (I don’t), probably not. It's green, though.

Why horror? Why not unicorns and lollypops?

Matt: This one's probably my fault. I was the horror guy first and then I brought Fiona over to the dark side. For me it's a simple story: I was the kid who was afraid of everything, especially those scary-looking "horror" movies, and yet despite my general fear I had a fascination with the genre. I read Goosebumps books and watched old Universal monster movies and 50's b-movie classics. I was fascinated with how movies are made, the topic of movie makeup especially, and would devour books on the subject. Then one day I read a book about a famed horror movie makeup artist (Tom Savini, for the curious out there), was intrigued by some of the stuff he'd done, and one thing led to another and I found myself tracking down some of his films, then other classics, then I was a horror junkie. I love embracing my fears and sharing them with others.

Fiona: I've always seen the exploration of the psyche in a more controlled, targeted way than reality allows for, as one of the main purposes of fiction. Happy, harmless things don't compel me to understand them by whatever safe means possible the way fear and more complicated feelings do.

Which monster (fictional or otherwise) would you be the most terrified to face off with?

Matt: I'm going to stick to the fictional on this one since the real-world monsters (the people, I mean, in this case) are too terrifying and depressing to put more words to. Fictionally... Chucky. Just Chucky.

Fiona: Probably Anthony Fremont. I’ve got major control freak issues, so all-powerful villains that can only be dealt with by asking nicely scare the expletive out of me. That or Count Vertigo from DC, if he counts as a monster. Losing the feeling of gravity working as it should is the surest, quickest thing to dissolve me into a gibbering loon.

What can the readers of Splinters expect from Shards?

Matt: Ben and Mina are going to be tested, hard. They're not sure if they're really friends or more allies, and when put in the pressure cooker that is high school their friendship will be sorely tested, especially when the Splinters do everything in their power to tear the two of them apart (mostly figuratively, slightly literally).

Fiona: All that, and then there are the Shards themselves, which are basically the Splinters’ altered, enhanced, and mentally unstable warrior class. With the Splinters fighting each other as well as the Network, they're bringing out their big guns, and the Network are stuck in the crossfire.

What part of the first book did you enjoy putting into the second book? (ie characters, a relationship, funny lines...)

Matt: We planned this as a series from the start and always try to put a few slight references from future books into whatever we're working on, so it's fun to actually build up characters we only introduced in passing before into some of the major forces to be reckoned with. Also, it's now fun to see where Haley is, after getting over her problems from the previous book.

Fiona: Yeah, We slipped in some setup for a few of the big villains of Shards back in Splinters, so now that gets to pay off. And having already done the setup for Ben and Mina themselves and their relationship, we now have room to go deeper.

In ten words or less, describe what writing a second book is like. Be creative.

Matt: Like Jenga, moving old pieces, adding new ones, don't fall!

Fiona: Take the best parts, make them better, add new wrinkles.

If you had one minute to pitch your story to a movie producer (one that would of course make an awesome movie out of it) what would you say? (This is the part where you wow us with how awesome your book is!)

Matt: It's a YA book that doesn't talk down to its audience, aims its content to both genders equally, has flamethrowers and intrigue and bigfoot and this guy with a hook for a hand and gossip and bullying and distrust and alien abductions and some really cool characters (some new, some old)... well, if I have to say a lot more than that to get you interested this book probably isn't for you.


Fiona: Complicated and badass heroine. There are never enough of those. Non-objectified male characters as well, and plenty of monster fighting action. Like Matt said, this is a story for guys and girls. Most importantly, we've got a lovable supporting cast and a colorful, creepy little world that people can get lost in. And the stakes for our lovable, mismatched band of rebels are only going to rise.


If you would like to stalk either of these two (don't say I didn't warn you) try these avenues.

Facebook:

Twitter:
@FJR_Titchenell
@MCarterAuthor

Blog:
mattcarterauthor.weebly.com
FJRTitchenell.weebly.com

Email:
fionatitchenell@yahoo.com
mattcarterauthor@gmail.com

02 June 2015

Summer in Snow Valley


Today we're hosting a brand new, little bundle of novelettes. Which, P.S., makes it sound as cute a a pair of toddler shoes.

The following is what happens when you let too many romance writers go out to dinner together. I guess we all get to reap the benefits, right?

If you haven't checked out the original, Christmas in Snow Valley, then click the title. We're talking enough clean romance to make you gag in the sweetness. In a good way, 


#1 Bestselling Authors of Christmas in Snow Valley, have teamed up again with six wonderful summer novellas that are sure to make your summer sweet and sassy!







Catching Caytie by Amazon Top Seller Cindy Roland Anderson

On the night Caytie Holbrook intends to break up with her cheating boyfriend, he blindsides her by announcing their engagement at a dinner party. When Caytie discovers her father is in on the scheme, she runs away from her home in Beverly Hills to hide out at her uncle’s ranch in Snow Valley, Montana. While Snow Valley is a beautiful place, Caytie only plans to stay until her twenty-fifth birthday when she’ll inherit a trust fund her grandmother left her, allowing her to pursue her dream to move to Italy. That is until she meets Jace McAllister, an incredibly sexy—although somewhat grumpy—cowboy who threatens to disrupt her plans.

Tin Foil Tiaras by Amazon Top Seller Jeanette Lewis

Cameron Elliott has come to Snow Valley to coach Annalisa Drake in the Miss Snow Valley pageant, and prove to her demanding boss that she deserves a place at the prestigious Westbrooke Agency. But Annalisa’s handsome and protective big brother, Kyle, is determined to keep his sister from becoming a reluctant beauty queen. As Cameron tries to win Kyle over, Kyle insists some things are more valuable than a title and as crazy as it sounds, Cameron might just believe him.

A Touch of Love by Amazon Top Seller Cami Checketts

Annie Stirland has endured a lifetime of teasing, embarrassment, and isolation due to her speech impediment. When irresistible cowboy, Luke Wilson, seems to be falling for her, she’s certain he’s too good to be true. A tragedy involving his ex-girlfriend proves she’s right. What man can resist sheltering someone they once loved? Annie knows she should walk away, but Luke isn’t ready to give her up.

First Love by Amazon Top Seller Taylor Hart 

Janet Snow doesn’t expect to get caught in a full-blown make out session at her brother’s wedding. Especially not with Michael Hamilton, the boy she’d written off ten years ago. Even though they both agree to no complications, Janet's not sure they can stick to it given their past. After a trip to the hot springs, a helicopter ride, and a proposal, even the most cautious single mother would start to wonder if true love really is just about the timing. Now Janet has to make a choice—play it safe or trust that her first love could also be her last. 


Romancing Rebecca by Amazon Top Seller, Kimberley Montpetit

Rebecca Dash loved spending her teen summers swooning over Jane Austen and helping her aunt at the Starry Skies Bed & Breakfast in Snow Valley. But as a recent college grad, she’d rather write sappy romance novels than go out with guys that make her a nervous wreck. When a team of fire-fighters set up camp on the lawns of the B&B and Captain Wade catches her eye, Becca soon learns that there’s more to a happily-ever-after than a flirty fireman with muscles the size of the Montana hills.

Love in Light and Shadow by Amazon Top Seller Lucy McConnell

Mercedes O'Shay has sworn off gorgeous men because they have a tendency to break her heart. When she meets her new neighbor, Chet Bauer, she immediately puts him in the Do Not Date category based on his well-defined muscles and stunning blue eyes. But the more Mercedes learns about the cowboy who reads classics and forges iron, the more she realizes the heart doesn't see in black and white; it sees light and shadows.

Excerpt from A Touch of Love

“Do you ever write down what you’re thinking?” Luke asked.
Annie's eyebrows arched. He loved the way she did that.
“Would you write for me? What you’re thinking?”
She shrugged her shapely shoulders and studied him for a few seconds before pulling out a notepad. She wrote for a few seconds then handed it to him.
I’m thinking that this cowboy is a nice guy who’s uncomfortable with my silence.
“I guess you got me there. I don’t really talk too much, usually just swear at the cattle. So I’m not a nice guy at all.”
She took the pad back, wrote, and handed it to him again.
You’re definitely a nice guy. I knew that when you bought the thoughtful gift for your sister. Why do you want to take me to dinner? Feeling bad for the new girl in town?
He grinned. “Nope. Feeling intrigued by the new girl in town and wanting to get to know her better.” He handed the pad back to her.
You don’t have the time to get to know me better, it would take hours for me to get anything out with my stutter.
He laughed. “Sweetheart, I’ve got the time and the desire to get to know you better. I really do love the sound of your voice, but if you’re more comfortable we could communicate like this.”
Her grin widened. How about we give it a few days? I don’t go to dinner with men I don’t know.
“How about I come back tomorrow and see you so you don’t have to go to dinner with a man you don’t know?” He paused. “Dang. Tomorrow we’re checking the range cows. Friday?”
She looked dubious.
“I’d like an appointment Friday at five for...” He looked over the list of options. “A foot zone. If you’re available, I’d like to take you to dinner after.”
She wrote quickly. Reading your feet will definitely help me get to know you. Are you sure you’re ready for that kind of disclosure?
A surprised laugh escaped him. “You can tell stuff about me from rubbing my feet?”
She pointed at the word reading.
“Reading my feet?”
She nodded, looking very smug.
“Okay. I have nothing to hide. You’re sure we can’t go to dinner tonight?”
She waved at him.
Luke inclined his head. Annie was a challenge. He liked her more each minute.

22 May 2015

Shiny Objects

By the lack of updates on this blog, you can probably guess that I've been a bit distracted lately.

Many things distract me. Things like, shiny objects, Oreo cookies, sleep, my day job, Netflix, the internet, puppies, candy, shiny objects, shoes. Shiny shoes.

You see, there are so many lovely things in the world.

 Well, the past month or two I've really been pouring on the steam so that I could release my own shiny object out into the world.

It didn't come without blood, sweat and tears. I've rewritten this novel four times. All for the better. My cover artist had some personal issues come up and couldn't finish the cover art, so 4 weeks ago today I was desperately trolling the web and asking other authors to find a new cover artist. My day job decided that they can't live without me and asked me to work more hours. There was probably a paper cut in there somewhere (thus the blood). And let me tell you, without my adorkable husband to help me figure out formatting for e-books and Createspace, this may not have ever happened.

But it did! And now I have a shiny, new book to show for all of my efforts.

This is the third book I've published, and my first Indie adventure. This story showcases just a snippet of the countless hours I've spent in a dojo, which was really great. As a matter of fact, if anyone from any of my Kempo classes reads this, you just might recognize a drill or two. Maybe Sensei's twisted sense of humor. Or that could be mine.

Letting things go isn't always easy-there is always something that could be improved-but why beat a dead horse? It just smells bad and goes squish.

So to avoid any more squishing, here it is!

Fractured Memories
 
Sixteen year old Wendy never knew the world before the Starvation. She’s learned to put her trust in her knives, and her confidence in her fighting ability. When the Skinnies attack her compound, she's the lone survivor.

Injured and near death, Wendy is rescued and nursed back to health by mysterious strangers. Her saviors offer her a place among them, but trust has never been one of Wendy's strengths, and suspicion soon leads to evidence that these people might be the group who killed her family.

The decision to get her revenge, and take the settlement down from the inside out is easy. Keeping her distance from those she must befriend in order to make it happen proves to be much more difficult.

There will be blog tours and maybe a party or something. But that'll be later. For now, I have a book up on Amazon. Nook to come.


One great snippet, the first e-book I sold was in the UK. Now that's cool!