The Name Game

Based on a game I recently saw making the rounds, come join me while I spell out my name in fictional characters–and then tell you why I love them.

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Does anyone know which issue this appeared in? Anyone? I can’t remember!!! 😥

Jason Todd–aka the second Robin, as in Batman and Robin. Died, got better. Became The Red Hood.

Jason Todd is currently my favorite fictional character of everything, anywhere. Because we’re dealing with DC Comics here, and they don’t always do a good job of consistency in characterization, sometimes Jason isn’t written in the best light. And really, he’s kind of an asshole. An anti-hero in the truest sense, Jason Todd breaks Batman’s strictest rule–he kills to protect the people of Gotham. Having returned from death only to discover the man who beat him to death with a crowbar, The Joker, still lived, Jason decides that the only way to keep someone like that off the street is to kill them.

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Red Hood and The Outlaws, Vol. 2, No. 9

Sure, he veers into bad guy territory, like the time he tried to kill his successor for the Robin title, Tim Drake, but Jason is tormented by memories of his death, feelings of abandonment by Batman, and the fact that he was trained to be an assassin by The League of Assassins. He lost it for a while there. Now he’s stumbling through a redemption path fraught with questions of why he’s still here, and whether he really wants to be or not. It’s rough, it’s dark, and it’s a departure from the “yes, sir!” mentalities of Dick Grayson and Tim Drake’s earlier run.

Plus it’s just fun to see Jason struggle to reintegrate into his family, and try not to care about Bruce Wayne. It’s a compelling story arc. And we all know how I love those.

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Ursula, The Sea Witch–Does this one really need explanation? I mean, she’s the feared witch of the sea! She even makes King Triton nervous. She’s charismatic and charming, her big song and dance number is catchy as hell, she makes being an octopus look sexy and bawdy! The Little Mermaid really never stood a chance. I firmly believe that this was the beginning of me sympathizing with morally questionable characters, a trend that has followed me into adulthood. I mean, who didn’t wonder what Ursula did to lead Triton to banish her?

*Sings Poor Unfortunate Souls and saunters out of the room*

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Simon Lewis–For those of you who know nothing about The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, Simon Lewis is the regular guy in the story. He starts out as the only human among a bunch of supernatural friends. Though a vampire bite in the first book turns him into a vampire, he still has a very human point of view on everything.

Anyone who knows me, knows I have a love/hate relationship with Clare and her series’, and while badass archer Alec Lightwood became my favorite character down the line, it was Simon and his acerbic, sardonic wit that pulled me into the story, even though I was flagging on it from the very beginning. Simon is the “you” in the story. He is your representation. The things you find odd are the thing he comments on. The things that are annoying are mocked by Simon. He is sweet, he is innocent to the world around him, and we all kind of root for him. In the end, though I won’t spoil you, his story ends up being at the heart of main character Clary’s journey.

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Tara Maclay–I really loved Seth Green as Oz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I had a really hard time accepting Tara when she was initially written into canon. As far as I was concerned, he and Willow were meant to be, and here was this lady, flirting with Willow! Add to that the fact that I thought they were just queer baiting with the clear close relationship between Willow and Tara, and playing with Willow’s witchcraft dabbling with a metaphor to her dabbling in lesbianism, I actually hated the storyline in its first few weeks. But Tara grew on me as I came to realize that, while not a perfect storyteller or human being by any means, creator Joss Whedon did mostly right by this couple, making them an enduring relationship on the show, and a beautiful and inspiring character in her own right.

A child of abuse, Tara has a natural inclination toward magic, and is ridiculed by her family because of it. When she joins The Scooby Gang, she is quiet, shy, and initially, will only talk to Willow, fearing alienation by any who don’t dabble in magic. But by tackling crisis after crisis head on, and after being protected by Buffy, Willow, and their friends when her family comes to call, Tara grows into a strong, confident woman, who often plays a large role in the gang’s adventures. She becomes so confident, that she walks away when Willow, the love of her life, begins to use magic like a drug, only coming back when Willow is clean for a long time, despite her love for her. Though in the end, she dies (DAMMIT, JOSS!), her character’s loss is felt for the remaining season of the series, and is known as one of the most shocking moments of the series.

And yes, I am aware she comes back to life or something in the comic books after the show, but I refused to accept those as canon the moment I realized they made Dawn into a giant for mostly no good reason. The comic books are deader than Tara to me. Sorry not sorry.

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Original Art by BoffieXD at Deviant Art

Inej Ghafa–The Wraith! The Spider of Ketterdam! As one of the ragtag group of criminals that makes up the six in Leah Bardugo’s Six of Crows, Inej has a background that, though tragic, strengthens her. As the team’s intelligence gatherer, Inej uses her past as an acrobat to help her survive in the crime-ridden city of Ketterdam. Initially she is kidnapped from her life as an acrobat and forced into a life as a sex slave. She is coded as being of middle eastern dissent, and she is brought to a pleasure house called “The Menagerie” for her “exotic looks”. Not content to be used in such a way, she uses her stealth to provide information for a future crime boss, and quickly comes under his protection. She makes herself invaluable to him, and plans to use the money the Six make on their criminal exploits to pursue her dreams of ridding the world of the slave trade.

Gotta love a woman who turns things around to her advantage. Even when she’s falling in love with said future crime boss Kaz Brekker (who is another character study for another time…there is no K in my name, darn it), she always has a clear mind to his faults and refuses to weaken herself for him. Definitely an inspirational character.

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Nadia Stafford–She’s an assassin with a heart of gold. The lead character in the Nadia Stafford series by my favorite author, Kelley Armstrong, Nadia appears cute and unassuming. She’s the girl next door, but she’s hiding a gun under her jacket and won’t hesitate to kill in self-defense. There’s something appealing about that. *scratches chin* Can’t imagine why…

After the murder of her cousin when she’s young, Nadia becomes a police officer like the rest of her family. A trained sniper and so, a badass with a gun, Nadia goes off the rails when she fails to get a kid killer imprisoned…so she kills him herself. Publicly. Shunned by her family and fired from her police work, Nadia follows her dreams and starts a wilderness retreat…which she can’t seem to keep afloat financially. But her brand of vigilante justice catches the interest of a mob boss that needs bad guys taken care of…the rest is history.

By turning her childhood trauma into life as a vigilante assassin, Nadia is able to overcome what happened to her cousin, and unravel the mystery of what happened to her that fateful night. Despite her tendency toward specialty jobs, Nadia makes herself a name in the hitman world, a world usually dominated by strong arms or sexuality, without using any of those things.

And she also catches the interest of a man with somewhat less morals, but a willingness to turn things around…for the right woman.

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Ender Wiggin–Though the Ender’s Game series of novels have been somewhat soured by Orson Scott Card and his 1) BLATANT and RAMPANT hate for the LGBTQ+ community; and 2) Card’s tendency to write relationships between the siblings in the stories that smacks of incest, Ender’s Game was my favorite novel for quite a long time.

Bred into a family of high intelligence in hopes that he will become the future of the battle against a breed of alien that threatens to destroy the Earth, Ender grows up in a family that nurtures and accepts him. All except his bully of an older brother, Peter, who tortures him to the point of traumatizing him.

When Ender is sent off to battle school, he is forced to prove himself among other rather exceptional children, most of which view him as a threat. Ender quickly learns that the only way to stop an attacker is to make sure they can’t come back at you again, and begins to fight with a brutal precision. While he works and eventually leads in surgical, deadly strikes, he also has an endless well of compassion and respect for life–a fact that eventually tears him apart when faced with the repercussions of his actions. However, it is this compassion that leads the calculating Ender into hero status, and helps him understand the alien threat.

So, that’s my name in characters I love. A common thread I have noticed is a hard edge, intelligence, cunning, and a willingness to overcome all obstacles. I tend to lead toward complex characters who are sometimes difficult to love, though not all of them fall into that category. The largest common thread I’ve discovered is that these characters are easy to respect. Either way, all of which are characters you should get to know…but if you’re as disgusted by Ender’s author as I am, only read Card if someone is throwing away his books…then toss them in a dumpster fire when you’re done. The others you can safely pursue through normal methods, I promise.

 

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40 Reasons Why I Write

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Relatively recently, Bryan Hutchinson issued a challenge on his blog, Positive Writer – list 40 reasons why you write. You can see his answers here. When it came about, I was in the throws of Camp NaNoWriMo. As that is now complete, and I’m taking a small break from the novel so I can attack it again in July’s edition of Nano, I needed this challenge. It’s been difficult to stay motivated, because the hits just keep coming in both my personal and professional life. So, I’m going to take some time to remind myself why I write. I hope you find my answers either interesting or inspirational. Also, I am so incredibly late to this challenge.

  1. Writing keeps my brain busy. With my ADHD, my brain is always spinning anyway, so this gives it something to work on in the background.
  2. Stories haunt me, and I have to get them out.
  3. I have had a lot of trauma and strange events in my life, and I need an outlet.
  4. Sometimes, I like to live vicariously through my characters.
  5. Sometimes, I like to bury myself in my characters so I can forget life.
  6. My son looks up to me for creating whole stories all by myself, and there’s no beating that.
  7. Writing is a strong bond I share with my husband, as he is also an author.
  8. Writing is a strong bond I share with my sister-in-law. She is also an author.
  9. Writing has helped me make amazing friendships, some that are sure to be lifelong.
  10. I like how writing makes me feel, like I am weaving worlds from my imagination.
  11. The sense of accomplishment I feel when I finally get something right is amazing.
  12. Rewriting has taught me all about perseverance. Frustration, but perseverance.
  13. I like to read things I love over and over again, so this was probably a fitting career choice.
  14. I love to paint with words.
  15. I love to listen to music, and music always inspires me to paint with my words.
  16. Clever dialogue is all around me. What would I do if I didn’t jot some of it down and use it for my own benefit?
  17. My best friend has yoga. I have writing.
  18. The creative people on my journey with me are the best people.
  19. My characters tend to be stronger than I am. Or at least, than I was. These days, I seem to be taking a page from my own book. Writing has encouraged me to be stronger.
  20. I’ve had a lot of people tell me I won’t get anywhere in this business, or something is wrong with the core of a particular story, etc. I intend to prove them very wrong.
  21. When my anxiety disorder, my depression, my PTSD rears up, writing helps me cope.
  22. Because, as a woman, and as a woman with physical and mental health issues, my voice and my individual experiences deserve to be heard.
  23. I love reading so much, and I know how it feels to really connect with a character. I would love to be able to provide that for someone else.
  24. I’ve always loved playing with voice and word choice, seeing how different an outcome I can create just by finding a more exact bit of syntax.
  25. Writing often helps me to put feelings I’m dealing with into words, to tell truths through my characters that I can’t articulate properly in reality.
  26. I honestly don’t know what I would do with all the spare time I’d get if I didn’t write or plan to write.
  27. When I’m writing I can temporarily put off other, more important chores. But not the most important ones, of course. 😉
  28. I still believe in magic, and sometimes, writing feels like magic. Like when something inexplicably comes together, and it feels like destiny, that feels like magic. That is the rare moment where I become a believer.
  29. How else can I justify talking to the people who live in my brain?
  30. I’m stubborn and I’ve said I’m going to do it, so damn it, I’m going to do it.
  31. Some of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met write, so I hope some of that rubs off on me.
  32. Sometimes, I’m not all that adventurous, so I need an excuse to try new and interesting things. Research gives me that excuse.
  33. I was already a fact hoarder. This gives me a reason to hoard facts.
  34. I hate waste, and I feel like I have a lot of knowledge and random experiences that just kind of sit around in my brain and go to waste. I want to give them some use. Like my two years working at an ice cream shop. I’m using that in my latest book.
  35. There are tons of stories that I want to read, that I don’t find out there. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. They say, if you want something done, do it yourself, right?
  36. I’m getting to a point where rejections mean almost nothing to me. I’m numb to rejection.
  37. Unless, they come with constructive criticism, at which point I am disappointed, but I have learned to love constructive criticism and view it as encouragement and help, rather than an insult. I think writing has helped to improve my personality in that way.
  38. I have also become able to tell the difference between constructive knowledgeable criticism and insults, being led astray, and jealous attacks designed to keep a person below them. That lesson has helped me in all areas of my life.
  39. I have a side gig as an editor, and I’ve always believed that, if you are going to manage people, you should be willing to get your hands dirty. If I won’t get my hands dirty with words, why should I tell other people to do so?
  40. I love to geek out. It’s my life’s mission to make other people geek out as much as I do.

So, there are my 40 reasons! Do you need to remind yourself why you love something? Share your reasons in the comments, and thank you for being one of the people I’ve encountered on this journey, the people I write for. Thank you for being one of my reasons. ❤

Camp NanoWriMo 2017!

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For anybody who doesn’t know, I’ve spent the last month doing Camp NanoWriMo. Now, most people know about NaNoWriMo. It takes place in the month of November and writers, or people who want to try something new sign, up to write 50,000 words of one novel in a month.

Camp Nano is a bit different. The writers who join up can set their own word count, hours worked, or even pages edited. It doesn’t have to be spent working on one thing either. And it takes place in April and July.

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I decided to work on my new YA Fantasy novel, Never Say Never. For a look at what the project is about, you can check out its project page on the Camp NaNo site.  Things came up, and I ended up devoting about 35,000 words of my word count to the new novel, about 10,000 to a new first chapter for The Order of the Key, and about 5,000 to a new project called Not Just A Headache–a letter to my teenage self about how to cope with migraines that I wrote for an anthology I’m hoping to be accepted into.

I’m gonna go ahead and toot my own horn here. This month of writing came with a sinus infection that wouldn’t go away for two weeks, a surprise trip to the emergency room (I’m okay, I promise), and both medical and emotional ups and downs for other people I hold dear. To say I’m tired would be putting it lightly.

But I’m not going to stop working, because I’m crazy. And also, a life without writing for me, is no life, so I’ll persist. 😉 For the next couple of months, I will continue working on this book, continue querying the one before, and clean up my outline for the new book, which my writing this month made irrelevant in some places. In the meantime, I’ll find space for some blog posts and social media, because I always do.

Then…I’ll be back to Camp Nano in July.

Thanks, as always, for sticking with me on this incredible journey.

~Justine

 

 

 

iTunes Shuffle Challenge, Part 1

Hi all,

Recently, I ran into two different iTunes Shuffle challenges that intrigued me. One was this one, in which you pick the first ten songs off your shuffle and write your first thoughts upon hearing it, but only for as long as it plays. Once it moves to the next song, so do you. I jumped into it full force, and I wanted to share the results with you, as I feel like it might give you a peek into my crazy mind. The second one will be the one I work on in my next blog post. We’ll talk more about that then.

Without further ado, here are the results of my iTunes Shuffle Challenge, Part 1.

Renegades by X Ambassadors, Album: VHS
Cover for X Ambassadors Album VHS

When I hear this song it makes me think of the artists in my life, of how odd we are, of how rare. When you’re young, it can be hard to see how happy your life can be, because odd means bad when you’re in school. You’re never allowed to explore that, unless you have a very special teacher, but even then, your peers are apt to shut you down. It isn’t until you get older that you can finally free yourself up to be comfortable in your own skin and to start being who you are. It took me until I was thirty to truly figure myself out, to openly embrace my geekiness, my artsiness, my open heart and different way of thinking from others, and just accept that as one of the things that make me who I am.

 

Slow me Down by Emmy Rossum, Album: Inside Out

Cover of Emmy Rossum's Album Inside OutThis song is so about me. My little sister, Megan, introduced me to it and I clung to it. “Sometimes I feel that I might disappear/in the blur of fast forward I falter again.” it never fails to remind me that sometimes I need to take a breath and stop racing through my life, trying to do more than I can handle.

 


Take On Me by A-Ha, Album: Hunting High and Low

Cover for A-Ha's Take on Me
This song has such odd memories associated with it. For one, I remember loving the video. Also, the bridal party of my best friend’s wedding did a whole semi-choreographed dance number to this song and it was a frickin’ blast. It didn’t even bother me that I was dancing while six months pregnant. I stand by the fact that the wedding was the best wedding I’d ever been to, even if the marriage didn’t end up working out. It was also one of the very few times I got my husband, Ismael, to dance with me. I think those times are: my wedding, my best friend’s engagement party, and that wedding. There may have been one or two others, but I can’t remember…

Counting Stars by OneRepublic, Album: Native

Album Cover for OneRepublic Native
This is one of the first songs I’ve ever heard where I never heard the song, bought the album because I love the band, and suddenly heard my favorite song from the album on the radio! It’s also one of my son, Logan’s, favorite songs, so we sing it often when we’re in the car.
“Hope is a four letter word,” might not be the best message for him, now that I think about it. But he loves the pace. It did give me the opportunity to explain metaphor to him. He didn’t understand why the singer says “everything that drowns me makes me want to fly”. So I explained that he actually means that everything that pulls him down makes him want to lift himself up. It was fun to discuss the idea that art isn’t literal and can be open to different interpretations. It was much earlier than he would learn it in school, and it was fun to give him that lesson.

The Entertainer by Billy Joel, Album: The Essential Billy Joel

Album Cover for The Essential Billy JoelThis is one of those songs that, for me, takes a minute to remember. I have this because I bought the album, and really barely remember it, which makes sense, since it came out in 1974, eight years before I was born. Still, after a longer listen, I did actually recognize it, and now I really love it, because the lyrics truly encompass what it’s like to work in the arts–any of them. I’ve been an actor and I’ve been an author, and really, it’s all a battle to stay relevant. Plus, it’s Billy Joel, and he’s just awesome.

Firework by Katy Perry, Album: Teenage Dream

Cover Art for Katy Perry's Firework
I love this song. Sure, it’s Katy Perry, and a little more pop than most of what I listen to, but I have a very eclectic taste in music, and pop is a part of that. Still, this song is a great inspirational song.
“After a hurricane, comes a rainbow/maybe the reason why all the doors are closed/so you could open one that leads you to a perfect road.” Man, I have listened to this so many times to remind me that I just need to keep going. Eventually, I’ll find my way, my perfect road.

The Energy Never Dies by The Script, Album: No Sound Without Silence

Album Cover for The Script's No Sound Without SilenceAnother great song. This one means a lot to me because it is an expression of my viewpoint on life. One, that we should live each day to our fullest, and two, that if we live our lives that way, we create lasting impressions on those around us that can serve as inspiration…what we leave behind never dies. Now, on a less serious note, this song starts and ends the same way. One time, I had it playing in the background while I was working and I didn’t realize that the approximately four minute long song had been stuck on repeat for the last fifteen minutes. In the back of my head, I just assumed it was a much longer song than I’d realized. Because I am ridiculous.

Animals by Maroon 5, Album: V

Cover Art for Maroon 5 Album VThis song is proof positive that there are some songs where I’m completely engaged with the lyrics, and others that I listen to without a single thought. It’s also proof positive that you don’t think about how dirty lyrics are until you hear a little child voice singing them. YIKES. He did manage to unwittingly change the lyrics in a way that made it sound like they were about an actual animal eating someone, and that helped a lot. I still avoid this song like the plague when I’m in front of him. Sooooooo disturbing. Still…I’m singing along. These lyrics are SO wrong.

Fighter by Christina Aguilera, Album: Stripped

Cover Art for Christina Aguilera's StrippedOh, you mean my theme song? It definitely gets me in the mood to do battle with my day, and reminds me how I’ve gotten as strong as I am. I have had a number of unfortunate encounters with toxic people who I’ve had to completely remove from my life. People who claimed love or friendship and held on just to pull me down. I love this song for reminding me why I’m smart to put people like that in my past. “After all of the fights and the lies, cause you’re wanting to haunt me, but that won’t work anymore.”

 

The Secret’s In The Telling by Dashboard Confessional, Album: Dusk & Summer

Album Cover for Dashboard Confessional's Dusk and Summer
For one, this song reminds me of my best friend’s Dashboard Confessional phase, which is how I have all of their songs. It’s also on my Keys and Guardians playlist, set for a very specific scene that I can’t really talk much about. But I love when a song channels a specific moment in a story, and everytime I hear it I am transported to the part of my imagination that dreamed that moment up.

 

That’s it for now! See you again next post, when I use songs from my shuffle as mini-writing prompts.