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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On Friendship

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Friendship is about giggling together about stupid stuff. It’s calling someone and saying, “This person treated me mean,” and having your friend answer with a whole-hearted “we hate him now.” It’s being able to joke through the hard times, even the hardest time, with the understanding that you’re in it together. It’s supporting each other when the rest of the world may not, and sometimes it’s supporting each other when even you don’t get it, but you want your friends to be happy.

Friendship is saying the punchline of an old joke and watching someone else laugh. It’s laughing and crying in tandem with someone. It’s stressing when nothing is technically wrong in your life, but your friend’s worries worry you. It’s being the only one allowed to get away with stealing food off a plate, and it’s occasionally getting cake smashed in your face because it’s birthday tradition.

Friendship is texting that hilarious meme to the person it defines 1000%, and it’s answering the phone to sounds of another person sobbing, feeling your heart twist in your chest, and plowing on with a pep talk. It’s knowing something is wrong based on the way a person says hello. It’s asking who you need to go beat up, and being nice to someone because your friend asks.

Friendship is trolling your fancy work party for free drinks together in cocktail dresses, and it’s going to the pizza place around the corner in your pajamas. It’s seeing each other at your worst and never holding it against them. It’s understanding each other’s moods, even when you’re not willing to put up with them. It’s giving a kick in the pants when it’s needed. It’s the fire that is lit under your ass when you’re being lazy or indecisive. It’s telling the truth, even when it hurts, but trying to mitigate that hurt so the person isn’t trampled to death by your truth.

Friendship is reminding a person how incredibly awesome they are, whether they can see it, or not. It’s allowing a person to be free to be exactly who they are, no matter what. It’s allowing someone to order off a menu for you because “they’ll know what I like”, and it’s knowing someone’s standard order at all of your favorite area restaurants. It’s ordering a bunch of meals knowing you’ll just split everything up amongst you anyway.

Friendship is being able to let loose to a person, it’s base jokes and fake flirts. It’s pretending to be your bestie’s girlfriend when people won’t leave her alone. It’s feeling free to snort over a funny joke, and it’s mocking your friend’s snort.

Friendship is playfully ribbing one another, and it’s not taking that ribbing personally. It’s answering the phone at inconvenient times and bringing each other chicken soup when you’re sick. It’s using your car as a moving van and taking charge during hospital visits. It’s openly stating your flaws like they’re facts, and being met with “it’s true” style nods. It’s being ready with that well-timed joke, that cup of coffee, that phone call, that eye roll, that tackle hug, whenever it’s needed.

Friendship, both giving and receiving, saved my life so many times. When I’ve struggled with rejections or with depressions, friendships have carried me through. So to my wonderful circle of friends, thank you for being you.

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This post was inspired by a recent Friendship day post by another blogger. Her name is Jazz Lily, and you should totally check out her blog–she’s an artist and poet, and her work is beautiful. Jazz Lily wrote a post requesting her readers to post a short explanation of what friendship is. I responded with, “Friendship is always trying to understand and support.” While I think that’s a fitting explanation of what friendship is, it didn’t feel like enough to truly express what has become an uplifting force in my life. Thus, this post was born.

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 2

Back in October, I did one version of the iTunes shuffle challenge, in which I listened to iTunes on shuffle and wrote a short blurb about what each song meant to me. This time around, I’m tackling the challenge differently. I’m going to shuffle the songs, and then, I’m going to write whatever it inspires in me, and only write for the length of the song.

I ended up using thirty songs. Ten of them triggered absolutely nothing. Ten of them came up with almost nothing, with a last minute nugget of an interesting line of dialogue. I haven’t included those. But ten of these, hopefully, have some substance to them. So, onto the challenge!


1) Place for My Head by Linkin Park, Album: Hybrid Theory

 

“I didn’t help you because I wanted to add another favor to my belt. Unlike you, I’ve never been keeping score,” I said.

“That’s only because you could never repay what you owe me.” He spoke through gritted teeth. “Besides, I don’t count forgiveness in bullets shot. You use your weapons carelessly. You’re bound to get everyone killed.”

2) Hollywood by the Cranberries, Album: To The Faithful Departed

I stared into the mirror and willed my reflection to change, my green eyes narrowing, accenting the recently developed indentations that would soon become crow’s feet. I huffed my frustration at the inanimate object, struggling to brush my wild auburn curls into submission and gather them with a coated rubber band that would probably survive one or two uses before it popped under the pressure of the battle. I smoothed makeup over my pale and freckled skin, tried to hide all redness. I accented my eyes and lips, my good features, my only ones. I tugged my clothes around my widened form, struggling to make them sit right, like they used to, but it was no use. I sucked in lumps, smoothed, yanked, and stretched fabric, but my body wasn’t what it used to be. My glory days were gone, or at least that was what every public image would like me to believe.

3) What I’ve Done by Linkin Park, Album: Minutes to Midnight

My eyes struggled to open, but I could hear things through the fog of my brain. A page turning. A bit of shuffling. I couldn’t understand it. I was asleep and there was someone there with me. I lived alone, but I couldn’t seem to peel my eyes open to see who it was. I was too weak. I drifted away again…

Finally, my eyes opened. I was looking around the room before I even realized I was awake. Sterile white surrounded me. I was covered in layers of stiff sheets, and I stared out at a white board with a smiley face and a few names written across it in red ink. And a sharps disposal container. A hospital room.

“Hey, you’re awake!”

I rolled over to see who had spoken and groaned in pain. My entire body ached.

4) Swallowed in the Sea by Coldplay, Album: X&Y

My heart stopped as she shimmered into existence, an ethereal presence from another world. Her face was so familiar, my heart hurt.

5) Mary Jane by Alanis Morissette, Album: Jagged Little Pill

I stared out at the street below my window, my eyes heavy-lidded from the hours of crying the night before. My eyes couldn’t seem to find the tears anymore, but my head felt heavy with them, and I could barely hold it up without resting it on my chin.

Out on the street, I saw our neighbors walking their dogs like they did every morning. The few children that lived on the city street headed off to school, shuffled along by harried professional parents with somewhere else they had to be after this, checking their watches and their cell phones as if they were ticking time bombs counting down to the end. As if being late to work were so important that they didn’t even notice the children in front of them.

I would have noticed.

I ran a hand over my stomach, already flattening, as my eyes found the tears they had been searching for.

6) Every Night by Imagine Dragons, Album: Night Visions

I trudged into the house, my bones aching from a night of battle and my soul drained from using my abilities so indiscriminately.

It was shockingly quiet. Quieter than I was expecting, with a new baby that was used to having her Mommy home with her. I made my way up the stairs and over to our room. The door was wide open, the light was on, and I found my brother standing in front of the door, a fond smile on his face.

“Did she give you guys any trouble?” I asked.

He didn’t say a word, just nodded toward the door.

7) I Will Buy You a New Life by Everclear, Album: So Much For The Afterglow

I stuffed the bills into my mother’s hand, roughly. “Pay the bills.” I pushed past her and made my way to where Marty lay, staring out the window into the sun, his eyes squinting slightly, as though they barely felt the burn.

I didn’t blame him anymore. At some point between my teenage years and now, I had grown to accept that something in my brother had snapped. He was not well. His brain had made him believe I was something I wasn’t, and he had acted out in violence against me.

Now, I blamed my mother. For not believing me, for blaming me, for refusing to get him help, for believing it would all just get better, like schizophrenia just disappears, like suddenly the world would get set right, and my little brother would wake up one morning with no voices, no paranoia, no hallucinations, no fear.

That day never came.

“Blink, Farty Marty. Your corneas will thank you.”

He looked away from the window and smiled.

8) In Between by Linkin Park, Album: Minutes to Midnight

The rain started slowly, but by the time she’d gotten out far enough into the woods, it pelted her, soaking into her jeans, beading on her jacket and filling her boots. Her feet slid in the mud as she moved, purposefully towards the only place she could go. Their spot.

When she got there, she almost couldn’t see through the deluge, her soaked hair hanging in her eyes, blocking her view. She squinted past raindrops to make sure she was truly seeing what was there.

He had destroyed it. It was gone.

“I wanted to tell you the other day,” he said, his voice suddenly over her shoulder, and she started.

Damn her for not paying attention. Damn him for following her out here so he could watch her find this.

9) Your Star by Evanescence, Album: The Open Door

His hands clenched and unclenched as he stood, facing the open land before him. I could practically hear his mind racing. I stepped forward, wrapping an arm around him and resting my chin on his shoulder. He leaned into the embrace, his head bumping mine.

“What if the world ends?” he asked. “What if my choices ruin everything? What if we can’t fix it?”

I tried for a smile. I was scared too, but I didn’t have the luxury of that right now. “Well, that would be unacceptable, my love. We’ll just have to rebuild it.”

10) Mr. Brightside by The Killers, Album:

“This is what I’ve been meant to do,” he explained to me, his eyes wide, his nervous energy practically leaping from him. “My purpose. I finally understand why I can do these things, what makes me special, and you want me to give that away?”

BONUS: Single by Natasha Bedingfield, Album: Unwritten

“What is the big deal about all of this anyway?” I asked, fed up with Val and all of her gushy love talk. Based on what I’d just been through, it was a struggle not to punch her in her smiling, glowing face. “You only get to be this happy for a limited time.”

Okay folks, that’s it. Leave feedback on these. What did you like? What didn’t you? Would you like to try this challenge? Definitely chat with me in the comments!

A Call to Arms

For many writers, November is a very important month.  It is a time when they put aside their competing work and obligations and write like mad.  November 1st through 30th is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.  It is a challenge issued by http://www.nanowrimo.org/ to write a novel, or 50,000 words, in one month.  Though this particular challenge has been around since 1999 and I have known about it for the last 4 or 5 years, I have never once attempted it.

My reasons have been many.  I have a day job.  I have a family.  I have a toddler.  I do not ever write anything straight through.  I am working on 3 novels, 2 short stories, occasional entertainment reviews, occasional fan fiction, blog entries and who knows what else at any given time.  My method of writing means I don’t have much chance of finishing one thing in a month, no matter how hard I work.  So, deciding I had already been disqualified, I gave up before I even began.

And then I received my subscribed email to writer and writing teacher Lisa Romeo’s blog, Lisa Romeo Writes.  If you don’t subscribe to this blog and you are a writer, do it – her insights are invaluable.  In her October 23rd blog entry, Lisa had a guest blogger, writer Liz Sheffield, who discussed how doing NaNoWriMo despite her initial belief that she couldn’t accomplish the task helped her to silence her inner critics.  The essay was inspiring, but it was Lisa’s note at the end that got me going.

You needn’t write a novel during the 30 days; it’s also a great way to generate around 50,000 words towards any manuscript or writing project, keep track of your progress, and commit to a regular writing practice. For the math-challenged, 50K words in a month works out to about 1,670 words per day.

Suddenly I felt liberated.  I didn’t have to work on one project and, oddly, when broken down to 1,670 words a day, it didn’t seem so bad.  It may seem like common sense, but suddenly all of my excuses were gone.  And they became just that – excuses.  Ways of keeping myself from making a great deal of progress.

So I’m shrugging them off, and I’m asking you to come with me.  Last year, around this time, I joined Weight Watchers and blasted my progress all over every social network I had access to at the time. Having my friends and family cheering for me kept me honest with myself and I ended up taking off and keeping off 50 pounds.  Now, I’m determined to slough off the weight of all of my excuses and I’m asking you to help me out.

Weekly throughout the month of November, I will be posting updates tracking my writing totals to this blog in an effort to police myself, in an effort to keep myself honest and committed to this goal. Please feel free to join me.  If you are a writer, post your totals here too so we can all offer encouragement as well – the goal is to make a huge impact on the way we handle the work we love and to show ourselves that we can do whatever we set our minds to.

Are you in?