Fresh Eyes

For writers, be they published, semi-published, or completely unknown, feedback is essential. Open up any article about polishing your writing skills and you’re likely to find the author touting the benefit of having a pair of “fresh eyes” peruse your latest endeavor. This is one of those rare occasions when a cliché is not trite, but absolutely true. Having someone review your work before turning it over to the powers that be (Mr. Editor-in-Chief, Ms. Literary Agent) can provide invaluable insight to the strengths and flaws of your writing. One of the best ways to get regular feedback is to join a writer’s group.

I myself have been a member of a small writer’s group for nearly a year. We have four writers: two novelists, a poet, and someone who has no clue how to label herself. (That’d be me, the poet-screenwriter-blogger-I fanfictioner-aborted novella-ista.) We all bring a different writing style to the table and have our own strengths as writers. Some of us can hammer out dialogue in distinct voices, some of us can link up crazy plotlines, and some of us can capture a perfect image in the precise amount of words desired. We meet twice a month to review each other’s most recent work and offer up pointers, answer author questions, and confess what’s working and what just isn’t.

And I love it.

And I hate it.

(Hey high school kids, I’ve just illustrated the meaning of the term ambivalent.)

I love it because it keeps in the writing vein. It’s too easy to drift away and call myself a writer when I haven’t strung together and independent clause in weeks. (No, Tweets do not count.) Meeting with a group of other writers helps me stay in writing activities, keeps my skills sharp. It also opens up to me the perspective of multiple kinds of readers from different demographics as they review various genres. For instance, I’ve learned that some men do not find male characters believably masculine if their inner dialogue is too flowery. For a girl like me whose work typically appeals to female readers in the 12-20 age range, this kind of insight is especially helpful.

But I also hate it. Being an active member of this writer’s group requires a lot of time. Our meetings typically last 2-3 hours, and we the required reading for each meeting takes me an additional three hours. (I take copious notes and thoughtfully consider what I wish to discuss.) For all this effort, the group usually only spends about 20 minutes on my work. They pay me lovely compliments such as, “You’re just such a good writer!” and “I couldn’t think of anything that really needed tweaking.” Sure, I walk away with a flattered ego, but over time I’ve begun to think the payoff is not equal to the effort. 

And this is the point in the blog post when I sully the name of Monty Python by singing myself a Gregorian chant invoking the creative inspiration of the plot bunnies and slap myself in the face with the first volume of the OED. Because really…you just can’t beat a fresh pair of eyes.

One of Those Starbucks Writers

HeavenWriting in a coffee shop has become the quintessential writer’s cliché. The quickest way to broadcast the fact that you are not a writer (a paid one anyway) is to type away furiously as your iced latte sweats into the motherboard of your laptop. It’s like a huge cosmic joke that everyone who has had some measured success in the writing industry is in on. Professional writers know that writing isn’t done in a pretentious, mainstream caffeine-infused sludge factory. No, they know real writing happens in your office…or in your pajamas while lazing around in bed. Whatever.

I won’t deny it…I am one of those Starbucks writers. For some reason, I focus better when I’m surrounded by that soulless corporate décor. I love those friggin’ bonus stars that open the doorway to free refills on iced coffee. And yes, I entertain the notion that my fellow coffee aficionados (Take that, Maxwell House!) are looking at my open Word document and thinking, “Am I sitting next to a famous author? Should I ask her to sign that little cardboard slip around my cappuccino cup?”

I’m not that naïve, of course. I know they’re really looking at my antiquated computer and sneering, “A laptop? Is that a CD-ROM drive?!” Yes, me and my Dell-asaurus go way back…almost as far back as me and my flip-phone.  I cannot describe the waterfalls of self-deprecation which shower over me as I sit, writing for free in a Starbucks with my horribly out-of-date technology in hand.

But, hey, I am writing. And for me…that’s a good day.


The Words Elude Me

I’ve been working on a more polished piece for the last day or so about an oriental art form called kintsugi. Sometimes it seems the words just flow out of fingers and onto the pixelated screen in front of me. At other times, like right now, they just don’t seem to come at all.

Immediately, my mind springs into writer’s mode: It’s not good enough, You’re not good enough, This is a waste of time, Everyone is going to know you’re a no-talent hack, Do you know how many people have probably already written about this very subject? The voice of my inner naysayer is loud and obnoxious….and effective.

I’m sitting here in a Starbucks, working against a 15 minute deadline. Fifteen minutes. That’s when the shop closes, and I’ll have to return home to a husband watching a never-ending marathon of Pawn Stars and American Pickers. (Don’t hate me. I love those shows too, but not enough to make watching their reruns my part-time, evening job!) And, I’m sure my two-year-old will get out of bed and demand a snuggle, cuddle, kiss, and drink of water.

And those words will still elude me. That is…until I give up completely and lay my head down on my pillow. Then I’ll have to get up and jot them down before sleep steals them from my memory forever.

To Blog or Not To Blog?

You know, I’ve really agonized about this blog: the title, the layout, the topics, the quality of the writing. But in all honesty, I’m probably one of the world’s worst bloggers. I rarely post, and I don’t know that I’ve exactly pinpointed what this blog is supposed to be about. Is it about me? Faith? Fantasy? My so-called “writing?”  So, the topics are varied, updates sporadic, and the layout/formatting is not ideal.

I think I’ve read hundreds of articles talking about how writers/creative people need to build their “brand” online. Create an online presence and cultivate an online fan-base. This way when you finally convince some muckety-muck with the power to jumpstart your creative career to actually read your work then they will shower you with money and contracts. Really? Can I insert the “not buying it” emoticon? Where the heck is that thing? No really, where is it? I’m just awful at this technological stuff.

As far as I can tell, branding hurts like heck. I’d rather not emblazon my hide (biological or technological) with an iron-hot poker. It’s like that person you know who got that tattoo they thought was friggin’ awesome, but you’re just praying they don’t ask you for your honest opinion. Maybe I’m not ready to set myself in a specific brand. I don’t even have anything awesome for you to read Mr./Ms. Muckety-Muck.

So, what I’ve decided is simply to write. Maybe not every day. Maybe every other day. And I’m not going to edit myself too much. Some pieces will be more polished than others. Some will have cohesive theses, introductions, conclusions…shoot…I may even throw in some cool pictures. But more often you’ll get posts like this where I just let my mind wander and babble on about…whatever. Call it my “territories blog” or my “training wheels.” Ignore it or post a comment as you like. 

I just want to write more. And the hope is that the more I write, the better it will get.  


Zelena’s Revenge: A Fan Theory


A new villain is coming to Once Upon a Time

Poor Henry—the kid just can’t catch a break. Once again all faithful Oncers should be concerned for Henry’s safety. Pan may be out of the picture for now, but there’s a new villain on Once Upon a Time, and she has it out for the truest believer. In fact, I think she’s already made at least one attempt on Henry’s life.

What did poor Henry ever do to her? Nothing, of course. In “NYC Serenade” Zelena, the Wicked Witch, makes it clear that she’s out for revenge against Regina. And as Aurora hints to Philip, if you incur Zelena’s wrath, she doesn’t just go after you—she goes after your children.

Within a day or two of being launched back into the Enchanted Forest by the “reset” curse, Regina was attacked by a flying monkey who wanted to retrieve her blood. Why Zelena needed this blood to exact her revenge upon the queen is unknown. Perhaps she hoped to curse Regina’s son through blood magic. However, Regina and Henry are related through True Love, not blood. Therefore, Zelena’s revenge curse was ineffective, prompting a need to physically enter the world without magic and get the job done.

When we last saw Emma and Henry, they were driving away from Storybrooke into their new lives. Their destination was unknown, but it’s likely that they returned to Emma’s home in Boston. Flash forward one year after the reset curse was cast and Emma and Henry are now living in Manhattan. The reason? A house fire destroyed their home in Boston, so they relocated to New York.  A detail like this cannot be ignored. Recall, the Wicked Witch was something of a pyro, constantly tormenting the Scarecrow with fireballs. For this reason, it is possible the fire was real and not a false memory. Although Emma does not give a specific date, it is likely that the fire occurred a few months after the reset curse was cast.

In fact, my guess is that the fire occurred approximately eight months prior to the events of “NYC Serenade.” Why? Because Emma met Walsh eight months ago at his furniture store in NYC. When your home is destroyed in a fire, one of the few things you can replace is furniture. Was it mere happenstance that Emma found the one guy in the Big Apple who happened to be a flying monkey?

Check out Walsh's scar

Check out Walsh’s scar

Not at all! Look closely and you’ll see Walsh has a linear scar on the left side of his neck. The flying monkey who attacked Regina was grazed by an arrow in the exact same place. Walsh is not a random fairy-tale creature; he’s a monkey on a mission. The fire in Boston was no accident. Who knows what he had planned if Emma continued her relationship with him?

Although Zelena’s first attempt to exact her revenge on Regina proved unsuccessful, I fear she has more wickedness in store for Henry and for Storybrooke.  If she’s smart she’ll realize that she cannot rely on blood magic to exact her revenge. On Once Upon a Time, True Love always trumps magic. And Henry’s mother is well-armed. Both of them.

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Ice Skating, a Misadventure

My friend and I spent a week giggling nervously about the upcoming humiliation awaiting us at the Roanoke Civic Center’s public ice skating rink. Certain we would fall flat on our keisters and earn the derision of gloating passersby, we bravely donned our gloves and scarves. No matter how many bruises we earned, it would be fun to break from the monotony of winter movie marathons.

And we weren’t the only ones who thought so. Pulling into the parking lot, we marveled at how few spaces remained. Flocks of children, parents and older siblings in tow, scurried toward the entrance. I exchanged worried glances with my friend as we eyed the crowd waiting for admission. I’ve seen shorter lines at Disney’s Space Mountain.

I snuck down the stairs to scout the situation on the rink, and what I saw brought joy to my heart. There, gliding on the ice, were hundreds of smiling people, hand in hand and connecting with each other, sans social media. Take that, Facebook.

The rink was filled to capacity, so we didn’t get to skate.  But when this popular program returns in September, I’ll be there.  And I’ll probably tweet a picture of it.

Post appeared as a Cornershot in the Extra Section of The Roanoke Times newspaper on February 10, 2014.

Enchantacon, Part 2: Open Doors

Aside from admission to the convention and the Fairy Tale Ball, my Enchantacon ticket package included only one autograph, but I was fine with that. I’ve always had a funny feeling about the idea of paying to interact with a celebrity. It feels like I’m purchasing a piece of them, and I have a problem with that. I’ve always hoped for a serendipitous meeting as the result of a mutual interest or purpose.  Surely a signed photograph would be far more meaningful if it stemmed from an organic experience rather than a contrived meeting. Not to demean those who do pay for such things, photo-op and autograph sessions are an appropriate and respectful way to obtain those kinds of mementos.

Enchantacon provided ample opportunities for both convention-sanctioned meetings and chance encounters with the actors. It was neat to run into the guests of honor in the most random ways. Whether riding in an elevator with David Anders or Ethan Embry, chatting with Tony Amendola at the water cooler in the fitness center, pointing out the excellent cosplay for Keegan Conor Tracy, or walking back to the main hotel with Gil McKinney after his Q&A, I found myself meeting the cast in just the way I’d always hoped.

For years, I’ve told myself that actors are people, and they deserve to be treated as such. I imagined that if I ever met a famous person I would treat him or her just as I would treat any other person. If we made eye contact, I’d smile, wave, maybe even offer a brief greeting or comment on the weather. If we struck up a conversation, I wouldn’t ask pointed, personal questions or request any favors (such as an autograph or picture).  I wouldn’t want to invade the privacy of a random stranger, nor would I want to encroach upon their time. I believe in treating everyone with kindness and respect, so I planned to extend the same VIP treatment that I give to everyone. But until Enchantacon, I’d never had the occasion to put theory into practice.

Enchantacon Josh Emcee

Photo credit: Emcee Joshua Reid-Davis gearing up for Enchantacon

On Friday, our emcee, Josh, led an Once Upon a Time trivia contest. Through an unlikely series of events, I wound up winning the second round. My prize? Being escorted to the Fairy Tale Ball by the actor of my choice. It took me several minutes to decide between my favorites, and in the end I asked if I could choose Mr. Raphael Sbarge. I could hardly wait for Saturday night to come.

Other blessings were in store. On Saturday, I was provided with an additional, completely unexpected chance to hang out with the actors. The best part was that I got to invite two of my friends, Angela and Marie, and share the experience with them. Not only was I excited to have an extended chat with Mr. Sbarge and Mr. McKinney, I thoroughly enjoyed the way my two Oncer pals’ faces lit up with joy and disbelief as they took seats beside Ms. Tracy. Their blessing was mine as well.

Enchantacon Fairy Tale Ball      The Fairy Tale Ball on Saturday night was everything I’d hoped it would be. I’d never felt so beautiful in my entire life, and Mr. Sbarge was a perfect gentleman. Of course the moment we entered the ballroom, he was immediately surrounded by other Oncers eager for a photo-op and a chat of their own. I spent the rest of the evening mingling with other fans. We danced as girls tend to do when there aren’t enough men around to go around: with wild abandon and a total disregard for looking cool.  Or maybe that was just me.

Sunday’s pace was noticeably slower. Some of the fans decided to skip the final day of the convention, but they shortchanged themselves. David Anders and Ethan Embry led candid Q&As, loaded with unvarnished tales of the highs and lows of being a working actor in Hollywood. At the end of it all, my introverted self took shelter from freezing winds and smiling faces in a soft couch tucked away somewhere hidden. I journaled for an hour at least, silently recording my thoughts and emotions. Several of the actors noticed me in my hidey-spot as they walked on their way out of the hotel.  We said a quick farewell and wished each other safe travels.

Even though I had not purchased one of the more expensive ticket packages, I was surprised at how often I got to interact with the guests of honor over the course of the weekend. Perhaps the small size of the convention had something to do with it. I would guess there were no more than 150 attendees at the peak.  But, as for me, I felt Heaven-blessed. It was as though God had just decided to open up many doors of opportunity to meet.

Better than that, God opened my heart to meeting many wonderful people, actors and fans alike, and sharing a wonderful weekend together.

Stay tuned!  Enchantacon, Part 3: Open Hearts still to come…

Brooke, Angela (Belle), and Zach (Emmet Swan)

Brooke, Angela (Belle), and Zach (Emmet Swan)