Thursday, September 27, 2012

Folks, Every Woman Is A Real Woman

I've been meaning to post this for a while, but Other Things have distracted me from doing so. I'm here today to rectify this. 

So. There's this show I love. You might have heard of it.

Project Runway is the kind of show that gets me all riled up. Some days, I agree with the judges. Some days, I don't. But I always want to hear what they have to say. Earlier this season (the show's tenth!), one of the contestants had an issue with his model. You see, she wasn't a size 2. She wasn't even in the modeling industry at all. The woman was somewhere around her forties or fifties, and according to the contestant, shapeless. As in, "fat". 

The contestant then proceeded to design an outfit that didn't flatter her at all. Simply because she wasn't the kind of woman he designs for. He didn't know how to make something sexy and flattering for a woman like her. 

Was I bothered by this? Of course. But I grew LIVID when the discussion of "real women" came up. 

You see, real women have curves. There's even a movie that says so. 

I, however, disagree. So does this woman:

 Supermodel Heidi Klum, the future badass godmother of my children

Heidi and I think along the same lines--every woman is a real woman. Every woman and teen girl has feelings, dreams, and fears. Whether they're a size 2 or 20, they should be respected as human beings with a brain and a heart (unless they don't like Jensen Ackles. Because that's just unacceptable. Obvi). If you cut a bit of a Victoria's Secret model's finger, she's going to bleed. Same will happen if you cut a bit of my finger or anyone else's. I'm sick of listening to people exalt super thin bodies as the epitome of beauty, but I'm also sick of listening to people exalt curvy bodies as the epitome of beauty. 

Ladies, we are all beautiful. Please stop hating on each other. Seriously. It's getting boring.

Now tell me: are you sick of the whole "real women" debate? Or is it something you just don't pay attention to?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Elana Johnson's ABANDON Cover Reveal!!

Confession: I am ridiculously excited about today's post. You see, the lovely Elana Johnson has a book coming out next year. It's the third installment in her Possession series. And it's called Abandon.

As part of Elana's cover reveal blog event, I'm thrilled to share with y'all this STUNNING piece of art. No, seriously. It. Is. STUNNING. 

Don't believe me? WELL SEE FOR YOURSELF:

*stares at all that pretty*

*pets it*

Told you it was stunning :)

Now here's the official blurb:

seduced by power,
broken by control,
and consumed by love...

Vi has made her choice between Jag and Zenn, and the Resistance may have suffered for it. But with the Thinkers as strong as ever, the rebels still have a job to do. Vi knows better than anyone that there's more at stake than a few broken hearts. 

But there is a traitor among them...and the choices he makes could lead to the total destruction of everything Vi has fought for.

Vi, Jag, and Zenn must set their problems aside for the Resistance to have any hope of ending the Thinkers' reign. Their success means everything...and their failure means death.

Awesomesauce, right??? Well, you're going to have to wipe that drool off your face until June 2013, when Abandon goes on sale! 

BUT you won't have to wait long for an Abandon contest!! That's right: Elana is running a Pinterest contest for the cover. She wants to get 500 pins (or repins) over the next two days. If we can get that many, she'll pick someone who pinned the cover to win a $50 Amazon gift card! It's so easy to do this, folks. All you have to do is click over to Elana's blog for details! And while you're at it, go add Abandon on Goodreads!

I'd like to thank Julie over at AToMR Tours for hosting this super awesome event!! *waves to Julie* 

Now run over to Pinterest and win that gift card!! Best of luck! :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Character + Depth Series: Attitudes

Last week, I promised to kick off a new series on character and depth with a little help from psychographics. This is part I of said series. Today, we're diving right into the first item on the psychographics list:


If we look at the Merrriam-Webster dictionary, we find the following definitions for the word 'attitude':

2:      a position assumed for a specific purpose 
4a:    a mental position with regard to a fact or state 
4b:    a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state
7a:    a negative or hostile state of mind
7b:    a cool, cocky, defiant, or arrogant manner

As you can see, attitude isn't one-dimensional. It encompasses three key traits in all human beings:

  1. Psychological state  
  2. Emotional state 
  3. Physical state

1) Within the psychological state, we have the following things to consider:

  • what does my character love?
  • what does my character hate?
  • what does my character find irrelevant enough to not care about at all?

The important thing here is to figure out Things. Plain and simple. This step is all about the what. Your character must be provoked by these Things in some way. A reaction needs to be drawn out by the mere mention, sight or feel of them (these Things don't have to be material, though: it can be abstract notions like love, faith, etc.).

2) Within the emotional state, these are the questions to ask yourself:

  • why does my character love what he/she loves?
  • why does my character hate what he/she hates?
  • why does my character find the irrelevant things irrelevant?

This is where you get to the root of it all. While at first you'll look at the Things, the next step is to look at the Meaning behind those Things. Backstory plays a huge part in this step. Past experiences help mold your fake people into who they are during your story. Each Thing serves a purpose for your character's personality, and that purpose can only be explored further through his or her feelings toward that Thing.

3) Within the physical state, this is what you should be looking at:

  • how does my character let others know what he/she loves?
  • how does my character let others know what he/she hates?
  • how does my character let others know he/she doesn't care about the irrelevant stuff?

This step is all about Showing the Meaning of Things. Your character's words and body are the crucial elements here. Dialogue is effective, but I think blocking your character's movements (using body language to express attitudes) is much more powerful. Your character might say something, but his or her body's suggesting the opposite. Not all your characters will give the same Meaning to a particular Thing. Not all your characters will Show what the Thing Means to them the same way, either. Play a little with those reactions until you find the ones that are: 1) logical based on past experiences; and 2) the most conflicting with those of other characters. Variety is the spice of life, after all :)

So there you have it. Attitudes. Give your fake people some. And stay tuned for next week's Character + Depth installment!

Now tell me: what's your take on your characters' attitudes? Do you search for them, or do they come to you as the characters come alive in your mind? 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Books You Should Read: BEFORE I DIE By Jenny Downham

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.

Why You Should Read It:

I can't start this review without confessing my absolute LOVE for this novel's opening paragraph. After I first read it, I read it again. After I finished the whole book, I went back and read that opening one last time:

I wish I had a boyfriend. I wish he lived in the wardrobe on a coat hanger. Whenever I wanted, I could get him out and he'd look at me the way boys do in films, as if I'm beautiful. He wouldn't speak much, but he'd be breathing hard as he took off his leather jacket and unbuckled his jeans. He'd wear white pants and he'd be so gorgeous I'd almost faint. He'd take my clothes off too. He'd whisper, 'Tessa, I love you. I really bloody love you. You're beautiful' - exactly those words - as he undressed me.

Break my heart within seconds of starting your novel, Jenny Downham??? Oh, you evil woman!! *curses at the winds* I knew what I was in store for. I knew this wouldn't be the last time my heart would be smashed into a bazillion crumbs. And it wasn't--Before I Die is the story of Tessa, a girl battling leukemia. Yes, it's sad and grim. But it's also beautiful in the most hopeful, joyous way. 

The thing I loved most about this book was its honesty. Tessa compiles a list of things to do before she dies, and the reason behind each one felt genuine to me. I could understand her choices even when I wholeheartedly disagreed with some of them. Tessa is blunt, fearful and loving. She's not ready to die, but knows her days are numbered. She sucks at fooling herself into believing otherwise. It's her voice and attitude that made this novel so refreshing for me. 

Even so, I didn't always like Tessa. She got on my nerves a lot, but that's what I cherish in characters--they have to make mistakes. They have to get beat up by their bad choices. If not, I'm bored and, worse, disappointed. Before I Die delivered on this front, but a part of me felt like it still had some mileage to go. I wanted More Things to Happen in the plot. The depth was there, but it could've gone into a few more surprising directions. 

All in all, this was a solid, moving read for me. I teared up at times. I rolled my eyes at times. And in the end, I felt like I'd never be as good a writer as Jenny Downham. That's the kind of writer who gets my undying love forever.    

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Douchebags Are Not Sexy, Folks Part II: Why Geek In SIXTEEN CANDLES Is An Epic Win

So. I love Sixteen Candles. If I were to explain why I love this film so much, this post would be ridiculously and annoyingly long. I shall spare you the pain. 

Instead, I'm here to carry on with a topic I hold dear: douchebags. I recently blogged about how they're not sexy to me in this post, using This Means War to illustrate my point (because seriously. TOM HARDY, folks. TOM. HARDY. Seriously). That movie had a pretty solid example of the douchebag in the love triangle. But unlike in Sixteen Candles, that douchebag was an epic fail for me. His change felt... forced. An excuse to get the girl. Dishonest. 

Then you have Geek.

Creeper extraordinaire, folks. Geek rides the school bus with our wonderful main character, Samantha Baker, and he's on the prowl. Big time. He harasses Sam every chance he gets. He smells her and asks stupid questions and stares at her like she's homemade lasagna. Sam isn't just irked by him, she finds him so pathetic that, at times, she laughs in his face. Geek might not be a fan of being ridiculed, but he's willing to set aside his ego to impress Sam. 

Then you find out he's no stranger to ridicule. 

His so-called friends (geeks as well) dare him to prove his manhood by hooking up with Sam. They ask him for her underwear as evidence of the hookup. Geek is under a lot of pressure. As the film goes on, you can see him about to break. You can see him doubt himself and question whether he should do everything in his power to snatch that underwear. 

That is, until he realizes one very important thing: Sam is a human being with feelings and fears and opinions. 

Geek has spent so much time forcing conversation upon Sam that he hasn't had the chance to actually talk to her. He's been pushing her away with his creepiness. But when she opens up about her sucky birthday and her crush on the school's most popular senior, Geek listens. Really, truly listens. They're both misfits. They're both having bad days. And they're both after things they think will never happen for them. Even though Geek retains his creepiness and obsession with All Things Sex, he chooses to help Sam (and later on, another girl) out. He chooses to prove to her that she's not delusional for crushing on that popular senior dude, and that she's worthy of greatness because she herself is great. She's worthy of the respect and attention she hasn't received on her sixteenth birthday. 

Why does he choose to do this? 

Because he genuinely believes it. He's not pretending to be someone he's not to impress her. He'd been hiding his sweet, caring nature all along. The douchebag was just a role he was trying to pull off. Unsuccessfully, but still.

So there you have it. Geek takes the cake for me. And it doesn't hurt that he's played by Anthony Michael Hall... *sigh*

Now tell me: have you seen Sixteen Candles? If so, what do you think of The Geek? Yay? Nay?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Character + Depth: How Psychographics Can Help You Craft Better Characters

So. I've been doing a lot of reading for my upcoming comprehensive exams. The research part of it hasn't kicked in as hard yet, but a few days ago, I did some light investigative work on Le Topics. I discovered something by accident--psychographics.

What are psychographics, you ask?

Here's the definition from The Free Dictionary:

1. (used with a sing. verb) The use of demographics to study and measure attitudes, values, lifestyles, and opinions, as for marketing purposes.

And here's a bit more description from an article called "Audience Targeting 101: Psychographics," published in the Run Of Network site:

At their core, demographics describe who people are, and psychographics describe what they care about.  From a marketing perspective however, psychographics are usually used to explain why people buy a product, and the attitudes, opinions, and personality traits that drive them toward a product.  Psychographics are inherently more abstract than demographics because they are multi-dimensional by nature, and cover subtle elements of what makes a person tick.

As a fan of characters first and foremost, my brain went into overdrive on how I could possibly relate psychographics to crafting better characters. I removed the words 'buy' and 'product', for starters. Then I changed the description to include words like 'goal' and 'motivation'. I think that last line, specifically the 'what makes a person tick' bit, could also allude to fears, which play an important role in setting a character apart from the rest. That's pretty much how I came up with my own version of psychographics for fake people :)

So I've decided to start a weekly series on the subject. During the next four weeks, I'll be discussing each of the factors taken into consideration by psychographics:

  • Attitudes
  • Values
  • Lifestyles
  • Opinions

Hopefully, this will help y'all as much as it's helping me.

Now tell me: have you heard of psychographics before? Are there any other non-writing related strategies that help you craft better characters?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: SANCTUM by Sarah Fine

For this week's edition of Waiting on Wednesday, I'm picking a book by one of my favorite bloggers! 

SANCTUM by Sarah Fine:

"My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple."

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos's best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance – hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn't just anyone – she's determined to save her best friend's soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she's captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city's endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn't – the dark city isn't the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

Release date: October 16th

Seriously, doesn't this book sound AMAZING? *drools* Waiting till October sucks, but in the meantime, check out Sarah's blog for all things YA and psychology. You're welcome :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Robert Pattinson's Post-breakup Hair Heals ALL THE THINGS

Confession: I am sick.

I am less sick than last Friday, when I went to Chili's with The Fam to celebrate my little brother's birthday. I honestly felt like I was going to THROW UP my lunch. And pass out. At the same time. 

But nope, I did not throw up or pass out. Instead, I spent Labor Day weekend in bed, dazed and confused and watching episodes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo ("YOU'D BETTER REDNECKOGNIZE!!!"). Today, I feel a lot better, but I'm still stuffy and a bit dazed/confused/weak.

Then I remembered something I saw a few weeks back. Something that made me go, "WHOA, I can't take all that pretty."

Robert Pattinson's Post-breakup Hair


Folks, I am healed. I have enough energy to stand up, dance a combination of the Samba and the hokey pokey while yelling "YOU'D BETTER REDNECKOGNIZE!!!" in fluent Mandarin. Why? Because Robert Pattinson's Post-breakup Hair is my new medicine. It is pretty, shiny, and BLONDISH BROWN. I mean, seriously. 

You know you want that hair for yourself. Admit it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a dance routine I must finish choreographing.

**Editor's note: the author of this blog post, Amparo Ortiz, is currently suffering from a mind-crippling illness. As such, this blog post is nothing more than an embarrassing episode of dementia. Please understand her during this difficult time.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Books You Should Read: THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielsen

  THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

Why You Should Read It:

I love me some fantasy. But when the word 'fantasy' comes to mind, I usually picture epic battles, beautiful (and dangerous) landscapes, tons of magic, maybe a dragon or two. Nielsen's The False Prince lacks most of these, but it sure is one magical novel. You see, I might love me some fantasy, but I love me some character development even more. Sage, the main character, was nothing more than a joy to read about. He's scrappy, outspoken, and kind. When he's picked as one of the orphans to impersonate Prince Jaron, he doesn't jump up and down at the chance of living like royalty. He understands the risk involved--he must lose his identity and claim one he doesn't want.

The one thing I loved most about Sage was his fear of being alone. He struggles to find something most of us crave as well--a meaningful connection to another person. That doesn't mean Sage is looking for love (even though he has a love interest). Sage is more concerned about facing his fears with little to no support. He acts like he can handle them, of course, but deep down, he wants someone to be there for him. This has a lot to do with his backstory, which I absolutely loved discovering. It's twisty and OMG and perfect. :)

Oh, and something else I loved: Imogen. She's a mute girl who serves Conner, the regent plotting to turn one of the orphans into Prince Jaron. Imogen's suffered both physical and psychological abuse at Conner's estate, and she deals with her pain in the most poised, admirable way. Sage can't help himself from wanting to protect her, and I rooted for him every single time. As the story unfolds, Imogen puts her job and life on the line to help Sage as well, making her a total BAMF in my book.

The False Prince is a fast-paced tale of a boy who needs to survive, and wants to live a better life than the one he's been given. With high stakes, surprises and calculating characters galore, I recommend it to anyone looking for a fantasy read that's heavy on politics and mind games.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Books You Should Read: IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma

Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood. With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.

Why You Should Read It:

This book is creepy. And since Halloween is right around the corner, I figured I'd talk about a book that freaked me out. Is it gory? No. Do people get jumped in dark alleys/abandoned houses/asylums? Uh-uh. Is there a serial killer on the loose? *shakes head* I know, I know. You're going, "Then why the eff is it creepy?" 

Folks, Nova Ren Suma is a master storyteller. 

Not only can she create characters that feel real, that you can hear them whispering into your ear as you read, but she's got a gift for The Uncomfortable. Every single word, every turn of phrase, every scene gutted me alive. Like Chloe, I felt exasperated, confused, and outraged at certain... events... that play out during the novel. And even though there were times I wanted to push my way into the pages and yank Chloe away from the weird and uncontrollable, I kept my cool and trusted her. I trusted Suma as an author, too. That trust paid off in a big way. 

Imaginary Girls is about blood. It's about two sisters who don't understand each other, but they totally do. It's also about holding on to what you know, what you love, and what you can't live without. And it's this holding on that freaked. Me. Out. Because the harder you pull on something that's gripped at the other end, the quicker it'll snap in half. 

If you're looking for an eerie dose of magical realism this Halloween, Imaginary Girls is the book for you.