fantasy author

One Thing Magneto Got Right

I’m very excited to have Jessica O’Neal visiting today. Jess’ blog, The Sexy Little Nerd, is one of my absolute favorites. From her Harry Potter series, to her more recent posts on Robin Hood, fantasy book reviews, and vlogs on everything from The Hunger Games to Game of Thrones, visiting her site is like going to a friend’s house. Please help me welcome Jess…..

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I want to give a huge thank you to Marcy for having me over today. As a sister nerd, her blog has always been one of my favorites to visit. She leaves some pretty big shoes to fill and I hope that I am able to do them justice.

One Thing Magneto Got Right

Mystique X-Men First ClassWhen most people first meet me, they’re surprised to learn what a gargantuan nerd I am. Whether it is my obsession with Harry Potter, my affinity for all things fantasy, or my new found obsession with archery (which started from a desire to live out some of my favorite stories), people are always left gaping. For whatever reason, I am an unexpected nerd. Recently, attention has been called to another one of my nerd proclivities: comic book movies.

I’m a HUGE comic book movie fan. I am convinced that if I had been born a boy rather than a girl someone would have introduced me earlier to the wonder that is comic books, but alas that never happened. Instead, I was left ignorant of these fabulous stories until they started to take over the cinema. One of these movie franchises that I have particularly enjoyed is Marvel’s X-Men.

When these movies started to come out, I knew very little about the X-Men. I had, of course, heard of some of them before, such as Wolverine, but I didn’t really know much about the story. After the first movie, I was in love. As movie after movie began to come out, that love did nothing but grow. I was enraptured by these characters and the relationships they had with one another as they struggled to come to terms with who they were, what they could do, and what they should do. There were so many lessons that could be taken out of the lives of these mutants.

My favorite of the series is, without a doubt, X-Men: First Class. The history between Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto had always fascinated me, so getting to see that history unfold with the brilliant acting of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender was very nearly a cathartic experience. I am not ashamed to admit that the break between them brought me to tears. And not just a few tears. When I tell people that one of the most heartbreaking movies I have ever seen is a comic book movie, they look at me like I’m crazy. That’s okay. The understanding of others is not a necessary component to my enjoyment.

But there was the development of another relationship in X-Men: First Class that really struck a chord within me. I am referring to Magneto and Mystique.

Mystique (played by Jennifer Lawrence who is also starring in the upcoming The Hunger Games movie) is different than a lot of the other mutants in that the evidence of her mutation, her true self, does not allow her to blend in with *normal* society. Mystique has the ability to change her appearance at will to look like any other human, but when she is in her natural form, she has blue skin and yellow eyes. In order to feel accepted she, therefore, chooses to spend the majority of her time in a different skin.

This is something that I think a lot of us do – I know I do. We are afraid to show our true selves to others for fear that they won’t like who we are, so we morph into the person we think they want us to be, the person we think they will accept. This is an exhausting task that will gradually wear us down.

There is a scene in the movie when Mystique, in her more *normal* human form, is lifting weights. Magneto startles her by manipulating the weights to float in the air above her. He says to her, “If you are using half of your concentration to look normal, then you’re only half paying attention to whatever else you are doing. Just pointing out something that could save your life.” He then releases the weights and, in order to catch them before they fall on her, Mystique has to release her shifted form. Magneto then says, “You want society to accept you, but you can’t even accept yourself.”

This brief scene really resonated with me. When we figuratively put on whatever skin we think certain people want to see in order to accept us, we are actually achieving the opposite. We can not be truly accepted by someone when we prevent them from seeing who we really are. Yes, when we do reveal the real us, flaws and all, there will be some people who judge us, but are those really the people we want to be close to anyway? Wouldn’t we rather be surrounded by people who know and accept the real us?

The really amazing thing is, when we learn to love ourselves for who we actually are, people can sense that and are drawn to it. People can sense when they’re being shown a false or incomplete version of someone and are turned off by it, whether they consciously realize it or not. So by accepting ourselves, we make it easier for others to accept us as well.

In spite of the path that Magneto and Mystique eventually choose, I believe in this moment Magneto has the right idea. Self-acceptance may not be easy, but the best things never are.

Do you agree with the lesson Magneto gives Mystique? Does one need to first accept herself before she can expect others to?

Jessica O'Neal fantasy authorJessica O’Neal is a fantasy writer with a BA in Psychology with a minor in English. Alongside her writing, she co-hosts Glee Chat and Smash Chat. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and crazy Jack Russell named Moses. Check out her blog The Sexy Little Nerd, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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Yoda Was Wrong

I’m risking nerd exile by even suggesting this but…I think Yoda was wrong.

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker travels to the swampy planet of Dagobah to find Jedi Master Yoda. Luke’s X-Wing ends up sunk in a bog, and Luke doesn’t think he can get it out.

Yoda tells him the only difference between moving the ship and moving stones is the one in his mind. With a shrug, Luke turns back and says, “Alright, I’ll give it a try.”

Yoda replies, “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

In his post “The Difference between Trying and Doing,” Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, talks about how he watched self-help author Tony Robbins use a chair to explain this concept. Robbins asked a woman to try to pick up the chair. When she picked it up, he told her she’d done it wrong. He asked her to try to pick it up, not to actually pick it up. When she left the chair in place, he told her that she wasn’t trying—she was simply not picking it up.

Hyatt goes on to explain, “The point is that when we say we are trying we don’t really have to do anything. It also provides us with an excuse for why we didn’t accomplish the outcome we say we want. Do you understand the difference? You either do something or you don’t do it. Trying is really the same as not doing it. It just makes it easier for us to let ourselves off the hook when we fail.”

Sometimes we do use I’ll try as an excuse. In some situations, there really is only a “do or do not.” You either exercise three times a week or you don’t. You either cheat on your spouse or you don’t. You either write or you don’t. Simple. You can’t try any more than the woman could try to pick up the chair.

But sometimes you can try. Sometimes trying is the best you can do.

(I know. I’m taking on Yoda and Michael Hyatt. I must be crazy.)

When Another Person Is Involved

Say someone was sitting on the chair in question. You might strain and plead, but the chair won’t move. Isn’t there a legitimate try in that case? You gave your all, but someone prevented you from accomplishing what you set out to do.

What about the spouse who goes to counseling, puts in to practice techniques to improve communication, and finds ways to truly show love to their husband or wife to save a troubled marriage, but their husband or wife walks away anyway?

They did everything they could to save their marriage, but someone else’s decision prevented them doing it.

When An Innate Ability Or Talent Is Involved

I’m 5-foot-2, and I’m strong for my size. But if you placed a 1,000-pound chair in front of me and told me to lift it, I couldn’t do it. I am physically incapable of lifting something that size alone.

As a child, I loved to sing. I sang every day. I still do. But it wouldn’t matter how many hours I practiced or how many lessons I took or how determined I was to become a professional singer, I don’t have the voice for it. I wasn’t born with it. No amount of determination can change that. (Want more proof? Look at some of the people who try out for American Idol.)

A neurosurgeon needs steady hands. What if you have a condition that causes yours to shake, and that no amount of physical therapy can rectify? Did you fail because your mindset was wrong? Or should you be applauded for trying to reach your dream even though you failed?

When It Just Isn’t Meant to Be

Occasionally the chair is just built into the floor.

As my husband was nearing the end of his five-year commitment to the Marine Corps, he submitted paperwork to go to the Navy, with the goal of eventually becoming a chaplain. He did everything right and believed he was working toward his goal. Three days after he submitted his paperwork, he had a stroke, resulting in his eventual discharge from the military and a medical ban on rejoining.

Some things just aren’t meant to be. Should a person be told to keep driving toward a dream that clearly isn’t going to happen? I think a time comes when we have to admit failure, grieve, and move on. To me, that’s a sign of true courage.

Saying “there is no try” implies we’re able to do anything if we set our minds to it. And that’s a lie. Sometimes we fail, and the value is in the trying rather than in the success.

We learn through trying and failing. We learn patience, persistence. We learn how to graciously accept defeat. We learn we had skills and strengths we didn’t dream of before. We also learn what isn’t right for us.

People who try, really try, give it their all, and fail, should be applauded. Their mindset was right. They fought hard. “Do or do not” just wasn’t an option.

Do you agree with me that Yoda was wrong (in this case at least)? Or do you still think Yoda was right?

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What Do We Mean By “Strong Female Characters?”

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I planned to post today on “Creating Strong Yet Likeable Female Characters.” As I was researching helpful links to include, I came across a post from the New York Times called “A Plague of Strong Female Characters.” And I realized that, before we can talk about how to make sure strong female characters are also likeable, I first need to cover the inevitable debate over what we mean by strong female character.

In the NYT article, Carina Chocano writes, “I get the feeling that what most people mean or hear when they say or hear strong female character is female characters who are tough, cold, terse, taciturn and prone to scowling. . . in order for a female character to be worth identifying with, she should really try to rein in the gross girly stuff.”

She goes on to conclude that “Strength, in the parlance, is the 21st-century equivalent of virtue. And what we think of as virtuous, or culturally sanctioned, socially acceptable behavior now, in women as in men, is the ability to play down qualities that have been traditionally considered feminine and play up the qualities that have traditionally been considered masculine. Strong female characters, in other words, are often just female characters with the gendered behavior taken out.”

And yes, those stereotypes float around in books and movies—the character that could go from being a woman to a man with a simple name change and a haircut.

But when you think about strong women in real life, is that the image that comes to mind? Because, you see, what makes for a strong female character is exactly what makes for a strong woman.

Strong female characters, like strong women, can enjoy painting their nails, wearing makeup, and putting on a beautiful dress. They can wear stilettos, or ballet flats, or hiking boots. They can be moms, even stay-at-home moms. They can be musicians or cooks or doctors. They can cry. They can comfort a friend. They can listen. And yes, they can even be afraid of bugs.

None of those things define a strong woman or a strong female character.

So what does it mean when we talk about a strong female character?

Strong Female Characters Are Smart

Smart can mean book smart the way a quantum physicist is, but it can also mean a woman with common sense that lets her find creative solutions to everyday problems. Or it can mean a woman who’s talented with using her hands and can paint a picture or fix a car.

She has a skill that earns respect and contributes to society. Her intelligence makes her competent, able to help others, and not totally dependent on another person for her entire existence. (Some dependence is okay—none of us are entirely self-sufficient.)

Hermione Granger’s character in Harry Potter didn’t “play down qualities that have been traditionally considered feminine and play up the qualities that have traditionally been considered masculine,” yet she was a strong female character largely because of her intelligence and magical talent. She contributed to the search for Horcruxes in a meaningful way, so much so that Ron (in the movie version) admitted, “We wouldn’t last two days without her.”

Strong Female Characters Act

We’ve all seen the female character who stands by when she clearly should have acted. As much as I love the classic The Princess Bride, would it have killed Buttercup to whack the ROUS with a stick while it was gnawing on Wesley? A strong woman would have defended her beloved.

When she can, a strong female character escapes on her own rather than waiting for someone else to rescue her. Tameri Etherton wrote an excellent post on Danielle from Ever After, a strong female character who worked to change her bad situation.

A strong female character also makes decisions, rather than always waiting on someone else to call the shots. Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager listens to advice from Chakotay (her male first officer) and Tuvok (her male chief of security), but she doesn’t always take it, and if they’re not there to advise her, she’s strong enough to act on her own.

The difference between a strong female character who acts and a weak one who simply reacts is the difference between Buffy and Bella.

Strong Female Characters Stand Up for What They Believe In

Whether or not you agree with all the decisions made by President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica, she stood up for what she thought was right. From sending Starbuck back to Caprica to retrieve the Arrow of Apollo (that’s supposed to help lead them to Earth) to fixing the election to prevent sniveling Dr. Gaius Baltar from being elected, she didn’t sit by if what was happening violated her beliefs of right and wrong.

She might be frightened and injured, and risking great loss, but as her hands shake and tears well up in her eyes, a strong woman stands up for what she believes in.

A strong female character, like a strong woman, can stand side-by-side with a man, confident in the knowledge that they are different but nevertheless equal.

How do you define strength in a woman? What do you think goes into a strong female character?

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Deep Point of View is now available! (You might also want to check out Internal Dialogue or Showing and Telling in Fiction.)

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Behind the Scenes: Randy Ingermanson and Mars

Oxygen Randy IngermansonToday I have the privilege of interviewing award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, author of “Genius in Jeopardy” books and creator of the Snowflake method. He’s taking us behind the scenes on his fast-paced science fiction novel Oxygen (co-written with John Olson).

An explosion on the first mission to Mars leaves four astronauts with only enough oxygen for one to live. The evidence points to one of the four being a saboteur. One’s unconscious. One’s unstable. And the other two are falling in love.

(If you buy the ebook edition of Oxygen, you also get two helpful appendices. The first takes apart the motivation-reaction units—à la Dwight Swain—in the first two chapters. The second explains how they sold Oxygen to a respected publisher in less than seven weeks without an agent.)

Welcome, Randy 🙂

In your Authors’ Notes of the Kindle edition, you write that neither technology nor money are actually an issue and that “humans could walk on Mars within a dozen years.” Why do you think we should send a mission to Mars? What would make it worth the money and manpower investment?

If you believe that space exploration is a good thing, then it needs a goal. Nobody achieves diddley unless they have a goal. Putting humans on Mars is a powerful goal that anybody can visualize and understand. It’s the one goal that would move us forward fastest.

The space race in the 1960s created numerous technological advances that nobody expected. These have paid off massively over the last fifty years. The computer I’m typing on right now and the internet I’m sending you this document over are partly due to the space race. Partly.

A Mars mission would very likely have the same unpredictable side effects. I can’t tell you what they would be, because “unpredictable” means that you can’t know in advance what they are.

The usual scientific reasons given for a Mars mission are that it’ll contribute to our understanding of the history of the solar system (unfortunately, most people don’t give a fig about our understanding of the history of the solar system) and that it could possibly provide evidence of past life on Mars which would shed light on the evolution of life on earth (unfortunately, many of the people in positions to vote for a Mars mission believe that “evolution” is a four-letter word).

So let’s just leave it with this—a Mars mission will astound us with an amazing array of technological advances that we can’t predict, for a total price tag much less than the cost of running a foreign war for one month. A Mars mission would give us a vision of greatness and adventure. If that sounds like something our country desperately needs, then a Mars mission would be a good thing.

What’s the one thing you think is key to making a manned mission to Mars possible? How did you work this into Oxygen?

Political willpower. Going to Mars is not that hard, technically or financially. If you fund the project at a few billion dollars per year (this is well within NASA’s current Spartan budget) and you commit to a ten or twelve year program, you can get there. It’s harder than going to the moon, but not much harder, and we have better technology than we did fifty years ago when John Kennedy committed to putting Americans on the moon.

The key thing missing is a political champion (like Kennedy) who can look beyond the next two years. Several presidents over the last couple of decades have given lip service to Mars, but they typically backed off when something more urgent came up.

A Mars mission needs steady commitment for longer than that.

In Oxygen, we simply postulated that NASA formed a small independent unit, a “NASA within NASA” that had one guy who had absolute control and a reasonable budget. This was the only way we could see to get the continuity needed. No international collaborations. No sprawling bureaucracy. Just a small team of dedicated people.

The problem came when the budget cutters came around with their axes, looking to save a few bucks. This is very plausible, but it’s also the best way to wreck the mission. You cannot run a Mars mission that doesn’t have dependable funding. You can’t.

A lot of people see science and faith as incompatible, yet your two main characters (Valkerie and Bob) are both people of faith. How would you answer the people who say you can’t be both a scientist and a person of faith?

Roughly 40% of all working scientists are people of faith. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are conservative Christians or orthodox Jews (although some are). But it means that the death of faith among scientists has been greatly exaggerated. Likewise, a surprising number of philosophers are people of faith.

There is an odd philosophy known as “scientism” which has sprung up in the last few decades which says, roughly, that the only valid knowledge is scientific knowledge. The reason I say this is “odd” is because there is obviously no way to demonstrate this using scientific method. So scientism is self-refuting, and therefore false.

Of course I believe that science is one way to reach valid knowledge. But if it really is the only way, there’s no way for us to know that.

Given North America’s ongoing love affair with reality TV, one element I enjoyed was that you had a news station wanting to turn the Ares 10 mission into the “biggest, baddest reality show you ever saw, with a boatload of danger and packed to the gills with romance.” What aspects of a mission to Mars do you think would make for great reality TV?

In our novel, two good looking single men and two good looking single women, isolated for almost three years in a ship the size of typical Tokyo apartment was all the reality show the networks could dream of. Whenever you have that, there’s the immediate question of who’s going to hook up with whom, and when?

Throw in some jealousy and the ever-possible threat of instant death, and you really do have the best reality show ever. TV money might very well be the only way to fund a Mars mission.

Because this was a co-written novel, did you run into any “bloopers” where John wrote a character in a way that made you ask “what was he thinking?!”

Hmmmm, maybe the other way around, but we’re not going to go there. At one point, I wrote a scene that John just said no on. But neither he nor I will ever tell anyone what it was.

Early in the coauthoring, we discovered a much more insidious problem was maintaining the emotional continuity between scenes. It was just impossible for either of us to write a scene until we had read the preceding scene, because we had to pick up the emotive atmosphere in the same place.

Once we learned that, we put ourselves on a rigorous schedule where we mapped out who would write each scene and on what day at what time. As soon as a scene got written, whoever wrote it would email it to the other one, who was waiting for it.

This made writing the novel hard, but once we learned that we had to do it this way, it worked pretty well.

You’ve written a sequel to Oxygen. Will The Fifth Man also be released in a Kindle edition soon?

We’re working on final edits now. We’re shooting for a release in early April, but I can’t make any guarantees until the book is done, because life happens.

Randall IngermansonThanks, Randy, for taking us behind the scenes on Oxygen.

If you want to learn more about the craft and marketing of fiction, sign up for Randy’s Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine (with more than 29,000 readers). You can buy Oxygen in paperback from Marcher Lord Press, for Kindle at Amazon, or for your Nook at Barnes and Noble.

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Grab Bag of Links (March 3)

Go ahead. Reach your hand in and grab some word candy. You know you want to 🙂

For Fantasy and Science Fiction Lovers

Why Luna Lovegood Should Have Been Harry Potter’s Girlfriend by Ellie Ann on Slacker Heroes – I’ve never been a fan of the Harry-Ginny pairing. I always thought Harry and Hermione should have ended up together, but I have to admit that Ellie makes a really good case for Luna being the perfect match for Harry.

What Buffy the Vampire Slayer Taught Me by Julie Glover – Even if you don’t like fantasy, this post has some great insights.

The Castle of Vlad Dracula “The Impaler” by Debra Kristi – The real story behind the rise of the vampire myths is creepy and doesn’t sparkle.

The Meaning of Life

Playing to Your Strengths by Jenny Hansen on Gene Lempp’s blog – Why is it that we spend so much time trying to fix our weaknesses? Wouldn’t we be better off focusing on our strengths?

My Best Relationship Was In Third Grade by Emma Burcart – Excellent relationship lessons no matter your age.

For Writers

Leaping Smart: Useful Steps for Authors by August McLaughlin – Common sense is an uncommon virtue sometimes, which makes me grateful for the posts full of wisdom and common sense August routinely writes.

6 Simple Steps for Customizing Your Facebook Timeline by Laura Christianson – If you’re like me, you hope Facebook stops making so many changes. In the meantime, here’s a quick tutorial to help you get set up on the new timeline.

The Visceral Connect by Rachel Marks on Speculative Faith – Keys for making your readers feel the emotions your characters are feeling.

Jane Friedman’s Secret to Battling Procrastination – Time is a limited commodity. Jane Friedman has some good advice for making the most of it.

Do you have a favorite link you’d like to nominate for my next grab bag?

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Do You Believe In Second Chances?

Gollum Lord of the RingsLong after I finished reading the books and watching the movies, the character from the Lord of the Rings trilogy I couldn’t stop thinking about wasn’t any of the plucky hobbits, Viggo Mortensen’s ruggedly handsome Aragorn, or Gandolf with his words of wisdom.

It was Gollum.

Born a hobbit-like creature named Sméagol, Gollum wasn’t always the shriveled, conniving wretch we meet in Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t until Sméagol was in his thirties that Sméagol’s friend Déagol found the powerful ring that Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring would later seek to destroy. Overcome by lust for the ring, Sméagol killed Déagol and took it for himself.

The ring prolonged Sméagol’s life, but began to corrupt him until his family finally cast him out. From that point on, he lived alone in the dark caves of the Misty Mountains, eating raw fish. Déagol’s death haunted him.

When Frodo learned about Gollum, he said, “What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!” (Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 78).

“Pity!” Gandalf answered. “It was Pity that stayed his hand.”

Gandalf believed that everyone deserves a second chance—a chance at redemption. He went on to tell Frodo that even Gollum wasn’t wholly ruined: “I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it…My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many” (79).

Gandalf’s words stuck with Frodo.

Later, when Frodo showed him kindness, the Sméagol side of Gollum’s personality found the strength to fight against the Gollum side. What good was left in him tried to drive out the evil. Frodo’s kindness gave him a second chance.

Sam couldn’t see it. He couldn’t see past the disgusting parts of Gollum to take into account what he’d been through—isolation, torture in Mordor, the clutches of a ring that ruined all who carried it. He refused to try to see what Gollum might become if given a second chance.

When I first met Lynn* in elementary school, all I saw was a girl who disliked me for no reason. She told others’ secrets as soon as she found them out, seemed to take pleasure in embarrassing me in particular, and acted like she thought she was better than the other students. I found her annoying and wanted nothing to do with her.

When I should have been Frodo, I was Sam.

I didn’t bother to find out that Lynn was abused, had trouble reading, and, as we reached high school, struggled with an eating disorder, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

When she disappeared, I didn’t even notice. I cared as little for her as Sam did for Gollum, and would have gladly left her behind in my past. When she came back during our senior year of high school, she wanted to be my friend.

Second chances are tricky things. You could get your finger bitten off the way Frodo eventually did. Every second chance comes with another opportunity to experience the pain you did the first time.

I was hesitant, skeptical. But, to borrow from Gandalf, my heart told me that she still might have a role to play in my life.

Years later, Lynn and I stood up in each other’s weddings. Her children call me Aunt Marcy. We joke now about back when we didn’t like each other and talk about who disliked whom most. And we laugh.

But if I hadn’t given her a second chance, I would have missed the trips we’ve taken, times we’ve cried on each other’s shoulders, good advice exchanged, secrets shared (and kept). I would have missed out on knowing a woman who’s now one of my dearest friends.

For me, the chance to get exactly what I did was worth the risk of giving her that second chance.

Has there ever been a time you decided to give someone a second chance and were glad you did? Do you believe in second chances?

*Lynn isn’t her real name. I’ve changed it to protect her privacy.

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Geek Fashion Show

If at least one of these t-shirt designs makes you smile, your nerd is showing 🙂

Get Real Be Rational T-ShirtFor when you’ve had a fight with your significant other. (From www.snorgtees.com)

 

 

 

 

 

Positive Electrons T-ShirtFor when you can’t remember what you did with your keys–again. (From www.snorgtees.com)

 

 

 

 

 

Alderaan Weather Forecast T-ShirtFor when the weather ruins your plans, and you need a reminder that things could be worse. A deathstar could show up. It could happen. (From www.snorgtees.com)

 

 

 

 

Airspeed velocity of an unladen swallowIn case you ever find the need to cross the Bridge of Death in search of the Holy Grail (From www.zazzle.com)

 

 

 

 

Princess Bride Classic Blunders“You’ve beaten my giant, which means you’re exceptionally strong, so you could’ve put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you’ve also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me” (Vizzini in William Goldman’s 1973 The Princess Bride). (T-shirt from www.snorgtees.com)

True Statement False StatementBecause sometimes you just need some quiet time. (From www.snorgtees.com)

 

 

 

 

Any favorites you’d like to share? Tell me about them or link to them in the comments.

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3 Lessons on Reaching Your Goals from The Vow

The VowBecause I couldn’t stand to see Jar-Jar Binks in 3D, when my husband and I went to the movies over the weekend for an early Valentine’s Day date, we ended up seeing The Vow, starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. Basically, a woman is in a car accident and loses her memories of the last five to six years of her life. Her husband tries to convince her to fall in love with him again. The Vow was inspired by the true story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter.

While I’d rate the movie itself as mediocre, I left the theater thinking about what it would be like if that happened to me. Where was I six years ago, back in 2006?

Don’t underestimate how far you’ve come.

Sometimes all I can see is how far I still have to go to get to where I want to be. I had plans for what I wanted my life to be like when I reached 30, and I’m not there. Nowhere close. Last week that gap hit me especially hard. I started to feel like a failure and began to question every decision I’ve made.

But when I look back to 2006, it’s how far I’ve come that jumps out at me.

In 2006, I was single. I hadn’t even met my husband yet. Worse, I was still trying to fit into what people expected me to be or wanted me to be rather than giving myself the freedom to just be me. Now I’m happily married to a man who’s my best friend, who knows and loves the real me.

In February 2006, I still hadn’t had so much as an article published, and I was mired in trying to fix the same novel I’d been working on for five years. It would never be publishable, but I couldn’t see it then. Now I make my living from writing articles and editing.

In 2006, I didn’t have a blog or a website. I wasn’t on any social media sites. Now all those things are part of my life, a part that makes it much richer and more enjoyable.

When you start to feel like you’ve lost your way, screwed up your life, or are a failure, take a look back. Where were you five years ago?

If you miss something you used to have, get it back.

Rachel McAdams’ character, Paige, goes back to a time before she became estranged from her family. Even though she finds that some of the changes she made in her missing years were the right ones for her, losing her family wasn’t. She has to find a way to keep the good changes and rid herself of the bad.

Not everything is better in my life either. Just as Paige was aghast to discover she had a tattoo on her back, if I woke up with the last six years missing, I’d be horrified at the weight I’ve gained. It’s not simply vanity weight. I need to lose at least 20 pounds to be healthy. And I miss being lighter. I slept better, felt better, and had fewer back problems when I weighed less. It’s something I’ll be working on.

Just because the time isn’t right now doesn’t mean it won’t ever be right.

Considering The Vow was a romance and based on a true story, I don’t think I’m giving anything away with this point. Channing Tatum’s character Leo works for months to win his wife back. He tries introducing her to their friends to jog her memory, and he takes her out on a date. Nothing he tries works.

Finally he backs off and gives her the divorce she wants. And then he waits. Eventually, even though she never regains her memory, she comes back to him, and the movie ends on a note of hope for their future.

It’s too easy to give up on our dreams and goals if we don’t reach them in our timing. Human beings are notoriously impatient. Sometimes, though, a failure just means the timing isn’t right. We should wait, bide our time, and see what happens.

Where were you five years ago? Have you made progress toward your long-term goals, or are there things you miss that you want to get back?

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How We Met: Guest Post by Jess Witkins

Hello readers! You’re probably wondering who I am. My name is Jess Witkins, and I convinced Marcy to hand over her blog for the price of an I-Tunes gift card. Yep, she’s that easy. And now you’re stuck with me. What’s that frightened look in your eyes?! I haven’t done anything yet!

Ok, I promise no harm came to the owner of this blog, or any other blog for that matter, at my hands. But if you know Marcy, she’s had her share of broken bones. In fact, she’s talking about bones today at my blog, bones and backbones! Cheer her on and visit in the comments section here.

Since she’s given me limitless word count approval, I thought I’d chat a little with you guys. Valentine’s Day is approaching so I can’t help it that love is on my brain. Many of you are planning romantic ways to say “I love you” to your partners, reserving intimate date night dinners, and buying chocolate and flowers to say “You are so sweet, and you smell good too!

My honey is very deserving of all these things. But it’s not enough to just tell him how I feel, I should tell everyone! And everyone who reads Marcy’s blog.

My Honeypot:  A Romantic Retelling of How We Met

It was my Freshman year of college and I was busy taking all my general education classes at once. Eighteen credits and honor society status, I was a good student. He didn’t show up for class sometimes, but boy did he smell good when he did!  

On good days, we happened to sit by each other. And on great days, we talked. He thought I was crazy, and I thought he was cute. He was close to graduating, and I was still enrolled in the theater program (a path that wasn’t meant to see fruition). At 19 years old, I wanted to try everything. I was active in several student organizations, I held leadership positions, I had classes in almost every building on campus!  

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Both of us were in other relationships at the time, and at very different points in our lives. He was a soon to be graduate with a music education major, the lead guitarist in a major local band, and had a great reputation with area schools. I was still living in the dorms and would change my mind about what program I wanted to study a couple more times.  

Flash forward two years, and you’d find me coaxed out of my apartment by friends and dragged downtown to the local pub for some live music. Imagine my surprise when there he was! He too was out with friends to check out the very same band! Now ladies, it’s a well known fact that men have something we women are powerless against. It’s scientific name is mojo. Mojo Machofinus in latin.  

Village People Macho ManThe full research study is available on this album.

Well, as you can guess it, we started talking. Little did I know he’d completely forgotten my name! He recognized me, and came over to talk, but he had no idea what my name was!

Gentlemen, listen up! This is why it’s so important you have a “wingman.” Urban dictionary defines ‘wingman’ as this:

Wingman

A Wingman is a guy you bring along with you on singles
outings (like to bars) that helps you out with the women.

It was through his friend (my favorite friend of his) that he learned my name again, and did so flawlessly. I wouldn’t find out he was sweating the whole time until years later! This friend also casually mentioned another show we should both check out, but the show was at a venue way up in the bluffs.  

Grandad Bluff Jess WitkinsYep, we had to go up there!  No kidding!  Welcome to La Crosse, WI!

He soon offered me a ride to the show and asked to get coffee with him ahead. I said yes!

So, that’s the tale of how we met. It’s been five years since then and you know what, he still surprises me with the things he doesn’t know! But he is also my biggest fan, my best friend, and he knows how to make me laugh.  

Happy Valentine’s, Honeypot!  I’m so glad we met!

Jess Witkins and Her HoneypotMe and My Valentine

What are your favorite stories of love to share? Is it the love for your partner, your children, a parent, a pet, or a friend? Who will you be wishing Happy Valentine’s to?

Bio: Jess Witkins claims the title Perseverance Expert. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town as the much younger youngest sibling of four, she’s witnessed the paranormal, jumped out of a plane, worked in retail, traveled to exotic locations like Italy, Ireland, and Shipshewana, Indiana, and she’s eaten bologna and lived to tell about it! She deals with it all and writes about it! Come along on her midwest adventures; Witkins promises to keep it honest and entertaining. Go ahead, SUBSCRIBE, you know you want to. Follow on Twitter:  @jesswitkins

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Fighting Dirty, Forgiveness, and CPR for the Undead

Happy Saturday! I haven’t done a grab bag for a few weeks, so this one is bursting at the seams because I couldn’t throw away any of these treats. At least they’re all calorie free.

For Fantasy and Science Fiction Lovers

CPR for the Undead by Emmie Mears – Can vampires be saved or has all the sparkling made them a thing of the past?

Robin Hood: A Story Transcribed by Jessica O’Neal – This is the next installment in her great series on Robin Hood. This time she looks at the different ways Robin Hood (and other characters in his legends) have shown up in literature over the years.

Lady of the Lake by Lisa Hall-Wilson – The Lady of the Lake plays a central role in the novel Lisa and I are writing. In this post, Lisa looks at who the Lady of the Lake might have been.

Immortal Monday on the Epirus Bow and Mount Tartarus by Debra Kristi – What the movie got right . . . and what it didn’t.

For Writers

23 Techniques for Fighting Dirty by Jenny Hansen – Jenny’s posts on fighting dirty and fighting clean will help you put conflict into your novel and take it out of your marriage. Make sure you check out the Fighting Dirty Contest that starts after Valentine’s Day as well.

Why An Agent Rejects Your Query Letter – The answer might surprise you.

The Meaning of Life

3 Steps to Freedom – Grab Hold of Your Brilliant Future by Kristen Lamb – This post is one of my all-time favorites. It’s encouraging and practical and has me thinking carefully every time I say “I’m just tired.”

Forgiveness: It’s All About You by Natalie Hartford – Reasons to forgive someone who’s hurt you regardless of whether they apologize.

The Year to Slay Your Dragons by Ingrid Schaffenburg – Dreams come with dragons, but before we can slay them, we have to recognize them.

Have you read any of these posts? What did you love about them?

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