Thursday, September 30, 2010

Farhenheit 451

TH Mafi and The Rejectionist are running a celebration of Banned Books Week and asking everyone to blog about their favorite banned book.

In most cases, you can just blog about your favorite book – because it’s a good chance someone’s tried to ban it.

My favorite book is The Giver. But it’s already been eloquently celebrated by TH Mafi herself and The League of Extraordinary Writers, so I’ll defer to them and talk about another of my favorites:

Fahrenheit 451

Despite the fact I can never remember how to spell it, I love talking about it in the context of banned books. Unlike most people, I never read this in school. I didn’t even really know what it was about, until a scene from the West Wing, where a school-boy-aged President Bartlett got in trouble because he challenged the teacher at his prep school who was trying to restrict his students’ reading.

I clearly remember (the gist of) what he said to his father:

“He tried to ban Fahrenheit 451, which is about BANNING BOOKS!”

That intrigued me. So I read it.

OK, well I…. um… how do I say this… I promise I wasn’t trying to be ironic…

I listened to it in audio format. (I had a drive to work that was one hour each way at that time, so I listened to A LOT of audio books in those four months. Tangent: Brendan Frasier and James Marsden are the best audio book performers I’ve ever heard!)

What’s really awesome (and by awesome, I mean horrifying, ironic and head-bang-against-desk inducing) about people trying to ban this book is some of the reasons they give:

More than a few have objected to the scene were a Bible was burned.

Um, yeah. Congratulations, you got it. It’s a bad thing… THAT’S THE POINT. I mean, really? I have no words to describe how stupid this is. But that’s ok, because you’d probably try to ban them anyway.

It uses the words “hell” and “damn.”

Oh, how I love when parents want to ban a book because it has a bad word in it (as if your kid isn’t saying thirteen far worse things – that he probably learned from you – before lunch time), but in this case, it’s almost funny. The world in Fahrenheit 451 is a bad, BAD place. Books that promote independent thought are banned. Do you expect them to be intellectual, eloquent and say “gosh” when they get angry?

Ray Bradbury showed us just how dangerous censorship is and this book serves as a warning to a society that is sometimes a little too quick to give up their freedoms – or give up the freedoms of others – when they’re scared. The message is clear:

  • Step 1: Ban books

  • Step 2: Become sheep

The fact that people want to ban a book that’s about banning books that make people uncomfortable because it makes them uncomfortable, feels like a cosmic joke.

I guess I’m missing the punch line.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Books Week: Go Ask Alice

The first book I’m reading in honor of Banned Books Week is Go Ask Alice.

It’s (supposedly) the diary of an anonymous teenage girl in the 60s (or 70s?) who accidentally takes LSD at a party and descends into a downward spiral of drugs and sex. It’s been challenged many times due to language and the graphic description of sexual activities and drug use.

Based on a precursory look at the reviews on Good Reads it looks like everybody either hates it or loves it. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between. Hmm… I wonder how I’ll feel about it?

There is A LOT of doubt as to whether or not this is an actual diary or a book cooked up by a person with an agenda. Either way, it’s still a powerful book that has had a profound impact on thousands of people.

All that being said, if you want a reason for not banning this book, all you have to do is read the review by a mom named Sarah Urban. She was fully prepared to write a letter to the librarian for allowing her daughter to check out the book and lecture her kid on the appropriateness of certain books – until her daughter came up to her and started a conversation about drugs – about how bad they were.

That’s what books like this do. They don’t glorify it, or make it seem cool; they educate and they start a conversation.

PS: If you want to know what I think about the book, I only post ratings and reviews on Good Reads, so check my profile in a few days.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Birthday Gift For Me, From You


And I have the perfect gift in mind:

Read a banned book!

Banned Books Week starts tomorrow, and in light of the recent Speak controversy, I’m encouraging everyone I know to read a banned book! If you can afford to purchase one, that would be ideal, but if not… your local library is just as good.

What constitutes a banned book? Any book that has been challenged based on content. Whether it was removed from a school curriculum, removed from libraries, burned, protested, placed in a separate restricted section, etc.

There are plenty of resources on the internet for Banned Books Week with lists of books the banners love to hate, discussions on why censorship is so dangerous, and lists of blogs dealing with the subject directly, so I’m just going to content myself with linking to some of them.

I may not agree with the message(s) in all of these banned books, but I disagree with censorship even more. I think this issue is most prevalent (and dangerous) in books for children and teens, but it’s important to remember that every child is different. Just because a person thinks a book isn’t right for their child, doesn’t mean it’s not right for every other child. Parents who are concerned about what their kids may be reading should get involved – with their child, not with the school board or library board.

If you can’t decide on a banned book (sadly, there are SO MANY to choose from), may I offer some recommendations?

Fahrenheit 451 – When I heard this book was banned, it was like IRONY became a heavy-weight boxer, reached out and slapped me in the face. Banning a book that’s about banning books? Is this a joke? It’s not very funny.

Speak – A heartbreaking, healing, lovely book by Laurie Halse Anderson that follows a high-school girl dealing with the after-effects of being raped.

As a final thought, I’ll leave you with this picture, stolen from Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Social Media for Social Good

The word around the internet is it’s Social Media for Social Good day today! Anyone who’s read this blog or followed me on Twitter for any amount of time knows I’m pretty big on volunteering and doing what I can to help others (especially those willing to help themselves). So I’m going to list a few ways you can help some organizations that are doing some pretty awesome things right now (or trying, with your help).

Spend time: RAINN

You’ve probably heard of the Pepsi Refresh project, right? Pepsi is giving out boatloads of money to different projects in varying amounts – but the receiving projects are based on consumer votes. You can vote for ten different projects every day in three different ways.

I would like to suggest (implore? beg?) that you go here and vote to help the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) expand their online hotline to help even more people affected by sexual abuse, including Spanish-speaking victims. You can also vote for them by texting “102552” to 73774.

It’s estimated (a heartbreaking number of sexual crimes are never reported) that 1 in 6 women will be assaulted in their lifetime.

Think of all the women you care about. Divide by 6…. Then go vote.

Spend money: National Psoriasis Foundation

Check out my original post on my old blog for more info, but I’ll just summarize: I suffer from Psoriasis, a genetic immune disease that can be debilitating – both socially and physically. I’m doing a walk on November 6th to raise awareness and funds for research; you can donate here.

Also, if you live in or near Tampa, you can join my team for the walk!

Do what you’re doing now: 1000s of Charities

Goodsearch and Goodshop are two of the easiest ways to give to just about any cause you care about. The search is powered by Yahoo.

If you’re a writer and anything like most of us, you do A LOT of research on the internet. For every search you conduct, an estimated $0.01 will be donated to the charity of your choice – thanks to the advertisers on the site.

Also, you can give a lot more money to the charity of your choice by using Goodshop. You just have to click to the store’s website through the GS website OR…

Install the toolbar! I highly recommend this option because you really don’t have to think about it after the initial install. It automatically tracks your purchases for Goodshop (meaning you don’t have to go to Goodshop first) AND has a built-in search function.

If you’re looking for a charity to support through GS, may I recommend the Phi Sigma Rho Foundation? All money raised through GS goes to support scholarships for young women in engineering/technology fields.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday: (Fictional) Friends Forever

As y’all probably know by now, the ladies over at YA Highway do a thing called Road Trip Wednesday, which is a blog carnival of sorts. (For some reason, I’m really bad at explaining things today… should make for an interesting post. Just go check out their blog; it’s better there.)

Today’s topic: If you went to high school with your characters, would you be friends?

First, I’m going to say that I’m answering this based on who my characters are at the beginning, not necessarily at the end.


I’m starting with him, because he’s the one I’m most confused about when I think of my characters like this. I recently announced on Twitter that I’m kinda sorta in love with him. But would we be friends? If I’m being honest, I’d probably have to say no.

He’s awesome, that’s for sure… but he’s only awesome once you make him get rid of all that holier-than-thou and I-don’t-feel-anything crap. I don’t think I’d have the patience for it and I know Miranda doesn’t – but lucky for all of us, she really doesn’t have much of a choice.


Hell yes, we would be friends. Yeah, she’s got a temper and she’s competitive, but I can live with that. She’s smart, with a sarcastic sense of humor and she’s really not concerned with being popular.


I think Tammy would be one of those friends who I don’t hang out with all the time, but maybe we sit at the same lunch table and next to each other in a class or two. She keeps her emotions (all of them) just a little too close to the surface for me.

And she’s messy.


James and I would totally be friends. He’s preppy, but not too obnoxious. Smart, good looking, destined to be a doctor… what’s not to like? We’d probably bond over our dislike of Gadriel.

Did you participate in Road Trip Wednesday this week? Leave a link in the comments.

Monday, September 20, 2010

If I Wasn't a Writer...

The writers over at YA Rebels are vlogging this week with the topic: What would be doing if we weren't writers.

My career isn't writing (yet), but it still got me thinking. I spend a lot of time pursuing publication and I'm sure there are many things I could be doing if I wasn't writing ... but I'm having trouble thinking of any :-)  You'd think a spec fic writer would have a better imagination!

To start, if I wasn't pursuing publication, I'd probably still be a high-level volunteer for my sorority and/or Foundation.

I might have more money, as long as I didn't pick up another hobby that was more expensive. (Conferences and classes cost money)

Ironically enough, I would probably read more.

Maybe I'd have another job? If I could spend more time on education and job-searching I'd most likely have a higher-paying full-time position. Maybe I'd be more serious about figuring out what industry I wanted to work in long-term? I can't say for sure.

I'd definitely be in better shape, because I've given up many of my formerly favorite outdoor activities to spend more time on my writing.

All these sound like good things, right? But if I wasn't a writer, there's one other thing I would be: miserable. I've given up a lot of things to be a writer, but I wouldn't change it for a second.

How about you? What would you be doing if you weren't a writer? If you're not a writer, fill in the blank: What would you be doing if you weren't _________?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speak Loudly

Speak is a life-changing book written by Laurie Halse Anderson about a high school girl "who chooses not to speak rather than to give voice to what really happened to her." I'm not exaggerating when I say this is one of the most important books I've ever read - both as a reader and a writer. It frustrates me that I don't have the words to tell you how amazing this book is. I encourage you to read it, no matter your age.

Now, an ignorant Missouri man is leading a charge to get this booked removed from the curriculum of Republic, MO schools. You can read his article here and the author's response here.

Here's what he says about the book:
One such book is called "Speak." They also watch the movie. This is a book about a very dysfunctional family. Schoolteachers are losers, adults are losers and the cheerleading squad scores more than the football team. They have sex on Saturday night and then are goddesses at church on Sunday morning. The cheer squad also gets their group-rate abortions at prom time. As the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like. The boy then rapes her on the next page. Actually, the book and movie both contain two rape scenes.

Reading this, you might agree with removing the book from the curriculum, right? That's the problem. He is ENTIRELY misrepresenting the book. In fact, I'm pretty sure he hasn't even read it. How many Republic-area parents are going to read this and take him at his word because he's a professor?

This is a book about a girl dealing with the after-effects of being raped at a high school party. Her classmates hate her because they think she called the cops on the party for no reason. She has to face her rapist every day at school. It, in no way, glorifies teen sex and the rape scenes are NOT pornographic.

What it is, however, is life-changing. It's a 'safe' way to discuss with teenagers the very real and ever-present threat of rape. Now, I know that perfectly reasonable people are going to be wary of allowing their kids to read about the topic of rape.

I understand that.

But there's something you need to understand: Every two minutes, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. We can't pretend it doesn't exist anymore because it does exist and American children are surrounded by it. Insisting teens are ignorant about the subject is NOT going to protect them from it. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Countless teens (and adults) have been touched, changed, evolved, healed and transformed by this book. Please, I beg of you, watch this video. If you can hear real teens' responses to this book and not be moved.... well, I'll pray for you.

While they don't live there anymore, both of my parents' families are from Republic. Both my parents went to school there. My cousins went to school there. If you're from this area (or, even if you're not) and would like to SPEAK out against this ridiculous censorship, please submit a letter to the editor of the News-Leader and write to the superintendent and school principal.

Other Resources:

One Final Thought...

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Martin Niemöller

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It was worth it

Since my post went up yesterday, I've had a lot of people tweet at me, email me and facebook me asking one thing: Did you turn the A/C off or not?

And every time I see this question, I giggle a little. See, I'm a bit maniacal; I didn't tell you my decision on purpose - to prove my point. If that many people care about whether or not someone as mundane as me does something as lame as lean over and turn an air conditioner off to save 15 minutes of being uncomfortable - they're really going to care when your character has to choose between two very painful options with sky-high consequences.

I told y'all that I don't enjoy being cold - but I didn't say how much I dislike air blowing on me. My sister is the same way and we have no idea why - but riding in a car together with the air down is a complicated situation.
So I turned the air off............. God bless ibuprofen.
That's all for today. It's time to get back to watching some GATOR FOOTBALL!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Is it worth it? A choice between sucky and suckier.

Writers are always told we need to make sure there is a ‘cost’ for anything our characters achieve or get – especially in fantasy. Magic, most of all, needs to cost the user something. I ‘knew’ this, but didn’t really understand it fully until yesterday.

As most of you know, I sprained my back last week. It was feeling better in the early part of this week, but I woke up with agonizing pain on Wednesday and yesterday – probably due to twisting during the night. Riding in my truck is the worst part – it hurts no matter how good I’m feeling before hand. Standing up from sitting down is also pretty bad. And bending forward from the waist. And moving my right leg forward.

(Stay with me, I promise this is going somewhere)

So I was driving to work Thursday morning – feeling the worst I had since the initial injury. I suddenly realized that I was cold – uncomfortably so. I really don’t enjoy being cold. At all. My A/C was cranked all the way up from driving home the day before in the afternoon heat.

Here’s the dilemma: I can’t reach my A/C controls in my truck without bending forward at the waist. Instantly, I was at war with myself. I wanted to turn the air down… but I knew it would hurt. Was it worth it? Should I endure 15 more minutes of cold air OR a second of shooting pain? One or the other; I couldn’t have it both ways. I had to make a choice.

Ideally, this is what our characters should be going through every time they gain something or use magic. They have to make a choice; and it can’t be a choice between good and “sucky.” It has to be a choice between “sucky” and “suckier.” Either way, they have to pay a price and, often, which choice they make can define them better than any description you could write.

In the world of Miranda’s Fire (title possibly changing soon), using their normal magic doesn’t cost the Mages much besides Manna (I don’t call it that, but for lack of a better term…) – but that’s because it’s their world; it’s just how things are. Much like walking doesn’t normally cost us much besides the usual energy our body has to expend – and we have a limited, though renewable, supply - just like the Mages.

However, some particular types of magic have a huge potential cost. To stretch the metaphor, you could compare this to cliff climbing without a harness; they tire out much more quickly and they might lose something more precious than renewable energy. Miranda has to make this choice over and over again. Does she use the magic and lose herself, or deny it and lose her mother?

What about you? Are your characters forced to make hard choices?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Let's Play Tag!

Alright, usually I don't do these types of things but I'm laid up with a sprained back so... why not? My friend & crit partner Erica tagged me in this blog tag thing where you post ten things that you like (not love) and pass it on to ten people. The "taggees" are listed below. So, without further ado, I give you:

Ten Things I Like

  1. Purple. I don't love it like I do blue, but I like it a lot.

  2. Like Erica, I also enjoy office supplies. I can spend hours at Office Depot.

  3. Burping. Sorry, but I do. You know that uncomfortable feeling when you've drank too much diet coke and then you let out a massive burp? Awesome. (Yeah, I'm crude. Can't pretend I'm not.)

  4. Lavender pillow spray

  5. really good fight scenes in movies/tv

  6. Gator touchdowns

  7. Disaronno on the rocks

  8. rooms with a history

  9. puppy cuddles

  10. Beluga whales

As for the "taggees," I'm not sure who would want to do this, so consider these 'suggestions' :-)

If you were tagged (or even if you weren't) and you participate, post your link in the comments!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday: Blast From the Past

Every Wednesday, the lovely ladies over at YA Highway host Road Trip Wednesday, a blog carnival of sorts based on a single question. This week's question is:

If you could travel back to any historical era for research purposes, which would you choose?

This may come as a big surprise to some of you (or not), but I'm not a huge history fan. I am, however, a huge fan of science so I'd like to go to a time when I could learn about something nobody today understands. Like...

DINOSAURS! I mean, seriously, how awesome would that be?! There are all these 'experts' arguing over fragments of bones, theorizing what these massive creatures looked like and then we find out that the Triceratops wasn't even a real dinosaur?? I'd love to go there, see the magnificent animals and flora/fauna for myself. Of course, there's a good chance I'd get eaten but this is one of those risks you have to take. Don't worry, you know I'd blog about it ;-)

Or maybe even...

Scientists still can't figure out how these babies were built. As a mechanical engineer, I'm more than a little curious. Whether it was a genius use of primitive technology, or aliens helping out, I think it would be fascinating to be a fly on the ... um... limestone block!

Oh gosh, even when time-traveling, I'm a huge nerd.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


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