13 December 2013

Review of The Three Little Pigs Get an Extreme Home Makeover & other Modern Mash-ups by Caprice Hokstad

The Three Little Pigs Get an Extreme Home Makeover & other Modern Mash-upsThe Three Little Pigs Get an Extreme Home Makeover & other Modern Mash-ups by Caprice Hokstad

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I was given a free review copy of this book as the author is a friend of mine.

This book is actually a collection of short stories—modernized rewrites of classic fairy tales. They include “The Three Little Pigs Get an Extreme Home Makeover”(The Three Little Pigs), “The Plaid Pipers of Hamelin Elementary”(The Pied Piper), “The Flaxen-Haired Freeloader”(Goldilocks), “Don’t Eat the House!”(Hansel and Gretel), “Jack and the Genetically Modified Beanstalk”(Jack and the Beanstalk), and “Always a Bad Hair Day”(Rapunzel).

The little pigs on reality tv is clever and funny, and I really liked the “wee wee wee, all the way home” nod to the other famous little piggies. Also, the ending was very cute. This story was very well-done.

The lecture from the writer to the reader at the beginning of the Goldilocks story bored and annoyed me. I understand that it is aimed at children, but the best children’s books are also enjoyed by adults (eg: The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, etc). However the “bear-germs” made me smile. I did have to wonder why Mama Bear and Papa Bear sleep in separate beds, and I’m sure there are some precocious children who would ask that question. And then, the teaser at the end for the next story annoyed me.

“Don’t Eat the House!” was a decent retelling of Hansel and Gretel with some important lessons for children. However, the witch being blind surprised me as it wasn’t mentioned before it was suddenly a major plot point.

Jack made me laugh. It was a very good retelling of the story, even though the giant was left out. The plot here had no need for silliness like giants and magic. Really. It didn’t.

The narrative commentary on Gothel’s stupidity in dealing with Rapunzel, and on Rapunzel’s annoyance with her hair is very clever. It made me smile several times. I used to have long, curly hair, and I completely agree that long hair is annoying. I can only imagine the difficulties Rapunzel would have with hair long enough to be a ladder.

The last story about the Pipers was way too short. Nothing really happened. I was left feeling cheated.

Over all, this was a good and clever retelling of the classic tales. I kind of wanted more, but I usually do.

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11 December 2013

Review of The City of Bones Movie

WARNING: There be spoilers ahead!
This review contains major spoilers for both the book and the movie. You have been warned.

The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare is a pretty good book. It isn’t as good as the Harry Potter series, but it’s better than Twilight. I really liked how Clare took some of the basic ideas from the original Star Wars trilogy, and gave them a few twists. I enjoyed the read.

The movie, of course, is a whole different animal. Now, I know that movies have to be different, but they don’t have to be so different, do they? I mean, it's not even the same story anymore. The basic plot points are there, but it's barely recognizable.

Let’s start with appearances, and get that out of the way. In the book, Clary has bright flame-red hair. In the movie, she has dark auburn hair. Okay, fine. That’s close-ish. But then there’s Jace. In the book, he is described as angelic in appearance. He looks like a Renaissance painting of an angel. The actor they hired to play him in the movie looks nothing like this. He’s not even very handsome, in my opinion. Maybe other viewers would disagree with me, but I was disappointed. At least his hair is the right colour, though.

That's your daughter, creep.
Jace and Valentine are both blond in the book, but Valentine has dark hair in the movie. And he has dreads or braids or something weird in the movie. While Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is a great actor, and could easily be Valentine, the script didn't allow him to do the character justice. The Valentine of the book is more like Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter series, while the Valentine of the movie is like a cross between Sirius Black and Barty Crouch Jr, with a hefty dash of Sid Vicious thrown in for good measure. He doesn’t just look different; he’s a completely different character.

Now, we get into the story. In the book, when the Ravener demon attacks Clary in her apartment, she kills it by stuffing Jace’s Sensor down its throat. When Jace arrives, he finds Clary unconscious with the demon’s dead body on top of her. In the movie, Clary doesn’t have Jace’s Sensor, and cannot defeat the demon. She is about to be killed when Jace arrives and stabs it with his seraph blade, killing it and saving her. It’s as if the director said, “She’s a girl! She can’t kill a demon. She needs a man to save her.” Ugh. Oh, and she faints at least twice in the movie. You know, because she’s a girl and girls faint, right? I’m rolling my eyes so hard right now.

In the book, there is a party in Magnus Bane’s apartment where Simon gets turned into a rat and some vampires accidentally take him home, thinking he’s one of their pets or something (yes, they have pet rats). In the movie, Simon never gets turned into a rat, and there is no explanation given why the vampires take him. Viewers who haven’t read the book must be very confused—or they just brush it off as vampires wanting him for some vampiric reason. Who knows?

This is where the movie decides to spoil the second book, which I hadn’t read when I watched it. Simon wakes up after his rescue from the vampires and he no longer needs his glasses. I was reminded strongly of Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker in the first Spider-Man movie. Then Clary finds two little holes on Simon’s shoulder that are just the right size and spacing to have been made by vampire fangs. In the first book, no one suspects that Simon might have been bitten. It isn’t even mentioned in passing. I’m currently reading the second book, and it still hasn’t been mentioned, though it probably will come up soon. Thanks a lot, movie makers.

In the book, Clary doesn’t find out that Valentine is her father and Jace is her brother until nearly the very end. In the movie, Valentine tells her he is her father the first time they meet—and it’s rather anti-climactic too. He gets in her face and says, “You’re my daughter.” She doesn’t want to believe him, but it’s no Darth Vader moment.

I loved Luke in both the book and the movie, though the movie didn’t give him enough screentime. The movie also didn’t really make it clear that he used to be a Shadowhunter and his real name is Lucian Graymark. He’s almost a mixture of Harry Potter’s Severus Snape and Remus Lupin, combining the best traits of the two. He was by far my favourite character in the movie. I think he’s the one thing the movie actually got right.

As a rule, the book is usually better than the movie. But sometimes, the movie is pretty good, as in the case of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, this is not one of those cases. This movie is a pretty sad attempt at putting this story onscreen. The book is better.

06 December 2013

Review of Stones of Remembrance by Julie Presley

Stones of RemembranceStones of Remembrance by Julie Presley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ll start by saying that I don’t usually read books that have no fantasy or sci-fi elements to them, but I picked this one up because I used to know the author years ago when we were teenagers, and it’s her first novel, and I believe in supporting new authors.

There is a lot to like in this book. I really wanted to love it; I really wish I could rave about it. Unfortunately, it falls prey to first novel syndrome. A good editor could make this book shine, but right now it’s a bit of a mess.

Allaya (or Ally) is trying to recover after the death of her sister, who was also her best friend. As my sister is also my best friend, I found this hard to read, but very real. I can only imagine what it would be like to lose her, but it might be a lot like when Ally says it was “torture trying to function like a normal person.”

Finnegan (or Finn) is running from God. This bothers me. I dated a guy who was running from God, and it was awful. He said I was his “angel” and I felt like I was the only reason he wanted to have anything to do with God. It was not a healthy relationship. The Bible says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” (2 Corinthians 6:14 NKJV) and I learned first-hand what this means: if a team of two are yoked—or harnessed—together, but pulling in opposing directions, nothing gets done and everybody is frustrated and exhausted.

You may have heard the maxim, “Show; don’t tell.” It’s oft misunderstood and there is much argument over it. Many a new writer either doesn’t know how to show, or simply gives up. However, the point is to pull the reader in, and telling feels distant. Showing makes the reader feel. I didn’t feel much in Stones of Remembrance. Julie Presley tells us what her characters are feeling rather than showing it through actions and body language. After reading “Ally was sad” a few times, I don’t care anymore. I want to feel her grief.

Omniscience is great—if you’re a god. Harder to pull off in a novel. Experienced authors get around this by writing each chapter from a different character’s point of view. This works well for a really long story where not everything can be shown from one character’s POV. Even though Stones of Remembrance isn’t epic-length, if Julie Presley wrote each chapter from either Ally’s or Finn’s POV, this would have worked quite well. She didn’t. The POV switches within a chapter—often, within a scene—sometimes, within a sentence. This doesn’t work. At all. It’s called head-jumping, and it’s very confusing for the reader. Who’s doing what now?

Awkward wording is hard to put a finger on, but there’s a flow to well-written prose that I just didn’t feel here. Also, consistency is key. When Ally makes coffee for Finn, he shouldn’t be sipping decaf, then taking a drink of tea minutes later. Where did he get the tea? She made coffee. Proofreading is important, kids.

Let’s talk dialogue tags for a minute. Some people like the tried and true “said.” Some people think that’s boring, and opt for the more colourful “yelled,” “screeched,” “murmured,” etc. Whatever floats your boat, but please don’t use words that aren’t dialogue tags in place of dialogue tags. Ally and Finn “resign” and “blush” their lines of dialogue. How on earth do you “blush” a sentence? You can’t. Not in English. This could easily be fixed by making it into two separate sentences: “Hi,” she blushed becomes “Hi.” She blushed. Remember, dialogue tags are not always needed.

And the voice of God? While I do believe that He can communicate in many ways, and a voice in my head—or even an audible voice—is definitely within His abilities, I don’t think He does that very often. In this novel, He does it all the time, and I don’t see that as very realistic, especially since Finn doesn’t want to hear Him. God doesn’t force people to hear His voice.

The ending feels rushed and way too easy to me. It’s not exactly a spoiler to tell you that they get married, right? It is a romance novel, after all. While their wedding vows made me smile, the wedding itself came way too quickly for my tastes. Maybe it’s just me. After all, I knew my husband for a few years before we even started dating, and then we were engaged for a year and a half before we got married. Ally and Finn may have been childhood friends, but they haven’t seen each other for years at the beginning of this novel, and they’ve changed a lot in that time. They need more time to get to know each other again, and they don’t get that time. I don’t see this as a very good basis for a relationship.

I really wish I could recommend this book, but I just can’t. Unless you really don’t care about anything I just laid out, and you just want a feel-good read, this is not the book for you. It is a feel-good read, though; no doubt about that. I just wanted more.

View all my reviews

31 October 2013


Today is the last day of OctPoWriMo 2013. Today's prompt asked us to think about beginnings and endings.

All that I am, I
Lay at Your feet.
Please don’t deny my
Heartfelt request,
Ah, Lord.

Oh my God, You
Make beginnings and
Endings, and You
Give to me
All good things.

30 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 30- Right and Wrong

Today's prompt asked us to write about a social issue that is important to us. I make no apologies for my poem, but be warned: I didn't pull any punches.

Right and Wrong

Don’t like slavery? Don’t buy one.
Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.
Don’t like murder? Don’t commit one.
But don’t you dare tell me what to do!
Now, wait just a doggone minute!
What if I want to kill you?
What if I want to enslave you?
We can tell others what to do.
Sometimes, we must.
There is such a thing as right and wrong.
There is such a thing as good and evil.
There are absolutes.
What is right for me is also right for you.
The truth doesn’t care what you think of it.
It doesn’t matter what you say or do, the truth is still the truth.

29 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 29 - Clever Trevor

Today's prompt asked us to write an epitaph. I went to Shadow Poetry, and read the examples there, and decided to go for humour.

Disclaimer: This poem is not about any real Trevor I may or may not know.

Clever Trevor

Here lies clever Trevor;
Truth was not his friend.
He lied until the end;
Now, he’ll lie forever.

28 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 28 - Daddy Was a Quiet Man

Today's prompt asked us to think about someone who had an influence on our lives.

Daddy Was a Quiet Man

I never saw my father cry
Until the day his father died.
Daddy was a quiet man
Unless a mic was in his hand.
A preacher in his younger days,
He taught me how to pray and praise.
A singer too—oh, what a tone!
Bass in groups, tenor alone.
Music was born in his bones.

27 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 27 - My Soul Sings

What am I afraid of?
I can rest in Your love.
When other come against me,
You set me free.
When I am called to lead,
You are all I need.
When danger is near,
I need not fear.
If I meet a famous man,
I remember You are my friend.
You are Lord of lords and King of kings.
My soul sings.

Today's prompt.

26 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 26 - I Love My Family

Today's prompt asked us to write about family. I'm so jetlagged from my trip to Toronto, but I love my family. I didn't have the energy for more than a haiku, though.

I love my family
Even when they drive me nuts
They are all I have

25 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 25 - You Are My Jubilee

Any day with you is a wonderful day
You are my holiday
My vacation
My celebration
My festival
My gala
You are my jubilee
I love you

Today's prompt.

24 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 24 - Simple and Obvious

Today's prompt.

When I was a child, I thought I knew what I wanted;
Life was so simple and obvious.
Now I know
Nothing is easy,
Nothing is as it seems,
And I am still learning to understand myself.

23 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 23 - Two Halves

Today's prompt asks us to play with numbers. One of the suggested forms is the Tetractys, which I have never seen before. I had to try it.

Is us
Never apart
You and I are now two halves of one heart

22 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 22 - Glass Clear

Distorted reflections
Floating on glass
Clear water
I tilt my face toward the sun
And breathe deep

Today's prompt.

21 October 2013

20 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 20 - Airplane

I flew to Mississauga today and almost forgot to write a poem. Here's a rictameter about the flight.

Soaring so high
Above the clouds you fly
Defying weight and gravity
You leave the earth behind
And there you find

19 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 19 - Pumpkin Hollow

Today's prompt.

Today, we went to a local farm that does fall activities for the public. It's called Pumpkin Hollow. They have a corn maze, hay rides, etc. Today was the last day they are open this year, and they had a costume contest. My two little nieces were a frog and a bear, and my nephew was Spider-Man. We had a blast, but now we're all just wiped. I threw this poem together just before bed.

Pumpkin Hollow

Today we went to Pumpkin Hollow.
We didn’t know the way, so followed
Kendal and Robyn in their van,
With teddy, froggy, and spiderman.

We walked until our feet were sore
And then we walked a little more.
We spent too much on junky food
And yet, we all were in good moods.

The kids were having so much fun:
Yell, and laugh, and scream, and run.
We cannot wait to go again
Athough we now are in such pain.

18 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 18 - Only You

Today's prompt asks us to write a bad poem. That's right, a really bad poem. It's harder than it looks. I've had so many years of practising my writing, that it really goes against the grain to try to write badly. I've made an effort, and I think I did a pretty bad job of it today. What do you think?

Only You

I love you
Like Sheldon loves his spot
Like Gollum loves the Ring
Like zombies love brains
But I don’t want to sit on you
Or be controlled by you
Or eat you

You are sweet
Like candy
I don’t really like sugar
But I like you

I need you
Like I need air
And water
And food
And shelter
And clothes
And internet
And books
And I don’t really need all those things
But I need you

You are my teddy bear
But I don’t wanna chain you up
And lead you anywhere
‘Cause that’s cruel

I’m stuck on you
Stuck like glue
Like magnets, we are drawn together

You are my lucky charm
You are my talisman
But only in a non-creepy way

I only have eyes for you
No, wait
I have other things for you too
I meant to say, I have eyes for only you
You are the only one for me
Only you

17 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 17 - Lord of the Rings Online

Today's prompt asks us to think about games we have played or still play. My favourite game is Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). It's a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) based on Tolkien's worlds of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I wrote an English sonnet on my experiences within the vast world of LotRO.

The Last Homely House in Rivendell
The Lord of the Rings Online

Through Michel Delving, on to Hobbiton,
And up the Hill to see the Party Tree—
Without a mount, it’s quite a way to run,
And rented horses certainly aren’t free.

Once I buy a horse, I ride to Bree;
Such a pretty town, though like a maze.
I play my lute outside the Prancing Pony
And wander through the twisted, winding ways.

And then, I find my way to Rivendell,
Riding through the Trollshaws’ red and gold.
My favourite place, for it is always Fall.
And then, over the Misty Mountains cold.

I speak to Gandalf, Aragorn, and Sam.
I ride with Hobbit, Elf, and Dwarf, and Man.

At the Party Tree in Hobbiton
Playing my lute in Breetown

16 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 16 - Break My Heart

Today's prompt asks for a villanelle about words we wish we'd said or "the last word." I took it in a slightly different direction.

Break My Heart

Just like well-aimed darts,
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But words can break my heart.

Think before you start
To speak. The words you speak, you throw
Just like well-aimed darts.

Words can be great art,
Words can cause my soul to grow,
And words can break my heart.

And yet, there is a part
Of great art that should be thrown
Just like well-aimed darts.

And if I come apart
At the seams because of woe,
It’s words that break my heart.

Whether they are art,
Or seeds of malice sown,
Just like well-aimed darts,
Those words can break my heart.

15 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 15 - News Makes Me Numb

Countries are at war
Why do I bother with news?
So much is sensational
Is there any good?
I become

14 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 14 - Listen

Today's prompt.

In silence you can hear
Get away from all the noise
Get away from everything
And listen
Hear the still, small voice

13 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 13 - The Song of the Spheres

Today's prompt asked us to choose a letter and craft a poem using as many words beginning with that letter as we could. I didn't feel like doing that, so I'm rebelling today. I wrote an alliterative 4-stress poem (Tolkien was known for using this form). It's still something to do with letters and alliteration.

The Song of the Spheres

We shall sing the song of the spheres
Painters, poets, players, people
All together giving thanks
For love and life and light and loss
For freedom from fear
With the words of the winged ones
"Holy, holy, holy, holy"
Stars and streams and storms all sing
Let us join the joyful praise
Still my soul shall sing
"Holy, holy, holy, holy"

12 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 12 - No Matter How Dark

Today's prompt is shadows, so I wrote a shadow sonnet. I love writing sonnets, but I find this form to be very difficult. Finding rhyming words that can begin and end the lines is just so hard.

No Matter How Dark

Shadows lengthen as the year ends. Shadows
Creep closer and closer. As the light fades, they creep.
Snows are coming. Cold and wind and snows
Sleep for now, awaiting our long winter sleep.

Dark looks like to be winning the war. Dark
Swells and spreads, growing like ocean swells.
Spark a flame in my heart—a tiny spark
Spells death to the dark; so small, yet they are magic spells.

Light is fading. And yet, my heart is light;
I’m not alone—I have you to hold, and I’m
Right where I should be, and everything is all right.
Rhyme with me, for you are my perfect rhyme.

You gave me a reason to live forever with you,
To be in the light, no matter how dark—to be two.

11 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 11 - Tick Tock

Today's prompt asks us to listen to the sounds around us and incorporate that into our poetry. I'm home alone today, so it's easy to hear things. I closed my eyes and listened to the living room clock for a few minutes and this poem took shape.

Tick tock
Tick tock
Silent tears and heaving sobs
Tick tock
Tick tock
Screaming rage and silent glares
Tick tock
Tick tock
Questions without answers
Hopeless accusations
Empty arms and hearts
Tick tock

10 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 10 - Around That Bend

Today's prompt asks us to write a reply to another poem. I chose Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken. It has always struck me how many people read it as a comment on how wonderful it is to take the less-traveled road, when if you really read it carefully he says clearly that the roads are equally worn. I believe he's gently poking fun at the idea that taking the road less-traveled is better.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~Robert Frost

Around That Bend

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less-traveled by…”
Or so I say with a sigh, yet I
Remember the other was “just as fair,”
And really the grass was just as green,
The fallen leaves were no more black,
No footprints marred either path.
I say, “It made all the difference,” yet
I cannot where know the other led.
Sometimes I lay upon my bed
And dream of what I might have met
If I had stepped around that bend.
~Esther Spurrill Jones

09 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 9 - Every Day

Today's prompt.

Every day I choose to love you,
Though, honestly, it isn’t hard.
I love you because of who you are.

From the moment that I met you,
Our hearts began to meld.
It took a while for me to realize
We were meant to be.

Every day I choose to love you,
Though, honestly, it isn’t hard.
I love you because of who you are.

Every day you make me smile,
You make me laugh.
I promised I would never leave you,
And I never will.

Every day I choose to love you,
Though, honestly, it isn’t hard.
I love you because of who you are.

08 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 8 - Love is...

Today's prompt.

Love is...

Is like fire
Burning deep inside
All-consuming inferno
Love is like crackling flames
Warm and comforting
My hearth and
Is a storm
Sweeps me off my feet
A whirlwind of desire
Love is like gentle breezes
The soft kiss of wind
And I feel
Is like waves
Crashing and breaking
Billows rolling over me
Love is a babbling brook
A calm forest pond

07 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 7: Death and Cold

Today's prompt.

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. ~Benjamin Franklin

“I killed them. I killed them all. They're dead; every single one of them. Not just the men, but the women and children too…" ~Anakin Skywalker

Fear leads to anger
Fear leads to death
Death came for his mother
Death gave him power
Power for revenge
Power to kill
Kill them
Kill them all
All of them are dead
All of them—even the children
Children who had barely lived
Children who were innocent
Innocent he used to be
Innocent he is no more
More pain
More darkness
Darkness closes in
Darkness whispers promises
Promises of power
Promises of comfort
Comfort from his dreams
Comfort for his fears
Fears that he can’t save her
Fears that he is helpless
Helpless to protect her
Helpless like before
Before, just like his mother
Before, he was too late
Late at night, he dreams
Late again
Again his fear overcomes him
Again he looks to anger
Anger gives him focus
Anger gives him strength
Strength to do what needs done
Strength to see the truth
Truth that she betrayed him
Truth that he’s alone
Alone against his friend
Alone and broken
Broken in and out
Broken, wounded, burning
Burning alive
Burning forever
Forever alone
Forever cold
Cold as ice
Cold and dark


06 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 6 - Butterflies

Today's prompt.

What makes me flutter?
My husband’s gaze, and his touch.
I miss him right now.

05 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 5 - I Am

Todays' prompt.

I Am

I am a Christian who loves Harry Potter
I am a geek who loves Jesus
I am a woman who works with computers
I am a nerd who loves art

04 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 4 - Know Your Heart

Today's prompt.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” ~Galatians 5:22-23

In the midst of chaos, there is peace:
The gentle voice of Jesus speaking love.
Be kind one to another, tenderhearted,
Forgiving one another—this is good.
Wait upon the Lord for He is faithful;
Consider all your trials to be a joy.
The testing of your faith produces patience,
And by your fruit the world shall know your heart.

03 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 3 - Words From the Heart

Today, I decided to write a cinquain for the prompt that asked us to share our own story, our own journey with poetry. And, since I like to challenge myself, I added rhyme.

I don't remember when I began to write poetry. I feel like I've always been a poet.

Words From the Heart

Words from the heart
Breaking, teaching, healing
The deepest, purest form of art

01 October 2013

OctPoWriMo 1 - I Love Fall

Call it Autumn; call it Fall;
I don’t care—I love it all:
Pumpkin lattés, yellow leaves,
Longer pants, and shirts with sleeves.
Winter’s cold and Summer’s hot;
Spring is muddy—Autumn’s not.

Prompt here.

30 September 2013

OctPoWriMo 2013 - It's almost here!

Tomorrow is the first day of October. That means OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month) begins again! I did this challenge last year, and had so much fun and learned so much. I'm so excited to do it again!

If you're wondering what it's all about, we write a poem a day for the 31 days of October. Each day will have prompts on OctPoWriMo.com that you can use or not, and each day will have a Linky list to enter if you've shared your piece on your blog.

I'll be poeming; will you?

27 September 2013

Follow Fest

Name: Esther Spurrill Jones

Fiction or nonfiction? Fiction

What genres do you write? Speculative fiction (Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror), Romance, Poetry, Fanfiction

Are you published? Yes (see sidebar)

Do you do anything in addition to writing? I am a wife, a sister, and a friend. I am a reporting assistant.

Where can people connect with you?

Blog: I Just Live Here
Twitter: @EstherSJones
Facebook: ESJ, Word Artist

Author pages:

Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

  • I am willing to post cover reveals and book releases and giveaways.
  • I review books sometimes.
  • I love Jesus.
  • I write music.
  • I am an introvert.
  • I have seven siblings.
  • I love my husband.
  • Okay, I'll stop now.

18 September 2013

This is Who I Am

I have something to reveal. Those who know me well already know this, but if you've never met me, this may be a surprise.

I've always been good with words; I even call myself a word artist. I am a writer, a poet, a songwriter. I give words life so they can dance and sing. I sculpt and paint with words. Yet, I often find it difficult to find the right words when talking to people.

Ay, there's the rub: people. When I'm alone with paper and pen (or a computer), words flow freely. They may play hide-and-seek at times, flirting and teasing, but they always return to me. I express my innermost thoughts and feelings with ease. When I am speaking aloud to another person, words flee and hide themselves in the shrubbery, refusing to give me the time of day.

I am an introvert.

Is anyone shocked? If you've known/talked to me for more than a few minutes, you're not at all surprised. I've been called "quiet" by nearly anyone who has ever been asked to describe me; it's usually the first word that comes to mind.

It's difficult for an extrovert to even begin to understand an introvert. Extroverts love being around large groups of people—they find it energizing—and they hate being alone. Introverts find it tiring, even exhausting, to be around large groups of people: the larger the group, the more exhausting it becomes.

Some introverts love people, but usually we would add the qualifier "some people." It's not that we don't enjoy parties and group outings; we just need time alone to recharge afterwards. If I have to go out three or more nights in one week, I get fatigued just thinking about it. My favourite kind of week is when I go out once or twice (or even not at all). My favourite kind of Saturday is when I get to sit at home in my pajamas and read, play games, and/or watch Netflix. On Sunday, I go to church and often out for lunch with friends and/or family.

When I was a child, I was painfully shy. I was terrified that others wouldn't like me, so I hated starting up conversations with others. Now, I hate starting up conversations because it's just so exhausting. I have to have a reason to do it, or it feels like a waste of time and energy.

Small talk is the worst. Why does anyone bother with it? Most people who ask how I'm doing don't care how my day is going. They just ask because they've been taught that's the polite thing to do. And most people lie and say they're fine even if they're not. It feels so superficial to me. I can do it, but I hate it. Why should I waste my precious introvert energy on something so useless?

Image from http://questionablylate.tumblr.com/post/17227500725/my-design-but-not-my-list-how-to-care-for
My name is Esther, and I am an introvert. I like people, but I often prefer to be alone. I feel physically ill when people laugh at me (not with me—that's fine) or rebuke me. I like to think before I speak. I like change, but I'm not very spontaneous. I get confused easily. I learn new things quickly and easily. I have a very few really close friends that I would trust with my life. I don't fit the above image perfectly, but that's okay. I am an individual.

I am an introvert, and that's okay.

13 September 2013

Whether vs Weather

The Spelling and Grammar Templar has a post up today regarding the commonly confused words 'whether' and 'weather.' Pop on over for an explanation!

04 September 2013

Could you write a book in 8 hours or less?

Joe Konrath issued a challenge a few days ago: write, edit, and publish an ebook in 8 hours or less.

At first, though I wanted to do it, and I thought I could, I had no idea what to write. Then, with less than a day left before the midnight August 29 deadline, I started writing.

I wrote madly through the workday, on breaks, and between customers, and then I sent it to my sister to beta read. After work, I edited like crazy, then uploaded to Amazon, enrolling in KDP Select so I could go free for the first few days.

Amazon gave me a message that it could take up to 12 hours for the book to go live. 12 HOURS??!! I didn't have half that much time left. I sent off a quick email to Joe letting him know the situation, and begging for more time to get the Amazon link to him.

I got up for work August 30, and sent off another email with the now live Amazon link. Crossing my fingers that I was in time, I headed out of town for the long weekend.

On August 31, I checked Feedly on my phone, and there was Joe's post with the winners of the challenge. Over 140 writers had done it. I scrolled down, and down, and down, until... there! My entry had made it! After a little happy dance, I put away my phone and enjoyed my vacation.

Falling to Pieces, a short zombie story, is free on Amazon right now. Today is the last day it will be free, so if you want a copy, now is the time to grab one.

Do you think you could do it? Or am I crazy?

31 August 2013

Book Release - Falling to Pieces

Falling to Pieces went live on Amazon yesterday, and is free today for five days. I wrote this on Thursday as part of Joe Konrath's 8 Hour eBook Challenge.

A man tries to deal with the horror of a zombie outbreak.

"Jerome held his breath, pressing up against the side of the deserted building, praying to whoever or whatever might be listening that he wouldn’t be seen, wouldn’t be heard. Groaning and shuffling reached his ears, heralding the approach of the hordes of undead."

I've never written a zombie story before, so I'd love to hear if I've done the genre justice.

23 August 2013

Review of Rescuing Lacey by Rebecca Heflin

Rescuing LaceyRescuing Lacey by Rebecca Heflin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Why are the main leads in a romantic novel always "irresistible" to each other? I understand that there is a formula, and I can live with that, but sometimes it just makes me groan. Too much predictability bores me.

The very first word of this book is "f***ing." The very first word! Nothing in the summary warned me of this, and I don't like foul language, so it really bothered me. I almost put the book down right there. I probably should have. Strangely, f*** is the only swear I noticed, and it was used a few more times, but not as often as I expected after that opening. Did Rebecca Heflin think this was a good way to hook readers? Well, it just made me angry.

When Luke and Lacey meet, they feel an immediate sexual attraction to each other. Now, I guess this happens sometimes in real life, but it just seems unrealistic to me that it would happen so often as it does in fiction. When I met my husband, I didn't feel an instant connection; the attraction slowly developed over time.

Luke is described from Lacey's POV as "über masculine." Lacey is described from Luke's POV as "almost boyish." This is another trope I see a lot in romantic fiction that really bothers me. Why is every female lead slim and small-breasted? Where are the curvy, voluptuous, plus-size women? Why don't we get to be romantic leads? And why is every male lead tall, muscular, and, well, an alpha male? Where are the geeks? Where are the non-athletes?

Speaking of POV, there's a lot of head-jumping in this book. I don't mind changing POVs, but there's no warning here. It often happens in the middle of a paragraph. And then, near the end of the book, after I got used to jumping back and forth between Luke and Lacey, suddenly we're in Luke's friend Tony's head. That really threw me for a loop.

Another thing that threw me for a loop was the overuse of obscure words. Now, I'm the first one to love a cool word. I've been accused of using too many big words myself. But when I have to stop every couple of pages to look up the definition, that's a little much. Thank God Kindle has a built-in dictionary. But then, I came across this little gem: proprioception." Kindle says "No definition found." I had to close the book and look it up on Dictionary.com. Not cool.

My final beef with this book includes spoilers:
(view spoiler)[When Lacey tries to seduce Luke, he refuses her because he wants her to tell him about her past. He thinks she doesn't trust him, and he doesn't want just a fling. He wants her to be open and honest with him, and she won't do that. She won't let down her guard and tell him about her experiences in war zones. Then, just a day or two later, he forgets all about this and beds her anyway when she hasn't told him anything yet. This really bothers me, because it ruins his character, making him compromise his morals just for a little sex. Oh, wait. I forgot. She's irresistible. Gag me. (hide spoiler)]

To be fair, it isn't all bad. The sentences were mostly well-crafted, with few grammar and spelling errors. Ms. Heflin is a competent writer. I just wanted something more than competence.

View all my reviews

19 August 2013

My Review of Man of Steel

I've mentioned before that I have a thing for nice guys. One of my earliest geeky crushes was Clark Kent, who is one of the nicest guys (if not the nicest guy) in comic books. From a very young age, I wanted to be Lois Lane. Although, she can drive me crazy with the blind stupidity some writers give her. (Seriously, she’s an investigative reporter who is trying to find out who Superman really is, and Clark Kent works with her, and they end up dating even. How she doesn't figure it out has made for some really convoluted atrocities of plots.)

This past Saturday, I watched the new Man of Steel movie. I love this Lois Lane. The writers haven’t handicapped her with the unreasoning blindness I hate so much. I want to be this Lois Lane. And I have a new favourite Superman movie.

Before this past weekend, there was one movie on the list of “Movies That Made Me Cry Within the First 10 Minutes:” Up. Now, there are 2 movies on the list. The opening sequence of Man of Steel gives us Kal El’s birth, and follows the events leading up to when his parents, Jor El and Lara, send him to the stars. Lara’s pain at being separated from her newborn son was so real, so raw, I couldn't hold back the tears.

It is very difficult to write a character like Clark Kent, and do it well. Not only is he a completely good person, he is invulnerable. Most enemies can’t come close to being a real threat. Bullets bounce off him, he can walk through fire untouched, and he can fly. The only real weakness he has is to kryptonite radiation.

Smallville does a really good job of humanizing Clark, and giving him some non-physical weaknesses, but the movies have to create a bigger spectacle, give him an enemy that threatens him physically. One movie I watched a few years ago (I think it was Quest For Peace), created an enemy who wore a suit that essentially stole Superman’s powers. The stronger Superman was, the stronger the bad guy was. I seem to remember Lois and Jimmy placing a piece of kryptonite on Superman’s chest so the bad guy would be weak enough for the police or the army or something to capture. It wasn't a very good movie.

Man of Steel, however, has an excellent villain. General Zod isn't evil for the sake of being evil. He doesn't want power for the sake of power. He is that rare and wonderful antagonist who believes that he is right, that what he is doing is the best thing he can do. And what he is trying to do isn't completely wrong; it is his methods that bring him into conflict with Clark. And the conflict isn't merely Clark vs. Zod. SPOILER ALERT! Clark has only recently discovered that he is from Krypton, and that the planet died; Zod is another survivor, a fellow Kryptonian, and he offers a chance to rebuild their world. They don’t have to be the last Kryptonians. However, in order to do this, humanity must be destroyed. No matter what he does, Clark loses: if he joins Zod and rebuilds Krypton, his adoptive world and people are lost; if he stops Zod and saves Earth, his birth people are lost. In the end, he makes the only choice he can, considering his character.

Before he knows what Zod wants, though, Clark has another choice to make: Zod threatens to kill every human on Earth if Kal El doesn't surrender himself. Clark hesitates, not because he fears for himself, but because he doesn't trust Zod not to kill everyone either way. He’s right, of course, Zod’s plan has always been to build a new Krypton on the bones of the humans who stand in his way. Again, Clark makes the choice that is in character.

And here is where the movie got really interesting for me.

The original purely good person, Christ Jesus of the New Testament, is the model for everyone who follows. In university, I learned that a character who fits this mold is called a “Christ figure.” I am fascinated with this idea. There are many characters who can be said to fit in some way or another (few fit perfectly). Aslan, Gandalf the Grey, Frodo Baggins (even Aragorn Elessar), Luke Skywalker, and Sailor Moon are just a few.

In Man of Steel, Clark Kent is 33 years old, which is the age at which Jesus began his ministry. Clark is not of our world, and his father sent him here. Most telling of all, when he surrenders to the military so they can “hand him over” to Zod, he makes it very clear to them that he is in control, not them. Just like when Jesus said, “I lay down my life... No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17b-18a NIV) Of course, Kal El doesn't actually die, but he does have to make sacrifices, like I mentioned before.

This is the first time I've really thought of Clark Kent as being a Christ figure. I can’t believe how blind I was (maybe I have more in common with the old version of Lois than I thought). I guess I never really noticed because he’s never sacrificed himself before. (Or did he? What about the Doomsday plot in the comics? Maybe I am blind.)

Now, this is a summer blockbuster movie, so they had to include some big explosions and the like. And they gave Superman an enemy who can actually threaten him. Zod is from Krypton, so our yellow sun gives him the same powers it gives Kal El. This makes him Clark’s equal physically. Furthermore, Zod was born to be a warrior and has trained his entire life. Clark grew up on a farm, and his greatest physical struggle was adapting to an alien atmosphere, which wasn't really that hard. Clark has never had much trouble with anything physical. He can lift anything, and nothing on Earth can hurt him. Zod and his allies are a shock to him.

And Clark is alone in his fight. Lois and the “ghost” of Jor El (some kind of computerized construct of his memories) do their best to help, but when it comes down to it, Clark must face Zod alone. And Zod is not alone; he has a squad of Kryptonians with him. So truly, this is a fight that Clark cannot hope to win. Yet, somehow, he does. I’m a little hazy on the details here, but it seems that 33 years spent adapting to Earth’s atmosphere gives him that edge he needs, or something.

After the obligatory fight scenes between Clark and the Kryptonian criminals, the movie ends with a kiss between Lois and Clark and a new, uneasy truce between Superman and the military. I walked out of the theatre unsure how I felt about the film as a whole, and I’m still conflicted. It was definitely the best Superman movie I've seen, but the climactic fight was confusing and strange, and the ending was disappointing. I loved it, but I wished for something more.

14 August 2013

My Name is Esther, and I am a Ginger

If you want to completely lose your faith in humanity, do a Google search for "Ginger Jokes." For even more depravity, look at the images. Some of them say "No offense intended"—as if that makes it okay. If you don't intend to offend, don't post it.

I am a redhead; aka a ginger. So are one of my brothers, one of my brothers-in-law, both of my sisters-in-law, and three of my nephews. While I was growing up, I used to say my hair was "copper-coloured." I was very literal as a child, and "red" was the colour of Ronald McDonald's hair, not mine. I never heard the word "ginger" used to describe hair until I read Harry Potter. I like it, though. It makes me think of gingerbread and Christmas. It's a warm and comforting word, with just a hint of spice. I'd like to think it suits me.

Unfortunately, I discovered soon after I read Harry Potter, there is a lot of hate for gingers. I don't know where it comes from, but a quick Google search indicates that it might be racism against Irish (even though many Scottish are redheads too). It seems the idea is that gingers have no souls. From reading fantasy and historical fiction, I was aware that in the past, some people believed that redheads were magical. Whether you thought they were evil or not depended on your view of magic, I guess. Now, I like to call myself a vampire because of my pale skin and my tendency to burn in the sun, but that doesn't mean I have no soul.

The first time I saw the picture on the right, it was before I was aware of the "gingers have no soul" thing, and I read it as "gingers can get any man because they're just that awesome." I still like that reading better than the "no soul" thing. I have met many a man who thinks redheaded women are the most beautiful of women—I married one of them.

(Grammar Templar comment: I didn't make this poster. I don't know why the comma is there. Yes, I know it shouldn't be there. Yes, it is a comma splice. Yes, it drives me crazy, too.)

Harry Potter is one of my all-time favourite book series, and I really identify with the Weasley family. I am the oldest of eight children, and I have only one sister. The Weasleys have only seven children, but if they had one more girl, they would practically be my family. Well, my sister and I are the two oldest, and Ginny is the youngest, but still. The only other difference is that we have only two gingers: me and my fourth brother. Everybody always said how lucky my parents were to get two redheads as we are so rare. The idea of a whole family of gingers is such a cool idea, but the odds against it happening in real life are astronomical.

Tell me these kids aren't adorable. I dare you.
I've heard that gingers are a dying breed, because the gene that causes red hair is recessive, so slowly but surely there are less and less redheads born and, one day, there will be no more ever again.

Then my sister married a ginger and they had two kids who are both gingers. And my third brother had a kid who's a ginger. So my family is doing our part to keep the trait going into the next generation.

Anyway, back to the Weasleys. I saw an interview with James and Oliver Phelps who play the twins Fred and George. They said when they got the roles, they went back to their school and told everyone, but no one believed them. Then, the next day, they showed up at school with their hair dyed ginger, and everyone was like, "Well, there's no way you would dye your hair ginger for any other reason!" Because, you know, no one wants to be ginger! Well, talk to my sister. She's always saying she wishes she had red
hair. Also, talk to Doctor Who. It's a running joke on the show that every time he regenerates, he wants to be ginger, but he never is, and that is very disappointing for him.

(Yes, I know they call him "The Doctor" on New Who, not "Doctor Who." I know there are many people who hate when people call him "Doctor Who." I don't care. He was Doctor Who in the credits on the original show. Yes, I know I may get some hate for this. Hey, I'm a ginger. I'm used to it.)

Another side of the whole thing is the phrase "red-headed stepchild." I did a bit of Googling on this, and it seems that it comes from the idea that if two non-gingers have a ginger child, the father assumes that his wife was unfaithful to him and the kid isn't his. "Stepchild" here is used as a euphemism for "bastard." This child then gets treated poorly, leading to the phrase meaning something like "second-class citizen." Well, my mom was brunette and my dad was blond, and he never assumed either me or my red-headed brother weren't his. While the red-headed gene is recessive, it can pop up unexpectedly. Both of my parents had uncles and other distant relatives with red hair. Both of my parents had Irish and Scottish blood in their history. My brother and I got the red hair legitimately.

I would love to have red-headed children, but I will love them just as much if they have brown, blond, or black hair. By the way, I hate blond jokes, too. I think it's just as bad to stereotype someone because of the colour of their hair as it is to stereotype them because of the colour of their skin. It's all wrong. I am proud to be a ginger.

I leave you with this picture of Molly Weasley. She is one of my favourite gingers.

07 August 2013

What is Truth? (A Triolet)

Morgan Dragonwillow asked the following questions as a poetry prompt:

  1. What does truth mean to you?
  2. What is your truth?
  3. Do you know what your truth is?

Here is my response in triolet form:

What is Truth?

One unerring mark of the love of truth is not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant.
~John Locke
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
~Flannery O’Connor
What is truth?
~Pontius Pilate

I asked my neighbour, “What is truth?
“Is it the same for you and me?”
He answered me in words uncouth.
I asked my grandma, “What is truth?
She smiled and showed her single tooth.
“Truth is truth, do you not see?”
I asked the world, “What is truth?
“Is it the same for you and me?”

26 July 2013

The Philosophy of John Locke: Sherlock Fanfics

There is a thing in Sherlock fanfiction called "Johnlock." It means that the writer has created some kind of romantic plot/subplot pairing the two main characters. It's like when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie get called "Brangelina." Now, I don't think Johnlock makes a lot of sense. It is very difficult to write Sherlock being romantic without him being wildly out of character, and I really, really hate when one my favourite characters is written wrong.

However, the (non)word "Johnlock" was bugging me with its familiarity. Something told me that I had heard it before, years ago. Then, I remembered: in university, I studied an English philosopher named John Locke. The pronunciation is the same, or at least so similar as to make no difference.

Now, my brain doesn't work the way other people's brains work. Most people who don't like Johnlock fanfics would never consider doing what I decided to do. I decided to write some Sherlock "John Locke" fanfiction. Yes, I know I'm weird. Normal is boring.

I went on brainyquote.com and looked up John Locke quotes. I was delighted to find seven that fit perfectly. I proceeded to write a 150 word "one-shot" for each of them. I posted these on Archive of Our Own (AO3) as a series, and on FanFiction.net as seven separate stories as that site has few options. If you're interested, links are below.

The pictures link to AO3, and I couldn't seem to get them to open in a new tab/window. Sorry about that. The text links below should open in a new tab/window though.

"I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts."
~John Locke

"An excellent man, like precious metal, is in every way invariable; A villain, like the beams of a balance, is always varying, upwards and downwards."
~John Locke

"All men are liable to error; and most men are, in many points, by passion or interest, under temptation to it."
~John Locke

"One unerring mark of the love of truth is not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant."
~John Locke

"Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours."
~John Locke

"The dread of evil is a much more forcible principle of human actions than the prospect of good."
~John Locke

"I have spent more than half a lifetime trying to express the tragic moment."
~John Locke

The Philosophy of John Locke on AO3
Part 1: Details
Part 2: Variable
Part 3: Errors
Part 4: Proof
Part 5: Thinking
Part 6: Breathing
Part 7: Missing

The Philosophy of John Locke on FFnet
Part 1: Details
Part 2: Variable
Part 3: Errors
Part 4: Proof
Part 5: Thinking
Part 6: Breathing
Part 7: Missing