August 27, 2016

"Girls" books

Not long ago, I noticed the trend of books containing the word "Girl" or "Girls" in the title. It turns out that I'm not the only one. In 2009 and 2010, there were a combined total of five books with either of those words in the title. This year, there will be 79!

I decided to do a brief analysis of my own reading habits, using my Goodreads account as the source of truth. In the five years since I started using Goodreads, I've logged 516 books read. Of those, ten contain the word "Girl" or "Girls" in the title. I don't know how 2% compares to a typical reader's profile, but I personally expected more. I read Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, for instance, but I haven't read any of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books.


Of the ten books, three were self-published and seven were traditionally published. Two of them received a 5-star rating: Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and The Curse Girl by Kate Avery Ellison. Five others received 4-star ratings, and I rated three of them as 3 stars. The most recent book that I read from the list was The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig last month.

I don't know if this analysis will cause me to read more books with "Girl"/"Girls" in the title or fewer. I have a feeling, however, that I will be more conscious of the title the next time I pick up a book with the G-word in it.

August 6, 2016

A Horde of Horses

Today, I decided to post a piece of flash fiction that I just published on Wattpad. If you like it, you can read the other parts of this collection of stories that I call A Spoonful of Stories. I hope you enjoy it!


A Horde of Horses


Some people have nightmares about being chased or of falling or drowning. Others suffer from dreams of fires or natural disasters.
My nightmares involve horses. Which is odd because I’ve never ridden a horse, and the closest I’ve gotten to a horse is seeing one in a pasture while driving by in my car.
In my dreams, I start off walking in my neighborhood, usually from my apartment to the supermarket. I don’t notice anything amiss until there’s a tap on my shoulder. When I turn around, a horse’s muzzle brushes my face.
For some reason, I don’t find this odd. I reach into my pocket and pull out a sugar cube. There’s always a sugar cube in my pocket. Never mind that I would never carry sugar cubes in real life. I don’t think I’ve ever bought sugar cubes. I’ve only seen them in restaurants when I order coffee. And on television, where someone is feeding sugar cubes to a horse. I suppose I’ve only ever seen a horse eat sugar cubes, apples, and hay in my limited experience, and it’s not feasible to fit an apple – or hay – in my pocket, even in my dreams.
The horse takes the sugar cube from my palm. It raises its head and snorts, then looks down at me, expecting more. I search my pockets, but all I have are my keys and cellphone. I’m not carrying my credit cards or any cash, so I can’t buy more treats.
I shrug my shoulders to tell the horse that I can’t help it any longer. That’s when the second horse emerges from behind the first one. Has it always been there, but I didn’t notice before? I turn to walk away from both animals, but I see more horses approaching me from every direction. They come pouring out of every doorway along the block, from inside homes, stores, restaurants. They emerge from around the corners of buildings and shadowed alleyways.
I want to run, but my legs are frozen. Even if they did move, I wouldn’t be able to outrun the horses.
“Help,” I yell, but the sound dies before it leaves my mouth. There’s no one around. The cars have all disappeared, and so have the people on this street. I glance from one window to another, but I see only empty rooms beyond the transparent panes. Where has everyone gone?
The first horse nudges me in the back, sending me forward. Its companions form lines on either side of me, allowing me only a narrow path between their towering forms. Not seeing another option, I walk along in the direction that the horses lead me. They shift their bodies to alter the path. It curves to the right, but I can’t see over them toward the destination.
A traffic light passes overhead, informing me that I’ve crossed an intersection. The procession of horses streams along, carrying me along with them. They whinny, they stomp, they snort. They stink.
There is just enough room for me to walk unobstructed, but sometimes, I feel hot breath on the back of my neck or a nip on on my hair. I don’t know which animal has done it because they take turns circling me and eyeing me. I keep my head down and shuffle forward.
The equine wave directs me toward a warehouse store, the Costco knockoff that we have in town. There are no windows on the sides of the building, just a giant metal door that’s now rolled up to leave a gaping entrance. The lights are on, but I don’t see anyone or anything moving inside. The horses that are closest to the entrance turn to the side as soon as they near the doorway. The ones behind them follow suit, creating an illusion of waves breaking upon the shore.
They mean for me to go inside.
I step through the doorway. The heavy metal door clangs shut behind me. The bang of metal hitting concrete startles me, but just as jarring is the silence that encompasses the warehouse afterwards.
I’m alone, a prisoner of the horses outside.
Then I hear a footstep. It comes from in front of me, inside the warehouse. A woman steps out from behind a pallet of breakfast cereal.
“What’s happening?” I ask.
Her face is expressionless. She reminds me of a zombie, except that she looks normal, down to the rosy color of her cheeks. However, she doesn’t answer me.
Behind her, more people walk into the center aisle where I’m standing. They all wear the same bland looks on their faces.
“Are you all OK? What happened to you?”
A small girl next to the woman says, “The horses want us.”
“Want us for what?”
“The horses want us,” she repeats.
The crowd continues walking toward me. Their numbers circle me in every direction. I back away until I hit the warehouse door.
“What are you doing?” I say to them. “What do you want from me?”
The little girl is the only one who speaks. “The horses want us.”
Something strikes the metal door behind me, nearly knocking me down. I hear faint neighing on the other side of the door.
The crowd of people moves closer still. The girl is within arm’s distance.
More banging against the metal door. I cover my ears with my hands and close my eyes.
That’s when I always wake up.
I don’t know what would’ve happened next, and I don’t want to find out.
I also don’t know why I have these recurring nightmares. Like I said, the closest I’ve ever been to a horse is driving past one in my car. But whenever I do now, I wonder, why does it want me?



July 23, 2016

A Harry Potter summer

Nine years after the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and five years after the movie release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2", the series continues to play a part in my life.

In June, my family embarked on a movie-watching journey and went through all eight Harry Potter movies. It was great fun reliving the series and seeing Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint grow up in front of my eyes over the course of four weeks.

The movie binge was in preparation for a family trip to Universal Studios Hollywood, where The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in April. I recommend that all Harry Potter fans visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Los Angeles or Orlando at some point in their lives. The name of the theme park accurately describes it because you will feel like you're transported into the world of Harry Potter. Among the highlights for me was finding Cedric Diggory's ash unicorn wand at Ollivander's. I took a wand quiz last year, and that was the wand that was for me, but I hadn't been able to find it until now.


My Harry Potter summer isn't over yet because Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is scheduled to release on July 31! I've already pre-ordered my copy and am looking forward to devouring it when it arrives.

The way that the Harry Potter series has endured in the public consciousness and in my own life is amazing. Who knew that books about a boy wizard could capture the imagination of so many people?

July 2, 2016

4th of July weekend sale

What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July (or any holiday) than with a book sale? For the next three days, three of my novels are discounted to 99 cents on Amazon. Pick up your copy before they go back up in price!

           

Amazon links:

Also, remember that there are several other ways to enjoy my books for FREE!

June 18, 2016

The trouble with time travel


I recently re-watched "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." Near the end of the movie, Hermione reveals that she has a time turner, which she and Harry use to go back in time and fix past situations. That made me wonder why we don't see the time turner again in the series. In the next book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, they could've used it on numerous occasions and saved a lot of grief, especially when it came to Harry, Cedric, or Moody. (I'm intentionally keeping it vague in case anyone hasn't read the book yet.) The time turner would've definitely come in handy during the Hogwarts battle in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Therein lies one of the main problems with introducing time travel in a story. If time travel is possible, why isn't it used more often? And why do the characters decide to pick the moment in time that they do pick to travel back to?

The Terminator series is another example where this comes into play. The first Terminator movie actually did a good job addressing the problem, in my opinion. Kyle Reese explains that the time travel machine was destroyed right after he and the terminator traveled to the past, and that's a credible reason why the plot device is used only once. Likewise, sending the terminator back to kill Sarah Conner before her son is born sounds like a logical plan. The trouble comes with the sequels. Now we know that another time travel machine can be built. Why not send armies of terminators? And why choose the two periods in John Connor's life that Terminator 2 and Terminator 3 chose?

The other big problem with time travel is the paradox that it can create. If the terminator in the first film was successful in its mission, then there would've never been a John Connor. In that case, there wouldn't have been a reason to send the terminator back in the first place, so who would've killed Sarah Connor? It's the famous grandfather paradox where you go back in time and kill your grandfather before your parent was born, which ensures that you'll never be born, so how could you go back in time to kill your grandfather?

Whenever I watch a movie or read a book with time travel involved, I can poke holes in the plot. That's why I stay away from time travel in my stories. Well, except for this short story, which you can read on Wattpad. :-)

June 4, 2016

There are no new ideas: Star Wars/Harry Potter edition

Star Wars (at least episodes 4 through 7) and Harry Potter are two of my favorite series of all time. "Star Wars: A New Hope" was released in 1977, and twenty years later, we got Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for those of us in the U.S.).

I recently started re-watching the Harry Potter movies and noticed several similarities between it and the original Star Wars trilogy. For example, both series feature a trio of heroes. In Star Wars, they're Luke, Leia, and Han. In Harry Potter, we have Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Luke and Harry are the "Chosen Ones." Leia/Hermione and Han/Ron are the sidekicks whose relationship gets off to a rocky start but eventually turn into romance. Then there are the Chosen Ones' mentors, Obi-wan and Dumbledore. Both initially took on students (Anakin and Tom Riddle) who not only turn bad but also acquire second names (Darth Vader and Voldemort). The mentors' later pupils (Luke/Harry) wind up defeating the dark predecessors.

There are other similarities, which led me to think that I couldn't be the first person to notice. Sure enough, I found this post that lays out some more similarities side by side.

The point isn't that I think J.K. Rowling copied Star Wars. I don't think she did. There are only so many unique ideas that certain archetypes are bound to pop up again and again. When I started reading the Percy Jackson series, for example, the similarities to Harry Potter were immediately apparent. (Look, another trio, but this time it's Percy, Annabeth, and Grover!) I like all three series very much because of the way the stories were told, and they tell their stories differently. As a writer, don't be afraid that your story has been told (because chances are, there are elements that have been) or that you've stumbled upon the one unique story that the world has never seen (because you haven't). The key is how you tell your story. It's all in the execution, not the idea.

May 21, 2016

Putting first things first

 Image courtesy of FreeImages.com

For those of you who are familiar with Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," you may recognize the title of this blog post as being habit #3. I recently (re-)learned the 7 habits, and this one resonated with me because it's one that I have trouble with. Putting first things first means that you can't do everything in the 24 hours you're given each day. You have to focus on your highest priorities and say no to the unimportant things. I've written about priorities before, but somewhere in the last few months, I stopped following my own advice. One of the casualties is my writing. I'm embarrassed to say how little I've written this year, even with my idea of writing during my commute.

This is a shame since writing is important to me. It makes me happy, and it helps define who I am. It's time for me to put writing first, or at least ahead of the less important things that I've been spending my time on. This blog post is my way of publicly holding myself accountable to following through on the habit. Will it work? Hard to say, but if I don't write, I hope it's because I'm doing something that's even more important than it.