Exciting News!

I recently got 3 of my poems published in a literary journal! They appear in this month’s issue of Indiana Voice Journal and you can read them here. A few years ago this same journal was the home to my first published work and I’m incredibly grateful to be among the many talented writers this journal promotes once more.

I also want to encourage rising or risen writers to submit to Indiana Voice. The people behind it are dedicated to the craft and love giving new writers a chance to show off their work and gain exposure.

You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

Art in the Form of Words

Since it’s World Book Day, I thought I’d share my top 5 stories with you all along with my favorite quote from each.

1.) The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

2.) Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

“The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

3.) Dream Thieves – Maggie Stiefvater

“He was brother to a liar and brother to an angel, son of a dream and son of a dreamer.”

4.) The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

“Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.”

5.) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling 

“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”booooks

Additional mentions:

A series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

“Miracles are like meatballs, because nobody can exactly agree on what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear.”

Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner

“Some days in late August at home are like this, the air thin and eager like this, with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar…”

 

Which stories have stayed with you?

The Wild Fire That is Self Doubt

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Writing is hard. It just is. As the saying goes, people don’t like to write, they like to have written. I can’t speak for all writers, but when I can’t create, it’s not because I hate the act. I love writing, by my struggle to keep writing stems from overthinking. I’m always worried that what I type won’t be good enough. My mind becomes overrun with self doubt like:

This character’s motives are all over the place.

The setting isn’t be used properly.

The setting doesn’t make sense.

This dialogue is cheesy

The flow is too slow

The flow is too fast

What if this scene doesn’t turn out the way I envisioned it in my head?

What if this entire project is cliche?

Self doubt destroys creativity. Much like a wild fire, it starts small. Maybe someone dropped a cigarette and it steadily singes the grass around it. This could be stopped, if someone were nearby or observant. If someone simply stepped on it, then they could keep moving forward in a fire free field until another cigarette fell and they’d have to step on that one too. If this doesn’t take place then what starts off as a trail of smoke transforms into a sea of flames. It gets out of hand quickly and once that fire finds it’s legs and runs, it’s nearly impossible to stop it. All you can do is wait for it to pass and sweep away the ash. Try to plant something new in the burnt fields it left.

It’s difficult for me to get past the self doubt and I’ve let it burn away my creativity a few times. I think being creative makes us over thinkers by default. Your imagination runs a little wild for better or worse, but there are ways to live with it. I usually put on music so I can get lost in a scene or I tell myself to at least finish one page instead of quitting altogether. These are little things, but doesn’t Smokey the Bear tell us that we are the ones who can stop a forest fire? Maybe that starts with small steps.

5 Shows That Ended Too Soon

Have you ever fallen madly in love with a series only to find out it ended after 1 or 2 seasons? Or to hear your favorite show will be canceled before season 3 hits despite the cliffhanger the writers left you on? While some series can go on for a decade or more (looking at you Doctor Who) some haven’t been as lucky. Here’s to the shows that ended too soon.

1.) Pushing Daisies

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Pushing Daisies revolves around Ned the Piemaker who can bring someone back from the dead with just one touch. The downside is another touch will leave the resurrected permanently dead, which makes for a complicated relationship after Ned revives his childhood sweetheart.

At it’s heart Pushing Daisies is a love story, but it’s also part murder mystery. Ned uses his ability to bring back murder victims to get clues and help his detective friend catch the culprit. For such a morbid idea the show loves its color with a heavy usage of yellow and high saturation. It’s one of the more charming and creative plots I’ve seen on TV, but unfortunately it was canceled after 2 seasons.

Revival? Please?

2.) In the Flesh

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If you haven’t seen In the Flesh please get on Hulu and watch it now. There are only 9 episodes, but the show is a heart stopping (pun intended) drama from start to finish. It centers on Kieren Walker, an 18 year-old who committed suicide and then returned as a zombie, who has just re-entered society after his transformation. Zombies in this universe have been treated and must take shots to keep them from going rabid along with wearing make-up and contacts to make them appear more normal. The show is more of a social commentary on prejudice, but done with zombies. They deal with slurs and try to avoid being attacked by looking and acting as humanly possible.

The series also incorporated a mythology building around the zombies with rumors of the first risen bringing about a second coming. Aside from the supernatural component, the series was primarily about acceptance. Overall the show is evenly balanced between lore and reality.

Despite winning a BAFTA, it was taken off air early on. There have been petitions online to revive it, but it looks like this one will remain buried.

3.) Agent Carter

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I adore this show, but sadly it also ended after 2 seasons. While slow at points, Agent Carter worked amazingly as a vintage spy series with a realistically written woman taking the lead. It takes Peggy Carter from Marvel’s Captain America and follows her career and personal life after the film. We see her struggle to be seen in a male dominated field, but she also takes advantage of this invisibility to pursue independent cases. More than anything viewers watch her grow and find her own self worth in a 1940s America while also being a complete badass both mentally and physically.

While it didn’t get enough ratings to stay, there are rumors that it might come back as a Netflix or Hulu series. With the success of other Marvel Netflix shows, I think it’d be the perfect platform for this agent.

4.) You, Me, and the Apocalypse

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This was recently taken off Hulu, but you can buy all 10 episodes (yes, only 10) on Amazon Video, which I recommend! While it only lasted one season the few episodes it does have make a satisfying arc that you can easily binge. Warning: You will be left with a massive cliffhanger which will cause you to re-watch the entire season.

This is another end of the world show with a comet impacting the earth in about 30 days. While the apocalypse theme is a bit worn down, the show only uses it as a setting. The show is more focused on the relations between a diverse group of people who are all connected. Every set of characters has their own unique plot making the show feel more like a loose anthology series. This is one of those shows that has you laughing, sobbing, biting your nails, and shaking a fist at the screen. I’m not sure why such an original series was canceled, but what a ride.

5.) Galavant

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Galavant is fairly recent, but sadly it ended last year after 2 seasons. This is a musical comedy about knights, kings, and magic. It’s meant to be silly, but it also had well written character development and witty dialogue. Season 2 more than anything allowed the characters to grow and become more complex. I was mostly impressed by King Richard and Madalena. Richard goes from the antagonist to friend (my favorite trope) and the audience sees that he’s just a lonely man with a heart larger than his brain. On the other hand, Madalena goes from damsel in distress to evil queen and sorceress. Even while she became the true villain of the series, she was still sympathetic and relatable. Part of me wanted to see her win, but that’s one of the reasons why this show is so watchable. You get to know the characters well enough to root for all of them.

While the series did give Galavant and many other characters a neatly wrapped ending to their arcs, it did leave with one cliffhanger. One character had a story that was just beginning and one I was invested in, but sadly we won’t be seeing a conclusion anytime soon. I’m hoping a streaming service will pick it back up because even the complete endings felt rushed and unexplored.

 

What are some of your beloved canceled shows?

On Long Winded Descriptions

How do you guys feel about using  intricate descriptions in your writing? I know they’re useful, but there is such a thing as too much detail. I could write in detail about the way the light hits the ocean at sunrise for ages, but no one would want to read it. As a reader I’ve skipped over passages that are nothing more than a long winded discussion on the appearance of a forest because I wanted to get on with the plot.

When I write I always look for key details that the reader needs to know and (as painful as it can be sometimes) cut what’s unnecessary. Then I tweak what I left in so that my descriptions appear intricate, but remain sparse. I do this by swapping out what multiple descriptions for stronger adjectives that pop and take up less space. Now I can describe that ocean without rambling on for a page and a half while my protagonist is on pause.

I try to do the same with filler words or adjectives that aren’t doing much for the narrative. Instead of saying, “she stood before a grand building” why not replace two words with one. I could say, “she stood before a cathedral” or “she stood before a museum”. I think as writers we want to write. We want to create a intricate word garden with detailed settings and filler adjectives to spruce it up. Only we don’t need to go overboard and create a maze from extra words that are diverting readers from the plot. A humble garden is best by taking out the fluff and growing sentences with real roots. Ones that will stand the test of time without distracting viewers from the house (plot) beside it. I’m a wordy writer, but I like the way my work looks once it’s tidied up. As beautiful as long winded descriptions can be, there should always be more focus on character development and arcs.

What are your opinions on description? Is there a time and place for the long winded depiction?

8 Movies to Look Forward to in 2017

Movie trailers are one of my favorite things in this world. I’m that annoying friend who insists we get to the theater early just so I can see a glimpse at upcoming films on the big screen. Yes, even if I’ve already seen the trailer 3 1/2 times on Youtube. That being said, here are some movies I’m looking forward to in 2017!

1.) Beauty and the Beast

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A tale as old as time. I grew up with the classic animated princess movies and my favorites (aside from Lion King, but does that count as a prince movie?) were Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. The costume and set designs for this film are already breathtaking and while I’m old school and wish the Beast wasn’t CGI, I do his look. It mirrors the animated version, but his appearance incorporates a vintage Gothic aesthetic.

2.) Thor 3: Ragnarok

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Thor is my favorite Avenger so it goes without saying that I adore this Norse god of thunder. While some of the past Thor films are on the campier side, I’ve never complained about their tone because they’re a fun watch.While Captain America 3 starred an ensemble cast and acted as a nice addition to the Avengers ongoing story, I’ll gladly take a breather to dive into Asgardian lore.

3.) Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

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Speaking of the MCU, Guardians of the Galaxy is returning this year and it will also serve as a nice break from the Avengers. When GotG first came out I impressed at how different it was from past MCU films. The movie used a sillier plot and characters to its advantage and created a comedy based adventure through space with a rocking mixtape. Vol. 2 will keep the same style, but seems to be pushing its characters into a far larger adventure.

4.) Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Yes, another Spider-Man reboot, but it looks heartfelt and charming. Tom Holland already proved he could pull off both Peter Parker and his alter ego in CA3 so based off that performance and what we see of him in the trailer, I think he’ll be a strong lead. Also, this adaption won’t be an origin story, which will be a nice change of pace compared to the last few installments. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got an Uncle Ben flashback.

5.) Logan

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I realize that most of these are superhero movies, but 2017 seems to be the year of heroes. As an X-Men fan I’m a little more than excited to see the last part of Wolverine’s trilogy. Seeing an older version of Logan who is worn down and still looking for peace as Johnny Cash sings “Dirt” in the background was almost more than my heart could take. This film look like a true final chapter with the barren landscapes,washed out colors, and a grey Wolverine. I also love how the title has stripped away his alter ego and revealed the man behind the beast. This isn’t about the Wolverine, it’s about Logan. Not a mutant, but a human. I have a strong feeling this movie will leave me in tears and I can accept that.

6.) Kong: Skull Island

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This movie looks fun, that’s all I can say. I may be partial to the cast (It’s Tom Hiddleston, after all), but the trailer also reminded me of vintage Godzilla films where the cast finds themselves on Monster Island, spend their discovering secrets, and eventually befriends Godzilla. If this movie mirrors that formula and embraces the quirkiness of older monster movies then it’ll be a fun ride from start to finish.

7.) Wonder Woman

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I love DC, but their film franchise hasn’t impressed me since the Dark Knight. Still, I’m glad to see Wonder Woman getting a chance at the big screen and I love the vintage backdrop they chose for her. The special affects also look great with her golden lasso of truth, but I’m still holding out hope for the invisible jet to make its debut.

8.) Star Wars: Episode VIII

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We’ve gotten 2 heart-racing Star Wars movies these past few years and most people I know are waiting for another chapter. There aren’t any trailers yet, but much like The Force Awakens, this new installment has been kept under wraps to avoid any spoilers. I’m not sure where the story  is going, but TFA was a well written and exciting opener to this new journey and now that we’ve been introduced to these characters, I’m sure act 2 won’t disappoint!

What movies are you looking forward to this year?

8 Good Things in 2016

2016 hasn’t been easy by any means and I know people are worn down by the year as a whole. I also know some of us (me included) are concerned about the aftermath being carried into 2017. It’s hard not to feel cynical, but I’m an optimist at heart. Even if I join in on the 2016 meme, I don’t think this year was a complete waste. Let’s end it on a happier note and remember the good in 2016.

1.) Great Year for Movies

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Remember this is the year that brought us Deadpool, Captain America 3: Civil War, Rouge One, Shin Godzilla, and Doctor Strange. Those are only a few of the films that made a brighter weekend for many of us.

2.) Great year for Superheroes

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Aside from phenomenal blockbusters with our favorite Avengers, this year was also good for superheroes on the small screen. Netflix gave us season 2 of Daredevil (and introduced Punisher who was fantastic) and Luke Cage in beautiful looking and heart pounding first season. We also got a 4 night crossover event from all of the DC shows on the CW. On a personal note, I also started watching all of the DC shows this year and as someone who grew up reading DC comics and watching Teen Titans and Justice League, it was wonderful falling in love with all my old favorites again.

3.) Televised Live Shows

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I am a musical theater nerd. I can’t help it. Only I live 2 or more hours away from cities that put on big shows so besides that one amazing Chicago production of Wicked, I haven’t seen many theatrical productions. I love that some channels are now doing live productions for people to watch at home who may not be able to travel to the theater let alone afford the tickets. This year we were given Grease Live and Hairspray Live, which I adored and I can’t wait for more!

4.) Cubs Win!

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I’m not a baseball fan (or even a sports fan), but my hometown is 2 hours from Chicago and most of my family adores the Cubs. My dad and grandmother especially do and seeing them get excited over this historic win made me happy too. Also, how can I not feel proud of my home state?

5.) Hamilton Mixtape

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Some people may say Hamilton is overrated, but I don’t care. It’s wonderful, give it a listen.

6.) Dirk Gently

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2016 gave us some great movies, but also a great show. I love Douglas Adams and seeing a version of one of his novels come to life was a blast to watch. There are only 8 episodes in the first season, but if you haven’t watched it yet I recommend it! It’s ridiculous, heartfelt, and witty with A+ casting.

7.) Little Celebrations

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On a small note, just remember that someone met the love of their life this year. Someone traveled for the first time. Someone got married. Someone got a promotion. Someone adopted an animal. Someone graduated. Someone found good friends. Someone finished their novel. Someone found a sense of purpose. Someone binged a whole series on Netflix and lived with no regrets (this last one is me).

8.) My Personal Successes

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I haven’t accomplished great things, but I did have some personal successes this year. I finished 2 more semesters of grad school. I had 3 poems get accepted into the International Pop Culture Conference for 2017. I reconnected with some old friends. I had a bit more courage this year to chase after the things I wanted and to break out of my shell a little more. This year I want to be more courageous, kinder, and wiser. Yes, I did just ask for the end results of the Wizard of Oz.

 

Feel free to comment with your best memories this year. Sending out good vibes for 2017!