Mired in the Blog

Thursday Writing Prompt: Karma

Today’s writing prompt comes from Writing Forward.

After a near-death experience, a soldier starts to experience a drastic kind of karma–every good deed he does is almost immediately rewarded and every bad deed results in something horrible happening to him. Is the karma real or just a series of coincidences?

Share where you would go with this story in the comments below.


The Physics behind a Superhero Save

At one point or another, most of us have probably seen a superhero movie where someone like Superman, Spiderman, or in this case, Thor rescues another person who is falling to their death. Check out this movie clip from Avengers: Age of Ultron for example:

In this clip, we have a woman freefalling to her doom in her car. Luckily, Thor comes to save the day by grabbing the woman’s arm and flinging her upward for Captain America to catch and hoist up to safety. When seeing this part of the movie, many of us might have been relieved that this woman was saved and thought nothing more of it. My physicist husband, however, did not have the same reaction. This is what he was thinking:

If someone is freefalling for about 12 seconds, they would be going roughly 260 miles per hour (neglecting air resistance). With Thor grabbing the woman’s arm and changing her direction as fast as he did, it would put about 33 thousand newtons of force on her arm. That is the same force of a person trying to hold up 7,500 pounds of weight on one arm.

There is no clear consensus on how much force is required to rip off a human arm (I tried researching this, but unfortunately, there just isn’t much data on this subject), but I have the feeling if this clip were real life, Captain America might be catching an arm without a woman attached.

Feature Friday: Haw by Sean Jackson

Haw just Front Cover Literature has a dramatic effect upon the way we think, socially and politically. It’s just a matter of whether writers want to address these larger issues. I understand the desire to write for a larger audience, but I’ve always felt that if you’re not bringing something new to the table, if you’re not agreeing to a dare of some kind, then you are probably cheating yourself.

Unchecked power corrupts and destroys. That’s the nut graph of my debut novel, Haw. Expanding out from there, I explore the possibility that future generations could become even lazier with holding their governments accountable. You cede more power to a ruling entity, it only craves more power. It’s a vampire-and-host relationship. The people become weaker, the rulers grow stronger. Scarce resources cause white populations to systematically destroy dark-skinned people. Unfortunately, violence is the only remedy to the problems of the future landscape in Haw. I think we’ve seen that in America recently in places like Ferguson and Baltimore.

Mitch Cullin (Tideland, A Slight Trick of the Mind) describes the novel as a potentially seminal work in contemporary American fiction and likens it to Brave New World. I hope Mitch is right. The book takes a straight-on look into a potentially bleak future, unless we can rein in these people who think the Earth is invulnerable and that minorities are disposable. How long can we keep this up? I think Aldous Huxley and George Orwell are more relevant than ever before, more so than even the Cold War era when nuclear war was the looming disaster. I think it’s been a while since widely read American authors have tackled social issues.

And there is a genetic issue similar to Brave New World, only darker: some people aren’t bred to be more perfect but rather more imperfect. Populations of dark-skinned people (the citoyens) are fed into systems of poor nutrition and economic hopelessness so that the white society exists in a matrix of plenty. Huxley showed the dangers of utopian society and I feel Haw depicts an even more extreme and imminent threat, of having wealth-inequality force the majority of people into deprivation so that the depleted natural resources can sustain and nourish a select few. The novel is set during an apocalyptic period, not after it. We see the ruins being made, the downfall in all its sordid pieces.

Across the country, there is what feels like a war against the LGBT community, simply because they have sought equality. It’s a repeated cycle, with the suffragettes, then the Civil Rights marches, and now the rainbow flags are the battle flags for many people. It’s a taboo that many writers want to shrink away from if they are seeking a mainstream audience. I have a transgender daughter and I noticed over the years that if I referenced a work that featured homosexual characters, it was often written by a lesser-known writer. People were saying, by omission, that gay people did not belong in novels. So I created gay characters that are a part of the setting just like they are in real life. It’s weird that this hasn’t been done before.

While I was writing the book, my youngest child was going through a lot of similar issues that the Orel character faces in the novel. That was a motivational factor for me, to write it, to let the LGBT community know how valued they are by adults, especially their own parents. The story just didn’t seem to work without keeping the compelling and unbreakable nature of love intact.

And I am toying with the idea of writing a sequel to Haw.

I would like to thank Harvard Square Editions for deciding to take me and my book on. Their mission—to promote social equality, effect climate awareness—is a great ethic for a book publisher to have. Simone Weingarten at HSE has been great throughout the process, too.

What others are saying …

“(Haw) is one of the kind (of books) I hate to finish, because the world and the characters are so real that I still want to know ‘what’s next?’ and ‘how’s that work out?’ With good writing, you never even consider the writing itself; the story propels you along. That’s how it was with Haw. When is the sequel?” (Dee Langston, The Daily Advance.)


Connect with the author and novel here:


Haw is also available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and indiebound.org.

Writing Prompt: Likable Villain

In my blog post this past Tuesday, I wrote about how I love villains that are likable.

For the writing prompt this week, try writing a story from a villain’s point of view. What would you do to make the audience like them?

The Gray Villian

1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 are some of my favorite dystopian books. These are classics and I highly recommend them if you have not read them yet. Something I love about all of these books is how the author paints a morally gray conflict for the reader. For me, a story with areas of gray is more fun to read than a black and white, good vs evil story.

Something the authors of these books showcase in the societies and antagonists they create is the gray area. For example, in one of the dystopian novels I mentioned, the antagonist challenges the main character’s views on what is right and wrong. In the book, this villain is able to change the protagonist’s worldview from black and white to gray.

Another aspect of a gray area can be the audience’s ability to see things from another’s point of view. In the TV show Breaking Bad, Walter White finds out he has terminal lung cancer and decides to cook meth to make money for his family before he dies. He faces opposition from rival drug dealers, the government, and his wife. Even though he is destroying the lives of hundreds of people, the audience loves him. Why? We get to see Water’s reasons and motivations for his behavior. The audience knows his whole story and knowing his whole story creates gray area instead of a black and white moral dilemma.

Stories from the point of view of characters that are stereotypically the villain fascinate me. I love the ability to see inside the mind of these “evil” characters and love it even more when a director or author can even get me to side with the villain because of all the gray area.

Thursday Prompt: Ignite Your Passion

Flameo, readers! That’s a Fire Nation slang greeting. If you don’t know what I mean, go watch Avatar: The Last Airbender, the greatest animated series of all time. Seriously, you will not regret one minute of watching this show.

But back to the business at hand. The reason why I greeted you in such a heated fashion is because as of now, you are all Ignite presenters! Get it? Ignite? Flames?

So as Ignite presenters, you can choose to talk about anything that you’re passionate about. Here’s the catch: you only have 5 minutes. You’re thinking, “I can’t possibly talk about [insert passion here] in only 5 minutes! Give me a week, maybe.” However, I believe that you can. Heck, I did it—as I mentioned in my last post—and I need to check myself into a clinic for my addiction to Anime! While I am sure your excitement will have you including anything and everything about that subject, this exercise will help people like me who just can’t talk enough about what we love. As you can probably tell, I tend to ramble in my writing (as evinced by my need to dedicate the first four sentences to Avatar: The Last Airbender), so keeping my presentation 5 minutes long really helped me narrow down what was important to convey.

I believe that this can be a helpful tool in writing. Imagine that you’re writing a story, which you have to be excited about otherwise you wouldn’t write it. Now think: is it truly necessary to include that flowery description of your main character’s hair or would it be more important to hint at why he or she is such a BFD? All those details are nice, but what if your reader gets bored? This is why I urge you to put together a presentation on something that you want to share your love of. It could even be a presentation on a story that you’re writing. If you need help formatting, take a look at the Ignite Phoenix website: http://www.ignitephoenix.com.

Think about what’s important. In the words of the Ignite Team, “Enlighten us, just make it quick.”

My Unofficial Guide to Anime Character Design

Konichiwa, readers! (That was lame, why did I say that?) For this entry, I am taking you on a journey into the world of one of my favorite styles of art and animation: Anime. Recently I was selected to be a part of Ignite Phoenix, which is a group that gathers Arizona’s most passionate citizens to stand on a stage in front of hundreds of people to give a 5-minute presentation about anything that they are passionate about. Basically, I got to geek out over Anime in front of hundreds of people for 5 minutes. If you guys are interested in my take on Anime character design, you can watch it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krKvHOrgfto.

And if you liked that, please consider watching the other presentations from this year, and even previous years if you’re in the mood for a binge. The other presenters were fantastic people and delivered even more fantastic speeches.

Please don’t judge me too hard. If it impresses anyone, I drew nearly all of the slides… The only ones I didn’t draw were the second, third, half of the fourth, fifth, and sixth (the cute Anime Rapunzel). The rest is ALL me, baby!

Now with the time constraints, I couldn’t really talk about everything that I know about Anime character design. 5 minutes may seem like a long time to you, but when it comes to something you’re passionate about, it’s a challenge to say the least. Its like when you really want to talk about something but your listener’s ears explode after five minutes (true story). What do you hope they got from your talk before they could never hear anyone talk again? I may be a little addicted to the genre—heck, I’ve got an episode waiting for me when I finish this post! Must. Work. Faster.

I kid, I kid (not really).

Hopefully you all enjoy my nerdy ramblings! Maybe one of these days I’ll write up an in-depth guide to Anime character design if anyone is interested. But what I’ve learned from working with Ignite Phoenix is how to prioritize information. I feel like it has helped me realize what is worth putting in my writing and what I could do without if I had to. Hmmmm… I smell a Thursday prompt coming on….

Thank you all for reading! Have a totally tubular Tuesday.

Earthsong: Volume V, Chapter XIV

Earthsongch14coverRead Chapter XIV of Crystal Yates’ Earthsong.

If you’re just joining us or missed any previous sections, please start at the archives.

Happy reading!

Thursday Writing Prompt: Pixar Fill-in-the-Blank

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

This is the writing prompt for Thursday. For an added bonus, come up with five. The blanks don’t have to be one word, for example, it could be:

Once upon a time, there was a woman who lived in a condo on the 13th floor of Stohl Tower. Every day…

This isn’t really about writing a full short story, so much as helping with the brainstorming process. As always, share yours in the comments below!

Revisiting “Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling” (Emma Coates)

Pixar's 22 Rules to Phenomenal Storytelling
Image Credit: Dr. Claww via Imgur.com

Recently I’ve been going through the editing process for my Steampunk-inspired Fantasy novel, Under Umber Seas. I knew it had problems, I could identify what they were, I was just stumped on the best approach to fix them. As with many of you writers, I’m always juggling multiple projects, so I tossed the novel manuscript in the air to give me time to reflect on it. With the other hand I caught (more…)