Camp Nano & other progress

After a bit of a rough couple of weeks, I am finally back on track to complete 20,000 words by the end of the month.  I had figured 20K would be so easy, not even half of a regular Nanowrimo, but surprisingly it hasn’t been the free ride I was expecting.  A bit part of this was my decision to write a historical fiction… I finally found some in-depth sources regarding the Beast of Gevaudan, which has been both helpful and difficult (to match my story up with the true events).  I will get there!

I’m hoping to be able to get ahead on this and start editing Dreamwalkers soon… and then possibly do the Camp Nanowrimo in June to finish the first draft of Scavengers!

Last week I was able to do 4 straddle ups on the silks!!  So another thing crossed off my list!  I feel like the hardest goal will be my Goodreads list.  I’m at 158 to-read now.  How did that happen?

goals progress:

  • to finish and publish Dreamwalkers
  • to finalize the print edition of Hitchhikers and offer a giveaway or two
  • (if goal #1 happens) to finish and publish Scavengers
  • and to possibly finish some of my other works-in-progress, including Blood Countess and another new WIP that I haven’t even added to the site yet!
  • be able to do a handstand away from the wall and hold for 10 seconds (I am close to being able to hold it next to the wall, the next step is to move away!)
  • be able to do more than 3 straddle ups in a row (in aerial silks)
  • practice yoga more often
  • read down my Goodreads to-read list (currently I have 148 books “to-read” which is kind of ridiculous)
  • sew more of my own clothes
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the YA baby name book, part 1

Over the years, it seems that names in YA books have devolved into strangeness.  There is almost always a moment where I have to stop and wonder, “How do you pronounce this?”  Of course, baby names have been growing stranger and stranger in the real world as well.

First up: Let’s see how the character names from a few of my favorite books published in each decade match up against the most popular baby names.

My criteria for the books in each decade:

  • published in that decade
  • contemporary setting
  • “embody” that decade or seem representative of the decade

1980-1989

  • Elizabeth, Jessica, Todd, Lila, Bruce (Sweet Valley High series)
  • Rachel, Stephanie, Alison (Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume)
  • Lori, Lia (Stranger with my Face by Lois Duncan)
  • Dicey, James, Sammy, Maybeth (Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt)
  • Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Ann, Dawn (Baby-Sitters Club series)

Top Boy Names of the 80s: Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, David, James, Daniel, Robert, John, Joseph

Top Girl Names of the 80s: Jessica, Jennifer, Amanda, Ashley, Sarah, Stephanie, Melissa, Nicole, Elizabeth, Heather

With the exception of Homecoming, I feel like the names here are pretty normal and fit with the top names, despite having only a handful of matches.  For example, Rachel and Lauren (Lori being a variation) are close to the top 10 for girls, and there are some other names that just scream EIGHTIES to me (like Stacey).  Many of the other names probably didn’t make a top list because of the many variations: names like Kristy and Sammy are nicknames and there are many ways to spell the original names.

Strangest name(s) from this batch: Dicey.  It doesn’t appear to be short for anything.


1990-1999

  • Elena, Stefan, Damon, Caroline, Bonnie, Tyler (Vampire Diaries series by L.J. Smith)
  • Joanna, Penn, Laurie, Tessa, Stephen, Casey (The Secret Diaries trilogy by Janice Harrell)
  • Michael, Jessica, Alice, Sara, Clair, Bill, Russ, Nick (Final Friends trilogy by Christopher Pike)
  • Bobbi, Corky, Jennifer, Julia, Kimmy, Debra, Ronnie, Chip (Cheerleaders series by R.L. Stine)
  • Charlie, Samantha, Patrick (The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky)
  • Melinda, Rachel, Heather, Andy, Ivy (Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson)

Top Boy Names of the 90s: Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, Jacob, Nicholas, Andrew, Daniel, Tyler, Joseph

Top Girl Names of the 90s: Jessica, Ashley, Emily, Sarah, Samantha, Amanda, Brittany, Elizabeth, Taylor, Megan

There are a lot more matches in this batch, and still most of them fit.  Jennifer was an extremely popular name in the 80s and 90s

Strangest name(s) from this batch: Penn and Corky.  I have to say, I loved the name Penn when I read those books and thought it was soooo sexy.  Unusual for a guy’s name, but definitely masculine and classy.  Corky, on the other hand, is just an unfortunate name for a girl, but apparently her mother didn’t have very good taste, given that her sister’s name is Bobbi.  Blech.

2001-2010

  • Isabella, Jacob, Edward, Jasper, Alice (Twilight series)
  • Carmen, Lena, Tabitha “Tibby”, Bridget, Krista, Bailey, Tucker (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series)
  • Miles, Alaska, Chip, Takumi, Lara (Looking for Alaska by John Green)
  • Grace, Sam, Isabel, Cole, Beck, Hannah, Olivia, Shelby, Paul (Wolves of Mercy Falls series)

Top Boy Names of the 00s: Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew, Daniel, Christopher, Andrew, Ethan, Joseph, William

Top Girl Names of the 00s: Emily, Madison, Emma, Olivia, Hannah, Abigail, Isabella, Samantha, Elizabeth, Ashley

Very interesting that Jacob & Isabella made their way onto the top baby names lists… and Edward didn’t (you could take into account that his name is actually historical).  While the boys top names list remains virtually unchanged, from the previous decade, the girls list has quite a few new additions.

Finding representative books from this decade was difficult, because this was the decade the YA Lit basically blew up, largely due to Twilight.  I tried to pick a few books that were really outstanding and also fit my criteria.  Until I remembered Shiver/Linger/Forever I thought I was going to be stuck on Jacob & Isabella.  This series uses several of the trendy new baby names, including Isabella.  I think Cole is fairly representative of this decade (my sister named her son that, with different spelling).  Bailey and Tucker also feel very much of this decade.

It seems like this is the decade where YA names start getting a little odd.  And though you could certainly discredit my previous selections for not being diverse, this group has several diverse names.

Strangest name(s) from this batch: Alaska, although the idea of naming your kid based on where he/she was conceived is not necessarily that unusual.

2011-present

  • Blue, Adam, Richard “Gansey” (his last name), Ronan, Noah, Declan (Raven Boys series)
  • Clarissa “Clary”, Simon, Jace, Sebastian, Alexander “Alec”, Isabelle, Maia, Jordan (Mortal Instruments series)
  • Mara, Noah, Jude, Jamie, Daniel, Joseph (Mara Dyer trilogy)

Top Boy Names: Aiden, Jackson, Mason, Liam, Jacob, Ethan, Lucas, Noah, Jayden, Jack, Logan

Top Girl Names: Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia, Ava, Mia, Lily, Zoe, Emily, Chloe, Madison, Abigail

I decided that Maia was close enough to Mia.  And I suppose the Mortal Instruments series straddles this decade and the last, so the name Isabella could be a hanger-on, but if I rule those two out, I’m not sure about why only the name that matches up is Noah.  The trend seems to be moving toward unusual names – both in fiction and in real life.

Strangest name(s) from this batch: Blue.  Although this name is normal compared to her family: Persephone, Calla, Orla, Artemus.  No wonder she lets Gansey call her “Jane.”

I will continue to explore the strange world of YA character names in the future…. stay tuned!

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a big sigh of relief!

I finally did it.  I finally completed the first draft of Dreamwalkers!!

It’s a pretty big accomplishment for me.  Not only is it the first novel I’ve completed outside of Nanowrimo since Hitchhikers (3 years ago!) but it is also the first sequel I’ve ever completed.  You’ll find the Dreamwalkers page now under Novels instead of Works-in-Progress.

Let the editing commence!

And also the writing of The Beast of Gevaudan!  This story is going to be a bloodbath.  Seriously – a body count of over 100.  I’m excited!

I find that spring is a time of year when I get a lot of projects finished.  Aside from my Nanowrimo novels, most of my other novels were completed in the spring.  Do any of you find that there is a particular time of year that is most productive for you?

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to camp or not to camp?

The time of Camp Nanowrimo is upon us again.  I wasn’t planning on attending, but then again, my 2014 goal of writing 500 words a day hasn’t exactly panned out, and of course now that I’m nearing completion on Dreamwalkers, my mind is having slutty new ideas.  Such as a Wolf Point prequel novella called The Beast of Gevaudan, which would be the story of Geo, oldest living werewolf and alpha of the enemy pack (I can’t remember if I mention him in Hitchhikers, but he is definitely discussed in Dreamwalkers).

So of course I’ve been spending more time lately gathering information on Gevaudan and Soissons and other areas in France that were beset by wolf attacks thought to be werewolves, instead of finishing Dreamwalkers.  But I’m so close!  It’s just hard.  Really hard.  I have the final sentence of the book in my head, it’s just a matter of getting there.  Seriously, I feel like there are only a couple of scenes between me and that ending.

And yet, slutty new idea.

Perhaps if I decide to do camp, I will crank out the end of Dreamwalkers in the next 4 days?  And since The Beast of Gevaudan would be a prequel novella, I wouldn’t have to go full-force for a 50,000 word goal.  I’d try for only 20-30,000 words, and that would give me time to edit Dreamwalkers?

Hmmm…

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Cheerleaders in YA Horror

Cheerleaders have been representing the “mean girl” since before the term was coined.  While during the 80s teen literature was full of the popular girls and the girls who wanted to be popular – think Sweet Valley High and the “Cheerleaders” series – once teen horror blew up in the late 80s and early 90s, cheerleaders went from desirable to evil bitches who were either the tormentors or became the victims.  Because… didn’t they deserve it?

Interestingly, many of the authors of the conventional “Cheerleaders” series became horror writers.  Caroline B. Cooney, Christopher Pike, Diane Hoh, and Carol Ellis all went on to write horror – and three of these four authors later wrote horror stories about cheerleaders.   Hmm…

Cheerleaders #2: Getting Even was written by Christopher Pike, and though it certainly sounds like it would involve an element of horror, which was the only reason I read it back when I was a teen.  But it’s more mean girling and petty jealousy.  Unlike Die Softly by Christopher Pike.

In Die Softly, cheerleaders are still highly desirable – but what makes this different from the girly SVH and Cheerleaders series is that this time it’s about a guy.  A guy who wants to take naked pictures of cheerleaders in the locker room, because he wants to put them up all over school and embarrass them.  Not only that, when he later develops said photos, he sees a figure in the background, and the girl in the picture later turns up dead.

This is a full departure from the clean, sexless cheerleaders of the mid-eighties, and what made Christopher Pike so popular.  Yes, guys are horny!  Cheerleaders are sex objects!  And of course, because this is Christopher Pike, lots of time spent on the process of developing photographs and fucked up dreams.  And here we have both the cheerleader as victim, and the cheerleader as (SPOILER ALERT) murderous coke addict.

R.L. Stine’s own cheerleaders series (The First Evil, The Second Evil, and The Third Evil) came out a year after Die Softly and once again, the cheerleaders are both victim and villain, and also one unlucky cheerleader dies in the shower.  Bobbi and Corky (this name just made me think of the TV show Life Goes On) are new to Shadyside and join the cheerleading squad, and are apparently such awesome cheerleaders that other members of the team are pissed, including one girl who is demoted to alternate.  When the head cheerleader is paralyzed in an accident, Bobbi is promoted to head cheerleader, causing even more insane cheerleader jealousy.

The evil continues for two more books – just when you think it’s done, it comes back!  Never doubt the power of Fear Street and the ghosts of old pilgrims who possess cheerleaders for no apparent reason other than wanting everyone to die.

Cheerleaders & Vampires

Caroline B. Cooney’s The Cheerleader has quite the innocuous title.  The cover is less so.  Here’s a cheerleader, and there are also vampires!  And the tagline: “She would do anything to be popular.”

Like every other girl, Althea just wants to be popular, so she makes a deal with the vampire in her attic (don’t ask) who says he can make her popular and a cheerleader if she’ll just pick out a victim.  Naturally, she chooses the head cheerleader, not realizing she will have to continuously offer up her new-found friends as blood donations or else lose her popularity.  Yet again: cheerleader as victim and (once Althea’s on top) as tormentor!

Though the vampire returns again (Revenge of the Vampire) and again (The Vampire’s Promise), the cheerleader aspect is not as explored – although in Revenge of the Vampire, the main character is willing to bring the vampire some victims if he will make her beautiful.  In The Vampire’s Promise, 6 teens are trapped in the house where Althea formerly lived, and they must choose one of their own to sacrifice to the vampire.  Sherree, one of the six, is a cheerleader, and is quite willing to sacrifice any or all of her friends to avoid dying herself.

Lest we all forget, Elena Gilbert from The Vampire Diaries is also a cheerleader.  Elena from the books is of the blonde, bitchy variety who can’t understand why the hot new guy at school doesn’t like her.  She also engages in some frenemy-type behaviors with fellow cheerleader Caroline.  In essence she is exactly the shallow, vain, mean girl one would expect a cheerleader to be, and most reviewers found her quite unlikable.  Unfortunately The Vampire Diaries isn’t really “horror” per se, but I thought the vampire + cheerleader thing was too obvious not to include.

To be read!

In searching “cheerleaders” in all YA fiction from 1985-1995 on Worldcat, I found a couple of other titles aside from the above and those from the Cheerleaders or Sweet Valley High series – titles I have not read!

The Scream Team by Diane Hoh is part of the Nightmare Hall series.  Delle (I seriously need to write a blog post about weird names in YA!) wants to be a cheerleader at – dun dun dun! – Salem University.  “Once Delle thought she would die to get a place on the team. Now she realizes she may have to…”  Um… if you die, you can’t really be on the team?  Or is the team made up of zombies?

The Cheerleaders by John Hall is apparently about two girls named Holly and Alison.  Both want to be cheerleaders.  Somewhere along the way, Alison died and Holly made the squad, but now Holly is receiving threatening phone calls from Alison.  Sounds to me like Holly has a guilty conscience!

Just outside of my search range, I found this gem.  The Curse of the Cheerleaders, published in 1997, is more of a Goosebumps-level book, about a head cheerleader who is (judging from her face on the cover) an alien and can strike down the other team with lightning when her team is losing.

The phrase “dying to be popular” seems to be the common theme among the cheerleader horror genre.  The “mean girl” phenomenon is quite rampant as well, as most of these involve cheerleader vs. cheerleader violence and murder.

After 1995, the cheerleader horror genre drops off dramatically.  A backlash, perhaps?  From 1995-2005, we get another installment in R.L. Stine’s Cheerleaders series, and the rest are a return to the typical girly cheerleader fare (a lot of TV tie-ins, like Lizzie McGuire, Mary Kate and Ashley, etc., or series just about cheerleaders, e.g. Cheer USA!).  From 2005-present, there are a lot of cheerleader humor titles: NERDS: The Cheerleaders of Doom, Zombie Blondes, Fat Boy Versus the Cheerleaders.  Unfortunately, there are no signs that the evil cheerleader trend will return anytime soon…

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goals & progress

A quarterly update on my progress:

  • to finish and publish Dreamwalkers
  • to finalize the print edition of Hitchhikers and offer a giveaway or two
  • (if goal #1 happens) to finish and publish Scavengers
  • and to possibly finish some of my other works-in-progress, including Blood Countess and another new WIP that I haven’t even added to the site yet!
  • be able to do a handstand away from the wall and hold for 10 seconds (I am close to being able to hold it next to the wall, the next step is to move away!)
  • be able to do more than 3 straddle ups in a row (in aerial silks)
  • practice yoga more often
  • read down my Goodreads to-read list (currently I have 148 books “to-read” which is kind of ridiculous)
  • sew more of my own clothes

I got the print edition of Hitchhikers all squared away and did a Goodreads giveaway that ended March 11th.  Goal met!  I will likely be offering another giveaway for Hitchhikers once I’ve completed Dreamwalkers and get the ebook edition up.

I have actually been practicing yoga more often, usually only once a week (although I do incorporate a lot of yoga stretches into my stretching routine).

So far, I’ve got a peasant blouse nearly completed (will post pics at some point) and I have the materials to make a knockoff of Lululemon’s vinyasa scarf (apparently now discontinued).  Also I’m very nearly finished with a sweater I’ve been working on since early autumn, just in time for the weather to turn warm.  Not really sewing, but DIY clothing related.

Progress on my other goals…

  • Dreamwalkers is up over 52,000 words! It probably will not be finished by my self-imposed deadline of April 1 (ha ha!) but the end is near.
  • Have done some inspiration work on my WIP that is still doesn’t have its own spot on my WIP list – check out this Pinterest board I made!
  • Still can only do 2 straddle ups in a row, but I’ve been able to do some with straight arms which is extremely difficult, so I am getting there!
  • Started the year with 148 books on my to-read list, now at 155, but I have actually read several books that were on there!
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Carrie showdown: The Original vs. The Remake

It was with a lot of hesitancy that I even watched the “Carrie” remake.  I’m not sure how a director takes a classic horror movie – not a cult horror movie, or one with shitty special effects, but a classic horror movie that was well-received in its time and continues to be well-known and loved – and decides, “I can do better.”  (Ahem, “The Omen”).

Let’s look at the two side by side:

Carrie, the Bullied and Abused Girl:

carriestudentcarrie2studentWhich of these girls would you have made fun of high school?  Sissy Spacek just has this weird look.  Chloe Grace Moretz is very conventionally pretty.  You can dress her in weird jumpers and blouses, but Chloe is still pretty.  There was just something so awkward and weird about Sissy Spacek, maybe because she seems so frail.  Let’s face it: Chloe Grace Moretz is Hit Girl from the Kick-Ass movies.  It’s a big stretch for me to see her as a victim of bullying.

carrieblood

carrie2blood

Even here, I felt like the acting on Sissy Spacek’s part was so much better.

Carrie at the Prom:

carriepromcarrie2prom

As I mentioned before, Chloe is very pretty.  It wasn’t really any surprise to see her look pretty at the prom.  Sissy, on the other hand, looked so weird before, that it was a surprise to see her looking so pretty.

carrieprombloodcarrie2promblood

The blood scene is supposed to be shocking.  Carrie goes from suddenly beautiful to suddenly horrifying.  Here, Chloe still somehow looks pretty.  The blood is artfully dribbled on her face.  While the blood is probably more realistic looking than in the original, Sissy’s Carrie looks infinitely more frightening.  And frightened.  She’s watching her life turn into a nightmare.  Chloe looks like she’s just embarrassed.  

Evil Carrie:

Carrie (1976)1146139 - CARRIE

The “Evil Carrie” look is where Chloe does the best, but she still doesn’t beat Sissy.  With just a few simple snaps of her head and her wide-eyed stare, Sissy’s Carrie brings vengeance down on everyone at that prom.  By the way she holds her body, it is clear that she has completely snapped after a lifetime of bullying and abuse.

The new Carrie, however, takes a more active role and uses her hands to aid her mind in inflicting much more specific punishments upon select classmates.  This Carrie felt much more directed and calculated in her punishments rather than having a total meltdown and wanting everyone to die.  I didn’t find her quite as scary as the original.  I do have to say that throughout the movie, Chloe’s Carrie had quite the evil look as she practiced her telekinesis, but unfortunately that isn’t the intention of the novel.  Carrie isn’t evil; she is turned evil by society.

Moving on to other characters:

Margaret White, Carrie’s mom:

I felt like the portrayal of Carrie’s mom by both of these actresses was neck and neck.  In the new version, Carrie’s mother’s backstory is told, and offers a new depth to her character.  In the original, we just know the mother is a religious freak.  In the new version, we learn that Carrie’s mother wasn’t always so religious, and that Carrie’s father basically raped her, and that she had wanted to kill Carrie at birth.

The one place place where I felt like the new film failed in its portrayal of Margaret White was in her death.  In the original, Carrie makes knives stab her mother in a way that distinctly mirrors the wounds of the crucified Jesus in Carrie’s “prayer closet.”  The new version does not make this parallel.

Sue Snell (the nice popular girl):

Does the face at left resemble any stereotype of a “popular girl” you’ve ever known?  The new film’s Sue, at right, does.  Maybe things were different in 1976.  The only questionable thing about the new Sue is the fact that she’s named Sue.  Not a real popular name for babies in this century.  As far as acting goes, they both played the “nice girl” well.  The new addition of Sue being pregnant at the end and visiting Carrie’s grave doesn’t have anywhere near the effect of the original’s Sue dreaming about visiting Carrie’s grave and giving us that last scare.

Miss Desjardin (the gym teacher):

No real need for pictures here.  I was a bit surprised that nothing was changed about Miss Desjardin’s reaction to Carrie’s shower room hysterics (slapping her) or about her reprimand to the girls’ bullying (“That was a real shitty thing to do”).  If you’re going to introduce a storyline about cyberbullying to appeal to the audience’s of today, you’re going to have to realize that teachers these days would NEVER get away with either of these reactions.  Granted, Carrie’s mother would never complain to the school board, but I would imagine the parents of any of the other girls would be complaining about a teacher who swore at their precious children.  Sorry state of education these days, but then again, even in 1976 I don’t think teachers were allowed to strike students or swear at them.

Tommy Ross (the nice guy/Sue’s boyfriend):

Back in the day, William Katt was apparently a hot commodity.  No thank you.  Unfortunately, my first reaction to seeing Ansel Elgort as Tommy was, “It’s Augustus!”  As I watched Ansel’s Tommy Ross try to win Carrie over, I wondered, “Is this how he woos Hazel?”  Neither actor strikes me as being particularly “jocky” and they both still die from being hit in the head with a bucket.  I’ll call this a tie.

Chris Hargensen (the mean popular girl):

Both of these actresses embody different aspects of the traditional mean girl.  Nancy Allen’s mean girl is the pretty blonde who may look pretty but whose interior is so, so ugly.  Portia Doubleday’s mean girl is the updated version – there’s the fake tan, the heavy make up, the trashy clothes.  Both like to party and drink and manipulate people.  One major difference is the maliciousness of 2013 Chris, who jumps in and kills the pig instead of letting her boyfriend do all work.  However, since it isn’t true to the source material and this isn’t a contest of which Chris is more evil, I will call this one is a tie.

Billy Nolan (Chris’s delinquent boyfriend):

The original Billy Nolan was played by John Travolta, so really there is no contest here.  However, as Chris was updated, so was her boyfriend.  This Billy Nolan is more of a dick who doesn’t really respect Chris at all.  I felt like 1976 Chris and Billy were more of a couple, and 2013 Chris and Billy were a bad series of hookups, the sort of couple who cheats on each other and gets back together and breaks up again over and over.  1976 Billy was a heartthrob.  2013 Billy would be a drug dealer.

The verdict:

While the new Carrie tries to update the story for 2013 by adding cyberbullying, special effects, and making the characters appear more 2013-friendly, the overall message, tone, and tension of the original is lost.  The prom scene in the original had so much tension with the music and the jumps between the happy prom, Chris waiting with the bucket, rigging the prom votes, and Miss Desjardin’s mistake of thinking Sue had anything to do with it. The way many of the scenes were framed and shot in the new version just felt completely conventional.  While the actors did their best, acting is not going to save a movie that has all the tension and suspense edited out of it.  The original is clearly the winner!

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