Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Too Hot Tuesday: The Cowboy Edition

I could do multiple cowboy posts (and probably will at some point) because cowboys are inherently hot. There's just something about a man who works with his hands, spends serious time in the saddle, and doesn't mind getting sweaty. *whew* Is it hot in here? *fans self*
Pensive, navel-gazing cowboy says work day is over
Just chewing on some hay, inspecting my cotton fields...
Why, yes, I do walk around in my cowboy hat and boxers. You got a problem with that? (Btw, the answer is no.)
I have plenty of rope...never know when you'll need to tie something up.
Too Hot Tuesday is definitely one of my favorite days of the week!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pixar Story Rules (Some of them, anyway)

I find the most interesting things via Twitter. Today, I was trolling through my feed, smiling at all the Memorial Day (U.S.) messages to soldiers and vets, when I ran across one that mentioned Pixar's story-telling "rules". Of course, I had to click on the link and found THIS awesome blog post on the PixarTouchBook.com.

Pixar stories are the kind of stories that appeal to both young and old audiences with each story filled with humor, drama, and plain ole good storytelling. So, Pixar story "rules"? Yes, please.

Here are my top ten favorites from the list Pixar story artist Emma Coats tweeted. She learned these guidelines from her colleagues and they translate well to any genre or medium.

(from THIS post by David on the PixarTouchBook.com blog)
#1: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#2: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#3: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#4: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#5: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#6: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#7: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
#8: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
#9: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
#10: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

Of course, no rule is hard and fast--they depend on the story and the writer as well as the situation. Personally, I like lists like this because I can say, "Yeah. That's right!" or "Ooh, let me try that and see if it does work.". Plus, Pixar knows storytelling so I'm more than willing to take writing advice from them.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Your vs. You're Awesomeness

Y'all. I just HAD to share this with you. Originally, I found it on Smart Bitches/Trash Books and couldn't stop proclaiming its awesomeness. Dang. White boy can RAP and he knows his grammar! Be still my heart. Too bad he curses throughout his grammar rap (especially the f-word) or I'd totally show this to my students. *edit: Here's the link, if the video disappears again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=32p8d6OudgU

So, how was your week? It's Friday! Woot!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I want to live here...loan me $3.22 million, would you?

The House at Pooh Corner is for sale! If I had the wherewithal, I'd so live here (actually, this is a total dream house for me--forest, streams, a little writing cottage, adorable English village...yes, please):
Christopher Robin Milne, the son of Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne, grew up in this quaint brick manse in the English countryside. Christopher Robin inspired the young boy of the same name in Milne's iconic children's stories and, so too did the bucolic setting of the family home serve as the backdrop. Known as Cotchford Farm, and on the market for the first time in more than 40 years, the Grade II listed estate spans 9.5 acres of lawns, forest, and streams. The six-bedroom main house, the quintessential English country house if there ever was one, is listed for $3.22M. There's more to the Milne house than just Pooh, as it was also later owned by Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, who reportedly died on the property.

It's beautiful. Go HERE (Curbed.com) to see more pictures and drool a bit more.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Being Well-Read is Hot

South Carolina finally made a good list! And, in honor of my adopted city of Columbia making the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities (US), I've found some hot reading men. Because reading is sexy.

"Kicking off the summer reading season, Amazon.com, Inc. announced its annual list of the Most Well-Read Cities in America. The ranking was determined by compiling sales data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format since June 1, 2011, on a per capita basis in cities with more than 100,000 residents.

The Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities are: 
1) Alexandria, VA 2) Cambridge, MA 3) Berkeley, CA 4) Ann Arbor, MI
5) Boulder, CO 6) Miami 7) Arlington, VA 8) Gainesville, FL 
9) Washington, DC 10) Salt Lake City 11) Pittsburgh 12) Knoxville, TN 
13) Seattle, WA 14) Orlando, FL 15) Columbia, SC (Hey, that's me! Wonder if my book addiction contributed to this...) 16) Bellevue, WA 
17) Cincinnati 18) St. Louis 19) Atlanta 20) Richmond, VA
"The Men of the Stacks"--a charity calendar of hot male librarians benefitting the It Gets Better Project. Meet Mr. January (I particularly like his little tan line...).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Where do you get your ideas?

When I talk creative writing with my students, I use my own writings as examples and jumping-off points for lessons. While many students are excited by the chance to be able to write what they want, a lot are scared. They have no idea where to start. No idea where to get those ideas.

This is something that baffles a lot of people, not just my students. But ideas are everywhere, you just have to be open to the potential and the possibilities. 
From Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
Generally, when they're at a loss as to where to start, I tell my students to think of something they already like: movies, TV shows, books, or video games, for example. That at least gives them a genre they enjoy exploring. If they're still at a loss, they can always write fan fiction. With the characters and world already in place, that's a less intimidating place to start.

For me, ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes, they're just teensy little sparks, nothing more than the glimmer of an idea. Sometimes, they're big embers that need a bit of teasing and room to breathe if they're to turn into a conflagration, one with full-on story potential. They're all worthy of writing down. 

Idea Sparks:

  • TV shows (yes, including reality TV--people are weird and they're weirder when pixelated)
  • Movies
  • Books
  • Video Games
  • Conversations
  • Pictures (see, this is why Pinterest is good! Okay, I'll quit...)
  • Music
  • Nature
  • History
  • Experiences
  • Friends
  • Family
  • The eccentric gentleman who walks everywhere
  • Those clouds that formed overhead, looking exactly like a baby dragon unfurling its wings
  • The commercial of the guy in the flower-print sarong

Well, pretty much everywhere--you never know when an idea will pop into your head (thus the pens and note pads stuffed everywhere).

Where do you get your ideas?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pinterest Thursday: Fierce Men

Testing brings out the fierceness in all of us at school--kids and teachers and administrators alike. SOOOO, lucky you (and me!), I'm delving into my Fierce Characters board on Pinterest and posting some awesomely FIERCE MEN. Manly men who can kick ass one minute and bring a grown woman to her knees with a deeply passionate kiss in the next. Feeling swoony yet?
Liam McIntyre, the new Spartacus...*drool*
Channing Tatum certainly looks good with a tat and half a police uniform on...
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a fierce military man..mmmm
How can I leave out my original fierce man crush, Harrison Ford as Han Solo?
I don't know about you but all this testosterone is certainly making me feel better!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Operation Get Fit: Week 1

I decided to give my plan to lose weight and get healthy at name: Operation Get Fit (snappy, huh?). Sadly, while this project now has a title, there was little progress made.

Calorie intake: approx. 1,800 calories a day
Weight loss: 0.5 lbs
Exercise: 20 min/day 6x this week

Saturday was a "cheat" day: it was 90 degrees and I played in the lake, which required many frosty adult beverages. They were Miller Lites, however--Tastes great. Less filling! Got plenty of exercise trying to keep the boat from blowing away (acting as an anchor is calorie-burning, right?) and washing the dogs.

Didn't do so badly food-wise. Adding veggies is really my downfall. I'm more of a carbs and more carbs girl, which is soooo not good for the belly. This next week, that's going to be a top goal.

Exercise--pitiful. May's usually ridiculously busy. It seems like every single day has an after-school meeting of some sort, testing, or other blah-blah-blah. Those are just excuses. I need to get over my exhaustion and get myself moving more than 20 minutes a day.

On the plus side, I didn't gain any weight! And, despite really craving it, no slice of yummy, delicious Publix cake made its way into my shopping cart.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Too Hot Tuesday: Men In Kilts

I'm feeling a little (lot) cranky today because this is officially the Week From Hell--South Carolina's testing week: PASS testing--Palmetto Achievement Blah-blah-blah. (I call it the Pain-in-the-ASS test 'cause I'm creative like that.) Since I don't have a homeroom, I'm testing someone else's class and, because a variety of timing factors, I lose my planning this week. Yep. No planning, fifteen minutes to eat lunch each day, and THAT'S IT. No breaks. No passing go. No peeing (or RUSH between classes). It's lovely.

No wonder I'm cranky. But HOT MEN IN KILTS will most certainly cheer me up, especially since I know what REAL SCOTSMEN wear under their kilts. *Ahem* That'd be nothing. Commando. Hanging free. Airin' out the twig and berries.

What, too much fabric? At least he has a big sword!
Nail it, baybee!
Contemplating...what does he have on under that kilt?
Macho man with rock-solid abs
Sassy smile to go with his lovely kilt and guns...
Ah. There now. I feel better. How 'bout you?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Brainstorming...or just making a mess

Each time a new idea pops into head, I jot it down in what I call my idea book. Some of those ideas will stay in there, gathering dust. Some of those ideas fester, burrowing deep into my brain and refusing to let go.  It's at that point I start jotting down more ideas, ideas related to that original thought. And do a little research while I'm at it, though usually nothing too serious, since I'm not sure if the idea's really going to stick.

When I get serious about pursuing the plot bunny, that's when I pull out a composition book. Laugh if you must but I like to keep all my ideas together in one place--a place I know a page won't fall out or get ripped out or anything like that. A three-ringed binder might work better, so I can slip in more paper when I need it or pull out something that I definitely won't use, but I'm quite attached to my composition books.

Right now, I have my composition book started. It's got a section for facts, stuff I've gathered from multiple sources, and a section for world-building, where I'm going to keep adding information that's partly true, partly warped to fit this world. The book will also get a collage of pictures, words, and scribbles, all that add to both the plot and the world in which the characters live. It gets kind of messy, but in a good way.

With this story, the world came first. This can make things a bit more difficult. Since I didn't even have a basic idea for a plot (besides "Hey, there a girl in this world and she's going to have a lot of trouble coming her way."), I spent some time with a legal pad. I don't really do much brainstorming in my composition book. It's got to be something I'll maybe-probably use. By the time I'm at the writing stage, my composition book is a mess.

How so you brainstorm?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Polar bears are funny

Poor polar bear! I wonder if, when he got up, he had that embarrassed look that my dog gets when he face-plants off the back stoop.

Almost done index carding my YA Action story. This is the first time I've done this but I'm hoping this will help me find the holes in my plot. Some surprising tweaks seem like they might just fix some of the wonky bits so yay for index cards. 

After I get the whole plot written out, I'm going to tack them up and see how it all flows. And fix my timeline, which is out of whack (I mean, seriously. How long can one day actually be?!? Only so much can happen in twenty-four hours.)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Writing with Pinterest

There are a great many writers who use Pinterest for writing inspiration--whether it be to just sit in the chair and keep writing or to find images that fit their characters or setting or to be inspired to create a while new world.
I use it for all these things and, quite frankly, because I like finding really cool images, sayings and art online. I'm not a big shopper but I can imagine that the little shot of adrenaline I get from finding the perfect representation of a character is similar to what my mom (a big bargain shopper who was severely disappointed to find the shopping genes did not translate to me) gets when she finds a new going-out top at Stein Mart for $6. 
Also, there are times I just need to remind myself to keep going.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I don't want the weight lost, I want it disappeared. Kapish?

Ever since I turned a certain age last year, I've been rather steadily gaining weight. It's not that I changed my eating habits--if anything, they've improved in the last couple years. It's not that I changed my exercise habits--they weren't great to begin with but I take a half hour walk with the dogs (Fiona's my musher, keeping us moving at a rather quick pace) and, when possible (a couple of times a week), get in an additional couple miles on the treadmill. The only real issue I have is a high cortisol level--lots of stress in my job--and a plethora of medications to control my allergies and asthma (I've had asthma since I was a kid so it's not a weight-related side effect). I'm kind of at a loss as to the cause of my 16-pound weight increase in the last year. Except that I turned 40. Granted, I was always pretty sturdy and, through my 30's, only managed to become sturdier. *shakes fist* Damn you, metabolism!

Jenny Craig seemed like an ideal solution because I hate to cook. I just want the food in front of me. Too bad the pre-packaged meals were vile. Weight Watchers wasn't bad but I hated going to the meetings because, once I'm home, I'm home. Especially during the school year. I've done weight loss challenges at work, bought and read countless get-fit books, tried dozens of classes all with little visible success and very much frustration. The only things I really like are running and yoga. I re-started my fitness routine in February but haven't seen any results. Obviously, I'm not doing enough. 

So. Here's the deal. I'm not going to be a fat ass any more. I can't handle it. I hate the way I feel, how it drains my energy, how I look in clothes, how I feel around my much fitter friends and family, how the world sees me--and, of course, how I see myself. 

Because I'm not going to do it anymore. I need to step it up, big time. I'd love to lose about 40-50 pounds over the next year, and that's going to take some serious dedication on my part. It can't matter that I'm in a meeting until 5pm and exhausted. I still need to work out. It can't matter that I don't want to cook. I can't pick up Zaxsby's instead of making grilled chicken myself. It can't matter that there's a show I want to watch. I have to do what's necessary for me to get healthy, happy, and comfortable in my body again.

If you don't want to read my Wednesday posts, I totally understand. I'll try to keep them upbeat and not just bitch about it all. But I need some way to hold myself accountable. I can't ask my mom--though she'd gladly help out, her suggestions and questions about what I'm eating and if I worked out would only piss me off (I can't help it!). I can't ask friends--they're busy and, while they'd probably be willing to help, I really don't want to hear it from them, either. My dogs are notably mute on this subject, merely forcing me to walk them daily. That, I can handle. And writing about my progress (or lack thereof), sending it out into the ether and possibly getting some (hopefully) encouraging comments back...that, I can handle. 

And, for hanging in there with me--some more hottie goodness:
Old school Marky Mark Wahlberg in his Calvins. Very inspiring.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Here we go again...

I'm obviously a glutton for punishment. This month, I'm going to try again to be a consistent poster--Monday through Friday this time. And, to inspire me, I've joined author Sara McClung in her attempt to reestablish a consistent blogging schedule: Blog Me MAYbe

Here's my plan (ever-fluid, subject to changes based on my flighty whims):
Monday--Writer Monday. All things writing.
Tuesday--Too Hot Tuesday. So many cute guys, so little time. Sure, I'll share.
Wednesday--Weight watchers Wednesday. Me and my fat ass getting in shape!
Thursday--Pinterest Thursday. Interesting things I've found through Pinterest.
Friday--Fun-day Friday. My attempts at lightening things up.

And, a la Bridget Jones's Diary, I'm thinking that at the top of each post, I'll chart both my words written and something weight-loss-y (either time spent exercising, calories ingested, or pounds lost--fingers crossed!).

So, why don't we start off Tuesday right? Joe Manganiello, aka Alcide from True Blood (and soon to be a beefcake stripper boy in a new movie!):

What? Too many clothes? Okay...

Joe, you just keep working out, maintaining that lovely physique. You're very inspirational.