Wednesday, July 26, 2023

My Take on Barbenheimer

I wasn't into Barbies or most dolls when I was a girl; I preferred books and stuffed animals. I'm also not into military history the way my husband and son are. Nevertheless, I knew we would be seeing Oppenheimer as a family (especially since I'm the one with the AMC app and account). Once I became aware of the Barbenheimer phenomenon, I decided I wanted to be a part of it. Since my husband works on Saturdays, we normally go to the movies Saturday night. I wound up watching Barbie by myself Saturday morning and seeing Oppenheimer with my family that evening. I even wore pink-and-black to mark the occasion, and my manicure was pale pink with black crow nail stickers.

The two movies are so wildly different in tone I don't need to point it out. Barbie was fun to watch, with plenty of pop culture references even I caught. I appreciated the feminism and diversity in it, though you can't fully discuss gender roles without considering non-binary and transgender viewpoints too. I was a little disappointed in the ending, since it didn't commit to gender equality and prioritized body parts over other aspects of being human.

As for Oppenheimer, it's a much longer, more complicated movie, jumping between three storylines (Oppenheimer's life and work, the kangaroo hearing to discredit him, and Strauss's failed Cabinet confirmation hearing.) Of the three, I preferred the main one focusing on Oppenheimer's career and thought the Strauss subplot least relevant, even if it was part of the book the movie is based on. Since the movie is rated R, I expected violence but not the frontal nudity and simulated sex. I'm not sure what my 16-year-old son thought about that. After the movie, my son asked to get the audio version of the book, so he's interested in other parts of the story, at least. We have the paperback too, but I have so many other books to read that I won't be getting to it for a long time, if ever. However, if you want to learn more about women's contributions to the Manhattan Project, I recommend The Girls of Atomic City.

While Barbie is my favorite of the two movies, I'm glad I was able to watch both of them. If you saw either or both movies, what did you think? Feel free to comment below.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Quick Writing Update

I think it's been a while since I posted a project update, so here's a quick summary of what I've been working on recently:

I submitted a solarpunk short story called "Inside, Outside" to Grist's Imagine 2200 climate fiction contest. While I think this is my best submission yet (I came up with the idea early enough to revise this story multiple times), I know this contest gets a lot of submissions. If it doesn't earn a reward, I'll submit it to other markets.

While I was on vacation, I made the last edits to my cozy mystery, Restaurants and Revenge. I've also submitted a request for cover art to the designers of this series. Depending on how quickly they come up with something, I'm hoping to make the preorder available to tie in with a promotion next month for the first book in the series, Murder at Magic Lake.

Now that I'm done with the second cozy mystery, it's time to move on to the next book in the series, called Bubble Tea and a Body. I already have a partial draft that I worked on before being distracted by other projects. I've reread it to familiarize myself with what I already wrote and made some more plotting decisions. Hopefully I can finish the first draft by the end of the year.

Progress on The Season Between, my fantasy short story collection set in the Season Avatars universe, has been slow. I plan to include five stories, one for each Season Avatar and one "ensemble" story where they're all working together. I have decent drafts for the individual stories, but the longer ensemble story is taking longer to complete. I would love to finish this project by the end of the year, but it really depends on how much time I can devote to it. It's been harder to find writing time this year with everything else I have to do. Hopefully I can figure out how to claw back more time for writing and crocheting soon.

How are your writing or other creative projects coming along? Feel free to share your progress in the comments.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Vacation 2023

At the end of June, my family and I took a vacation for the first time in several years. We divided our time between Philadelphia and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. My husband has always wanted to visit Gettysburg, so when we decided to go to Philadelphia, I suggested we add on the side trip. We went on a ghost tour, drove around the battlefield with a licensed guide, and visited several museums in the town. In Philadelphia, our main focus was the historical area, particularly Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, and Christ Church, along with the burial ground. We also visited the U.S. Mint, a natural history museum, and Valley Forge. My son will definitely have a leg up for his U.S. History class in the fall! We've already decided our next vacation will be to London, though I also want to fulfill one of my bucket list items and visit Liverpool. Here are a few photos from the trip:


A house in Gettysburg that suffered a lot of damage during the battle (the white spots are repairs)
Recreations of some of the cabins used by Washington's guards at Valley Forge.
A statue of George Washington at Valley Forge.


  Washington's headquarters at Valley Forge.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

IWSG: Ideas and Writing

We're officially halfway through the year! I hope you're having a good one and that you've made progress toward your goals. Since it's the first Wednesday of the month, it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Learn more about the IWSG on their website and Facebook page.

Our hosts this week are PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, Gwen Gardner, Pat Garcia, and Natalie Aguirre.

Here's our question for this month: Ninety-nine percent of my story ideas come from dreams. Where do yours predominantly come from?

I think we've had similar questions about story inspiration for the IWSG before. When you're starting your writing journey, coming up with ideas may seem overwhelming and intimidating. As my Taoism reading for today says, "Facing blank paper is an artist's terror." Even if you're in the middle of writing, lack of ideas can lead to writer's block.

If you are having trouble finding inspiration, you might want to consider submitting to themed short story anthologies or magazine in your genre (if that is common in your genre, that is.) Working with a theme (like a holiday, setting, or story element), might help you focus your creativity. 

Questions about where authors get their ideas seem to focus on the initial starting idea, the kernel that the story grows around. I have found that I develop my best stories by combining ideas. For example, my first published short story, "A Reptile at the Reunion," was inspired by a theme from a short story magazine and an invitation I received for a college reunion. This combination gave me a premise of someone thought to be dead (the magazine theme) showing up unexpectedly at their reunion. One idea isn't enough for a story; you have to keep adding to it. I kept asking myself questions to develop the character and her story. The premise changed extensively between my first and final draft, and the story wound up being published in a different anthology that sparked the story in the first place.

As you get more experience with writing and develop your own stories, you may find your worlds and characters keep generating ideas for you. I could probably spend the rest of my writing career continuing the series I've already written, but I seek out other projects as well to challenge me. (Or sometimes to give myself time away from my current project.) There is no limit to the ideas and combinations of ideas you can write about. The important thing is to take the idea that interests you and add on to it.

If you've been writing for a while, do you find it easier to come up with ideas? Where do yours come from? Feel free to share in the comments.

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