Saturday, June 27, 2009

Doctor Who

My little sister will swear up and down that she hates science fiction with the exception of Stargate: SG-1. If asked if she likes Doctor Who she would answer with a fervent no.

This summer I'm living with my little sister while I work at my co-op and she goes to summer school at UCF. Yesterday she kept saying she needed to do work, but I wasn't feeling well so I wanted to watch TV. I said I would watch Doctor Who since she didn't like it, therefore, the show would not distract her. She said I could and I preceeded to select one of the episodes I had recorded.

The episode I picked was an episode from the first season of the Doctor Who revival. For those of you who aren't Doctor Who savvy, Doctor Who is a British sci-fi show that started in 1963. It aired from 1963 to 1989. Then in 2005, the British brought it back. The great thing about the revival is that foreknowledge of the original series isn't necessary, but for the people who grew up watching the original, all of the same bad-guys and idiosyncrasies are there. It really is quite awesome.

The main character of Doctor Who is this alien, a Time Lord, called the Doctor. Because the show has been on so long they had to find a way to be able to change actors for the Doctor. The method is that since the Doctor is an alien, instead of dying he "regenerates". This regeneration essentially turns him into a different person. Though he is still the Doctor he has slightly different tastes and idiosyncrasies. And of course, he looks completely different.

What does this have to do with my little sister? Well I picked a first season episode which means the Doctor was played by Christopher Eccelston, the ninth Doctor. My little sister had only ever seen an episode from seasons 2-4, meaning the Doctor was played by David Tennant, the tenth Doctor.

The episode started with Rose talking to the Doctor and my little sister looked up from her work in horror. "What is this?" she demanded. "I thought you were going to watch Doctor Who."

"I am watchng Doctor Who," I responded, confused. Rose and the Doctor were obviously in the Tardis. My sister may not have known much about Doctor Who but she could surely recognize Rose and the Tardis.

"That's not the Doctor!" she exclaimed. "This is wrong! That's not the Doctor!"

"This is the first season, it's the ninth Doctor," I explained.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she responded. "That is not the Doctor." My sister then made me switch to an episode with the Tenth Doctor in it. Then instead of doing work she watched five episodes with me.

I prefer the Tenth Doctor myself. Something about the spaztic, clever protrayal of the Doctor by David Tennant just makes me happy. Apparently, my sister prefers him too. For someone who doesn't like Doctor Who, she sure does have strong feelings about who the Doctor is.

If you've never watched Doctor Who, you should. Find your own favorite Doctor. If you're like me you'll like the Tenth Doctor. If you're like my super awesome best friend, you'll like the Ninth Doctor. If you love robotic dogs, you will be all about the Fourth Doctor.

Yes there are ten doctors. You have a lot of catching up to do.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Letter

To the Lady Who Dispenses Her Paper Towel before Washing Her Hands,

First off, I would like to say I totally understand. I completely get that you’re trying to be conscious of germs and that you don’t want the hands you’re about to clean at the sink dirty by touching the paper towel dispenser. I get it, and I can respect that.

Secondly, I also understand that there aren’t a whole lot of women who use our bathroom. Our bathroom is perhaps the only girl’s bathroom in the world that never has a line. You’re not all that worried about the other people who use the bathroom because there are only like five of us. I get that.

Third, I get that you’re probably a human resources person, since I know the three female engineers besides myself who use our bathroom. I don’t mean to judge or anything, but as a human resource person, I realize you may not think quite as critically as we engineers. Engineers are trained to see problems and try to fix them. I understand that you did not have the horrific experience of being an engineering student and therefore may not see the problem you’re creating.

Let me point it out to you.

After you use the bathroom, you walk up to a paper towel dispenser, touch the handle of the dispenser with your dirty hands, dispense the paper towel to an appropriate length, and then wash your hands. Once your hands are clean, you grab your paper towel without touching the handle you just dirtied and head out of the bathroom with dry clean hands. How nice. How pleasant. That is, how nice, pleasant, and clean for you.

I don’t know if you realize this but out of the 15 women who use our bathroom you are the only one who does this. The rest of us do things in the normal order. We leave the stall, we wash our hands, and we get a paper towel. No early dispensing is necessary. Our hands are clean when we touch the paper towel dispenser’s handle. A handle that would be clean if not for you.

You see in your desire to not catch our germs; you’re actually giving all of us your germs. Do you see what I mean? No. Let me explain.

Our hands are clean when they touch the handle. Clean. Germ free. Or at least as germ free as soap can make them (let’s not consider that 0.01% of germs that survive. They’re unimportant). Therefore, if everyone washed their hands before touching the handle, the handle would never be a hive of germs. Only clean hands are touching it, therefore the handle is clean.

But you, my friend, you who are so germ conscious, are actually ruining the system. Your hands are dirty when you touch the handle. You touch it with unwashed, dirty, germ filled hands. Because of that, the rest of our clean hands are contaminated by your germs. We were clean. You made us dirty.

It’s not like you’re using a public restroom used by hundreds of people. This is a small, daily cleaned restroom used by 15 women. You undoubtedly know all of these fifteen women on a first name basis, except for perhaps the three female engineers. I admit that engineers and human resources people don’t always mix well. However, we engineers are far from a wild card. We’re very methodical, not exactly dirty people. We work in a cube just like you. Our work is just way more mathy, not dirty.

I’m not asking for much from you. I’m just asking that you get with the system. You must have observed that all of the rest of us wash our hands before we get paper towels. Surely you have seen us wash our hands thoroughly. So please, I’m begging you. Stop dispensing the paper towel before you wash your hands. Stop infecting our clean paper towel dispenser with your germs. Please get with the system.

If everyone is with the system, we all will have clean, germ free hands.

Thank you,

Your Bathroom-mate,

Bittersweet Fountain

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Confessions (aka Why My Blog is Anonymous)

I am a writer and an engineer, which means explaining myself verbally isn’t exactly my forte. I have a hard time saying what I mean and truly getting across what I feel in spoken words. Written words on the other hand simply flow from my fingers. I’m not even kidding. When I imagine a scene in one my stories or dream about an event in my life, it’s not real in my mind until I describe it in prose. I can’t imagine a person named James reaching up to grab a jar of peanut butter without thinking, “Wishing he was taller, James stretched to hand out to grab the peanut better his brother had shoved towards the back of the shelf.”

What does this have to do with confessions and why my blog is anonymous, you ask? Easy. I have a hard time getting people to understand what I’m feeling when I’m just saying it and something is not real to me until I write it down.

Part of what I want do in this blog is admit real life problems I have, whether it’s desperately searching for an agent, trying not to snap off the head of every guy at work who treats me like the girl, or figuring out my relationship with God. Part of what the latter looks like is admitting to myself where I’m failing, what I’m doing wrong, and what I really struggle with. I can say things to myself like “I struggle with endless forgiveness; can God really mean 70X70?” but it’s not real to me until I write it down. Hence in this blog I will be writing it down. (Yes, you can expect an article on forgiveness in the future). Just so you know, when I write about a topic I seriously struggle with, it will be titled something like “A Confession: Forgiveness”.

The reason why this blog is sort of anonymous for now is because of this whole confessions thing.

But it’s not really anonymous, you say. Anyone who knows me can clearly discover it’s me by reading. What other girl at Georgia Tech really likes musicals and Stargate? This is true. Any of my friends who read this will instantly know it’s me. But it’s not my friends reading this that concerns me. It’s my family.

I love my family. I really do. You have no idea how much my family means to me. This is why I have so many things I struggle with that are deeply rooted in my family. I don’t want anyone in my family to get hurt. This blog is for me to sort out my feelings about things, not to send a grocery list of all the things I hate or struggle with to my family. Right now the way the blog is, if my parents search my name in Google, they won’t find this blog. I have little worry of any of them finding it accidentally while searching blogspot because neither my parents nor siblings read blogs. (My little sister holds them in a state of high contempt in fact).

This blog is not about anonymously hating on anyone or anything. If you know me and read this blog, it clearly screams me. It’s about not hurting people who would take things personally. It’s about discussing my feelings without causing my mom to break down into tears.

So that’s why this blog is the way it is. Maybe one day I’ll put my name actually on it, but for now, you can just call me Bittersweet.

Unless, of course, you know me personally. Then you can call me Sweetie. :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MG Fantasy, My Pea Plant

I’ve mentioned before that my current project is a MG fantasy book. If you didn’t catch it before, MG means middle grade fantasy. Now, it’s possible to have epic fantasy in MG, but my book isn’t exactly epic fantasy. I would say its high fantasy but not epic. Epic insinuates some sort of journey, some sort of ridiculously long fabulous good against evil battle. That is not my MG book.

I love my MG fantasy book. I think it’s fantastic and has great potential. I believe my MG fantasy book is publishable and would be great. However, in many ways I view writing MG fantasy as an experiment like how I imagine Mendel viewed his pea plants****.

For those of you who don’t know Gregor Mendel is viewed as the “father of modern genetics”. Mendel was studying genetics by studying the variation in plants. He used pea plants because they have such a short life cycle. They quickly grew, reached maturity, and reproduced so that he could start the cycle all over again. He could then see how genetics was affected in over generations in a fairly short amount of time. If he had used dogs, who take at least a year to mature, it would have taken him ages. If he had used humans with their nearly two decade maturity rate, it would have been impossible (and immoral). With his pea plants and their quick life cycle, he could deduce things about genetics that applied to everyone, whether a pea plant or a person.

Though I love my MG fantasy book, it’s sort of my pea plant. MG fantasy usually maxes at around 50,000 words, whereas adult fantasy can be as monstrous as 300,000 words. Granted there is more time to add detail in a 300,000 word book, but it’s hard to practice writing a good plot or to experiment in something so large. I can write 50,000 words in about two months (depending on school). If you say the rate is the same for a 300,000 word book then it would take me at least one year to write such a monstrosity. That doesn’t leave much room for experimentation, and it certainly doesn’t give me the ability to practice by writing a lot of them.

I have written such a monstrosity. I have written a book that is around 400K words. Because of this it’s unpublishable for a first time writer, but man it was great practice. A great two year practice. Not much of a pea plant. No multiple generations happening there.

My MG fantasy book on the other hand, already has one complete sequel. This sequel is in its first revision, the original is in its second revision, and a third book is being written. Because the generation is so short I get practice developing plots, opening a novel, tying up plot threads, and closing a novel. I get to practice developing characters completely but in a short amount of time. If you can develop characters and a plot completely in 50K words imagine how much better I could do it in 100K. Granted, it’s much easier to let the plot drag and get tedious in a longer book, but I still think with all things considered the shorter, 50K book is better practice.

Does this mean my MG fantasy is just a practice book, not worthy to be published, that should be shelved in favor of some other book? By no means. My MG fantasy book is a good idea, something that should be written, because I don’t believe there is anything like it out there. However, writing the MG fantasy has served as practice for when I tackle my first love again one day: epic fantasy.

In epic fantasy you can’t make mistakes. You can’t have inconsistencies. You have to be able to weave a tale that can last not only 200K words, but also several books. Epic fantasy is where the greats of the trade write. I want to be up there someday. I’m not ready yet. I’m not mature enough. It’s hard for me to write epic fantasy that involves so many things that I’ve never come close to experiencing, like true love and complete evil. In MG fantasy I explore themes I know all too well: betrayal, family relationships, manipulation, and education.

Maybe MG and YA fantasy is my destiny (probably MG forever if I never get a handle on this true love thing, since that’s what most YA seems to focus on). Perhaps, like Mendel, I will forever be working with my pea plant, discovering new and fantastic things that change the world. But maybe one day, the world will give me license to work with dogs, and maybe then I can tackle adult epic fantasy.

****This statement totally only applies to me. I am in no way knocking MG or YA fantasy. I have fallen in love with some fantastic epic fantasies in all sections of the book store. I adore Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series. I greatly enjoy all of Tamora Pierce’s books. I frequently haunt the MG and YA sections of the book store looking for great finds, like The Keys to the Kingdom. I love MG and YA books and greatly respect the people who write them for a living.

Wheel of Time Book 12 News

So the other day I went to to find out when the second Alcatraz book is coming out in Mass Market Paperback. For those of you who aren’t fans of Brandon Sanderson or don’t read Alcatraz, the Alcatraz series is a fantastic comedic MG fantasy that makes me literally laugh out loud. My family thought I was insane while reading the first book because I was giggling and laughing so much. You really should read it. Even though it’s MG, the humor is definitely not lost on us older readers. For those you who do follow Brandon Sanderson and do read Alcatraz, you’re probably thinking you can’t believe I haven’t read the second book yet. After all, the 4th book comes out in a few months. My only defense is that I like to have all of my books matching (i.e. either all hardback or all paperback). I bought the first Alcatraz book in paperback and I want the rest to match.

But this isn’t really a post about Alcatraz. This is really a post about Wheel of Time.

I searched for Brandon Sanderson, looking for the 2nd Alcatraz book, but the first book listed under Brandon Sanderson’s name was the new Wheel of Time book, the Gathering Storm, complete with picture (as seen above). You have no idea how excited that has made me. The new book is actually happening, it’s actually coming out. If Barnes and Noble says it’s true then it’s definitely true. The new Wheel of Time book is hitting the shelves on November 3, 2009, exactly 132 days away from today.

I have not held a new Wheel of Time book in my hand since my freshman year of college, and I am now starting my fifth year.

If you’re not a Wheel of Time fan, then you can’t possibly understand how exciting this is. Here is how you try: imagine a new Harry Potter book coming out and multiply that excitement by a thousand.

I’m not kidding. That’s how excited I am.

I need to finish Ben-Hur so I can crack open the Eye of the World again. I also need to earn money so I can buy all the books before the ninth book in hardback. Not only do the paperback books not match my new hardback ones, but they are falling apart since the novel is too big to be held by the binding.

I can’t wait!!!!

My Friend's Revisions

I just finished going through my friends’ revisions of my MG fantasy novel. Honestly, I am stunned by how amazing my friends are.

I have five official proof readers amongst my friends: Meredith, Michael, Chris, Pam, and my ridiculously amazing mentee. They all brought completely different things to the table, and it is fantastic.

Meredith is arguably the best read of the lot. She has impeccable taste in books. She reads all genres and reads plenty of fantasy. Meredith has never been afraid to say she didn’t like a book or even return it to the bookseller if unsatisfied. She read through my story with a critical eye, discussing over arching themes and helping me classify my story as MG and not YA like I originally thought.

Michael is also well read, everything from Wheel of Time to Twilight. Yes I said Twilight (which I have not and will not read), and he liked it. This is what makes Michael a great proofer for my book. He has read YA and MG books and has no shame about being a guy who cries while reading Redeeming Love. He read my story, identifying over used diction and inappropriate vocabulary.

Chris was not one of my originally picked proofers, but he was so enthusiastic about it that I had to let him. He has proved to be invaluable in the areas of syntax and diction. He also found all the inconsistencies in the story line and identified all of my foreshadowing with childlike glee.

Pam is not a college student like my other proof readers. She is a mother with children ranging in ages 11 to 18. She brought an adult perspective to the story, which was very encouraging. She also volunteered her children to read it in a beta testing of the book.

My mentee is fantastic, commenting on how she felt about everything. It took her the longest to revise, but it was well worth the wait. She gave her reactions to every plot and character development. She told me what parts she liked, what parts she didn’t like, and where she would like to see more.

I cannot say enough how great the feedback of my friends has been. They did nothing to spare my feelings and told me what they honestly thought. Is their proofing god enough for a published book? Probably not, but hopefully their amazing critiques are enough to land me an agent who can then catch the grammar rules we engineering students don’t know.

Where do I plan to go from here? Well I combined all of their revisions and comments in a hard copy so I have to type the changes into my official second draft. Then it’s on to Pam’s kids for beta testing amongst the actual age group it’s aimed at. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Once my beta testers and proof readers have read through the second draft, I’ll use their thoughts to create a third draft.

Then it will be time to start querying agents. I’ll have to write a synopsis some time and polish my query letter as well.

More writing updates to come, and a big thank you to my proof readers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Implications of a phone call

I like nice boys, but they drive me crazy.

Josh called as he promised yesterday. He called me shortly after seven, since I told him to call me between six and eight. We then proceeded to talk for an hour.
I will admit I’m quite the talker and probably did most of the talking, but Josh did his fair share of adding to the conversation. We had not seen each other since school was out so there was a lot of catching up to do. It was a pleasant conversation. My question is: what does it mean?

The only person I regularly talk to for an hour is my super awesome best friend. She’ll call and we’ll talk until one of has to go somewhere. It’s great. It’s awesome. Then again, she is super awesome, so that makes sense. She’s also my best friend and girl. Hence, there are no implications to the conversation except she is my best friend.

When my mentee and I talk we might talk for an hour as well. We don’t talk as regularly as my super awesome best friend and I do so there is some catching up involved. However, my mentee and I have a relationship based on talking for an hour. At school we got together once a week for an hour and half. We talk about life, God, the books I write, the books we read, and anything else in between. I’m her mentor. It’s my job to talk to her. Once again, no implications to the conversation then we’re an awesome mentor/mentee pair.

But when a boy I happen to like very much calls me randomly and talks to me for hour, I wonder what the implications are. I have a lot of really good guy friends. It comes from going to a school that is 75% male. My guy friends and I can carry on long conversations in person or we can carry on long drawn out AIM conversations. However, none of them has ever called me for anything longer than a five minute “Where are you? Why aren’t you here yet?” kind of call.

Why did Josh call me? It was mentioned that he had been hanging out with the youth at our church a few weeks ago. Josh and I were both leaders at our church’s Disciple Now event in April. He had high school boys and I had high school girls. The high school girls and I got into this very long in-depth conversation about space one night. Apparently when Josh was hanging out with the youth they were watching Contact. This reminded one of the high school girls about the conversation we had and she brought me up in conversation. This reminded Josh to my existence I supposed and I guess incited the thought “I should call Bittersweet.”

That’s nice. Really. I appreciate the call. I’m glad he thought of me and wondered how I was doing. But what are the implications of our hour long conversation? What are the implications of him actually calling me when any of my other guy friends would have been satisfied with a “how you doing” message on my facebook wall? So I’ve created a list of possible implications.

1) He just really likes to talk on the phone.

I have no record or experience that would tell me whether this is true. Josh and I generally always talk in person. I would drop by his office and waste time until my next class. The only time he ever called me was when he was picking me up for something and needed to know where I was.

2) He realized he really misses me as a friend.

This is a possibility. A lot of Josh’s friends have graduated recently and we became better friends because of it. As I mentioned before I used to drop by his office and talk to him. Maybe he discovered that he misses my friendly endless chatter. Therefore, he called me so that I could for an hour and make him feel like he still has friends.

3) He’s just a really nice guy and felt bad for not keeping up with my better because we’re friends.

Josh is a really nice guy. He’s very considerate and all that jazz. It’s possible when I was mentioned at this youth event he was plagued with guilt. I’ve been gone for a month, someone he considers his friend, and he had not made any attempt to contact me. As a really nice guy, this would bother him. Therefore, to assuage his guilt he would talk to me for an hour, as if making up for the emails and facebook messages he should have been sending me for the past month.

4) He discovers he really does miss me, as possibly something more than a friend.

I’ll admit I love this one. During the time I’ve been gone he’s discovered that his life is slightly emptier. When I was mentioned at the youth event, pain gripped his heart that he had not spoken to me in so long. He misses me and just wants to hear my happy, often sarcastic voice. Thoughts of me being something more than a friend are slowly drifting into his head.

5) He has discovered he adores me undyingly.

Ok, ok. I’ll admit. This is most definitely not true. However, it’s still nice to think that the possibility mentioned in number 4 has gone a little further. It’s nice to think that maybe he has developed a ridiculous adolescent crush on me just like I have a ridiculous adolescent crush on him. I’m not crazy. I know this has probably not happened, but hey, a girl can dream.

I don’t which of these implications is the right one (other than number 5 is not right). However, as a girl, these are the sort of things that go through my head after such a phone call. So if I have any readers of the male persuasion, let this be a warning to you. Girls think too much. We will twist any little occurrence into a sign of your affection for us. So be up front. Don’t let us figure out what it means. Tell us what it means. And if you call a girl and talk to her for an hour, you better believe she’s going to think you like her.

Burning, Banning, Censoring, and Rating Books

The tile above lists several things that are sometimes associated with books. I have listed in them in the order of the worst possible thing to the not-nearly-as-bad-as-creating-bonfires with books. This list is of course, only in my humble opinion.

Burning books is clearly bad. I read Fahrenheit 451. I’ve studied WWII. I love the movie Equilibrium. (If you’ve never seen Equilibrium, you need to. It’s about a dystopian society where Christian Bale is the main character. It’s sort of a Fahrenheit 451 meets The Jungle meets 1984. It’s fantastic). Now some people may say that burning books and banning books are all the same. Both ways you take the book out of the reader’s hands. To the people who say that, I have a short response.

Banning books gets the books out of your local library, possibly out of the Library of Congress, and out of the country. However, Canadians could still be reading that book. Burning books takes the books away completely. There is no changing your mind and saying “Oh, the Catcher in the Rye wasn’t that bad. Let’s un-ban it.” Once you’ve burned every copy of the book found in your country, destroyed all electronic records of it (electronic burning…), and done away with every physical form of it, how can you bring it back? Well let’s hope Canada wasn’t just reading it but keeping electronic copies ready, or else if we change our minds someone is going to spend a long time retyping a lot of books.

Banning I sort of already addressed. Banning books is bad. It’s the government, or the state, or the county, or your mother taking the books off the shelf and saying “You can’t read this”. Generally banning books makes people read them, which is why this is not quite as bad as book burning. When you burn books people get all excited and start throwing books you’re not even supposed to burn on the fire. When you ban books, you get all the teenagers excited and they start reading them. (They’re being rebellious. Ooo, how fun is it to read rebelliously!)

Technically everything listed (burning, banning, rating) is a form of censorship, so I’ll be a little more specific. When I say censorship, I mean when your teacher blacked out all the curse words in The Day No Pigs Would Die or when they tore out those two pages in the Diary of Anne Frank (you know which pages I’m talking about). The censoring I’m talking about is taking out certain parts of the book, butchering books. I bet you’ve come across this in your life. Both of the examples listed have happened to me. Is this nearly as bad as banning or burning? Well, the books still exist so that’s a plus. The books are still on the shelves, another plus. However, the books that remain are butchered books. Books where only what The Man wants you to read is still part of the book. Goodbye hooker scene in the Catcher in the Rye. Goodbye Anne Frank’s dream. Goodbye artistic freedom.

Now all the above things I’ve mentioned are bad, bad things. I do not support any of these things. It’s not the government’s job to tell me what I can and cannot read. That’s my choice. I’m pretty sure books are part of my freedom of expression and the government can’t limit that. Please, keep all books published in their complete form in the libraries. It’s the editor’s job to butcher them, not your librarians.

Rating on the other hand, I feel very differently about.

I’ve wished books were rated since I was ten. I’ve been outspoken about it since I read A Throne of Swords by George R. R. Martin. (Note: I’m not recommending this book. This is like the opposite of a recommendation. However, neither do I believe it should be pulled off the shelves. Read what you like and I’ll read what I like). I guess I didn’t realize that most people didn’t feel this way until Daphne Unfeasible (a literary agent’s blog) mentioned banning and censoring books on her blog and asked her readers to comment. I read the comments and was stunned. I had to say something. I could not let these comments go uncontested. I have commented on someone else's blogs 4 times in my life. It’s just not something I do. But yesterday, I could not control myself. My comment was twice as long as anyone else’s.

All of the commenters expressed their dislike of banning books (completely understandable). One of the commenters said she did not like banning books but wished her 12-year-old could stay a little girl as long as possible and not be exposed to such things. Practically everyone who responded to that said they understood and that it was the parents job to monitor what their child was reading.

It’s not the library and bookstore’s job to make sure the book is in MG instead of YA, or in adult instead of YA. It’s the parents’ job to make sure the book is appropriate.

I laughed.

Are these parents really so naive? Really? Do they really think they can read ahead of their middle school student who has tons of free time? Do they really think that an online synopsis of the adult book your 11-year-old is reading is going to warn you about adult content? (Of course it has adult content, it’s an adult book). Do you really think your 11-year-old wants to talk to you about the strange, sexual content they came across in a book that you’re not aware of? I laugh.

When I was nine years old I read my first sex scene. It was in a Madeleine L’Engle book. My parents approved of Madeleine L’Engle. I’ve already discussed how amazing A Wrinkle in Time was. I loved it so much I read every book by her that my library in the 5th grade had. I stumbled on a book that was a little too old for me. It probably wasn’t that graphic, probably not nearly as graphic as half of the YA out there, but at nine it was more graphic that I ever wanted to be exposed to. How was I supposed to know that this one book out of twenty or more contained this scene when none of her other books did?

When I was ten I read my first curse word in a book. I cried because it was Han Solo who said it and I couldn’t imagine one of my heroes ever saying such a thing. It’s one thing to hear a curse word briefly, it’s another to see it spelled out – staring at you.

I outgrew the kids section of the library at ten and plunged into Star Wars books, where I did not have to worry about sex, just some kissing at worst. But by the time I was twelve, I had read every published Star Wars book. More were coming, but I couldn’t wait. I started reading Wheel of Time and the Dragonriders of Pern that Christmas. Lucky for me both are fairly tame when it comes to cursing (since they both make up their own curse words) and both have only PG-13 love scenes. (It’s insinuated that something happened, but no details). However, some of the pure evil I read in the Wheel of Time (the Forsaken are a group of pretty evil people) was too much for me to understand. I suppose I should still wish it was, but now I understand it better.

I read my first graphic romance scene in the tenth grade. It was in a fantasy book – not a romance book – a legit fantasy book sold in the sci-fi/fantasy section of the bookstore and it was recommended to me by a friend. It was more than I needed to know. I regretted reading it.

I read two of George R.R. Martin’s books my freshman year in college. After the second one I just could not go on. The plot was not worth the graphic images of sex it was putting in my mind. It was not worth the curse words that I learned (words I had never heard before but read in the book).

Now I’m very careful about reading books. I rarely pick up a book I’ve never heard of or read a book that wasn’t recommended to me by a friend I trust. The fact that books don’t warn me about their content keeps me from reading.

All of this description was to bring up two points.

1) Do you really think you can read every book your child reads? I read 500 words a minute. I read two adult books a week in middle school. My parents tried to read Wheel of Time with me, but my dad is a slow reader. I was always at least two books ahead of him. Did this make him a bad parent? No. Would it have made him a bad parent if he had forced me to read books he could read quickly or if he had made me wait the weeks and months it took for him to read a 1000 page Robert Jordan novel? Yes. He would have been stopping me from reading.

2) I think books should be rated.

The second statement might shock some people. It might cause some people to cry out that I’m censoring books. Well, we rate movies. No sane, good parent would let her seven-year-old see a sexually graphic movie. We put age limits on movies. G and PG movies are good for kids to just show up in. If you’re seeing PG-13 you better have an adult with you. To see an R you better have your parents and you’re not allowed to see it after seven pm. If it’s NC-17, I don’t care how much you beg. You better be old enough.

Is this rating of movies censoring movies? Is this rating of movies banning certain movies to an entire generation of movie-goers? Is this rating system infringing on children’s rights to see what they please? I’ve never heard anyone try to argue in favor of any of these points. Most people would laugh and say the movies are still available – it’s not censoring (that’s what TBS is for). The children can see the movies when they’re old enough and children don’t have rights.

Many people also agree that books are more powerful than movies in a child’s imagination. If that’s true, why do we let our children read books we would never let them see in movie form?

And if you really want your child to read a PG-13 book it’s not like they can’t. You, as the parent, buy the book and give it to your child. It’s not illegal or against the rules to take your child to a PG-13 movie. Neither would anyone frown upon you for reading a PG-13 book. The point is that you know and your child knows what they are getting into. As a young reader (and still as a slightly older reader) I would have liked to know. Is this book PG-13 for violence? Ok, I won’t find the violence so shocking. Is it R for sexual content? Maybe I should put this one back on the shelf and read it when I’m older. Is it PG? Sweet. No worries for me.

I think half of the horror of what I read as a child is that I did not expect or see it coming. If I had been warned the book contained cursing, I wouldn’t have been as surprised when Han Solo cursed. If I had been warned the book contained sexual content, I wouldn’t have been surprised when it happened. I could make informed decisions about what I should and should not read.

When I was twelve I remember thinking “I wish books were rated” and that feeling has not changed, but maybe you feel differently. That’s cool. That’s what America is all about. It’s about the freedom to disagree. I just wish I had the freedom to know what books would be rated if they were movies.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Ridiculous Crush

So I have this ridiculous crush on a boy that we shall call Josh. It’s really pathetic and makes me feel sixteen.

How did this ridiculous crush on Josh start? Well, Josh and I had a class together and we both attend the BCM at Tech, so we became friends. He's two years older than me, but because he is doing his grad degree in my major instead of the major his undergrad was in, we had classes together while I was an undergrad. Then this year, he asked me to join his church's handbells with him, which I did. This led to us talking even more and led to me attending his church. (His church is great. I really love my Sunday school class. It's not just because of him I switched churches, but my church switching is a post for another time).

So in the winter, I decided I just needed to know if Josh liked me or not. I swallowed my pride and nerves and confronted him. He told me that he was flattered, but he had actually been recently interested in another girl who had turned him down. So alas, he did not like me in that way.

We were still cool after that. I'm a pretty laid back person when it comes to that sort of thing. I just need to know where you stand and then I'm fine. It's all the stress associated with not knowing that drives me crazy. Josh is pretty laid back and as mentioned before very nice. Nothing really changed after that.

A couple of weeks later Josh commented about how we had not been in church together on a Sunday for quite some time. Every time he was at church I was not. Every time I was at church he was not. It was not that either of us was avoiding the other. I got sick. He visited his sister. It snowed. I had to play in the handbell choir at another church. It was several different things that meant we had not been at church together for quite a few weeks. I thought it was an odd observation for someone who doesn't like me, but then I figured it was not an odd observation for someone who likes me as a friend. After all, our schedules that semester had been very opposite. When I was out of class he was in class. We rarely got to see each other. However, it did stir my heart slightly. Was he realizing he liked me? I refused to contemplate it. I liked being his friend and didn't want to go back into the whirl wind of emotions of not knowing.
So we're friends. I'm working down in Florida this summer and he's at Georgia Tech working on his masters and hoping to eventually graduate. Then last night while I was trying to sleep my phone rang.

By the ringtone I knew it was one of my school friends. The ringtone for my school friends is "Dancing Through Life" from Wicked, since its first line is "The trouble with schools is they always try to teach the wrong lesson." My first thought was "Ugh, why is my project manager calling me after nine again?" My project manager for my research at school has called me past my bedtime (9:00 pm) three times in the past. I figured he had once again forgotten that some of us get up for work long before the crack of dawn and called me.

I rolled over in my bed and looked down at my phone. To my surprise it did not say "Project Manager". It said "Josh."

Josh? Why was Josh calling me? To be honest I was sure he had a wrong number. Surely he was calling Bert or Brent, not Bittersweet. He must have accidently clicked the wrong name.

"Josh?" I said, picking up the phone.

"What?" was the response, as if he could not hear me or was surprised to hear my answer the phone. Yep, must be a wrong number. He doesn't sound like he was expecting a girl to answer, and certainly not me.

"Josh, can I help you?" I asked, thinking he would respond, "Bittersweet? Oops. Meant to call Brent."

"Bittersweet! Do you have a minute?" His response surprised me. Not a wrong number? Perhaps he was trying to cover for it, by making it seem like he intended to call me all along.

“Why?” I asked suspiciously. Maybe he had intended to call me but only because he needed some sort of information about a class, or handbells, or church.

“I just wanted to talk,” he answered. My mind paused and then reeled. He just wanted to talk? Josh, my crush, just wanted to talk to me? What did this mean? Did he miss me? Does he like me? Have we reached the level of friendship where he is comfortable calling me? How odd since only my super awesome best friend and my ridiculously amazing mentee ever call me!

"Yeah, well I'd love to talk about it, but I need to get to sleep. I'm getting up pretty early in the morning." Are you cringing because I just cut off a boy I like who called me? Well, get over it. Sleep is important to me. I can't sacrifice my sleep for a boy, even if he is awesome.

"You get up early?" he asked.

"Yes, but I'm usually off work by 4, so it all balances out," I answered.

"Oh! I was going to call you at 4:30 today, but I thought you would still be at work," Josh said. He was going to call earlier? That mean he had been thinking about this call. It wasn’t just a spur of the moment, “I should check in on Bittersweet” sort of call. It was a thought out call.

“Nope, I’m usually off work by then,” I responded, but never one to not spread news I added, “I broke my foot, but if it makes you feel better it was my right foot this time.”

"I don't know if that's better or not," Josh answered, sounding happy to talk to me but concerned about my foot.

“Yeah, it’s not very bad, no worries,” I responded, glad he was concerned but not wanting him to be too concerned. After all, my foot is not that bad at all.

“Well, I really do have to sleep, but if you call after four tomorrow we can chat it up all you want,” I said. Yes I really did use the phrase “chat it up”.

“Ok. Goodnight, Bittersweet,” he answered.

“Goodnight, Josh,” I said. Then I hung up.

After that sleep was useless. I should have just talked to him, but then I know I would never have been able to go to sleep. It was already nearly ten. I thought about calling my super awesome best friend because I was so excited, but once again I knew that meant I would never go to sleep. So I figured I would call my super best friend tomorrow and try my best to think about sleepy thoughts and not uber exciting my crush called me sort of thoughts.
This morning I had to text Josh because I forgot I had a telecon at 4:00 pm. I told him to call me between 6:00 and 8:00. He didn’t text back, but he never does. Josh doesn’t text. Usually I text him and he calls me back. That would have defeated the purpose this morning, since the text was telling him when to call me.

Hopefully Josh doesn’t read this blog, because even though I changed the name he would totally know it was about him.

But then again, he already knows I like him. I’ve made that very clear in the past.

I’m way too excited about what is undoubtedly nothing, but oh well. It’s nice to get a call. So few of my friends ever call me. Most of them don’t really like phones and the others I guess just don’t think about it. But it gets lonely down here in Florida. At least I know my two avid readers, my super best friend and my ridiculously awesome mentee, both call me.

All is right with the world.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Work and Crutches

Work and crutches don't go well together.

At work I have this amazing ability to sneak about. You see the cube walls are like 5'5" and I'm 5'1". I can walk through the cubicle jungle without being noticed and completely sneak up on people. On crutches that is much more difficult. Everyone can hear my coming. They hear the steady click, click, click of my crutches.

It's strange because I was gone for a while and then I took yesterday off to recover from my broken foot. Today I was only doing a half day because I had an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. I came into work as normal at 7:15 am. Only a few of the guys were in then, and they were the younger ones who already knew I broke my foot because of facebook. I then sat in my cube all morning doing work. I got up about half way through the morning to use the bathroom when a few more people noticed. Then when I left at noon, several more people noticed. I had to explain myself a hundred times.

I felt horrible and useless at work. I mean I work at a cube, so its not a big deal. However, I would need to speak with someone I work with. Usually I would get up and walk over to their cube. Today I had to call their desks and hope they answered. It's always much easier to get someone's assistance when you're standing next to their desk. People can ignore phones, but they cannot ignore people standing at the openings of their cube.

The doctor gave me a walking boot, and told me my break wasn't so bad that I could not walk on it. So tomorrow at work there will be no crutches. I will hope that its easier to sneak wearing a boot than it is on crutches.

I do love my ability to sneak.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Broken Feet

There are times when I just really wished I was married. This is one of those times.

Why does this particular day make me long for a husband? Well, it's quite simple really. You see, on Saturday I broke my right foot.

This is not the first time I've broken a foot. Far from it, my friends. When I was in the eighth grade I broke my left foot. I was racing my brother at church. I was wearing a dress and platform shoes. I tripped, fell off my platform shoes and broken my left foot. Last December, I was walking to my first final exam of the week. It was 7:30 in the morning and my super awesome best friend and I were taking our time walking to our 8:00 am final. I stepped off of a curb and onto a rock I did not see. I rolled my left foot and broke it in the exact same place I broke it in the 8th grade. Lucky for me my super awesome best friend walked me to my first final, where I aced it, and then we went to the hospital after the three hour exam.

This Saturday I was in Colorado for a workshop. This workshop was for my research for grad school. I wish I could say that during one of our breaks we went rock climbing and I broke my foot rock climbing. However, I refused to rock climb on our break. My excuse to my friends was, "I'm the girl who breaks my foot walking. Do you really think I should rock climb?"

I wish I could say that while my friends were rock climbing, one of them fell. I, being the only one on the ground, broke their fall and in the process of saving their life broke my foot. However, if I said that I would be lying. You see I broke my right foot stepping off of a curb on the way to the last session of our workshop.

Yes, that is the second time I've broken my foot stepping off of a curb.

I did not want to ruin my friends good time and I thought it was just sprained, so we bought some crutches and I didn't go to the hospital until last night - after flying from Colorado to Atlanta and then Atlanta to Orlando. (I got to use the wheelchair service in all of those airports, which was interesting, but I would much rather have had use of both of my feet). I went to the hospital last night, straight from the airport and they told me it was broken. I thought that odd since its not very swollen and it really doesn't hurt that much, but now my foot is completely bandaged up in a splint until I go to the orthopedic surgeon tomorrow.

Now why would breaking my right foot make me want a husband? It's quite simple. I wish I had someone to take care of me, someone who loved me enough to not complain and just help me. I am currently living with my little sister. She does love me, but she doesn't really want to take care of me. She's also my little sister and doesn't really see it in her job description to take care of her big sister. But a husband would be bound by vows to take care of me, and theoretically he should love me enough to want to take care of me.

He would be here to fetch my computer for me. Instead if I need something, like a computer, I have to grab my crutches and grab my backpack. I then crutch across the house to where it is, put it in my backpack, crutch back to where I want to be, and take it out of my backpack. It's really unpleasant.

A husband could help me with meals. I could sit at the table while he brought me a bowl, cereal, and milk. Instead, I had to stand next to the fridge and eat, because I could not carry milk, a bowl, or cereal on my crutches, and milk just really doesn't do well in my backpack. Neither do ceramic bowls.

A husband could have helped my balance in the bath tub I was attempted to bathe myself. He would have been there to make sure I didn't kill myself on the slick floor. He could have washed my hair instead of me sticking my head in the sink and trying my best to get all of my hair without spraying down the entire kitchen.

Maybe I'm expecting too much of my theoretical, imaginary husband. Maybe real husbands don't do these kind of things. But my dad does these sort of things for my mom (not that my mom breaks bones. But he takes care of her well when she's sick). Maybe my theoretical, imaginary husband would actually be at work today so I would have had to do all those thing myself anyway. But I would like to think if I ever get married, it would be to a guy who would take a day off of work to take care of me until I get a boot (or cast) for my broken foot.

But I don't have a husband, and I do have to do these things for myself. When my sister is home and not in class, she can help me with the food thing, but I'm totally left on my own with the bathing and hair washing.

Well, the one good thing about this broken right foot is its forcing my still recovering left foot back into shape. The crutches are also amazing for getting upper body strength, even if they make me ache.

By the end of this, I'm going to be a pro on crutches.

"But the flocks!"

I have mentioned previously that I'm reading Ben-Hur. It had been slow going, but on the airplane during my trip I managed to read a ton.

The first part of Ben-Hur is about the birth of Jesus. It mainly follows the wise men on their journey, but in one chapter it deals with the shepherds who were watching their flocks. The shepherds see the angles and here is their reaction:
"'There is but one place in Bethlehem where there are mangers; but one, and that is in the cave near the old khan. Brethren, let us go see this thing which has come to pass. The priests and doctors have been a long time looking for the Christ. Now he is born, and the Lord has given us a sign by which to know him. Let us go up and worship him.'

'But the flocks!'

'The Lord will take care of them. Let us make haste.'"
This passage struck me as soon as I read it. These shepherds had just seen a multitude of angels proclaim the birth of Jesus. One of them is like "Hey, let's go" and in response one of them says, "And just leave the sheep?" At first I thought this dutiful shepherd absurd. Really? Jesus is born and you're concerned about sheep? God is made flesh and you don't immediately go running to him?

Then I was struck by how many times I do this.

God will call me to do something and I will say, "But my work, God! I can't just leave it. I'll go later, when the work is done." Could you imagine if the shepherds had done that?

"Jesus is born? Oh, well, someone has to watch the sheep. Sorry, angelic messenger. We'll go see the Christ when the sheep are taken care of."

The very idea of such a response is ridiculous, but it is the response I give every day. Every time God asks me to do anything I point to my work and say I can't. If I had been a shepherd I would have waited until someone else could take care of the sheep. If I had been Peter or Andrew, I would only have followed Jesus after my fishing was done.

Notice neither of the stories work that way. No disciple said, "After I take care of the fish, my lord."

Jesus even tells that one guy he can't follow him because the guy says, "I'll come back after I bury my father."

This has led me to a thought.

Maybe I'm not supposed to be so dutiful to my wordly life. Maybe God wants me to sometimes throw the sheep, fish, and other responsibilities to the wind and just follow Him.

Maybe God wants me to take risks.

It's a scary thought. I'm not much of a risk taker. I'm Martha, busily setting things up and preparing dinner. But Jesus did not praise Martha. He praised Mary.

I struggle with this thought, with this idea. How do I become Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus? How do I set aside the responsibilities and fears that have been engrained inside of me and just follow?

I don't know the answer. If you do, please share it with me. For now I can only hope that if I see a burning bush or a multitude of angels, I won't be the one says, "But the flocks!"

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


No posts for the next few days guys. I'm going to Colorado. I'll tell you all about it when I get back.

Just so you know its a trip for school, for research. So not exactly skiing in the Rockies. But it should be fun!

Have a good week!

The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time is the greatest epic fantasy series ever written.


In that silence I could hear you Sword of Truth fans gasping and exclaiming "No! It can't be! No!!!" But to that I simply respond. Do you feel I've insulted your favorite book stories or your favorite character? Is it the extremely libertarian plot line you're defending or Richard Rahl?

I've read the Sword of Truth. I enjoyed it greatly, but it was not because of the plot. I enjoyed the Sword of Truth because I was half in love with Richard Rahl and completely fascinated by his and Kahlan's love. The plot afford me nothing with its knock of Sisters of Light (totally Aes Sedai) and its world ending problems that fall on the shoulders of one incredibly perfect man.

Rand al'Thor is not the perfect hero. He is not the perfect savior of his world. He used to be a farm boy and now the power has gone to his head. Not to mention Lews Therin is in his head. I do not love Rand. In fact part of me hates him and very much wants to see him die in the final book. However, Rand has his redeeming moments. When I reread the first book, The Eye of the World, I remember the boy Rand used to be and know he cannot be all bad.

I hate Rand, but this story is not just about Rand. The Wheel of Time is about the driving plot. It's about the Aes Sedai's conniving plots and attempts to save the world. It's about Rand and Nynaeve cleansing the One Source. It's about Matt struggling with being taken control by a knife, blowing the horn, and then discovering he's not quite the womanizer he once thought. Perrin hates power but it is thrust upon him. Egwene is a leader forced into a novices position. It's about realizing that Rand is married to his stepsister, and wondering if that's weird. It's dying to know if Moiraine is really dead and who killed Asmodean. The Wheel of Time is not a story. The Wheel of Time is a way of life.

That is why Brandon Sanderson has set aside his life, all of his projects, and everything to write the last Wheel of Time book. It's why he's agreed to write what is now a 3 book epic to end the series when he's only being paid for a 200K novel. (200K is nothing by the way.) It's because he knows what we fans feel. It's because he is a fan himself, and knows we deserve the end that Robert Jordan would have written himself, but since he's not Robert Jordan he's giving us the next best thing: details and all loose ends tied.

Oh did you not know that A Memory of Light, the final Wheel of Time book, is being split into three books? Well, they are.

The first book, or rather 12th book, is coming out in November and is called The Gathering Storm, perhaps the lamest Wheel of Time book name, but Brandon Sanderson admits that. We have this list of titles that sound amazing: The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos, A Crown of Swords, The Path of Daggers, Winter's Heart, Crossroads of Twilight, Knife of Dreams, and....The Gathering Storm. Right. But he didn't have a lot of time to think about it. It was a working part name and suddenly it became a title! Wham! So I forgive the title its mediocrity. I'm sure the book is going to be amazing enough to make up for it.

So all this is to say that I need to reread The Wheel of Time books. So once I finish Ben-Hur, the book I'm currently reading, I'm going to reread the Wheel of Time books. I may be talking about them and ruining a few plot twists if you've never read it. But better yet, you should read along. Go out and buy the Wheel of Time. Take the head start of me reading Ben-Hur, because you're going to need it. When I get into my beaten up, cross referenced copies of The Wheel of Time (the covers are falling off, and yes I said cross referenced - you should see the highlighting and tabbing), nothing can stop me. I will blast through them in more than enough time to enjoy The Gathering Storm when it comes out in November.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Shakespeare and Teenagers

I love Shakespeare. A few months ago, a couple of my friends and I went to see Hamlet at the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta. It was amazing. If you've never seen Hamlet live you don't know what you're missing. Sure reading it is great - especially if you're studying it to know what everything means. Even watching the movie version is cool. However, there is something about seeing it live, about seeing a small stage that acts as every setting that is just indescribable. I am ashamed to say I've only seen two Shakespeare plays live: Hamlet as well as Antony and Cleopatra. Both were amazing.

When it comes to Shakespeare plays, I have a hard time picking my favorite tragedy. I would probably pick Othello, just because the end of Hamlet is so ridiculous. As serious as it is, when everyone on the stage dies its just a little laughable. Othello is so much more moving when Iago totally uses Othello's own insecurities against him. My favorite comedy is not so hard to pick. Hands down its Twelfth Night.

When Shakespeare in Love was on FX the other day I was reminded of my love of Twelfth Night. The movie ends with Shakespeare beginning to write Twelfth Night. It made me want to watch a the movie version of the play, which I do not own. My sister, fortunately, owns the next best thing: She's the Man.

For those of you who don't know, the Amanda Bynes' movie, She's the Man, is based off of Shakespeare's comedy, just like 10 Things I Hate About You is based off of The Taming of the Shrew. It never ceases to amaze me how perfectly the ridiculousness of a Shakespeare comedy fits in the world of teenagers.

If you've never seen either movie, you don't know what you're missing. I suggest you go out right now and buy them both, because they are both great. There are little differences, of course, but for the most part they are very close to the original. She's the Man is great simply because of the true comedy of the situation. It has the same comedic moments as the play. How can it not be ridiculous when a girl pretends to be a guy, that guy likes another girl, this other girl falls in love with the girl whose pretending be a guy, while the girl whose pretending to be a guy likes the guy?! Are you confused, because that's what makes the play and the movie fantastic.

I really have nothing else to say, other than take an afternoon and have a date with Shakespeare, whether its reading a play, watching the movie, watching it live, or watching Shakespeare set in a high school.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time has been one of my favorite books, since the 4th grade, if not before. My mother read it aloud to me when I was much younger, for it is one of her favorite books as well. I have read the book at least once every year since the 4th grade, and I own three copies of it: my mom's original paperback copy, my older sister's paperback copy, and my own hardback copy. Ender's Game is also one of my favorite books, but it will never be able to take A Wrinkle in Time's place in my heart for one very good reason. I am Meg Murray.

I don't mean that literally. I was not even alive when Madeleine L'Engle wrote her book, so I could not have been the inspiration. However, when I read A Wrinkle in Time I find that Meg Murray and I are ridiculously similar. Every time I read it I find different ways that I am like Madeleine L'Engle's protagonist.

In middle school I felt a connection with Meg because we were both awkward, not pretty girls with glasses and braces. I felt like the outcast she was. Granted, I never got into fights with boys or was called to the principal's office for being smart mouthed in class, but I could relate to her feeling of not belonging. Meg looked at her mother and saw someone beautiful, successful, and brilliant and wondered how she could be the offspring of such a woman. I looked at my older sister, who was popular, had a string of beaus, and was a girly-girl and wondered how we could possibly be related. I felt like I did not belong in the same room as her, not to mention the same family.

Now that I'm older, not so awkward, ridiculously beautiful (at least - in God's eyes), feel comfortable with glasses, and lost my braces, this connection is not quite the same it had once been. I still feel the outcast sometimes, but now when I read A Wrinkle in Time I feel a different connection.

At work today I was listening to A Wrinkle in Time on my iPod to combat the silence. It's great to listen to because I've read it so many times that I don't have to listen. It's just background noise but then when I need a distraction and hear the phrase "Really Mrs. Which you might have killed us", I know exactly what's going on (Mrs. Which tried to tesser them onto the 2D planet, forgetting that the children are well...3D). It's really quite pleasant.

As I was half listening and trying to get my work done, I was reminded of another way Meg and I are similar. We want everyone else to solve our problems for us. If you are not familiar with the story you may have a hard time understanding, so let me explain. Meg Murray is a middle school girl who is swept away on an adventure with her little brother, Charles Wallace, and a friend, Calvin O'Keefe, to save Meg's father who was been missing for over a year. The people who swept her away on this adventure are Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. They are not quite people, more like angels, and they take the children on an adventure into space.

Meg expects these three somewhat heavenly beings to solve her problems for her. She expects them to take her to her father and save everything. She expects them to set her life right. So when the three ladies drop her and her friends off on a strange planet, where they say her father is, she is quite distressed that they weren't going to solve all of her problems for her. However, she still has Calvin and her genius little brother. She expects they will be able to find her father and set everything right.

However, they aren't able to. Charles Wallace, in a sincere but arrogant move, gets essentially possessed by the enemy. Meg is left only with Calvin, who she pleads with to save Charles Wallace. Calvin, however, is unable to reach Charles Wallace because he doesn't know the little boy that well. Calvin and Meg do manage to get to Meg's father, and Meg expects her father to be able to sweep in and save Charles Wallace. However, last time Mr. Murray was home Charles Wallace wasn't even talking yet. The man doesn't know his son well enough to save him. Calvin and Meg escape the planet with her father, but at the cost of her precious little brother.

Meg is furious. The three heavenly beings weren't able to save Charles Wallace. Calvin wasn't able to save Charles Wallace. Even her father, her dear father who she had been pining after since he disappeared, was not able to save Charles Wallace. Meg was expecting everyone else to save him, and no one else could. This is when she realizes that only she can save Charles Wallace. Knowing its her dear baby brother's only chance, Meg goes back to the enemy planet alone - without Calvin, without her father, without the three ladies. Alone, she must save Charles Wallace or get taken in by the evil herself.

I expect everyone else to solve my problems for me. Meg and I are the same in this respect. I get frustrated when my parents can't give me the advice I need on my career path, because they don't know. I don't want to take risks and try to do it myself; I want them to tell me what to do. I want to give all my problems to God and let Him magically fix them, refusing to even contemplate that God gave me a brain to think with. Yes, He wants me to bring my problems to Him, but I don't think He wants me to treat Him like magic. God wants to give me peace and assurance, not solve my problems for me.

But I want Him to make my life easy, though He never promises that His path is easy.

I want someone to solve the problem for me, but then I realize that God made me to solve the problem, just like Madeleine L'Engle made Meg the only one who can save Charles Wallace.

I must save Charles Wallace. God wants to help me walk down the road in Camazotz. He might even direct me to go to IT instead of stopping at CENTRAL Central Intelligence. He will stand by as I face the evil IT, but He will not let me sit in the caring arms of Aunt Beast and magically bring Charles Wallace to me.

My problems are my problems. Others can help me. God can be there for me, and He is perfectly capable of divine intervention should He wish. But most of the time, He wants me to solve my problems. He wants me to stop expecting everyone else to fix it for me.

Meg alone can save Charles Wallace, and I alone can make the decisions that fix my problems.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Deafening Silence

Many of the guys at my work are in training this week, all week. (Note: when I use the word "guys", I'm not being sexist. They really are guys, as in male. I'm an engineer. Four girls counting myself work in my area, and they're all accounted for. They are not in this particular training class.) What this training means for me is that most of the cubicles are empty, and silence pervades the room.

Silence and I aren't very good friends. I can appreciate it, especially at night, but I don't find it necessary to sleep. During the day I can't stand it. When I do homework, I do it with the TV on. Believe it or not, I'm way more productive with some good old Stargate:SG-1 playing in the background than I am in silence. Usually at work the voices of the guys floating over the gray cubicle walls provide more than enough background noise. However, this week they have all be in training.

I am less productive listening to music than I am wish a TV on (I know strange), but I am still the least productive with silence. I think I have listened to every musical on my iPod this week twice. Today I listened to Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Aida. However, music is no substitute for conversation.

And there have been awesome conversations in my office.

The guy in the cube across from me, let's call him Dan, and one of the other younger guys, let's call him Josh, are really good friends. Josh often comes and hangs out in Dan's cube. The conversations that happen there are awesome. One day they're talking about sky diving, the next they are debating anti-gravity. I don't know about you but a good scientific debate is great background conversation for productive work.

Our chief mechanical engineer is also quite a chatty fellow. This PhD likes to wander up and down the cubes and talk about everything from car racing, to movies, to work. He is not in training, but without people to talk to, he remains in his cube.

I remember walking by an office one day and only hearing "Klingon". I just had to stop. I mean - they were talking about Star Trek! Yet another great cubicle conversation.

Without these conversations this week I have been lost and desolute. I have been staring at models on my computer trying to ignore the oppressive silence. But have you ever noticed how loud silence is? You can't escape it. Even with my earbuds in, listening to my iPod, I can still tell that behind all that awesome musicalness is silence. I hate it.

Am I the only person like this? Maybe. Is it a problem? Maybe.

I think I have the answer, though. Download episodes of Stargate:SG-1 onto my iPod. Then I can listen to good old Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Daniel Jackson argue philosophy while Samantha Carter fixes the actual problem. Good times.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Zombie Apocalypse

One of my friends from high school made a list of people he would want with him should a zombie apocalypse happen, and I was on the list. I found that odd.

It did not find it odd that a person would make a list of people you want around during a zombie apocalypse. It's something I think about every once in a while, but then I generally figure that I have no idea where I'll be when a zombie apocalypse happens. If I'm at home then my choices are limited: I'm stuck with my parents and possibly my sister. All good people to have around. My dad was in the military, and I'm sure he could set up some awesome zombie booby traps. My mom is an elementary school teacher, therefore used to fightng life and death battles. My little sister is studying anthropology so she can study the culture and habits of the zombies. I'm an engineer. I'll make myself useful.

Should I be at school when said apocalypse occurs then I'll have zombie proof buildings (aka dorms) and an endless supply of engineers, not to mention people who have been preparing for the zombie apocalypse since their birth.

Should I be at work, well our work building is pretty much a bunker that will survive nuclear war. A zombie apocalypse is nothing. See I'm covered on all bases, unless it happens while I'm on vacation. Then I'm hosed.

So my friend from high school making said list did not strike me as odd. A zombie apocalypse is something that should be thought about. What struck me as odd was that I was on his list.

I have not seen this friend since senior year in high school, which was over four years ago. We just became facebook friends like a month ago. We were not particularly close friends. I did not know any of the other people he listed, but he did have a short description for everyone. This was how he described me:

Bittersweet Fountain: Mentally/Intellectually strong, real engineering experience, very cheerful and totally a team player!

So his description of me got me thinking. Is this the impression I left on people in high school? (minus the real engineering experience. He pulled that off my facebook profile from my job history).

Mentally/Intellectually strong. I can see this. In high school I had quite the persona of being smart. I was like the Queen Bee of nerds. Not even joking. President and Founder of the Science National Honor Society. President of the Latin Club. Captain of the Quizbowl team. Woodwind Captain. I mean I just reeked of smart nerdy things, even if I wasn't even in the top 20 of my class.

real engineering experience: clearly all that research and co-oping I've done in college is going to pay off.

very cheerful. Am I cheerful? I'm not sure. I am after all a bittersweet fountain. This guy seems to totally remember me as being sweet and not so bitter. Maybe that's because I became more bitter in college? Did I loose a part of myself in college? Am I cheerful?

Totally a team player. I can't imagine how I gave this off in high school. I mean I was in the marching band and part of the quizbowl team, so those are both sort of team activities. But notice the afore mentioned positions in those organizations. Captain. I believe we've discussed before that I want fame. That's nothing new. In high school, I was all about the ambition. But I guess I've always been the sort of person who doesn't tear the team apart with my ambition. I work within the system. I don't break it.

My friend made me think about my high school self and if I have changed since then. Am I different person now? I'm four years older. I have college experience, work experience, and study abroad experience. I've learned a ton. I would like to think I've grown. But at the same time, I don't want to not be that excited ambitious girl that I used to be. The girl people described as "cheerful" and a "team player".

In college people have made me feel like neither of those things. A few adults who shall go nameless have made me feel like a disrupter, a bitter rock that doesn't like to see things change for the better. I don't think that's who I am, but I also think that after awhile how people view you sort of rubs off on you. Maybe I've lost some of my cheerfulness because I'm so used to certain people viewing me as bitter. Maybe I've lost some of my team player attributes because I'm so used to people viewing me as a disrupter.

I don't know. I don't know the answer. This is something that bothers me a lot and I will probably talk about a lot more.

Sometimes I think I used to be sweet, and then the world made me bitter. But then I think I should be able to control who I am. Between me and God we should be able to conquer the world's bittering influence.

I hope I am never simply known as just a "bitter fountain". I hope people still describe me as "very cheerful and totally a team player".

And should my zombie apocalypse preparing friend stumble upon this blog, thanks for the vote of confidence and if I'm in your area, I will definitely find refuge in your bunker.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Manuscript Read Through

As I mentioned in my post on revising, I have a completed manuscript sitting on my bookshelf. I finished writing this story probably in February. It's a middle grade fantasy book that is around 52,000 words. Since February, I have not touched the manuscript. The story has never been too far from my mind since in March I wrote the sequel (crazy that I finished the sequel before I revised the original, but that's what I did), but I have not read the specific words. Since April I have not even allowed myself to dabble in the same world, instead working on other projects I have lying around. (That and focusing on finals and then my job. It's amazing how school and work can sometimes provide a good distraction). Anyway, today - just now in fact - I read through the entire story again.

A complete read through of the story is a good thing to do before you start revisions, or so I have read from authors and agents. Since my story is only 50,000 words long it took me approximately two hours (that's with stopping for a cookie break). I read through it, making some minor grammatical corrections that were going to bother me if I didn't break out the read pen, but did not really consider any major plot changes. So my initial thoughts after this read through?

I think its a great story and deserves to be published. Am I biased? Maybe. Have I read a lot of middle grade fantasy in my day and know what's going on with the genre? Yes.

My one big worry is the classification of "middle grade". It's high fantasy, but no dragons. The main character is twelve, but the other primary character is nineteen. Some of the ideas discussed - poverty, politics, and it hints at some darker aspects of a city underworld - are a little more than most MG (middle grade) fantasy tends to deal with. But the number one thing that seems to separate MG fantasy from YA fantasy is that YA always seems to have a romance focus. There is no romance in my story. I think a middle schooler can more than handle my book. I could have in middle school. I started reading adult books in the 5th grade because "age appropriate" books were too stupid and condescending. I feel like I'm not condescending to my readers, but neither am I too grown up for them. My MC (main character) is a girl who is very unfamiliar with the world she suddenly finds herself in. She requires explanations from her older friend when it comes to many of the occurences. But when I wrote this story I didn't sit down and write a book for middle school children. I wrote it exactly like I wrote my books for adults. It just so happens that my MC is 12 and the themes of the story classify it as middle grade.

I wouldn't worry too much about the classification if it wasn't for the query process. In a query a writer should be clearly able to state a genre like "MG fantasy" or "paranormal romance" (which this is not. Wondering what a paranormal romance is? Pick up Twilight. Better yet, don't. I have yet to read it so I am not recommending it). I don't want the agent to read my query letter and think "MG fantasy, awesome" and then read my partial and think "wait this doesn't read anything like MG". Then I would get busted for not knowing my genre. I don't want to be denied on a technicality. (Granted my story should be awesome enough that if it was about skating monkeys and I claimed it was "chic lit" they wouldn't care because it was so completely awesome. And maybe my story is that awesome. But...rather to be safe than sorry.)

So what are the themes of my story, for those of you who are curious? Abandonment, trust, familial relationships, justice, love. Sounds cliche, doesn't it? Well, I don't think it is. Until it hits the shelves I'm not comfortable revealing too much about the plot, so I'll just leave you writhing in anticipation (unless the only people reading this are the people who have read it. Then you guys are set - no anticipation).

So this is where I am right now with my manuscript. I'll keep you updated as I start going through my friends' revisions and creating my own. I'm hoping to get quite a bit done this week.

The Great Flood

I had a strange dream the other night. In this dream, the world was flooding. The entire world. The waters were rising, and we were desperate to find a way to stop it.

I don't remember the particulars of what happened exactly; the dream has faded away. I do, however, remember the feeling of despair and hopelessness that overcame us when we realized we could not stop it. Nothing we mere humans could do was going to stop these waters from rising up and drowning us all. We could not escape high enough. We could not travel far enough. The waters were coming, and we were all going to die.

We did not die because I snapped myself out of it. I did not exactly wake up, but I pulled myself into the half awake half asleep state. I was still terrified. Part of me was convinced I was going to die. I was going to drown in these flood waters that I could not escape. Then in my half asleep half awake state I reminded myself of something,

"God promised He's not going to flood the entire world again. That's what the rainbow means."

As childish as that may sound, I repeated that to myself over and over again until I fell into a dreamless sleep. God's promise calmed me. I knew God would never break His promise, so in His promise I could rest and sleep well.

(Here is where I segue into something deeply spiritual, right? Or maybe I'm just going to start talking about skate boarding monkeys....No you're right. We're going to talk about God.)

God never breaks His promises. Ever. The world has never completely flooded again like it did during Noah's time. I can overcome a basic and primitive fear of drowning by a world sized flood by reminding myself that its not going to happen. God won't let it. Maybe where I live might flood, but the entire world? Not a chance.

This world flooding promise God made is one I learned probably in Sunday School when I was two. We probably colored pictures of Noah's ark and drew rainbows. It is a promise that has been ingrained in me since before I knew what God's promises meant. I never have to fear a world flood, because I know God promises He won't let it happen.

I wish I was just as familiar with God's other promises.

I wish all of God's promises were engraved on my heart because I had studied them so many times. I wish that when I woke up in the middle of the night from some other scary dream I could pull one of God's promises out of my repertoire to remind myself that God will never let it happen. But I can't. I don't know all of God's promises. My Bible literacy is very low on the grand scale of things. Do I know all the stories? Yes. Could I probably describe the whole new testament to you? Yes. Have I ever just sat down and read the entire thing? Well....the answer is probably no. And forget the Old Testament. Read the entire Old Testament? Are you crazy? Have you ever tried to read Numbers? Good luck.

The fact that I "know" all the stories is a stumbling block to actually reading them. The boring counts in Numbers and the laws laid out in Leviticus cause me to close my Bible and pull out a more "exciting" book. But what can be more exciting than reading God's word? Than seeing His promises to His people and to all of Mankind? Why can't I make myself read the Bible when I can make myself read the Hunchback of Notre Dame (I don't recommend that one by the way. Talk about a bitter ending. No sweetness at all).

I always start out convinced that this time I will read all four gospels in one month, but then I realize how busy I am. And though I'm never too busy to read Brandon Sanderson's new book, I am just too busy to read the Bible.

I wish I knew the answer. I wish I knew how to overcome my lack of Bible knowledge. Part of me wants to go to seminary and take Bible classes so that they have to make me read it, just like my professors make me read every aerospace book written by John Anderson. But I want to want to read it. I want to be filled with a burning passion that mere human boredom can not overcome.

Maybe that starts with making myself do it. Maybe if I set aside time each day just to read it - like I did for Hunchback of Notre Dame - eventually I'll find myself engrossed in it. Maybe.

It never hurts to try, and maybe I have just never tried hard enough.

Maybe this time I'll focus on God's promises, and maybe this time I'll make it through Numbers.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Story About a Monitor

I got a new monitor at work today.

I now have two 24 inch monitors. You might think that's ridiculous. You might think that one 24 inch monitor is all a person needs, but if you think that you are probably not an engineer. An engineer can never have too many monitors.

For the longest time I was the lowest of the low; I only had one monitor. Every other person where I worked had two monitors. And they all had two 24 inch monitors. My measly one monitor was merely 17 inches. Then I got a new computer and low and behold with the new computer came a 24 inch monitor. Instead of getting rid of my smaller monitor, I hooked the two together for dual usage. It was beautiful, but it wasn't two 24 inch monitors. Not to mention both monitors had slightly different resolutions and coloring schemes that would not match no matter how much I played with them.

But I survived and dealt with it until today. Today my lead came by my desk and said "I have a new monitor for you." Now my monitors are nearly as long as my desk. It's beautiful.

My old monitor was given to our administrative assistant. My cast-off became her upgrade. It makes me happy, for my old monitor served me well. Now it can serve her well.

But this story isn't really about my new monitor. It's about being a woman in engineering.

I'll admit I'm not exactly a terrifying figure. My stature doesn't exactly cry out strength. I'm 5'1". Very few people are afraid of me, until they get to know my true ferocity that is.

Anyhow, my lead came to my desk and was like "I have your new 24 inch monitor. You should ask someone to come help you carry it."

Help me carry it? I glanced at my current 24 inch monitor. 24 inches really isn't that big. The measurement is diagonal anyway. And I've carried this monitor before when I had to take apart and put together my computer. Did I really need help to carry it?

"I don't need help," I insisted, because I didn't. I got up from my desk to retrieve my new monitor and my lead looked at me askance - seeing me at my full height clearly did not help him believe my claim. "I would help you," he said, "but my back isn't what it used to be. We'll go get Josh."

"No, I can carry it," I responded. I slipped past him and to his office where my monitor was being stored. I saw the box and was a little taken back by the size. Maybe I did need help? I wouldn't let myself believe it. Just because it looked big didn't mean it was heavy.

"It's too big," my lead insisted.

"Do you need help?" Another engineer from my branch stuck his head out of his cube. "I'll help you."

"Maybe you can help me pick it up," I said, pulling it awkwardly out of the cube. "But I can carry it."

"Use the handholds," the other engineer said. "You grab that one and I'll grab this one." Handholds. I felt like such an idiot. This would be so easy with handholds. I grabbed the one nearest to me and then moved around to grab the other one. I lifted. Were they kidding me? This was light! I didn't need help, and I certainly did not need help from the middle aged men in my branch.

Both my lead and the engineer were looking at me as if I might collapse at any moment, delicate flower that I am. "Trust me," I assured them. "This is light. My family has moved 16 times. I'm a college student who moves in and out of dorms like they're going out of style. I can carry this box that is mainly Styrofoam."

However, they still did not believe me. My lead followed me all the way back to my cube in case I might collapse in exhaustion on the floor, being overcome by the weight of this ridiculously light box.

Maybe I should have let them help me. Maybe it was heavier than OSHA regulates a single person should carry. I don't know. I didn't weigh the box before I carried it. But I do know I've carried much heavier boxes much farther distances. I may not be winning any sports competitions or weight lifting events any time soon but I could certainly carry a box with handholds.

I'm positive that if I had been a male co-op they would have let me carry the box no problem, but because I'm a girl they were unsure if I could handle the weight. And I, being stubborn, insisted I could.

To rest your mind, I am not a feminist out burning my undergarments and trying to break free from my bonds. I chain myself down to no movement. And I'm more than willing to ask for help when I need it. As stated above, I'm pretty short. When I see something that's too high for me to reach, if there is a tall person standing near me I'm going to ask them to help me before I try to pull a chair over and balance myself precariously. If something is too heavy, I will take advantage of the person nearest who looks like they can lift weights no problem. I'm not stupid. I try to use the resources around me. However, this case was different.

I'm 22 years old. I may not be "in shape" per say but I'm not exactly out of shape. I'm in fairly good physical condition, and I don't have to worry about throwing my back. All of the guys in my branch are definitely over thirty and most probably over forty. I don't want to worry about them throwing their back carrying a box for me, a box I'm perfectly capable of carrying.

Maybe this isn't even about being a girl, maybe its just about being deceptively small. Maybe my lead wasn't sizing me up and saying "She's a girl; she can't handle it." Maybe he was sizing me up and saying, "She's 5'1" and spends her day in a cube not working out. She can't handle it." Either way it doesn't matter. If I say I can handle something, I usually can. Let me handle it. Let me make my own mistakes. Let me try.

I may look small. I may look weak. I may look like just another girl, but I want to try. Give me a chance to size up the load for myself and see if I can handle it. Give me a chance to succeed or fail. Don't try to take care of me. Even if I am a delicate flower, I'm not your delicate flower. I'm my own. And this flower wants to bear the load.