May 11

After a hiatus, I have Returned to Blogging

I have returned to blogging!

Sorry about my disappearance but it couldn’t be helped. If you follow me on Facebook, you’re probably aware that I accepted a job and moved to Spokane, Washington.

Moving is never an easy task. I had to find a place in a new city and state in less than a month, and move in. This only increased my stress. My two cats are not pleased with the sudden change. Fortunately, I have good friends, and loving family who helped. Some well beyond the call of duty.

Life Has Changed for Me

I’m now a copy writer for a website-building company. This is exciting for me. I finally managed to break into the field I am most interested in. In the past, I’ve had internships, some temporary jobs and the occasional favor for a friend, but this is my first permanent job in this field. I can’t describe the sense of accomplishment. My foot is in the door and no one is slamming that door shut on me.

My job requires a month of training and I’m learning a lot about writing, about SEO, about advertising. No regrets in accepting the job. A lot of what I’m learning can only improve my writing, and increase my marketing skills, but there are times when my head feels so stuffed with information that I can barely focus enough to remember my name. It has also given me ideas for new blog posts.

But I’m Keeping Some Old Connections

Life is starting to develop a new, steady rhythm for me again. This allows me to re-commit myself to things that fell on the wayside. This blog is one. Papercuts Podcast is another. Cyna and Ollie had to record the last two episodes without me. I will be returning in the next one.

If you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog. I won’t spam you. You’ll only get an email letting you know I posted something new.

February 22

Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is a bit controversial. I’ve heard complaints that judging a book or movie based on whether it passes the Bechdel test is unfair. A good movie is still a good movie, and I tend to agree.  But the Bechdel test isn’t meant to decide if a book or movie is good or not. The original Star Wars movies fail the Bechdel Test but the first two episodes of the prequel trilogy pass. The Bechdel test doesn’t even  determine if a show is feminist. In fact, there are shows that are misogynistic but still pass the Bechdel test. Instead the Bechdel Test is a standard for judging female interactions in a piece of media.

For those who aren’t aware, to pass the Bechdel test:

  1. There must be more than one female character
  2. who must have a conversation
  3.  about something other than a man

Other than a man.  That does not mean the movie or book passes the test if they’re talking about their father, grandfather, brother, nephew, because those are men! The topic of discussion doesn’t matter so long as it doesn’t involve men, so it could be something stereotypically feminine, such as clothes, hair, shoes, or they could talk cars or sports, etc.

However, the definition of “conversation” can come into question.  Depending on how you want to interpret the information, the last Harry Potter movie may or may not pass the test. The women do speak to each other.  Professor McGonagall tells Molly “I’ve always wanted to do that,” when she brings the stone statues to life and Molly calls Bellatrix a bitch.  Technically they’re communicating with another female, but if they’re talking at the character and the character they spoke to doesn’t respond–did they pass?

Some say yes.  Some say no.

There are times when it isn’t necessary for a woman to appear in a book or movie, such as if the story is in a male prison, and not every movie needs to pass.  The Bechdel test attempts to show how women are presented in the media.  They’re often trophies or shown as obsessed with men, but men have more to them than simply being interested in women.

Other Bechdel tests have emerged as well.  One is the Racial Bechdel test.  To pass that one:

  1. There must be more than one character of color
  2. At least two characters of color must have a conversation
  3. The conversation has to be about something other than a white person

The Movie Hachi with Richard Gere passes the Racial Bechdel test. However, the Racial Bechdel test has the same flaws as the traditional one.

The most that can be said for certain of either Bechdel test is that it gets people talking.

If you write books, do your stories pass the Bechdel test?  Does your favorite book or movie? Do you think the Bechdel test is good, bad, or neutral?

February 18

V for Vendetta: Body Language

I’ve spent some time recently watching V for Vendetta. For those who don’t know it’s a movie set in England. V is a terrorist both seeking revenge and trying to free the people from the military-state government that has formed. As a writer what caught my interest the most with this movie is the fact V always wears a Guy Fawkes mask. We never see his face.

While we never see V’s true facial expressions, we get a good idea of his emotional state from his body language. It could be how he tilts his head, places his hands on his body or a prop, or the tone of his voice, but we know when he’s angry, sad, lonely, etc. It’s an interesting study.

As writers we tend to focus on the characters facial expressions to convey their emotional state. V reminds writers that body language can say just as much, if not more of a characters thoughts and emotions. Capturing every mannerism is impossible, or at least unrealistic. Some of the descriptions will be far too awkward or would slow the pace too much, while others would be too vague with what you’re trying to convey or misinterpreted to mean something else. However, watching V interact with people on the screen, is a great reminder that when trying to convey a character’s emotions, don’t be afraid to turn the eye from the character’s face to their body.

There is a fantastic book that will help you figure out what type of body language you can show for a particular emotion, if you struggle with that aspect in your writing. I highly recommend The Emotional Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.  So, grab the book, if you need it and find a scene in your current Work in Progress and see how the scene reads once you replace descriptions of facial expressions with other types of body language.

January 31

Coldest Girl In Cold Town

Coldest GirlTana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is one of those rare Young Adult books that have me re-reading it both for enjoyment and to try to understand the author’s writing techniques. I’ve happily purchased this book and plan to continue re-reading and dismantling the book to my heart’s content.

Tana is refreshing. She isn’t a special snowflake, a lost princess or a chosen one.  She’s an ordinary girl with history and flaws, who is simply trying to survive in a world where vampires are a very real fear. She does her best, but she isn’t perfect. She makes mistakes and makes questionable decisions.  However, instead of her decisions being made because Black requires it, Tana has strong reasons for making them, giving her agency.

Black avoids stereotypes and tropes. Tana is not a virgin, but she’s not a hyper-sexualized being like I so often see in young adult books. She sits comfortably between those two extremes. Not all the characters in the book are heterosexual. Some are straight, some are bi and at least one is transsexual.

There is a bit of a romance in the book, but no love triangle, and Tana’s love interest is absent for half of the book. His absence allows Tana to figure out how to survive on her own, how to stay human on her own and how to save herself. She fights for herself and for other people, instead of waiting for someone to rescue her. Independent female characters with agency are rare in Young Adult fiction, especially when they have a romantic interest.

I love how Holly Black packs so much information about a character, or a setting in a single, descriptive sentence.  I keep re-reading her book partly to learn this skill and become proficient with it. I love her ability to show, and not tell. But, beyond her skills as a writer, I enjoy the story itself.

The book isn’t perfect. I don’t like Black’s trademark style of delving into the past every other chapter instead of staying in the story’s present. I know a few people who love that aspect to her books. I’ve always had mixed feelings on the ending. The story arc does end. However, there is room for a sequel. We’re left to decide if Tana manages to “cure” herself or if she damns herself, even with the help of her love interest. This wouldn’t bother me if I knew a second book was coming, but as of this writing, Black says she doesn’t anticipate writing a sequel.

If you don’t mind vampire novels that don’t follow the norm, pick up The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and give it a try.

January 3

Robin Returns!

Time did not escape me. I am well-aware I haven’t updated my blog in over a year.  With me working a full-time job, going to school as a full-time student, making occasional podcasts for Papercuts and attempting to have a life, some things were bound to fall into neglect.  Unfortunately this blog was one of them.

I now possess a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing. Life is settling down with me out of school and I’m picking up the loose strands in my life.  This blog is one of those strands. I will be updating the website. I also intend to update this blog once a week, with the hope that posts will increase with time.  This blog will contain book reviews, information on writing, the occasional guest post and author interview and snippets of life. Suggestions are welcome.  Just leave a comment or contact me on what you’d like to see.

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe  and you’ll get an email whenever I update my blog.


November 26

Back in School: ECE to Write, Books to Read

A lot has happened since my last blog post. I did make my goal and I emailed several agents about my book. So far, I’ve received nothing but rejections, though some did ask that I query them for my next project if I don’t get anything with this one. I’m going to let the book sit for a while before I do anything more with it. Maybe when I look at it again, whenever that’ll be, I’ll have a better idea of how to make it more appealing to agents/editors even in this saturated market.

I have a lot to focus on now. As some of you know, I just returned from my school residency. I learned a ton and if I remember, or if someone gives me a nudge, I’ll post some of what I learned on here. I have a list of major things that all successful novels have in them, information about libraries and publicity, etc. I’d love to share it, but those are something that would need their own blogs.

Since residency is over, my independent study has begun and that means I have an ECE to write. The ECE needs to be twenty to thirty pages long and the rough draft is due on December 17. I already feel like I’m scrambling.  I’m writing about LGBTQIA characters in Young Adult literature and any statistics, papers or articles on the topic are welcome.

My due dates are as follows:
December 17
January 24
February 16
March 14
April 4

Along with the 20 to 30 page essay, I’ll need to read 10 books, as is tradition, for the semester.

Books to Read:
Ask the Passengers by AS King
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
The Art of Fiction by John Garner
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers
Huntress by Malinda Lo
Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
Ash by Malinda Lo
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
Write your novel from the middle by James Scott Bell

Now if I can’t find a book, or I simply can’t get into the book, I can switch a book out for another with my mentor’s approval. However, I tend to stay close to my original reading list.  My mentor this semester is Susan Campbell Bartoletti.

I should have plenty to post over the next few months.