Trivia Night

Last night I went out with a friend of mine to an Avengers Trivia Night at a local soda and ice cream shop here in Nashville called the Soda Parlor. I’ve never done anything like this before so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I figured hey, I’ve seen all the Marvel movies, I know a lot about the Avengers, I’m sure I can ace this. So my friend and I checked ourselves in under the team name Captain Charizard and ordered our drinks–I got a root beer float and he got a cookies and cream milkshake–before taking our seats and waiting for the event to begin.

The trivia game consisted of three rounds of ten questions each, with the host reading the questions aloud and the teams of three–or two in our case–wrote their answers on the their team card. The cards were collected and the correct answers were revealed at the end of each round. Team Captain Charizard got a whopping twelve out of thirty (six in the first round and three in each subsequent round). There were a lot of really hard questions about small obscure details in the movies. Do you know what percentage Iron Man’s suit got super-charged to upon being struck with Thor’s lightning during their fight in the first Avengers movie? Or what band was on the shirt Tony was wearing in the infamous “We’ve got a Hulk” scene? There were some easy ones as well like finishing the quote: “Because if we can’t protect the earth you can be damn well sure we’ll ____.” One question I can’t believe I got wrong was what does S.H.I.E.L.D stand for. I got the consonants right (Strategic Homeland ___  ____ Logistics Division) but blanked on the “I” and the “E.”  The question I was really proud that I got right was what is Hawkeye’s wife’s name, especially since I just went with my instinctual response and wasn’t even remotely sure I was right. Overall, the questions were a lot harder than I expected but I feel like it was still a pretty good mix of easy, medium, and hard questions.

At the end of the game, the winning team went home with a box of Marvel merch and some gift cards after they got twenty-five out of thirty questions right…more than twice our score but that’s alright I had a ton of fun playing anyway and would totally love to do something like this again.

 

Answers:

400%

Black Sabbath

Avenge it

Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division

Laura

Town Line Tuesday: Creator of Worlds

Magic and technology, kingdoms and queendoms and distant planets, alternate universes and mysterious galaxies, magical creatures and alien races, to name but a few of all the little pieces that go into building elaborate fantasy and sci-fi worlds. World-building is a key part of writing fantasy and sci-fi, it’s a fun and creative process but also a necessary one—even magic worlds of make-believe need some sort of rules and structure, without them you’ve got nothing but chaos and your readers won’t be able to follow what’s going on let alone suspend disbelief the way they should. Still, while world-building is a lot of fun when it’s all in my head—seriously I could spend all day lost in imagining worlds of my own design—I’ve found that getting it onto the page is…less fun. The problem with putting the world-building on the page is that it, by very definition, needs to be done through exposition (the placement of often very wordy explanations of important background information into a story) and honestly, I don’t much like reading exposition let alone writing it. Don’t get me wrong, exposition, while annoying, is very important and I do actually find its contents interesting (most of the time anyway) it just has a way of completely bogging down the story.

 

I’m currently reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and let me tell you, the first six chapters were a pain to get through. The prologue explaining the contest was one thing, it set up the premise of the story nicely and it was all necessary information at that point in the narrative. The next six chapters however…well as interesting as I find the OASIS and I have to admit the background about Halliday is certainly necessary for Parzival’s solving of the puzzles but nothing happens in those six chapters. Parzival goes to school and does almost nothing there and the rest of the sixty-odd pages are nothing but exposition. Maybe it’s just me but personally I’d prefer the author trust the reader a little more to figure out what’s going on through context and small bits of exposition spaced out throughout the novel and interspersed with action rather than dumping everything on us all at once at the start of the story. Maybe you like your world-building all at once at the beginning of a book because when you’re finished, once you’ve earned the action after slogging through all the background muck, you at least know what’s going on and you can sit back and enjoy the ride. But I’ve got to say, I actually don’t mind being somewhat confused at the start of the book, I relish figuring things out on my own and the twists and turns in the plot that slowly reveal the secrets of the world I’m immersed in keep me coming back for more when pages upon pages of exposition exhaust me to the point of wanting to walk a way rather than keep trudging forward.

 

This reading preference really shows itself in my writing, I like to play things close to the vest, revealing things only when the plot demands it. Sometimes this dislike of heavy exposition and descriptive language works to my disadvantage as I sometimes struggle with making sure scenes are as descriptive as they need to be but it’s something I am constantly working on. As for world-building in The Demon of New Salem, since the novel takes place in our world—albeit our world with magic—the primary pieces I have to worry about building are my fictional town of New Salem, creating lore for the Supernaturals, and of course creating a system of magic and rules for how magic works and doesn’t work—which is what I am currently trying to work out during my writing sessions at my local coffee shop. It’s funny how given that magic is something that doesn’t exist, and can therefore theoretically operate any way I want it to, has me spending quite a bit of time researching… I’m sure my Google search history from my last writing session looks like that of a novice Wicca. Unfortunately, since magic isn’t real, it hasn’t been super helpful, but at least it helps to get some idea as to what plants and incantations supposedly do what so I have a place to jump off from when creating my system. Now to figure out how to put the pieces I have worked out to paper without falling into the trap of wordy and complicated exposition. It’s all about balance I suppose.

Musical Shenanigans

Hey guys, instead of a Town Line Tuesday this week I wanted to finally post something I’ve been struggling to finish for a while now about one of my all time favorite TV tropes—the musical episode (What’s not to love about watching your favorite characters spontaneously burst into song for seemingly no reason at all?)—I also want to try to post some flash fiction later this week and we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled Town Line Tuesday next week. Anyway, a few weeks ago one of my current TV show obsessions—SyFy’s The Magicians—came out with its version of the musical episode and it got me thinking about all of my favorite musical TV shenanigans. I thought about watching them all over again to see how The Magicians stacked up against them but including Magicians that’s seven hours I simply don’t have. Still, if I were to rate them from good to best, I think it would look something like this. (A/N: These are all the musical episodes I have seen—or at least all the ones I remember. Also, most of these are over a year old but since The Magicians is on this list I should warn you that this is in no way spoiler free so if you want to avoid spoilers stop reading now.)

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Town Line Tuesday: Meet the Cast

They say nobody exists in a vacuum, that no one ever goes through life without being impacted and shaped by the people around them. This is of course true of fictional characters as well. No matter how brilliantly crafted a main character, their story is nowhere near as interesting if they don’t have friends and/or family to support them or enemies to challenge them. In the spirit of this, I thought I’d introduce you to a couple of the central characters in Daphne’s story so far.

Hannah Beckman

Species: Human

Age: 28

Gender: Female

Hair: Red

Eyes: Green

Occupation: AEGIS agent

Hannah is Daphne’s best friend and partner. She grew up in AEGIS–the secret vigilante organization that works to keep peace between humans and Supernaturals–her entire family having been agents of the organization for almost as long as AEGIS has existed. Hannah is a highly trained badass whose skill in hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship, not to mention her mile-wide stubborn streak, are more than a match for Daphne’s own. Even though Daphne is the one with the people-reading powers, Hannah’s even-tempered nature and easy charm usually makes her a better diplomat than often hot-headed Daphne. Especially when Daphne tells her exactly which buttons to push. Despite her lifestyle of living with a gun in her hand and blood under her nails, her hands are always perfectly manicured–even if she can’t quite lose the calluses on her palms–and she’s mourned the loss of more than one fabulous dress in the line of duty.

 

Spencer Montgomery

Species: Human

Age: 27

Gender: Male

Hair: Light Brown

Eyes: Gray/Green

Occupation: New Salem Sheriff’s Department Deputy

Spencer is Daphne’s adoptive brother. While they share neither blood nor legal familial ties, Daphne and Spencer grew up together and Spencer’s father was more of a dad to Daphne than Daphne’s flesh-and-blood one. The Spencer Daphne knew was an intelligent yet carefree man with a penchant for breaking rules in the name of having fun. In the wake of his father’s sudden death, Spencer is a new man. A more serious, more suspicious, more reckless man, and yet still every bit as prone to breaking a few rules in the name of finding his father’s killer. He still blames Daphne for leaving New Salem without so much as a goodbye and now, ten years later, she’s returned from who-knows-where and he can’t help but wonder what her true motives are for coming home.

Margaret Beckman

Species: Human

Age: 50

Gender: Female

Hair: Graying Dark Blonde

Eyes: Brown

Occupation: Lore and Logistics Admin for AEGIS

Once a field agent for AEGIS, Marge has long since hung up her sword (figuratively at least) and taken up a desk job at the organization, coordinating field missions, filing reports and researching and updating supernatural lore for the archives. It’s supposed to be a promotion but, truth be told, she sometimes misses getting her hands dirty. As Hannah’s mother, she has naturally had more of a presence in Daphne’s life as an AEGIS agent than she has with most field agents and Marge and Daphne have developed a strong mentor-student bond as a result. No one understands Daphne’s mindset at the beginning of the novel better than Margaret Beckman, even if she is worried what that grief might make her young friend do.

 

Anka Satoya

Species: Human

Age: 42

Gender: Female

Hair: Black

Eyes: Brown

Occupation: Coroner for the New Salem Sheriff’s Department

Anka is the Coroner for the NSSD and a close friend of Spencer’s. She’s confident, smart, and the best at her job–something she’s not too humble to admit. She adores Spencer so even though it could cost her her job and every instinct she has is screaming there’s something suspicious about this Daphne character who has shown up at Spencer’s side seemingly out of nowhere, she’ll do anything she can to help her friend get justice for his father’s murder.

 

The Demon

Species: Demon

Gender: Female

Hair: ??????

Eyes: Endless Voids of Evil

Occupation: None

The Demon is New Salem’s one-and-only urban legend. In a town where the supernatural has always been impossible, no one tells stories about haunted houses or bogeymen or even monsters under the bed. The Demon is the only exception because she is less a legend than indisputable fact. The Demon was a real girl once, a citizen of New Salem born and raised. But time and fear have a way of twisting things and she was a strange girl with even stranger eyes; eyes they say could tear your very soul from your body if you looked at them too long. Said to have telepathic and mind-control powers–and those being only the very tip of the iceberg as far as what she can do–The Demon is the antithesis of all that New Salem holds sacred. So when people start dying of mysterious, seemingly supernatural circumstances in New Salem, everyone knows The Demon must be the one behind it.

 

Town Line Tuesday: Writer’s Block

Every writer has been subject to the plague known as Writer’s Block at one point or another and every writer has their own way of dealing with it, methods that are, ultimately, just treatments for the symptoms and not a cure for the disease itself–no matter what you do, Writer’s Block always rears its ugly head again. Writer’s Block can manifest in many forms and can persist for varying degrees of time, sometimes it comes as a loss of inspiration, sometimes as a loss of motivation or the ability to express oneself, it can last a few hours or a week or even years in truly severe cases. My own personal struggle with Writer’s Block is a near constant wrestling match between the story I want to tell and a brain that refuses to cooperate. Rarely is it an issue of ideas but instead a sort of invisible wall in my brain that makes it near impossible to get my ideas from my head to the page. It’s a sort of anxiety I think, a feeling like what I have to say needs to be said perfectly and if it’s not perfect, it might as well not even be on the page. Even now, writing each sentence feels like trying to squeeze that last little bit of ketchup out of the bottle without it exploding everywhere in a bloody red mess. Dad told me today that I need to just relax and just write, stop worrying so much about it being perfect that nothing gets done, which is good advice, advice I’ve heard before from several college writing professors, but saying it and getting my brain to actually comply are two very different things.

So how do you get that annoying invisible wall to go away long enough to actually be productive? Well, you’ve got your basic Google search of options. There’s the obvious putting it down and coming back to it later which is good for stressed out minds but not so good for productivity or lack of inspiration. Exercise such as yoga or anything that gets your blood flowing is always good–when I do have inspiration problems I like to go on nice long walks to clear my head. Some people say you need to minimize distractions but while I’m sure this works for some people, staring at a blank Word doc is the opposite of helpful to me. Listening to music is supposed to help but I always listen to music when I write (I don’t know about you but I can’t work in complete silence, I need background noise) so it’s less of a cure for Writer’s Block and more of a necessity. And then there’s the seemingly paradoxical tactic of free-writing. I mean, if you’re having problems writing it seems like you wouldn’t be able to sit down and, well, write, though I suppose it probably helps with specific problems with inspiration. You can’t figure out how to write the current project you’re working on, go write something else until you’ve loosened up enough to write what you need to write. Personally? When it comes to this particular kind of Writer’s Block, I prefer what I call the ninja method. When I’ve been staring at a blank Word doc, kind of knowing what I need to say but not quite able to say it, I need to shut my brain up so I can just relax and write. And in order to do that I need to sneak up on the problem; like a ninja. So I read. Sometimes a book, sometimes fan fiction, sometimes I just scroll on Tumblr, anything to distract my anxious foggy mind, to lull the anxiety into quieting for a bit, to clear my head and inspire me. Like the “walk away from this for a bit” option there is a very thin line between clearing up the Writer’s Block and your everyday procrastination. But, at least for me, it works better than staring at a blank Word doc getting increasingly anxious and frustrated.

Baxter

Meet Baxter, my new fuzzy friend. Baxter and I have been hanging out for the past week while his mom and dad were out-of-town for their oldest daughter’s wedding. He’s a tiny little guy and even though in my experience the tinier the dog the more hyper they are, Baxter is probably the most laid-back dog I’ve ever met. He follows me around the house like a shadow with irresistible puppy-dog eyes, curls up with me on the couch and takes over the bed at night. He’s quieter and more cuddly than my cats. Smaller too.

Like my cats, Baxter has no idea how to play fetch. Apparently his idea of fetch is I throw the ball once, he chases after it, and then I chase him around the living room trying to get it back until I collapse from exhaustion. For one with such short legs he’s quite a speedy little fellow. Keeping up with him on walks has been a somewhat challenging exercise but has been great for clearing my head of all the noise my life seems to be filled with these days.

The past week has given me some much-needed alone time and I couldn’t have asked for a better companion in solitude than little Baxter, I’ll be sad to say goodbye tonight. Still, I’m ready to go home, see my cats (and my parents), and sleep in my own bed again.