Unique Birthday Gift Twist

This year, I’m attempting something different for both of my daughters’ birthdays. Rather than get them a pile of store bought stuff they’ll love opening, play with, and forget, I’m trying to be a bit more thoughtful.

They each usually get one larger present. One year, this was magna-tiles. Who knew magnetic plastic could be so expensive?!?

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For the hours of play over the last two years, worth it, though.

Another year, it was a My Little Pony castle. I wish this would’ve been as worthwhile as the magna-tiles.

This year, both of their main presents are being created by artists from Etsy. It’s required me to plan well in advance of birthdays as most artists have a four to six week lead time, but I’m hoping it’ll be worth it. I want to give them something unique, but it also feels right to know you’re supporting an artist rather than a plastics factory.

We’ll see how it goes when I get the items, but so far, almost everything I’ve bought from an artist on Etsy has been spectacular. You can tell that they care about what they’re making.

Of course I’m hoping the girls will love what they’re getting.

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We’ve all gotten gifts like this.

Okay, it’s not going to be as bad as shown above. These are artists, not me, making the gifts.

More than just liking the gift, I’m hoping it’ll spur their imaginations and bring them to new worlds. I love watching them play with dolls, action figures, or blocks. Listening to the stories they’re making up, the reason they’re doing whatever they’re doing.

It’s a writer’s dream.

They’re literally acting out all the amazing imagination running through their heads. Making their pretend worlds come to life.

Frankly, another thing I really appreciate about Etsy is that nothing I’ve ever bought there makes noise. Or has an on/off switch. Or requires batteries. The gifts I’ve selected will appeal to things they already like, but it will require the girls to use their imaginations.

While there’s nothing wrong with electronic toys, and goodness knows they’re going to need to know how to use electronics.

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DD1 will already be using an iPad in her kindergarten class. But I also feel like this has gone a little too far. Does the fisher price school bus have to make a series of noises? Does every stuffed animal have to talk?

Volume controls and on/off buttons are nice, but does every toy need this in the first place?

I like to see the kids use their imagination. I love seeing where it takes them. They even snitched my stuffed green dragon, which I still haven’t gotten back, for some escapade or another. They love that dragon, and all it does is sit there. No roaring. No talking. No breathing fire. Just a plain stuffed green dragon to take them wherever their imaginations want to go.

 

How about you? Do you find your kids or grandchildren toys to require too many batteries? What do you think of current toys or the classics? Ever got a child a handmade gift before? How did it go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balancing Act: Left Brain vs Right Brain

Life is a regular balancing act of creativity and reason. Of balancing the left and right side of the brain. (And yes, I know this has been thoroughly debunked. And here’s Neil DeGrass Tyson doing it style. Still, you get my point.)

Whether you write stories, paint, sing, do performance art, make jewelry, or arrange flowers, most humans have a creative outlet. It seems to be wired into us, and there are lots of sites out there that will tell you how important creativity is, even in business:

While I think it’s important to foster this creativity in myself and others, I don’t really know how as I never had it fostered in me. As I was growing up, creativity was something for young children. When you reached a certain age, you put your imagination behind you and focused on the important and grown-up things like math, science, and tearing apart literary books looking for meaning rather than writing your own novel.

So, I’ve had to figure out ways to coax out my own creativity, especially when I’m writing a first draft of a story.

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This first draft is when I’m making something out of nothing. Piecing together electrons on a page to tell a story. Granted, my first draft is strung together with paperclips, duct tape, and pipe cleaners, but it has brought into being something that didn’t exist before. Something ready to be engineered into a coherent story driven by the characters.

Getting that first draft onto the page is hard. I’d love to say I’ve found the magic bean that lets your fingers dance across the keyboard as worlds, characters and plot fill the screen. Man, oh man, do I wish I had that bean. Mostly, my creative process involves butt to chair as I struggle to turn off my internal editor and throw words onto the page.

If I poke at those words too much, “edit as I go”, the creativity dies and I’m back into edit mode.

The magic bean is gone.

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So what if my magic bean looks a little bit like coffee…

But, like most things, if I practice turning off that internal editor, I get better at not listening to her and better at letting thoughts become words on a page.

Eventually, a story materializes. Then comes the editing to make those paperclips and duct tape into something I’d want to read.

And there lies my issue.

I have two books written and in various states of revision. But I haven’t figured out how to turn on the editor to get those books publication ready while not losing the skill of getting words onto the page.

I recently got some great advice from an editor, but I haven’t acted on it as I know I’ll lose momentum on the story I’m currently writing. I’ll forget, as I have so many times in the past, how to let the words fill the page.

This may sound silly to you, but my magic bean is a fragile little thing.

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I’ve learned from experience how hard it is to write new stuff after setting it aside to spend time on revisions. I’ve also learned putting a story on hold to go back and revise earlier parts of that story or even revise another story altogether is a death sentence for the story in question. I simply won’t go back to writing it. Or if I do, it’ll only be after “revising” everything I’ve already written a dozen times (which will just be cut in a later true rewrite once the whole book is written).

I clearly haven’t figured this out.

But I have to find a way. I have two completed manuscripts waiting to be revised then queried to agents or self-published.

I need to find a way to squeeze this revision time in between my full-time job, family, and creation of new work.

I need to figure out a way that once the editor brain turns on, I can turn it off again so I can put new words to the page. I just don’t know how to do it yet.

 

How about you? How do you get in the zone to do your creative activity, whatever it may be? What’s lures your muse to you? What sends her running off and how do you get her back? Do you have any issues balancing your creative and analytical sides?

7 Reasons Why Halloween Is No Longer My Favorite Holiday

It’s October, and many of my friends and neighbors are decorating for Halloween.

When I was a kid, I freakin’ loved Halloween! I would totally plan out my costume and let my imagination run. My mom did stop me from wearing my Wonder Woman underoos out in 30 degree weather (I wanted to be Wonder Woman for most of childhood years, but we lived in very cold places). My parents didn’t really get into making Halloween costumes, and the store bought Halloween costumes of the 1980s were awful . . .

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But man, when I dressed up like Batman, I felt so cool. And yeah, my Batman costume looked a lot like that Darth Vader one. But without the light saber.

My favorite year was the year I dressed up like a queen and got to wear a fancy party dress and a Burger King crown covered in glitter. I thought I was all that. My mom even let me wear a little of her lipstick. I truly felt royal.

Now that I’m older, however, Halloween has become a season to endure. Here are the top 6 reasons why Halloween changed for me:

 

  1. I Hate Scary Things – No scary movies, scary dolls, or haunted houses for me. I hate being scared, and more than that, I hate the nightmares it brings. Usually for weeks. I chalk this up to the over-active imagination that so many writers have. And, of course, to being a coward. As an adult, trying to avoid scary things during this time of year is always problematic. Doable, but only if you don’t channel surf. Never, ever channel surf during Halloween.

 

  1. Halloween Candy Is Not Longer Awesome – It’s no longer about making sure you hit the houses that give the best candy, then sorting through it and setting aside the chocolate while pawning off the candy corn to the one person in the world who’ll eat it. I know candy isn’t good for me, and I no longer have the metabolism of an eight-year-old to ignore that fact. I have also learned that if something is in the house, I will probably “forget” this and eat it. So, we don’t regularly have chips, candy, or junk food in the house. Except at Halloween.

 

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  1. Gotta share – And if I’m caught eating a piece of candy, DD1 and DD2 each need a piece of that candy. And neither of them can hold their sugar. Minutes after having said piece of candy, both are running around like someone lit their hair on fire. Usually whooping and screaming as if the aforementioned fire had indeed been lit. To which DH gives me a look that says he knows what happened and that the current insanity is totally and fully my fault.

 

  1. See #3 every time DD1 or DD2 gets a piece of Halloween candy they got trick-or-treating

 

  1. Can’t Take DD1 to Certain Stores – I have to be super careful of what stores I go in during this season and where we go in those stores. DD1 will cautiously peek down Home Depot’s aisles at the animatronics and ask me to repeatedly reassure her nothing is real. She still refuses to set foot in a certain store that scared her two years ago. I don’t know how she remembers anything from being that young, but boy does she.  She still points at the store and calls it the “scary place”. We haven’t shopped there since the crying, screaming hysterics when a grim reaper went off as we came through the entrance (and yes, it was her, not me).

 

  1. Can’t Take DD1 Past Certain Houses – One of our neighbors is very festive. They have an amazing Christmas display that is only rivaled by their Halloween display. Which has led me to needing to find creative ways around their house as DD1 flips out every time we drive past.

 

  1. DD1 Yells at Halloween Decorations – In her loudest possible voice. In the middle of the street as we’re taking a walk. In the middle of the sidewalk outside a shop. Or in the stores themselves. Things like: “I’m not afraid of you!” or “You don’t scare me!” Some people laugh. Some people stare. I just keep waiting for November 1st and the Santa decorations.

Best Game Purchase of 2015/2016

When Fallout 4 came out, DH bought it the day it was released.

I rolled my eyes when he brought it home. We have 2 small children, and the only time he could play it is on the weekends when the kids are napping or at night, after they go to bed. But he really wanted to play it.

He’s been a fan of the series since it first came out back in ye olde 90s, and he introduced it to me with Fallout 3 and later New Vegas. He played them on the PS3 that was attached to the big screen in our living room. I didn’t get his attraction to the game at first. The plot was flimsy, the characters shallow and uninteresting, and the world irredeemable.

But the longer he played, the more I got into it. It’s like your own mini-dystopia to play in. Whether you’re snooping around Cthuluesque Dunwich building, listening to holotapes of the corruption of the pre-bomb world, exploring Zetan spaceships, or kicking the tar out of the enclave, you’re free to roam and explore. And Bethesda has purposely put interesting things in all sorts of random places to get you to explore.

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Fallout 4 is much the same, and has lured us in just as Fallout 3 and New Vegas did.

The story stinks and I convinced DH not to finish it so that “we” can stay friends with the Institute, Railroad, Minutemen, and Brotherhood. Bethesda won’t give us a “perfect” ending and is trying to show how the world never gets better. People never learn. Blah, blah , blah. Or, they’re just trying to keep their franchise around . . .

Whatever. They all need me to be their rain maker, so they can all suck it and not kill each other on my watch.

There are few living plants and no trees, which DH is quick to point out is ridiculous after 200 years. Just look at Chernobyl, Nagasaki, or Hiroshima. And it hasn’t been anywhere near 200 years. Much of the science is altogether bogus, and few of the characters are more than mildly interesting.

And, of course, there are other things that keep our interest . . .

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Just freakin’ remember to take out the fusion cores before you leave.

Still, we were both super excited for the Nuka World release a couple of weeks ago. So much to do. So much to explore. Better than Far Harbor, in my opinion. And so many raiders to figure out how to back-stab while trying to do as many quests as possible before “we” turn on them. Ahhh, Fallout 4 at its best! Interesting things to see, do, and explore, but no real depth to any of them.

Getting back and forth to the Commonwealth to defend your settlements can be a bit of a pain, and you would think the settlements could protect themselves, especially after equipping all the settlers with full combat armor, grenades, energy weapons, and a boatload of turrets.

But they can’t, so back we go.

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Perhaps the most fun is making up your own characters and situations.

DH is also a writer, so we create characters in the world that are just our own. Filling them in with backstories and other interesting bits. Perhaps the Sole Survivor comes across them, perhaps not, but the world of Fallout is rich and gives a fertile playground for the imagination.

It’s also fun because we both have favorite factions, and they’re not the same. I am torn between the Brotherhood I want them to be (like under Lyons) and the Institute with my much more ethical Sole Survivor in charge. (Shaun, what happened to you?!?)

Whereas DH swings hard towards he Minutemen and to a lesser extent, the Railroad.

So while the game is less than perfect, it is a fun playground for our imaginations. That, alone, is worth what we spent on the game and the DLC pass.

 

How about you? Have you played any of the Fallout Games? Did you like them? Hate them? Play any other fabulous games lately? What did you like about those?