January 30, 2017

Creative Corner

Creative Corner

Welcome to January's Creative Corner. This month I'll be adding in a few things from December, since I didn't get to do this last month. Let's take a look.

This is a Christmas zentangle I made. I think it came out well. My mom thought it was a coloring page when I first showed it to her.

These are Mason jar rings, my own idea. My family likes to drink out of Mason jars for special occasions. They all look the same, so I decided to make rings to go around the neck so you can remember which jar is yours. They're basically like wine rings, but for Mason jars. I love the way they look.

Here is the finished quote from the November Creative Corner. I decided to color it in with markers so it would be bright and bold.

Sunday was National Polka Dot Day and Rock the Dots, a celebration of all things Minnie Mouse. I decided to draw Minnie to go with my Mickey picture. I've always loved Minnie. She's stylish and has an edge of sass.

Friday was the March for Life, so I drew this on the spur of the moment.

And here's a random doodle I made while watching White Rabbit Project one night. (And you should totally watch the show. It's on Netflix.)

What did you create this month? Did you celebrate Rock the Dots? Let me know in the comments.

January 26, 2017

January End of Month Book Reviews

January End of the Month Book Review

This is a new monthly post. In it, I'll talk about the two best and worst books I read this month, plus any notable mentions, and have a list of everything I've read at the end. If you'd like to see more of my reviews, you can follow me on Goodreads. (Which means I really should get better at writing reviews.)

Best Books

The Ruins of Gorlan- John Flanagan

My Rating- 4 1/2 stars

What I Liked-
• Awesome fantasy setting. It may be a bit cliche to have a medieval fantasy setting, but I can't help but love it. Knights, lords, castles- how much better can it get? (Unless it was medieval and set in space. Excuse me while I jot that down.)
• Will and Halt. Will is great, showing that size isn't everything. And am I the only one who thinks Halt must be laughing on the inside, even if he doesn't show it?
• The friendship between Will and Horace. I liked how their original animosity didn't keep them enemies forever. Instead, they become friends.
• Rangers. Super awesome, Aragorn type people. Their cloaks are the best.
• Bows and knives. Realistically too.
• Plot. It was a little slow, but when the action came, it was fast paced. It kept me turning pages the whole way through.
• Tug. That horse has so much personality, and he can't even talk.

What I Didn't Like-
• Head hopping. This is one of my pet peeves in books. Switching POVs between paragraphs annoys me so much.
• Creatures. This is probably just me, but I couldn't picture the fantasy creatures in my head.

Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X.- Frank Beddor

My Rating- 4 stars

What I Liked-
• Hatter Madigan. He was one of my favorite characters in the original story, and I loved having a whole book about his younger self.
• A band of misfits. I always have a soft spot for misfits and outcasts. Hatter and his unlikely friends were a highlight of the story.
• Wonderland! While this Wonderland is harsher and more twisted than in some re-tellings, I think he captured the spirit of Lewis Carol's well.
• The school. Hatter is going to the Millinery Academy, where he and other Milliners are being trained. But at the school, no emotions are allowed, meaning Hatter is bullied because he has a big heart. I liked how it talked about how emotions are powerful, rather than weak.

What I Didn't Like-
Nothing that I can think of. This book was great. The only reason I didn't give it five stars was because I save those for only the best of the best.

Worst Books

Lemonade Mouth- Mark Peter Hughes

My Rating- 3 stars

What I Liked-
• Suspense. While I didn't like this book a lot, it kept me turning pages. That's one of the reasons I gave it three stars instead of two.
• Underdogs. As I said, I love a good set of people that are unlikely heroes.
• The cover. It's so eye-catching. My sister and I had a whole discussion about what made it that way.
• Mo+Charlie. Spoiler alert: in the movie, they don't get together. In the book they did. That made me happy, because I didn't understand why Mo went back to Scott in the movie.

What I Didn't Like-
• It wasn't the movie. (The movie was better.) I can't really place my finger on what made the movie better, but I just didn't like the book as much.
• The band instruments. Um, who ever heard of a band with congos, a trumpet, a ukulele, and a double bass? It was supposed to be unusual, but I felt it was too much so.
• The ending. I wanted them to keep playing like they did in the movie. They didn't.

I think I didn't like this book mainly because I fell in love with the movie first. I might not have even tried the movie if I read the book first. You might enjoy this, but I couldn't.

Between Worlds- Skip Brittenham

My Rating- 2 1/2 stars

What I Liked-
• Magic. There was some cool magic done with words and drawing symbols. It felt solid and well defined.
• The illustrations. They were full page and in color, so pretty sweet.
• Page turner. Even though I didn't like it, I did have a hard time putting it down, so the author did something right.

What I Didn't Like-
• Both main characters had names that started with M. Mayberry and Marshall. It got confusing quickly.
• More head hopping. The POV kept switching between Mayberry and Marshall without warning.
• Bizarre. And not the good type either. Nith, the world, was full of weird creatures all over the place. A good example why you should not let your imagination go too crazy.
• No motivation. There was nothing driving the plot forward. Kids get taken to another planet, then have to survive, then have to save their friend. There was no over-arching goal.
• Author bio. It's a picky thing, but the bio didn't give me a lot of information. It told me about the awards he won and how he's part of some film legal thingy, but not anything useful. Just mentioning.

Notable Mention

Outlining Your Novel- K. M. Weiland

I've been meaning to get this book for a long time, but recently decided to actually do it when I decided to re-outline and re-write Return To Wonderland. I also got the workbook to go with it. It was so helpful.

Even if you don't consider yourself an outliner, read this book. It is amazing and will help you write a better book.

Other Books Read

The Conjurer's Riddle- Andrea Cremer
Deep Blue- Jennifer Donnelly
Skylark- Meagan Spooner
The Slippery Slope- Lemony Snicket
The Grim Grotto- Lemony Snicket
The Penultimate Peril- Lemony Snicket
The End- you guessed it, Lemony Snicket. (I was trying to finish the series before the Netflix series came out. Which I did.)
The Boy Who Knew Everything- Victoria Forester
Echo the Copycat- Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams (Yes, this is a middle grade novel. And yes, I've read all 21 books in the series. I regret nothing.)
Calliope the Muse- Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Pallas the Pal- Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

*   *   *   *

Also, you'll notice I've updated my blog's look! What do you think of it? I'm pretty happy with the way it came out.

What have you read this month? Do you read middle grade novels without shame? Let me know in the comments.

January 23, 2017

Uses for Italics

Uses for Italics

Italics are often questioned in writing. Should you use them for thoughts? What about to stress certain words? Should you use them at all? I'm sure there are official "rules" for them, but we all know rules are really guidelines anyway. In this guide I'll go over the ways italics can be used and give you my thoughts on them.


One of the most common ways to use italics is for emphasis of a certain word- like this. However, whenever you use italics like that, it calls attention to itself. Also, we hear it as a hard, loud word.

This one I think can work, if you save it for only a few words in a whole book. Consider it like an exclamation point. Use rarely and with care. (Though I like to use exclamation points more than people suggest. I mean, you can't say, "Run!" yelled the Doctor, without it. It just doesn't work.)

This is more a matter of style and personal preference. I think too many italicized words are distracting. James Patterson loves to use them for any word he thinks is important, one reason I don't care a lot for his books.

Beginning of Chapter

Another way people use italics a lot is for the first three or so words of a chapter. It is just a way to alert you the chapter is starting. A Series of Unfortunate Events uses that style.

There are all sorts of ways to start a chapter. A large letter, the first few words in a different font, a symbol, and italics. It doesn't matter what you do. It could even be nothing. But italics will make it seem as if the first few words are more important, so be careful when choosing them.


Many times thoughts may use italics to remind you this is in someone's head, not just a description or something. I wish I knew what happened, she thought, is an example. Or you can even drop the "she thought" bit if you're trying for deep POV.

Using italics for thoughts works best when you're writing in third person. In first person, technically everything is what they're thinking. You could use italics to emphasis something, but I suggest leaving it for third person. Again, it all depends on the style you're going for.


Telepathy and other mind to mind communication will use italics to alert you that the people aren't speaking aloud. Lip reading and motioning may also use this, depending on the situation.

This is one of the best uses for italics. How else will you know they aren't just having a conversation? Telepathy is awesome and this is a great way to show it in use.

Other Languages

Sometime books will also use italics for other languages. It gives you the translation, but shows the speakers aren't talking the same language as the book is written in. Example: They switched to french. "Do you think he knows?" he said.

Using italics like this can be confusing to readers, but so can having the characters switch languages. It's all up to you and what makes sense for your novel. One of my favorite examples for this is Hearthstone from Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. He's deaf, so he uses sign language the whole time, which is written in italics. It works well for the situation. (Plus, Hearthstone's my favorite character second only, maybe, to Magnus. ASL snark? Yes, please.)


Finally, italics are used a lot to show the title of books, movies, music, and other forms of media. Not just in books either. Blogs, like mine, use them too. I used them earlier for the books I named.

This is another good way to use italics. Titles can be written in either italics or with quotation marks, but I prefer the former. I think it makes them easier to see, and less likely to be confused with actual dialog.

The main takeaway from this is use italics sparingly, but however works best for the style you want. It's mostly a matter of opinion, and this post holds my thoughts about them.

How do you think italics should be used? Do you think they should be used differently than I said? Tell me in the comments.

January 19, 2017

3 Jazzy Ponytails

A ponytail is a basic hairstyle anyone can master. It's perfect for days when you don't want to do much with your hair. But it can get boring. I'm going to show you three ways to take your ponytail to the next level without much extra work.

(Also, sorry for all the glare on my glasses. It's hard to take pictures of yourself without it.)

Mini Braid

This is super easy, and will only take a few extra minutes. Separate a medium sized chunk of hair on one side of your head.

Braid it all the way to the bottom.

Sorry the steps are out of order. I realized it too late to fix. The first two pictures should be reversed.

Gather your hair into a low ponytail, add the braid, and secure it all with an elastic. Leave the braid in your ponytail for extra texture.

Inside-Out Ponytail

This hairstyle is a bit trickier, but easy to master. Start by making a loose, low ponytail.

In the middle of your neck, make a hole in the ponytail with your fingers. Above the elastic, not below.

Pull the ponytail through the hole from the top. Tip: If you twist the ponytail a bit first, it makes it easier to pull through.

Make sure your twists look right and you're done.

Side Ponytail

Putting your hair on the side adds a feel of chic to any style. Pull all your hair to one side of your head, whichever feels more comfortable.

Gather it like you would for a ponytail. Make sure to smooth your hair around to that side, maybe with a brush.

Add an elastic and pull it close to your head.

You can add a headband or hat for a little extra pizzazz if you want.

Voila, three cool ponytails. Try one the next time you want to do something with your hair, but don't want to do a lot.

Which ponytail is your favorite? What other easy hairstyles should I do? Let me know in the comments.

January 16, 2017

My Thoughts on 2016 Movies: Part 1

My Thoughts on 2016 Movies: Part 1

2016 had some big movies coming out. Disney, Disney•Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek all had new movies last year. There were great films, and complete flops. I'm going to take a look back at the films I watched in the last year and give my thoughts on them.

As you may have noticed, this post is titled part one. That is mostly because I haven't seen all the movies from 2016 that I want to yet. Once I've watched more of them, I'll make a part two. Now, on to the post!

The Secret Life of Pets

Original Thoughts: The trailers for this one were pretty funny, but I wasn't sure what the plot was. However, I tried to watch this with an open mind.
Thoughts after Watching: It opened with Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York", so I was immediately drawn in. It was the perfect way to start. This film wasn't spectacular, but it's meant to be more funny than deep. At that it exceeded. Snowball, Gidget, and Chloe were my personal favorite characters.
Recommendation: Great for a pick-me-up, or when you want a laugh. Kids and adults will enjoy this comedy. It also has our new favorite line for anything boring. (You'll have to watch it to figure out which one it is.)

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Original Thoughts: I can't wait. I've been a fan of Alice In Wonderland forever, and I loved the first movie, so I was excited to watch this one.
Thoughts after Watching: I loved it. Lots of people disliked this movie, which was different than the original movie. But Through the Looking Glass the book is different than the first one too. I thought it continued to be amazing, with good, solid rules about time travel.
Recommendation: A must watch for Alice fans. The plot can be a bit complicated, so younger kids might not get it, but the whole family can enjoy this one.

The Jungle Book

Original Thoughts: It looked fun, and the animals seemed quite realistic. But would they ruin the original movie?
Thoughts after Watching: Amazing. Disney once more did a great job of doing a live action version of the film. The thing I've liked most about their remakes is that they don't just try to redo the original. They add in parts of the fairytale and the movie to make something new and different. The animation in the movie was amazing. I could swear they were real animals in a real jungle.
Recommendation: You should watch this, even if you didn't like the animated film. But be careful with kids, because there are a lot of big animals in this film, especially a giant ape. (He even gave me the willies.) But it is a great movie.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Original Thoughts: The trailers looked awesome. Fighting, Lex Luthor, and Wonder Woman! I couldn't wait to see this.
Thoughts after Watching: I was. . . disappointed. The plot was meandering, the characters motivations were weak, and Batman basically acted like a bad guy. The whole movie was mostly Batman and Superman acting like kids. They were trying to set up for their Justice League movie, but they didn't half as good a job as Marvel did.
Recommendation: Definitely not a movie for kids. Teenagers to adults might enjoy watching this, if you look past the flaws. There's a lot of scary stuff and debates about power.  One thing I did like was all the actors they picked for Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. I'm looking forward to seeing them in the Justice League movie when it comes out. HISHE summed up the movie perfectly. In fact, go watch all their videos. They're hilarious.

Finding Dory

Original Thoughts: I'll wait and see. I didn't like Finding Nemo that much so I didn't think I'd like this one.
Thoughts after Watching: I actually liked it. The humor was spot on, the characters great, and I loved the plot. I especially thought Dory's parents were the best. Plus, baby Dory. So cute. Hank and Gerald were some of my favorite characters.

Recommendation: It's Disney•Pixar, which means the whole family can, and will, enjoy it. The animation is even better than the first one.


I've previously reviewed this movie on the blog, so I'm going to leave you the link above so you can read that.

Captain America: Civil War

Original Thoughts: I was so excited. I was a little worried too, because I didn't want anyone to win. (But Team Cap all the way for me.)
Thoughts after Watching: This was one of the movies we got to watch in the theater, something we rarely do. It was awesome. The movie was long, but the director managed to make it riveting. I don't think he could have changed the length without making it come out wrong. Spiderman was certainly a highlight, and though I didn't like watching everyone fight each other, I thought it was epic.
Recommendation: The whole family can watch this, though younger kids may get bored before it's done. They cover some interesting dilemmas with power and authority, which could lead to some great conversations.

What were some of your favorite movies from 2016? Which ones didn't you like? Let me know in the comments.

January 12, 2017

Writing Advice from "The Princess and the Frog"

Writing Advice from "The Princess and the Frog"

The Princess and the Frog is one of my favorite Disney princess films. I don't appreciate the voodoo (it gives me the creeps), but I've always been able to relate a lot to Tiana. Like her, I've always had to work hard for most things. Our personalities and outlook on life are similar. The movie is also well done and has many valuable lessons for writers in it. Let's take a look.

Complete Opposites Can Be Friends

Tiana and her best friend Charlotte are truly opposites. One is black, one is white. One is poor, the other rich. Simple and fancy. Calm and hyper. Yet, they are true friends in spite of all that. That's always been one of my favorite parts of the movie. Disney could have let Charlotte be a cliche, spoiled rich girl. Instead, she's the sweetest thing, always there for her friend, even if it means sacrificing what she's always wanted.

This is an excellent way to turn a cliche on it's head. Don't let your characters be what people expect. Change things up and let your readers be pleasantly surprised.

Rich People Can Be Good

Charlotte and her father are super rich. But neither of them are mean or nasty to those of a different station or race. Mr. La Bouff can be a bit simple minded, but he's really sweet. And you already heard what I had to say about Charlotte.

This is another thing that can be changed. Money does not equal meanness. A poor person can be just as awful as someone with money. Switch it up, keep things fresh.

A Girl Can be Capable and Still have a Man

All too often, people think that if you have a strong female character she can't also have a man. Tiana is a woman who is strong and capable, and needs a man, even if she doesn't think so at first. Naveen is a bit dorky, but even he learns to be loving and brave. He's fully supportive of her dream, which is so sweet.

So remember it's perfectly okay for your girl characters to be strong and have a male in her life. I think love makes characters even stronger, as it shows she, or he, is not afraid of emotion.

Understand Your Setting

The setting in The Princess and the Frog is quite realistic. The look and feel of New Orleans pops out at you. Everything from the bayou to the riverboats seems to have life to it. It's beautiful. As with many Disney movies, they actually went to New Orleans and spent time there before starting work on the film, which is one reason I think they succeed so well at setting.

Settings are integral to a good story, so make sure you know it well. Research before you start. Find beta readers from that area to help you. Take the time to make your setting come alive, but don't go overboard either.

Foreshadowing is Important

Early in the movie, Tiana wishes on a star after reading the Frog Prince with her friend. In response, a frog hops on her window sill. It's an excellent use of foreshadowing later events in the movie.

If you can foreshadow and give readers a hint of what's coming, it can enhance the story. They'll notice you've been dropping hints the whole time and wonder how they didn't see it before.

What Characters Want Isn't Always What They Need

Mama Odie makes an excellent point during her small screen time. People often think they need one thing, when they actually need something else. What someone wants and what they need can be difficult to tell apart, but are different.

Try starting your story with your character wanting one thing. As the story progresses, they can come to realize they need something else. K. M. Weiland has some great posts on this subject if you want more.

There you have it, six writing lessons from The Princess and the Frog. Do you think I should do more posts like these? Be sure to comment and tell me.

Do you like The Princess and the Frog? What do you think can be learn from it? Let me know in the comments.

January 9, 2017

4 Things That Make Me Put Down Books

Who doesn't love a good book? There's nothing like racing through a novel, being totally entranced by the story. And then bam- you come across something that complete turns you off to reading any more of the book. It's the worse feeling, especially if you wanted to finish the book, but can't now because you don't want to read that.

I've never seen why authors feel the need to put that sort of stuff in their books. To me, it does more harm than good. Let's take a look at four things I don't enjoy in books and why I think they should be avoided.

Excessive Cursing

Characters that curse in every scene they're in annoy me greatly. You start wincing every time they open their mouths. Or what about cursing on every page? Just because you know all those words doesn't mean you should use them. Using curse words doesn't make you seem grown-up.

I believe authors should keep cursing to a minimum, if they use those types of words at all. They only detract from the story. How can I enjoy your wonderful plot if I'm too afraid of what the characters might say? For example, Dorothy Must Die is a book I really wanted to read. But one of the Munchkins had a potty mouth that made me put it down.

Excessive Violence and Gore

I avoid horror novels mostly for the reason I don't like super scary books or movies. But any time a book of any genre has lots of violence and gore, I'm likely to put it down. Often, it seems people put in lots of blood to cover up the fact that they have no plot.

I don't mind a book with violence, and occasional blood and such. But why do some authors feel the need to describe, in sickening detail, gross deaths of characters. I don't want to hear how someone looked after a bomb went off, thank you. I feel you should just put in enough details to give the reader an impression, then move on. They'll be fine without knowing exactly what happened.


It's pretty easy to tell when a scene is going downhill. You start getting hot and uncomfortable and thinking "move along already". Half the time, they don't. I have less often put down a book because of these sorts of scenes, mostly because I read YA and avoid the romance genre.

This is certainly one of the more debated subjects in literature. When should you include it, and how much? Too much in a YA novel and it becomes New Adult. I think it should be avoided whenever possible. Even if they are husband and wife, readers don't need that sort of scene. It sends all the wrong signals.

"Queer" Characters

You know what I'm talking about. The characters people rave about because they're so diverse. Well, I don't care. If one of these characters show up in a book, there is a 99% certainty I'll put it down. (My one exception so far has been the Rick Riordan books. And if they get any worse, I may have to stop reading some of those too.)

These types of people are wrong and misguided, God clearly says so. Just reading about them gives me the creeps. I believe you should try to put good things in your brain, and that is not a good thing. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.

These four, plus a few other things that I don't want to read, are things that make me almost surely put a book down. Everyone is different and has different tolerance levels and opinions, but those are mine.

Which of these do you agree with? Which do you not? Let me know in the comments.

January 7, 2017

Beautiful Books: 2017 Writing Goals

It's time for the third beautiful books, hosted by Paper Fury and Further Up Further In. Without further adieu, let's get to the questions.

1. What were your writing achievements last year?

I started a blog! That's an achievement in itself. I also started pre-writing a novel, drafted two novels, did a first edit on two novels (not the same two, though), and completed the first drafts of a few short stories/novellas. What can I say? I like to write.

2. What's on your writerly "to-do list" for 2017?

One of my biggest is to start building my author platform. Which means I need to come up with a publishing plan and actually figure out what I'm doing with my books. I'd also like to finish editing two novels. I have way too many things waiting to be edited. Sometimes it feels overwhelming. I just have to keep reminding myself that there's plenty of time to get it all done.

One of my problems is I'm multi-creative, so I want to do lots of different things at once. I want to write, blog, and sell from Etsy all at once. Which I can't do without not doing a good job at all of them. Right now I'm working on figuring out how to be more focused on one thing at a time.

3. Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!

Top priority this year would probably be Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog, The Girl with The Sword, and Return to Wonderland. It's so hard to pick just a few to focus on.

4. How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?

I hope to get better at coming up with my own editing process. Pre-writing and drafting I'm good at, editing not so much. I'd also like to get better at blogging.

As for the second question, I have a hard time looking to the future. I just don't know where I'll be. Ideally, I'd love to have figure out how to edit, have an author site up, and be selling from my Etsy shop.

5. Describe your general editing process.

Flail. Do something with the novel. Flail some more. Have a panic attack because I have no idea what I'm doing and this will never get done and I'll never be published.

But really, I haven't figured out what editing process works for me. I'm working on it. I'd like to do a first edit, a plot edit, a character edit, and a polish, but I don't know if that will work or not. We'll see.

6. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?

(Note: I'm going with Goggles, Corsets, and Cyborgs here.) Probably 7 1/2. I thought it came out well, but could have been better.

7. What aspect of your draft needs the most work?

Lots of the characters need work, as well as parts of the plot. The ending was horrible, as was the beginning. And I didn't have enough steampunkness in it. Ah, first drafts.

8. What do you like most about your draft?

I love my characters, especially Elle. I also like the world I made.

9. What are your plans for this novel once your finished editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

Once I've finished editing, I'll find some people to critique it, then send it out for beta readers. Then I'll think about my publishing plans.

10. What's your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?

It's going to be horrible. You'll look at it after a few months and wonder what possessed you to write it. But remember, you were just mining the diamond. Now you've got to cut and polish it until it shines. Always keep in mind the end vision you have for your novel.

What are your writing goals? Do you have too many projects going at once? Let me know in the comments.

January 5, 2017

The Mean Girl Cliche

The Mean Girl Cliche

Everyone knows her and loves to hate her. She's normally blonde, wears only the trendiest clothes, and has a faithful sidekick who always agrees with her. Can you guess who I'm talking about? I bet you already figured it out. (Or read the title of the post, but whatever.) It's the classic mean girl, a part of any story that takes place in school. Today we're talking about why she's such a cliche and how she can be used effectively or be changed.

The Cliche

You're already picturing all the different mean girls (which I'm going to call MGs from now on) you know, aren't you? I know I can think of plenty, many of which come from Disney Channel movies. The MGs from books vary a bit more, but still don't stray far. Sometimes it's even a mean guy. But why do we like this character?

Because we want someone to dislike. Like in Zapped, a DCOM. The story is about Zoe and her journey to adjusting to her new family. It doesn't have a villain, so they added a blonde girl with a dumb sidekick for a bit of tension. She basically added nothing but some cool dance-offs to the story.

If you continue to study MGs, you come to realize that most of the time, they are just there for added tension and a bit of subplot. They don't even always have a good reason to be opposing the protagonist. It gets tiresome. I mean, how many stuck-up high school girls do we need? And of course, half the time it turns out the MG was just misunderstood and really isn't that bad.

How to Change It

A MG can be used well, but often people don't take the time to do so. Let's look at three ways you could use her so that she isn't useless or the villain.

1) As a foil.
A foil is a character who has contrasting traits to the protagonist. It's a way to highlight the traits of the main character. This way you could include the MG, but also have her serve a purpose.

2) As a false friend.
Instead of making an obviously mean character, why not have the MG pretending to be the protagonist's friend, while really stabbing her in the back. It's twice the drama, plus you'll have a fun scene where the protagonist realizes that bwahaha, her friend isn't her friend after all.

3) As a contagonist.
A contagonist is a person who hinders the protagonists, but isn't directly opposed to them, unlike the antagonist. They are considered the opposite of the mentor. This would add the tension you're looking for to the story, but without the cliche.

If you still need more ideas, here are some thoughts I have about MGs.

• Show me why she acts the way she does. Too often the MG is mean just because. Or the protagonist provides some boring backstory in a piece of info-dump dialogue. (You know what I mean. "I don't know why she's always out to get me since second grade when. . .") Has the protagonist always left her out? Is she spoiled or is she mean to make herself feel better?

• Why not have a smart sidekick? Why do they always have "friends" that think a calculator is magic or that never has a clue what's going on? It's a missed opportunity.

• Perhaps the MG could be more than just a pretty face, topped with blonde hair? Why not other hair colors or ethnicity? Why can't she be razor sharp?

• And why can't she be an average girl, instead of a rich kid with doting parents? Maybe she only has "friends" because she's good at digging up dirt on people or something like that?

What do you think about mean girl characters? What are other ways to switch up the cliche? Comment below and tell me.

January 2, 2017

Book of the Month: No Ordinary Sound

No Ordinary Sound: A Melody Classic
by Denise Lewis Patrick

Cover Review: Like all of American Girl's novels, it feels like a photo and a painting. You can easily tell what era she's from by her clothing and hairstyle. If you want the exact year, look next to her name on the cover.

The Blurb: Melody Ellison is an optimistic, enthusiastic girl growing up in Detroit, Michigan during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She's excited and proud to share a special surprise with her family- she's been chosen to sing a solo for Youth Day at her church! But what song will she choose? She gets advice from her big brother, and is also inspired by her older sister, but it's the inspirational words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that help her pick the perfect song.

There are many unfair things happening during Melody's time, even to people in her own family. But it's an unimaginable tragedy in the South that leaves Melody silent. Who can help her lift her voice and sing- who will inspire her to "keep stepping"?

My Thoughts

Yes, I picked an American Girl book. And yes, I still enjoy them. But why did I choose this one specifically?

Because it made me think, despite the fact it's meant for middle grade readers. This book is an excellent example of knowing your time period. Melody is growing up during the civil rights movement, a tumultuous time in American history. Because of her age, she sees the events differently. It shows the unfairness of what's going on, and how hard it was to grow up African American then.

Melody herself is a delightful protagonist for the age level of the book. She has many talents, but also has doubts about herself and her singing abilities. She has older siblings that help show her how the world reacts to African Americans. It also has an interesting note in the front about all the different terms used to describe them in the '60s, as well as a discussion about how the different generations use them.

The plot is simple and the characters not amazing. But sometimes I think we need to read books for younger children, with protagonists of their age, to remember that a story is more than a stellar plot, 3-D characters, and amazing worlds. Stories are about people, and how we relate to them.

My rating:

Do you like to read books for younger kids once in a while? How important do you think relatability is in books? Let me know in the comments.