It’s in the Details…

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You may not know it, but I’m a huge Potterhead.

Wait, that doesn’t sound right. I mean, I’m a Potterphile.

Ugh, that sounds even worse. Let’s just say I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter books. So, when a cancelled wedding left my husband and I with plane tickets and vacation time to spare, we decided to check out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Theme Park, Florida.

And it was awesome.

They’ve recreated practically life-sized versions of Hogsmede and Diagon Alley in the parks, complete with a Hogwarts Express to shuttle you between the two. And what made it so awesome, was what made the books so great: the attention to detail.

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J.K. Rowling created this amazingly complex world filled with details. All right, I know the books aren’t perfect. There are discrepancies with the magic system, and the rules surrounding it – among other things – but I want to focus on what she did right. Her world-building, at least when it came to the little things, was what made the books (and the theme parks) work. She created a new sport, new food and drinks, and new money, not to mention fun things like moving photos, talking portraits, and interesting creatures. So when I was drinking a piping hot Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, trying on robes at Madam Malkin’s, or picking out sweets at Honeydukes, I really felt like I was part of the world.

Candies from Honeyduke's
Candies from Honeyduke’s

It also made me think. Does my my MG Fantasy have enough details? Probably not. Admittedly, Rowling had seven (rather large) books in which to build her world, but I’ve heard she had notebooks full of backstory and world-building that never even made it into the novels. And I think this is what my world is lacking. I mean, I have a file full of background and maps, etc, but I could definitely go deeper. So, while my concussion has me sidelined from doing any major revisions, I think I’m going to spend some time trying to figure out all the little details missing from my MG Fantasy world. Sure, most of them will probably never make it into the book(s?), but hopefully just knowing the info will flesh out my Fantasy’s world into something readers can get lost in.

So now I’m wondering: What other books/series contain enough details to allow the creation of a whole theme park world? I could think of a few adult book series that would work: George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (how cool would it be to visit Middle Earth?) and just about any/all King Arthur legends. For kids books, there’s C.S. Lewis’s Narnia,  Frank L. Baum’s Oz, or even  J.M. Barrie’s Neverland  from Peter Pan. But what about recent books? Can you think of any recent Middle Grade books whose books could inspire a whole theme park? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear about them.

Rainbow After the Storm

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The past eight months (and counting) of concussion have been long and hard [to see how hard, check out last week’s post here]. But there’s been a good side, too. I’ve learned a few things, and I thought I’d share them with you.

1. I used to check my email too often. Way too often. Only being able to get my email updates twice a day from my husband made me crazy at first, but I soon realized that agents weren’t going to walk away if it took me a few hours to reply to them. And since I wasn’t sending out many queries, I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with responses. Now that I’m allowed back on the computer (for short times) I’m finding it hard to keep from constantly checking in, but I’m doing my best to stick to only peeking at my inbox three times a day (or so). This has led directly to realizing:

2. Life is more relaxed without stressing over queries. Add my impatience waiting for responses to the amount of time I spent researching agents, perfecting queries, and checking out contests, and you’ll get an idea of how stressed I felt. I know I’ll have to get back to it all eventually, but as long as my computer time is still limited, I’m going to enjoy my mini-vacation from querying while I can.

3. It’s easy to lose time on Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc.  This one is probably a no-brainer, but it took me losing computer access to realize just how much time I spent on social media. Sure, some of it falls under the necessary category of establishing a social media presence, but, let’s face it, a lot of it was just wasting time. When I’m allowed back online full time, I will definitely be establishing limits on my non-writing computer time.

4. I’m a Pinterest goddess at heart. Okay, so I don’t have a Pinterest account, but I’ve seen the stuff on there. Over the summer, with three kids home and nothing better to do, I spent a lot of time trying to entertain my kids. We’re talking theme days, food faces, and whatever simple crafts my injured brain could manage – but of course without the photographing and displaying online. I have a feeling Pinterest could definitely become a major time-suck for me, which is why I’m going to continue to steer clear of it.

5. No writing and no reading make Kaye a little crazy. As I wrote above in #4, I channeled most of my creative impulses into entertaining my kids. As great as it felt to be SuperMom for a while, the lack of outside interests left me feeling a bit empty. I love my kids, but I need an identity away from them too, and the concussion robbed me of that. But in doing so, it made me realize writing is more than a hobby or simple career aspiration, it’s become part of what makes me me, and without it I’m lost.

6. I don’t have enough in-person friends any more. The past five years have seen many of my friends move and/or have kids and other draws on their time, and I’ve been tied up with the chaos of twins (+ 1), and trying to squeeze out writing time. More and more I’ve been relying on the internet to communicate – both with existing real-life friends, and with people I only know in cyberspace. Since my concussion has improved, I’ve been trying to get out more. I have weekly coffee dates with some of the neighborhood mommies, I’ve been meeting my crit partners whether I have material ready or not, and my husband and I have been trying to host more casual meet-ups on weekends. I still miss my virtual friends, but at least I don’t have to be lonely in my recovery.

7. I need to accept limitations. As a competitive (not to mention stubborn) person, I’ve always seen the word “can’t” as a challenge. You can’t race in figure skates, you say? – Watch me! You think girls can’t play baseball as well as boys? – I’ll show you. So it took a while for me to realize following the doctor’s orders was important to my recovery. In fact, I actually set myself back about six weeks by trying to fill out all my passport paperwork in one sitting. Now I’m learning to take it slow and not push myself too much (this blog post was written in five installments).

So there you have it. My concussion may have been brutal, and painful, and depressing, but at least I learned a few things. I hope any storms you have in your lives are filled with rainbows, too.

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Forget Diamonds…

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…for the past eight months, sunglasses have been this girl’s best friend. But sunshine and blogging are just two of the many things that have been inducing crushing migraines since I got my concussion. I give you, in no particular order, my list of

Things I Couldn’t Do With a Concussion:

1. Go on the computer – that’s right, no email, blogging, social media, or (gasp!) writing. My amazing husband has been reading important emails to me, but other than that, I’ve been completely cut off.

2. Write (on paper) – for a while I couldn’t even handle making a shopping list. Eventually I was able to crit existing work in paper form, but writing new material has been beyond me.

3. Read – this has been one of the hardest for me. I looked into audio books, but without a portable cd player, my only option was mp3 format, which of course, requires the use of a computer. Now that I’m finally allowed some screen time, I plan on trying them out.

4. Watch TV – this one wouldn’t have been too bad if I’d been able to do any of the things listed above.

5. Go anywhere, anytime, without my sunglasses and hat – that’s right, I wear my sunglasses at night. Seriously, though, it wasn’t just daylight that bothered my head, it was any bright light. Needless to say, I got a lot of “traveling incognito” comments.

6. Dance – Not that I do this much any more, but I had to drop out of a Bollywood class I was really looking forward to because even a slow twirl made me nauseous.

7. Exercise of any kind – It wasn’t just twirling that hurt my head, any kind of running, jumping, swimming, etc. was out of the question.

8. Go to a busy store – Trying to navigate through a sea of people was yet another thing that made my head spin.

9. Go to a concert/play/show/movie – The Bare Naked Ladies were playing in town, on my birthday, and I had to miss it. Talk about unfair.

10. Query – My husband helped me send out a few 12×12 submissions and some requested material, but querying has pretty much slowed to a halt.

11. Think – Seriously, thinking hard literally hurt my brain.

12. Remember things – I’ve always had an exceptional memory, but these days I’m lucky if I can remember my own phone number.

13. Do crafts, puzzles, or coloring with my kids – which led to number 14:

14. Handle my kids’ screaming (or any other loud noise) – I think I’ve worn my earplugs almost as often as my sunglasses.

15. Sort socks – This is a silly one, to be sure, but there was something about scanning through the piles and trying to process matches that just broke my brain.

16. Decorate cakes – Any of you that follow this blog know that cake decorating is my main (non-writing) hobby. This year was the first time in four years that I missed the Threadcakes competition. (You can see my previous entries here)

I bet you’re wondering what that left me with. Well, here is the (much shorter) list of

Things I Could Do:

1. Sleep – My brain needed time to heal, so I spent way too much time snoozing in bed.

2. Clean – My house has never been cleaner. It’s kind of sad, actually.

3. Cook – You know, so long as I didn’t need a recipe.

4. Listen to TV – I’ve never really been one for radio, so instead I’ve been sitting blindfolded through hours of stand-up comedy, and old episodes of Buffy and Angel (which I’ve watched enough times to be able to follow blind). My latest discovery has been the excellent descriptive video on CSI re-runs.

As you can guess, it’s been a pretty tedious eight months. But it hasn’t been all bad. Tune in next week to learn What My Concussion Taught Me.

(Curious about how I got my concussion? Check out my post here.)

Seeing Stars

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or

How I Got My Concussion

Two words: Pirate Ninjas.

Or is it Ninja Pirates? I’m not sure.

Either way, it went like this: A little girl was crying. Being a mom, of course I looked to see if I could help. But instead of a dropped ice cream or broken dolly, I found the wide-eyed youngster surrounded by a group of what could only be called Pirate Ninjas (or Ninja Pirates).

Brandishing a katana, one of the pirates/ninjas stepped toward the cowering girl, and the parrot on his shoulder squawked, “Where’s the map?”

The other pirates/ninjas closed in on her, whipping nunchaku around so fast, I don’t know how they didn’t knock their pirate hats off.

The girl trembled. “Map?” she asked tearfully, clutching an adorable mewling kitten to her chest.

That did it.  My maternal sense outweighed my common sense.

“Leave her alone!” I shouted, rushing forward.

The pirate/ninjas advanced on me silently – no small feat for a bunch of guys with wooden legs, but I guess that’s ninja training for you. A nunchaku flashed past my cheek and  I…

Oh, wait.

I promised to tell you the boring, embarrassing, TRUE story of how I got my concussion, didn’t I?

Are you sure? I guarantee the Pirate Ninja (or is it Ninja Pirate?) one is much more entertaining.

Oh well, if you’re sure, then. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I was in the kitchen preparing dinner while my three kids (ages 3, 3, and 5, for those of you keeping track) were screaming for food like it’d been a week since their last meal, instead of an hour. Anyway, slightly distracted, to say the least, I crouched down to the vegetable drawer, grabbed whatever veg I was making for dinner, and jumped to my feet – without moving back from the fridge first.

The top of my head slammed into the hard edge of the freezer door , knocking me back into a crouch. Tears clouding my eyes, I quickly realized a crouch wasn’t going to do it, and I slumped to the floor. Fortunately, the kids were still too busy screaming about their supposedly empty bellies to hear me in the kitchen or they would have learned a few new words that day.

After a few minutes, I got up and finished making dinner with a doozy of a headache. I didn’t know how badly I was injured – I mean, seriously, who gets a concussion from their fridge? – I just knew I had a giant goose egg that triggered screaming pain at the slightest touch (showering was torture, let me tell you).

But, three days later, I was out shopping in a busy store with my husband, when I started having trouble getting words out.

A trip to the hospital diagnosed my concussion – made worse thanks to the two I’d had back in high school: one from sports (yes, I was wearing a helmet), the other from a minor car accident (not my fault).

So there you have it, the boring, embarrassing, true story of how I got my concussion while cooking dinner.

Tune in next week for part two of my concussion saga: How The Concussion Has Disrupted my Life (and Especially my Writing)