A to Z Challenge Day 8: Han Solo (the Cocky Starpilot)

HHanSolo

My closest friends and family members were probably wondering when a Star Wars character was going to pop up on this list. It was certain to happen. In fact, there’s a very good chance that it will happen again. (Shh…)

My obsession with Star Wars has waned over the years, but the original three movies still remain at the top of my favorite-things-of-all-time list. I wasn’t even born when the movies originally came out, but I was somewhere around the 6th or 7th grade when they remastered and re-released them. My two best friends, who had seen the movies before, suggested a marathon to introduce me to the films, and so it was that we spent a night with the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance and a metric crap-ton of microwaved popcorn.

I didn’t say so at the time, because itΒ  was obvious that we were meant to be putting most of our love and attention on Luke, but I totally fell for the Han Solo character the moment he first appeared on the screen. He was cool and cocky, a little aloof and occasionally dumb as a bag of hammers (in a cute way), and he played by his own set of (skewed in his favor) rules. In other words, he was a bad boy, who also was known to have a really good heart. And he also happened to be played by a young, handsome Harrison Ford. What thirteen-year-old girl wouldn’t fall for that?

I continued to swoon over Mr Solo through all three movies and right into the expanded universe. I read dozens of Star Wars novels and gravitated toward the ones that featured Han as an integral character. One such series of three books was all about how Han became a smuggler in the first place, and I’m sure I read each of them a dozen times. Another set of books was about a future in which Han and Leia had had three Jedi children, who were subsequently kidnapped. My favorite chapters were the ones in which Han was losing his mind trying to track down his kids. Even as a father he was a total rogue and I ate it up.

Yeah, okay, Han Solo is pretty egotistical and self-centered. In fact, even Harrison Ford himself said that he hated the character. But, come on…he’s a a handsome, gun-toting space pirate. How can you not think that that’s at least a little bit freakin’ awesome?

A to Z Challenge Day 2: Buffy Summers (the Vampire Slayer)

BBuffy

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the types of books I read or some of the scenes I, myself, have written, but when I was younger I was quite a wuss. I was a Disney kid who liked puppies and kittens and was too shy for her own good, so scary stuff wasn’t really my thing. To explain to you just how much of a wuss I was, it took several years for me to make it all the way through Pinocchio because I was scared half to death of Monstro the whale. I had more than a few nightmares about that devil-whale.

Yet, despite the adrenaline that would kick up the second something even began to consider being scary, there were a few ghosts-and-monsters related shows that I loved to watch, most of them on YTV on Friday nights. One such show was Buffy the Vampire slayer, which I began watching right from the very beginning. At this point in my life I’d never seen the original movie version of Buffy, but I took immediately to the show, and to Buffy in particular.

There have been many arguments on both sides of the fence when it comes to this particular show, but all I can say either way is that I’ve loved it from the moment I first discovered it, and Buffy immediately became one of my favorite characters ever. She was created by (in my opinion) a brilliant writer in Joss Whedon, and brought to live by (in my opinion) a wonderful actress in Sarah Michelle Gellar, but neither of those things were the reason why I took to Buffy so well.

When I was a kid things were starting to sway, but it was still the “way” of things for the guy to be the hero. The handsome jock would lead the team (Power Rangers), the men would be responsible for the most important battles (Luke Skywalker and Han Solo), the charming prince would rescue the damsel in distress (so many examples I couldn’t possibly list them all). In a world where, for the most part, the girls were the background characters or constantly being rescued, here was a female character who was front line and center. She was the main character, strong and powerful and could totally kick ass, and she was the one doing 99% of the saving. And for all her strength and Chosen One-liness, she was at the core just a regular girl. Her strength didn’t come from size, nor her abilities from super-intelligence. She was just a girl. She had been a cheerleader. She had been totally full of herself, as many teenage girls are. In other words, she could have been anyone. She could have been me, or my best friend, or that really quiet girl in my class who was sweet but shy, or the loud-mouth popular girl who everyone secretly hated.

That appealed to me as a kid. The idea that any random, completely typical teenage girl could just up and become a superhero was a huge thing.

But – and here’s the important part that Whedon and Gellar had a huge influence on – even though she was the center of the monster-slaying universe, and was the most important character, and was the kick-ass female hero, Buffy was not by any means infallible or invulnerable. She made huge mistakes. She got her butt handed to her on multiple occasions. She fell into deep depressions. She hurt the ones she loved and then made herself miserable trying to fix things. She saved the world, but she couldn’t always save all the victims. And that just made her that much more real, that much easier to relate to, that much easier to care for. Buffy Summers is one of those characters whom I became so fond of, so invested in, that it hurt me physically to see her in any kind of pain.

It’s been 17 years since the first time I watched a Buffy episode, and over the course of those 17 years I’ve watched every Buffy episode at least three or four times. Some episodes were better than others, and I will readily agree with some that the first couple of seasons were leaps and bounds over the last couple, but in the end I loved them all. Buffy was one of the first fictional characters to make me bawl like a little girl, something I am none too embarrassed to admit, but as crying for a fictional character is not exactly a common occurrence for me, I think that just goes to prove how awesome Buffy really was.

sup_atoZ

To Be a Writer

Recently I came upon a contest that Amazon is having. It involves writing a blog post that talks about the moment you knew – really knew – that you were a writer. I decided to give it a go, and before long I had surpassed the word limit that the contest set. I didn’t want to change anything, because what I wrote was truth, plain and simple, so I thought I’d just post it here anyway.

I've already used this, but I feel it still applies. :P
I’ve already used this, but I feel it still applies. πŸ˜›

I’ve wanted to be a writer since the third grade. That was a revelation in and of itself, but it isn’t the same as actually knowing that you are a writer. Many people talk about that moment when they knew, that singular event that caused them to realize “I AM A WRITER!”, but for me it’s a little more complicated than that. My “I AM A WRITER!” moment was less a moment and more a culmination of the passage of some 15 years of growth.

I knew I wanted to be a writer after a school assignment in the third grade. We were to write a short story, print it out neatly on white paper (this was before we had regular access to computers), draw a cover, and bind it all together with construction paper and string. I can’t recall the exact plot of my story (although I could probably locate it in my parents’ attic if I looked hard enough), but I remember that it was called “The Mystery of the Emerald-Eyed Cat”. My cover featured two glowing green cat eyes below the title, and it was all bound with green construction paper. I also recall that I signed the cover “by Tracey Lynn MARIE Clarke”, not because I had any sense of what a pen name was back then, but because I was a little gone in the head and often changed my name a bit to suit my childish whims. (My teachers just kinda…ignored me, I guess…lol)Β  I was very proud of that story, and my teacher at the time was a truly awesome man by the name of Mr Power who praised it and suggested that maybe I might consider writing as a career choice in the future. Though I was an avid reader, this was thought that had never really occurred to me before; but in that moment I knew for sure that this was what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Around the same time that I made my startling future career revelation, I met my best friend Kelly for the first time. As chance would have it, she loved writing too, and over the course of the rest of our grade school career we wrote a series of stories called “The Game Masters”, an adventure tale of a group of kids (ourselves and a few friends) who could travel in and out of video games. What Kelly and I had was an odd kind of a beta-reader relationship. We each wrote our own versions of the story – similar in many ways, but different in quite a few as well – and whenever we had each finished a chapter or two we would swap notebooks and read what the other had written. We praised each other for how clever we were, marveled at the amazing ideas we came up with and how “great” our juvenile writing was. We taught each other very little because we were so in awe of ourselves and how awesome we were, but it was excellent practice none-the-less, and it taught me another one of the joys of writing. I would strive daily to write as much as I could so that Kelly could read it. Even if the writing wasn’t perfect, it was a great thrill for me to have her read it and tell me that she enjoyed it, and so with that rush of fun and reader-acceptance I continued on with the belief that I absolutely wanted to be a writer.

Junior high school marked the turning point when Kelly and I both began to dabble into more mature original fiction. I can’t remember much about those first original stories because I personally tended to jump from storyline to storyline; whenever I would get a new idea I would drop the old one and start anew. Even so, it was excellent practice in creating characters and worlds and coming up with compelling plot lines. This era also marked my first foray into fan fiction, although I hadn’t ever heard the term at this point. Kelly, her cousin Melissa, and I became enormous Star Wars nerds in these days, and part of the way I expressed my nerdiness was by writing my own little Star Wars stories. I read a lot of Star Wars novels, and I got it into my head that I was a big enough fan that I could write one as well. My story involved Luke Skywalker discovering another lost Jedi – a gorgeous young girl, of course – and training her while trying to keep her from going over to the dark side. It was incredibly geeky. In these days I began to discover that I really had quite a lot to learn. My grade 8 English teacher, Mr Reilly, was not shy about telling me exactly what I was doing wrong when I wrote, and I would regularly compare my writing style to Kelly’s, which always seemed much better to me. I learned a bit of humility, but I was still totally wanted to be a writer.

By the time Kelly and I hit high school writing time became significantly more scarce. There was more work to do, and our social lives (such as they were) became more important as well. We started dating boys, we had extracurricular activities and lots of other unrelated hobbies. Regardless, Kelly and I still found ourselves writing little stories, only now they were quickly-plucked-out mini-chapters that we would write on typewriters during our keyboarding class. This time, rather than writing two different versions of the same basic plot line, or writing our own personal original fiction, we would take turns writing chapters of the same story back and forth. The “story” was loosely called “The Day the Earth Blew Up” and featured ourselves and our friends in an ever-more-ridiculous plot of adventurous hyjinx and tomfoolery. For all intents and purposes, the point of the story was to keep trying to make it more and more foolish. At one point there was an invading army of flying mini-pizzas. Yeah, we were a little bit loopy. But this little exercise of ours taught me a few more things about writing, such as the art of collaboration, and how to keep your mind fresh and new, constantly churning out interesting ideas. Though there were now many other things in my life vying for attention, I was still certain that I wanted to be a writer.

High school graduation was a turn in the wrong direction. When it came to the desire to be a writer, I dropped the ball. I’ve mentioned it before, but in these days I made a conscious decision: I was going to put my focus into technology. I still wanted to be a writer – oh lord, how I wanted to be a writer – but I was scared of failure, scared of the financial implications, and so I made the decision to move into a field in which I knew I could still thrive, but in which I was significantly more likely to obtain gainful employment. My inner child, the little grade-3-aged girl who had just written her first story, was positively screaming at me. “You want to be a writer!” she shrieked. “What is wrong with you?!” I hold that the decision I made was a good one in the long run, but it definitely set me back several years on my true desires.

I wrote nothing for a long time. As many young people do I spent my university years cramming for exams at the last minute, ripping out assignments on the bus on the way to class, and drinking away the weekends. The work load was intense, and I had to work part-time jobs to help pay for it all. My long-time boyfriend broke up with me and I started dating the man who would become my husband. We moved out on our own and had to learn to feed and clothe ourselves while somehow paying for rent and taking what felt like hundreds of hours of classes a week. At one point, sometime during my fourth (and final) year of university, I had an extreme loss of confidence in my future. I had done fairly well in all of my courses – aside from Calculus (which we won’t talk about) I made 80s and 90s in most of them – but I had this moment when I looked at myself and thought, “What the hell am I doing?” I had no idea what kind of career I was going to end up with, I had no confidence that it was going to be something I actually enjoyed or was good at, and I’d already spent upwards of $40,000 to come to this conclusion. It was around this time that Kelly reintroduced me to what we now know is fan fiction. She’d been reading a ton of the stuff on FanFiction.net, and encouraged me to do the same. The result was somewhat different; I ended up writing on the website. I didn’t really have the time to be writing, but I became somewhat obsessed and did it anyway. The one story I managed to complete, a Harry Potter fan fic called “Cry of the Wolf”, became surprisingly popular on the website, and with that I remembered something: I still wanted to be a writer. I had put a lot of time and effort into becoming a technologist, and I was going to finish that journey for sure, but all the time, no matter what else I did, I still wanted to be a writer.

It’s been seven years since I completed my university degree. In that time I got a job, moved away from home for it, bought a car, married my husband, bought a house, gave birth to my daughter, lost my job, found a new one that required me to travel back and forth across the country, and recently got laid off from that one because the job is over. And throughout all that I kept writing whenever I could. I wrote more fan fiction, I participated in several NaNoWriMo‘s, I set daily word count goals for myself, and I started this blog. I did all of this because regardless of what else might be going on around me, of the turns my life had taken, I still wanted to be a writer. Notice that I keep using that phrasing, over and over again: wanted to be a writer. That’s the phrasing I always used in my head when I thought about myself. I always used a future tense.

“I want to be a writer.”

“I’m going to be a writer.”

“Someday I’ll be a writer.”

That has been my thought process since that first story back in the third grade.

That is, until about a year ago. I’d written a zombie apocalypse novel for the previous years’ NaNoWriMo, but over the course of the month-long challenge I’d only gotten about 2/3 of the way through the story. I desperately wanted to finish it, as I’d never finished an original piece of fiction (that wasn’t a school project). So I set myself a goal: I would write at least 1000 words a day until the novel was complete. I can’t honestly say that I stuck to it every single day – sometimes life gets in the way, after all – but in what seemed like no time at all, suddenly I had a finished story. Sure, it still has to be revised and edited, preferably beta-read as well, but I had it; I had a whole original story, from beginning to end. That was the moment, though it wasn’t as much a revelation as a slow realization. Looking at the last sentence of my novel, and thinking back to everything I’d done up to that point, that was when I realized “I AM A WRITER!”

I may never succeed in becoming traditionally published, and I may never gain financial compensation for my work, but I’ll always be able to look back on that little third-grade girl and say, “Hey, guess what? YouΒ are a writer, and you always will be.”