A Cast of #Actors for Your #Book

I think coming up with a cast for your book is a great exercise.  Just like pinning ideas on a pinterest page, it helps you determine qualities of your characters and brainstorm traits you didn’t think about.

I put together a cast for my book currently posted on Kindle Scout, The Light of Supremazia!  It’s about kids who can see spirits and attend a high school run by famous dead people.

Jules Winklevoss would be played by Kiernan Shipka, also known as Sally Draper from the Mad Men series.  Just like Jules Winklevoss, she can be tough, brave, snotty, and vulnerable at the same time.

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Jules has two best friends at Vita Post Mortem Academy.  Dahlia Langdon is the shy and awkward friend who grew up in a prestigious, broken family.  She would be played by Ariel Winter from Modern Family.

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Jules’s other best friend, Logan Klomp, is a know-it-all, lovesick half-Asian dude who doesn’t care about fitting in.  He would be played by Nickelodeon’s Ryan Potter.

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Jules’s equally brazen, but less approachable, sister, Sharpee Winklevoss would be played by Emma Watson.  Honestly, I picked Emma because she looks a bit like Kiernan, and of course I loved her as Hermione.

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Sharpee’s best (and only) friend is Chase Hastings, a rich kid, living in his older brother Ryder Hastings the Third‘s perfect shadow.  Chase and Ryder would be played by Nash Overstreet (from the band Hot Chelle Rae) and Chord Overstreet (Glee).

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Vote for The Light of Supremazia on Kindle Scout!

What exercises do you use to understand your #characters better? Share with #author @alanasiegel (click to tweet)

Like the #NightsWatch and the #Kingsguard on the Eve of a Great #Battle …

… we must DRILL, DRILL, DRILL!

This isn’t the battle in Blackwater Bay, or at the Whispering Willows, or at the Fist of the First Men.

This is DANCE!  Big show at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts on Saturday night.

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And then we watch Game of Thrones on Sunday night. 🙂

 

Sincerely,

the Mother of Dragons

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Dedicated to the Girls Who Used to Stand in the Back Row in Dance Class

Don’t be mad. I just googled the band, Mötley Crüe. I know its a heavy metal band formed some time in the 80s, but why were they a “motley crew?” One picture solved the mystery for me:

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Don’t be surprised, but this is where I relate Mötley Crüe to young adult fantasy books.

I’ve been doing lots of research on character introductions and came to the realization that most of my favorite books have some sort of motley crew – a group of underdogs who beat all odds and save the day.

The obvious one is Harry Potter.  Wasn’t Luna a little looney?  Neville Longbottom accident-prone? And Ginny Weasley just a little girl? But you loved the ragtag bunch.

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Percy Jackson wasn’t any better – his best friend was a satyr and his brother was a cyclops.

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Don’t even get me started on Lord of the Rings.

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How about the New Directions in Glee?  Definitely your standard geeky bunch.

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Well, my next book series starts the same way – a mismatched gaggle of kids, looking for a brave leader, getting into trouble, and of course, attending a school taught by famous ghosts.  Look for it soon, called (after)life lessons.

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I feel like real life isn’t so different.  Didn’t everyone in San Francisco cheer for the 49ers?

I take jazz classes with a talented teacher named Ann twice a week.  There are a group of us who joined about a year ago.  We started in the back of the class, our own version of a motley crew, tripping through combinations and embarrassing ourselves.  Through dedication and hard work, we improved.  Most recently, the teacher suggested we stand in the front of the room.  I felt like my own personal underdog, able to keep up with her challenging routines and perform next to beautiful dancers without missing a beat.   [Perhaps I’ll attache a video soon!]

Optimistic Fool?

Sure, I set a goal to raise my hand more often, and speak up when I have a differing opinion, but I never wanted to sound like a blubbering idiot.  I take Abraham Lincoln’s words to heart: better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.  It worked out pretty well for him.

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Let me set the tone.  I work in private-wealth-management, old-family-money, finance.  An area dominated by big banks, like Goldman Sachs (my alma-mater), that despite the vampire squid reputation have a phenomenal women’s network and my particular group within GSAM was probably 70% women.  Girl power.

Despite these big city centers, there are still plenty of mom & pop shops that follow the “old men with grey hair are always right” rule.  And I, unfortunately, ran into one the other day.  I sat, unassumingly, in an introductory meeting with my manager and this horrendous, aggressive salesperson.  Sure, my manager, who happens to be an ex-investment banker and a partner of our firm (and husband to a go-getting entrepreneurial wife), did all the talking, but the letters CFA after my name don’t stand for Cute Fancy Accessory.

To prove the point of how our firm acts as investors, not simply allocators, the example was given, “If Alana suggests we invest with a health care manager because of the regulatory modifications and changes in demographics…”  A normal person would nod and listen, but not this guy.  He snorted and punctured the air with his narrow-minded judging crack, “Ha!  Alana?”

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Really?

Did that just happen?

Did he think I was incapable of coming up with this investment conclusion?  I was fuming, but I kept my cool.  I had to act professional, right?  I thought all mid-westerners were friendly and tolerant?

I was pissed, but for the rest of the day I couldn’t stop smiling.  My manager shared my view that the guy was insufferable.  He recycled the guy’s pitch books, ignored his phone calls, and deleted his emails.  I was reminded through out the day just how much I was valued.

In the afternoon, a finance girlfriend waved me down in the hallway.  At dance class in the evening, the substitute teacher (and unbelievable dancer) asked me to lead a group across the floor, a job she believed I was capable of.  Then, a new friend asked me to take a picture with her before I left for the holidays.  And at night, I met up with my husband and his work friends, who invited us to their New Year’s Eve bash.

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The line between the squeaky wheel and the babbling buffoon may be blurred, but my optimism never is.  Smart people don’t invest with stupid people.  Simple enough.  Looks like red-haired, young women are the new grey-haired, old men.

Say Yes, Raise My Hand, and Floss My Teeth

Today’s quote on Goodreads reminded me of my goals for the season. In case you were confused, this is birthday season, aka post-wedding season. It lasts until the holiday season 😉
“Do one thing everyday that scares you.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
With more time to think about myself, where I am in life, and where I want to be, I put together a list of things I want to work on.
1. Say yes more often. When a friend asks me to grab coffee or join a Zumba class, say yes.
2. Raise my hand. When someone suggests an idea at work, let them know why I agree or disagree.
3. Floss my teeth. Yup, you read that right.
Ok, so these are tame goals, and definitely not that scary, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. We can’t all be Eowyn from Lord of the Rings and launch into the battle of Pelennor Fields and fight the evil Witch-King of Anmar.
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Or Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games and face 23 death-hungry kids in a man-made hell for the pleasure of the viewing public.
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Or Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, the mother of dragons, and marry Khal Drogo, the Dothraki khalasar, in order to take back the iron throne for her people.
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But I can start here. And besides, I already consider myself a mother of 1 dragon…my ragamuffin cat named, Zeus.
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Is Optimism My Fatal Flaw?

I know, I sound crazy. It’s like saying being able to do magic like Harry Potter, or compel people with your mind like Olivia Hart, is a fatal flaw. Let me explain.
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When I watched the episode of Glee that was a tribute to Cory Monteith, I was crying before the episode even started. Okay, I’m not helping to prove my point.
I’m really good at being optimistic. No, I mean really good. Maybe, too good. I have an extraordinary ability to look at the bright side. I compartmentalize things in my brain so that the unpleasant experiences are rarely remembered, and the positive occurrences are front and center.
I often tell my friends, ‘I don’t do sad.’ In fact, I make my friends read books and movies before me, because if it doesn’t have a happy ending, I’ll just skip the hassle altogether.
So what’s the problem, you ask? Glee was the problem. The episode memorializing Finn Hudson went against every grain in my body. The show that usually added song and dance to everyday life suddenly was indescribably sad. There was no happy ending. I couldn’t compartmentalize the heartache. I couldn’t pretend everything was going to be okay. In real life, he was dead.
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As I read through my favorite novels, I realize many fatal flaws can be considered virtues. Some would argue Harry Potter’s fatal flaw is honor. His integrity and innate need to do the right thing ultimately causes him to die. However, the key point was that without accepting inevitable death to protect the one’s he loved, he wouldn’t have been able to survive the curse.
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Another example is Percy Jackson. His fatal flaw is loyalty. He would sacrifice the world to save someone he really cares about. Is that really a bad thing?
Athena teaches Percy that some fatal flaws can be good in moderation. I thought about this for awhile, and I decided I’m not going to submit to this decision that optimism is a flaw. I don’t care if I have a slightly twisted view of reality because I wear rose colored glasses. I would rather see the glass half full. When moments of sadness make their way through the cracks of my optimistic armor, I’ll have a crying jag, but then I’ll take out my magic wand, shout,”EXPECTO PATRONUM,” and cast a patronus of sunshine, rainbows, and ragamuffin kittens, and blast that gloomy dementor into oblivion.

Mom, My Personal Superhero

I’ve been thinking about Moms as superheroes for awhile now, but I took it as a sign when one of my best friends from NYU gave birth to a baby boy last night.  Pregnancy, labor, and birth…now that takes superpowers. Congrats, Lovecakes!

I find most motherly superpowers (other than giving birth) to be behind the scenes.  Rather than being the person, sword in hand, fighting the dragon, mothers are the unsung heroes in the background. Without their support, the protagonist would never have the courage to stand up to the dragon at all.

That is of course, unless your protagonist IS a mother. [I’m picturing Claire Dunphy from Modern Family who doesn’t take crap from anyone and still finds time to take her kids to mathlete competitions. Or perhaps Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones?] But in most of the fantasy books I read, the mother is there to support the lead. This blog is a tribute to all the Supermoms.

Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series is, hands down, a supermom. From cooking dinner for a family of eight, to joining the Order of Pheonix, to killing Bellatrix Lestrange, she is heroic.

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Another superb example is Sally Jackson from the Percy Jackson series.  She lived (and died and came back to life) in terrible circumstances with an abusive husband, just to protect her son from the wrath of the gods.

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Even grandmas can be superheroes.  Remember Gran from the True Blood series?  Fighting and loving vampires and fairies.  That’s hardcore.

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However, no superhero compares to my own mom. Brave, smart, thoughtful…as my Aunt Iris would say, she is the whole package! Her love and support makes me the women I am today.  And trust me, I can take on any dragon!

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And just because Olivia Hart tends to think like me, I leave you with a quote from the Olivia Hart and the Gifted Program Series:

She said exactly what I needed to hear. “Thanks, Mom. I love you. I’ll call you,” I said and hung up the phone. Something about a mother’s guarantee did wonders for self-confidence. I felt hopeful because Mom said I could do it. I was going to save my friends. –OLIVIA HART, THE RESCUE