Bringing Your Characters to Life…Literally

I thought it would be fun for readers to get a visual of the characters in my book series, (after)life lessons.

Jake T. Austin responded! Loved him with Jenna on Dancing with the Stars.

His character, Chase Hastings, is the classic good looking, sarcastic, high school boy in the popular crowd.

Check out the book series here: (after)life lessons book series on Amazon

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When You Believe in Fantasy Worlds

There is something exhilarating about happening upon a blip of a fantasy world in everyday life. For a fraction of a second you believe you have actually been transported to an alternative universe, or the secret world was there all along, and miraculously, you managed to get a glimpse of it. Are talented authors taking everyday experiences and making you believe it’s special? Or is life imitating art? I don’t know the answer to that, but I love stepping into my favorite fantasy realm, and I try to do it as often as possible.

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I looked for Percy Jackson in front of the St. Louis Arch!

 

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I attempted to get into the Ministry of Magic from a phone booth!

 

 

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I fought the mist at the Lotus Room so I could get back to Camp Half-Blood!

 

Finding fantasy in everyday life is a thrill. That’s what I hope to create in my next series (after)life lessons! Check the first beta review I received from an 8th grader!  Comment if you would like to be a beta reader!

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Check out the pinterest page: http://www.pinterest.com/alanasiegel/afterlife-lessons/

 

 

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!]

Traveling Superheroes

Four plane rides, five diligence meetings, four states, six coffee catch-ups, and one Bat Mitzvah.  That’s how I spent my first week of December.  I was impressed.  Okay, so I wasn’t attacked by monsters, I wasn’t gallivanting around Rome, and I wasn’t traveling on a trireme, but we can’t all be demigods searching for the House of Hades like Percy Jackson’s friends aboard the Argo II.

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I did manage to find time to write a few more chapters of my next book series, Bone-Chilling.  As I approached the last few chapters, I noticed the characters suffer from time travel whiplash.  If you were able to see ghosts, like the main character, Juliandra Winklevoss, you would also have a hard time keeping track of which time period your teachers were from.

She knows one thing for certain, if they teach at Vida Post Mortem Academy, they must be superheroes.  President John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Eleanor Roosevelt, are just a few of the spirits that make a translucent appearance.

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Dead or alive, historic or unknown, traveling or stationary, there are many different types of superheroes.  They can make sweeping changes or simply bring a smile to your face.  My mom forwarded this picture of one of my favorite dancers from So You Think You Can Dance, Twitch.  He is the king of optimistic superheroes.

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At the end of the day, one of my favorite reasons to travel is to see my rag-a-muffin cat, Zeus.  Named after a Greek God, he too, likes to dress the part.  Happy Holidays!

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Blast from the Past, ’90s Style

When I look back at pictures, will I be cringing at my chunky necklaces, peplum dresses, and other trendy styles of the day? The answer is probably yes. When I look at photos of my mom with thick-rimmed glasses in the ’70s and poofy Madonna hair in the ’80s, I giggle (a little). Don’t get me wrong – she was adorable, and she was stylish, but now I’m laughing at the trends.

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This week seems to be about the ’90s. In the most recent chapter of my new book series, Bone-Chilling, the reader is introduced to two grandma-aged spirits named Roberta and Shauna. You wouldn’t know it from their jovial dispositions, but both women died abruptly in the ’90s while visiting their alma mater and haunted-mansion-turned-school, Vida Post Mortem Academy. Spirits who have not passed on through the light look like frozen images of themselves the day they die.  My question is, what did grandmas wear in the ’90s?

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To figure it out, I thought about my life in the ’90s as a middle school student. I had a minor breakdown when my sponge brain seemed momentarily saturated, and I couldn’t figure out who was my 7th grade English teacher. Have no fear, it was Ms. Mayer. But I wasn’t any closer to an answer about grandmas in the ’90s.

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And then Saturday afternoon, the problem was solved. I attended an amazing ‘I heart the ’90s’ Zumba class and realized the decade was about grunge and saying no to scrubs and young people as well as grandmas doing ridiculous dance moves like the tootsie roll and hammer time. The class was uplifting and a fantastic workout, and just like the ’90s it was a sweaty party.

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Thank you Zumba teachers!

Best Frenemies

Embarrassingly enough, I watched the entire Bring It On: All Or Nothing movie yesterday. After all of Hayden Panettiere’s awful krumping skills and Solange Knowles “not-as-good-as-my-sister’s” dance combinations, I thought of another topic for my blog. Hurray for the things that inspire me!

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Throughout the movie, Hayden “Planetarium” (as my dad likes to call her) is trying to figure out which one of girls posing as her friend truly has her best interest in mind and who is going to stab her in the back. Alas, we come to the term ‘frenemy.’ There are definitely better examples in fantasy fiction than the cheer template, so let’s move on.

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One of my favorites is Katniss Everdeen and Johanna Mason in the Hunger Games series. Having won the games just a few years before Katniss, the two are close in age and viewed as immediate rivals. Their relationship is never smooth, but as time goes on it becomes more apparent they have the same goals and values. A mutual agreement is made when Katniss brings Johanna pine needles to remind her of home in District 7.

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Another great example is Remus Lupin and Severus Snape from the Harry Potter books. Part of different crowds in school, Remus in Gryffindor and Snape in Slytherin, their youth was spent bullying and competing. However, the tragic years (and Dumbledore) made them respect each other, as evidenced by Snape’s production of the wolfsbane potion to ease Remus’s symptoms during the full moon.

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My favorite example is a little less famous; Olivia Hart and Chelsea Steinem from the Olivia Hart and the Gifted Program series. Since the day Chelsea started dating Olivia’s ex-boyfriend, she shouted snide comments, gave evil looks, and overall made Olivia’s life a living hell. When a villain comes knocking at their door, they put their differences aside, and recognize how much they have in common.

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This post is dedicated to my original frenemy, Sarah Moeller. We wasted a year hating each other, only to realize we had more to gain from being friends, than enemies. In fact, she is one of my favorite people on the planet. Her passion and selflessness inspires me, and her love sustains and comforts me. With over a decade of friendship, we’ve more than made up for that year, and I know we will continue to be best friends for the rest of our lives.

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.