Monday, May 26, 2014

My Fantasy Disneyland Schedule

My Fantasy Disneyland Schedule

I get to go to Disneyland without children this June.  Two days of childless bliss in the Happiest Place on Earth!  It’s very exciting.  Though I know it’s going to be hot, crowded and exhausting, I’m still thrilled for the chance.

I’ve been to Disneyland a couple dozen times over the course of my life and every time I go I learn something new--a new trick or treat that should make my next visit even more enjoyable.

Here’s my tentative schedule for this visit: (and please, feel free to comment with more advice!)

Thursday: California Adventure
*Since I haven’t spent as much time in the new park as the old, I’m a little less confident about our schedule on day 1.

7:30am - Arrive at Downtown Disney for a quick pastry (?) and purchase tickets as soon as the ticketbooths open.

8am - Parks open. Go straight to get a Fastpass for the Cars Ride, and for World of Color.

10am - Disney Visa Photo: Disney Visa Cardholders get a free character experience and a free photograph.  At least, last I checked.  I’ll have to look deeper into it when we get a little closer to the actual day.  Or I can ask an employee.

12 - Lunch.  We’ll be bringing our own lunch and snacks with us into the park, to try and avoid high prices of food.  Of course, I’m sure there will be things we’ll splurge on, anyway.  But this will help save a couple of bucks!  And make sure I (we?) stick on our diets.

Afternoon: Shopping, Shows, non-ride experiences.  We’ll make sure to hit the Animator’s Studio, Turtle Talk with Crush, some Parades (Phineas and Ferb!), the Muppet Show, photos with whichever characters we run into and wander through the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.

*At this point in the afternoon, we could go into Downtown Disney to do some shopping and/or wandering around.  It depends on how hot and crowded it is, and how much shopping we’d like to do.

Dinner: Boudin Bakery for soup in a bread bowl.  Funny, how I live next to San Francisco and insist upon going to Boudin whenever I’m in Southern California.  They just do a fantastic job with the sourdough, no matter where they are.

Why no Character Meal?  We weighed the pluses and minuses of signing up for a character meal.  In the end we decided it was too expensive, the food choices were limiting, and we could meet characters throughout the park.  (If I was coming with my kids, I might reconsider.  Character meals are so. much. fun. with the little kids.)

We’ll have to get good “seats” for World of Color, which performs around 9:45.  It’s standing-room-only (SRO to some people), so I hope that we’re not too exhausted at the end of the day!  Then it’s back to the hotel to SLEEP so we can get up early and come straight back to the parks!

Rides to Hit:
Soarin’ over California
Goofy’s Flying School
Grizzly River Run
Toy Story Midway Mania
The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
Luigi’s Flying Tires
Radiator Springs Racers
Monster’s Inc., Mike & Sully to the rescue!

Things to Skip:
Most of Bug’s Land (It’s great when you’ve got little kids, but the rides aren’t especially exciting for two footloose and fancy free adults.)
Upside Down Coaster
Mickey’s Fun Wheel
Disney Jr. Live on Stage (Again, this is a must-see with my 5 and 2 year old.  But not without!)
Aladdin Show**
Jellyfish Ride

**The reason I’m skipping the Aladdin show is this: I went with some good friends to watch the show, and during the performance Aladdin and Jasmine got caught on the carpet, hung upside-down, 50 feet in the air over the audience.  I don’t know if it was because I was there that it happened, but I’m not going to chance finding out.

Friday: Disneyland Proper
7:30am - Arrive early.  (Plan to, anyway.)  Same as the previous day.  Possible pastry in Downtown Disney, or mocha to really get the day started.

8am - The park opens.  This is the best time to meet some characters.  It’s early, and things aren’t flooded with people yet.  

9am - Straight back to Pixie Hollow, Fantasy Faire (as soon as they open) and then to Toon Town to meet Mickey and Co.

Getting character meet and greets out of the way first thing is a great idea, because it leaves the rest of the day open to rides and other experiences.  Besides, the further into the day it gets, the longer the lines become.

Rides to Hit:
Roger Rabbit
Peter Pan
Alice in Wonderland
Star Tours
Space Mountain
Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters

Rides to Skip:
Gadget’s Go Coaster
Submarine Voyage
*Any ride with a long line.

I would be interested in a viewing of the Jedi Training Academy, though I feel like that would be much more entertaining with a child in our party.

Mid-Morning (Depending on how crowded it gets in the park, this may get pushed back to mid-day) - Get on train in Tomorrow Land, and ride it to New Orleans Square.  (I would be perfectly happy to spend the majority of my day in New Orleans Square/Main Street.)

Rides to Hit:
Jungle Cruise
Indiana Jones
Haunted Mansion
Splash Mountain

Rides to Skip:
Tom Sawyer Island (or whatever they’re calling it now.  It will forever be Tom Sawyer Island to me.)
Winnie the Pooh.  (Though, we WILL hit the sweets shop next to that ride.)

12:50: LUNCH!  Mint Julep!  Reservations at the Blue Bayou restaurant.

Afternoon - Main Street Shopping, Touristy photos, Mary Poppins Cafe(?), Tiki Room(?).  A Dole Whip is a must.

Dinner - MANY options.  We can go pretty much anywhere in the park for dinner, though I insist that when we get our dinner, we go sit in front of the “Rivers of America” and wait for Fantasmic.  We can sit down as soon as they rope off the area to foot traffic, and play with our phones and write postcards while we wait.  FANTASMIC is a must.

Fireworks - Optional.  Main Street will be packed with people.  After Fantasmic is a great time to hit rides, while people are watching the Fireworks show.  This is an excellent time to hit the rides in New Orleans Square, because the lines are very short.  (Also, because families are starting to leave the park to get little ones in bed at a “reasonable” hour.)

10pm - Midnight - The park closes at Midnight.  We’ve got from the end of Fantasmic/Fireworks until then to wander and hit anything we may have missed.

What did I miss?  Is there anything you’d want to see that I didn’t mention?  Hit me up in the comments. :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

10 Steps to Creating Lovable, Believable Characters

10 Steps to Creating Lovable, Believable Characters

1.) What does s/he look like?
It's important to have a very good vision of your character's appearance in your mind while you write.  And keeping notes in a journal/notebook or on index cards is a good idea.  (Or another file in your computer, since that's what kids are doing now-a-days.)  That way you don't say the character has blue eyes in chapter 2, and then brown eyes in chapter 11.  Sometimes I cheat and steal certain characteristics from actors/actresses, that way I can just reference a picture when I need to.

2.) What does s/he act like?
Sometimes, when I take notes on my index cards, I put down things like "broods like Snape," or "curious like Alice."  I'll write things like "massive flirt," or "gets angry at the drop of a hat."  These notes help remind me that when I'm writing these characters, to make sure and keep their mannerisms and dialogue consistent.  It's confusing and frustrating when characters act a certain way at the beginning of the book, and change drastically by the end.  (Unless, of course, there is conflict and character development to help lead the characters to new personality traits.  For the purposes of character creation, though, make sure to take notes on how your character is at the beginning of the story.)

3.) What backstory would lead to that personality and/or appearance?
Keeping the backstory consistent with the character's physical description and personality description is really important.  If a character is covered in battle scars and gruff toward everyone, there has to be a reason for it.  Perhaps he was injured in a war, and is suffering from post traumatic stress.  (Mad-Eye Moody?)  Likewise, if a character is overly friendly, naive, and young, it's possible that this character has been sheltered her whole life. (Anna of Arendelle?)

4.) What are her/his goals?
If you don't know where your character wants to be in his or her life, character creation is a wonderful time to start brainstorming those things.  A very specific goal is very easy to write--and will drive the story forward.  It's when we get characters with conflicting goals that makes for good drama.  Where would The Fellowship be if Frodo hadn't decided to take the ring to Mordor?

5.) What are her/his fears?
Likewise, your character needs to have things that are holding her back.  Things she fears, things that make her more believable and well rounded.  A character with no internal conflict makes for boring reading, even if the external conflict abounds.  That iconic scene where Rapunzel reaches the ground outside of her tower in Tangled wouldn't be nearly as heart-warming if she was gung-ho about leaving and had no second thoughts about hurting her "mother's" feelings.

Now you have a pretty good idea of who this character is.  Next you have to make sure the character isn't irritatingly perfect, or irritatingly flawed.

6.) Does your character have 1 flaw for every 1 merit?
This is a pretty basic idea.  Take your index card/notebook/word document, split it down the middle, and start brainstorming the merits of your character on one side, and her flaws on the other.  If there's more on one half than the other, you may need to adjust.  There are, of course, exceptions to this rule.  Villains are allowed to have more flaws than merits, or vice versa.  Not all of these merits and flaws will be made immediately known to the reader, which is another thing to keep in mind.  Also, sometimes one huge merit can outweigh a ton of flaws, or vice versa.

7.) Are your character's merits/flaws trendy?  Over-used?
I'm sick to death of characters who "read too much" or are clumsy.  I would prefer to read about fresh characteristics, ones that haven't been over used.  Take a look at the real-life people around you, and "borrow" some of their merits and flaws.  Do you have the best dad ever? (My daughters do.)  Maybe your character can be an amazing father.  Do you know one of the "entitled generation?"  Maybe your character is arrogant and self-important.  These are much better than something we've read time and time again.

8.) Are your character's physical traits believable?
If you considered "too pretty" to be one of your character's flaws, just stop.  Just stop now.  It would be a fantastic, wonderful, amazing world if the physical characteristics of characters in fiction and literature mirrored the physical characteristics of people in the real world.  People are fat.  And thin.  And tall.  And short.  Some have duck feet.  Some are pigeon toed.  Some wear glasses, and some don't.  Race, gender, cultural background and time period are all things to consider when creating your characters.  Diversify, and you'll find it'll be more fun to write and more fun to read.

9.) Does your character have a backstory that makes us sympathize with her/him?
Imagine if Harry Potter had grown up a jerk instead of a modest young man.  Or if Annie hated the world because of the way she was treated in the orphanage.  These are a couple of instances in which the backstory makes the character more endearing.  It would be quite easy to use the backstory for these characters to try and force emotional reactions out of the reader, therefore turning him or her off of your story.

10.) Will you or your readers be jealous of her/him?
There are two different kinds of jealousy.  One is the kind that makes you dislike a character and the other is the kind where you want to be that character (Tony Stark).  It's okay to give your characters good things in their lives, but make sure that they're believable, and that they move the story forward.  No one wants to read about Scrooge McDuck counting all of his precious gold all day with no conflict and no character development.  Giving a character things struggle with and things to rejoice about will make him or her more well rounded in the long run.

These intricacies will give your readers reasons to root for or against your characters in their endeavors.  Hopefully the passions in your characters will drive the story forward.

Oh, one more thing:
11.) Is your character the "Every Man"?

It's acceptable, maybe even encouraged, to have one character who is "normal."  He is the sounding board for everyone else's crazy.  The Jim Halpert or Arthur Dent, even Yossarian with all of his crazy is a "straight man" when the world around him goes insane.  Having one boring character amidst a handful of interesting ones is perfectly acceptable--and may be a relief for both writer and reader alike.

That being said, good luck writing your characters!  Keep them consistent, change them when the plot organically causes character development, and for goodness sake, don't stop writing!

Friday, May 9, 2014

My Heroes: Nick Doan (and Gwen Dreyer)

My Heroes
Second Installment: Nick Doan (And Gwen Dreyer) I've decided to write a blog post every month about someone who inspires me.  A hero in one form or another.  As so much of my life is based around reading and writing, many of these heroes are bound to be writers, bloggers, creators, artists and musicians.  Though I'm sure I'll put other people in here, too. Gwen and I went to middle school and high school together.  She was the reason I stayed in Girl Scouts, even though we both thought it wasn’t “cool” anymore.  We danced and sang together in our high school’s version of show choir (Before Glee.  Before it was “cool.”) and acted together in several plays over the course of our friendship.  The two that stick out most in my mind are “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (she was the Snoopy to my Patty) and “Miracle on 34th Street” where we memorized “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and recited it while the community center’s preschool ballet class acted out the scenes.  Gwen asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding in 2006, and I returned the favor in 2007.  She did my make-up for my big day, by the way, and made me look absolutely beautiful.  To say that Gwen and I share some wonderful memories is an incredible understatement. I also have to thank Gwen for introducing me to her husband, Nick.  Talk about an awesome guy.  The two of them make a fantastic and inspiring team.  Whenever we get to spend time with them together, it’s obvious who is the Yin and who’s the Yang.  (You’ll have to meet them and figure it out on your own!)  Nick is a very talented writer, and his creative spirit and follow-through, along with some very supportive people, I’m sure, led to the publication of his graphic novel “Monster Elementary,” which I absolutely adore.  I think I bought 11 copies to send to my family and friends. Whenever my family and friends do something that I want to do myself (for example, publish work or run a marathon or put on a play) I do my best to be as supportive as possible.  Sometimes it’s difficult.  Sometimes my heart just isn’t in it.  With Nick (and Gwen) I have never had that problem.  Buying Fat Rabbit Farm books has never been a challenge.  I’m quite honestly a fan of everything I’ve bought that he’s produced.  And I’ll continue to show that support however I can. You can find out more about Monster Elementary by going to For more on Fat Rabbit Farm’s books, try this link:

Monday, May 5, 2014

8 Tips on Surviving an Outing with a Toddler

8 Tips on Surviving an Outing with a Toddler

1.) Don’t go.
Really.  Don’t go.  If you don’t have to go out, don’t.  It’ll save you time, energy, money and stress.  Mostly stress.  And hassle.  Send your husband, wife, or partner to the store.  Or, better yet, go when the little one is asleep.

But, if you do have to go…

2.) Only make one stop.
If your child gets as cranky as mine does/did, then one stop is about all you can handle.  All the excess gear (shopping cart cover, diaper bag, etc.) and getting the little one in and out of the car/carseat will add quite a bit of time to your trip.  More time than you plan for.

3.) Talk to everyone you can.
This is a ‘stay sane’ tip, because we all need those.  I found that being at home with a child all day long made me yearn for adult interactions.  I found myself striking up conversations with the Starbucks Barista, the Checker, the Teller, anyone who would be able to talk to me about recent events or the weather.

4.) Don’t be afraid to leave.
If your little one starts to make a mess, or scream, or misbehave, don’t be afraid to leave a cart full of groceries in the middle of the supermarket and take the child home.  Sometimes kids just need a nap.  These outings take a lot out of them.  

BUT don’t make a threat you’re not willing to follow through with.  “We’ll go straight home!” will work much better in future if you actually do drop everything and take the child home.  (And you may only need to do that once if you actually do it when you threaten to!)

5.) Bring snacks.
For you and for the child.  I cannot emphasize how important this one is.  You can bring snacks, or buy snacks--Goldfish are wonderful, but I’ve also found that grapes, raspberries and Crasins work really well--but making sure you have something to keep the blood sugar up, keep the hands and mouth occupied, and keep a little one sitting still is imperative to being able to accomplish anything while you’re out.  

6.) Use technology to distract.
What would you rather see: a screaming toddler throwing items out of a shopping cart, making a huge mess, causing a ruckus… or a calm, peaceful child watching Mickey Mouse or Elmo quietly on his parent’s phone, while the parent has both hands free to finish shopping quickly and take said child home?

That’s what I thought.

I don’t want to hear the garbage about “too much screen time” or “we didn’t use that sort of thing back in my day”... parents have a hard enough time as it is.  Don’t judge.

7.) Have extra supplies, just in case.
You know what I’m talking about.  My little one likes to leave a load at Target.  Doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if we’re in that store, she dirties a diaper.  I’m often scrambling to get diapers and wipes.  You’d think I’d have learned this by now.  Always have extra supplies.  Uh-Oh clothes, diapers wipes, hand sanitizer and tissues are really helpful.

8.) Don’t cave.
Don’t cave to the “just throw it in the cart so we can get out of here” impulse that I’m sure will come over you.  Don’t cave to the “if I buy this one thing for you, will you be quiet?” instinct that kicks in.  Don’t cave to the “I’ll buy three of these so I don’t have to come back out again next week” knee-jerk reflex that so often comes along with shopping with a screaming kid.

Make sure you’ve accomplished what you need to accomplish, without too much frivolous extras.  There was a while when I couldn’t get out of a store without spending $100 and at least 90 minutes.  You can do better than I did.  Just be prepared.

I hope that this helps you with your outings.  Just remember that you will only encounter two types of people out there in the real world; those who are sympathetic and supportive, and those whose opinion doesn’t matter.

Good luck.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Tiny Fanfic: Audrey Weasley

There was flour everywhere.  Literally.  The walls were coated in flour dust, there was a fine layer over the floor, the countertops, the cabinets, the windowsill.  Thankfully, a quick charm could clean up the white powder, but the damage was done.  The toddler sitting in the middle of the mess was laughing hysterically and waving her Mummy’s wand all over.

“No no, please!”  The tired mother, Audrey, was carrying a tiny infant against her chest.  It’d probably been three days since she’d had a chance to shower, and the poor woman couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept for more than four hours in a row--and even four was pushing it.  There was no sleeping when a baby wanted feeding and changing every ninety minutes.  “Molly, Molly, give Mummy the wand,” she said, bending down to take the wand from her older daughter.

“No!  Mummy!  No!”  The toddler, Molly, started to wail, kicking her feet and pumping her fists in the air.  It made a little puff of white dust all around her.  The wailing, though, woke her sleeping sister, who also started to cry.

“Molly!  For goodness’ sake!”  Audrey sighed, lifting the wand to wave it about.  She cast a quick cleaning charm on the cabinets, gently bouncing the now-awake-and-fussing baby in the sling against her chest.  She took a lap of the island in the middle of the kitchen to make sure that she cleaned the flour off of every surface.  “You know better than to play with Mummy’s wand!  Your father’s told you time and again that you need to…”

Audrey’s words trailed off, though, as she noticed that Molly wasn’t in her seat.  Lucy’s crying against her chest and the cleaning spell had distracted her.  “Molly?”  She asked, her heartbeat quickening.  “Molly??”

She heard the gate at the top of the stairs creak open.  “Molly!”  Audrey cried out, and rushed in that direction.  As Molly took a step forward and started to fall, Audrey flung her wand out in an S movement and cast a quick incantation of “Spongify!!”

Molly’s giggles could be heard all the way down the stairs as she bounced on the rubbery surface, and landed safely at the bottom.  Audrey decided it was time to let Daddy watch the girls, so she could have a nap.  And possibly a stiff drink.