My Epiphany

It was 2008, I was living in Hendersonville, NC (30 minutes from Asheville) and loving it. I had moved there in June and here it was September, the time for a little vacation back down to Florida to visit family and friends. Little did I know that this vacation would change my life forever.

My vacation came and went, I drove down to the Sunshine State with my pet birds in tow (definitely made it a not-so-lonely drive!), and back again to the mountains. While in Orlando, my dad and I went to EPCOT one day. Both of us taking pictures with his DSLRS. We both wandered through the different countries snapping away. What I didn’t know is that my father took some pictures of me taking photos without my knowledge. I only discovered this when I got back home to North Carolina and uploaded the photos from the CD he had given me. He included both the photos I had taken and his. I was stunned not only to see images of myself, but more so at how I appeared in the photos. I remember thinking, “Wow, do I really look that fat? Am I that large?” Seeing myself that overweight upset me greatly. I knew I was fat and unhealthy, but didn’t have any idea just how bad off I was. It was a reality check that while I wasn’t ready for, I seriously needed. Staring at myself on the screen of my computer, I knew that I had to change, I had to get healthy and lose the weight for good. No more excuses, it had to be done.

Left photo is one that prompted the lifestyle change. Right is from October 2008.

Left photo is one that prompted the lifestyle change. Right is from October 2008.

So, it began. I dusted off Jillian Michaels’ “Winning By Losing” book and started to really take every word she wrote to heart. I began to download podcast episodes of not only Jillian’s radio show, but other weight-loss podcasts that would aid in keeping me motivated and help me learn about health and fitness. Also, I kept a food journal, writing down any and everything I put into my mouth. My grocery shopping trips brought more apples and such into my cart while the chips and cookies got left by the wayside. After work each night, I went to my apartment complex’s fitness center to workout. No, it wasn’t easy at first, heck, it wasn’t easy even at times throughout, but I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew in the end, I would be glad I was making these better choices and putting in the hard work to drop the weight.

Slowly but surely, the pounds began to come off! Some weeks were great, losing 3-4 pounds, others not so much, only dropping one pound. Nonetheless, I told myself, I was succeeding, I was getting smaller and healthier. And, I was doing it the right way, no pills or “lose weight quick” diets, just good old fashioned calorie counting and sweating it out.

Further inspirations for me were The Biggest Loser contestants, Jillian Michaels, and Bob Harper. Watching fellow “losers” each week on TV working hard was a big motivation and inspiration for me during my journey. In addition to Biggest Loser, was the online support I have had on a forum I began a regular poster on, we all need support and these people were definitely that for me. While I know that it is me who has done all the hard work to drop the weight and get healthy, I can honestly say that without the support I have gotten from those friends, I may not have gotten as far as I have.

As of today, August 2009, I have now lost 69lbs and counting. I have never felt better in my life. Not only am I now at a healthy weight, but I love being active. Can’t say that I necessarily love working out all the time, but I it is now a part of who I am. Working out and watching what I eat is a way of life for me. I will never go back to that overweight girl who was unhappy with how she looked and felt. The “new” me is here to stay.

October 2008 to August 2009 progress photo.

October 2008 to August 2009 progress photo.

The mind of George Sodini

Who is George Sodini? Well, you probably know him best as the gym killer. He is the man who walked into the L.A. Fitness in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, killed three women, injured nine others and then turned the gun on himself.

Reading Sodini’s bloggings, it becomes obvious that he was a deeply troubled man. He frequently talks about being alone and without a girlfriend. About never having a lover and seemingly feeling sorry for himself in the process. His words invoke a person who was crying out for help, yearning for someone to help him make sense of the feelings he was feeling. Yet, no one it seems saw that until now, when it is of course too late.

Now I wonder, how many other people are out there desperate and severely depressed like Sodini was? Is that guy driving the coupe next to you at the intersection secretly suffering and thinking of pulling out a gun in a crowded mall later that day because he feels he has nothing to live for? The current financial situation of this country makes this a honest to goodness question we need to be thinking about. True, Sodini wasn’t in a financial woe, but the unemployment rate of this country right now bring this sad question to light.

I know we can’t predetermine who is going to go nuts tomorrow and go into a rage like they could in the movie, “Minority Report,” but without going into a panic, people need to pay attention to those they care about or know. Listen to what they are saying or expressing. The signs where there for Sodini, but no one took the time or interest it seems to give him any serious consideration.

Anyway, just some thoughts I had on the subject.

12 Random Thoughts About Dialogue

1. Keep your characters ignorant. Don’t play the scene as if the character knows the ending before it happens.

2. Become the character.

3. It’s not the transcript. Take it slowly when writing dialogue. Include dialogue important to the story.

4. Make every word count.

5. Realistic dialogue involves rising conflict.

6. More on why less is more.

7. Writing dialogue is a multi-draft thing.

8. Yes, you can use adverbs – judiciously.

9. Avoid repeating what the reader knows.

10. Stick to the people you know.

11. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

12. Trust your taste.

Walking Observations

I go out for a walk/run three to four days a week as part of my workout routine. Being a creative thinker, this time serves two purposes for me. One being the obvious fitness rewards this gives me, and two being it helps me gather my thoughts and put together some of my ideas. It also gives me the opportunity to observe my neighborhood in a new way, through an observers eyes. Normally, we are all in a rush to get where we need to go or be, driving in our cars, not giving much thought to the world around us. When we take the time to go out for something as simple as a walk, the world seems to slow down, if only for a short time.

This morning during my walk and run, I took the time to really observe what was around me as my feet hit the pavement below. Some things, like a stranger’s garbage lying on the side of the road seem intriguing when you just take the time to simply observe. True, the rejected cup from McDonald’s may just be that, a piece of trash someone was too lazy to drop into a dumpster, but other things aren’t quite so simplistic in my mind.

Santa hat. Now, this is an odd item to find on the side of the road, especially in the sticky humid summer heat of Florida. The hat was lying there, in a crumpled jumble, covered in grass and moss. Where did it come from? Was it really Christmas in July for someone out there?

Sandhill cranes. A very cool and neat sight if you get to see them, especially when they are up close and personal with you. This pair was about five feet from where I was running. One of them even seemed to say “hello” to me as I passed by.

Old Nursery. My morning jaunt took me past my old middle school and near a place I knew well as a youngster. It was a garden nursery that myself and classmates used to frequent after the final school bell rang each day. Not an obvious “kid hangout,” the owners had candy, cookies and sodas for sale inside the small building. Seeing the place, now abandoned and closed, pulled me back to those years of running inside on a hot afternoon in search of a coke to quench my thirst.

Anyway, those were some of my observations today just being outside and watching. Have you taken the time to stop and take in your surroundings lately?

Female serial killers

Being a fan of crime noir and true crime, I find a lot of the elements of crime investigation and the psychology of crime and the actual committing of it to be very compelling. That said, I’m intrigued by serial killers. They fascinate me, the ins and outs of their minds, just what makes them do the insane things they do.

Women serial killers are rare because the number of them are far less than male killers. Maybe this fact is why they interest me more so. Female serial killer are also more likely to get away with their crimes for years seeing as how their crimes have different motivations than their male counterparts. Men are generally more violent and aggressive than women, thus there being more men serial killers.

Interesting women serial killers include:

Rosemary West
Rosemary West sadistically murdered and tortured twelve young women with the aid of her husband, Fred West from April 1973 until August 1979. The duo would drive around the Gloucester, England area searching for young girls. Once they found what they were looking for, the couple would take them back to their home, have sex with them, torturing them in the process, and once they were done, kill them. It is said that their own daughter, Heather was the reason for their horrible crimes. The couple believed their daughter’s sexual appetite and sadomasochistic tendencies were to blame for the tortures and murders they committed. Heather too became a victim of her parents’ sick torturous and sadistic sexual atrocities.
The pair was finally arrested in 1994, nearly twenty years after the murders had taken place. The remains of the victims were discovered buried underneath the couples home. The husband Fred, ended up committing suicide while in custody. Rosemary however, was convicted of ten counts of murder in 1995. She is eligible for parole when she is 66 years old, which is 2019.

Aileen Wuornos
Aileen was a deeply psychologically troubled women. From a young age, she engaged in sex with multiple partners, including her own brother. She was pregnant by the age of 14, a pregnancy she claimed was the result of a rape. Shortly after giving birth, Wuornos dropped out of school, left home and took up hitch-hiking and prostitution.
She killed at least seven men between December 1989 and September 1990, claiming that the men either raped or attempted to rape her and in murdering them, she was practicing self-defense. The police caught up to her through pawn shop cards where she left her thumbprint on while pawning items belonging to victims.
Wuornos was sentenced to death by lethal injection for her crimes and became the second Florida woman to be executed. She was formally put to death on October 9, 2002. Her final words were, “I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the rock, and I’ll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6. Like the mother ship and all, I’ll be back.”

Juana “La Mataviejitas” Barraza
Known as “The Silent Lady,” she killed ten, but could be as many as forty. Juana would knock on the doors of the elderly in Mexico City during the 1990s portraying a social worker. Once she gained entrance to the victim’s home, she would strangle them with whatever was handy, a phone cord, sock or what have you. She would do this until blood oozed from the victim’s ears, ensuring they were dead.
She was apprehended in 2006, shortly after strangling and 82-year-old with a stethoscope. The authorities caught her close by the mark’s home. The police had trouble determining if the killer was male or female due to the force she used on her victims. They were unsure if they were looking for a man dressed as a female or a woman dressed as a man.
Barraza was sentenced to 759 years in prison for the murders.

Photowalk

I took part in a Worldwide Photowalk on July 18th (Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk). Some of the photos have been posted on my deviantart page, but I wanted to share a few black & white shots here. Never used to be a fan of B&W photography, but going to photo school changed that. I gained a huge appreciation for the craft of shooting in back and white. I now tend to favor B&W over color work.

Photowalk15
photowalk20
photowalk17

Check out http://shannonshots.deviantart.com for more photos.

Movie: Bonnie & Clyde

Bonnie & Clyde (1967)


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061418/

Bonnie & Clyde poster

Being a big fan of old classics, especially crime films, it’s pretty obvious I would want to see this movie. Of course, one would have assumed I would have taken in it’s greatness long ago, but alas, you would be wrong. Unfortunately, there are many a film on my “must-see” list that have gathered dust through the years. Thankfully, a brief day of sickness from work gave me just the opportunity to sit down and take in “Bonnie & Clyde.”

Right off, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are magnificent in the movie, no question. The duo perform their roles as the outlaws superbly. It’s no wonder the picture took home two Oscars as well as numerous other awards and nominations, as everything about it is amazing.

The film starts right off with the odd introduction of Bonnie and Clyde. Their first encounter is as bizarre as their relationship would continue to be right up until their death, each being hit by forty bullets a piece during the ambush. We get to see their relationship grow throughout their rampage through six states, Clyde’s love for Bonnie never wavering one bit. Their romance was truly like no other.

Definitely worth mentioning is Gene Hackman. He puts on a great performance as Clyde’s brother, Buck Barrow. Buck is as menacing as his brother Clyde, having already been involved in his own criminal endeavors before the Barrow gang days. Hackman, who rarely disappoints in a role, is in my opinion, is best when he is portraying bad guys. He is just one of those actors who you want to see as the villain.

I highly recommend checking out this classic film for anyone who is a crime fan or just curious about the Barrow gang’s rampage during the Great Depression. The movie broke many a “rule” during the 60s when it was made, with all the sex and violence it portrayed, thus making it a landmark accomplishment in film making.

Musings to become 'exclusive'

By that,  I merely mean I’m going to close out my blogger (shannon1.blogspot.com) and blog here exclusively as well as post things that are more “random” and what have you via my tumblr page.  With that in mind, you will definitely see more blogging here about not just my writing projects, but my photography and anything else I’m up to.  Also, I’m going to try to start posting reviews/thoughts on any movies, comics and books I’m watching or reading.

Current state of affairs

As of this blogging, I am presently working on THE LINE, HYPERSONIC, and BLOOD IN THE SKY as well as random other writings. I tend to write whatever I feel drawn or close to on a particular day. I appreciate being able to do that while I’m self-publishing and not having to answer to someone holding a paycheck over my head (so to speak, ha).  It’s nice having the freedom to write when and as you please in this way.

All of that said, I have been coming up with a loose schedule of sorts for myself so as to create some sort of sense of an organizational system. I’m the first to admit that I’ve never been good with always following a schedule more than I had to (oh, is my ADHD showing now?), but we all need a bit of comformity in our lives I think. That’s not to say that I always like to admit that, but it’s true.

THE LINE has seemingly taken shotgun the last couple of weeks here, as Jessi (my main character for those who have yet to read the series) has been at the forefront of my thoughts. I haven’t really said much about the future of the book anywhere, but series artist Eric Gravel has moved on to other projects and friend and awesome artist Derrick Fish (http://www.dandyandcompany.com) has taken over drawing duties as of #4. Originally, he planned to jump on board as of issue #5, but just like the road of life and it’s sometimes crazy twists and turns, plans changed. Anywho, I am excited about this and can’t wait for readers to see what he’s been doing with the book.

More writing updates soon!

So, what happened to Nano?

Job loss and having to move back to Florida happened basically.  I was all gung ho about writing “Blood in the Sky” when my former boss sprung the “your job is going to be gone” thing at me.  That said, November 2008’s Nanowrimo came to a screeching halt. I had to deal with the insanity of life and it’s curveballs.

“Blood in the Sky” is being worked on, it’s my novel “baby” and will get completed. I’ve got a lot invested into it, including hours upon hours of research,  so it’s a work in progress. 🙂