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UPDATE

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Long time now see. I have been super busy with grad school. Yep, I started my MFA at Hamline University in January of 2013 and graduated January 18th of 2015. I learned more in that two years about myself, than I have in my whole life. This may have to do with writing one of the most gut wrenching and  personal stories of my life. I am about halfway done with the first draft. I may even be closer to 3/4 of the way done, it just depends how I keep writing. I have another novel that is 3/4 of the way done just hanging out in the background. Writing is hard, and emotionally draining, but it is so rewarding to see a smile or tears on someone else’s face as they read your words.

I’ll be updating this much more often. Life is getting interesting here, and I’m sure I’ll need to blather about it somewhere. 🙂

Until then.

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Good news and busy times!!

Hello, all! I know I have been absent for awhile and I would like to apologize. I didn’t mean to abandon you, but life got bat shit crazy for awhile. It is still a little crazy. . .but hey, you only live once right? (I swear I will never use that again) So my faithful minions and new comers alike, I would like to fill you in on the craziness.

First, I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Professional Writing and Editing on August 18. I finished a 4 year degree in 3 years. Not only was this anti-climatic and not filled with the joy that so many portray, I felt a little lead on. So many people tell you that graduation day is the best feeling ever…that you will be showered with elaborate gifts and begin your new life the next day. We went to Quaker Steak and Lube and I was happy to be surrounded by my family, which I hadn’t seen in 8 months, but no epiphianic (i think i just made this word up) feelings rang through me. I felt the same as I always had. Maybe a feeling of accomplishment hit me once or twice, but no feelings of epic proportion to make me cry out in joy. Three days later, I began taking three classes for fun.

To be continued. . . .

The Morphing of Mrs.Moose

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Over the years I have had many different passions, yet through them all I carried books.

The first book I remember being read in school is Sunny Side Up by Valiska Gregory. I was in Kindergarten and both classes had been gathered in the library. The stage had a rocking chair and a table, with a glass of water upon it, set up. Our eyes were too busy to notice when the author came in and sat down. Mrs. Deitrich clapped her hands to call us all to attention. The next thing I can clearly remember is having a brand new book of my own, signed by Ms. Gregory, placed into my hands. I took it home and proudly read every line to my mom and dad, all by myself. This began my love for books and reading. To this day that book is at my parent’s house safe and sound. I read it to my son when he was a newborn and my husband was deployed.

The next book, which I am sure we have all read (If you haven’t, you MUST) is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I am sure this book opened my eyes to all things fictional. I wanted to have Wild Things of my own, but alas all I got were Care Bears. I have read this book many, many times and each time I find something new I missed before. I have also read this book to my son, but he said Max was a bad boy and he didn’t need to be so mean to his mommy. 🙂

I remember my mom taking me and my brother to the Logansport Public Library for storybook time. Most of the time I would sneak away and find books to read on my own while my brother sat listening to the librarians read. The American Girl and Babysitter Club Series grabbed my attention, and I believe I read all of the ones the library had.

So as you can tell I am a child of the 1980’s, but I didn’t just sit around and read all day. In third grade, I was asked by the fourth and fifth grade basketball coach if I could come to a practice and learn the game. Being from Indiana I already knew the basics since they had been drilled into me since birth, much like the rules of slow pitch softball had been. See, my dad played softball and I was at the park every spring through fall, and when it was winter my dad would take me to the Benjamin Long Center or the Y, and I would watch him play basketball. During half-time he would try to teach me how to play, but I never got the hang of it, until fourth grade. In fourth grade I began eating, sleeping and dreaming about basketball. I was already 5’8″ at the time and the tallest girl in our school, if not city. Basketball became my second passion and remains to this day.

Since I began playing basketball at such an awkward age, well it was awkward for me, I went to many camps. Dribbling was never a strong suit of mine, but posting up in the paint was. I joined an AAU team in sixth grade and remained with most of the same girls until I graduated. In sixth grade is when I met my first role model, outside of my parents. Coach J.T. Hubenthal soon became the man whose opinion, besides my father’s, meant the most. He had told me I wasn’t skinny enough during the winter of seventh grade and began running me into shape. I not only lost weight, but also bulked up and became a corn fed presence in the paint. During this time I also became involved in my school system’s band program. I not only was a jock, but also now a band geek. OH BOY, what was I to be called??? I never quite figured that out. I was also on the speech and debate team, and part of the book club at my middle school. Boy was I ever confused, and I soon turned to writing.

By the time I hit high school I was playing basketball year round (with Mr.Hubenthal as my coach), playing in the high school marching, jazz and pep bands, and still reading non-stop. I would always carry a book with me, and most of the time they would end up smelling like sweaty gym shoes, but the library never complained. I joined the softball team in the spring of my freshman year, but I disliked the coach and didn’t return the next year. My sophomore year I joined the girls’ soccer team and found another passion. Being a Goalie was now integrated into my persona. I went to a camp the following summer and learned from the United States Women’s Soccer coach how to use my height to my advantage. Basketball and Soccer kept me pretty busy, and band was always in the background filling up the little free time I had. I would read on bus trips, and most of the time during lunch. I can recall many times getting yelled at to turn off my flashlight and go to sleep on the bus rides home from games and competitions.

The summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, Mr.Hubenthal retired from coaching. I was beyond shocked, and didn’t know what I would do without my coach to guide me through the rest of my high school career. He had always been there to talk to and encouraged me to keep reading. He once told me that one day maybe I should write a book about all the books I had read on our bus trips. I shrugged it off and didn’t think about it for a long time to come. Mr.Hubenthal introduced me to Mr.Hoover. Mr.Hoover was a basketball coach that worked for D-ONE camps and Rick Mount Shooting School. I attended the shooting school and team camp that year with Mr.Hubenthal for his last hoorah of coaching us. At the end of the camps, I was asked to return the next summer to help coach and referee at the smaller kids’ camps. To this day I can still shoot in the same form I was taught at those camps. Back to the point, while at shooting camp we were told to go to a happy place and think of only it while shooting free throws. I thought of books and stories that I had read while I shot for hours upon hours.

The fall of my junior year the new basketball and soccer coach came to our school. I disliked the man personally, but respected him for the position he held. We shall call him Coach S. I had been taught to respect my coaches and teachers, and so I did just that. The next two years of sports were the most trying times of my life up to that point. I was run until I puked, told I needed to lose weight and that I needed to improve my attitude. I was the scapegoat for both teams, and felt it every day for two years. Did I forget to mention that Coach S. made me choose between sports and band? Well he did, and I chose sports. I missed it the instant I turned in my Baritone Saxophone.

On October 11, 1998 I had come home from a rough basketball practice and jumped onto our family’s first computer. This was the time of dial-up kiddies, and when chat rooms still ruled instead of Instant Messaging. I met a nice guy in a random chat room and we talked about music until I had to go to bed. We exchanged emails and I hoped that I would hear from him soon. I woke up the next morning with an email in my inbox from him. For the next ten months he was the person I would get the most support from, besides my family. See this guy was in Korea with the Army. So, when I was going to bed he was just waking up and vice versa. He was the first person I talked to in the morning, and the last person I talked to at night, when he wasn’t in the field. Without this amazing guy there to vent my frustrations to, I probably wouldn’t have made it through the last two years of high school without hurting myself. I wrote to him every day and mailed them to him weekly. Then I found out he was coming back to the states. I never felt happier in my life.

Soccer and basketball season went by faster than I ever imagined they would my senior year. I had many disagreements with Coach S. but I continued living my life the way I thought was best for me and my future. I was engaged by Thanksgiving, and soon began looking into several colleges. The University of Louisville caught my eye. I spoke with my fiancé and he told me no matter where I decided to go, he would be there to support me every step of the way. At graduation he yelled, “I Love You, Nikki!”, as I walked past him. I was on the top of the world. No matter what the future held, I knew that I would always have him. I was accepted to the University of Louisville and would play soccer for them in the fall. Everything was going grandly, and I remember thinking . . . this is how it should be. Coach S. tried to ruin everything at every opportunity. Besides his negativity and attempts to break us up we were married on July 22, 2000. I began practices in August and soon realized that although soccer had been a passion of mine in the past, it no longer made me happy. Another factor is that I was not being utilized as promised, and the financial aid that had also been promised never came my way, I made one of the hardest decisions ever and quit the soccer team and college.

This was the first time I had ever given up on something because I felt useless and like I didn’t belong. I soon began doubting myself in everything I did. I read all the time because it was the way to escape into some other place, and truthfully it made me happy. Being an Army wife and being away from my family was harder than I ever thought. Without my passions to keep me busy, I soon lost all of my self-confidence. This was in 2000, and until recently I thought I would never get it back.

In 2003 I became pregnant, only to find out that my husband would be deploying to Iraq. We found out on Valentine’s Day, and I was five months pregnant and we were living in Colorado. On March 20th, 2003, which just so happened to be my 21st birthday, my husband left for his first tour of duty. I moved back in with my parents, and on June 23 my baby boy was born. This was the first time in a long time I had felt truly passionate about something. I was the only one there for our baby to rely on. Hubby returned for his mid-tour leave four months later, and brought with him the beginning of our family nickname, the Moose’s. But I will save that story for a later post.

In 2008 I received a phone call from Iraq. My husband was on his third deployment and had just received news about his next duty station. We were moving to Youngstown, Ohio. After three deployments, my hubby would finally be home for longer than a year, close to his family, and I would be able to go back school. In 2009 we moved into our current house, and I began college all over again. I first started out thinking, well I was a clumsy jock, and maybe I could excel in the physical therapy program. That was soon proven very wrong by my hatred for Biology. I did horrible in the classes, and hated the brashness of the faculty.

The silver lining was that I was finally finding my stride and truly enjoyed my composition courses. By the end of my second semester in college, I had changed my major to Professional Writing & Editing. I loved doing all the essays, and decided I would give the Intro to Fiction class a shot. My first day in that class, I knew I was where I belonged. Master Christopher Barzak walked in the room and introduced himself and outlined what we would be doing in the course. (I call him Master, because I am big on titles of respect, but calling him Mr. just doesn’t seem enough. And calling him Dr, wasn’t the right term either. Since he has an MFA, I began calling him Master) My writing was horrible, but I loved every second of it. I created a story about Diana, a bad ass woman who had her family torn away from her by things, creatures in the shadows that no one could explain. It was bad, but every step of the process Master Barzak was there with encouragement and tips on how to make it better.

I continued writing during winter break and had a semester off from work shopping. During this semester I met Dr. Rebecca Barnhouse. She was my professor for Literary Studies. Even though most of the content was dry and boring, she found ways to keep me intrigued and to challenge me. I signed up for her fiction workshop during the fall semester and that is where I found my niche. Dr.Barnhouse ran her workshop on Young Adult fiction. We could write in whatever style we wanted, but it had to be in the Young Adult genre. I asked so many questions, I sometimes perceived myself as a 5 yr. old in a 29 yr. olds body. But not once did Dr.Barnhouse get frustrated or push me away. She directed me to websites that could help with research, and even suggested books for me to read different points of view. I felt at home in the English Department and knew I had made the right decision. Not only did I have one person to help guide me along, I now had two. This past spring semester I took another fiction workshop with Master Barzak. I continued working on my YA novel and received more feedback and direction from Barzak and Barnhouse.

Recently, I have been researching MFA programs. I will be moving to Washington in 2013 and have been looking in that area. Not only have I asked more than enough questions from these two, but they have never once pushed me aside, and really care about my future and what is best for me as not only a writer, but as a person. They want me to be successful, and this has made me more confident in myself. They don’t treat me as a number or like I am below them. I am treated as an individual, as someone who matters. I can’t begin to thank them enough for their help and guidance in this path I have chosen. I hope to always have them on my side and always there to talk things through with.  They have helped reignite the spark for my passion, and that is books and writing. I hope to present them one day with a finished manuscript, or even with my first rejection letter. I couldn’t be where I am today without their help, and for this I am eternally grateful.

By the way, they are both published writers. You should look them both up and read their stuff. It is spectacular.

Christopher Barzak

Rebecca Barnhouse

Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Novels, the current rage in Young Adult Lit

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Dystopian and post-apocalyptic mean the same thing to me. Both are the after-math of some great catastrophe, which is the end of life as we know it presently. Although many authors have been writing about these issues in adult novels for decades, the Young Adult genre is overflowing with them now. This is not to say that there have not been dystopic YA novels in the past, but if you look closely at the most popular YA Lit novels right now you will see that they have taken over the top spots on the  best sellers list.

What comes to mind when you think of post-apocalyptic America? Do you see war, plagues, droughts, floods, or just mass death? I personally have no definitive answer to this question. My thoughts change as the war goes on and as new sicknesses arise. What world will my son live in when he is my age, and what about his children? The following novels may give you a few ideas about how the world may turn out. Each one has a realistic vibe, and a possibility of happening. Maybe civilization would be a little more cautious in how we handle one another if they looked closely into the YA novels of today.

*** WARNING — SPOILER ALERTS THROUGHOUT BLOG. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THESE NOVELS, YOU MAY WANT TO SKIP THIS POST ***

The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins

The first book in the trilogy is The Hunger Games, which was first published by Scholastic Books on September 14, 2008.  This novel was originally aimed at middle grade to high school students, but recently has crossed over into the adult sector of interest. The second novel is Catching Fire published September 1, 2009, and the third and final novel in the series is Mockingjay published August 24, 2010. This series was later picked up by Lionsgate to be made into a movie, and the first one was released on March 23, 2012.

Katniss Everdeen is the sixteen-year-old main character whose voice and story we follow throughout the entire series. The world of Panem is where America once was united as a country. During this novel we learn that there was a great war, and that now the country is divided into districts. Each district is a representative of the resources we get from them in current or past times. This novel carries heavy political tones, and is a great reminder of why we have a democratic society today. 

Map of Panem

The Hunger Games begins in District 12, which today is the Appalachian mountain region of America. The citizens of District 12 are said to be dark-haired, with grayish blue eyes, and all have a rough lifestyle of working in the coal mines, or maintaining those who do work in them. Katniss is one of two girls, living with their widowed mother, struggling to survive day to day. Katniss goes outside of the fence to hunt and gather daily to help her family survive. In the first chapter we meet Gale, Katniss’ partner in hunting, who is eighteen, and soon to be of age to work in the mines. They both have to hunt and gather for their families, and Gale openly despises the Capitol.

We are introduced to the concept of “reaping day” immediately. Reaping Day is when the tributes (12-18 year old girls and boys) are lined up in the town square for the Hunger Games tribute drawing. One girl and one boy are drawn out of a large glass bowl to see who will represent their district in the Games. The Hunger Games is the Capitol’s way of showing the districts that they are still in control, and to remind them of the up-rise or “The Dark Days” that happened and that can never happen again. Twelve districts remained after the uprising while the thirteenth was destroyed by the Capitol’s army. The Hunger Games consist of 24 tributes thrown together in a controlled outside environment, to fight their way to victory. The worst part, is that only one person can win the games, and therefore must kill everyone else to succeed.

Each tribute’s name is added once if they are twelve, twice if they are thirteen, and so on until the age of eighteen. The catch to this is that if you choose to take a tesserae (one person’s year supply of oil and grain) your name is entered once more. The more tesseraes you take, the more times your name is entered in the Reaping. The year that this is taking place is during the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss has been entered twenty times and Gale’s name has been entered forty-two times.

At the town square we are introduced to Haymitch Abernathy, District 12’s only living Games winner, and Effie Trinket, District 12’s “manager” of tributes. Effie begins her speech and drawing of the tribute names by saying, “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!” (17). Effie announces ladies’ first and then pulls out a name. She announces Primrose Everdeen, which is Katniss’ twelve-year-old sister, and immediately Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place. After a bit of a commotion, the crowd grows silent and takes their three middle fingers on their left hand, touches them to their lips, and then holds them towards her (21).  This is an old tradition that is rarely used, it means thanks, admiration, and goodbye to a loved one. *remember this gesture*

Next the boy tribute is chosen, and it is Peeta Mellark, the Baker’s boy. Katniss has a brief flash back, which fills us in on how she knows Peeta. He saved her life once by giving her bread, and another time by offhandedly reminding her that dandelion greens are edible and that other plants can help feed her family if she finds them. Back to the current time and Peeta and Katniss are taken to the Justice Building and put into separate rooms.  Family members and friends are allowed to visit briefly, and Katniss’ mom and sister come to visit first. In this meeting Katniss reminds her mother to stay present, and to not fade away like she did when father died. She tells Prim how to make money off of her goat, and to not worry about her. Katniss then promises to Prim that she will, “really, really try. I swear it” (29).

Next the Baker visits and gives her a package of cookies, and then says he will keep an eye on Prim for her and make sure she is eating. This relieves Katniss, and makes this “experience” a little easier. The Baker leaves and the next guest is Madge, the mayor’s daughter. She asks Katniss to wear a golden pin, a bird, and the fixes it to her dress. Madge asks for her to wear it in the arena, and then asks if Katniss promises, she agrees and Madge leaves. Next visitor is Gale, he hugs her, and then tells her to get a knife, and to make a bow. No matter what the conditions are, there will be wood. They are interrupted by the Peacekeepers and she yells to Gale to take care of her family, he replies but is cut off.

Next, Katniss and Peeta take a short cart ride to the train, and she is thankful for not crying, the TV cameras are everywhere and she does not want to present herself as week to the rest of Panem. However, Peeta is sniveling like a baby for all to see. Once upon the train and it begins to move, the story of Katniss’ struggle truly begins.

*I will break from the story-telling here and let you read the rest if you are interested. Collins has done a phenomenal job of setting up the mood of this world, and letting us all feel what Katniss is feeling. As the story continues, the world building is done so amazingly I felt as if I was in Katniss’ shoes. The food, the prepping, and the people of the Capitol are all described in great detail. While Collins has set up this world in the future, she has also made it realistic in how the people react to the Games. My favorite part about this series is how even after the United States has crumbled and Panem has reformed in its place, where there is still a strong sense of regionalism. The speech of each district is noted, and so are the habits of the tributes.

Collins has made this a believable dystopian world, which could indeed happen if the fighting and weather keep going as they are now. Collins says that her major influences for this series were the War on Iraq and one of the reality survival shows. She blended these two elements together and created this possibility of political control and lack of free speech. I suggest reading this book every few years as you age, and reevaluating the messages being told. I feel that this series is great for all ages, and as younger kids grow up they will see a difference in their opinion about it.*

May the odds be ever in your favor!

The Divergent Trilogy –

Veronica Roth

The first book in this series is Divergent, which was first published by Katherine Tegen Books, which is a small division of Harper Collins, on May 3, 2011. The second book, Insurgent, is being release on May 1, 2012. The third book is not named as of yet, but is due to be published in 2013. This series has also been picked up by Summit Entertainment to be made into a movie series.  Just like The Hunger Games, this novel has become a cross-over novel from YA to the adult sector of interest.

Beatrice Prior is the sixteen-year-old narrator and main character of Divergent. We meet her on the morning of the aptitude test that will determine which faction she “belongs” to. On Choosing Day, the sixteen-year-olds will choose which faction they will initiate into and possibly become a member of. If they fail the initiation they will become “Factionless” and must go live with the rest of the “Factionless”.

In order to understand the aptitude test and Choosing day, I must familiarize you with the concept of factions. After a great uprising between the populations in the past, the nation has elected a board, and divided the nation into five factions.(The interesting part about this setting is that it is in Chicago, so technically it is a city within a fence. Nothing is said about what is outside the fence as of yet.) They are listed below with some of their traits.

Abnegation – the selfless – this reminds me of the Mennonite or Amish in the United States.

Amity – the peaceful – I don’t recall much discussion of this faction, hopefully more will be discussed in Insurgent

Candor – the honest – these people are brutally honest and do not lie, even to protect other’s feelings.

Dauntless – the brave – this faction reminds me of the alternative community, such as hardcore rockers and the X-games community.

Erudite – the intelligent – this faction is the educated, like the librarians and the scholarly of the nation.

Beatrice was born into the Abnegation faction, and feels like she hasn’t always belonged. Her brother, Caleb, seems to be the perfect Abnegation member, and is always correcting her on her actions. Caleb and Beatrice both go through the aptitude test, and have very different results. When Beatrice is given her test, she has “inconclusive” readings, and is told to keep quiet about her results. She is “Divergent” and this is considered dangerous during their times. Beatrice’s father is one of the council members, which are the leaders of each community.

When Caleb and Beatrice both choose to leave the Abnegation faction, all hell begins to break loose. Caleb chose Erudite, and Beatrice chose Dauntless. Both must go through an initiation process and the first one for the Dauntless is to jump onto a moving train. Once in the Dauntless sector all faction members must jump from the moving train over a gap and land on top of a tall building. After landing on the building the only way to go down is another leap of faith. Beatrice jumps first and lands in the large net at the bottom. This allows her to choose her own name and she decides to be called Tris.

If you are interested in the rest of the story, I suggest you pick up this novel and read the entire thing.

Veronica Roth has done a great job at creating a post-war society that may indeed collapse upon itself again. I could see this also happening to our society, but hopefully our world won’t come to this. This was another case of a previous war deciding the fates of the next generations. This book can be a handy look into another possibility of how the government can be wrong about segregation.

The Legend Trilogy –

Marie Lu

The first book in this trilogy is Legend by Marie Lu, published by Putnam Children’s (Penguin Group), and released on November 29, 2011. The second book in this trilogy is Prodigy and will release sometime in 2013. This book has also been purchased to be made into a movie by CBS Films. This novel has not made as big as an impression on the adult community as it has on the YA community, but I personally loved every minute of this novel.

Legend is a dystopian novel that is set in Los Angeles told from two different characters point of view. Each chapter switches who is telling the story, and from one side of the war to another. The war is fought here in America after it has divided into two prominent regions. June and Day are both15-years-old, and fight for what they believe is right. It just so happens that June is on the wealthy, “privileged” side of the war, training to fight for the Republic, while Day is the country’s most wanted criminal.

Day’s family is in a poor sector of town and he looks over them from a rooftop. He no longer lives with them because of a past event, but still secretly gives his family money, food and medicine when possible. He has a female companion that helps him throughout the entire book. Neither are aligned with the Colonies, but both despise the Republic. Day is thought to be a ruthless criminal, but no one is able to point out what exactly he looks like.

June is the daughter of a former scientist, and she resides with her only living relative, her brother Metias. He is an officer in the Republic Army,and gets killed during a confrontation with Day. June is attending the academy that trains the highly intelligent on how to become officers and other skilled Republic Army minions. June is the smartest, fastest, and youngest Cadet in training,Unbeknownst to anyone, June becomes a special agent, after her brother is killed, and starts tracking Day, going undercover, in the outer cities of the Republic.

The two end up finding each other, and find out some secrets about the plague that has been migrating around the outer cities of the Republic.

These two, although from different sides of the war front, join forces against the Republic. June has many inner struggles to fight against, and must reevaluate everything she has been taught, and the life she lives. By learning to trust in Day, June becomes a force to be reckoned with. Day must also reevalate his beliefs, and often reveals the truth about the Republic to June.

This novel has a fast pacing story, and I didn’t want to put it down once I had started. Not only does this novel discuss the bad sides of war, but it also ties in one aspect of plague. With the government having complete control over the Center for Disease Control, this could be a possibility, paranoid albeit, but a real possibility. I suggest anyone who is interested in dystopias and government corruption should read this book.

Starters Series –

Lissa Price

The last series I will discuss is by Lissa Price. The first book in the series, Starters, is published by Random House Children’s Books, and was released on March 13, 2012. The second and last book in the series, Enders, will be released later this year.

This novel begins with the introduction of Enders and Starters through Callie Woodland’s point of view. Society, in America, has been wiped out by a plague that had a vaccination, but only the privileged, elderly and children received. This has caused a significant amount of parentless children, who if not claimed by a relative, end up in the custody of the government. Callie and Tyler, her brother, have been squatting with a neighbor of theirs, Michael.

The first chapter introduces an agency called Prime Destinations. This agency secretly links elderly people with the unclaimed teenagers brains and bodies. The Enders can rent the Starters bodies for a high dollar amount for a month at a time.  This is possible because both participants have a surgery that implants a device in their brains. The Ender’s body remains at Prime Destinations while they are able to take the Starter’s bodies out and continue experiencing life. The reason this company has come to be is because the life expectancy has extended, which has left many physically unable Enders who have the active minds and wants of the Starters.

With technology advancing, as fast as it is, this is a possibility for the future of Americans. To be able to walk around in someone else’s body, only linked by a transmitter in their brain, is rather scary. The fact that the plague is no longer around is another consideration of how the government may have used it to clear out the over population of the nation. This could be seen as a survival of the fittest type evolution, where only the strong survive the plague, even though vaccinations were distributed through the creator of the plague. Read this novel to find out more, I don’t want to spoil the twists and turns because believe me, they are totally worth reading on your own.

I chose this current events topic because I am very interested in the Young Adult genre, as well as the latest trends in all of literature. Dystopian and Post- Apocalyptic themes have become the most recent rage on TV, in the movies, and even in music.

Tech Blog

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Have you ever wanted to play a game really late at night, but don’t want to disturb anyone else in your home? Have you ever had problems hearing the characters dialogue or want to hear the score more than the gameplay? A stereo headset may be the best option for you. I am going to compare five different headsets, and inform you on the pros and cons of them all. I play exclusively on the Xbox 360, but all of the stereo headsets can be used on different consoles and the PC unless otherwise noted.

Being a hardcore gamer, I am very concerned about hearing exactly what is going on around me, in the game. I have played in several tournaments and without a stereo headset, it is almost impossible to hear your game over your teammates. The crowd is always loud, and if you are in a big facility the sounds can echo and make hearing anything besides the noise impossible.  The first tournament I went to was, the WCG (World Championship of Gaming) in Dallas, Texas. This was a large tournament and covered several games including Gears of War, which, I competed in. The first match was a huge shock to me. I had played at home in online tournaments and could turn up the TV to hear all of the surroundings. During this first match I learned quickly why exactly I needed a stereo headset. Not only would it drown out the crowds cheering, for or against us, but it also helps you hear the environment of the game.

 

I hope that the comparisons below will help you in selecting the appropriate headset for your style of gaming. I will assign a rating system of stars (*) from 1-5.

The first headset I ever used was the standard Xbox 360 headset,which comes with the system.It is a one eared, monophonic, wired headset. A replacement one costs around $20. You can wear this headset on either ear, and simply swivel the microphone to the desired position. This comes in handy for when you want to eat and not remove your headset. The microphone stem is flexible and can be manipulated closer or further away from your mouth. The first generation of this headset was white and now they are black. As well as being a low-priced headset, it is also light and can sometimes even be forgotten.

This headset is great for children and casual gamers because it does the job it was designed for, to hear friends or opponents speak. You can communicate with teammates and hear their responses, most of the time. The gameplay and narration is not heard through this headset, but for its price, it is nice to have around as an emergency device or for the casual or introductory gamer. This headset has been put through the child abuse test, and sadly, it fails miserably. The “child abuse test” is the daily use by my 8 and a half year-old-son. He is very hard on all of his stuff, especially electronics. He has been through five of these headsets in the past 8 months. I give this headset two stars (**), because it is usable, cheap, and does its intended purpose. However, it is not durable, nor does it have the best sound quality.

The next headset I tried was the Xbox 360 wireless/ Bluetooth headset. It has the same capabilities as the standard wired headset, but is wireless, sits on your ear, and can be synced to your mobile device as well as your Xbox. This headset is available for $49.99, at most major retailers.  Like the standard headset you can wear it on either ear, and the microphone is integrated into the design, therefore it does not need to be moved closer or further away from your mouth to eat or be heard.  It is convenient to have around as an emergency back-up for your stereo headset, and it is considerably lighter than most of them.

The cons to this headset are that it does not play any game sounds through your ear, it needs charged after eight hours of usage, and as it is more frequently used it will need charged more often. Another con is that it can only be synched to one system at a time and can cut out if there is any other devices around it. It has also been known to cut in and out when it is low on charge. I know that my cellphone makes mine cut out frequently, I have even tried leaving my phone in the other room, but every time it rings or receives a message it will cut out. This headset also receives two stars because of the basic capabilities and sound quality. The Bluetooth capabilities added a star to my initial rating, but because of the sound quality, it still gets a low rating, two stars, but three stars total (after Bluetooth is added). (***)

My first stereo headset that I tried is made by Turtle Beach. This headset, the Ear Force XL1, is a wired, Xbox 360 specific, two-eared ball and chain.

By this, I mean I was stuck in one spot and could not roam the house as I had done with the Xbox 360 wireless headset. The ability to shut out the world and hear only the game was awesome. I could also hear my friends in the headset, but adjusting the game sounds and chat audio is not as easy as it should be. Finding the right mix of game and audio sound with only one toggle switch was nearly impossible, and often times I became frustrated enough to only use this headset when playing by myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong, hearing the game in both ears was phenomenal. I could finally play at night without waking my son or husband (I am a night owl and find that I get much more done at night, and I am much happier when the sun is down). I could also hear if someone was walking up behind me or coming from a particular direction, in the game.

(Enter back story: The first night I had my Turtle Beaches, I was alone playing at my brother’s apartment. He was supposed to be at work, and I was playing Gears of War 2 with my team. I was involved in the game so much that I did not even hear Christopher enter his apartment. I get chainsawed, and then tapped on the shoulder. I scream, like a little girl, and he laughs, so hard, that tears stream down his face.)

But, unfortunately, the short cord and lack of audio adjustment, plus the poor construction caused me to toss this headset aside when it fell apart after a month’s use. The microphone became full of static and caused feedback that was unavoidable. The ear pads also fell off, and were unable to be fixed.

The customer service line I called was very rude, and I was unable to get a free replacement. I was to pay for the repairs and shipping. This was not going to happen, so I threw the headset away and returned to using my wireless headset. Apparently, this headset did not need the child abuse test because I broke it, and I am a 30 year old woman. I give these headsets 3 stars (***) because of the sound quality and for beginners or casual gamers this would be the perfect starter headset.

The next headset that I tried was the Tritton Trigger headset. This headset is an upgrade from the Turtle Beaches and retails for $39.99 at Best Buy. This headset is also made exclusively for the Xbox 360. There are other models of Trittons, that you can  purchase, that are not Xbox specific, for example they can be used with the Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and even your MP3 players. We purchased this headset for my son because he had already used the standard and wireless Xbox 360 headsets. He always stated that he could never hear his friends, or the game dialogue, without turning his headset and TV all the way up.

The main complaint that I have with this headset is once again the volume adjustment dials. I believe that you should be able to adjust the amount of game sound and speech sounds separately. This seems to also be the same problem my son is having. As we all know, kids tend to talk louder and longer than normal. The volume level needed for the kids to communicate with one another, and not blow each other’s ear drums out, was hard to obtain and still be able to hear the game sound.

Overall, this headset cancels out more sounds than the Turtle Beaches, and the ear pieces can rotate to accommodate the spaces between the ear and the earpieces. The headband is also adjustable, but sometimes does not lay flat on the top of smaller or larger heads. The Trittons have also been put through the child abuse test and so far have survived two months of daily use. This headset in my opinion receives 3 stars (***) because the volume controls are not separate, otherwise this headset would receive 4 stars.

The last headset I have tried, which is still my current headset,  are the Astro A40s. I ordered the Astro A40 Audio System after an especially frustrating night of clan matches. I was tired of being snuck up on, and unable to hear if a clay-more was being planted, or a grenade was being thrown. The most frustrating thing, was when I would play Call of Duty and the opposing team would walk inside of buildings. I could not tell if they were inside, outside, above, or below me. I had heard rave reviews from my clan mates and decided it was time to take the leap.

There is something you must understand when looking into the pricing of Astros. The price reflects the durability, quality, and longevity of the headset. The headsets ($199.99) are of great quality, but when combined with the mix-amp the sound quality and adjust-ability is unparalleled. The mix-amp is what allows you the capabilities to adjust not only the game sound and voice chat sounds, but it also clarifies and amplifies both sound qualities.

The A40 wired Audio System is $249.99 and the wireless Audio System is $279.99. This price includes the headset with one set of speaker tags, a boom microphone, a mix-amp (wired or wireless), and the connectors to use with the PC, Xbox, PS3 or MP3 players. When using the headset with your MP3 player, you will  not need to use the mix-amp.  The microphone is removable and can be used on either side of the head, depending on your own personal preference. The ear pads are also removable and can be replaced as well. The headband is adjustable and sits snugly on your head; even with long hair, it does not slide off during play.

I took my A40s out on campus one day, and even though I got strange stares (this was before the Dr.Dre Beats headsets came out) I could not hear anything besides the lovely sounds of the Vitamin String Quartet. The noise cancellation is remarkable and once again I have been scared by people who love me, because they can, when the Astros are on.

The headsets also come with a hard case, so when traveling you don’t have to tangle your cords up and wrap them around the headset. Another cool thing is that you can customize the speaker tags, and order different editions of headbands. The different colors available are white,black, red, blue, military green, and the Saints Row editions are purple and baby blue. Speaker Tags are the little plates that are attached to the side of your headphones by four tiny magnets. The tags help with the noise cancellation, and also add to the personalization of the headsets. I ordered my husband tags that reflect his rank and vehicle he uses in the military, I will soon be ordering my own that will have a moose on one side and my name on the other.

The most amazing thing about this brand of headsets is that they have other sizes. If you would rather have an on the ear headset or an inner ear headset, you just need to choose the A30s or the A*Star In-Ear Headset. Everything besides the Speaker Tags is interchangeable between the A40s and the A30s. The wires, microphones and mix-amps can be used easily between the two and the mix-amp can also be used with the A*Stars if so desired.

These headsets have NOT been through the child abuse test, and I will not be allowing him to touch them. These wonderful pillows of sound fit perfectly on my head and I do not want the sweaty boy germs all over them. I give all of the Astros, but especially the A40s, 5 out of 5 stars (*****).

If I have not answered all of the possible questions in the above comparison, leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I find out the answer. Thank you for reading my comparisons and game on!

I’m a little addicted to thrones

Hello, world. How is your weekend going so far? Mine is starting of in the regular way. Homework while watching/listening to Game of Thrones. That’s right, every weekend since the last season ended I have watched Game of Thrones OnDemand.

See, the thing about this show is that I am not sure whose story I am rooting for. who do I want to win this war, and should I even be cheering for a specific family when “Winter is Coming”. I can’t help to cheer for the Starks because I feel like I would be a Northerner as well. I was on King Robert’s side until that boar ruined everything. Cersei is a conniving bitch whose head should be on a spike. Sansa is supposed to the peaceweaver, and join the North and the South, but she learns how cruel being a Queen can be. Then the most interesting people to follow are Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s marriage, to again join two kingdoms into one so they can take back over the Iron Throne.

I believe the most mysterious part of this is Jon’s story. The Wall is supposed to be a place of boredom and despair, but it has recently become one of the most important defensive barriers against the mythical White Walkers. I am so intrigued by Ghost, Sam, and Jon’s relationship with the Master of the Wall.

I want it to be Sunday, everyday! Winter is Coming. . .

 

Now that Sunday has passed, and I watched the season premiere, I am super excited for the rest of the season. War is coming and from the flashes to other episodes, I cannot wait to see how the grittiness is depicted.

March Madness Baby!!!

 

 

 

It is the most amazing time of the year again, March Madness. Ever since I can remember, my dad, brother, and I all filled in our own bracket and bet the winner a pint of custard from Sycamore’s. The women’s bracket was bet on a drink from Happy Burger. Sycamore is a family owned, frozen custard stand in my hometown of Logansport, Indiana. Happy Burger is another family owned local restaurant in Logansport. The best part about this time of year is that everyone is focused on the 104 teams (52 each gender) competing for the crown of National Champion.

The sound of a single ball bouncing,as the lights come on, in the gym, on a Saturday morning used to be my favorite sound. The smell of fresh leather basketballs and the squeak of new shoes is what Winter has meant to me since I was in third grade. Now, since I am older and unable to play anymore, I favor the sound of a good announcer and the crowd. Anyways, I have gotten off topic again.

The point of this post is to talk about the brackets and how the technology has evolved in tracking it.

ESPN and Yahoo were the first big successful bracket options when the brackets came to the Internet. Before that we used newspapers and magazine pull-outs to record our answers on. When my husband and I were first dating he joined in the fun and we had to fill in his brackets over the phone because of the distance issue. But now the Internet has helped us have our family tournaments from afar.Now with twitter, ESPN’s ticker may not be the most up-to-date way of following a game without actually watching it. Each step forward we take in technology has helped us communicate with one another more easily, but has also allowed us to remain in our own reclusive homes as well.

If I could, I would spend the entire tournament time going from city to city watching the best games and updating all my family and followers. Technology is a wonderful gift and we should all use it to our advantage, reporting scores and fouls as they happen!