#Reblogging @rainyofthedark


Guest Post: 3 Reasons Your Villain Should be Both Scary and Endearing (via Rainy of the Dark)

Any great storyteller knows that they key to an exciting narrative is the creation of conflict. When you’re writing a suspenseful or scary story, this conflict often comes in the form of a villain, either real or fictionalized, that must be defeated or brought to justice. Pick any crime or suspense…


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What to Buy for a Baby Shower

I bet you thought you’d never see that on this blog. Well, I have an opinion on the subject. You see, I have been a guest at baby showers. I have had baby showers organized on my behalf. I have spent quite a bit of time with a young child in the past few years. And I just happened to go to a baby shower this weekend, so the topic is floating near the top of my brain.

The purpose of a shower…wedding, baby, etc…is to give people new to the game a head start. So, if you have been invited to a shower, or maybe just know a pregnant woman and you’d like to get her a gift, please do the following:

  1. Check the websites of major big box retailers in your area. Walmart, Target, Babys’R’Us all have gift registries, and if she’s registered, they will tell you exactly what she needs, and what other people have already given her.
  2. Ignore the clothes and blankets.

And now…(cracks knuckles)…I will happily explain why.

There is this phenomenon that affects the female consumer called “Cute Factor.” Marketers are well aware of it. You combine Brand New Baby with Cute Factor, and most women will throw their shopping savvy, their deductive reasoning, and a good portion of their awareness of time and space right on the floor. Newborn clothing is adorable, even more so when it’s girl clothes, and there’s all that lace, and satin, and cute little stitching on smocked bodices, and…STOP IT RIGHT THERE!

Please gather your misplaced faculties, and for the love of all that is holy, walk away from the clothes.

$10 at Kohl’s ($20 MSRP)

But babies need clothes, you say. Of course they do. And every other baby-drunk woman that knows the expectant mother is thinking the exact same thing. “OMG! That is SO CUTE! And it’s only $10!” This invariably results in said expectant mother going home from her baby shower with a dozen cute newborn outfits  just like this one that her child may wear once, if at all.

What?

Babies grow very fast. In fact, if the child has a birth weight over eight pounds, he’s already outgrown his newborn clothes.  Add in the fact that he needs to eat every two hours, may be colicky at night, and in between feedings, changings, snuggling, and pacing floors, Mom has to find sometime to eat, sleep, and bathe herself. How many excursions warranting super cute outfits do you think mom’s going to feel like making in the first month? Church…there’s four at most. Studio portraits…one or two outfits, and many babies are now posing for those naked. The family may wish to skip much more than these outings, simply to avoid unnecessarily exposing their newborn to germs.

Aside from that, think for a moment about the baby. She’s the one who has to wear the clothes after all. She’s just spent nine months nestled in warm, soft mommy. And you want to put lace on her because it’s cute? Many mothers find it more convenient to keep them in onesies. (Buy those…in 3-6 or 6-8 month sizes. Mom will thank you!)

If you really want to buy cute clothes and help mom, buy 12-month or larger sizes. There are two reasons for this. Again, the child is going to grow very fast, which requires mom to purchase clothes to replace the baby shower gifts the child has grown out of.  Secondly, during the first year, baby is going to be teething, which may result is a WHOLE LOT OF DROOLING. Bibs are worn by many infants all day long to keep the moisture off of their clothes and skin. Anything cute on a top or onsie is going to be covered.  (If you want to personalize something…do the bib, not the onesie/top.)

D’s has 7. They’re his blankie-friends.

Blankets…same thing. There’re a lot of cute blankets out there. I have an entire box of blankets that I never used with my son because I was given so many of them. The ones that he is now clinging to as “friends” are waffle-textured receiving blankets. Mom will pick a few favorites. The rest may never see use.

So, what are great baby shower gifts?

Diapers. Babies go through diapers like mad, and they’re expensive. Find out what mom’s diapering preference is (which you may be able to figure out from the registry) and help get her stocked up.

All it’s missing is a bow!

Formula. Mom may have registered for a breast pump and all of the accessories. She may be planning to breastfeed. If it falls through, she will likely be an emotional wreck. Give her a bottle of liquid Similac with a card that says, “Just in case.” If she gets home from the hospital, and the baby won’t latch, she’ll have formula pre-mixed and ready to go. Enfamil has cases of glass bottles and disposable nipples which are great for newborns.

Crib Bedding. Sheets and mattress covers. Having a few sets will keep laundry from being an emergency activity.

Feeding/Playing/Other Gear. Bottles, sippy cups, snack cups, utensils. High chairs. Bumbo seats. Boppy pillow. Saucer toy. Jumper toy. Floor mats. Balls. Blocks. These are all things that Mom and baby will have a use for sooner or later.

Books.  Like baby clothes, board books are very inexpensive if you are buying one. And like clothes, mom may be buying more than one, which adds up.  Use a board book instead of a card with your baby shower gift. Write a message for the baby inside for him to read when he’s older.

Bath/Skin Care/Medicine. Babies will have gas, fevers, diaper rash, and runny noses. Mom will want to take them outside walks. They will need baths. Get Mom gas drops, Baby Motrin AND Tylenol (for fever maintenance, it’s sometimes necessary to alternate), Benadryl, saline drops (for noses), sunscreen, baby wash. For diaper rash, I recommend whatever generic version of Aquaphor the store carries.

If you do a little thinking out of the box,  you can come up with a great baby shower gift that Mom will appreciate for months, even years. And you can give her something cute…just do it with the wrapping.

Lots of everyday stuff put together + basket & tulle = very cute.

Okay…opinion vented. I can now go back to writing…if my darling child will go the f#&% to sleep. 🙂

My #SixSunday RSS Feed Experiment

I try to simplify what I can. I also very much appreciate when people visit my blog and comment on my work. I believe in reciprocating, so when I post on Six Sentence Sunday, I have every intention of reading every single post. I comment. I share on Facebook and Twitter. I do my very best to interactive member of the community. The problem is…there are routinely 160+ posts on any given Sunday. That, my friends, is over a 1000 sentences. If each sentence has only three words…subject, predicate, direct object, we’re talking 3000 words. That’s a respectable short story. And certainly anyone can make time for a short story on Sunday, but…every one of these authors have educations higher than first grade.

That aside, there’s all that clicking, (some of these sights have adult content warnings, which is an additional click), and the back-buttoning. The reads are enjoyable, but the process of accessing all 168…I’m not married to it.

Fortunately, where there is RSS, there is a way out. Mine is called Reeder. (Click the photos below to view them larger.)

I woke up Sunday to 78 SSS posts to scroll through!

I spent a good deal of time last week subscribing to every working RSS feed for sites posted in the Six Sentence Sunday Linky Tool. (To give me a head start, I started collecting them on Tuesday night, so when I say it took days, you know what I mean.) Whenever the blogs are updated, the posts show up in my Reeder feed!

But, do I really want to do that every week? Not everyone posts every week. New people are joining, too. I’m going to miss stuff, right? Oh…I got that one figured out too.

On Saturday, I copied the Six Sunday Linky tool table, before it was replaced by the official list, and pasted it into Excel. (I did this before, not after, because sometimes the hyperlinks are removed before the official post. For instance, when a snippet contains more than six sentences…like mine did yesterday.) It’s likely that a post will still go up on Sunday, like mine did. And just like I want people to still read my snippet even though I can’t count to six, I still want to read what other people are posting! So…spreadsheet uses the before list, not after. I did some work with the data and got a nice, one column, alphabetized list of author blogs for the week. Next week, when the Linky Tool is closed, I can copy the new list and remove the duplicate names…giving me just the new names that I can then add them to Reeder*.

Also, I added all of the RSS feeds to one folder called Six Sentence Sunday, so that I can ignore my other feed folders and focus just on SSS posts. Reeder is installed on my iPhone, my iPad, and my laptop, so…I have access to posts, as well as everything else the writers are posting, literally everywhere I go. Morning commute, lunch breaks, doctors’ offices, restaurants, the bathroom…you get my point. I’m not tied to my computer to get them all read!

I can navigate Jo Ramsey’s blog from right here!

But, what about commenting? If I’m just reading the posts in Reeder, then I can’t leave comments, right? I’ll have to go to my web browser and go through the hassle of actually surfing the web anyway! Not at all. By clicking on the title of the post, Reeder loads the blog in the main window. I can comment, then click on the next post in the list and Reeder loads the post.

ITTT is a BIG button web automation tool!

I also use a site called If This, Then That to post my favorite blog posts to Twitter and my Facebook page. All I have to do is click a star icon, and at designated intervals, my favorites go up, complete with title, author, and link.

I’ll find out this Saturday how successful the Excel step is with identifying the new feeds to subscribe to, but I can say…so far, I’m very happy with Reeder and If This Then That.

*Reeder is for Mac only. If you’re a PC user, look for RSS feeds that will synch with Google reader and have apps for your mobile devices!