Soooooo, pandemic, anyone?

Why I haven’t been posting:

Just before the pandemic hit I was actually making good progress on Fur & Fangs and was on track to finish the last ten pages of chapter 1 in just a few months. But, like many people, the pandemic came and knocked me flat on my back as far as childcare goes.

I lost access to the Early-On Drop In I’d been going to to keep Squirt occupied while I worked on art and comics. She’s happy to do her own thing as long as there’s another adult in the room, but if the iPad Pro comes out she has to take it over and won’t let me draw. I still don’t think she’s old enough to set boundaries with it without a giant fight and many tears I currently don’t have energy to deal with, so my ability to art has been severely limited since March.

I’ve worked out a schedule with my hubby so that I get 8 hours a week with no toddler interference, but unfortunately most of it is getting spent on other important things I can’t do with Squirt around, like sewing repairs on clothes and finances and more, and sleep when I’m absolutely exhausted. Which is often. 

How you can help!

Right now when I can manage to art I’ve been working on making things I can put on merchandise and sell. So far all I have is a couple snarky mugs, but this week I should be receiving test prints on some t-shirts and if things go well then there will be a some new shirts going up in the near future!

If you want to buy anything from me then you should go check out my ETSY STORE! I’m working on getting help so that I can have more time to art and work on Fur & Fangs for all of you. If you’d like to help me out then please, please, please go check out my store and buy something from me! I will add more things as time goes by, so be sure to check up on it often! And if there’s any Fur & Fangs or other kinds of merchandise you’d like to see me make, just let me know in a comment or message.

OR go check out my PATREON! 😀 Every little bit helps.  

Hopefully things will be getting back on track here soon! Thank you so much for your patience and support. It means the world to me. <3

The Hidden Betrayal: A How To Train Your Dragon 3 Review

I LOVE the first two How to Train Your Dragon movies from DreamWorks and LOVE the TV series attached to them. Beatuiful animation, fantastic characters, fun stories, they have it all. Those characters and dragons have woven themselves into my mind and the very fabric of my being. I dream about them and try to push my own dragon designs farther because of them. I gave a glowing review of HTTYD 2 when it came out, and I was beyond excited for this third installment. Unable to see it in theaters due to a cross-country move and lack of money, I anxiously waited to finally see it on DVD.

I finally had that chance recently. These GIFS sum up how I felt about it pretty well:

I’m pretty worked up about it, which is an understatement.

I will admit that my toddler kept slapping my face through the whole thing which had me irritated, but overall the impression I got from HTTYD 3 was of underwhelment and then at the end, betrayal.

The story was mediocre. The antagonist weak. A sad small number of new dragon designs were introduced. The group dynamic and humor from the support characters was lacking and they didn’t get to shine.

There were some good things about it. The dragon’s hidden world was gorgeous. So was the viking’s new island they ended up at. The animation was brilliant and Toothless stole the show as always, but even that wasn’t as well done as the previous two films.

And I would have been able to accept all that if it hadn’t been for the ending.

DreamWorks and the HTTYD franchise has spent two movies, a few specials, and five seasons of TV shows telling us that humans and dragons can get along and it’s important to fight and protect them.

And then at the end of The Hidden World, they go and take that idea and:

Against all previous character development and world building the plot takes over and kicks the dragons out of the world.

This makes NO SENSE with the characters in what has been up to this point a strongly character-driven story. Yes, I agree that it was an important growth moment for Hiccup to give Toothless his freedom and come into his own as a chief and person. That was good. However Toothless and all the dragons leaving is so wrong. Those dragons and vikings have grown accustomed to living together. Neither Hiccup or Toothless lead them by mind control, so them just obeying and splitting up with no protest makes no sense. But most importantly the bond between Toothless and Hiccup is so great that even the Light Fury had to acknowledge it and chose to save Hiccup because of it. Hiccup is Toothless’s closest friend. Toothless has proven time and time again that their relationship is most important to him. He wouldn’t leave to NEVER return with some female night fury he just met. He might need some distance to keep his new woman happy and spend some time away once in a while, but he’d still be there for Hiccup. They’re two pieces of a whole. It’s just wrong.

I read in an article (that I managed to find and lose in the process of writing this post) that Dean DeBlois, the film’s directer, was thinking of this as a “call to the wild” story for Toothless, and that his animal instincts trump his relationships and its his inevitable destiny. I don’t like that. It debases the dragons and puts them at the level of animals when the previous entirety of the franchise has shown us that the dragons are, for the most part, a step above animals in cognitive ability–especially Toothless.

Then there’s also the character break in Hiccup at giving up entirely on helping dragons anymore. Sure his utopia might not be reasonable, but sending all the dragons he currently was protecting away to the hidden world means he has zero tools to continue to help and protect the dragons still out there in the world and send them off to safety. There is zero indication that he attempts in any way to fight for dragons from then on out. He completely gives up on an important core aspect of himself. Sure he can give Toothless freedom, but dooming the rest of the dragons left out there to the terrible humans goes completely against Hiccup’s morals and personality.

Another flaw in this ending is Hiccup’s decision to no longer fight to be an example to the world on what the world should be. How is he supposed to make the world safer and better for dragons like he says he will by kicking the dragons out of it? That’s the opposite of helping.

My hubby saw the ending kind of like a City of Enoch promise thing to help kids want to be better so the dragons can come back. That’s not how I see it. To me it’s more sinister. By ending the story this way we’re told humans are unworthy and incapable of accepting and living alongside those who are different. We shouldn’t bother to fight for what we believe in, or protect those who need to be protected, or even try to get along. We just need to send the troublesome different things away to fend for themselves. This concept even gets punched into the story directly with Grimmol’s, the antagonist’s, practically religious hatred of dragons and his little speech to Hiccup about how Hiccup’s ideas of dragons and humans living together are toxic and dangerous to society. Let’s stop and think about the weight of this for a moment. According to this line of thinking, anything and anyone that doesn’t fit in with the “society,” in our case typically privileged western white male-led America, should be cast out and ignored. That means women, people of color, LGBTQ+, disabled, refugees, etc. People with different opinions should stop fighting for them because there’s no hope and we shouldn’t bother trying to get along.

I hate it.

In fact, I’m so upset I don’t really even want to own the movie. I wanted to love this movie so bad, but then it went and stabbed me in the back.

If the ending had been just a little different I would have been so ecstatically happy. All it would have taken was Hiccup offering Toothless and the other dragons freedom, Toothless choosing to stay, and the dragons being allowed to leave as they please for the hidden world and/or stay to help with the dragon protection effort. That’s it. Or something along those lines, at least. Something that stayed true to the main characters and their morals and relationships.

Just because you decided to limit HTTYD to a trilogy doesn’t mean you have to send the dragons away at the end to prevent any more movies from being made about it, DreamWorks!

I’ve never liked fan-fiction and have always preferred to adhere to official canon. I’ve always thought people should go make their own stories and leave published media alone, or at least not change things that are clearly canon. I could understand little side stories that didn’t change anything about the actual published work but were just extensions of it. But I’ve never been blatantly betrayed by a major story before. Now I want to go rewrite the whole movie and make it right. I lament not being there to help save this story that is so precious to me from the story writers who broke it so badly and took from it what it could have been.

I won’t be writing corrective fan-fiction, though. I will just do my best to not ever betray my own readers so badly by breaking characters to serve the plot.

Overall I give The hidden word three out of five stars. Plus three for all the great animation and good moments, minus two for the weak story and bungling the end so bad.

New Site! Time to move the blog again.

Ta-da! I made myself a professional landing page on the interwebs for all things me. Art, writing, blogging, and the general mayhem of my life. I even managed to combine my life and writing advice blogs and move them over. Yay for consolidation! I’ve found if I spread myself over too many sites then I do nothing on any of them, just like my notebooks. Hence me having posted nothing for too long almost everywhere.

So you should look here from now on for blog posts from me. I head to LTUE tomorrow and have a lot of catching up to do, which means there’s a lot of content coming.

Onward to the future we go!

Guess Who’s Not in Canada Anymore!

That’s right! Me! My husband’s work contract expired and they didn’t extend, so we moved back to Utah in April to get our feet back under us.

Let’s look at pictures of adorable kitties moving across country! Waltz has always had issues with traveling in the car. He’d cry and cry and cry the whole way back and forth to the vet or any other surprise short trip we’d do to try and get him used to the crate. When we moved out to Canada I bought a small dog-sized carrier for him since he’s a big 14 pound cat and his little box was too small to stretch out in on a long drive. He ended up riding out with my dad and brother since I had to fly to Canada earlier than expected and I heard he pretty much hid most of the time, but started to get a little brave the last day. It’s a 4 day trip.

When we moved in to our Canadian apartment we got Hazel. She makes Waltz happy and comfortable, even in the carrier! With her in the crate with him there’s not a single peep from either kitty while driving to and from the vet. Hazel has never had an issue with riding in the car, that is until the big move. My dad and brother flew out to help us with the move back to Utah and brought a regular-sized cat carrier for Hazel. She was NOT happy to be in a separate box from Waltz. Waltz was fine knowing she was in the same car, although not happy to be in a box, but Hazel was all cry cry cry! She put up enough of a fit that we let them both out after we’d made it onto the highway.

Hazel wore herself out in the first 30 minutes on day 1 of complaining about the box, which irritated her eye, so she spent most of that day asleep in her box.


On day 2 Waltz was so excited/anxious about the whole deal he spent some time panting in my hubby’s lap. Hazel felt lots better so she ran around the car hollering. It took me a while to figure out she was calling for Waltz. She’d get in the trunk and cry cry cry until he’d get up from wherever he was sitting, usually in hubby’s lap (he’s apparently best human and always the chosen seat for Waltz), and go over to watch her over the top of the back seat. She settled down once he decided to sit in front of her box for a bit.


Day three came and I decided we didn’t need both cat carriers in the car since Waltz was spending all his time outside of them. We put the smaller carrier in the moving truck and rearranged the back seat.  Turns out that Waltz did want to hang out in the carrier, he just hadn’t been able to before. He and Hazel managed to share! They almost never cuddled before this. At one point I took a turn driving and Waltz sat in my lap for almost five minutes. Hubby took pictures of that to prove that sometime I can be best human too.

The last day both kitties spent most of their time in the carrier. Hazel did decide to come hang out in the driver’s seat when we stopped to get gas. Waltz was all excited to be back home and Hazel adjusted to the new environment almost immediately.


And that’s how traveling across country went with the kitties.

2016 in Review – with pictures!

Let’s see, I didn’t manage to post lots last year, so I’ll do my best to sum most of it up in one post.

The year started and moved along smooth enough. Not much exciting happened until May 3rd, which is when I started updating my webcomic Fur & Fangs! I managed a steady two pages for a couple months, and then I auditioned to Hiveworks in June. They rejected my audition, but hey, I did it! I didn’t manage my time well in the process, though, and got myself messed up on my update schedule. It didn’t help that I had two consecutive visits from the in-laws and then my parents coming about a month after the audition, so looming stress and my lack of time-management skills had me falling off the productivity wagon and I developed some situational depression. I focused on writing instead of my comics and am only now getting myself back into the swing of things with Fur & Fangs. Updates will be resuming shortly! They may be irregular for a while, but they’ll happen!

Mother’s day isn’t a super big deal to me yet since I don’t have kids, but my church always does something for it. Often they give all the women in the ward a gift of some kind, sometimes music or chocolate, but usually it’s a flower. This year they handed out carnations. Waltz LOVES green plant stuff, and gave me a hard time wanting to chew on the flower. I looked it up to see if it was safe for him, but it turns out that carnations are toxic for cats. However, instead of throwing it away, my hubby figured out a way to keep my flower safe from my “bee.” Since Waltz had already broken the stem down to its shortest length, the flower fit perfectly in a jar. I was able to keep it on my desk for weeks. 🙂 I like flowers, so that brought a little extra happiness into my life.

Another thing that happened in 2016 was Pokémon Go! I downloaded it as soon as I possibly could, which turned out to be with everyone else in the USA even though I was in Canada since I have an American phone and an American phone plan. It got me out exercising and I love it! It’s my first ever Pokémon game. I picked Bulbasaur as my starter and named it Tulip. I’ve decided on a plant-theme for my names. After several exchanges of named pokémon for new ones with higher CPs, I stopped naming them right away. My hubby has snuck in and named some while I wasn’t looking, so for a while my Nidorans were Rick Rolling me. Just yesterday I caught my first Vulpix and hit 100 pokémon registered in my pokédex! Since winter hit I majorly slowed down in my leveling, so I’m barely level 23 now. I don’t like walking in the cold. Oh, and I picked team Red.

Late July and early August was taken up by visits from family. With the in-laws we explored Montréal and a nearby ski resort. With my parents we went to Thousand Islands, Sacred Grove and other nearby Church history sites, Niagara Falls, and also wandered Montréal. I took lots of pictures, so those will each get their own posts.

It took me about a month after that to surface from the situational depression, and from then until the end of the year I didn’t manage much more than writing. I did poke at my comic, but didn’t make much progress. I found myself despairing. Somehow I’d managed earlier in the year to write and comic, but I couldn’t figure out how. How had  done it? Should I still try? Should I give up? Was it worth it? What did I want from my life? I made decisions a couple times, but after each decision I found myself falling back into the same unproductive pattern. About half-way into December a friend told me something about themselves that hit a lightbulb for me. I learned something about myself that made it so I could move forward and be productive again. It gave me ambition! I was going to accomplish things! And then it was Christmas break and I did nothing but play games and watch TV. 😛

So now that I have that information I’m making great strides in becoming a professional from-home worker. I still have a long way to go, but I’m finally moving forward again!

That’s about it for 2016. It was a rough year in more ways that one. I learned things about myself and made about as much backwards progress as I did forwards, but I think I still managed to come out a little bit ahead. Onwards I now head to 2017 with a positive attitude and determination!

It’s a New Year! Hello 2017, Good-bye 2016.

New year, new resolutions, new goals!

Although, before I let you know about my new goals, maybe I should review my progress in 2016. I had goals and did make some progress. Here’s how I listed them in my deviantArt journal at the start of the year:

The important resolutions in 2016:

1. Art every day.
2. Draw every day.
3. Social media/blog every day.
Then there are some others to help me accomplish those and all around be more productive, like limiting how much I spend watching TV (*cough* anime *cough*) and gaming (Yay Guildwars 2!).

The Goals for 2016:

1. Start posting pages for my web comic Fur & Fangs!
2. Finish the outline for F&F.
3. Finish the script for F&F.
4. Audition for Hiveworks with F&F!
5. Start the next drafts on Mythics & Chook’s story.
6. Make stuff to sell.

Writing every day was also part the the resolutions, so I don’t know why that didn’t make it onto the list there, but I guess this was the deviantArt journal, so it was geared towards art.

How did I do on these goals? For the start of the year, great! Up until I had two consecutive family visits I was writing and working on my comic (arting) almost every day. About 85-90% of the time? I still watched too much TV and played too many games, though. My time-management left much to be desired. I did start posting comic pages! I did audition for Hiveworks (and was rejected, but hey, I applied)! I almost finished the outline for F&F (still have the last act to fill out).

I did NOT social media/blog every day. Major fail there. I got nowhere near close to finishing the script for F&F. I only made 2 necklaces to sell and never posted them anywhere. I strained myself in the Hiveworks audition process and put a hiccup in my updating schedule for my comic, and once those family visits happened I completely fell off the wagon due to situational depression and then even after I recovered from the depression I failed to get back on the wagon art-wise. I did get back to writing, though, and finished the year pretty strong in that.

You want to know how strong I finished the year writing-wise? I managed to write 158,682 words! Most of that was comic script, some of it was fun fluff, and some was on my novel.

Overall, I’d say I succeeded and failed enough to neutralize out 2016. I plan on learning from all that and doing much better in 2017!

Here’s my resolutions and goals for the year ahead!

2017 Resolutions

  • Become a professional from-home worker by establishing and maintaining professional practices and self-management.
  • Write every day.
  • Art every day.
  • Journal every day.
  • Be kind and helpful. Make friends and uplift others. Be a light.

2017 Goals

  • Finish a draft of Mythics.
  • Finish the F&F Outline.
  • Make merchandise.
  • Resume posting F&F and maintain steady update schedule.
  • Create a couple short-form comics.
  • Establish myself as a streaming artist.
  • Build my audience.

I’m already slipping a little on my resolutions, but this week I plan on taking them by the horns and showing them who’s boss!

How did you do on your goals/resolutions for last year? Do you have any new ones for 2017? Tell me about it! 😀

Animal Adventures at Work – Deer!

These two are from June 13, 2014.

 

These are from June 20, 2014:

 

 

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This picture is blurrier than I thought when taking it. Using the display on the back of the camera instead of an eye-hole is problematic. :/

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Some Horsetail! Genus Equisetum, a living fossil. There was lots of it around in the forest.

 

 

 

 

And these are from July 17, 2014

 

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Deer hanging out by one of the studio trucks in the parking lot.

 

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Had to zoom to get a “closer” shot for reference. They’re wild and leave if you approach.

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It stretched like this a couple times as I got closer. Looked really weird.

 

So… my plans obviously went not as hoped…

Hiiiiiiii.

It’s been six months since my last post. I had hopes and dreams! They did not work out.

Where have I been? Well, I’ve been trying to produce a webcomic all on my own while writing novels and trying to have a social life/any kind of life in general. I’ve learned that I need to focus on one instead of two big things at a time. Writing novels is a big project. Solo producing a comic is a big project. I can’t do them both and stay mentally healthy, so something has to go on the shelf.

Stories are my passion, especially writing them, so the thing I’ve chosen to shelve for now is my webcomic. Fur & Fangs is a story I love dearly and want to give the best treatment I possibly can, and I’m a much better writer than I am an artist, so for the moment I’ll focus on writing it and maybe find a way to make it a comic later. It might end up being a novel instead, or a novel and a comic. Either way, the comic itself is going on indefinite hiatus until I have a solid story and funds to hire someone to help make it happen.

This does not mean I’ll stop drawing the characters or making art! Art will be more of a hobby now, instead of a job, which means I can go back to drawing the things I love to draw and growing as an artist. I was unable to do anything except comic pages while trying to comic, so my critter designs and experimentations got dropped. My artistic skill-growth stagnated. Now I can grow and play with my art again like I used to love to do!

This means I can blog again! Somehow I couldn’t fit it in with two big projects, but I should be able to do it with just one. Like I said in my last post, I have a lot to catch up on here on the blog.

Now the big question is, how do I now want to structure my artistic career? I need to earn money somehow, and right now I’m not really making anything. I have a Patreon that was structured around Fur & Fangs. Now it needs new rewards and goals. I have some budgeting to do to see if I can afford to become a streaming artist. The internet in Canada is metered, and I can only afford to maybe stream once a week with the plan I have. I also have games I want to play and stream. Streaming takes a LOT of internet. Internet isn’t cheap. 😛

So, yeah. Big changes happening for me over the next couple weeks! New goals! New website should happen! Yay! Fun times!

Anyways, this post is getting long. Hopefully things will become more clear to me in the next few days and I can give you a more concise plan next time!

Laters!
-A Ro

 

So, I live in Canada now.

Wow. It’s been a while, and things have changed! I went from living in my parents basement with my husband, a cat, and a snail, to living in a 3rd floor apartment in Montreal, Canada, with my husband, 2 cats, and no snail.

Sadly, I had to leave Gandalf behind. It’s illegal for snails to cross state borders without an education permit, let alone international borders. They’re considered agricultural pests. I released him out into the nearby wilderness between neighborhoods.

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I put him under a sunflower. Those are his favorite.

As we were moving in we met a nice lady on the floor above us who had rescue kittens in need of a home. We fostered them for a couple days to see if either would get along with Waltz, and one did! Hazel and Waltz hit it off immediately, no adjustment period, and they hang out and play happily.

Hazel also likes to chase things on the computer screen, especially when I’m playing Guildwars 2, but the mouse is her favorite. Gotta catch the little pointer thing!

Behold my new kitten. Such majesty, such grace. She’s a dork. Hazel chirps and squeaks and begs for pets on a regular basis. She also comes running whenever I start to sing, even if she’s napping.

Waltz remains as adorable and handsome as ever, and is very happy to have a friend. He was getting lonely before.

I also started updating my web comic! I’m plugging along writing the script and drawing pages. It’s exciting! I’ll tell you all about it soon, probably in my next post. I’ve got lots to tell you! Life, moving, Canada, comic, my cosplay & Salt Lake Comic Con 2015. So much! It’s exciting times. I promise I’ll post more now. I won’t promise how often, but expect things to become more regular. 🙂

 

Beginnings

Oh hey, it’s 2016! I suppose the start of a new year is as good a time as any to talk about beginnings and endings.

Beginnings

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The intimidating first page. Many writers struggle to conquer it and write the perfect beginning. Sometimes it scares them so much they never start. What to do? How do you write the perfect beginning for your story?

Just do it!

You can never write your story if you never put words on the page. Guess what, you don’t have to write the beginning first! Liberate yourself from the pressure of the perfect beginning and write. If you’re feeling lost for your beginning, you can start anywhere. Get into the story and the awesome beginning scene will come to you.

Even if you think you have the perfect beginning planned out, often times you will reach the mid-point of your story and realize the story really starts in a different place. Some authors advise to always throw out your first chapter and start in chapter two. While I don’t personally advocate that practice, I do advise that you write knowing that anything you put down is expendable and rearrangeable.

Some writers start too soon in their story, some writers start too late. At this point in life I fall in the latter category. I’m always going back and adding stuff to the beginning. In fact, for my current book series, I’m having to go back and write almost an entire book’s worth of new beginning since I skipped over it in my impatience to get to “the good part” (a.k.a. the only part I had figured out). I’m missing out on all sorts of key scenes and important character development. Oops. Outlining ahead of time might have helped me there.

What goes into the beginning?

The main purpose of the beginning is to hook the reader and reel them into the story. You hook them with your first sentence, then spend the next few paragraphs to pages reeling them in. With readers you have a few pages, but with editors you only have a few paragraphs. So, pretty much your story needs to be awesome right from the start and keep building from there.

You need intrigue in the first paragraph, even in the first sentence. Establish that something is unique about your story. Show them the characters, setting, and conflict. You don’t have to introduce your main character at the start, but don’t stay away from them too long.

Beginnings build a sense of the story’s tone.

A good idea for learning about beginnings is to pick up good books and read the first few paragraphs and pages. Take notes. What does the author do? What catches your attention? What about it makes you want to keep reading?

Tip: One way to decide where to start is to ask yourself what is the most interesting scene to start with, and who has the best view of it? (It doesn’t have to be the protagonist.)

What NOT to do.

Do not start with a weather report. 99.9% of manuscripts starting with weather reports go straight into the trash at the slush pile because they are overdone. The 0.1% that don’t are astounding works of word art, and are probably written by already well established authors who can get away with things.

Don’t start with a report of the character waking up and their regular morning routine. It’s boring. The only reason to start with a morning routine is if something is different right off the bat.

Don’t start with dreams. Editors don’t like it, and it is also overdone. Only rare exceptions make it through the slush pile.

Don’t start at the protagonist’s birth unless something about it is unique, like in Natalie Whipple’s Transparent where the doctor drops the baby because she’s invisible.

DO NOT start with a bored character. Bored character equals bored reader. We don’t want them bored at the start. We want to hook them and get them interested. It’s hard to be interested in boredom.

Prologues, yay or nay?

Prologues are really a personal preference thing.

Prologues can either hurt or help. If they add to the story, then they help. If they bog things down right from the start, then they hurt. Some people skip reading prologues. Some people read them. If the information given in the prologue is important to the story, then you can just make it your first chapter. If it’s not important, but gives some cool insights on the world or characters you can leave it as a prologue. However, that cool stuff can probably be worked into the actual story as well.

Prologues should be SHORT. Readers want to get to the meat of the story as fast as possible. Don’t slow them down more than necessary.

Don’t waste time or characters to sacrifice just to show that there’s a monster in the story.  Well, you can do it, but be aware that it’s cliche. If you do, I advise making it key to the plot.

Don’t use the prologue as an info-dump. Any information about the world or backstory important to the story should be worked into the actual story itself. Anything extra you want to share can go in an appendix or on your author blog/online community you build for your special little tribe of readers. J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling are good examples.

So there you have it.

I hope this helps you with your challenge of writing the beginnings in your stories. They aren’t easy, and there’s no one right way to write them, but I know you can do it.

Now go forth and write!
Your Writing Senpai

Much of this post came from what I learned from:
LTUE 2015 panel with J. Scott Savage & Larry Correia
Carol Lynch Williams
Writing Excuses