Designing a Book Cover

Hello there! For the last few months, I’ve been setting aside some time to design book covers to add to my portfolio because it’s something I’d love to do for self-publishing authors (if you are one and would like to work together, please send a message through the contact page on my website here) because I love doing it. Most of the covers I do are of already published books, usually something I’ve read or is a favorite of mine. I redesign them for fun and to put up on my portfolio, but for this cover, I did something a little different.

This time, I first found the original stock photo while searching around on Storyblocks and wanted to build a cover around it. So, this cover is not of a real book nor is Nathan Patterson a real author. I made it all up to fit around the concept, kind of reversing what I usually do. I wanted to do more fantasy and more work with photography rather than vector art, which is what I usually do, and thought I’d share the design process for this particular cover.

First, as I said, I found the image that I wanted to work with. It’s a stock image a photographer has available on Storyblocks that immediately made the gears in my head start to turn.

There were a few things that I wanted to edit and fix of the original: the fold in the fabric close to eye needed to be smoothed, the contact lenses the girl are wearing are a bit crooked, and I wanted to smooth out the fabric in general so that it didn’t look quite so cheap-looking (this was done later, so not shown below). So those were the first steps. I achieved these tweaks in Photoshop.

Below, you’ll see that editing out the folded-up part near her eye doesn’t look perfect, which I knew would be okay because I was going to be doing more work on it.

After that, I took the photo into Lightroom just to play around with the coloring and shadows to make it look darker and less bright and green in the background (on the left). Then, I brought back into Photoshop to continue editing to smooth out her skin, darken her eye makeup, and smooth out the fabric to look less like velvet (on the right).

Once the photo was where I wanted it, I continued in Photoshop to add more effects. This included darkening more of the background to even it out, coloring her contacts to be blue, and adding this stock image texture I found, which reminds me of metallic eye shadow or something. After applying the texture over it, I erased it just around the eyes so that they would still pop and not be too covered up.

One thing that I wanted to try, was having a smoke/fire/magic-looking effect around the text of the title. After much trial and error, I was able to achieve the desired effect by removing all the black from the original smoke image in Photoshop, then digitally erasing and painting in several layers of the text in order to make it appear as though it is within the smoke, not just on top of it or behind it.

And there it be! I’m very excited with how it turned out. This was my first design using many of these techniques and the first I’ve ever done using a photo of a person, too. I pushed myself to go beyond my usual style and comfort zone, and I’m glad I did!

Here are some more covers I’ve done:

Again, if you’d like to work with me, whether it be for a cover design or something else, visit my website and use the contact page to ask any questions you’d like!

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Winter Favorites: 2019

Spring is here! It’s still fairly cold and there’s still a lot of snow because I live in The North, but technically, it’s here!! I’ve been doing “favorites” posts on this blog for a few years now and usually struggle to remember things that, in the moment, I would mentally say to myself, “Oooh, this is a cool thing! I should share this in my next favorites post!” and then it would vanish from my brain. I’d sit to write the post and be like, “Um…did I read anything this month?” But not anymore! Now that I’m doing these favorites posts by season instead of monthly, I have a beautiful new spread for each quarter in my Bullet Journal and there’s a whole section to write down my favorites instead of trying to remember them. So I have them all! All in one spot!

Anyway, here are my very organized and all-remembered favorites from this past winter:

Books:

  • Truly Devious and The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
    Maureen Johnson is one of my favorite writers. Everything that I’ve read of hers is smart and hilarious, and for real, she does murder mystery/boarding school stories so. well. I read her Shades of London series (still waiting for the last book; please, please, please) and just started her more recent series starting with Truly Devious and its sequel, The Vanishing Stair. Both are similar (murder with a connection to something historic, a boarding school, YA, female protag) accept Shades of London is set in England and has ghosts. To be honest, I think I loved Truly Devious even more than the first book in the Shades of London series, The Name of the Star—and I really loved that book. Truly Devious is so good that I literally couldn’t put it down (I read this book in two days, which is so rare for me) and I quickly read the second book, too. I’m dying to get to the third, but it doesn’t come out for a year!
  • Vengeful by V.E. Schwab
    Victoria (V.E.) Scwab is my favorite author of all time. Her books are beautifully crafted and inspire me to be a better writer every time I finish something of hers. They’re just so good. Vengeful is the sequel to her adult debut, Vicious, about two college friends who discover the secret to gaining superpowers and they both become villains…and heroes, in their own minds. It’s so good and was a perfect sequel to the first book.

Films:

  • The Royal Tenenbaums
    I know that I’m ridiculous late in modern classic films, I get it, but I haven’t seen much of any Wes Anderson films in my life. Which is crazy, because Wes Anderson films are, now that I’ve seen them, very much My Jam. I’d seen Rushmore many years ago when in high school and Moonrise Kingdom during that Academy Awards year (I used to watch all the nominees before/after the ceremony but haven’t been able to for a few years) and liked both. But I hadn’t taken the time to watch anything else by Anderson until this passed year. The Royal Tenenbaums is, um, one of my new favorite movies. I watched it six times in January. I get it now. I get it. I’ll watch more Wes Anderson, okay?
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona
    I watched this film at a great time for me to watch it: when I was very depressed about not being able to move to Spain for 8 months. Well, it made me more depressed because oh my god, I just want to be there. But also, it made me feel, almost like I’d gone? Not really. But it helped a bit. Anyway, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a great film but it’s made even better by the performance of Penelope Cruz. I mean, she obviously won an Oscar for it, but now I fully understand why.
  • Inside Out
    I was born in the early 90s, so I’m a Pixar kid through-and-through, but I neglected to see Inside Out until recently. It made me cry. A lot. Not as much as Up (like, just thinking about Up for more than ten seconds makes me sob) but still a lot. It’s a sweet, funny classic Pixar film but with probably my favorite concept of any of them. Emotions have emotions!? It’s so good!
  • Call Me By Your Name
    Listen, I read this book at the end of 2017 and loved it. It’s a beautiful story about two young men (one seventeen, the other twenty four) beginning a summer romance in Northern Italy. It’s a great story that explores the teenager’s sexuality—there’s an entire scene, the “peach scene” if you’ve heard of it, that works so well to describe his bisexual feelings for his girlfriend and the man he’s attracted to. Though this doesn’t translate perfectly on film, it’s important in the book. Most of all, I just love the film because of the scenery (and Timothee Chalamet’s incredible performance) because Northern Italy is so beautiful and it happens to be set near where my family is from, and I’m desperate to visit there live there.
  • Design for Living
    I’ve been working on watching more classic films, and just more films in general, but specifically from the 30s to the 60s at the moment. I’ve seen a few prior to starting this (some of my favorites are Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Charade, How to Steal A Million, and Singin’ in the Rain) but really want to see as many classics as possible. So, I started with Design for Living (I’ve been recording sooo many on my DVR that play on Turner Classic Movies channel) from 1933. It’s a pre-Code film (the Hays Code is what they came up with that enforced what was and wasn’t allowed in a film) so it is quite risque! It’s a comedy about…well, a throuple. They mention sex, directly calling it “sex” and the female lead angrily says “fucking” (not in a sexual context) which, to my knowledge, is the first time the f-word was ever in a film! It wasn’t on screen again until the late 60s/early 70s. But other than the SCANDAL of it all, it’s funny and the leads are great, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Also, A THROUPLE. IN 1933.

Music:

  • Aurora
    If Hozier and Florence Welch are King and Queen of opposing fae courts, Aurora is their teenage, runaway love child. Her voice is incredible, and I’ve talked about her before, but her new album Infections of a Different Kind (Step I) is so good. Especially the songs, Forgotten Love and Gentle Earthquakes, my current favorites.
  • “Lead, SD” – Manchester Orchestra
    I discovered Manchester Orchestra on iTunes while looking for new music and really dug their song Lead, SD. It’s a bit more of a thrasher than the other songs (like The Gold and The Maze) that I like from their album A Black Mile to the Surface, which is the only album I know of them. Anyway, the song is great.
  • “Monster” and “She” – dodie
    These two songs by dodie are SO GOOD. Her new EP just came out and I love it. She is a beautifully written song that I felt real hard and Monster is a bop. Both great. That’s some good shit right there.
  • Orla Gartland
    I heard of Orla Gartland because she plays guitar for dodie and boy oh boy, her music is top notch. I Go Crazy and Why Am I Like This? are so good. I’ve listened to them a lot and relate to Why Am I Like This? a whole lot. Like a lot a lot. Plus Orla is just so cool. she reminds me of a young Jodie Foster if young Jodie Foster had been in a band.
  • “The Joke” – Brandi Carlile
    This song made me cry the first time I heard it, which is always a good sign of a great song. It’s powerful. I’ve loved Brandi Carlile since The Story, way back in the mid-00s. But I hadn’t heard much of her music since then and kind of forgot about her. Well, she’s just been nominated for a million Grammy awards now, hasn’t she? I don’t think I’ll forget about her ever again.
  • “still feel.” – halfalive
    This song my jammmm. I don’t know where Half Alive came from but I’m glad their here now. The music video for this song is beyond good. The song is beyond good. I’ve been listening to it on repeat. I’ll be sad for the day that I’ll become sick of it from playing it too much.
  • “You’re Somebody Else” – Flora Cash
    I heard this duo sing this song live on a talk show and I loved it, then I heard the TWO different versions (acoustic and original), and I loved it even more. It’s a really nice, mellow and beautifully-sung song.
  • “Give A Little”- Maggie Rogers
    I saw this song and Maggie Rogers’ new album on so many people’s Instagram Stories that I eventually had to give in and listen. It’s a bop. I love it and can’t stop listening.
  • “Moderation” – Florence + the Machine
    Y’all should know I love Florence + the Machine and I was thrilled to see a new single come out. Moderation isn’t really my favorite Florence song but it’s still a great one and I’ll always appreciate new Florence songs to add to my collection like a dragon hoarding gold.

Television:

  • The Alienist
    To be COMPLETELY honest, I’ve only watched the first episode and just haven’t found the time to binge the rest. Also, this show came out in the winter of 2018, I think in January? Anyway, I’d recorded them all on my DVR and just recently decided to give it a watch. The first episode is real good, though it’s hella dark–I mean litereally, I watched it in the day and STRUGGLED to see what was happening. I had to close the curtains and squint. But it’s also dark, dark. But well-acted and intriguing, which I’m always here for.
  • Deadly Class
    Full disclosure, I’ve only watched the first few episodes of this show, too. But I think I like it! I think. I’m still not sure. I don’t know what this show wants to be but I like the premise of a school teaching teens to be assassins and so I’m hoping it will get better as time goes on. Should I really include it as a “favorite”? Not really. But it’s my blog and I can do what I want.
  • Miracle Workers
    I really like this show a lot. I can’t help but compare it to the similar, and so far still superior show, The Good Place, but Miracle Workers is funny, and stupid, and aesthetically cool–like, the wardrobe and set design is killin’ it on this show. It doesn’t have the smarts or heart (yet) of The Good Place, but I still really enjoy watching it because the premise of Miracle Workers is still unique enough, and funny enough, for me to continue to watch on a weekly basis (something I don’t know I would’ve done with The Good Place’s first season, as I binged it all in one go.)

Other:

  • Package Free Shop
    I’ve been following a more “zero waste” life style in the last year or two, trying to reduce my plastic use in as many aspects of my life as possible–like using reusable bags when shopping, using less plastic wrap, buying less products that come in non-recyclable or difficult to recycle (in my area) plastic, using reusable bamboo cutlery and stainless steel straws instead of one-use plastic, using a bamboo toothbrush, making my own deodorant (it’s very easy), and using shampoo bars and bar soap instead of shampoo and body wash in plastic bottles. Package Free Shop (co-started by one of the first people I discovered online that is “zero waste,” Lauren Singer) is an amazing shop (physically in NYC, globally online) that sells package free and plastic free goods like some of the things I listed above (I just recently purchased a shampoo bar, bamboo toothbrush, and stainless steel straws). It’s a great online shop for a lot of the items I wouldn’t be able to buy anywhere else because of where I live (the middle of nowhere.)
  • Mary Shelley Shirt
    So, this one is mostly telling you about the shirt I designed again. I wanted a shirt that said Mary Shelley is My Homegirl with an illustration of her, a parody of the Mary is My Homegirl with the Virgin Mary. I was upset it didn’t exist anywhere, because I thought it was hilarious, and then I remembered that I could literally just make one for myself. So I did! And I left it up on Redbubble, where I’ll be ordering one for myself, to see if anyone else liked it. (No one has bought it yet, lol). Anyway, I love the shirt and I can’t wait to wear it.

And those were winter favorites of 2019!

The Opposite of Writer’s Block

I don’t actually believe in “Writer’s Block” but that’s an entirely different post that I plan on writing about. (I originally went very off topic with this post and decided to cut it and make it a separate post.)

Today, I’m going to talk about the opposite of “Writer’s Block” and that’s the glorious, wonderful (if not a little ironically frustrating) time when I have too many ideas. When my brain is bountiful with words and characters and worlds that I just can’t keep from bubbling out of me—and how I shut that shit down, because I have to focus on one thing at a time, dammit.

I’m not good at multitasking. Well, I’m average at it. But when it comes to writing, there’s now way I can keep multiple projects in my head. I mean, I can keep multiple ideas up in there—snippets and pieces. But, eventually, I have to get them down. Especially when I’m going through that wonderful time of having too many ideas because it’s just so much clutter. I’ll forget things. I’ll merge stories. Characters from one story will pop up in another. The detective will suddenly discover that the murder victim was killed by the fire-bending vampire who’s been secretly in love with the detective ever since they met at spy school. Wait…*writes this down*

Anyway, with too many ideas, I need to get them all down and accounted for. And this is how I do it:

Because I use the program Scrivener (for reals, it’s the best) I can have one file for all ideas and projects I want to work on soon. For example, since January, I’ve been developing ideas for…

  • A new fantasy series, but specifically the first book to write during NaNoWriMo 2019.
  • A full-length film script about MY LIFE. It’s a comedy…ish. Only semi-autobiographical.
  • Another full-length film script about ALIENS. It’s a thriller.
  • ANOTHER full-length film script about a FAMILY. It’s DRAMATIC.
  • And, yet, ANOTHER full-length film script about MURDER. It’s another thriller.
  • A short film that I can’t produce with such a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (just me).
  • Another short film that isn’t really an idea yet, I just want to make one this year with a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (still just me lol). I used to make these a lot right out of high school and miss doing it.

Plus, I’m working on 1) the book I started during NaNoWriMo 2018, trying to finish it and 2) the book I’m supposed to be working on as “the book” that I haven’t touched in, like, a year. I Marie Kondo’d that shit. IT DOESN’T SPARK JOY RIGHT NOW, SO I PUT IT AWAY UNTIL IT DOES.

So HOW DO I KEEP ALL THESE STRAIGHT AND TIDY IN MY BRAIN?

I cry a lot.

Just kidding, I don’t. I mean, yes, I cry a lot. But I don’t keep them all in my brain!

I have a Scrivener (#NotSpon) (lol like anyone would sponsor this blog) file with all of these ideas. I set it up like this: I have one text document (and you can do this with Word or Docs with just different files in a folder on your computer, whatevs, nbd) with a MASTER LIST of all of these projects. It’s just a list of the projects (by title or short description) and projects that are completed are highlighted in yellow. The project that I’m actively working on, I highlight in blue. Projects that I have yet to start on are not highlighted with any color and projects that are outlined-but-not-yet-completed are highlighted in green.

Then, I have other text documents within that file (or if you don’t have Scrivener, just within a folder) for each of these projects. This is a dumping ground. Any time I have an idea or a thought or anything that I can’t have in my head about the project, I plop it in that text document. Sometimes there’s just a few lines, maybe a paragraph. One of them, I have an entire outline started. It’s just everything I need to get down to get it out of my head.

And it’s all in one, nice and tidy place!

So what is this magical time of having too many ideas called? The opposite of “Writer’s Block”? Let’s call it…Writer’s Flow? Creative Fulfillment? Magic Time? Heaven? Maybe it doesn’t need a name. It’s a great time, though.

Writing: Current Works in Progress and Goals

So, I’ve talked a lot about my writing here. I’ve stated over and over that I’ve decided to change directions and write something different. Well, for once, that’s not what I’m going to talk about! I’m sticking with the current book, Thoughtless, which I’ve posted about before. For this post, I just want to talk about all of my writing projects for a bit and my goals for the new year. I already posted about my goals for the year, but I wanted to dive deeper into each project, what they’re about, and what I want to accomplish with each in 2019.

Let’s just start chronologically, which projects I’m going to working on and when. There’s some overlap with most, but for the most part, a large chunk of the year will be dedicated to each project. I tend to write like this anyway. The seasons changing always get me in the mood to write one particular project or another.

First and foremost, I need to finish the first draft of the book I participated in NaNoWriMo 2018 with. That’s the first goal. It’s the story of a fake family of thieves who move from town to town, stealing from their rich neighbors in an elaborate series of heists. I had such a blast starting and writing the first 50,000 words, but I believe that it’s just over halfway, and I want to finish it between now and the end of March.

Second, I’m working on the book I’ve been working on for a few years off and on, tentatively titled Thoughtless. It’s a science fiction story set in the future about a young woman becoming the youngest police officer, joining the Force, in a world in which humans have evolved to be able to read minds. I’m planning to work on Thoughtless throughout this year. I originally wrote the first draft of this book many years ago, I think in 2013? And I reworked a lot of the plot last year, slowly rewriting it ever since. I’m hoping to finish this second draft by the end of the summer.

Third, I’ve been itching since October to start a new fantasy series. I came up with the idea, which is less of an idea and more of a set of parameters (a long series, same length for each book [I like the idea of a fantasy series that doesn’t grow exponentially in length with each addition], an interesting complex magic system, and a magic school that isn’t like other’s I’ve read). That’s literally what I was thinking about when I came up with the series. I usually have a character, an idea of a plot, something. But no, I just wanted to write the perfect fantasy series for me to read. The plot and characters came much later–I still don’t know entirely what the series is about. I have a few vague ideas. So, I want to outline the series/first book this winter because…

Fourth, I plan on writing the first book for NaNoWriMo 2019! I’m incredibly excited. I’m obsessed with this fantasy series in my head. It’s not a particularly original idea, yet. It’s sort of a basic fantasy concept, but the more I research and start delving in, the richer it’s becoming.

Fifth, I want to write another script for a full-length film. I wrote one last year and enjoyed the process a lot. Writing a film is so different from writing a novel, but I’ve been an aspiring filmmaker for as long as I’ve been an aspiring author — I just love telling stories, in either form. Not only do I want to write another full-length film, I want to write and hopefully shoot a short film this year, too. I don’t have any idea what the short will be about, but I have the story worked out for the full-length one already. It’s another sci-fi, like last year’s, but an entirely different tone and way of telling the story. To begin with, the idea is that it would be a real-time, two hours of a single mother dealing with an invasion of some humanoid creatures of undetermined (by me; I can’t make up my mind) origin and fighting to save her kids. I see it so vividly in my head. I just want to watch it.

That’s the key to writing, for me. I always write what I want to read or see.

So those are all my current writing projects and what I plan to work on this year. I hope I can accomplish it all. A year seems so long and promising until it’s December in the blink of an eye, doesn’t it?

2019: New Year | New Goals

2019 is a brand new year! I’m a big believer in setting goals, not resolutions, and working toward accomplishing tasks rather than setting out to make “big changes” in my life. Last year was rough and, even though I don’t like resolutions, I do like the blank, clean slate a restarting of the calendar can give, even if it’s kind of arbitrary.

Last year, I tried to do too many categories with too many goals to keep up with. I tried splitting my time as evenly as possible between them and realized that some things aren’t as necessary for me to focus on. And I’ve been doing a “monthly focus” where I focus on one thing more than the other each month, but found myself not devoting enough time to each. So this year, I want to focus on three more than that others. My main focuses will be design, reading, and writing — three things that suffered last year, along with everything else, even though they’re more important. I’ll be doing less illustration practice and simplifying my health and fitness goals, but keeping film on the same level. I’ll break it all down below.

Here are the goals I’m setting for 2019:

Design

This year, I’m going to be continuing freelancing on the side — especially in the first few months, as I’m getting a large break from my main source of income with the small business I co-run until summer. So I’ll be focusing on doing more freelance design jobs this winter/spring. With that, I’m hoping to work more toward opening an online store of products (like cards, stationery, prints, etc.) with my designs. It was a goal last year, but I didn’t have the time, and now I have some so I would love to get it going — many steps before that happens, however. With that, I want to start doing some of these designs, and others, outside of work — like the book covers I did for practice/fun a few years ago. I want to do more, with a goal of one a week to keep my creativity going between freelance work.

  • freelance work
  • plan to open online shop
  • 1 personal design project a week (52)

Reading

I never read as much as a I want to. I want to change that. That’s why reading is one of the main goals I have this year. It’s so important for me, not just as a writer, but as a person, to read more. It’s something I love. I’m setting my Goodreads goal for 52 books. I know, I know — if you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’ve done this before and every year, I don’t get anywhere near 50. But I want to focus more on reading specifically. So I hope I can do it. If I just double my reading time this year, I’ll make it. I also want to return to some old reading lists — I have several series and trilogies that I’d just like to finish or continue.

  • read 52 books
  • complete trilogies/series
  • read more often
  • Reading Rush (formerly BookTube-A-Thon)

Writing

This year, my goals for writing are pretty much the same. With NaNoWriMo 2018, though I wrote 50,000 words and completed the challenge, the book itself is far from finished and I’d like to complete it. I’d also like to do NaNoWriMo again this year, outline a new fantasy series that I’ve been thinking a lot about, and continue to work on the book I’ve been working on — or supposed to be working on — Thoughtless.

  • finish NaNoWriMo ’18 draft
  • NaNoWriMo ’19
  • outline fantasy series
  • Thoughtless

Film

I’m more or less keeping my goals for film the same. Instead of wanting to see 25 new (to me) films, I’m going for 30, which shouldn’t be an issue at all because I was able to do 25 easily last year. I’d also still like to do a small, short film project — I wrote one two years ago that I love, but it’s not a feasible film to create on my own — and write another feature-length film, as I did last year.

  • watch 30 films
  • write/shoot short film
  • write feature-length film

Illustration

I’m doing a total change to my illustration practice. I’ve been steadily better in the last few years, which is great, but I’ve been taking too much time focusing on it. Last year, sketching a few times a week, everyday for two separate months, and doing several full-color illustrations a month was two much. This year, I’m going to just do two days a month where I sketch and illustrate for a few hours, and do Inktober with daily prompts. Much more doable with everything else and I think I’ll like it more, as I was getting frustrated that I had to do it every week instead of wanting to.

  • sketching and illustrating 2 days a month
  • Inktober

Health & Fitness

For health and fitness, I’m going to continue to walk everyday — though, the last two months of 2018 were spent doing nothing — and working out 3 times a week. I’d also still like to try to get up earlier and so far, I’ve been slowly going to be earlier to do so (skipping New Years Eve festivities and going to be early helped set that habit and realign my sleep schedule). I’m adding, however, a tracker in my bullet journal on how much soda I drink –both diet and the occasional regular — and would like to limit myself to about two a week instead of the one, sometimes two, a day. I already had three this week, so I’m not doing great, but if I could do without it for the Whole30 for a few weeks last January, I think I can do it.

  • walk everyday
  • workout 3x a week
  • go to bed/wake up earlier
  • 2 sodas a week

Other

I have a few stragglers for the year that I’m adding here. This year, I want to take one work day each week (I work six days, Mon-Sat) and devote it to solely intake, filling my creative well. Whether that’s watching a film, reading, going to a museum, going for a walk, etc. — just stepping back from outputting and creating, and making sure to absorb (this will obviously help with my reading and film watching goals). This is so important as a creative, and I think sometimes I forget — and wonder why I occasionally have a creative block when working. Another thing is, I’d like to grow my social media following more — I’d like connect more with people and grow my numbers before opening my online shop. I plan on posting the designs I’m doing more often and be more engaged than I have previously. Not only just on social media, but here on this blog. I want to post more and be more active here. Speaking of, another goal is to post about my further learning journey that I posted about a while ago. I’m learning a lot about language right now and want to move on to Greek mythology later this year. My goal is post once a month about things I’ve learned, things I’ve found interesting.

  • 1 intake day a week
  • grow social media
  • post regularly on blog
  • further learning – 12 posts

As I said, I also like to choose a specific month to focus on these goals more than the others. I find it helps, especially with something like NaNoWriMo and Inktober. It makes it easier to let a few things slide and focus on just one each month.

  • Jan: Design (plan + research for shop, freelance)
  • Feb: Writing (NaNoWriMo ’18 draft, outline fantasy series)
  • Mar: Reading (5-6 books)
  • Apr: Design (continue planning shop)
  • May: Film (write/shoot short film)
  • Jun: Writing (Thoughtless)
  • Jul: Reading (4-5 books + Reading Rush 7 books)
  • Aug: Film (write feature-length)
  • Sep: Design (open shop?)
  • Oct: Illustration (Inktober)
  • Nov: Writing (NaNoWriMo ’19)
  • Dec: Reading (5-6 books)

Looking at all these goals has me wondering if I should try to choose a few less hobbies. This is normal, right? It probably is. I’m just interested in a lot of stuff. Anyway, those are my goals for the year.

2018: End of the Year – Goals Wrap-Up

2018 was a difficult year for me. It has had a lot of ups and downs, mostly downs. My dog died, I turned 25, I had a bit of a mental breakdown, I almost went to Spain for 9 months but couldn’t, and I’ve been in a strange, surreal funk since my 25th birthday–almost six whole months exactly. (Side note: I’ve always felt weird about having a birthday in the middle of the year. I can’t ever pinpoint how old I was during a particular year in the past because I’ve spent equally half of each year as two separate ages. I can’t just perfectly do the math in my head from my birth year. I’m bad at math anyway.) All of that and I haven’t even mentioned all the terrible things that have happened in the world. It hasn’t been the greatest year. But at the same time, looking back and from where I am now, I’m doing good. I’m at a good place at this moment in time, on New Year’s Eve, heading into 2019 with a good night’s sleep — no, for real, I’m spending tonight alone and have no obligation to stay up until midnight. I’ll be able to have the perfect start to waking up early and having a more productive year. Begin as you mean to go on, and all that.

Anyway — on to the reason for the post! How have I done with my goals for the year? Well, let’s take a look.

Design & Illustration

I had scaled back from my lofty goals of 2017 and I think I did fairly well. Although, opening my online shop took such a back burner this year that I decided against doing it at all for this year and focus on it next year. I did start freelancing on the side and had a few projects, all gone well. As for practicing my illustration skills, I started off sketching weekly well enough but fell out of the routine after a few weeks. Although, sketching every day in both April and September as my focus for the months worked well, only having skipped three or four days in each month. And I did, unexpectedly, participate–sort of–in Inktober for the first time, illustrating six or seven prompts at a time each weekend and on Halloween. This counted as several illustrations for the month and I ended up with the needed twelve to complete my goal! All in all, I did all right with these goals and I have some ideas and changes for next year.

  • sketch 2-3 times a week ✓
  • 2 full-color illustrations a month ✓
  • start freelance work ✓
  • open online shop

Writing

*deep breath* I really didn’t do well this year. i mean, technically I accomplished most of my goals here, it just seemed like less because the MAIN goal I had was to finish the draft of “Book E” but decided against writing it and to focus on the book I’ve been working on, Thoughtless. So that’s what I started working on but barely worked on it. (It was a really bad year after my birthday, y’all.) Anyway, I did finish two short stories, I finished the draft of the book I did NaNoWriMo 2017 with and I did NaNoWriMo 2018 this year and won! So, I’ll take it. I did my best.

  • write 2 short stories ✓
  • finish first draft of Book E Thoughtless ✗
  • finish the draft from NaNoWriMo 2017 ✓
  • complete NaNoWriMo 2018 ✓

Film

I’m real happy with what I’ve accomplished in this category. Technically, writing a feature-length film is a writing goal, so I did actually write a lot this year! I like the film I wrote, even though it needs a lot of work and I’m not confident in writing in this form yet, but I enjoyed the experience and it was a great start in writing for film. I also did a small project of my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary video — not the short film project I’d wanted to do, but I’m counting it because it was after my birthday and as I said before, not a great time. I’ve done a rough cut of it and like it thus far. It’s just a wedding video but I enjoy the practice in filming and editing something. I also watched 25 new-to-me films! One was even in theaters! Just a quick top five of them: Lady Bird, Incredibles II, Atomic Blonde, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Annihilation, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Okay that was six. Special mention to The Edge of Seventeen, which was a surprisingly great coming-of-age film. That’s seven. I’m bad at this. I just really liked them, okay?

  • watch 25 total (in theaters or not) films ✓
  • film 1 experimental short film/video project ✓
  • write a first draft of a feature-length film ✓

Reading

I set a goal of reading 25 books, thinking I could trick myself into reading more. I usually set my goal to 50 and always fail around around 20-25. And how many books did I read? 23. I just can’t seem to get there, y’all. But I’m setting my goal back to 50 next year and I’m really going for it. I know, I know. I’m a masochist. It’s fine. I can do it, I believe in myself. Don’t you believe in me? (Don’t answer that.) I did read less fantasy, shorter books, and I abandoned my old reading lists that had been eating me alive for not getting to them. That felt good to just read the books I wanted to in the moment as I chose. I even abandoned the newer list I made and just went with whatever I was feeling after finishing each book.

  • read 25 books ✗
  • read less fantasy ✓
  • read shorter books ✓
  • abandon old reading lists ✓

Exercise

Boy, howdy. I walked a lot (except for the last two months, I walked almost every day) and I even worked out a bit. I tried the Whole30 and had a mental breakdown because of it and lost my dog after the first week — so I needed chocolate and alcohol. I wrote a whole post about that experience. Overall, I lost a good portion of my weight (though put some back on these last few months because of holidays and not exercising at all) and am proud of that. Even if it’s not as much as I wanted. I’d rather gradually lose weight and feel better than killing myself to lose it quickly. I’m good.

  • be more active, walk or bike ✓
  • stick to work-out schedule better ✓
  • do the Whole30 at least once ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • go to bed earlier/wake up earlier ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

As you can see, I technically accomplished a lot of my goals. I just feel sort of meh about them all, though. I feel like I’m exactly where I started last year. I haven’t gone any further in my life or career, not really. This year was rough. But I’m looking forward to 2019. I have a lot of goals and changes I want to make for next year. And I’ll post all about it soon.

✌️

2018: Autumn Favorites

So, it’s the end of the year. Winter Solstice was yesterday, officially ending the Autumnal Season and Christmas is literally around the corner. You know what that means?? It’s winter! And also it’s time to share my autumn favorites of this year!

BOOKS:

  • Sabriel by Garth Nix
    I’d heard of Sabriel a few times over the years, briefly, but didn’t go further than a quick scan for it at the bookstore when there but never bothered to search for it online or anything. It had just been one of those books I had on my giant mental list of books to read. Well, after hearing about it again, I decided to actively put it on my to read list and search for a copy. I finally–as in months later–found a copy at a Goodwill, an enormous bind-up of the first three books in the series, then a trilogy. I didn’t know much about the trilogy except that there was necromancy involved and gates in “Death” but I didn’t know what that meant. This book immediately shot up to top of my “favorite books of all time” list, easily in my top ten. It’s such an incredible world the world Nix has created with an interesting, unique magic system. It’s such a great story and wonderfully executed. I’m incredibly sad I hadn’t heard of it or cared to hear of it while in high school, because I would’ve eaten it right up. But I’m at least glad that I found it now.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    Quite possibly my favorite read of the year. This is a long, dense book and I read it in a month–which for many people is ridiculous, but I’m a slow reader and often read many books at a time, and for me this book would’ve normally taken several months if it were any other story. I’m a sucker for collegiate novels, for books about murder, and for books about secret clubs–this book has all of those things and it sucked me in hard and I, most of the time, didn’t want to put it down. I read it in large chunks of fifty to seventy-five pages at a time, which is a lot for me. Though I wasn’t a fan of the end, it didn’t disappoint me too much where I disliked the book because of it. The journey getting to that end was well worth it enough for me to consider rereading the book sometime in the future, which is something I rarely do.

Films:

  • Alien: Covenant
    Okay, so I know Prometheus is not the greatest movie of all time. I get it. I’ve read enough articles about why people disagree with me on liking it, but I’m not a complete idiot. A lot of it wasn’t great. But it’s still one of my favorites and I liked it a heck of a lot more than any of the other Alien sequels (seriously, I only like the first Alien and not the others (okay, I guess Aliens is good, too)–and don’t get me started on the crossover with Predator, ugh.) Prometheus has a lot of elements that I love, it’s gorgeous to look at, and I can look past its faults and see the goodness in it, whatever it was they were trying to say with the film. Now, Alien: Covenant? Its sequel? It started SO GOOD. The first half of that film was incredible. I couldn’t believe how good it was! And then…it just…hit a wall of crazy and I couldn’t make sense of how it had gone so bad and so wrong so quickly. Even still, I enjoyed watching the entire thing, even if I only thought the first half was good. I don’t even know if it was directly at the halfway point, it was just shortly after they found David. That’s when it started to go down hill. I loved it anyway, though.
  • Incredibles 2
    Seriously, just forget Marvel. I want seven Incredibles movies, a spinoff series, and a television show. I love this world so much, from this family to the rest of the supers. Everything from the animation, the music, the style, the story. Everything is good and I think I like this movie even more than the first. And The Incredibles is on my Top Five Favorite films of all time. That’s how much I loved this movie.
  • Maggie’s Plan
    I’m a huge fan of Greta Gerwig–from acting in Frances Ha (another of my Top Five Favorite films of all time) to writing and directing Lady Bird, she’s fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed Maggie’s Plan. She’s great it in, obviously, and Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore are equally great. It’s a funny and, at times, frustrating story to watch unfold, which made it a really enjoyable film to watch. I love movies that make me want to climb inside it and give advice to the characters. Not to fix or change what they’re doing because the movie is bad, but wanting to inject myself into the story because I’m so invested that I’m frustrated I can’t talk to them to help out the situation. That’s this type of movie–and I really liked it.

Music:

  • Feel it All Around by Washed Out
    This is the song used for the opening credits of Portlandia, my favorite sketch-comedy shows. It’s also one of my favorite songs. It’s mellow and repetitive, an easy song to get lost with.
  • Human by dodie
    Dodie is one of my favorite singer-songwriters and her latest song Human is astoundingly beautiful, in both sound and lyric.
  • Love is Blindness by The Damn Truth
    This cover of Love is Blindness was used in an ad for Yves Saint Laurent fragrance a few years ago and I was obsessed with it–a lot of people were, according to the comments section of the video. After finally figuring out the band, I wanted impatiently for them to release it as a single. Then I forgot about. But THEN, I recently remembered about this song and looked it up and they’d released it a year earlier! It’s so good.
  • Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea by MISSIO
    I first heard this song on an episode of How to Get Away with Murder and just loved the sound of it throughout the scene it was playing in. After listening to it all, I couldn’t stop. It was on repeat for a solid week.
  • Monster Mashup by Pomplamoose (feat. Tessa Violet)
    I’m in love with this Halloween-themed mashup of Thriller and the Ghostbusters theme song (and some others). It’s such a great, fun version of these songs.

Television:

  • American Horror Story: Apocalypse
    I’ve had a love-no thanks relationship with American Horror Story, only having seen a few seasons in completion (one, three, and eight) but for the most part, love the ridiculousness of it. I was particularly excited for this season because it took two seasons I loved and had watched, season one and three, and crossed them over. Now, this season wasn’t great–the end in particular irritated me. But for the most part, it was fun to watch and I enjoyed getting more of the witches from Coven. I wish it was just a show about them, tbh. And I also enjoyed the addition of Cody Fern, who is a phenomenal actor–I loved him in The Assassination of Gianni Versace this past year.
  • Single Parents
    I was pleasantly surprised to love this sitcom as much as I did, and am continuing to do. It’s hilarious, I love the characters, all the child actors and their characters are amazing and hilarious. All the adults are funny. Everything about this show is good and I didn’t think I’d even like it! It’s a cute show!
  • The Walking Dead
    The Walking Dead has had its ups and downs…and downs. But I’m in this for the long haul. I read the comics, I love the characters and world, and I’m going to stick it out. I decided this during the Negan Era, the worst two seasons the show has had, in many people’s opinions, including mine. There were some bright spots, but for the most part, I was just waiting for it to be over. And now that time has come! We’re getting a new start with this show and I’m digging it thus far. Rick leaving worked for me–even how they did it–and I like their big ideas with his character. I like where they’re going. I love the time jump, even! The Whisperers’ introduction was one of the best of the show in this new era! I’m ready for this show to get good again and I have–hesitantly–high hopes.

Other:

  • Fracter
    Now, if you know me, you know that I’m not into many games. But recently, in the last few years, I’ve found a few apps for my phone that I really enjoy. Fracter is one of them. This game–which I’ve already completed and am impatiently waiting for a follow up, if they were to have one–is phenomenal. The design of it alone is incredible enough to consider playing. The look is what drew me to it and I stayed for the puzzling levels that kept growing and growing in size to an overwhelming finale. I couldn’t stop playing it!
  • Two Dots
    The other game I play often is Dots & Co, and this sequel to the original puzzle game Dots, has now become my new obsession. Two Dots has a similar vibe and style to Dots & Co, but has different features and mechanics that are great. I really enjoy playing it whenever I have some extra time in a car ride or when I can’t sleep.
  • Anker – Wireless Keyboard
    Because my Macbook recently called it quits, I’ve been using a desktop for the first time in–well, since I was thirteen and used my parent’s computer to chat with friends on MSN. I miss the portability of a laptop, though, and for writing it’s sometimes essential to get out of the office. So, I bought a wireless keyboard to connect to my iPad and I love it. It’s so much better than using the keypad built-in, which takes up half the screen when I use the Scrivener app, which is the program I use to write in. It’s a great keyboard that connects automatically, lasts a while with battery, and I haven’t had any problems with it so far.

And just like that, autumn is over and winter has begun. The year is nearly over! It’s been an interesting year and I can’t wait to see what films, books, and music I’ll be enjoying next year.

NaNoWriMo 2018

I did it! I won NaNoWriMo for my third year in a row. 

My plan had been to document each week, as I’d done in 2016 and 2017, but this month was far more difficult to juggle everything than I’d thought it would be. But at least I can do this wrap-up post about the month.

I started out strong, for the most part hitting or being just under the target 1,667 daily words. I dropped off for a bit with low numbers and had my first 0 Words Day. I picked it back up again with just one other 0 Words Day until I hit a Thanksgiving Slump, which is usually an okay writing weekend, despite the family dinners and decorating the entire house for Christmas, but this year is was almost nothing written. After Thanksgiving, I made a goal to write at least 2,500/3,000 words a day. And, except for on the 28th when I was just too busy to sit down and write, I did that well. Because of that last 0 Words Day, I only had to write 5,500 words on the last day.

This year’s book was a slightly different book for me, as it wasn’t fantasy, which is what I usually write. Although I tend to write more contemporary stories for NaNoWriMo, I don’t know why. Maybe because they tend to be shorter? Less world building? I probably do that subconsciously. Anyway, this book’s about a trio of thieves pretending to be a family who move from town to town, stealing from their rich neighbors in an elaborate series of heists. It’s a bit comedic, a bit dark. I love the characters and I had blast writing it. Well, writing most of it. 50,000 is obviously not that a long of a book, despite it technically being a novel’s minimum length (I think it’s 45,000 actually). I believe I’m over halfway at 50k, which would bring it to around 90-95,000 at it’s end. I’m not sure when I will continue on with it, as I have other projects in the works already.

Anyway, NaNoWriMo was fun and I can’t wait for next year! 

The Daily Count:
November 1st: 1,769 (1,769)
November 2nd: 1,685 (3,454)
November 3rd: 1,820 (5,274)
November 4th: 1,520 (6,794)
November 5th: 1,905 (8,699)
November 6th: 688 (9,387)
November 7th: 720 (10,107)
November 8th: 0 (10,107)
November 9th: 2,523 (12,630)
November 10th: 969 (13,599)
November 11th: 2,553 (16,152)
November 12th: 1,783 (17,935)
November 13th: 0 (17,935)
November 14th: 1,667 (19,602)
November 15th: 1,817 (21,419)
November 16th: 1,880 (23,299)
November 17th: 1,667 (24,966)
November 18th: 1,667 (26,633)
November 19th: 1,866 (28,499)
November 20th: 0 (28,499)
November 21st: 0 (28,499)
November 22nd: 978 (29,477)
November 23rd: 0 (29,477)
November 24th: 3,000 (32,477)
November 25th: 3,103 (35,580)
November 26th: 2,673 (38,253)
November 27th: 2,585 (40,838)
November 28th: 0 (40,838)
November 29th: 3,662 (44,500)
November 30th: 5,509 (50,009)!!!

Further Learning: A Post-School Journey of Education

I’ve never liked school. I mean, I liked some subjects, like English and art, but thought history was boring and wanted to bash my head in during math. But what I didn’t realize until after I was finished with school, was that I actually liked learning. I loved it. I just wasn’t learning what I wanted to, what I was interested in. I realized this during Art History while going to school for design. It was my favorite class. I’d always thought I hated history, but what I thought of as “history” was what we learned in high school — quite literally, the boring parts. I loved learning about architecture and art, what society was like hundreds of years ago in different countries, different cultures, and how they changed. I realized how much I actually liked to learn — and not just about history, but other subjects I was never taught.

So, I didn’t just want school to stop and learning about interesting stuff I liked to stop with it. After finishing college, I decided that I was going to keep learning about the things I was interested in. I made a list of all the subjects I had an interest in and wanted to learn more about.

I’ve always loved Greek Mythology (I had a semester-long class in middle school about it and fell in love) but have always wanted to learn more, I’ve been interested in language, religion, history, and a whole bunch of other topics.

Here’s a rough list:

  • Language
  • Greek Mythology
  • Ancient Rome
  • Egyptian Mythology + Ancient Egyptian History
  • Witches (Salem; European Witch hunts)
  • Monsters and Legends
  • Religious History
  • Modern Cults
  • Scandinavian History
  • Norse and Celtic Mythologies
  • British History
  • Symbolism and Iconography
  • History of Ancient China
  • The World Wars
  • Evolution
    PLUS A LOT MORE

I have set out a plan and have already started reading books on the subjects that I’m interested in. To start, I read one of my first non-fiction books, Penny Coleman’s Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts: A History of Burial — which was a fascinating read about how we’ve treated our dead in the past, how other cultures do, and how it has changed. Afterward and since, I’ve started with the topic of language. Linguistics and etymology have always been an interest of mine and I’ve been loving learning more about it. The schedule so far is continuing with Language for the rest of 2018 and early 2019, then start with Greek Mythology around mid-2019.

And, because I document a some of my life here on the blog, I decided I wanted to post more about my new journey. That’s the plan starting in 2019, a new series of posts documenting my journey: the books I read, articles, films, documentaries, etc. along with my thoughts, things I found interesting or learned, and a general overview of each subject. I’m very excited about this!

First, however, we have to get through the rest of 2018. This was just an introduction. I have a lot of posts about NaNoWriMo (it’s coming so soon!) and wrapping up the year before then. I’m hoping the first posts about Language will start in the beginning of 2019!

Juggling Projects – Writing Update

It’s been a while since I posted about the projects I’ve been working on. And, oh my, are there a lot. It’s been a strange year. A hard year. An exciting year. But mostly, it’s been a pretty good year for writing.

For the most part, I’ve been on target with all my writing goals this year. In my last post about writing, I talked about switching gears and focusing on a different, older project (working title: Thoughtless) that I feel is a much better, stronger book to eventually try to get an agent with. And I still plan on working on it. I started this year finishing the draft I started during NaNoWriMo 2017, then in February I restructured and outlined the new draft of Thoughtless, and wrote a short story in April. I continued working on the first draft of Thoughtless up until summer, when my schedule goes a bit haywire and I wouldn’t have time to do much writing — at this point, I decided to take a break from the first draft to let it settle and go back to it in the fall. I wrote a short story during the summer and started writing a screenplay (a feature-length, which is much different from anything I’ve ever written as I’ve only written short films and novels).

And that’s about where I am now. I finished the screenplay — I’m very happy with it as a first draft — and because it’s October, I’m starting to outline the novel I plan to write during NaNoWriMo 2018 next month (it’s a twisty drama about a family of thieves living in the suburbs and I’m excited about it).

HOWEVER. My plan to return to Thoughtless in the fall has been pushed to after NaNoWriMo in December because the screenplay took two months to finish (all of August and most of September). And to top it off, I was recently inspired with a new idea for a fantasy series that I’m so excited about that it’s all I want to focus my time and energy on (but that’s because it’s new and shiny and I have to KEEP MYSELF TOGETHER and not act on the urge to focus on it). It’s in the early stages and needs more time to simmer, so I’m not even close to drafting, but it’s so hard not to think about.

(For reference on how long projects usually take for me to get to the point of drafting, I thought of the thievery book I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo this year in April and am just now at the right stage to start outlining in time to draft it in November. And Thoughtless took a year before I started outlining and another month before writing. The ideas need to simmer in my head for a while, I jot things down and make notes, sometimes large sections or scenes or characters come to me and I get them down, but let it all swim upstairs before I think about outlining.)

So, how am I going to balance all these projects? By planning. Because I’m a habitual scheduler.

My plan is this:

October – outline NaNoWriMo 2018 thievery book AND research for new fantasy series
November – write NaNoWriMo 2018 thievery book
December – continue draft of Thoughtless AND slowly start outlining new fantasy series

And with the new year, continue working on Thoughtless all winter and in the spring, I can take a break before working on the second draft and have some fun with the new fantasy series. It’ll probably be ready to begin outlining the first book by then — right now, I have an idea for a series but not for a first book, just a general idea of what it could be. Series usually come to me in that way — large, macro story arc that needs to be segmented and fleshed out into smaller chunks which lead to separate plots of each individual book. So far, only once have I already had the idea for the first book as a standalone and the ideas for sequels came after — and that was Thoughtless.

Okay, so that’s my writing update. I’m so so so happy that I feel as excited for writing as I used to. If you didn’t know, I went through a long slump of just not wanting to write anything ever and it sucked. It’s good to be back in the habit of doing something I love — now to a point where I have too many ideas and projects to work on. It’s a good problem to have.