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)!!!

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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.

2018: Summer Favorites

Here are the books, music, films, and more that I’ve been enjoying this spring, roughly between April and now, early September:

Books:

  • Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa
    I bought this book solely because of the cover and I ended up really enjoyed it. It’s about a guy who works at a confectionery shop in Japan (making dorayaki, which is sweet bean paste spread between two pancakes) and an elderly woman who requests to work there to teach him how to make the perfect sweet bean paste. It’s a good read.
  • Corpses, Coffins, & Crypts: A History of Burial by Penny Colman
    I usually don’t read non-fiction, but I’ve been wanting to do some more learning now that I’m done with school. I have a whole plan and maybe I’ll do a post about it someday. Anyway, I read this book about death and it was fascinating. Penny Colman takes you on a journey that’s both personal and historical about what it means to die, to be buried, cremated, or entombed. It talks about different cultures and how they go about honoring their dead. It’s truly fascinating – though, a bit dark and morbid, so if that’s not your thing, skip it. But I think there’s plenty of lighter, uplifting messages within the book, too, to balance it out. It’s an interesting read.
  • The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
    I read The Nest during BookTube-A-Thon and it was such a great read. It’s about a wealthy family of siblings from New York City who are all awaiting their trust fund – the Nest – to be given to them after the money was needed to take care of an accident caused by the eldest, drug-addicted brother. As they wait to be paid back by him, the siblings all deal with their own financial and family issues. It’s told from multiple perspectives (more than just the siblings) and it’s honestly a book I didn’t want to put down – which rarely happens. I don’t know if it’s because of the time frame of the readathon, but I definitely flew through it and loved it.
  • Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
    Another BookTube-A-Thon book, Annihilation was a weird, weird science fiction book about an all-female team entering into Area X, a mysterious alien-like landscape of creatures with devastating effects, mentally and physically, to those who enter. It’s a bit of a trip. It definitely didn’t follow a traditional plot structure, the storytelling was unique and it was nothing like anything I’ve ever read before. It was such a good read and I can’t wait to read the whole trilogy. And see the film with Natalie Portman that just recently came out – though I think I want to read all the books first, because I think they changed a lot for the film, so I want them to be completely separate in my head.

Films:

  • Jurassic World: Fallen Empire
    As summer is always the most busy time of year for me, I was only able to see one new film – and I even saw it in the theater! For my 25th birthday, as I was born in the same year as the original Jurassic Park movie’s release, I kind of had to celebrate our 25th anniversary together. I wasn’t too big of a fan of Jurassic World, although I liked it, it just wasn’t fantastic. However, Fallen Empire far surpassed my expectations…well, for the first half anyway. The first half of the movie is, by far, my favorite part of the entire franchise – maybe just under the original movie. But it’s so close. I wish the first half of Fallen Kingdom had been the whole movie because it was literally so so so good. The second half parred just about the same as the first Jurassic World, so good but not great. But that first half, y’all. THAT FIRST HALF. I want to watch it again and again just for that.

Music:

  • Mean Girls
    I’m not someone who is known as a musical theater person. But even saying that, I feel like it’s slightly wrong to say about myself. Even when I told my sister that I was currently obsessed with the Mean Girls musical, she was like “Yeah, that checks out.” I guess I grew up with musicals as a kid (all movies: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, West Side Story, Wizard of Oz just to name a few) and in high school/early college, I loved the movie Chicago and I was thrilled to see the touring production of Beauty & the Beast in my senior year of high school. I think I’m the type of person who would have joined my school’s musical theater program if we were to have on, but we didn’t, so musicals were kept as a dormant hobby of mine that crept up here and there, but took FULL BLOWN CONTROL of my life the moment I heard about the Mean Girls musical. Mean Girls is my favorite teen comedy. Everything Tina Fey does is perfection, so when I knew she was writing the musical too, I was in. What I didn’t expect was to love it so much. I listened to the few songs released as “singles” over and over again, then repeated the whole cast album probably six times in a single weekend. I definitely didn’t watch the full bootleg of the show that someone uploaded to YouTube and loved it, though. That didn’t happen. But seriously, the songs are great, the show’s hilarious, and Taylor Louderman is just BEYOND EXCEPTIONAL as Regina. Her voice is insane.
  • High as Hope by Florence + the Machine
    If you didn’t know, Florence + the Machine is my favorite band (band? singer? duo?) in the history of the universe. A new album has been released and its just so so so good. My favorites on the album include: Hunger, Sky Full of Song, South London Forever, and Patricia. It’s just so good. I believe, possibly, this might be my second favorite album of Florence’s. Ceremonials is still my favorite – and will probably stay that way – but High as Hope is so close to it.
  • ‘Sila’ (feat. Tanya Tagaq) by A Tribe Called Red
    I first heard this song in the trailer for the film Thoroughbreds and I became obsessed with it. I’m always looking for lyric-less songs to listen to while writing, and this one is an intense, sort of terrifying, rad jam that’s just perfect for scenes that are intense, rad, and sort of terrifying. Which I happen to write a lot of. It’s a good fight scene song.
  • ‘Issues’ by Julia Michaels
    First heard this song during the trailer for the show Killing Eve (more about that later) and fell in love with it. Julia Michaels’ voice is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard (watching her perform and getting to hear the way her voice sounds live is great). It’s a really great song that’s almost addicting to listen to.
  • ‘no tears left to cry’ by Ariana Grande
    I was LATE to the party, but this song by Ariana Grande is addicting to listen to. I mean her vocals are always incredible but there’s just something about this song that I love. It’s simultaneously mellow and kind of sad but it’s also a banger and I love it.
  • ‘Crush’ by Tessa Violet
    Tessa’s been one of my favorites for a long time – I’ve watched her on YouTube for years and I love her style of music. This song is killin’ it and it’s so catchy and I love it and can’t stop listening to it.

Television:

  • Killing Eve
    THIS IS MY FAVORITE SHOW OMG. Okay, calm down. It’s just so good. Sandra Oh has been a favorite forever and she’s incredible in this show as Eve. This weird ass, comedic spy thriller is the greatest show I’ve ever watched. The performances. The writing. Everything is so spot on. There wasn’t a single episode I didn’t like. Not a single scene! Everything about it is so good!
  • Station 19
    I’m an avid watcher of the Shonda Rhime’s produced/created shows on ABC during the TGIT line-up. Grey’s Anatomy has been one of my favorite shows for years, How to Get Away with Murder is addicting, and I love Scandal, and now that Scandal is over, in its place is a Grey’s spin-off about firefighters that is soooo great. I was hesitant when first hearing about it, not really thinking I would like it, but it’s managed to grip me as much as Grey’s Anatomy had the first time I watched it.

Other:

  • RX Bars
    I’ve been eating more healthy lately (well, not lately lately, but in general) and Larabars have been my go-to because my local grocery store has them on sale for 10 single bars for $10. But they’re not my favorite. Because now I’ve discovered the more-than-twice-as-expensive-but-also-twice-as-delicious RX Bars. They have the same idea of being made with whole foods, but they do it so much better. The flavors are stronger, the dates are less prominent, and the egg whites make them more chewy. THEY’RE SO GOOD. BUT SO EXPENSIVE. GAHHHH.
  • Spirits Podcast
    This isn’t new to me, nor is it new to one of my favorites lists here on the blog. I’ve written about it in the past, but Spirits Podcast is just the best. I wasn’t listening to many podcasts for a while, mostly because I wasn’t going for my walks as often. Podcasts just sort of fell out of my routine. But now that it’s nicer outside, I’ve been walking almost everyday, and I’ve rediscovered my favorite podcast and catching up on the episodes I’ve missed. Spirits talks about some of my favorite things: myths, legends, monsters, ghosts. It’s such a good podcast with two incredible hosts, tipsily talking about my favorite things – literally so funny and interesting and awesome.
  • Hit the Bricks
    Speaking of podcasts, I’ve been getting into audio dramas lately and this one couldn’t have come at a better time. My friend PJ created Hit the Bricks, which is set in the universe of the Wizard of Oz books. The pilot – which is fantastic – is out now and I can’t wait for there to be more. I’m already hooked into this story and I want to know what happens.
  • 23andMe
    I did the thing. I spit in the tube. Which was gross. But then I got my ancestry results in two weeks. Which was not gross. It was so cool. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time but didn’t have the money and then my parents gifted me a kit for my birthday. What were my results? I’m very white. Like, 97% white. But what KIND of white am I? 22% French and German (Netherlands), 15% Finnish, 8% Scandinavian (Sweden), 12% English and Iris (UK), 3% Eastern European, 2.5% Iberian, .5% Southern European (Italian; was expecting more since my great grandfather literally immigrated from there so…haha) and like 30% just BROAD European/Northern European. Which is a big percentage that isn’t accounted for (maybe all my Italian hiding???). I really want my parents to also do this so I can connect them and mine will be more accurate. And then! I’m also 2.5% East Asian and Native American (.3% Northern Asian/Native American and 2.3% Native American) and .1% South East African (it originally told me I was North African/Arabian, but that has since become more accurate, which is odd.) Several things were surprising (like not having much Italian and having that small bit of African) but some things weren’t (I knew I was Native American on both sides of my family and I knew that I was Swedish, but I didn’t know I was Finnish at all; this has been a debate in our family but apparently we are from the Swedish part of Finland, which makes sense that my great grandparents came from Finland but spoke and were culturally “Swedish”.) I’ve always wanted to know my ancestry (and still want more info when my parents do it!) and now I do! I want so badly to be able to meet the people in my lineage, to hear the story of every ancestor I have. It’s just such a cool thing we can do, it truly is.
  • Duolingo
    So there was a strong possibility that I was going to go live in Madrid, Spain (yeah yeah 2.5% Iberian!) for about 8 months but it isn’t going to work out, unfortunately. I’ve been very bummed about it. But anyway, during the weeks that I thought I was going, I started Duolingo to learn a bit of Spanish to help me while I was over there. It’s such a great app, especially if just to learn the basics like greetings and dining out and useful tourist stuff. I don’t know how accurate it would be to become fluent, but it’s a fun app that makes it easy to learn a new language.
  • Venmo
    I’ve heard of Venmo a million times but never cared about it until one day, my cousin asked me to do some work for her editing her college essays and papers. She told me she’d pay me for it, which was awesome because I needed the money, and I loved getting back into that collegiate frame of mind. It made me miss my days of writing essays and papers (which, weirdly, I loved). Anyway, she had me get Venmo to make it easier and it totally was. Venmo rocks. Also, every time someone gives you money, the little notification sound is a ding and a cash-register sound. It’s adorable.

2018: Goals Update

2018 has been a very strange, busy year thus far. So busy, that I haven’t been posting on here as much as I’d wanted, and I’m definitely late with this post — it was originally planned for the midpoint of the year, end of June/early July, and seeing how it’s late August, that gives you a good idea.

A lot of this year is about change for me. A lot of new and exciting things might be happening, so that means some of my goals need to shift a little. But everything has been going great so far!

Here are my goals I set for the beginning of the year and how I’ve been doing on them:

Design & Illustration

  • sketch 2-3 times a week – I’ve been mostly okay with this. During the summer, when I’m busier, some weeks I didn’t sketch at all, but for the most part, I at least sketched twice (this just means 15 to 20 minutes of sketching anything). April was my first illustration focused month and I sketched daily – only missing three days!
  • 2 full-color illustrations a month – I’ve done this so far! I’m really improving and would love to post something about all the finished pieces (the ones I think are good enough to share, anyway).
  • start freelancing – I did this! I took the plunge, created a website, have had a few clients, and am loving it. It’s challenging to get clients but it’s working out just fine for now, especially because I just started.
  • open online shop – Not going to happen! As I’ve said, I’ve become so busy with my day job and freelancing, and with the near future changes in my life, this is a goal I’m going to have to put off a little longer. But it’s a good thing! It’s just not the right time.

Writing

  • write 2 short stories – Done and done! I wrote two short stories, one at the beginning of the year and one in June.
  • finish first draft of Book E Not happening anymore! I, again, decided to change projects. If you read that post, you’ll know about the other series I wanted to write. Well, I decided it was a much more original, more suited book for me to write. (For reference, in that post it’s Book C, the first in Series 2). Instead, I’ll be working on Book C and have been all year. It’s going good!
  • finish the draft from NaNoWriMo 2017 – Done! It turned out great!
  • complete NaNoWriMo 2018 – To be determined! Can’t wait for October to outline the new novel and for November to write it!

Film

  • watch 25 new (or new to me) films – I’ve watched eight. Which is not great. But I have a ton on my DVR ready to watch and I even saw one in theaters this year (it’s so hard to do this, y’all) and it was great! I’ll post a full recap of films later on in the year.
  • film 1 experimental short film/video project – I did! I have yet to edit it. It’s actually from footage from my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary — not exactly the project I had in mind, but I’m glad for the refresher with editing and filming.
  • write a first draft of a feature-length film – Currently working on it! August is my month for focusing on film projects, so I’m writing it right now and loving it!

Reading

  • read 25 books – I’ve read 15 so far and am not worried at all about hitting this goal. BookTube-A-Thon was really fun this year, even if I only read 5 books instead of 7. It bumped up my number when I was struggling with summer time to read!
  • read less fantasy – I’ve only read one!
  • read shorter books – I’ve read mostly short books!
  • abandon old reading lists – I have done this! In fact, a good portion of the books I’ve read so far this year are books I just recently purchased or found.

Exercise

  • be more active – I’ve definitely done this! I’ve been walking a lot and started working out a bit. So far this year, I’ve lost 20 pounds. From my original weight two years ago, I’ve lost almost 40.
  • stick to a workout schedule – I’ve been walking almost daily but haven’t really nailed down a good schedule. I’m hoping to make sure this happens before fall/winter, where I tend to fall off the wagon.
  • do the Whole30 at least once – I’ve posted about this already, but the Whole30 is hard af and I decided to quit doing it. For my mental stability, I needed to stop. But at least I tried!
  • go to bed earlier/wake up earlier – I’ve been semi-doing this one. I think overall, I’ve been going to bed on the earlier side than normal (between 11:30pm – 12am rather than the usual 1am) and get up around 7am instead of the usual 9pm. However, I could be doing more. I love the nights (and mornings after!) when I go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 6am. It’s something I still have to work on!

Monthly Focus

In my previous goals post, I posted about each month being a focus month for one particular goal I have for the year. I broke it down and followed it for the most part, up until June. Here’s the rest of the year:

Jul: Reading (read four to five books in the month; BookTube-A-Thon)
Aug: Film (write feature-length; film and edit one short film/video)
Sept: Illustration (two or three full illustrations + daily sketching)
Oct: Health + Fitness (exercise every day; eat well)
Nov: Writing (NaNoWriMo 2018)
Dec: Reading (read four to five books in the month)

Most of the changes in my life aren’t going to change the monthly focuses too much. We’ll see what happens. So far, I think I’ve been doing really well and I can’t wait to share about the changes that might be happening soon!

BookTube-A-Thon 2018

Every summer for the past few years, I’ve participated in the fun read-a-thon event BookTube-A-Thon! It’s a lot of fun (and extraordinarily exhausting) and every year I try to do better than the previous year, desperately wanting to complete the challenge of reading seven books during the week.

Well, this year I definitely didn’t. In fact, I did more poorly than I had in other years. Ha.

But that’s okay! Because it was still fun!

Each year, there are specific challenges and this year, these were the challenges (including my choice of book next to them):

1. Let a coin toss decide your first read (Saga, Volume 8 by Brian K Vaughan)
2. Read a book about something you want to do (Timeline by Michael Crichton)
3. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation (Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer)
4. Read a book with green on the cover (The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket)
5. Read a book while wearing the same hat the whole time (Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman)
6. Read a book with a beautiful spine (The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney)
7. Read seven books (The Night Guest by Fiona MacFarlane)

I chose these books because they varied in genre and book type (sci-fi, contemporary, mystery/thriller; a middle grade book, a few adult, a graphic novel, and a poetry collection) to keep things interesting. I also tried to choose (mostly) short books that wouldn’t take me long to read. This is always my strategy, having a rule that each one had to be less than 350 pages (under 200 was best) and had short, distinct chapters to keep things moving quickly so I wouldn’t want to put it down. I overestimated my abilities with Timeline, however.

By the end of the week, I was exhausted. I started with Saga and The Vile Village, finishing both in the first day. I also started Timeline, the book I was most nervous about because of its length, to take out big chunks of it throughout the week. But with work and family stuff happening, and with the ever-present exhaustion that comes with reading for hours at a time, late at night, straining your eyes, I was only able to finish 5 whole books. The Nest, Annihilation, and Leaves of grass were all finished by Saturday night, leaving only half of Timeline left and all of The Night Guest. But because I was so tired and after a family event on Sunday, I was only able to get halfway through The Night Guest, and I gave up by 9pm. My eyes were hurting, y’all.

I crammed too much at the end instead of pacing myself well during the week. Such a bad mistake! I also wanted to challenge myself with Timeline, but it was just too long of a book to choose for this event.

Still, it was so much fun! I would have finished a lot of the other challenges, too, though in my exhausted, zombie-like haze, I forgot completely about watching Annihilation! I still plan on watching it (I loved that weird ass book so much) but I’m just bummed I forgot to do it during the week.

Anyway, to finish, here are the ratings I gave each book that I finished completely (surprisingly, I liked all of them!):

Saga, Volume 8 ★★★★★
The Vile Village ★★★★★
The Nest ★★★★
Annihilation ★★★★
Leaves of Grass ★★★★★

Timeline (enjoying, so will finish soon)
The Night Guest (enjoying, so will finish soon)

Looking forward to next year!

2018: Winter Favorites

From January through March, I’ve been enjoying some incredible books, films, music, shows, and more. Here are some of my favorites:

Books:

  • Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson
    The story of the third-eldest Kennedy child, Rosemary, is heartbreaking. If you don’t already know—it’s history, so there’s no “spoilers” here—she was intellectually disabled and struggled progressing passed a certain age in school. She frequently suffered from “fits” both of anger, frustration, and sometimes seizures. The family—or I should say, the father of the Kennedys, Joe Sr.—had her lobotomized at the age of 23. I don’t normally read non-fiction but I’m endlessly fascinated by the Kennedy family and couldn’t resist. Rosemary—and the thousands like her who suffered with similar issues and underwent the horrific procedure—deserved so much better.
  • Rooms by Lauren Oliver
    I bought Rooms because of the cover, I will admit. It’s incredible. And although I was initially intrigued when I first read the back cover, by the time I started reading it, I’d forgotten what it was about except for the fact that ghosts were involved. I wasn’t expecting to like the book as much as I did. It’s brilliantly written, expertly paced, and bounces between such interesting, unexpected perspectives that I was blown away by. It didn’t take me long to read—and as a slow reader, that’s a high compliment. The more I read, the more I didn’t want to put it down.
  • Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
    Again, I bought this book because of the cover more than the book. I’d picked it up while on vacation at a tiny little bookshop in a tiny little town. The idea of a young girl being told that the world and everyone around her was gone, dead, and that only her and her father were left only to discover that it had been a lie was such a great premise. This book is incredibly written and tough to read because you know that, somewhere out there, it’s happened to a young girl for real.
  • Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman
    I’ve recently been getting into comics/graphic novels. But superheroes haven’t really been on my radar—my favorites are The Walking Dead, Saga, and East of West—even though I love superheroes, and you’d think that I would’ve loved them as a kid. But I was more into the television shows/films about them rather than comics. I was given an e-book of Marvel 1602 for free with a purchase—I had my choice of any Marvel comic, and this one, written by Neil Gaiman and set in the Elizabethan era was a no-brainer. I wasn’t expecting to love it and I didn’t even know what it was about until I started reading. Imagine the Marvel heroes—the X-Men, Spider Man, the Fantastic Four, etc.—being born too soon. It’s great and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequels.

Films:

  • Lady Macbeth
    I’ve been excited to see this film for almost an entire year after I watched the trailer—which I enjoyed almost as much as a I did the film itself, maybe more—and I bought it on DVD as soon as I could. It’s such a visually appealing film that anything else about it didn’t matter. Every shot looked impeccable, every frame like a painting. Florence Pugh delivers such an incredible performance. It’s dark, it’s brilliant. I loved every minute of it, even the parts I was horrified by.
  • Lady Bird
    Yeah, yeah—I get it. You know this is a great film. It was nominated for several Oscars. I just have to gush about it because writer/director Greta Gerwig is one of my favorites, one of my idols. She’s amazing and Frances Ha, which she starred in and co-wrote is one of my favorite films of all time. Saoirse Ronan is another favorite that gives one of my favorite performances of all time; same for Laurie Metcalf. This movie is a favorite for life. It’s nearly perfect.
  • Get Out
    I don’t think I’ve ever watched a thriller film that is quite as unique as this—not even as a horror film, just as a film in general. It’s brilliant. Jordan Peele deserved every accolade for it. The performances were great—like Daniel Kaluuya is top notch, Betty Gabriel gave one of the most memorable supporting performances ever and she should have been nominated for something, and Allison Williams killed it.
  • The Skeleton Twins
    I love Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. I never expected to see them in such a dramatic film, especially one as dark as this, and be so incredible. It does, of course, have very funny moments, but ultimately it’s a dark story about two suicidal twins coming together again after ten years of not speaking. It’s really great.

Music:

  • ‘Til It’s Over by Anderson Paak
    I’ve been obsessed with the iHome commercial directed by Spike Jonze and starring FKA Twigs with this song in it. It’s the coolest commercial I’ve ever seen and the song is amazing.
  • Simply the Best by Noah Reid (from Schitt’s Creek)
    This cover of Tina Turner’s song by one of the characters on the show Schitt’s Creek is so so so good. The moment in the episode is so good. I just love it.
  • Make Me Feel by Janelle Monae
    This song is my jam. It is my morning routine song. It is my afternoon pick-me-up. It is the moon, the sun, the stars. Janelle Monae is perfection. The video is bomb. I love it.
  • More by Photocomfort
    A long time ago, I found a band called Photocomfort and downloaded their free EP on Bandcamp. Those songs were super inspirational for me for a long time but I never could find any more about the band and sort of forgot about them—other than listening to the songs I’d already had—and recently, I found them again. The song More is such a different sound from their first EP but I love it.
  • Mystery of Love and Death with Dignity by Sufjan Stevens
    Thanks to Call Me By Your Name and Busy Philipps’ Instagram, I’m in love with Sufjan Stevens and I love these songs in particular. So soothing and beautiful and gentle. Absolutely in love.
  • Mockingbirds by Grant Lee Buffalo
    If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan like I, you’ve heard the town troubadour, played by the lead singer of the band. He plays this song during the Firelight Festival in one of my favorite scenes of the first season.
  • Sober by Lorde
    I’ve been listening to a lot of Lorde lately, her new album Melodrama (okay, not so new, but I’m late, as always) is fantastic. Sober is my favorite song on it.
  • Every Other Freckle by alt-j
    I had alt-j’s album This Is All Yours on my iTunes wishlist after it was recommended to for a long time without ever listening. I’m glad I eventually did. This song in particular is my favorite. It’s awesome.
  • Losing All Sense by Grizzly Bear
    The song is great and I especially love the lyrics here:

“Could I ask of you not to cut into me
Dividing all of my body for me
I was left here to go through all the pieces
Nothing more to spare.”

Television:

  • The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
    This show is not perfect. I would’ve changed a million things about it—telling the story in reverse order was unnecessary; if you’re going to have Gianni Versace in the title, it should probably include him more in the story or at least just call it something else if they didn’t want Andrew Cunanan’s name glorified—but ultimately, it’s really great. Darren Criss is such an incredible actor and I think they told an incredible, if not flawed, story.
  • Queer Eye
    The reboot of Queer Eye is incredible and I cried every episode and I love the new crew and I just want more. There are so many touching moments, hilarious moments, important moments. It’s just such a great show.
  • The Good Place
    Let me tell you, I slept on this show like you wouldn’t believe. I was like “Oh that looks funny” then never checked it out. Never bothered. And then I heard just how good it was, so I decided to give it a shot. I’m almost glad that I never watched from the beginning, because binging it through both seasons was necessary. I almost wish I would’ve waited for the third to already be out because this! show! does! not! mess! around! It’s funny, it’s brilliant, it goes in directions that I never EVER would have thought. It’s wild. It’s fun. I love it.
  • Schitt’s Creek
    I casually watched this show for the first three seasons, seeing one or two episodes but never fully committing for no reason other than forgetting it was on. But now I’ve fully invested myself and have watched all of season four every night it airs. I can’t get enough of this show. It’s got such a subtle comedic timing and pacing that isn’t like other comedies. One of the best.
  • The End of the F***ing World
    This Netflix show is wild. It’s dark and messed up and funny. It’s a weird little show about two messed up teenagers who runaway from home. I loved it and I hope this isn’t just the mini-series it’s been planned to be. I’d love more of it.

Other:

  • Skillshare
    I was given a code to get two months of Skillshare classes for 99 cents. It was well worth the dollar. There are so many classes available for any kind of topic you could want. I’ve done some illustration and design classes, even a few that helped with my getting started with freelancing. It’s a great resource, though I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with it once my two months are up. It’s a bit pricier than I would want to commit to. But it’s something I’ll definitely think about.
  • Diet Coke Feisty Cherry
    Y’all, I’ve been trying to cut down on sugar and I know Diet Coke has terrible things in it and I shouldn’t drink it. I used to hate Diet Coke and only drank regular Coke. I’m a big fan. But when I heard about the new Diet Cokes with new flavors, I was sold. There are four flavors and they are: Twisted Mango (not bad, my second favorite), Ginger Lime (tasted like regular Diet Coke to me, maybe a bit of something extra, but for the most part it was just fine), and Zesty Blood Orange (which is the worst and it tastes like orange Emergen-C). The best one is Feisty Cherry and I’ve been drinking it a lot. It has the sweet cherry flavor of Cherry Coke with a bite of peppery goodness in the after-taste. It’s quite nice.
  • Adam Rippon & the entire 2018 Winter Olympics
    I love the Olympics. Every Olympics since I was a kid, my mom and I would watch everything we could. I especially love the Summer Olympics, but this year, I got really into the Winter Olympics. Figure skating, curling, skiing, speed skating! It was such a fun time and honestly, the best thing to come out of it is Adam Rippon has emerged into the spotlight as America’s gay sweetheart and he’s the best. He’s hilarious and every interview with him is gold.

It’s been a long, cold, depressing winter and I’m ready for spring! I’m glad I had these favorites of mine to get me through. It’s snowing right now, in April, but I’m hoping for some sun soon. I need it.

✌🏼

Reading Preferences: Format, Structure, + Length

I’ve been a reader for a long time—not as long as most readers I know (I wasn’t the child who stayed up all night reading, who devoured the Harry Potter books; I didn’t even really start reading heavily until I was twelve or thirteen, funnily enough far after I started writing) but I’ve considered myself to be a “reader” for a while. And though I’m a slower reader and haven’t read a ridiculous number of books, of them that I’ve enjoyed, I’ve come to notice a pattern.

I have a lot of personal preferences with books, ranging from genre to length (I love fantasy/sci-fi which tend to be long, but I prefer shorter reads). But what I’ve noticed recently is that the books I tend to enjoy reading more, the books I’m able to read quicker, and the books I “just can’t put down” are all similar in a few aspects.

One: Shorter, quicker reads.

I love me a long, dense fantasy book that keeps me in the story for a long period of time—especially a series. It helps with being totally immersed in the world, keeping my brain within that space even when I’m not reading. I tend to take a few weeks to even months reading a 500+ page fantasy. And while I love them, especially because it’s my favorite genre, I have started to realize that shorter books are more enjoyable to me. The accomplishment of reading a book in a shorter amount of time, being able to read more stories in a year by fitting two or three books in the time it would take me to read one, is way more appealing to me.

Two: Length of chapters and structure.

On the note of length, the most important element of a book that I prefer is shorter chapter lengths. There’s nothing worse for me than picking up a book to find it having 20-30 page long chapters. There’s nothing more soul-crushing. I’ve mentioned that I’m a slow reader, which isn’t technically true. I’m a fairly average reader when it comes to speed. I tend to read in shorter, infrequent bursts, so it takes me longer to read a book, not that it takes me longer than a minute per page or anything. So when I’m reading a book with long chapters, it’s difficult to a) read more than one chapter and b) find a place to pause. With short chapters, I could read two or three in one sitting no problem. In fact, I’m more likely to say “just one more chapter, it’s another short one” so I end up reading even more pages than with the long chapter books. It seems silly but it’s true! Long chapters with many page breaks/scenes are even better than one long chapter. And it’s not just about time with reading, it’s the pacing that makes the book more enjoyable. Shorter chapters tend to have a quicker pace, they tend to make me want to keep reading longer and I end up finishing much quicker.

Another aspect that is similar to chapter length, is a book broken up into parts. If a book as three to seven parts, I’m hooked. It’s another marker, a goal that I can keep reading to. “Just one more chapter” or “I’m almost done with part two, I might as well read the last two chapters.” The most structured and broken up the book is, the better. There’s nothing worse for me than having to trudge through a 400 page book with only twelve chapters, even if I like the story and end up loving the book.

Three: Format.

The format of what I’m reading is another, though less important, preference for me. I read printed books much more often than I read ebooks. However, I noticed that I read faster on my Kindle reading an ebook than I do a printed book. I don’t know the specifics of it, because I don’t read ebooks often, I just know that I read slightly faster. Maybe the screen? The ease of the buttons? No page numbers? I’m not sure. With printed books, however, I prefer paperback. With hardcover, I take the jacket off so it doesn’t get damaged and keep it in a drawer. There’s something about paperbacks, being able to see the cover throughout the reading process, that keeps me engaged more. It’s strange, but it does. I often buy books because of their covers, or buy certain editions because I love the cover, so to be able to see that and be reminded constantly makes me want to read it more often. There’s also something to be said about the comfortability of a paperback in the hands, or even just one hand, and it’s softer when holding.

The most important one for me, though, is chapter length. It’s such a part of my reading preference that I’ve adopted it into my own writing—I never write long, endlessly long chapters. They tend to meander and slow the pacing of the story. I prefer writing short, concise chapters that keeps the plot moving.

 

Most of these preferences aren’t really anything I look into when buying or going to read a book—I always start with the cover and whether or not it interests me, then I read the back of the book. I rarely won’t choose a book because of the above preferences, but they are a factor to whether or not I like a book or not—honestly, the process of reading and the enjoyment I get from doing it definitely alters my perception of the story. The time it takes me to read it, whether I’m comfortable—it all matters.

Shifting Gears…Again – Writing Update

About a year ago, I posted about needing to shift gears and abandon the novel I’d been working on for a long time and deciding to work on the book I like to call Book E. All of that is explained in the other post. However, one thing that I’ve been thinking about for the past year since making that decision: I’m worried about the genre.

Book E, like the original book I’d been writing, Book A, are both set in the same universe. They are connected. And I’d been working on them thinking it was the best option for me to focus on. The problem is, both Book A and E, while different in tone and style, have the same thing in common: superpowers. Book A is more fantasy, while Book E is a little more urban fantasy, but both have characters with the same superhero-like powers.

And what type of films/books/everything has there been a lot of lately? SUPERHEROES.

Media is over-saturated with superhero content right now. And I’ve learned that a lot of agents aren’t really looking for those right now because of it. I had a feeling that this was happening, but I was still in denial that I could make something original enough to stand out. But I couldn’t. I can’t. And honestly, I don’t want to. Because like many of us, I’m sick of superheroes, too.

I still love those books and I know that someday I might go back to them. I think sometimes that if I’d finished them years ago like planned, maybe they could’ve been published at the peak of this superhero obsession, which would’ve been great. But I know that Book A is not as strong or original as I thought when I first started writing it at the age of fifteen (it checked all four of the over-done tropes that one of my top picks for agents listed on their blog) and Book E is great, but also resembles some superpower-centered stories that are out there right now. So I know that now I’m going in the right direction.

So what will I be focusing on then, if not Books A or E?

Book C! The science fiction novel I wrote back in 2012 that I think is a much more original concept and has a much better chance of catching the eye of an agent to eventually be published. It had been my plan a long time ago to finish both Book A and Book C then decide which one was stronger to query with, but then Book E came along. Now that I want to change directions a bit, Book C is the perfect project to work on.

I’m extremely excited to get back to working on Book C (or Thoughtless, as that is its tentative title) though I know it’s going to be a ton and a half of work. The first draft was written when I was a much younger, less-skilled writer—boy, can six years make a difference (and with any luck, that constant growth will continue.) But because of that, I know it’s going to be difficult to turn this book into something good. I’ve already decided that an entire rewrite is necessary and a huge re-structuring of the plot is the first thing that needs to happen.

However, before that, one of my goals for January was to finish the draft of the book I’d written during NaNoWriMo’17. So that’s what I’m working on right now. After that, in February (which is the month I’m focusing on writing) I’ll be tackling Book C and starting again from scratch.

It’s a scary and exciting phase.