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.
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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.

2018: New Year | New Goals

Well. 2017 was a YEAR. I’m not thrilled with the goals I accomplished last year. And it’s not that I didn’t focus or work hard enough for them, I realized I just set my goals too high and wasn’t able to reach them. So. This year, I’m doing things differently and I think I’m going to like it much better.

First thing, I’m setting my goals smaller. Because I have so many different categories of goals, I need to think smaller. Quality, not quantity—which is actually one of my new plans for this blog. Instead of once (ish) a week, I’m going to post once every two weeks. Focus on quality, not quantity.

Second, like last year—though I started this almost a third into 2017—I’ll be focusing on one goal more than the others each month. It’ll be my Monthly Focus that I prioritize over the rest.

Here are my goals for 2018:

Design & Illustration

Last year, I had lofty goals that I just wasn’t ready to accomplish. This year, I’m scaling back a bit but have more of a clear, solid plan in place for this year. I wanted to sketch daily, have a full illustration done a week. I just wasn’t going to achieve that. I also had wanted to start freelancing design work and open my online shop with things I designed, but just couldn’t start that up last year. This year, I’m going to do:

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


Writing

My writing goals last year changed so much last year because of a lot of issues (I wrote about them here) and really fell behind. But, fortunately, I redirected and reset my goals and achieved a lot. However, I’d love to go forward this year with more:

  • write 2 short stories
  • finish first draft of Book E
  • finish the draft from NaNoWriMo 2017 (very close to done)
  • complete NaNoWriMo 2018 (and outline in October)

Film

I wrote my second (first completed) short film last year and was so incredibly proud of it. I want to work on more film projects, but just couldn’t do it last year like I’d wanted. And, I’d wanted to see a lot more (new to me) films in the theater and at home. I saw none in the theater and only 21 at home. So, this year, I’m working a little harder on less projects:

  • 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

This one is what I’m most upset about. I’ve consistently only been able to read around 20-25 books in a year. I’m not happy about it. I always set my goal to 50 or even just 30 and I never reach it. So, this year, I’m going to do three things: embrace that number, read less fantasy (which takes me longer to read because it’s so long), choose more short books, and, most importantly, stop trying to read the books I’ve had on my list for years that I never get around to. I keep rolling over the books I don’t get to and I’m way less excited to read them because of it. There are other books that have piqued my interest since and I’m tired of not getting to those. So, I’m doing this:

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

Exercise

Last year, I did fairly well with exercise and health, but I could’ve done better. This year, I’m going to really work at it and set my goals lower. With my monthly focuses, I’m starting off January by doing the Whole30 and walking every day. I’ll slow down for months I’m not focusing on it, but I really like my plan this year.

  • be more active, walk or bike
  • stick to work-out schedule better
  • do the Whole30 at least once
  • go to bed earlier/wake up earlier

Monthly Focus

I’m still working out which month I want to work on what, and I know there will be repeats, several months for writing or reading, but I just have the first six months set. Also, I don’t have anything with design involved with the monthly focuses because, well, it’s kind of my job so I need to focus on it all the time. These are just the side activities.

Jan: Health + Fitness (Whole30 + walking every day)
Feb: Writing (finish NaNo ’17 + short story + work on draft of Book E)
Mar: Reading (at least four or five books in the month)
Apr: Illustration (two or three full illustrations + daily sketching)
May: Writing (feature film)
Jun: Health + Fitness (Whole30??? + walking every day)

I’m very excited about the upcoming year. I have good feelings about it. Here’s to 2018!

2017 Goals: End of Year Wrap-Up

2017 was A Year and a Half™ and I’m glad it’s over, honestly. It was stressful on many levels and my lofty goals didn’t help. But, here we are, ready for the next year to start and glad this one is over.

Design & Illustration

So this entire past year, I’ve been struggling to work out what I want to do with my design career. I’ve known what I want to do, just haven’t yet been able to accomplish them. Though, the last month or two has been more productive. I’ve been redesigning book covers to put up on my upcoming portfolio—I posted about this here—to start doing freelance work and soon, I want to start designing and printing products to sell online (prints, screen printing on totes, cards, etc.) and do more illustration. That’s the goal for next year, and I’ve started putting the pieces together for that. Now, with illustration, while I started out the year fairy well with illustrating and sketching, I’ve fallen off a bit. But, I now know that trying to create a full color illustration once a week and daily sketching isn’t feasible for me right now. So I’ll be continuing on next year, just at a slower pace to keep working on my illustrating skills (I’m excited to start using the new art supplies I received this Christmas!) and updating here. I also worked a bit on hand-lettering, which went okay, but I definitely need to work more on my skills there.

Month of hand-lettering practice: CHECK.
Daily sketches: not daily, barely reached mid-year.
Full color illustrations: 13-14 finished out of 54.

Writing

This has been the most up and down goal of mine this year. I struggled this summer—and posted about that here—and have recently reconciled with my love of writing. I finished the first draft of the novel I started in NaNoWriMo 2016 and completed the NaNoWriMo 2017 challenge of 50,000 words (haven’t finished the draft yet, planning on finishing the last few thousand words in January)! I’ve been working periodically on Book E and have taken December off from writing, just to help focus a bit—I don’t think I would’ve had time anyway, it was a busy month!

Finish NaNoWriMo 2016: CHECK.
NaNoWriMo 2017: CHECK.
First draft of Book E: SORT OF.

Reading

I’m done with trying to read more than 25 books. I didn’t even reach my back up goal of 25. I’ve read 22 books this year and I’m fine with it. I’m honestly tired of being stressed out. Next year, I’m going to set my goal to 25 and read shorter books and just do my best. Maybe someday I’ll be able to get to 50. Or even the 35 I set this year. But all the books I read, I loved—well, most of them—and here they are:

 

Read 35 books: 22. MEH.

Film: Import / Export

I’ve watched 21 new-to-me films this year. None in the theater. I wanted to have reached 25 total, but that’s okay. I’m fine with what I’ve achieved for now. I now know that I just have to stop having such lofty goals. I wrote my short film, Anya, and honestly I’m thrilled with that alone. I didn’t do any other film or video projects like I’d planned, but I’m good with that. I have plans for the future, it’s just not anything I need to focus on right now.

Exercise

I haven’t done that well with exercising. I did really well between February and July, I even lost some weight and felt great. Then, I sort of fell off the wagon. I’ve been able to keep up with my diet fairly well, so I’ve been able to maintain the weight I’ve lost for the most part—the holidays haven’t helped with that—but in January I’m going to try doing the Whole30 and I have a new exercise plan, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with it in the new year.

Instagram

I completed the challenge of posting once a day all year! It sucked. I’m never doing it again. It was mostly fun but stressful, too. I hated doing it. Though, towards the end, I started to enjoy it more with the holidays and being busy and having more things to post about, but those lulls where I did nothing for a week or two but work, I struggled getting enough photos to post. Overall, I don’t regret it. I think the quality of my posts have gone up since before this year, so that’s something. But there’s definitely some posts this past year that I don’t really like, so I’m glad I’m now able to curate my posts better and post just the photos that are top notch.

365 Posts on Instagram: CHECK.

So, that’s my 2017. Goals accomplished, goals failed. One year, hopefully next, I’ll learn to not have such lofty goals and actually be able to accomplish them. Here’s to 2018! Happy New Year!

Book Cover Design

Ever since I decided on going to school for graphic design, I’d always had the goal of designing book covers. It made perfect sense to me: as a writer and a reader, I’m surrounded by books. It’s something I’m passionate about. So it feel natural and exciting to start the process of designing books.

To start, I had a goal of marketing myself as a book cover designer to do freelance work. But I knew I needed some work to go into my portfolio to do so. This led me to the idea of redesigning the covers of books I love to bulk up my portfolio. But I didn’t want to just design books that had terrible covers, I wanted to redesign covers that were already good, maybe even one of my favorites, to challenge myself to make one as good—or better. I don’t know if I accomplished that, but I’m dang proud of the ones that I’ve done so far.

I’ve been working one a few in the last few months in my spare time. Here are three that I really love:

These are just front covers that would work for e-books, but I’ll have a few full spreads in my portfolio for print hardcover jackets and paperbacks.

My goal for the very beginning of 2018 is to have a portfolio up online (other than the link above to just a WordPress page) and to put myself and my work out there to get jobs with self-published authors or small independent publishers.

If you happen to see this post before my portfolio is up and ready, like the covers above, and are in need of any design work (not just book covers!), feel free to message me through any social media outlet or here on WordPress. I’ll have a proper way of contact up soon!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Final Wrap-Up

I DID IT!!!!!!!!

With 40 minutes to spare, I completed my NaNoWriMo 2017 with 50,005 words. I could’ve written more, but I was VERY tired that night after writing over 4,000 words to finish.

This year, I found it was easier than last year! I still struggled and fell behind, but not as much. In 2016, I had to write 13,000 the final day to finish and this year I had to write a third of that. Maybe next year I’ll be finished EARLY? Maybe!

Here’s the breakdown of the month:

Words Written:

November 1st – 2,267
November 2nd – 1,830
November 3rd – 1,530
November 4th – 2,130
November 5th – 1,080
November 6th – 1,670
November 7th – 1,232
November 8th – 1,750
November 9th – 84
November 10th – 1,708
November 11th – 2,330
November 12th – 3,000
November 13th – 1,311
November 14th – 675
November 15th – 0
November 16th – 751
November 17th – 0
November 18th – 3,027
November 19th – 2,019
November 20th – 2,093
November 21st – 1,668
November 22nd – 1,819
November 23rd – 2,336
November 24th – 1,901
November 25th – 2,684
November 26th – 2,450
November 27th – 1,672
November 28th – 0
November 29th – 770
November 30th – 4,219

The first draft of this novel is close to being DONE done. I think a few more thousand should complete the first draft (my first drafts are rarely over 70,000, usually sitting around the 65k mark) and then it’s off to the next project—finishing Book E!