Dec 15, 2015

School Days - Favorite Teen Underdogs

( This is from the archives. I first published this post in August 2013.) I've always had a soft spot for underdogs. Whether they're dodging school bullies, walking around with their skirt tucked into their underwear, or just trying to blend into the crowd - they're just so dang-on relatable. As a salute to my high school years, when I was a bit of an underdog myself, these are my top five favorite teens everyone just loves to hate. I can't help but love them.

5. Jerry Mitchell


Three O'Clock High is a classic teen flick. And in my opinion the holy grail of teen movies. The protagonist, Jerry Mitchell, is a not so popular guy who unluckily gets paired up with the not so nice new guy Buddy Revell. Buddy is the classic leather jacket wearing, scowling bad boy who also happens to be a touch freak. What happens after Jerry gives him a friendly slap on the arm is both hilarious and ridiculous.
Buddy Revell: You and me, we're gonna have a fight. Today. After school. Three o'clock. In the parking lot. You try and run, I'm gonna track you down. You go to a teacher, it's only gonna get worse. You sneak home, I'm gonna be under your bed.
Poor Jerry! I guess what I really love about Jerry is that in the beginning he makes a lot of classic mistakes. The same mistakes I would have also made having been in his situation, like cowering in the corner instead of standing up to Buddy. For that I think Jerry is the kind of guy anyone who's ever been bullied can relate to.

4. Tina Belcher


I'm definitely new to the genius of Bob's Burgers. But since discovering it on Hulu, I'm glad to say it has replaced Family Guy as my top favorite adult cartoon. Tina Belcher is my second favorite character on the show after her younger sister Louise. She loves unicorns, writing erotica, and a boy band called Boyz 4 Now. She has stage fright, she's gullible, and of course has a crush on one the most popular guys in school. In a lot of ways, Tina reminds me of my thirteen-year-old self - minus the erotica bit.

One thing that I admire about her is that despite her awkwardness she always seems to get the guy. She's kissed more guys than I did in junior high. Even with her skirt tucked into her underwear, she's pretty cool.

3. Samwell Tarly


I couldn't finish up this list without mentioning at least one character from Game of Thrones. I think Sam won me over with his lack of ninja skills during his Night's Watch training. And then when he admitted he was also afraid of heights I thought he couldn't be any more perfect.

His story is pretty heartbreaking and I guess it's why he and Jon get along so well. They're both underdogs. I love Sam's love for reading, Gilly, and his loyalty to Jon - who is so far is only friend at The Wall. Sam is a nice guy who unfortunately lives in a world where being nice gets you killed. Don't worry, Sam. We're all rooting for you.

2. Tate Langdon


Who's the worlds most lovable psychopath? If you're thinking Tate Langdon from American Horror Story season one then you're right. I could go down the list of horrible things Tate has done - one of them being setting his mother's boyfriend on fire - yet still after all of that I can't help but like him.

He didn't have an easy childhood. He was pretty much neglected by his mother and to fill that void befriended the ghost of a woman who'd lost her baby. In retrospect, Tate shouldn't be attractive at all to anyone. He's toxic. He is the darkness. Though one thing we can't argue with is his love for the teenage girl who's family moved into the house he's haunting.

Tate always puzzled me. How can someone be so evil and have any room left for love? I guess he's just one of those guys you'd hate to fall in love with.

1. Simon Bellamy


I've bet you've heard of that cool UK show called Misfits. If you haven't, let me at least introduce you to the best underdog in the history of underdogs - who also happens to be a superhero - Simon Bellamy. Oh, Simon! They just don't know what they're missing.

Remember that kid no one wanted to sit with at lunch? The kid who had cooties or the cheese touch? Well Simon is that kid. He's soft-spoken, likes going on the internet, and making videos. He's a pretty friendly guy, yet everyone gives him crap. Simon is me in elementary school, middle school, high school, and dare I say even now. He's pretty misunderstood. All he wants is to be loved.

I guess the fact that he can turn invincible whenever he chooses makes up for all of that, and he also happens to be a pretty wicked dancer in my opinion. His best asset, a part from those big doleful eyes and his keen fashion sense, is that if you do give him a chance he'll be a very loyal companion. 

I'm not sure how old Simon is, but he's a great way to end the list.

Who's your favorite teen underdog?

Dec 14, 2015

What I Wish I Knew Before Querying


While I still consider myself a baby writer, it's no secret. I've been in the query trenches quite a few times. Yes, I could probably cover my walls with the amount of queries I've sent on projects. While some projects did better than others, I made all of the mistakes writers warn about. Today I'd like to share what I wish I knew before hitting send. Some of them are quite obvious.

1. A GREAT PREMISE TRUMPS ALL

We put so much work into writing and editing our novels, making sure every word is just right. We put equally the same amount of time into our queries, making sure that the tone is just right. What I wished I knew before I started sending them out is no matter how well you think you've edited your novel, how hooky your opening pages are or how wonderful the voice is, if your premise isn't equally as wonderful it might not go anywhere at all. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and I've learned that just because I got an idea that excited me for a moment that doesn't mean it should be written. Take your time with your ideas, let them marinate for a while. Make sure that they're actually viable and can carry the weight of a novel.

2. KNOW WHEN TO LET IT GO

I got quite obsessed once with one particular book, telling myself that I wasn't going to give up until I sent at least one hundred queries. I would send them out in batches of five through ten every few weeks or every month. Don't get me wrong, I didn't send the same exact query to all those agents. I had maybe several versions of this query, thinking that my original one was the only thing wrong with my submission. And when just editing the query didn't work, I edited the first few pages. This was probably my most tiresome stint in the query trenches. I wanted it so bad that I refused to acknowledge that the story just wasn't working and probably needed to be rewritten with a stronger hook. Moral of the story: listen to your gut or all of those rejections.

3. THERE MAY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUR PLOT AFTER ALL

Writing a query is a great way to see if those plot points are actually working. Sometimes when we're having a difficult time making our query sound compelling it might be because the story isn't compelling. I've experienced this before, and completely ignored it because I wanted to be out there with those other writers getting those requests and revise and resubmits. I wanted the bragging rights. Don't ignore this you guys. I learned the hard way.

4. IT'S OKAY IF ONE PARTICULAR BOOK ISN'T THE ONE

I know it hurts, but when you're down in the pit and all you're getting are rejections sometimes you have to suck it up and put that novel away. It doesn't have to be forever. You could always come back to it with fresh eyes later. I know how badly a lot of us want someone to say yes, but if something isn't working then it isn't working. There will be other stories and those stories will probably be better written because of all you've learned while writing the first book. It's quite hard not to compare ourselves to others, but I strongly believe that everything happens in its own time when it's meant to. Don't compare your journey to someone else's. It doesn't help. Just because that one person signed with your dream agent it doesn't mean you're meant to but it doesn't mean you won't eventually either. Go forth into your next story with all you've learned while writing, editing and querying. As C.S. Lewis said, "Courage, dear heart."


 What have you learned in the query trenches? Did any of these resonate with you?

Dec 12, 2015

Quotes From my Journal


Inspired by DIY MFA, Quotes From my Journal is a round-up of inspiring quotes I've accumulated throughout the week. This week I managed to fill one and a half pages with lines I loved. From Mother Teresa to Rumi, I was quite inspired. These are my favorites.
"Do small things with great love." - Mother Teresa
"We write by the light of every story we've ever read." - Richard Peak
"Time flows in strange ways on Sundays." - Haruki Murakami
"It is silent music, the night sky." - Donald Miller
"People who love to eat are always the best people."
"This is the subtle truth, whatever you love, you are." - Rumi

Dec 11, 2015

Breaking the Spine


What do you do with your old books? Do you keep them around or do you let them go? I always have such a hard time letting go, especially when it's a book I love. Pictured above is my first copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The spine is so badly broken the pages are falling out and my ten-year-old self scribbled all over it. Still, I keep it around because it has a ton of sentimental value. I still remember the day my mother said she'd be buying me a copy of the book everyone was talking about. I didn't care either way. I was just excited to get a new present. I remember receiving it and thinking it was the hardest book I'd ever had to read. To my ten-year-old self, J.K. Rowling's writing was equivalent to Dickens at the time.


I read it anyway, marveling over this boy who was just the same age I was. My friends, at the time, didn't get it. They wondered why I was suddenly so interested in words on a page than what they had to say. I took this book with me to school every single day and would read it before the start of class. Something magical happened whenever I spent time with Harry. I even noticed a slight improvement on my English tests. I'm not kidding you guys. Now, years later, I sometimes like to flip through it every once in a while. It's one of those books that make great rereading material. The first time I took it off my shelf after so many years, I laughed. It had seemed like such a mammoth back then, but I found the writing to be more whimsical than anything.

Isn't it amazing how different childhood books seem years down the line?

Dec 10, 2015

What to do With Old Stories


I don't know about you, but sometimes I find myself looking back at what I've written in the past. Sometimes my old stories call to me from the shelf, begging for me to spend some time with them. I often give in, flip through them and inhale the scent of their time weathered pages. It's a nice trip down memory lane, and I often remember what led me to want to write them in the first place. It could be a character who wouldn't stop talking to me, a place, a great first line, or an idea inspired by my childhood fancies. Old stories are very much like childhood toys, the memories make it hard for us to let go entirely. So we keep them around, hoping one day they'll be useful to us again.

There are times our desire to be with these stories are so strong we might want to re-purpose them. If you're like me and you feel a little nostalgic for stories you've written in your past, there are things you can do with them.

  • Upload them to a story site - There are popular story sharing sites like Wattpad and Figment that are both fun and easy to use. Make yourself a great cover, write a great description, and upload a chapter a week. Pretty soon, you'd be sure to have a small following. 
 
  • Turn the story into a blog serial -  Like the first point, if you're comfortable enough with your writing you could share it on your blog or website. This could work for shorter works. If they're really short. I've toyed with idea of turning a middle grade story I wrote into a serial. Here's a great blog post on serials. 
  • Reuse a character or two - Say you don't love the plot so much but there's a character whose personality you do like, why not cut them out and use them in a new WIP. Introduce them to a new world and give them new friends. A new story might be what they need to make them really shine.
  • Pull the plot a part by the seams - This the most obvious. If you still love the idea, but you feel like something's off you could always rewrite or smooth out those scenes that just aren't working.
  • Put it away for good - Sometimes a story really belongs on the shelf, no matter how much you love it. I have stories that I know could be rewritten, but I love them too much as they are, in all their flawed glory. Maybe one day I will try to rewrite them, but for now on the shelf is where the belong.

There will always be a place in my heart for my old stories because they taught me how to be a better writer, because they taught me how to keep going even when my muse wasn't around, because they fed my soul. I needed to write these stories, no matter how terrible. They are the stepping stones that line my path to a future filled with words. 

So tell me, do you love or hate your old stories?

Dec 9, 2015

What I'm Reading on Wattpad


I don't doubt that everyone in the bookish and writing community have heard of Wattpad. If you haven't, Wattpad is a free site that allows writers to upload and share their work. I've experimented with it in the past, posting my own writing, and had some success. It's really great if you need a bit of encouragement. I also made some new friends.

Today, instead of sharing published books, I wanted to talk about what I'm reading on Wattpad these days. From fairy tales to dark fantasy, my library is overflowing with books. As a book lover, I couldn't be happier.


1. I Wish I May by Adelyn Sterling - This is a story about a fairy godmother in training. Yes, it is as delightful as it sounds. The writing totally entranced me. One weekend, I found myself flying through the chapters to find out what would happen next. There's magic and a cute prince.



2. A Lifetime According to Karma Rose by Rebecca Sky - Rebecca Sky is a powerhouse when it comes to Wattpad and all things social media. Her writing is just as impactful. This story has everything you'd want in a paranormal, lush writing, an MC you can root for, and a possible love interest. There's also wonderful illustrations to go along with it. 


3. Pumpkin Patch Princess by Julia Dao - I have been in the mood for fairy tales lately. This is the perfect story to look into if you love retellings and talking cats. It's fun and lighthearted. The main character is extremely likable and the writing is as smooth and shiny as Cinderella's glass slipper.


4. Devil's Lake by Angela Merlo - This is a great one to read if you like paranormal stories and main characters who are flawed. The writing is wonderful, with great setting descriptions. The mystery surrounding one particular character will pull you in. 


5. The Price by Cassie Rose - I haven't officially started this one, but I know it has something to do with ballet. I did a read a little of the first chapter and I liked the writing. I found it lovely.


I have so many books on my to-read list on Wattpad I hope to get to soon. It is truly a wonderful site, a shining gem in the book community. If you have free time, pop over and check out a few books.

Do you read on Wattpad? Are there any books you would recommend? 

Dec 8, 2015

Beautiful Books: The Editing Process


It's that time again for another Beautiful Books link-up. If you want, you can read the first one I did here. Thank you to the hosts, Cait and Sky, for putting this together. The questions are always so perfect. Today I'm discussing my NaNo novel, A MAGICAL MISFORTUNE. Let's dive right in.


1. On a scale of 1 (worst) to ten (best), how did the book turn out? Did anything defy your expectations?

I'd say it's a 6 right now. There's still so much that needs to be fixed. I don't think anything defied my expectations. The ending of the book did surprise me, but not for a good reason.


2. Comparative title time: what published books, movies, or TV shows are like your book? (EX: Inkheart meets X-Men.)

I have no idea. Maybe Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets The Addams Family. There are witches, but in my story they're called sorceresses and they aren't nice (most of the time). I need to read more or watch more TV.

3. Do you enjoy working with deadlines and pressure (aka NaNoWriMo)? Or do you prefer to write-as-you're-inspired?

I think NaNo was a success for me because of the deadline. So yes! I do like working with deadlines, but I also love the idea of writing as I am inspired.

4. How do you go about editing? Give us some insight into your editing process.

My editing process: 
  • Note cards are the first step. While I'm drafting, I'll write down a line about each scene on a card, along with the date the scene takes place. It helps me keep track of what I've written.
  • After that I'll upload the story to my Kindle to reread. I usually like to make a cute cover so that it feels like I'm reading an actual book.
  • This time around I'll be trying out a new technique, rewriting scenes that don't work by hand. I'll do this until the story takes shape into the book I meant to write. 
  • At some point I will send it out to critique partners and beta readers.
5. What aspect of your story needs the most work?

My characters need to be fleshed out, as well as the setting. I have a feeling that the ending could be much better and my main character's motivation clearer.

6.  What aspect of your story did you love the most?

I loved writing the magic. My main character is a sorceress who uses her magic to cause mischief.

7. Give us a brief rundown on your main characters and how you think they turned out. Do you think they'll need changes in edits?

Cora Emerson (MC) - She doesn't quite know what she wants. She struggles between wanting to please her family and being her own true self. 

Beau Campbell (love interest) - Okay, I admit. I haven't quite figured him out. All I know is that he really likes Cora, but he's also a really good big brother. 

Eva Morris (the best friend) - I haven't figured her out either. She is a good friend but needs her own motivation. 

They'll definitely need a lot of changes in edits.

8. What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

My plans are to edit until it sparkles, then after it's been with beta readers I'll start querying.

9. Share a favorite snippet. 

Please forgive my writing. It hasn't been cleaned up yet, but in this scene my MC and her sister are searching for a family friend they turned into a mouse.

*snip*

10. What are your writing goals and plans for 2016?

My plans are to finish A MAGICAL MISFORTUNE by April and then get started on either of the ideas I have swirling around in my brain. One is a MG magical realism and the other is a YA set at a magical boarding school.

Dec 7, 2015

The Truth About INFP Writers (by an INFP Writer)

With our art, we're saying, "This is who I am."

Hello! Fellow INFP here. Now I admit I'm pretty much a newbie when it comes to Myers-Briggs. I only discovered I was an INFP about one or two years ago, but ever since I've been so enthralled by everything I've read about INFPs and the other types. It is truly fascinating and has been so accurate for me. This post is about some of the things that's been true for me as an INFP writer, but you might also feel the same way. Who knows. These can also apply to non-writers as well. The more the merrier.

  • INFP writers might be discovery writers, which means they might prefer to discover the story as they write. For the six years I've been writing this has been my process. Yes, I've tried outlining but the thrill of finding the story as I write just feels too good.
  • INFP writers crave magic in everyday life. There isn't a day that goes by where I'm not searching for some sort of creative stimulation. Whether through music, art, or books, I feel my best when my heart and my soul have been touched. As I write,  or before I begin, I might have to listen to my favorite playlist or spend some time on Pinterest.
  • INFP writers love to see themselves in their work. I'm one of those people who loathed working in groups for creative projects. In my opinion, creative work is meant to be personal. I never felt like there was any of me in the group projects I did in school. That's why we work solo.
  • The heart of an INFP writer is always hungry. I don't write every day, but I'm always thinking about writing. What will my next story be? And how can I make it better than the last? These questions are always swimming through my mind. Once an INFP writer sets their heart on something, it'll be hard to change their mind. I'll never stop writing.
  • INFP writers sometimes find it hard to zoom out. We might be good at looking at the details, a line we love or that one scene. When it comes to the big picture, I find I have to go all the way back to the beginning and outline the scenes I've written so far. This is the only way. A light bulb always goes off in my head. And I think, "Ah, so this is what I've written."
  • INFP writers can take criticism. It might take us a while to come to terms with the fact that our critique partner was right about that character needing more fleshing out, but we usually come around eventually.
  • INFP writers can get really passionate at times. I for one know how hard it is to let go of a project I swore would be the one. It usually takes another bright idea for me to fully let go of the previous one. 
  • INFP writers live in their imaginations. I wasn't always writing, but I was always dreaming and telling stories to myself. Even now, I find it hard to quiet my thoughts. There's always some adventure to be had in this mind of mine.
  • By writing and making art, INFP writers are trying to find themselves. We often feel so lost in this world, not knowing where we belong. With our art, we're delving deeper into ourselves, trying to make sense of who we truly are. I don't often know what I want to say until I write it down. I don't always know what I like until it's in front of me.
  • INFP writers might secretly want to disappear inside of their favorite books. This needs no explanation. In fact, I think all book lovers feel this way, wanting more than ordinary life.
  • INFP writers suffer from perpetual loneliness. The characters in our minds are our best friends. 
  • INFP writers will try to find a place for other art they love in their own work. Maybe it might just be me, but coming home the other night I was listening to a song I used to love. I thought, I'm going to write a character who loves this sort of music as much as I do.
  • INFP writers might think they're weird. We tend to feel like there's no one else in the world who feel and think the same way we do, which is why Myers-Briggs is so wonderful. On the same note, we might also take being called weird as a compliment because it means there's no one else out their like us, no one can write or paint as we can.
  • INFP writers are romantics. We don't always flaunt it, but we love the idea of being able to share a deep connection with someone through our art. The best compliment an INFP can receive is someone saying, "I understand you."
  • INFP writers just want to make beautiful things. That's it really. We love the act of creating, even if it might not be very good. We sometimes find it so hard to articulate who we are and why we like something. With our art, we're saying, "This is who I am."

If you're an INFP, I'd love to know if any of these resonate with you. Is there anything you'd like to add to the list?

Dec 6, 2015

The Books we Love


Quick, if you were stranded on an island with just one book what book would it be? I'm still scratching my head to that one. So far I have thirteen books on my favorite shelf on Goodreads. No doubt, I'll be adding more in the coming year. Now I admit I don't have the most extensive book collection. I only own one shelf, but on that shelf are some of the best books I've ever read. My most favorite are pictured above. It isn't surprising they all have common themes: love, hope, and friendship. There's this quote that I really love about good books going on whispering to you from your shelf. I find this more than true. Months later, I find myself wanting to revisit these books.

 I don't think they'll ever let me go.

Dec 5, 2015

Quotes From my Journal


A while ago I got this idea from DIY MFA to start a new journal. I was listening to their podcast and the host mentioned keeping a journal for lines from books and poems she loved. I thought that was a pretty neat idea. I took out one of my old, ratty notebooks and filled two pages with quotes. I did abandon it shortly after, but I'd like to get back to it in the new year. It's truly a wonderful idea. I wanted to share a few of the lines I've written down so far.
"...the sea and stardust speak to me, kindred spirits calling me home."   
"Even the sea feels lonely at times."
"The sun was in her hair, where it stayed until she combed it out that night."
"Oh my friend, all that you see of me is a shell, the rest belongs to love."
"People or stars regard me sadly. I disappoint them." 
"A country road. A tree. Evening."
Most of the time, I didn't write down the author of these quotes in my journal. Five points if you can guess who wrote them. I find it hard to articulate why I love these lines so much. I just do. I'll definitely be sharing more in the future.

As you may have noticed, I've changed the name of my blog to Tales and Tattles. I'd been thinking about changing it for a while and spent a good part of this morning trying to come up with a new one. I wanted something catchy and that matched the general theme of this blog. I hope you guys like it. I wasn't feeling inspired by this space anymore, and now I am. There will be many more posts in its future.

Dec 4, 2015

Writing the Second Draft by Hand


It certainly hasn't been two weeks since I won NaNo. I really have no business worrying about my second draft so soon, but I couldn't wait. I figured I probably have several more drafts to write either way. So yesterday I went out and bought myself a pack of notepads and some new colored pens.

My plan is to rewrite the whole novel by hand. I really should have written by hand in the first place. Blots & Plots wrote a great on why you should write on paper as well as Sarah Selecky. It made a lot of sense to me. My first draft was very much my discovery draft. I wrote it so fast. There are missing words, misspelled words, and a whole lot of nonsense in general.  I know it needs a ton of work. I'm eager to try a new approach.

I uploaded my manuscript to my Kindle and started reading. While there are things I like about it, some scenes either need to be cut or rewritten entirely. I know I could easily do this on my computer, but there's just something so inspiring about writing by hand. I'm hoping it will lead to new discoveries.

I've been deeply inspired by what I've read lately and I hope this inspiration will translate well into a fresh, new tale.While I don't have any new tips to share on writing a second draft or writing by hand, I will leave you with one my favorite quotes.
"... Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in the ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.” ―Diane Setterfield

It is a kind of magic. I think I might experiment with writing more of my stories by hand.

Dec 3, 2015

Pinterest Boards for Story Inspiration


This is my second post today. I couldn't wait until tomorrow to publish. Athena over at One Word At A Time wrote a wonderful post about Pinterest storyboards. I was so inspired by it I wanted to do my own. I'm such a fan of Pinterest. While some writers go gaga for Twitter or Facebook, I'd much rather spend my free time pinning photos I love. I think it shows. I have over eighteen thousand pins you guys. I am so not ashamed. Okay, maybe I am a little. There's so much inspiration and so little time.

Like Athena did, I've put together a short list of inspiring Pinterest boards. I follow so many pinners that a lot of these are random and some I've been eyeing for ages. From storyboards, to character boards, and boards that are just plain pretty to look at, I hope you guys enjoy.

Storyboards

https://www.pinterest.com/adelynann/i-wish-i-may/

https://www.pinterest.com/adelynann/suite-revenge/

https://www.pinterest.com/thathalfasian/hail-the-pumpkin-king/

https://www.pinterest.com/rosecassie/the-price-w/

https://www.pinterest.com/rosecassie/thistle-weeds-c-nano15/

https://www.pinterest.com/caitgrace/wip-the-dead-boy-and-the-paper-cut/

https://www.pinterest.com/anqiyu/storyboard-thorn-among-fleas/

https://www.pinterest.com/anqiyu/storyboard-the-foxmont-school-for-boys-and-girls/

https://www.pinterest.com/failedfable/on-the-midnight-streets-novel/

https://www.pinterest.com/karaterzis/frayed/


Character Boards

https://www.pinterest.com/shesnovel/black-haired-girls-character-inspiration/

https://www.pinterest.com/shesnovel/black-haired-boys-character-inspiration/

https://www.pinterest.com/thathalfasian/colored-faces/


A Few Inspiring Boards

https://www.pinterest.com/pennyelee/curio/

https://www.pinterest.com/grretchen/enchanted/

https://www.pinterest.com/notesfrombella/new-romance/

https://www.pinterest.com/mywonderingeyes/dance/

https://www.pinterest.com/belovedperseus/f-a-i-r-i-e-s/

https://www.pinterest.com/amycocolily/c-o-l-o-r/

https://www.pinterest.com/kittykitty91/lush/

https://www.pinterest.com/psvasia/wonderland/


If you're on Pinterest, I'd love to follow you. Leave a link to your boards in the comments. Of course you can always follow me on Pinterest at tajoseph.

End of the Year Reads


My Goodreads stats says I've only read eighteen books this year. My goal was thirty. If there's one bookish fact you guys should know about me it's that I'm a really slow reader. This year has been better reading wise than others. I'm currently in the middle of three great books.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen as an eBook, and Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater on audio. I'm enjoying them immensely, but there's still so many books I'd like to get to, still so many worlds I haven't explored yet.

I do wish I could read faster. In fact, if I had to have a superpower it would be the ability to read a book in under an hour and retain all of the information. Just imagine how many books you could read if that were possible, thousands. I have made great progress on my fall reading goals in general. I can't say the same for my other goals, but I'm still pretty happy with my progress.

I don't think I'll finish all of these by the end of the month. I'll probably still be reading them well into the new year, which is more than okay with me.


Savvy by Ingrid Law - This is basically a classic in children's literature. I was so lucky to find a copy at my library's book sale. I love middle grade fiction. It's so full of possibilities.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - Of course I couldn't finish up the year without reading another classic. I've heard nothing but great things about this one and it was another library sale book.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman - I love anything to do with magic. That's all you need to know.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles - A writer I admire mentioned this book a while ago. I haven't read nearly enough historical fiction. I am excited to dive in.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma - I am deeply inspired by Nova Ren Suma. I enjoy reading her blog, and I've heard her books are phenomenal.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby - I've certainly fallen in love with magical realism. This book has gotten some rave reviews. I don't doubt that I'll love it.


Have you read any of these? What are some of your end of the year reads?

Dec 2, 2015

A Wednesday Story: 01. The Jar


When the time came to sell the house, while her sisters fought over their mother’s china and who would get the pink love seat, Sybil kept the jar. It wasn’t an heirloom. In fact, she was sure it had been used to store pickles once, gingersnaps after that, and candy one Halloween. At the beginning of each month, her mother would empty out its contents, fill it with boiled water, and set it aside until she remembered, usually with a laugh; we can use the Mason jar for that.
Now it sat to the back of Sybil’s dresser, dusty and smelling sour on the inside. Most days, Sybil forgot about it, except on sunny mornings when the glass would catch the light in a certain way. She’d reach for it then, unscrew the cap, and take a deep breath, thinking of her mother, of her childhood. She couldn’t believe a year had passed since her death and how, in a month or so, her sister’s baby would be born.
I’m naming her Caroline after Mom, Gillian had announced at the shower.
Sybil would take the jar with her into the kitchen, meaning to set the kettle on the stove, but after some thought would carry it back to her room, to the dresser. It won’t be like the years before, she told herself. She would find a special place for the jar in her life. Maybe it would make a great baby gift, if she could find the perfect shade of pink or blue playthings to put in it. The jar was as much a part of the family as her mother's love seat or china. She would want her to keep it.
So she kept it, months after her niece’s birth and even when her fiance, Jerry, asked why she didn’t toss the old thing. She’d always reply, I’m saving it for someday. The ritual remained the same, whenever the jar caught the morning light, sparking memories of the whistle of a kettle and her mother’s laughter. It remained the same after her honeymoon in San Juan and the birth of her own son Nicholas. No one, not even Sybil, knew when someday would be.
When it came one Sunday summer evening, even she was taken aback. It’s a wish jar. Her niece held it up for her to see the tiny specks of light swirling inside like dust motes.
Ah, said Sybil. No wonder she'd never figured it out. Her own wishes had faded long ago.


Inspired by Elephantine's Fiction Friday, A Wednesday story is an outlet for my creativity in-between writing projects. These tiny stories are posted on Wednesdays.

Dec 1, 2015

Wanting to Write Something New


Since finishing NaNo I've been itching to write something new. The problem is, I have no idea what I want to write or where to begin. I've been thinking about maybe writing a short story or some flash fiction. I remember, in high school, I had a blog where I used to write flash fiction inspired by photographs. I wish I had those stories to share now. That would be a nice trip down memory lane.

Last month I made a writing schedule for myself and pinned it to my cork board. That's the photo you see above. My December novel, tentatively titled Lovely MG, is supposed be my newest project. I thought I had an idea of what to write, based on a novel I started late last year. Now I'm having second thoughts about it. I truly want to write with passion and sometimes that mean sacrifices have to be made, ideas get tossed aside.

The idea for my NaNo novel came out of nowhere. Well, it came so fast it shocked me. That made writing fun and exciting. Although I do keep an SNI journal, I've found that some of these ideas aren't so great. There is one thing I wrote down that I like the idea of and might be spun into something, a line born from this illustration. I'll keep it a secret for now because I'm still so unsure. Maybe I might go forward with the original idea, maybe even combine the two ideas. One thing I do know is, if I do write this month it'll be at my own pace. I'll take my time, savoring every single word.

I hope they come to me soon. 

Nov 30, 2015

Food and Writing: Icing on Top of a Great Book


The holidays are here, which means lots of hot chocolate and other sweet treats to help ease those winter blues. If you should know one thing about me it's that I have quite a thing for hot chocolate. My Hungry Girl Drink board on Pinterest is a perfect example of that, but I digress. This post is not about hot chocolate. Well, mostly not about hot chocolate.

In the past weeks, I've had the pleasure of reading two great books. I read Nightbird by Alice Hoffman and The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. Both of them ended up on my favorites shelf for the same reason. They made me hungry for more, absolutely ravenous.

I loved the way the authors used food to add a touch of sweetness to their narratives. If you didn't know, Nightbird and The Girl Who Chased the Moon are magical realism, meaning that there's just a touch of magic running along the edges, making them quite delightful reads.

From hummingbird cake to pink apple pie, my stomach was growling upon finishing these books. One character even had a cake sense, the ability to sense when cake was being made. Forget being able to fly or read minds, imagine being able to see wisps of sugar and flour swirling through the air like falling snow. How delightful!

During NaNoWriMo, I found myself writing about food more than I'd intended. No doubt reading those wonderful tales had influenced me. I found my main character had a sweet tooth as well, often craving cinnamon hot chocolate, sometimes with extra whipped cream. Now that I'll be heading into revisions in a month or so, I've thinking about how I could play up this sweet element.

While there probably won't be any characters with a cake sense, hats off to Sarah Addison Allen for that one, it's quite obvious that everyone loves a well described meal. I can't be the only one who looked forward to dinner at Hogwarts. So I've been looking through my food boards on Pinterest, searching for hearty meals, the more icing the better, trying to find some way to really delve deeper into my characters. While one character might remember fondly their first love whenever biting into a piece of dark chocolate, another might be reminded of how bitter love can be.

While making readers cry might be at the top of a writer's want list, there's also a big benefit in making their stomach's grumble and their mouths water. When in doubt, add more icing.

So tell me, is food an element you use in your writing? I would love to know.

Nov 29, 2015

I Won NaNoWriMo


I've officially won NaNoWriMo! *throws confetti* I won at 50,016 words. I still can't believe how quickly the month flew by. We say that every month, don't we? Looking back now, it's amazing how different my actual novel is compared to what I originally thought it was going to be.

Despite it not being what I thought it was going to be, I am still in like with the story. If there's anything I've learned this NaNo, it's that every novel comes with its own set of challenges, every story is an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. I'm glad that I stuck with it.

Right now I think I need a break from the story. I've decided to spend at least two weeks away from it, although a month would be ideal. In the past, I've had such a tough time staying away. I really am exhausted this time around. NaNoWriMo is tough you guys. I'm not surprised it took five years since joining the competition for me to actually win.

I have a feeling that the story needs a lot of work, especially the ending. I'm honestly not entirely happy with it. I hope some distance will help with that. Now that NaNo is over, I'll like to get back to blogging about other things, books and inspiration for other writing projects.

I hope you guys will stick around.

Oh, and next month I'll be participating in the Write Type CP Match.

Nov 27, 2015

NaNo Update: Weeks Three and Four


*wipes sweat off brow* I somehow managed to hit 45k today. What a whirlwind this NaNoWriMo has been. I have to say, I've had a ton of fun working on this story, although the honeymoon phase ended a long time ago. It hasn't been so bad,

The site says I've been averaging 1666 words per day. I need about 1243 words per day to finish, which isn't much at all.

I do hope I can keep writing all the words. How I would love to sit down and bang out five thousand words in one writing session. How do you guys do that? I've read countless posts about it but I'm still struggling. I just want to reach the end already. That's where I am now. Thank goodness I'm almost there.

I don't even know if I'll be able to wrap up the story by the end of the month. It feels like it's going to be much longer. I guess I'll have to see. In the meantime, I've been reading three great books, one paranormal, one magical realism, and one contemporary. I'll blog about them later.

Have a wonderful Friday you guys!

Nov 20, 2015

Favorite Lines From Old WIPs


We all have shelved projects. I know I have many. There are projects I thought would be the one but weren't. There are projects that still make my heart ache when I think about them. And projects that I don't like to think about what so ever because they're that bad. Despite this, there was once a reason I lived for these novels. It might have been a a character or a line I loved, hence the title of this post. These lines have stayed with me through the years.

Summer Spell

Summer Spell was my first "official" novel. It was the first novel I queried and it got me some requests. Set in a small southern town, it's the story about a young girl's struggle to keep her family together during a drought. This scene where Cassi and her father are driving home has always been one of my favorites.
The wagon bounces along on parts of the road that’s uneven. I hear Papa say that Mama’s baking apple pie and I want to ask if they were fresh apples but I know that’s a silly question. I can’t even remember the last time I had an apple plucked right off a tree.

There isn’t much to see out the window because there isn’t much to see in these parts of Louisiana except some dying plants and animals.

A deer standing by the side of road stares at me and I stare at him, as we drive pass, and I know what he’s thinking, this land is theirs now. Even our own backyards aren’t safe anymore.
Gone by the End of July

This novel was much more difficult than my first. I couldn't figure out why back then, but I think I needed to write it in order to grow as a writer. I learned a lot about writing the year I wrote this novel. It's about a girl whose father goes missing one hot day in July, hence the title. In this scene she's had a rough night taking care of her sick momma.
Whenever Momma’s breathing slows down, and it sounds like she’s being suffocated in her sleep, I’m right there, watching. She’s been drifting in and out of her sleep. She coughs a lot. She’s dying. I know she is, and it’s just me and her in this stupid, dirty house.

Tomorrow I’ll clean it. I swear on everything I love I will. I’ll clean from top to bottom, so when Daddy comes back home the whole house won’t smell of cigarette smoke. He’ll see. Then he’d have no choice but to stay with me and Momma where he damn well belongs. I just pray he’ll come back home soon.

I miss him so much already it hurts.

It hurts like I've lost a limb.
Searching for Starlight

I wrote this one not too long ago. I think I wrote it for my middle school self. It's about friendships and wishing on stars, all of the things I still adore. It will always have a special place in my heart. In this scene my main character, Bryn, has just spotted the shooting star she's waited for all summer, the star she thinks will heal her sick mother.
I don’t wait a second longer. Mom doesn’t have any more time. It’s what I tell myself as I climb down, when my foot almost slips on a branch. I hold on tight to the branch above, take a deep breath and say, “For Mom. For Mom. For Mom.”

Dad’s at the door, but I’m stealthier remember. Before he gets it open, I’m out of the tree, running. I take off across the backyard to that loose panel in the fence.

 “Bryn,” Dad calls.

 I glance behind me, shift the panel away, and slip through to the other side. As I run down the street, my tennis shoes hit the ground in loud slaps and my binoculars rise and fall onto my chest. It is true what they say about you, isn’t it?

You are truly magnificent.
Ivy of Our Hearts

Where do I even begin with this one? I thought it would be the one but it wasn't. This story was inspired by the book that inspired me to write in first place, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. Like Searching for Starlight, it'll always be special to me. I might even rewrite it one day. It's about two teenage girls who get lost in the woods and are kidnapped by a fairy. In this scene my main character, Ivy, has found a clue to the antagonist's past.
I thought it might have been a slip of paper, but it felt too thick. One side felt glossy against my fingers. It had been stuck in there a while so it took some effort to pull it out. Once I did, it became clear that it was a photograph, taken in black and white, yellowed from age, the edges curled like dog ears. A young woman stood in front of the cabin. Her eyes weren’t on the camera but on something else off to her side, which the camera hadn’t caught. I flipped the picture over. In black ink, in a man’s slanting hand, someone had written her name, Nora Callaway, and beneath that the words my beloved.

That's it for me. Of course, there are many more lines I would have loved to share. The family computer is much too slow and old. It took me forever to write up this post. Thanks for reading anyway. Do you have any shelved projects?

Nov 16, 2015

NaNo Update: Week Two


Here are my note cards with scenes on them. I've started to outline.

*Does a happy dance* It's the end of the second week and I'm doing well. So well. I'm on track to finish by the 30th and I couldn't be happier. Now I know that the only thing that was standing in the way of me winning NaNo in the past few years was me. But it's still early and I don't want to jinx myself. I'm going to give it all that I have to make it to the finish line.

I'm currently at 23k. Last week I didn't surpass the word count goal but that's okay. I'm happy as long as I can update my word count every day. I've been in such a great mood writing this novel. I've allowed myself to go back and read what I have so far. I know that's a no no, but I wasn't too disappointed. Don't get me wrong, this story needs a lot of work. A lot! I'm already looking forward to the next few months of editing and making it the very best it can be.

My biggest inspiration this week, like the last, has been you guys. You guys are rocking your word counts. I also wanted to share this new cover I made. It kind of stinks, but making art for my writing helps the words flow.


My goal for next week is to write the amount of words I need every day to hit 50k. It's my goal for every week this month. I can't believe we'll be at 30k soon. November only just started. Right? Well, it's flying by. Some people have already won NaNo. Oh how I wish to be them.

Nov 11, 2015

Favorites From My Writing Playlist: Indie

My taste in music has certainly grown over the years. I am no longer that teen that only listens to one particular type of music. I've branched out, tested the waters, and I have come to the conclusion that indie is one of my favorite genres. Today I'd like to share a few indie songs I really like. I tried to pick songs/artists that aren't so known.

1. Meg & Dia - Summer Clothes

I used to have a major crush on Meg & Dia. I've recently rediscovered them, and I just love this song. As the song implies, it's perfect for summer.


2. Jaymay - Sea Green, See Blue

This is new to my playlist, but I think it's really charming. 


3. Little May - Boardwalks 

I think this song is quite lovely, but that's only because I can't find the perfect words to describe how much I truly love it.


4. Lisa Hannigan - Lille 

I'm big fan of Lisa Hannigan. I had this song on a playlist I did for a middle grade story I wrote last year I believe. It has just the right amount of magic.


5. Hem - Funnel Cloud

Hem must have the most charming voice ever. I have quite a few of their songs on my playlist. I find this one to be soothing and magical.



Who's your favorite indie band? I would love to know.

Nov 10, 2015

Beautiful Books: The Writing Process


Good morning folks! Today I'm participating in a Beautiful Books link-up. It's the second week of NaNoWriMo and it's going well. I have fell behind a little bit, but I hope to catch up today. I'm at 15k and I'm aiming for 20k. I know it's a long shot for me, but I want to see if I can do it.

That being said, let's jump right into it.

1. Is the book turning out how you thought it would be, or is it defying your expectations?

So far it is. It's going quite well. I haven't hit any real rough spots yet. I'm still quite in love with the story. I feel like I have a lot to discover about my characters and I'm looking forward to it. *crosses fingers behind back* But really, I'm in bliss writing this story.


2. What's your first sentence (or paragraph)?

Cora Elizabeth Emerson, a witch of seventeen, applied her favorite shade of red lipstick, and set out to ruin someone’s life.

3. Are you a plotter or a pantser. Have you tried both methods and how did it turn out?

consider myself a pantser. For this novel, I did write a brief description but that was is it. I have tried plotting before. I found it took the fun out of writing for me. Honestly, there always comes a time in the story when I feel like I need to see where it's going. Only then will I get out my index cards.

4. What do you reward yourself with after meeting a goal?

I haven't set any rewards for myself. Maybe I should. It would probably be chocolate or a good book


5. What do you look for in a name? Do you have themes and where do you find your names?

I don't know. It changes from story to story. I like for my main character's name to sound a certain way. I'd like for it to flow well with the narrative. For names I really like this blog

6. What is your favorite to write: beginning, middle, or end - and why?

The beginning of course because I find getting started is much easier than maintaining a momentum.

7. Who's your current favorite character in your novel?

My main character Cora has been my favorite to write so far. I'm finding her to be wonderfully complex. I'm looking forward to getting to know her more. I love writing witches.


8. What kind of things have you researched for this project, and how do you go about researching? (What's the weirdest thing you've researched?!)

Um, I haven't researched much. I can't even remember honestly. I must have Googled something, but I don't thing my searches have been so weird this time around. I'm mostly using my imagination.

9. Do you write better alone or with others? Do you share your work or prefer to keep it to yourself?

I write better alone for sure. I have shared my first draft as I was writing it. I did find the encouragement helped, but I think I write faster when I keep it to myself.

10. What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space.
  1. I wake up really early in the morning and try to get writing anywhere from six-thirty to seven-thirty. This routine has really helped me.
  2. Tea! Tea! Tea! Or hot chocolate. 
  3. Yes! I have a Spotify playlist that I listen to for inspiration, and I love 8tracks for finding new tunes or listening to classical mixes. I write best to music without lyrics.
  4. I'm a morning writer through and through.

That's it for me! How's NaNo going for you? 


Nov 9, 2015

NaNo Update: Week One


Here's a picture of index cards and pushpins. It doesn't really have anything to do with this post, but I'm trying to take more photos for this blog.

Week one of NaNo is complete! I managed to keep up, despite not writing anything on Saturday. I was up since two o'clock Sunday morning determined to catch up. I ended up with a little over three thousand words that day. That's a personal best for me.

But although I am on target to finish by November 30th, I would like to kick things up a notch. Some of you guys have already hit the halfway mark. Wow! That's some great motivation.

I've settled into a new routine of writing anywhere between six-thirty and ten in the morning. It's helped a ton. I know when I sit down it's time to get to work. MAGICAL MISFORTUNE is coming along quite nicely. I find the scenes I love to write most are the ones with magic in them. My main character is a witch and it's been fun seeing how I could get her to do some hexes.

Needless to say, I'm having a blast. This is the best NaNo ever.


How are you guys doing? Do you think you'll win this time around? I'd love to know. 

Nov 2, 2015

Currently...

I do hate when I miss a post. It makes my blog look so barren. This week will be much better, and what a better way to kick off the month of November but with a Currently post.

Loving...
Vanessa Carlton, a singer I've loved since childhood, recently released her newest album. I'm loving her new single "Willows." It's so haunting.


Reading...
I'm currently reading way too many books at once. The one that I'm really enjoying though is All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. I'm only about one hundred pages in, but I've heard nothing but good things about it. I'll make sure to keep a box of tissues close.

Watching...
I've mostly been watching Bob's Burgers on Netflix, but I did check out Scream Queens during a marathon they were having on Saturday night and I did find it entertaining. I liked how they wove in a bit of humor alongside the more gruesome elements.

Thinking about...
Yesterday was the first day of NaNoWriMo, and I somehow managed to write two thousand words. Guys, for me, that's a new record. I've never written so many words in one sitting before. Usually I would aim for one thousand words and call it a day, but I knew I needed to kick things up a notch. I'm off to a great start, and I hope to keep the momentum. I did change my NaNo project at the last minute. I won't say much about it, but I made a cover using Canva.



Anticipating...
I'm not anticipating much, except to make it to the end of this manuscript come the end of November.

Making Me Happy...
Writing, telling stories, is making me so happy right now.

Oct 20, 2015

Library Book Sale

Every year, in October, my library has a local book sale. You can purchase as many books as you want for just one dollar. Of course, my favorite section is the children's and teens section. Those books tend to go really fast. After navigating the rows as best as I could, I ended up with a total of six books. This year, I admit, I didn't get as many books as I would have liked. Well, that's not true. It isn't the number of books that matters but the "quality" of the books I got, both inside the pages and outside. I found a copy of Savvy by Ingrid Law, which is a gem as far as children's books go. I'm so looking forward to next year. Here are the rest of the books: