Monday, August 31, 2015

9 Reasons I Love Writing Fan Fiction

Allow me to begin with a simple fact: I love writing fan fiction.

Admittedly, my participation within the fan fiction sphere is usually limited to whatever my best friend or I have written, but that’s okay. Fan fiction can be a solitary activity if I want.

I was ecstatic when I found out I could write fan fiction. Ecstatic, I tell you! Finally, I could participate in my favorite characters’ worlds on paper. It was awesome—and is awesome. Though I write original works, fan fiction is among my favorite things to write. Here’s why:

Note Taking (79/365)
Flickr Credit: Chung Ho Leung

1. It’s Fun!


My original writing can end up becoming a chore after a while. Of course it’s good to work on and satisfying in the (very) long run—but formal writing can be strict. Fan fiction is freeing, in its own way. I can be a completely random individual, crazy and remarkable, and that makes it fun.

2. I Already Love the Characters


Some people don’t like fan fiction and that’s fine, but I positively HATE (hate hate hate) this argument against it:

“If you like writing so much, why not use your own characters?”

Yeah, right. 9.9 The only explanation I can come up with to explain this is that some people don’t realize that some writers are not innately connected to their own characters. This seems obvious to me, but I guess some people feel about their own characters the way they feel about other people’s characters? It’s enjoyable to be passionate about other people’s stuff in a way I can’t be for my own.

Writing Other People’s Characters: SDKFSDJLFKSDJ *runs through fields of daisies*I LOVE THEM SO MUCH *eats tater tots*THEY ARE SO CUTE *swings sword liberally* LET US DO THIS *rolls on the floor like a happy dog* LOVE *screams for joy* DEATH *bursts into tears* NO WAIT *intermittently tells best friend*
Writing My Characters: And then the anthropomorphic concept I created had no significance in life and was lame. The end.

3. It’s a Pre-Built World


Writing your own stuff is like funding the construction of a huge swimming complex and the accompanying outlet mall. Writing fan fiction is liking getting to jump in the pool and swim.

4. I Never Have to Edit It!


It is crap and it stays crap and I love that crap. *hugs all her crap*

5. Alternatively—Editing is an Option.


Admittedly, editing can also be entertaining. My sense of humor works better with multiple rounds, my thoughts can make more sense, and it can become more fun. Which would explain why a 21,000 word fic ended up becoming 50,000 words…

6. It’s Good Practice


Writing is writing. Of course, there’s value in writing for an audience and rigorous and consistent editing. Those things make you a better writer, but they don’t necessarily make you more creative. You can cultivate your creativity, and going crazy is good practice for that.

7. I Throw Realism Away


Speaking of creativity, fan fiction is like a rubber band, and can stretch in a number of directions from one central point. It doesn’t have to make sense. I have a document consisting of 222 words, in which two characters decide to drop a bucket of fish on another character’s head. Why? *shrugs* Because I could.

8. My Fan Fiction, My Experience


I can and have uploaded works to FanFiction.Net, but I didn’t have to. Currently I find it more satisfying to read sentimental plot threads on Friday evenings and let my heart brim with sorrow. I am the overlord of my experience, and that is enough for me.

9. I’m Coping


The last book in my favorite series was published in 2013 and the next one isn’t scheduled to come out until 2017. So you can imagine why my fan fiction folder looks like this:


No, my heart is not crying.


Ta-da! Now, go forth and be merry! Write ridiculous plotlines! Fight for your ships! Win! And all other good things.

Do you write fan fiction? What is your favorite part about it?


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thursentary: Audiobooks

Usually I like books. Usually they are among my favorite things—but I have a story to tell. A story of love, loss, and ultimate betrayal.

Nebraska, in summer. We have family out there, which means an eight hour drive from the freshness of Colorado altitude down into the heat and heaviness of the east Nebraska air. You’d want a book to read over an eight hour drive, and having Mom read aloud made her carsick after too long. Clearly, this was a job for an audiobook.

via Goodreads
Now, I picked Erak’s Ransom by John Flanagan. Ranger’s Apprentice books are great to read in the car. They are funny, they are light, and they are filled with adventure. Not only that, but Erak’s Ransom is my favorite book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series. IT IS. And just as we finished that second disc—the CD player broke.

No more Will. No more schmexy Selethen. NO MORE LAUGHTER OR SARCASM OR JOY AT ALL. The rest of that car ride was mostly silent. I have never forgiven that CD player, and I have never listened to an audiobook since.

Until now.

College is a ways away. As much as I love FM radio, my favorite station has too many ads for that early morning drive. Despite the fact that you can’t rock out to an audiobook, I have committed to listening to one again.

It is called The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks, and it took me 35 minutes to pick out.

via Goodreads
You have to be choosy with an audiobook, you know? Like, you don’t want to start crying while you’re driving. Emotional driving is dangerous driving. Nor do you want to be so surprised you swerve into oncoming traffic. Light, humorous, adventurous. That’s the stuff.

I’ve been surprised how easy it is to keep up with the story, and it’s kind of fun to be read to, for once. It’s good for the brain, probably. And, now that the homework is trickling back in, I can still keep up with my reading by making use of my commute time.

Admittedly, it does come with setbacks. For example, The Reformed Vampire Support Group takes place in Australia, which, as you may have guessed, inspired this particular tweet:


Now, it’s not that an Australian book is hard to understand. Even if we don’t say “gobsmacked” or “mobile phone” on this side of the Pacific, I know how context clues work. But it was a little tricky to place the reader, because, at least to my ears, she didn’t really sound Australian.

Now, to be completely clear: I KNOW Steve Irwin was not the ultimate of Australian accents. I know that. I do. But there are things like flatter vowels and harder R’s that distinguish an Australian accent from say, an American or English accent. And I’m just not picking those up. For the first third of the book I thought there was a character named Father Ammone because I couldn’t distinguish that she was actually speaking, “Fathah Ramon.”

And, as a quick side now, Father Ramon is my FAVORITE CHARACTER IN THIS WHOLE DANG BOOK. I mean, it’s a vampire and werewolves book, so it’s fairly predictable in other elements, but this priest always manages to surprise me. He ministers to the undead, he is crazy brave, and he is chill. But I digress.

Anyway, it’s harder to know names sometimes if the accent isn’t one you expect, and you interpret it into something else.

Nonetheless, I am having a jolly good time listening. I am betrayed no longer.

Do you often listen to audiobooks? What is your favorite or least favorite part about them?


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How to Survive a Viscous Comment Count

I don’t know if there are any other bloggers out there who compulsively check their emails daily hourly every five minutes to see if anyone has commented on their latest post, but if you are one such blogger, then you are not alone.

I check my email CONSTANTLY.

via ShortList
It’s kind of silly. More than other forms of writing, blogging comes with a sense of immediate dispersal and immediate feedback, and more and more, I find that I am living for that feedback. I shouldn’t—but I do.

Inevitably, not every post gets the same response, and when you’re used to getting semi-immediate feedback, a post that goes on for days without a response kind of feels like a failure. After all, popular posts are filled with comments.

I am here to (hypocritically) tell you not to freak out. Or maybe to tell myself not to freak out. Because, as I write this, I’m worried about my latest post—and you know what? I shouldn’t. Here are a few things we can do instead.

via Her Campus

1. Be Patient

Not everyone can get to blog posts immediately, myself included. Though I may only get two or three comments the first day I publish a post, by the time I respond to comments at the end of the week, that number has often doubled or tripled. Be patient; give people a few days to read and respond.

via blippo-kawaii

2. Go Comment

Here is a correlation for you: when I don’t comment on other blogs, I don’t receive as many, either. Going out into the blogosphere is not just a way to get your mind off of things, but a way to surreptitiously invite people back to your blog as well. Get to networking!

via Buzzfeed

3. Take a Hit

Readers don’t read everything. I tend to skim book reviews and rarely comment, not because I think they’re bad—I just don’t use them to find my reading material. Even if your readers decide to skip one of your posts, it isn’t a gauge of your blog’s entire quality. You may just have to try again with another post.

via the-jellicle-cats

4. Remember Other Wins

Sometimes it can be tricky to tell how well a post is going to go over—but being the blog-master you are, you have the power to look at stats of posts that went over well a long time ago. It’s worth studying your successful posts, not just because they’re something to be proud of, but because you can learn from them, and perhaps replicate them at a later date. There is always room for approval.

via Kill the Rats

5. Put Your Egocentrism in the Corner

I love to talk about the things I love. I do! But people read blog posts because the blogger and reader share a mutual concern. My religious posts will always have a smaller readership, as will my book and movie reviews. It’s not that I can’t or won’t talk about those things, but connecting with others often means considering what my readers want to get out of my posts before I put in what I want to say.

via Giphy

6. Consider Success

Some bloggers use their comment count as a measure of overall success—I’ve even seen bloggers give out prizes for those who will write the fiftieth, hundredth, whatever comment. That is way too much work for me. Here at Sometimes I’m a Story, my success is in reaching out to my peers, discussing our mutual interests of reading, writing, and blogging, and having fun in my beloved blogging community. Consider the same for your blog—what does success mean for you?


I checked my email during the first drafting of this email, but not during the second, so kudos to me. I can take my own medicine. Sometimes.

Tell me: how do you gauge your blog’s success? Does a post’s comment count factor into that definition? How do you avoid obsessing over the numbers?


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reviews: A Discussion

Reviews are funny things.

Blackbird Review
Flickr Credit: Abizern
I really like Amazon reviews, especially when I’m buying something like a machine. I don’t wanna buy crappy hardware, that’s a sin I can’t handle. But, book reviews, too. I like seeing what the general consensus is of things I want to buy.

Sometimes I like blog reviews, too. I would feel like I’d be leaving too many people out if I tried to list people, but there are some people who have really mastered communicating their feelings about a book—through words, punctuation, gifs, and so on—so that their review might be just as entertaining as the book they’re reviewing!

But sometimes I don’t like blog reviews. I’ve already mentioned my opinion on how to write a book review, because a five-paragraph summary of a book and a two-sentence reaction at the end doesn’t cut it. There is a sad number of reviewers who believe that people are more interested in what the book was about than their experience while reading it.

I mean, take Shadow and Bone. I love that book. I don’t know why I picked it up; I probably thought the cover was cool. But I opened it, I entered its soul, my heart died, it was brilliant, and come the summer reading program at my library, I picked it out as the book I wanted. Then, when I went to Spain the summer before last, I brought it. I fell in love with it again, and I ended up reading it within a 24 hour period while my dad and I hid from Barcelona.

Now, I haven’t told you anything about what the book is about. If you haven’t heard of the series, you don’t even know the main character’s name, the problem she has to overcome, or whether the story is “gripping” and “will leave readers hungering for more.” But I have told you an experience. On the one hand, my trip to Spain didn’t change the content of the book in any way, but on the other, you know that it was a book I sped through two times. It was filled with slippery words that made it easy to get through and it recharged me when I was worn out from my trip.

Assuming I did end up filling more textual details, I’d much prefer to read a review like that.

With that in mind, I’ve thought about some things. There are people who don’t like reading reviews of books they haven’t read because they’d rather compare experiences and opinions. There are people who just read reviews for something to do. Some people read reviews of books they plan to read, and there are some people (like me) for whom reviews are a major turn-off.

So, in the end, I have to wonder, what is the purpose of reviews? Are we sharing about the book, or ourselves?

Food for thought.

How do you use reviews? Are they for purchases, for recommendations, or for shared experiences?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Not Quite Tigers (A Sister Story)

Siddown and clam your yammering pie holes. I’m gonna tell a story.

Tiger
Flickr Credit: Riccardo Cuppini
It starts in 2002. If you’ve ever enjoyed the delights of America’s obesity epidemic and obsession with recreational deception, you can imagine how excited I was for October 31st. Halloween. Candy, class parties, candy, costumes, candy, and yes, candy. Best day ever!

I knew exactly what I wanted to be: a wedding girl. A WEDDING GIRL, I TELL YOU! Between the white dress and the flowers, I would outshine every other tyke on the street that night, and life would be perfect. After all, there is nothing better to be than a wedding girl for Halloween. Believe me, I was a wedding girl, and I would know.

Of course, there was a minor hitch in my grand plan. You can’t be a wedding girl unless you’re getting married.

OH NO! There I was, the oldest of three girls with nobody to marry in sight. I couldn’t marry Dad—he was already married to Mom. I couldn’t marry my sisters—I wasn’t about to marry a girl. (Being a first grader, I don’t think it occurred to me that you shouldn’t be in romantic relationships with your family members, either.) What was I to do? It wasn’t like I could go to Wedding Girls R’ Us and pick up a boy to marry and make Halloween complete.

Everything else was perfect, too! I practiced my wedding girl walk up and down the length of the living room, taking small, delicate steps, pausing between each one. Mom even took me to Hobby Lobby and got me a plastic flower to hold in lieu of a fresh bouquet. I ROCKED this wedding girl stuff.

But you can’t be a wedding girl unless you’re getting married. So I improvised.

Heidi wanted to be a tiger for Halloween. Don’t ask me why. I would never want to be a tiger when I could be a wedding girl, but whatever. It’s a free country, and if I teased her I would get a time-out for sure, so Heidi was allowed to be a tiger.

Unbeknownst to Heidi, this was a fortunate turn of events for Heather the wedding girl. You see, even though I was only five, with aspirations of becoming an archaeologist, I knew quite a bit about tigers. They are orange with black stripes, for example, or, a lesser known fact, there is no such thing as a girl tiger. Therefore, even if I didn’t have a brother around to marry, it was entirely appropriate for a sister dressed as a boy tiger to marry me.

Problem solved.

I kind of feel bad for Heidi now. Being the bridegroom, she had to stand by the door for a really long time while I practiced my walk. You can’t get married if you suck while walking down the aisle. Searching the edges of my fragmented memory, I have the bad feeling there might have been kissing involved, as well.

(However, I remind you, we were in first grade and kindergarten, so just clothe those thoughts with innocence, okay? Okay. Stay that way.)

Heather (wedding girl), Heidi (tiger), Holly (angel)
Heidi doesn’t dress like a tiger anymore. She is not even that ferocious of a person, unless you try to give her a hug or something. However, she has grown into someone who likes sewing—I once asked her, “Heidi, does sewing bring joy to your heart?” (It is a hobby of mine to ask my sisters weird questions.) She smiled and said, “Yes.”

For that reason, I am presenting to you her Etsy shop Not Quite Tigers. When she first told me, she was sewing, so I thought she said, “Not Quite Finished.” I was like, “You’re going to try to sell people stuff you aren’t done with yet?!” Then I learned.

Right now there are hats, although my favorite is the recently-added leaf gloves, that remind me of Epic and Lord of the Rings. And though it is not typical of me to advertise on this blog, I turned it into a story so that you would forgive me—because when you make your sister be your tiger bridegroom for Halloween, you kind of owe her.


You can check out Heidi’s store Not Quite Tigers, or see the Instagram account run by my sister Holly.

Do you do anything crafty? Do you have an Etsy shop (it doesn’t have to be yours) that you think I should know about?


Friday, August 21, 2015

WBI: Prince Charming (Shrek)

I am not a biggest fan of what Dreamworks has done with Shrek, but I am willing to say that I did enjoy multiple aspects of Prince Charming’s character, especially during the third movie after his mother dies.

via GifSmile
Prince Charming was promised Fiona’s hand, and when he and his mother are incapable of getting it through deception, Charming instead rallies the fairy tale villains to wreak his revenge against Shrek and Fiona, and the “happily ever after” denied to bad guys everywhere. 

WBI Profile


Classification :: Δ0124578#&
Role :: Politician (prince)
Motivation :: chaos (evil takeover), evil (hurting Shrek and Fiona), idealism (egocentrism), insubordination (to mama), lifestyle (as a prince), personal/material gain (revenge, kinghood), power/influence (over Far Far Away)
Bonus :: minions (fairy tale villains), family ties (Fairy Godmother)

Click to Enlarge

A Study


dramatic—he literally narrates himself as he goes to save Princess Fiona from her tower; if that isn’t drama, I don’t know what is

selfish—Charming likes attention, he likes to have things go his way, and he cares more about his due than the love Fiona already has

whiny—like when he talks about stuff he doesn’t like, he just whines

babied—his helicopter mom does a good job of handling matters herself, and talks to him like he were three months old, frequently

reacting—prior to his mother’s death, Charming mostly reacted to what happened to him; afterwards, he started taking action himself

vengeful—he wants to avenge his mom and then get exactly what was promised to him; it wouldn’t hurt to maim Shrek in the process

leader—his speech to convince the fairy tale villains to take their due is actually impressive; as a leader, he inspires a goal and rallies his allies towards him to get it

dramatic-er—rather than just kill Shrek with the bolt to the chest or anything, he stages an entire theatrical production with the climax of killing Shrek, for his own glory

unadmired—while he can call the shots and make as much of a fuss as he’d like, in the end it’s Shrek who gains the people’s loyalty instead

heartless—ironically, Charming’s predicament comes from a failed promise of love, but he goes forward to show that he is actually quite cruel and controlling when the situation demands it

Big Idea


people change—Charming changes quite a bit between the latter two Shrek movies, beginning as a spoiled brat and eventually rising to become a spoiled leader. He’s much the same person, but his change from someone who merely reacts to his situations versus someone who acts upon his situations, and it took a big life event (his mom’s death) to change that.

lame—I mean, it’s hard to admire Charming from here in the audience, because he’s a weirdly-obsessed-with-drama twenty-something who lives in his mom’s basement and is preoccupied with his hair. He isn’t a sleek villain, and even his own allies don’t like him much, but he can get stuff done, and that’s what matters.

Shrek is better—Shrek is an ogre, but he isn’t a monster; Charming is a prince, and yet he is. At the end, Shrek ruins Charming’s climax because even though he’s green and frightening, he makes the audience laugh, he demonstrates a sense of humanity, and his wife rescues him. Charming is very focused on himself, which means that his cruelty, his drama, and his heartlessness make him an unlikable, and that’s always a problem for a leader.

“I am the rightful King of Far Far Away!” –Prince Charming, Shrek the Third


What do you think of Charming as a villain? Have you ever written a villain who changes over the course of a story?


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Infinity Dreams Award

Madam Opal of Opal Swirls and Madam Cassia of Dimensions of My Universe and Madam Willa Nicole of Willa Nicole Scribblings have all tagged me for the Infinity Dreams Award. Thanks, ladies!

Rules: 

1. Thank and follow the blog that nominated you.
2. Tell us eleven facts about yourself.
3. Answer the questions that were set for you to answer.
4. Nominate 11 bloggers and set questions for them.

I will give eleven facts presently.

I like blueberry waffles. | I dislike orange. | Simba is my favorite Disney prince. | And Naveen. | Also Eric, to be honest. | I am going to see The Lion King in November. | “Brown Betty” is among my favorite Fringe episodes. | I don’t have Netflix. | I have a sister who sews. | I don’t know what my major will be. | My basement is being remodeled so I sleep in the living room.

Opal’s Questions

What do you miss about your childhood? | Not being expected to have a job, not stressing over unemployment, not stressing over the lack of desire to get a job.

Lots of friends or a few good friends? | Just a few friends.

Winter evenings or Summer mornings? | Winter evenings. I like winter mornings too, when the sky is so gray it is red, but that was not an option.

Coast or inland? | Inland. No hurricanes, less drowning, no water animals, no routine water damage.

via Dose
Where and what would your dream house be like? | An apartment with no yard, no peanut butter, and maybe a cat. There would be a TV and a couch.

Do you tend to organize or leave messes? | I leave messes, but I know where everything is in the mess, which is what counts.

What sort of music do you like? | Er, mostly rock, Broadway showtunes, and anything from the eighties. I did a post on it.

Humphrey and Oliver as babies
Do you have any pets? | No, but my sister has a rat. She got rid of the brown one on Monday because he kept attacking the black one.

Do you live in the country or city? | I live in the suburbs of a city. But it’s Colorado. If I drive four minutes up the hill to Safeway, I get a beautiful overview of the city. Eight minutes downhill and there are horses eating in their paddock.

Do you play an instrument? If so, what? | Nope! But I can play the beginning of Harry Potter on the piano.

Would you like to visit New Zealand someday? | Sure, I guess? Are you paying for my ride?

Maybe if Legolas was there, an affirmative.

Cassia’s Questions

Do you prefer land or sea? | As much as I love The Little Mermaid, land.

What's one food that you always refuse to eat? | Squash. Yuck. That is all.

What's the most played song in your iTunes library? | “Favorite Song” by TobyMac, which is actually one of my least favorite songs ever.

Flight or invisibility? | Invisibility. It’s just cooler.

via GifSmile
If you could live in any country other than your own, what country would you choose? | *blinks* I dunno. I’d say Spain but they smoke too much.

A wizard tells you that he needs your help. You're going on an adventure! What weapon do you choose? | Why do we need weapons on the adventure? What if he wants to go buy socks at Target and has extreme anxiety when it comes to his sock choices? That’s an adventure in and of itself! If we attack a Target employee with an axe we are NEVER going to be allowed to buy socks again. Like seriously. Just send us with a loaded debit card—money beats all. Money and patience.

What's your earliest childhood memory? | I have vague memories of riding a little pink car. I still have the license plate with my name on it, I think.

via Giphy
Is there a certain type of foreign food (ie. Thai, Korean, South African) that you really like? | Mexican food is good.

Would you rather it rain all day or be hot and sunny all day for the rest of your life? | This is a confusing question because it makes no sense. I will say sun, because it can be cold and sunny; those days are better, and far more realistic.

What's a book or movie character that you identify with? | Bella Swan.

Who's your biggest role model? | Probably my dad, or Franz Argentblum. Those guys understand me.

via Khadija Says Hi.

Willa Nicole’s Questions

What is the busiest day of your life that you can remember? | Third grade, Destination Imagination, State Competition. Our presentation time got moved without them telling us and that caused a rush.

Where is the farthest you have ever been from home? | 5200 miles away in Barcelona, Spain two summers ago.

Do you have a dream so big you might call it an “Infinity Dream”? | Nope.

Are you a polka-dots or stripes kind of person? | Solids, please.


If you could change your entire name, what name would you choose? | I would not. Then I’d have to change my favorite Avengers quote.

What is the closest you have ever come to a near-death experience? | Probably one time when I ate too much popcorn (an asthma trigger) and had a super bad attack.

What is your favorite song? | Today, “Dead End Girl” by Heavens.

via Buzzfeed
What is your favorite food? | Strawberries. Guacamole. Fruit snacks. Carnitas. Cookies. Bisque.

How long can you hold your breath? | About a minute, but that’s the absolute limit.

If you could, would you rather be an Olympic swimmer or gymnast? | Um… I wouldn’t, but maybe swimmer, because it would be good to learn how to not die in water.

What is your dream vacation? | Cabin in the woods, hiking, enjoying the mountain views.


Okie doke, eleven people? I decided to tag some of my Twitter followers who are bloggers, because I could.


How do you feel about soft tacos? | Favorite Disney movie? | Best villain ever? | Favorite musical? | How much do you hate spoilers? | What’s the best thing about your blog? | What are three books that everyone must read before they die, period? | Discuss your opinion on corn on the cob. | What do you want to be when you grow up? | Do you have a favorite punctuation mark? | Describe the best trip you ever took.

Well, that’s it, folks! Maybe you weren’t tagged, but I’d still like to hear your answers! Pick any two questions listed up above, and tell me your answers! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Confessions of an Introvert

1800s Library
Flickr Credit: Barta IV

Being an introvert is pretty chill. Three other members of my families are introverts, so it’s never been an issue—but I guess it has its drawbacks.

For example, as I write this, I have forgotten I like to read.

This is actually not as weird as it sounds. I first came across this idea in The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, but it’s actually happened in cycles throughout my life. Basically, if an introvert doesn’t trigger a long-term memory association, then they may not remember that they like a thing. Everything seems sort of lame—everything (source).

Now, at least for me, this isn’t like, sporadic amnesia. I know I like to read. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t own so many books, follow so many book blogs, or be awaiting books in the mail. But at this moment, I can’t really remember why it’s fun.

The language? The plot? The villains? I mean, conceptually they all sound okay, but I can’t think of a specific example of why I loved a book I have read off the top of my head. There are reasons for this, of course:

a) the last few books I have read were filled with unadulterated suckishness, and the book I’m currently reading is for school

b) my bookshelf is packed away because of basement renovations, and whether or not the environment I’m in has anything to do with it, I do not have any books I considered fun at my immediate disposal

c) I’m not with anyone who can tell me why I like to read; I was with my best friend earlier, and we gushed over Fairest and Challenger Deep, and she could actively remind me of things I valued in those books—I, alone, have nothing

I have plenty of reading material on my Kindle, I have a growing TBR list kept online, I have a few “fun” physical books I was supposed to get through this summer, and I’m not opposed to the principle of reading.

I just don’t remember why I love to read—and thus, have no desire to pick up a book.

Does that sound scary? It kind of does, if I think about it. The desire to do something I like up and walked away one day, and though you know it was enjoyable at the time, it’s hard to imagine doing it now.

But I’m not worried. As I said, it cycles. There have been times when I haven’t liked, writing, activities, school, my family, and other things I typically appreciate, but the desire always comes back. For now, I’m content to enjoy things I do remember I like, like watching TV, spending time with my family, and writing—and when my desire to read comes back, I’ll happily resume whatever book I opened last.

Are you an introvert who experiences these sorts of things? How do you cope?

Monday, August 17, 2015

In Which PMS is Like Writer's Block

I feel like there is not a non-awkward way to start this post, so let’s get straight to the point: PMS is like writer’s block.


I have an argument behind that sentence, but first allow me to define both terms.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)—the typically crappy symptoms affecting your emotions and body before your period (source).

Writer’s block—the typically crappy symptoms that occur during a creative slowdown (source).

There are plenty of comparisons between the two. Nobody likes either one. You’re off your groove. Can’t concentrate. Headache. Can’t sleep. Your brain or your bottom gets constipated. There’s cramping. And, most of all, many people argue that PMS and writer’s block don’t exist.


I’d say they’re not totally wrong. In the PMS circle, at least 18 studies have found there is no link between negative emotions and the premenstrual phase; you basically can’t blame mood swings on your period anymore (source). I don’t think anyone has done super-scientific studies on writer’s block, but it’s discounted as an excuse, a form of anxiety, and “feelings” (source, source, source).

Still… There wouldn’t be a Mayo Clinic page if there wasn’t some substance to the PMS “myth.” Likewise, people wouldn’t discuss the writer’s block “myth” if it wasn’t a widespread experience.


Do they exist? Do they not? Can we tell?

Maybe. On the one hand, PMS and writer’s block are a mindset. We’re raised thinking women are weirdly emotional because of their periods, and men and women alike use PMS as a reason to reduce female emotions to something beyond our control or understanding (source). Likewise, we stereotype writers all the livelong day—we expect to have trouble writing, and trap ourselves with “uncurable” creative slowdowns.

PMS and writer’s block also have tangible consequences. PMS causes acne and cramps and sore boobs, physical symptoms, all the result of our biological autopilot. Writer’s block reveals itself through the fact that you aren’t writing. I won’t do anyone the disservice of suggesting writer’s block is innate and out of our control, but writers have bemoaned writer’s block for centuries. Sometimes, that’s life.


Much hard. So yuck. Wow. In the midst of arguing over the existence of these things, I wonder if the only thing we accomplish is demonizing them.

Gillian Einstein dislikes PMS because it associates female reproduction with negative emotions—and we can do better than that. Yes, your period has its downfalls, but read from Nayyirah Waheed in her poem “the lie.” (via Goodreads)

“i bleed every month. but do not die. how am i not magic.”

Dude. Magic. Did you hear that? Magic. We lie to ourselves and act like it’s the least magical thing in existence—when in reality that process is our magic.


There’s a menstruation process. There’s a writing process. Maybe the blood and words and pain and blank pages will drive you nuts at the time. But these aren’t diseases, tough times to “get through.” They’re part of the process.

And what do we do during this part of the process? Journal. Cry. Wander. Nap. Eat. Go outside. Talk it out with a friend. Buy chocolate. Free write. Adventure. Write down your dreams. Take a hot shower. Watch Star Trek. Use the dumbest, crudest words you know on paper. Exercise. Do a divergence test. Unplug. Boost your creativity and take care of yourself and be prepared. Eventually you’ll start again.


Like it or not, PMS and writer’s block are part of the magic-making process.

So, does PMS exist? Does writer’s block? I think so, taken within the greater context of the process. PMS and writer’s block aren’t ditches that trap you forever—they’re a stage in the cycle. Though it may take a long time, by nature they require that you move on and keep making magic.


Go. Make magic. And if things slow down, don’t worry. There’s magic in that, too.

(Besides, if PMS doesn’t exist, then I have no excuse for putting chocolate chips into a quesadilla two years ago. I don’t want to go there.)


How do you think writer’s block plays into the writing process? Do you have any writer’s block stories? (I guess you could share PMS stories if you wanted, but this is the Internet, so I leave that to your discretion.)


Other Sources I Used: source, source, source, source, source

All the GIFs are from Park Myung Soo's Un-Official Fan Page, and all of them were so perfect I just decided to let there be a GIF monopoly. You should click through, because the ones I didn't use are still hilarious.

By the way, I got this idea from a post Aimee wrote on getting over writer’s block—so I recommend you check it out!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fangirl Closes at the Close

It is officially the last Saturday of freedom. And not that college won’t be freeing in its own ways, but still. Last Saturday of freedom.

In celebration of that last Saturday, and because I always love to hear from you lovely readers, I collected the perfect number of people to help me answer this question for our last Fangirl Saturday:

Think of a character who puts their friendships above their own desires. Why do they do this, and why does this make that character important to you?

People Who Would Die

Elizabeth

Quest: TO FIND THE HOLY GRAIL. Or something.
Favorite Color: Purple
Fandom: Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

via Tumblr
So. Percy. A man (okay, boy) who puts his friends above EVERYTHING—above himself, above the gods, above saving the world. What makes this so compelling in his character, however, is that this aspect is also his greatest flaw. He would let the world be destroyed if he could save the ones he loves. I think this is something we all could relate to, even if we would not necessarily make the same choices. Percy, in short, is someone who loves too much—both a defect and what makes him so important to me, as well as many other preteens and teens.

Alexa S. Winters

Quest: Read, Write, Share the love of Jesus, and Get everyone to understand that the Star Wars prequels are the best.
Favorite Color: Pink (but not blinding pink; she is a girly girl)
Fandom: BBC Merlin

via Tumblr
MERLIN. MERLIN. MERLIN. Okay, without giving too many spoilers, I’m going to try to explain why Merlin is amazing at this: Merlin is a wizard in a country where magic is banned—but he’s also the main servant and best friend of Prince Arthur, the son of the king who outlawed magic. As they series goes on, Merlin consistently saves Arthur's life with magic, but because magic is outlawed, Arthur can never know it. Still, Merlin sticks by Arthur's side and supports him through every single step of his rise and rule, even though he has to constantly hide his powers. Even though Arthur more or less thinks he's an idiot and doesn’t go an episode without telling him so. Even though Arthur’s own father would kill Merlin in a heartbeat if he ever discovered the truth. Because Merlin cares about Arthur and believes in him, he hides his strongest abilities and stays by Arthur's side, repeatedly saving his life throughout the whole lovely series, making Merlin pretty much the best friend ever.

Shanti

Quest: Finding a talking tree.
Favorite Color: Teal
Fandom: Chemical Garden by Lauren DeStefano

via Examiner
Rhine isn't a perfect character. She can be selfish and thoughtless at times. But I love how her friendships with Jenna, Cecily, Rose and Gabriel were so central to her character development. I don't want to spoil the first book, but she does something with terrible repercussions just so that Gabriel might have a chance. She listens compassionately to Cecily, even when she's annoying. She is kind to Jenna, even when she's terrified of what's happening to her. She talks to Deirdre, even though her life would be easier if they didn't make friends. She considers Lindens point of view, even when it would be easier for her to leave all emotional attachment behind and flee.

She empathizes with others and that makes her so easy to empathize with, even when this consideration of others above herself might have terrible effects on her own life and choices.

Bonus awards to Jason from Heroes of Olympus, Abdi from While We Run, and Ruby from The Darkest Minds.

People Who Would Not Die

Heather

Quest: To seek the Holy Grail. (Nice try, Elizabeth.)
Favorite Color: Blue (Not really, but that’s how you live. Watch the movie.)
Fandom: Dexter

via Playbuzz
Admittedly, I’ve only seen the first season, so if you are a diehard Dexter connoisseur, don’t hurt me. Dexter is a serial killer with sorta-sociopathic tendencies, and doesn’t have emotions. However, despite his inability to feel, I find he has a very interesting capacity to love. Love is an action, not a feeling, and so it is not contradictory that he is able to do this to the people who are important to him: namely, his sister, Debra, his girlfriend, Rita, and Rita’s kids. Dexter’s most frequent weapon is the “mask” he wears to prevent people from realizing that there is something sinister inside of him, and his relationships with those people are part of that. He is supportive of his sister and girlfriend, plays with his girlfriend’s kids, shows up when he’s needed, and gives what he can—all for the sake of normalcy. Maybe it’s selfish, to want to stay normal so that he isn’t found out, but I think it’s that selfishness that forces him to pursue it so fiercely. He wants things to stay normal, and so he’s willing to buy donuts, and flush a goldfish down the toilet, and give hugs, and pick the kids up from school, and do favors, and demonstrate that he cares—and you can’t really fake that demonstration. It is adorable, and shows an important side of Dexter’s character.


And that’s a wrap! Thanks to Elizabeth, Alexa, and Shanti for helping me out this week, and thanks to you all for making this a super fun summer feature!

What is your favorite fictional friendship pair? Why?


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thursentary: My 5 Favorite Musicals

Why don’t we talk about musicals more? Musicals are life! Admittedly, my close friends are very interested in musical theater and it was basically all we talked about in middle school (and Percy Jackson, lol) but it is an entire high school career later—musicals are still fan. tás. ticos.

Though I may have seen more musical productions than my average peer, Youtube and Pandora are the real tools I have used to cultivate my loves. They can take over your life, in a good way. For example, on July 17 between 1:59 AM and 2:14 AM, I couldn’t sleep, so I wrote down all the musicals I could think off of the top of my head.

Even though I wrote down 53 musicals, it was surprisingly easy to narrow down my top five. After it was two in the morning I second-guessed myself a lot, but hey, let’s just run with my early morning choices.

via Buzzfeed

5. Wicked

Ugh, I know. Like, I could do so much better. But there’s a lot of nostalgia involved, okay? Wicked depicts Oz before Dorothy dropped in, loosely based off Gregory Maguire’s novel. Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda, share an unadulterated loathing for one another until they become best friends—and then mortal enemies. The dual meanings with Wizard of Oz are the best part, closely followed by Fiyero’s boots as he dances through life. I’ve seen it twice on stage—it’s rather populer. Lar.

via mysweetcupoftea

4. Legally Blonde

This musical makes me feel so much better. Based on Heather Hach’s book, Elle Woods follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard to become “serious” and win back his heart. Don’t be fooled by the copious amounts of pink; there’s serious girl power here! With the help of her friends, Elle transforms from heartbroken and boy-crazed to carrying a chip on her shoulder that makes her a good lawyer. And, if nothing else, watch it for Paulette and the UPS guy.


3. The King and I

I haven’t seen this one live, but there are movies and cast recordings. Anna Leonowens (who you might know from the book Anna and the King) arrives to teach the King of Siam’s children, but as she’s getting to know the children, she finds it difficult to get along with the king himself. There’s implied romance and the whistling of happy tunes and young lovers and dancing, ETCETERA, ETCETERA, ETCETERA!

via thinkpinay

2. Les Misérables

Don’t trust the movies—the musical is BETTER. Springing from a Victor Hugo novel, the musical examines justice, mercy, and sin through three staple characters: Jean Valjean, Javert, and Thénardier. I love the religious themes. And the music. Also, the blood of angry men is spilled in the dark of ages past, so all the dreams they dreamed left the sole survivor among empty chairs at empty tables. *sniffle* Also, Philip Quast’s rendition of “Javert’s Suicide” is my favorite Les Mis thing ever.


1. Fiddler on the Roof

It took me a long time to understand why this is one of my dad’s favorite movies. Based off a series of short stories, Tevye and His Daughters, Fiddler depicts a steadfast faith despite the political environment of Imperial Russia. Three of Tevye’s daughters are ready for the matchmaker to make them a match, as is tradition, but when the girls hope to marry men of their own selection, Tevye must decide what is mere custom that he will sacrifice for his daughters’ happiness, and what is the very foundation of his beliefs. I would LOVE to see this one live, but mostly I just watch the lovely movie instead of studying for finals.


I’m still wavering on Wicked and Legally Blonde, but fortunately, I don’t have to limit myself to this list. These are all the musicals I thought of that morning:

Seen 1+ Stage Production | Seen 1+ Film Production | Seen 1+ Filmed Stage Production

Evita, Wicked, Pirates of Penzance, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Addams Family, The King and I, Annie, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Aladdin, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Phantom of the Opera, The Producers, Legally Blonde, Les Misérables, Young Frankenstein, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Into the Woods, The Wizard of Oz, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Deamcoat, Fiddler on the Roof, Carousel, Matilda, A Little Princess, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Lion King, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Heathers, Jersey Boys, A Very Potter Musical, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Fantastiks, Rent, Spring Awakening, Dracula, How to Succeed at Business Without Really Trying, Annie Get Your Gun, Oliver!, Cinderella, Gypsy, Sunset Boulevard, Cats, Camelot, Spamelot, Kinky Boots, The Book of Mormon, Gigi, Jesus Christ Superstar, Chicago

It is amazing what I can think of when I’m supposed to be sleeping.

(By the way, I’d feel bad if I didn’t include these other musicals I didn’t think of at the time, but also listen to: Garden of Eden, Newsies, Leap of Faith, Little Shop of Horrors, The Wedding Singer, Hairspray, A New Brain, Side Show, The MikadoJekyll and Hyde. OH, and I know that High School Musical (all three of them) and Rocky Horror Picture Show exist, but I have had enough of them.)

Do you have any favorite musicals? Share them with me!


Who are your favorite fictional friends? (From musicals, maybe?) If you want to help me write the last fangirl post for Saturday, be sure to tune in!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Blogging Fears

Once upon a time there was a girl named Heather. She really liked writing, and heard that blogging was a good way to practice. She wanted to blog, but at the same time, she had failed at blogging in the past. To decide what to do, she made a list of reasons in favor of and against blogging, just in case.

She decided to blog. For eight months she blogged, even though it was hard, and she didn’t know any other bloggers, and never got any comments, and wanted to give up…

Coffee House Clarice 2
Flickr Credit: Maxwell GS

It’s been about a year since I really started getting into blogging and enjoying myself, meeting new people, and trying out new things. I thought I’d look at my list of reasons not/to blog, and see if this time, I have new thoughts to share.

(Note: if I refer to “last time,” I am referring to my first blog, which lasted about a month.)

Benefits

  • It’s really good practice—it holds you to a schedule and you have a chance to work on brevity and maintaining reader interest.
    • YES. Consistency, brevity, and interestingness are all things I try to hold to—with varying success, obviously.
  • It really strengthens voice as you work on making it clear who is talking and the way they’re talking.
    • Depends. (You worded this one weirdly, old self.) I have been avidly using the internet and/or writing since sixth grade. I have had a long time to learn how to say the things I want to say. I think I’ve learned more about being concise, rather than changing the specific way I speak.
  • Builds an online portfolio—though this could be interpreted as a good thing or a bad thing.
    • *shrugs* Publishing isn’t as much of a dream for me at this point. Neutral thing for me, but true for others.
  • Gives me a chance to hold myself accountable to writing on schedule.
    • Well, other people should hold you accountable, too!
  • It’s a good chance to test out the waters and get your feet wet.
    • Sure.
  • Teaches you discipline.
    • Or how to be CA-RAZ-YYYYYYY!
  • Forces you to think.
    • You should be thinking regardless of whether or not you run a blog.
  • Creates relationships.
    • NO. Blogging does not automatically create relationships, as my January-August posts show. Blogging gives you a chance to reciprocate. You have to hunt relationships down yourself.
  • Fun!
    • Yes.
  • Builds confidence.
    • Sometimes.

Foreseeable Problems

  • The big problem with last time was no audience. No audience equals no motivation, and no motivation means no enjoyment or interest in blogging.
    • STILL TRUE. Blogging is partly fun because you’re around people—so find people you think are awesome when you start to blog.
  • Typically blogs revolve around one subject—writing, one’s family, and so on, and so forth. I’m not sure I can stick to one subject, which means I don’t know whether practicing in this way is valuable.
    • *shrugs* I have no idea what I’m doing and I still have people following me. If you stay focused-ish on a narrow subject—for me it is writing, blogging, and reading—then you might survive.
  • At the moment there is no real mission statement in mind, and I’m not really sure what success means in this instance.
    • You and me both.
  • Previously I’ve worked on two blogs. The first one, I did NOT have fun, and I haven’t quite isolated why, but I definitely enjoyed making my atomic history timeline immensely.
    • It’s because the first time you were alone and didn’t know what you were doing whereas on the atomic history timeline our chem teacher was our audience and you knew EXACTLY what you were doing and you got complimented on it at Parent-Teacher Conferences. Boom.

Disadvantages

  • I don’t have all the time in the world. I know very well I’m in high school now, and that’s a rough life. 
    • If you care about blogging, you’ll make time for it. If you don’t then you won’t.
  • Some have it rougher, but it’s still time consuming, which means that squeezing in blogging is something tough.
    • PRIORITIES. I JUST SAID THAT. If you prioritize blogging, then you can squeeze out 1-4 blog posts every week, and any of those numbers can be perfect.
  • I don’t have a specific angle, topic, or audience to interest readers, which means it’s unlikely I will attract a solid group of people.
    • Well, we’re all working on that. It’s okay. If you start out with an idea you like and find other people who will like it, too, I think you’ll manage.
  • I really have no purpose or goals in mind—I just want to practice writing, which seems like a nice way to set up for failure.
    • Sorry, but practicing writing is a goal. You didn’t set up for failure there. 
  • It takes a lot of time and effort to get the ball rolling, and some of us are short on patience.
    • You are only short on patience sometimes. And if the time and effort is worth it to you, then the rewards you get, no matter how small, are going to be worth it.

Going-on-two-years-blogging Heather has a lot more insights than newbie Heather did. And I think newbie Heather did have some important questions to ask, but at the moment… this Heather knows that she likes blogging, and that if you are interested in blogging, then the best way to answer your questions is to try it out!

Going-on-two-years-blogging Heather thinks it’s worth it, anyway.

What were some of your blogging concerns when you got started? What were the answers to your questions?


Who are your favorite fictional friends? If you want to help me write the last fangirl post for Saturday, be sure to tune in!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Books I Thought I Would Hate: The Scarlet Trilogy

Lion Heart came out in May, and guess who preordered it and still has to wait until October? This person, who said to package orders in the same box. And as much as I love Leigh Bardugo’s books I am beginning to resent Six of Crows for plugging up my other books. *growls*

I really enjoy A.C. Gaughen’s retelling of the Robin Hood story, and even had the pleasure of attending a Skype conference where she spoke at my library! I still look forward to reading Lion Heart (when it gets here…) and the next project she releases.

via Goodreads
However, it’s funny, because my relationship with her books did not start that way. In fact, my relationship with her books almost never happened at all.

Why I Thought I’d Hate It:

I don’t know if your library does that thing where they give a free book to summer readers, but my library does. And in the year in question (two or three ago, I think) there was an awful selection of books. I don’t even remember what they were, I just knew I wasn’t impressed with any of them.

But hey. I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to get a free book, so I grabbed one that looked like it didn’t completely suck. Scarlet, by A.C. Gaughen. I mean, if worse came to worse, the cover was very soft and I could rub my face against it in times of sorry or emotional duress. You know, from other books that would make me cry.

I threw it in my TBR pile and forgot about it for months. There I assumed it would stay.

via Goodreads

What Changed:

I’ve relayed this in A Screaming Story (which, by the way, spoils a really climactic part of the book; oops), but in essence, I decided I needed to crack down on my TBR and I picked up Scarlet again. Fully expecting to throw it into the “donate” pile, I opened the book and fell. Hard.

Oh, yes, I loved that book. I think I stayed up super late that Saturday night, and toted it to church the next morning so I could ignore my peers before the service. Once of my peers, who refused to be ignored, stole the book from me at said climactic part and that resulted in some screaming and weird looks.

But, I read it.

via Goodreads

Why It Turned Out I Loved It:

I imagine there are a bunch of people who hate Scarlet’s voice, but despite her (intentionally) poor grammar, there’s something musical and passionate to the way she speaks. She grabs your hand so you’re right beside her as she faces the evil and the fear and the tension.

And Scarlet is cool. Even though the “Merry Men” are the main characters, it never feels like Scarlet is isolated to that group. One reason you invest your emotions in the story is because they witness firsthand the common person’s suffering. They’re in town, in people’s homes, in the tavern—they aren’t just bandits camping in the woods; they’re part of the community, and one small spark of hope they have left.

But on that note, A.C. Gaughen manipulates my emotions horribly. I was ready to go back in time and murder Prince John, the [CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED] of England, who deserved to be dragged across asphalt until his innards fell out, spend hours making an intimate acquaintance with vultures, and then be exploded. Twice. AND HE WENT ON TO BE KING. FREAKING KING. OF THE WHOLE COUNTRY.

Agh.

I don’t resent these emotions. I mean, part of the reason we read is because it is fun to manipulate your emotions with books, and secondly, Scarlet gives me a heart for history. Textbooks can tell you what happened, but they’re rather passionless accounts.

Even if Robin Hood, our hero, never existed, I still know that ordinary people were affected by the politics of the time. They suffered. And maybe the story didn’t happen, I’m sure it’s still true. If not, why would I care, much less know, that the Magna Carta was ever signed?

Yeah. So basically, emotions, history, caring. It was all awesome.


The moral of this story is don’t assume that a book sucks just because you’ve never heard of it before, and that none of the books surrounding it look appealing, either. As I learned, there’s a chance that you’re wrong. I’m certainly happy with how Scarlet turned out!

Did you think that you were going to hate Scarlet when you first read it? How did the book compare with your expectations?