10 Things About My Writing

Thank you to my lovely and hilarious CO-G Erin who tagged me to do this post, which was honestly wayyyy harder than I thought it would be because 10 THINGS ARE A LOT OF THINGS. Okay. Here goes.

1. I’m a pantser. I’ve honestly tried not to be—meaning, I’ve attempted plotting, character graphs, outlining, story bibles, and whatnot, but they all fizzle out. Which SUCKS because that sort of organization would be enormously helpful for the hot mess that is my brain. But for some reason, the minute any sort of formal organization enters the scene, my brain riots with cries of “THOU SHALT NOT ORGANIZETH” and sabotages my attempts. But to be fair, I’ve embraced pantsing. I just love that freedom and unpredictability with writing, since it can produce some of the best scenes, characters, and turning points of a story. I’m still trying to assume a more organized method (aka slightly less messy), but at heart, I am a panster.

2. I’m a loose mental plotter to a point. I think this is the only reason I can pants as successfully as I’ve been able to (is it successful? The jury’s still out on that one….). Being a mental plotter for me means without having to write it all down, I already somewhat have a loose string of events I know HAVE to happen to jumpstart the story. The overall plot isn’t completely figured out, but it’s enough to keep me excited to keep writing and discover what comes next. With all the characters and plot points jumping around in my head, it definitely makes my mind an even more crowded place, that’s for sure. And scary.

Mental plotting yayyy *sobs* source

3. Music is my guide. Music plays a HUGE part in my life—not only because of my musical background, but also because some of my first memories are of hearing my dad singing, as well as Lea Salonga cassette tapes on repeat (hello throwback). As such, I’ve always tied music to memories and emotions—and when I tie emotions and memories to writing, music naturally falls into the equation. I listen to ALL sorts of music and build my story playlists like no other. Not only is music helpful for tone/mood research or getting re-inspired when in a writing slump, but it’s a great way of giving your story some structure without having to outline a single thing  🙂 Except most times when I’m listening to my playlists as I’m writing, I look like I’m possessed as I’m typing. Lots of swaying, head bobbing, and more movement than is required for actual sitting.

And this is why I rarely write in public

4. Inspiration-wise, I am a mean fuser. I like to fuse ideas with each other and see what comes of it. Thus, the “This meets That” high-concept pitch has been my friend with lots of projects. I do this with movies, books, TV, and musicals, and sometimes it’s not even the literal “This Story meets That Story.” Sometimes it can be as simple as a flash moment of inspiration, colliding with another, that gives me a snapshot of what a story could be. There’s just something I really love about taking two extremes and letting them settle into each other, seeing the vibe/mood of what I love while carving out my own story from within. Obviously it’s not copy-cut-paste of the two ideas (because hello, plagiarism), but for the most part, I see my fusions as a tribute to two things I really love. And also my excuse to indulge in them as much as possible for “writing research.”

This Unicorn meets That Unicorn = all the yay (source)

5. I’m also an eager idea gatherer. Unfortunately, aforementioned fusion does not happen instantly (boo). Sometimes I get an idea I realllllly like, but it’s just not ready to be a story yet. I’ve gathered the “This” but not the “That,” and so patiently I wait until that last piece of the puzzle falls into place. Sometimes it’ll take years to find the “That,” but in between that time, I’m gathering ideas for the story and letting it take up residence in my head. But when the times comes when the “This” finally meets its “That” in my head, it is the BIGGEST aha! moment in the world. For Phantom Fantasy, it was reading a book and then finally listening to the right piece of music years later.

gimme all those ideas source

6. Lastly, I’m a steadfast incubator. This leads into why I can pants and mental-plot—I capture these ideas with this method I’ve laid out above, and do the tedious, tiresome task of . . . letting them sit. For a while. Like when a baker instinctively knows when the cake is ready without keeping time, I know it’s time to write. Especially if the story is quite literally DRIVING ME CRAZY. I incubate these ideas until they’re begging to come alive, haunting me every day to a point where it’s painful not to be writing it all down. Now that I say this, it all sounds super punishing and weird BUT it’s how I remain super excited about my stories and characters even during the really low writing times. I’ve waited this long to write the story, so you bet your bottom dollar I’m going to finish and love every moment.

Welcome to the world, dino-story, YOU ARE READY TO BE WRITTEN source

7. I hear voices in my head. Yes, I hear the voices of my characters, lines that spark scenes and interactions, and swells of music in my head—which can get overwhelming, but hey, it’s a sign that I’m feeling extremely inspired by my story (enough to hear it pretty much wherever I go). This stems a lot from tons of day dreaming when I step away from the computer (because really, do writers EVER stop thinking about their stories?) and can drive me crazy most times, but I like that feeling of a story following me around. I’m not done with it, and it’s not done with me, so it will keep stalking me until I go back to writing.

8. I paint my nails the color I feel best captures the story! People who know me know that I like to keep my nails fresh….mostly because before, my nails looked like crap from so much nail-biting. To break that high anxiety-driven habit, I decided to do my own nails as a brand of therapy (taking control of even the smallest things really helps!), and tie it in with my writing by assigning colors to my stories! Nothing is better than looking down at my keyboard and seeing an awesome pop of color on not-too-shabby nails beasting those words out. For Pirate Fantasy, dark purple/night-esque shades are my go-to colors, and my CO-G Erin sent me the BEST nail polish ever (Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish—quite possibly the fanciest nail polish to grace my fingers) which I’m now currently wearing and loving!

ALL the Sailor Scouts know the power of having strong nail game

ALL the Sailor Scouts know the power of having a strong nail game   source

9. I’m an emotional writer. Another reason I don’t like writing in public is that I cry when I write (no surprise since I cry over almost anything). I get really into the emotions of my story and my characters, and there’s something about crying while writing that adds a rawness to the character’s voice. It’s feeling words rather than trying to phrase them the right way. It’s in those powerful moments when I feel like I’m truly connecting with the heartbeat of the story, and makes me fall in love with the book all over again (even when I’m knee-deep in Revision Draft #29384782).

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It me, all day every day   source

10. There are random things I love which I always must include in my stories. This ranges from loads of fire metaphors (I love fire), nods to the color red (my fave color), foxes (fave animal!), birds (so beautiful! And they remind me of my parents!), music (see #3), masks (PHANTOM! TUXEDO MASK! ZORRO! ETC!), and dancing (dancing shows are hands down the best). There are definitely so many other random things to add to this list, but for now, these are the ones I’m not entirely embarrassed to admit  🙂

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Wow, that was a lot of things. For anyone else who wants to join in on this, do it and have fun reflecting on all the quirks that make you the writer you are!!!

One Lovely Blog Award

blog award

Yay, more blog fun! Huge thanks to the lovely Amanda for tagging me in this One Lovely Blog Award! To achieve supreme coolness, make sure you visit her fantastic book blog To Live a Thousand Lives because it is chock full of bookish goodies and recommendations 😀

The Rules:

1. You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
2. You must list the rules and display the award.
3. You must add 7 facts about yourself.
4. You must nominate 5 other bloggers and comment on one of their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

Seven Facts About Me:

1 — Red is my favorite color. Seriously, I love ALL the red things. A lot of people think it’s stupid that I call it my power color, but who doesn’t feel 1000x more fabulous with a dash of red or some other bold color on?

2 — My best brainstorming/story daydreaming is done when I’m cruising in the car, blasting one of my story playlists. There’s just something weirdly therapeutic about driving that unlocks a lot of scenes for me, so I’m really not kidding when I say I LOVE long drives. They’re super productive.

3 — I also love fortune cookies! Not actually eating them, but cracking them open and reading the fortune. I’m oddly superstitious (don’t even get me started on that) so when I get a good fortune, I’ll often stick it to my cork board for luck.

4 — My favorite animal is the fox. I think they’re such gorgeous, clever creatures, and I’ve ALWAYS wanted to have my own fox as part of my future dream pet squad. And since I feel so connected with them (along with having had a strange encounter with a pack of foxes a while ago), I’m absolutely certain a fox would also be my Patronus.

5 — The film that made me fall deeply in love with movie scores was the 2003 version of Peter Pan—I was only ten, and so incredibly moved by the score that I’d watched it in theaters again and again (whilst bawling, again and again). I remember telling my mom that this music was exactly what I thought love sounded like, which still holds true to this day.

6 — I swear left and right that the only reason I got into my high school was because of Raven-Symoné. For my private school, we had to take intro exams (which I purposely failed because I did NOT want to go) as well as write an entrance essay on a female figure we admired. While the other girls wrote about Eleanor Roosevelt and Mother Theresa, I wrote about my back-then (let’s be real: still) Disney TV hero, Raven-Symoné.

7 — The moment I knew I really really wanted to be a writer was in 8th grade when my history teacher assigned us a project of creating a simple 5-page log of a citizen’s daily life during the American Revolution. Instead, I turned in a 15-page long diary (with artfully burnt paper edges, then soaked in tea for the aged-crinkly effect) which covered a sweeping tale of a British spy who falls for an American woman, is found out to be a traitor, then sent to the gallows and hung for his crime. Oh, and the last page was dramatically thrown into the POV of the woman, who was then discovered to be pregnant with his child. Classic.

Okay, enough about me. I’m nominating super writers Ella and Meg!

Real Neat Blog Award

real neat blog award

Oh boy here goes another award, another set of questions! Thank you to my good friend Maddy for nominating me for this (CP reunion TOMORROW. Can you believe it!?)! Definitely check out her badass blog titled Those Who Wander, which is chock full of nature pics, book recommendations, writing life insights, and Tolkien-esque delights. And in the very near future, I’m guessing it will also be filled with tales of our outrageous CP reunion with her, Akshaya, and me because when we three unite—chaos most definitely ensues.

Now, onto the rules:

  1. Put the award logo on your blog
  2. Answer the 7 question set by the person who nominated you and create 7 new ones
  3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blog
  4. Nominate however many people you like, linking to their blogs
  5. Let them know you nominated them

The questions:

1. Which book character would you want to meet and why?

Because the Harry Potter series is SO near and dear to my heart, I’ve naturally always wanted to meet all the characters from it. The awesome, the annoying, even the evil ones. (Okay, maybe not the evil ones.)

But if I’m going to be specific and honest with myself, I’d want to meet the Marauders, pre-Harry Potter era. I wrote a glorious amount of fanfiction about them years and years ago, and pretty much only wrote about them because I loved imagining this goofy group of guys (with Lily, of course) and the laughable, crazy hijinks that ensued during their Hogwarts years before all of the darkness and tragedy afterward. What a fun bunch, they must’ve been. I had a particular obsession with James Potter. And Sirius Black. And Remus Lupin. Not Peter, for obvious reasons.

2. Which book do you wish they’d adapt into a movie or TV series?

Oooooh, this one is easy. I’m a firm advocate for making books into TV shows because it gives you so much room to play around and flesh out the material—and honestly, who wants to cram thousands and thousands of words into less than 2 hours?! I don’t know how they would ever do it, but I would LOVE to see Brian K. Vaughan’s space opera comic book Saga as a TV series. I’ve been hooked since the first volume and have always felt that its entertainment factor could translate really well on screen if someone was crazy enough to pull it off. Seriously, it has everything I love about good TV: epic premise, top-notch storytelling, fantastic characters, and humor that will make you laugh for days. I’d watch that in a heartbeat.

3. Who is your favorite author?

J.K. Rowling. Hands down. Her books gave me such a hunger for reading and the inspiration to write, and her life story always fuels me with the drive and passion to become a writer no matter what. She’s the author who helped me see what I want to do in life, and gave me the tools through her story and by being just a wonderful role model to look up to. She’s my favorite author for more than just her books. If I ever got to meet her, I would probably pass out from all of the emotions and gratitude.

4. Which Disney character would you be?

No surprise here: POCAHONTAS. If I haven’t repeated this enough times on my blog, Pocahontas is my favorite Disney princess, Disney movie, AND movie of all time. I don’t care if people throw the historically-inaccurate card; the heart of Disney’s Pocahontas is what I connect to the most. She’s fierce, independent, and knows that the best decisions are not necessarily the easiest. To me, she’s one of the realest Disney princess of them all, and is so strengthened by her story’s ending that is so different from the typical Disney fare. Words cannot express how much I love this movie, and how much I bawl my eyes out every time I see it. EVERY. TIME.

5. Do you have any pets, and if so, what?

Wellllll, I do have this adorable English Springer Spaniel named Luke a.k.a. Master Skywalker. He likes long walks, frisbee tosses, belly-rubs, and . . . okay, so he’s NOT actually my puppy. He’s my sister’s. But from all of the pictures I’ve posted of him on social media, I feel like I’ve successfully fooled a lot of people into thinking I have a dog. Oh man, I WISH. I puppy-sat him this weekend, and had a blast just running around the yard and watching him go crazy with random pine cones on the ground. I mean, JUST LOOK AT THAT FACE:

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Master Skywalker using the Force with his eyes to make you go “awwww”

Oh yeah, and I also have these two tiny zebra finches that are terrified of everything. Technically they’re my dad’s. He named them “The Girls” and bought them around the time my sister and I went off to college to ease his empty-nest syndrome. Literally.

6. Is there any book that you would change the ending of and how if you would?

I’m not even going to touch this question. Sure, there are TONS of endings I would change for a lot of books—but as someone who is terrified of spoilers and never ever EVER subjects anyone to them, I’m keeping my mouth shut on this one.

7. What’s you idea of a perfect night in/out?

As a super boring person, a perfect night in would be me curled up with my laptop, working. BUT, with my CPs coming into town for the week, I can already foresee many wild nights in ahead of us (filled with movies, wine, and spelunking).

The questions for my nominees are:

  1. Within your writing routine, what’s the weirdest thing you do to get into the writing zone?
  2. What’s the thing that comes easiest/first to you when you start brainstorming a story? Character, plot, setting, names, title, etc?
  3. In the future of the market, what sort of genre trend are you hoping to see make it big?
  4. How do you arrange the books on your bookshelf? By title, author, color, etc?
  5. What’s the one book you constantly find yourself recommending to other people because you just lahhhve it so much?
  6. What book do you wish would be adapted into a TV series/movie?
  7. What would your Patronus be?

For these questions, I’m nominating my friend Meg, as well as anyone else who wants to answer these questions!

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers awardFirst off, how cool is this award?! Thank you so much Amanda for the nomination! Her book blog To Live a Thousand Lives is made of some seriously awesome stuff, so everyone should totally visit her there. Prepare to be amazed by alllllll of the books and recommendations 🙂

The rules are:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their site.

  2. Put the award logo on your blog.

  3. Answer the ten questions you were given.

  4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.

  5. Nominate ten other blogs.

Now here are my answers:

What is the best book you’ve read this year?

Ooof, start off with the hardest one, why don’t you. The most recent one that’s screaming in my head right now is The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh! The prose is so beautiful, the romance drew me in, and I’m a sucker for anything having to do with Arabian Nights. But believe it or not, a lot of the best stories I’ve read this year have actually come through my internship where I go through a lot of manuscripts and find many gems that I adore. Querying writers, NEVER forget how fiercely talented you all are!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go first and why?

Definitely Egypt or Greece. Ever since I was little, I’ve been obsessed with Greek and Egyptian mythology, and have always dreamed of visiting the sacred sites traced back to the myths. I’m also not embarrassed to admit that my childhood/adulthood love of The Mummy has majorly factored in to my dreams of traveling to Egypt to explore tombs and go on some badass adventures.

When you write, do you outline first or just pants it?

PANTS. I’ve always been a pantser for as long as I remember because structure and organization are just not my friends. However, I’ve started getting into the habit of loosely outlining my new WIP just because the plot has aggressively been haunting me for so long. Nevertheless, I still consider myself a pantser for the most part because I live for the magic of writing spontaneously.

When you aren’t reading/writing what do you like to do?

It’s no big secret that I watch TV in my down time (it seriously rejuvenates my creative juices). I also workout/hike/frolic in nature (for the sake of my ever-failing back), play piano and sing (mostly Disney tunes, of course), hang out with my family and friends (to prove I’m not the living definition of a hermit), and of course wine nights and Skype dates with my CPs 🙂

What TV show do you binge-watch?

Umm, all of them? Haha. My ULTIMATE binge-worthy show this year was definitely Sense8. I still get shivers from how good it is.

You can’t leave the house without ________?

Phone (because of the music), pen, and something to write on. Inspiration can strike at ANY TIME, so one must be prepared. I always bring a water bottle as well because one must also be prepared for the possibility of dehydration.

Books or e-reader?

Books. I’m one of those weirdos who likes to smell the book pages and feel the paper between her fingertips. It sounds weirdly intimate, now that I think about it.

What is a cause/social issue you care deeply about?

I’m a proud feminist who cares about mental health awareness, autism awareness, diversity in pop culture and the media (WeNeedDiverseBooks, anyone?), and SO many other things. I know, I cheated. I JUST CARE TOO MUCH.

What magical/superpower would you pick?

Because I’m lazy, I’d love the ability to teleport myself to wherever I desire in the blink of an eye. Kind of like in the movie Jumper, but without scary Samuel L. Jackson hunting me down.

What fun blogs have you found lately? (Maybe tag them in your post!) 🙂

Okay, so awkward moment: pretty much everyone I know and their grandmother have been nominated for this award, so I’m just going to leave some questions down below for anyone who wants to join in on this blog-a-palooza or simply answer in the comments below!

Questions:
1. Who’s your favorite Disney princess and why?
2. What’s a fun fact that nobody knows about you?
3. Which Hogwarts House do you belong in? (Blended House names are also acceptable)
4. What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned in your own writing process/journey to publication?
5. Which track is currently the most-listened-to song on your iTunes?
6. Given the choice, would you rather sell one huge-deal book in your entire career, or a bunch of books considered mediocre in the eyes of the public?
7. If you were given the choice of immortality, would you take it?
8. What’s the most essential part of your writing routine?
9. If you could live in any fantasy world, what would it be?
10. What’s the most valuable piece of advice from you or another author that you can give to an aspiring writer?

Top 10 Books That Influenced Me

Oh my goodness, here goes another tag. Huge thanks to my wonderful writing friend Erin for tagging me because I’ve ALWAYS wanted to post something on this! And another shout out to the lovely people who’ve been keeping up these tags and challenges alive—they’re so much fun to post about, and always remind of the amazing friends and writing community I’ve miraculously fallen into. You’re all wonderful.

Okay, enough mushiness.  Here are the rules as provided by Erin:

1. No two books by the same author!

2. But, you can count a series as one book!

3. Also, this isn’t really a rule, but we’re listing our books in chronologically order, which I think is super cool! 😀

Although I can’t remember the specific ages I was when I read these books (terrible selective memory, FTW) I do have the order, and will always remember how significant each one of them has been to me all for different reasons in shaping the storyteller and reader in me.

So be warned, it’s about to get mighty random.

1. Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne

Actually, I lied. I distinctly remember I was about six when I fell into this series, back in that golden age when we still had quiet “reading time” in class. While all the other kids moaned and groaned about it, I was the shy kid whose head perked up because reading time was the one activity I loved. I didn’t have to talk or answer questions the teacher tried to squeeze out of me. Yup, I was that shy, and reading quickly became the ultimate safe place for my painfully quiet, socially awkward self.

How it influenced me:

I read a lot of whacky mystery books when I was young (a lot of A to Z Mysteries, Goosebumps, Bailey School Kids) which helped me embrace the random and ridiculous. But I will always be indebted to the Magic Tree House series for introducing me to stories of adventure, magic, and history. I adored this series so much that I wanted to build my own tree house just to see if it would actually transport me back in time or to different parts of the world during major historical events. This series tapped into my imagination, helped me see so much of the world I wanted to learn, and filled me with such a craving for epic adventures that has never gone away.

2. Greek Gods and Heroes by Alice Low, illustrated by Arvis Stewart

This piece of work is probably one of the oldest and most ripped up books I own—and it’s not even mine, I stole it from my sister (sorry not sorry). Thievery aside, I started reading it before I could even read (I was absolutely mesmerized by the pictures) and then when I could read, it was like Christmas and my birthday put together when I finally understood what the pictures meant. Thus, I started my unshakeable love affair with Greek mythology.

How it influenced me:

I LOVE Greek mythology, and it’s really all because of this book. It showed me a world of myths and powerful figures, as well as heroes with flaws and gods who were cruel. I wasn’t much for fairy tales when I was younger, only because this book of Greek myths filled that slot for me. My obsession was probably the major reason I took Latin in high school, and is still alive today in my current reading tastes and writing. Spoiler alert: I’m a big fan of incorporating mythology in alllll the places. My top favorites from this book would definitely have to be the tales of Persephone & Hades, Orpheus & Eurydice, and Arachne.

3. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Here comes another series from my childhood that earned me questionable looks from others. I have distinct memories of being so excited to go to the bookstore and purchasing each new one with my parents—and when my parents would ask what it was about, they’d frown at the synopsis I’d provide. They’re definitely not the most cheerful books you’ll ever read—the title is pretty self-explanatory—but for some reason, I was hooked.

How it influenced me:

Even though this series was so supremely depressing in more ways than one, it made me realize that I love dark and twisted stories, and also gave me such an appreciation for enormously resilient characters like the Baudelaire children. Seriously, those kids go through so much traumatic shit in this series—but they are so strong throughout it all, and always emerge as survivors together. Also, when I was little, I wanted to be just like Violet Baudelaire. To see an older sister with the skills of a super resourceful inventor was literally everything to me.

4. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

THIS. BOOK. SERIES.

I remember trying to read this book a lot when I was a lot younger (maybe 7 or 8?), and then putting it down. Again and again, I would try and read it but not be pulled in like the entire world seemed to be—until one day, at around 12 or 13, I really needed the comfort of a good story in my life, and Harry Potter just happened to be staring at me from my bookshelf. From then on, after many devoured pages, I finally understood. It’s crazy to think that I wasn’t as hooked as all of the other kids who picked this up at such an early age, but I love knowing that the Harry Potter series entered my life during a time when I needed it most. Like destiny and fate . . . and yes, I WILL be that mushy when it comes to this series because I am not exaggerating when I say how much this book series changed my life.

How it influenced me:

This series reigns as the books which influenced me the most, hands down. Aside from what it’s brilliantly taught me about life, this was the book series that made me want to aggressively read, reread (dozens of times), connect to characters, and most importantly, write. Being so invested in Harry Potter and the characters opened me up to writing fanfiction and finding such a wonderful escape in the act of writing. As someone who was extremely shy about writing (and just in general), this was SUPER huge to me in so many ways. I know I would not be on the path of writing if it were not for this book series, so I really owe J.K. Rowling everything and more.

5. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Technically this is a play, but same rules totally apply. When I think of this work, I remember my absolute favorite English teacher in high school who seriously terrified the shy-child in me, yet made me feel so captivated by the literature in our class regardless. I distinctly remember feeling almost haunted by stories like Animal Farm or Dante’s Inferno because she taught them so well. You couldn’t help but have the story just lingering with you long after you had read it. The Crucible certainly had this effect on me.

How it influenced me:

I don’t think I’d ever been SO furious with characters in my entire life than with the ones found in The Crucible. The antics of Abigail and her band of girls-who-cried-witch seriously made me want to punch them all in the face. I was SO frustrated with a lot of what happened, until I realized that having such an emotional response was not a bad thing. It’s an AMAZING thing, and shows your connection to the story whether the emotions are bad or good. With The Crucible, I felt a lot of hatred toward the villains especially. However, reading The Crucible was also one of the first books which marked my love for complex antiheroes and imperfect characters like John Proctor and Reverend Hale. And boy, am I a sucker for antiheroism in my stories nowadays.

6. Once A Princess by Johanna Lindsey

This is when my age definition gets murky. When I was growing up, I didn’t own that many books (libraries forever!) which meant that I inherited a lot of hand-me-downs—some of which were probably not age-appropriate at the time, but hey, a bookworm in need of reading material has to start somewhere. For some reason, my older sister just happened to have a plethora of mass-market paperback romances from the 90s such as Nora Roberts, a variety from Harlequin, and most importantly, Johanna Lindsey.

How it influenced me:

Confession: I love romances, and I’m proud of it. Even though I do relish darkness and messiness in my stories, I also adore my sweet, fluffy romances with guaranteed HEAs for the couple involved. Once a Princess was the first book I read from my sister’s romance novel stash, and since then, it has remained one of my favorite romance novels to date. Not only did this book uncover my love for the genre, but also showed me chemistry between characters, witty banter, and how romance can be as much a fluffy element as it is a huge complication in character’s story and arc.

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I remember picking this book up in my high school library, which—no surprise—was my favorite place to hang out. I saw this book on display in the New Releases section and had no idea what it was about. No one had read it, no one was talking about it. I was still on a pretty big romance binge at the time, and no one was more surprised than me that I still picked it up even though the synopsis in the jacket flap had no mention of romance whatsoever. Quickly, I learned that I didn’t need romance to pull me into this book. I started it after school, couldn’t stop reading it until 2am, and bought it for myself the next day just so I could reread it again and force my sister to read it. It was that good.

How it influenced me:

This book series was also another game changer for me. Not only was it one of the first books which introduced me to dystopias, but I also credit it with being the first books to get me into Young Adult fiction and wanting to be a YA writer, specifically. At this point I was still heavily into fanfiction, but reading The Hunger Games unlocked my inner storyteller which could see worlds and characters I started imagining myself. It sparked the idea for my first novel, a dystopian I completed years later and am still so proud of because it is my first original, novel-length work. It also gave me a hunger (pun intended) for more books just like it, and even more books for the same intended audience. There’s so much The Hunger Games did for me as a writer and reader, but most importantly, it jumpstarted my love for teen fiction during the boom of YA and children’s literature.

8. Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

This book series honestly surprised me. I discovered it during a time when vampires were more than dead and covers/titles played into my decisions of buying the book or not. This book broke so many rules for me (I absolutely hated how judge-y I was back then—never again! I read alllll the books now :D), but I still picked it up and quickly found out that my “rules” were the WORST. I banished them immediately out of fear of missing out on incredible stories and amazing authors like Richelle Mead.

How it influenced me:

The Vampire Academy series taught me so much about what I love in YA. Before this and aside from Twilight, I wasn’t really into paranormal or vampire stories. I thought I had an idea of what I liked, until I read Vampire Academy which flung the doors wide open and really broadened my reading horizons. Not only was it one of the books which impacted how I approached reading YA and proudly embracing it as a reader, but it also taught the writer in me a lot about chemistry between characters, overarching character growth (Rose Hathaway, man) and how to build a strong, smoldering romantic element across books with obstacles and complications. Reading about Rose and Dimitri DEFINITELY changed the way I now approach romance in my own writing, for sure. After Vampire Academy, I started picking up the rest of Richelle Mead’s books which are also wonderful.

9. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Again, another play, but it counts! I read this a few years back during my study abroad trip to London where I was taking a class on Shakespeare in Text and Performance. I know, what better way to learn about the Bard than to do so on his home turf. No surprise, the class was incredible—but I can honestly say I loved it even more because we read The Merchant of Venice, which was without a doubt my breakthrough Shakespeare moment.

How it influenced me:

Before this class, I don’t think I really understood Shakespeare. To be fair, it’s hard to understand him in general because his language can be very dense and his references and subtext are downright alien sometimes. However, reading The Merchant of Venice changed that for me. I already had my firm love for antiheroes and ambiguous characters, and so Shylock obviously became my favorite whose speeches really hit me in the emotional kneecaps. What truly affected me, though, was just how universal and relevant the themes of this 16th century piece of literature is to today, and how differently the characters can be read depending on the reader’s perspective and take on it. It’s stories like that which really make people think, and certainly made me think—enough to make me sign up for more classes on/with Shakespeare in it where I’d read The Merchant of Venice again. And again.

10. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

This book, I distinctly remember reading on the train as I’d commute into Boston for college. I was in a bit of a reading slump and perpetually in the danger zone with my Goodreads challenge, so I decided to mix things up and pick up the graphic novel in my sister’s room (why am I always stealing books from my sisters??) that I was always drawn to. Next thing you know, I’m on the train reading Persepolis, flipping through it because it’s such a fast and engaging read—and all of a sudden, I start crying because of how many emotions each story within this story hits.

How it influenced me:

Not only does Persepolis tell such a beautiful story of the author’s childhood experiences during and after the Islamic Revolution, but it introduced me to the medium of graphic novels that I’ve been devouring ever since. It’s art as a type of storytelling that’s so very different from reading a regular novel, but nonetheless has shown me that all kinds of storytelling are powerful. Reading Persepolis urged me to check out even more graphic novels for my reading pile from the library, which led to picking up what would become one of favorite graphic novels called Saga.

Honorable Mentions (BECAUSE I CAN):

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

This was the first Melina Marchetta book I read which I discovered during a time when I needed it most. Even though I usually read more on the SFF side, I do pick up contemporary and I’m so glad I found Melina Marchetta because her contemporaries are so smart and super powerful. Her books are the kind which have a heartbeat you can’t help but hear as you read. This sort of power led me to devour all of her other contemporary novels as well as her spectacular fantasy series known as the Lumatere Chronicles. To be so captivated by her books and see how seamlessly an author could write such different genres and maintain that same heartbeat was just so inspiring to me as a writer still struggling to find her own style and voice at the time.

Emma by Jane Austen

I wish I could say I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s works to call myself a True Fan, but I still consider myself one even though I haven’t (yet!). Out of all of her works, Emma has always been my favorite story. The titular character also happens to be my favorite literary heroine of all time. No joke. Emma Woodhouse is perfectly imperfect in all the best ways, is often unlikable and meddlesome but I love her all the more for it. When Jane Austen prefaced that she didn’t think anyone but herself would enjoy a character like Emma, I was instantly sold. I seek out antiheroes and antiheroines in books and love writing them into my stories, especially my main characters who I’m now and always unafraid to craft on the more unlikable and messy side. I have Emma to thank for that.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

This book came my way when I was really hitting my YA stride years back. Some of them I thought were good and okay, but books like Daughter of Smoke and Bone and especially Shadow and Bone seriously blew my mind. It carried all of the ingredients I love—it was dark and twisty and had an irresistible antihero I felt wonderfully conflicted about. More than that, I absolutely love the way Bardugo crafted her gorgeous world, how it was just as much a character as the rest of the ones trying to navigate through it. That aspect is a HUGE influence on the way I view my worldbuilding now, especially when it comes to the unusual world of my Pirate Fantasy.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer & Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Yes, there IS a reason they’re together. Normally, I would’ve put this duet in my top 10 but that would’ve seemed unfair to throw them both up there as one unit. But hey, down here, at least I can say I saved the best for last! I’ve put Cinder and Throne of Glass together for one very important reason: I can honestly say that these authors are the ones who made me believe that being an author myself was possible. During a time when everyone thought that trying to be a writer would amount to nothing but disappointment, discovering both Marissa Meyer’s and Sarah J. Maas’s blogs which chronicled their days as young pre-pubbed writers was SO inspirational to me. Their blog posts showed me their stories of persistence and tough skin, querying woes and revision struggles. Most importantly, they showed me how all of that hard work paid off in the end, and is really only just the beginning. Seeing all of their ups and downs along their journeys made their success as authors more than just a dream, but an actual attainable goal when one wants it badly enough. Their stories have influenced and motivated me as a writer for a long time, and continue to give me that little nudge in the right direction as a writer today still. A lot of my determination has been fueled by these ladies, and I can’t thank them enough for it.

Whew, okay, that was long and A LOT. It may not seem like much, but this stressful post took days to write and now it literally feels like it shaved off years of my life. Now I’m going to pass on this sweet and terrible torture of choosing the Top Ten books (or in my case, with Honorable Mentions because I defy all limitations) by tagging my fantastic CPs Maddy and Akshaya!

7/7/7 Challenge!

I honestly NEVER get nominated for anything—so huge thanks to Maddy for first doing the honors, and to everyone else who has also tagged me in this challenge! Now, with the exception of some highly amusing fanfiction from way back in the day, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve posted an excerpt of anything I’ve written. For real.

Yayy

If you’ve been reading my posts you all know by now that I’ve been affectionately calling my manuscript Pirate Fantasy for the time being. I know, so original and creative. I’ve kept a lot of details under wraps about it, but to honor the challenge, here’s just a brief peek of what Pirate Fantasy is all about!

Guidelines for the 7/7/7 challenge:

  • Go to page 7 of your WIP (Work in Progress)
  • Scroll down to line 7
  • Share the next 7 sentences in a blog post.
  • After the excerpt tag 7 other writers (or however many you’re able to) to continue the challenge.

Context of the excerpt:

My 7/7/7 part unfortunately lands in an odd place, but it’s basically in the middle of a conversation between my MC and one of her sleazy clients at the brothel where she “works.” In between his drunken proposal, they drop hints about the strange sort of world they live in—and an even stranger island.

Excerpt:

Isle St. Remany was about as exotic as you could get in a circle of just six islands. No one lasted a night there without returning wrung dry of sanity, spewing crazed accounts of everything from freezing hailstorms to clouds on the ground. The girls and I often entertained ourselves with tales of the land everyone feared. Silvius wasn’t nearly as amused.

“St. Remany?” he scoffed. “No, I mean beyond the Circle.”

The word had a power which shivered through me. Beyond. He was an idiot for even suggesting it. I almost blurted it when suddenly, he grabbed my chin and pulled me toward him.

So there you have it! Thanks again for the nominations from my good writing pals Maddy, Akshaya, and Katy who have ALL completed the challenge, so be sure to check them out as well!

And since a lot of my writing friends have already been challenged, I’ll tag two other awesome ladies to join in on this crazy party as well 🙂

My nominations: Erin and Meg!