It’s Levi-OH-sa

I just got back from Vegas/SLC a couple days ago, and I’m FINALLY starting to feel like a human again.

Slightly.

Barely.

But hey, I think the amount of post-con exhaustion is very telling about the amount of fun one had at said con, and I for sure had TONS of it at Leviosa Con! Once more, I got to hang out with my glorious CPs (you’d think at this point we’d be sick of each other, but huge nahhh), meet extremely wonderful people, and actually speak (and moderate!) at panels for the first time. Also, food. There was a lot of incredible food, too.

IMG_6067

Brunch for days

IMG_6092

Taking advantage of the poor HP cut-outs. Sorry Snape.

IMG_6093

Pantsing vs. Plotting panel! The brilliant term “plotypus” may have been coined here

IMG_6071

Draco Mouse-foy #snapchatfiltersgivemelife

IMG_6137

The hugest pancakes + bottomless mimosas = HEAVEN

IMG_6110

My buddy Erin and me, CO-Gs for life

IMG_6095

All the lovely agents on the How to Pitch panel!

What was perhaps the most rewarding part of this con had to be finally meeting my agent for the first time in person! Weirdly enough, having that meeting was probably akin to online daters meeting for the first time and having that flood of first date jitters. Oh no, I’m not online where charisma can be edited and inserted! What if I say something awkward? What if I look nothing like my picture and that freaks them out? What if we actually do not mesh well in person? What if, what if, what if . . .

Suffice to say, those worries were SO ridiculous. Thao really is as wonderful in person as she is online, and after spending time with her and seeing her rock it out on panels, I can’t even properly say how lucky I feel to have her as my agent warrior. Also, I may or may not have squealed too hard when she said that she totally pictured Roan from The 100 as one of my characters!!!

tumblr_inline_o2vn2skcot1u0fcam_500

Heart eyes heart eyes heart eyes (source)

Not only was meeting Thao wonderful, but also being on panel with her—along with a whole crew of equally amazing, super accomplished people. I have to say, for my first time on panels, I had MAJOR imposter syndrome beforehand. Definitely from the uncertainty that my words wouldn’t carry much weight since I still see myself as a more or less a newb in this industry. But you know what, what eased me soon enough was the fact that EVERYONE has something to say, and every stage—wherever you’re in—carries truths and values that people are always eager to listen to.

After that epiphany, I felt like I could finally breathe on panel. I spoke about what it meant to read YA and how diversity impacts my writing. There may have been a tangent about my previous fanfiction days (THANKS ERIN). I also moderated a panel on rejection, and the stories which came from that were so inspiring. Needless to say, my fear of public speaking is definitely diminishing, and I have nothing but thanks for ALL the people I spoke with for being the best and most encouraging panelists ever, and gratitude for this amazing opportunity!

Cm4NxvlUEAAgU7c

Adults Reading YA!

Cm4MuRwVYAAsDov

Babies First Panel: An Axie and Janella saga

Cm8T5ezUkAAoAb4

Moderating the Dealing with Rejection panel meeeeep

Cm4cWGpUEAAOLBV

Diversity in YA Lit Panel was AMAZING

IMG_6127

My bud Katelyn to the right also moderated like SUCH a boss

IMG_6132

Axie being a scifi queen on her panel!

IMG_6108 2

Panel Survivors

Nothing was better than having my Pitch Wars co-mentor Axie by my side (attached at the hip, more precisely), and to be able to hang with all my CPs Erin, Amanda, Maddy, and Akshaya. In fact, being able to hang with ALL the lovely people at this con in general was the biggest highlight of all. Since we all stayed at the same resort, each day was pretty much like living in a small world where you saw everyone all the time and had the perfect opportunities to just mingle, catch up on life stuff, and gush about all the bookish things.

IMG_6120

Dat sunset tho

IMG_6124

I think we all can agree that Susan Dennard is SUCH an amazing person. Seriously.

IMG_6114

Cult Love

IMG_6135

Me and my agent sister Roshani Chokshi, aka quite possibly the KINDEST human being ever

Leviosa passed by in such a whirlwind, it still doesn’t feel real that we crammed in so much in so little time. But soon enough, we had to say goodbye to the lovely resort, and were back on the road to SLC aka a glorious 6-hour road trip with Erin and Maddy. Aka 6 hours of randomness, Disney sing-alongs, and gorgeous, epic scenery.

IMG_6139

IMG_6141

IMG_6142

Who else is getting Thunder Mountain feels?!

Post-Leviosa was a blur of more amazing food (priorities, because clearly I’m a very hungry person), hiking adventures, bookstore shenanigans, puppy cuddling, puzzle piecing, and just more fun times with CPs before it was time to return to the East Coast for what I suspect will be a very long time. Because it’s been a year full of traveling and con-going for me (aka a year filled with the sobs of my hollowing bank account), Leviosa was the best last hurrah a writer could ask for. I’m not sure where I’ll go next, or even when, but I am so grateful for all the experiences and memories and friends I’ve made throughout my travels so far.

At the moment, though, it’s so nice to be back home—to get back to work, and gear up for whatever is looming on the horizon next.

Advertisements

Holiday Fun, Resolutions, and Fortune Cookie Fortunes

Happy holidays, happy New Year to all, and welcome 2016! There are so many celebrations at the latter end of the year, and I’m definitely still stuck in a holiday-coma from it all. For example, I can still feel Christmas in my stomach because there was just SO. MUCH. FOOD. As well as so little exercise . . .

However, aside from the food bliss, Christmas this year was spent in Chicago—where I, once again, got to visit my cheese-obsessed CP Maddy before spending the rest of my time at my cousins’ gorgeous house (which I affectionately call “Baby Hogwarts”).

My CP reunion was, as always, all kinds of wonderful. Maddy and I spent a lot of our time writing together (no surprise) whilst looking over some adorable pets, threw a hardcore book photo shoot (for the lovely BTAF bookstagram), cruised around town like fiends, and of course excelled in the renowned art of eating.

Afterward, when CP time was sadly over, I was thrown into full-on Christmas mode complete with frantic family happenings and preparations. What was probably my most emotional Christmas moment was when we were all watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (because Harry Potter weekend is code for “drop everything and watch for hours upon hours”). I was already sniffling like a fool because Fawkes the Phoenix had just healed Harry—when, all of a sudden, out comes my aunt with a gift she just happened to forget giving me earlier. It was the new illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Needless to say, I was downright SOBBING. I’m getting a little teary-eyed just typing this out, so I’ll cut this short before my tears splash all over my poor keyboard. But all in all, Christmas in Chicago looked a tad bit like this:

IMG_4494

Running on coffee to get those words out and running

 

IMG_4495

This deep dish pizza was INSANE

IMG_4511

Died and went to Nutella Latte heaven

FullSizeRender 36

This festive house in my cousins’ neighborhood had zero chill

FullSizeRender 35

On the other hand, I had zero chill around this delicious ube cake during Noche Buena

IMG_4590

Creepy/beautiful masquerade tree

IMG_4604

Wandered into the Disney store and found a disappointing amount of Rey. Seriously, WHERE IS REY?!?

IMG_4584

This puppy refused to let me work

IMG_4613

The guilty culprit

IMG_4622

I got to visit THE Anderson’s Bookshop!!!

After all of this madness, it was so surreal to come back home and jump right into the New Year. This time of the year always forces me to pause and reflect, which was more than welcome after the ugly chaos that was post-Christmas traveling. *shudders*

Whenever the year comes to an end, I love looking back and seeing how much I’ve changed over these many, many months. But for the first time, I think in forever, there is something so bittersweet to me about saying goodbye to 2015. I’ve pretty much stamped every post with how grateful I’ve been all throughout this year, mostly because I honestly feel I can’t say it enough. 2015 was the year I met a fantastic group of writing friends who have made this journey a hell of a lot less lonely. 2015 was the year I took the time for my writing, and most importantly, for me—to allow myself to emotionally recharge after a big loss, and to fill loss that with the sort of light I’ve only been able to find with books and writing. And lastly, 2015 was the year I went wayyyyy out of my comfort zone and discovered the huge rewards in doing so. I did a lot more traveling than my usual homebody-self was used to, attended writing conferences and bookish events that my introverted-self would normally shy away from, and really threw myself into my writing in a way I never thought I’d be able to.

And you know what? Every up and down of this year paid off in so many ways, which has only made me more excited for what 2016 has to offer. I feel like this was the year when I accomplished so many personal wins, and there’s nothing more satisfying than ending a year and welcoming a new one on that fantastic note.

So, without further ado, my resolutions from last year that are always relevant to my current ones:

  • Finish a book. Well, 2015, I did! I started this year with a mess of a first draft that was Pirate Fantasy—but after much trial and error, as well as truckloads of revising and read-throughs, I feel like I’ve given this story that I love so dearly the most thorough treatment I can. All I can do now is hope for the best from here on out and keep chugging along 😀 As for 2016, I’m hoping to pop out another novel to keep the momentum going!
  • Revise Pirate Fantasy, while working on something else. Okay, so this one was a tad bit ambitious. The naive writer in me thought that I could handle drafting multiple projects at once—which, for some writers, is very possible/impressive—but I realized earlier on this year that Pirate Fantasy was going to need 1000% of my focus for the most part. However, that didn’t stop my mind from popping out ideas like hotcakes because ohmygoodness, 2015 was the year I realized I had a wealth of story ideas inside me. Even though I didn’t pop out two novels this year (oh, if only!), I have been working on another project on the side—Phantom Fantasy—which I’ve been SOOO excited about! I can’t wait to work on it more during 2016, and to discover other story ideas swimming around in my head.
  • Read, read, read. Unfortunately, I did officially complete my Goodreads challenge. Out of 90 books, I only read about 69. Womp womp. However, when I thought about it again, I’ve read 50+ other manuscripts for my internship which means that not only did I complete my reading goal, I actually went over! Still, I’m setting my 2016 Goodreads challenge at 90 books again and I’m determined to get there!

And then lastly, but most importantly:

  • Progress as much as you can on the writing journey and never lose sight of why you’re on the path on the first place. This, of course, is the huge one—and at times, the most difficult one to keep remembering. When you’re knee-deep in revisions or fatigued in the writing cave, there will be times when it’s hard to persevere since it feels like all the odds are stacked against you. But every part of the writing process (and life, in general!) is packed with odds of all kinds to overcome. Although I can’t predict what will happen to me or my writing in the future, I’ll take control of what I can now and keep going regardless because my writing is first and foremost for me before anything else. As long as I can see my own progress, in whatever form or size it comes in, there is always reason to celebrate. And after 2015, I know to my core that I am satisfied with all the progress I’ve made as a writer and a person this year thanks to this philosophy that I’ll carry with me into 2016.

Okay. Done. No take-backs. Resolutions have officially been made, and I feel more than ready to tackle them in 2016! And to end on an even more hopeful note, I have a cheesy tradition of posting the top fortune cookie fortunes that I have randomly tacked on my cork board in reflection of the new year. Here we go:

“The current year will bring you much happiness.”

“You will conquer obstacles to achieve success.”

“Good news will come to you from far, far away.”

Hope this brings some luck and smiles to you all 😀 Happy New Year, everybody!

Happy Birthday to the Queen, J.K. Rowling!

A huge happy birthday to my writing queen J.K. Rowling, one of the best literary heroes of all time Harry Potter—and of course, a day-late happy birthday to my favorite underdog-turned-top dog Neville Longbottom!

    

My last post already detailed why this author, her characters, and series are all so important in my life so I’ll skip the mushy stuff. Long story short, J.K. Rowling was the author who first inspired me to want to be a writer—and her stories, characters, and world are what helped foster my own love for storytelling in every way possible. I cannot say thanks enough.

So in celebration of these birthdays, I thought it would be fun to post a few Harry Potter pictures from my past trip to London. I went for academic reasons, but let’s be real: I went for all of the Harry Potter fangirling and sights. And boy, did I find them. It was like Harry Potter heaven.

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 10.09.26 AM

Obligatory Platform 9 3/4 shot a.k.a so many dreams coming true

 

1002565_10151809047062813_853129391_n

For reals, this is the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 7.00.01 PM

London’s very own Goblet of Fire to remember the Great Fire of 1666

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.56.42 PM

Ten points to Gryffindor to whoever can recognize where this was from

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.31.46 PM

This place is what dreams are made of

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.32.29 PM

Ah man, how did they guess my diabolical plan?

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.37.45 PM

Mirror of Erised where I saw everything that I desired: me, in the Harry Potter Warner Bros. studios

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.35.56 PM

Original wands on wands on wands

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.40.49 PM

It’s a knitting ghost!

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.41.59 PM

Harry’s Got Mail

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.46.16 PM

Hogwarts

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.47.50 PM

Thank you, Queen

I have sooooo many other pictures from this trip, but that would make one monster of a post which would probably break my blog from the sheer weight of fangirling-overload. Nevertheless, I hope you all have a magical rest of the day! ~*

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!

Enter the Writing Cave (at your own risk)

No joke.

Writers who write know that the cave is not all sunshine and rainbows of endless creativity. I mean, I guess it can be in some way. Entering the writing cave can be like a fun, exciting creative pillow you get to fall on when you’re feeling crazy-inspired and productive. Or, it can be a soul-sucking black hole of hours gone and hours spent in pajamas and looking at a screen, typingtypingtyping, and wondering wtf you’re doing. Lucky me, I experience both, and it tends to veer toward the Dementor-like black hole side.

*also, on a Harry Potter note, moment of silence in memory of the Battle of Hogwarts*

I fall into writing caves A LOT. And when I do that, it will be as if I disappeared from the world. Seriously. I’ll pop my head out of the cave for food, of course. But when I’m trapped in that writing-frenzy where I just NEED to work on my story for my own sanity, you will just never hear from me again . . .

Just kidding. While I do hold my writing as my priority, it is healthy and good for the headspace to just step back and venture into the real world sometimes—which I have been doing these past weeks (*snaps for me*) in an effort to keep the writing cave from sucking my soul entirely.

I saw sun, breathed in fresh air, rediscovered civilization . . . okay, too dramatic. But I did go out a bunch of times and met up with old friends who I hadn’t seen in an obscene amount of time (three trillion guesses why), and it felt nice to leave the writer home. However, it was also nice to come back after a few hours away.

Sometimes falling into the writing cave is amazing for when you just need to pound out words and get the story-train chugging along. That’s my favorite writing cave. But sometimes there’s the risk of getting in too deep to a point where you start feeling out of the loop with the world, losing track of reading books, separation anxiety with your computer, or delay catching up on other interests for weeks on end because every free moment is devoted to your story. I’m totally guilty of that, so to be more proactive in trying to poke my head out of the writing cave every so often, here are some updates sans(-ish) writing.

Reading Things: Disclaimer: I am horrendously behind on my Goodreads challenge. What part of me thought that reading 90 books this year would be a good idea? It was super easy in the past, but now not so much. However, I refuse to admit defeat just yet! I recently read a cool graphic novel called Cairo by G. Willow Wilson, a wonderful NA titled Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover (GREAT recc, Akshaya!! We must discuss!), and I’m currently getting into a YA Fantasy Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch. Still, there are soooo many books on the TBR list, though. But to be fair, it is a mountain that cannot be conquered because it keeps growing. Hopefully I can get back into that obsessive reading frenzy as I do with writing to knock out some books on the list.

Television Things: I’ve been watching A LOT of Netflix and Dancing with the Stars, and I am totally not ashamed of it. I love dancing shows and movies, which is an obsession in itself that garners its own post. I’ll probably do another post on my television watches, just because I love lining them all up with funny little gifs. But for the sake of this post, the TV front is still pretty healthy.

Music Things: Further proof that I am obsessed with Dancing with the Stars. Here’s something that’s not on my writing playlist, but I have been listening to it on an unholy repeat because it just makes me so happy. And, of course, DWTS.

Riker and Allison are my faves, just saying. Plus they did a PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN Paso Doble, which made me love them even more. If they don’t win, my tantrum will be heard all across the universe.

Social Media/World Things: Today, William and Kate brought a baby girl into the world! This to me is just sooo crazy, only because when I was last in London I was there during the pivotal time when Prince George was born. And boy was it crazy. The pubs were all celebrating the birth, Buckingham Palace was swarming with crowds right after, and EVERYONE in general was just so excited about the baby that it was like all of London was anxiously pacing in the waiting room as one big family. It’s blows my mind that now they have a princess–I guess it’s infectious because I’m unreasonably excited for them too!

Along with having a ton of other work-related things to do this week, with these updates and all the venturing into the outside world I’ve been doing, it’s been a solid period of not letting the writing cave suck me back in too too much.

Nah man, I’m good