ALA Midwinter Mayhem

Happy Friday, y’all! Before I’m heading off to Long Island to celebrate the long weekend with family, I thought it would be a great time to write up a post on my whereabouts last weekend: the Midwinter ALA Conference in Boston!

And let me tell you, the whole event was TOTALLY crazy-sauce, as well as crazy-amazing. Huge thanks to Erin for giving me that extra push to go because the bookish chaos that ensued (all three days of it) was completely worth it!

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I don’t even know where to start, other than saying how gloriously huge ALA is. I call it the Comic Con of the publishing industry, and that is seriously no exaggeration. In the huge playground that is the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, there were booths set up all over the floor by exhibitors ranging from software companies to publishing houses. The publishers were definitely hard to miss since they were the ones just flooding with eager readers armed with totes and had books practically spilling out of their booths. Heaven, right?

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This was just one section of the floor. ONE SECTION.

Having purchased an Exhibits Only pass, I was able to roam around the floor for three days of just nonstop book-grabbing and swag-taking. And because a lot of other people in attendance purchased passes for the exact same privilege, it’s no surprise that grabbing the latest ARCs off publishers’ tables soon became akin to savagely grabbing supplies from the cornucopia in The Hunger Games. Most times, it felt like do or die, and soooo many people who were likely ALA veterans came in more far more prepared than I was. One day, I thought one tote bag would be enough. Ha.

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pretty wall of ARCs at the HarperCollins station

Even though I usually arrived at the center in the early afternoon-ish times of the days, I was still able to snag a TON of stuff and see so many things from signings to panels to authors running around the exhibit floor just as crazy-exited as the rest of the attendees were. I was super thrilled to be able to fall into the book signing lines of Adam Silvera, Emily Skrutskie, and Marieke Nijkamp. When I was chilling by the Macmillan booth on Day 1, I was also fortunate enough to bump into Roshani Chokshi, debut author of 2016 buzz book The Star-Touched Queen who is coincidentally also CPs with my favorite Aussie Ella. She’s also overall just a super wonderful human being, and immediately knew right off the bat that I was Filipino (though let’s be real, Filipinos can spot other Filipinos a mile away. It’s a gift.).

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Day 2, I was also able to sit in on her panel that showcased some other pretty awesome 2016 Debut Authors in YA—all of which was wicked hilarious, but also very insightful and inspiring to all of the aspiring writers in the audience. Aside from interesting fun facts about the authors, it was so cool to hear about the stories behind the stories they had written. Attending panels like these really enforces how wonderfully different the storytelling process is for every writer. Some writers will write the stories they feel compelled to write because of questions or curiosities they seek to answer. Some have stories that have been lingering inside them for so long that they are now the backbones of the novels they want to write. Overall, though, writers will champion the stories that need the voice only they feel that they can provide. No trend-chasing or jumping on genre-bandwagons, just good ol’ story-making with the story of your heart ❤

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The super awesome panel, moderated by MarcyKate Connolly. Panelists included Dana Elmendorf, Emily Martin, Elizabeth Briggs, and Roshani Chokshi!

And then after the panel, like a Christmas miracle, they were giving away swag and ARCs of The Star-Touched Queen followed by a signing with Roshani! Given how disappointed I was in not being able to snag a copy the day before, it’s a bit of an understatement to say how excited I was to finally get my hands on this beauty.

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*cue angelic chorus and heavenly rays of light*

In the end, I think one of the most rewarding things about acquiring this ARC was turning to the acknowledgements. When I pick up books, I ALWAYS turn to the dedications and acknowledgements because for me, I just love knowing who the authors have to thank in the creation of their book. Writing can be viewed as such a solitary activity, but these pages really shine light on the huge cavalry of friends, family, agents, publishers, CPs, influences, and other helpful human beings behind the writer. And to find Ella’s name printed here for all the world to see was so freaking EXCITING. Is it weird to say that whenever I see this, I just get overcome with giddiness and hyper-eager “I know her! I know her!” thoughts? I can’t help it. If you’ve made it into the acknowledgements, you are pretty much already a star in my eyes. 😀

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still freaking out!!

So after days of going into the center, I was able to accumulate QUITE a hefty amount of books (and I still have the sore shoulders to prove it). Not only was I lucky enough to grab some amazing ARCs, but I was also able to grab books already in print either for free or for ridiculously cheap prices. On the last day especially, when all of the booths were packing up and trying to clean out all of their display cases, let’s just say I went a little purchase-crazy with all the wild discounts going on.

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Spoils of War: Day 2

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Spoils of War: Day 3

My tote bags were ALWAYS filled to the brim by the end of the day, which was the best/most gloriously exhausting feeling in the world. And even though I received some of the most judgmental looks from people on the street as I was walking back to my car, I owned my supremely frazzled appearance and all the bulging totes hanging off me. Nothing was more satisfying than being able to add more and more to the growing tower of books in my room:

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The tower of bookish wonder that I’m pretty sure goes above my waist.

Just looking at this picture makes me feel a bit overwhelmed. My TBR list just got a whole lot bigger, and my bookshelves have become a whole lot more cramped, but those are not terrible problems to have. If you want these sort of problems in your life, then go to ALA. It was AMAZING and I highly urge everyone to attend if it happens to be located in your neck of the woods! Meanwhile, I’ll just be here, waiting in agony until it comes back (if it ever does) to Boston again . . .

 

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Recent Reads

Even though previous post makes me out to be an outrageous TV monster, I have been reading! A lot! Sadly, I’m still about *mumblesmumbles* books behind on my Goodreads challenge, but I remain steadfast and determined. I’ll channel my inner-Pocahontas to get me through the rest of my TBR.

Going steady as the beating drum

Of my recent reads, I’ve been really enjoying the graphic novels and comic books I’ve picked up! I’ve been ordering them from the library like a madwoman, and all have been such fantastic gems to read. So funny and clever, wonderfully illustrated, and just infused with so much heart that my feels go out of control. Here are some of my favorites of my recent reads:

 

Fables has been on my radar for a long time, and it has not disappointed. I’ve already burned through the first three volumes and I’m dying to get my hands on the next ones! It has so many elements that I just love—it’s dark, gritty, mysterious, and revolves around fairy tales and folklore. It sort of reminds me of Once Upon a Time, but a way more mature version which really utilizes a lot of the different stories and characters out there in such inventive ways. Definitely pick it up if you’d like to see your fairy tale favorites a bit more jaded and slightly inappropriate.

 

Ohmygoodness, Rat Queens. This is probably one of the funniest things I’ve read in so long, filled with some of the most foul-mouthed characters I’ve ever met. I definitely felt a Guardians of the Galaxy/Sailor Moon meets fantasy-on-crack vibe while reading this because it showcases a rowdy, diverse band of misfits fighting in this crazy magical world that views them more as troublemakers than heroes. The girl power energy is off the charts with this one, and the ladies themselves are simply hysterical and awesome. I NEED the next one like now.

 

I seriously just finished Nimona this morning and am already sad that it’s over. This one has so much heart and humor to it. With every other page, I just felt like I was constantly laughing along because Nimona is such a spunky character, and her dynamic with Ballister Blackheart is both hilarious and endearing. Not only are the characters awesome, but the concept is as well in that it cleverly deals with our perception of heroes and villains versus who truly stands for good and evil. I absolutely loved it and hope the creator makes a sequel because I want moarrr.

 

Along with those, I’ve also been burning through a ton of other books (The Winner’s Crime almost destroyed me; and shout out to the Black Dagger Brotherhood due to Maddy and Ella‘s recommendations). And because I’m attending the Boston Teen Author Festival next month with my two writing partners-in-crime Maddy and Akshaya, there is even more to read from the impressive authors they have lined up! And on top of all I have to read for work, there is just so much reading to get through. Nevertheless, I’m still coming for you, Goodreads challenge, like Kocoum in attack-mode.

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!

The Dark Days Are Over—It’s Mah Birthday!

Welp, it’s been QUITE a while—mostly because of this funny-not-so-funny story: I’ve been recovering from a pretty bad eye infection for a little more than a week, which was seriously the WORST. I felt like a vampire for the majority of the time since I couldn’t be anywhere near the sun or bright lighting, and the worst of it was I could hardly read a single word from a book or any sort of screen. Thus, I was on a forced break from my computer and books, which meant I was suffering SEVERE withdrawals from my work and anything having to do with words.

Oh boy, those days were dark.

On the upside, I was able to finish Outlander season 1 (HOLY CRAP SO INTENSE). On a bigger upside, I’ve been on the mend, been slowly able to read more books, and now, I’m well enough that my computer and I are happily back together.

And what better way to celebrate my official return back to the world of blogging than on my birthday!!!!!

So before I go back to do more birthday shenanigans (aka go to my last eye appointment, praise), here are just some small updates:

Reading Things: GUYS, I’VE BEEN READING. I feel like I’m always making promises to read more since pirate fantasy seems to be taking over my life (in a good way), but one blessing about the cursed eye infection was that I got to read some good ol’ books while I was woefully separated from my computer. My most recent reads were Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Dark Descendant by Jenna Black, White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover. It was a cool variety which certainly helped me in getting over my reading slump! I’m determined to get through a lot more because it’s embarrassing how very little book posts I’ve made compared to my television ones . . .

Watching Things: So, as mentioned, I finished the first season of Outlander (now I’ve got to tackle that book . . .) and have kept up with my Avatar obsession (I’m reallllly stretching out season 3 because I don’t want it to end!). Some new additions to the television mix are UnREAL (such a dark and fantastic take on the behind-the-scenes aspect of shows like the Bachelor—naturally, I’m obsessed) and the new season of Orange Is the New Black (one of the crown jewels of Netflix).

But, aside from television, I watched Jurassic World and thought it was AWESOME and such a fun! Sure there was a ton more violence than in JP, but with our current audience who loves the actions and thrills, I’m not entirely surprised by its direction. Still, it was super entertaining, pumped with nostalgia, and I absolutely LOVED Chris Pratt’s character *heart eyes*. Also watched Inside Out yesterday which seriously punched me hard in the feels. I’m pretty sure I cried throughout the whole movie because I’m that movie-watcher. But overall, it was so clever, well-planned, and beautifully done.

Music Things: Oh boy, in the spirit of more crying and Disney, here is the song from the Pixar short film before Inside Out which was so sweet, poignant, and naturally drove me to tears all throughout.

Another Disney track I’m currently obsessed with is the “Transformation/Finale” from Beauty and the Beast, which goes from heart-achingly sad in the beginning to gorgeously triumphant by the end. Of course, tears all the way through.

Life Things: I’m going to be obnoxious again and say it’s my birthday because it only happens once out of the year 😀 I’m thankful for everything and everyone in my life, and I’m so excited to see what this year brings! I’m especially thankful for these bad boys which I’ve been shamelessly spamming all over my social media feeds because I LOVE them so much! Thank you again Akshaya and Maddy, you two are the bestests ❤

Sooooooo pretty

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

 

 

It Sure Is Pretty Here . . .

. . . but that’s the beauty of WordPress, isn’t it? Everything is just so neat and organized and formatted like a Christmas present. Understanding all of it, though, is where I get a little cross-eyed. After a bit of exploring and experimenting here and there, I think I’ve gotten the hang of it, but bear with me. A successful first post here can just be beginner’s luck. For all I know, my computer will crash and my blog will explode and the world will end right as I’m about to publish that second post–

No. This is a place for happy thoughts. No discussing my technological apocalypse or the real one (unless, of course, it’s actually happening).

boom

What I will be discussing here is writing and life and randomness. Maybe more on the randomness, but the relevant kind. Also confession: while this is my first post here, this isn’t my first blog.

say wut

Yup. This isn’t my first rodeo with blogging. Because my old, beloved one was pretty much devoted to my first book (a lot of newbie firsts in general) and filled with a fair amount of writerly angst (the stressed-out-student, college-sized kind), I thought a new look was in order for my second book baby and post-grad writing state of mind. Also for a new project, it just feels good to chat about it somewhere new and clean and fun. However, I may feature some of my old writing-related posts if they’re helpful . . . maybe make it a blog-style Throwback Thursday once I get over how cheesy that sounds when I say it out loud.

not even sure why I’m using this shot, it’s just hilarious

Anywho, now that I’ve gotten those pleasantries out of the way, here’s some stuff that I’ll probably talk about more often with each post . . . mostly to keep myself accountable (because procrastinator Janella is just waiting to be unleashed again) and keep reading since I’ve been seriously lacking in that department (and need to make a severe comeback for my Goodreads challenge this year).

just another gem that may or may not apply

 

So, onward.

Writing Things: I’m on my sixth draft now of my YA pirate fantasy. I’ve gotten through the first half of it and now have been tackling the second half. A lot of it now is throwing in some left over changes and reading over to see if the flow of it still makes sense/hoping that any of it makes sense at all. And remembering to eat/act like a normal human once in a while. Ah, sixth draft-syndrome is setting in quite nicely . . .

Reading Things: Just finished Daughter of the Blood, Book 1 of the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. When I first picked it up a while back, I remember having such a hard time getting into it. But this time around, I was hooked and savored the prose, characters, and darkness of the world like a fine wine. Yup, I actually just compared my reading to drinking wine, all said with a straight face. Come at me, bro.

Music Things: SUPER obsessed with this track right now from Kill Bill Vol. 2. Malagueña Salerosa by Chingon has quickly become one of my main songs for my story. I can practically hear all of the epic explosions and battles being fought behind this song. The translation is to the core a flattering love song, but just the way it’s performed here makes it so badass. Definitely reminds me of a certain pirate femme fatale I write about.

Social Media Things: The new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer dropped today and Twitter pretty much exploded over the awesome. And it MOST DEFINITELY was. I got chills. And Han and Chewie at the end tho . . .

So these are just the little updates I may post from time to time. One of the best things about blogs is being able to look back a month or year to the date and seeing what’s changed or what happened since then. I guess that’s where the Back to the Future theme ties in which was totally not intentional? I just like Back to the Future. Huh, weird how things work out like that. Beside the point, I can’t wait to keep building up this blog (because a TON of things still need to be tweaked and fixed) and to see what other memories I can accumulate with it as I continue writing.

kablaam