Monday, October 5, 2020

September Wrap-Up

My reading this month looks a little sparse, but in addition to the books below, I also impulsively reread the Ellie Sweet series by Stephanie Morrill. I was so worried I wouldn't enjoy it as much as I did when I was a wee baby writer and reader, but I thoroughly enjoyed both books! Of course there were some aspects I was able to notice and criticize with a more mature eye, but I still loved them. It was the exact cozy nostalgic feeling I needed this month.

Books I Read


4/5

This is an imaginative new way of looking at the Cinderella fairytale and I'm here for it. You should know though that while there some some spooky/creepy aspects to this book, it's not the horror/gothic tale you might be expecting based off of the title, cover, and plot description. I was definitely expecting something slightly different, and while I didn't mind what I got instead, it was still jarring. This book is closer to a dystopian story than a horror one. But it was still really cool! I loved the concept, it read quickly, and the lesbianssss. Sophia is the perfect dystopian heroine, but Constance really stole the show. She is the epitome of the "girls with sharp knives and tongues" trope and I loved it. The ending/wrap-up of the whole story did feel a little too neat (especially when the story gives every opportunity for something grittier), but it was a solid book overall.


3.5/5

I listened to the audiobook and it was really well-done, so if you're looking for something new to listen to, I recommend this one. This was a cute, fun story, but I'm not sure anything stood out to me enough for me to give it a full five stars. I loved Joanna's spunky voice and narration; she was an awesome protagonist. And the chemistry between her and Mary Carlson? Perfect. Barnum was a great character too and I loved his friendship with Joanna. But this book also had a lot of unnecessary and unbelievable plot twists/dilemmas for the sake of adding conflict and complications to Joanna's goals. I just didn't buy that a lot of the stuff that happened was as big a deal as they were written out to be; I had to suspend some disbelief to accept the characters acting like they did at certain parts. Even a couple weeks after finishing it, I can't point to many specifics as to why I enjoyed the book at the time. It was good, but also pretty white bread. I wouldn't be able to claim this as a favorite even though it was entertaining.


5/5

I'll be totally honest, I haven't read this whole anthology yet. I 100% bought this ebook simply because one of my friends from my writers' group (Melinda Newmin) has a short story published in it. I skipped to her story first as soon as the book was published, and it was just as imaginative and entertaining as I knew it would be. Her storyworlds are always fleshed out to the last detail, which makes it easy to immerse yourself into. I highly recommend this for her story alone!

Movies I Watched

4/5

I know I shouldn't compare "Us" to "Get Out," but I couldn't help doing so a little bit when I watched. I think since "Get Out" was so good, it made "Us" pale in comparison. "Us" was a really good horror movie with excellent acting and creepy scenarios. I freaking loved Gabe too; he was the perfect light-hearted addition to an otherwise dark film. The thing that kept me from giving it the full five stars is that I was really confused by a lot of the doppelganger concept. There were several info-dumpy monologues from those creatures and yet I felt like I didn't learn anything from them. And not every Jordan Peele movie has to have a clear "message" or some sort of strong symbolic theme, but this movie clearly tried to have one, and I couldn't figure out what it was. It felt like they tried to cram too many messages into one movie but they didn't flesh out any of them enough to have one shine through. It fell flat for me because of it. If you're going to go for a metaphor, go for it. But don't try to have fifteen themes in one two-hour movie. If I hadn't watched "Get Out" first though, I think I would've loved this one even more. And even though this entire paragraph was about what I didn't get, I'll finish by saying I did really enjoy it! It was an excellent movie and I would recommend it to anyone looking for new horror films.

4/5

I was expecting to hate this but it was actually so good. 😂 The concept is so bizarre, but this movie didn't take itself seriously at all. It was so funny! The characters and acting are fantastic and I loved rooting for the heroine because despite getting thrown into this weird-ass situation without any warning, she wasted no time in acting and being as resourceful as possible to survive. She didn't make any of the classic horror movie mistakes by acting stupid and getting herself backed into corners and she didn't waste time whining (even when a little bit of whining was completely warranted). I loved that while the characters were creepy and unhinged they were also goofy. This whole story was like a parody on supernatural horror plots. I would definitely recommend it.

3.5/5

This was another hilarious, goofy horror film that didn't take itself seriously, but it was like the redneck version (in stark contrast to the rich socialite version of "Ready or Not"). The over-the-topness of it all was funny and ridiculous, it just wasn't my cup of tea enough to give it a higher rating. I much preferred the dry satire and the characters in "Ready or Not" to the goofiness of this one.

4/5

I liked "Saw" better than "Saw 2" just because I felt like more creativity was utilized in the first one in regards to the setting and the newness of the concept. But this one was still excellent: great traps and an excellent twist at the end.

3.5/5

Though the effects in this one were disgusting (in a good way), I wasn't as big a fan of this sequel. I much prefer the conflict that comes from multiple people going through a house/location with traps together than following a single character through several traps. The plot twist at the end was just as good as the other twists, but I didn't enjoy the John/medical storyline as much. It weakened the tension for me.

4/5

Great indie flick! Excellent characters, simple concept, lots of humor and heart. I predicted a lot of what was going to happen, which was why I had to drop the rating a little, but I really enjoyed it. Check it out on Netflix if you want something short and sweet.

3/5

My least favorite installment in the series so far. Not a terrible movie, just confusing and weaker than the rest. John has like a bazillion tragic backstories and at this point they're just . . . unnecessary. And the twist at the end/the timeline of events was so confusing. Not to mention that we're given a set of almost entirely new characters and I wasn't a huge fan of most of them. This sequel had a very different feeling from the rest of the "Saw" movies; it was more of a cop/detective story than a true Jigsaw trap.

Obsessions I Acquired

The "Serial" podcast - For as much as I love detective shows, I can't believe I didn't get into true crime podcasts earlier! Some of my writer friends recommended a bunch of different podcasts to me, so I'm excited to check them all out.

Quotes I Wrote

My Josie Jones book is quickly turning into a plot-less story filled with quirky characters who sit around and crack sarcastic jokes all day. Which is how all of my first drafts turn out. Ah, the joys of drafting contemporaries . . . At least I get fun passages like this every so often:

“So, my love life’s a mess,” I said.

I took a short pause to see what they’d say—hopefully something encouraging and supportive—but Dad just kept stirring the onions and garlic in a saucepan. Mom gave me a look that said, “Of course. Go on.”

Great. Thank you. Real supportive, guys.

“And I kind of, maybe, just possibly invited both girls I like to this huge end-of-summer party that’s supposed to be bombastic and amazing and that’s in like two months and I’ve done absolutely zero planning.”

“Sounds like you’ve gotten yourself into a pickle,” Mom said.

“A pickle? Mom, can you not be a boomer for like two seconds.”

Mom gasped dramatically. “Hey, I resent that. I’m a proud Gen-Xer.”

“Yeah, we’re hip,” Dad said, smirking as he bumped his literal hip with Mom’s.

Again. Real helpful. Thank you both oh-so-much.

Pictures of the Month

Egg night!

I surprised my family with a backyard "beach" vacation





Messing around during Kids On Bikes

I finished the "Go Teen Writers" 100-for-100 challenge! So naturally I had to celebrate with peach cobbler and a pumpkin spice latte.

S'mores!

Distanced backyard Domino's and "Supernatural" date! My brother can say what he wants, but Domino's is clearly the superior pizza chain . . .

Doing dramaturgy work outside.

I was having a bad day, so Josh surprised me with a peanut butter and chocolate smiley face creation.

Printed out my Angel of the Underworld manuscript so I can go to town with my highlighters and colored pens. I'm about 100 pages in and oof, it definitely needs some work . . .

Josh, Max, and I have all been zooming while we watch "Saw" together, and inevitably our names end up being something ridiculous.

I got new glasses! Finally! I can see!


Distanced Five Guys picnic date!


A friend of ours is doing outdoor dance lessons so we can stay masked and distanced! It's been so much fun!

Discord movie night with my friends Hope and Toni!

And now for Scout pictures!





She's a little dramatic after getting a bath.
 

How was your September? Leave a comment!

Monday, September 14, 2020

What's Kate Doing This Semester?

With all of the COVID-19 chaos, I decided it was best for me and my health (both mental and physical) to take a leave of absence this semester. Luckily, with all of my dual enrollment credits, I won't fall behind and I should be good to return (most likely remotely) to school in the spring. But I still wanted to make sure I spent this time at home doing something meaningful. I'm taking time to relax and see friends (on video chat and at a distance outside) and hang out with my family, but I didn't want to look back on these months and feel like I'd let life pass me by.

So what am I doing? A little of this, a little of that, and a lot of writing.

Writing a musical - "Firstborn"

I'm finally writing that musical I've been talking about writing for forever! I still have little confidence in my abilities as a lyricist and I have zero experience when it comes to composing, but I'm working on the book of a musical called "Firstborn."

It's a comedy (think "Wicked" meets "Something Rotten!") about a woman who promises two witches her firstborn child separately, so when the baby is born, both witches show up expecting to claim their prize. Instead, they're forced into joint custody, which is difficult when one witch is Wicked and the other is GoodTM.

It features an enemies-to-lovers F/F romance, a spunky and naive heroine who is a mixture of Ariel/Fiona if Ariel and Fiona had been raised by witches, and a musician with the personality of Orpheus from "Hadestown" if Orpheus were a horrible songwriter.

I'm having a lot of fun figuring out these characters' unique personalities and voices. I love writing dialogue, so scriptwriting is always a blast. I write so much faster when dialogue is the main focus, so I'm breezing through these pages no problem. The goal is to have the rough draft done by Christmas, which I think I'll be able to manage without any issue.

Writing a YA contemporary romance - (still needs a title)

My Josie Jones book (I'll figure out an official title eventually) is about a bisexual girl named Josie Jones who finds herself crushing hard on two different girls in her town. But there's a problem: Josie isn't fully out yet. Rather than going through the awkward coming-out process over and over again to friends, family, and classmates, Josie decides to throw a big summer party at which she'll come out to everyone all at once. It's going to be quite the show and turn coming out into a celebration rather than an obligation. Josie just has to navigate the complications of a love-triangle romance and teenage friendships and other shenanigans and misunderstandings first.

While my plot needs some work (it's so much easier to have my characters sit around and crack jokes rather than to have a conflict-filled scene), I love the vibe I'm building: it's summer-y and fun and full of queer girls and baked goods. Add a semi-dysfunctional but all-around really supportive family and you've got the feeling of my book. I made some collages featuring pictures from my Pinterest board to show you what I mean.

My mood board

My main cast of characters (starting upper left and going clockwise): Josie Jones, Hannah Ridley, April Harrison, Cassidy Morgan, and Drew Goldman

Querying Once Upon a Stage

Remember my F/F YA contemporary about theatre girls? It was previously titled All the World's Afraid, but since that title didn't make any sense after rewrites, my beta readers helped me land on a new title.

The querying process has actually been going really well! I've had lots of interest, including multiple requests for full manuscripts (no true bites yet after that, but one agent is reading the manuscript now!). I'm really hoping someone picks it up, because out of all the books I've written (and there have been many), this one really has my heart.


Eleanor's aesthetic

Sonya's aesthetic

Journaling

With college and then the pandemic hitting, I got super behind on journaling. I wanted to make sure I didn't forget to write about anything later though, so I'd take notes on what I did each day in my phone. I now have a HUGE list of notes in my phone, so I'm slowly working through the days and catching up on the days I missed journaling about.

NaNoWriMo - Mamma Mia: Here We Go to Hell

I can't tell if I love or hate the title of this book yet even though it makes me snicker every time I think about the pun I've created, but that's the title we're sticking with for now. I can't stand "Mamma Mia," but I love the concept for this book:

"Mamma Mia" meets "Supernatural": After learning that her mom sold her soul to one of three demon lords, seventeen-year-old Sophie Lewis and her friends venture into Hell to find out who has it and how to get it back.

It's going to be so much fun to create the world of Hell and all of the demons in it. I already love my main character and her friends. I'm very excited to get started on this project in November.

My (very rough) book cover

Reading Jane Eyre

This is a classic I've meant to read for years, so what better time to finally read it than during a global pandemic? It's slow going because I have to have an incredible amount of focus to comprehend the sentences I'm reading, but I'm liking it so far. I don't know a ton about the plot, so I'm curious in what direction this is heading.

Continuing with vocal lessons

My vocal teacher is continuing lessons with some of her students (like me) virtually, so I get to keep up with my vocal work. My range is slowly stretching, which I'm really pleased about, because now I can comfortably sing more mezzo-soprano songs rather than struggling through them. There's a ton more work to be done, but it's all about practice and commitment.

Learning editing and proofreading

I took a certification course on proofreading a couple months ago and now I'm learning about other kinds of editing through YouTube so I can branch out with my writing skills. I've even started offering my freelance services to make some extra cash while I'm stuck at home, and not only is it fun, but it's also helpful to those who need the second set of eyes. I'm having a great time with it!

Learning to tap

Tap has always been my weakest spot when it comes to dancing in musicals, but anytime I've done it, I've had a lot of fun. I'm utilizing the tap floor we built in our basement to really focus on the basic moves.

Whenever I've tapped in shows, I've just been thrown in to all the complicated steps because there isn't time to slow things down and teach me the foundational stuff, so that's something I've been missing all these years. Luckily, now I have the time to spend a half hour perfecting a basic shuffle. I've even got a single time step down!

Max is teaching me most of the basic steps, but I've also been using YouTube to learn some fun combinations set to music, like in this video:

 


Learning/polishing audition monologues

I'm great at practicing a variety of songs, but when it comes to monologues, I always scramble to find and memorize one, let alone have the time to polish it before an audition rolls around. Not anymore! I got myself a fancy binder ("fancy" meaning I created a simple graphic to print out for the cover) and organized all of the monologues I want to work on, both comedic and dramatic.

I'm marking up my monologues with various notes, recording myself, and using those recordings to critique what could be better. An audition opportunity came up the other day for some short digital performances at my community theatre and rather than half-assing a barely memorized monologue, I had something prepared I could submit!

My fancy binder 💖

Practicing photography

I've learned how to take some pretty good headshots over the past few months, but now I'm focusing on other aspects of photography and digital editing. It's been a challenge, but a good one! I recently went through a fraction of my book collection to sort out old books to sell (because again, any cash I can make at home is great right now!) and focused on taking artsy pictures of them so they'd be more eye-catching to potential buyers. I think a lot of them turned out nicely!

Some examples from my book bundle photos



Practicing drawing

I am not an artist by any means when it comes to putting a pencil to a sketchpad, but it is fun to stretch a different part of my creative brain sometimes. My boyfriend is an amazing artist, so we've been video chatting while watching different how-to-draw YouTube videos together and he'll give me pointers on how to do different techniques. I'm pretty happy with how my human eye turned out the one night we watched a video about that.

Learning about a hodgepodge of topics

I made Fridays my "hodgepodge day" so I can explore a variety of interests I might not want to dedicate an entire semester to. I've done photography some days, coloring/drawing on others, and this past week I watched a bunch of different YouTube videos and crash courses about psychology fun facts. It's been a nice way to end the school week. Here's one of the videos I watched if you're interested in learning more about psychology (in this case specifically, motivation):

 


Teaching violin lessons

I've been teaching violin to a few students over Zoom these past few months, and while it was a little weird at first, it's a lot of fun now! It takes a lot of creativity to figure out how to teach a young kid how to hold their violin or put their fingers in the right places on the strings when you're not able to just physically guide their hands to the right positioning, but I'm getting it.

Exercising

I've definitely exercised way more in these six months at home than I have ever past years. It's been a lot easier to stick with my exercise goal this year though! My mom, brother, and I have been playing a lot of "Just Dance" recently, which is both fun and a hell of a workout. I sweat more doing that than I ever do with regular cardio workouts. Maybe it's because my competitive side forces me to work harder than I would if I were just jogging on my own.

What have you been doing this semester, whether or not you're currently in school? Any exciting writing projects in the works? Leave a comment!