Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Witches and Demons and Ships, Oh My!

So since writing 50,000 words of a single project in a month tends to get me burned out on whatever I'm writing, I've put Ms. Holmes aside for a while. I'll finish it up eventually, but for now, I'm super excited to work on my newest project. It's a YA paranormal romance called 'Til the Last Star Dies. (Thanks to my friends Sammy and Charlie for giving me that creative spark to write this!)

Here is my (very rough) synopsis:

Lila is a witch. One of the firstborn, to be exact, which makes her powerful. And dangerous. And in demand. The demon Angelique has a plan for the world, one that involves cities devoured in flame and dying stars. If Angelique can convince Lila to join her army, the universe will have reason to quake in fear.

But there's another complication. Melody. Lila's fallen for her, and if there's anything Lila can do to protect her, she'll do it. This means Angelique will have to find another way to get Lila to succumb to the darkness. And Melody is the perfect bargaining chip . . .

Although it definitely needs a lot of editing, at least you have the set up for the story. Now let's get to the fun stuff!

Meet the characters

Lila Evangeline, one of the main characters. Tough as nails and with power to spare, Lila has an equal amount of light and darkness in her. She's careful to keep herself in control so she doesn't end up hurting those she loves, something most witches don't bother to do. She has a strong personality, but she isn't unfriendly. Most everyone can count on her for a drink and a good laugh. Being in the middle of a crowd is where she feels right at home, mostly because she has the ability to make people move out of the way without even trying when she's weaving through a large group of people. Something about the confidence she carries helps her maneuver through the chaos, turning heads in a way that shows she doesn't care in the slightest if she does or not. Lila very much believes in the power of positive thinking and that the universe will reward you for it. She doesn't necessarily believe in a god, but some kind of higher power, a force you can't see.

Melody Ryan Foster, the second of my main characters. Having been abused by her older brothers and orphaned for a good portion of her life, Melody has trust issues. She's hesitant to let many people in, but Lila gets her guard down. Mel's a sweetheart. Kind of quiet, but totally willing to give you the clothes off her back without you even having to ask for them. This makes it easy to take advantage of her, but she can ultimately get along with anybody. Melody calls herself a realist, but her outlook on things in life in general is pessimistic, largely because of her hard experiences. She believes things happen for a reason and that's that, no way to explain them, nothing you can do about it.

Angelique "Angie" Victoria, LaLaurie, aka the big baddie of the novel. Despite being short, her imposing personality makes her seem taller. Angie also constantly changes her appearance and persona to avoid detection from the humans who try to track her down. She's smart and powerful and willing to sacrifice anything and anyone (excluding herself, of course) to get what she wants. Her longing to destroy and conquer comes from a deep-rooted loathing of humans after they killed her twin sister, Juliette. Once she learned the hard way just how despicable they could be, she went full-on demon. Now she believes the only way to cleanse the planet is to rid it of all humanity until only witches and demons remain.

Jordan James, best friend to Lila. He's insanely protective of his family and friends and would literally fight to his last breath and die if it meant saving them. He tends to keep his feelings to himself, choosing instead to mask his pain with jokes and sarcasm and well-practiced smirks. It works for the most part, though sometimes he finds himself breaking down in front of Lila or Toni. He carries guilt with him like weights on his shoulders and takes on more than he can chew, though he'd never admit it. Though he may be rough around the edges, his heart bursts with love for everyone he's close to and would do anything for them. He's extremely smart as well as being great at fighting against the demons and witches that attack him during his travels. He's kind and funny and always available to be a shoulder to cry on.

Antoinette "Toni" Yvette Moreau, girlfriend of Jordan's. Toni usually tries to hide her emotions behind a smile and a joke or a quip, but sometimes her temper just sort of blows up. Her way of showing that she cares about a person is to try to protect them, despite how it effects her. Her selflessness is probably what drew her to Jordan in the first place, seeing as they're so similar. She cares more for other people’s happiness than her own and is a fantastic cook, in addition to being totally witty. She never fails to make the others laugh.

Elizabeth Rivers, "little sister" to Jordan and Toni. After showing up on Jordan's doorstep, covered in blood and with nowhere else to go, the two took her in. She's tiny, but she’ll kick anyone’s butt if they’re standing between her and her family. She’s bubbly, funny, helpful, kind, stubborn, and always smiling. She’s extraordinarily clumsy and a terrible cook, always burning things, setting appliances on fire, making a mess, and just ends up breaking things in her general vicinity. When she sets her mind to it, though, she can be completely focused and coordinated in combat, and has lots of fight in her.

Location, location, location

After a random totally professional "close-your-eyes-and-point" method, I decided the perfect place to set the story was in Sterling, Colorado. Here are a few glimpses at the town.

(Granted, I'm not sure that mountain is actually in Sterling, but the characters do go on the run at some point, so it'll show up in the story eventually.)

(You can see more pictures of my characters and setting and many other things on my Pinterest board!)

Music, Maestro!

I am in looove with this soundtrack!! Anytime I hear one of these songs now, I get all the fuzzy feels because it just fits with the story so. perfectly. But I think I'm making "Favourite Colour" the ultimate theme song since I can't picture anything else but Lila and Melody when I hear it.

"She Waits" -- Louden Swain
"Slip" -- Elliot Moss
"Home Sweet Home" -- Mötley Crüe
"I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" -- Aerosmith
"Dream" -- Imagine Dragons
"I Don't Wanna Love Somebody Else" -- A Great Big World
"Can't Help Falling In Love" -- Ingrid Michaelson
"Favourite Colour" -- Carly Rae Jepsen
"End of the World" -- A Great Big World
"Mars" -- Sleeping At Last
"Jupiter" -- Sleeping At Last
"Pour Some Sugar On Me" -- Def Leppard

What I'm most excited about

The budding romance between Lila and Melody. The sarcastic quips tossed back and forth involving Lila and Jordan. Seeing Melody break out of her shell. Lizzy being a klutz. The ending. All of the characters being adorable and kickbutt all at the same time. And much, much more.

What I'm curious about

Although I have a pretty good outline for the story overall, I never know what exactly is going to happen. I'm along for the ride as much as my characters are. So I'm interested to see how certain things turn out, such as Angelique. I'm almost positive I know how she's going to be, but 99% of the time my villains surprise me. And judging from how the story's progressing so far, I have a feeling Lila and Melody's relationship isn't going to go as smoothly as I thought (not that it was going to be smooth in the first place, but it's less like mint chip and more like rocky road now). I guess I'll have to wait and see . . .

Your turn! What project are you working on right now? What are you most excited for/curious about? Leave a comment! :)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Why "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is Actually Extremely Creepy and Stalkerish

One of my favorite parts of this time of year is listening to Christmas songs. There are so many different kinds (bittersweet, fun, mellow, silly, etc.) but they all make you feel warm and fuzzy and get you into the holiday spirit. But there's one song that has always struck me as, well, just plain creepy. And that song is "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Just look at the lyrics below (with my many personal notes) and you'll see what I mean.

I really can't stay - Baby, it's cold outside
I've got to go away - Baby, it's cold outside
This evening has been - Been hoping that you'd drop in
So very nice - I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice
(Okay, mister, she's told you twice that she needs to go. So let her go!)
My mother will start to worry - Beautiful, what's your hurry?
(She just told you!)
My father will be pacing the floor - Listen to the fire place roar
So really I'd better scurry - Beautiful, please don't hurry
(You've crossed the line from rude and pushy to slightly creepy and possessive now.)
But maybe just half a drink more - Put some records on while I pour

The neighbors might think - Baby, it's bad out there
Say what's in this drink? - No cabs to be had out there
(Dude, what the heck did you put in her drink?! Here's a list of times it's appropriate to put something in someone else's drink without their knowledge: 1. NEVER)
I wish I knew how - Your eyes are like starlight now
To break this spell - I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no no no, sir - Mind if I move in closer?
At least I'm gonna say that I tried - What's the sense in hurting my pride?
(Your pride? Really? You need to back off, she's already said she wants to leave!)
I really can't stay - Baby, don't hold out
Baby it's cold outside
(You're very pushy you know)
(I'd like to think of it as opportunistic)
(No, you're just pushy.)

I simply must go - Baby, it's cold outside
The answer is "No" - But, baby, it's cold outside
This welcome has been - How lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm - Look out the window at that storm
My sister will be suspicious - Gosh your lips look delicious
(Ew, pick your moments, dude. Are you even listening to her?)
My brother will be there at the door - Waves upon a tropical shore
My maiden aunt's mind is vicious - Gosh your lips are delicious
(Again: EW)
But maybe just a cigarette more - Never such a blizzard before

I've got to get home - Baby, you'll freeze out there
Say, lend me a coat? - It's up to your knees out there
(Some common sense! If it's cold, grab a coat. And let her gooo.)
You've really been grand - I thrill when you touch my hand
But don't you see - How can you do this thing to me?
There's bound to be talk tomorrow - Think of my life-long sorrow
At least there will be plenty implied - If you got pneumonia and died
(And now we get a guilt trip? Really? It's her decision and she's already presented a solution to the cold!)
I really can't stay - Get over that hold out
Baby it's cold
Baby it's cold outside
(Okay, fine, just another drink)
(That took a lot of convincing)
(*headdesks repeatedly*)

Do you see my point?

What are your favorite/least favorite Christmas songs and why? Leave a comment! 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Top 15 Favorite Doctor Who Quotes

So this was originally going to be a "Top 10" post, because that's a nice, even number that are often used in "Top XYZ" posts. But then it stretched into twelve, so I thought, okay, that'll work because there are twelve Doctors. Then it just kept getting longer, so I made it fifteen for 2015. Basically what I'm trying to say is that there are just too many good Doctor Who quotes to possibly include them all! After lots of consideration, I finally narrowed it down to my absolute favorites, but it doesn't even scratch the surface.

(Plus, this post gave me a chance to mess around with photo editing, which I always enjoy! I think putting the images together took longer than actually picking the quotes . . . maybe.)

Tenth Doctor, "Doomsday"
Eleventh Doctor, "The Big Bang"

Eleventh Doctor, "The Pandorica Opens"
Eleventh Doctor, "The Power of Three"
Amy Pond, "The Girl Who Waited"

Ninth Doctor, "Rose"
Eleventh Doctor, "Vincent and the Doctor"
Tenth Doctor, "The Lazarus Experiment."
Tenth Doctor, "Fear Her"
Eleventh Doctor, "The Almost People"
Rose Tyler, "The Parting of the Ways"
Eleventh Doctor, "A Christmas Carol"
Twelfth Doctor, "Listen"
Eleventh Doctor, "The Time of the Doctor"
Eleventh Doctor, "Official BBC Series 5 Trailer"
What are your favorite "Doctor Who" quotes? Leave a comment!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

October/November Wrap-Up


Books I Read

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas


This book just confirms my theory that Sarah J. Maas is a genius. It's hard to even describe just how much I'm loving this series without using all caps and saying things like, "OMG I CAN'T." But OMG I CAN'T. The characters, gah, she does such a good job of simultaneously making you love them and also want to smack them upside the head. Several times. I adore Calaena (even if I can never spell her name right the first--or second--time), and I ship her and Chaol so hard. This book also brings you pain, and lots of it. Always a plus. *she says sarcastically as she tosses her heart into a blender to rid herself of this pain* Also the cover is sooo pretty.

Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh


(Apparently books with "midnight" in the title looked good to me this month.) This reminded me a lot of Paper Towns if Paper Towns were urban fantasy. It's a very unique premise and story world, so I was drawn in right away. The set up was a little slower than I would've liked, but the end was nothing but action and plot twists. I liked the characters well enough, but if you're looking for a book with fantastic characters that stay with you forever, this is definitely not the one for you. I loved the plot the whole way through because it stayed mostly consistent, but had enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. It was a great "read-it-in-a-few-days" kind of book, something fun and magical. I wouldn't reread it or anything, but it was a week of reading well spent.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


Meh. The story was interesting enough, but verrry slow. And wordy. I skimmed a lot of it. But hey, it's a classic, and I'm glad I've read it now.

Movies I Watched

"Damn Yankees"


Read my review HERE. I've been wanting to watch more musicals in general, so this was a good one to start out with. There wasn't a super complicated plot or anything that was hard to follow, but the music was fun, as well as the story. The songs are extremely catchy. I also really liked the Applegate character. There was something quirky about him that reminded me of Crowly from "Supernatural," and he made me laugh a few times. I took a couple points off for the cheese factor (granted, it's bound to happen with most musicals), but for the most part it was really good.

"Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog"


So. Good. It basically has a dream cast (Felicia Day, Nathan Fillion, and Neil Patrick Harris all in the same movie?!) and the songs are brilliant. And the story. Basically everything is awesome. And it's Joss Whedon, so be prepared for both laughter and tears! It's like "Megamind" if Joss Whedon had been in charge of it.

"The Court Jester"


Read my review HERE. A lot of people say that this movie is a musical, but there were very few songs in it, maybe three total. But the story itself was really good and funny, and the main character in particular was great. He had a lot of slapstick but clever comedy. It gave off a "Princess Bride" or "Galavant" (Which by the way is coming back for season 2! My whole family is so excited.) kind of vibe. It's fairly old (it was released in 1956), but you don't really notice it like you do with other movies. The acting was actually pretty good, and there weren't any big special effects that just made you laugh at how bad it was. I really enjoyed it. It was light, fluffy, and funny.

 "Casino Royale" 


This movie was great! It was my first James Bond and I'm excited to watch more. Constant edge-of-your-seat action with some truly awesome stunts (the first twenty minutes or so had me absolutely glued to the screen), and the tricks he plays on the bad guys reminded me of the heists in "Ocean's Eleven."

"The Wiz"


Read my review HERE. I don't use a one-star rating often, but this was just cringe-worthy. Everything was melodramatic, inconsistent, or just plain bad. The story is pretty much entirely the same as "The Wizard of Oz" (which is a musical I only like okay), except it's far more depressing. The setting always seems to be dark and gray and rundown, the buildings are abandoned or look like factories, and there's trash everywhere. The songs are also mediocre at best with lyrics capable of being written by an eight-year-old. The choreography was repetitive throughout the entire movie, and the acting was extremely bad. My brother and I laughed out loud several times, but only because something was so cheesy. Most of the time we were groaning or fast-forwarding through songs that never ended. If something deserved only thirty seconds of attention, it lasted for a good five minutes. And scenes that should've been dragged out for dramatic effect were over in the blink of an eye. (Note: This is a review for the original movie not the live performance!)



So a small theater in our area showed a live broadcast of "Hamlet" starring Benedict freaking Cumberbatch on the London stage. It was phenomenal. It was word for word from the original play, except the costumes and sets were designed to be more modern, which was pretty cool. Cumberbatch is one of my favorite current actors, hands down. You could hand him any role and he could play it fabulously.

"Singing In the Rain"


This was a fun one! It had good music, simple plot, and even a couple laugh-out-loud moments. I'm happy I watched a classic like this.

Obsessions I Acquired

Society6 - This is such an addictive site! I had to exercise a lot of self-control when browsing it, because there are so many awesome geeky t-shirts and mugs and pillows and posters and anything you could imagine, really. I got myself a few fangirly/bookish things that I really love, though . . .

I put this up in my reading nook with my fuzzy blanket and funky multicolored light.
"Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog" soundtrack - Especially "My Freeze Ray," "My Eyes," and "So They Say." Again, the music from that movie is brilliant! It's funny and clever and catchy, all at the same time. Seriously, just listen to these few below. Or better yet, just watch the whole thing yourself on YouTube! Or both.

"Broadchurch" - Two words: David Tennant. Basically anything he's in I want to watch because I know it'll be good. And this series absolutely is! It's a murder mystery detective show set in a small beach town in England. David Tennant's character, Alec Hardy, is very different from the Doctor. He's far more cynical and, of course, Scottish. (His accent is super cool.) There are only eight episodes in each season, so it's a quick watch. Season 2 just got added to Netflix a couple days ago, too! And I may or may not have binge-watched the entire season the day it got added . . . *totally did*

"iZombie" - I didn't have high hopes for this show, to be honest. The commercials I'd seen on TV didn't appeal to me until I saw that it was another Rob Thomas creation and a couple friends had recommended it. I was pleasantly surprised. It's about zombies, but it's not your typical paranormal show. It's almost like it's another "Veronica Mars" show with a quirky zombie twist. I love the main characters, too, especially Ravi. Ravi's the best.

"Jane the Virgin" - Thanks for the suggestion, Mom! One of the best shows I've seen in a while. It's so addictive and absolutely insane. There's a plot twist every ten minutes, a cliffhanger in each episode, and characters you absolutely love (including the off screen-narrator!). It's clever in every way. I highly recommend it.

Quotes I Wrote 

Apparently I'd totally forgotten this section a couple times . . . oops. Fixing that now!

The silence passed uncomfortably, Jordan scrubbing at the dishes, Lila petting Toni’s head while squirming in her seat. She was bursting at the seams with words unspoken, but there were far too many sitting in a jumbled mess for her to make any sense of them. She had no idea where to start.
“You could start at the beginning,” Jordan suggested, as if he’d read her mind, when in reality it was just seven years of friendship. Well, if you counted the two years they’d been apart.
“It’s not that easy.”
Jordan shrugged and dried his hands on a dishtowel, leaning against the counter as Toni trotted over to him. Her nails clicked on the tile floor and she rubbed against his legs like a cat might. “It’s never as complicated as it seems once you start talking.”
Lila bit her lower lip and continued to wring her hands in her lap. “I still feel awful about it.”
“I forgave you the day you left.”
“You shouldn’t have.”
“Too bad.”
-'Til the Last Star Dies

Jordan sighed heavily and stood back up, apparently resolving himself to the fact that he wouldn't be getting anything else out of her tonight. “Can you promise me something?”
“Depends on what it is.”
He leaned against the door, one hand on the doorknob. “Don't mistake Toni and Lizzy as some kind of replacement. My relationships with them are completely different from mine with you.”
At this, she was able to somewhat deflect the conversation with a smirk and an, “Oh I've noticed.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
She shrugged and examined her nails, tone breezy, casual, because she knew this would aggravate him even more. “Well your aura was especially bright once Toni sat down next to you.”
He sputtered for a couple seconds, then finally said, “You know, sometimes your attention to detail drives me crazy.”
“Always happy to help.” 
-'Til the Last Star Dies

Lila motioned to her with a long-fingered hand. Artist’s hands, Melody found herself thinking. Her hands looked the part of a witch, like they could create something out of thin air, something magical.
-'Til the Last Star Dies  

Picture of the Month

Astrid Holmes, the protagonist in my most recent NaNoWriMo novel, Ms. Holmes. You can read more about her and the book with the "Ms. Holmes" tag on my blog. Click HERE to look through it!

How was your October?


Books I Read

The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allen Poe


Like Sleepy Hollow, this one was a little wordy with no real purpose to be. It kind of muddled the rest of the story, which I liked. It reminded me a lot of a Sherlock Holmes story.

Movies I Watched

"The Martian"


This met all of my expectations! It really stuck to the book for the most part, which I appreciated, and kept my attention the entire time. It's not an action movie necessarily, but it certainly had its intense moments, even for someone like me who knew what was coming. I did like the ending to the movie better than the book, because I feel like the book ending was a little rushed. I appreciated a bit more resolution.

"Tangled" (a rewatch)


It had been a while since I'd seen this movie, but I loved it. Rapunzel and Flynn are adorable, the movie was cute and funny, and the music is great. I'd watch it again.

"Les Misérables"


I LOVED THIS. My favorite musical, hands down. I cried at the end and had the songs stuck in my head for weeks. The story was so emotional and compelling, and just the whole thing was incredible. The acting, the singing, all of it. Anne Hathaway did an especially good job considering she was only in it for a short amount of time.

"Mockingjay: Part 2"


The perfect conclusion to the movie series, I think. I loved seeing the direct quotations from the book at the end. Jennifer Lawrence was great, as always, as were all of her co-stars. Josh Hutcherson only got better as the series went on. I did cry. A lot. But that was to be expected.



Read my review HERE. Out of all the musicals I've watched so far, this definitely makes my top three. It's such a simple plot, more of a glimpse into a musician's every day life than a movie. It very much focuses on the characters and the music, which I liked. And the music is fantastic, and very Indie. My favorite song from it is one you've probably heard, "Falling Slowly," but every song in it is so good. The accents are also very cool! A little hard to understand at times since they're so thick, but I love hearing accents from different countries. I won't give anything away, but I really liked the ending, too. It's not your typical Hollywood ending.

"The Nightmare Before Christmas" 


Read my review HERE. This is a fun movie with extremely catchy songs. It's great to watch around Christmas time, but I also think it's a good Halloween movie. I'm not always a huge fan of claymation, but this was done pretty well. The plot was pretty simple and family friendly, the "creepiness" way toned down. It's more goofy than it is scary. The only reason I took a couple points off was because I didn't feel like I got to know the characters that well and I didn't believe the chemistry between Jack and Sally. Otherwise it was very enjoyable.

Obsessions I Acquired

The music from "Les Misérables" - As I mentioned before, I loved the music. It's nearly impossible to pick a favorite, but I do think it would be "One Day More" at the end of "Act 1" when all of the different songs come together to make one epic performance. It gave me chills.

"The 100" - It's been a great couple of months for me as far as TV shows go. It only took me a couple episodes to get into and then I was hooked. The characters and their dynamics are really what make the show. I love Clarke, Finn, Bellamy, Octavia, Kane, and so many others. And there are also characters I love to despise, and characters who are seemingly evil who surprise you. The survival aspect of it all is really fun to watch, too, especially since that's what I love to write a lot of the time. It reminded me a lot of my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, actually, Flightless Birds. There's even a character named Raven who looks almost exactly like my protagonist!

Quotes I Wrote

As promised, there will be lots and lots of quotes from Ms. Holmes here!

I looked over my shoulder at her, eyebrows furrowed. “Blimey, you ask a lot of questions.”
Dawn shrugged now, lips twitching as if she weren’t sure whether or not to smile. “I’m a journalist, it’s what we do. Just answer.”
“Isn’t the person conducting the interview supposed to be the one actually, you know, interviewing the other?”
“Not if you’re in an interview with me. So what make you such a horrible flatmate?”
I flipped through an old and faded notebook, not paying her much attention as I had other thoughts flicking through my mind one after the other. There were more important things to focus on. “I’m insufferable.”
“Your words or others’?”
And to my surprise, Dawn flashed me a wide grin. Almost every tooth was showing, and there was a kind of mischievous twinkle in her eyes, the sort you’d see in a toddler or a cat. I opened my mouth to say something, but Dawn beat me to it.
“Well then, we’ll make a great team, won’t we?”
“Yes,” I murmured, more to myself than her, and set the notebook down. “I suppose we will.”
-Ms. Holmes

“Do you have something against people, Astrid, or just me?” Dawn suddenly snapped.
I blinked a couple times, too deeply focused on the device I was holding to give much thought to the answer. “I have nothing against people, but I have everything against idiots.”
Dawn laughed, but it was cold and humorless. Her smile didn’t meet her eyes. She was clearly offended, indignant. I ignored her and fiddled with one of the screws in the metallic glove-like gadget once I’d plopped back into my armchair.
“Excuse me?” She said, astounded.
Thinking maybe she hadn’t heard me right, I repeated, “I have everything against idiots.”
“Did you just call me an idiot?”
“No, I haven’t made up my mind about you yet.” I stuck my tongue between my teeth in concentration as I hunched more over the glove, sweat causing the screwdriver to slip against my palm. The fire I was sitting by had died down to embers, but it was still giving off an uncomfortable amount of heat. “So far you’re just annoying. Put the fire out, won’t you?”
-Ms. Holmes

Créature immonde,” I grumbled under my breath at it when it [the cat] came creeping back into the living room to lay under the armchair, staring me down with a murderous look in its eyes. I wouldn't put it past it to try to suffocate me as I slept, which is why I kept the door closed now.
“Astrid,” Dawn said in a warning tone as she passed through the living room, eyebrows raised in my direction. “What have I said about the way you talk to Sir Mittens?”
“It can't understand me,” I insisted, still casting the cat a dirty look.
He,” Dawn corrected me as she rifled through her messenger back. “And it's not about what you say, it's the tone you use. Whether you speak in English, French, German, or Japanese, the tone is still the same. It's not good for his behavior, he'll start to act up.”
“He's already acting up!” But Dawn cast me a look, and I grumbled, glancing away. “Fine, fine, I'll watch my tone . . .”
-Ms. Holmes

“I'm tired of people using me!” I snapped, standing suddenly and storming over to the window to look outside at the passersby so I wouldn't have to look at him. “I knew there was a reason she was being kind, there's always something. Nobody's ever friendly with someone just for the sake of being nice. People are rarely so selfless.”
“You don't mean that,” Mr. Hudson said gently, though he remained standing where he was. “When has Ms. Lestrade ever used you like that? When have I?”
I flapped a hand dismissively in his direction. “Natalie isn't friendly, she's civil. We have a work relationship, that's it.” I gave him a little sideways grin, glancing over. “And you're an anomaly.”
Mr. Hudson chuckled. “I'll take that as a compliment.”
“Please do.”
-Ms. Holmes

“Are you sure this is safe?” Dawn asked as we headed down the streets that were second nature to us both, our feet carrying us to our destination without us even having to think about it.
At that, I grinned. “No.”
What thrilled me even more was the fact that Dawn grinned back.
-Ms. Holmes

I sighed and shook my head. “Dawn, it's not true. I know it isn't.”
“She said my enemies were hidden amongst my friends.”
“Your point?”
I rolled my eyes over to her, a bored and aggravated look on my face. “Dawn, I don't have friends.”
She looked taken aback by this, though I couldn't imagine why as it wasn't exactly a hidden fact. It was well known, by everyone. It was not something to be pitied, in fact, I prided myself on it. I didn't have friends. And wasn't it glorious?
All Dawn did was stuff her hands in her coat pockets and watch her shoes as we continued walking out of the station and down the streets, mumbling, “Right. Sure you don't.”
-Ms. Holmes

“Lies, Astrid,” she sighed heavily, in that same high-pitched tone Sahara had used back at the flat, though hers trembled more. She was excited. “You may not realize it yet, but you fool no one but yourself.” She leaned forward to whisper into my ear, barely an inch away from me, but I stood as still as I could. “Caring is nothing but weakness and pain. Love is a myth until you find the single person who can walk the same earth as you, follow the same path, and not get lost. Have you found that person yet?”
I stayed silent. I figured saying nothing at all was better than snapping and saying something I’d regret. My actions could have a negative effect on both Dawn and myself now.
“No?” Faye leaned back, turned on her heel, boots clicking against the concrete as she strode away. “Pity. Come on then.”
-Ms. Holmes

“A man is going to die, Astrid! Why don’t you care?”
I shrugged, folding my hands in my lap. “Why should I?”
Dawn gaped at me as if I’d slapped her across the face, like I’d personally offended her. Then, very slowly, she took a step back. It took me a second to register the look on her face, because it was one I’d never seen there. One I didn’t think I’d ever see there, not directed at me. Not from Dawn. Repulsion.
“What happened to you? What made you this way?”
I stood up from the chair and walked to the window, glancing out at the perpetually overcast sky, the rain sliding down the glass between the stuffy flat and the frigid outside. It was the best way to hide my face. “What’s the point of caring, Dawn? What good is it to love something only to have it blown away like dust? All things die. All things end. All we can do is try to minimize the agony of breathing.”
“And what’s the point of living if you don’t feel?” Dawn shot back, clearly meant to be an indignant snap, though her voice shook as she spoke.
 “I feel plenty!” Turning my head toward her in time to see her take another step back made my stomach churn, but I couldn’t stop myself now. My eyes burned with the tears I’d repressed for years, everything I’d kept quiet for my own sake. To minimize the agony. “And I’m under no obligation to tell you about any of it. You aren’t my therapist, Dawn, and I don’t need one. Now shut the hell up, I can’t hear myself think.”
I kept my gaze fixed upon the tree curving elegantly in the wind outside, but I could still hear Dawn mutter darkly under her breath. I heard her shoes scuff against the floor as she snatched up her coat with an angry fwish noise. The slam of the door caused the ground to vibrate underneath my feet. Within seconds, her bristling form could be seen passing underneath the branches of the tree. I looked away.
-Ms. Holmes

Picture of the Month

My friend Charlie (who I talked a little bit about HERE) and me goofing off together.

How was your November?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Beautiful Books Linkup--November

Cait at "Paper Fury" is co-hosting a linkup called "Beautiful Books." It's a lot like her "Beautiful People" linkup, except focused more on the actual book than the characters. It's also great for answering questions about your NaNoWriMo book, which I'll be doing this month. It's called Ms. Holmes.

1. Is the book turning out how you thought it would be, or is it defying your expectations?

Yes and no. The book is very much following the original outline I wrote in October, but as always, my characters run the show. Recently my villain's love interest tried to tell me that she was actually my secondary character, too, and has been disguising herself as her in order to screw my main character over. I shut that one down pretty quickly because it was insane and would require a massive overhaul on the last hundred pages or so, but it did spark some ideas.

2. What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

The morning was cold, but the fire crackling across the room kept the place above chilly levels. There hadn’t been a day this week that wasn’t rainy or grey. It was just another November in London, but I hardly noticed it. My face had been buried in sketches for weeks. My fingertips, smudged with pencil, matched the color of the sky. Raindrops pelted the window with a kind of ferocity that made it sound like kids throwing pebbles at it again. I shut the curtains and moved my plans by the fire to read.

As you can see, it needs lots of work.

3. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you ever tried both methods and how did it turn out?

I started out as a complete pantser. I'd have the smallest idea in mind and I would run with it until I got bored, which means I have a lot of unfinished novels in the depths of my documents. I tried plotting a few years ago--for NaNoWriMo, actually--and really liked it, because it made it easier to push through certain scenes since I knew what was coming next. Now I consider myself a "plantser." I almost always write an outline for my book before starting, but I'm flexible enough to change it as I go if something isn't working out. This has helped me actually finish a lot more stories.

4. What do you reward yourself with after meeting a goal?

Netflix, usually. I recently got into "The 100," so I don't let myself watch another episode until I reach my word count.

5. What do you look for in a name? Do you have themes and where do you find your names?

It totally depends on the character. Sometimes I'll go for name meanings, but that limits me a lot, so I usually just pick a name I like for my main characters. I try to go for something unique enough to be remembered, but not so crazy that you can't pronounce or spell it. I used baby naming books a lot when I was younger and compiled a list of names I liked that I keep in my inspiration folder. Whenever I hear a name I want to use, I write it down, then I go through the list when it's time to create characters. I have to make a note of which names I use and in what books now so I don't reuse them accidentally!

Here's a page from my "Awesome First Names" list. I have one for last names, as well, but this one is definitely more extensive.

6. What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?

Usually it depends on the story, but I love to write endings, especially of the bittersweet variety. Finding that perfect last line or scene that'll make your readers cry sparks my creativity like nothing else. But beginnings are always fun, too, because I'm always so excited to start this new and shiny project. I can knock out 5,000 words in an hour. But once I hit the 15,000-20,000 word mark, I start slowing down. I like the idea of middles more than I like writing it.

7. Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?

I'm really liking the one-eyed cat (whose name is Sir Mittens, but Astrid refuses to call him anything but "it" or "the cat") and Mr. Hudson. Sir Mittens is like my dog in the sense that he's a little neurotic and likes to lie down on anything, even if it's the project you're working on at that very moment. And Mr. Hudson is just so happy and welcoming to everyone, and he and his boyfriend are adorable together.

8. What kind of things have you researched for this project, and how do you go about researching? (What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched?!)

Google is my best friend. I can find anything with it, including when rubber bands were invented and the effects of certain slow-acting poisons. I think if anyone outside my family and writerly friends had seen just how excited I was to find a page all about poisons and what they smell/look like, they would've been seriously concerned.

9. Do you write better alone or with others? Do you share your work or prefer to keep it to yourself?

I get more excited about my work when I'm with other writer friends, but I think I'm actually more productive alone. And I share my work all the time, but usually just with my critique partners who I know will give me helpful and honest advice without being harsh about it. I'll share snippets on my blog, but generally not much more than that.

10. What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!

I live off of Cheez-Its and mochas in November, although right now with Christmas coming up I'm enjoying holiday cookies (like biscoitos, yum!). I almost always listen to music (a lot of "Sherlock" soundtrack music has been showing up on my playlists recently), unless I'm really trying to focus on a complicated plot point or tricky wording in a sentence. Then the lyrics can get really distracting. I don't think the time of day matters much, since I can write whenever, but it's definitely easier to focus when I get up earlier than everyone else.

Biscoitos, a Portuguese holiday cookie. It's similar to a shortbread, but really soft and chewy. My dog loves them, too.

I love my writing space. It's tucked away, cozy, and has a very creative feel to it when I sit down at my desk. Plus, everything I need is within arm's reach, so I don't even have to get up and ruin my flow to grab something.

A closer look at one side of the desk. My handy whiteboard is up on the wall, pencils and a notepad by my keyboard, inspirational quotes framed where I can see them.

And the other side. My corkboard has been super helpful when I'm trying to organize all of the edits my CPs give me, plus I can switch out fun pictures for an inspiration boost. I keep those "You should be writing" pictures right where I can see them so if I'm ever tempted to get distracted, they put me back on track.
Your turn! Feel free to answer some or all of the questions in the comments below. :) I love hearing from other writers!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Importance of Fan-Fiction

About a year ago when I joined Tumblr I discovered something magical . . . fan-fiction. I'd known about its existence for a long time (thank you Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell) and I'd written some before I even knew what it was called (I have Harry Potter 8, 9, 10, and 11 written by my seven-year-old self tucked away underneath my mattress as we speak). But I didn't realize just how huge it was until I started following a few fandom blogs.

Me upon discovering how much there was to read.
Fan-fiction is magical! I know it gets a lot of flak for not being "real writing" (whatever the hell "real writing" means, seeing as anything that's been written is by its very definition "real" . . .) or being a waste of time, but I strongly disagree. Sure, there are some pretty poorly written stories out there, but there are poorly written stories for every genre.

Still not convinced? Let me list out a few of my reasons of why fan-fiction is so important.

1. It makes you feel like a part of the fandom

And I'm not just talking about being a part of the fandom as a fan (though it certainly does that, too). I'm talking about becoming an actual character in the story. Ever heard of reader inserts? I didn't either until last year, but I absolutely love them.

The basics are it's a normal fan-fiction story, but it's told in the second person. "Y/N" is the main character, which stands for "your name." So "Y/N" becomes "Kate" (in my case), and suddenly I'm the protagonist in the story. I'm a student at Hogwarts, or one of the Doctor's companions, or riding shotgun with Dean Winchester on the way to hunt down a demon. And I can do all of these things just by reading a story in the safety of my own bedroom under the covers. Here's an example of a reader insert:

“I so owned those guys!” Charlie squealed happily. She held up her hand for a high-five, which you accepted with your own grin. Leave it to Charlie to look like she'd been dropped in the middle of Disneyland when in reality you were covered in blood outside an abandoned bar.

“Yeah you did,” you said, beaming at her. “Are you sure this was your first vampire hunt?”

She rolled her eyes. “Totally sure. Couldn't you tell after that first one?”

You giggled, remembering how Charlie had had to swing three times before she could get the head completely off. It was funnier now that you weren't in life-threatening danger.

2. It's great for exercise

There are all kinds of fan-fic stories, but some of the most popular kinds are definitely ones that involve the impossibly cute couples from all of your favorite fandoms. I've read some pretty adorable Tenrose fics that have made me flail and squeal, and all of that helps to burn a few hundred calories. Reading and exercise, all in one. ;)

Me after reading about Rose and the Meta-Crisis Doctor going to the park with their daughter and being so freaking cute and aoidjgoasdl;liaje.
But since we're also talking about fandoms and ships here, I've also read some extremely sad ones . . . I've gross sobbed over fan-fic series before. It wasn't pretty. But I did get a good workout.

Me after reading the Stolen Dance Supernatural Sam/reader fan-fiction series. Go look it up immediately. Or just click HERE for part 1. It's fabulous. Clearly, considering it's shipworthy and heartbreaking all at the same time.
3. It's easier to write

I'm not saying that it's always going to be easier to write, or that it's somehow this magical genre that flows effortlessly from your fingertips at all times, but the already developed characters and storyworld certainly help. You don't have to come up with the complicated backstories of your main characters or figure out all of the rooms and secret passageways in Hogwarts. It's already been written for you! Now all you have to do is plop those characters somewhere and make them move. Easy as pie.

4. It's a fantastic warm up

Me writing fan-fiction. Apparently I have a thing for gifs of people--or animals--typing like their lives depend on it.
Fan-fiction is amazing for creativity! This past year I've struggled with varying kinds of writer's block, all of which frustrated me to no end, but fan-fiction was always the thing I just had no trouble writing. When my original characters refused to do anything, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were right there and ready to solve a mystery.

And even just staying in the habit of writing was great for me, because eventually the writer's block vanished and I was able to pick right back up where I left off. Even now I'll write a page or two of my fan-fiction series before diving into my NaNoWriMo novel. It's my favorite kind of warm up.

5. It can be adapted for publication

Though you should never try to make money off of your fan-fiction without the express permission from the original creator, you can take those fan-fiction pieces and rework them so they read as regular short stories. Just take out the unique elements and characters that make it fan-fiction and replace it with characters and elements of your own design.

One of my fan-fiction series that's still in the works has hit 20,000 words and is still going strong. I'm loving it! And when it's finished I'm planning to edit it so it reads like a novella. I just have to change a few things, replace Dean Winchester with a character of my own, and voila. Instant story with the possibility for publication.

6. You can make new friends

This is definitely my top reason to promote fan-fiction. I've bonded with so many people over a shared love for different fandoms. (And as bloggers, you should know just how important online connections are, too!)

In about January of this year, I discovered a fan-fiction writer by the name of Kazzy. She has thousands of faithful followers who read every story she posts (and I'm one of them! She's an awesome writer and the author of the aforementioned Stolen Dance series.). One day, she had the idea to host an online "sleepover." So she set up a Chatzy room so all of us who wanted to could join and talk about "Supernatural" and get to know each other as fellow fangirls/boys.

That night, a girl under the pseudonym Sam Winchester invited me to a private chat so I could participate in a Supernatural roleplay with her and nine other girls. We connected instantly. These girls were so welcoming to me and when I say we've spoken every day since, I'm not exaggerating. We roleplay on nearly a daily basis, text each other all the time, and Skype frequently. I've even met one of roleplayers offline because she only lives a couple hours from me! Even though we've known each other for maybe ten months now, I feel like I know these girls like sisters. We're one big family, and I love it.

My friend Charlie and me being nerdy dorks, as usual, after she surprised me by showing up at my house when I had no idea she was coming!! (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for helping to set that up. :) )
Charlie and me at a book festival.
So not only does fan-fiction provide entertainment, but it gives you the opportunity to form new friendships. If that isn't a selling point, I'm not sure what is.

What are some of the best fan-fiction stories you've read? Any personal stories of your own having to do with fan-fic you'd like to share? I'd love to hear about your experiences with it! Leave a comment!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

NaNoWriMo Tag

I stole this tag from Emma at "Kittens on Bookshelves" because it just looked like too much fun to resist. And as we are officially at the halfway point for NaNoWriMo, what better time to post it than now?

1. How many times have you done NaNoWriMo?

This is my seventh year! Although this is only my third year with a 50,000-word goal. I've been participating with my family since I was nine, so you'd think I'd become a pro at staying on track with my goal all the time . . . you would be wrong. I still procrastinate horribly whenever I hit a plot hole and can't figure out how to fix it. Then I generally end up writing like a cat on crack on the last day to write the last 5,000 or so words.

I came across this gif forever ago and have been waiting for an excuse to use it . . . you're welcome.

2. How did you first find out about NaNoWriMo?

My mom found out about it from a friend, told me and asked if I'd be interested, and I believe I responded with, "Um, yes?!?!"

3. What was the name of the first novel you attempted with NaNo?

The Adventure That Started With Nuts. It was a chapter book about a squirrel and a chipmunk who were best friends. They traveled all over the country and got into tons of shenanigans. Eventually they ended up accidentally getting trapped on a boat headed to Antarctica. It was was all very dramatic.

4. Give us a 1 sentence summary of what you’re writing this year.
Genderbent, steampunk, Sherlock Holmes story involves one-eyed cats and time traveling train machines.

5. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?

I think the general piece of advice "write what you love" is the best thing any writer can keep in mind. If you don't enjoy what you're writing, your reader won't either.

6. Did you ever take a year off from NaNo? Why?

Not yet! There may come a year when I will, but I don't see that happening for a while.

7. What's your biggest inspiration when figuring out what to write?

I have ideas to spare (and a notebook full of them to prove it), so the main problem is usually figuring out which one to start with! When I'm actually in the process of writing it, though, music and food are a huge help. A little Taylor Swift or "Doctor Who" scores, chocolate/coffee/tea/Cheez-Its, and I'm good.

8. Read us the first sentence from one of your novels.
First lines are the hardest part of any story for me, but there is one I'm particularly proud of. It's from my 2010 NaNoWriMo story, a middle-grade fantasy that's called Fantasya: A Giant Problem. "There is no 'once upon a time' in this book, because that’s how a fairytale starts, and this is not a fairytale."

9. Why do you love writing?

Because I can create something out of absolutely nothing! With a few taps of the keyboard I can write a story that has the ability to make someone laugh or cry or get inspired to make something of their own. Stories change people for the better, and I love that I get to be a part of that.

How's your NaNoWriMo going? What's your word count looking like right now? What's your story about? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Beautiful Books Linkup--October

Cait at "Paper Fury" is co-hosting a linkup called "Beautiful Books." It's a lot like her "Beautiful People" linkup, except focused more on the actual book than the characters.

Today I'll be talking about my NaNoWriMo book, Ms. Holmes. I'm so excited to write it.

1. How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I don't know exactly how I got the idea for the novel, except that I've had four different things I've been wanting to experiment with in my writing: 1. Retellings 2. Time travel 3. The steampunk genre and 4. Genderbending. So I mixed them all up and here we are.

2. Why are you excited to write this novel?

BECAUSE TIME TRAVEL. And also Sherlock Holmes. I've been obsessed with "Doctor Who" and "Sherlock" for a while now, and the idea of a female Sherlock Holmes has always fascinated me. There will also be a one-eyed cat, a gossipy landlord, and tea. Lots and lots of tea.

3. What is your novel about, and what is the title?

The title of the book is Ms. Holmes (which I'm extremely pleased with, since it's one of the few NaNoWriMo titles I had in mind right from the start), and as for what it's about, I'll just post my summary here:

What’s the best way to solve a murder? Stop it from happening in the first place. Astrid Holmes, teenage inventor and consulting detective, has spent years helping Scotland Yard’s best catch criminals and murderers and put them behind bars where they belong. But recently she’s been able to perfect a new invention that could help them even more: a time machine. Astrid and her most trusted companion, Dawn Watson, test their steam-powered machine, disguised as a train, and travel back in time to prevent said murders from ever happening. Little does Astrid know that she has a new and even more threatening enemy.

Faye Moriarty treats time as her plaything. Messing about with both past and future, Faye threatens everything Astrid’s put her life into rebuilding, and it won’t be easy to catch her. She’s slippery as an eel and deadly as the dragon she’s working night and day to build. Can Astrid and Dawn catch Faye before it’s too late? Or will time make monsters of them all?

4. Sum up your characters in one word each. (Feel free to add pictures!)

I have a lot of characters in mind right now, but here we go:

Astrid Holmes (consulting detective/inventor) - Brilliant
Dawn Watson (investigative journalist) - Compassionate
Faye Moriarty (inventor) - Megalomaniac

Sahara Moran (sniper/assassin) - Loyal
Natalie Lestrade (Detective Inspector) - Stubborn

Mr. Hudson (landlord/“housekeeper”) - Welcoming

Cecily Forester (Clock-keeper) - Outcast
Emily Forester (Clock-keeper’s daughter) - Shy
Mia Holmes (Astrid’s little sister) - Sweet

Olive Harrington (Timekeeper for train station) - Odd

Kelsey and Lance Stark (Train conductors, husband and wife) - strong and adventurous, respectively
Jeffrey Stark (Son of Kelsey and Lance Stark) - Filterless
Griffon Geller (Serial killer) - Psychotic

Sir Mittens (Dawn’s one-eyed cat) - Cunning
5. Which character(s) do you think will be your favourite to write? Tell us about them!

Ack, this is so hard to choose! I love each of my characters for different reasons, but side characters tend to be my favorites. So other than Astrid (especially her fighting with Sir Mittens when he gets in the way of her projects), I think my favorites are going to be Cecily (because she's a quirky klutz and just a bouncy, fun character) and Natalie (because she can get easily grumpy and irritable, which is always fun to write). Faye is also a villain I'm really excited to play with since I haven't ever written anyone like her.

6. What is your protagonist’s goal, and what stands in the way?

Astrid wants to solve the various murders and crimes Faye is carrying out with her newly completed time machine, but time is complicated and Faye is just as brilliant as she is. Not only are both past and future being messed with by Faye, but there's a problem in the present. A serial killer by the name of Griffon Geller has recently escaped from prison, and Astrid's made it her personal mission to capture him again.

7. Where is your novel set? (Show us pictures if you have them!)

Victorian London! Mainly at 221B Baker Street, Big Ben, and the train station.

If you want to see more pictures, click HERE to go to my Pinterest board.

8. What is the most important relationship your character has?

Astrid's most important relationship was with her little sister Mia, but her most important current relationship is hands down with Dawn. She's the first person Astrid could even consider calling her friend.

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Through Dawn's influence, Astrid will grow more and more compassionate, when before she was more closed off and cold.

10. What themes are in your book? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?

I don't usually go into a book with specific themes in mind. The best themes seem to be the ones that aren't planned, but emerge as you're writing the story. So I have no idea how to answer this question, but I know friendship is always something that's a big deal in my novels, no matter the genre or story.

11. BONUS! Tell us your 3 best pieces of advice for others trying to write a book in a month.

1. Forget perfection. That's what editing is for. If you're one of those writers who can't stand to move on until everything's just how you want it to be, leave yourself a note to go fix it later. But there's no way you'll be able to write as quickly as you want to if you can't move past a plot hole.

2. Don't procrastinate. Hit your daily word goal ASAP before doing anything else, if you can avoid it. I've had years where I had to scramble to write 7,000+ words on the last day because I'd had such bad writer's block throughout the month. It never turns out as well as it would've otherwise.

3. Have fun! Win or "lose," NaNoWriMo is tons of fun. You can meet so many great people and get all of these ideas, so try not to let stressing out about your goal the main point of the event. Participate in Word Wars online, talk to other writers, and type like crazy. You'll love it even more if you do.

Your turn! Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Is it your first time or are you a NaNo pro? What's your book about? Leave a comment!