Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resolution Review 2014

I can't believe 2014 is over. It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating New Year's with my family. It's been a rollercoaster of a year and I know 2015 will be just the same.

Keep track of my daily word count
Success! I tend to have trouble remembering to record how many words I wrote in a day, but this year I managed to get in the habit of it. 

Read 100 books
Last year is no longer my worst reading year since I started keeping records. 

Go for a run every morning three days a week
I tried to get started over the summer but I also had to walk the dog and the dog won't run with me. I didn't want to go for a run, come back, and then go back out to walk the dog.

Watch 50 movies
So close. I know I watched way more than 50 movies but unfortunately too many of them were movies I'd already seen before. 

Do five things I've never done before
This is one of my favorite resolutions and I was able to check it off early this year. On the list for this year include presenting a research poster, traveling to Washington DC, and driving a four-wheeler.

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

This Year in Writing...

I don't have a ton to report on with writing this year. The year started off with a partial rewrite of Weredragon that I felt made the book much stronger than it was. It's still gathering dust at the moment while I try to decide what to do with it. I'll likely go over submission materials after the new year and think about querying again. It's been a while since I've jumped into that ocean.

I also drafted my newest work in progress, nicknamed LP, and it rounded out at 75k. I'm really excited about it but I also know that it's going to need a lot of work. It's simmering for the time being.

I don't have anything in the works at the moment, though I am toying with the possibility of returning to a couple old manuscripts.

One of my goals this year was to keep more careful track of my daily word counts and I succeeded, although with some bumps in the road. My best month was easily June, with 32,628 words. My best day was November 23rd, with 5,572 words.

Grand Total: 202,360 words

Monday, December 29, 2014

This Year in Books...

As usual I set a new year's goal to read 100 books. I did not read 100 books. I didn't even come close to 100 books. I'm embarrassed for myself after crunching the numbers and subtracting unreleased, unpublished, and class-assigned books so I'm just going to talk about some of the highlights. I may not have read many books this year but there was no shortage of quality.

My favorite book this year was: Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
This was easily one of the greatest books I have ever read. Now I've loved this series since the beginning. I remember the exact moment I picked The Lightning Thief off the shelf at the library. I remember quickly devouring the next two installments and going into the bookstore when the fourth came out. I remember reading The Last Olympian in one sitting and declaring it a member of my top five favorite books. I had very high expectations for this book and it was everything I wanted and more. On my personal records, it's rated a 15 because I couldn't just give it a 10.

#2 is Seraphina by Rachel Hartman 
I put off reading this book for a long time but when my girlfriend told me that it was brilliant I finally picked it up from the library. And it was brilliant. The voice is gorgeous, the worldbuilding intricate and perfectly woven, the characters are easy to fall in love with. I'm so excited for the sequel to come out next year.

#3 is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
I was late to the party with this book. When it first came out, I remember hearing mixed opinions about it that turned me off pursuing reading it. Once again I was told by my girlfriend that I had to read it. When my roommate offered to let me borrow her copy, I didn't have any more reasons to say no. I couldn't put it down. The book grabbed me and it wouldn't let go for anything and when I finished I felt like my entire life had changed.

Some honorable mentions:
House of Hades by Rick Riordan
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - December 3

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. I can't believe it's December already. It seems like New Year's Eve was just last week.

What I'm Reading: 
Last night I skimmed through two books about octopus for a presentation. In other words, no pleasure reading.

What I'm Writing: 
I read through an old WIP over the weekend just to see where it stands. It definitely needs a massive overhaul, especially in the middle, but that's going to have to wait.

What Works for Me: 
Keeping notes of future revisions while working on the first draft and then while it's simmering. I find that when I get an idea for revisions when I'm not actually working on them it's best to just write it down and keep it aside until I get to that point. I don't revise while drafting because I'd probably never finish but it makes sure that I don't forget.

What Else I'm Up to: 
It's the last week of classes before finals and I can't wait for it to be over so that I can go home and just chill out for a month. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - November 26

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading:
Now that it's break I should read more. I feel like it's not working like it should be.

What I'm Writing:
Nothing! I finished LP in one big writing spree on Sunday. Once I got to the big climactic scene I just couldn't stop. It's rounded out at 75k and is on the back burner for a while. I'm taking a break from writing until, at least, the semester is over. Next up is going to be revisions, but on what I'm not sure yet. I have a few projects that have been on the sidelines for a while.

What Works for Me: 
Letting the words flow. On Sunday I almost stopped once I hit my 1k goal for the day so that I could work on something else. Instead I kept my Scrivener doc open and I just kept going until I wrote the final sentence. It meant that I had to put a couple of tasks on my to do list off for another day, but it was worth it.

What Else I'm Up to: 
Thanksgiving break. I've barely left my apartment over the past few days and I'm enjoying it. Unfortunately it also means I'm having trouble convincing myself to get any real work done, but I'm still chipping away at what needs to be done. I have two presentations to give over the last week of classes so that's one thing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - November 12

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. This picture is very appropriate for this week. I don't think it's ever going to stop snowing.

What I'm Reading: 
Still Dead to You. I haven't had time for pleasure reading in a while.

What I'm Writing: 
I'm so close to the end of LP I can feel it. I have most of the remainder planned out and I can't wait to write it. Unfortunately I'm going on vacation for a week starting Saturday so it might have to wait.

What Works for Me: 
Instrumental music. Sometimes I need background music to help me block out everything that's going on around me but songs with words are even more distracting. Instrumental music is the perfect combination. I really like movie soundtracks because some of them (Pacific Rim, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings) have that undertone of urgency that works as an extra motivator.

What Else I'm Up to: 
Literally everything. I'm waist-deep in grad applications. Essays and presentations due within the next few weeks. The vacation is a professional one so I'll be missing a week of school. The week before Thanksgiving break. So while everyone else has two weeks of classes left, I only have one and it's very frantic. 

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: November 5th

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. NaNo started on Saturday so a big "Good luck!" to everyone participating. I thought about doing a personal one, just writing 50k in general rather than on one new WIP (since LP is so close to being done) but then I remembered that I don't have time.

What I'm Reading: 
Dead to You by Lisa McMann. It's good so far, though I haven't been able to read it as much as I would like.

What I'm Writing: 
LP hit 60k and climbing this week. I have most of the rest of it outlined now so it's just a matter of putting it on the page. I thought up some really exciting things over the weekend and I can't wait to write those scenes. Some characters will be playing parts that I didn't expect.

What Works for Me: 
Getting out of my usual space. I've had so much to do the past couple weeks that I've found myself in the library a lot, just to get away from all the distractions at home. Sometimes it's hard for me to get work done when I'm in my usual chair, even if I shut my bedroom door. At the library I can find a secluded desk next to an outlet and just block everything out.

What Else I'm Up To: 
So much to do so little time. Classwork is coming to a peak as the semester winds down. My first round of grad school applications need to be in over the next couple weeks. It's all very frantic.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: October 29

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
Still nothing for fun. I'm probably going to pull Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce off the shelf tonight. It's a stressful week and I need an old favorite.

What I'm Writing: 
LP. I had a total brain blast in the shower this morning where I finally managed to figure out some very important components of the ending. It's mostly a matter of bridging the gap between where I am now and there. 

What Works for Me: 
Brainstorming sessions. If I'm stuck on what to do with a chapter, where to go next, or what needs to happen in the ending, I brainstorm. All it takes is an empty word document. I use bullets for organization and just type whatever comes into my head. If there are questions that I need to answer, I write those down too.

What Else I'm Up To: 
I watched How to Get Away With Murder over the weekend on my girlfriend's suggestion and...I'm hooked. I seriously can't wait for Thursday for the next episode. I didn't want to watch it because the initial promos made me confused on what the show was even about and then the later ones made me feel like it was extremely over-dramatic. I'm glad that I did anyway.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: October 22

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. Saw the first frost of the season this morning and snow over the weekend, though thankfully it didn't stick. I know winter is going to hit us hard this year, but I'd rather it wait until after Halloween at the very least.

What I'm Reading: 
Uh. I'm determined to move on from Blood and pick a book off my shelf today. I just haven't decided if I want to go for an old favorite, the next book in Game of Thrones, or something new that I've had for a while but haven't read yet.

What I'm Writing: 
After a week's hiatus, I'm back to working on LP, though with a word count goal of only 250 a day again because my to do lists are getting lengthy and I need to focus on other things. It's up to 55k and I'm starting to get the feeling it's going to end up being closer to 80k now all told.

What Works for Me: 
Reward system. I usually use episodes of whatever TV show I'm working my way through at the moment. This week is Stargate SG-1, season six.  If I finish a certain number of tasks on my list, then I get an episode. Short tasks (like writing this post) mean that I have to do more than one. Longer tasks (like reading a chapter for class) get a reward by themselves. Some days, when I'm easily distracted and work takes a backseat to binging episodes, I have to finish all of the tasks on my list before I can watch. It all depends on the mood I'm in, exactly how much work I have to get done, and whether the episodes have cliffhangers.

What Else I'm Up To: 
Grad school applications. November is roaring up like a train and I was not prepared for that. I got all my letter of recommendation stuff in order on Monday and now I'm working on my materials. Hoping to send in my first application as early as Friday. It's a horribly nerve-wracking process. 

Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - October 15

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. I can't stop listening to Fall Out Boy's new song, "Immortals." It's actually getting a little worrying.

What I'm Reading: 
Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (last book in Heroes of Olympus which is the sequel to Percy Jackson and the Olympians) arrived Friday. I started it around two and read it in one unstoppable spree of nine hours. I considered slowing down, actually savoring it since it's the last book, but it just wasn't possible. I wasn't going to sleep that night without finishing. This could not have been a more perfect ending to the series. I don't think I have ever loved a conclusion this much, and that's including Deathly Hallows. I haven't actually started reading anything else since.

What I'm Writing: 
Still LP, though I've been taking this week off writing.

What Works for Me: 
To do lists. I have multiple sets of them in an Excel spreadsheet so that I can stay organized. There's one for the day, one for grad school stuff, one for homework, one for things to get done that week, and another for things that I need to do but don't have a set time frame.  It helps me to make sure that I don't forget to do anything and makes me feel accomplished when I delete things from the list.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
It's been an insane week. I just got a job as a tutor for a stats class that I took last year, overseeing a study group. I started yesterday and it's been a steep learning curve. The class I'm tutoring for has a different professor and let's just say she has different methods from the one I had. I'll be doing a lot of stats review this weekend.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - October 8

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
I finished Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher in a few days and I'm still reeling. I haven't been so absorbed in a book in a long time. It's not one I'll read often but it is one that I'll carry with me. Now I'm biding my time waiting for Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan to arrive. Really hoping it's going to be here Friday because I need it.

What I'm Writing: 
LP hit 50k a couple days ago. I'm aiming for 70k (my first drafts tend to be on the short side and I was hoping this one might be a bit more substantial, since it's high fantasy) but I think it might actually end up being longer. There's quite a bit left to go. 

What Works for Me: 
Brainstorming sessions. I got stuck on where to go with LP so I sat myself down with my little notebook (in class...shhh don't tell my professor) and jotted down everything that came into my head. Some of it had to be thrown out because it wouldn't fit with the rest of the plan, but I have a lot of great ideas for scenes and a general direction for the rest of the plot. 

What Else I've Been Up To: 
I had family up for the weekend. It was a horrible weekend weather-wise, cold and rainy, but we still decided to hike out a short distance to a waterfall that I'd never seen before. 

Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - October 1

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
I finished Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston over the weekend. It was good but underwhelming. I could definitely tell where Preston took over the writing. I loved the characters and the concept but the execution was a little disappointing. Now I'm on Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher to tide me over until Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan arrives next week. 

What I'm Writing: 

What Works for Me: 
Keeping bulleted lists of future scenes. I've always been a pantser when it comes to writing fiction, but sometimes I get ideas for scenes or think of questions that need to be answered or bring up things early in the story that I can't forget to tie in later. Instead of writing out an outline, I just keep a bulleted list of these scenes in a rough order. That way I don't forget anything but I don't feel restricted to sticking to an outline. 

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Fall TV season has started. Agents of SHIELD started last week. NCIS LA last night. Once Upon a Time started on Sunday but I haven't watched that yet. I'm giving it a few episodes before I decide to give it up. The Flash and Arrow start next week. I've also started watching Forever. Not sure if it'll last but I'm starting to like Henry Morgan so I'll give it a chance.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - September 24

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
I'm going to finish Micro this week. It's going to be a thing that happens.

What I'm Writing: 
LP is still progressing. I've also had a very strong urge the past few days to pull out an old WIP and just give it a read to see exactly how extensive revisions are going to have to be. Haven't given in to the urge yet because LP has my attention at the moment and classes have kept me pretty busy this week.

What Works for Me: 
Word count goals. Every day I write a goal on my to do list and then I use Scrivener's session target feature to keep track of how much I've written. I like to keep my goals small and manageable, between 250 and 1,000 words. When I'm really busy or having trouble finding the words, I shoot for 250. So far this semester I've been building up my goal, raising it every week. I'm up to 750-word days at the moment.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
NHL pre-season started yesterday! Hockey is my favorite sport and the only one I avidly follow. I've had to listen to the games on opposing teams' radio stations because the Red Wings' usual station doesn't carry most pre-season games. Can't wait for the regular season to start so I can watch on TV. It's going to be a great season.

Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - September 17

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. Leaves are changing, I had my first pumpkin spice latte on Friday (though I actually get more excited about the salted caramel mocha), and my denim jacket is hanging on the back of my chair. It must be fall. I swear summer was here yesterday but it seems to have run off again.

What I'm Reading: 
Still Micro. I really need to finish that.

What I'm Writing: 
LP hit 40k yesterday! I might have to do some more plotting soon. I know where it's going but I only have a vague idea of how. I have a few new characters thrown into the mix, one that I like and one that I'm really starting to hate.

What Works for Me: 
I completely missed this last week, but I really love the idea. Something that works for me is carrying around a little notebook for jotting down writing ideas and scenes on the go. I wrote 1k of a scene in class yesterday. I like keeping my writing ideas separate and together rather than jotting them down on the paper I use to take notes for class.  

What Else I've Been Up To: 
I had too much free time on my hands so I watched an entire season of Supernatural in four days. I'm still not entirely sure how that happened. Also, I defeated Demyx in Kingdom Hearts 2. It only took me about six hours of gameplay and some intense level grinding. I enjoyed my time off but now I've got a lot of work to be done.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Blocking Out Distractions

The hardest thing about being productive and getting work done is blocking out distractions. Friends, family, TV, Internet, distractions are everywhere. With classes and work, I don't generally have much time to allow distractions to take away from my work time and then that cuts into my free time.

First things first, change your workspace if you can. This might mean using a different computer, sitting at desk rather than the couch, going into another room, or maybe leaving home to hit the library or coffee shop. I like a low drone of background noise so I used to get a lot of work done in Starbucks.

Then shut down the Internet. I like to keep a lot of tabs open to email, Facebook, forums, etc.and those tend to serve as major distractions for me when I'm using the computer for work. I think "I'll just check my email real quick" and twenty minutes later I find myself on Tumblr. Only open those tabs that are actually necessary for your work.

Make a list of tasks. I find this helps me keep organized with what I need to get done each day. The list usually includes homework, any chores that I have to get done around the house, my target word count for the day, blogs post I need to write, and anything else that I need to do.

Use a timer if that works for you. Some people find it helpful to set a timer for 30 or 60 minutes and then work the entire time. Then when the timer goes off, you take a break and start it again.

While you're working, give intermittent breaks--but preferably not the Internet. That's an easy black hole to get sucked into. Read a couple chapters of a book, watch an episode of a TV show, go for a walk, do whatever you like as long as you'll be able to come back from it refreshed and ready to work.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: September 10

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
Still Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston. I'm a little over halfway through and while I'm not sure about the writing style at times, I am enjoying it.

What I'm Writing: 
LP is coming along gradually. I've hit a major point in the story, although I only have a vague idea where things go from here. I'm also probably going to have to partially rewrite one of the scenes I just did because I didn't cry hard enough but I'll worry about that in revisions. 

What Inspires Me: 
Drawing a blank this week. Definitely not the weather. It's cold and pouring rain and I'm not looking forward to walking across campus in it.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Playing a rather obsessive amount of Kingdom Hearts 2. I'm up to a major boss battle (Demyx, if anyone is familiar with the game) and despite having fought him over forty times (not an exaggeration, I've played nothing but that fight for about three continuous hours), I haven't yet managed to defeat him. So I've been running around trying to level up in the hope that I'll be able to overcome him with sheer force since skill isn't really working out. I'm not going to have much time for video games soon so I'm taking advantage of what I have.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: September 3

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
I'm so happy to be able to say that I actually am reading again. I finished Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce last night, the first book I've finished since June 19. It may have been my billionth reread but that book never gets old. I have the whole quartet on my shelf and I will be doing a complete reread at some point. I've already started Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston. It's a tad-bit science heavy but also creepy and I'm enjoying it so far.

What I'm Writing: 
Slowly getting back in the groove of working on LP again. I have the whole next part planned out in my head, so it's just a matter of getting the words on the page. It's hit 35k, the halfway point of my goal of 70k. 

What Inspires Me: 
Today it's the weather. After several days of clouds and rain, it's sunny and warm today. Makes me wish that I could go work outside, but I need my laptop for that. I guess I'll settle for opening all the windows.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
My roommates and I planned to take a day trip over the holiday weekend, but then it rained the whole time so we ended up staying home. I should have gotten work done but instead our weekend turned into a giant movie marathon, including the LOTR trilogy and the X-Men trilogy + First Class. I also finally introduced them to Pacific Rim, my third favorite movie of all time, so now I can finally make references without getting strange looks. 

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - August 27

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. This is the first WUW of the new school year and let me tell you it feels fantastic to be back.

Random question: If you use Blogger, do you have trouble inserting images from links? I feel like I have to put in the link and click the button about ten times before it'll actually work.

What I'm Reading: 
I pulled out an old favorite, Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce. It's been one of my favorite books for about ten years now so I'm hoping that it'll help me get back in the groove of actually reading. Seems to be working well so far. I only fall more in love with Numair the older I get.

What I'm Writing: 
On hold while I get settled in. I was going to start working on LP again today but then I took a look at my "to do" list and decided to make that tomorrow.  

What Inspires Me: 
Being back on campus. Settling into a set routine. Knowing that I could walk downtown any time I want. I just really love being back in school.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Most of the weekend was spent moving back into my apartment. Yesterday I had my first classes and they went well. My schedule is pretty bare at the moment so I'm trying to enjoy it while it lasts. Won't be long and I'll be swamped with classes and homework and lab volunteering and hopefully a job.

Oh, and Doctor Who returned over the weekend! I'll keep this spoiler-free for those of you who haven't seen it. I must say I'm already very accepting of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. It was a good episode, but I'm concerned over the last few minutes. I have a very bad feeling about where this season is going. 

Have a great week everyone!

Monday, August 25, 2014

College: First Day Tips Compiled

It's the first day of the semester for me, the last one of my undergrad years as I am now a senior. I was so busy packing and making sure everything's in order for my own first day that I didn't have time to think of a post for today. So here are my two "first day tips" posts compiled into one easy list. 

 #1: Dress to impress
Wear something simple but nice. The most important thing is wearing something that makes you feel confident. If you feel confident, you'll look confident. Don't wander into class on the first day wearing a hoodie and sweatpants. It's okay to walk around the dorms or your apartment like that, but it's important to be more professional in the classroom.

#2: Leave early 
This is especially important if  you aren't sure where your classes are. Don't worry about arriving early; there's nothing wrong with that. I typically give myself a half hour to find my classes for the first week or so. It's better that I arrive twenty minutes early than get lost and be late.

#3: Come to class prepared
Even if you think you'll only end up going over the syllabus, bring anything you think you might need. This might include paper, pencils, pens, your textbook, your laptop, highlighters, everything. It's better to bring it all and not need it, than to leave it in your dorm room and hope that your neighbor will lend you something. 

#4: Plan ahead
Check the times and locations of all your classes in advance. If you have no idea where they are, ask a friend or check the school's website to see if they have a map of campus. Plan ahead and decide when you're going to eat and, if you have large amounts of time between classes, how you're going to spend them. It's easier to keep up with the workload if you settle into a schedule early on in the semester. 

#5: Drop in the library
If you're anything like me, this one isn't going to be a problem. Take a few minutes and find the library. Wander around and just get a feel for where all the different sections are. This will be a big help when you have a paper that you have to research for or even if you just want to read for fun.

#6: Pay attention to the syllabus
I know it's boring and that, for the most part, they're all basically the same but it's still important. This is when you'll find out what the class entails and when major assignments are due.

#7: Know where you're going
Look up which classes you have when and what rooms they're in ahead of time. If you're like me and you're afraid you won't remember, write them down somewhere or put them into your phone.

#8: Arrive early 
Get to class early. I tend to be fifteen or twenty minutes early the first week, just so I know how long it takes me to get there and I know I won't be late. This is also a good time to meet your fellow classmates and sometimes the professor.

#9: Sit toward the front
Choose a chair toward the front of the room. Not only is it easier to see and hear, but you're less likely to get distracted. Plus the professor will be more likely to notice.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Writing About Other Sexualities

If you're thinking about writing characters with other sexualities besides heterosexual, there are many things to consider. Representation is very important but it can go badly. The most important thing when writing LGBT characters is that they're just like all your other characters. They have pasts, futures, hopes, dreams, motivations. They're playing a part in this story.

Start with doing your research. Don't rely on stereotypes or misconceptions. Not all gay men are interested in fashion. Lesbians do not hate men. Bisexuals are not incapable of having monogamous relationships. Don't perpetuate myths and remember that everyone is different. LGBT people also experience different environments depending on the area in which they live, their family, and their friends. Some are only out to certain people, some are out to everyone, and some aren't out at all.

Your characters don't have to have a label. Sexuality can be fluid and not everyone wants to put a label on it. Some people might have preferences outside of their orientation, like a pansexual with a preference for women or a bisexual with a preference for men. A bisexual woman dating another woman isn't a lesbian; neither is she straight if she's in a relationship with a man. That doesn't change their orientation.

Sexuality is merely a part of a character. Don't let it be their defining feature. Make it feel natural, like heterosexuality does to most characters. Don't shoe-horn queer characters in just so they're included. Write LGBT characters because that's who they are.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: August 20

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
Beta reading for a friend at the moment and that's it. Most of the books I want to read are currently packed away in preparation to take them with me back to school. Hopefully something will catch my attention once I'm there.

What I'm Writing: 
This is the worst writing month I've had all year, but I'm still making some progress on LP. I'm at a major turning point in the story so once I get through this rough patch, it should be easier from there. I tend to write quickly when I reach climactic points and I'm really excited about this one.

What Inspires Me: 
I'm feeling pretty uninspired at the moment.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
I took the GRE last week and just got my official scores today. I didn't do as well as I hoped and that's got me worried, but there isn't much I can do about that now. Time to focus on packing up all of my stuff so I can move back to uni. It's amazing how much stuff gets spread around the house after four months. Can't believe this is going to be my last year! 

Have a great week everyone! And if anyone else is headed back to school in the next couple of weeks, good luck!

Monday, August 18, 2014

College: School Supply Shopping

Shopping for back-to-school supplies was much easier in grade school. There was usually a list detailing everything you needed, or at least a general expectation. Pencils, pens, notebooks, binders, folders, sometimes a calculator or a ruler. In college it's a lot trickier because what you need is determined by you.

I prefer taking handwritten notes because I find that it helps me remember things better than typing or not taking notes at all. I've tried using a single notebook and keeping separate sections for each class;  writing all the notes into the notebook, coding them with the class name, and then tearing out the pages and putting them into individual binders; or leaving them in the notebook and typing the notes into individual documents. I haven't really found any of these methods to be very efficient. This year I think I'm going to just buy a notebook for each class.

The important thing is to find the method that works for you. If that's handwriting, buy notebooks. If that's typing, maybe buy just one in case a professor doesn't allow computers in class.

Pencils and pens are both important. I do the vast majority of my note-taking and classwork in pen, but every once in a while I run into a professor that wants an assignment done in pencil. Usually a Scantron exam.

If anything specific is needed for a class, this will usually be outlined in the syllabus. Pay special attention to those items. You might need them immediately or you might not need them until the end of the semester but they'll be good to have on hand.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Book Buying Tally 2014

Each year I keep a list of the books I buy or check out of the library and in August I post a list of the books organized into why I picked them up. Past tallies can be found here going back to 2010. 

My book buying has taken a hit over the past year. I've been so busy with class that I don't have much time to go to the library and, without a car, I have no way of getting the nearest bookstore when I'm on campus.

Let's start with some percentages. Last year's stats are in brackets for comparison.

Book in series: 37.5% [29%]
Author: 25% [29%]
Concept: 25% [N/A]
Word of mouth: 12.5% [18%]

I'm not surprised that book in series and author are so high. When I'm at school, I order books from B&N and it's a lot harder to say no when I'm already looking forward to a book and I know it's going to be good. I am surprised that concept is a category this year when it wasn't last year, but I shouldn't be because I spent so much time in the library last semester just picking up books that sounded interesting. I'm not surprised word of mouth went down either, because I've been spending a lot less time on Twitter recently and that's usually where I hear about books.

Now let's take a look at the break-down of categories. 

Books in Series
  1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth - Last book in the Divergent trilogy 
  2. House of Hades by Rick Riordan - Fourth book in the Heroes of Olympus series
  3. Son by Lois Lowry - Final book in The Giver series
  1. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein - Because how could I pass up another book from the author of Code Name Verity 
  2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Decided it was finally time for some Gaiman in my life as I'd never read any of his books
  1. Battle Dress by Amy Efaw - Concept sounded fantastic 
  2. Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney - Caught my attention when I was going through new releases   
 Word of Mouth
  1. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman - Heard amazing things about it initially but my girlfriend tipped the scales

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: August 6

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
Nothing at the moment. The Horse Boy is a DNF. I did really want to see how it ended but it was dragging on a bit and my library books had to be returned whether I was done with them or not. Now I'm just doing a lot of reading of my GRE study book and grad school application information.

What I'm Writing: 
LP is progressing slowly. I'm up to a major turning point in the story and I'm still not quite sure how I'm going to pull it off. I'm also rough drafting my personal statement for applications. I can write 100k about a world completely of my own creation but when it comes to writing 1k about myself all of that just flies out the window.

What Inspires Me: 
Less than three weeks until classes start! I'm actually really excited. I love my friends and my professors and the routine of having a set schedule.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Not much. I've been researching grad schools like crazy so I can decide on a final list of where I want to apply. Studying for the GRE. Cleaning because my girlfriend is staying at my house this weekend. There's just so much to do and so little time to do it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

College: Furnishing Your Dorm

"College" is a series of posts for college students, present and future. It's based entirely on my experience as a current college student and that of my friends. It's that time of year again and I figured that meant I should bring these back. 

If you're new to college and moving into the dorms this fall, you're probably trying to figure out what you need to bring. Here are a few things to keep in mind when picking the furniture for your dorm.

Read housing regulations
Different dorms have different rules on what you can and cannot bring. Don't grab that George Foreman grill only to arrive and find out they're not allowed. I'm not allowed to have candles or clip-on lamps, because of the fire hazard, so some things would be obvious on what's okay and what isn't. Rules can even vary between halls on the same campus, so make sure that your hall doesn't have anything specific. For instance, on my campus, custom lofts are allowed only in certain residence halls.

There is a limited amount of space
Dorms are not large and you're probably going to be sharing them with one or more people. Maximize your space with better organization and don't buy anything that'll take up half the room by itself.

You have to take everything home or store it at the end of the year
All that stuff you're buying many not seem like a lot at the time, but at the end of the year when you're trying to balance studying for finals with packing it'll be a lot more than you think it is. Also, I've learned that stuff tends to accumulate over the year and that adds up.

Get together with your roommate(s) 
If your school gives you the contact information of your roommate before the semester starts, take advantage of it. If you're willing to share some furniture, that means more room. It's better to coordinate than for everyone to show up on move-in day only to find that you have two fridges, two TVs, but no microwave.

Make your dorm your own
You're going to be living there for several months so personalize your own space. Go traditional and populate your walls with lots of posters, or think outside the box.

Friday, August 1, 2014

July Check-In

And it's the first day of August which means here we are again. I had a fantastic July. I got my drivers' license, turned 21, and had a lot of fun. It was a very eventful month!

Word count: 19,688 words
I've been so busy the past few weeks that writing has fallen to the wayside. Doesn't help that I've been spending entire days away from the computer, but I still got a good bit done. LP is progressing nicely and I'm almost to halfway my target word count of 70k.

Should be: 28
I'm not anywhere near there. I don't know why I can't finish anything these days. I might need to dig out one of my favorites and see if that helps.

Watched: 6
Total: 28
Should be: 28
I continued to feed my Marvel obsession with Daredevil and Spider-Man. No, I've never seen the original SM trilogy. Working on remedying that. Also The World's End which was shockingly good, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which was beautiful and bittersweet, and Cabin in the Woods which I still think about at random moments of the day because what.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: July 30

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
I don't really know why but I've been horrible about reading. I can't even say it's recent because I've only read 20 books so far this year. I'm still on The Horse Boy. Every so often I read a few pages and then remember that I have something else to do.

What I'm Writing: 
Nothing much. Things have gotten crazy around here and writing has been falling to the wayside. My daily word goal is back down to 250 in the hopes of jogging something.

What Inspires Me: 
I was going to watch Inception today (because it's my favorite movie and it tends to inspire me) but then I realized that today is Neville's birthday and tomorrow is Harry's so perhaps a Harry Potter marathon would be more appropriate.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
I head back to school in less than a month so I've reached that time of the summer when everything is happening at once. I take the GRE in two weeks so I need to start hardcore studying for that. There's also packing and trying to see everyone one last time before I go. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: July 9

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
Over halfway through Horse Boy. I've also been doing a lot of reading on the GRE because I'm supposed to be taking that in the next month.

What I'm Writing: 
LP hit 25k this week. My MC and LI finally kissed and that was a lot of fun to write. I also had one of those "Eureka!" moments while I was out walking the other day where I figured out a plot issue that I've been having. The scene involved is still a long way off but it's nice to know where I'm going.

What Inspires Me: 
I've seen a fair number of show jumping rounds but nothing like this. Conrad's bridle falls off on the third to last fence and not only do they finish the course, but they jump clear (no poles down).

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Cleaning. Lots and lots of cleaning. I'm going to have company over in a week and a half so I'm trying to get the house ship-shape for when they get here. There's a lot to be done and not a lot of time to do it but the house is looking better already. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: July 2

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. Lots of storms this past week. A large branch almost fell on our garage and our neighbor's yard looked like a war zone for trees by the time the storm was done with us. I hope everyone is staying safe.

What I'm Reading: 
About a third of the way through The Horse Boy.

What I'm Writing: 
LP hit 20k and climbing. My characters are really starting to take shape and it's very exciting to learn more about them. I tend to have a very general idea of my minor characters so I enjoy learning about them as the story progresses. 

What Inspires Me: 
I live in the country so nature is always inspiring to me. I saw the first fawn of the year a couple days ago, a young thing trotting after its mother without a care in the world. I wish that I could post pictures here but I wasn't carrying my phone with me at the time. Yesterday we caught sight of a bald eagle flying overhead. There are a few that live in the area but I've only seen them twice in my lifetime. This is from the first time. That tree is in my backyard.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
With my senior year of college fast approaching, I've been spending a lot of time researching my grad school options. I've been going through all the schools I'm interested in for general information--making sure they have the program I'm looking for, seeing if it would be a good fit for me, if there are any faculty I'd be interested in working with. Now that I have that list finished and notes taken, I have to go back through it and organize it based on which programs are top of my list.

Monday, June 30, 2014

June Check-In

Where did June even go? Wasn't I just writing May's check-in, like, yesterday? It was a good month. Certainly lots of things happened.

Word count: 31,451
This month easily broke the records set by the previous months. In fact, a third of my grand total for the year so far was written this month. It really does help to have a steady WIP. I haven't quite hit 20k yet but I'm loving it so far and looking forward to seeing how the rest of it goes.

This month: 2
Total: 20
Should be: 25
I've reduced my goal to 50 books once again for the year because I don't see myself getting caught up and making it to 100. I spent most of the month reading Son by Lois Lowry, through no fault of the book itself. I'm just having a really hard time settling down to read when there's so many distractions.

This month: 8
Total: 22
Should be: 25
I should be able to get caught up pretty easily at this point. Movies I highly recommend from this month are Monuments Men, What's Your Number, and The Book Thief. I was worried about TBT in particular (the book is one of my favorites of all time and I'm known to be critical of movie adaptations) but it was actually very well-done. I also watched X-Men: Days of Future Past and it kind of surprised me. Okay, a certain character didn't surprise me at all, but there were some other things that were a nice surprise.

I hope everyone had a great month and that July proves to be even better.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: June 25

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
I did actually keep my promise from last week to have a new answer to this question. I finally finished Son by Lois Lowry. I'm not going to write a review of it because I'm not sure what to say (and also because I took so long reading it), but I did enjoy it and it made me want to go back and reread the first three books. Next up, I've started a memoir called The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson.

What I'm Writing: 
Progressing a little bit slower on LP this week. My word count is up to 16k and climbing. I have a good idea of where I'm going, but I'm not so sure of what's happening now and that's slowing me down. I am a pantser by nature but I do keep a rough list of future scene ideas and questions that need to be answered.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Over the weekend, I passed my road test and got my drivers' license. Yes, I got it a bit later than most people. I took drivers' ed in high school but I had a lot of driving-related anxiety. I took my road test for the first time before leaving for college and failed. Then I went away to college (where I could walk everywhere I needed to go) and there wasn't time during the brief holidays I was home so it just didn't happen. Well, now it's done!

What Inspires Me: 
I was pretty nervous for my test so to help calm down I would remind myself of all the things I would be able to do once I had my license. There were simple things that driving to visit a friend or getting my hair cut, and more complicated things like driving myself back from college or volunteering at a therapeutic riding stable. 

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Get Back on the Horse

There's a saying in the horse world that sometimes comes up, especially among young riders. "You're not a real rider until you fall off a horse seven times." I hit that point several years ago and here are the lessons I learned that I also apply to writing.

Fall #1: 
I was up on an old, bombproof gelding responsible for giving me the "horse bug." I wasn't experienced enough to know how to do much more than hold the reins. There was only a thick blanket between me and the horse. My gelding was following his pasture mate and, of course, they both decided to trot. The blanket started to slip and I landed right on my tailbone. I was completely fine and while I don't remember getting back on the horse, I must have at some point. 

Moral: The first fall is always the hardest. It'll be a shock to your system but get right back up there and you'll be fine.

Fall #2 and #3: 
By this time, I was under the instruction of a professional trainer (if you use the term "professional" loosely). The mare I was up on was a difficult mare to ride. The first time she threw me, we were trotting over poles of various widths apart. I was trotting over the tightest ones and she wasn't collected enough, so she decided to leap. I went over her shoulder. The second time around my heels came up over a cross-rail and, once again, I went over her shoulder.

Moral: Some things are going to be hard to handle but with a lot of experience you can learn. Despite that, there are some things that are outside of your control (agents, publishers, the market) but, at the same time, there are other things that you can. If you concentrate on the latter, you'll be able to overcome the things that you can't. It's all a learning experience. If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on.

Fall #4 and #5: 
I stuck with the same instructor and was introduced to a very sweet but very green gelding. He was five years old and I had no business riding him. My first fall off of him came when he spooked at a giant dryer in the corner of the arena and the second one was over the simple thing of a saddle sitting on top of the arena gate. 

Moral: If your instincts are telling you that you need to get out, get out. Odds are things aren't going to get any better if they can't be worked out. If things are getting so bad that you're starting to think about giving up on your passion, maybe it's time for a change.

Fall #6: 
This one came off my own horse, Lady, at a tiny schooling show. My barn's tiny indoor arena was divided into a little show arena lined on one side with stands for the parents. Behind the stands was just enough space for riders and horses to stand while they prepared to enter the arena. One second I was sitting in the saddle waiting for the announcement to enter the ring for my first class. The next, I was sitting on the ground.

We figured that Lady must have spooked at the arena door banging and shot backward so fast she tripped. I went flying off as her hindquarters hit the ground in front of me. Someone grabbed me and helped as I scrambled to get as far away from her as possible as she got back to her feet. In short, Lady was fine, I was fine, and we won two trophies that day, including the class that I had been waiting to enter at the time.

Moral: If something happens before a big moment, get back on the horse and get in that arena. Don't let anything shake you. It doesn't matter if everyone saw you fall, get out there and do your best.

Fall #7:
One of the things Lady taught me in the year that I owned her was how to sit a buck. It was terrifying at first, but gradually I learned to get over my fear, pull her head up, and push her forward. During one normal lesson, I asked Lady to pick up a canter and she gave me the wrong lead. I asked her to trot so that I could correct it, but didn't wait until she did before I nudged her with my outside heel. She bucked through a flying lead change (something that I didn't even know she could do) and I went flying. I jumped to my feet, laughed it off, and hopped back on to try it again.

Moral: If something happens, laugh it off. And if your story surprises you with unexpected brilliance, embrace it. Harness that and play with it a little. To this day, one of my biggest regrets with Lady is that I never tried to get her to do a flying lead change on purpose. Don't let that happen to you and one of your stories.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: June 18

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. My apologies for reading so few blogs last week. I use feedly to help keep track of posts and it was down for several days last week.

What I'm Reading: 
To hold myself accountable, I'm going to make a promise. Next week, I will have a new answer for this question. I need to get in gear because I've been informed by people who actually watch it that the Game of Thrones show has caught up to where I am in the books. Which means I need to take advantage of the hiatus to get ahead if I want to stay that way.

What I'm Writing: 
Making steady progress on my new WIP, nicknamed "LP" for the time being. I hit 10k at the end of last week and then took the weekend off writing, but I've started up again this week. The original premise that I had in mind is not exactly what's coming out now. While I'm excited about the change, I'm also not quite sure where it's going.

What Inspires Me: 
My niece. She's five years old and has a wild imagination. I took the weekend off writing so that I could spend time with her. I can't believe how fast she's growing up!

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Trying to spend as little time outside as possible (the humidity is killer) and waiting for the storms that are inevitably going to roll in. I like thunderstorms but when you have a leaky roof and a storm-phobic dog it causes more problems. It's still sunny outside and I'm already working to keep him off my bed.

Have a great week everyone and stay safe if you're in/near the storms!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Five Things to Look for in Submission Guidelines

When querying, you should read the submission guidelines for each agent carefully. While the basic process is typically the same, some agents do have some preferences on how queries should be sent and what they should include.

1. How?
Some agencies use an online form for queries, so keep an eye out to see if this is the case. If it's not, then check to see how queries should be sent. Most agencies seem to accept e-queries these days, some of them exclusively. However there are still some agents that only accept snail mail. Whichever method you intend to use, make sure you're finding agents that accept it.

2. Agency policy on submitting to multiple agents
There are some agencies that ask for a query to be submitted to only one agent at the agency. Therefore, a no from one is a no from all. Other agencies allow submissions to multiple agents, but not simultaneously. I keep notes on which agencies are "no one, no all" to make sure that I don't accidentally query them twice.

3. Submission emails
Some agencies have one email account for all queries and others have individual accounts for each agent.

4. Special instructions for subject line
I don't see a lot of these, beyond including "query," but they do happen. Some agencies where all queries are going to the same email will ask that you include the name of the agent you're querying. Many agencies ask for "query" to be included, otherwise the email might end up in the spam filter.

5. Extra things to include
Agents will ask for a wide variety of things to be included with the query. Typically sample pages (ranging widely in length) and/or a synopsis. Most agencies I've seen won't accept emails with attachments, but there are some that request sample pages as them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: June 11

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
In books, still Son. I've been distracted lately in doing research into criticisms of Cesar Millan (you may know him as The Dog Whisperer from National Geographic).

What I'm Writing: 
Exciting news for this one for once. I finished Weredragon's polish a couple weeks ago and sent it to a friend who gave me some great comments and pointed out some things I'd missed. I've had a SNI  floating around my head for several months now but it was just a premise. I had ideas for two characters, but I was still lacking their basic personalities and that's the important thing to me when I start writing. On Sunday, I started writing and I've already hit just over 7k. There are dragons and sorcerers and captured princesses and I'm very excited about it.

What Inspires Me: 
New characters. I work with a vague outline to give me some idea where I'm going, but mostly I'm a pantser. I like to discover new things about my characters as I write and watch them form their own identities. I'm really excited about the girls in this story, especially the main character, Kaiya.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Getting the house cleaned up for when my friends visit next month. Finished season two of Supernatural. Started season two of Stargate SG1. This weekend my brother and his family, who I only get to see a couple times a year, will be up for the weekend so I can't wait to see them.

Have a great week!

Monday, June 9, 2014

What Comes First?

No, this isn't one of those chicken or egg discussions because I can go on for far too long about that question. I started a new WIP yesterday and it got me thinking about what element of the story comes first when I get a new idea.

Sometimes it's the characters. The people in my story are extremely important to me and usually they come first. They're personalities and sometimes looks pop into my head. I can hear the voices. Sometimes I get a feel for their story right away and other times it remains a mystery for some time.

Most of the time, it's the premise. With Weredragon, I had the simple idea of a girl stuck in the woods because she transformed into a dragon at night. From there Helena and Tristian came about to take on that premise. That's what happened with my current WIP. I thought of the basic idea but the characters didn't come out to play until I had to come up with names so that I could actually start writing. Under this umbrella, is the occasional incident when I come up with a dystopian idea and the world comes to me first. Cardinal Three was like that in that I had the basics of my worldbuilding figured out long before I had characters or a plot.

Rarely, it's the plot. I'm a pantser who tends to figure out plot as I go so this doesn't happen to me very often and when it does, the plot is a fairly vague one. Wrecked, a WIP that I will eventually find the courage to revise, came as a partial plot. Usually I have to dig deeper with the characters or premise to figure out what the plot will be rather than thinking of it as the initial idea.

What about you? When you get a new idea, what's the first thing to come to you?

Monday, June 2, 2014

May Check-In

What do you mean we're halfway through 2014 already? May wasn't a bad month but it wasn't a great one either. I'm having a little trouble getting back into the rhythm of blogging and thinking of things to talk about.

Word count: 14,398
I'll be finishing up Weredragon's final polish today and then I have every intention of starting a new WIP that doesn't have a nickname yet but does also involve dragons.

This month: 1
Total: 18
Should be: 50
I just haven't been wanting to read lately. It's not for lack of books, I have entire stacks that I really need to get to. I'm planning a personal read-a-thon in the next couple of weeks so I can hopefully work my way through at least a few of them.

This month: 6
Total: 14
Should be: 25
This was a big movie month for me. My favorite for the month is a tie between The Normal Heart and Black Swan. Both movies were amazing but I love the for different reasons. Normal Heart made me fall in love and then ripped out my heart. Black Swan twisted my brain into the most beautiful knots.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: May 28

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. What do you mean it's Wednesday already? Where did the last week even go? 

What I'm Reading: 
Still Son. I'm supposed to return this stack of books to the library in the next week or two so I should probably get on that. I miss the days when I used to be able to roar through a book in a matter of days, even hours.

What I'm Writing: 
The holiday weekend threw a wrench in my plans to have Weredragon's polish done before today. I do only have six more chapters to go, though, so it shouldn't be much longer. After that, I'll take a look at the three trunked manuscripts I have in need of revisions to see if those spark anything and I do have a new idea if I can figure out how it starts. 

What Inspires Me: 
My mom and I went hiking over the holiday weekend and the deep valleys and thick trees reminded me of the inspiration being Weredragon. It was another hiking trip, up north, where Weredragon is actually set. We came across a deep valley with animal bones scattered around it. All it took was the thought "What if a dragon lived here?" and I had a story.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
I watched The Normal Heart, an HBO movie about the early years of AIDS, on Monday. I highly, highly recommend it but be aware that it is not by any means a light movie. I made the mistake of watching it just after I woke up and cried the rest of the day. Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer are incredible.

Also, I did watch X3: The Last Stand last week and I think it's negative reputation is overstated. I don't really want to watch it again because pain but it's not a bad movie.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: May 21

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
Still on Son and Unprotected. I miss the days when I would read all the time and go through multiple books in a week.

What I'm Writing: 
I'm halfway through Weredragon's final polish and I'm very happy with the changes I made in revisions. I feel like it's a much stronger novel for them. I already have my next project in mind, if I can get a good feel for the characters and inspiration for the beginning.  

What Inspires Me: 
I was going to post videos this week but Blogger is being extremely uncooperative so I guess I'm just going to have to link them up. 

First up is Amy Purdy and Derek Hough's quickstep performance from Dancing With The Stars. It's definitely one of my favorite performances this season (of which there are a lot). I'm going to miss watching her dance. Len put it best when he said, "Watching you inspires me to do something. I don't know what."

Second is Charlie Day's commencement speech at Merrimack College. It's surprisingly beautiful and inspiring.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
I'm totally blanking on anything for this one. I've been trying to get things done early in the day so I can have afternoons for watching things. Yesterday I marathoned the first two X-Men movies to gear up for Days of Future Past. I'm hoping today to watch X3 (which I've never seen) and First Class (which was the first X-Men movie I ever saw and I didn't love it as much as I should have for that reason). Now that finale season is over, I'm hoping to get back to watching Stargate SG-1 because I miss it.

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Seven Things to Look For in a Final Polish

This is it. Your manuscript is done except for one last read to make sure that everything is clean. You've probably read it so many times that you're ready to just shove it out the door. Here are seven things to keep an eye out for in that last read. If you use track changes, you may want to turn it off at this stage just to make sure everything is in order.

1. Multiple punctuation
Sometimes there are two periods at the end of the sentence, sometimes it's a period and a comma, or sometimes it's something else. It can be easy to skip over there so check carefully.

2. Missing punctuation
On the other end of the spectrum is missing punctuation. Under this umbrella is missing quotation marks. Keep a close eye on the beginning and ending of dialogue.  

3. Extra spaces
It can be so easy to insert an extra space between words or sentences. Between words often gets caught by spell check, but sentences is easy to miss.

4. Missing words
Sometimes, in editing, a word gets accidentally deleted or isn't added in the right place.

5. Extra words
Opposite problem is extra words. I find this happens a lot when proper or common nouns are replaced with pronouns, but the original noun wasn't deleted.

6. Switched words
For instance, they're, their, there. Spell check often doesn't pick up these switches as being wrong, so they can be missed.

7. Consistent spelling of character names
Make sure the spelling of character names is always the same. This is especially true with characters with exotic names. If it helps, keep a record of all first and last names to check easily.

Friday, May 16, 2014

When Drama Becomes Too Much

I have what I call a "drama threshold" also known as the point at which there is so much drama involved that I can no longer handle it anymore. I should probably note that this applies to books, TV, and movies, not life. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, how much drama is just enough and how much is too much.

One of my favorite shows of all time is Castle. I started watching it my freshman year of college when season four was airing and I fell in love instantly. I marathoned the entire show over the course of about three weeks and then continued to watch at least an episode a day for the next week because I didn't want to let it go.

Fast-forward two years to where we are now: season six. I haven't seen the last two episodes and I never intend to. From here on out, I'm done with the show. What changed?

The show crossed my drama threshold. (I'll try to be vague in the interest of avoiding spoilers.) There was a main conflict that started all the way back in season one that just continued to escalate all the way up to now until I'm tired of hearing about it and I just want it to go away. Increasingly implausible things have happened and I can't handle them.

The most important thing is to know when to quit. Long arcs are okay, but they have to keep escalating for a reason, not for the sake of continuing drama. If the words "This is bigger than you realize" are used, I'm automatically out. If there is one thing Burn Notice taught me, it's that those words are a dark hole that no one comes out of. Whether those reasons are new information or new characters, there has to be a reason. When the arc is done, let it go. Find something new to cause conflict for the characters.

Shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer toe this line perfectly. The drama continued to escalate with each new season and sometimes old plotlines came back to haunt characters, but it was never too much.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: May 14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. I thought it had only been a couple weeks since I did one of these last. Turns out it's been almost a month. Whoa. Between finals, coming back home, and then the whirlwind of activity that comes with being home, the time flew by.

What I'm Reading: 
I'm midway through Son by Lois Lowry. I've pretty much been waiting for this book since eighth grade when I read the rest of the trilogy, so no pressure. At the moment it's living up to my expectations. I'm also reading Unprotected: A campus psychiatrist reveals how political correctness in her profession endangers every student by Anonymous. It's very interesting, but I find myself disagreeing with some points. It's not the easiest read so I've been making my way through it gradually.

What I'm Writing: 
Actually getting Weredragon ready to submit to agents hopefully before the end of the month. I've spent the last few days writing up a synopsis and today I'm going to start reading through the manuscript to give it a final polish. As soon as that's done, I can turn my attention to what comes next.

What Inspires Me: 
Thunderstorms. I'm not sure what it is, but I always find myself inspired to write when a thunderstorm goes through. We've had a lot of them going through the past few days, though a couple have arrived with tornado warnings and those don't inspire much relaxation to write.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
It's TV show finale season again so I've been catching up on the shows I'm behind on and watching finales. Finales also tend to be the things that either cement my love for a TV show or are the final tipping point to crossing a show off my list for next season. I watched the Agents of SHIELD finale this morning and I loved it so much it was a dream. I won't say anything more on risk of spoilers, but "Phil Coulson" almost went under "What Inspires Me" this week.

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Grammar: Because It's Storm Season...

It's one of my goals for this summer to start blogging regularly again. I haven't been doing very well at that for a long time. To help me do that, I'm also going to be starting a weekly series on grammar and mechanics advice.

Storm season has arrived (though I have yet to actually witness a thunderstorm because I slept through the last one) and with it a common mix-up.

This is lightning. The brilliant flash of electricity that accompanies thunderstorms. If you're on Facebook talking about storms coming in, this is probably the word you want.

When something gets lighter, it's lightening. 

Some examples:
The lightning lit up the sky.
That's just heat lightning.
Lightning rods are meant to protect buildings from strikes.

Lightening dark blue paint can be done by adding white.
I am lightening the color of my jeans. 

They don't have the same meaning and they shouldn't be used interchangeably. This has been my grammar-related rant for the week.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

April Check-In

Last month I said the next time I did one of these it would be finals week and here we are. It's been a very busy month but a good one. Also, I'm hoping that once I get home I'll be able to start blogging regularly again.

Word count: 17,455 words
I still don't have an official WIP, but that didn't stop me from easily setting a new word count record for the month. Hopefully that will be another thing that changes as soon as I get home. I do have some ideas.

Books read: 4 
I did not, in fact, step up my game this month. The math says I'm going to have to read about 10 books a month from here on out to make it. Among those read this month were Battle Dress by Amy Efaw, which was easily my favorite for the month, and In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.

Watched: 3
Much better this month than previous but still not great. I finally watched the Veronica Mars movie and it was everything I wanted and more. I'm dying for it to come out on DVD so that I can watch it again. Then there was Captain America: Winter Soldier which is absolutely fantastic and probably my favorite Marvel movie after Avengers. And finally there was Mean Girls which for some reason I've never actually seen. It didn't blow me away or anything but I did really enjoy it.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - April 16

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
I finished Battle Dress by Amy Efaw last week and it's a highly recommend. It's about Andi, a girl going through "Beast" (Cadet Basic Training at West Point), and it's fantastic. A quick read, great voice, and I really felt like I was at West Point while I was reading it. Every time I settled down to read, I didn't want to step away. I'm almost done with In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, my last class read of the semester, and just started Just One Day by Gayle Forman.

What I'm Writing: 
Playing with a few ideas, but I'm not committing to anything until after finals. I have two papers due next week and those are what I need to be writing.

What Inspires Me: 
The Stanley Cup playoffs start today! The Wings/Bruins series doesn't start until Friday, but that's okay. Despite injuries--including the captain's back injury that's had him out since the Olympics--to many of the top players and some less than satisfying games, they've made it in for the twenty-third consecutive year.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Easter is this weekend and I'm starting to think it's never going to stop snowing. I want to go outside and enjoy my last few weeks here before I go home, but I'd like it to be warm for that.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: April 9

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. Surprise snowstorm last week caught us all off-guard, but it only took a few days of nice weather for the new snow to melt. I wouldn't mind a day or two of 60s at some point, but until then I can more than live with these 40s and 50s.

What I'm Reading: 
About two-thirds done with Battle Dress by Amy Efaw and still loving every bit of it. I'm also neck-deep in In the Time of the Butteflies by Julia Alvarez. It's my last book for class this semester and I must admit I'm enjoying this one too. I'll talk about them both more when I'm finished.

What I'm Writing: 
Mostly short pieces and class essays at the moment. I don't have a WIP that I feel particularly passionate about quite yet. 

What Inspires Me: 
For those of you who don't know, I'm a psychology major in college and I've been working in a lab for the past two semesters trying to get research experience.  Because of a study I've been helping a grad student with this semester, I have partial authorship on a poster that we're presenting at my school's display of student research. It's my first research credit so I'm really excited about it.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Two and a half weeks until finals doesn't give me much of a chance for other things. I'm more than ready for the semester to be over, though I'm definitely going to miss this place and my friends when I go home. I'm dying to walk down to the lake, but I need the snow to melt first. When I get to the beach I want there to actually be a beach.

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: April 2

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. I'd say something about the potential arrival of spring but I don't want to scare it away. Suffice to say, I have managed to sneak out of my winter coat and boots this week.

What I'm Reading: 
I did finish Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire on schedule last week. If you like memoirs or have any interest in life in Cuba, I highly recommend it. It's a fascinating inside look at one Cuban boy's life growing up in the time of the Revolution. I also finished The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and he did not disappoint. The story itself was a little odd but only in retrospect. Interesting concept, fantastic execution, beautiful writing. Now I'm on Battle Dress by Amy Efaw. Every time I start reading, I don't want to come out.

What I'm Writing: 
I have a presentation due today for Carib Lit so I've been spending a lot of time writing up notes on Caribbean nations, but very little time writing fiction. I'm planning to read through what I have of Siren in the next couple of days to decide if it's worth pursuing. My 2012 NaNo, Hacker, has been calling to me for a while so I'm thinking I might see what needs to be done on that rewrite.

What Inspires Me: 
Sun. Warm. Melting snow. The fact that I wore my tennis shoes yesterday for the first time since November.  Granted it's supposed to snow again this weekend but I'm trying not to think about that at the moment. It's spring. 

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Nothing? I'm really having trouble thinking of something for this week. I've been desperately watching every Red Wings game. I've seen some truly great games (Penguins, oh my God) and some games that made me glad I watch them alone. Less than two weeks until the end of the season...