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Friday, February 5, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: Pick-Me-Ups

Writing can be a lonely business. You spend a lot of time in your own head, and sometimes it's hard to climb back out. And if you zoom in too close on your story, stepping away can help you see the entire forest again so you can find your way out. With that in mind, here are a few things I like to do when I don't seem to be making any progress and need a break from writing.

Build Something
I like model rockets a lot. I usually lose them, which is why I have to build so many, They have easy snap-together models or more time-consuming ones that require a little wood glue and patience. I've also recently discovered Metal Earth models, which are DIY steel sheet models. Everything's pre-cut, but you have to put it all together. I'm working on a steam locomotive model, and I have a TIE fighter waiting in the wings.

Take Myself on a Date
The solitude of writing isn't a problem for me. It's that I need to get out of the chair so I can let ideas percolate or just open my mind to new things. Some of my favorite places to take myself are: the local cafe, the park, the museum, or the movies. Getting out of the house is nice, but it also provides an opportunity to people watch for character traits or story ideas.

Revisit an Old Favorite
I usually watch TV while doing something else: making dinner, writing letters, knitting. So sometimes it's nice to be able to give my full attention to a movie or show I know I love. Or I take thirty minutes out of the day to reread one of my favorite books, just enough to remind myself why I love storytelling.

Go For a Long Walk
Any sort of exercise is helpful because it gets my blood and my creative juices pumping, but this is my favorite method. Not only does my dog get exercise, but it gives me an hour or two of freedom to think about the kinks in my story. Or to not think about my story at all. Sometimes the best ideaspop up when I'm focusing on something else entirely.

Find My Calm Center
Adult coloring books are all the rage now. I got a few for Christmas, and I have some "children's" coloring books, too. It really does calm me for the same reason building models does--my hands can be occupied without a ton of stress on my mind. Yoga, too, is a good way for me to de-stress, although I should practice it more often.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

HEROINE SPOTLIGHT: Rey


I've been a fan of the Star Wars saga since I was eight years old. The Phantom Menace came out when I was 11, and I spent the next six years waiting for the rest of the trilogy and dragging my friends to midnight showings. But even though the storytelling captured my imagination, one thing was always missing: a central female Jedi.

Princess Leia is a fantastic character. She's smart and brash and loves the Republic, and she lets her anger simmer beneath the surface and drive her. She's important, but Luke is the one who saves the day. In the prequels, Padme has less of a presence than her daughter but nevertheless still plays a significant role in the creation of what would become the Rebel Alliance. I love both their characters, both trilogies are very male driven.

Although I'll be a lifelong fan of the saga and will defend the prequels with my last breath, in the weeks leading up to the new movie, I wasn't all that thrilled about The Force Awakens. I fell for the marketing trap and thought Finn would end up being a Jedi. While that would have been cool, too, in a different way, I couldn't help but feel like the message being sent was: girls can't be Jedis; girls can't be protagonists; girls can't, girls can't, girls can't. So, when I sat in that theater on December 18th and watched as a new episode unfolded before my eyes, I felt my apathy slipping away. I cared about Rey. I cared about her and wanted her to succeed and kind of wanted to be her best friend, too.

Rey is unusual for a movie heroine, but especially for one in a blockbuster, in arguably the biggest franchise of all time. She's strong, able to look after herself after living alone as a scavenger for the majority of her life. When she gets attacked in Niima outpost, she fights off her attackers with her trusty quarterstaff. But being able to take care of herself doesn't mean she has to be unemotional. She's clearly taken aback when Finn asks, multiple times, if she's all right, and she wears her emotions on her sleeve when she sees a green planet for the first time and when she says goodbye to Finn. Making Rey the central character in The Force Awakens allows her to be more than the token female character. It allows her to be complex and to inspire a generation of girls who no longer have to grow up thinking that girls can't be Jedis. There's so much I can say about Rey, but I'll stick with: I'm excited to see where her journey takes her.

Friday, January 29, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: Non-Fiction Books In My To-Read Pile

I've been reading mostly fiction for the past three years because of grad school, but I very much enjoy my share of non-fiction, too. I'm interested in a wide array of subjects, and there's always a chance that a non-fiction topic will spark a story idea. In recognition of that, I'm going to try to read more of it in 2016, and here are some of the titles on my shelf I'm most looking forward to.



Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, Sean B. Carroll
The great thing about being a writer is you can be into a lot of things even though your primary field is literature. I haven't read a lot of science-related books since before undergrad, but that doesn't mean I stopped being interest in science. I'm excited to dive back in.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Zombies, Matt Mogk
This is partially because zombies are cool, especially because this book approaches them almost from an academic standpoint, and partially because it's research for the young adult zombie novel I'm working on.

The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, Elizabeth Kantor
Anything Jane Austen related makes me happy, which is enough of a reason for me to pick this up. I actually received this as a Christmas gift a few years ago and haven't been able to read it because I was so busy with grad school. Because of that and because Valentine's Day is coming up, it seemed like a good time to jump into it.

The Physics of Superheroes, James Kakalios
Again, this is on my list because I want to read it but also because it can act as research for a story idea I have (although one I probably won't get to fleshing out for a while yet). Besides, with all the superhero movies and TV shows lately, it'll be cool to see what's plausible and what isn't.

Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates, David Cordingly
This one's because pirates are just cool. Judging by the title, though, I have a feeling my view of them might change while reading. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: TV Shows Returning in 2016

After the winter television hiatus, I'm looking forward to a number of shows returning, although I have to wait a little longer for some of them.

Indian Summers

If you're prematurely mourning the end of Downton Abbey, this might be the replacement for you. Set in the summer of 1932, season one follows an Indian family and the members of a British social club as the Empire's influence wanes. It's packed full of political intrigue, family drama, and secrets people would kill to keep. This one won't be back on PBS until the fall, so there's lots of time to catch up or rewatch.



Killjoys

My friend told me to give this show a shot, and I'm happy I did! It's about a trio of space bounty hunters who get caught up in an interplanetary war and find themselves up against a major antagonist from Dutch's past. Plus, the relationship between Dutch, the team's hardened leader, and Johnny, her partner and best friend, isn't one often portrayed in fiction.
 

Orphan Black

Season three expanded the world and the mystery of the clones by introducing the Castor clones, but season four looks like it'll be back to its Leda roots, focusing on Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena, and Rachel while introducing at least one new clone. And, of course, I have to watch to see if Delphine is still alive and will continue her rise in badassery. 


Black Sails

What's better than pirates and explosions? Nothing, really. We left off with Eleanor under arrest and on a ship back to England; Flint and Vane teaming up to blow Charleston to smithereens; and Rackham, Anne, and Max sitting on a big old pile of Spanish gold. With the arrival of a new governor, will the privateers be able to hold on to their precious Nassau?


The 100

Things I'm looking forward to in season three: everything. More specifically: Clarke dealing with the psychological fall-out of her actions at Mount Weather, the Skaikru building a true home while learning to play nice with the Grounders, Octavia being a badass, Raven being a badass, Indra being a badass, everything about Lincoln, Lexa being a badass but also a softie, Clarke and Lexa reuniting. So . . . like I said, everything.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: Books of 2015

Okay, this is a day late. Maybe I should just start calling this "Sometime During the Weekend Five." But better late than never, I suppose. And continuing with the obligatory end-of-the-year lists, here are my favorite books read in 2015 (and proof that fantasy rules my heart).

Rat Queens: Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

I've frequently lamented about how difficult it is to find adult high fantasy with female protagonists, and this one offers four. That and the recommendation of a friend were enough to get me to give this a chance. All four heroines are different and bring their own strengths to the team, and the world is interestingly fantastical so far. I already have the second volume in my TBR pile.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9464733-beauty-queens
Beauty Queens, Libba Bray

I decided to pick this up after hearing good things about it on Tumblr, but I had reservations because I didn't love A Great and Terrible Beauty. This turned out to be quite the pleasant surprise. The story follows thirteen teenage beauty queens who crash on a seemingly deserted island while in transit to the Miss Teen Dream pageant. Like Rat Queens, Beauty Queens features a large cast of diverse female characters, all of whom have secrets and quirks and charms. This tale of friendship and bravery deserves a spot on every teenager's reading list.

Falling Kingdoms, Morgan Rhodes

I'm a sucker for high fantasy, obviously. This is the story of Mytica, a land of three divided kingdoms, and four teenagers whose lives intersect: Cleo, a princess who discovers that privilege ; Jonas, out for revenge on his brother's murderer; Lucia, whose magical powers are awakening in a land where magic is forbidden; and Magnus, who harbors a damaging secret. Although there's no real new ground broken here, it's light fare and makes for a fun, easy read. Again, I've got the second book in my TBR pile.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12812550-days-of-blood-starlight
Days of Blood and Starlight, Laini Taylor
I adored Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and the second installment didn't disappoint. It opens up the world and delves deeper into the conflict between chimaera and angels. It also depicts the very real and awful consequences of war on those who wage it. Through it all, the relationships, especially the friendship between Karou and Zuzana, ground the story. And Taylor's lyrical writing borders on magical. The third and final book is, once again, in my TBR pile.



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25719126-the-circle
The Circle, Fire, and The Key, Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg

I don't even know what to say about these books because they're amazing and they were such a surprise! I got the first one in July on a whim because I had a gift card. When I finished, I immediately bought the second. Then I suffered for two months while I waited for the last one to be released. Basically, the trilogy follows six teenage girls who discover that they're witches and that their destiny is to stop the apocalypse. Only they're not even friends. How are they supposed to save the world?

The heart of this story is the girls: Minoo, Anna-Karin, Linnea, Vanessa, Rebekah, and Ida. All six girls are fully realized characters with their own hopes, fears, flaws, and strengths. Although they don't start out as friends, their relationships--both with the group as a whole and with other individuals--develop in realistic and moving ways. I want to re-read these already, and I've spent the last few months talking them up as much as possible!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

FRIDAY FIVE: Favorite Movies of 2015

This wasn't a hard list to make because I've barely seen any movies that have come out this year! But the movies I did like I liked a lot.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

There were a lot of little things I didn't quite like about this (Captain Phasma having so little screen time; Leia having so little screen time; Finn using a lightsaber for the first times without major damage to himself; the too-frequent moments of nostalgia that became distracting), but the overall feeling it left me with was the same one I had when I was eight years old watching Star Wars for the first time--absolute wonder.




Mad Max: Fury Road

I had no idea what to expect with this movie. The trailers told me nothing about the story. I hadn't seen any of the previous films. I had just heard that it was making fanboys mad, which is enough of a reason for me to see anything. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that Fury Road is much more Furiosa's and the wives' story than Max's. Not to mention the action had me on the edge of my seat. Definitely worth a rewatch.



Mockingjay Part 2

I've loved this series since I read The Hunger Games in 2010. All of the films are solid, moving adaptations, but this installment is unforgiving in its depiction of the horrors of war and its effects on its young protagonists. By the time the final scene rolled around, I was satisfied both in Katniss's ending and in the journey Collins took me on over the last few years.




Jupiter Ascending

I still don't know how to feel about this film. It's completely off the wall, but in an entertaining way. I think I'll have to watch it again, and more closely, to truly decide how I feel about it, but I appreciate that a big-budget sci-fi movie had a heroine at its center, which is rather unusual outside of the realm of YA.





Far From the Madding Crowd

This is probably my favorite Hardy novel, and this adaptation is every bit as lush and romantic as expected. Carey Mulligan brings sympathy to Bathsheba, who might otherwise be a prickly protagonist, especially in such a short film. And Gabriel Oak, as always, is dreamy. (Mostly. When he's not being too perfect.)


Thursday, December 17, 2015

FRIDAY FIVE: Favorite Music of 2015

Because it's the end of the year and the end of the year is a time for lists galore, my next three Friday Fives will be my favorite music, movies, and books of 2015! 

VENUS, Joy Williams
The Civil Wars who?

Favorite track: "Woman"







Every Eye Open, Chvrches
Bury me in electronic beats and words I only half understand.

Favorite track: "Make Them Gold"


 
 



Badlands, Halsey
This album is a feeling, man, and that feeling is climbing to the top of the world and looking down upon your kingdom.

Favorite track: "Roman Holiday"








Piece By Piece, Kelly Clarkson
I love catchy pop and Kelly Clarkson's voice.

Favorite track: "War Paint"



 




25, Adele
Excuse me. I can't stop listening to this. I haven't listened to my audio book in two weeks because of this album. It makes me feel like I'm looking wistfully back upon my youthful misadventures in love, wine glass in hand.

Favorite track: "Sweetest Devotion"