First Book of the Year! (AND IT’S AWESOME)

So I just finished the magnificent Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. First book read in 2016!

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, and a cup of teaIs it too early to pick this book as my favorite of the year? Or one of my favorites ever?  Too late. It’s joining my cloud of absolute favorites. Because this book was just. That. Good.

Highly recommend. Highly. Seriously, go read it.

Reflections: 2015 Edition

Happy New Year!So it’s once again time to reflect back on the year. I’m a little late to the party, I admit, but better late than never, right?

I realize that I am horrible at these reflections. I’m not so good at thens, slightly better at nows and much better at laters.

2015 has passed by in a blur for me, and trying to think back on a particular instance is like trying to take a snapshot of a racecar—mostly what I get is a fuzzy white object on the road.

What I do remember, though, is that I haven’t blogged much. Like, most of the months in my archives only have one post each. This year I’ll try to make this blog into something… but what, I’m not sure. We’ll just have to see.

I’ve got a lot of crossroads coming up in 2016, and they look pretty scary from here. And that racecar that I mentioned earlier is speeding up and up and up. I have to apply to my major this February. I have to finish the book that I ALWAYS SAY I WILL FINISH BUT NEVER DO. I have many decisions to make.

Here, in no particular order, are my end-of-2015 thoughts:

As of Right Now

Recently discovered the band PVRIS. St. Patrick is a good song.

Just finished up The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Lovely book, two snowy thumbs up.

I’m sick. Yesterday it felt like I had a pencil shoved down my throat and the pointy end was jabbing me every time I swallowed. Healing as slowly as a turtle walks.

Books this Year?

It’s been a slow year for reading, unfortunately. Notables include: The Snow Child (already mentioned, and LOVED), Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, Looking for Alaska by John Green, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (extra shout out for this one because it was amazing and probably deserves its own post), Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman, and The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley (not finished yet, but so far it’s pretty good). I have probably forgotten some, but oh well.

Writing *sad sigh*

Started out the writing year with some pretty high hopes—spring and summer blessed me with a beautiful, creative momentum. But now? I’m slowing a bit. Not sure why. Normally this is the part of the post where I claim that I’ll be done with writing by next month, but I’ve kind of thrown my deadlines out the window. I’m hoping to be done by summer. Maybe.

Well… That’s all I have for you for now. Thanks for being a great audience. Looking forward to the adventures of 2016!

Sincerely,
Jackie

(P.S. I also forgot to mention that I watched the entirety of Supernatural in the span of about, oh, two months. Just thought I’d add it, lest I forget.)

Reading Books: Old? New? What Do I Do?

Over the Thanksgiving break I had some free time. You know, as you do during holiday weekends. So of course, I decided that hey, I’m going to finish those sad books on my shelf that I haven’t even touched yet.

Usually I make it a point to read during these kinds of breaks, since I don’t read as much I ought to. Limited time, life and all. So when I packed for home, I took two or three essential books with me and figured I’d at least cut a good portion out of one. Preferably the one I was already a few chapters into. That was the plan anyway.

But as I was roaming around my house and moving things around, I noticed a book that I’d read a few years prior. And liked. A lot.

I opened the book. Leafed through a few pages.

Sat down in the middle of the floor, thinking I’d only be there a few seconds to skim.

Then there I was– reading.

And of course I was thrilled. I liked that book for a reason! But I also felt kind of… guilty. Like, I have all these unopened books, waiting in line to be read, and when I finally have the time to read them, I don’t.

Observe the picture below. This isn’t even most of my books. I’ve read the ones with the green checks on them. Excluding my textbooks (because, let’s be honest, I’ve never read a textbook cover-to-cover), that’s only 8 out of 26.

I really need to read more of my books... Here is a shelf full of books I haven't gotten around to reading yet.

I feel bad for neglecting my bookshelves.

But at the same time, I love it when an old book you loved sucks you in a second time. I mean, I liked it for the first time for a reason! Sometimes I’m kind of skeptical about rereading books though, because I don’t want them to lose their magic. You know, like when you listen to a song too many times– the first few times you’re really into  it, then slowly your joy starts to fade (I believe it is what my economics teacher would call the law of diminishing marginal utility.) The max number of rereads I’ve done was about three, with at least a year’s space in between. Just so I don’t get tired of my favorite books.

But oh, the temptation! I *could* reread the golden book sitting in front of me. Relive the joy. No problems with that, economic principles aside.

Then again, I could start a new book, sparing myself the guilt and possibly finding a new favorite. Or I could finish the one I’m on, like I was supposed to be doing.

So many options! So little time!

I think after some contemplation I ended up mashing all three options together, making very minimal progress on each book. But oh well. Winter break’s coming up in about two weeks anyway, I suppose. *shrugs as if I’m not going to have this dilemma again later on*

So what about you? Do you like to reread a few books over and over again? Or do you always want something new?

On Timely Writing and Random Resources

A drawing of a girl daydreamingIn writing, I’ve heard all kinds of things about trying to write as much as possible and trying not to remain stuck in one place for too long– and I agree with these. They’ve helped me improve a lot.

But I think that, while I should try not to let myself become stuck in a muddy rut of writer’s doubt, I’ve also learned something else: that sometimes, it takes as long as it takes.

And let’s just say, it’s taking me a long time.

But who knows how long it really takes to write something you can be proud of? A month? A few weeks? A few years? I don’t think anyone really has some perfect number-formula that takes in a certain number of days and spits out a novel.

So for now I’m taking my time. I’ve set a new deadline for myself at the end of July, and here’s hoping all goes well with that.

Anyway, since I haven’t blogged in a while, I’ve decided to jot down a few resources I’ve been using, for further use by me or anyone who might need this stuff.

What Should I Read Next? is a website that suggests books based on books that you’ve read before– just pop in a title and it gives you a list of other books you might like. Nice.

Wordcount tracks how often words are used. Currently the most commonly used word is “the” (no surprise there), and the least commonly used word in their collection is “conquistador.” Kind of useful if you’re making up names based on already existing words.

The library is an awesome resource, and not only for the books. Many libraries have free encyclopedias and databases that you can access with your library card. For example, there is an awesome resource available for UW library members/students, the Daily Life through History Encyclopedia, that does pretty much what the title implies. Really useful if you want to know how the ancient Mycenaens went about their day-to-day business. You can also get free music from certain libraries. And you thought libraries couldn’t get any cooler.

If you want to get really specific about living during Jane Austen’s time (or you just want to know what Austen means when she talks about a barouche), try this website. I’ve been using it a lot lately, just to understand the atmosphere surrounding the time period.

Baby name websites are like gold. Gold, gold, gold. One website I like is 2000 Names, mostly because of its special categories page, which sorts names into categories like “elemental names” or “color names.”

If you’re looking for some movie-soundtrack-like music for inspiration, try HDSounDI‘s channel on YouTube. It’s AWESOME. Check it out.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I like taking personality tests for my characters sometimes, just to figure out if I know them well enough, or if I think they might all be too similar. I personally like the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Test, which I usually take at Human Metrics.

A giant encyclopedia of tropes at TV Tropes. Fun to look through, and helpful for simultaneously avoiding cliches and getting ideas.

Well, that’s all I got. I should also mention that I bought a new sketchbook for writing and drawing, in which I drew the picture above. The girl has my haircut.

Good luck to all you writers out there. Or anyone working on anything. I’m rooting for you.

Books Recently (With an Almost-An-Infographic)

My week in reading:

Books Read, Being Read, and to Read in a Stack

Totals:

  • 1 Finished: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, an AWESOME book that was recommended to me, and that I now recommend to you.
  • 4 Being Read:
    • Lost and Found by Brooke Davis, which my best friend Jazmyne wanted to read– although when she told me about it I heard had read instead of wanted to read, so I got a copy and will be giving it to her shortly.
    • Slowly making my way through The Lord of the Rings, before I watch any of the movies (I know, I know, you can stop throwing tomatoes at me). So far I’ve finished the Fellowship of the Ring and have seen the movie, and yes, I think they’re super amazing.
    • Also in the stack are The Warrior Queens by Antonia Fraser and
    • Unnatural Creatures, a book of short stories collected by the fantastical Neil Gaiman.
  • 5 More to Read:
    • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs– finally got my hands on a copy.
    • The Cuckoo’s Calling by  not J.K Rowling Robert Galbraith, see entry for Miss Peregrine’s above.
    • That is All by John Hodgman, because I was curious.
    • Napoleon’s Wars by Charles Esdaile.
    • And 1775: A Good Year for a Revolution by Kevin Phillips, which I forgot to put in the stack (oops).

Isn’t it funny how the “To Read” pile is always longer than the “Finished” pile? Always. I think being walking distance from a bookstore isn’t such a good idea… but oh well. MORE BOOKS!

Oh, and Jazmyne also sent me a gift in the mail (EVEN MORE BOOKS!):

Edgar Allan Poe Pop-Up BookIt’s a pop-up book! A really creepy pop up book. She knows me so well, haha.

So, read anything good lately?

 

19 Today

I’m nineteen today! HOORAY!!! Where is my confetti cannon?

*looks around*

*blasts confetti everywhere*

It does not feel like I am nineteen years old. At all. I still feel like I’m eighteen, or even seventeen on the odd days. Which is weird because a lot has changed, internet. A lot has changed.

But first: I bought myself a pretty awesome birthday gift, if I do say so myself. It’s the most beautiful-looking copy of Jane Eyre, which I bought at Anthropologie. Yes, yes, I know, Anthropologie is a clothing/houseware store and who buys books at a clothing store?

I do. I do.

(Plus the clothes there are wayyy too expensive for my cheapie-budget, so… BOOK!)

Here she is:

Copy of Jane Eyre from AnthropolgieI was also tempted to buy a copy of Alice in Wonderland, which was equally gorgeous, but alas, I needed to eat food that day too. By the way, the fluffy-looking knitted blanket in that picture is my new best friend. Just sayin’.

Anyway, like I said, stuff’s changed, guys. This picture was taken from my dorm room. I’m now a college student! Proudly attending the University of Washington in Seattle. (Go Huskies!)

It’s really weird, not being home for my birthday. My family came up to visit me today and I was so glad to see them– plus they brought home-cooked food, which I was just DYING for. And they got me a pretty fantastic-looking jacket, which I definitely need now that I have to walk. Everywhere.

So I guess now I’ll be telling tales from my new home, ha. (New home? That sounds kinda scary…) I can’t wait to see what kind of adventures are in store for me. I’ll try to keep up with the blog– and who knows, maybe the change will bring in something new?

Happy birthday me!

How a Book About Birthdays Helped My Characters

Birthday book Page

Yes, the pages of this book are actually purple. You are not seeing things. (Although I will admit, the purple’s a little more saturated in this photo.) Now, this purple-paged book just so happens to be one of my new best friends, because:

  1. My rag-doll characters are finally coming together, stitch by stitch, and I think we’ve finally stopped hating each other.
  2. I bought this 751-page monster a while back for $10 at the much-beloved Borders bookstore (may you rest in peace).

After buying it I kind of forgot about it for a while, sad to say. But in my greatest hour of need, just when I was giving up hope that I’d ever be able to build up my characters they way I knew they could–should— be… there it was. Sitting there in all its purple, scintillating glory, staring at me with an expression that said It’s about time!

So what is this magical purple unicorn of a book I’m talking about?

It’s actually an astrological book of birthdays. Birthdays!

Who knew?

Called The Element Encyclopedia of Birthdays by Theresa Cheung, it’s basically this book details the astrological meanings behind each and every single birthday of the year. You know how horoscopes always tell you things supposedly about yourself, based on the planets and stars and things? This is a book of that.

And each and every single day has a certain personality type associated with it.

LIGHT BULB!

I’m not a firm believer in astrology, but I’ve always found it quite interesting. Each day in the book has negatives and positives about certain personalities, plus insight on how we interact with others, according to our birthday/personality/astrology things.

Now, just before I’d rediscovered my very purple friend, I was having a little trouble getting putting my character’s real personality into words. He was there, a diamond covered up in mud and coal dust and other junk I couldn’t filter through. I wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted, who he really was. I couldn’t find his bleeding, beating heart, so-to-speak.

(And yes, this is that same character that I hated only a scant few months ago.)

But then I was hit by a burst of purple goodness. Looking through the pages, I was able to really define who my character is. The thing that I thought my character was just… wasn’t. I’d been trying to force my character this way and that, but in the end, what I needed was a different perspective. Something to remind me how all these different characteristics came together. This book helped me clean the grime off the diamond, if that makes sense.

And I was able to find my character a birthday, ha ha.

Now he’s finally where he needs to be, all thanks to a wonderful purple book.

Not bad for $10, eh?

Thank you, Snow Fairy

Hi all! It’s snowing out here in Vancouver– and as a result we didn’t have school Friday. Hooray! A gift to me. :)

Here look:

Snow Day

The wind started piling snow up on the left side of my deck. I wish you could’ve been there to see it. It was powdery and it swirled around very beautifully.

(Also, when I look at that picture I feel like there’s some kind of snow fairy standing outside my house, and she’s just barely visible in that cluster of snowflakes whooshing around on the right.)

Well, thanks to the snow fairy I’ve been able to catch up on a few things that needed catching up on, including reading and writing. On the reading side I’ve finally gotten around to reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (I know, I know, about time!), and Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.

The Book Thief and Steelheart

If you haven’t read The Book Thief yet, I highly recommend it. I already had some pretty high expectations for it before reading– and let me just say, it definitely *passed* those expectations.

Steelheart I picked up out of curiosity, and while it’s not necessarily an earth-shattering kind of book I had a lot of fun reading it, I must admit.

On the writing side, after three days of free time for writing, writing, and more writing, my not-really-there-yet mess of a draft has reached 104,652 words. I passed the 100,000 mark and didn’t even know it, ha ha. Anyway, I had some really great character breakthroughs (I’ll probably post about that in a few days or so). I also might or might not deconstruct it and rewrite it really soon. Still trying to find the pathway that fits.

I’m so close, though. So close.

So thank you, Snow Fairy, for your gift of snow and time.