My Reading Routine

This one was suggested to me, and I thought it would be a cool thing to share!

So, I’ve mentioned in a previous post that during college I sort of fell off the reading wagon due to the extensive amount of academic-based reading that was required for my major. Reading became a chore for me, but since getting an e-reader, my reading for pleasure/leisure has been considerably enhanced. I aim to read at least 100 books a year, as you can see by my yearly reading lists on this site, though my goal this year is 110.

I used to read for at least an hour before bed every night, but that is no longer my standard reading ritual. These days, I do the majority of my reading at the gym – either on the elliptical or the treadmill. Occasionally, if those machines are full, I’ll take a crack at the bike. This is simple to accomplish, because I have a nook and can prop it up while I’m exercising. Sometimes, if I’m reading a particularly good book or only have about a hundred pages left and don’t want to put it down, I’ll even stay at the gym longer than originally planned in order to finish the book – thus, I end up getting an even better work out. It’s a win win! It motivates me to keep working out, and stimulates my brain all at once.

Some folks have mentioned to me that they find it difficult to focus on multiple things at once – reading while exercising included – so this might not be a realistic practice for others. I also listen to music at the same time, in order to drown out fellow exercisers who seem to enjoy having loud conversations across the room with no regard for others around them. Fortunately, it is the one “multitasking” endeavor that I actually succeed at. I quite enjoy my time at the gym because I get my daily reading in, and I tend to feel pretty good about myself afterward. As such, I go to the gym about 5/6 times a week, for anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.

Though that is where I get the bulk of my reading in, I do read at home – if I’m cooking dinner and have to wait for something to boil or cook, I’ll knock out a chapter or two. If I’m eating alone, I’ll opt to read during my meal rather than watch television. If I’m waiting to be summoned for an appointment, or waiting in line at the DMV, or something similar, I try and sneak in a small reading session. All those tiny instances do add up after a time, especially when my schedule is crammed and I feel like I’m not making a dent on my reading challenge based on my gym-time alone. I love reading while traveling and used to do so all the time, but I have developed an unfortunate tendency for motion sickness during long car/train/plane rides that I have to combat with anti-nausea meds that often make me sleepy. But, if I can manage it, I do try, because a good book can make a long journey far more enjoyable.

That’s pretty much it for my reading routine. I’m curious to know, from fellow avid readers – what is yours?

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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The Next Couple of Months…

…are very busy for me. I am going to be querying my next novel, my older sister is getting married in Vegas, it’s a busy/stressful time at my day job, AND I have jury duty. So, lots of fun stuff going on, but it’s becoming difficult for me to come up with ideas for 2x posts per week – and I don’t want them to come across like it was a “chore” for me to write them.

In order to combat this, and give myself some more structure… *drum roll* I’M DOING THEMED POSTS FOR THE REST OF THE SUMMER! Yay! So much EXCITEMENT.  So much WONDER.

There might be a few random unrelated posts scattered throughout, like film reviews or one-shot posts, but, for the most part, I’m going to be following a “book/reading challenge” theme for my upcoming posts! Such posts might include ruminations on “favorite poet,” “books that inspired me to read,” “reading routine” or “favorite book to film adaptations”! I’m not following a set list or anything, but you get the idea.

If you have any suggestions for posts, please drop me a line!

 

Favorite Youtubers pt. 2

Beth Crowley
Beth Crowley is a singer-songwriter who posts her own original songs, many of which are inspired by young adult novels, and also covers of popular songs and other vlog-type discussion videos. I absolutely adore her videos and her songs – my favorites are probably “Midnight,” which is based on Marissa Meyer’s book Cinder, “I Am Not Nothing,” which is based on C.J. Davidson’s A Daughter’s Curse, and “Eyes Wide Open,” which is based on Glamour of Midnight by Casey L. Bond. But, really, I love all of her songs, and I think her lyrics and music are extraordinarily creative and compelling to listen to. Whenever she posts a new one and it pops into my sub box, it’s an insta-click for me.

Equilanora
Another music-based channel, Equilanora posts lyric videos of lesser-known songs and artists. I’ve discovered a lot of artists through this channel and a decent chunk of  their videos makes up one of my writing playlists. I’ve often discovered a song/artist through this channel and then gone on to buy/explore even more of their music, like Boy Epic and Aurora. However, the songs posted tend to stray more into the alternative territory, lots of indie stuff with occasional mainstream entries, so it depends on what your music taste is.

RedLetterMedia
These guys are one of the best film review/analysis channels on Youtube because they are able to successfully combine humor and actual discussion/analysis for a balanced blend of entertainment. Their Half in the Bag series is focused primarily on films currently in theaters, and though I don’t always agree with them, I find their opinions well thought-out and they offer reasoning behind their reviews. Their other popular series, Best of the Worst (and it’s other incarnations, such as Wheel of the Worst and Plinketto) are more focused on the discussion of “bad” films, either standard “B” films of various genres or totally random items like old instructional guides or educational videos. They also sometimes post interviews with folks in the film industry or other related fields or reviews/discussions of older films. I always look forward to seeing their videos in my sub box, and the effort they put into their work is evident because their videos are often over and hour long and the editing is consistently on point.

Soundlyawake / Nicola Foti
I’ve been following this channel for a long time and always appreciate the amount of effort he puts into his videos, as his editing is always polished and the content is consistently entertaining. He does comedy-style videos featuring a couple of different characters, such as the ever-hilarious “Keisha,” but also spoofs, music videos, Q&A style vids, discussions on serious or topical subjects, and a series called “What the Sweet F*ck,” with fellow Youtuber Megan Tonjes which is kind of a funny pop-culture/current events-style video series that is always hilarious. His side channel, “stillsoundlyawake,” is also one of the only vlog-style channels I watch, as he chronicles his life with his boyfriend Ken, adorable dog Warden, and friends/family.

ManlyBadassHero
I used to be really into the “gaming” side of Youtube, but even though I don’t watch many Let’s Plays or gaming vids anymore, I still make an effort to watch Manly’s videos. He does an excellent job of actually focusing on the game he is playing while also offering up theories and providing commentary and jokes, not letting over the top attempts at humor drown out the actual gameplay, which manly gaming Youtubers tend to do. He also plays a lot of RPG-maker games, which are my all-time favorite to watch – and he explores all possible endings of such games, then discusses his opinion and theories about the game overall once the play-through is complete. He offers a bit more of a “laid back” viewing experience when it comes to games, which is exactly the way I like it.

CinemaSins
This channel offers “commentary” on specific films in a unique way – by pinpointing and counting the number of “sins” they commit. Common pitfalls that films seem to fall into are overuse of narration, long logo sequences, or shoehorning in the name of the film into a bit of dialogue. Though I do think CinemaSins gets a little nitpicky at times, and a lot of their “sins” are contrived or silly, I still find their observations funny, and I’m aware that a good portion of the things they are pointing out are intended for the sake of comedy. Basically, if you are not offended by your favorite films being ripped to shreds for continuity/content/dialogue/random “sins,” then you’ll probably enjoy their videos! After all, as their tagline reads, “no movie is without sin.”

One Shot #2: Darkest Hour

Though I had an overall so-so opinion of Joe Wright’s 2017 Winston Churchill biopic, one aspect of the film stood out to me just as much as Gary Oldman’s spellbinding lead performance – and that’s Bruno Delbonnel’s brilliant cinematography.

And part of the reason is this one shot, right here:

dh

Even if you haven’t seen the film or know nothing about Winston Churchill’s tenure as the British Prime Minister during the chaos of WWII, this image tells the story. The entire sequence is evocative – as many sequences throughout the film are, thanks to effective lighting techniques and superb directing – but this one shot perfectly encapsulates the way Churchill is portrayed this movie. He is a man alone, and restricted, facing a terrifying, unknown darkness. But there is a single light – he can’t clearly see the path, but continues to forge ahead.

In the film, Churchill faces an endless onslaught of doubt and opposition – much of it justified, due to his somewhat checkered track record – as he leads the nation against the ever increasing threat of the Axis powers. And though it’s a position of prominence, he is still effectively in a cage. Bound by law, bound by those who fear him and those who loathe him, bound by indecision, bound by the threat of being deposed. He grapples with what to do in the face of the Dunkirk evacuation, and how to handle a nation – and a world – at war. Asserting you cannot reason with a tiger while your head is in its mouth.

This is what that still means – this is a man with his head in a tiger’s mouth. Alone, restricted, and facing the unknown.

Any suggestions for more films/shots, message me!

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

When I Left

When I left England, part of me stayed behind.

Part of me still rides the train into the city through the early morning haze, and sits at a table by the thatch-roof cottage, sipping tea and admiring the serenity of Richmond Park. Some of me still frolics through the fields of Kew Gardens, the air rich with the scent of flowers. Part of me still cringes at the thought of steak and kidney pie, but yearns for fish and chips with mushy peas. There’s a bit of me still wandering the streets of Bath, still sitting in an elaborate theater as the first haunting notes of a musical ring out, still getting lost in the maze of King Henry VIII’s palace, still nursing a pint or a Pimms at a cozy pub as the sun sets. In a way, I’m still standing in Leicester Square as dusk descends on the city, not ready to go back to the flat and call it a night – and certainly not ready to go back across the sea.

I went to England to learn and take courses, but some lessons could only be learned after falling into a puddle in Paris, exploring castles, or chasing a cat through a graveyard after one-too-many pints of hard cider. My first foray into the world beyond the East coast of the United Sates was too short, and my heart still pines for the fresh sea air of the beach at Brighton and strolls across the Thames. I want to see a snow-kissed England in the winter, and find out if the leaves look beautiful in the fall.

The rest of me eventually got on a plane and came home. I miss the part of me I left behind, but I know we’ll meet again someday.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

A History of Violence

(And here, on Old Poetry Monday, a selection from 2012…)

 

But it doesn’t end.
Nothing ever ends.
Those who plummet over the edge of darkness do not hit the bottom.
No false saviors can catch them with their parables and psalms.
They fall forever.
And for those of us who do not know what it feels like
to be the only one shaking as the shadow passes,
as the red-eyed rats stare hungrily from darkened alleys
at the proclaimed innocents
are we really just that lucky?
When we hear about the headline crimes,
and how justice yet again prevails,
we say, “Well, how convenient.”
Right place.
Right time.
Caught red-handed.
But the law cannot catch all,
nor can it see all.
Not the guilt-stoked hearts on fire.
And the signals in the sky
cannot shed light on the blood that covers
all of our hands.
Those who see,
and know,
but stay silent.
We are all guilty in a world
with a history of violence.
That will never end because
we do not allow it.
Because nothing ever ends.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Writing Techniques: Feedback

There is one aspect of writing that I have always feared the most, and that is receiving feedback on my work. It’s a dangerous beast, one that can either make your spirit soar, or tear your heart out. Any time I send any piece of writing out for a fresh opinion, the butterfly factory never fails to start pumping in my stomach. And though it’s an integral part of the writing process, it also raises a relentless battalion of “What ifs?”

What if they don’t like it? What if they tell me I should change everything? What if they say I should just give up? 

Of course, the big one is the first one, and, well… maybe they won’t like it. So what? Not everyone is going to like what you write, that’s impossibly idealistic. And sure, a critique partner or editor or beta reader might tell you that there are things that don’t work, or things you should change, or things that need to be cut so others may be salvaged. But most of the time – if they’re truly trying to be helpful – they’re also going to tell you why they think that. They’re going to give you reasons to back up their criticism, whether you ultimately follow it or not, and it might help you realize flaws or recurring issues in your writing before it reaches a wider audience.

Basically, feedback – positive, negative, and the in-between – is vital, no matter how nervous it makes you to ask for it. And trust me, the very thought of someone else reading my unpolished writing makes my anxiety rocket through the ceiling, every single time, without fail. It’s natural – I’m certainly not the first to feel that way.  But without a handful of outside opinions to steer you in the right direction, can you really improve your writing, or recognize what can be changed for the better?

Though it’s not quite the same as a beta reader, I have worked on my current MS (YA fantasy) with a freelance editor who has been immensely helpful. I was terrified to do it – to have someone I don’t know look over my work – but once I received her feedback, I knew I’d made the right choice, and I’m so grateful she was willing to work with me. She pointed out inconsistencies, pinpointed areas that needed clarification, and advised me on certain tidbits that needed anything from a complete overhaul to some minor tweaking, and she did so in a professional way and had reasons to back up each point. Plus, she told me what did work, so it didn’t feel like a laundry list of errors being hurled at me. I didn’t feel torn down or attacked by her critiques, I felt inspired to fix what needed to be fixed, and I have much more confidence in the current, more focused version of my manuscript than the first one I sent her, all thanks to her valid guidance.

I also sent off my MS to be copy-edited my my godmother, who is a retired English teacher. She not only taught me the proper use of a semicolon, which has consistently eluded me, but sticky-noted and marked all of my errors and then explained them. Plus she gave me her overall opinion and impression at the end, so her feedback was doubly helpful! I’m super happy to have her in my corner, and her support means the world to me. Now, I can recognize recurring grammar pitfalls and tread around them instead of tumbling into them.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had any luck finding a writer’s group in my area (maybe I should start one?) that has fellow YA writers, so mostly, I deal with my writing solo. I haven’t had a solid “workshop” group since college, and even then it was mainly for class. I don’t like inconveniencing people by asking them to read my work, an issue I need to work on, and I’d like to reach out to fellow YA writers online and build or join some kind of writing circle. But, in an effort to grab some fresh opinions, I’ve recently asked for feedback on my query letter from two friends of mine from college, whose work I’ve admired and opinions I value. And it was so incredibly helpful to have their feedback I can’t believe I didn’t think of asking them sooner. I’ve even asked one of them to take a look at the first few chapters of the manuscript, and I look forward to hearing back from him.

As someone with a history of (extensive) dabbling in fanfiction, and who has released an independent book, I’m not a stranger to feedback, though I am still looking to broaden my horizons before any future projects are released. Some feedback will be helpful to writers, some won’t – but it’s worth it to glean fresh opinions, no matter how fearful you are of what they’ll say. It’s still difficult, at times, to put myself out there – a feeling I’m sure that many writers share, because not all feedback will be glowing praise of your work. Some folks will gladly kick your ass rather than kiss it. But I firmly believe that constructive criticism is a necessity if you want to improve your skills, and write the best story you can.

On a side note, if you’re a fellow YA writer looking to possibly connect with a freelance editor, please drop me a line and I’ll let you know how I went about it!

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.