New Years and New Things

Monday, December 29, 2014

December flew past in the blink of an eye. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas seem like such a blur. No matter what holiday you do or don't celebrate, the final months of the year are the season of thanks and I hope we all found time to celebrate all the things we are blessed to have in our lives, for there are plenty!

As 2014 is coming to a close, I want to take a moment to reflect on the many blessings of the year:

Parents and passions

Birthdays and weddings 

Boyfriends and best friends

Basketball games and rock concerts

Book clubs and book lovers

Kickball leagues and double dates

Blogger brunches and bottomless drinks

Late night walks and accompanying talks

NaNoWriMo and never giving up

Central Park and the Empire State Building

... And everything in between.

I'm taking a mini blogging vacation, meaning I'll be gone from my little corner of internet for a week or so. As I mentioned here, I struggle with the direction of my blog sometimes. I'll still be lurking in blogland, but I need a little time to revamp, refocus and rethink - and I couldn't have chosen a better time. Isn't that what the new year is all about? I'll be back in 2015, I promise, with more to share and a clear idea of where I am headed with this blog.

And because this feels like such a cheat post, I'm ending it with a few things that I've been enjoying and have made me smile recently:

Take Me To Church by Hozier on Grooveshark This song by Hozier, "Take Me To Church". After hearing it featured in this Beats by Dre commercial a bagillion times, I finally looked it up. Insta-love. I sing it randomly now because it's stuck in my head (especially the "this is hungry work" part, hehe!). So much soul!

Seriously, I could share a Bustle article everyday. It's been clear that the 90's are making a comeback and I love it! Here's how 2015 will basically be like 1996 a la Clueless. Like totally!

In addition to reading My True Love Gave To Me, I'm also reading On Writing by Stephen King for the first time. It is pure gold! All hail the King :)

Tell me about the things that have made your 2014 worth-while! Oh, and

Happy New Year!

Photo Source: 1.

Ghostwriting and Why Zoella Is NOT An Author

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Never judge a book by it's cover" holds a lot more weight than we thought.

Have you heard?! YouTube star Zoella wrote a book, except - she didn't. A few months ago, she began circulating the news that she would soon be releasing a fiction novel based on her life. Well, it's out, and so is the scandalous fact that she, in fact, didn't write the book. Her novel, Girl Online, was received excellently by her throngs of build-in YouTube fans, and broke the record for highest ever first week sales for a debut author, outselling the phenomenal and talent writer J.K. Rowling. I italicized 'writer' because despite Zoella's insistence that she's always wanted to be a writer and that the story and characters were her own, she is most definitely not a writer.
Photo Credit
Ghostwriting has been around forever. A ghostwriter is simply a writer retained to write a novel, report, article or any other kind of writing on the behalf of another person, without being listed as the author on the front cover. I remember hearing about ghostwriting in the music industry, specifically ghostwriters composing all of P.Diddy's rhymes, when I was younger. At that point, I didn't really think too much of it. I was writing back then, but nothing more than creating characters, main plot points and maybe penning a chapter or two. Now, that I've struggled through the process of writing something, most recently the fifty thousand words for NaNoWriMo 2014, I'm appalled at the business of ghostwriting (not collaborating, which to me is entirely different) for two major reasons.

You're Being Dishonest

This first point of contention isn't so much an issue with ghostwriting in theory as it is with the industry in practice. As was the case with Zoella's (Zoe Sugg) Girl Online and probably so many other novels we don't know about, there is no mention anywhere on the book that it was ghostwritten. In this vlog, she makes the big announcement that Penguin publishing house contacted her regarding the writing style of her personal blog and suggested that she write a book. But as she continues to talk about the premise of the novel, it seems as though she's not acquainted well enough with the storyline to relay it to her viewers properly. She makes no mention of actually writing the book or using a ghostwriter in this video or any subsequent videos, aside from claiming that her "dream has been to write a book." So says most people, sister. Zoe mentions working really closely with an editor and an "editorial consultant" but doesn't clarify that "working really closely" and "helping [her] out" is actually code for "I didn't write this." Adding insult to injury, rumor has it that Siobhan Curham, Zoe's ghostwriter, only received about $11,000 for her part in Girl Online. My little writing heart is screaming in disbelief.

You're Not A Writer

I struggle with writing. Being a writer doesn't mean that you don't struggle with it, just that you push past it. In defense of her novel, Zoe insists that the characters and the plot were entirely her own. I'm sure this is representative of the thinking of many celebrity (or semi-celebrity) 'authors'. But as someone who is deep in the thick of piecing together a coherent novel from scraps of plot and characterization, the writing of the book takes place in, surprise!, the actual writing of the book. Initial character development and major storyline is just the beginning (the characters and major plot of my current work were create over a year ago!). Once the writing process begins, characters show you what they're really made of, some plot points get switched up and others ex'd out altogether. Midway through, you look back at what you have and you barely recognize the manuscript as even remotely related to what you had in the beginning. To claim that throwing characters and plot points out there is in any way equivocal to writing a novel is to claim that choosing paint colors and hauling a brick or two out to a plot of land means you've built a house. No. Just no.  

What do you think about ghostwriting? Do you care if the listed author was not the actual author?


While I'm talking about books and before you run out to do your last minute shopping, consider picking up our December book of the month while you're out there!
My True Love Gave To Me by Stephanie Perkins et. al. 
I read Rainbow Rowell's story, Midnights, yesterday and was completely and expectantly blown-away. Anything Rainbow writes is an insta-love for me. I loved it so much I reread it before turning to any of the other stories :) If you're joining us this month (Kay and I will be linking up on January 6th!), I hope your enjoying the novel just as much. And if you haven't joined us yet, what are you waiting for?!

Link Love | Dec. 19,14

Friday, December 19, 2014

It's the weekend before all the holidays, which means New York City is both festively alight and a complete mess. Whether I venture out this weekend or not depends entirely on whether I'm feeling brave :) How do you plan to spend this weekend? Whatever you do, I hope it's wonderful! Here are a few links I've been loving this past week:

One very powerfully written article about the lack of color in designer campaigns and how it should be the norm not the exception.

I wonder if this would happen the same way if it was conducted in the U.S. I hope so!

I finally saw Mockingjay Part 1 and Christine's video pretty much encapsulates exactly how I feel about the film (including the tears!).

This Rolling Stone's article makes me sad. One, because of the gruesome story of the alleged rape, and two, the backlash and fact that it's an unsupported at best and at worst, an untrue publication.

I've got sooo much gingham in my closet, so I'm happy to see the pattern will be trending in 2015.

Looking for a good holiday read? Join us for our December book, My True Love Gave To Me by Stephanie Perkins.

The series finale to White Collar that aired last night was great (Oh, Neal!) but open-ended, and this interview with the creator Jeff Eastin clears up a lot.

Ah, the power of reading! Lucky, we have such strong heroines :)

Gotta love a girl with her own style! Fashionista's list of 20 best dressed women of 2014 includes my favorites like Emma Watson, Lupita Nyong'o and Lizzy Caplan.


Happy Friday, everyone!

Winter Reds

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

This would be my second time doing swatches now. And my lips are just as sore (that sounds wrong), but they're stained a solid shade of red this time, so that's progress. I'm broadcasting my favorite red lip shades today because, hello, red is classic and winter-y and Snow White-like. And gawwgeouus!

Colors are shown left-to-right
Note that, in my opinion, colors are a bit brighter than they appear here (lighting washed them out a bit). Also, forgive my application - I took two sets of photos trying to get closer to accurate colors.

Wet N' Wild Spotlight Red - Really, Wet N' Wild should sponsor me because I can't list my favorite lip colors without at least one lipstick from the Megalast collection. Spotlight is that classic, bright red that anyone can wear - and everyone should!

MAC Anthurium - When Maleficent came out last year and I saw this picture of Angelina rocking a seriously bold and sexy red lip, I just had to have a lippie from the MAC Maleficent collection. They were sold out of the lipstick I really wanted, True Love's Kiss (such a cute name!), so I picked up this gloss. I'm not a gloss girl, but the color payoff on this one is insane.

Dior Rouge Favori #752 - If you're feeling a little deja vu, that's because it was one of my favorite fall colors too. A warm-toned red with a beautiful satin finish, this little gem has been with me through some great memories. It's my perfect red and I swipe it on all the time.

MAC Russian Red - This MAC classic is probably my least favorite just because it pulls quite orange on me and so it can come off a little loud. But I still like it; it's just not an everyday red for me. I have to wear it with intention!

NYX Monte Carlo - It goes on smooth but it dries into a satiny matte. And it's beautiful! Last year, this was my go-to, which is why I had to scrape the sides of the tube for this swatch (to see it's full potential, click here!). It's part of the NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream collection. It applies smooth and dries matte but doesn't give you that "matte lipstick feeling" when you rub your lips together. You know the feeling I'm talking about! Also, it doesn't transfer. Nice!

L'Oreal Matte for Me #409 - It's not exactly a red, but it's the perfect bridge between pink and red for anyone who is fearful of a full on red. If I'm wearing it and someone asks about it, they always refer to it as a red, so I included it in this list. It dries matte but it's not drying on the lips.

Are you in the market for a good red? Do you have a favorite of your own? Let me know in the comments!

Why You Should Always Choose Tom Brady

Monday, December 15, 2014

Apparently, there are some people who think Tom Brady is unattractive and balding. But those people are crazy :) I'll admit that when I drafted him 3rd in my fantasy league, my reasons were mostly superficial. Sure, I'm a Patriots fan (don't stone me, NYers!) so I knew he was a [killer] QB, but truly - the only legitimate reason to draft Brady that early is because he's hot. When he consistently gave me < 10 fantasy points per week, there was no one to blame but me and my lustful heart. Then, of course, he started ballin' and well, now he deserves all the awards. Including this one: why you should always, under all circumstances, choose Tom Brady, forever.

He looks like this.

Yeah, I know. A quarterback's value has nothing to do with his physical features. But that doesn't mean I can't love him for it. I don't know how anyone could ever find this unattractive.

Source: Stetson via LaineyGossip
And because I'm incapable of choosing only one - you're welcome. 

Source: Man of the World mag via Entertainment Wise
Seriously. He's like, actually he is, a freaking model. You know that scene in Crazy, Stupid, Love when Emma Stone makes Ryan Gosling take his shirt off and says "Seriously?! It's like your photoshopped!" Yeah, that's what I think when I see Brady.   

His wife looks like this.

Source: Rolling Out
He snagged the highest paid and most well-known Supermodel of our time (aside from Tyra!), Gisele Bundchen. I think for that he deserves a little credit. Oh, and he had beautiful babies with Forbes' 89th most powerful woman in the world. Double whammy.

Oh and just in case you thought Gisele's beauty was just all smoke and mirrors, check out this gawgeous fresh-faced selfie she snapped at yesterday's game.

He use to look like this.

Source: UProxx
Back when he was drafted in 2000, he was completely undesirable in the eyes of the NFL. Long and scrawny, every one with half of a brain doubted Brady's ability to effect anything on the field, led alone lead an entire team. "Lacks great physical strength and stature", they said. He was drafted in round 6, pick #199. And now he's arguably the top quarterback in the league. (Hush, Cheeseheads!) Talk about "started from the bottom..."

He dances like this.

Because let's be real, if he were perfect, we'd hate him. At least he's not afraid to display his lack of rhythm. It's endearing. Now don't get me wrong, the last place Tom Brady belongs is a dance floor. But when he's so amazing on the field, I think we can forgive him this one. Even trade off if you ask me.

He pulls shit out like this.

There are about a million plays I can draw from as an example. Just yesterday, Brady, as lanky and somewhat uncoordinated as he may be, ran for some major yardage against the Dolphins. He's best, of course, when throwing the ball and hyping up his guys. Five seconds on the clock? Down by 4 points? Eh, don't worry about it.
Source: Business Insider

He celebrates like this.

One thing I really like about him is the camaraderie he seems to foster on the team. He doesn't give the underwhelming little fist pump after a touchdown pass. He's runs his ass down to the end zone and jumps in his receiver's face in triumph. 
Source: Boston CBS Local
Source: The Big Lead
Do you love Brady as much as I do? If not, just refrain from commenting. I might blow a gasket. Just kidding. About the refraining. The gasket part really might happen.

On Survival

Friday, December 12, 2014

WARNING: This post discusses a topic of a sensitive nature concerning sexual assault.

FYI, at least 50% of my blog posts ideas come from television shows. I see something and I'm all like "oh yeah, that'd make an interesting blog post", except a lot of times it falls flat and said post never sees the front page. But this topic, inspired in part by a show, just felt too important to not publish.

Do any of you watch Reign? If you don't, you really should! It's pretty much the story of Mary Queen of Scots, except way more interesting and addicting than it sounds. It's usually not a very heavy show. (Think Vampire Diaries and Originals, except minus the vampires and hello royals!) So, despite the fact that the events of last week's episode were somewhat rooted in historical fact, it was a controversial one.

Please note: The following paragraphs may contain multiple spoilers!

The above clip is only a portion of an immensely empowering scene that takes place between two queens moments after disaster strikes. The French castle has been invaded by Protestants in the middle of the night with the intent to assassinate the Catholic King. Mary, the Queen of Scotland and also the Queen of France through marriage, is found by the men alone in her bed chambers. It is at that point that one of the men sexually assaults her as another man holds her arms and yet another one watches. It was this scene (which you can watch an edit of here if you want, but I won't embed it because it hurts my heart </3) that led a handful of viewers to threaten boycotting the show because "she is a Queen!" and "why would they [the writers] do that to one of our favorite characters?!" Comments to which I respectfully wave a hand at and say "bye, Felicia."

I understand that it was a jarring scene and I think it would've been good for the network to have put a warning of some kind at the beginning of the episode (which they neglected to do), but I am satisfied with the way they included it, as well as the touching scene between two women that followed. It was tastefully done, well, as tasteful as something like that can ever been depicted (which, for the record, is difficult considering how utterly tasteless not to mention despicable the act is). It wasn't graphic but it also wasn't sugar-coated. It was real. And despite commenters insistences that they "didn't agree with it's inclusion because it was unnecessary" (a statement that makes me want to strangle puppies and smash head into walls), we have to remember that no one decent agrees with rape, and moreover, reality doesn't care if we agree. Reality just is. We cannot be afraid to see the things that happen in everyday life to everyday people. It's the outrage that people express and disagreeing with it being included in the media that contributes to the culture that makes women feel like they have to hide what happened to them.

The episode depicting Mary's rape, although difficult to digest, did so many important things. It showed the reality of the situation, the terror and the heartbreaking aftermath. That these things happen to Queens too, despite what society might lead us to think. That we can bond with each other over the horrible experiences that we have and lift each other up, as opposed to shaming each other. And that we are so much stronger than we ever imagined, that we can and will survive. How can anyone disagree with that?

Queen Catherine to Queen Mary in Reign 2x09 'Acts of War'.
These stories need to be told! Women, especially the young girls who might be watching shows like this one, need to see, they need to know, that survival is possible. That horrible, horrendous things like sexual assault happen. That they aren't to blame. That even a character that we love, a queen, someone who is quite literally guarded by an entire nation can be hurt in this way. This isn't an experience fated only to bad people. Horrible things happen to good people too, and as queens, we can survive it all.

What do you think about television shows incorporating heavy scenes like this into their shows? Please do share any thoughts in the comments below. If we don't talk about these things, who will?

"NaNoWriMo-ing": Part III [Wrap-Up]

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It's been a week since the end of NaNoWriMo, which means that I should have posted this like a week ago (a week agooooo) but alas I did not. I bet you are over all this NaNoWriMo talk I've been spewing the past month. Well, not to worry, tomorrow will be back to 'normal' posts (whatever that means!). But I needed to conclude my first ever NaNo experience in a more substantial way (Also, check out Part I & Part II!).

Many Wrimos (NaNoWriMo participants) memorialize their experiences through daily vlogs, but I decided to do my own 'diluted' version. In case you didn't know, I flooded Instagram last month with daily writing motivation. I could say it was to motivate others but truly, it was key to motivating myself to write daily. In order to post in earnest, I had to actually commit to writing, so I wrote almost everyday. I finished every post with a 'lesson of the day' of sorts. Here are the twenty lessons I learned from NaNoWriMo, which kinda makes for the perfect wrap-up post. Check out my Instagram account for all the pictures that go along with them.

Follow your headlights.
It's easy to be discouraged by not knowing the middle or ending of our stories. But writing is about keeping your eyes on the road and using the light cast by your headlights to lead the way. 

Just sit down.
Fear can be so crippling. Being fearful of having nothing to write can sometimes make you walk away from the keyboard altogether. Writing is kind of like working out in that way - just get there and the work will come.  

Said is dead. 
Okay, so it turns out 'said' isn't as dead as I thought, despite how uninspiring and lackluster it sounds. Through comments I discovered tons of alternative words (exclaimed, whispered, shouted) and that in many instances "said" is actually the best option. Also, it's about time I get around to reading On Writing by Stephen King.

It's okay.
Even on day when you don't write, it's okay. There's always tomorrow and it will be better.

Write through it.
The difference between a good writing day and a bad one is the ability to push through whatever roadblocks you encounter. And sometimes, you end up loving it even more. 

Don't wait to be inspired.
If you find that you aren't inspired to write the scene that's up next, don't wait for it. Switch it up, change the scene around, or introduce a new character earlier than expected. A reader won't be inspired to read what you weren't inspired to write. 

Remind yourself what happens next.
Getting started can be the hardest part of each writing session. So instead of ending a scene and walking away, I take a moment at the end of a writing session to jot down a sentence about what's happening next, so I can hit the ground running next time.  

There's always editing.
Some writing is better than no writing, even if it's 'bad'. Because it still gives you something to work with in editing. You can't edit a blank page.

Don't compare.
Falling in love with your story and your characters is such a great feeling. Don't let the evil eye of comparison steal your joy and negate all that.

Write from the point of view that inspires you.
Once I stopped obsessing over choosing and sticking with a certain point of view, writing became a lot easier and more authentic. Whether it's first or third person, if it inspires you, that's all that matters. 

Water it, it will grow.
One of my favorites. The more I write, the more I get to know my characters and struggle with the plot and the world they exist in. And then things just start clicking out of nowhere!

Writing is HARD!
To anyone who doesn't do it, it seems like a easy task, something they think they'll eventually do. But after three weeks of constant battle, it's clear. It's like solving an equation without the formula; it's hard.

Own your progress.
There comes a time when you may not feel like you're progressing far enough, fast enough. But never forget to own the progress you've made. Take a quick look behind and admire how far you are from where you started.

Trust your characters.
You do what you can to raise them right but when your characters start pulling at the reigns, you gotta let 'em go and trust that they know where to they're headed.

I write, therefore I am.
I've struggled with calling myself a writer for a while, as evidenced by many a blog post. But somewhere during this month, I finally accepted that there's no entrance exam. The act of writing is what makes me a writer.

You are so much better than you know.
It's easy to let self-doubt creep into your psyche. But if you push it, you'll surprise yourself. I wrote 7,000 words that day. Not the 10K I was aiming for, but holy hell!  

Appreciate the craft of writing.
I was about 12 when I realized writing was my passion. Since then I've lost and found it again multiple times, but I'm so lucky to have discovered my passion at all.

Cling to the glimmer of hope.
The finish line might seem so far off, but so long as it is still in sight, so is victory.

Finish what you started.
I've always loved this quote. And it was just what I needed to push at the end.

Your heart always knows best.
When you write because it's the only thing that feels right, it's the heart that leads the way. And if you just let your heart push through sometimes you end up with something that feels so genuine and so engrained in your soul that it fits perfectly. It ends up feeling less like make believe and more like real life, and that's the best feeling. My heart definitely carried me through to 50,000 words <3

Those (kinda) daily Instagram posts, as well as the hashtags on social media and twitter sprints, really motivated me to keep writing and win NaNoWriMo. Thank you to everyone who commented on my posts here or on iG and had such encouraging words to lend me!

So ends my NaNo experience but the writing - the writing has just begun :)

To Fill Up & Live | Anna & The French Kiss

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

First, a huge THANK YOU! to everyone that has continued to read and comment by blog posts in the rare occasion that I blogged last month. I will be back consistently this month! I truly, truly appreciate you, and will be showing your blogs lots of love very shortly <3

I feel like a total stranger. It feels like NaNoWriMo, which ended on Sunday night, has drained all creativity out of me. I've been binge-watching episodes of Reign every free moment I get for the past 24 hours because it requires little brain power and I am a girl obsessed. A wrap-up post will be coming shortly for anyone interested in NaNoWriMo or writing related topics.

But today is "Book Review Day." The book club's November book, and the only book I read this month, was a re-read for me, Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. And seeing as I feel the same way about it now as I did then, I've reproduced my review of it from last year.

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below if you read it too! Also, if you've reviewed it, please do link-up with Kay and I below :)

Title: Anna and The French Kiss

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Publication: 2010

Major Characters: Anna, St. Clair, Meredith, Rashmi, Josh

Main Plot: When Anna gets shipped off to The School of America in Paris leaving a best friend and an almost-boyfriend back home in Atlanta, she expects it to be miserable. But when she falls into step with a friendly foursome, one of which is a super attractive boy with an adorable accent, she wonders if maybe she could belong to the City of Light as well.

Favorite Line(s):
"Girl scouts didn't teach me what to do with emotionally unstable drunk boys."

"School of America in Paris" he explains. "SOAP".
Nice. My father sent me here to be cleansed."

"And, suddenly, I want to touch him. Not a push, or a shove, or even a friendly hug. I want to feel the creases in his skin, connect his freckly with invisible lines, brush my fingers across the inside of his wrists."

My Rating: 5
To start off, it's not this classic monster of a book. It's not going to make you stop and think about your decisions or bring your morals into question. It's not going to change your life. It's not a Pride & PrejudiceOf Mice & MenThe Catcher In The Rye. It doesn't bring you to an alternate world that's been forever changed by our rampant consumerism like The Hunger Games or Divergent. Yet, it's still one of my favorites. Because it is such a charming, feel good book.

Stephanie Perkins perfectly encapsulates what it feels like to fall in love. That feeling of not knowing whether you're friends or more than friends, and feeling like your heart might just pop right out of your chest when he gets a little too close. The electricity of a first touch or the moment when flirtatious banter is capped by a look that makes the ground fall from beneath your feet. When I read this book, both times I found myself giddily smiling into its binding and kicking my feet into the air, vicariously living through Anna and her Parisian experiences. There are particular scenes I reread multiple times before continuing because of how endearing they are to read.

Sometimes, when you read a romance-y type of novel, especially one with teenage characters (most of the characters are seniors in high school), you expect to feel "over it" because the romance is so unrealistic and the characters are so naive. This novel didn't feel that way. Aside from the typical teen-angst moment here or there, the problems they faced felt real and the situations they found themselves in weren't so far removed from the drama of adults my age. It ran the gamut from family issues, to loss, to discovering a new place, to being scared to ask "hey, are you into me?", and none of it felt tired or old. And surprisingly, the way Perkins develops relationships and friendships in the novel is great on timing. It isn't rushed. A quote from Pride & Prejudice is actually perfect to illustrate this point: "I was in the middle before I knew it had begun." There aren't "insta-best friends" or "I love you's at first sight". You feel the relationships growing and stretching to fill the page and in the process, you fall in love as well.

I really enjoyed the simplicity with which the novel was written. As someone who struggles with using too many words in her writing and making things sound too complicated, the straight-forward, conversational writing of the novel was refreshing and easy to read. Plus, the way Stephanie Perkins explains Paris with such beautiful descriptions kind of transports you from your bedroom right into the City Of Love - if only until the final page is read. Or if you're like me, you go right back to the beginning and fall in love all over again.


Feel free to link-up below, and of course, join us next month!

If you've never read along with us before, you may want to start now. And if you usually do, then (1) we love you, and (2) you don't want to quit on us now. The book-of-the-month for December is a novel I've been looking forward to reading! 

by Various Authors
It's a collection of twelve holiday stories written by various authors but all edited by the wonderful Stephanie Perkins, and I'm sure it is going to delight. We hope you'll join us and post a review on Tuesday, January 6th!  

Cheers to being back!  

"NaNoWriMo-ing": Part II [Music]

Monday, November 24, 2014

The fact that I'm taking a writing break to write this post is so counterproductive I don't have the words to describe. What can I say? I just love you guys. Bring it in... *virtual hugs all around*

That right up there. That may be delirium setting in. 

One of the things that has really been getting me through this month is music. About a week or two before NaNoWriMo began, I'd begun adding songs that remind me of my novel (then just an outline) to a playlist. It's kind of like a soundtrack to my story. So that's my advice. If you're having a hard time pushing through this final week of NaNoWriMo or just need motivation to write more frequently, create a 'novel soundtrack'. And this morning I'm going to talk about my soundtrack, the songs on it and how I chose particular songs for particular scenes. 

Making A Noveling Soundtrack

I won't be sharing too much about my novel (because again being productive of my total not-worth-stealing ideas), but when I don't share details, I will give examples, if I can. 

The most important part of compiling a playlist of songs to inspire you to write your story is, obviously, choosing songs that inspire you in general. Even if it doesn't really seem go with your novel, it can inspire you just because, and that's where I advise that you start. Besides, you are not a random collection of hopes and thoughts that have no relation. Generally, the things we create are closely-related to the values we hold dear, the ideas we have etc., so what inspires you will probably inspire your story if that makes sense. Here are a few songs that generally inspire me:

The Light by The Album Leaf
I never miss a week of Scandal so it's no surprise that when I think of those 'silent romance' scenes (Olitz moments!) I hear this in my head. I'm not sure if my novel has those scenes but the song feels so meaningful. 

Beating Heart by Ellie Goulding
When I saw Divergent, I loved this track so much. To me, it signifies that final night before you know that everything is going to change. I think everyone can relate to that feeling.

Bartholomew by The Silent Comedy
This is one badass song. Everytime I hear it, I remember one badass vampire Klaus Mikaelson's fight scene in season 1 of The Originals when he annihilates like two dozen vampires before they surrender (here!). He's a baaad man. And although I'm not exactly sure where it fits in my story, the drums and guitar melodies make me feel powerful.

Next is to think of the themes or particular scenes in your novel and find songs that sound like they fit. You can choose slower ballads for romantic and deeper scenes, or epic instrumentals for suspenseful moments, fun upbeat music for those playful scenes that play like a cutesy montage in your head. You can also match lyrics to scenes if possible. Doing so really helps when your writing because you hear words that almost express what your characters might be feeling. Below are a few examples from my soundtrack as well as a few that I thought up just now.

Your Hands Are Cold by Dario Marianelli 
A lovely track from the 2011 Pride & Prejudice movie soundtrack, it reminds me of all things wonderful about love. Around the 2:40 mark, the swell of the music is so beautiful it almost makes me cry. Can somebody say first kiss?

Intro by The Xx
Another generally-inspiring song. Because of how steady the song is throughout and the video I saw for it (here), I've always associated it with running or a trek of some sort, something liberating. So when I wrote a scene when my character went for a run, I had this song on repeat. 

Do I Wanna Know? by Artic Monkeys
Most romances start with one or both characters wondering if the other feels the same way. Not only is this track a good, gritty rock song, but it describes perfectly that wonder and hesitation involved in a situation like that. I specifically love these lines: "So have you got the guts? / Been wondering if your heart's still open and if so I wanna know what time it shuts / Simmer down and pucker up / I'm sorry to interrupt. It's just I'm constantly on the cusp of trying to kiss you / I don't know if you feel the same as I do / But we could be together if you wanted to".

Time & The Dream Is Collapsing by Hans Zimmer
There comes a point in my novel where shit is just hitting the metaphorical fan. My characters wind up in the complete wrong place at the wrong time and witness something that they can't come back from, the OMG moment. I find that Hans Zimmer's instrumentals are just perfectly epic for such moments. Time is great at building it up for that moment when things look sketchy, the up on the roller coaster. And then Dream Is Collapsing (which in Inception is the moment things are getting real) is the downfall, that eyes popping out of your head "is-this-real-life?" moment. It makes me excited to write these scenes.

Love Me Again by John Newman
I know it seems like it, but not all of my novel is doom, gloom and tension. There are really fun parts and for my montage of happiness, this song is just perfect. My characters get to a point when they've figured things out (or at least they think they have) and just really learn to enjoy the moments they have together. It doesn't hurt that I just love this song!

How do you find songs to add to your novel playlist? I suggest checking out the soundtracks for some of your favorite movies and shows. Many of the songs on my soundtrack are from shows like The Originals, The Vampire Diaries, Scandal, Pretty Little Liars, and movies like Inception, Batman Begins, Pride & Prejudice. Also check out this post by Susan Dennard for more ideas.

Ironically enough, listening to and talking about all of these songs has motivated me to jump back into my story. Which is a good things because I'm almost 10,000 words behind schedule :o eep! I hope this was helpful. If you're interested in my first NaNoWriMo tip post, click here

Tell me about the music you write or blog to. What songs inspire you in general? 

When You're Behind On Your Reading Challenge...

Friday, November 21, 2014

I love the classics. I do. But let's be real - their awesomeness takes a little while to get through. I don't think I've ever read a good-sized classic novel in less than a week. I also don't think I've ever disliked a classic either so... there's that.

But what's a girl to do when she's almost a dozen books behind on her reading challenge and it's the middle of November? Here are my suggestions to hit that book challenge goal:
When you're trying to hit the reading goal, there are 3 major categories of novels (most of them in YA books) that I suggest you pull from.

When a novel has a continuation, I get excited to keep going, so before I know it I've read three books in one week. Check my Goodreads page. I devoured the first 5 books in the Mortal Instruments series in like two weeks! It's a great way to get sucked out of a reading slump and into a whole new world (with Aladdin? A girl can dream). Before you know it, you're so close to that reading goal.

Below are a few of my suggestions for trilogies/series that are sure to hold your attention and seriously add to your "read books" list just in time for the new year.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (3 books published; 1 book to go)
The Hunger Games by Susanne Collins (all 3 books published)
The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare (all 3 books published)
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (4 books published; 2 or 3 books to go)
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare (all 6 books published)
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (all 7 books published)

The thing I love about contemporary novels is that they don't take long to get into. They are set in the world we already know and generally deal with elements of life that we've experienced or are familiar with, as opposed to fantasy or dystopians which have a learning curve of sorts. I also find that books about love and life are just faster reads. My go-to book to pull me out of a reading slump is Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, our November book of the month! Anytime I need a pick me up, it's the book I reach for.

There are so many good contemporaries out there that I can't even attempt to list them, but here are a few that I love.

Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (or any Sarah Dessen novel)
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Where The Heart Is by Billie Letts

This just might be cheating but I mean not really because Goodreads allows it. And we all know that if Goodreads allows it then it counts damn it! Which reminds me that they should really allow you to count rereads towards the book challenge. Anyway, I digress. Short stories, Novellas and Graphic Novels. They're a great source for meeting that reading challenge because (1) they are usually quick reads and (2) in many cases, each short story can be counted. For instance, Four: A Divergent Collection, is a bind up on 4 (surprise, surprise) short stories, all four of which can be marked as 'read'. Hello, four more reads!

Here are a few short story bind-ups, novellas and graphic novels that are on my TBR list.

Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth
The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare
If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black
Going To Meet The Man by James Baldwin
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Deadly Class by Rick Remender, Wesley Craig, and Lee Loughridge

How are you doing on your reading challenge? Any suggestions for quick reads to boost your numbers?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Every now and then I get sucked into the comment section of an iG post or a discussion post on a particular topic for hours. Recently, I was looking through discussion topics on Wuthering Heights and stumbled upon the topic of Heathcliff's ethnicity. Commenters compared opinions on whether Heathcliff was black or rather Indian or a darker-toned Caucasian gypsy. I found the conversation fascinating and began wondering myself how I pictured Heatthcliff when I first read of him (I don't recall). Before I knew it I'd spent nearly an hour sifting through. It was this comment that tore me out of my information-crazed revere:
Didn't Heathcliff place a lock of his hair in _[spoiler]? A Lock of his hair. He wasn't black. More likely a dark/swarthy skinned Caucasian with an appearance like a gypsy. 
First, I reread the comment just to be sure I had read it properly. Then I became enraged. WHAT DOES SHE MEAN?!?! How exactly does the fact that Heathcliff placed a lock of hair somewhere serve as definitive evidence that he was not black? Do blacks not have locks of hair? Can we not cut off said locks and place them inside things? Have we not hands?! Of course, I recognized that her statement was made out of misinformation. Simply someone who was completely uninformed and ignorant of other people. But to be honest, that did nothing to quell my frustration. I just did not get it. Where along the line did this young girl get the notion that black people are not human?
Heathcliff depicted as a black man in the 2011 film adaptation of Wuthering Heights 
Once I got off my high horse, I had a thought - a much more tranquil and controlled thought :) What good does my rage do? Yeah sure, at the moment, it made me feel a little better. I can't deny that. They say getting angry and letting anger out does nothing. They lie. It helped. But it didn't help the world or society as a whole. The way to help is to inform. And I truly believe that the culprit of so much is misinformation or no information at all. So, here are a few things to keep in mind, a few things that aren't meant to be insulting but sometimes are.

Don't ask to touch my hair.

By this I mean, asking to touch me on the account of your cultural curiosity. Let me explain. I chemically relax my hair so this isn't recent, but I've been asked and many of my friend's with natural hair have been asked: "Can I touch your hair? Is it soft like cotton or like a poodle?" Cue record scratch. Isn't all hair soft? It's just a really weird request. I mean, if I just got my hair blown out it's different. But don't ask to touch me on account of my skin color or hair texture or anything like that. You probably can't imagine someone would do this, right? I know, but it happens much more frequently than you think. Check out this Buzzfeed video that depicts so many of these scenarios in a very funny way. Gosh, I love Buzzfeed videos!

Try not to be uncomfortable.

I use to feel really uncomfortable mentioning about my race around people of other races. Strange, right? It always seemed that it made others uncomfortable and so I'd stay away from it. I got over this feeling, but every now and then, when I mention being on CP time (colored people time = always being late) or reference my year-long tan, I can see the surprise on the faces of some people around me. Just remember, it's all okay! There's no need to feel awkward or uncomfortable when the topic comes up. Just go with it like it's a normal conversation, because, well, it is.

"I don't see (think of) you as black." 

To which I respond, well, why the hell not? Don't say this. Pleaaasseee, don't. Because although you may intend it as some sort of compliment, it's not. You're essentially saying that you don't see me. I'm black. It's evident, it's not changing. So see it. See me for me. Don't strip me of my blackness. Acknowledge it the way you would any other feature - pale skin, brown hair, blue eyes, long legs - and attribute the same value to it. Essentially, say "I see you as black but I also see you as tall, fit, pretty, intelligent, all of the wonderful adjectives." Except don't actually say that aloud. That'd be weird :)

Eeep! That was heavy. I know it's a heavy topic for a lot of people, but the only real way to affect change is to talk about things. And I decided in this post to talk about real things and real issues. So, if you have anything to add to the conversation, please please please I implore you to comment below.

"NaNoWriMo-Ing": Part I

Monday, November 17, 2014

Have I mentioned that I've always wanted a typewriter? I have to resist buying one every time I go to a vintage store or flea market but I know I don't have the space for it :(

That's beside the point. As you probably already know, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year and I'm about 1/2 through now (which means I should have over 25K words but nay, I do not. Let's not talk about it). Let's talk not about word counts or the act of actually writing a novel at all. Let's talk about prepping a novel, specifically creating a story bible.

Creating A Story Bible

I've been writing for as long as I can remember, short stories, attempted novels, you name it. And unknowingly, I've been story bible-ing (made-up word) for almost as long. So a few months ago, when I decided to commit to nanowrimo-ing (another made up word), I began researching and working on a full-fledged story bible for my novel.

Did you know that television shows use "show bibles", a collection of details about the show from location and character descriptions to much more? It makes perfect sense when you think about the nature of writing a show. A television show, unlike an average novel, usually has multiple writers that form a writing team. Think about the flow of the story in your favorite show, like The Vampire Diaries, and then imagine what it would be like if a writer forgot to curl Nina Dobrev's hair to play Katherine or if Jeremy's hunter tattoo was on the wrong arm next episode? All details maintained by a show bible.

This little fact was brought to my attention by Rochelle Melander, writing for Jane Friedman, who wrote a very informative article about all of this a few years ago. In the same way that show writers use a show bible to "keep track of details about the setting and characters to preserve continuity", a novel writer can benefit from the use of story bible in this way. A story bible can be a useful tool for keeping track of settings, characters, plot twists and a great place for jotting down notes or dialogue that pops into your head. My story bible is full of my scribbles that don't quite fit but may just work later on.

In her article, Melander writes about the multiple formats that a story bible can take. While most writers prefer a purely electronic story bible, I combine electronic and physical copy. I like having an actual book in front of me to flip through, but I print quite a bit of it's contents from my computer documents. I just really like stationary and pretty things :) (You should see my planner!)

Now that I've flooded you with all this information on what a story bible is, let me show you how I create and manage mine.

(Note: many of the pages in the following pictures are blurred purposefully. Not that I think any of my ideas are worth stealing but they are mine. I'm protective!)

Technically, I have 3 versions on my story outline in my bible. First, we have what I call my quick outline. I adopted the 3 Act method from Katytastic (although I'm sure it's widely used by the writing community) and made it work for me. If you want to know more about this method of outlining, click the link above. Behind that I have a print out of my full outline (see picture above), which is essentially just bold headlines for the general point of a scene followed by a few sentences describing said scene. Lastly, I have individual pages for each chapter where I handwrite what scenes go where. This serves as the most detailed order of events that I use and it's the document I work from when I'm actually writing. Here I'll jot down any dialogue that I know works for that chapter and every other detail I can think of when I'm setting scenes.

Behind all the outlines, there are character sketches, location information and other descriptions for the story's progression. There are very many pictures in this section, but I also have a Pinterest board dedicated to inspiring images for my novel. Each character has their own page where their physical characteristics, personal values and beliefs, family connections, relationship and a whole host of other details are listed. (I even have a separate page for the town my story takes place in because the town is almost a character in my novel.) For example, below is a character page for my main character Lea.

I'm constantly adding to my story bible as I write and think of interesting, new dynamics to the story line that I hadn't seen before. Quite frequently, I'll think of a scene or a statement that doesn't fit what I'm currently writing, sometimes I'm not even sure it belongs in the same book, so I'll scribble it somewhere in the back pages behind my sketches. While writing during NaNoWriMo, my chapter pages have been invaluable in keeping me writing and not getting me stuck, at least so far.

If you are also nanowrimo-ing or you just need some motivation for writing, check out my Instagram, where I'm daily posting about writing for the month of November.

Are you a writer? How do you keep track of the many little details that go into writing?

Link Love | Nov.14,14

Friday, November 14, 2014

This picture has nothing to do with this post. Just really liked this shot a snapped down in SoHo :)
Got any plans this weekend? Aside from trying to catch up on my NaNoWriMo words, I'm headed to one of my best friend's wedding! I can't believe the day has finally come, and I'm so excited to finally see my bestie say "I do" to her soulmate. Eeeee :) I hope your weekend is wonderful as well. Here are a few links that I've been loving this past week:

This winter living room <3

T-Pain minus autotune? Say What?!

I'm not particularly religious, but this article about Jesus' alleged family caught my attention this week.

Although I'm curious what Ye thinks of all this, I can't say I was too surprised to see Kim Kardashian's naked body all over my iG feed. But is she just the butt of old joke

Speaking of naked, is a nude beach really that different from the infamous Brazilian bikini?

Disturbing children's toy that should be taken off the market immediately.

Is there a line between private and public in the political arena?

This lovely post about why kids cover their eyes while hiding. Aw!

Sidney Poitier on luck. Such class.

Joining us this (short!) month for the book club? We're reading Anna and the French Kiss. This fan made book trailer makes me excited for the reread!


Happy Weekend, deary! (Ok, who caught that Once Upon A Time reference?!)

Blogging Personality

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's been a week since I've visited blogland. Eeep!

I'm taking a break from writing to write this. Well from writing a novel to writing this blog post. Believe me, there's a difference. And I'm currently 4,000 words behind :\ Also, is it still 'taking a break' from writing if you're actually not writing? Clearly, NaNoWriMo crazy has reached my brain. Pray for me.

All this writing has got me thinking about what I want my little corner of internet to be. I've struggled for a while in determining that. Not necessarily because I didn't know what I wanted but because I came to realize that having it all when it comes to blogging is difficult.

Let me back up because I'm not making much sense (again, my braaiinn!). With a single lap about the blogging track, it's easy to see that it's a land full of product reviews, weekend wrap-ups, weekly confessions and favorites. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I want to make that perfectly clear before I go any further. I'm not throwing any shade on those blogs/bloggers. Some of my favorites are those blogs/bloggers: I follow multiple beauty blogs, I binge watch monthly favorite videos on YouTube, I like peaking into someone's weekend occasionally, and some of those confession posts really make me feel closer to said bloggers. Hell, I myself flood The Kari Diaries (TKD) with beauty things and book reviews! But that's not the kind of blog I want TKD to be. At least not entirely. I want to be more than lipstick swatches, picture dumps, and embarrassing confessions.

It's probably the writer in me (and I'm sure this month's writing frenzy is adding fuel to the already burning fire). I want to feel like my blog is adding something to the interwebs, to the people who care to read my entries. And even though my weekends are very important to me and posts made entirely of gifs make me incredibly happy, I want TKD to mean something more than that, something more than just my personal enjoyment. I'm not expecting to change the world, but I want to talk about real things, about real issues. I want to make people think.

So I know you're sitting there saying: Ok Kari, just do it then. Here's the weird part about blogging. Blogs like that, they don't garner much readership. And I want TKD to be a successful blog as well as a conduit for conversation. I want TKD to be equal parts light and heavy, funny and serious, beauty and the beast. But just like any other blogger, I want readers. I repeat readers, not followers. Sure, followers are nice. "Oh no, please don't follow me!", said no one ever. But readers... as an aspiring author, readers are my JAM. As a writer and an avid reader, I desperately want to interact with others over the words we write, the things we think, the purposes we ponder.

I've rambled on long enough (and my manuscript is not so gently calling my name), so I'll cut to the point. Soon, hopefully very soon but I can't make too many promises with the craziness that is NaNoWriMo, I'm going to start heading that direction. Despite fears of turning certain people off, The Kari Diaries will be a better representation of me and my thoughts, and I hope to post more regularly, on a MWF schedule, if not more. There are plenty of blogs that I think accomplish this well (The Florkens, The Grits Blog, The Happy Type, She Is Fierce) while retaining readership. I have no idea how they do it, but I'm hoping that I can do that as well. Because what good is sharing your thoughts if you have no one to share them with?


Quick Note: November has been a very busy month for both Kay and I. So busy that we totally forgot to announce November's book of the month! We've chosen Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins! For more information on the book as well as the review date, check the "Books" tab above or the Goodreads page.

What do you think  your blogging personality is? Do you prefer to operate a more lighthearted blog or a serious one? Would you ever stop reading a blog that changes its personality?

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