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!  

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