Obsessions: A History

I’m so obsessed with Reign, the Mary Queen of Scots drama on the CW. Like SOOOOOO unhealthily obsessed. I love it. I can’t get enough. I just recently discovered it, and I DEVOURED both seasons. Now I have to wait 3 months until Season 3! I can’t stand it. But it got me thinking about some of the strange, all-consuming obsessions that I’ve had in my life. Here they are:

1. Green Day

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This was a die-hard obsession of my 8th and 9th grade years. I wore WAY too much eye makeup and black nail polish. Listening to such angry music all the time made me kind of hate my (very good) life! I figured that out eventually, but I still nurse a little crush on Billy Joe Armstrong.

2. Veganism

My junior year of high school through my freshman year of college, I was obsessed with all things vegan. I read a massive number of books and got really into cooking elaborate vegan recipes. I stayed vegan until my senior year of college, when I studied abroad in Italy, and was left with no choice but to consume mass amounts of gelato.

3. Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra

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BEST SHOW EVER! I don’t know if this obsession really ever died, but the first time I saw  it, I skipped class to finish the final season with my roommate! We could not turn it off and ended up attempting to beatbox the end credits after each episode.

4. Greek Mythology

In 6th grade, I was introduced to the world of Greek mythology and I immediately fell in love with the archetype characters. I quickly began constructing my own stories using the gods and goddesses as characters! This obsession faded into obscurity for a while, but last year when I read Goddesses in Everywoman, the obsession was unleashed again! Now, I find myself thinking “she’s such an Athena” on a regular basis.

5. Harry Potter

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Who wasn’t obsessed with Harry Potter at some point? But for me, this is a lifelong obsession that continues on. I am a 23-year-old woman who goes on Pottermore. I have -yikes- 4 pieces of Harry Potter art hanging in my apartment. (In my defense, though, I have several gallery walls worth of art.) I also love listening to the Harry Potter audio books when I’m driving between San Francisco and Los Angeles alone. The 5 hours fly by. That’s only like 1/3 of Goblet of Fire!

6. Red Hair

When I was little, I had a red-headed Barbie named Courtney. And the obsession was born. Later, Satine from Moulin Rouge fed my love of red hair.  Needless to say, I have been a red-head since my Dad gave me permission in high school to die my hair.

7. Buffy

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I resisted Buffy for a long time. I’ve devoured every other Joss Whedon show, but I was nervous about Buffy’s cheesy ’90s special effects. Boy, did I get over that fast! The first time I watched Buffy, I would get off of work and calculate exactly how many episodes I had time to watch before I had to go to bed. It made me want to start wearing cross necklaces, and I finally understood the strong and silent type. Hello, Angel!

Those are my craziest obsessions. What have your greatest obsessions been?

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Thoughts on Plots: Reign

In the effort of full disclosure, I will say that I love Reign. It’s my first ever CW show, but I love the acting, the story, the wardrobe, and the semi-historical nature of the show. Not to mention: some serious badass girl power. Mary Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) may be the young queen of a troubled country, but she is a powerhouse and will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Even though she reigns at a time when women have almost no freedom, she still makes her actions count and uses her power for all it’s worth. But I’ll admit, Reign has a few flaws. It features some pretty ludicrous and unhistorical plot twists and relies heavily on romantic drama. So here’s the best, the worst and the essential. Then you can decide whether you want to binge-watch in time for Season 3!

Here are the predominant aspects of the CW’s historical drama, Reign: 

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                                                              Killer chemistry between Kane and Regbo

The Romance: Oh, the romance. The show starts Season 1 with Mary moving to French Court to get to know her fiancé, the dauphin of France, Francis (Toby Regbo). He immediately pushes her away, insisting that he doesn’t know whether they will actually be married. Yet, the attraction between the two of them is obvious and they eventually admit their feelings. Unfortunately, romance is never that easy for royals. Everyone from the King to Scottish rebels seem to get in the way. There is great chemistry between Kane and Regbo, even if the Will They/Won’t They becomes a bit excessive. For the supporting characters, the exciting romance between Lady-in-Waiting Greer (Celina Sinden) and kitchen boy Leith (Jonathan Keltz) is one for the ages. And a surprising romance between Narcisse (Craig Parker) and Lola (Anna Popplewell) involves some unexpected games- including one where Lola tricks Narcisse into watching a maid bathe from a balcony.

Reign -- Image: RE01_KEYGroup1 -- Pictured (L-R): Toby Regbo as Prince Francis, Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Torrance Coombs as Bash – Photo: Mathieu Young/The CW -- © 2013 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Magic: What separates this show from actual historical events (besides some of the high drama), is the slight hint of fantasy. There are minute magical elements to the show that keep viewers guessing if they’re just superstitions or if they’re actually happening. The show starts off with prophecies made by the Court Seer Nostradamus, but they also face Pagan Rituals, a cannibal, a woman who can bring back the dead, and a castle ghost. It’s a lot of fun and adds some much needed romance-free intrigue!

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The Friendships: The show has several prominent friendships that play important roles: the relationship between Mary and her ladies (Lola, Greer and Kenna), and the relationship between Francis and Bash (half brothers). Mary’s relationship with her ladies is one of mutual support through any failure. From Lola’s unplanned pregnancy to Kenna becoming the King’s mistress, Mary is frank with her opinions but never stops supporting her friends. Francis and Bash’s relationship is a bit all over the place. They hate each other, they love each other, but they are always brothers and would take a knife to the chest for each other.

If you’re undecided about whether or not to tune in, here are the best and worst aspects of the show: 

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Greer’s tough, but savvy, decisions show her strength as a character and role model.

Highlights:

1. Believable Bad Guys 

One of my favorite things about the show is that the bad guys are very believable. They all have reasons behind their actions. Firstly, Catherine (a sometimes good, sometimes baddie) did all of her worst deeds for love and protection of her children. She would go to any length for them. Conde became a bad guy because he was abandoned by Mary and pushed into a corner by his brother, leaving him no alternative but to follow through with the only people offering him support.

2. Greer

The only non-noble in Mary’s crew, Greer is under a lot of stress to marry up. After meeting a gorgeous, funny, and smart kitchen boy, Greer starts sneaking around to see him without ruining her reputation. A season later, for reasons I won’t give away, Greer loses her money and standing at the castle. She is forced out and carves out a life for herself as a Madame. She experiences the first slice of power and freedom that she has ever had. When the love of her life proposes, she rejects him, because she would have to give up her lucrative business. Celina Sinden did some fantastic acting throughout both seasons, but her character is given so much more to work with in Season 2!

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                                                                      Ridiculously good looking bad guys.

Lowlights:

1. Unrealistic Drama

Even though I love the show, I’ll give that some of the drama is pretty unrealistic. Lola’s one night stand with Francis, with no reason why she would want to do that, and Bash’s immediate ‘will die for you’ love for Mary, without any lead up are the two most predominant examples. However, Mary’s reaction and decision to wed Bash after she finds out about Nostradamus’s prophecy is a bit hard to swallow. And lastly, Catherine’s romantic interest in Narcisse is unbelievable, considering he has hooked up with her daughter AND her grandson’s mother.

2. Too Many Attractive People

Everyone is gorgeous. Even the bad guys! Narcisse, Conde and Catherine, all featured bad guys from both seasons, are ridiculously attractive. Get a look at this face. It was almost enough to make me root for Narcisse sometimes! It wouldn’t kill the show to throw in some normal looking people once in a while, just to shake things up!

3. Not historically accurate.

The most common complaint that I hear about this show is that it isn’t historically accurate. No, the dresses that they wear aren’t period appropriate. Yes, they made a lot of changes to the history. And finally, Bash, King Henry’s bastard son, is a made-up character who plays a major role in the show. (He is credited third after Mary and Catherine.)

After reading my lengthy breakdown, what do you think? Will you give Reign a shot?

50 Books in 2015 – Part 1 of 3

I decided at the end of February that I wanted to participate in the 50 Books challenge, which simply means that in 2015, I will read 50 books. With April over, I thought I would share what I’ve accomplished in the first third of the year! It’s been a rough one, but I’ve still managed 17 books. So here’s what I’ve done so far.

January

1. Heir of Fire

2. Slayers

3. Slayers: Friends and Traitors (Book 2)

4. Trial by Fire

5. The Jewel

February

6. The Red Queen

(Rough month for me, I was really off my reading game!)

March

7. Inferno

8. Quiet

9. Zodiac

10. The Shadowhunter Academy (short novel)

April

11. The Dead Key

12. The Elite (re-read)

13. The One (re-read)

14. The Bane Chronicles

15. City of Glass (re-read)

May

16. City of Heavenly Fire (re-read)

17. Dragonfly in Amber (current)

What’s next? God Loves Ugly (for non-fiction) and Percy Jackson (for fiction). I’ve heard excellent things about both books! My biggest recommendation so far is Trial by Fire, by Josephine Angelini. It is a very unique, alternate reality fantasy! I can’t get over it! (Also, it’s pretty sexy. Just sayin’.)

I’m a little behind on the numbers, but it’s been a rough few months! As anyone paying attention can probably tell, April afforded me a lot of reading time. Here’s why, in one word: unemployed. So it’s a trade off! Yay, books!

My only concern with my current numbers is that I included a few book I was reading for the second time. I checked out a few places online and everyone seems to count rereads, as long as they haven’t counted those books for a previous challenge, and they read the books cover to cover.  I’m counting them, with the stipulation that I state they are a re-read. Who else is participating in the 50 Books Challenge? I’d love to follow your progress! Also, if anyone is as obsessed with reading as I am, let’s be friends on Goodreads!

How I’m Getting Back in the Creative Game

I recently wrote about pulling creativity out from a bad job. This is something I’m just getting started with myself. I’ll admit: I took some time off of writing. I didn’t want to, but struggling with work and family problems, I was too exhausted to think of anything creative to say. It’s a bad excuse, and one I wouldn’t accept from anyone else, but there it is. Now, I’m back. And here’s my game plan.

1. One hour a day- minimum. This used to be my pattern. Even if I had to be at work at 6 AM, I would still get up an hour early to write. I’m going back to this. It’s important to my mental health. This time I haven’t been writing has been unfortunate. Some people are morning writers, and others are night writers. I have a friend who swears by scheduling one night a week as Write Night, and she writes not stop all evening. Every day works better for me, in order to form a solid habit.

2. Pour my problems into my writing. No matter what’s going on, I’m going to use the emotions and problems to fuel my writing, rather than take away from it. This was something that I used to do, but I reached a level of exhaustion I’d never experienced before, and I stopped. That was stupid. Never again.

3. Don’t get stuck in the editing swamp. Always be on the first draft of something. I don’t know about you, but first drafts are just good for my soul. I get all excited as ideas flow into my brain, about this chapter or that character. I need that excitement and creativity in my life! So instead of ignoring Project B for 6 months to edit, I’ll edit Project A as I write Project B.

4. Take a backseat. I’ve always been a pretty ambitious person. I decide I want something and put all of my energy and focus into getting it. Recently, this hasn’t served me so well. I get focused on something I think I want, spend years trying to achieve it, and then realize it’s not going to make me happy. So now, I’m trying to take a more laid back approach. Go slow and see what works. This applies well to writing because I’m not going to rush through rounds of editing to get something to a publishable state. I’m going to take my time. I’ll still write every day, but not push myself to meet word count goals. I’m going to let my work marinate.

Do you have any writing rules for yourself? Let me know!

How to Draw Creativity from Unlikely Sources: The Bad Job

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” -Orson Scott Card

Often, people think of their day job as the necessary evil to make their creative dreams possible. I fall into this trap myself. And I have a particularly tough day job. Every day, I work a minimum of 12 hours. Yes, that’s not a typo. I often work between 12 to 14 hours a day. 5 days a week. For months on end. It’s the unfortunate truth of the television industry.

There are a lot of tough aspects about my job: the long hours, the low pay, and the constant contact with a few people with MASSIVE EGOS. (I’ve worked on 8 different tv shows, and let me tell you, it’s not the people at the top with the big egos. The people at the top of my show are all awesome! It’s always people in the middle, who are grasping for power.)

While my case of long hours might be extreme, almost everyone has unique problems with their job. I love the short story Orientation as an example of crazy workplaces. Office Space is of course a great example, as is this clip from NCIS.

Here’s how I use bad bosses and ridiculous jobs to fuel my creativity:

Writing it out. The simplest, and maybe most effective, way to process what’s going on when you’re starting to feel a bit crazy. I’m no nonfiction writer, but it’s nice to pound out my problems on the keyboard.

-Using character motivations and emotions from the day. When I go and sit at my keyboard, it’s impossible for me not to fuse something about my current situation with what I’m writing. Whether it’s simply a single line, or a motivation for an entire scene or story, putting your current feelings on the page is a great way to write emotion. The reader will really feel them!

-Live through your art. Dreaming about wild adventures and daring romances is the perfect escape from the narcissistic drone of your boss behind you as you take on the same repetitive task for the day. (Corporate accounts payable, this is Nina speaking. Just a moment.)

-Dream a little harder. Wanting out of a particular situation can be inspiring to work harder to move on. Take action, make changes, and get ready for your future!

If all else fails, your bosses can’t be as bad as these guys, right? (Although mine would definitely compete with Miranda Priestley for craziest demands.)

badbosses

Querying: A Necessary Evil

I totally understand the necessity of the querying process. It’s rough, but think about what would happen if we could just call up our top-choice agent and say:

“Hey, I write fantasy YA. Want to represent me?”

“Sure, sounds great. Send me your book. I’ll get it to the publishers and it’ll hit shelves next week!”

Barnes and Noble would be flooded with crappy, awful books that we would all have to avoid, and awesome books would get lost in the shuffle. Agents simply don’t have the time to give full attention to the hundreds of thousands of writers that want to be published. We have to prove ourselves, somehow. That being said, I hate, hate, hate querying.

I started querying two weeks ago. So far, I’ve sent query letters to 18 people. I’ve gotten 5 rejections, and 1 partial request. I’m still waiting to hear back from everyone else. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t realize that the over-thinking, the constantly checking my email, and the relentless waiting would get to me as much as it has. Staying positive is so hard. I’ve always been kind of a Negative Nancy, and, starting with the querying process, I’ve been determined to turn it around. I have a mantra that I’ve begun to repeat to myself in between prayers. “My work has value. Someone will love it. Good things will happen.”

This has been my querying journey (and let me tell you, I’m just beginning):

July-December 2014– Agent research. I hunted down a large group of agents that take fantasy YA and put them together in a long list of website links. I threw around query ideas, and had a long document with about six rough queries in a row. I also spent these six months editing BLS until I thought my brains would fall out! Revisions and more revisions, my friend. It really helps!

January 2015Finished edits for my book and started to play around with getting together a really solid query letter. After writing one that I thought was decent and informative, yet short enough, I sent it to about 5 beta readers to have a look. Unfortunately, none of them had queried before, but they all gave me useful advice. I edited it until I was really happy with it.

First Week of February 2015– I smiled at my polished query, said a little prayer, and sent out 5 letters over Monday and Tuesday. Within 24 hours, I had two rejections. Both were kind, saying that my work looked interesting/promising but it wasn’t right for their list right now. I was happy to see that they didn’t say “your letter had typos and your writing needs more work!” but I didn’t want to be too stubborn to see what was happening. Such quick rejections signaled, to me, that perhaps my letter wasn’t sharp enough. I studied my letter and decided that, while it was a good length and well written, it wasn’t catchy. It needed to be memorable, even if I had to take out important story elements to accomplish that.

Second Week of February 2015– After spending 5 days reimagining my query, and having it scoured by a few more beta readers, I felt confident in sending out a lot more letters. Between Monday and Friday, I sent out 14 queries, and along with three rejections, I GOT MY FIRST PARTIAL REQUEST!!!!!! I danced all around the office, and my boss, who was on the phone, got super weirded out, but that’s okay. Because AN ACTUAL AGENT actually wanted to read 5 CHAPTERS OF MY BOOK! I was thrilled and sent it out immediately. (No word yet, but that was Thursday and it’s only Monday- and a holiday at that- so I should give it some time).

Here’s my plan for the rest of the month:

Third and Fourth Week of February 2015– Send out another 6 queries to agents this week and perfect my 2 page synopsis, so that I can send out more queries to people who require those (I have 10 agents I really like picked out). With any luck, I’ll hear back from the agent who requested a partial, and she’ll want to read more! And hopefully, more agents will start requesting partials. I just started the process two weeks ago, and I know most agents say 4-6 weeks, so now is when I have to start being a patient person. (I just snort-laughed into my coffee as I wrote that. Patience is for suckers -or healthy, well-adjusted people, if you want to look at it that way. Punching bags, pizza and headaches are for people like me.)

I hope other querying writers agree with me when I say that there is majorly conflicting information on the internet with regards to queries. Some people say that if you don’t get 50% of the agents requesting more material than there’s something wrong with your letter/chapters. Others say that, because everything is so subjective, that anyone requesting material is a good sign. I’m going a bit out of my mind with all of this. Seriously. Everyone says querying is hard, but I didn’t think it would affect me at a base, cellular level. Fair warning to soon-to-be queryers. Better write some positive, inspiring messages to yourself on your bathroom mirror. I have. Here’s some good ones to get you started:

goodthings fallingapart plottwist

The last one is my favorite. It cheers me up every time! All the best to those who are querying like me. I always find it inspiring to look back at now successfully published writers’ blogs and see how they handled the querying process. They all had rejections as well. I enjoy Sarah J. Maas’s blog a lot. She has a few posts from her time querying. Take a look. 

My Millennial Failures (and why I’m TOTALLY okay with them)

In high school, I was pretty cool. I was up on trends, artists, et cetera. Flash forward six years, and I am so out of it, you would think I never kept up with it. (Does that make any sense?) Anyways, it is called to my attention daily just how out of it I really am by some coworkers who happen to be just a bit too trendy/millennial/current whatever you want to call it. They can’t understand me for the life of them, and I can’t make sense out of half the stuff they say. So here are a few ways that I’m a millennial failure (and TOTALLY okay with it):

1. I’m not big on partying. My ideal Saturday involves mass amounts of reading and writing. I don’t go out and get wasted with my closest fifty friends every weekend. I honestly don’t consider myself as having fifty friends. I have a lot of people who like me, but as far as friends go, I only count people who really care about me and actually KNOW things about me. And I only drink and get a bit crazy when I’m with people that I consider close. I’m just not interested in having drunk dudes at bars hit on me. Sorry other millennials.

2. I don’t listen to hip-hop/rap/current pop music. Unless it’s on a movie sound track. I don’t know any of the artists or own any music like that. I don’t watch the Grammys, because I don’t care about any of the nominated artists. As far as music goes, I like what I like and don’t keep up with what’s popular. It means I listen to a lot of Tom Petty, Queen and the Postal Service.

3. I’ve never been on Tinder and hope I never will. Much like my dislike for being hit on by drunk guys in bars, I also dislike being harassed over an app. They should just advertise it: We bring all the harassment of bars to your phone! I’ve had enough friends on there with crazy weirdos messaging them every day, that so help me God, if I ever get a Tinder, people should know I have a brain tumor.

4. I like to be alone. I’ve written articles to this effect before, on Sociology of Style, but I will reiterate that I think my generation is woefully out of touch with themselves and their own feelings. Millennials who are actively everything I’m not tend to NEED to constantly spend time with others and never be alone.

5. I don’t get into causes for causes’ sake. I think a lot of millennials take on social causes, and claim to know what their talking about, with NO research. One of their friends told them that they should care about Bill X29 going through in two weeks because it affects women. That’s all they know, and they’re out signing petitions and raging on Facebook. So then, I’ll ask them, what is the petition specifically about. What female issues will it affect? This matters to me. And you know what: THEY NEVER KNOW! “I don’t know, but my roommate is really upset about it.” And sometimes I feel like I’m the only millennial asking the deeper questions. (At least near me, I know other sane millennials must be out there!)

Anyway, if you’re a generational failure like me, it’s okay! Celebrate your differentness and find some friends who are as weirdly awesome as you. You can all go be alone and not party together!

I’ll leave you with scary Millennial statistics. Check it:

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Ramblings on Writing