the end of july, 2019

So July turned out to be an incredibility busy month punctuated by a specific period of absolute inactivity.

To elaborate:

That month I started a wonderful freelance job that I’ve been driving to once a week. I’ve been interviewing and listening to the grandparents of some friends in order to write their biography, and though we’ve only had a handful of sessions, it’s been incredibly rewarding. Of course, it helps that they are genuinely wonderful people with great stories, and I love getting to spend time with them!

me settling in every week to hear stories of their childhood shenanigans

As I already mentioned, I started writing for Fairy Tale Central. Since I’ve been doing origins posts, it means that I get to research a new fairy tale every month, and I looove doing that. Research for fun is something I don’t want to give up now that I’m now longer in school.

Speaking of fairy tales, I’ve been troubleshooting a lot of scenes in January Snow. There are a handful of “necessary” scenes that are just plain uninteresting + boring, so I’ve been analyzing why that is and then rewriting them. I’ve also been working on upping the suspense in it, so we shall see how that turns out.

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Additionally, I went to my first con a little over a week ago. One of my local libraries had its own convention with local artists & vendors, and it had a good turnout, even though it’s only the second year that they’ve done it. I got to sell and sign some books, and I look forward to doing it again next year. I’ve never had an author table/booksigning before, and it was really a great experience!

HOWEVER (dun dun DUN)

The week of the con, I’d been having really bad headaches concentrated behind my right eye. When I looked up my symptoms, it seemed that I had a pretty classic case of cluster headaches. Except then the severity of the headaches went away…and the pain in my eye did not. After five days of redness, sensitivity to light, and soreness around my eyebrow and eye that felt a lot worse than it looked, I went to the eye doctor and found out that I had, not a headache problem, but anterior uveitis (inflammation of the iris & middle of the eye). I spent the first week basically spending my days with sunglasses on in a dark corner of the room, avoiding monitors and trying not to use my eyes. Thankfully, my eyes feel much better and the light doesn’t hurt anymore, but treatment lasts awhile. Currently, I’m still on eye drops two times a day. (I started out with eye drops six times that first day, then four the first week, three the second, and so on, so going down to two is kind of a relief)

ANYWAY…July wasn’t bad, but I am ready for the fresh start of a new month. That being said, I’m already itching for August and September to be over so we can get to MY FAVE TRIO.

(October, November, and December are the best months and no, this will not be up for debate at this time)

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Stealing Fiction (The Good Way)

Nothing is new under the sun.

This was written in the Bible thousands of years ago (when there was, presumably, less fiction in the world than there is now) and it’s certainly true today.

Sometimes that can be disheartening, because everyone wants to believe that they have something original to contribute to the world. But it’s also a gift: we don’t have to re-invent the wheel, do we? By utilizing other people’s research and ideas, we can come up with our own distinct creations. I like seeing how other people do things, because they can give me good ideas, too. Sharing ideas is a quick way to progress, and I think that’s especially true in writing. STEAL ALL THE IDEAS!

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One thing I’ve noticed about my own writing is how I like to jump off of fiction -whether it’s movies, TV, books, or even songs- that I already enjoy. When I come up with a plot, characters are usually vaguely formed in my mind. I usually know what “feel” I’m going for in the story, but to sharpen my focus, I like to look at works that share something similar, and use that to further the goals in my own story.

When it comes to characters, I usually use this method as a learning tool when I want to take a specific characteristic and figure out what makes it *work* in other fictional characters that already exist. (For instance, say I want character #1 to be sarcastic- but still likable. What are some characters who already exist who use sarcasm, and use it well? What makes it work within their character? On the other hand, which characters don’t use sarcasm well, and what should I avoid?) Taking bits and pieces of different fictional characters (or even real people!) who already exist, you can use it as a framework to create your own character. By taking specific aspects of different individuals–even hugely well-known ones–you can still come up with a distinct character that stands completely on his own two feet. I tend to get into conversations analyzing characters and movies anyway, and those have always helped me in understanding the art of story and what makes good stories work.

For instance, here’s a handy-dandy chart that shows you one example. Would you ever believe that such an iconic, distinct character could be such an obvious mix of three other iconic characters?

Badass of all Badasses fromnerdsfornerds
via pinterest

Like Sherlock Holmes, Batman is brilliant, and has honed his skills for his specific calling in life. He’s not just decent at what he undertakes- he is the best. Both characters are known as the World’s Greatest Detective for good reason. You could also argue that Bruce’s small army of children is his version of the Baker Street irregulars. He even has a “Watson” character (Robin was actually created so kids could see themselves fighting alongside the caped crusader, in the same way Dr. Watson serves as an “everyman” for Holmes readers). You could even argue that he has a Mrs. Hudson in Alfred Pennyworth (although Alfred is by far the better developed, well-rounded character. And depending on the version of Batman, sometimes Alfred takes on a more Watson-like role).

Meanwhile, Batman is also clearly influenced by Zorro. Now, I could go on to how you can really trace this back to The Scarlet Pimpernel (since Zorro has basically the same premise, just set in a different time, location, and culture) but since canonically Batman is actually inspired by Zorro, I’ll let it slide. Both Zorro and Batman are rich, with flippant personas that hide their identities as masked heroes. They’re in it for the justice, not fame, glory, or money.

Like Dracula, Batman is mysterious. When we think of Dracula, we think words like dark, reclusive, frightening. We think of bats and blood and old money. In some ways Dracula is an entirely different case than the previous two characters. Unlike with Sherlock Holmes and Zorro, Bruce Wayne doesn’t resemble Dracula in personality or situation. Yet this is a good example of taking an abstract idea, mood, or look of another character and modifying it into something new. This inspiration is more superficial, but it’s no less important: after all, what would Batman be without the bat?

It’s no surprise that I love all three of these characters. (Okay, maybe not Dracula himself, but I love the book) So then, is it really a surprise that Batman happens to be one of my all-time favorite fictional characters? We like things for a reason…and if you study what you like, why you like it, and what makes it memorable, it makes it easier to capture that same feeling in your own work.

One thing you’ll notice when you combine character traits like this is that you don’t usually need to worry about creating something original, because it will come. If you create a character with the roguish charm of Flynn Rider but the backstory of Hamlet, and then add in the insane brilliance of Victor Frankenstein, you’ve already got an intriguing combination ripe for exploration. And then set the story in a Lost World-type island with dinosaurs and, well, my friend, I would want to read that, because it sounds awesome. The possibilities are endless. By mixing and matching to create a basic skeletal structure, you can then fill in the gaps to create a well-rounded, solid figure. It sort of is playing Frankenstein.

Don’t be afraid to analyze what you like and why you like it. I think one of the easiest and most efficient ways to craft a good story is to take those things and make them your own.

What are some of your inspirations for your characters?

 

i am obsessed with fairy tales. obviously.

…I say obviously because I have some exciting news for you guys: I’ve joined the Fairy Tale Central team! Starting this month, I’ll be doing some guest posting. If you’ve hung around this blog (or any of my previous blogs) for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve probably noticed how dear to my heart fairy tales and their history are to me.

Speaking of history…my first post tackles the origins of this month’s featured fairy tale, “Snow White and Rose Red!” This story stands out from the other Grimm’s fairy tales for a very specific reason, so it was a lot of fun to delve into its history a little more.

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This story is one I find that people are either very familiar with, or haven’t heard of at all. Though it’s a “newer” tale, it incorporates a lot of classic and traditional fairy tale motifs and elements. But of course, I won’t go too much into that here 🙂 You can find my post up now on the Fairy Tale Central blog.

Well-Preserved History

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One of the reasons I got into genealogy research as a hobby is Aunt Anna Regina’s fault.

Anna Regina Artman, nee Wand, was born in 1823. A great-great-great-great aunt, she likely would have been forgotten in a long list of similar names except for the very odd, very unusual matter of her burial that set her apart.

In 1851, Anna Regina, emigrating from Germany with several other members of the Wand family, died while aboard the ship traveling from Europe to America. Instead of burying her at sea, her body was preserved in a barrel of salt, and she was buried when they reached land.

Was this a regular thing? Were bodies, per the deceased (or family’s) wish, often preserved for burial until land was reached? I don’t know. I haven’t found much information, although Admiral Horatio Nelson’s body was preserved in brandy when he died at sea in 1805. Was this event inspiration for similar occurrences later in time? I can see this as a possibility for wealthy or influential people, but for a young German immigrant mother, it seems unlikely.

Now, like many family legends, I can find no actual documentation of this strange fact, and so I cannot completely ascertain its verity. But if Anna Regina’s burial is only a legend, then it must be asked: how did such a rumor start? Maybe we’ll never know. But all things considered, it was that weird fact that intrigued me and made me wonder if there were more unusual happenstances within my family tree to discover.

Are there any strange death stories in your family tree? And have you ever heard of any other death-at-sea stories like this?

 

“but sir that image”

What is art?

Art is a huge part of my life. Writing is a form of art, of course. But I’m also a highly visual person. I like pretty things. I like to surround myself with things make me feel happy, feed my soul, and uplift my attitude.

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What is both so frustrating and so appealing about art is how subjective it is. We all have an idea that there is something that makes “good” art and something that makes “bad” art. The trouble is, we don’t all agree on it. Even things that I think are obviously marks of good art don’t go unchallenged. And struggling to find the balance between saying “It’s okay, we just have different taste” and “Okay, you just have bad taste” is a difficult task. Especially in this age of “judge not-” if there’s nothing objective morally, how can there possibly be anything objective artistically? (Ironically I think this is one of the most judgmental social environments to ever exist, thanks to the internet where anyone halfway around the world can evaluate not only your art, but your parenting, faith, relationships, clothing, and every other decision of your personal life)

Still Life with Flowers in a Glass Vase, Jan Davidsz. de Heem - Google Search
“Still Life With Flowers in a Glass Vase” by Jan Davidsz de Heem– one of my favorites.

I remember in my freshman year of college, the professor in my art appreciation class tackled the concept of “bad” art briefly. Mainly, she was talking about Sentimentalism and Victorian art and how it was Not Good. The only problem? The painting she used as an example was one I, well, liked decently well, or at least one that was a million times more appealing than the majority of the paintings after 1935 that we were forced to view. It was this one:

Les prunes-William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825–1905, French ✿⊱╮

The painting  was “bad” because it was idealized and saccharine. The child should really be dirty and sad. Poor Victorian children didn’t look like that. It was just ridiculous Victorian sentimentality, and an example of their habit of whitewashing social problems with propaganda. (Normally I probably wouldn’t have had much of an opinion about the painting at all, to be honest. But after dozens of Jackson Pollock-like splatters, it was a welcome relief, so to hear that somehow Pollock’s artwork was objectively “better” than Bouguereau’s child here grated a little.)

The funny thing is, lack of realism is exactly what is praised in paintings like Picasso’s. Perhaps it’s “real” to how he sees the world, but what makes his perspective any more valid than Bouguereau’s? Plus, in my opinion, Picasso’s stuff is just…ugly. And if that’s the way he saw the world, it’s not a view I’d care to share. What’s wrong with a little idealism every once in a while…a glimpse of how we want the world to be rather than what it is? Not-appealing art serves purpose, but often I wonder how often we excuse ugliness out of pretentiousness. It’s not hard; you can look at a pile of garbage someone has dumped onto the sidewalk and rationalize why it is, in fact, meaningful art. Meanwhile, you could also look at Michelangelo’s Pieta and explain in great detail why it’s nothing special. We humans can spin our words to convince ourselves of anything.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed that art appreciation class. I was exposed to a lot of art I’d never seen before, many which became favorites. And I even learned to appreciate types of art I never thought I would–even if I didn’t like them, I was able to see why other people might. And that’s a lesson I think it’s good to learn.

As a book reviewer, one concept I’ve tried my best to grasp is differentiating between what is bad writing and what is just antithetical to my own personal preference. Sometimes a book is truly poorly written; other times, it just centers around characters, a topic, or even written in a way that I subjectively don’t like. For instance, I don’t really like novels written entirely in the present tense. I find it annoying and distracting. But that doesn’t mean a writer who does so is doing something wrong; it’s just something I don’t like. But sometimes trying to define what makes art–of all kinds–objectively good in the first place is just a puzzling and never-ending challenge.

Sometimes, it’s best just to let people enjoy things. We all have our reasons for liking stuff that is, for lack of a better word, kind of lame. I’m guilty of it just as much as anybody. I’ve watched plenty of bad TV shows (and by “bad” I don’t mean morally corrupt, but simply poorly written or executed) and enjoyed them because they contain something that I needed at that time. I guess it’s the reason Hallmark movies have so many fans–for as much as I’ve rarely been able to sit through one, I do understand that they have an appeal. They’re sweet and innocent and always have a happy ending. Even if I won’t deny I have major problems with their storytelling, some people eat them up with a spoon because they give a little hope and happiness. And I’m certainly not going to judge anyone for that, although I certainly would have only a couple years ago. Sometimes, it’s okay to like something just because you like it, without having to rationalize or explain why you do. Art doesn’t have to be intellectual, political, or cutting edge for you to like it.

Claude Monet - Poplars on the Epte, 1891 at the National Gallery of Scotland Edinburgh Scotland by mbell1975, via Flickr
“Poplars on the Epte” by Claude Monet

I don’t think that’s an excuse to make “bad” art, but rather an understanding that everyone’s own perception colors what they think is good or not. And sometimes we don’t want a masterpiece, just something a little silly and comforting and predictable that makes us feel good inside. A lot of people knock superhero (or action films in general) for being predictable and mindless, but I love them. While I certainly think there are several action and superhero films that are a lot deeper than most people give them credit for, I also have to admit that for me nothing is more therapeutic than watching good guys punch bad guys in the face for an hour and a half.

My mom, for instance, loves disaster movies. And disaster is exactly why she likes them. She fully admits the plot is secondary; she’s not watching the film for an intelligent plot (although that’s always a plus). She’s watching it to see tornadoes and earthquakes.

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Sometimes, you just want to watch monsters wreak havoc!

Because we are, in fact, allowed to like silly things. I certainly do. Wholeheartedly.

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But sometimes I don’t care that other people have “different” taste and I don’t want to be nice about it.

Sometimes, I want to say that I don’t get it. That everybody is lost in pretentious snobbery and won’t admit that a piece is just worthless.

Sometimes, I want to look at that painting and blurt, with honest brutality like the child in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”:

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via poetryforplebs.tumblr.com

 

Disney 2019

20190522_181921Last month my family had the opportunity to go on our FIRST EVER family vacation. (I mean, we’ve done some camping and once we went to Myrtle Beach for the weekend. But generally, we’ve never done a big family vacation in my life). Since my sister, brother, and I all graduated this year, my parents thought it would be a good excuse to go to Disney World.

I went to Disney World once. In 1997. So, suffice to say, it’s been awhile.

The first park we went to was Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This was probably my least favorite day, not really because of the park but because I realized that I pretty much can’t get on a single moving ride without getting motion sickness, yay. The Slinky Dog ride will haunt me for a while. “But it’s a baby roller coaster, Hayden!” you say. Well, you may not be aware of this but I am, in fact, a baby.

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The best part was all of the Star Wars! The Star Wars section of the park still isn’t open yet, but there was plenty of themed stuff around the park, including shows throughout the day. We also watched the Indiana Jones stunt show, which was fun and not what I was expecting at all! My favorite ride in Hollywood Studios was actually Toy Story Mania, which is like a moving video game. (which I did not get sick on). My favorite part of the day was the nighttime show, though. It was on the water and there were floats and Disney princesses and villains and they projected scenes from Disney movies on the water and it was just really cool. Look at me, I’m even breaking out the italics.

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Don’t worry, Dad. They always miss.

61187973_891999101147401_7545742447939158016_nEPCOT was the second day. I manged to go on a few rides that didn’t bother me, like Mission: Earth and Soar (that last one which was AMAZING and which I highly recommend). My mom and I skipped out on Mission: Mars, which turned out to be a good choice because it made the rest of my family get motion sickness. (haha, now you guys know how it feels) We all split up for lunch at the World Showcase, so my mom and I headed to Norway for sandwiches and pastries at the bakery there. Norway was definitely one of my favorite countries at the park! They had a gods of the vikings museum which I really enjoyed looking at, and I FINALLY got to try cloudberry jam, which I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Later we ate dinner in France, and got to spend some time looking around England, Japan, and Morocco. Sadly, we didn’t have time to linger in a lot of the other countries, since it was really hot that day and we waited until it got a little darker to wander around the showcase. But hey, there’s always next time, right?

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Magic Kingdom might possibly be my favorite park. There’s just so much to do and it had a lot of my favorite rides! I LOVED the Haunted Mansion and while I was really nervous to go on Splash Mountain (I did not want to get sick again) it ended up being really fun. This was probably our fullest day as far as the number of rides we managed to go on. We didn’t get a lot of pictures with characters (those that we did get were all in Hollywood Studios), but I did see a lot of them throughout the park! I also loved it because I could remember little bits and pieces of the park from the last time I was at Disney- like the It’s a Small World ride (my brothers hated that ride. It scarred them for life, I think). However, the highlight of the day was the Happily Ever After nighttime show where they lit up the castle. It was so magical I cried, guys. It was quite possibly my favorite event of our entire vacation.

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Yes, I’m hiding because that Slinky Dog ride TRAUMATIZED ME and I wasn’t sure if I could handle any roller coasters. Splash Mountain turned out to be fun, though.

Also, the biggest surprise of the Magic Kingdom was when my parents and I went to the Laugh Floor, an “interactive comedy” experience. It didn’t sound like something I’d be really interested in, but I’ll try anything Monsters Inc. themed (what can I say? It’s my favorite Pixar movie). It. Was. A. HOOT. The show was made even better by the fact that we had a really great audience in there with us, since a lot of the humor depends on audience participation and reaction. Anyway, if you have a chance to go down there, try it!

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By the time we went to Animal Kingdom on Thursday, my feet. were. so. done. Each day we stayed at the park from at least 9 to 9 (and we were at Magic Kingdom until at least 11:30 on Wednesday) so I was pretty beat and got to the point where I couldn’t walk anymore. My dad and brothers were troopers, though, and managed to push my mom and I around in wheelchairs throughout the day. (And that was a whole other experience. Y’all who have to use wheelchairs every day amaze me). Animal Kingdom had some of my favorite experiences, though! The safari was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been on- the giraffes walked right next to us, and it was incredible! The rapids ride was also outrageously fun, especially because we were able to go on it twice. The first time I got splashed just a little. The second time I got soaked. I also loved the Dinosaur ride, and walking through the Pandora area of the park at night was gorgeous because everything lights up!

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look! how! close!

Throughout our time in the park, I thought it would be fun to keep track of the accents and languages I heard. Not counting the World Showcase (since the people who work in each country are actually from that country) I heard English, Scottish, Irish, French Canadian, Australian, Indian, and Chinese accents. As far as languages go, there was predictably a lot of Spanish, but also a lot of Portuguese! I heard some Italian, German, French, Mandarin, and one Indian language that was possibly Hindi. I probably could have heard more had I devoted a little more time to my side quest, but I was pretty busy otherwise enjoying myself 🙂

Though our trip was absolutely exhausting, it was fun and exciting and, uh…maybe we can go again sometime, Mom and Dad?

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Am I Back? Maybe.

I have officially made the transition from “student” to “unemployed.”

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In all honesty, though, it feels SO GOOD to finally be done with college. Graduation went well (I think? There were a lot of names to sit through. I may have zoned out a couple several times) and now I have an official-looking diploma as physical proof that I have paid enough dues in papers and exams to be considered Educated™. Of course, this also means…

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#jobhunting

I also saw Endgame, which I thought about reviewing, but decided not to, less because of spoilers and more because of the fact that I just have too many feelings and thoughts. I really don’t think my review would be completely coherent–especially because SO MUCH happened in the movie that I would just get frustrated if I tried to cover everything. Long story short: all things considered, I thought it was both good and satisfying. There are genius throwbacks to the previous movies, fabulous instances of poetic justice, and some truly cheer-worthy scenes. Though Marvel won’t stop making movies (of course) it really does feel like “The End.” The non-spoilery spoiler is that I only felt myself getting emotional at one point– during a specific portion of the end credits (and no, there’s no end credits scene. I mean the actual credits). I guess it was then that it hit me that this really was the last Avengers film and…those stories have come to mean a lot to me over the years.

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Speaking of stories, I’m trying to read for fun again. and…it’s hard ??? I’ve always been the type of reader who could fly through books in less than a day (sometimes, within an hour or two) but ever since I’ve been in school, my reading life has slowly been deteriorating. Last month I read a total of 5 books, which doesn’t seem too bad until you realize two were for school and two were comic books.

So yeah.

As far as comics go, I went to my first comic book store on Free Comic Book Day! It was a lot of fun and I really loved it. I normally get my comics through Hoopla Digital, but it is really nice to get paper copies rather than digital ones. I’m still a pretty new comic reader, but they’ve been my main source of fiction this past year or so of school. And a word of advice to anyone contemplating getting into comic books for the first time: literally the only way to enjoy them is to ignore 90% of comic canon at large and what an utter mess it is, and focus on the 10% that’s really, really good.Image result for it's true gif

This is a lesson better learned earlier than later.

In other news…Christine at Fairy Tale Central gave a lovely review of With Blossoms Gold as part of this month’s fairy tale theme of “Rapunzel” AND my interview with FTC is up today! You can check it out here.

Also, my family is gearing up to embark on our FIRST EVER FAMILY VACATION. I’m not going to be posting much on that until after we get back for safety reasons, but rest assured I am beyond excited.Image result for excited gif

Until I come back with a summer tan & vacation stories,

Hayden

 

Fairy Tale Central is Here!

Guys, I’m so excited to share a project some very lovely people have been working on! So, without further ado…

Once Upon a Time two girls had a dream. A dream of a fairy tale site, an internet library, if you will, for all the fairy tale lovers of the land to gather and converse. To learn, to read, to fangirl/boy, to bask in the goodness that is fairy tales.

As this dream blossomed, the two girls recruited a third. Because, after all, all good fairy tales come in themes of three.

With the third member in place, the girls got to work. The dream began to take shape, until it was no longer just a dream. But something real.
Introducing…

FAIRY TALE CENTRAL

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This newly launched site run by Arielle Bailey, Faith White, and Christine Smith is your source for all things fairy tales.

Every month a single fairy tale will be featured, and posts will include:

  • Reviews for retellings/shows/movies/etc.
  • Essay, origin, and discussion posts on the featured fairy tale
  • Interviews with fairy tale retelling authors
  • Galleries featuring fairy tale artists and artisans
  • And a whole lot more!

The FTC’s goal is to unlock the magic that is fairy tales and build a community of fellow fairy tale enthusiasts. Arielle, Faith, and Christine are thrilled to share this new fairy tale centric space and connect with all you epic fairy tale fans!

You can CLICK HERE to find the site and join the Fairy Ring! (Don’t worry, you won’t be enchanted or cursed.) And, if you want to connect even more, you can find the FTC on:

(If you’re inclined to share about the FTC in those places too, you may or may not be blessed by a fairy godmother. *smile, smile*)

Do tell a friend, or a dragon, or the fairy living in the hollow tree behind your house. All humans and mythological creatures alike are welcome!

Doesn’t it all sound fabulous? And the new website is GORGEOUS! This month’s fairy tale focus is on Rumplestiltskin -one of the most well-known of the obscure fairy tales- which, I think, makes it a perfect one to start with! I can’t wait to sink my teeth into all the magical goodness FTC has to offer.

maximizing productivity

1: don’t get distracted by your brothers watching movies in the next room. Not even if it’s Paddington. This, I stress, is the most essential. Try to block out distractions! They are the thieves of productivity! (obviously, you can’t get rid of some distractions. If you have smol children, please don’t leave them alone for long periods of time. They may wreck havoc throughout the rest of your home and then you’ll have a real distraction)

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(they’ll probably have fun, though.)

2: I’ve never been able to write with music going in the background (even instrumental tracks are too distracting for me). However, I do like some sort of background noise, and I’ve recently discovered noisli.com, which helps you create a combination of your own. When I’m not in the mood for a thunderstorm (which isn’t often 🙂 ) I particularly like a mixture of wind, rustling leaves, and a faint train in the distance. My favorite part about noisli is that you can control how loud each element is, so if you want loud ocean waves crashing nearby with just the faintest of birdsong in the background, you can do so.

3: I don’t know about you, but the surest way for me to kill any inspiration is to open a blank word document. I just stare at it for twenty minutes and get nothing done. Dredging up those first few sentences are like pulling teeth. However, one thing that I’ve learned about myself is that it’s always easier to begin writing if I start hand-writing first. I don’t know what it is about putting pencil or pen to paper, but it’s much easier for me if I start that way and then don’t move to the computer until later. When I get frustrated because my fingers simply won’t move fast enough to get down all of my ideas, then I know it’s time to make the switch to my laptop.

4: I read this one on tumblr and thought it was ridiculous, but I decided to try it and…it kind of works? I’ve always known that changing the font of your document helps during the rewriting and especially the editing stage, but writing that first draft in comic sans? Like I did during middle school? But somehow, when everything looks cringy anyway, it unlocks that self-conscious block that can prevent writing–even if it’s terrible–and allows me to move forward.

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5: When I’m in the middle of a scene and I’m struggling with what happens next, I’ve been known to pace. Sometimes, as I walk back and forth, I act out the drama in my head. Or even literally act it out. It helps me set the tone of dialogue, and if I’m acting, what seems natural in the moment usually is. It helps especially in crafting arguments, I’ve noticed.

6. Sometimes–and this is more a school paper-writing habit than a fiction writing one–rewards work. When I get to five hundred words, I’ll have a Hershey’s kiss! One thousand words and I’ll go downstairs and get a snack! Yes, most of my rewards are food. And yes…it does take a bit of discipline to stick with it. But self-discipline is a Good Thing and this helps me practice it and helps me to get work done. (plus, I get food, so wins all around).

And, as always—

-pray ( a lot )

-drink ( a lot of ) water. Or coffee. Or tea.

-relax. You’ve got this.

recently read

Every Jane Austen book, everImage result for jane austen novels

I took a Jane Austen in Literature and Film class this semester, which meant I read through all of her books, including some of her teenage writings that I hadn’t read before. After all of this, I can say that Emma firmly remains my favorite Austen novel, but the big surprise was how much I loved Sense and Sensibility this time around–it’s never been my favorite, but in the five or so years since I first read it, I’ve discovered that it’s so, so much better than my younger self thought.

The Miller’s Girl // Nina Clare34876030

I haven’t read many “Rumpelstiltskin” retellings, so when I was in the mood for a fairy tale and saw this one was free (!) on Kindle, I snatched it up and started reading it immediately. I really liked it; it was pretty true to the original story, but was fleshed out and expanded with distinct characters and political drama. In my Goodreads review I mentioned the feel of it struck me as very reminiscent of the German TV show Sechs auf einen Streich (which is a compliment, because it’s a lovely show). The author has also written a retelling of “King Thrushbeard,” which I’m now very interested in reading!

Goodreads / Amazon

The Beast of Talesend // Kyle Robert ShultzThe Beast of Talesend: After Beauty and the Beast (Beaumont and Beasley Book 1) by [Shultz, Kyle]

I’m honestly embarrassed at how long it took me to get around to reading this book! I follow Kyle Robert Shultz on Twitter and we run in a lot of the same fairy tale-loving circles, so I’ve seen a lot about the Beaumont & Beasley series. It’s basically a 1920s detective story in a world where fairy tales exist, so obviously I’m going to love it, right? I’m pretty conservative when it comes to what magical content I’m “okay” with, so it did walk the line a little bit, but overall it’s an incredibly fun read with with lots of banter and humor, so A+ stuff.

Goodreads / Amazon

306841Old Friends and New Fancies // Sybil G. Brinton

Being in such a Jane Austen mood, I figured it was time to tackle Sybil G. Brinton’s 1914 “imaginary sequel” to Austen’s books. I enjoyed a lot of the connections she made between characters (like connecting William Price to the Wentworths because Navy™ and all that) but there were definitely some things I wasn’t keen on. I took particular offense of her portrayal of Emma and Mr. Knightley; I don’t think Brinton really understood the characters at all (and they’re my favorite, so I’m biased). Also, the decision to cast Mary Crawford as a victim in Mansfield Park was equally puzzling and not to my taste (a reformed Mary would have been an interesting thing; however, this novel didn’t really seem to fully grasp the horridness of some of her actions in MP). However, I liked Brinton’s decision to cast Georgiana as heroine, and it was interesting to see how Jane Austen’s characters were viewed by an author a hundred years ago.

Goodreads / Amazon / Project Gutenberg