30.

Numbers aren’t scary by nature. But sometimes, in a certain context, they can be. Today, the number 30 scares me just a little. Because today, that’s how many years I’ve been on Earth.

I mean, I suppose in a way it’s kind of thrilling. 30! Three decades of learning and growing and living. It’s easy to focus on what I haven’t done in 30 years, or just how old I will be in 30 more years, instead of focusing on what I have done in 30 years.

Graduated college.

Married my best friend.

Found a writing community.

Started the process of querying in hopes of becoming a published author (a long-time dream).

Bought houses and cars. Went on vacations. Other “grown-uppy” things that I couldn’t really do 10 years ago.

I may not be exactly where I had hoped to be in all aspects of my life, but it’s not a failure to not be on a certain timeline. The important thing is I am moving forward.

And as I move forward, I have two goals for myself that I feel encompass the things I have been learning lately about what kind of person I want to be.

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I believe I have been improving in these areas over the past year or two, and I want to continue to do so. When I start to think of myself first, I want to stop and consider others. And when I consider not pursuing something I want simply because of fear, I want to move forward anyway.

I don’t want to think of life going downhill from here. I want to think of life as getting better, richer, fuller, and more meaningful. I want to continue to grow and learn and try.

So here’s to 30.

Highs & Lows (A Post About Life)

This past Friday, I attended a concert that featured my two favorite bands, Swicthfoot and Needtobreathe. I cannot begin to explain the depth of my excitement when I found out that they were (1) touring together, (2) coming to Nashville, but if you imagine it was your two favorite artists coming to your town then I’m sure you can understand.

Some highlights of the show included all the guys of Switchfoot gathering around one mic to test the acoustics of the new venue the show was in to sing “Hello Hurricane,” and the opening acts + Switchfoot + Needtobreathe all on stage near the end singing Needtobreathe’s “Brother” together. Not to mention how inspired I always feel when I see Switchfoot (which has been more times than I remember), and how engulfed I felt in the moment when Needtobreathe performed “Multiplied.” I enjoyed both of the opening acts as well, Colony House and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, but especially the former. I look forward to more of them in the future.

That low came on Sunday.

I was turning left onto a busy street that I have turned left onto a hundred times before. I thought it was all clear. It wasn’t.

I’ve been in accidents before, but not like this, where my airbags deployed, paramedics came, and my car got towed away.

My car that I love and haven’t had all that long.

But I am OK. I did get a little bruised and banged up, thanks to the airbags (I’ll just assume it would have been worse without them though and be glad my car kept me safe), but I didn’t need to go to the hospital or anything, and the other driver was fine too.

There were some witnesses to the accident that were so kind to me. One of them even went and got me one of those big bottles of SmartWater, which I will never forget and I am so thankful for, because it was hot and I drank most of it standing out there! I’m also thankful I got off with a warning citation instead of a ticket.

I had some family friends who saw the accident and came back to get my groceries home for me, while I waited for my mom and husband. That evening some friends came over with pizza and to just hang out for a while. It was a nice way to end an otherwise not great day.

It’s just amazing what all can happen in such a short period of time, from highs to lows.

When have you experienced a high and then a low in a short period of time? 

Looking Back (2014) and Looking Forward (2015)

Even though I consider myself sentimental, I surprisingly don’t get too reflective around New Year’s. I did, however, want to share a few highlights of 2014 (books, movies, and things in my life), and mention a few things I am looking forward to in the new year.

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I did fill out Jamie’s 2014 End of Year Survey, probably a little too soon, so here are some updated/more detailed stats on my reading this year.

Final reading count of 2014//Books read: 42/Novellas read: 7

Genres I read//Adult fiction: 3 books/YA fiction: 39 books & novellas/Non-fiction: 3 books/Classics: 4 books

Subgenres of YA read: Historical, Sci-Fi, Contemporary, Fantasy, Alternate History, Steampunk, Dystopia, Fairytale Retellings… and combinations of aforementioned genres!

Ratings//4.5-5 stars: 10 books/3.5-4 stars: 27 books/2.5-3 stars: 12 books/1-2 stars: 0 books/DNF: 1 book

In 2015 I want to read: What I want! 🙂 I want to read at least: one adult fiction bestseller (PLEASE give me ideas), one other adult fiction, two writing books, two other non-fiction books, and one Jane Austen book. I also want to try to read all the books I bought/was gifted in 2014 (I’m not counting a stack of books a friend gave me when he was getting rid of a bunch of his… I intend to read them eventually, but I don’t plan to read all of them this year). I also want to try and actually re-read some this year!

2015 releases I am most anticipating: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson, Fairest by Marissa Meyer, The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski, Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, Do Over by Jon Acuff, The Rose Society by Marie Lu, and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Top 3 (Read In) 2014 Books: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, Cress by Marissa Meyer, and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Top 3 (Read In) 2014 Book Series: The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, and Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (even though I’ve only read the first three so far)

See what I read in 2014

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I still want to do a more detailed post about 2014 movies later, but here’s a couple quick stats for 2014 movies for me…

2014 Released Movies Seen: 13

My Top Three 2014 Movies: Interstellar, Mockingjay, and Captain America

See my Top 10 2015 Movie Anticipations 

2015moviesLIFE

In 2014: I think the most noticeable difference in my life happened in May when I started my new job. I went from an hour plus one-way commute to a ten minute one-way commute. I went from often feeling frustrated and stressed to feeling a bit lighter and much more content. Mind you, my new job is not all rainbows and smiley faces and it does get stressful at times, but it’s so much easier to leave that at work when your drive home is much shorter and you don’t have to wake up at ridiculous o’clock to make that stressful drive again. Also, I have started actually making work friends… I had a few at my previous job but now I can honestly say I like everyone I work with and I actually talk to people AT WORK (don’t worry, we still get the work done!). I had felt very isolated at my previous job, so this has really helped my morale and has been a very positive change in my life.

In 2015: I am looking forward to NOT job hunting this year for the first time since I graduated college! (At least I hope I won’t have to job hunt!) In the new year, my husband and I are hoping we will be able to move to our second home as a couple. There are a lot of great things about our house, but we do need more room and it would be nice to have some things we don’t have now (like a garage). And if this happens, I’m going to try to be good and invest in either a treadmill or exercise bike and USE IT.

My 3 resolutions for 2015 are: Write more. Love more. Pray more.

What are your highlights of 2014 and what are you looking forward to in 2015?

It’s My Birthday!

worf-crusher-cakeHonestly, this a self-indulgent post, and it only serves as a way for you to wish me a happy birthday, ha ha. I was hoping to see the above guy and gal (Michael Dorn and Gates McFadden from Star Trek The Next Generation, for the uninitiated) today at the Nashville comic con, but sadly terrible scheduling + higher than expected price of admission (high considering I wouldn’t get to see everyone I thought I might that would thus make the price worth it) = not happening. So sad. Hopefully I’ll get to see them some other time. But I will be eating  cake and receiving books, so that is the plus side, huzzah! I’ll keep you posted on my book haul! 😉

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May turned out to be one amazing month for me. I applied for, interviewed for, was offered, and accepted a new job that is only ten minutes from my house. For those who may not know or recall, I was driving an hour one way before. I am now commuting less in a week than I previously did in a day (unless traffic happens, which I learned on my way home the second day that it can. Of course, traffic happened a LOT on my previous commute.)!

I also celebrated my 5/10 anniversary with my husband, that being 5 years married, 10 years together! It’s amazing to share life with my best friend.

The day after our anniversary, we left Tennessee for a seven night vacation on the beach in Destin, Florida! If you’ve never been but love a beautiful beach, I’d definitely recommend it! This is the third time we’ve been since we’ve gotten married and we love it there. We never want to leave, but alas, we have to eventually.

Because of all this glorious relaxing, I read way more than usual! I finished The 5th Wave, which I had started before the trip, started and finished The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, started and finished Shadow and Bone, and started reading The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I bought at a local bookstore in Seaside, a little over half an hour from Destin. I had heard about Seaside and asked if we could check it out one day on our trip, and of course the bookstore was a must-see.

DSC_7191-editThey actually had a pretty decent YA section, which impressed me, but I didn’t see anything that I was particularly craving for at the moment, but when I spotted The Scarlet Pimpernel for $5, based on my love for the retelling Across a Star-Swept Sea, I decided to grab it!

DSC_7223And it came with a souvenir bookmark!

While reading I snapped a few pictures of some quotes I liked. From The 5th Wave

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“Cruelty isn’t a personality trait. Cruelty is a habit.”

From The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

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“And in August it will be fifty-two years together.” “Wow… that’s amazing.” “I wouldn’t call it amazing… It’s easy when you find the right person.”

And from Shadow and Bone

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“Thanks for finding me.” “Always.”

Also, I mentioned back in December a life change, and well basically, soon it’s not going to be a thing anymore. So yeah… May has been great.

Coming back from vacation I felt refreshed and renewed, ready for new things, and excited about stories again after reading so many new books and revising my NaNoWriMo project one last time before I send it off to a few Beta readers… which I haven’t done yet but I will SOON.

And lastly, yesterday I found out I have been nominated for the YA Highly Web Awards, and I am EXTREMELY honored! Apparently the nominees went up on Monday but no one told me I had been nominated! I just happened to click on a link from Kelley @ Oh the Books‘ tweet when she mentioned their nomination, and was shocked to see my name under the Aspiring Author category! I don’t know how long voting lasts (probably not much longer), but if you feel so inclined, you can cast a vote for me here. Regardless of what happens, I am humbled to have been nominated… I mean, that means someone thought to vote for me to be a nominee! So whoever you are, thank you! 🙂

So how was your May? What are you looking forward to?

The Wheels Fell Off My Bus But I Don’t Mind

April is over, and I failed to meet my word goal for Camp NaNoWriMo, even though I lowered it 10,000 words from my original goal of 20,000. But it didn’t just slip past me. I simply stopped writing new material after the first week and a half and I knew what I was doing. My April was filled with a lot of things going on in my life, and I quite frankly wasn’t inspired to write any story other than my November NaNo project.

Now, I do understand that I need to write even when life is crazy and I’m not inspired, but I think you can take a break sometimes, so after about a week and a half or forcing myself to write in April, I just stopped, minus a little editing for my other project and a couple of other odds and ends added to older story ideas (I have well over a dozen story documents that have been started but are no where near fleshed out, but that’s another post for another time, I suppose). I was busy, but I had chances to make the time, and I knew it.

But over the next month or two, I believe I will have the chance to refocus. May is already shaping up to look like an interesting month, but a good one. So after my failed attempt at Camp NaNoWriMo, I do intend to reevaluate how I spend my time writing, and trying to construct a more workable schedule for me. I don’t intend to always allow the busy nature of life to delay my dreams. I need to keep writing, and keep practicing, and slowing down on this blog has been helpful. Thanks to everyone for their patience. Having friends who are rooting for me seriously helps me.

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November Reflections

November was a unique month for me, so though this is not something I would normally do on the blog,  I wanted to take a post to reflect on the month.

What happened in terms of…

Reading: I didn’t read, at all. It wasn’t weird at first, since I used to not read all the time, but probably about halfway through the month it started to feel weird. Especially when I realized how much everyone in the blogsphere had read in those two weeks that I hadn’t.

TV watching: I haven’t watched as much Fringe thanks to live TV shows and basketball season. So my husband and I are still very slowly making our way through the final season of Fringe, which is short, and have also been keeping up with Castle and Agents of SHIELD. And then I watched Almost Human last week and I think I want to start watching it too. Still need to catch up on the first two episodes of that.

Movie watching: I saw three movies in the theater, which is also unusual: Ender’s Game, Thor 2, and Catching Fire. I reviewed them all on here. I was hoping to watch The Book Thief but it just now came into theaters in my area, so I hope I can catch it before it leaves (especially since next weekend for me is SLAMMED).

Writing: Well, I exceeded my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words! Yay! *Confetti!* I might have technically written some of those words in late October, but they were edited and typed/pasted into a new word document starting November 1. And come on, writing even close to that many words in one month was a super major accomplishment for me. Writing a story from beginning to end (well, mostly, I did skip around just a little) was also quite a feat for me. Is most of it crap? You bet. But I’ll worry about that later. The point is, the words are written down at all, and that’s better than where they were a month ago.

Blogging: It was hard to keep up with blogging as well this month because of my focus on writing, but I did better than I thought I would. I loved doing Sci-Fi Month and am so glad I participated, even if some of my posts didn’t turn out as grandiose as I had originally planned because I didn’t write them far enough ahead of time. I wish I could have read more posts from the event from bloggers I don’t normally follow. As it is, I’m still trying to catch up on posts from bloggers I do follow posted a few days ago…

My personal life: I got some news that was hard to receive. It’s not about an illness or anything like that, it’s just a change in my life that is going to be hard for me to get used to, but I am extremely thankful for God and for people in my life (particularly my husband) who will help me through the change.

My thoughts on the NaNoWriMo experience…

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Would I do it again? Maybe, if it felt right. It is stressful, and it is hard. For some reason, I wanted to give up on the SECOND TO LAST DAY OF THE MONTH. You would think it’s so close at that point, and that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but for some reason, I was about to crack. Thankfully, my husband encouraged me to push on when I didn’t want to! In addition to his encouragement, I also feel I was able to meet this goal thanks to some holiday time off, my strong intrinsic motivation to meet goals, and all the sweet Internet people who encouraged me along the way! THANK YOU!

It was a good exercise for me to do this year. I needed it as a kick in the pants. I am very glad I did it this time.

What did I learn? Just write something. Don’t worry about perfection. Things can be cleaned up later. It can’t be cleaned up if there’s nothing there at all. And I learned that I am capable of pushing through Act 2, where my story always struggles and I always give up. And of course, it’s way easier said than done! I kept reading and hearing, Push through it. It’s OK to write crap, just write. But sometimes it’s hard to just write when you have no idea what your character wants or needs or what should happen next or you don’t know what day of the week it is (either in the fiction world or the real world) and your brain’s gone to mush. I’m going to let my story sit and cool for the month of December, focus back on reading and get through the holidays, and then in January I’ll come back to it and see if I think it can be redeemed. I think I had some good ideas but I ended up with more cheese and less dynamic scenes than all the feels I was hoping for.  I feel like I have written a lot better, more dynamic scenes before, but I suppose when you’re just trying to grind out content it’s hard to get as good emotional writing as I expect myself to write. Hopefully when I go back, I’ll find I can totally refresh these scenes and make them much, much better. 

Will this novel become more than a NaNoWriMo project? I hope so. When I started, I really wanted this to the book that I would use to query agents, possibly as soon as next year (probably later in the year though). But as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, it’s pretty craptastic right now, so we’ll have to see. I did lose a lot of interest in the story too, but I’m going to attribute that again to the force-able churning out of content I was doing for it. I hope I love it again next year when I read over it with new eyes. And I do think I have good characters.

And it feels good to be a NaNo winner!

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Honestly, for anyone who tried NaNoWriMo this year, even if you didn’t hit the 50,000 word goal, if you kept chugging at it you’re still a winner because you wrote your heart out and attempted something most people never will: novel writing! So congratulations to us all!

Birthday Reflection

I like to self-reflect each year on my birthday, to think about where I have been and where I might be going. And I have to say, just in the past few months even I feel I have learned a lot.

I’ve learned that those things in life that you think won’t affect you, very much can – and some of them will.

I have learned of the amazing power of perspective – how everything looks different to everyone depending on where life has taken them.

I’ve learned how to take criticism and not internalize it in a personal way.

I’ve learned that I will never cease to be a work-in-progress in my marriage, my friendships/relationships, my job, my spiritual life, etc.

I’ve learned that talent helps, but hard work, persistence, and being personable help more.

I’ve learned that I can connect with people through writing.

I’ve learned to filter out the things in social media that drag me down (well, mostly at least).

I’ve learned that there are a lot of people out there who do really love the same things I do, and yet there’s still a unique combination of interests and desires that I have that make me who I am.

I’ve learned that everyone is “faking it until they make it.” Some people are just really good at it. Or I perceive them to be.

And I’ve become more increasingly aware of my faults as I grow older… And though this could be discouraging, I guess it’s good that I notice them. I just need to work on them instead of making excuses.

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Ah, the late twenties. I have to admit that there are times I wish I would have accomplished more at this point in my life, but at the same time, I feel pretty content and at peace with exactly where I am at.

Thanks for sticking with my self-absorbed, reflective birthday post! You deserve a slice of chocolate cake if you made it this far! The book/movie/TV posts are coming back soon, I promise. 🙂

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Round-Up and Blog/Life Update

Round-Up is my very occasional feature where I share my favorite story and media related articles from the interwebs with you! 

Divergent Trailer

If you’re interested in the Divergent movie, you’ve probably already seen the trailer for it, but if not, enjoy! I have kind of had low expectations for the movie, but the trailer looks pretty good I think! I like Divergent and Insurgent both but I don’t LOVE them the way most people do, so I probably won’t be as picky as some about how exact the story is, so hopefully I will enjoy the movie.

Strong Female Characters

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I tweeted about Sophia McDougall’s piece on why she hates strong female characters as well as Erin Bowman’s agreement with the article and her take on the issue. You should check them both out, but the premise is the question of why can male characters be portrayed in a great many different ways but that female characters are basically either “weak” or strong. I like my characters to be smart, interesting, and at least not a complete push-over, regardless of whether they are male and female. I do believe there are differences between men and women and how they are wired, but none of those differences can constitute why women characters are to be perceived SO differently than male characters. They’re interesting reads, so check them out if you haven’t already!

Blog/Life Update

My September is crazy busy, folks. I have plans for every weekend, work, and a mini-vacation with my husband planned. I haven’t been too good about blogging ahead of time, so if my posting suffers this month, this is why. And same goes with commenting on others’ blogs. But I am quite excited about everything I will be doing this month! And I will certainly try to share some of these things as I go through the month!

I recently had the chance to see Kat Zhang at a local bookstore when she was doing a signing. I heard about it when I went to buy the paperback of What’s Left of Me, since I am reading and discussing it along with some other blogging friends. I also found out that she would be selling the sequel, Once We Were, two weeks early at the event, so that was further motivation to check it out! It was real low-key, and I had the chance to talk with Kat briefly and she signed both of my books. She was nice and I appreciated her taking the time to talk to me. I think I’ll be reading both books this month!

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Oh, and it’s my birthday month, just to put the icing on top of everything else. 🙂

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I may or may not use this picture every time I talk about birthdays from now on…

What’s going on in your world this September, or what media related stories have stood out to you this week? 

Names in Fiction vs. Real Life

I mentioned recently that my husband and I have been watching the TV show Fringe on DVD. I have noticed that in the last couple of weeks, I have found myself growing more fond of the names Peter and Olivia, both of which are names of main characters on the show. I never really disliked these names before, but I didn’t particularly love them either. They were just fine for me. But now I find myself liking them more as I come to like the characters.

But I think I have to be predisposed to like the name somewhat first in order for this phenomena to happen. When I read The Hunger Games, I found myself liking the name Peeta as I liked the character. I have never known a Peeta in my life, but of course it does resemble Peter. But on the other hand, I didn’t find myself growing to like the name Katniss. I think it’s the right fit for Katniss and I went from thinking it was a stupid name at first to an appropriate name for a character, but let’s just say it didn’t hold quite the same charm for me. And it wasn’t like I was going to name a baby Peeta but…  let’s just say there was a period of time where if someone else decided to do it, I wouldn’t have judged them too harshly for it.

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It’s interesting to me how our perceptions of names can change due to fictional characters with these names. There are some names that seem type-casted to fit a certain kind of character. I remember my senior year of high school when my yearbook/journalism teacher, whose first name was Chip, lamented that characters named Chip are always some lame sidekick. I have found with my name, Amy, the character is generally pretty self-centered and weak-willed, which makes me sad.

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I’m going to throw your writing in the fire and then steal the guy you should have ended up with… (OK, I don’t actually hate Amy in Little Women, but she’s no Jo.)

As someone who is constantly creating new characters in my head, I think about names fairly frequently. Sometimes the idea of a story hits me first, and then I seek out the characters and the names of the characters that seem to fit best. But sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, a character name just pops into my head that won’t go away and I know I have to write out that character. Their name is sometimes something I might have considered strange just yesterday, but today it is perfect for my character. Sometimes I think of traditional names (Catherine), trendier names (Harper), and sometimes names that I just have no idea where they came from (Noa, for a girl, like Noah without a H… this one happened recently). When I think of the name of a character first, it always feels like a perfect fit when I base everything else around that, even if it’s something I would never name a real-life baby. But I also can’t help but wonder how people reading the story will respond to it. I know I have read books where I felt the character never fit their name. But I suppose we all look at names differently… there’s no way to really control how someone feels about a name.

All this to say… what’s in a name? Does your perception of a name change if you read/watch about a fictional character with that name? Has a fictional character made you like a name more or less than you did before?