Saturday, July 31, 2010

Writing Spaces

My short stint as an NBN writer revealed one thing: I love Kafein. I really, really love it. Besides the fact that it’s a homonym of one of a writer’s greatest allies, it creates a great writing space for most writers.

Right now I’m sitting on a rickety bed next to a painting of Jesus playing basket ball (I shit you not), and I’d give my pinky toes to sit in an upright chair, crazy music blasting, next to my writerly friends, sipping on a large cup of green tea.

It got me thinking about writing spaces in general, and what kinds of colors, sounds, and moods make for the best writing. Just like music, I think writing spaces are a very personal choice, so I thought I’d share mine with you for this blog post.

Note: This is in Dreamy McDreamland, so my writing space might get a little… carried away.

It all starts with the chair. It’ll be one of those swiveling office ones, with plush leather, and an adjustable height. Also, the back will be high, so when I’m at a loss for words I can lean back and rest my head while I stare at the ceiling.

As for the desk, it’ll be relatively simple. A long table would do, but a cool heavy wooden one would be a plus. On MTV Cribs (don’t judge me), the Hansons (ok, I just judged me) had this cool antique French table. It’s beautiful, and everything I could ever want in a table/desk thing. The tables at Kafein really tickle my fancy, what with the ornate colors and bohemian designs. Love them. So much.

I’d like a window, one with a spectacular view of nature; maybe a field, or the ocean. No, the best view would be the edge of a forest. I’d also need a set of thick, deep, dark curtains to drown out the light every so often. No roads or highways should be visible from this window, as when I get to writing I start to despise technology and the modern era in general (even though I couldn’t live without a laptop and/or music device). The distant hum of cars is ok, as I’d probably drown out any and all white noise with music.

On my wall, I’d like a corkboard, to put pictures, quotes, ideas, and anything else inspirational. It’d seriously help the creative process, I think. Worst case scenario, it’d look pretty. Note to self: Buy corkboard for apartment next year.

Next is the tea area, which is why I’d like a long table. I’ll have a water heater upper thing (compliments of Dan Shin), so that needs to sit on the table, along with my favorite mug, and a box of green tea. A small container of honey and a lemon or two would also sit here. Perfection.

Oh yeah. My laptop. I’d need that, too. And surround sound speakers!

Sigh. Just thinking about it makes me happy. I want to be there right now, even though I’m loving it in Puerto Rico.

What about you? What is your perfect writing space? Are there people, and music? Or are you alone, with silence as your only company? Would you want your cat and your book collection nearby? An espresso machine and hot barista within earshot (and eyeshot) at all times?

We all have to suck it up and write in places that can seem less than ideal, but I think every writer needs at least one or two things to really get in the zone. Me? I need noise. Most of the time I won’t settle for anything less than my favorite song, but thunderstorms make for a great writing ambience.

What is something you absolutely cannot write without? A favorite scarf? A fluffy pillow? A picture of Ryan Reynolds at hand?


Reading: Good Omens

Listening to: OneRepublic “Good Life”

Just Watched: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Really good movie. Mixes traditional magic with a bit of science and a lot of humor. This role, next to Kick Ass, was made for Nicholas Cage. Perfect casting, cute story, if a little predictable.

Word Count: 12k… still

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Vacation Time!!

Yep. I found out today that the internet where I'll be staying in Puerto Rico is sketchy, at best, so I won't be seeing many blogs, or twitter, or facebook, or gmail.

I'm hyperventilating.

As much as most are in my generation, I'm addicted to the internet. Having so much information, being connected to a community of people, it's a curious state of being. You never realize how curious it is until you're cut off from it all. And then chaos ensues.

Not that I anticipated spending my vacation in front of the computer, but I like to be connected, and especially now, in the midst of a very huge batch of queries, I NEED to be connected. Luckily, the crisis has been averted thanks to the good deeds of Katie Spanish Dessert, and now I'm just mourning the loss of a constant twitter feed. Seriously. It's like an IV of goodness and humor from the writing community.

But this has an upside. I'll have my computer, my brain, and microsoft word. In the words of Ron Weasley from A Very Potter Musical, "This can only lead to chaos and hilarity. Let's do it!"



Anyways, since I've nothing clever to say, here are the pictures in the 24 hours leading up to now. Just to show how productive I am.

I know. I'm not packing. I'm writing with a beautiful cup of green tea. We all know it's more important anyways. Besides, I have a whole day to pack.

Check the shirt. Dance Marathon. See, this is my packing process. I try on every piece of clothing to make sure it's worthy of the trip.

I'm Exercising! I'm a BEAST! What? No. I know this isn't packing. But it's only 8pm. Relax.

What? I still have to pack? WHAT? No Internet? Unacceptable.

I'm tired. But I'm blogging. I hope you know all the sacrifices I make for you, blog.

Never fear, my good friends! I'll have my cell phone and my camera. If you really need to call me, call. And when I come back there will be ridiculous picture-filled posts on the amazingness that is Puerto Rico!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Days Until Puerto Rico: 2
Days Until Orlando: 23
Days Until Key Largo: 34

To Do Before Puerto Rico:
Send out Financial Aid information
Figure out what the hell happened to my bridesmaid dress
Yell at hospital for cashing check and claiming it "disappeared"
Use Elliptical once more for good measure
Curse Dillo Day tan lines. I'm going to look like an idiot on the beach
Try to con dad into one more breakfast at Jalisco's
Beg grandma to help pay for hotel in Florida
Sleep (optional)
Update blog
Write bar scene of current WIP
Wash new quilt and sheets

To Pack:
Ripped jeans that my grandma has repeatedly tried to destroy
Delicates (& toiletries)
Books (3)
Carry on Bag (with extra outfit in case of catastrophe)
Aloe (preemptively)
Alcohol (for plane ride there. gulp)

To Buy in Puerto Rico:
Bathing suit
More books (maybe)
Sunscreen (SPF 50)
More Aloe (because the sunscreen probably won't suffice)
Headphones (mine are about to die)

What am I about to do? Take a nap and find some food. So much for productivity...

Friday, July 9, 2010


I've finally joined the rest of the world and watched AIRBENDER. I've seen one or two episodes, TOPS, so I'm coming to this as an outsider. I reserve the right to judge this as a movie, and NOT as an anime to movie adaptation. Be warned.

My initial reaction? Meh. It's strange; there are so many beautifully executed things in this movie, but it felt like the director tried to force puzzle pieces together that just didn't fit right.

I know. That's quite an ambiguous comment, isn't it? But don't worry. I've got a few pages worth to work out exactly what I meant when I said "meh." Here we go:

The Good:

Where to start?

The special effects were wonderful, and from what my AIRBENDER fan friends have told me, the bending is quite true to the cartoon. I didn't get a chance to see it in 3D, which is probably a shame, considering how mind-blowing the effects already were on the terrible small town Texas screen (sorry Stephenville, but it had to be said). On the other hand, I think movies are already taking a turn for the mediocre. Too much dependence on 3D can lead to poor plot and character development, but that's another rant for another post...

My absolute favorite thing about Avatar? That adorable flying furry creature. ADORABLE. I want it. It shall be mine and I shall call it fluffy. No. In all seriousness, it won me over. IF they do the rest of these movies (and that seems to be a BIG if), I insist there be more fluffy creature screen time.

Best character in the movie: It's a three way tie, in my opinion. The princess, the water bending teacher, and Aang's air bending teacher. I cared most about them, which is strange considering how little screen time they had compared to, I dunno, the MAIN characters.

Although thinking about it, the prince and his uncle were pretty damn cool too. They weren't perfect, but they wouldn't qualify as "villains" in my mind either. Their characters were very fleshed out.

Stunts were awesome. As someone who took Tai Chi (for a VERY short period of time), it was cool to see a lot of familiar moves. It looked like dancing. Beautiful. Breathtaking. Badass.

Then there was the less beautiful, more kick ass martial arts that took up quite a lot of screen time. I loved it just as much as the slow graceful stuff, but it seems like the director waited till the last ten minutes of the film to really let Aang bust out and do his thang (haha, get it? Aang... Thang?? No??). I understand the value of not going too fast too soon, of unloading your arsenal before the battle begins, but the hour plus build up to get to what the trailers advertised most was a bit frustrating.

It seemed that the quiet bits had the most power in the movie. Aang and the prince had many flashbacks, and they were really intense compared to the present story. I loved them.

As for the climax of the movie? Without ruining it (I might have done that with the rest of this post... sorry), I thought it was brilliant. Brilliant. I teared up a little. Maybe it's a problem that I only started to care about the story and the main characters (ok, so I liked Aang a little bit before hand) at that point? Still not sure about that. But yes. This part was well done.

The cliffhanger: Yes, there is one. No, I'm not telling you what it is. If you've seen the movie, I think you'll know what I mean when I say that it gave me chills. I really, really hope they make another one (and make Shyamalan go away... I blame the mediocrity on him).

The Bad:

Alright, writers, get with me on this: Do not (and I repeat, DO NOT) treat your audience like a bunch of idiots. One thing that irked me more than ever was when Zhao mentioned the Ancient Scrolls from the Library he Raided. The first time he told us in depth how he got said scrolls I was totally ok with it. Then he took every chance to say (in his booming Daily Show voice) "I have THE SCROLLS I STOLE from the GREAT LIBRARY."

Repeat this four times. Really? Really? I heard you the first time, and so did the rest of the world. Shut up about it already and move along with the plot! I think I laughed the third or fourth time he said it, just because it started to get ridiculous. I can't blame him though. I blame the screen writer. And the director.

Narration: Remember STARDUST (the movie, not the book)? Gandalf (I'm aware he has a real name, I'm just not inspired to look it up right now) narrated it, third person, and it worked. I bought into it, completely. Airbender? Katara (main girl character... probably Avatar's love interest later in series) narrated a lot of the time, much to my dismay. Her acting was only so-so, and without facial expressions? Fuggetaboutit. I wish they could have slipped all of her lines into REAL DIALOGUE so I didn't have to hear her ramble with awkward inflections of slightly important information.

Which leads me to my next point: Acting. Three main actors were ok, but they could have been better. They didn't breathe enough life into the characters, which really do make or break a movie. It's getting terrible reviews, and I'm pretty sure this is why. Shyamalan created a beautiful world with great effects, but setting is nothing without characters.

The Ugly:

I KNOW this has been mentioned EVERYWHERE, but I have to say it here. Racebending. It's wrong, it's awkward, and downright stupid. Really, they kept the story. They kept the culture. They kept the language. They kept the martial arts. They kept everything, in fact, except for the race.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those anal retentive people who NEEDS everyone to be Their Proper Race in a film (although I may have reacted negatively to Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Othello. You know, the MOOR?), but of the three (brother, sister, Avatar) main characters, there wasn't ONE that was Asian. Not. One. They were all white. Lame.

Sigh. I think the casting peeps will regret that particular move. I hope they feel ashamed.

The Surprising:

Um, let me just say that I was WAY distracted when I saw Jasper Hale in the first scene. Then I thought no, it couldn't possibly be. My Twilight obsession must be making me insane. Then I googled it. Totally him. I was making Twilight jokes in my head the whole. damn. film. I know, Kira Fails. Miserably so. But it kept me entertained when the movie didn't.

Also? My favorite Daily Show correspondent, Aasif Mandvi, tried to break out into the film industry through the role as Commander Zhao (yes, I totally had to look up his name). Poor choice, Mr. Mandvi. I kept waiting for him to break out of character, turn to the camera and say, "Well Jon, I think we both agree that I'm not serious enough to play the main villain in this or any other movie. I'll see YOU in New York after I'm done wallowing in my failure of a move towards a better career. Back to you, Jon."


Overall, after writing about this? I have to borrow from my English TA's comments on my final paper: This felt like the first try of what could be an amazing piece of work. Lots of great insights, but it went in too many different directions.

I haven't gotten over the grade she gave me, but I thank her now for the proper words to describe AIRBENDER. I hope they try again with the sequel. As the actors grow (just like Radcliff and Watson from Harry Potter), they're sure to portray their characters more faithfully. The effects and the world are already up to par. All the sequel needs is a new director.

Sorry, Shyamalan. Maybe you could go back to THE SIXTH SENSE and do a sequel. But stay away from AIRBENDER if you value your career.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Four Years (A playlist, if you will)

So that's the working title (god I hope it changes) for my WIP, and I finally pushed through the opening scene today. Don't look at me like that. I've written other scenes, so it's not like I JUST started.

But it feels like it. I still have no idea what's going to happen, and one of the characters already stubbornly surprised me. It's exciting, and once I sat down and really wrote, amazing awesome writerly things started to happen. YAY!

At this point, I definitely have a playlist (even if I don't have a working outline), so here it is (slightly abridged):

Beautiful Dirty Rich: Lady GaGa
Radio: Beyonce
Half-Assed: Ani DiFranco
White Tooth Man: Iron and Wine
Rangers: A Fine Frenzy
Thanks for the Memories: Fall Out Boy
Handlebars: Flobots
The Leaving Song: A.F.I.
Ordinary: Train
Points of Authority: Linkin Park
Momentum: The Hush Sound
Use Somebody: Kings of Leon
Your New Twin Sized Bed: Death Cab for Cutie
Hands Held High: Linkin Park
The Day the World Went Away: Nine Inch Nails
Who's to Say: Vanessa Carlton
Genius Next Door: Regina Spektor
All That I am: Rob Thomas
How to Save a Life: The Fray
Ain't No Rest for the Wicked: Cage the Elephant
Now Comes the Night: Rob Thomas
Ignorance: Paramore
Poker Face: Lady GaGa
Love for a Child: Jason Mraz

The combination is enough to get the juices flowing, especially Handlebars. That song is MAGIC in relation to this WIP. Pure. Magic. I also need to get some traditional Brazilian music up in this list (for various reasons). Needless to say, I'm excited.

What songs get your juices flowing? Or do you need quiet to write?

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I'm writing this post from-you guessed it-Starbucks. I've spent a whole ton of time here, since it's almost the same no matter where you are in the country. I think it's my dad secretly longing for a nice, yankee place to rest his democratic heart. Anyways, he loves it, and he raised me to love it.

So I'm happy as a clam, in Starbucks, no matter where that might be.

This weekend has been pretty crazy awesome, but a lot happened. Bear with me here.


I woke up to a bunch of guys yelling. Turned out it was my dad and a bunch of his buddies screaming "GOAL!" at the television. Like the announcer wasn't doing a good enough job pointing that out. Anyways, I stayed in my room and waited for the testosterone to clear out. Then later we went to Grump's, a local burger joint that has fabulous fries. Said buddies were there, along with a bunch of older science professors from Tarleton. It was actually really fun, and I'll post about some of the outrageous things we talked about (which involve kidnapping and absurdly rich girls). One of the buddies' daughters showed up, and we talked a lot about gay and lesbian history, which we both studied last year. Liberal people are quite refreshing around here.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mean that I hate conservatives, but coming from a place like Chicago and a college like NU, it can get a little irritating listening to people gripe about how same sex marriage will destroy the country, or how Obama is a socialist dictator akin to Hitler (I promise, I've heard both of those topics discussed here in TX).

Afterwards, dad and I went home to watch Lost in Translation, which was a somewhat funny movie. Overall though, the point was ambiguous, and it seemed like nothing was solved by the end of the movie. Still fun.


Dad's birthday! I told everyone we talked to that it was his birthday, even though he tried at first to ignore it as best he could. We were going to get a hearty breakfast at Jalisco's, but for some reason this town has the 4th of July parade on the 3rd. Don't ask. I don't understand. Anyways, it blocked the road we needed, so we drove a little before settling for Peacock's (which I modeled MATT'S (a restaurant in MORGANTOWN) after). It was very good. After that, we hit the road for San Antonio.

Four hours (and one more trip to Starbucks) later, we made it to my Aunt Elena's house. She lives right across from Serleena (or the actress who played her in Men In Black 2). Cool right? Anyways, we went down to the river walk with my cousins Lloyd, Byron, and Bella. As soon as we settled down for a scenic boat tour, I realized that I forgot my camera. Damn. We had a blast anyways, stopped at the Alamo, and then got a little lost. While Elena and dad scanned the map to find the parking structure where we left the cars, I saw a wasp near Byron (the youngest, about 4).

I told Elena, but before she could get to him, he swatted at it. Terrible idea, Byron. It stung him and he promptly started to scream bloody murder. Poor kid. Dad and Elena combined efforts to get the stinger out, and made sure that he wasn't allergic. Once Byron calmed down, we drove to a small Puerto Rican restaurant for dinner.


Ok, I know there's no way to properly explain how amazing this food is, but I'm going to try. I had mofongo with carne frita, which looks a little like this:

Amazing, right? Basically it's mashed up plantains with a BUNCH of garlic, onions, and other yummy spices. Then they fry the pork with lots of other spices. Wash down with coca cola for maximum enjoyment.

My cousins are 4, 6, & 7 (approximately), so they were a bit of a handful. But when Lloyd held my hand on the way back to the car from the riverwalk, it was priceless. So adorable. What was not adorable was Byron hogging all the flan, haha. We ordered Flan de Queso for dessert, which looks like this:

A perfect end to a perfect meal.

We went back to Elena's for some English style tea (complete with milk and sugar), and on the way, something stung me.

Pause again.

What kind of cruel fate is at work when two cousins get stung in the same day?

Anyways, I didn't start screaming bloody murder, but I did start crying when Elena said it looked like a spider bite (I'm fairly sure at this point I'm arachnophobic). Dad said no, that there was only one bump, AND there had been a stinger. Then I calmed down, finished my tea, and we played with the cousins a bit more before heading out.

Did I mention how cool my aunt is? She's teaching English grades 9 & 10 next year, and we talked a lot about literary canon and griped together about how the curriculum is mostly books by white dead men. Dad tuned out, haha.

We got home at 2am and I fell asleep a few hours later. Yawn. Long, amazing, fun, Saturday.

Today (Sunday):

I woke up to my phone ringing. Dad had promptly gone to the theatre after church, and he told me to get ready, because we were going to see Eclipse at 11.

"What time is it?" I asked, checking my phone. It was 10:36.

Great timing, dad.

We made it (after a quick trip to Starbucks, of course) with a few minutes to spare, and I finally got to see Eclipse.

My opinion? Not as bad as the first, and maybe better than the second. I liked the STORY of the second one better, and the basic storyline is already kind of set in stone. There weren't as many funny lines in this one, and Jacob got a lot more awkward. I think men just become awkward once they fall in love with Bella. Like it's contagious. I loved seeing Rosalie's and Jasper's stories, and I'm so glad they weren't cut out. Lots of great action scenes, and a few great one liners from Charlie.

I'm both excited for and dreading the last installment (which I've heard they're splitting into two movies. WTF?). Excited to see the hilarious awkwardness of Jacob imprinting on a baby, and dreading the creepy awkwardness of Jacob imprinting on a baby. We'll see how it turns out.

Now I'm off to see Knight and Day, which should be a great comedy. Any role where a crazy actor can be crazy usually ends up a success (case in point: Nicholas Cage in Kick Ass).

Happy Independence day, and see you all later!

(It's not possible to overdose on Starbucks, BTW)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Reading List

1) LORD OF THE RINGS (book 1). Finished. After three years.

I loved it, once I got into it. Tolkein is tricky, but once you give in to the way he describes each tree with TLC, it's easy to get through his prose. Aragorn is, as always, a heartthrob. Gandalf is a badass, and Frodo is just cute. Very stoked to read the next two, though I highly suspect that, just like the movies, the first one will remain my favorite.

Best Quote: YOU SHALL NOT PASS (ok, so there are other ones, but that's the most fun to shout out at random moments).

2) SHIVER. In Progress. For serious.

Took me two chapters to truly get into this, but now I'm in love. Sam and Grace are wonderful, and their relationship so far is subtle, but ridiculously strong. Beautiful writing. Can't wait to see what happens. Yes, this book is about werewolves. It's also made of awesome.

3) WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES. In Progress. For three years now.

More of a scholarly study than anything, this book goes through myths and stories and analyzes them from a feminist perspective. What do women lose with the gender stereotypes modern society has enforced? What do we gain? It's both interesting and boring (though I hate to admit it), so it's hard to get through. I'll have a five hour flight to Puerto Rico coming up though, so I'm sure I'll have a bit of time to sink my teeth into it.

4) GOOD OMENS. In Progress. Slightly for serious. But it's been like, six months.

My second book by Neil Gaiman, I'm not surprised the way this is going. When I read NEVERWHERE, I ended up putting it down somewhere in the middle of the story. When I picked it up again, I sailed through the rest. Gaiman is an amazing writer, and I recommend any of his books. I've also read CORALINE. It, too, is awesome. Can't wait to read the rest of GOOD OMENS.


Alright, that's the entirety of my official summer reading list. I did want to read Richelle Mead's SUCCUBUS BLUES (and the rest of that series), but as of yet I can't find it in Texas. I might just wait till I get back to Evanston. Any recommendations? What's on YOUR summer reading list?