Saturday, March 28, 2015

Same Blog, New Look!

If you're wondering if you've come to the right blog, you have. As you can probably see, I'm making quite a few changes to the design around here. But don't worry, I'm not changing my content! I'll still be putting up the regular posts you know (and hopefully love!). I'll try to get all the renovations done quickly, but until then, things will be changing! In the end, it'll look fantastic so stick around! 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

10 Random But Hopefully Interesting Facts About Me

It's been about a month since I started this blog, and whether you've been reading it all this time or you're just now finding my site, you probably want to know a bit more about me. So here's 10 random things about me that hopefully you'll find at least somewhat interesting.

1. My favorite soda is Diet Dr. Pepper. Yes, diet. I don't know why, but with Dr. Pepper, I like the diet version better.

2. I hate needles. Hate them. I can't even think about needles without getting creeped out. I have to look away every time they use one in movies, like the Hunger Games or Divergent.

3. I've only ever been to two countries, the U.S. and England. I have, however, been to more than ten U.S. states.

4. I hate coffee. I know it's immensely popular, and I've tried it, but I just don't like it. It's too bitter. The only way I will drink coffee is when I can't taste the coffee.

5. I used to live on Mercury. For real.

Just kidding about that last one. That was just the street I lived on.

6. My favorite movie is AristoCats, all the way. I can quote nearly the entire movie. In case you haven't heard of it, it's a Disney movie made in 1970. Basically, you can't go wrong when you put kittens, music, and Paris together in one movie. You just can't.

7. I actually want to write a sequel to the AristoCats, because more people need to know about the awesomeness that is that movie. And there needs to be more of it.

8. I'm totally not  a sports person. At all. I never really played any sports as a kid, and I don't really like watching sports. That is, excluding high school football games with the marching band. I love band.

9. That being said, I am super competitive. I cannot stand being second place when I could be first.

Last but not least...

10. I currently have one pet, my cat Biskit. And no, his name is not Biscuit. It's Biskit, like kit for kitty. Clever, huh? If you think so, then I totally came up with it. If you think it's stupid, then it was definitely my dad's idea. (It actually was  my dad's idea.)

If you want more randomly interesting facts, feel free to ask random but interesting questions in comments!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book Review of the Month: March 2015

It's book review time again! This month, I'm reviewing the Bright Young Things trilogy by Anna Godbersen, consisting of Bright Young things, Beautiful Days, and The Lucky Ones.

If you haven't seen last month's post, I'd suggest you read that one first in this particular case, since this trilogy is actually by the same author as last month's series. I wouldn't exactly call this a continuation or a follow up series, but it does revisit a few things.

It's Manhattan, 1929. It's been 30 years since the events of the Luxe series, so it's a fairly safe bet that the Hollands and the Hayses and the Shoonmakers are probably still around, but by now the spotlight has shifted away from aging debutantes and towards the bright young things.

All eyes are on the flappers, with their bobbed hair and short skirts, and the rising starlets of the stage and screen. And there's no better place to be than New York City if you want to be in the spotlight.

Meet Cordelia Grey and Letty Larkspur. They're best friends from a small town in Ohio, and they're fed up with their dusty, boring, Midwestern life. That is, until they run away for New York. Cordelia wants to escape her restricting aunt, and Letty has dreams of being an performer.

Meet Astrid Donal, the bubbly upper-class socialite of White Cove. She's dating Charlie, the tough-but-loving son of one of the biggest bootleggers in New York, Darius Grey.

Meet Max Darby, the young, daring airplane pilot. He wants to be the youngest man to fly solo across the Atlantic, but he's stuck giving passenger rides and doing skywriting for the time being.

Being that these books take place in the midst of Prohibition and nearly center around bootlegging, I expected a lot of scandal. But the realm of accepted behavior has greatly changed since Gilded Age New York society. While the characters in the Luxe often had secrets and schemes, there seems to be a lot more openness among the main characters of Bright Young Things.

I'm currently in the middle of book three, The Lucky Ones, and I've loved these books. I read the first two in a few days, and I've laughed, cried, and loved the 1920s.

With an atmosphere of freedom and youth, brilliant dialogue, a few unexpected twists, and plenty of tense romance, these books have been a glittering and thrilling read. I definitely recommend them to fans of romance, historical fiction, mystery, and fans of the Luxe series. Anna Godbersen is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

If you have any book suggestions, leave them in comments!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with St. Patrick's Day

Today is March 17th, which, as you probably know, means its St. Patrick's Day. The day for wearing green, drinking beer, and looking for four-leaved clovers and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. The day when everyone is Irish. Fun, right?

Well, personally, it gets on my nerves.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I have nothing at all against Ireland or the Irish. In fact, my own family history is a mix of Scottish and Irish, and I would love to visit Ireland. Celebrating Ireland is definitely my favorite part of St. Patrick's Day.

Unfortunately, society and I have differing ideas on what celebrating Ireland should be. At least in America, St. Patrick's Day has become so over-commercialized and basically dumbed-down that it's lost its meaning. It's just an excuse for people to wear "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" t-shirts, drink lots of Irish beer, eat corned beef hash, and put on ridiculously fake Irish accents.

To me, it almost feels like it's become a mockery of Irish culture. For example, corned beef hash isn't even really Irish. It was more commonly a dish prepared among immigrants in America using beef and salt. It's like eating fortune cookies to celebrate Chinese New Year.

In my opinion, St. Patrick's day should really be about learning about Irish culture without mocking it. Ireland has a deep and fascinating history, full of fairy tales and war and music and rebellion and folklore.

So if you want my suggestions on how to celebrate today, here's what I have to say. Pick up a book of Celtic fairy tales or poetry. Listen to some Celtic folk music. Read some fun facts about Ireland. You don't have to spend ages studying everything about Ireland, but take a moment to appreciate the beautiful country we call the Emerald Isle.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

8 (Somewhat) Surprising Things Music Does For Your Brain

I've never met anyone who didn't enjoy music, even just listening to it. Most of my friends and family enjoy making it, through singing or playing a musical instrument. Overall, it's obvious that people just generally really love music. Simply put: it's fun.

Learning a musical instrument is already a good idea simply for the fact that it's fun and it's something interesting to add to a list of skills. But music does much more than make you look cool- it actually engages and helps strengthen your brain, in more areas than one.

  1. Playing a musical instrument actually engages almost all areas of your brain. The visual cortex is involved in reading the music or watching the conductor, and the auditory cortex is involved in listening to the music. The sensory cortex, motor cortex, and cerebellum deal with actions such as physically playing an instrument, conducting or dancing. The prefrontal cortex deals with decision making and expression. The hippocampus, nucleus accumbus, and amygdala control our emotional responses to music and memories of music. 
  2. Because learning a musical instrument involves learning rhythms and sound patterns, it actually improves your verbal skills. Studies show that the skills enforced with musical training also help with recognizing human speech amid other noise and improving your auditory memory. In other words, you'll be more likely to hear, understand, and remember what someone says. 
  3. As any musician will know, music actually involves a lot of math. There's counting beats, rhythms, measures, and rests. There's subdividing beats to better understand the rhythms, and mathematical relationships also connect musical intervals, scales, chords, and keys. Because of this, studies show that music can actually help improve your math skills. Not to say that you automatically become a human calculator, but it does contribute to recognizing patterns and thinking quickly.
  4. Music has actually been shown to raise academic IQ points, and musicians often have higher IQs. Interestingly enough, music contributes more to academic IQ than to emotional IQ. It's also worth remembering that intelligence is much more than a test and a number. 
  5. Because of many of the same reasons as number 1 and also because musical directions are often in languages such as Italian, French, or German, musicians are generally better at learning foreign languages. They are usually more skilled at picking up on sound patterns and learning the grammar behind it, as well as developing larger vocabularies. 
  6. Simply put, music requires you to listen. Whether you play an instrument, sing, or just like listening, you have to listen. In a group setting, you have to listen to your section, to other sections, to the director, to the melody, harmony, and tone. Even in a solo setting, listening to tone and pitch is necessary. So, it follows that music can make you a better listener
  7. Music can slow aging. Studies show that musicians that play their instrument for years- we're talking around ten or more- retain the bonuses that we've already mentioned as they age. This means that their brain declines at a slower rate, and they have a stronger memory. 
  8. I know a lot of us like to put on our favorite songs when we're in a bad mood, but it's scientifically shown that music can make you less anxious, and more confident, happy, and creative. Music releases endorphins and neurotransmitters in our brains that can put us in a good mood and make us feel better. Also, music training can cause the areas of your brain that control depression, anxiety, and attention issues to thicken, meaning it becomes easier to control your emotions and focus on tasks.
And as a bonus, here's a fun fact (that's also a hint) for the topic next week's post!

In the 1920s, it was fashionable to wear a different outfit for day, afternoon, and evening. Women would change clothes several times a day. The hemline indicated which outfit was for which time of day.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Top Five Writing Methods

In case you haven't heard about it, National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, is a month long event in which writers try to complete the insanely difficult task of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It occurs chiefly in November, but there are also other events during the year.

I will be participating in the April session of NaNoWriMo this year to work on my new novel, which I'll probably talk more about when I have more of the details worked out. If you have a story idea or a story in progress, I encourage you to participate sometime during the year. It really is a lot of fun, and writing is a great skill to build.

In case you're thinking you can't possibly write 50,000 words in a month, consider a few things:

  • It doesn't have to be a huge planned out idea. Maybe you just have a character. Or one scene. Or a setting. Or nothing but willpower. That's fine. Just plant the seed, nurture it, and it'll grow. 
  • You can make your word count goal whatever you want it to be; you don't have to write 50,000 words. I do encourage you to challenge yourself; however, you should also be realistic for your schedule. 
  • You now have my 5 suggestion to help you along! 
Of course, this is a matter of what works best for each individual, and what works for me may not work for you. I'm not calling them "tips" for that very reason. But if you don't already know what works for you, this is a good starting point. So here we go!

  1. Planning. I personally, am a planner. I like to know everything about my story before I begin. Outlines are my best friend during NaNoWriMo, and I really love the free story-boarding program Storybook. You may be what's known as a pantser—you like to jump right in and figure it out as you go. Even if this is you, I encourage you to flesh out your characters and at least have an idea of the climax of your plot, so you have some idea of the momentum of the story.
  2. Editing. Don't edit as you go. It can be really hard not to, but remember: first drafts are supposed to suck. No one is perfect on a first draft, and you have plenty of time to edit later. Unless you're making a major change and really need to edit, don't. When I try to edit as I go, I never get anything done. 
  3. Music. I love listening to music when I write, and what I listen to varies from Celtic folk songs to Taylor Swift to Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks to Classical. I pick music that fits the setting, characters, era, and tone of my novel to help keep myself in the right mindset, but it's really what works for you. 
  4. Technology vs. Paper. I know people who hand-write their novels. There are those of us who use a computer. And then there's those who use typewriters. This one is also entirely up to you. I am more productive at a computer for several reasons: I can type faster and more comfortably than I can write, it's easier to edit later, I never lose pages, it's easier to track your word count, and it's easier to research and share your novel. Personally, I use Google Docs to write because it auto-saves and can be accessed anywhere with internet, so it's safe if your computer crashes. 
  5. Time. It is surprisingly hard to fit time for writing 50,000 words into a month, since most of us have school and/or jobs, homework, housework, family, etc. etc. etc. The best solution is to actually schedule it out and make time for writing. I work best between the hours of 9 PM and midnight, because my brain tends to think more creatively right before bed, and it's after I'm done with homework and band and everything else I need to do. Find the time that works best for you, but don't forget to take a break every now and then!
If you haven't already figured out what works best for you, then I encourage you to take some time this year and participate in NaNoWriMo. It'll give you plenty of experience! If you have any questions about the program, you can ask me in comments or check out the website

If you have figured out what works for you, comment and tell me about it! 

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo at any point this year, comment and let me know! I'd love to hear about your ideas and chat with you on the website! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

6 Things I'd Say in a Letter to My Younger Self

Dear (younger) me:

There's a lot I could tell you about your future. I could go on and on, but you don't need to hear all of it. You do, however, need some encouragement, because your life is going to be difficult at times. That's just how life goes, but bad things don't make the good any less, well, good. So here I am, to tell you six things you need to know.

1. Don't get too excited about high school. It's not the dream you think it'll be, but it's not a nightmare either. Your classes will be hard, but you'll survive. You'll make friends, don't worry. But there'll be plenty of annoying people too. Which brings me to number...

2. Don't let those people get to you. People are going to say terrible things about you and your friends. Society itself will say terrible things too. You'll end up hating yourself. Don't listen to anyone who doesn't love you for who you are. Most importantly, love yourself.

3. Don't think you need a boyfriend to love you. High school romances are a long shot at love, if anything, and really cause more drama. You'll see it happen, there's no reason to experience it too. Be happy on your own, because you're great.

4. Don't be too proud. Yes, you're great. But don't forget that other people matter too. Always try to be kind, even when you don't want to. I know it's hard. But never stop.

5. Never stop being you. Don't change yourself into someone you're not comfortable being. Be everything you are and want to be. Accept yourself as a complicated, beautiful mess.

6. And no matter what, never ever give up. Classes will be hard, and you won't have much motivation. Don't quit. You won't want to do anything but lay around. But your future is so so bright and all your dreams are within your reach. So don't quit.

Good luck, and never ever forget to be extraordinary. I believe in you.

Love, me. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Bright Future?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I'm sure every kid has thought about their answer to that question. Adults too, for that matter, since it doesn't seem to be all that common that people are actually doing the work they want to or dreamt about. But for us teens, who are on that precarious edge between our childhood dreams and our futures as adults, that decision is starting to look very real—and very intimidating.

As a kid, I don’t think my “when I grow up” dreams were all that conventional. Sure, princess was probably on the list, but I mostly remember wanting to be a veterinarian, author or service dog trainer.
I've since realized that I couldn't handle seeing animals sick or in pain well enough to be a vet, and that I couldn't handle giving away the dogs I’d trained once I got attached to them (which I inevitably would). I actually do still want to be an author, but at this point in time, it seems like that’ll be more of a side job than a career.

The next job that made it onto the list was an English teacher. I love writing and literature and helping people (especially helping make them smarter). But after a project at school in which we had to teach the class for a day, I’m no longer sure I can handle a certain few students who refuse to pay attention, ask stupid questions, then blame the teacher for why they can’t understand a simple concept.

My current dream job is actually to play in an orchestra professionally, the kind of orchestra that gets to record soundtracks for films and television shows. I’m only hoping I could actually make it to that level and not burn out on playing when I have to do it as a job.

But for all of us who want a career in an area as risky as the music business, we know that you usually have to have a backup plan. I suppose my backup plan would be to be a music educator, although my real “dream” backup would be to work with music therapy for special needs students.

But honestly, I don’t know what my future is going to be, and that’s okay. I know that I don’t actually have to have my entire life planned out, because things never go quite according to my plans. But if there is one thing, above all, that I aspire to be, it’s brilliant.

I adore the word “brilliant.” It means that something is so wonderful that it’s actually incandescent. It’s radiant. It’s illuminating.

And that is what I want to be. I want to be intelligent and clever and beautiful and inspirational and determined. I want to be a shining light in a dark world. I want to be a star—and I don’t mean celebrity. I mean the burning balls of gas in space that we all look up at on a clear night. Why? Because they get brighter when it gets darker. Darkness doesn't dim their light. They are brilliant. That's what I want to be.

What do you want to be?