#WIPJoy : Things to see, things to eat, and lines to break your heart

Happy Monday! (If such a thing exists.)

I decided to do one blog post for this week’s #WIPJoy prompts! Let’s dive right in.

4. Things to see in your WIP (aesthetics welcome!)

Me with my claymore, aka one of my favorite swords.

Swords. Lots and lots of swords and daggers and knives… I have an addiction, no lie.

Also dresses—I try to keep the descriptions few and not too detailed, but enough to satisfy the people like me who like to know what pretty dresses the female protag is lucky enough to wear. And the guys get a couple chances to shine as well.

Castles. I love castles! That’s part of why I love writing medieval fantasy: I get castles. Also swords… *cough*

Trees…so many trees. Fact: Monparth’s aesthetics are loosely inspired by Maine thanks to the four and a half months I lived there last year. When I try to think of what sorts of plants or trees might be in a scene, I think about what trees I saw in Maine. When there’s a few scenes near the coast of a sea, I picture roughly Maine’s coast.

Now…have some character aesthetic/mood boards!

5. A song for your WIP

I’ve admittedly been on a hip-hop kick since watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, so that’s mostly what’s been on my mind lately. So, my three top picks for songs for book two of this fantasy duology:

Hide by Juice WRLD, Seezyn

“Think I met my soul mate, Yeah, I know it. When it gets dark outside, In you I confide, You help me face my demons, I won’t hide.”

Superheroes by The Script

“All the hurt, all the lies, All the tears that they cry. When the moment is just right, You see fire in their eyes. ‘Cause he’s stronger than you know, A heart of steel starts to grow.”

Home by Machine Gun Kelly et all

“How did all my dreams turn to nightmares, how did I lose it when I was right there? Now I’m so far that it feels like it’s all gone to pieces, Tell me why the world never fights fair. I’m trying to find Home: A place where I can go, To take this off my shoulders. Someone take me home.”

6. What would your MC’s loved ones say they smell like?

Regulus…let’s be honest, he tends to smell like a guy and probably like his horse. But on his better days, he probably smells of leather and linen and pine.

Adelaide likes lavender, so Regulus tends to associate her with lavender.

7. Foods your characters eat.

This is a medieval world, so they eat a lot of roasted, boiled, and salted food. Monparth has a coast, and the characters are wealthy, so they eat a variety of meat and fish. For their traveling, I decided to have them mostly eat dried venison jerky because it was the easiest way to get them food. But they also eat fruits, rabbit, and fish while traveling.

Adelaide’s favorite food is nalotavi, a flaky chocolate pastry from Khastalland that is inspired by babka and baklava.

8. If your WIP was a hug, what would that hug feel like?

Hmmmm. I think one of those really tight long hugs where you’re trying to hold each other together and communicate all the comfort and understanding you can’t put into words. The kind where you won’t let go because you can feel the other person trying to keep it together and you want to give them time to decide if they’re ready to fall apart or to square their shoulders and move on, and you’re waiting to see if you’re going to need to sit with them while they cry or stand next to them while they face the world head on.

9/10. A line with deep emotion.

Hmmm. I’m going to pick a couple, since “deep emotion” is vague. Good emotion? Negative emotion? How about one of each?

“That’s why I’m not leaving you again. We need each other. Just like you and your sister and your father and mother all need each other. Just like Drez and I need each other.”

And…from the most emotional scene I’ve ever written:

She howled her pain out of her and into the air until her throat was so raw she couldn’t make a sound, and then she pounded her fists against the floor.

That’s all for this week’s installment of #WIPJoy!

Until next time,
Selina

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#WIPJoy: What I love about my book-in-progress

Happy February!

Over on my Instagram, I’m participating in the #WIPJoy challenge, hosted by Bethany Jennings and SD Grimm. But I wanted to talk a bit more about today’s prompt, things I love about my work-in-progress, than really works on that platform. I also decided to combine it with tomorrow’s prompt on introducing my MCs. So I decided to write a blog post!

First, some information on my WIP.

Currently, I’m calling it The Prince of Shadow and Ash duology, but I’m debating about calling it The Mercenary and the Mage. I’m not sure about the individual titles. Titles are hard! I have a rough draft of book one, and am getting close to the end of the rough draft of book two. (Although the climax is giving me fits, so this is good timing to talk about what I like about this story.) It’s a romance fantasy with (obviously, since there’s a mage) magic! I’m still fiddling with the blurb/synopsis, but here’s a version for book one:

Synopsis

A former mercenary and the illegitimate son of a lord, Regulus Hargreaves is bound by magic to serve an evil sorcerer until he pays off the debt he owes. The daughter of a Monparthian nobleman and a Khastallander common woman, Adelaide Belanger couldn’t hide her mixed ethnic heritage if she wanted to. But she has a more dangerous secret: she’s a mage, possibly the one only left in Monparth after a mysterious threat killed every mage in the kingdom before she was born. When Adelaide meets Regulus, she is fascinated by this man that her fellow nobles treat with disdain. But loving him would mean trusting him with her secret, a secret her parents insist could get her killed. Regulus can hardly believe that someone like Adelaide could see beyond his scarred face and mercenary past. But would she still love him if she knew the truth? When secrets surface and the sorcerer asks the impossible of Regulus, their choices could affect not only each other, but the future of all of Monparth.

So what do I love about this story?

I’m more of a plotter than a character-driven writer, so I started with a plot. But the characters have become what I love most. (Hence why I decided to lump today’s prompt in with tomorrow’s on main characters!)

The hero Regulus might be my favorite part of this story. He’s tough, strong (physically and emotionally resilient), and incredibly selfless. He would do anything to protect the people he cares about. He had a hard childhood with lots of rejection, so his heart is fairly guarded, but once he’s opened his heart, it’s open.

I also love his best friend, Dresden. He’s a bit cocky, but he’s passionate, loyal, pragmatic, and hates injustice. He always has Regulus’ back, and even though Regulus is his lord, he isn’t afraid to tell Regulus when he’s being an idiot. I particularly love him because he doesn’t turn his back on Regulus when Regulus has given up on himself, and he doesn’t let Regulus wallow in self-pity or think that he doesn’t deserve the best.

I honestly struggle with writing female characters. (I know, I know. I’m female. But, it’s the truth.) But I do love Adelaide. She’s complex and sometimes at odds with herself in a way I totally understand. She loves her family deeply and has a close relationship with her mother. She’s the kind of female I want to read about—strong but still feminine. One of the things I love in this story is that Khastallander women have a heritage of teaching their daughters to use throwing knives and daggers to protect themselves. So Adelaide always has at least one blade hidden on her person, and is often seen playing with a knife or dagger. And if someone were to ask her “how do you know how to do that?!” The answer isn’t “my dad wanted sons” or “I have brothers.” But she also does calligraphy and her favorite hobby is sewing her own dresses—something else she learned from her mother. She’s learning to become her own person, and trying to decide if she’s going to continue keep her magic secret like her parents want, or use her gifts.

On that note, I LOVE ADELAIDE’S PARENTS. They. Are. Adorable. I love a married couple that are still flirtatiously in love. They’re imperfect and both can be stubborn—not to mention overly protective of their youngest, Adelaide.

Nolan. Oh, Nolan. Nolan Carrick started as just a foil for Regulus, but he grew into my favorite antagonist I’ve ever written. He is horrible. I honestly hate him more than the sorcerer (the titular Prince of Shadow and Ash). I hadn’t set out to use Regulus and Nolan to highlight differences in confidence and pride, secure masculinity and toxic masculinity, and love and obsession, but that’s what’s happened and I hope I do it well. While the sorcerer is a big-picture, ambiguous threat, Nolan is the more run-of-the-mill evil. And both the sorcerer and Nolan show how power in the hands of those with selfish ambitions hurts those around them, while Regulus and Adelaide demonstrate how the selfless use of power can be used to help.

I also love that there’s a lot about Adelaide and Regulus learning to accept themselves, including their scars (external and internal). They realize that they’re stronger when they don’t rely on only themselves. There’s love and understanding and trying to figure out how to best support each other. They help each other face their demons, whether they are doubts and fears or the story’s villains. And not just Adelaide and Regulus, but Adelaide and her parents and sister, Regulus and his knights—they make each other stronger and help each other survive.

Finally, the magic. This is the first book(s) I’ve written with magic in it, and it is a blast. I’m still working on solidifying my magic system and rules, but I didn’t want something too narrow because it loses it’s fun. The magic is very loosely inspired by the aesthetics of the magic in Skyrim. Magic in this WIP is of two basic types: pure magic, which manifests primarily as blue light, and sorcery or corrupted magic which manifests primarily as green light. Mages are closer to paladins, who use their magic primarily to help, heal and defend. Sorcerers aim to acquire as much power as possible through any means necessary and don’t hesitate to use their magic to hurt innocents. Their greed and cruelty twists their magic into something it was never meant to be, giving them more power but at greater cost.

I could say more about what I love about this story—the armor, the dresses, the dragon-slaying, the fairies in book two, the sword fights and magic battles, the way the characters grow. The way they sometimes break my heart. But this post is more than long enough, haha.

Until next time,
Selina

My Most Anticipated Reads of 2019

In my last post I highlighted what movies I’m most looking forward to seeing in theaters this year. So I thought today I’d highlight what books I’m most looking forward to reading this year.

This is honestly SO HARD to narrow down. I haven’t been reading a lot the last few years, and have fallen so far behind on books I want to read. For every book I read, I think I find ten more to add to my list of want to read! Which, I suppose is better than running out of books to read, haha.

I’ve narrowed it down to the top fifteen books/series I want to do my best to get around to reading in 2018, and a brief note on why. I’ve picked a mixture of previously-published books and new/upcoming books, just to keep things interesting. Will I get to all these? Who knows. I’m so ADD with my TBR, and have even more books on top of these I want to read. But, without further ado and in no particular order: My most anticipated reads of 2019.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

This book sounds fascinating, and so many people love it. It’s been on my radar for awhile, and now that I have a paperback copy (thanks to a giveaway from @lieneslibrary!), I’ll be sure to make it to this series this year.

The Last Namsara and The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli

I found about these books through bookstagram (bookstagram is absolutely not helping my TBR problem! haha). The covers are BEAUTIFUL. They have DRAGONS. And I’ve heard that they are amazing. I recently bought The Last Namsara, but I think I’m going to wait to read it until I have The Caged Queen, too.

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

I have loved every book by Nadine I have read, and I’m super excited for this historical fantasy retelling of Anastasia. (Out May 7, 2019!)

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This is another book that comes highly recommended by so many people, it’s probably a sin I haven’t read it yet. I’ve been meaning to read it for years, and since I found a used copy for super cheap, it’s finally getting moved into my more immediate TBR.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be hanged if I don’t finally get around to trying this series. Jk, jk. But it really is dumb how long I’ve had ebook copies of the first three books sitting unread on my Kindle.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I’m not sure I need to explain why this book, which received an almost unbelievable amount of hype, is on my TBR.

Space Drifters: The Iron Gauntlet and Space Drifters: The Ghost Ship by Paul Regnier

I enjoyed Space Drifters: The Emerald Enigma so much, and it’s honestly a tragedy TWO MORE books have been released, I own the ebooks, and I haven’t read them yet. That MUST be rectified this year.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

I found out about this book, which releases at the end of this month, also through bookstagram. It has such an eye-catching cover, and it’s a Beauty and the Beast (my fav!) retelling that sounds super interesting.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

I read Cinder last month after sitting on it for years. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I plan on reading Scarlet soon, and how I like that one will determine if I finish the series or not.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I do have other non-fiction I want to read this year, but this one is at the top of the non-fiction list. A friend recommended this book, and I’ve heard good things about it. It’s also part of my conscious effort to widen my perspective and learn more about race in modern America.

The Songkeeper Chronicles by Gillian Bronte Adams

I honestly should be banned from being ebooks, I have so many unread ones. (#ashamed) I mean, look at these covers. This is the kind of fantasy I jump at. So I’m going to try really hard to get to it this year.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

In an attempt to try new genres, and because The Dresden Files sound interesting and I’ve heard good things about them, I’m hoping to finally give this a go this year.

Children of the Blood Moon trilogy by S.D. Grimm

I knew I’d like this book the second I saw the cover and read the synopsis. So WHY HAVEN’T I READ IT YET? Because I am a horrible person. But now that the final book is releasing, I MUST READ THEM.

The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Yet another #bookstagrammademedoit. And now that Netflix is developing a series based on this and Six of Crows, I SERIOUSLY have to get on reading these.

Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye

Um, ninjas. NEED I SAY MORE. But for real, this new release from Evelyn Skye looks so cool. AND THAT COVER. *dies*


What about you? What are your must-reads of 2019?

Until next time,
Selina

My Movie-Going Plans 2019

Yesterday I got back from a fun but exhausting week with one of my best friends, helping her prepare for and being in her wedding. I’m jet-lagged, tired, and have a bit of a cold, so I decided to do something easy for this week’s blog post–take a look at what films I’m looking forward to this year.

January

If Beale Street Could Talk (R) — This is only sorta a January release. It was shown last summer/fall at film festivals and started being released to theaters on Christmas, but I’m pretty sure it just got to my area this month. The critic and audience reviews on this look great, it looks emotional, and the plot looks interesting. I might wait until DVD since it’s rated R (which I don’t often watch), but we’ll see.

“Set in early-1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is a timeless and moving love story of both a couple’s unbreakable bond and the African-American family’s empowering embrace, as told through the eyes of 19-year-old Tish Rivers (screen newcomer KiKi Layne). A daughter and wife-to-be, Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny (Stephan James). Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit.” (All synopses from movieinsider.com)

The Upside (PG-13) – Jan 19

For some reason this is listed on IMDB as having released in 2017, so that’s confusing. But anyway, this looks funny. I’m not a big Kevin Hart fan, and what I’ve seen is hit-or-miss. But I’m hoping this is good. It looks like if Me Before You (which I HATED because of the ending) was a buddy dramedy, and I’m here for it.

“After being paralyzed in a hang-gliding accident, an aristocrat hires a young man from the projects to be his caretaker.”

February

So often nothing comes out in February I want to see. Which is a tragedy, because my birthday is in February. But not this year! This year, February is looking pretty good at the theater.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (PG) – Feb 8 — I LOVED the first Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie. And the trailers for this are hilarious, with all the ridiculous meta- and fourth-wall-breaking-humor I loved in the others.

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel (PG-13) – Feb 14 — I’m SO seeing this for my birthday (which is a couple days before this comes out). Cyborgs and androids and action and fight scenes…oh yes.

“Set several centuries in the future, the abandoned Alita (Rosa Salazar) is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate cyber-doctor who takes the unconscious cyborg Alita to his clinic. When Alita awakens she has no memory of who she is, nor does she have any recognition of the world she finds herself in. Everything is new to Alita, every experience a first. As she learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield Alita from her mysterious past while her street-smart new friend, Hugo (Keean Johnson), offers instead to help trigger her memories. A growing affection develops between the two until deadly forces come after Alita and threaten her newfound relationships. It is then that Alita discovers she has extraordinary fighting abilities that could be used to save the friends and family she’s grown to love. Determined to uncover the truth behind her origin, Alita sets out on a journey that will lead her to take on the injustices of this dark, corrupt world, and discover that one young woman can change the world in which she lives.”

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PG) – Feb 22 — The first HTTYD is one of my favorite movies. I really like the second one, too. But I have to be honest, I’m a little nervous about this one.

“What began as an unlikely friendship between an adolescent Viking and a fearsome Night Fury dragon has become an epic trilogy spanning their lives. In this next chapter, Hiccup and Toothless will finally discover their true destinies: the village chief as ruler of Berk alongside Astrid, and the dragon as leader of his own kind. As both ascend, the darkest threat they’ve yet faced—as well as the appearance of a female Night Fury—will test the bonds of their relationship like never before.”

March

Chaos Walking (??) – Mar 1 — I honestly don’t know much about this movie. But I love Tom Holland and really like Daisy Ridley. So it’s on my radar. Plus, the plot seems interesting, if confusing.

“Set in a dystopian world where all living creatures can hear each other’s thoughts.
Only young Todd Hewitt (Holland) holds the key to stopping planet-wide destruction. As he flees with his dog in hand, he stumbles upon a strange and silent girl, Viola (Ridley). They soon set off on a white-knuckle adventure into the depths of unexplored New World to find a way for Viola to contact her people on a distant spaceship and Todd begins to realize that he must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure things out.”

Captain Marvel trailer 2 screencap

Captain Marvel (PG-13) – Mar 8 — I AM BEYOND READY FOR THIS MOVIE. I’ve been excited since it was announced, more excited since I’ve read some Captain Marvel comics, and have loved what I’ve seen in the trailers. I’m definitely a Marvel fangirl (not even sorry), so yeah. I’m now officially on my “new content ban” where I stop watching teasers and trailers and reading anything about the movie so I can experience as much as possible for the first time in the theater. Also, #girlpower. (Please be as good as Wonder Woman, please be as good as Wonder Woman.)

“Follows Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot whose DNA is fused with that of an alien during an accident. The resulting alteration gives her with the superpowers of strength, energy projection, and flight.” Also, Skrulls. And young Sam LJ. And Coulson.

April

Shazam! (PG-13) – Apr 5 — I have very mixed feelings about this, and I’m not sure if I’ll really like it. But I love Zachary Levi, so I’ll try it.

“A teenager becomes the superhero known as Captain Marvel when he utters the magic word “Shazam!””

Avengers: Endgame (PG-13) – Apr 26 — Do I even need to explain why I’m excited for this?! No. If you understand, you understand, if not–you won’t understand. haha

May

The Sun is Also a Star (PG-13) May 17 — I’ve heard that this book is pretty good. I need to read it, and then, if I like it, watch the movie.

“College-bound romantic Daniel Bae and Jamaica-born pragmatist Natasha Kingsley meet—and fall for each other—over one magical day amidst the fervor and flurry of New York City. Sparks immediately fly between these two strangers, who might never have met had fate not given them a little push. But will fate be enough to take these teens from star-crossed to lucky in love? With just hours left on the clock in what looks to be her last day in the U.S., Natasha is fighting against her family’s deportation as fiercely as she’s fighting her budding feelings for Daniel, who is working just as hard to convince her they are destined to be together.”

Jasmine in 2019 Aladdin

Aladdin (PG) May 24 — Aladdin is tied with Beauty and the Beast for my favorite childhood Disney movie. I’ve wanted a live action version since forever. And the photos and trailer for this have me all kinds of excited! I WANT IT NOW.

Do you really need the synopsis for this? Really? I didn’t think so.

June

Men in Black: International (PG-13) – June 14 — So, I haven’t actually seen any of the others (although I plan on fixing that soon), but I was all for this when I saw “Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson.” And the trailer is pretty good.

“The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest, most global threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.”

July

Spider-Man: Far From Home (expected PG-13) – July 5 — Spider-Man. Tom Holland. Jake Gyllenhaal is playing a villain?! Mysterio in a movie?! Um, YES. (No synopsis yet.)

Then, there are some dark months where nothing currently is striking my fancy. Maybe once some more trailers are out.

November

Frozen 2 (expected PG) – Nov 22 — Obviously. I just hope it’s comparable with the first one–which, while probably over-rated, is good.

December

Star Wars: Episode IX (expected PG-13) – Dec 20 — Because even if Last Jedi was a let-down, I enjoyed it fairly well in the moment, and I’ll always turn out for Star Wars.

See any movie you’re hyped for? Did I miss any you’re excited to see? Tell me about them!

Until next time,
Selina

New Year, New Resolutions

Happy New Year’s Eve! 2018 is ending, and a new year with new adventures is nearly upon us. It’s a time of reflection, and a time of looking forward. I haven’t done resolutions in a few years, but I felt like it’d be a good way to prepare myself for a new year that’s pretty different from the last several—mostly because I’m not longer in university. So, I thought for the sake of getting it written down and for accountability purposes, I’d make a blog post with my resolutions/goals/plan for 2019. Don’t worry—it’s considerably shorter than my last post!

Spiritual Resolutions

  • Read my Bible more regularly
  • Attend church more regularly
  • Become a member of my church
  • Join a church small group
  • Read some of my Christian living books

Personal Resolutions

  • Make at least one new IRL friend
  • Be kinder
  • Be braver
  • Exercise regularly
  • Visit RMNP more than once
  • Make time to get out and do things with family members and friends

Writing Resolutions

  • Figure out the end of the Prince of Shadow and Ash sequel
  • Finish writing the sequel
  • Edit Prince at least twice before June
  • Attend a writing conference (hoping to attend Realm Makers!)
  • Read at least two books on writing
  • Post at least once a week on this blog (hopefully on Mondays)

Reading Resolutions

  • Book goal for 2019: 40 books
  • Keep up bookstagram account (@nighttooisbeautiful)
  • Finish The Lunar Chronicles
  • Read at least one new genre
  • Read at least four non-fiction books

Do you do New Year’s resolutions? What are you resolved to do in 2019?

Have a happy New Year!

Until next time,
Selina

Reflection on 2018

As the end of 2018 marches steadily toward us, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the past year. What’s happened, what I’ve accomplished, and what I’ve learned.

Lessons of 2018:

  • Be more present
  • Colorado is my home
  • Be aware of my attitude
  • Make time for things I enjoy
  • Make memories with people
  • Doing things together are some of the best gifts
  • I can write
  • Believe I can do impossible things
  • Be intentional I really need to read more books!
  • Support networks are important
  • No endeavor is wasted that I learned something from
  • Be flexible

Earned my BA in history

I entered my last semester at Colorado State University in January after realizing the path I thought I was on—one of post-graduate degrees and professorship—was not for me. I’m thankful I only had one class (my capstone), because I was hugely unmotivated. If it hadn’t been for the encouragement of friends and family, I wouldn’t have finished. I don’t know how I feel about it now. I have a diploma on my wall, but it seems pretty useless at this moment. So I’m trying to focus on the good I did get out of my time in higher ed—perseverance, research experience, writing growth (albeit just in academic writing), some interesting knowledge and extra awareness, and the ability to meet deadlines.

Moved to Maine

At the end of May, I moved to Maine to live with a friend I met during my semester abroad in 2014. She had been living in Ohio, earning her bachelor’s and then her master’s, and was moving back home.

Approximately last November, in the midst of questioning my entire life trajectory, we had the idea for me to move to Maine that eventually turned into a plan that, initially, involved living with my friend Alexis’ parents until we could get an apartment and see what life looked like after about a year.

My mom and youngest two sisters road tripped with me out to Maine on a crazy cross-country trek that included an overheating car, a dead alternator, an unplanned overnight stay not terribly far from Chicago, a visit to Niagara Falls (and a terrifyingly big, steep bridge in the middle of the night in Buffalo that we were NOT expecting—it was much less scary in daylight the next day!), and a few days of sightseeing along the Maine coast that was an absolute blast. Then in a moment that felt very strange, I dropped my family off at the airport and watched them go through security. That’s not usually the way airport visits have worked for me!

I got a full-time job (after years of part-time work and full-time school) as an administrative assistant at the administrative office for a traveling geriatric medical practice. That was a pretty great experience! Alexis and I went on all kinds of explorations of Maine—with many, many stops at the South Portland Chili’s. I planned an entire trip to the easternmost lighthouse in the continental United States (Quoddy Head) that started as an excuse to drive two hours to the nearest Chick-Fil-A. We went kayaking and had beavers angrily flap their tails at us. We went with her mom to a lovely church ladies’ retreat in New Hampshire and spent a magical afternoon stand-up paddle-boarding. Oh, and I met Alexis’ fiancé!

Quoddy Head lighthouse

See, back in November or so, when we were making moving plans, I said something along the lines of “what’s going to happen in the next few months? One of us will get in a serious relationship? Ha!” So in February, Alexis met and started dating Eric in Ohio. So when I moved to Maine, it was knowing that the initial one-year plan was very much up in the air. They started talking marriage, and Alexis decided to move back to Ohio. Eric visited in August and proposed. And plans were made for Alexis to move back to Ohio and me to move back to Colorado. While I was, admittedly, a little bummed, I was also excited to be back home. More on that in a minute. But also, I’m so excited for Alexis and Eric, and on Sunday I’m flying out to be in their wedding!

Road trip: Take 2

Jordan Pond, Acadia

My mom flew back out to Maine and I took her to Acadia National Park. We stayed in a cute little cottage just off of Mount Desert Island. Our little adventure included super delicious pizza, a hike I THOUGHT was around three miles and was actually eight, and lots of gorgeous autumn foliage. We did something crazy for our Type A, planner selves and didn’t plan out our stops ahead of time, but just drove home. Which ended up being pretty great overall, because it allowed us to spend more time in Acadia and to stay with my dad’s aunt and uncle one night on our way back. I also had an entire (short) playlist of songs with the word “home” in the title we listened to once we entered Colorado. I’ll tell you, though—the time from the Colorado border to our house was the LONGEST HOURS IN THE HISTORY OF EVER.

Home Again

It’s been interesting and little odd being back home. I missed my family, my mountains, and my dogs a lot. I’m glad I’ll have more time with my sister before she gets married in June (she also got engaged in August!). And I’m very glad I was able to spend a couple more months with my dog, Susie, before we had to put her down a few days before Christmas.

Susie-Q

Me and Susie in 2006 and 2017

We got Susie when she was a tiny, tiny little puppy. Our neighbor brought her over after a coworker who couldn’t keep her gave her to him. His family already had two dogs, and at the time we didn’t have any pets. It was my dad’s birthday, and our neighbor showed up with a scared, shy puppy who we weren’t positive was a girl because she was tiny. Wonder of wonders, my mom—who claimed to dislike dogs—decided we could keep her. We had recently listened to The Chronicles of Narnia on audiobook, and we decided to name her Susie—kind of a combination of Susan and Lucy. However, Susie pretty quickly decided she wasn’t my dad’s dog: she was mine (or maybe I was hers).

Susie early this year

We had Susie for thirteen years. She gave us several scares over the years—developing arthritis, likely mild hip dysplasia, and earlier this year she developed glaucoma and went blind in one eye before we realized what was going on. But she just kept plugging along. She was overweight, had lots of fatty tumors, and was losing energy. But she was a happy girl with lots and lots of love, right up to the end. I’m thankful for all the time I had with her.

Writing

I started seriously writing again this year. I hadn’t finished any idea—or even gotten very far into any—since about 2012. I started on an idea over last winter break, then mostly stopped during my capstone. But I worked on it off and on in Maine (and started on another idea so I could get that one out of my system and focus). In November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. With a day to spare, I hit the 50,000 words-written-in-November goal. I wrote another 15-20,000 or so words over the next week, and finally finished a rough draft! It was an excellent feeling. I also started on the sequel, and have about 20,000 words of that written.

Spiritual life stuff

I’ll be completely honest—my walk with Christ has been…more of a nap interrupted by sprints. The Christian life is easy to understand, and difficult to live consistently (or is that just me??). The church I’m attending in Colorado had a morning all about spending time in the word and tips on how to do that (they recommend ROAD journaling. You should be able to Google it.) I also got a new wide-margin, cross-referenced Bible and Bible pens and highlighters from my mom for Christmas. I’m still not doing a good job, but these tools are helping my focus when I remember to have a quiet time.

But if I’ve gotten one repeated, resounding, obvious message from God this year, it’s that being a Christian is about KNOWING Him. It’s as if every passage I’ve read recently has an emphasis on knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ’s act of redemption, knowledge of salvation, knowledge of God’s love, knowledge of our relationship with God through Christ. So I suppose that’s my spiritual take-away for 2018—be more knowledgeable about the right things.

Other current life stuff

I’m still looking for a job. I’ve spent hours searching the web and applied to a handful of jobs. I heard back from one, and was told they were going to present the candidates and get back to the applicants, but that it might be awhile because of the holidays. I’m going to be out of state (for the wedding! Yay!) December 30th-January 5th, so I’ll be looking more earnestly after that.

Well, this ended up being considerably longer than I had intended! If you made it to the end: congratulations, and thank you!

I hope you had a blessed Christmas, and I hope you have a wonderful New Year.

Top 5 Reads of 2018

This has been a bit of a crazy year for me.

  • Did my capstone and graduated
  • Roadtripped/moved to Maine
  • Roadtripped/moved back to Colorado (thanks ERIC for stealing my roomie. Kidding, kidding.)
  • Finished a complete draft of a novel for the first time in several years, typing some 60,000 words or something crazy from November 1-December 5.

So, that’s my excuse for the very little reading I finished this year, and the main reason why I’m doing a top five instead of top ten. Also, this way I can explain more without this becoming too long.

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Honorable mention (because I’m a cheater): Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I had to read this book pretty quickly, because the emotional turmoil is just SO intense. I loved how it took Eelyn time to work through her feelings, and how when she gets life-altering news, things don’t just pop! back to normal. I didn’t love Young’s prose, though, and there were some things about the romance subplot that felt forced to me. Also, I’d rate cleanliness at about 16 and up. But overall, I liked it.

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Number 5: Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This wasn’t a perfect book by any means, but it was a really fun quick read. I liked that it got more of the detective side of Bruce Wayne than is often used on screen. I liked the exploration of Bruce before Batman. I liked that he was more innocent, but you’re starting to see him wondering about how justice works in practice and, by the end, leaning toward the morally grey, brooding heartthrob we all (okay, at least me) know and love. My biggest complaint about this book is that there isn’t more. I want a sequel way more than the other books about other characters in the DC Icons series. Sigh

The War Thor by Jason Aaron

Number 4: The Mighty Thor, Volume 4: The War Thor by Jason Aaron (Text), Russell Dauterman (Illustrations), Mahmud Asrar (Illustrations), Valerio Schiti (Illustrations) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read a few comic book collections/graphic novels this year, and this was probably my favorite. Why? Because it made me cry. I’m one of the people who actually like Jane Foster’s Thor (don’t @ me), but Volstagg was the star of Volume 4. And he’s such a big teddy bear. And yeah. Like I said, I cried.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Number 3: Cinder by Marissa Meyer ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book was nothing like what I was expecting. Because of that, I was a little thrown at first. I also didn’t realize The Lunar Chronicles are a continuing story, because for some reason I thought it was a universe of mildly connected stand-alones. Not sure why, but there you go. But dang, I couldn’t get this book out of my head for a few days. The world was original and fascinating. I didn’t super love Kai, but I really liked Cinder. I’m excited to read the rest of the series.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
Photo by me

Number 2: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Oh my word, y’all. This book is so good. Stayed-up-past-1am-twice good. I’m so mad at myself for not reading it as soon as it arrived!

I loved the characters. I loved how feisty and brave and confident Emma is—she definitely was my favorite. I loved how earnest Thomas is. I loved the world. I loved the added fantasy elements. The magic system was solid and not over-complicated, which I appreciated. (Side note—it was interested reading this book and Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson in the same year, because they both have magic systems based on use of color. But they are wildly different for many reasons. And the color magic in Warbreaker I found overly complicated, confusing, and at times distracting because so much effort had to be put into explaining it. One of many things I didn’t love about Warbreaker.)

I loved the message of seeking after and standing for truth. That beliefs must be align with Truth. I teared up several times at the end.

It was a tad predictable, especially if you know your Stuart and English church history, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment.

Unblemished by Sara Ella
Photo by me

Number 1: The Unblemished Trilogy by Sara Ella ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Okay, I cheated. (Again.) But it also would have been kinda silly to list the three books of a trilogy all separately, right?

I actually read Unblemished and Unraveling last year, but I reread them this year before reading Unbreakable. And I rarely reread books because I always feel like I need to read one of the many unread books I have.

Let. Me. Tell. You. This series is so real and so relatable and so gut-wrenching and Ky is my new book boyfriend (but I also am just here for Kymber. Is that an admissible ship name? It’s what I’m going with.). I nearly died last year when I finished Unraveling and Unbreakable wasn’t out yet. This series gave me aaaaaaaall the feels. And it’s so uplifting and all about the redeeming power of love—romantic, non-romantic, and self-love. And Eliyana grows so much throughout the series, which I love to see. Plus, music is a big part of Eliyana’s story, and all the musical and pop references made my heart happy.


Did you read of my top books of 2018 and love them? See any on this list you’re now adding to your to-be-read list for 2019? Let me know in the comments!

Curious what else I read this year? Check out my Goodreads Year-in-Review: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2018/36881220

Until next time,
And have a Merry Christmas,
Selina