Archive for December, 2013

The best books I read in 2013

Posted: December 31, 2013 in Books & Reading
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My goal for 2013 was to read 25 books, and I happily surpassed that. At the time of writing this, I’m currently at 38 and counting, and although I’ve read a lot more than this in past years, this was still a great goal considering how busy I’ve been recently. Yay, books!

So, which were my favorites? Well, an early favorite was definitely The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. It had this cool dystopian premise that reminded me a lot of X-Men, which I’ve always been a huge fan of. It comes kids with special powers and scary detention camps. It’s definitely worth the read!

A quick followup to that was 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma, which was different from a lot of other books I’d read previously. It has a creepy storyline and a great twist at the end. It’s also a standalone book, which I know can be hard to come by.

I also read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley this year, which really needs no introduction. I was surprised by how much I liked it, even to the point that I’d love to read it again. If you’re not usually into the classics (like me), I would still highly recommend this book. It’s interesting and smart and makes you think about Frankenstein’s monster in a way you probably never have before.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was another great book, and definitely left a few tears in my eyes. I’ll have to pick up his other novels now because I really like his writing style. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider reminded me a lot of his writing as well, and that’s another book I’d highly recommend. It may have also left a few tears in my eyes.

Burn for Burn and Fire with Fire by Jenny Han were complete surprises. I read them to review on Hypable and didn’t imagine I’d find them all that interesting, but they were a huge surprise — and in the best possible way. They combine some truly awesome female characters with some great romance and even a touch of the supernatural. These also had a great twist to them.

House of Hades by Rick Riordan was my favorite book this year for so many reasons. It had a great storyline, and it was wonderful to see characters that we’ve been so involved in for so many years finally mature and come to learn a lot more about life. If you’ve been thinking about getting into the Percy Jackson series, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Lastly, I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. This book was difficult to read because so much of my life is reflected onto the pages. Between Cath’s involvement in fandom and her anxiety, I sometimes felt like I was reading a story about myself. This also has a wonderful romantic thread throughout the book that is really genuine and organic. I’d recommend this to anyone, but particularly to those who are introverts and would rather spend time in front of their computer than interacting with other human beings.

I read a lot of other books this year, but these were certainly my favorites. Have you read any of them? If so, which ones and what did you think? What were some of your favorite books from this year?

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The correct definitions of introvert and extrovert are becoming more widely known these days, but there are still a lot of misconceptions.

Introverts, for example, recharge their energy when they’re alone. Being around a lot of people drains them, and so they need to have a quiet place where they can just do what they want to do at their own pace without having to meet the exhausting demands of others.

I am an introvert. And I like being left alone.

I relish in the time I spend by myself. To an extrovert, it may seem like a lonely existence, but I assure you it’s not.

For introverts, we can be left alone with our thoughts. We can plan our projects and let our ideas roam free in our imaginations. When we’re with people, our heads become cluttered with the thoughts of others, and our voices get quieter and quieter. Our heads empty out, and we feel more alone than if we weren’t surrounded by a group of people.

It seems strange, but — for me, at least — it’s true.

So, you see, we’re not hermits. We’re not recluses. We just like being left alone. We’re not weird social pariahs (well, not all of us). We’re actually perfectly normal. And it’s not that we don’t like people — we just like people in small groups for short periods of time. Think of us as cheetahs: We do really well for a really short amount of time, and then we need to rest.

We can’t help it. It’s just how we’re built. So, if you have an introvert in your life, don’t think of them as outcasts who like to stay in their bedrooms all day doing god-knows-what. Just realize that when they want to socialize, they’ll come to you. And when they want to have time to recharge, your understanding of that will be more appreciated than you can imagine.

As writers, we should be connecting with our readership on a personal level. This can take some time and effort, but in the end it will be worth it.

Why does Lady Gaga have such a large fanbase? Because she’s given them a name they can identify with (Little Monsters), and she accepts them for who they are. She understands her fans, and in return more and more of them flock to her.

But it isn’t just on a large scale level. Take Team StarKid, for example. I’ve talked about them before, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of you guys still didn’t know who they are. They got their fame when their Harry Potter musical parody went viral on YouTube, and since then they’ve continued to make shows in the same vein.

I’m a huge fan of them, and it’s because I can connect to them on a human level. They aren’t just a brand or a product, they’re people. And that’s important to me.

So important, in fact, that I’m willing to throw my money at them every chance I get. They put all of their musicals on YouTube for free, but they also sell DVDs and albums and merchandise. And even though I could just watch the shows online, and even though I could illegally download their music, I don’t.

Why? Because I want to support them. I want to see them succeed. I believe in their vision, and I want to see that vision become a reality.

And so do a lot of other people. So many, in fact, that when StarKid wanted to raise $35,000 to create their latest musical, they ended up raising nearly $150,000 because so many people feel the same way about them as I do.

As writers, we’re getting bombarded with tips and advice every single day, but take this one as gospel. It’s true, and you can see the proof above. If you take the time to get to know your audience and connect with them on a human level, they will repay that kindness tenfold. And it won’t just make for better sales; it’ll make for a better experience all around.

Science rules!

Posted: December 19, 2013 in Science
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If you’re anything like me, then you can’t say that sentence without singing the theme song to Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Bill Nye was a huge part of my childhood, and subsequently laid the foundation for my love of science. Although I ended up going down another route entirely (art history and writing), my love for science has not waned. In fact, as more and more avenues open up to learn about developing theories and technologies, my interests keep growing.

I discovered a channel on YouTube called The Brain Scoop, which talks about the science of taxidermy. Boring, right?

Not a chance.

I found the channel because it’s associated with another one I love (Vlog Brothers), so I gave it a chance. I didn’t really know what it was about, but I liked the host and knew they were going to be talking about science-y things. That’s about all the reason I needed.

Turns out that the show was a lot more fascinating than I ever could have imagined. I’ve watched Emily explain the difference between horns and antlers in one episode and skin and gut a wolf in another. If you’ve got a weak stomach, not every episode will be for you. But if you can handle it, the wolf dissection was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

And you get to be up close and personal with the process without having to deal with the smell.

The best thing about the series is that Emily is so passionate about what she does. She gets ridiculously excited about the things she learns, and it’s infectious. I never, ever thought I had any interest in taxidermy, but she makes me want to hop on a plane to Chicago and visit the field museum, which is where she currently works and where the show now takes place.

Check out the video below, which is one of my favorites, but doesn’t contain an ick-factor just in case you’re still digesting your lunch. If you think it’s cool, check out The Brain Scoop on YouTube. You might be surprised by how much you like it. I know I certainly was.

(The video doesn’t actually talk about the museum, but is a really good introduction to the host and shows you how well-informed and funny she can be. This one really hits close to home, seeing as I’m a girl who loves science as well.)

Confession time: I’ve been struggling with the blog a little lately. For some reason, I haven’t been quite connecting to it like I have in the past. I took two weeks off, and have gotten my thoughts in order. I feel a bit better, and I think I know what direction I want to go in now. Not much will change on the surface, but…

I’ll now be blogging twice a week instead of three times. This is partly to save me some time, and partly because I want the quality of the posts to be higher. Cutting out a blog post each week will allow me to do that, so you can expect me on Tuesdays and Thursdays now!

The content will (hopefully) be a bit more varied. Writers are often told to stick with one or two things — something that relates to their writing and to them as people. I totally agree with that, and I think for some people it really works. (For instance, check out Stacy Green’s awesomely creepy blog where she talks about both fictional and real-life thrillers. If that’s your jam, it’s the perfect place to visit.)

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me. I haven’t settled on exactly who I am as a writer just yet, and my interests are so strange and varied that even if I had, it would be hard to stick to certain topics. There are already a lot of awesome blogs about writing out there, ones that are much better than mine, and I want this place to reflect the actual me, not what I think it should reflect based on what has been “proven” to work for other people.

This also means that I’d like to get back into some of my old series, especially the Wandering Bard one. If there’s anything you’d like me to discuss, let me know! I’d really like this to be a place of conversation, not just a place where I talk at you. 🙂