Writing Is Hard

… and I realize that this is hardly an original insight

Yet I am always a little surprised when the writing does not flow like I wish it would. I have been participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I hoped to get a strong and steady lead early on this month, but it didn’t happen. I think about my story almost every day, and I’m just as certain as ever that it is an important story – one that needs to be told – but I’m not feeling present when I’m writing.

This is not a problem unique to my writing life. All areas of my life at the moment are constantly warring for my attention. I have two part-time jobs where I am driven to excel and which think about constantly outside of the office. I have a dog who demands constant attention. I also have a dream of becoming a successful blogger, a small business owner, and a published author. These are all the goals tugging at my brain at the moment.

It is hard to prioritize any of them, because everything is interwoven in my head. Excelling at my jobs will set me up for future success on my own business venture or even in future job opportunities. I also feel like my blog is the intersection of everything. I can cover topics related to my work, my dog, or my other dreams.

But back to writing. Good writing demands all your attention. Maybe there are some virtuosos out there who can turn it on and off like a switch. I am not one of those people, not at the moment anyway. Even with plenty of time, I have felt like the writing is just not coming. And I am not even talking about inspiration.

I forget where I heard it, but I was recently listening to a podcast or reading a article (that I don’t remember annoys and scares me) where someone was talking about how the writing you produce when you are hating writing the most is hard to differentiate from the writing you produce in the best of moods. So maybe I should just plow through even if it sucks, but it’s hard. And my brain thinks of all kinds of reasons to put it off.

So the writing is not going well. I have not lost all hope, but if I manage to win NaNoWriMo this month, no one will be more surprised than me.

I would like to start blogging again on a casual basis. No graphics. No forms of promotion, not even on Twitter. So hopefully I will be back with another blog post very soon. If you are participating in NaNoWriMo or can relate to how I’m feeling about being pulled in several different directions, sound off in the comments down below!

November 2019: NaNoWriMo, The Inky Saga, and More!

Hello again and welcome back to The Inky Saga. Thank you for all the positivity on my last blog post. I wrote it on October 12, 2019, according to my tweet from that day! It’s funny how often I’ve needed to refer to Twitter to remind myself when certain things happened. I mention it, because I’m trying to say that it’s been a while since I blogged properly. I’m still trying to get back into the habit.

I promised myself I would start blogging again after I got settled in at the new job, but it was like I was self-sabotaging that first weekend. I don’t want to get into it right now. But suffice it to say, I finally feel like I know what I’m doing with my life! I love both of my part-time jobs and feel like 2020 is going to be a kick-ass year.

What I want to do today is explain my plans for the month of November, which largely revolve around NaNoWriMo and blog-related content.

NaNoWriMo 2019

As I announced a couple of weeks ago, I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. The timing just kind of ended up working out and I’ve felt committed to writing like never before. I feel like it’s hardest to write when I have nothing but time, and that it is easier when I’m forced to squeeze it in wherever I find time. Weird? I know.

I should really be writing right now, but I did not want to keep the blog on the back-burner this month, so I did want to make time for blog posts on Sundays. Also, I think it’s good that is still early enough to voice my hopes and dreams for how I want this month to go.

Here are my writing plans for the month (and related blog posts):

  1. Attend at least one write-in. This will probably happen next week as this upcoming week already looks packed. (I will likely blog about it.)
  2. Go on an Austin coffee shop-writing spot tour! I do not have a lot of money to blow, but November only comes along once a year and I want to have writing adventures outside the walls of my apartment. My apartment is a lovely place, but I feel like there’s so much to discover in Austin and having something very specific to do will help force me experience the city better. My goal is to hit up at least 10 different spots! (Blog post on my coffee shop list and adventures forthcoming!)
  3. Go on a midwestern writing retreat to my writing buddy’s home in Illinois (Iowa?). I don’t know what state she’s in. That sounds bad, but she literally lives in an area called the Quad Cities! Anyway we set it as a NYE resolution to finally see each other this year for the first time since 2015, and it’d be great to be able to write together in person.

Misc. on The Inky Saga

I would hope I could get regular with the blog posts finally, but I may still be a ways off from that. However, I do have a lot of blog post ideas that I’m hoping will materialize into actual blog posts sooner rather than later. It is all just going to depend on how this month ends up shaking out. I want to win NaNoWriMo this year, so I will have to be smart about how I use my time!

But here are a list of things I’m hoping to talk about the rest of this year on the blog:

  1. Ninth House blog tour! I saw Leigh Bardugo this October for her Austin blog tour stop. It was gorgeous and I’m so glad I went, even though I was dead tired. I have a lot of pictures and lots of notes to share so I do want to eventually write this blog post.
  2. Revisiting French. I have been studying Spanish and German off-and-on for the last couple of year, but now I am working with French people and I want to brush up on my French! I studied it between the ages of 13–17 and it’s been cool to see how much of it has returned as I use DuoLingo. I had become pretty good at conjugating past, present, and future tenses as well as reading it back then. Hopefully I can get passable at hearing and speaking it next year!
  3. Career-related development and tips. I feel like I have had so many great career experiences this year and I would like to share blog posts about what I’ve learned and tips for how to make the most of current job situations. My new part-time job is giving me a lot of fun tasks too, so I’m eager to share the ideas I generate for that position but which cannot all be used, i.e. office decor ideas, holiday parties, corporate gifts, etc.
  4. Interior design/DIY. I’m still in the process of furnishing my home and making it a functional and productive environment for me and my dog Opal. I would like to share the apartment current status, organizational ideas, and wishlists for stuff I would like to get in the future.

End Note

The next few days are going to busy, which is why I’m glad I set aside time to do this post today. I am working about 36 hours next week split between the two jobs, and I’m still hoping to stay on top of the daily word count each day so I don’t fall far behind. Also, next weekend my family is visiting Austin for my mom’s birthday! So much is going on, but it’s gonna be great. Hopefully I’ll be back with another blog post before next Sunday.

Thanks for stopping by!
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Top Five Tuesday: Hogwarts House Reads!

Normally if I wanted to do a bookish meme on Tuesday, I would do Top Ten Tuesday. But I wasn’t feeling the theme for this or last week, so I did some looking and discovered a nice alternative: Top Five Tuesday. This month Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm decided February’s theme for Top Five Tuesday would be Harry Potter Houses!

This week’s specific house is Slytherin, but I missed the past weeks and wanted to combine them all into one post. The way it works is that you can pick five books a person from that house would enjoy OR books with characters that fit the traits of that house. I decided to (primarily) do the latter.

I hope you enjoy this blog post! It’s a little on the long-side but that’s hardly new, isn’t it? Chime in on your picks for each house in the comments down below. I’d love to read some contrary opinions on my selections as well ^_^

❝ They are experience-oriented, honest, practical, blunt, passionate, playful, funny, trusting, idealistic, stubborn and procrastinators. They live in the moment, don’t take themselves seriously, are wary of manipulators and liars, have a strong moral centre, and are unafraid to seize opportunities and make changes. ❞

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle | I think Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin are all little Gryffindors-in-training. While they all have their problems with themselves and their lives, they recognize trouble when they see it and work past their fear to save the world.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee | I’m not so sure about her brother or father, but I think Scout is definitely a Gryffindor. She has all the braveness and conviction of right and wrong that comes with being a child. She is not easily convinced to back-down, even if it means she will get into trouble.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld | Deryn joins the air force in this YA fantasy series by dressing up as a boy because girls are not allowed to enlist. I think she’s also a little too young. She finds herself wrapped up in a major adventure filled with danger and international intrigue, and she does it with relish. She’s a Gryffindor if I’ve ever seen one.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline | Wade is very much a brave protagonist who is unafraid to seize opportunities and do what is right. He has plenty of opportunities to go to the dark side, but he is loyal to his cause and the ones he loves.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo |Princess Diana is such a refreshing character in that she is so unwaveringly good. Her actions are led by her strong morals, even when it means breaking the rules. She is not afraid to take action if she knows it’s right.

❝ They are analytical, intelligent, logical yet impractical, curious, inquisitive, creative, witty, wise, interested in understanding things, cynics, fond of  intellectual discussion, introspective, independent, wordy, and self-entertaining. They observe rather than participate, are fond of learning for the sake of learning, and good at school (or really anything that they have an interest in!)❞

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin | A.J. Fikry is a bookstore owner who is more content to live in his books than experience the world and all it has to offer, despite his difficulty in keeping his business afloat. Luckily in this book life brings people into his life that give him and the stories more meaning.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman | Lettie and the Hempstock women seem to know a lot about the universe and its mysteries. Through the foggy memories of a young boy, we get a glimpse of their knowledge and power.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen | I think that Elizabeth Bennet, and probably Jane Austen (based on the movie Becoming Jane (2007)), are both Ravenclaws. They are both highly analytical of their society and intelligent, well read women who are more than capable of being independent.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok | I feel like half the book is about the two young protagonists studying Jewish scripture and law. They are obviously both extremely intelligent, motivated not only by their fathers but internally on a quest for truth and meaning. Danny is so competent as his Jewish studies that he adds additional subjects to open up his understanding of the human mind.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor | I actually don’t remember a lot about Sunny’s character, but do recall that magic-doers in this universe (leopards) value knowledge for the sake of knowledge above all else. You progress by learning new skills and by gaining wisdom. See my review of Akata Witch if you are interested in checking out this underrated YA fantasy series.

❝ They are hard-working, determined, tenacious, loyal, honest, genuine, well-rounded, fair and just, open-minded, giving, good-hearted, accepting, compassionate, practical, patient, unemotional, and dependable. Their loyalty is not given – it’s earned.❞

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones | I think Howl is for the most part surrounded by Hufflepuffs. Sophie and Markle are definitely Hufflepuffs. They are loyal to him, hard-working, patient, and practical. I could even see how Howl might be a Hufflepuff, if you can see past the whole emotionally stunted man-child thing.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson | Stevie is a Hufflepuff. She reminds me a little of Tonks, with her interest in criminal justice. She’s hard-working, tenacious, determined in what she does. She’s also a compassionate and loyal friend.

How I Resist edited by Maureen Johnson | I selected this anthology because the pieces selected by Johnson all embody Hufflepuff traits in their appeals to compassion, open-mindedness, determination, tenacity in today’s youth.

The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle | The protagonist Adam is a scientist who learns that his work does not exist in a bubble and can have real-world consequences. He has a good-heart, but he struggles with who to trust and to whom to give his loyalty in this book. By the end of the novel, I think he discovers who deserves his trust.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman | Malcolm is Hufflepuff through and through. He’s just such a genuinely good-natured little boy who follows his gut and is loyal to what he considers just causes. He becomes loyal to little Lyra when she is a just a baby when he learns there are people after her.

❝ They are ambitious, driven, goal-focused, determined, prepared, perfectionists, adaptable, realistic, self-reliant, charming, assertive, and ruthless. They are highly selective with their loyalty, love positive attention and thrive on praise, care about the impression they give, demand respect, and can be disloyal. ❞

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas | Celaena kind of a Mary Sue of a Slytherin if there ever was one. Charming, assertive, ruthless, check, check, check.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart | Once again, these characters are less bad and more ambiguous on the Slytherin spectrum. Without spoiling anything, I will say these childhood friends are loyal to each other and raised to be Slytherins, which is to say proud of their family, wealth, and privilege. But they are conniving and ruthless in how they decide to dole out punishment. And they suffer for it.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green | April May is a character I really didn’t know how to feel about as I read AART. I don’t think she’s evil or bad. Her heart is definitely in the right place for much of this book. But she’s definitely single-minded in accomplishing her goals, which leads to her stepping over the people who matter most as she continues to receive praise and admiration from countless strangers via the internet.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkowski | It’s been a while since I read these books! Kestrel, in my opinion, is definitely on the more good-hearted side of the Slytherin spectrum. She’s extremely intelligent and capable of manipulating others for her own ends, but I wouldn’t say she’s ambitious or driven by ego.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo | Kaz…hell, most of the people in the gang are probably a Slytherin, but Kaz takes the Slytherin cake. Only a Slytherin could have pulled off such a dangerous, high-stakes heist.

I hope you enjoyed this post! I stumbled across these prompts last weekend when looking for something for last Tuesday and decided it would be a fun challenge to think about. I think it’s a great way to introduce people to new books, because some people might want recommendations based on how the characters are and not just want happens in the book.

It was a little harder than I thought it would be to pick books for certain houses! I learned a little about myself what kinds of books I lean towards through this little challenge, funnily enough. I’ve been sorted into Slytherin twice by the Pottermore quiz, so it shouldn’t be that surprising that I enjoy trouble-makers, but I do want to read more books helmed by Gryffindor and Hufflepuff characters in the future!

Thank you for reading!
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Featured Image Credit: Photo by Aga Putra on Unsplash.

Lessons Learned in January + February BuJo Spread

Hello, everyone! I meant for this post to come out last week, but, in truth, I didn’t start my February bullet journal until last weekend. So I’m a little late, but that’s fine. I’m a prime example of the fact that you do not have to skip a month just because you start late!

Before I get into everything, I do want to admit that I abandoned my January bujo at some point halfway through. January felt like the longest month ever, and I came to dread the need to sketch out and use the weekly spreads. Additionally, I realized that some elements of the traditional bujo spread just weren’t working for me. January was a real learning experience and I went into February’s spread with some adjustments in mind.

Keep reading for the lessons I learned as well as a glimpse of my February spread!

❝ Keep it simple

I really want to keep a bullet journal year round, and the only way I figured I would be able to do that is to keep things simple. I realized that the design I chose for January, while beautiful, was a bit too much to keep up with when it came to the weekly spreads. I should’ve just dropped the design and kept kept up with the journalling, but I wanted the entire month to be cohesive visually.

So for February, I chose a much simpler theme and design that didn’t require so much time, that way I can focus on what really matters: the content.

❝ Sketch out the weekly spreads in advance ❞

My least favorite aspect of the bujo has always been the weekly spread. I’ve seen many different versions of it that I just do not find personally fitting for what I need. I hate seeing empty space on the page, and some days I just don’t find that I’ve done much at all. Plus, I don’t want to keep too much personal info in my bullet journal, so using it partially as a diary to fill it up is not really an option for me.

What I do need in my bujo is space to keep my daily to-do lists, so I decided to figure out this month how to make the weekly spreads work for me. I decided to sketch them out at the beginning of the month, instead of on the weekends, so that they are ready to go on weeks that I didn’t have the time or will work on them the weekend before.

As I did this, I also realized that I could actually utilize extra space for notes that will help remind me about the day in addition to the to-do lists and keep weekly habit trackers for the main activities I’m prioritizing that week. I decided to start keeping notes of the German vocabulary I am working on that week.

At this point, I actually only have two weeks planned out, so I will still need to figure out the last two weeks of February. I plan to go even more simplistic, using a more minimalist approach inspired by Instagram bullet journalist @journal.it. Below are some ideas I have in mind.

❝ If you aren’t using a spread, don’t continue to include it ❞

As much as I love the idea of mood trackers and individual habit trackers, I don’t actually find them all that practical or useful. My habit trackers specifically began to give me a little bit of anxiety because there were few days I could do everything I listed. I felt like a failure, even though I was doing a lot in reality.

So I don’t have a month-long habit tracker element in my February spread. But as I mentioned above, I did start naturally including trackers for things I wanted to keep track of during the week, specifically exercise. Ideally I would exercise everyday, but some days I need a break to accommodate other things on my agenda or to make sure I have some time for fun. My realistic (but still ambitious) goal is five days a week. The tracker reminds me if I’ve fallen behind.

 ⟡  February BuJo Spread  ⟡ 

For February, I decided to go with a lightbulb theme that I saw on Instagram last month designed by the bullet journalist @bulletwithe. I thought her style was really cute and whimsical. It is also fairly simplistic and one I felt I could easily duplicate and make my own.

This month I decided to start my monthly spread on the left side of my open journal so that I could see my monthly log beside it. Another difference from last month is how I put the day and date in the middle of my monthly log page instead on the far left. I think it was a simple way to make the page more interesting, although I could still see myself moving it around in the future.

Before my weekly spreads start, I only have two pages for monthly notes, which consists of space for brain dump (random ideas/notes I have during the month), my monthly goals, my blog growth tracker for WordPress and YouTube (if I do indeed start it up again), books I read, and a writing graph!

I will not show my weekly spread today in this post, because I have already begun filling it in for this week and would rather do a proper flip-through at the end of the month. If you like what you see so far and want to know what direction I took for the weekly spreads, I highly recommend checking out @bulletwithe‘s Instagram page for how she decided to do them. My first week is her Week 3 and my second one (currently still a work in progress) is a variation on her Week 4 I think (she didn’t label it).

I have some ideas for future bujo-related blog posts that I’m hoping to start working on this weekend. I’ve really falling down the Instagram bujo community rabbit hole, so I feel like I have discovered a lot more possibilities and things I would like to try. I’ve also already begun brainstorming themes for March so that I can hit the ground running next month and hopefully make it easier for any of you who might be interested in joining me!

Tomorrow I will finally be sharing my thoughts on The Man in the High Castle! I finished writing it on Monday and just need to give it a final polish before I send it out into the universe.

Thank you for reading!
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Beyond Betwined Reads ⁂ ✧.: *: ・

In which Lori explains her absence and plans for the future of the blog.

Hey, everyone! It’s me, Lori. I’m back again. Hopefully for a good while. I’ve missed you, and I’ve missed blogging. The longer I was away these past couple of months, the harder it was to jump back into it. I think I know why.

For most of the year, I started each month by setting some goals and trying to figure out what kinds of things I wanted to do on the blog. It was fun, and it also gave me an idea of where to focus my energy and attention. There are always so many things I want to do, I always find myself needing to reign it all in.

For some reason in September my blog started to get a lot more views and follows than I’ve experienced all year. I wasn’t sure really why, but it was exciting, and I wanted to nurture it by posting more often. I decided to get more serious about blogging and set up a schedule so that new followers knew what they could expect and I also knew what I needed to be working on each week. It was very ambitious, and it was the beginning of the end.

As much as I tried to adjust and stay happy with what I produced, I couldn’t keep up with it. Not when I wasn’t reading or writing behind the scenes. Not blogging became stressful. It was a chore in which I found no joy.

So I didn’t blog much in October and haven’t blogged much in November. I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to do, because despite all the turmoil I’ve been feeling I still want to blog. There have been so many times where I thought I might start back up again but felt stifled because I wasn’t sure how to address my absence, particularly since I felt I’d done nothing substantial with my time offline.

Last week I decided I wanted to blog, but something needed to change. I went back and forth over the idea of starting a new blog fresh and without a specific niche. But ultimately I realized that while the overall format is probably going to change, I still want to blog about the same sort of things, mainly reading and writing.

The biggest difference will be that I will be writing for myself. I want to be able to blog when I feel like it and not feel inadequate if I’m not doing x, y, or z. I want to be able to get more personal on my blog and in turn inspire others to feel happier in their lives no matter what they are doing. I don’t want to feel like my value comes from the quality of my writing or ingenuity of my posts. My blog is not proof or validation my worth but a record of my life.

From now on when I talk about books, I will not try to be too objective or overly insightful. I don’t see any reason I should be stressing myself out over book reviews or having more original and nuanced thoughts than the next person. I’m not a book seller/critic/marketer, nor do I want to be one unless I have a salary! I don’t want to be a arbiter of taste. When I think back about the books I’ve read, I want to remember my life context (i.e. where I read, why I picked up a book) and my immediate reactions.

Similarly with my writing posts, I don’t want to look back on old posts and just see what I wrote for my blog readers’ sake. Rather I want to be able to remember how the writing was going and have the details (i.e. illness, mood, sources of inspiration) why it was going well or poorly.

I don’t know how many people will find this post very necessary for me to have written to explain. I realize I could’ve just made these changes quietly and moved on, but I feel like I had to write this post for myself. Not to justify my choices but to organize my thoughts.

Regardless, I hope this post finds the eyes that need it most. I’m not sure how deeply my absence has been felt. If you’ve wondered what’s been up with me or where I’ve been, I deeply apologize! I always find it difficult to know when I need to take a hiatus. Just know that if I ever give up on the blog, I will most definitely announce it in a farewell post. Additionally, I’m constantly on Twitter or Instagram, even if I’m not posting, if you ever want to give me a shout!

I’ve got to go to bed now. I’ve been reading Heist Society by Ally Carter and it’s been a nice read so far. Nothing mind-blowing or earth-shattering but fast-paced and intriguing.

Thank you for reading!
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Blogoween (Level 1) Announcement!

A week ago while blog hopping, I came across an announcement for  Blogoween , a fun new month-long book blogger event that will take place over the month of October co-hosted by Clo Book Dragons and Sam @ Fictionally Sam along with some of their friends. There will be multiple hosts and prompts for each day of October that will guide you on your creation of Halloween– and autumnthemed blog content for your blog!

SEE: Blogoween: Content, Hosts & Prompts & BLOGOWEEN 2018 [Announcement, Hosts + Prompts]

There are three levels of participation. You just need to pick one:

⟡ Level 1: Post any 13 days during October

⟡ Level 2: Post consecutively from October 24–31st

 Level 3: Post every single day in October (!)

I personally decided to pick Level 1, just so that I had more freedom with what prompts I’d like to do and also so that I would have time to write and produce anything else to supplement my posts (e.g. graphics). Also, from a cursory look at the prompts, I wasn’t sure I would be able to come up with something good for each day.

If you are uncertain which level would be best for you, I suggest brushing up on the rules and prompts. Once you’ve decided the level at which you would like to participate, you just need to do two things before October.

  1. Publish your blog post announcement of your plans, &
  2. Sign up on the hosts’ >Google sign up form< (which will ask for your level selection and the URL link of your announcement post)

My Prompt Selection + Schedule

I decided to list the  Blogoween  prompts I intend to use this month for my own records and also so you all will know you can expect in October! For the full list of prompts, see Clo’s post (linked above) and visit the blogs of each day’s specific host if you have any questions about the prompts.

I personally may interpret these prompts liberally where necessary suit the kind of posts I feel like writing! ^_^

Monday 1st  ← My own idea!
Prompt Title: My October Routine
Explanation: Things I like to do in October + plans for enjoying the season

Thursday 4th
Prompt Title: Top 5 Books about Witches
Explanation: List your Top 5 favorite books about witches

Saturday 6th
Prompt Title: An Evening of Mystery & Murder
Explanation: You are hosting a Halloween-themed dinner party and seven of your favourite morally gray fictional characters and/or villains have accepted your invitation. Sometime during the party there is a murder, and there are only seven suspects – you and your guests. Who did you invite, who was murdered, what was the murder weapon, and where in the house did it occur?

Monday 8th
Prompt Title: Gory Magical Sweet
Explanation: Create one or more snacks (sweet or savory) and a drink (if you want), all must be Halloween-themed. Should be created with a mix of common food elements and parts of our beloved mythical and magical creatures. Just to be clear: things like rainbow unicorn sparkles aren’t gory. Get morbid.

Tuesday 9th
Prompt Title: Bookish Monster Bender
Explanation: You’re transported in various book but a bad surprise awaits you. Everything is horror and death, because a monster version has taken over the story.

Wednesday 10th
Prompt Title: Local Supernaturals Who Demand A Book
Explanation: Share your local stories of ghosts, supernaturals and what happens round your area. Either where you live, or nearby; can also share your own personal scary experience. These are the stories which you think, deserve their own novel – could add a blurb to the story. Can share as many stories as you wish as long they’re: horror/supernatural/scary/ghostly/etc.

Friday 12th
Prompt Title: Loving the Monsters Always Ends Badly for the Human
Explanation: Exploring and recommending my favorite creatures – vampires!

Tuesday 16th (TTT Replacement)
Prompt Title: Love Spells
Explanation: Favorite ships at least one must be a supernatural creature

Tuesday 23rd ➝ Thursday 25th, so I can do regularly scheduled TTT
Prompt Title: Bonded, Bewitched, Drowned
Explanation: Halloween version of Kiss Marry Kill with your favorite characters

Saturday 27th
Prompt Title: Toil and Trouble
Explanation: Villain Halloween Theme – would you want a villain as a roommate, a villain as a companion in a haunted house, etc.

Monday 29th
Prompt Title: Halloween In A Fictional World
Explanation: Pick any fictional world that you’d love to experience Halloween in

Tuesday 30th
Prompt Title: Trapped With You
Explanation: Characters I’d want with me if I were trapped in a haunted house

Wednesday 31st
Prompt Title: The Veil Is Thin
Explanation: The 31st Oct is supposed to be a day when the veil between our world and the otherworld, is at its thinnest. As such, it was originally a day to ward of evil spirits; what spirits are you hoping to ward off? (e.g. paranormal characters, evil characters, writer’s block, procrastination, etc.)

☙ ❧ END NOTE ❧ ☙

I’m really excited about this event and hope you are too! Just in case anyone is wondering, I will be keeping up with my own personal blog schedule. There’s just an additional 13 posts related to  Blogoween  that you can now also expect. ^_^

Be sure to check out Clo’s blog posts (linked at the beginning of the post) for more information, as I only attempted to condense what I thought was the most important information in this post. Let me know in the comments below if you plan on participating or if there are any other October blogging festivities I should know about!

Thank you for reading!
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Happy National Read-a-Book Day!

I wasn’t originally planning to post today, but since I’m on a blogging kick and today is National Read a Book Day, I decided to take part in the hype surrounding the return of The Great American Read. The television show returns to PBS next week on Tuesday, September 11, 2018. It will detail the host’s journey to discover the top 100 favorite books in America.

The list includes many books new and old that can now claim the distinction of being considered a classic. I kid you not, Fifty Shades of Grey is on the list! You can vote for your favorite if you’re willing to sign up for an account or with your Facebook or email. For the record, I preferred not to.

Part of what I find so fun about this program is that it aims to poll the U.S. as a whole, not just your academic friends and literary circles. It will show what books stand the test of time amongst people as a whole, not just those who have made reading a significant part of their lives.

So in honor of the return of The Great American Read (and since I don’t have a book review to share today), I decided to share the list of books that I can personally say I’ve read from PBS’s list of 100 Books, along with my picks from the list that I would like to read one day.

The Books I’ve Read

  1. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  2. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  3. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain *
  4. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie *
  5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  7. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger *
  8. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  9. The Chronicles of Narnia (Series) by C.S. Lewis
  10. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  11. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  12. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  13. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  14. The Hunger Games (Series) by Suzanne Collins
  15. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  16. Left Behind (Series) by Tim LaHaye/ Jerry B. Jenkins
  17. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  18. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  19. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  20. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
  21. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton *
  22. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  23. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen *
  24. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline *
  25. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (Note: far from my favorite Vonnegut novel!)
  26. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  27. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee *
  28. The Twilight Saga (Series) by Stephenie Meyer

* favorites

The Books I Would Like to Read

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  4. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  5. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  6. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  7. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  8. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
  10. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  11. Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  12. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  13. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  14. The Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  15. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  16. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  17. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

I already own Catch-22, so that one I could tick off this list soon with a little motivation. Some of these books I have less interest in reading but could see myself picking them up from the library if I had nothing else to read. The books I find myself most eager to get my hands on are AmericanahThe Handmaid’s Tale, The Joy Luck Club, and White Teeth.

❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

I spent much of morning on this post, but with my remaining hours before and after work, I’m going to try to finish up Rebel Spring in honor of National Read a Book Day. I’ve been “Currently Reading” it for far too long and I’m ready to move on to something new! ^_^

Do you have time today to drop everything and read?

What are you reading today? 

Thank you for reading!
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I Am An English Major Looking For Work

I mentioned this past week that I was resuming the job search this month and wanted to share my process here on the blog. Before I get into the specifics of my search, I thought it might be a good idea to give you a bit of context about my past experience looking for full-time jobs post-graduation before I talk about what I’m doing now.

I don’t know if I’ll regret putting all this out there, but I want to because my fear is that there are a lot of people out there like me who are similar situations. I’ll be happy if anyone learns from my mistakes or becomes motivated to pursue any of their dreams that they may be putting off for whatever reason.

Let me just start by saying I’ve always been intimidated by the prospect of searching for jobs. I don’t find it particularly fun or exciting, especially after having a few times come really close to bagging the dream job only to find that there was someone out there that was better qualified (or as my inner critic spins it better liked).

Something I’ve had to learn is not to let rejections set me back. Hank Green recently made an extremely inspiring video called “My Worst Job Search Fail” on the vlogbrothers channel that put the job search into such a healthier perspective for me. I’ve embedded it below because I think it contains an important message for anyone who is looking for a job.

First A Little Context . . .

I attended Iowa State University from 2011–2015 and decided to major in English because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but felt like an English degree would prepare me for a wide array of careers that require strong communication and analytical skills. As a backup plan for the chance I would not immediately find a job post-graduation, I had applied to a Master’s program at UT Dallas, where I knew my brother would be soon studying.

At UT Dallas I studied Emerging Media & Communication from 2015–2017. I had been really attracted to the described coursework and hopeful that I might be able to make myself a really unique prospect for a social media job in book publishing. Instead, I discovered a hidden passion for the theory and research, graduating with the intent to apply for PhD programs after a year in the real world.

I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do or what would make me the most happy, but I was open for anything. I wanted to be snapped up by someone who saw my potential and wanted to make me their mentee.

As someone who was always a strong student, I didn’t spare a lot of thought thinking about what was a realistic career path for me. All I ever cared about while I was a student were my grades and impressing my instructors. A part of me knew that I ought to have been thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life while I was in college, but I was overly idealistic (hello). I felt like finding a job was entirely a matter of luck, presenting myself as a good worker and smart person would make it easier for the right job to fall into my lap.

Originally I would’ve loved to work in publishing; it’s why I started book blogging in 2015. But over the years I’ve come to my senses about the reality of publishing and decided it wasn’t for me. Nowadays I would love to see myself writing for a living, whether that be as an original content creator or some sort of digital publication. I could also see myself managing some business / company / organization‘s social media and other communication platforms with great pleasure and passion.

You really have to be a good sales person of yourself in order to get your foot in the door most places. If you are someone who takes great pride in work done well and are a fast learner but has trouble being aggressive in competitive environments where you have no contacts and no formal experience. It is exceptionally hard if you lack direction.

So I’ve been flailing.

How I Spent the First Half of 2018

I quit my retail job in January after a busy holiday season in which I worked so many grueling hours and gained extremely sore feet in the process. This job was very physically demanding, so much so that my feet were always in pain and my body always tired. It was also emotionally draining. All I wanted to do when I finished work was sleep, eat, and find comfort in the mind-numbing entertainment of Netflix and YouTube.

What is most devastating is that I was never supposed to be at that retail job for long. I always meant to continue looking for and applying for jobs that befitted a college graduate. But during my sporadic days off, it was hard to do anything that made me feel fulfilled or productive, never mind looking for jobs.

So in January I decided to take a gamble on myself. I felt I needed the pressure of having no money coming in to move me into finding a proper full-time job at long last. It wasn’t the best motivator, considering I was still unbelievably fortunate enough to have my parents’ financial support behind me. But the time has helped me come to terms with reality and the options I never seriously considered before.

It’s also allowed me to work on my own health. My feet are back to normal (can you believe they went down a shoe size?) and exercise has been a regular and enjoyable part of my daily routine. I’ve even been able to tackle my unhealthy relationship with food. I’m feeling more content and in control of my body and its destiny than I have in years.

What I’m Doing Now

So my dad works in the Department of Homeland Security. He never went to proper college. He worked his way up from border patrol and ICE all the way up to the highest level possible for a man of his age and his background. Most recently he received an overseas position in Israel where he’s done well. I’m really proud of him. But from an early age, I knew I never wanted to do what he does.

That’s part of the reason I never seriously considered looking into government jobs, especially as I continued in higher education and became more liberal-minded. The Peace Corps is the closet thing I ever imagined myself doing related to government work.

So imagine my surprise when I made an account for USA Jobs and found that there are actually some really amazing job opportunities that fall under the umbrella of the U.S. government. Jobs that take into account educational achievement alongside work experience. Jobs that are not even specifically to do with immigration.

I’ve bookmarked several positions that I’ve found using the job board database, taking into account the requirements, qualifications, and locations that best suit me. Every day I find something new based on preferences I can adjust on my profile. It’s not the most user-friendly database, in the sense that it’s not immediately clear to me if it’s possible to exclude positions for which I am not qualified (e.g. engineering, medical…), but it’s been easy to find a way to swiftly navigate all the open listings.

I also intend to look for jobs at U.S. embassies around the world, as apparently (according to my dad) those can be easier to get because they have less applicants. It’s still a dream of mine to visit Europe, Australia, and Asia one day. I can scarcely imagine a better way to get overseas than to be able to go specifically for a job. Even if it’s temporary position, I’d be willing to do it for the opportunity to travel.

I don’t know how long it will take for my applications to get noticed or receive enough interest to result in interviews, so in the meantime I’m also applying to some local part-time jobs for the city where I live. I already have an interview for a recreational center position. I’m also still investigating opportunities to teach overseas. I get a lot of satisfaction in helping others, so teaching people who want to learn (in any capacity) still feels like something I would love to do.

❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

I’m aware I previously said I wanted to make my job search into a series of posts, but I’ve been inspired by the way Czarina @ The Blacksheep Reader integrated her job search updates into her Weekend Reads posts. I’ll try to keep you all updated each week with a short summary covering places I’ve applied and interviews as they come.

Do you have your dream job?

Do you have any tips for first-time job seekers?

Thank you for reading!
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A Quick Update | August 9th

aquickupdate

Hello! I kind of disappeared last week without saying anything or even finishing up blog posts I wanted to go live this weekend. I’d like to chalk it up to blog burn-out, but really it was just that I didn’t get a lot done last week. I was tired all the time (probably because I was working out about twice a day) and watching a lot of YouTube in between naps.

I’ve discovered a lot of new YouTube channels over the past couple of weeks. Shane Dawson has been a favorite of mine since the end of the last year when he started doing more personal, heart-felt videos. More recently through him, I’ve discovered James Charles and Jeffree Star. So there’s been a lot of binge-watching these creators old videos! And I don’t even really wear makeup so let’s just let that speak to their personalities, creativity, and work ethic, which are all reasons I’ve been enjoying and feeling inspired by their videos.

It’s kind of embarrassing how I let myself get derailed from the blog so quickly. That’s actually why I think I was getting a little burned out. I’m on a never-ending quest to strike the right balance between blogging about life and actually living my life. Consider it a theme of Betwined Reads!

So before I left for my trip to the Rio Grande Valley, I had three posts mostly written. The only reason I did not publish them is because I hadn’t created featured images for them. I just don’t like posts to go up without any visuals. I wanted to try something new for this month, but never gave myself the time to work on them.

I’m not sure if it’s worth posting them now. Does anyone want to see super late July Notes ➴ and August Goals + TBR ➹ posts? They’d require some revision at this point…

      Immediate Plans   ➵ 

I was going to go into this in my August Goals + TBR ➹, but since it’s not up yet I figure I’ll announce it here and now: I am seriously going to kick up the job search this month. I feel like this year has been me trying to feel like myself again, without the crutch of school to give me a stronger sense of self-worth or identity. It’s time for me to join the world of the living and working.

I’m not saying the blog is going to take a back seat, but I don’t want to stretch myself thin with everything I want/need to do. That being said, I’m not sure I want to be publishing a lot of blog posts each week. I’m not someone who can start a post and publish it all in the same day. Generally, I like to sit on a blog post for a day or two to make sure I’m happy sending it out into the world like a little fragile little sail boat going into the unknown.

I feel like sometimes I do a lot more work than I need to for things that should be straight forward and simple, so my goal for today (8/9) and this weekend is to make sure everything I do moving forward on this blog I can do with pleasure and pride. I have a lot more free time than the average person, but with so much that I want to do it can still feel like I don’t have enough!

❧ ☙ Final Note ☙ ❧

I don’t want to commit to a schedule in this post, because I’ve not given my posts a serious thought yet. I wanted to do a quick little update just so you know I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth! I think things will be back to normal (or a new normal) by the start of next week! I just need a few days to reflect and establish a new schedule/work flow.

Thank you for reading!
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Some of My Favorite (Book) Bloggers

Here it is! The long-awaited post I’ve been promising for over a month now. Today I’m sharing a short list of blogs that I am currently loving. These are the blogs inspire me to grow and be my best. Originally, I was just going to share the blogs that I discovered specifically in June and were relatively low in their follower count, but I realized early in June that the blogs that I’m most loving are for the most part ahead of me by leaps and bounds!

Making this post was a lot harder than I originally thought it would be. From the beginning I knew I didn’t want to just list blogs and provide no explanation. Also, the more time passed the more that I felt I should include. I even had to reassess the list of blogs I originally intended to showcase because I eventually found I was not as enamored with some of these blogs as I originally thought.

The blogs I share below all share a few factors. I think these blogs are incredibly well written, conversational, and for the most part visually captivating (even if they’re relatively simple). The bloggers post what feels like really authentic and original content (even if they do a lot of memes). I’m attracted to the friendly and thoughtful personalities I detect behind these blogs. And, finally, I feel like I can trust their opinions on the books they read and review.

~ Epitomes of the Bookish Lifestyle Aesthetic ~

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon the first two of these bloggers. It was around the time of BookCon in NYC and I was just finding so many wonderful posts that recapped the event on their blogs. After investigating their blogs, I found these two are good pals and do a lot of collaborative and creative posts that are fantastic. They talk books, but they also talk NYC restaurants and culture. Their blogs and lives are so dreamy.

• Hello, Chelly 

• Alexa Loves Books

~ Co-Blogging Virtuosos ~

Of Wonderland • I don’t know how they work, but I’m amazed when I discover blogs are run by more than one person. My old book blogging pal Ely has jumped from a couple of collaborative blogs in the time I’ve know her, most recently becoming a part of the terrific Of Wonderland team. I’ve since also become friendly with book blogger with Inge, another of Of Wonderland‘s super kind and friendly bloggers. I highly recommend checking out this gorgeous blog.

~ SuperHeroes of Book Blogging ~

I think I was following all of these blogs long before I made my return to blogging this year and I feel like I would be depriving anyone who is not already familiar with these blogs from the greatness that these blogs exude. I call them superheroes because not only do they produce so much blog content on a variety of thought-provoking, interesting topics that also are such lovely bloggers who regularly reach out and comment on others’ blogs, even complete newbies like me. They are literally pillars of this community.

The Orangutan Librarian  •

The Bibliophagist

Drizzle and Hurricane Books  •

~ Voices of Distinction ~

Rose Petal Pages • I love Cailin’s blog aesthetic. I like that the books she talks about are a mixture of new releases and also classics that I would personally be likely to read. I find her writing style so concise and clear in portraying her thoughts about the books she reveals and the way they made her feel. Her reviews are amongst my favorite. I look forward to seeing where she takes her blog (she just started in April)!

Novel Ink • I don’t always like blogs that review a lot of ARCs on their blogs, mostly because I find they sugarcoat books or overemphasis a book’s good or (more often) simply mediocre qualities often while ignoring the bad, but I actually find Madalyn’s reviews really helpful in getting a good sense of a book. Her critiques are really thoughtful and actually useful for me in determining if I might like the book. I really just vibe with her writing style and taste in books.

E, My Narrative • Emma’s blog is a real treat. It’s unlike your regular, standard book blog. She doesn’t rely on blog tags, she isn’t overly hyperbolic. She’s a voice I feel like I can trust. Like many of my favorite blogs, the books she talks about are a mixture of new releases and older/underhyped books (she gets major points for talking about Agatha Christie)! I feel like we have similar sensibilities in our writing (or maybe that’s all in my head), which is why I’m so drawn to her posts!

Flickering Lights • I think she’s been away on holiday, but Kristin’s blog is really elegant and her insights are really precise and thoughtful. Sometimes just reading her quick thoughts on books from her TBR convince me they are worth reading, even if I’d already written the book of as something I wasn’t interested in. I do so hope she comes back! I think she has a great future in book blogging ahead of her.

Reading Peaches • Anna is one of those bloggers who you can just tell is really well read. Her specialty, in my opinion, is her book recommendations based around a specific genre, theme, or miscellaneous element. Her recommendations go beyond your big name, new releases and the over-hyped books that you see pop up in post after post in your WordPress Reader or Bloglovin’ feeds. Chances are you can go her to her blog and find something that is just right for your specific interest or need!

Paper Blots • I adore her long-style blog posts. I like that I often come away with notes about her culture (e.g. food) and interests. She covers a lot of ground in her posts, which makes them super fun reads. And her books discussions don’t get bogged down with too many details; she great at sticking to highlights. I also really appreciate her honesty in calling out problematic books and/or tropes. I really appreciate bloggers who aren’t afraid to share if they don’t like a book (and the reasons why).

Sparkling Letters • Puput is the Indonesian blogger behind this lovely blog. It’s another one of those elegant, well-written blogs that provide just lovely descriptive reviews. It’s clear she puts a lot of work and love into her blog posts and it shows. She took a break from blogging for a little while, but she’s back and with a really healthy outlook towards blogging that I admire. I also hearing reading about her specific perspective as a book blogger who lives on the other side of the world.

~ Personality-Based, Non-Book BlogGERs ~

I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t share the blogs I follow that I also love and read almost every time a new post of theirs pops up in my feeds. These are not book bloggers, nor are they even known specifically for blogging. They are blogs that I love because I admire the people behind them.

Anna Saccone I discovered Anna through the SacconeJolys’ vlog channel around Fall 2013, when they had just Emilia and Eduardo and were new to England. To be honest, I found her a little cold and mean at first, but then I grew to love her and she’s like the closest thing I have to a role model in my adult life. We don’t have much in common, we don’t even really have the same tastes in fashion or style, but I actually feel like we’re closer in personality than I originally thought and admire her vulnerable side. Also, she’s the first person who ever made me think maybe I’d like to be a mom one day.

Kristina Horner Kristina is an OG YouTuber that I remember from when I was just discovering the breadth of YouTube in college (~ 2012). I’ve love going through her backlog and seeing what awesome stuff she was doing from a young age . (Oh, how I wish I had her confidence and good humor growing up!) I discovered she had a blog a couple of years ago and decided to follow it because she talks a lot more about her writing there, and we share that interest. She doesn’t vlog or blog much these days, but I’m still holding out hope she’ll find a way to come back and have fun.

Marzia Bisognin • Marzia is a Brighton-based Italian YouTube content creator who started her vlog as an alternative place to share more personal things in greater detail than she is comfortable on YouTube where she has a massive following because of her boyfriend Felix (a.k.a. PewDiePie). I love her creative projects and vlogging style. I’ve found a lot of inspiration to write creepy, strange, beautiful stories from her and be creator in a larger sense as well. She’s living the dream!

❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

In case you missed them, this post is kind of a conclusion to the blog hopping series I did in June (see “Blog Hopping in June” and “The Follow Up to Blog Hopping in June“). I discovered a good many of these book blogs during that time and some in July that I included since it took me so long to get this post together!

I was surprised by the interest in this post, and it intimidated me for a while there. I’m glad I’ve now done it! I even think it’d be nice to do one of these at least once a year, just because I like to think that there are even more great bloggers out there that I’m not yet aware of because they’re still growing and finding their legs.

What qualities do your favorite book blogs share? Do you think you could list some of your favorite bloggers off the top of your head? 

Thank you for reading!
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