Looking forward.

Sunday Snapshot

I find myself looking forward as this will be my final week of classes for the Spring 2016 semester. On Monday in my digital textuality class, we will be doing our final workshops on our Moving Image objects. After Tuesday I will be completely done with my digital culture class; our last day will consist final presentations and pizza. And Wednesday night will be our last class time to work on our group app projects and receive feedback from the instructor before our final presentations the following week. After that, I will have just be finishing up my Multimedia Portfolio for my digital textuality class which is due Monday, May 9th.

I’m excited to be finished with the semester, but not too excited about the moving out of my apartment process. My dad will be renting a trailer to attach to his Tahoe and we will be taking apart my furniture and moving it all ourselves, which will be made more difficult if weather is bad which we can’t predict in Dallas. I’m seriously considering living out of a hotel next semester if I don’t manage to get an on-campus apartment to avoid the trouble of bills and moving. It’d present different challenges, but it might save me money in the long run hopefully.

Anyway, these are the things occupying my mind at the moment when I would rather be enjoying my last few weeks in Dallas and trying to read, write, blog, etc.

As I am at a bit of turning point in my life right now, I decided to tell you what I have in mind for the blog in the next couple of weeks. I have planned posts for the first couple of weeks of May that are not just Wednesday or writing-related! I was tempted to share my schedule here, but I have an April Wrap Up + May TBR post coming up next Sunday in which I can better share those plans.

As far as writing goes specifically, I will go ahead and tell you now that I official threw in the towel with Camp NaNoWriMo on Thursday night after Skyping with my writing buddy Sara. I just realized I’ve lost all will to write at the moment and need some time to regroup on my story and focus on myself over the last week of April. Therefore I will be doing my final Camp NaNoWriMo update this Wednesday in which I’ll better explain my writing headspace right now along with any learnings I can share. This will also be my last post of April I think.

This week I am going to do my best to finish up my final projects. I am also going to be working on future posts for May so I can hit the ground running. I also want to use this week to read as I’m now five books behind on my Goodreads reading challenge! If you’re interested in what I might get up to over the week, make sure to follow me on my other social media platforms.

Thank you for reading!
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I’ve changed my word count goal.

Camp NaNoWriMo Day 20

My stress levels on Sunday night were at an all-time high as result of my own procrastination and a group project member who seemed like she was trying to make my life harder than it needed to be. Unnecessarily. We’ve since moved on (I generously believe she was as stressed as I was which caused our conflict to escalate quickly), but this tweet will live on in infamy:

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 5.20.02 PM

Even when I tweeted this, I was still optimistic I might actually be able to make it to 35k or 40k. But now with around 10 days left of April, it’s looking like I’d be lucky to make it to 20k and that’s if I can kick my writing butt into high gear. This realization hurts as I was truly hoping to make up for last November’s fail, and looking at those past stats I’ve not even gotten as far as I had managed then!

I don’t have much more to say other than I’ve still not given up. That’s why I wanted to make this post even though I have nothing to say about my writing. I’m going to try and write 1,000 words today I think, tonight after class and before I go to bed. Then starting tomorrow I’d like to try and write 1,667 each day. Hopefully I’ll write more than that some days.

I can only take life one day at a time at the moment. I’m hoping things will look up by the weekend, but I still have several “mini” assignments that need doing over the remaining 2.5–3 weeks of the semester. Hopefully the stress levels will go down though. I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I’ve realized I find it terribly hard to read or write when I’m feeling really stressed. All I want to do is watch Netflix and chill.

This past weekend as I let my deadlines build up and tower over me, I still managed to watch the entire season 2 of both Girl Meets World and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Guiltily. If you’re a reader or writer on top of being a full-time student, please let me know in the comments how you continue to read or write when you’re mentally exhausted.

 End Note

I have a few posts ideas in the pipeline that will hopefully begin rolling out at the beginning of May. I asked on Twitter how interested people would be in seeing some writer tips for Word and there was some interest so I’m excited to finish writing that. I’ve already outlined it and I’d love to have that post be ready next week.

I’ve decided just now that I might try to do daily Camp NaNoWriMo updates for the rest of the month on my writing progress here on Ink Keys & Other Things. I really miss regular blogging and this might inspire me to get more writing done for my story that I might otherwise. So I’m saying it here and now: you can expect a new post for the rest of the month of April! Woohoo!

As always, hope you’re doing well! If you’re a writer, let me know in the comments how your writing is going. ^_^

Thank you for reading!
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The Return of the FitBit + Exciting News!

Sunday Snapshot

As I write this post, it is just about to be 5 p.m. and I just had an early dinner from Sonic! I went to campus to try and be productive and all I ended up doing was walking all around campus and visiting the library. I’m wearing my FitBit again to gear up for summer and I broke 10,000 steps before 4 p.m. It was great! I’m in a Weekend Warrior challenge with my family and I might actually win if I can rack up a few thousand more steps before midnight.

ss3I don’t have much to share this Sunday other than one bit of exciting news I received on Tuesday: I was selected for a TA-ship! It means that I will be a teaching assistant to an undergraduate class or two next semester and in exchange have my tuition covered and receive a monthly stipend. As I’ve been funding my graduate studies and living expenses entirely with loans, this is a really big deal for me. Not least because I’m hoping to continue my studies with a Ph.D program after I finish my MA degree, so this will also be a big resume booster! I’m so excited for next semester.

Anyway, my real priority for the rest of the day is reach 10,000 words in my Camp NaNoWriMo novel, write more of my last paper for digital culture, and start a new book because I’ve not been reading much at all over the past two weeks. I decided to put The Winner’s Crime down because I’ll have next month to read it but I only have a few more weeks to utilize my school library while I’m in Dallas. Some of the new books I ended up picking up today were World’s Greatest Sleuth, At the Water’s Edge, and The Imposter Queen, which are a little different from the things I’ve been reading (primarily YA fantasy). I also decided to renew my loan of The Accidental Highwayman, just because it’s so out there from anything I’ve read over the last year and I just feel like I need to read something random. Random is the new theme of the second half of April.

You might realize I’ve not been sticking to my goal from the beginning of the month to stick to my new schedule, but I’ve not been able to finish any of the posts I’ve had in mind. I’m hoping to start posting more next week, after this paper is out of the way along with more of group project for an app we’re prototyping. I’ll probably be busy throughout the rest of April. But after this paper is out of the way, I shouldn’t have trouble getting the rest of my assignments done.

Well I best be off if I want to write anything before 8 p.m. when I Skype my writing buddy Sara. You can expect a new post by Wednesday at the earliest, with my Camp NaNoWriMo Week 3 Summary/Survey/what-have-you; I haven’t decided yet how I will be formatting it. Depending on how busy I am this Tuesday, I would like to attempt a 10K Tuesday. I think usually 10K Tuesdays are on the last Tuesday of the month, but I’ll need all the help I can get to finish Camp victorious!

Thank you for reading!
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Exciting Developments! | Camp NaNoWriMo Week 2

Camp NaNoWriMo | Week 2 Summary

I did not write all that much this week, but I am really happy with what I’ve accomplished with my story in the 5,188 words I’ve managed to record. The bulk of my writing time has gone to outlining. I had not had a very clear idea at all of where my protagonist was going in this novel after scrapping my original idea on March 31st. In today’s post, I just wanted to record some of the things I’ve been working on that have made me excited to continue returning to my story document each day, even if only for 10–30 minutes at a time.

camp2A lot of my most productive time came from getting out of my apartment. The polaroid to the left shows the place I like to go: La Madeleine, a country French restaurant (not unlike how Olive Garden is considered a Italian restaurant). I like to get a quiche Lorraine and sometimes petite cesar, then I just drink water which I can refill myself from the drink machine. It has a great writing atmosphere. There’s loud French music that drowns out the chatter. But a lot of time the chatter is great background noise anyway. As long as no one brings their baby, then it really sucks.

One of the best things I ended up doing last week was moving from Scrivener to Word as I feel a lot more freedom to write and see everything on Word. I also set up a Table of Contents that allows me to quickly jump between all the chapters as I plot, which has been the best thing: to update the table and see new chapters pop up and get names. And, yes, I’ve been naming my chapters. It’s not super important, but it’s fun and helpful for remembering what happens there.

At the top of each chapter, I have also been writing short lists of what I anticipate writing in that chapter. It’s been a really great way to organize my thoughts and not worry I will forget anything. The hardest thing when I first started doing this was I realized I didn’t know how my beginning and end connected. Something was going to have to give. And it was just yesterday that I realized what felt the most right, and I really feel like I’m working on a novel now! I know what the protagonist needs to do and why she needs to do it.

Without any further ado, here are some of the exciting story developments I’ve made over the last week!

Exciting Developments

For my own personal record, I thought I would share some of my story developments that I’m most excited about having happened over the last week. That way when I begin to feel down about my story or overwhelmed by my undertaking, I can return to this list and remember my excitement and maybe even refocus if that’s becomes the problem (as it sometimes is).

As I mentioned above, I connected the beginning and end! It turned out to be a problem of knowing exactly who is the antagonists and who are the allies. I had a very fun idea for the antagonist of this story that I’ve realized doesn’t work for this novel, so setting them aside has helped tremendously. Also, I was unsure about the allies of my protagonist because my protagonist has trust issues and I’m still not 100% sure what she wants. I know what she needs, I just don’t know what she wants. I don’t think she does either, though, so I don’t feel too bad about that.

My protagonist now has friends! I’ve always struggled with populating my stories with more than just the important characters and I feel like with these new side characters there are so many more possibilities. I also think they will make my character more likeable. In my head, my protagonist has always been a tad surly and I’ve recently began to worry others might not be as amused with her as I have been. Her friends I think will help her loosen up.

My story has a new environmental theme! I don’t want to go into too much about the specifics, but I’m really happy with my current ideas because it works with the magic of the world that I’ve been developing and also I’m not sure I’ve come across any books that do what I would like to do, to the extent to which I want to do it. Could I be any more vague? Sorry! ^_^

My story will have a play on the “chosen one” trope. In fantasy, it is difficult to avoid this trope, and it’s not one I personally am too bothered by. It’s never felt unnecessary in anything I’ve ever read. It’s probably a sign of how integral it is to the genre. But I have some larger ideas now for how to play with the trope. All year, I’ve had prophecy in mind, but recently I’ve discovered how it would be turned on its head. So I’m excited to play with that as I continue through the series, as I’m not actually sure how it would apply in this first book.

My mentor character has become more complex! A month or two ago I created a mentor-like character for my protagonist. Over the last week, she’s become a much more dubious character, which was a little hard for me because I liked her before the change. But I think was ultimately the right decision. Before, she was a lot more straight-laced and now she’s a bit more savvy to things that are happening and…I don’t want to say unreliable, but I do think readers will not know what to make of her at first. Which I think can only make the story that much more interesting.

 End Note

As I now have a much better understanding of the story I’m writing, I really hope to be at 20,000 words by next Wednesday. That’s not anywhere near where I should be on the 20th, I don’t mind if I don’t fully get all the way caught up until the end of the month. Even if I don’t end up making it to 50,000 by the end of the month, but to 40,000 I’ll be really happy with myself. I plan to continue writing past April, so I’m not going to stress myself out about an arbitrary deadline.

If you’re participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month, I hope you’re doing well and staying motivated. Motivation and staying excited about what you’re doing is so important for succeeding. If you’re no confident about what you’re writing find a way to become inspired again. For me, that’s by watching others talk about their writing on YouTube. And getting feedback on what I’ve written from my writing buddy. Let me know what inspires you in the comments below!

Thank you for reading!
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This reimagining of The Arabian Nights blew me away.

The Wrath and the Dawn

I borrowed this book from my university library on a whim. This is an honest and spoiler-free review.

wrathdawn

Released: May 12, 2015
Pages: 395 pages (hardcover)
Theme(s): Destiny, choice, responsibility, duty, morality
Genre(s): YA/Magical Realism/Historical Fiction
Age Group: 13+

★★½

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

My Thoughts

The Wrath and the Dawn is a book I did not expect to love as much as I did. I knew it would be a romance, but I’m always apprehensive about romances with a tricky power-dynamic, so I went into this story expecting a spoiled and ruthless king and a weak but brave girl who changes his heart. I had also read An Ember in the Ashes earlier this year, which has a similar middle eastern feel to it and that weak female protagonist, so those associations were enough to keep me from giving this book a chance. But I’m so glad I ultimately decided to pick up this book because it was nothing like An Ember in the Ashes!

This is a book that not only has a wealth of complex characters and breathtakingly magical world, but also an important message. The romance is just a one part of this book that serves to help the lovers change their assumptions and hope for a better future than the ones for which they believe they are destined. In other words, the romance of this book advances the character development and story and makes this book a treasure no one should want to miss!

Shahzrad 

One of my hesitations about reading books set in the middle east is that I will not like how the women are treated in their world. I do not like to read books where the female characters are unable to control their destinies, specifically because of their gender. It turns out I did not have to worry about this in The Wrath and the Dawn, as the women in this book were absolutely treasured by their families.

This story is about Shahzrad, or Shazi, who sets off to avenge the death of her best friend with the blessing–or at least the understanding–of her friends and family. But The Wrath and the Dawn is also about the lengths to which fathers will go to avenge their daughters. While their passion is clearly stomping out all reason, it is heartwarming nevertheless.

Khalid

I think the tendency in most books these days is for the “bad boy” characters to realize the errors of their previous ways be redeemed by love once they meet the “right girl”. And I get it; I certainly had this girlish fantasy at period of my life as I’m sure most girls do. But Khalid, it turns out, is not so bad we go into this novel thinking. It turns out he has a secret that the protagonist realizes she must be uncover in order to avenge her best friend and also save the boy she realizes she’s fallen in love with. This mystery is part of what made this book such a page-turner!

The storytelling is so enchanting.

In The Wrath and the Dawn, one of the inherent themes at work is the power of stories. In order to live to the next night at the beginning of this novel, Shazi engrosses the king in a story that she is careful not to let end so that he is forced to let her continue to live if he wishes to find out what happens next. I worried these storytelling sessions might grow boring, but they were actually really wonderful and I was sad when they ended! It makes sense why: because Shazi and Khalid become the center of their own story which is the true purpose of the novel.

A valuable commentary on revenge.

The Wrath and the Dawn is a novel all about revenge. It starts with Sahzi’s revenge plot already set in motion, after she’s in the palace and getting married to the man who murdered her best friend. But this novel turns into a commentary on the true cost of revenge. We learn that past revenges have resulted in the current devastating state of affairs in Khorasan. But that is all I can say without spoiling the book!

Final Thoughts

I looked it them up, and it appears the setting of this book including Khorasan and Parthia were real, ancient kingdoms located in, or around, present-day Iran. So I think it’s marvelous to think that this magical world could have once existed. So I love that this book is in itself a love letter to a begone time and a reimagining of a classical work of world literature which not many young Westerners will know about.

I encourage anyone who has even considered the possibility of reading this book to give it a shot. It defied all my expectations and turned out to be an absolutely beautiful work of fiction. The ending was a little predictable for me, especially as I went into this book knowing there would be a sequel. So that was the one downside for me, but I could overcome my disappointment because this book beautifully sets up what will no doubt be an explosive second book in The Rose and the Dagger.

 Thank you for reading!
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Camp NaNoWriMo| Week 1 Survey

CNW_Participant

Welcome back to my latest installment of Novel Progress, which I’ve re-labeled temporarily for the month of April in which I participate in Camp NaNoWriMo! Sorry if you saw an earlier version of this post; I forgot to reschedule it after deciding it would not go up at its normal time! Also, I did not end up writing what I wanted to write for my novel before I wrote this blog post so I needed extra time to decide what exactly I wanted to talk about.

I’ve decided to give these Camp NaNoWriMo progress updates this month in the form of a Q&A survey! I’m thinking I will try to answer all these same question each week, but I might add questions as they arise. I’ve also just realized if you have any suggestions I could also add those as well!

1. When are you making time to write?

I’m just going to admit here and now that I have not gotten off to the greatest start this week. I’ve only written one day and so I’ve been sitting at 1,917 words since April 2nd. I got super busy with class assignments (which you might know if you’ve been following my VEDA videos). Also, I’ve struggled with writing motivation, doubting myself and my story. But enough is enough and I finally know where I want to go from here.

On my class days, I’ve felt most inspired to write in the afternoon between 3–6 p.m. I just think it’s a great time between lunch and dinner to sit down during the day and be productive. The only problem has been that it’s also been my favorite time to do my assignments.

2. What scenes have you written thus far?

The very first thing I ended up writing on April 2nd was an introductory chapter in which my protagonist has a chance meeting with a character that is going to become very important in her life and the story further down the road. I really love this character and would love to write more about him so I’m trying to focus my attention on my protagonist and what she needs to do.

3. What are the next scenes you know you are going to write?

At midnight, I had a really cool idea for where the climax of the story will place in this draft of my novel!  I think it is a really cool idea that will allow a lot of fun things I’ve had in mind to be realized! I’m really excited to beginning crafting the image of this place and begin brainstorming about the scenes that will happen here and the events that will lead to this place.

I also have ideas for the encounters that my protagonist will experience with the villain(s) of the story that will lead up to the climax!

4. What are you most excited to revise after April?

I feel like my storytelling voice is very passive right now and I can’t wait to try and make the story more exciting simply by experimenting with my writing style. I feel like it’s important right now to just write everything that comes to mind about setting, description, etc. and so I can’t wait to convert my telling language into showing language.

5. What are you going to do differently over the next week?

I’ve realized (through writing this post actually) that I have a window of time in which I most would like to write that I need to prioritize for strictly writing. So I’ve decided to treat the hours between 3–5 p.m. as hours exclusively dedicated to writing and working on the story. So I will prepare for this block of time, ahead of time by making sure I’m able to sit down and think of nothing but what I’m writing.

Also, I’ve realized that I’ll write more if I go on a scene-by-scene basis. In my last Novel Progress update (Novel Progress #8 | Camp NaNoWriMo Game Plan) I had had this grand plan to write a chapter per day, but that’s become unrealistic given the unexpected change my story underwent on the last day of March! So I’m switching to a Word document in which I’ll be able to scroll up and down and writing wherever I feel most inspired to write.

 End Note

I am hoping to have a much better second week of writing now that these major assignments of the beginning of the month are out of the way. I anticipate the end of the month becoming very frantic again with final projects, so I really need to have a really strong writing game over the next two weeks. I know I can do this. I keep reminding myself I’ve done it before! If you are participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, let me know in the comments below! I hope you’ve been able to write more than I have. But if you haven’t, just know it’s not too late to get started.

Thank you for reading!
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A New Schedule | Sunday Snapshot

This has been an absolutely lovely weekend. So lovely I thought I would do another Sunday Snapshot as I haven’t done one since Valentine’s Day and I really like this loose format and the chance to just give a chatty snapshot of my life at this moment in time. I only have about one proper month left of school and I trying to end the semester strong and also get myself ready for summer projects, most of which will hopefully combine my studies and online creativity.

ss2After all the chaos and confusion about the new algorithmic change by Instagram, I’ve somehow managed to break 100 followers! I still can’t quite believe it and am just waiting for them all to change their minds and unfollow. I have been posting more regularly over there, though, and it’s become fun again.

The picture to the left is one I took today of the books I finally received yesterday (and opened in my latest video)! I had pre-ordered The Winner’s Kiss about a month ago, along with Six of Crows and A Court of Thorns and Roses, which I’ve already read and decided to finally buy. I can’t wait to get to them all. I still need to read The Winner’s Crime, so I’ll be doing that very soon.

I’ve currently been reading The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. It’s been a fantastic read. I plan to review it this week and it should be going up on Thursday! I have a new layout I’ve been experimenting with today and I can’t wait to debut it. I feel like it’s going to make book reviewing exciting again. I might even try to do a book talk on my BookTube channel.

Speaking of the BookTube channel, I decided at the spur of the moment to do VEDA this month, which stands for “Vlog Every Day in April.” I’m glad April started over the weekend because I’ve needed the extra time to get used to filming and uploading everyday. It’s such a time-consuming task! But I really feel like I’m going to come out of April with a better knowledge of how to do things. I actually can’t wait for summer to put more effort and creativity into the channel.

If you would like to follow me over there, my VEDA videos are basically Camp NaNoWriMo progress updates, as I am participating in the writing event and want my BookTube channel to have an even balance of reading and writing videos going forward.

New Schedule

I have decided I would like to post at least three days a week over the month of April: Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday. Sundays will be for random posts, maybe in the form of some more chatty Sunday Snapshots. Wednesdays will be for writing updates (as always), specifically my Camp NaNoWriMo updates. And Thursdays will be for book reviews/talks/whatever format I feel like exploring in order to document my thoughts on the books I read. The first of these posts will come later this week on The Wrath and Dawn!

I think three posts a week sounds perfectly do-able, particularly with my busy VEDA schedule. I should also have just enough time between school assignments to read and write as well so that I have thoughts to share! Now I just need to get organized.

Thank you for reading!
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