No post today. (Unless this counts.)

That face is supposed to look tired, not angry.

That face is supposed to look tired, not angry.

The holiday weekend kind of threw my night owl tendencies into overdrive (no work tomorrow! I can stay up as late as I want! Yaaay!). So yeah, this is me right now.

I may try to post something more substantial a little later this week, if I can get my brain in gear. But for now, as proof of my current sleep-deprived state, enjoy this attempt to draw the fancier version of my comic/doodle self.

And that's why you get the non-fancy version.

And that’s why you get the non-fancy version.

Happy Monday to everyone, just the same. And… I need more tea.

Autumn/Winter Reading

I don’t know if it’s always happened. But lately, it seems like around this time of year, when the days start getting shorter and colder, something wakes up in my brain. And what that something says is, “It’s time for fairy tales.”

Maybe not literally fairy tales. But something with some old-fashioned magic in it. Epic fantasy. Old-school classics (those are magical, too, in their ways). Dystopian, even. Something familiar, but new; something safe and warm and cozy–maybe–but also an adventure.

I have a feeling that this has a lot to do with when the Lord of the Rings movies came out. Looking forward to those movies was, I think, a pretty big part of my holiday season. Part of it may also be that those genres are like coming home–back to my reading roots. (Or to new genres that have become favorites.) After all, the holidays are a time to head back home, for many people–maybe this is one way I do that.

I don’t know. But Thanksgiving is upon us, and I’m rereading Divergent, and thinking frequently about how nice it would be to start on the fifth book of the Harry Potter series. And though I can’t prove that it is, it feels like part of the season.

Along with: enjoying hot drinks, warm blankets, premature Christmas merchandise, heaters, and other things that come with the holidays. This really is one of my favorite times of the year. I hope you’re all enjoying it as well! And for those of you who are in the U.S.: happy early Thanksgiving! Hopefully it’s not too hectic.

For all the NaNoWriMo writers: one week to go! Good luck! (And why are you reading this? Get back to writing!)(No, but seriously, it’s ok to take breaks. Remember to eat. And sleep. Got to keep going strong for those last few thousand words.)

And on Floor 78…

Worldbuilding Fever 2I love worldbuilding. It’s one of my favorite things about writing (and reading) fantasy. But every now and then, I get sucked into a vortex of tiny details. Like, for instance, figuring out where *every single one* of my extras lives in a town or something, so I can figure out where my protagonists might realistically live. Or figuring out all these extras’ job histories, just to satisfy my curiosity about the demographics of said town. (ETA: Also for minor plot points/characterization/whatever–things I think I’ll use, but often do not. Building imaginary places. It’s not always clear what will help.)

Necessary? Maybe not. But ridiculously fun. And good at practically any hour–it hits just the right level of engagement. Demands some involvement from my brain, but is also a lot of simple mechanical stuff. Scribble here, copy and paste that name onto the floor plan. That sort of thing. Which kind of explains how I can so easily end up worldbuilding into the early hours. (Note to future self: Worldbuilding Energy is not the same as Real Functioning Person Energy. For that, you need to sleep. Trust me.)

So this past week I fell into a Worldbuilding Vortex. It would be a terrible thing, if I were doing NaNoWriMo, but since I’m not…

Poor Bug. It tries to keep me on topic, it really does.

Poor Bug. It tries to keep me on topic, it really does.

…it was just fun. For anyone who is doing NaNoWriMo, though: don’t worry. Odds are the worldbuilding stuff will wait until December.

And that’s all I have for this week. Join me next week when I tackle the deep, soul-searching question of who does live on Floor 78. And what job s/he has been holding for the last 50 years, because demographics.

P.S. These questions will not actually be answered. I suspect you knew that already, in your heart, but I wouldn’t want to disappoint you.

Results vs. Process

“In hindsight, it is obvious that my drawings were result oriented. I wanted to render a specific image I had in my head. When I failed to attain it, the frustration would freeze me for days or weeks on end. . . . I had not yet learned that the process of drawing was what brought me real fulfillment.” France Belleville-Van Stone, Sketch! The Non-Artist’s Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life

This quote is from a great book that I’m slooooowly working my way through. I don’t usually read books about art, but I’m glad I picked this one up, because there are some insights in it that are really applicable, not only to drawing, but I think to any kind of art. This quote was certainly applicable for me, since a year or so ago, something strange and unpleasant happened: I largely stopped enjoying writing.

There were lots of reasons, but I think a decent part of it was that I’d stopped seeing the process. All I could see, when I sat down, were problems. Plot holes, narrative missteps, superficial characterization. The inevitable rewrites up ahead. An endless trudge through what used to be a fresh landscape.

I’d lost the joy of wandering into a new world, meeting new people, discovering things with my characters, waiting to see what would happen next. Writing was turning into a chore. And the more that happened, the harder it got for me to open up that Word document and get to work.

I’d love to say it’s all better now, but as with so many things, I’m still figuring it out. Writing can be difficult; though you may not think so, starting out, it can be surprisingly easy to lose sight of the things you love. In a way, this quote prompts me to get back to my writing roots–to stop putting so much pressure on myself, stop treating the blank page as a horrible burden, and instead welcome it as an adventure, an opportunity to be surprised.

So as NaNoWriMo heads into its second week: here’s to writing, and its whimsical ways. And for those of you who are participating: I hope you’re making progress toward those 50,000 words. But maybe even more than that, I hope you’re enjoying the whole beautiful, annoying, rewarding, and perhaps-mildly-but-not-dangerously-sleep-deprived process of getting there.

A Traveler’s Review of the Harry Potter Series (First Four Books)

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I finished rereading The Goblet of Fire. I don’t really do traditional book reviews, though–I like reading them, just don’t want to write them–so I thought I’d try something different. Combining my love of travel with my love of reading: this is a review of the first four books in the Harry Potter series, not as books, but as a vacation that happens to take place in words.

The World: This world is very special to a lot of people, and with good reason. Personally, I’m especially fond of the shopping. Diagon Alley is still as wonderful as I remember–I wanted to go into every store. Hogsmeade is also very charming. But the real attraction, of course, is arguably Hogwarts. If you want to spend some time in a magical-castle-boarding-school (and who doesn’t), this is a fantastic place to start. That isn’t to say it’s a perfectly safe place, but we’ll get to that later on.

The People: First off, it has to be said that most of these people are wizards, so there’s a certain danger involved for anyone who doesn’t possess similar magical powers. And as previously mentioned, Hogwarts is a school, so your odds of getting accidentally cursed by someone who isn’t trying to curse you aren’t, you know, nonexistent. That having been said, however, the people of this world are mostly very welcoming. Except for those who really, really aren’t. The good news is that in the first few books, it’s generally pretty easy to tell who’s who. I understand that gets more complicated the longer you stay in the world, but at the start, you should have a pretty good sense of who to run away from.

Dining and Activities: Those with adventurous palates will probably have a lot of fun with the food here, and will especially enjoy the candies this world has to offer. (Check out Honeydukes.) For those who don’t find the food particularly appetizing, there’s plenty else to keep you busy. I already mentioned the shopping–there’s a very interesting bookstore in Diagon Alley. Those with bookish tendencies may also enjoy the Hogwarts library. If you prefer to spend your time on more scientific pursuits, you’ll have a chance to learn a fair amount about potions, and also a fair amount about magical flora and fauna. For more athletic types: you’ll definitely enjoy Quidditch. In fact, even if you don’t plan to play the game, I’d recommend taking in at least one match, as it’s a big part of the wizarding world. And it can be a lot of fun to watch when you aren’t the person who’s about to get creamed by a Bludger.

Other Assorted Hazards: This is what I meant when I said Hogwarts isn’t perfectly safe. This is a magical world, with magical creatures. There will be dangerous things happening. It helps a lot if you stay away from things with names like “the Whomping Willow.” I mean, the risk is right there in the title. But you may find it unavoidable, in which case… I don’t know, be careful. Bring a first-aid kit. No, seriously, you’ll want it. Which brings us to the last section…

Things to Pack: Just a few items that may make your stay in the Harry Potter universe safer and/or more enjoyable.

  • First-aid kit. Because it had to be said again. They do have magical ways of healing injuries there, but sometimes those ways are not immediately accessible. So be prepared.
  • A blanket, for those long stormy British nights. Also for when something scares you and you need to hide. Because that could happen, too.
  • Tea. Because tea. Does there have to be another reason?

All in all, I enjoyed my most recent visit to this universe. I’m not sure yet about venturing into the darker chapters that supposedly lie ahead, but I can say that these first few books make good weekend getaways (or week-long, or month-long journeys, depending on how fast you read). And inexpensive, too, as “tickets” are probably available at your local library, free of cost.

So, there. I’m not sure if I’ll do more reviews like this, but at least this one was fun to write.