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The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes all the gift-themed squealing and Internet-wide merriment that one might expect. This is especially fun for us readers, because we get to talk BOOKS and how they make the best gifts of ever. And how WE WOULD LIKE BOOKS YES THANK YOU.

But sometimes we wordsmiths neglect our writerly sides during this time of peppermint-flavored fangirling. While this works for a lot of people (good for them!), it unfortunately doesn't work for me.

The writerly thoughts never stop.

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I'm participating in my second-ever blog party! This one is hosted by Cait, a magnificent human being and tirelessly awesome blogger. I've mentioned her on this blog before - her post ideas have sparked some of mine, and that aside, she's simply too fabulous to not talk about.

Cait recently made the switch to Wordpress and got a shiny new blog name/URL, PAPER FURY. (Isn't that one of the best blog names ever?) To celebrate, she's throwing a party of Gatsby proportions (okay, okay, exaggeration, but still).

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On the corner of the Internet that I frequent, it's pretty widely agreed that extended fangirl sessions on Twitter are always good. So when I found myself in the middle of one with Topaz, Alyssa, Taylor, and AnQi (I feel like there's a really awesome acronym in there somewhere), I was naturally excited.

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You think I am exaggerating in the title of this post. I am actually not.

(I'm talking about this Alyssa and you should go give her ALL THE LOVE because she's a wonderful person.)

What happened, you might ask?

Only the most AMAZING THING OF EVER. Allow me to elaborate. (Which I'm already doing, but bear with me because my mind is still awash in fangirly nonsense.)

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Maybe it's because I finished Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater a little while ago, but I can't stop thinking about the power of threes.


To start off - the lovely Alyssa at Insanity Inc. nominated me for three blog awards! So it's only natural that I open up this huge post with a big thank-you to her. I don't know if I've mentioned it (read: I have indeed mentioned it), but you should totally check out her blog and her writing because she's brilliant.

The Rules:
♥ Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
♥ List the rules and display the award.
♥ Add 7 facts about yourself.
♥ Nominate 15 other bloggers.
♥ Follow on blogger the person who nominated you.

My Facts:
  1. I'm very short. (Around five feet and two inches tall, or approximately 157 centimeters.)
  2. My favorite film score composer of ever is Hans Zimmer (Inception, Sherlock Holmes - the Robert Downey Jr. version, The Lone Ranger, etc.). If you haven't listened to any of his pieces you should do that. Seriously.
  3. I currently have thirteen books on my bookshelf that I have not read. ("For shame, Christina!" you say.) And that's not even counting the unread books on my Kindle. *sobs*
  4. I once took a synchronized swimming class. You can imagine how well that went.
  5. For some reason I constantly get called 'Christine'.
  6. My glasses are purple. *grins*
  7. And I'll go Alyssa's route here and talk about classes! I'm taking Literature/Composition 10, World History 10, AP Statistics, Graphic Design 1, STEM Physics, and Japanese 1. So far I'm getting less homework than I did in middle school and am feeling extremely weird with so much free time. (I'm just going to ignore PE, because don't I always?)

Best Blogging Buddies Award

The Rules:
☼You must make a post to show your award on your main blog.
☼You must tag the person who nominated you in your post.
☼You must nominate all of your best buddies, and those whom you want to become best buddies with, who, to your knowledge, have not been nominated for this award.
☼You must ask your buddies at least 15 questions in your post.
☼You must answer all of the questions your buddies ask you on your post.

Imagine a door. Any door. Describe it?

It's painted a deep green, with a doorknob worn smooth by years of turning, turning, turning. Something about it is out of place, like it's being shifted and blurred by a layer of smoke, and it smells burnt, though it shows no signs of damage. When you reach out and place your hand on it, it's warm to the touch, strangely so.

Naturally, when you try to get it open, it's locked.

Pick up the book nearest to you and read the fifth sentence on page seventy-six.

Actually, in the book nearest to me - Collapse by Jared Diamond, which I'm reading for World History Honors and desperately trying to enjoy but struggling - page seventy-six is blank. So.

What's your favourite colour? What's the nearest object to you that is this colour?

My favorite color pretty much changes based on my mood, but right now I think it's this one (giving you an image because I feel too lazy to describe it):

I don't think there are actually any objects in my house that are this color. A shame, I know.

Which is your favourite literary character?

I swear this is one of the most cruel questions I've ever been asked. HOW DO I CHOOSE?

Okay, so at the moment I'm really loving Karou from Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. This girl may seem like a Mary Sue at first, but the way she picks up the pieces of herself time and time again after being shattered just tugs at my heartstrings. She is tender yet strong. Indestructible. Also, she is magical and wonderful and is an artist and has blue hair.

Heck, I even made her a fanmix.

Subject you're taking that you hate most?

This isn't normally the case, but right now I absolutely loathe Literature/Composition. It's not because I hate the subject itself - why on earth would I be a writer if I did? - it's that we just spent two and a half months on Lord of the Flies and we've been writing CHAPTER SUMMARIES. (The book is less than two hundred pages long. I have no idea how this happened.) Worse still, I've already done this book for school - in seventh grade, and I think we did more in-depth in-class analysis back then. It's not that Lord of the Flies is a bad book, though. It's actually very thought-provoking and fairly well-written besides. It's just that no one should be made to read it this slowly.

But now the LotF unit is over and we're doing poetry, so hopefully it gets better. (But I kind of think it won't, because the class is honestly kind of a joke.)

When did you sleep last night?

Something like 12:30 am? This is entirely the fault of anime.

The most amazing thing that's happened to you in the last week?

This. (Thanks, Alyssa.)

Who's in your profile photo? If it's yourself, what's special about this photo?

I honestly don't know - it's a silhouette photo that I have no idea where I found. It'll probably change soon. *grins sheepishly* (On that note, does anyone have ideas for what I should use as my new profile photo?)

Favourite OTP ever?

This is very cruel. Along the lines of the favorite literary character question earlier.

*makes inhuman noises*

I'm going to have to say Blue Sargent x Richard Campbell Gansey III from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, also termed "Bluesey" or "doomed" according to the author. (I affectionately call them Dick and Jane.) There's so much tragedy and tenderness and heart in their relationship - meaning in the silences and the loneliness and the in-between moments.


Which fandom are you not in but you admire a lot?

I really admire the ASOIAF (A Song of Ice and Fire for those of you who don't know) fandom, which Alyssa herself is a part of, as well as some others on the Internet that I see around. The book series by George R. R. Martin just sounds so awesome - I have no idea why I haven't gotten to it yet - and the TV series sounds equally amazing. Plus, the fan work (art! art! art! also music!) that comes out of this fandom is just mind-blowing. I want to be in this fandom! Ahh!

My answer to this question also may or may not be influenced by this:
Favourite fairytale from a country your parents/grandparents/known ancestors were from?

All of my known ancestors are from Korea (and I'm very proud of my heritage), so our folklore isn't really termed as "fairy tales", but I'll make do. (Plus KOREAN FOLKLORE IS AMAZING.)

There's one story that goes something like this (although it varies widely depending on who you hear it from, and I may have muddled it up a bit):

Long ago, there once was a peasant woman who made a living selling rice cakes. She had a son, Haesik, and a daughter, Dalsun - the son was older and very wise, and the daughter was younger and very innocent. They lived together in a small cottage far from the nearest village.

The peasant woman often went to the village for a day to sell her rice cakes, and on one such day, she encountered a tiger on the way home. The tiger demanded that she give him a rice cake; otherwise, he would eat her. Frightened, the woman gave him her best one, but the tiger simply came again and again, taking rice cakes until they were all gone. The woman begged him to spare her life for the sake of the two children waiting at home, but the tiger, consumed by thoughts of an easy meal, devoured her.

The tiger then kept the mother's clothes and set off towards the children's house. The children had locked the door, and the tiger knocked and asked to be let in. Dalsun moved to open the door right away, but Haesik stopped her, alarmed that the tiger's voice was so different from their mother's. In his frustration, the tiger covered his paws with rice cake powder. He fooled the children into thinking his skin was as pale as their mother's and opening the door.

The tiger immediately lunged at them, and Haesik and Dalsun ran as fast as they could until they reached a tall tree and began to climb. Not to be thwarted, the tiger retrieved an axe from inside the house and began chopping the tree down.

Dalsun prayed for a rope from the heavens - if the children were good-hearted enough to be saved, the rope would hold firm, but otherwise, it would be rotten. Accordingly, a rope came, and Haesik and Dalsun were able to climb it into the sky. The tiger saw what they were doing and prayed for a rope for himself. The rope that came down for him was rotten, and it broke after mere moments.

The tiger fell and died and I cheered because honestly I hate this tiger so much.

Once they'd reached the heavens, Haesik and Dalsun became the sun (Haenim) and moon (Dalnim), respectively, and brother and sister still light up the night sky.

What do you find lacking in your life?

I find that I have all these grand aspirations and then not enough motivation to follow through with them. I want that to change. I want to feel productive and work hard at things I love, and I feel like that just isn't happening right now.

What are you going to do in the next five minutes, other than answering these questions?

I'll probably work on either my Scholastic Art and Writing Awards entry (yay for Orpheus/Eurydice genderflipping and Japanese elements in fantasy) or my cases for Speech and Debate (slightly less yay because I'm a singularly horrible debater).

What's the one thing you want to change in the world?

Institutionalized prejudice, definitely. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc. It's so destructive and counterproductive and horrifying. And insidious, because it's so easy to pretend that it doesn't exist. It strips people of their humanity and that shouldn't happen.

Freeform — tell us anything you want to say.

I expect that some people might use this space for something very deep and thought-provoking. I however, am going to signal boost a cause that I really care about:

I'll leave you with their extremely important mission statement and a link to their website:
We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.
Also, their first Indiegogo campaign is ending in ten days, so please contribute if you can!

EDIT: I forgot to include my questions for the nominees, gah!

  1. What's one thing you've always wanted to do that you managed to finally get done this year?
  2. Name five things you genuinely and wholeheartedly like about yourself.
  3. What's your favorite part of blogging?
  4. Describe your writing style (in blog posts or creative writing, your choice!) in three sentences.
  5. Is there a song that's currently stuck in your head? If so, what is it?
  6. If you could only eat one kind of fruit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  7. What language(s) - real or fictional - would you love to learn?
  8. What is your opinion of silence - the all-encompassing, thick-as-a-blanket kind?
  9. Without using the Internet or the news, predict the weather for tomorrow (be as far-fetched or practical as you want).
  10. In the movie Rise of the Guardians (which I personally love), each Guardian has his or her own "center", or a single value that makes them who they are. For example, Santa Claus's center is "wonder". What do you think your center would be?
  11. If a movie was made about your life, which actors/actresses would you put in the cast?
  12. How do you like your eggs cooked (or do you not like eggs at all)?
  13. How would you describe your fashion sense?
  14. Do you have an "aesthetic"? If so, describe it for us!
  15. Absolute favorite poem?

The Rules:
♥ Thank the person who nominated you.
♥ Leave a link to their page.
♥ Give a brief story about how you started blogging, and share some tips.
♥ Nominate 15 other bloggers
♥ Notify your nominees by email or comment

The Blog's Origin Story:

Nothing terribly glamorous, I'm afraid. I started out blogging on Wordpress (don't go hunting for that now, it's long gone) and was thoroughly awful at it, because I had no real idea of what I wanted to do. When I made this blog, it wasn't really a case of "I have finally found a grand purpose for my blogging life and will proudly carry it out"; it was more like "Ooh, Google has a blogging platform and I want to play with it".

Blogging Tips:
  • Make friends! Blogging can be a very lonely endeavor for a very long time without them, and I'm so thankful for the friends I've been meeting in recent years. 
  • Comment. If you're anything like me, you perk up every time you get an email saying that someone's commented on one of your posts. So leave meaningful, kind comments on blogs you love reading, and people are sure to return the favor. Never think that your comment bothers someone, because almost 100% of the time, they'll love you for stopping by.
  • Don't stress because of "blogging obligations". A blog is your space to do whatever you want with, and no one will hate you if you aren't able to put up X post on X day or if you don't post enough or something along those lines. "Blogging obligations" will only make you unhappy and cause you to question why you created this blog in the first place, and that makes it stop being fun.
  • Social media counts. Whether it's Twitter, Tumblr, or any other secondary platform, it really helps you connect with others who share your interests. It might help to get on specific social networks that reflect what you like - for example, I made a Figment account because I love to write, and thus I found fellow writers who I now consider very good friends.
  • Have a nice design. Not only is a pretty design easier on the eyes and really fun to set up, it draws more people to your blog.
That's all from me! Now for my nominations.

My Nominations

Since Alyssa and I have lots of mutual friends, she nominated many of the people I would have spotlighted. (They're all awesome too, by the way.) So this won't be quite fifteen, but here you are! (My apologies if you've already been tagged for any of these.)

Morning @ The Ups and Downs of My Not-So-Average Life
Katie @ Adventures in Katieland

Ahh, blog awards are so much fun! I hope you enjoyed my answers.

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It's the truth, folks. As of today (or at least according to the timestamp of the first post), this blog is three whopping years old. Trust me, I'm just as scratch-my-head confused as you are.

But hey, it's certainly cause to celebrate! I'm honestly so shocked that I've managed to keep a blog going for this long (I started out with a WordPress one that has since fallen into oblivion because it was so awful), and I feel that it's really spanned an era in my life. I have changed so much in the past three years. When I clicked "Create blog" back in good old 2011, I was a different person. Since then, I've gotten back into serious writing, made some fabulous online friends, become much more articulate in my posts, and discovered new and different passions. I've become happier with who I am and who I want to be, and I'm very satisfied with the blog in its current incarnation.

Of course, the most important shoutout has to go out to my readers. That's right. YOU. While technically this blog's audience is relatively small, it's been such a gift. Your comments, your thoughts, even your pageviews - they make my day brighter. I'm so grateful for you all, and I can't believe you've put up with me for three whole years.

Cue reminiscing, because I've consistently missed my blogoversary for the past three years and really want to savor this one.


I didn't really do much blogging-wise back in 2011, as it was already November and so there wasn't much left of the year anyway. I was just getting the hang of using the Blogger platform and was way too excited. (In fact, I only posted twice. For the sake of your own well-being, do not read those two posts. They are thoroughly cringe-worthy.) Back then, I used pretentious French phrases for everything, so the blog was called "Je Ne Sais Quoi" and existed under the URL I planned on using it to post any and all writing dabbling that I did, since I'd been told that I should do this on a blog, but I wasn't incredibly into writing. Actually, I had very little idea why blogging was important, and consequently I didn't really know what I was going to do with the space. I don't remember the blog design well, but I can assure you it was horrible.


It turns out that after the last post of 2011, in December, I didn't post again until April of 2012. Sometimes my own consistency amazes me.

This was my most active blogging year by far - seventy-three posts in all! I started out writing mainly book reviews, with little short stories here and there, and occasional artwork and writing prompts. It was fun, certainly, but I sort of felt like I was shouting into a void (which I probably was). But I got some really good posting practice in, and I think that was really valuable for me.

I stumbled upon the glorious madness that is NaNoWriMo in 2012 as well, and that's when I really threw myself back into writing. I started posting some chapters of WIPs (which are old and bad and you don't want to read them). I ended up getting to about 30K on the middle grade fantasy that I started that year, but I abandoned it when I realized just how much of a train wreck it was. I'd like to revisit it someday, but... that's a very big someday.


Basically the biggest event of 2013 was that I started OtMS, my current WIP, and I made some ambiguous cover-related posts about it. My writing life spiraled into Chantilly and Finn and thievery feels. It was great.

This was also THE YEAR OF THE FIGMENT and the year that writer Christina re-emerged from the depths of my elementary school years. I finally joined up on the "writing community that simply walks into Mordor", and it was one of the best writing-related decisions I've ever made. If you're considering joining and are on the fence, I urge you to GO FOR IT. Figment has a community unlike any other, and for the most part, it's a really meaningful and amazing site if you want genuine feedback on your work from fellow writers. I met a profusion of Figment/Internet friends and supporters and other people who shocked me with their niceness. I had several oh-my-goodness moments. I got published in a few places. Occasionally I got a little morose.

I also did some weird things with photo editing. I was strange. (I would like to pick some of this up again sometime, though. It was surprisingly fun.)

Plus, I founded The Teacup Trail, my Tumblr-based literary and art magazine, in October of 2013, although I didn't post about it.

2013 was such a wonderful, improbable, brilliant year.

2014 not actually over yet, so I feel a little weird doing a recap. 

First I started off the year with a little resolution-type post (I feel like I fulfilled basically none of these resolutions except for the school-related ones, so oops). 

A little later, I won a thing that got me pretty excited. I started my "Music Monday" and "Fiction Friday" post series (which I think made up most of my posts for the year, actually, since they're so easy an fun to put together. I got my first blog award from the indomitable Morning. I got published some more, which was very cool. 

Then I won a thing that was a very big deal: national medals in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. This was just about the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. There was much behind-the-scenes squealing.

After that, I wrote about why representation for minorities in books is important (I'm not sure whether I'll be continuing this series as I don't know if I'm knowledgeable enough to do these topics justice, but I want to). I got my second Liebster Award from the lovely Adelyn. I congratulated the drop-dead-magical Kim Karalius on the publication of her novel, Love Fortunes and Other Disasters (which is coming out in June 2015 - a mere seven months away! - and should be on your TBR pile NOW). I made a booklist featuring girls with different kinds of "strength" in YA novels. I made a gigantic post about my far-fetched future story ideas.

I became a mentee in the Freshman Fifteens COMMON ROOM Teen Mentoring contest and fangirled about it. (By the way, I've recently turned in what I think might be my final revisions of that story to my wonderful mentor, Kim Liggett, and I'm so excited for the final release in January. Look forward to that! And to Kim's book Blood and Salt because it sounds impossibly amazing.)

Then I joined up with Morning's blog party because she is a fabulous human being. And a little while later (as in I didn't post a single thing for the entire month of October) I spewed about my WIP On the Midnight Streets. Most recently, I've talked about my Meyers-Briggs type - INFJ!

overall reflections

The past three years have certainly changed me for the better. I'm more aware of the world around me and am more confident in my values. I've made some absolutely wonderful friends (you know who you are and I love you!). I feel like I'm much more intelligent, which is always a plus. This blog has taken me places from the comfort of my own computer, and you are the reason for that journey. 

thank you so much for that. here's to more years of ups and downs!

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So those of you who have at least looked around the Internet have probably heard of Meyers-Briggs personality types. For those of you needing a refresher or overview, they're basically sixteen different psychological types that people can be categorized into, and they depend on four different factors (descriptions from the Meyers & Briggs Foundation website):

  • Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
  • Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
  • Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
  • Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

Identifying by a Meyers-Briggs type is wildly popular around the Internet. I took a test, being the bandwagoner that I am, and came up with the result of INFJ.
INFJs are private, preferring one-on-one friendships to crowds, and often quiet about their own feelings. They are often thoughtful, artistic, and wise, and prefer to operate behind the scenes. They are great listeners, and have a strong desire to help others realize their true potential.
I don't think I've ever identified so strongly with the results of a personality test. Everything in here describes me perfectly, and to be honest, it's almost disconcerting. There's also an interesting page on TV Tropes that lists fictional characters with certain Meyers-Briggs types.

Ooh, a chance to compare myself to fictional characters? Count me in. This is the scatter-brained, GIF-filled result of that little personality exploration - enjoy!

(Props to Cait and Morning for doing Meyers-Briggs posts first; this post would never have existed if not for the idea. Check their posts/blogs out and give them some much-deserved love!)

Yue and Roku from Avatar: The Last Airbender

I LOVED YUE. She was so magical and ethereal and kind. Gah, she killed me. But her kindness, I think, is the main difference between us - Yue is way nicer than I could ever be.

We don't really get a lot about Roku, huh? But from what I could tell he seemed super cool, so I'll just slide with this and pretend I am this powerful.

Nicolette "Nicky" Parsons from the Bourne series

Huh. I don't really know how to feel about this. Nicky Parsons isn't really a hugely developed character in the Bourne series (and I should know, since my family basically binge-watched all three movies in two or three days), but she doesn't seem bad in any way, either. She's somewhat unknowable, and I can't really see any similarities between her personality and mine.

The Ghost of Christmas Past from A Christmas Carol
I see no personality resemblance whatsoever, despite the fact that I did enjoy this book. This one rather confuses me.

The eponymous Cinderella

Nope. There's just no way anyone could force me to wear something that sparkly. (I also have... problems with Disney's adaptation of this fairy tale, but that's a subject for another day.)

Bruce Wayne from The Dark Knight

I'm not sure what similarities I could have to a billionaire who dresses up like a heavily armed bat in his spare time, but I'll take it, if only because Christian Bale is cool and I really, really like his car and his butler. 

John and Anna Bates from Downton Abbey

I used to watch Downton Abbey and honestly, Anna was one of my favorites. She's so dedicated and loving and fierce. I wish I could say I was like her. Also, she and Bates are adorable, so I'm good with this. I'd say this comparison actually kind of works.

Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby

I don't see any resemblance at all, but I kind of wish there was. Gatsby may not have the most positive or healthy personality, but he is fascinating. Absolutely freaking fascinating. I wonder if this gives me an excuse to call everyone 'old sport'. (This page seems to have a tendency to liken my personality with that of extremely rich, charming guys with nice cars. Bruce Wayne? Gatsby? Really?)

Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy

Groot actually shares a lot of traits with me. We like to support the group, we're either way too soft-hearted or way too violent (there's no in-between), and we repeat ourselves a lot. Also, let's face it - if you don't love Groot, you're lying because reasons.

Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame

CAN WE JUST NOT. PLEASE NO. I may have only seen the movie, sure, but I still know that Frollo is completely terrifying and not at all like me. I certainly don't ever obsessively hunt people down or make that face. (Actually, I lied on that last bit. This is probably a good approximation of my disturbed-while-writing face.)

Kuroko Tetsuya from Kuroko no Basuke

YES. Kuroko is me, although admittedly a lot better at basketball. He blends in easily, is often forgotten by people, fights for his friends, and is dedicated to what he wants to achieve. He also has accidental comedic moments. This works really well. I love this comparison.

Sara Crewe from A Little Princess
'Whatever comes,' she said, 'cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.'
I am not nearly this angelic. But I really liked Sara, and A Little Princess was one of the first classics I ever read and enjoyed. Sara's personality is more like the one I wish I had.

Saruman from The Lord of the Rings

Nope. Not seeing the similarity here at all. (Anyone who dares oppose Gandalf is obviously my enemy.) I'm nowhere near as acerbic or narrow-minded as Saruman is, and I'd never be so foolish as to let myself die by getting stabbed. Interesting food for thought, though.

Phil Coulson from the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Unlike 99.9% of the Internet, I'm not really a Marvel fan, so I remember basically nothing about Coulson. (Oops.) But hey, I recognized his face. Plus, he seems pretty smooth.

Merlin from Merlin

Okay, okay. I admit I kind of saw this coming. (I watched this show originally purely to make fun of it - because as a retelling of Arthurian legend, it's absolutely terrible. But it stood pretty decently as a show itself, and I ended up liking a lot more than I thought.) Merlin is awkward and funny at the wrong moments in much the same way that I am. But he's also stubbornly loyal in a really unassuming way, which I consider one of his strongest traits and one of mine as well.

Jean Valjean from Les Misérables

(I feel that Boromir does a better job of summing up my thoughts of Valjean than an actual Valjean GIF would. So, Boromir, thanks for lending me your trademark pose.) Anyway - I don't think I have any of Valjean's patience or forgiving nature (although I am only going off the 2012 film version, which I've heard isn't the best), but there are some things we share. I think. I hope.

Fujimoto from Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

(Yay, a Ghibli character!) Well, I don't see much of my personality in him, but if I said I don't want his thick red flowy hair, I'd probably be lying.

Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars

I do have to say that out of all the Star Wars characters, I identified with Obi-Wan most strongly. He's very reasonable and wise and cool. (Too cool. Cool enough to call things "uncivilized" with this kind of flair and be played by Ewan McGregor, one of my favorite actors.)

And that's a wrap! What about you? Have you taken the test? Do you think these fictional characters are actually like me? Which fictional characters are you most like?

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I haven't done a Music Monday in quite a while! To make up for it, I'm introducing a snazzy new blog design and graphics - and recommending two songs that I think you'll really enjoy.

"Flicker" by Lorde (Kanye West Rework)

This is the Kanye West rework of Lorde's "Yellow Flicker Beat", a song produced for the new Mockingjay movie. I thought the original was fabulous, because I already love Lorde's electrifying voice, and this song's lyrics and melody are just killer. It's everything I could ask for. But oh my oh my. I thought that the pacing and instrumentals of this were so much better than the original's (I didn't even know that improving this song was possible, honestly) and this is the perfect song for some of my favorite fire-and-death female characters (Celaena Sardothien, anyone?). This gave me chills.

I'm a princess cut from marble, smoother than a storm
And the scars that mark my body, they're silver and gold
My blood is a flood of rubies, precious stones
It keeps my veins hot, the fire's found a home in me
I move through town, I'm quiet like a fight
And my necklace is of rope, I tie it and untie

"Hercules" by Sara Bareilles

I was a little skeptical of Sara Bareilles - I just feel like I've heard her song "Brave" one too many times, and it grates on my nerves now. But so many people on the Internet just love her so, so much, so I had to pick one of the songs from her latest album on Spotify and give it a listen. Now I'm really glad I did. Bareilles's voice is so strong and... I don't know, earthy? It's really nice, and the lyrics of this song are so beautiful. Plus, more character songs (interestingly enough, this works for Celaena as well)!

I've lost a grip on where I started from
I wish I'd thought ahead and left a few crumbs
I'm on the hunt for who I've not yet become
But I'd settle for a little equilibrium
There is a war inside my heart gone silent
Both sides dissatisfied and somewhat violent
The issue I have now begun to see
I am the only lonely casualty

Have a happy Music Monday, and I hope these picks find their way into your heart!

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I'm so excited to announce a new forthcoming publication! My short story "They Held Starlight" will run in the online literary journal YARN sometime in the summer of 2015.

YARN is short for Young Adult Review Network, and it's a wonderful literary journal devoted to publishing young adult fiction, poetry, and essays. It takes submissions from both teen and adult writers, and I may be featuring it in a future Fiction Friday post, because it's fabulous and I've wanted to be published in it for such a long time.

The piece that will be published, "They Held Starlight", was written as a response to the following writing prompt:
Write a story set in a world where people who were born in the day are considered elites, while those who were born in the night are shunned by society.
I basically took that and totally ran with it. I was really happy with how it turned out, and I'm so happy that I get to share it with you all! So, something to look forward to next summer. *winks*
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In celebration of NaNoWriMo 2014, fabulous bloggers and writers Cait and Sky are hosting a three-month-long linkup called Beautiful Books in which all of us writers can answer questions about our novels like the narcissistic creatures we are (or at least, I am). It's basically a gigantic writerly/bloggy party centering on the stories that have taken over our lives. Although I'm not doing NaNo this year (2015, hopefully?), I am still chipping away at a rather long-suffering WIP that I'd like to talk about, so here I am.

WARNING: Huge post ahead.

Unfortunately (and predictably), the October linkup totally flew over my head, so I didn't get to write up a post. So here are the questions from Linkup #1, which I missed but will play catch-up on:

What came first: characters or plot idea? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Definitely the character. This whole WIP actually started with just one name: Chantilly. Then the plot began slowly filling itself in. I knew that I wanted to write something vaguely steampunk-y (this was just after I finished the Infernal Devices series, which I adored) and set in a Victorian-esque world.

You can tell that this basically started out as a Clockwork Angel clone before I realized what I was doing and took the whole thing an entirely different way.

Anyhow, after that it was basically like adding ingredients to a cake: thievery, romance, corruption, revolution, period drama elements, etc. etc. I just threw in some features in stories that I love and mixed them together until they became something vaguely like a storyline.

(I'm obviously great at plotting.)

As for the age-old plotter/pantser question: For now I'm a bit of both. This is actually only the second serious manuscript I've ever attempted, and I was a bit foolish back in March of 2013 and started writing with no outline whatsoever beyond a few ideas for scenes. This led to a lot of stagnation as I tried desperately to come up with the direction I wanted the story to go in next, although I did have lots of fun making things up as I went. Now, though, I've got a rudimentary outline that I'm trying to stick to, though I don't do outlines within the chapter unless I'm seriously stuck. I suppose I could say I'm trying to convert to plotter mode in order to give the book a better handle on where it's heading.

Do you have a title and/or a “back-cover-blurb”? 

The title is On the Midnight Streets, and my (admittedly shaky) blurb is as follows:

Peralton is a city of walls, and seventeen-year-old Chantilly is caught in the war between them.

From poverty-stricken urchins to wealthy society darlings, no one is safe from the corruption that has woven into the city's heart. Only the Midnight Hatter, a cunning thief with a shadowy identity, dares defy it - but when he abducts Chantilly on her wedding day, no one is sure what a middle-class-girl-turned-socialite can do for an untouchable criminal. 

The answer? Revolution.

From inside the very castle that the Hatter means to bring down.

Forced into a deadly game of espionage and intrigue, Chantilly only wants to lie and cheat
 her way back home. But every day that she spends in the palace is another day spent in the thick of the mounting injustice that grips the government, and another day of knowing that she can light the fire against it.

It turns out that fires, once burning, only get bigger.

What wordcount are you aiming for when your novel is finished?

I was originally going to keep this to around 70-80K, but I've been writing a while and it doesn't look like it's going to happen. But I do want to stay below 100K, as I've heard it's extremely difficult to get a debut novel published at 100K+ words. So I suppose I'm shooting for a solid 90,000 words at this point.

Sum up your novel in 3 sentences.

Literary-minded, iron-hearted girl teams up with raging feminist snark-master thief to bring down an entire government. Turns out it's harder than they realized. Much banter and knife-throwing ensues.

Sum up your characters in one word each.

I've got a rather large cast of characters, but here are most of the important ones:
  • Chantilly Rosewater: fierce
  • Finnegan Lyle: dangerous
  • Sebastian Lyle: charismatic
  • Esmeralda: steadfast
  • Charles Mareil: noble
  • Catherine Cleacker: unpredictable
  • Renton: magnetic
  • Stiefvin: innovative
  • Edgar Monteau: disconcerting
  • Yvette Scarleigh: steely
  • King Alastair: corrupted
  • Queen Saerys: bitter

Which character are you most excited to write? Tell us about them! 

I'd have to say I'm super excited about writing Chantilly and Finn. Chantilly is the heroine, so naturally I have to be passionate about writing her if I'm building an entire book around her - she's determined and loyal in a quiet sort of way, and I'm so pumped to draw out her character development. It's all about Chantilly finding the steel inside herself and helping others find their own strength. Plus, most of the chapters are told from her first-person PoV, and I already love love love being inside her head. Finn is our thief. He is 110% a feminist and is extremely skilled at both fighting and sarcasm. (This includes sarcasm while fighting.) Finn and Chantilly are kindred spirits (though I'm not a huge fan of that phrase, I admit) on so many levels, and their individual characters as well as their character dynamic are going to be so wonderful.

What about your villain? Who is he, what is his goal?

My villain's a rather creepy king named Alastair. He believes it's his right to have absolute power, and he asserts this supposed "right" in any number of messed-up ways. This belief also manifests itself in an all-consuming paranoia. It doesn't help that he has a host of illegitimate children and a network of spies and a tendency to execute anyone who annoys him. His goal is basically to bash the revolution. His grandfather secured the throne in a dramatic and violent coup, and now Alastair is terrified that he'll lose power the same way.

What is your protagonist’s goal? And what stands in the way?

Chantilly's initial goal is to get back home to her family, because right now her marriage would be their best chance at complete social and financial security, and getting kidnapped kind of threw a wrench in that whole plan. Keeping her family safe and happy is a recurring need of hers, and it drives a lot of her actions. Obviously, the fact that Finn and his revolution wants her to spy for them stands in the way of that.

But then, slowly, Chantilly begins to think that maybe the rebels are on to something. She starts to see the moral depravity and inequality that plagues every aspect of the government. And this causes her to actually care about the revolution and switch her goal over to seeing it through. Consequently, her biggest roadblock becomes the government itself, with King Alastair at its head.

What inciting incident begins your protagonist’s journey?

The inciting incident is set in Chantilly's family's boardinghouse room in the Middle City, the middle-class area of Peralton. Chantilly receives a letter stamped with the king's seal stating that her family has inherited an entire estate in the Upper City (the wealthy area of Peralton). This propels her into the world of Peralton's richest socialites and results in the wedding that she gets kidnapped in.

Where is your novel set?

This book is set in the city of Peralton, the capital of the peninsula country the Mendlands. This is a fictional kingdom essentially based on Victorian England, with some changes in culture, tradition, etc. (This is because I totally could have turned this into an alternate history book but I have a fear of the research that would take, so instead I'm making things up as I go.)

What are three big scenes in your novel that change the game completely?

Other than the inciting incident, which is completely obvious, we've got three scenes I'm really going to love writing/are really important. But beware of spoilers!
  1. When the Midnight Hatter crashes Chantilly's wedding. Basically, the Hatter throws things (a knife, a hat, and a cake, to be exact), Chantilly is stuffed into a sack, lots of things get broken (maybe a chandelier?), and everyone panics.
  2. Chantilly decides to masquerade as a potential heir to the throne, based on an obscure but powerfully supported legend about the first rulers of the Mendlands. This is HUGE for her. She's taking a role in the very dangerous but very coveted political spotlight, and she's willing to threaten her identity and her very life to do so. This goes against every single instinct she's ever had, and that development on her part is extremely important.
  3. Chantilly gets wounded pretty badly by a poisoned blade. She's basically about two centimeters away from dying (though not literally). It gets... emotional.

What is the most dynamic relationship your character has? Who else do they come in contact with or become close to during the story?

As you've probably gathered, the Finn/Chantilly relationship is the most important one in the story. It's founded on respect and admiration and silent but unbreakable bonds. There's lots of snark and awkwardness. But Chantilly comes into contact with a lot of other characters, too, and they all change her in different ways. Yvette shows her the importance of respecting other girls rather than putting them down. Chantilly and Esmeralda have a super positive, super supportive female friendship. Charles inspires Chantilly to have clear ideals and stick to them. And so on and so forth.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Chantilly definitely starts learning to work with her introversion. It's still a part of her - magically "curing" her shyness just doesn't seem true to her character - but she starts to realize that she has power. She can make a difference. There are different kinds of courage and she has some of them. It's difficult to learn that - she loses a lot and it totally sucks - but she begins to see that it just might be worthwhile.

Do you have an ending in mind, or do you plan to see what happens?

I do have an ending in mind. It's going to be a bit of a cliffhanger, though, which is risky. I may experiment with this, since I know that when you're writing the first book of what you intend to be a series, you should let the first book stand alone in case a publisher doesn't pick up the rest of the series. So I guess it's a bit of both.

What are your hopes and dreams for your book? What impressions are you hoping this novel will leave on your readers and yourself?

Like most writers, I do dream of getting my book published. I just want to have that wow-this-book-is-a-thing moment and be able to share it with readers on that scale. But I'm also hoping - and this is undoubtedly presumptuous of me - that it will be a valuable contribution to the YA literary, that it will matter to someone. I hope it inspires someone. I hope that I and other people can learn from this story, because it's such a big part of the inside of me that I really want to get out into the world.


And here are this month's questions! Hopefully last month's background helped out a bit.

Be honest: how is your writing going?

It's frustrating, honestly. I've been in an extended writing slump for over a year - none of my writing sessions are very productive, and I hardly have time to write, though I'm not sure whether that's because I'm simply not working hard enough to make time or because I actually don't have time. But I'm hoping to get back into the swing of writing and finally finish this first draft (since I've been working on it since March 2013, haha *cries forever*). 

What’s your first sentence/paragraph?

The envelope in my hand has corners sharp enough to cut me, and for a long moment, I trick myself into thinking it will if I hold it for too long. The clock on our wall ticks one, two, twenty-two times, calmly enough that I can let it time my inhales. My eyes wouldn’t deceive me - the messenger who passed it to me through a chink in our doorframe was dressed in livery finer than anyone in these parts has seen in decades. But stranger still was his expression, so guardedly incredulous that the memory of it makes me afraid of the letter he’s brought me.
Do you have a book cover, and/or pictures that reflect your book?

The first book cover I ever made for this looks like this:

I do have a current(ish) book cover, though it's very old:

As for pictures reflecting the book, I have a Pinterest board for the novel that should meet the needs of this question quite nicely:

Do you have pictures of each of your characters? If not, describe them for us! (Be as descriptive as you can.)

I do have a few pictures, thanks to the marvel that is Pinterest. But I don't have pictures for everyone yet. A few notable people will be missing.

HEROINE Chantilly Rosewater, seventeen-year-old girl full of nonsense.

ROYALTY - Left to Right: Rosalind, legendary first queen of the Mendlands (Adelaide Kane) | Clarabel, the other legendary first queen of the Mendlands | Saerys, current queen of the Mendlands and unwilling wife of Alastair

NOT PICTURED: Alastair, main villain and total creep and current king of the Mendlands

THIEVES - Clockwise: Finnegan Lyle / Midnight Hatter, thief lord of Peralton | Sebastian Lyle, Finn's rapscallion uncle with a heart of gold (Johnny Depp) | Esmeralda, basically Finn's surrogate older sister | Loraina Blackcliff, brilliant scientist who joins up later on (Helena Bonham Carter) | Stiefvin, Finn's nerdy inventor friend (James McAvoy) | Rowen, leader of the rival thief ring

NOT PICTURED: Renton, smuggler / Finn's best friend / Stiefvin's boyfriend but shhh he doesn't know it yet

UPPER CITY - Clockwise: Diane Rosewater (younger version), Chantilly's steel-willed mother | Chamomile Rosewater, Chantilly's fiery fifteen-year-old sister | Velvet Rosewater, Chantilly's crazy-nice thirteen-year-old sister | Edgar Monteau, secondary villain / earl with a clouded past | Yvette Scarleigh, earl's daughter and probably the most socially shrewd person in the kingdom | Colin Cleacker, Catherine Cleacker's thirteen-year-old brother | Catherine Cleacker, misunderstood baronet's daughter with multiple personality disorder

NOT PICTURED: Charles Mareil, Chantilly's fiancé / ad hoc policeman | his entire family (Richard, Eleanor, Edward, Talia) | Lavender & Lavinia, two sisters | Yvette's family (Octavia & Yvette's father) | Rienne, thirteen-year-old maid in the Rosewaters' home | Lottie Merton, Chantilly's maid and good friend | Thea Recantine, palace librarian and author of Chantilly's favorite book | etc.

ALSO NOT PICTURED: Robert, Chantilly's poor-excuse-for-a-human-being father

What scene are you most excited to write?

I kind of discussed this in last month's questions, but there are other scenes that I'm pumped for as well. I'm probably going to sneak in an almost-kiss somewhere. It'll be fun and horribly angsty.

Basically I'm excited to write every scene until I actually get to that scene and suddenly I'm the slowest, most reluctant writer in the world. It's a bit of an issue.

Share a snippet or a scene that you really enjoyed writing.

Here's a screencap, then. Click for a full-size image (and actually readable font).

Now that you're writing, have any of the plot details, or the process itself, turned out different from what you planned or imagined?

I did imagine that since it was a first draft I'd be able to let go and write a little more easily.

I was a naive child.

Is there a character or aspect of your plot that's difficult to write?


*ahem* Probably Chantilly's insecurities and gray areas, the stuff she doesn't like to think about. Those are very difficult to balance with one another.

What’s your favorite aspect of this novel so far? Favorite character?

Chantilly, now and probably forever.

Have you drawn off of any life experiences or people you know to create your novel and your characters?

Actually, no, not really. Unless reading the Infernal Devices and watching Les Mis count. *cringe-laughs*

Do you have a playlist or certain song for your novel and/or characters?

Ha. HA. What do you mean, do I have a playlist? I have multiple playlists. But I'll cherry-pick some songs out because I'd like to keep everyone sane here.

Since OtMS is hugely inspired by Les Mis (I've only seen the film but STILL) and the whole revolution thing just... *collapses*, I'd say the OtMS theme song is "Do You Hear the People Sing?". I feel like Finn's theme song is the Vitamin String Quartet cover of "Smooth Criminal". Chantilly totally fits with "King and Lionheart" by Of Monsters and Men (if Finn is the king and she's the lionheart). 

Let’s have some fun for a moment: imagine you are somehow transported into your book’s world. Which character are you most likely to be found hanging out with?

Honestly, Chantilly is in many ways a lot like me, so we'd probably be best friends. We're quiet with strangers but animated with people we know well. We're both introverted and bookish, and we both love feminism and history. We would have so much fun nerding out together.

How do you keep yourself motivated to finish your daily wordcount? (Pinterest? Internet breaks? Chocolate?)

I like looking at finished pages. (I write in longhand and then type, so it's cool to see a sheet of notebook paper fill up with blue ink.) That's really my main immediate motivator.

What your favorite writing quote or piece of writing advice?

I used to think that my ideal job was to write. To make up stories. To lie for a living. Now that I’m in it, though, now that I’m comfortable in my novelist skin, it doesn’t feel that way at all. I observe for a living. I steal for a living. I stylize for a living. I find things in the real world, I take them for my own, and then I hammer them into a story-shaped thing. Writer? I am a thief and an artist.
That's from Maggie Stiefvater, one of my favorite authors of all time. It's so accurate it hurts.

How does this book make you feel so far? Are you laughing? Crying? Frustrated?

So that's it from me! What do you think of my WIP? Did you write your own Beautiful Books post? Please do sound off in the comments!

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Long time no post! I'll be making up for my absence by spotlighting two pieces of short fiction available for free on the Internet, for my twelfth edition of Fiction Friday. You'll thank me later, because this week's stories are so, so gorgeous.

This Friday's first fiction pick is one that I found completely by accident on Twitter and am now so glad that I did. It's called "Little Doors of Blood and Bone" (don't you adore that title?), and it was written by Katherine Catmull, author of Summer and Bird, a middle grade book that I've been dying to read. The piece was featured on The Cabinet of Curiosities, a short fiction site updated periodically by authors Katherine Catmull, Stefan Bachmann, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne.

This particular story is such a stunning one because of the way the prose and the premise work as a team to grab you and never let you go. That kind of writing - writing that's somehow in tune with itself - is hard to find and even harder to execute, so I admired that in this story. It peels open the layers of everyday life and turns them upside down in a delightfully inventive manner. Also, the magic in this is exquisite. It's one of those "I wish I'd thought of that" kind of things. And the ending! The ending is one of the best things about it.

Here's an excerpt, in case I haven't convinced you yet of this story's merit:
Instead, when Ida peered inside the little door, she saw a blue flame, teased and roused by a silky wind that swirled around it, smelling of smoke and sunbeam-dust. As Ida’s peering face blocked the bone-and-fur door, the wind withdrew, and the flame sank almost to nothing. Scattered around its embers were sharp, curving things—fangs, or claws, or both—and the tiny bones of birds.
The full story is available to read here.

My second Fiction Friday recommendation is "Madder Root and Rampion" by Sean R. Robinson. It was published in the fifth issue of Betwixt, a speculative literary magazine that I've only recently started looking into. From the little tastes I've had of the magazine, I'd definitely recommend it to you all, so do check the rest of the publication out as well as the story I'm highlighting below!

I loved this piece because of the rich descriptions and the subtle air of grief that it was permeated by. The use of second person here is perfection, and the slow but determined progression of the story is absolutely gorgeous. Robinson does a marvelous job of using a palette of words to paint a bold and lasting picture of a fantasy world steeped in mystique while building up characterization.

Here's the customary excerpt to seal the deal:
She has heard of you, scar breeder. Your names are stories in the rampion yards of Rasia and each one whispers down the caravan roads. She listens. You have laid tracks down the wrists of old women. Young men boast in their mead halls that they do not fear your phoenix-bone knife, though they live in the shadow of your tower and will not speak your name.
The full story can be read here.

So there you have it! Go forth and enjoy, and have a wonderful Fiction Friday.
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So... guess what? One of my favorite bloggers and Internet acquaintances, MorningTime4 of The Ups and Downs of My Not-So-Average Life, is hosting a blog party to celebrate her birthday. And to show my appreciation for her as a person and blogger for her special day (I don't even regret using that horrendous phrase), I'm joining in!

I had so much fun answering her fun blog party questions, too. (I love interview-format things of any kind, so thank you to Morning for hosting this and feeding my obsession.)

(Psst. If you've got a blog yourself, perhaps you should consider participating! Morning is such a sweet and fun person, and her blog is truly high-five-worthy. If you can't join in, please feel free to drop in and tell her happy birthday. I'm sure she'll appreciate it.)

1. What do you love about the fall season? 

Pretty much everything. Autumn is my favorite season (not least because of the fact that it has two names). Falling leaves, cold clear cut-glass mornings, warm tea, blue-toned rain, whispering between trees. That feeling of settling down to rest. I really, really love fall.

2. If you walked in a mall and saw a guacamole chip hat, would you wear one or eat it?

I would probably stay very, very far away from it. You see, I am a coward.

3. What is one of the most frustrating or aggravating things in the blogging world?

Hands down, it's plagiarism. Honestly, I don't understand why anyone would do it - everyone feels terrible, and it's a crime of ideas. Ideas are supposed to be the purest forms of things, and stealing those is the most horrible thing I can think of. The fact that it happens on the Internet, and often, makes me feel sad and slimy inside. 

4. Would you rather build a snowman or sing in the rain? (See what I did there?)

Sing in the rain. It rains enough where I live that I could pretty much pick any day to do it, as opposed to snow, which attempts to happen but really doesn't. Also, I like singing. Also, I've never successfully built a snowman. (Sad, I know.)

(I also totally saw what you did there, and I applaud you.)

5. If you had to chose how you were a part of a theater or movie production, would you be: an actor, props designer, set designer, light/technical director, audio coordinator, costume director, music director, dance coordinator, stage manager, or a part of the audience?

I would totally be a part of the audience, because all of these require some semblance of social and/or teamwork skills and those are mysterious things that I do not have. I would still really enjoy it, though. 

6. List your blogging inspirations (blogs and people).

Oh gosh. SO many. Morning herself is one, of course! But also:

Kim. Adelyn. Rose. Rona. Alyssa. Samantha. Lydia. E. R. Cait. Emily. Kara. Paola. AnQi. Ava. Kristianna. And many more.

7. Do you think you could commit yourself to a Halloween costume made of lint, or a Halloween costume made of bubble wrap?

Both of those would be very... revealing.

I'd probably go with the bubble wrap, though, because I could just paint over it and it would cover me up pretty well. Plus, I could make strange popping noises while I walked, and then I could pop the remainder of the bubbles the next day.

8. Do you tend to photo bomb people's photos, or divert from them?


9. What is one word you constantly have to keep looking up the definition to?

Right now, it's probably the word "garrulous". It's a rather odd-looking word that means "excessively talkative, especially on trivial matters" - rather like Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet (he just automatically comes to mind whenever I read that word's definition).

10. If you wrote an autobiography about yourself, what would you call it (if you couldn't place your name in the title) and why?

I would most definitely call it Awkward Silence. Either that or Gatsby Puns. Or The Perpetual WIP. (I obviously have issues.)

Anyway, that's it from me! Happy almost-birthday, Morning!

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