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October 6, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Romance Stories I’ve Quit

This post is part of Top Ten Tuesday, although you’re going to notice, there’s only two things on the list. Maybe because I dislike these things enough for five each?

So, I like romances in my stories. Not all of them, but they’re nice, and when done right create a little warm spot in my chest. But sometimes they frustrate me. Here are those times.

Young Woman and Older Man

I’m not against this on principle. I know people who have married older men, and they’re wonderful together. And there are stories where I actually like this, like Emma. But in books that don’t do it well, I feel a little icky and uncomfortable about it. Often because there’s a weird thing with the power dynamics in the relationship, like the man is the teacher and the woman is the one developing feelings (lookin’ at you, The Paper Magician). Plus, I can’t think of a book (off the top of my head at least) where the reverse happens and a young dude in a lesser position must win the older lady (though I have a feeling that the dynamics would be different in that situation..). Maybe I’m being unfair, but knowing that’s part of the story is enough to put me off altogether.

My First Love, My Only Love

I say this as a woman who went out with one guy ever in college and then married him. I can’t stand it when the romance revolves around a girl who has gone out with one person ever in her life, and now they’re soul mates and want to spend the rest of eternity together (*cough* TWILIGHT *cough*). I think the issue I have with this is that it usually comes up in young adult novels, and how often does it really happen that you stay with the boyfriend you met in your Sophomore science class? (I know it does happen…but how often??) I prefer it even if she recently broke up with someone, or even, at the very least, had other crushes. But your first boyfriend ever?

Again, in some cases it does work out okay (Graceling) but often that’s because there are other circumstances, more of a point to the story than simply the romance. I do get very excited when young adult novels twist on this a little bit, where the main character thinks she wants to be with that one person forever, but then maybe she meets someone new. Because that’s actual life, even if it’s in a world with magic.

What do you think? Am I just being grumpy? And what kinds of stories have you sworn off? Let me know!

September 29, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Obsessing Over a Trip (Anticipation is Part of the Fun)

In about 30 days, my husband and I will be going on our next Disney World trip. Since the circumstances of this trip are a little different from last time, I was able to spend more time planning everything. That meant digging around for travel agents, booking reservations and Fast Passes, making an itinerary to make sure we fit in the things we’re most excited about, and overall just obsessing over the whole thing.

I took the lead on planning the trip, which my husband was fine with (he’s usually in charge of planning trips, so this was probably a nice break for him) but at one point, during my tweaking and rambling and restaurant review-reading, he had to ask me — was I okay? Was I stressing myself out too much?

Part of the answer was yes, I was making myself a little stressed about it (I’ve always had a deep fear of being prevented from doing what I want to do, even though this is a trip with two people controlled by me). But, part of the stress was from the excitement. As I looked things up and watched videos, anticipation for what we were going to do grew more and more. I got myself excited about the restaurants, and the rides, and the things we plan to see that we’ve never checked out before (we’re heading to Trader Sam’s for a big ol’ overpriced souvenir cup drink). Thinking about the fun I’m going to have is part of the fun, and as much as I stress over whether a lunch reservation should be at 12 or 12:15 (really) knowing that all the bits I don’t want to miss are accounted for with plenty of time to spare gives me a way to calm myself down when my anxiety tries to override, and also I know will help me feel relaxed about the whole thing once we’re actually there.

I’m looking forward to my trip, and that, I’m realizing, is half of the fun of it.

Do you obsess over plans and trips? Do you do it too much? Does it make the trip more fun, or do you keep ruining it for yourself?

September 22, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Books On My Fall To-Be-Read List

I looked at my summer to-be-read list, and saw that I only got to half of those books! Woops! Which is why you’ll see some repeats this go around. But I got through some of the nice big thick ones, and even an extra monster book, Words of Radiance, the second in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series, so I think I did pretty good.

Here’s what I think I’m going to read this fall — but we’ll see!

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. This fall is actually made a little easier, since there are some books coming out I’m looking forward to. One is Carry On, the oversized fanfaction that that Cath writes in Rowell’s Fangirl. I have to read this one, because if I don’t, I just failed as a version of my own self.

Ice Like Fire by Sarah Raasch. This is the sequel to Snow Like Ashes, a majorly fantastic YA fantasy. I devoured the first one, and I look forward to slurping this down when it comes out in October (right after Carry On!!)

Fairest by Marissa Meyer. This was there last time! But I really do need to read it, because in November I’ll have to get…

Winter by Marissa Meyer. The last book in the series! I can’t wait! Exclamation points!!

Saga volume 5 by Brian Vaughan. Saga is one of the greatest comics I’ve ever read. Period. Done. I only haven’t read it because I’m getting it through the library, and it hasn’t. Come. In. Yet. Blargh.

Jingo by Terry Pratchett. I actually got to Feet of Clay, and now I’m back on my Terry Pratchett / City Watch kick. Next bookstore stop, I’m grabbing this.

Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton. Kate Beaton is hilarious and smart and beautiful. I’m going to buy this one and it will sit so pretty next to Hark! A Vagrant.

These are the books I know I’m definitely going to read — I mean it! What’s in your pile?


This post is done as part of Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish.

September 8, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Moving In, Settling In (and Not Writing At All…)

We finally moved our stuff into our new house on Saturday! This was tiring, stressful…and very time consuming.

Because of that, I didn’t do much of any writing over the weekend, aside from some quick journaling scribbles to sort out my stressors. Even today, I can’t really access my desk, thanks to book box mountain…

If you notice to the right, you’ll see that the boxes partly obscure my desk, so that I can’t even settle in there to try and restart my routine.

I’m going to try and kick myself back into gear today. But I’ve also got some unpacking to do, a nervous dog to comfort, and, well, I unpacked Fullmetal Alchemist last night so obviously I need to reread all 27 volumes of that.

Right now I’m looking forward to my routine improving, after a couple of months living in someone else’s house, and maybe I’ll get my writing (and my querying) on a more productive track.

Has anyone else had their life disrupted by moving? How do you get back into the swing of it? How does your new routine differ from your old one?

September 1, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Problems: Keeping Inside of It

During this time of editing my current story, there are times — when I’m actively working on it, when I’m not in it — that I find myself thinking about it. Not just what I can do, where I can take the story. That’s fine. That’s productive to me. No, instead I find myself obsessing over how impossible the whole thing is.

I start to worry that the whole thing, it just won’t work, that whatever plot problems I have are unfixable. I’ll never hit the right tone, I’ll never make my character complicated but understood by a reader. Really, I just can’t do it.

I still make myself pick it up. I read over the chapter, find the parts I marked for rewrites. I edit, and I create new scenes. And I love it. I love my character, I love the place I put her in, I love the challenge of twisting the dialogue and narration just enough so that I get those moments where I feel like my words actually sing. I straighten out the plot, sew in my new words, and suddenly everything feels a couple of steps beyond what it was before. I’m filled with the idea that this story will eventually work.

Sometimes things just don’t work. The plot wasn’t going the right way, or you just weren’t at the skill and experience level required to bring that idea to life. But if the story feels right to you, then maybe you need to keep inside it, work on it, until you feel you’ve actually exhausted all your possibilities.


August 25, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Problems: Trying to Write While Moving

Life likes to get in the way of writing sometimes, doesn’t it?

When moving out of our condo, I had to choose between finishing up my writing, or filling up boxes with books and clothes. We put most of our stuff into a storage unit, taking a fraction of what we had to my in-laws’ house, and then I had to figure out how to get my writing done in a cramped space with only a handful of my belongings to rifle through. And now we’re actually getting a house this week, and every time I sit down to write, I have to sit down to sign a new form, look at a new thing.

It’s tiring, it’s frustrating. I haven’t been as productive as I think I should have been.

But. I have been producing. I’ve edited pages, plotted out chapters. I’ve committed to writing blog posts and actually sticking with it.

It’s hard to get things done when outside forces mess up your funky flow. But at least I’m getting something done.

And hey, I’m getting a house, with a backyard and a basement and everything, like real adults have. So there’s that.

August 22, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Weekly Finds: Plant Burgers and Disney Cats

The Good Stuff, a Youtube channel sponsored by PBS that I occasionally watch, is doing a series of episodes on the future of food. Right now they have two videos, one on making meat from plants and one on eating bugs (both are far less gross than they sound). They’re really interesting, and now I want to try a Beast Burger.


Did you know there’s a whole population of feral cats that live in Disneyland in California? I did. Did you know that there’s a Cats of Disneyland twitter feed that someone updates regularly? I didn’t. But now I do. Now I do.


The Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast had an episode on borderline personality disorder. They’ve done a few on different mental disorders, like OCD, and I always find them fascinating. These things are so poorly portrayed, education on them is not good, so it’s nice to listen to something talking about them intelligently and sensitively, and it reminds me not to default to “insane” or “crazy” when talking about how a person is acting, and to not blame someone for being ill since they probably can’t help that behavior. I also enjoy learning about how the human brain works.

There’s some cool stuff I’ve found. What do you think? And what have you found around the Internet and the world at large?


August 20, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Kid Lit: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

“Most fish talk,” the fish said, “if you are willing to listen. One, of course, must want to hear.”

On the aWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lindvice of a recently freed goldfish, Minli decides to leave her poor village and find the Old Man in the Moon so she can ask him how to change her family’s fortune. She meets friends along the way, including a dragon who can’t fly and a buffalo boy with a celestial friend, on her long venture to the Man in the Moon’s home, Never-ending Mountain.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for years, and I’m glad I finally picked it up. Throughout the book, Minli and other characters are told folk tales (which Min Li discovers to be true as she travels) that reveal certain things about the characters, and reveal how everything in Min Li’s world is interconnected. But the regular narration reads like this, too, like a well-loved tale that’s been told again and again, that made me want to read parts of it out loud to myself.

The hardcover I read is printed on thick paper, with beautiful, saturated color illustrations, and with colored line drawings to mark each new chapter.

And Minli is a great heroine. Even though she often needs help, she is not helpless, and figures her own way out of a lot of scrapes, like getting past some vicious monkeys.

As a writer, this book made me think back on a novel I wrote a few years back, but which I could never make work. I realize now that not only did I not get the tone right, but I gave him such a vague, esoteric motivation, so even though I’d plotted out the story and knew where to place him next, none of it ever felt important. Minli’s motivation was simple — to change her family’s fortune — but it gave her decisions weight, and gave readers a sense of where she should ultimately end up. If I ever go back to that story, I’m keeping this book in mind.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a story I’d love to read again, maybe someday in the future when I have a kid who’s old enough, and still wants me to read out loud.

August 18, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Quick Look: Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

Lately I’ve become a fan of books where the narration manages to be funny without throwing jokes and punch lines at you. Basically, a light, comedic tone, that just makes reading the story feel good. Terry Pratchett achieves this for me. And, recently, Lissa Evans.

After reading the description of her adult novel, Crooked Heart — a lighthearted tale of the London blitz — I had to pick this one up. There were a lot of heartwrenching moments (Noel is an orphan whose beloved guardian has died; Vee is his new caretaker who has never felt truly loved in her life) there are funny bits, too, many of which come from having gotten to know the characters. For instance, Noel’s tendency to speak like a professor, despite being ten, and the uneducated Vee’s difficulty and frustration trying to understand him.

‘…What were you thinking? No, Never mind–‘ He was starting on one of his explanations, and she wasn’t in the mood for polysyllables.

There are plenty of other lines that I probably should have marked off, but I was too busy enjoying myself while I read this book to think of that at the time. Besides, I think this line does a great job of showing what these two characters are like, and the relationship that begins to develop between them.

Are you reading anything that makes you smile? Are there any lines or pages of a book that have stood out strong to you? Let me know!

August 13, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

What I’m Listening To: Writing and Disney Animals

Here are a couple more podcasts that I’ve been getting into lately.

Writing Excuses. This one’s short, about 15 to 20 minutes per episode, where the four hosts — Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal and Dan Wells — give their writing advice on specific topics. I haven’t delved too deep into their backlog, but the episodes that have come up new since I’ve started listening have been wonderful. Last month was a lot of help, focusing on middles and why you need to let your characters fail, since I’m working on filling out the middle of my current work-in-progress. Really, I’ve found them all helpful to some extent, if only that hearing people who know what they’re talking about talk about writing inspires me to sit down and write. Like I said, they’re short and to the point, so if you write at all I would suggest you go listen to them.


Radio Harambe. I recently added this to the list of Disney World podcasts I listen to (wow, that’s a nerdy sentence). I’d been hearing it mentioned on other podcasts and my Twitter feed, but I’ve put off listening to it for a couple of reasons: they’re a little long, and besides, they focus on Animal Kingdom, and how much can you really say about one park? But, Animal Kingdom is almost evenly tied with Epcot for Angela’s Favorite Park, so I had to try it. And it turns out, there’s a lot you can say about one park. They pack a lot into each episode, which explains the length. There’s the focal point — where’s a good place to cool down in Animal Kingdom, what they wish the park would do with the big cats (in homage to Cecil) — but that’s just the end. A whole chunk of the beginning, if not most of the episode is taken up by “World News” (All of Walt Disney World and other parks) and “Local News” (Animal Kingdom specific). Because Disney parks always seem to have a lot of news going on (it’s amazing and ridiculous) it’s nice to have a regular podcast that spends so much time talking about it. Also, they regularly play a fun game, How Much Does It Cost, where one of the hosts guesses how much a new tour/package/whatever costs, highlighting how ridiculously overpriced some Disney bonuses really are.

So, podcast friends, what are you listening to?


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