Hello!

Welcome to SamanthaHolloway.com!

I'm a writer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, and a cool chick.

If you're only interested in one of these subjects, you can click on the links below and to the left to filter your experience!

My Instagrammed Life

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Today in writing: twelve etched skulls, energy like tatted lace, and a whole bunch of witches! What did you write? #HtD #amwriting


from Twitter https://twitter.com/pirategirljack

September 21, 2016 at 11:17PM
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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My review of last night's #agentsofshield is up @Screencrimes ! https://t.co/9ehXYDNL4y #HtD


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September 21, 2016 at 03:55PM
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What to do when you're just spinning your wheels

Sometimes, stories don't go anywhere. If you hit that point where you realize it's not going anywhere, you have two choices, I think: scrap it, or figure out why.

Scrapping it is easy because giving up on any story when it gets hard is easy. Just look at the millions (probably more like a few hundred) unfinished stories in my files.*

But if you believe in the story and still want to tell it, scrapping it is only the first step: 1. Make the decision to no longer slam your face into the brick wall of a story that isn't working. 2. Replan and start over from scratch, trying not to make the same mistakes. 3. Actually start over.

If you decide to figure out what went wrong without scrapping it first, it'll probably not be as easy as just starting over or giving up and starting something else. But at the same time, in my experience, it's usually been one of three things that messed it up:

1. The story has mutated and you were trying to make it still fit the original plan

2. You don't know the characters and what they want well enough

3. It's actually your life that's spinning but going nowhere, and the feeling is bleeding over

In the case of the first, you'll need to back up to where the mutation happened, look at it critically, and decide whether you want to keep it, scrap it and go back to plan, or work around it. Keeping means you'll have to figure out how this unexpected change ripples out to the main story and all the subplots so everything still tied together and makes sense. That can be really fun, because it makes you think about what your story even is differently.

If you decide to ditch it, you might wind up rewriting a lot of the story, but it'll be closer to what you were originally aiming for. But ask yourself: why did it change to begin with? If it was because you were bored, maybe you should keep it; a bored writer makes boring stories! If it was just a random flash of weird inspiration, keep it in another file; maybe it's a different story trying to jump the line!

And if it's the third option, you'll have to figure out what went wrong in your actual life. Do you need more time to destress? Do you need to talk to someone? Do you need to rearrange what time of day you do stuff in? Do you need to make a bigger change--moving, getting a new job, changing your relationships?

Those are all brain-filling things, and stressing out additionally over what you're writing won't help you or your book. If it's your life that's needing editing, my advice is always to focus on that--but don't give up writing entirely. Work it into the new patterns you're forming. Lower your daily or weekly goals to where you can still hit them, but they take less time and effort, but keep writing. Even if it's just one page or one line a day. Even if it's just a scribbled note in your notebook** to keep the idea ticking over in your head until you have time to focus. There's nothing sadder than a good story abandoned because the writer's life caved in and there wasn't time for it anymore.

That's how I handle when my stories aren't going anywhere. How do you do it?



NOTES:
*I keep all my stories, unfinished or not; you ever know when it'll suddenly work, or when that really great single paragraph or storyline will fit somewhere else. Also, I hate reinventing the wheel I already spent so much time inventing. Also also, I'm kind of a packrat.
**Because of course you have a notebook or it's equivalent for catching inspiration, right?^
^::steps off soapbox now::

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I'm featured in The Crafting System Podcast, talking about my nail polish!

It was an awesome talk, and I would happily go on the show every few months and do the same questions all over again. Go see!


What to do when a story is fatally flawed - a discussion in tweets by Delilah S Dawson

Monday, September 19, 2016

My reading journal

A writer needs to read. It fills the well with inspiration (if only because of, like, "ugh, wtf, I could do better" sometimes), and it gets you familiar with what's already done so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Plus, it's awesome.

But here's the thing about my brain: when I read a lot (which I do, even when I claim I'm in a slump, since the average person in America is hard pressed to read even just five or ten* books and I read like twenty by accident**), and when I HAVE read a lot all my life, I forget what I'm reading.

When I was in undergrad, I wrote down every article, magazine, poem, story and book I read in a big long list. It was great. Early this year, I decided I wanted to read 52 books***--one a week--in 2016, and I remembered that long list and thought it would be cool to sort of revive the idea if not the same format.

Then yesterday, I read this post: A Peek Inside My Reading Journal (& Why I Wish I'd Started Years Ago) | Page Flutter and I knew what today's blog post was going to be about, even though it wasn't on the list of potential posts I'd made at the beginning of the month!****

Here's a look at how my current reading journal is set up! It's pretty simple right now because I hadn't really thought about making it a whole history of me, reading, like the one in that link, but as soon as I get all my books out of storage, whoo boy am I adding pages! (Or maybe when this one is full and I start the next one, whichever happens first).


I absolutely LOVE these little Apica 11C notebooks. They don't have huge amounts of pages, but the paper is smooth and wonderful, the size is perfect, the covers are pleasing to the touch, and they come in lots of colors. Plus, they're less than 2$ a piece on JetPens.com! I bought a whole bunch at the start of the year and still had a few around a few months in when I started my notebook, so that's what I used for it.


The first page is literally just a messy-ass list. I'd intended to keep it neater, but apparently when I've just finished a book, I'm sloppy. But it's a list, mostly in order, of every book I read this year, and that's what it's purpose is, so I forgive myself when I can't seem to write a title properly or spell someone's name right, or when I can't line up a line. I've left three or four pages behind this blank, so that I can continue the notebook after 2016--it has just enough pages to do the 52 book challenge, just about, but since I'm behind, I probably won't fill it by the end of the year, and that's fine; I'll keep going until I do, like any other journal.


After the list pages, I give a page for each book I read, and I just fill the page with bullet points of whatever caught my eye in the writing, the story, the characterization, whatever. It's not a review, it's just, like, notes of stuff I want to remember. It makes me organize my thoughts before I do my official review, since most of the books I read are for New York Journal of Books, and it gives me anchors to remember what the book was about later, when a dozen other books are between it and me.

I like sticking a printed pic of the cover to the page, too, since it sort of unifies the notes with the actual edition of the book I have. Also, usually I do a star-rating, though not always. Sometimes I forget, or it's too hard to distill a whole book into a series of stars out of five.

I used to put this stuff into my usual journal, but I like all my book stuff in one place where I can reference it and see it in context.


A lot of the books I get for review have these info sheets that come with them; I used to keep them in a separate file, but I like them better here, in context*****. A standard sized printed sheet folded in half fits almost perfectly inside the notebook, so I just slot it in wherever it's page is, and there you go. Context!

Also, it fattens up the book. Sometimes I get those promo post-cards for the books, too, and those'll get slotted in with the rest of the stuff in the right place, too.



This is something I just added because I saw it on a Bujo link on Pinterest last night. I didn't do anything fancy, as you can see, but I did break down all the books I've read by various stats that matter to me, and here's the results! I'm doing a pretty good job of keeping everything all well-rounded, I think, and it's nice to see it all in one place like this. It'll make my year-end reading report that I always do on here a heck of a lot easier!

NEW IDEAS FOR THE NEXT BOOK:
Since I always think ahead, and since one of my main ways to calm myself down when things are stressful is to collect idea on Pinterest from all the billions of journaling posts made every month, I've started hoarding ideas for my next reading notebook, and here's a few I really like:

  • An actual TBR list, rather than just a vague idea in my head or a series of post-its all over my desk and / or journal--probably a list of books I actually want to read but haven't bought yet, AND a list of books I have bought and haven't read yet.******
  • Lots of those "books you need to read in your lifetime" lists, and the "top 100 books in ___" lists. Because I love lists. Like this Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge with all the books ever mentioned by name on Gilmore Girls.
  • Print outs of my reviews, wherever I post them. Because I'd like to also remember what I had to say about all these books.
  • Lists of books I've read in the past, as close to the year when I read them as I can get.
  • Reading challenge checklists.
  • Answers to book journaling prompts, because journaling AND books is a match made in heaven, PLUS it means more LISTS!
  • Reading trackers, like the one I sell in my shop, printed out, filled in, and stuck in.
  • Maybe I'll go back to the running list of smaller-than-books stuff, too: poems, articles, magazines, short stories...
  • I think my next reading journal will need to be a bigger notebook. Or in several volumes...
What sorts of things do you keep in your reading notebooks? Do you think you'll keep one now, if you didn't before? Share in the comments or come talk to me about books on Twitter @pirategirljack!



NOTES:

*I can't. Like. What. How? There's so many books around, America!!

**Humblebrag but also the truth.

***I'm perpetually fourteen books behind. Like, somehow in the early-middle part of the year I missed fourteen books, and no matter how much I try, I'm always 24 behind now. How weird.

****Even tho I haven't been doing a very good job of keeping up with three times a week posting lately, and if you've stuck around through the recent weirdness as I try to figure out cross-posting from other sources, you're kind of my fav people.

*****Context is a big part of why and how I journal, as it turns out.

******Because of those library book sales we go to each year, I usually have literal dozens of books I haven't read yet but that I've bought. It's like building a reading list for my retirement, when I stop reviewing and have time to read whatever I want.^

^My grandpa, before he died, was reading something like fifteen to twenty books a week. They weren't long books, but it was literally all he did through that last winter. #LifeGoals

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My review of Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan is up NYJB! https://t.co/vD4cNSKag1 #HtD


from Twitter https://twitter.com/pirategirljack

September 13, 2016 at 02:13PM
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Monday, September 12, 2016

On getting back on the dragon (again) and holistic book writing

I've always said that inspiration is like herding a dragon; that's where the name of this blog comes from. And I've always known that balancing that quest for inspiration with an actual life is super hard for me.

When I was a kid, I'd just write all the time. I didn't have carpal tunnel yet, and I didn't have all that many obligations outside of being in middle school and two or three home chores; it left a lot of time to just write whatever came into my head.

I also didn't have the need at that point to make a career out of it--no one ever saw any of it but me--so it didn't matter whether I finished anything or not. So almost all of it was unfinished. I wrote my first novel-length thing in tenth grade, and still almost everything I wrote was barely more than ten pages and usually more like one page and some notes.

It was easy.

As an adult, it's not easy. It hasn't been easy for ages. I still get ideas all the time, but now I have to Make Time to write, and that feels weird--the whole concept of "I have things that need doing, so writing will have to wait" when literally all I want to do with my life is write books (and make nail polish), is bizarre. And I was never rally taught, growing up, how to manage the life-Inspo balance. Probably because creativity is mostly seen as a perk, while doing a job and getting paid is the actual thing everyone wants their kids to do.

Here's what I've learned, what I've had to figure out, since no one taught me much on the subject:

If I can't focus on my writing, it'll dry up, but if I only focus on it, everything else falls apart, and then I have no time to write. Stress kills inspiration. Minimizing stress is flipping hard, especially when you're a worrier with an overactive fight-or-flight response. Trying to build a stable and calm life helps with all that.

Inspiration can come from literally anywhere at any time, but if I don't write it down and then don't go back to do something about it, it's meaningless. And after a while, that dries up, too.

Wanting to write is a good spur, but not always good enough to actually get writing going; that takes dedication and devoting attention to what comes next even when I'm not in front of the keyboard or the notebook, and it takes a flow. Things need to go into my head to kick up the dust and get stuff out of my head.

So I'm writing again.

I'm scheduling in time to write and giving myself rewards for getting the day's pages done--and only expecting about two thirds of what I know my max output is, so that slow days are easier and easy days are bonus buffer-builders. I'm exchanging pages with my crit partner again*.

And I'm trying to take care of myself. Last week, I popped a ligament in my leg and it has literally forced me to a standstill I'm only just starting to move slowly out of, and it's given me a chance to think about how I'm tending to this faulty body I have, and how I can better take care of it, and that's all part of it. It's a whole: my health problems, my constant need for inspiration, my work and my play, it's all the same thing.

So to get my book done, I'm going to get myself and my life and my goals healthier. I'm going to pay attention. I'm going to sit down and do the work in the least stressful way I can.

And in a while, I'll have a nice healthy baby book to show for it.

What're your thoughts on holistic book writing? Share in the comments!



NOTES:
*Indie author Alexa Grave, who is awesome and really gets what I'm going for even when I suck at conveying that.

Six pages of Beacon done today! A new problem and a love scene. Not bad! #amwriting #Beacon #HtD


from Twitter https://twitter.com/pirategirljack

September 12, 2016 at 10:30AM
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My latest full journal!

I love a nice fat journal that's been packed up with all the stuff that's happened in the days between that first page and that last one. The last few journals, I've been making little flip-through vids on Instagram to show how my journals look!

Here's the most recent one, for Journal #27: Welcome to Bright Whale*!

A video posted by Samantha Holloway (@pirategirljack) on




NOTES:
*I name them sort of randomly^ around the mid point of filling the book, when I have a feel for how that book's theme^^ is developing. Usually, I just pick some phrase that has to do with something that happened in that notebook; this one, I got the Night Vale episodes books to review, and there was a whale on the cover, so that's the name.
^The last one was called Squad Goals.
^^I say theme, but there's not really a THEME so much as whatever vague idea of a trend my life and my thoughts are on that month-or-so. I'm not sure that life actually HAS themes until you're trying to make a consistent narrative for yourself after the fact. But that's what journals are for: recording and making sense of life.

Worksheet Wednesday - Trackers for your reading and your viewing!

I love inventing worksheets that I can just print off and use as I need them. I also love the freedom to invent a new one whenever my needs change, so I'm always making more, and I've started an Etsy shop in case anyone else would like to use them!

This update, there's two new ones:

A nice spacious TV schedule for you to keep track of what shows you're watching and what's on at the same time (so you can schedule your DVR and so you can remember what you meant to watch each day)!

And a reading tracker with space for six up-to-600-page books!

They're each 1$ in the Cashew Creations shop! You get a pdf download that you can scale and print as you need to fit your planner or journal!

If you send me pics of any of my pages in use--especially how you decorate them and integrate them into your planners and journals--I'll share them here and on Instagram!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Happy Read A Book Day!

I feel like I'm always recommending books for people to read, but I'm not gonna stop, so here's some more! Reading List Fairy* strikes again!

The best books I've read so far this year:


Not reviews, because you can get those anywhere, but here's what makes me want to get people to read the books:

All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
It's strange and minutely realistic at the same time. A really clean overlap of scifi and fantasy. The place where Solarpunk is born and joins the genealogy of genre fic. Also a really good story.

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire
An Ace main character and a Trans awesome other character! Answers the question of what happens to those kids who come back from adventures in weird magical otherworlds. Incredibly lyrical and emotional in less than 200 words.

A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab
Probably the best middle-of-a-trilogy book I've read in ages?? Fantastic worldbuilding and amazing characters. What happens when Epic Fantasy doesn't roam across the world, but settles down in a city. Makes court intrigue fantasy exciting again. AMAZING magic.

Mostly Void, Partially Stars: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes Vol 1 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Literally a five headed dragon--okay, not, but literally a written collection of the Night Vale podcasts, with added behind the scenes stuff and illustrations, and the wonderful ability to look at the words usually only hear-able. Nostalgia, but also a new look at the bizarre wonderfulness of the very first days of WTNV.

And books I love to recommend for no other reason that I love them dearly:


American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Mythology orphaned by the modern world and still knocking around picking fights and taking care of their realms of care. Something new in the contemporary fantasy world, and a major pillar of Mythic Fantasy (as all his work is). That mix of funny-heartbreaking-bizarre-beautiful-scary that Gaiman does so well, perfectly executed.

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
This woman has some next-level imagination going on--and this book is her showing what she can do. Layers of dead empires with a current empire crumbling over them. SKY CRYSTALS. Super powerful ground-controlling powers. Polyamorous families. A trans character. Quests for revenge! The first chapter will make you sob and the rest is stunningly not pulling any punches or hoarding any ideas, it's all out and it's amazing.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle
A long-time favorite. Probably the most beautifully lyrical book I've ever read. Molly is me. A fairytale, but a sideways one, that opens up the genre.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley
I love every single thing Robin McKinley writes, but this one is a particular favorite. The only one of her books I read twice in the same three-week stretch instead of starting a new book. Vampires made epic and cool again. Constantine is my favorite literary monster. Sexy af. PACKED with cool ideas.


What are your fav books? What do you recommend on Read A Book day?


NOTES:
*the Reading List Fairy is actually my friend Jude who literally gives me a list of books to read every time I see him, but he's an English teacher, so it's okay. Also, my TBR could hold every book in the world and still not be long enough.

In Praise of Boredom | Puttylike via @emiliewapnick #HtD


from Twitter https://twitter.com/pirategirljack

September 06, 2016 at 12:19PM
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Monday, September 5, 2016

Things I want right now:

A leg that doesn’t hurtMore sleep than I can get in a noisy-ass houseChocolateCurry (no one in this...
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Tagged by @insanityofdanyi​ to post three photos: (1) the last...











Tagged by @insanityofdanyi​ to post three photos: (1) the last song I listened to, (2) an unposted selfie, and (3) my phone background.

  1. Sweater Weather that Reece was playing with I was almost aslweep was the last song I actually listened to, because I like it (my brain always tells me it’s a lesbian love song). I like things that remind me that the heat can’t last.*
  2. I don’t remember if I posted this selfie; it’s from all the way back to the day I went to see Felicia Day. There’s an alternate where my bangs were looking cute if I did.
  3. Almost all my backgrounds are nebulas. This is a screencap and the actual pic.

*Today’s high is 84! Well below 90 for the first time in ages!

I tag @valiantlyawesomepikachu@ohgressfuriosa@flyingfishtailoutpost1@davesempire1981@allofthepuns@ohifonlyx33@connieisland@redorkulous​ if you guys want!


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Portal as #nailart ! #etsy #duochromenails #duochrome #booklr #bookstagram #booknails #writernails #portal #portalfantasy #fantasy #nailpolish #indiepolish #incidentaltwin incidentaltwin.etsy.com


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Look at this still-gorgeous shot of Portal from @manisandmakeovers ! #nailpolish #indiepolish #incidentaltwin #genres #portalfantasy #fantasy #writernails #booknails #bookstagram #booklr #duochrome #duochromenails #etsy incidentaltwin.etsy.com


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