my favorite fictional heroes

A while back, I posted a list of my favorite fictional heroines. In that post, I promised a list of my favorite fictional heroes soon. Apparently “soon” to me means almost six months later…but here I am, with the foretold list. Let’s jump right in!

5. Nick Wilde

photo from Zootopia (2016)

I’m absolutely obsessed with this guy. Zootopia is one of my favorite movies, and if I’m honest, part of the reason is Nick Wilde. He’s witty and wily, just like your average fox, but later in the movie you find out that he has a soft side. Though he doesn’t get as much screentime as Judy Hopps, the main character, he still has a tremendous character arc, in which he learns to trust people and put aside his pride.

4. Eli Stock

photo from Along for the Ride (2022)

Honestly, part of the reason Eli made it on this list is because I love his and Auden’s (the main character’s) relationship. In the book, he’s reeling with guilt from his best friend’s death in a car crash where he was driving. Auden helps him over it, and he helps her through her troubles with her parents. He’s a very sensitive person, and I like how he has the ability to feel things, which a lot of male characters suppress.

3. Harry Potter

photo from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

Everyone knows and loves Harry Potter. He gets a lot of flak–everybody calls him “unobservant” or “dumb”, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard the question “Who’s your favorite character from Harry Potter?” answered with “Harry Potter.” True, maybe he didn’t recognize his own teacher’s handwriting in The Half-Blood Prince, but I think that he makes up for his lack of external sensing with his internal intuition. He has a strict moral code and follows it every step of the way, and in true Gryffindor fashion, he is courageous, almost to a fault.

2. Gilbert Blythe

photo from Anne with an E

We all know and love Gilbert. Honestly, what can I say? I love his charm and his optimism, and how, when they’re children, he tries so hard to redeem himself with the endlessly spicy Anne. Plus, I mean, look at that face. He’s so earnest. Kinda reminds me of a puppy. (I’m running out of intelligent things to say.)

1. Weston Ludovico

(Sadly, I could not find any photos, fanart or otherwise, of Weston. Go read 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons.)

When I was making this list, I only came up with four at first. I knew I needed a fifth one, and I went to go peruse my bookshelves when it hit me–Weston! I can’t believe I didn’t think of Weston first, honestly.

In 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons, Weston Ludovico is an amputee, and it’s hard on him, but he stays endlessly optimistic. His catchphrase is “Never been better,” even when he’s not doing so well. He’s a staunch people person and everybody likes him–he knows how to make even the grumpiest person strike up a conversation. Overall, he’s just a really likeable character and probably my top favorite male protagonist.

Well, there you have it! My top five favorite heroes. Who’s your favorite? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

3 reasons why young writers need powerful community

Recently, I had the opportunity of attending a writer’s conference.

But this wasn’t any old conference–it was the YDubs conference.

If you’ve never heard of YDubs, you’re probably in the minority of my readers. YDubs is short for YWW, which is short for the Young Writer’s Workshop. When I’m talking to people about YDubs, I usually describe it as “Facebook for Christian young writers.”

Essentially, that’s what it is. There’s a massive community and an even larger content library full to bursting with expert opinions and writing advice you won’t find anywhere else. There are also lots of people who probably make the general population wonder what’s wrong with them–but it’s okay, they’re just writers, and brilliant ones at that.

Anyway, YDubs has been a part of my life for a little over two years now, and I have needed it so desperately for most of those two years. Let me tell you why young writers need like-minded community.

1. to encourage and support

Writers, regardless of age, need encouragement. Community can give this. On YDubs, we have a whole space for encouragement and motivation, and sometimes just going through a few posts in that space is a huge pick-me-up. If you have a couple of friends who really care about you and want to read what you write, they can cheer you on when you’re feeling down about your book.

2. to answer questions

This is where it helps for young writers to have older community. I’ve met lots of published authors, some who have very successful books, on the YDubs community. They’ve helped me grow in my craft by answering the (many) questions that I have.

And you don’t even need experienced writers to answer questions! Sometimes you just need someone’s opinion, and anybody can do that. Lots of YDubbers like to post polls on the Community for character names, worldbuilding, title ideas, and the like. One thing I like about polls on YDubs is the large sample size–there are almost 800 people on the Community, and while not everybody will respond, you’ll still get a decent number of responses.

3. to stretch you

I’m not talking literally here. No torture devices involved (yet). I’m talking in the mental and emotional sense.

Your comfort zone is only so big, but it can grow. The more you do things outside of your comfort zone, the more it’ll stretch and expand to fit the new things you’re doing. And I guarantee you that 90% of the factors that will help push you out of that relatively tiny circle is your community.

Starting this blog way back in October of 2020 was way out of my own comfort zone–and it was a direct result of YDubs and my new community. I realized that I needed a way to grow my platform, but I wasn’t sure how, and as soon as I asked about it a bunch of people told me to start a blog. I was skeptical and kind of scared at first, but I quickly learned the ins and outs of WordPress and blogging and decided to give it a go. So here I am now!

Community is absolutely vital to all writers, but especially young ones, because we’re still learning and growing. These are our formative years, and we need people around us to balance it out.

I realize that this entire post has basically just been an advertisement for YDubs, but if you’ve never heard of it and you’re a young writer needing to grow in a community, I can’t recommend it enough. You can check it out at theyoungwriter.com. I’ve met some of my best friends on there, and I’ve loved every second.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

setbacks.

One time, in youth group, we were talking about symbolism and meaning. One person brought up a tattoo that he had seen once: a picture of a bow drawn back with an arrow locked and loaded, ready to fly. He told us that the symbolism behind it was “when life pulls you back, it’s because it’s about to shoot you forward.”

You know what the youth group thought about that? We were all like, “Nah.”

Personally, I agree with that lovely sentiment. I think that that particular piece of symbolism is not true whatsoever.

I’ve seen a lot of setbacks recently. Not just little ones, but big ones also. There were a few days this week where I have just been bombarded with bad news after bad news, each new piece a little worse than the last, somehow. It has been awful, and sometimes I just feel like crumpling to the floor and crying under the weight of it all.

Is “life” about to “shoot me forward”? I don’t know. I’m thinking probably not, if I’m honest.

But I do know that God has a plan for all of these setbacks. And in each one, there’s something good, even if it’s impossible to see right now.

For example. One of the setbacks we’ve experienced recently is my pastor deciding to accept a call to a church in Frankenmuth, an hour and a half away from where we live now. We’ve grown very close to our pastor in the eight years he’s been here, and his family with their seven children are some of our best friends. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing them every Sunday at church and every Wednesday at youth group and being able to catch up with them and share jokes and memes and stories. The fact that their family is leaving and we won’t be able to see them as often stings.

But there’s a silver lining. In moving, my pastor and his family will be able to spread out a little more. They’ll have more space in their house for their nine people and three cats, and they’ll be out of the misery that is living in suburbia. Pastor will be able to do great things with his new congregation, and maybe our own little congregation will learn to adapt to change a little more easily.

Beyond that, are there more silver linings that I don’t know about? Well, duh. I’m only human, after all. I don’t know anything compared to what God knows.

All of the setbacks, all of the bad news that I’m experiencing right now are horrible to live through. I don’t know how I’m managing it all (if I’m honest, probably not as healthily as I could, haha).

But here I am, and there God is, and He has a plan.

In all things,

rating my July contemporary reads

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary lately, as is my custom, and (since I am writing this post the day before it has to come out) I figured I would do a mini-review of some of them.

I won’t be giving full overviews, but I will be rating them out of five stars based on four categories: cleanliness, plot, characters, and prose. Then they’ll receive an overall score out of five. It’ll be kind of a lightning round of reviews, and you can argue with me in the comments about it.

Let’s go!

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

finished July 25, 2022

Cleanliness:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Plot:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Characters:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Prose:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Overall score: 18/20

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz

finished July 20, 2022

Cleanliness:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Plot:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Characters:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Prose:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Overall score: 12/20

If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley

finished July 18, 2022

Cleanliness:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Plot:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Characters:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Prose:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Overall score: 17.5/20

Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welsh

finished July 17, 2022

Cleanliness:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Plot:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Characters:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Prose:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Overall score: 17/20

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

finished July 14, 2022

Cleanliness:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Plot:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Characters:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Prose:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Overall rating: 18/20

That’s all for now! I enjoyed writing this post, and I think I might do more in the future. Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with my ratings?

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

laughter and tears: National Youth Gathering 2022 recap

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

If you read the entirety of my last post (which, honestly, is a feat in and of itself–that one was long), you may recall me mentioning not being able to reply to comments immediately because I was in Houston for the National Youth Gathering. Well, I’m back now and (somewhat) caught up on my sleep, so I think it’s time for a recap.

The National Youth Gathering (henceforth called NYG or simply the Gathering) is an enormous event for youth of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod that happens once every three years. This year it was in Houston, Texas, and there were about 20,000 youth overall who were in attendance. Yes, you read that right: twenty thousand youth. That’s a lot of teenagers rampaging around Houston.

Let me tell you this: NYG was incredible. We laughed a lot, we cried a lot, we learned a lot, we screamed a lot, we sweated a lot, we walked a lot, we didn’t sleep a lot but that was okay. I got to play in the wind symphony during the huge worship service on the last day, and it was the best experience of my life. The Gathering was truly the pinnacle experience of my short 16 years of life so far.

The theme for this Gathering was “In All Things,” with the main verses being Colossians 1:15-20. Here they are if you aren’t familiar with them:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

All of our Bible studies, Mass Events, and sessions focused around what it was like to have Christ in all things. I went to some sessions focusing on hard topics like sex, abortion, LGBTQ, and coronavirus, and somehow they all managed to tie in that theme. It was interesting how many different takes on one topic we could get.

I wish I could go a little more in-depth on this, but honestly, I’m still processing most of the things we’ve learned. It was a lot to take in all at once, so now I’m going through a little bit of overwhelm. Maybe the theme of “In All Things” will leach into other blog posts at some point, though.

Instead of some deep, philosophical, religious ideas, how about I just regale you with some stories and pictures from the week?

Houston was hot. Most days hovered around the 95-100 degree (Fahrenheit) range, but the humidity could make it feel anywhere from ten to fifteen degrees hotter. Our group, coming from Michigan, wasn’t quite used to it, but we still had an amazing time, and seeing the city was absolutely incredible.

One of the big things at the Gathering is the backpacks. Every year everyone gets a backpack of their very own to carry stuff around for the whole week, and since our group was so large (79 people–!!), the leaders needed some volunteers to help carry all of them. I stepped up to the task and carried 23 all by myself, which was no small feat. It was so fun, though. I’m very proud of that moment.

One of the crowning moments of the Gathering was, I think, the for KING & COUNTRY concert! They sang so many of their hits: “Priceless”, “joy.”, “Burn the Ships”, and they also talked about human trafficking and how they were fighting to end it. There were lots of tears, happy and sad, during this concert, and the picture above is when they told us to turn on our phone flashlights in honor of all the human trafficking victims. Believe me, if you had a phone with a flashlight, it was on.

If you’re not an LCMS Lutheran, you might not recognize this guy, but he is a big deal. This man with the walrus moustache is President Harrison, the president of the entire Missouri Synod. And we got to take a picture with him!! Being in the band has its perks, eh?

There are a lot more pictures and videos, but most of them are with my friends and I’m wary of posting them all on my blog, so I’m not including them here. If you’d like to see them, though, I posted a lot on my Instagram story this past week, so you can check out my story highlights: @theliteraryliesl. (You might need to request to follow me if you aren’t already.)

Final thoughts: If you have the chance to go to a National Youth Gathering at any point, jump at it. I think NYG was the crowning point of my 16 years of life so far, and I’m so thankful for the friends and memories I made.

Until next time,

album review: Mercury – Act 2

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

You have NO IDEA how excited I am to sit down and write this post. If you know me, you know I’m a huge Imagine Dragons fan, and today, the day that I’m writing this (July 1, 2022), their new album came out–Mercury – Act 2.

I’ve never done an album review before, and this is way outside of my normal content, but it excites me, so I felt like sharing my reactions with you. I’ll be listening to the music and reading the lyrics as I write this, so you get my full, authentic reactions. I strongly suggest listening to the album alongside reading this post, if you’ve got the patience for it.

Let’s go!

before listening

Act 1 came out on September 3 of last year (2021), and ever since I’ve been on tenterhooks waiting for Act 2. In March, they teased a song from the album, “Bones,” and another single from the album, “Sharks,” came out just a few days ago, on June 24. Since they did this with Act 1 (they teased “Follow You” and “Wrecked” before the album actually came out), it was reasonable to assume that both songs were from their next album, and oh boy did those songs absolutely slap.

Act 1 was, I think, one of their best albums to date, and I have high expectations from Act 2. They seem to be moving from the more poppy sort of style they had in Night Visions to more alt rock sort of stuff, as seen in a lot of songs from Smoke and Mirrors. I’m expecting a lot of songs, based off of what I heard from “Bones” and “Sharks,” to be more on the rock side, but with Imagine Dragons, you never know.

All right, that’s enough talking. I’ve been waiting months for this. It’s time to listen.

(My heart is pounding. Is this pathetic?)

1. “Bones”

I-I-I got this feeling, yeah, you know
Where I’m losing all control
‘Cause there’s magic in my bones
I-I-I got this feeling in my soul
Go ahead and throw your stones
‘Cause there’s magic in my bones

thoughts: Very upbeat, in a dark sort of way. I like how the bridge goes a little quieter than the rest of the song. It really gives a nice contrast. The bass especially–chef’s kiss. I can see this being a song my dad likes, which is a point for it.

2. “Symphony”

So tell my mom I love her, call my baby sister
Should’ve hugged and kissed her
‘Cause life is just a mystery
And it’s gone before you know it
So if you love me, won’t you show it?

thoughts: Again, very upbeat in a dark way. More pop than rock. Definitely one to dance to–I’m dancing in my seat right now. At first glance it seems like a song for a lover, but based on the lyric notes from “Bones,” I think it’s about Dan Reynold’s sister who lost her battle with cancer. It definitely doesn’t seem like a love song when you look at it that way.

3. “Sharks”

You think you’re better than them
Better than them
You think they’re really your friends
Really your friends
But when it comes to the end
To the end
You’re just the same as them
Same as them (Ha ha ha ha ha)

thoughts: Darker than the rest. I like the lyrics and how they’re presented; the verses are almost rapped, the way they’re said very quickly in an almost monotone voice. It seems to be about fake friends and superficiality. Overall, a very fast-paced, thought-provoking song.

edit: The music video is reminiscent of Ocean’s 11, and I think it adds a nice layer to the song. Go ahead and watch it.

4. “I Don’t Like Myself”

There are times when I don’t like myself
I believe all the things that they say about me (‘Bout me)
I wanna love myself, just like everyone else
But there are times when I don’t like myself

thoughts: The slowest song yet–also the most relatable for me. (Why are you calling me out this way?) But this is exactly the sort of song I expected from this album. The way that Act 1 presented a new view of mental health that they hadn’t previously shown in their songs definitely paved the way for this sort of song. A little repetitive and slow, but overall a pretty good song.

5. “Blur”

I’m always waking up
Looking to fill my cup
I’m such a loser
‘Cause I got it all right in front of me
Everything I could need
I want to be satisfied with what I have

thoughts: Again, another song totally calling me out. Definitely more rock-y and metal-y than the rest of the songs so far (the guitar solos are amazing). I like how they’re tackling the subject of always looking for something more and trying to live in the present, as that’s something I struggle with quite often. This is my favorite one on this album so far, but we’ve got thirteen more songs to go, so let’s see if that stands.

6. “Higher Ground”

This life is such a ride
I live until I die
I walk into the fire
I’m searching for the higher ground
What a life
I live until I die
Won’t fail unless I try
I’m searching for the higher ground

thoughts: The rhythm is definitely the kind of thing that’ll get stuck in your head. Another song I can see my dad liking. I like the lyrics a lot, but honestly, it’s a little too heavy metal for me. It sticks with the theme of darkly upbeat, though.

7. “Crushed”

I suppose she’s supposed to be exactly what they want her to be
So pretty in pink
Necklace and ring, don’t be heard, just be seen
But that’s not who I am
She said I can feel, I can feel too much
And I wish they’d go away, go away
‘Cause it’s crushing me
It’s crushing me

thoughts: Another too-relatable song. Slower again, a little more acoustic, reminiscent of Origins. I also appreciated the references to The Scarlet Letter. It’s a little repetitive, and while I like how relatable it is, I don’t think it’s my favorite. I would probably put this one on my playlist but skip it every time it went on.

8. “Take It Easy”

Take it easy on me
I need some lullabies
They tell me heaven’s just a lie
Well, I’m not surprised
Tell me that you know, no, you don’t
Yeah, you’re just like me
Can’t we just all hope for the best
Take it easy

trigger warnings: mentions of alcohol

thoughts: The first song on this album that I outright dislike. The whole “heaven’s just a lie” part? Not sure how I feel about that. (Imagine Dragons is a Mormon band, for context.) I just didn’t like the style of this song. I probably won’t be listening to this one a whole lot.

9. “Waves”

Where was I when you were calling?
I can’t go back, time doesn’t hear if you ask it to wait
La-da-da-da-da, la-da-da-da-da
So own all your tears and just roll with the waves
La-da-da-da-da, la-da-da-da-da
Life it could change, it could change in a day
La-da-da-da-da, la-da-da-da-da
So cherish your years and just roll with the waves
La-da-da-da-da, la-da-da-da-da
Time doesn’t hear so roll with the waves

trigger warnings: mentions of suicide

thoughts: Slower, more acoustic. This is a very personal-sounding, dark song, and I think it has a deep personal meaning to Dan Reynolds, the lead singer. Another song dealing with the meaning of living in the present and not in the past or the future. Not my favorite, but definitely a good, meaningful song.

Halfway through! This is turning out to be pretty long.

10. “I’m Happy”

What’s wrong with me?
Is there somebody else inside my head
That doesn’t want me to be happy?
I know my rights, I live until I die
I’ve got this bed, each night I go to sleep and dream
I’m swimmin’ in the deep end
You’re my buoy and I’m sinkin’
Life flies by me but I’m thinkin’
You saved my life and now

thoughts: Another relatable song that’s exactly what I expected after Act 1. It seems to deal with depression and trying to pick yourself up from the depths. I like the instrumentals and the melody. The pace is consistent; one might even call it relentless. A good song, but again, probably not one of my favorites.

11. “Ferris Wheel”

Promise that I’ll make you feel
Like we’re on a Ferris Wheel
We’re always young and innocent
I promise you when things get hard
Our love will be strong enough
I know we’ll last, I’m confident

thoughts: Finally, a love song! I admit, I’m a little bit of a sucker for them. Slower and sweeter, with more acoustic. No drums in this song, and a higher register. Reminds me a lot of “One Day” from Act 1. This would be a good wedding song, I think. Definitely one for my love song playlist.

12. “Peace of Mind”

I’ve got so much to be happy about (Happy about)
I’m always focused on things that amount to nothing
Yeah, I think I’m a little depressed (Depressed, depressed)
Everything is meaningless
At least that’s how it feels
Feels real bad

thoughts: Another song dealing with depression and picking yourself up. Another song that I relate to too much. And is that a little touch of love song in there? The beginning was kind of weird instrumentally, a little hard on my ears. The lyrics are so good, but the melody really isn’t up my alley. I’ll probably listen to this a lot, but it’s not my favorite ID song ever.

13. “Sirens”

Sometimes I get a little bit scared at night
I get a little preoccupied
The sirens in my mind
The sirens in my mind
I just wanna be good again
I wanna make it to the end
The sirens in my mind
The sirens in my mind

thoughts: Another darkly upbeat song. I love the rhythm and the melody–it’s very catchy and seems like it would be very easy to memorize and sing. I just know it’s going to be stuck in my head all day. One of the best songs so far, I think. As usual, true to ID, the lyrics make almost no sense, but there’s probably some deep meaning behind them, so I’m not going to question them.

WordPress is starting to glitch. I think that this post has too much in it. Only five songs left, though.

14. “Tied”

A year away
A year alone
The tears have fall
But we have grown
The sun will rise
The seasons change
And here we are

thoughts: At first I thought this song was about an ex, but I think it’s actually about a dead spouse. That adds a layer to it that I didn’t consider at the beginning of this song. It’s very slow and soft, with not much instrumentalism and a definite focus on the vocals. I think it’s very touching. There is one line that concerns me: “Is there any God at all?” Again, ID is a Mormon band, so I’m not sure what to think of that. Otherwise, though, a good song.

15. “Younger”

So take me back when I was younger
And I was still hungry
Take me back when I was younger
Yeah, I got the world at my feet
Just try and stop me (Just try and stop me)
Yeah, take me back when I was younger

thoughts: This song has a definite nostalgic feel to it. The first “dance-y” song in a while. It’s kind of the opposite of “Cha-Ching (When We’re Older),” which is a Spotify exclusive from Night Visions. In fact, I don’t think this song would be out of place in Night Visions. I would definitely put this song on my summery playlist. I like how peppy it is. This is exactly the kind of nostalgic ID content I’m here for. And the guitar solo!!

16. “I Wish”

I never called you and now it’s too late
To say all the words that I’ve wanted to say
The doctor said, “Oh, there’s a fight up ahead”
I should’ve been there by your hospital bed

thoughts: Another slow, personal, emotional song. I think that Dan is really confronting his emotions about the death of his sister (or other people that he lost) in this album, and I think it’s a good thing. It’s very genuine, authentic music that makes you think and makes you feel.

This song actually makes me think about my grandfather, my opa, who I lost in December. Opa was a hard person to get to know, and I learned more about him after he died than while he was living. Like Dan sings, I wish I had been a better friend to him and heard more of his stories while he was still alive. But I have hope, because I’ll know I’ll see him again someday.

17. “Continual (feat. Cory Henry)”

Speak no lies
I just wanna hear the truth
I’m done with all the miracles
Except for you
Is it my fault
If I’m something of a skeptic?
I’ve been burned before
Except by you

thoughts: Here’s another song that’s heavily focused on the vocals. I appreciate the instrumentals, and I like how slow and soft it is, especially with the piano. It’s a gospel-esque song, complete with the organ in the background. I don’t think this is strictly a love song, but it definitely could be interpreted as one. I’ve never heard of Cory Henry before now, but his voice really enhances it, and while I don’t listen to ID for slow songs, this is one that I really love.

Last one! (WordPress is really glitching now.)

18. “They Don’t Know You Like I Do”

See, I wish I could take it back, change the future and erase the past
Grab the bullet out and pull you back
I promise that I’d save your life like you saved mine
But now it’s far too late for that, and all I have is your story left to tell
So let me tell it, let me tell

trigger warning: implied mentions of suicide

thoughts: Another song with Dan facing some deep personal scars. It seems like he’s owning up to his feelings in this song, and I really like it. I like how the pace throttles up and down, with the instrumentals and the vocals having different emphases placed on them throughout the song.

after listening

What I was expecting: rock songs with lots of emphasis on mental health and veiled commentary on the world around us. What I got: lots of slower, more personal songs with testimonies about things that happened in the singer’s life.

Final thoughts? I’m honestly not sure about this album. I think it ranks a little below Act 1 in my personal opinion, but not by much. I just wasn’t a fan of how slow most of the songs were, but I think that they definitely served a purpose. I hope Imagine Dragons will be back with more in the future.

My top three songs, in order, from this album were: “Blur,” “Sharks,” “Younger.”

Mercury – Acts 1 & 2 on Spotify

If you read this far, here. Have a cookie. 🍪

Also, when you read this (unless you read it way far in the future), I’ll be in Houston for the LCMS National Youth Gathering! So I won’t be responding to comments until I get back.

Thank you so much for reading this incredibly long, ranty post!

hot takes: The Sound of Music and Jane Eyre

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

It’s been a little while since I’ve last posted Hot Takes, a series where I compare modern film to classic literature. And, okay, maybe The Sound of Music isn’t exactly modern, but hey, it was made after Jane Eyre, so it counts. In this post, we’ll be comparing the two stories, their themes, and their plots, and seeing what makes them similar.

Without further ado, let’s start by explaining the plots of both stories. Warning: There will be spoilers ahead! If you haven’t seen/read either of these works and you still wish to, please do so before continuing to read this post.

plot summary: The Sound of Music

Austria, 1938. Maria is failing at her one job: becoming a nun. She just can’t seem to stop singing and dancing and racing away to the mountains, so the Mother Abbess sends her to be a governess for Captain von Trapp’s seven children (the eldest of which I was named after, although I pronounce my name slightly differently. However, this isn’t relevant, so moving on). The Captain rules his household with an iron fist, and after he goes away, the children take every opportunity possible to misbehave, but Maria responds with kindness and soon they become good friends.

Maria teaches the children to sing, which displeases the Captain greatly when he returns home with his romantic interest, the Baroness, and he almost returns Maria to the abbey. But he is impressed and overcome by his childrens’ beautiful voices and changes his mind. He hosts a lavish party, during which Maria realizes that she has romantic feelings for the Captain. The Baroness, jealous, indirectly convinces her to return to the abbey. She does so, and during this time, the Baroness and the Captain are engaged.

Maria soon returns, and the Captain breaks off his engagement and marries Maria instead. However, this is Austria in 1938, so things aren’t happy for long. The Captain is ordered to report to the German naval base, but he’s opposed to the Nazis, so the family attempts to escape, but they are stopped. The family goes and sings in the Salzburg Festival to buy time, afterwards slipping away and hiding at the abbey. After a close call with the Nazis, the von Trapps are able to escape, and they make their way into Switzerland safely.

plot summary: Jane Eyre

(buckle up)

Young Jane Eyre lives with her abusive Aunt Reed, who, close to the beginning of the book, sends her away to school. The school is nowhere near as idyllic as Jane hoped it would be, and she spends a total of nine years there before finally accepting a governess position at a manor called Thornfield.

Her employer is a dark, brooding old man named Mr. Rochester, who she secretly starts falling in love with. One night, she saves him from a fire that she is told was set by a drunken servant. Later, Rochester brings home a wealthy and beautiful woman named Blanche Ingram. Jane is despondent and expects Rochester to propose to Blanche, but to her surprise, Rochester proposes to Jane instead. As their wedding day draws nearer and nearer, Jane is uncomfortable with the amount of lavishness (is that a word?) that Rochester heaps upon her. And on the wedding day itself, a man called Mr. Mason interrupts the vows, calling out the unbelievable truth: Rochester is already married.

Rochester admits that he is, but his wife, Bertha, is insane, and proves it to Jane by showing her. He tells her that it was really Bertha who set the fire that night. Rochester keeps Bertha hidden on the third floor and pretends she doesn’t exist. Horrified, Jane flees, knowing that it is impossible to stay with Rochester after this. She is forced to beg for food and wander the moors until she is taken in by three siblings: Mary, Diana, and St. John. St. John finds Jane a job teaching at a nearby school, and one day shocks her by delivering two pieces of news: her uncle has died and left her a vast fortune, and her uncle is also his, Mary’s, and Diana’s uncle, thereby making them cousins.

St. John decides to travel to India as a missionary and invites Jane to accompany him, proposing marriage to her (EW). She declines after nearly giving in and realizes that she cannot leave Rochester, who she truly loves. She hurries back to Thornfield and finds that it has been burned in a fire, during which Rochester lost his sight. They reconcile, marry, and live happily ever after.

(I know that was long, but that was like the SparkNotes of the SparkNotes, so…there’s not a whole lot I can do.)

their similarities

Now, you may be noticing some eerily similar things in these synopses. Let’s list them:

  1. a spirited young woman with strong faiths (Jane and Maria are both strong believers in God) as the main character
  2. a moody, rich older man as the love interest (who also owns a mansion in Europe)
  3. the men being scarred from their previous marriages
  4. the women leaving their former lives to become governesses
  5. the governesses falling in love with their employer
  6. a rich woman who comes in between the main character and their love interest
  7. governesses leaving their employers, despite being deeply in love with them
  8. the (former) governesses returning to their employers after a deep internal conflict
  9. the governesses marrying their employers and gaining children, whether by birth or inheritance (that’s not the right word but honestly who cares)

Obviously, The Sound of Music actually happened–the original musical was based off of Maria von Trapp’s memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. But isn’t it a little…odd how much the 1965 film mimics the 1848 classic novel?

Maybe this is a conspiracy theory–it definitely could be. But The Sound of Music and Jane Eyre really are creepily similar. No one knows why….

Until next time,

an incomplete list of my favorite names

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

I had a completely different post planned for today, but it’s Tuesday at 5:31 PM, this post is due in less than eleven hours, and I’m panicking, so we’re doing a fun one today. Next week I’ll give you the good one. I promise.

Anyway, I’ll be sharing a few of my favorite names with you today! These can be inspiration for character names, stuffed animal names, if you’re actually naming like a real live child, whatever you want.

I hope you enjoy.

girl names

  1. Sadie
  2. Sabrina
  3. Sierra
  4. Rose
  5. Zoë
  6. Sage
  7. Elsie
  8. Blair
  9. Athena
  10. Autumn
  11. Marielle
  12. Meghan
  13. Fern
  14. April
  15. Caroline
  16. Wren
  17. Clara
  18. Amie
  19. Tessa
  20. Alyssa
  21. Rebel
  22. Alayna
  23. Kendall
  24. Rylie
  25. Cassandra

boy names

  1. Curtis
  2. Cooper
  3. Carl
  4. Timothy
  5. Theodore
  6. Remus
  7. Oliver
  8. Laurence
  9. Mateo
  10. Leo
  11. Connor
  12. Reuben
  13. Travis
  14. Levi
  15. Zayn (One Direction fans please do not come at me)
  16. Jaden
  17. Pierre
  18. Lincoln
  19. Dominic
  20. Callum
  21. Erik
  22. Lucas
  23. Mason
  24. Keith
  25. Adrian

I hope that this list has inspired you, and maybe you’ll even bestow on me the highest honor you can: stealing these from me. What are some of your favorite names? Maybe I can steal them from you.

Until next time,

goodbye, spring; hello, summer

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

Before we begin, I just wanted to say a great big thank you! Quote, Unquote just hit 150 followers the other day. I can’t believe how far we’ve come! Thank you so much for all the support you’ve given to me and my little corner of the Internet.

I’m thinking that once we hit 200, we’ll do something special. A giveaway, maybe, or a Q and A–or whatever you decide. What would you like to see? Leave a comment letting me know.

Anyway, onto the official blog post…

It’s that dreaded time once again. The official first day of summer has rolled around, so it’s time for me to post my updates and goals.

I’m going to say something up front: I did not get much done. It’s been…rough lately. I’ve had horrible writer’s block for about a month or so, and I’m slowly trying to get back into writing. Life has been happening and I would rather it not, but I am still here and I’m still trying as much as I can.

With that disclaimer out of the way…let’s look at my goals from spring, shall we?

goals from spring

1. finish another edit of Shadows of Dreams

I’ve had two teams of alphas go through SoD now, and I’m partially finished with my second macro edit. So I’m not quite finished with the entire edit, but I’m getting there. I’ll give myself half a checkmark on this one.

2. make significant progress on Unwritten

This was left intentionally vague, and I think that I’ve accomplished it. When I said “significant progress,” I probably meant, like, 10K words in my brain, but if it had been left up to me, I probably would have written zero. I didn’t write zero! I made my own progress with about 5K words, I think. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but is, considering how hard for me this story is to write.

3. post more writing on the blog

Heh. Heh heh heh. Um…

4. learn how to improve productivity by getting distracted less

I actually worked on this quite a bit. I’ve been researching different study methods and trying to implement tools to stay focused on my work. I’ve downloaded quite a few productivity apps on my phone and started using Notion, which has been a great help. I have to admit that I’m still working on trying not to be distracted as much, but it seems that the steps I have been taking have been working.

goals for summer

I’m choosing not to set extra-hard goals for this summer, as my summer is going to be absolutely nuts. I’ll be out of town quite a lot, and I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to write. That being said…

1. write for fun

I want writing to be fun again. I feel like I haven’t really enjoyed it for a long time, maybe because I’m putting too much pressure on myself. Whatever the case, I want to write something for fun, something just for me, something I’ll enjoy. I miss feeling like being a writer was the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I want to reclaim that.

2. write two short stories

I have a few short story contests in mind that I want to enter this summer. The deadline for one is coming up, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish the story in time, but I’d still like to finish it. Plus, writing short stories is so fun for me. As a bonus goal, maybe I’ll write some flash fiction to post here on the blog.

3. finish the next edit of Shadows of Dreams

I’m bringing back my goal from the spring and hoping I’ll finish this next macro edit of SoD. I may run it through another round of alphas just for the characters, but I’ll wait and see until I finish the edit. I’m proud of how far this story has come, though! Just a little bit ago it was a few scribbled pages in a blue binder. It’s looking better and better by the day.

That’s all for now! What are you guys planning to do this summer?

Until next time,

why writing fanfiction is good for writers

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

I have a confession to make: I haven’t written anything besides blog posts for a few weeks now. I’ve been in a serious writing slump. I want to write, I really do, and I feel so guilty for not having written, but every time I sit down to write…nothing comes out. No inspiration, writer’s block, whatever you want to call it–it’s just so hard to get the words out onto the page.

But! Today, just before sitting down to write this post, I opened up my document for a Harry Potter fanfiction I had been working on a while ago. Suddenly, the words just…flowed. It was the oddest thing.

That inspired me, so today I’ll be sharing with you some benefits of writing fanfiction that you may or may not have seen before. Let’s go!

1. there’s no pressure to publish

Most fanfiction can’t be formally published because of copyright laws. (There are a few exceptions to this, such as books that have gone out of copyright or certain video games, like Minecraft.) One of the traps I consistently fall into with my original writing is thinking I have to make everything perfect so I can publish and market my books. I know it’s an unhealthy mentality.

Fanfiction helps me with that because I know that legally I can’t publish it and claim the characters or settings as my own. I might share a few chapters of my fanfiction online or with my friends, but there’s no way I can make money off of it as a printed book, because I’ll get arrested. There’s no pressure at all with this, and I really love that. It’s freeing.

2. there’s no pressure to create

The great thing with fanfiction is it can be as canon-compliant as you want (for those who don’t speak fanfiction: that means that it can be as close to what actually happens in the book as you want or don’t want).

For example, my main character in my Harry Potter fanfiction is Draco Malfoy’s twin sister. In the books, Draco obviously doesn’t have a sister, let alone a twin, but I thought it would be interesting to explore what a girl living in Draco Malfoy’s shadow would think and feel. Everything else is pretty much the same: the story is set during the first book, so the events of the actual series are followed in my story.

With fanfiction, you can use the setting or the characters or the plot or a combination thereof to create anything you want. There’s no pressure to make your own characters or make the plot as original as possible. You can quite literally do anything your heart desires.

3. you can stretch your writing muscles

This one kind of goes with the above points. When you don’t feel any pressure to publish or to create your own original story, you can try things you wouldn’t normally. Write in a different genre or style. Write a character that’s outside of your usual. Write whatever you want!

Fanfiction is a great way to practice so that when you’re actually writing something of your own creation, you can use the skills you’ve gathered from writing for fun. It’s also a good way to start writing if you’re new; you’ll be able to dip your toes in, so to speak, without getting too wet, and decide if writing is for you or not.

4. you can find a community

A while back, I had a Minecraft fanfiction that I loved to write. It was a snippet series that I posted on my writing community, the Young Writer’s Workshop, and I had quite the fanbase. Every time I posted a new snippet, my friends would comment and get into arguments over the story (cough cough hi Mia cough cough). It was one of the best things that has ever happened to my writing.

I really found a lot of great friends with that little fanfiction. Everyone who read it loved Minecraft and would not only talk about the story, but Minecraft itself and the mechanics. That was the best part: meeting people who liked what I liked and were willing to read about it. The community is one of the greatest things about writing fanfiction. You’ll find friends where you least expect them.

I hope that now you’ll be inspired to pick your favorite book series or TV show and write something based off of it! If you do (or if you already have a fanfiction you’re proud of), I’d love it if you sent it to me so I could read it. Just use the contact form in that little menu at the top of this post.

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!