1. May 2017 Life Update – Wedding Planning and Traveling

    May 21, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    Life has really been a sprint lately. I wrote a blog post recently called Adjusting, about how I’m trying to chill out and not run myself ragged, and I thought it might be a good time to check in on that. Really, I’m still exhausted and super busy, but I do think I’ve made incremental changes that are worth noting and celebrating.

    I’m going to run through a few bigger life categories both to catch up on what I’ve been doing, and to measure if I’ve made any sort of positive progress.

    GENERAL: My biggest hurdle in terms of lowering my stress levels and breaking free from the cycle of “always being busy” definitely falls in this personal fulfillment category. This is where I suffer from guilt for not making videos, for not having an Instagram with a strictly defined visual theme, for having cosplay photos on my computer that I’ve never posted anywhere, for never being up to date on all the good new TV shows, for ever watching TV at all, for not having made enough progress on my book… the list can go on forever, if I let it. My goal this year is to not let it. These things are

    These things are bonus. These things are the cherry on top. And I’m slowly learning how to be okay with that.

    Lately, I’m not sure if people have noticed, but I’ve significantly slowed down making YouTube videos. So far I’ve made 6 videos in 5 months, and honestly, I feel great about it. I have a few more that I’ve filmed but still need editing, and I have some ideas for others, but YouTube has become a hobby again in a bigger way than I’ve ever let it before, and it feels really good. Goodbye, shackles!

    I’m trying to keep this blog at least updated a couple times a month, with one of these larger life updates each month. I’ve embarrassingly behind in #wordbound, but that’s becoming a priority again as we phase into summer. My Instagram is still probably my favorite social account, and I try to keep it updated – including doing Instagram stories, which is new for me! That’s been kind of fun. I’m starting to get it.

    I don’t have any cosplay plans until PAX (end of summer), so that’s a relief. That leaves me to happily work on my book for the next couple of months in any free time I carve out. And to just… hang out with Joe. Play games with my friends. Be a guest on a super fun Sailor Moon inspired tabletop stream. Go to the gym. The things I so often had to pass up or feel guilty about doing, before.

    WEDDING: We’re still 11 months out from our wedding, so I am trying to take baby steps. Make incremental progress. I’m a planner to my very core, so I’d always rather over-prepare and then take a breath closer to the deadline than save things for the last minute, but the wedding industry is one of very mixed messages. I wish people would do studies on the pressures of being a bride, seriously. Maybe they do. It’s a very, very weird space.

    Almost every day I am hit with so many opposing points of view. “You have so much time, you don’t need to be thinking about this yet. It’s too early. Your weight is going to fluctuate, you shouldn’t be ordering things yet. This is your day, do whatever you want and whatever makes sense for you. We don’t even need to meet until fall. You have so much time. Literally stop working on your wedding it’s too early.” And in the same breath, I also get, “What is your wedding theme? What are your wedding colors? Why haven’t your out of town relatives gotten save the dates yet? Where are you going for your honeymoon? You know a dress can take 8-10 months to arrive, and then you need another 2-3 months for alterations. You should really have ordered it by now. This day isn’t just about you so here’s the list of seventy-six traditions you should consider doing arbitrarily because that’s what people expect. Where’s your hotel room block?”

    *falls down dead*

    I am a very organized person, and I’m trying to do this whole wedding planning thing at the rate that makes sense for me. It’s very difficult not to lose my mind sometimes, but I already plan events for work and I feel like I am doing an okay job. I’m just going to keep repeating that to myself.

    For inquiring minds, here is my actual progress: At 11 months out, Joe and I have selected our venue and the date. We’ve talked with a friend about designing our save the dates. We have some ideas about fun things we want to plan for during the wedding reception. We’ve mostly selected our wedding party but we haven’t asked them yet. I’ve picked out a dress, even though I had given myself another month or two to make that decision. And now that I have a decided on a dress, I am pretty sure I am set on our wedding colors.

    Now that those things are decided, I think I deserve a tiny break.

    Then we’ll start addressing envelopes.

     

    TRAVELING: Work has been so, so busy lately – so I am extremely happy to have a few trips lined in the coming months. Last weekend, Joe and I went to Vegas with his family, which was a total blast.

    The trip was for a combination of Joe’s mom’s birthday as well as mother’s day, and we did such a unique combination of activities for a Vegas trip. We started with the Beatles LOVE Cirque show, which I’d seen before but not since my 21st birthday. Sidenote – that was a long time ago.

    The next morning we got up very early and headed out to Red Rock Canyon for a morning hike. I was very skeptical of hiking in the desert, but the weather was beautiful and there was a slight breeze, so it was actually kind of a perfect scenario. The trail was pretty bouldery, too – which I think makes hiking a lot more fun.

    We also spent a good amount of time at the pool, in the casino, and eating delicious food. The gambling method of choice for both Joe and I is blackjack and craps, so we partook in just enough that we came home from the trip about even. There were of course jokes and delusions about winning the money for our wedding in Vegas, but unless you can throw a wedding for $-40, that’s a no go.

    One of our biggest regrets is that we didn’t at least try this Dungeons & Dragons themed slot machine. I’m always on the lookout for the funniest slot theme, and this was the trip’s winner.

    I started reading The Book Thief at the pool, and while it’s not the most lighthearted summer read, I’m glad I finally decided to give it a try. I am loving it so far. We also went to an ice bar, where they give you a parka and gloves, and essentially stick you in a very social freezer. Everything is made of ice, including your cup. I would show you pictures, but because it was Las Vegas, we weren’t allowed to take any.

    Only in Las Vegas would they construct a bar made entirely out of ICE in a DESERT and then not even let you take pictures. The whole situation was very, very poetic. Las Vegas is a ridiculous place.

    Upcoming trips include a camping trip for Memorial Day weekend, a jaunt to North Dakota to see relatives, and then a week-long trip to New York a bit later to meet some of Joe’s extended family. I also plan to do some hiking this summer, so I’ll hopefully do blog updates about that as well.

     

    Overall, I’m still a little busier than I’d like to be, but I’m continuing to find the balance. I’m getting there. I don’t think there’s any real “there” to actually ever get though, so it’s just a system of constantly checking in with myself. And right now, I’m okay. 🙂

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  2. April 2017 Life Update – Cosplay, Writing and Disneyland

    April 22, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    It’s been a bit of time without an update, so it seemed like a nice little Saturday morning to laze in bed a bit longer and write a blog post. I haven’t been as active online lately, but I’ve definitely been keeping busy! Especially since the weather has been getting nicer (and then worse, but then nice again – Seattle likes to play hard-to-get) I’ve been feeling more energized and motivated lately, which is always a nice shift. You can feel it in the air.

    Wedding: Luckily since my wedding is still over a year away, nothing feels very stressful or rushed yet. I’m hoping I can space things out enough to keep it that way. Joe and I finally decided on a venue (which is probably why I am so much less stressed about this now – that part was killer) and we’re working on getting save-the-dates made. We also asked my adorable cousin to be our flower girl, so I’m feeling good about our progress.

    Writing: I’m about 7,000 words into my Camp Nano project, which is also the new book I am throwing myself into after deciding to put down the last one. This is not nearly as much progress as I was hoping at this point, but I am still proud of myself for continuing to work on it, and I’m hoping to keep up a regular pace even after Camp NaNo is over. My goal is to have a first draft of this book done by NaNoWriMo proper this year, which feels reasonable to me. That gives me 6 months.

    I’ve still been updating #wordbound each week with new prompts, even though I’m a little behind in actually doing the prompts myself. I’m going to get myself back on track soon, and I’ve been so thankful for the folks continuing to write their stories each week for the prompts. You guys are great.

    Cosplay: While Emerald City Comic Con ended up being somewhat of a non-event for my friends I with regard to cosplay (just 2 rewears) we were planning to go all out for SakuraCon. This year was the 20th anniversary of the con, so many cosplayers chose to go retro anime with their cosplays. We jumped on board this train, finally bringing to fruition a long time goal of cosplaying as the colorful and eccentric Amazoness Quartet from Sailor Moon.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever worked harder on a costume than this one, and the days leading up to the con, it’s all we did after work. My living room was a disaster of ribbons, hair wefts, and fake roses.

    And then, on Friday, I started getting a tickle in my throat. I tried to ignore it, but there it was.

    I woke up on Saturday feeling miserable. But I couldn’t let my quartet down, so I groggily put on my wig cap, glued on my fake eyelashes, and affixed the pieces of my tiny costume to my body. And guys – I looked fabulous. But I felt like death.

    cerecere cosplay, amazoness quartet cosplay, amazoness quartet costumes

    We managed to walk around the con for about two hours (which was about enough time to film a segment for a cosplay music video, go to the Sailor Moon meetup and do our personal photo shoot) before I had to give up and go home. I did not see even an inch of the show floor. And I didn’t end up going back on Sunday (when I planned to wear a new Lolita dress). I absolutely adore SakuraCon, so I was pretty disappointed, but I was so sick. Now we have to figure out somewhere else to wear these costumes because we definitely did not get enough use out of them.

    Work: My job has been keeping me pretty busy lately as well – and as usual I really can’t say much. This is one of the most difficult parts of this job, truly. I am so used to candidly sharing tidbits about my life, but for some reason, I always end up working on projects at Microsoft that are tented, unannounced, or confidential. I still work in HoloLens-land, which is exciting. I’m also shifting focus a bit toward Microsoft’s new mixed reality initiative, which you can read more about here.

    Whenever I can share cool stuff about what I am doing at work, I promise, I will. For now, just trust me – I’m surrounded by awesome technology every day and I feel so lucky. Also, you can follow this Instagram account my team launched if you’d like. It’s gonna be cool.

    Life: My personal initiative to go to the gym at least twice a week took a tiny bit of a backseat because I had to take a week off to finish my costume… and then I got sick, but I already started making up for it by walking around the lake I live by yesterday with Joe. And I’m going to pick it back up again next week when I can breathe normally again.

    Beyond that, I’ve been reading a lot – I read a whole book while I was sick, and Goodreads tells me I am something like 10 books ahead of my reading goal for the year. I specifically set myself a pretty low reading goal this year (only 30 books) because I didn’t want reading to become a stress in any way. And now I’m blowing past the goal, which feels nice!

    I also went to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago with my girlfriends! Jenn had never been, so we needed to right a wrong. We went for two days (one park each day) and I’m pretty impressed with how thorough we were. We hit just about every ride we wanted to, saw the Mainstreet Electrical Parade, the Frozen show and World of Color, hit up two Disney dining experiences and participated in the food and wine fest. It was a solid weekend.

    Standard obligatory Disney jailhouse photo-op.

    belle dress disneybound, live action belle disneybound

    This was the day we decided to disneybound every dress Belle wears in the new live action film. Of course, Gaston was the first person we ran into. Typical.

    anna disneybound, elsa disneybound, anna and elsa

    Eia and I fulfilled a lifelong need to disneybound Anna and Elsa (and seriously, this dress has been hanging in my closet for this sole purpose for YEARS). What better place to immortalize our perfect outfits than in front of the #bluewall?

    It’s funny – when I was in middle school, I went to California Adventure with my friend Stephanie. While we ran around losing our minds on rides, her mom and aunt spent most of the day sitting in the Mendocino Terrace Wine Tasting area, and we thought this was the stupidest way to spend your time at a theme park. Well… my life has come full circle, because we spent at least two hours there on Sunday, mostly because our feet hurt and also wine is delicious.

    We also ate at the Blue Bayou, which was a first for me as well!

    We mostly spent our time shopping, because shopping is great and also Disneyland does that thing where the gift shops are mostly the same but you really have to see them all to see everything. And we decided to be completionists.

    I got sick of wearing that blue Elsa dress about halfway through the day on Sunday so I switched into an entirely new outfit of things I had purchased that day. #noregrets

    Overall it was an amazing weekend of pin trading, spending all our money, eating delicious food and wishing we could do weekends like this more often. I had a great time with my lady friends and I can’t wait for our next getaway.

    Looking forward to summer and some other trips I have coming up with both my and Joe’s families, and I’ll keep updating this blog to keep you all posted on what I’m up to, since I’ve been a little quieter online lately!

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  3. Camp NaNoWriMo Affirmations!

    March 31, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Writing by Kristina Horner

    I didn’t mean to wait until the last minute to do this, but it’s March 31st so here I am.

    Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and it totally snuck up on me. I’ve tried doing the April or June iterations of NaNo a few times now, and I’ve never actually been very successful at it. It’s never had that ~November~ spark for me, like the “real” NaNo does.

    This April, I already have a trip to Disneyland on the books, and a costume I need to finish, and an Anime convention to go to. Things are busy at work, and I’m going to the gym more, and it’s spring so there’s also this underlying desire to spend more time outside – but I’m going to do it. See my previous blog post about why this laundry list of things I’ve already laid out here has has has to be secondary to my goal of writing at least part of a first draft of my new book idea.

    Because after all:

    My Camp NaNo goal is 30,000 words. That’s a big lofty goal for the coming month, but it’s the most important thing so I’ve got to try.

    I’ve been getting a lot of emails from NaNo in preparation for April 1st, and one had a really nice little exercise that I decided to do. I think the intention was probably to do it privately, for yourself, but I thought it would actually be a nice thing to share with others.

     

    “Today, take ten minutes to write three affirmations: one for each of your three biggest fears or anticipated obstacles in starting your April writing project.”

     

    1. I’m afraid I won’t make it to 30,000 words.

    Kristina, that literally doesn’t matter. 30,000 is an arbitrary number that YOU picked and you just need to do your actual best and write as much as you can. Carve out time. Really do it. Whatever happens by the end of April, you can just keep writing in May. <3

    2. I’m afraid I’m going to keep writing books with weak plots and flimsy characters.

    Isn’t that why you’re practicing so much? Isn’t that what practicing is for? Isn’t that why you took that certificate course in fiction writing, to study story structure? Aren’t you already so much better than you were a year ago, and won’t you continue to improve?

    3. I’m afraid people won’t like my books once I finally let them read it.

    This is a big scary one, but you can’t worry about that right now. Just write. If you like it, someone else will too. And you’ll someday have beta readers to help you make it better, and then an agent and an editor to help to help you make it better, and even when it’s the very best it can be some people still won’t like it. But that’s okay. There are people who don’t like Harry Potter. Remember that.

     

    Camp NaNo starts tomorrow! Who’s joining me?

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  4. March Update: Adjusting

    ♥ Posted in: Journal by Kristina Horner

    I’ve been going through a bit of an adjustment lately. I think that’s the best way to put it.

    It’s a few things, actually. I’ve always led a high-intensity life: thriving off of deadlines, challenging myself to fit more things in, trying to be the poster child for “you can do everything!” Then I started burning out. I started to realize I was doing everything but yet feeling like I had little to show for it. I started reading articles about the concept of wearing your “busy schedule” as a badge of honor, and it all sort of coalesced for me in a big ‘for what’?

    I’m learning that’s not actually the life I want. So I’ve been trying to take steps to change it.

    But it’s really not easy to unlearn a decade of bad habits.

    I stumbled upon this quote the other day from Alice in Wonderland, and it really struck me. The quote goes:

    “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

    That’s the world we live in. I finally saw the spinning exercise wheel for what it is, and I am slowly trying to get off. And to do that, I am trying to figure out where I actually want to run twice as fast, so I can slow down the rest of the time. Stop, even. Rest. Read a book. Watch a tv show for once.

    So here are some of my adjustments. It’s a work in progress.

    1. Job: I never wanted to be the kind of person to say this, but my job has somehow, without my noticing, become one of the most important things happening in my life. I started at Microsoft as a sort of personal experiment, because I love learning and I wanted to know what the 9-5 life was like. I wanted to experience a desk job. A corporate environment. Work on a large team of people.

    A lot of people I know right now are quitting their jobs or stepping back from this lifestyle to pursue personal endeavors, a different path – but I’m the opposite. I’ve never done this before. I’ve embraced it later in life. This is my wild step into the unknown.

    And so I spent the first year or so there with one foot in, one foot out.

    I enjoyed the job – I did! But I rarely ever needed to stay late, I wasn’t very emotionally invested in my projects, I read books on my lunch break by myself.

    Now, that’s changed in a lot of ways. I joined a new team over a year ago that started to feel more like a family, and I had a lot more responsibility given to me. Then I was hired as an actual Microsoft employee rather than a contractor, and was entrusted to help hire the folks that would go on to build a whole Community team for Windows. And then my role expanded to become a much more massive version of what I was previously doing, and guys – I really, really care. I don’t know when it happened, but I do. Work suddenly takes up way more of my creative energy than I ever let it before, but I’m doing such cool things that I realized I’m okay with that.

    And while before, I was very adamant about not letting my job keep me from the “creative things I like to do” – now, trying to do both all the time… it’s killing me. There’s too much. And maybe it’s okay if my creative energy gets sucked up by the legitimately really cool things I do at work.

    That realization, for me – was huge. My job is a massive part of my life now. That.. changes things.

    2. Focusing: Now obviously I can’t become an office drone without any outside hobbies. I’m a creator. I make things. That’s never going to stop.

    But it’s time to focus in on the really important stuff.

    When you are kind of writing a book and kind of making videos and kind of doing regular cosplays and kind of running a book club and mostly keeping up with a writing prompt program and maybe writing blog posts and sort of committing to a laundry list of social and digital obligations, are you really doing any of it?

    Kind of?

    Does it feel powerful? Inspiring? Are you doing your best work? No.

    I still don’t have a working solution for this particular problem, but I know the theoretical answer is focusing. If you want to write a book, that means making sacrifices. I used to view those sacrifices as like, dedicating Monday nights to writing and complaining a lot about never having any other time to write – but the sacrifices can’t all be social. They can’t be minor. If you want to do something big and lofty and hard, you have to make real sacrifices. You have to commit. Wanting to write a book might mean sacrificing making regular videos for awhile. Skipping a convention I like cosplaying at. Realizing I will never have an active Facebook fanpage because it’s too much work and I don’t actually really enjoy scheduling regular content for myself.

    But the problem is, I’ve convinced myself that I have to do all these things. That somehow my whole identity is wrapped up in making YouTube videos and if I don’t, I’ll somehow cease to be me.

    Well… that’s bullshit. Because if I’m not even doing any of it very well, what public image or brand am I really building for myself?

    If I had to strip everything away but one, my singular focus would be on writing. The fact that I know that, in my heart and in my mind and in my gut means I owe it to myself to do something about it. So whatever it takes, whatever I need to cut out – I’m going to effing do it.

    I am going to admit I haven’t been taking my personal vow to write a dang book as seriously as I should, and it’s going to happen.

    And that might mean I won’t be around quite as much. It might mean I won’t make as many videos, or respond to emails in a reasonable time frame.

    But I think that’s okay.

    3. New life-affirming extra-curriculars: This is a bit of a departure from the rest of this blog post, but it’s another series of big adjustments that I think is notable enough to include. In trying to build better habits for myself around my personal projects, I started to see… other bad habits. And one by one, I’ve been fixing them.

    I started going to a gym.

    I started seeing a counselor.

    Joe and I cook dinner together, like real food.

    I stopped scheduling out every minute of every day, and I now only put appointments on my to-do list. Everything else (editing videos, finishing that sponsored post, working on cosplay, anything related to my online presence, catching up on email) I can pick and choose (when I have free time) from a casual, separate list. And if it’s not directly related to writing, I’ve decided that it’s all optional.

    These things are making a incredible difference in my life, and even though some of it (gym, regular counseling sessions) actually take up more time.. I’m already finding that the emotional and mental clarity they add to my life more than makes up for that.

     

    So this is why you might not have seen me around as much lately. This is why my Instagram might go a week without a new post. Why my blog posts are sporadic. Why I’ve not been cosplaying as much, or posting as many videos, or even remembering to tweet sometimes.

    I’m trying to do better. I’m trying to do better to the projects I really care about, to my relationships and to myself.

    So far it’s going okay.

     

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  5. Author photo/bio (Wordbound, Week #9)

    March 6, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Wordbound, Writing by Kristina Horner

    Alright. Because of NerdCon, Emerald City Comic Con, wedding planning, and a bunch of craziness at work, I fell a little behind on #wordbound this past month. I’m really trying to be kinder to myself, so I decided to let myself off the hook for a few weeks. I think I am finally on the other side of the madness now though, which feels good.

    I’m going to circle back and do a little catch up pretty soon, but for now, I figured I would skip ahead and actually do this week, because it’s easy and fun.

    The prompt this week was to take an author picture and write an author bio. I didn’t have an actual photographer friend handy, so I stepped away from my desk at work today to take a little author selfie. It’ll have to do, for now. Also, see below for my silly attempt at an author bio.

     

    Kristina Horner is the author of ten successful NaNoWriMo novels, but you wouldn’t know that unless you watch her YouTube channel, because she’s currently published zero of them. She is an aspiring author and life-long lover of words, and is currently working on multiple projects she hopes will actually reach your eyeballs in some sort of reasonable timeframe. Formerly a freelance content creator and musician, Kristina now works full time at Microsoft as a Community Manager. She spends her minimal free time crafting up believable excuses to get out of social obligations so she can stay home and write. She lives in Seattle with her fiance, an embarrassingly large collection of board games, and a menagerie of stuffed animals.

     

    I will be back soon with more actual writing – I’m trying my hand at some short stories this month while I work on the outline for my new(ish) book. I’m planning to share a couple of them, including one that hopefully incorporates a few of my missed #wordbound prompts.

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  6. I made a new video! And it felt great.

    February 20, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Wordbound, Writing, YouTube videos by Kristina Horner

    A few months ago, I realized I had this weight hanging over me that I needed to make regular videos, once a week like I always have, and it was really, really, dragging me down.

    I sort of developed this complex that because YouTube is still my largest audience, it’s the crux of all that I do and I have to keep up with it to make my other projects have value, to keep my other hobbies sustainable in any sort of visible way. I convinced myself that if I didn’t make videos, everyone would forget about me, and no one would care about my cosplay or my writing or anything else I was creating or working on.

    This is an absolutely ridiculous notion, and the moment I realized that, it was surprisingly easy to let it go. I still like making videos, definitely. But I needed to find a way to make it fun again, by taking away the discipline. I needed to let it come naturally, rather than forcing it into any open cracks and crevices in my life like I had for… years.

    Anyhow, I didn’t know that I had President’s day off until a few days ago, which was the greatest gift the universe could have given me. A whole Monday? A whole Monday I hadn’t managed to fill with plans yet? I woke up today and I had a really awesome, amazing thought. I thought, “I should make a video today!” It was such a nice change, to have it be something I was excited and inspired to do.

    So here it is. I think it shows, honestly. This is a video made by a girl who was excited to do it.

    Switching gears… in #wordbound news, I am still catching up on a few prompts I missed while I was sick. If you didn’t catch the fanfiction post I wrote prior to this one, you’re seriously missing out.

    For Week #6, I didn’t actually do any writing with the prompt, but it influenced a medium-sized plot point in the new book I am working on. The prompt was “something gets broken beyond repair“, and I’ve decided that on a road trip, the main character’s younger brother manages to accidently destroy his hand-held gaming device, which completely ruins his plans to spend the whole summer beating a popular new video game all his friends are playing. I’m going to count this as completing it, and cross Week #6 off my list.

    I’m still in the outlining stages of this new book, but I am really enjoying working on it. Things are good. The next couple weeks are a little intense with a lot happening at work, going to NerdCon in Boston this weekend, and Emerald City Comic Con here in Seattle the weekend after – but then things quiet down a little bit for me. And I plan to really dive into a first draft of this book.

    Leave a comment!
  7. Terrible HP Fanfiction (Wordbound, Week #5)

    February 18, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Wordbound, Writing by Kristina Horner

    Okay – as the creator of this concept, it was my goal to not fall behind in #wordbound, but it’s only February and here we are. In Week #5, I just had a surprisingly crazy week and was feeling more emotionally affected than usual by current events, so I missed it entirely – and then in Week #6 I came down with a cold that basically rendered me useless for like six days. Now it’s Week #7 and I’m a little overwhelmed, but I can totally do this.

    But one of the surprising and wonderful things I’ve seen already in this little community is that people are really big on catching up with week’s they’ve missed, so I’m going to go ahead and say that is a TOTALLY acceptable approach. The weeks and deadlines are just guidelines – the real feat is just making sure you complete them all eventually!

    So… now that I am feeling better, I am going to try to power through these puppies. Expect to see more blog posts from me this week.

    WEEK #5: Blogging Prompt: What is something you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve written?

    So I went back and forth on this quite a bit… was it better to show you actual writing I still have lying around from something terrible and embarrassing, or tell you about something even worse that’s long been lost to the depths of digital time and space? I couldn’t decide, so I’m going to do both.

    First things first: I once wrote a fanfic that could only be described as quintessentially Mary Sue-esque that took place at an American Wizarding School that I named Halfmoon Academy. You might think this is possibly somewhat clever – and I still think the name of the school was perhaps a better choice than “Ilvermorny”, but the crucial point here is that this entire wizarding school only existed as a vessel for myself, my middle school best friend, and the two boys we had crushes on to be wizarding students and inevitably fall in wizarding love. This is the only Harry Potter fanfic I ever wrote that didn’t end up on fanfiction.net, because I didn’t even bother changing the names. I just put my best friend and I in all sorts of wacky scenarios in which we would end up spending magical pre-pubescent time with the boys we had crushes on, and we were all excellent at magic, and it was terrible.

    The second thing I want to share with you is another suspension of disbelief piece – I once wrote a fanfic about how they installed an elevator at Hogwarts, for no apparent reason, for the sole external purpose of it breaking down and causing Harry and Ginny to get trapped inside. You know, so they inevitably would confess their love for each other and make out. The funny thing is, this has to have been the very first fanfic I ever wrote, because I actually really don’t like Harry/Ginny as a couple and didn’t even remember a time when I would write them together, so reading this now just adds even more insult to injury. It is also eleven chapters of cringey-goodness.

    Here is a choice excerpt from the piece:

    Harry put his ear up to the wall and shouted, “We’re stuck up here! Get us out!”
    McGonagall shouted back, “Harry? Who else is up there?”
    “Ginny!”
    McGonagall sighed. “Well, we would be able to get you down, but Professor Dumbledore put a spell on the elevator so that students wouldn’t be able to tamper with it with magic. Well, coincidentally, the spell was too strong and not even the teachers can fix it.”
    Ginny rolled her eyes. “So just send Dumbledore out to fix it! I don’t want to be late for my first class!” she shouted.
    “He’s away at a council meeting with the Ministry of Magic at the moment. He won’t be back for a little while. Don’t worry you two, we’ll get you out. It just may… take awhile.” McGongall finished before closing the shaft door.
    Ginny’s heart fluttered. Alone in an elevator? With Harry? “How long do you think we’ll be up here?” she asked him.
    “A few hours at least…” Harry muttered, sinking to the ground.
    Ginny followed, so that she was sitting across from him.
    “Hey, it could be worse,” he joked. “You could be stuck up here with Malfoy!”

    Ironically, every fanfiction I ever wrote after this piece was Ginny/Draco.

    For your convenience, I skipped a lot of boring will-they-won’t-they and fast forwarded to the good stuff. Here’s more:

    Ron sat in the Great Hall, stewing over the fact that Ginny and Harry were alone together in the new elevator. He’d warned her – she had better not do anything.
    He felt his anger getting the best of him. He didn’t know why it bothered him so much, but it did.
    He ran out to the elevator and kicked the door with his foot. “Ginny!” he yelled.
    When he heard no response, he pulled his wand out of his pocket and muttered a few words.

    Ginny heard the thud, and then heard her name being called. Knowing it was Ron, she just ignored it.
    “Harry?” she asked.
    Then the small elevator started shaking.
    “What the-?” Ginny shrieked.
    “Hold on!” Harry called to her, grabbing her hand with his own.
    It kept on shaking violently, jolting them around like popcorn.

    Outside the elevator, Ron was shaking as well. His eyes had an evil gleam to them, and he could hear the elevator shaking inside the shaft. He felt another wave of anger wash over him.
    Was he doing this? What was going on?

    Ginny screamed as the bewitched elevator continued to shake. She felt sick. Harry managed to wrap his arms around her, and they held each other close as they got tossed around.
    “What’s going on!?” Ginny cried.
    Harry was about to say “I don’t know” when a blinding pain struck his forehead. He cried out in pain and his scar felt like it was going to split his face in two.
    “HARRY!” Ginny screamed.
    Then the elevator dropped. It kept falling and falling.
    “We’re going to crash!” Ginny cried, as they plummeted downward.
    Then everything went black.

    Later when Ron wakes up in the hospital wing, he and Hermione have a very dramatic exchange of dialogue:

    “Have they… figured it out yet?” Ron asked, groggily.
    “Figured what out?” Hermione asked him.
    “Who broke the elevator?”
    “They don’t think it was a ‘who’, Ron. They think it was just technical difficulties.”
    “It wasn’t technical difficulties, Hermione.”
    “Come again?” she asked him, confused.
    “I broke the elevator,” Ron said.

    I literally couldn’t bear to the rest of the fanfic, but I assume that Harry and Ginny ended up together, Ron was possessed by Voldemort for whatever reason, and in the end they probably decided to remove the elevator from Hogwarts because it was too dangerous and a terrible idea in the first place? I don’t remember. I wrote this thing fifteen years ago.

    I’ll leave you with this:

    “What happened?” the nurse cried when she saw the unconscious students.
    McGonagall shook her head. “We’re not quite sure. It was an elevator accident.”
    Madame Pomfrey’s eyes widened. “Oh dear.”

    Thank you for joining me in this trip down memory lane, and please leave a comment letting me know if you ever put your characters in similarly ridiculous situations in your own fanfictions.

    See you soon for the Week #6 prompt.

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  8. Crooked + Behoove (Wordbound, Week #4)

    January 31, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Wordbound, Writing by Kristina Horner

    This week, I officially started work on my new project, which is a rewrite of an old project. And it’s going well!

    I also finally made a video to announce #wordbound to my larger YouTube audience, instead of just the folks who read my blog and follow me on Instagram like it’s been for the past month. The @_wordbound accounts have basically doubled in size since that video went live, which is pretty exciting. So many more writing buddies!

    Here’s the video, if you’re interested:

    I wasn’t quite sure how to utilize the prompt this week because I’ve mainly been working on character and setting study for Miniature. Once I feel like I know my characters decently enough, I’ll start on outlining, and then I’ll dive into actually writing – probably in another week or two.

    But I want to keep up with #wordbound, so I decided to finagle the prompt into my development work in a low-key way. I’m going to write a sentence summary of this book using both of my favorite words.

    I’ve had the same favorite words as long as I can remember. I think I’ve been carrying these around with me since at least high school, maybe longer.

    Favorite word #1 is: Crooked
    This has been my favorite word the longest, and I first really took notice of it when I read a book with it as the title as a kid. It’s a beautiful word. It’s not pronounced at all like it looks. It can mean anything from a villainous bad guy to a picture that’s just the tiniest bit askew. I love it so much.

    Favorite word #2 is: Behoove.
    This word is sort of a sillier favorite word choice, but my 9th-grade science teacher used it so much it really grew on me. I wanted to be the kind of person who said behoove instead of one of the many simpler, more boring ways to get the same idea across. Behoove is so wholly unnecessary a word that I love it all the more.

     

    So, here is my summary. I’m keeping it somewhat vague for now, as I continue to work through what I want to share about this book in these very early stages.

    For Allison and Riley, it would behoove them not to ask questions. It would behoove them to shut their mouths, do their chores, and stay out of trouble. That’s what the residents of New Jellico have done for the past fifteen years. But Allison and Riley have always had trouble doing what they’re told, and they’ll stop at nothing to uncover the crooked truth about their strange new town. 

     

    I’m giggling at how vague and ominous this summary is, knowing much, much more about this story than I’m letting on. But stay tuned, if you’re intrigued! I’ll continue to leak more and more as I work on it. Probably. We’ll see. Happy #wordbound-ing!

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  9. How #Wordbound has already changed the game (for me)

    January 25, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Wordbound, Writing by Kristina Horner

    On Monday, I sat down at my normal weekly writing workshop time. My goal was to write at least 1,000 words of my book Delaney Unlaced, and to work in this past week’s #wordbound prompt.

    The prompt was: There is a door. It is closed.

    This week most of my writing buddies were either out of town or home sick, so I ended up not going to the coffee shop we usually meet at. I instead opted to get my writing time in while sitting in the comfort of my own bed… but that’s not what happened. It should have been an easy scene to write, since I was at a part where Delaney fights with her mom through a closed door. Simple use of the prompt.

    But the words wouldn’t come, and I was frustrated about political stuff I had read on Facebook, so I gave myself the night off. “I’ll write on Tuesday,” I told myself.

    Tuesday rolled around, and I had a few other errands I also needed to accomplish that evening. I needed to sign up for new car insurance. I needed to unpack my suitcase from a trip I’d gone on nearly a week prior. I had to get some financial paperwork in order.

    Guys, I did all those things before I even attempted to write. I know that procrastinating writing is a common dance for writers, but car insurance? Nothing is less thrilling than car insurance.

    I was tired, and it was late, so I let myself go to bed without writing.

    This morning, when I was posting the new prompt for the week, I had to really stop and ask myself what happened. Why, when I only invented this whole concept a little over a month ago, was I having so much trouble being #wordbound?

    But then it hit me. I wasn’t having trouble writing. I was having trouble writing Delaney.

    Last week, the short story that I wrote flew from my fingertips. But every time I sit down to work on Delaney, everything just feels wrong, hollow, empty.

    I tried to think about the last time I felt really inspired by this book, and I realized I knew exactly when that was.

    It was November 8th.

    When the world got the news about Donald Trump’s shocking win, I tried to cope by continuing to write. Making art when things feel hopeless is important; it’s a light in the dark. But I started to doubt that Delaney Unlaced was an important enough story, at least for right now. I mean all stories are important, and not every book needs to be in some way linked to the current political climate (obviously), but suddenly I didn’t understand why I was dedicating so much of my time to writing about a person whose biggest problem is not knowing what she wants to do with her life. Delaney is a very privileged person, and part of her journey in the book is recognizing and embracing that privilege to help others – but that’s not really a story that needs to be told right now. That’s not a story I feel passionate about writing, given the world we’re currently living in.

    So today, I decided to stop working on it. Maybe not forever, but at least for now. And I’ll admit: My fingers shook as I symbolically closed the Scrivener file. My eyes filled with tears when I told Joe later over dinner. Because making this decision not only felt like the loss of 2 years of work, it felt like losing a very good friend.

    But I wrote another NaNo novel a couple years back called Miniature that’s been niggling in the back of my mind, and it feels a lot more relevant. It’s something I’m excited to work on again. Something that makes me feel hopeful. So I opened a new Scrivener file, and I called it Miniature Re-write.

    So, this is a little late, but I think I actually succeeded on the prompt for last week after all.

    Goodbye for now, Delaney Unlaced. There is a door. And it is closed.

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  10. Kissing Lessons (Wordbound, Week #2)

    January 17, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Wordbound, Writing by Kristina Horner

    Hey everyone! This week’s #wordbound post is coming in hot, mostly because I’ve been on a work trip since early Monday morning and this has been my first few moments of down time. I actually wrote a short story for this week’s prompt on Sunday, but I needed to do one more pass of editing before I was ready to share it.

    A little backstory: I sat down to work this week’s prompt into the novel I am currently working on, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t do it. So I decided to write something new, which turned into the short story I’m about to share with you in its entirety. After a couple tough months working on my book, it was surprising how easily this story flowed out of my fingertips. Anyhow, I literally don’t think I’ve ever shared this much fictional writing with the internet, so I hope you enjoy. I won’t always share this much, but I’m going to today. Here’s to new things, and to #wordbound!

    This week’s prompt was: “A character writes a secret message somewhere.”

    Kissing Lessons

    My first kiss was a learning experience. No, really! I know everyone probably says that, but mine really and truly was. There were rumors all week about something secret and scandalous happening out back by the old baseball field no one uses anymore, and something about Roger.

    Roger kind of has a reputation, if you know what I mean. Oh, do you not know what I mean? I’m talking about kissing. You must need lessons as badly as I did, if you had to ask about that.

    Anyway, the rumors spread fast, and by Wednesday it wasn’t uncommon to see a steady stream of girls flitting out past the four-square courts, around the tetherball, and straight back to that old baseball field. I don’t think they even used that field when my brother Jimmy went here. And Jimmy’s in college now.

    The girls look like a line of ants, marching off to see for themselves. What is Roger up to? Is it true? Is he really giving kissing lessons?

    I heard from Sarah that he charges a dollar. Emmy said he charges two dollars. I’m not sure if one of them was lying about going over there, or if Roger’s prices have gone up.

    But despite all this, I’m still curious. What’s a kissing lesson all about, anyway? Is it gross? Do I really want to have the same first-kiss as all the other girls at my school? Or will I be inexperienced if I didn’t do it, like how all of Jimmy’s friends went to college except Brian, and now Brian lives in his mom’s basement and talks a lot about his war-gaming miniatures. I don’t even know what war-gaming miniatures are, but Jimmy always gets this sort of sad look on his face when Brian comes up nowadays.

    On Friday at lunchtime, I find my feet taking me out past the four-square courts, around the tetherball, and straight back to the old baseball field. There is one girl, Veronica, standing awkwardly around third base. I give her a small wave, but she seems so nervous she doesn’t even notice me.

    I know at the bank and the doctor’s office you’re supposed to stand back to give other people privacy, and this feels weirdly similar, so I don’t walk any closer than second. I brush dirt off the old, cracked base with my toe, and check my pocket to make sure the two dollars are still safely tucked inside. I had to tell my mom there was a book fair to get money out of her. I hope she doesn’t ask me which book I bought. Wouldn’t she be surprised.

    Erica emerges just then from the dugout, her face flushed. She waves Veronica inside, and I take my place on third.

    “How was it?” I ask Erica, and she shrugs.

    “Weird I guess.”
     
    “But do you like…” I try to convey a largely abstract question with mere eyebrow movement, and Erica doesn’t grasp what I’m getting it. I try again in plan English: “Do you feel prepared now?”
     
    “I guess?”
     
    Erica, you’re never going to get anywhere in life if you just keep guessing about everything. I feel the butterflies flare up in my stomach as she heads back to the courtyard, and then all of a sudden Veronica is walking out too. How long was that? Thirty seconds? I’m not ready!
     
    “You’re up,” Veronica says, finally acknowledging me. I’ve learned from my mistakes with Erica and don’t bother asking her how it went. I take a deep breath, lift my head high and walk into the dugout.
     
    Roger is sitting at the far end, a notebook and envelope beside him. He’s sitting on the bench sideways, one leg tucked under him, and he gestures for me to come over. Then he pats the seat in front of him.
     
    “Did you bring cash?”
     
    I take the two dollars from my pocket and hand it to him. I’m embarrassed that they’re crinkly, but he doesn’t seem to mind as he shoves them into the bulging envelope. 
     
    “Two dollars gets you a full minute.”
     
    “Um,” I say, finally sitting in front of him. I opt for one leg on each side of the bench. He smells like the cologne my dad wears, when he and mom are going out. I immediate associate this scent with babysitters, even though I haven’t needed a babysitter in at least two years. It makes me feel weird.
     
    “I’m your blank canvas. You can practice on me. Use me as your muse,” he says. I have no idea what that means. What’s a muse? When did anyone ever kiss a canvas?
     
    “Are you going to like, teach me anything?”
     
    “Kissing cannot be taught. Kissing must be felt.”
     
    I’ve never kissed anyone in my life, aside from i-love-you kisses with my parents. I know kissing a boy is a lot different, and I’m shocked he wants me to just… go for it. In a dugout. Without any kind of prep. Does my breath smell okay? Why did I have chicken nuggets for lunch?
     
    “Clock starts now,” he says, and sets a timer. A real timer. On his watch. I hear the little beep and everything.
     
    I panic, and instead of thinking – I rush my face at his. Our lips are nowhere near each other, and his nose goes right in my eye. I’m instantly humiliated, but Roger says nothing. His eyes are closed. Thank goodness. 
    I think of the timer.
     
    After a deep breath, I try again. My palms are sweaty and I don’t know what to do with them, so I leave them in my lap. Then I lean forward, make a little pucker motion with my mouth to match Rogers, and touch my lips to his. For a second I am frozen, eyes wide open and way too close to his face, and his warm but sort of chapped lips are unmoving against mine. I don’t think this is what it’s supposed to be like, but I have no idea how to improve upon it. I move my mouth a little, turning a bit to the side like I’ve seen in movies. Then I try parting my lips and it’s a little better, and Roger actually responds by parting his.

    I’m thinking maybe I’m doing it right when his watch beeps again and he springs backward.
     
    “That’ll be all, thank you,” he says, all business. I’m still leaning forward with my mouth slightly open, but he’s already grabbed his notebook and starting to scribble in it. I lean forward to see what he’s writing, but he covers it with his arm.

    He says nothing.
     
    “Do I get any feedback, or whatever? Was I okay?”
     
    He looks up at me, dramatically pausing his note-taking. “You were fine. You get a 50% discount on a second session if you refer a friend.”
     
    “I was fine?” I ask. “I just shared my first kiss with you and all you can say is I was fine?”
     
    “Oh, I wish you’d told me that was your first kiss. I actually charge as extra dollar for first kisses.”
     
    I’m starting to get upset. “What are you writing?” I ask, hands on hip.
     
    “Just some business documentation. You may exit the way you came in. Please send in the next girl.”
     
    I’m mad at him, and so I’m not thinking. He assumes I’m going to leave, but at the last second I pounce and rip the top page from his notebook. He so shocked I even have time to read it before he snatches it back.
     
    “Amelia: kept her eyes open the whole time?!” I yell, incredulous. “You’re taking notes on all of us?”
     
    “Well it’s just good business to keep accurate records of —“
     
    I lunge at him and rip the entire notebook from his hands and start running. As I run around the tetherball and across the four-square courts, I flip through page after page, ripping them out as I go.
     
    Veronica: Beads at the end of her braids kept smacking me in the face
     
    Oh my god.
     
    Erica: Alien tongue
     
    No way.
    Deb: I should refuse service to girls with braces 
     
    Roger is the slimiest of slime buckets.
     
    Samantha: A+ would kiss again
     
    Oh well good for Samantha. 
     
    “Hey! Amelia!” I hear Roger shouting behind me, but I have at least ten feet on him. “Give that back!”
     
    I don’t know what I am going to do with the book. I could try to out him, but I don’t think that’s the best idea. If anyone else sees this, it would just embarrass the girls who trusted him. I don’t want that to happen. 
     
    I just want to end Roger’s kissing career, for good.
     
    He’s gaining on me, so I veer toward the pond at the north edge of the courtyard.
    I’m starting to panic.

    Roger catches up to me and wraps his fingers around my arm, even though there’s people around. I don’t know what else to do, so on a whim, I toss the entire book into the pond.
     
    “You bitch!” He says, and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever been called that. The book sinks below the surface, fading away into the green muck. He stares at it a moment, incredulous, before turning to me.
     
    “It won’t change anything,” he snarls. “I’ll just get another book.”
     
    There’s a few crumpled sheets of paper with names on them still in my hand. He realizes as soon as I do, and I shove them all up my shirt before he can grab them from me. Even Roger wouldn’t be dumb enough to put his hand up my shirt with teachers watching. I think for a moment that Jimmy would be proud of me. He’s been learning about feminism at college, and explained it to me over Christmas. I think he tried to explain it to Brian too, but I don’t think it went well.
     
    “I’ll tell them what you did. The girls. And then we’ll tell the whole school that you’re the bad kisser.”
     
    The color drains from Roger’s face. “That would ruin my whole business.”
    “Exactly.”
     
    He’s having a momentary internal struggle, but then he lets go of my arm. People are starting to stare. “I’ll make you pay for this, Amelia.” His voice is low and serious, but he takes a step back.
     
    “No, you won’t Roger. Because if you stop – right now – I won’t say a word.”
     
    “And if I don’t?”
     
    I grin at him. “I’m not very worried about that, Roger with the chapped-lips.”
     
    He glares at me. He opens his mouth to say something, but then he changes his mind. Then he lets out a frustrated scowl and stalks away. 
     
    I take the loose pieces of paper out from my shirt, rip them into tiny pieces, and throw it all into the recycle bin. I feel light on my feet, and a smile twinges at the side of my mouth.

    For a first kiss… I’m quite proud of myself.

     

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