Nostalgia, Tolkien, and Sailor Scouts

Lately I feel like I’m living my teen years all over again. (Which is convenient, since I write YA fiction!) Not because I’m feeling especially adventurous or hormonal—although to be honest, I didn’t feel like that much as a teenager either—but because some of the stories I loved when I was a teen are being reborn.

For me, junior high was all about Sailor Moon. I fell in love with the show when I was thirteen. I’d never seen a show—or story of any kind—with such a large female cast. It had all sorts of girls: clumsy, smart, poised, sweet, bold, reserved. It inspired and captivated me. To this day, my love for Sailor Moon reminds me to make the characters in my stories diverse, with all kinds of different personalities.

And now Sailor Moon’s back! A brand-new anime is being released, called Sailor Moon Crystal. The story is based on the manga (a.k.a. comic book) version, and the art is gorgeous. I’m really enjoying it so far… And the feeling of nostalgia is priceless. You can watch it on Hulu for free here.

My high school years were all about The Lord of the Rings. I saw Peter Jackson’s version of The Fellowship of the Ring in December of my sophomore year, and it changed my life (and my taste in literature). I devoured the books that spring, and eagerly awaited the next two movies, loving each one more than the last. To this day, The Return of the King is probably my favorite film. It gives me chills, it makes me happy-cry—and it reminds me why I love to read and write in the fantasy genre.

Which is why I am beyond excited to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies next month! Getting to watch new movies based on Tolkien’s work has been so much fun. And delicious nostalgia aside, the new films are great. I like how they’re an “extended version” of The Hobbit novel, with so many tie-ins to The Lord of the Rings. (Though that might be my undying love for the Fellowship talking.)

All told, I’ve enjoyed the chance to witness the rebirth of some of my favorite fictional worlds over the past few years. It’s a fun coincidence—and reminds me of how I came to love stories so much, as well as the decision I made to create stories of my own.

Funnily enough, I spent most of junior high drawing an original comic that was pretty much a Sailor Moon knockoff. The first fantasy novel I ever wrote was a Tolkien-esque tale set in a world with four different races. Granted, they weren’t dwarves, humans, elves, and orcs… But the inspiration was obvious. I owe my start as a storyteller in part to these two fictional universes. It makes me wonder how these latest incarnations might inspire a new generation of storytellers.

(And then I remember that Star Wars VII has yet to come out, and how I spent my years in elementary school running around with a plastic lightsaber and a cape, and I realize that this cycle will keep going for many years to come.)

Teatime Tuesday #6

Another quick post for Teatime Tuesday! I shared a pot of tea with my sister today. We used her new tea set, which she purchased a few weeks ago from Modcloth. It’s small and shiny and completely adorable.



For our tea, we shared a flavored black tea called Hua Ki, which was blended by a Japanese tea company called Lupicia. They make delicious teas, especially the fruit-flavored ones. This particular tea is a Hawaiian-inspired blend, and it’s flavored with apple, mango, papaya, pineapple, and cranberry—among other things! Despite the complexity of this tea, it has a really satisfying and balanced tropical taste.


And now I will leave you with a photo of the reason my sister was so drawn to her new tea set… Her sweetheart of a cat, Julian. (Who, I am honored to say, was named after her favorite character from one of my stories.)

Julian, my sister's cat!

Thanks for joining us for tea!

Teatime Tuesday #5

It’s teatime again! Today I’m drinking an herbal tea, Honeybush Apricot, from one of my favorite companies, Adagio Teas. (One of my generous followers on Steepster sent me a sample of this during our recent swap!)

Honeybush Apricot & Ginger Molasses Cookie!

Honeybush is a close cousin to rooibos, which is sometimes called “red tea”–though it’s not technically tea. (That’s why herbals are often called infusions or tisanes instead.) Like all herbals, honeybush is caffeine-free. It’s lighter and sweeter than rooibos, but it still has a peppery, medicinal sort of taste. The apricot flavor in this one makes it sweeter, and to me, more drinkable.

I paired it with a ginger molasses cookie from Paradise Bakery, because they’re in season and also my favorite.

Thanks for joining me for tea!

So, About Owls.

I have a slight obsession with owls. I collect all kinds of stuff with owls on them: jewelry, mugs, plush toys, you name it. I started the collection about five years ago. Now, owls litter my bedroom. Each holiday, I can count on receiving a few presents that are in some way owl-related. I once arrived in L.A. for an SCBWI conference wearing an owl print dress, toting an owl purse, and decked out in various pieces of owl jewelry—only to meet up with my critique partner in our shared hotel room and say, before anything else, “Yeah, the owl thing’s kind of gotten out of control.”


Some random pieces in my collection. (Sadly, these are not the only owl plush toys I own.)

Owls resonate with me for a lot of reasons. In Western culture, they have a connection to the Greek goddess Athena—and to wisdom and scholarly pursuits in general. In folklore, they have darker associations, with vampires and witches and a shape-shifting creature called a strix (which features in my latest manuscript). Plus, Harry Potter is cool. And stuff.

Honestly, though, the main reason for my obsession is personal. In January 2009, I went through something of a creative crisis. (That might be an understatement.) I had just completed my first full-length original novel, seven years in the making. A week later, I learned it was pretty much unsalable—not because it needed editing, but because someone else had just published a novel with the exact same premise (and the same major plot twist). I didn’t want to change the story entirely, so I shelved it instead. At the time, I didn’t have any more ideas. I seriously considered giving up.

Then inspiration hit, and I was writing again. (Note to writers: It’s devastating to have to shelve a novel that you love. But it also frees up your brain to think of new, better ideas.) I was up late, night after night, drafting a new manuscript that excited me. And on many of those nights, I heard an owl hoot outside my window. As time went on, I came to think of him as my late-night companion. I felt a kinship with this fellow “night owl” who sat in a tree and talked to himself for hours, alone in the darkness. (Pretty much how it feels to draft a novel.)

I heard this owl many times over the next few years. I learned he was a great horned owl, based on the cadence and tenor of his hooting. My sister even caught a glimpse of him flying over our backyard once.

This summer, I moved to a new house. I was sad to leave my owl friend behind, the companion who had stayed up with me during so many late-night writing sessions. Then a week after we moved in, my family mentioned they had seen an owl perched on the gate of our new house. And a month ago, I heard it for the first time: the hoot of a great horned owl outside my bedroom.

I guess you could say I think of owls as kindred spirits. I collect owl stuff as a tribute to my late-night buddy—and as a reminder to keep creating. Because even when the world is dark, and you’re alone, you can still work to achieve your goals, and do something that really matters to you.

And maybe you’ll find some friends in the process, feathered or otherwise.

Teatime Tuesday #4

Short post today! It’s been a busy week, but I wanted to make sure to post the photos from teatime this afternoon.

Teavana roasted oolong

Today I steeped an old favorite, a roasted oolong from Teavana. This particular tea has been discontinued, but I heartily recommend oolong teas in general. Some are greener and more floral, and some are roasted and dark. I especially like to drink the roasted ones during this time of year. (Speaking of which, the weather here in Phoenix is finally cooling down! Huzzah!)

Tea and cupcake!

I also had a dark chocolate cupcake, courtesy of my sister. It spent a few nights in the fridge, so the frosting wasn’t as creamy as the first time I had one, but it was still darn tasty.

Tea and cupcake again!

That’s it for teatime! More posts coming soon.