Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

One of the things that people don’t always understand about me is that I am an intensely visual creature. Many of my high school friends know me as a musician; all of my college friends know me as a writer; most of the people in my life are aware that I am very right-brain, very artsy, very much a creative thinker.

I’m not good at drawing or sculpture or things like that. I can knit. Kind of. And given a pattern and fabric and several days of frustration, I can also sew. But I have an eye for color and I like coloring things. (Adult coloring books are my jam.)

I painted a 9-by-12 mural for my church’s summer camp for teenage girls. The only way I was able to do this was by transferring a grid from a picture onto the canvas and eyeballing approximately where things went inside the grid as I drew my pencil markings. After the penciling came the paint and voila, very large canvas covered in paint.

I don’t consider myself a naturally gifted artist, per se— but I can make art, with time and rulers and a great deal of erasers.

What I am gifted with is color. I have a knack for knowing which colors go well together. Sometimes my choices are— uh, eccentric, to say the least. My sister has a pair of hot-pink tights and I borrowed them once to wear with a dress that is also bright pink— it looked kind of weird, but I got nothing but compliments. I’ve also been told that I am stylish, and I’m very okay with accepting this compliment because most of my style consists of putting on as many accessories as possible to distract from me not wearing makeup or high heels most of the time.

Anyway, I like colors. Give me all of your rainbows. I have a few favorites which I have strongly considered for wedding colors for my as-yet entirely fictional wedding and I thought I would list a few of them here for you. With picture samples, so you get kind of the idea what color I’m referring to if I don’t describe it well enough.

  1. To start with, there’s purple. I’ve always loved purple. Purple is regal and royal and mysterious; purple is elegant and yet whimsical, stately but mischievous. I’m very fond of deep, dark plum purple but I also like pale lavender and lilac colors, as well as bright mid-violet.

    My favorite shade of purple is lilac, as evidenced by the following photo of my fourth-grade Halloween costume.

    The color featured here is “sarah-lilac,” produced by Abramsonola Color Company. Crayola, please don’t sue me. I WAS NINE, OKAY?


  2. Pink is also a favorite. It took me the longest time to admit to myself that I actually do love pink. Pink is soft and sweet and gentle— and yes, it is traditionally associated with femininity, but I believe that “softness” and “sweetness” and “gentleness” are character traits that everyone should strive to master, not just girls. I like all shades of pink, but I am especially fond of magenta.
    Magenta (according to Google

    But I also love pale baby pink, as evidenced by the following photo of my Halloween costume when I was three (and which I proceeded to wear for the next several years, whenever possible.)

    This is a picture of my preschool-ish group, called “Joy School.” My older brother is on my immediate left (your right) as Peter Pan; I have no memory of these other boys. I, of course, am the pretty pretty princess. And yes, I literally wore this outfit for years afterward.
  3. An honorable mention that gets its own entry is the shade of pink known as ashes-of-roses. This color is also known as dusty rose, or sometimes blush. It’s pink with a slightly gray tint added— it isn’t a pure, bright pink. I like this color because I like pink and I like gray and because it reminds me of sunsets and smoothies.

    ashes of roses
    Ashes of roses (according to Google)
  4. I love bright orange. Orange is the only color I consider an acceptable shade of neon. Neon pink, yellow, and green hurt my eyes, and it feels like they’re so trendy right now. But bright orange? Absolutely. If you scroll far enough back through my Instagram feed, you’ll find a picture of my Converse All-Stars—ankle-cut and neon orange.

    neon orange
    Neon orange (according to Google)
  5. Yellow, for me, is hit-or-miss. I’ve already said I dislike neon (highlighter) yellow, and I’m honestly not too fond of a bright, lemony yellow either. But I love me some dark gold. I hate when people call it mustard, because mustard itself is brighter yellow than the harvest-gold yellow I like.

    dark gold
    Dark gold (according to Google)
  6. I like a lot of green, turquoise, and blue. I think most people do— blue is said to be the most popular color of all time. A few standouts for me are: jade, mint, teal, baby blue, royal blue, and navy. (You know, all of the trendy Pinterest wedding colors.)

  7. I have surprised myself and other people by telling them how much I like brown. Some people see brown as dead and boring, but I think brown is so alive. Chocolate brown is always a good one— Hershey’s Milk chocolate does that precise, perfect color that makes your mouth water when you see it. I love a dark, nearly black-brown; I love reddish mahogany brown; I love pale golden-brown. Brown is so PRETTY.

  8. I do love gray, black, and white as well but I am especially fond of gray. There is something so soft and classy about it.

    Gray (according to Google)

I didn’t feel like writing a much longer post than this, so I’m just wrapping this up now. I love colors, and I love looking at the world and seeing all of these colors. (And I apologize to any person who may be color-blind and excluded by this post. I offer you hugs and Internet cookies to hopefully make up for it.)

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


How to Research for a Story

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

In case you’re new, I’m a twenty-something college graduate, currently jobless, suffering from severe depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder. (Yes, I do have actual diagnoses from actual doctors.) I am also single, hopelessly romantic and baby-hungry.

And most importantly, I am a writer.

I see myself as a writer almost before I see myself as a person. I consider this a sort of protection. In a previous post I discussed the concept of Matryoshka Identity, where you have layers of yourself in a Russian nesting doll kind of thing. I have a Professional Worker Sarah layer, and that does include my skills at writing and communication— but Writer Sarah is that deepest doll that I see when I look in the mirror. There are other components to the innermost layer, but Writer Sarah is always what I have seen first. My inner world is my writing world, and so it makes sense that the innermost layer of my Matryoshka Identity is that of Writer.

I like to write fiction. Specifically, fantasy; specifically, romance; specifically, Regency romance. I like to chuck these into a blender to produce what could very, very charitably be called “Jane Austen meets Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Or conceivably, “Tamora Pierce and Elizabeth Gaskell in a blender.”

I don’t know what it is. I like Regency romances because of Fitzwilliam-Darcyesque heroes and Elizabeth-Bennetesque heroines; but I also like magic and swords and things. It only makes sense to me that they ought to be combined.

However, I was born in 1993 and I do not have a native knowledge of the Regency era beyond my many, many readings/viewings of period romance novels and their film counterparts. I also do not know a whole lot about things like swords, horses, or the laws of physics.

Fortunately, the laws of physics tend to take a backseat in fantasy novels, as long as you kind of explain your magic system a little bit. You can allow your characters to shoot fire from their hands and feet, even if they are wearing empire-waist dresses and gold-buttoned jackets that would probably be ruined by heat exposure. There are things you can safely ignore in a fantasy setting, and the readers do not question it.

There are some things that you cannot, however, explain away. There is a very fine line between “Regency romance” and “general historic romance” and when you add a fantasy dimension, the line grows even finer. I have to include some very, very specific ideas to make it clear that this is not just a Historical Romance Fantasy Novel, it is a Regency Romance Fantasy Novel.

This leads me, of course, to do research. I have done some very interesting research in the line of my work.

I will admit that some of it has been about names. Nothing irks me more than to see a character named Jessica or Brittany or Ashley as the heroine of a Regency romance. Lovely names, all of them; but entirely anachronistic to the Regency. In fact, you would be much more likely to read about a man named Ashley. (Because it was a man’s name originally.) Regency names are Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Anne, Sophia, Louisa, Caroline, Emma, Catherine, Eleanor, Margaret, etc… classically English names with some influence from Greek (left over from the Classical revival), French, and German. When I write a heroine, I want her name to be a little different. I have to find something with English, Greek, French, or German history that doesn’t sound completely anachronistic. Some examples of names for heroines I’ve used are: Ludovica, Rosamond (nn Rose), Beryl, Cecily, Sylvia (nn Sylvie), and Sophronia (nn Sophy). A little on the quirkier side— but not completely out of place.

But there are other things I have to research. For your entertainment, allow me to provide you a brief list of things I have Googled for the sake of writing:

  • Public restrooms during the Regency era
  • Boiling water for childbirth
  • Rules of chess
  • Sections of a pirate ship
  • Average height and weight for a child by age
  • Mattresses in the Regency era
  • Forms of address in the Regency era
  • Card parties
  • Bourdaloue
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables by month
  • Gunshot wound entry patterns
  • Funeral customs in the Regency era
  • How many miles can a horse travel in one day

I could go on, but you get my point. It’s a lot of weird, random things and it’s the things you don’t think about in Pride and Prejudice: where did Lizzie Bennet go if she had to pee during church, or at the public assembly hall? (The answer is, if you’re curious, nowhere. Instead, a female servant would have brought her a bourdaloue, which is basically a little gravy boat that she would stick under her skirts and pee into. She would then hand off the full container to the servant, who would go dump it. Bourdaloues are actually really pretty. They were often made of porcelain and hand-painted. I sort of want one. Not to pee in, just to stick on the mantel and look at, like a knick-knack.)

The point is that I do a lot of weird research. It’s sort of something that happens as part of being a writer. And I learned how to research in college, so I know what I’m doing. It’s not just Google and Wikipedia— I go to the blogs of the Austen historians, the people who are obsessed like me, who have actually done book research and written articles. I look for the PDFs of whatever they’re citing.

You can find a lot just by using Google, though. It’s a very specific time period that I tend to research, and there is a lot of information available. I have a few websites bookmarked about types of wood, breeds of horse, and gemstones, flowers, and birds.

The more research I end up doing for a story, the more I end up falling in love with that story and finishing it. The things I find most fascinating are little things— peeing into a porcelain gravy boat, for instance. Or the fact that people tied rope to the bottom of a bedframe in place of a boxspring. Or the fact that people were playing blackjack long before it was called blackjack. Or the steps of a quadrille.

This is how I research for a story, anyway. It’s not really a how-to guide; it’s just a bit of insight into the way I write.

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


i Things That Give Me Anxiety

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

A couple of days ago was Pi Day. This isn’t a super significant thing in my life, though I did have a roommate in college who always made a couple of pies because she is a fantastic baker and loves math. She still makes them, too. I just saw pictures on Facebook and now I want pie.

The desires of my stomach aside, however, I have a vaguely mathy post for you today. It’s not about pi, though that would be cool. It’s about pi’s only slightly lesser-known cousin, i.

(Okay, it’s not really about i either, it’s about anxiety but there’s a connection so give me a hot minute to explain myself.)

Pi is what is known as an irrational number. I have not ever considered myself a math person; the closest I got to being a math person was barely passing the AP Calculus test in high school and therefore testing out of my math requirements in college. However, I am fairly certain that one of the defining traits of an irrational number is that you can’t write it into a simple fraction that accurately represents ALL of it. I think this is mostly due to the fact that pi doesn’t end. You get infinite decimals that can be written into fractions— .3333333333 etc can be written as 1/3, and my favorite, .142857142857 etc can be written as 1/7. (It’s my favorite because I am .142857 etc of a family, and since I believe we’re an eternal family the infinite decimal thing is sort of fitting.) 1/3 and 1/7 are rational numbers; pi is not, and neither is the square root of 2, for instance.

You have rational numbers, you have irrational numbers— and then you have imaginary numbers.

To me, imaginary numbers are to math as quantum physics is to science— I’m not entirely sure that they’re not Just Making Things Up. However, I did learn enough math to know one imaginary number, called i. This number, i, is the square root of negative one. Or, if you prefer the notation with symbols, i = √-1. Yes? Any questions? It’s okay, me too. I have all of the questions. I can’t wait to ask God how to write i in numbers.

We don’t really know the exact numerical value of i. At least, I didn’t learn it in any of my high school math classes. But i x i = -1 and I don’t think the point of it is to make sense. It’s just a stand-in for a value we don’t yet know.

So i is an imaginary number, and imaginary numbers are by definition not rational. You can’t write i into a fraction that expresses its entire value— mostly because it doesn’t really have one.

Now we get to the part where it relates back to me and my anxiety, because this blog is about me and not math.

Anxiety, much like i and pi and √2, is not rational. As it is a noun and not a number, it also cannot be expressed as a simple fraction. If there were some way to state “Life, divided by Stressful Situation, equals Anxiety,” then I would try and make it cute and mathy for you; but the thing is that it’s different for everyone. There is no Formula. There is no Equation. There is no Law or Theorem or Rule or Pattern for how anxiety works.

There are people in the world who will say that anxiety is imaginary, like i. These are the Lovely Sorts Of People who also tend to say things like, “Well, why don’t you just decide to be happy and calm?” or “You know, other people have it so much worse than you do.” These people believe you are making up a legitimate medical condition for attention. These people believe that even if it is a real illness, you aren’t supposed to talk about it or ever admit you have it because it’s got the social stigma of Mental Illness, and you Just Don’t Talk About It because it’s Not Polite.

The thing about anxiety is that it tries to convince me it’s imaginary already. “Do you really have anxiety, or are you just worried? Do you really have anxiety, or do you just not want to do whatever thing you’re supposed to do?” I don’t need other people trying to invalidate me. I already invalidate myself constantly, thanks.

There is physical proof for my anxiety, which is something I have to remember when my mind is trying to invalidate me.

When I am experiencing anxiety from outside sources such as Facebook and other social media, I tend to bite my nails a lot. It’s a terrible habit and I’ve never gotten out of it because I have had anxiety for a very, very long time. I’ve probably had it far longer than I believe I have. I would go so far to say that I have had it since I was a child, but I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t know how it manifested in my life until fairly recently. Besides nail-biting, I also end up picking at the skin and cuticles right around my nails, and I also end up doing this to my face and picking at the acne. When I need proof for my anxiety, I just go look in the mirror. It’s all right there. When I need proof, I look at my hands and am reminded that playing the piano or typing with bitten-to-the-quick nails is kind of painful.

When I am experiencing anxiety from social situations, I get physically sick. I don’t actually throw up, but I do often get nauseated. My stomach hurts, and I feel like I want to throw up but can’t, because throwing up would promptly relieve the stomach pain, but I don’t actually need to throw up. If psychosomatic nausea is a thing, then it’s a thing I get because of anxiety.

When I am experiencing anxiety about some internal crisis, I tend to sleep poorly. The last few days have been very Weathery in Pennsylvania; we’ve had about a foot and a half of snow and everything is cancelled. My brothers haven’t had school for three days in a row, we haven’t had evening church activities, my mom had to cancel half her piano lessons, etc, etc. Everyone has been spending time at home, and I haven’t needed to go anywhere and my sleep has been awesome. When I’m worrying about something— when I don’t know what to do with my future, when I can’t find a job, when I have a bad day— my sleep is terrible.

I’m sure there are other categories, and I will bet you anything that with some more self-evaluation I could probably pinpoint exact behaviors to exact situations; but there are a lot of things that cause me to experience anxiety. I’m going to provide you with a fairly brief list. Unnumbered, because anxiety isn’t rational. Some of the things on the list you will probably read and think, “Wait, really?” Yes, really. I’ve been getting to know my body and its responses, and this list has things that cause my body to respond in a manner consistent with anxiety.

The point is, the list isn’t rational. Anxiety isn’t rational. I don’t know how many times I’m going to say that in this post. Let it sink in. Anxiety isn’t rational.

  • Going to any social event that may involve speaking
    • Subcategory: Church, weekly
    • Subcategory: Institute, weekly (when I go, that is)
    • Subcategory: YSA activities, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Shopping or errand-running, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Public speaking, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Teaching Relief Society, monthly
  • Getting crushes on boys
    • Subcategory: Being in the same room as said boy
    • Subcategory: Talking to said boy
    • Subcategory: Trying to decide whether said boy likes me back
    • Subcategory: Telling the boy I like him (if I tell him, which usually I don’t)
  • Performance
    • Subcategory: Choir practice at church
    • Subcategory: Accompaniment in general
    • Subcategory: Performance in general
    • Subcategory: Violin
    • Subcategory: Vocal, with my sister
    • Subcategory: Vocal, alone
  • Driving
    • Subcategory: Rush hour
    • Subcategory: Highways and Interstates
    • Subcategory: Changing lanes
    • Subcategory: Other drivers
    • Subcategory: Driving somewhere I’ve never been before
    • Subcategory: Getting lost
    • Subcategory: Inclement weather
    • Subcategory: Driving at night
  • Specific people
    • Subcategory: A person I completely cut out of my life five years ago, further details unnecessary
    • Subcategory: People who ask me too many questions
    • Subcategory: People who dislike or resent me (I always know. Always.)
    • Subcategory: My father
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing finances or my bank account
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my sister
    • Subcategory: My mother
      • Subsubcategory: The “do I really have to do the dishes” conversation
      • Subsubcategory: The “whoops I forgot this song has a swear word in it” conversation
      • Subsubcategory: The “given any media there is probably gay fanfiction of it” conversation
    • Subcategory: My older brother
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Literally every Facebook post ever
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my sister
      • Subsubcategory: Mental illness
    • Subcategory: My sister
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my older brother
      • Subsubcategory: Religious discussions
    • Subcategory: Extended family
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Religious discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Feminism and LGBTQ+ activism
  • Cooking
    • Subcategory: Using/opening the oven
    • Subcategory: Mistakes
    • Subcategory: Preparation
  • Looking for a job
    • Subcategory: Seeking perfection
    • Subcategory: Overqualification and boredom
    • Subcategory: Lack of qualification
    • Subcategory: Relocation
    • Subcategory: Phone calls
  • Dating
    • Subcategory: Variety
    • Subcategory: I AM GOING TO DIE ALONE
    • Subcategory: Relationship > dating but dating has to happen first
  • Future Events
    • Subcategory: Childbirth
    • Subcategory: Raising children through depression
    • Subcategory: My parents
    • Subcategory: My sister, who has epilepsy
    • Subcategory: My second-youngest brother, who has autism
    • Subcategory: Being an orphan
    • Subcategory: Terminal illness
  • Body Image
    • Subcategory: Acne
    • Subcategory: Yellow teeth
    • Subcategory: Hair
  • Self-esteem
    • Subcategory: Dying alone
    • Subcategory: Depression
    • Subcategory: Fear of activism
    • Subcategory: Slippery slope
    • Subcategory: Loneliness
    • Subcategory: Uniqueness
  • Writing
    • Subcategory: Courage to submit work for publication
    • Subcategory: Criticism
    • Subcategory: Fame
    • Subcategory: Money

Some of these you may find relatable. I have been assured that many people worry about dying alone, and that many people do not like driving in inclement weather, and that many people hate making phone calls.

And some of them, like using the oven, are probably… less relatable. I only know one other person who has a problem with using the oven. But I really don’t like it. Turning it on, fine. Opening it and putting things in and taking them out— bending over, hot air on your face, your center of balance is off, usually the thing going in and coming out is kind of heavy and what if you fall over on the oven door and sustain third-degree burns all over your face and hands and have to be rushed to the emergency room and have skin grafts taken from your butt— okay, I need to stop. Let’s just say I Don’t Like It.

Don’t try to make sense of this list. It’s just a thing I wanted to share. And I know I tend to overshare (though I have a lot of worries about sexual activity and bodily functions which I left off the list, you’re welcome), but this doesn’t feel like oversharing to me. This feels like me letting out a few secrets, a few carefully selected burdens. This feels like me saying, “I’m afraid of these things, or they make me worry, or they make me feel sick, or they make me bite my nails.” My hope is to end some of the stigma around anxiety by sharing these things. My hope is that you might look at this list and see something that you relate to, whether it’s because you have anxiety or you simply dislike the concept.

Anxiety is not rational, but this list is proof that it’s not imaginary, either. See you next time.

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.