10 Things You Need To Know About Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

If you follow me on Instagram, you know by now that I just returned from an AMAZING one-week adventure in Los Angeles, California. It was my very first time in the state (okay, once in high school I had to catch a connecting flight in LAX, but I never left the airport so it doesn’t really count). I was certain I’d love California, but I wasn’t sure if I’d love LA. I knew my blog buddy Megan at The Nerdy Girlie loved it (which by the way, if you haven’t heard about her 100 Cups of Coffee book project, you should check it out), but I wasn’t sure if it’d be my style.

Let me just tell you that LA is definitely my kind of city. It’s beautiful, and it’s got such a unique vibe between that California cool and breezy beach vibes with the excitement and bustle of a big city. Yeah, traffic can be rough, but it is worth it to get to spend time in such a cool place.

While there were so many amazing things to see (which I’ll talk about in later posts), one of my favorite experiences from the trip was visiting Universal Studios Hollywood. Of course, visiting a popular theme park can be a bit of a daunting task. Navigating crowds, deciding which lines are worth the wait, and maximizing your fun can feel like a big job when all you’re wanting to do is spend some time hanging out with some of your faves from Universal flicks. So to help you maximize your time at Universal, here are five things you should know before you head to the park:

Everyone will tell you Universal Orlando is better. Don’t listen to them.

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For some weird reason, when you tell people you’re planning to hit up Universal in Hollywood, their knee-jerk reaction will be to tell you that they’ve either heard or they think Universal Orlando is better. Now to be honest, I’ve never been to the park in Orlando, but I can tell you that Universal Hollywood is a blast. I’m sure the park in Orlando is larger with more attractions, but you’re going to have loads of fun at the Hollywood park. So when people say that to you, just shrug and tell them you’ll have fun regardless. Because you will.

Download the Universal Studios app.

I’m always dubious when places tell me to get their companion app. Space on my phone can be precious, so I don’t want to waste it with useless apps. In this case, you definitely want the app. It certainly won’t make or break your time at the park, but with a live update of line lengths and an interactive map, it makes finding your way a lot easier. We were able to maximize our time at the park and seriously minimize our time in line thanks to that app.

Go to Ollivander’s first.

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I’m sure by now that you’ve heard of the fun wand-choosing experience at Ollivander’s. It’s a super brief encounter, and only one person is chosen to experience a wand choosing them (and it’s usually a kid, so don’t get your hopes up adult Potterheads). Still, it’s utterly magical and it’s a really well-made experience. The thing is, it’s a shorter encounter, but the lines can be LONG waiting to get in. So when you first arrive in the morning, head straight to Ollivander’s and experience that first. You’ll still have to wait in line (it’s inevitable, folks), but the line will most certainly be longer as you get into the afternoon.

If you can, go when school is in session.

Guys, the longest I waited for a ride was about thirty minutes. Truly. My guy and I went on a Tuesday when school was in session, and while there were definitely kids there (there are always heaps of people), we seriously lucked out in every single ride. We got to go on just about everything twice (and Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey three times, because HARRY POTTER, y’all), and we stayed til the park closed. I can’t promise you similar results if you go on a school day–the park is always packed, regardless of school and work days–but it’s a bit less chaotic when most people are at work or school.

Buy your tickets ahead of time online.

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Seriously. It’s cheaper, you don’t have to wait in line, and it allows you admission into the park one hour early to check out the Harry Potter world. Listen, I’m not a morning person at all, but getting to access the Harry Potter stuff an hour early made everything extra special. While there are still a good number of people there early, the crowds were a bit smaller so I was able to take my time, really enjoy Hogsmeade, and take some fun pics of the attractions without worrying that I was getting in the way of everyone.

Definitely do the studio tour.

As a huge movie buff, I was stoked to see stuff like the Universal backlot. However, if getting to see the house from Psycho doesn’t fill you with childlike glee, you might be tempted to skip the studio tour. Don’t. It’s so much more than just a standard backlot drive-through. I won’t give away any spoilers, but it is one part tour one part immersive experience. I had a blast, and I know you will, too. Plus, it’s just rad to see the Psycho house. I don’t care who you are.

Watch Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Megatron pose for pictures

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Even if you aren’t interested in getting a picture of you next to a very realistic-looking Transformer, you should definitely hang around to watch them pose for pictures. While Bumblebee’s words are understandably limited to whatever he can pull from pre-recorded audio, Optimus and Megatron spend their photo op time posing for pictures and talking to the crowd. Obviously, Optimus goes for the inspirational route, which is fun to see, but Megatron goes back and forth between antagonizing the audience and coercing them to join the Decepticons. It’s quite fun to watch, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Don’t prioritize the Shrek 4D experience.

If you’re a huge Shrek fan, then you’ll have loads of fun. Even if you aren’t, it’s a good time. However, the Shrek experience is one of the older rides, so the tech behind it is just not as impressive as experiences like the Transformers ride or Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey. So unless Shrek means a lot to you, I’d put it a bit lower on your ride priority list.

Even if the lines are long, Universal makes waiting fun.

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With the exception of just a couple attractions, Universal does a great job integrating the line into the actual attraction. So even though you’re waiting, you get to see awesome set pieces from the show or movie, and often times you get introduced to the story line behind your specific ride–it’s never as simple as something like “let’s pretend you’re in the first Transformers movie!” So be sure to look around and listen to any videos or recordings that they have playing while you wait. There’s lots to see and hear!

Be sure you look properly terrified in The Walking Dead walkthrough experience

The TWD attraction is essentially a zombie-themed haunted house. So once I realized that, I applied haunted house rules to the attraction, and got a bit nervous (if you’ll recall, I am not a fan of haunted houses). So I reminded myself of things like, the actors can’t touch me, I’m allowed to run through the experience if I’m too scared, and realizing that the chicks directly in front of me would likely feel the brunt of the jump scares. However, once I got in, the whole attraction was so cool, and the walkers looked so true to The Walking Dead that I just became utterly delighted. So I started going through the experience with a stupid grin on my face. This clearly frustrated some of the walker-actors, and they started jumping back out to scare me a second time. So my advice to you is, even if your heart is filled with blissful, walker-loving glee when you go through the attraction, make sure your face conveys the appropriate amount of terror to keep those walkers in check.

What are some of your Universal Studios Hollywood tips? What should I know when I’m able to make it to Universal Studios Orlando? Let’s talk theme parks in the comments! 

Making 2017 a Healthier Year with Geek Girl Strong

If you’ll remember from my big “New Year’s resolution” post, I didn’t really do much in the way of New Year’s resolutions. I didn’t pick a word of the year, and I didn’t make that many clear resolutions. Instead, I wanted this year to be a year where I fought back against the negativity, unhealthiness, and injustice in my own life and those around me. After a year of struggling with both my mental and physical health, one of my big ways to fight back in 2017 is making healthier habits.

If you’ve been around here long, you’ll know that I do ballet several times a week. I love it, but apart from choosing to strap on my pointe shoes a few times a week, I don’t make many other healthy choices. And while there are many awesome gyms like NerdStrong in LA, I don’t have as many cool options like that in Colorado. That’s why I’m super excited about the Geek Girl Strong challenge that is kicking off on February 19th and runs through the 25th. If you live in NYC, chances are you’ve already interacted with these awesome women, but now those of us outside of the Big Apple will also get a chance to join in the fun.

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What I love about this challenge is it’s meant to train you to make healthier lifestyle choices, not to drop a crazy amount of weight in a super short time. This is truly something that teaches you to care for yourself so you can feel better every day, and helping you find your own inner, superhero strength. I’m all about that.

Geek Girl Strong is headed up by Stormy Riot, and she’ll be spending those weeks sending out weekly emails, offering webinar invites, an invitation to the Live 1up Results Master Class, and give you access to the growing and supportive Geek Girl Strong community, among other things. Plus, I’ve also heard that the workouts have marvelously fun, nerdy themes to really help you get into that superhero frame of mind. It’ll be a time to learn, support one another, and ask those questions you’ve been dying to ask about taking care of yourself.

I’ll be joining in the fun, and you should too! If money is an issue, don’t freak out. This is a pay-what-you-can online challenge, so don’t let a tapped out bank account be the barrier between you and realizing what a badass superhero you truly are! I’m really excited to take part in this challenge, and I’d love it for you to join me!

Have you ever tried the Geek Girl Strong Challenge before? What tips do you have for a newbie? Let me know (and tell me if you’re taking part this year) in the comments! 

4 Ways to Fight Writer’s Block–Especially When Writing Pays Your Bills

I’ll be honest. I’ve felt completely drained of any words lately. It’s a melodramatic thing to say, I know, but it’s the best way I can describe how I’ve been feeling. I can’t point to any one thing that has drained me of my words. It’s a mix of the shitshow that was 2016, working myself too hard (for those keeping score at home, I have one full time job, four part-time gigs, ballet class, and this blog), personal stuff that led to my anxiety and depression coming on STRONG, and the very natural ebb and flow of creative inspiration. Still, as someone who pays some of her bills with her writing money, feeling tapped of inspiration can feel frightening. So here are some ways that I both fight writer’s block:

Remain calm

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This one is the hardest for me to remember when I’m going through a writer’s block. Whenever I feel creatively tapped, regardless of the reason, I always fear that this writer’s block will be THE writer’s block. I’ve used all my words, and my writing days are over. It’s easy to feel panicked when you feel like you’ll never string a solid sentence together again in your natural life. Regardless of where the creative dry spell is coming from, try to keep your wits about you. This won’t last forever, so don’t make things worse by freaking yourself out.

Keep writing, even if you’re phoning it in.

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If you’re writing for money or just writing for the joy of it, but especially if writing is paying your bills, don’t let a creative dry spell stop you from writing. You may not produce your finest work during this time, but keep trying to string words together. This is easier if you write for a place that sends you pitches, but even if you don’t and you can’t even strike up an idea to get a pitch approved, still try to write something. Even if it’s nothing more than errant words, stream-of-consciousness thought, journaling about your day, or doing word games to keep working that part of your brain out. It’s a bummer to pitch to your editor and repeatedly get ideas shot down, but try not to let it stop you from writing completely.

Spend time with things that inspire you.

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For me, when I’m feeling a persistent bout of writer’s block, my gut instinct is to either feel defeated by it or to spend all of my free time staring at a blank Word doc as I wait for Lady Muse to stop by. I can’t help but feel I shouldn’t spend time watching shows or reading books. It feels like wasted time. However, for me, most of my inspiration to write comes from engaging in content that gets me excited and inspired. For instance, I got the idea to start this blog simply because I wanted to have a place to unabashedly talk about the show Supernatural. So whether it’s a show, movie, book, or something else entirely, spending time engaging in stories that inspire you–time where you’re just there to enjoy it, no strings attached–is a great way to recharge your creativity tanks.

Move Around

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This is important for anyone who has a largely sedentary, solo job to remember. However, it’s extra important when you’re feeling creatively drained. Remember to give yourself good chunks of time to be active. It’s easy to get a bit of tunnel vision when you’re fighting writer’s block, so getting away from your computer, maybe even going outside and moving around for a while can help broaden your scope. I have a lot of walking trails by my house, and I love to walk around the trails for long chunks of time and let myself daydream wildly. Even if I don’t come back with a cure to the block, I feel more creatively recharged.

Writer’s block is a bummer, and when it interferes with how you pay your bills, it can be downright scary. The important thing to remember is that writer’s block and feeling creatively drained are just seasons in your life–you haven’t run out of words, and you are going to be able to write something you’re proud of soon. Just give your brain the space to breathe, do what you need to in order to recharge your creativity, and be sure you’re taking care of yourself.

How do you fight writer’s block and creative dry spells? Tell me your tips in the comments! 

5 Things I Want to See in the Will & Grace Revival

If you haven’t heard, Will & Grace is officially returning to NBC for a 10-episode run. This is real, kids. No internet rumors, Beverly Leslie gossip, and certainly no fake news. According to the NBC press release (which you can read on Sean Hayes’ facebook), talks about a revival began around the same time the mini webisode “Vote, Honey” broke the internet.

In case you didn’t watch it, or if you just want to watch it again, here it is:

Guys, I love Will & Grace. It’s one of those shows that just makes me happy to watch. I am so thrilled about the idea of it being back on television, but I’ve gotta be honest.

I’m hella nervous about this revival.

[spoilers ahead, but also, it’s been literally over a decade since the series finale, so…]

I didn’t watch the finale of Will & Grace live (I got into the show late–which was a pain because this was before I got into the Netflix/streaming seasons game, so I had to catch up by buying the box set DVDs of previous seasons) so I didn’t see the finale until about a year after it premiered. Honestly, I loved it. I was really surprised to hear later on that some people hated how they wrapped Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen’s story. I thought it was a charming, serendipitous bookend to the story of Will and Grace’s charming, serendipitous friendship. So while this show will likely be taking place some time before that infamous last shot that the four took in the bar, where will it fall on the timeline?

Ultimately, if the show manages to recapture the magic of Will and Grace’s friendship, the show will find its footing. So here are five things I need in the 10-episode revival to make it work for me:

Will and Grace need to still be friends

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I know this seems obvious, but if you’ll remember, before the finale’s flash forward, Leo returned and got back together with Grace (who was very pregnant with his baby). Grace choosing Leo strained her relationship with Will, and we were led to believe they really didn’t speak again until their kids got together in college. So unless they plan to set the show when an older Will and Grace get back together while their kids are falling in love, they need to somehow retcon the story line and make Will and Grace rekindle their friendship sooner. Honestly, I’m not even picky how they do it. But I know that episode and half in season 5 where Will and Grace were mad at each other when Grace asked for more time before trying again to get pregnant with Will’s baby (incidentally, also because of Leo) was the worst. I don’t want to waste much of my revival time with those two needing to make up.

Karen and Jack need to stay exactly the same

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This is a tumultuous, ever-changing world. I need my Karen and my Jack to stay as silly, shallow, crass, and as lovable as ever. I mean, I know they both had some deeper character moments in the series (like that one time we learned that Karen had a room in her house dedicated to a baby that she never had or Jack dealing with his father issues), but I don’t want the revival to change them. They’re fun and silly, and I want them to stay the same Karen and Jack we fell in love with years ago.

We need meaningful appearances from characters like Rosario and Beverly Leslie

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Part of what makes the show great is the amazing peppering of tertiary characters like Rosario, Beverly Leslie, Elliott, the shadowy appearance of Stan Walker, Rob, Ellen, Joe, Larry, and the like. Karen, Jack, Will, and Grace are the heart of the show, but those other characters give the show spice and life. While I don’t want the show to err on the side of peppering in gratuitous cameos as overly-obvious winks to the fans, I don’t want them to be forgotten either. I mean, at the very least, I think we need at least one game night with Rob, Ellen, Joe, and Larry, right?

We can’t forget Vince and Leo

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I love Vince and Leo. Even though the two of them can sometimes step in the way of Will and Grace’s friendship, I think they’re so important to the story. Any good friends have gone through that awkward stage of making space in their lives for both their significant other and their best friend, so I love that Will & Grace talks about that–while also celebrating the romantic relationships. Plus, I love watching Vince interact with Grace and Leo interact with Will. It’s so hilarious, and I’d hate to have the revival ignore them to tell only Will and Grace-centered stories. Will and Grace love Vince and Leo, so they’ve got to have a meaningful place in the story.

Show Will and Grace (and Vince and Leo) as parents

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I realize this isn’t Will or Grace, but it’s too fun not to include

Chances are pretty solid that wherever this falls on the timeline, Will and Grace will officially be parents. We’ve seen Karen’s parenting style, we’ve seen Jack’s parenting style, and we’ve seen the homes Will and Grace grew up in, but we haven’t really seen them as someone else’s parents. I can’t wait to see how Will and Grace’s lives are different and the same with kids in their lives. I just really hope they don’t undo the fact that their kids Ben and Lila end up together.

Keep Jack’s celeb obsessions

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From Cher to JLo to Janet Jackson to my personal favorite of Jack’s obsessions, Kevin Bacon, Will & Grace has always showcased Jack as a person obsessed with celebs. Some of them know about him (like Kevin Bacon), but some he’s only met in passing instances (like Cher). Regardless, it’s part of what keeps Jack zany, and in a celeb-filled town like NYC, I really hope they keep that part of Jack’s story in tact. Okay, I’ll be honest. I really just want him to keep stalking Kevin Bacon…That is one of my all-time favorite Jack McFarland quirks.

Bonus: a Debbie Reynolds tribute

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Okay, I know I said this was a list of five things, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the flawless Debbie Reynolds, who played Grace’s mother, Bobbi Adler. Bobbi was hilarious and lovable, and I just loved episodes where they featured her. Even if they don’t do a whole “Grace’s mom dies” episode (which could be too heavy for the revival’s short run), I hope they at least mention Bobbi. She was too pivotal to the show to not mention at all.

Honestly, if they keep the original spirit of the show without turning the revival into nothing more than flippant fan-service, I think it can be great. We all love Will & Grace for their story, and bringing them back means there is more story to tell. If that’s true and they spend their ten episode run adding something meaningful to the Will & Grace canon, I’ll be pleased. Sure, I’m nervous, but I’m ultimately really excited to get to hang out with my old friends again. What kind of things do you want to see in the revival? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

2017: Rebellions Are Built on Hope

It’s a brand new year! Even though nothing magically changed when the calendar changed from 2016 to 2017, I love that we all as a society take the time to try to reset, reevaluate, and strive for a better life in the new year. I thought that this year I’d try to do a “word of the year”, but I realized that I couldn’t find one word to perfectly encapsulate my feelings for 2017. A phrase did, however.

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[Side note: I realize Cassian actually says this first, but I can’t find any gifs of him saying it, only Jyn.]

It may seem a bit silly to have this be my guiding phrase for 2017, especially when I am decidedly not planning on spending this year searching for the plans of the Death Star in the face of overwhelming odds (seriously, if you haven’t seen Rogue One yet, GO SEE IT. IT IS SO GOOD). So why is this my phrase for the year?

Because even though I’m not engaged in a giant rebellion against the forces of the Dark Side, I do have my own battles to fight. 2016 was a year that knocked me down quite a bit, so 2017 is the year I’m rebelling, and I’m fighting back.

I’m fighting back against my anxiety and depression, and am not going to let myself be overcome by them anymore. I’m getting the help I need, and I’m going to start taking better care of myself. That means physically and emotionally.

I’m fighting back against injustice. I’m just one person, but I’ve decided to use this year to do whatever I can to do good in the world and fight against the bad in it.

I’m fighting back against feeling obligated to do certain things and act certain ways. There are really only a handful of things that I actually have to do every day. This year, I’m going to work on letting myself step back from things that I either no longer have the time/mind-space to do, I no longer have the desire to do, or that I simply think I shouldn’t do anymore. I’m going to let myself feel more comfortable with myself as I am, allow myself to enjoy those things I love, and let myself let go of those things in my life that just bring me trouble.

I’m fighting back against feeling directionless. I feel like it’s not that unique of a problem to be a millennial these days and feel totally directionless and like you have no clue what you’re doing with you life. However, I’m getting closer to turning 30 every day, so I’m going to use this year to really find where I fit.

I don’t want to end 2017 feeling like I wasted an entire year, so this is the year I’m rebelling against, well, myself. Or rather, I’m rebelling against the crazy expectations I put on myself. I’m choosing to be hopeful that I can find a better grasp on my own mental health, that I can actually do some good in the world, and that I can find a life that brings me direction and joy. It is a bit cliché, but that feels like a crazy mountain to climb. I’ve been fighting with myself for just shy of 3o years now, so to try to make any sort of headway towards direction and peace seems almost like an unattainable goal. Still, rebellions are built on hope, and I’m ready to start rebelling against those things that have kept me in places I no longer want to be.

What changes are you making in 2017? Do you have a word or phrase for the year? Tell me in the comments!

You Need To Be Watching Crazyhead

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It’s the winter hiatus for most of our favorite shows right now, so it is the perfect time to pick up a new television obsession. So if you’re busy missing Supernatural, if you’ve never recovered from losing Being Human UK or US, or if you just want to see a show about two women kicking demon ass and taking names, you’ve got to check out Crazyhead. For now, there’s only one season (and a mere six episodes) of this spectacular show, but it’s six episodes of supernatural hunting fun. It’s streaming on Netflix so you can binge the whole thing over your winter break. Don’t worry, this whole post is spoiler-free, so if you haven’t checked out Crazyhead just yet, you can read on without fear!

Fans of Supernatural will definitely notice some…well…some differences in things like exorcism rites (it’s a bit more…personal and, well, flat out gross than simply shouting out some words in Latin), and the mythology and lore surrounding demons has a unique and interesting twist from what I’ve seen before (I’d go into it more here, but it’s a HUGE spoiler for the show). Still, it’s got that fun, other-wordly vibe that made us all fall in love with watching Sam and Dean kick monster butt. The show’s heroines, Amy and Raquel, are so much fun to watch together. The two meet for the first time in the show’s premiere, but by the season finale, you can’t help but want to be in Amy and Raquel’s squad.

The two are hilarious together, and Raquel is a perfect mix of tough, crass, and lovable. Amy is quieter with a more skittish and awkward nature, and watching the two women try to protect the earth from demonic threats is like watching two friends. Unlike Sam and Dean Winchester, Amy and Raquel didn’t grow up as trained warriors, and are both relatively new and uninformed about the dealings of demonic ways. So we get to learn right alongside the women as they get to know the underworld a bit more, and figure out the best way to get rid of demons once and for all.

One of the biggest complaints of Supernatural fans has been the lack of women hunters who aren’t killed off in some horrific fashion (read: Charlie, Jo, Ellen, and the OG, Mary Winchester). So it’s awesome to find such a cool, engaging show about two awesome women going up against the darkness. And without getting into any spoilers, they’ve set us up to explore a supernatural world outside of demons alone. So I cannot wait to see what exciting stories and frightening monsters we get to see Raquel and Amy fight in season two.

Have you watched Crazyhead on Netflix yet? What did you think of it? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Image credit: E4/Netflix

My TBR List For the Holidays

I’m lucky enough to have a day job that provides quite a bit of time off, especially around the holidays. So with a rather large break looming, I’ve stacked myself a bit of a reading list, and I simply cannot wait to settle in for some time away from the office with lots of good books. Here’s what I’m reading over the holidays this year!

Name of the Wind

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OMG, Kendall you haven’t read this book? Are you serious? You HAVE to read this book! You’ll love it I just know it! Yes. Yes. I know. I need to read this book. Honestly, I want to read this book. I have absolutely no doubt that I’ll love it.

So why haven’t I read it just yet? Honestly, it’s because I’m a snob. I currently only have this book in digital format on my iPad from DAW Books. I’ve said it before, but allow me to reiterate that I hate reading books digitally. A big part of the reading experience for me is getting to hold a book while I fall into a story. Still, I’m really working hard to not buy books so flippantly (space has become a real issue) so I’m not allowing myself to buy a hard copy of this book until I read it once and officially can say that I love it. So I’m carrying on digitally (yes, this is totally and completely a #firstworldproblem), and despite my love of what I’ve read thus far, it’s been a lot of starting and stopping on this book. However, I’ve decided that now is the time to read this book and officially get into the Kingkiller Chroncile series. I also put the book on hold at the library if I prove too pretentious to read the ebook.

Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1

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I’ve watched and loved the Netflix Jessica Jones series, so I decided that I should probably check out the source material, too. A while back, I picked up Jessica Jones vol. 1 from Marvel for myself, and for one reason or another just never read it. I am absolutely going to remedy that this break.

Especially since we’ve got quite a bit of a wait between now and the release of Iron Fist, Defenders, or season two of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Daredevil, I need something to distract me from my Netflix Marvel withdrawal.

One thing I’m especially excited to see is how the characters in the show and the comic are different and alike. I’ve heard that Kilgrave was amped up quite a bit for the Netflix show, so I’m really excited to see how Tennant’s Kilgrave differs from the original Kilgrave from the comics.

Harry Potter A L’Ecole des Sorciers

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I absolutely adore the Harry Potter books. I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t grow up reading these books, and first journeyed to Hogwart’s as an adult. Regardless of my age, I found the books completely magical and wonderful.

After my trip to Europe earlier this year, I was really inspired to continue learning and beefing up my French language skills. I was able to successfully get me and my husband around France with the French I remembered from high school and the skills I gained from using Duolingo, but the reality is hearing a language in IRL is a lot more overwhelming than just interacting with isolated sentences with a word bank at the bottom. So one of the things I’m doing to help beef up my French vocabulary (because I absolutely plan to return to France someday) is reading books that I’m familiar with in French. The obvious place to start was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I found the entire series in a French mass market edition from the publisher Assimil. While I’ve only bought the first book (I figure it will take me a while to get through the whole thing), I’m really excited to start expanding my French language learning into the Wizarding World!

What books are you reading over the holidays? Tell me your TBR list for the month in the comments! 

5 Things To Know Before Your First Time as DM

I’ll be honest, when I grew up, Dungeons & Dragons wasn’t a game that ever appealed to me. If had friends who played it, they kept it very secretive. So it wasn’t until I started working for Geek & Sundry that I started to learn more about the game. Honestly, it sounded cool. I loved Skyrim, and D&D felt like a game that was basically a tabletop version of that. Once Critical Role premiered and I got to watch the adventurers of Vox Machina do their thing, my desire to play was only strengthened. However, there was one specific role that appealed to me. While I loved watching the players unfurl the story before them and try to solve the puzzles put forth by Matt Mercer, I realized that I wanted to do what Matt does. I wanted to be a Dungeon Master.

The thing with games like Dungeons & Dragons is that there are so. many. rules. It’s an intimidating game to start from scratch, and it’s even scarier to decide you want to try being a DM when you’ve never played the game before. I decided I was only going to play if I could find a group of friends who were willing to explore the game with me. Finally, I found that group of friends, and tried out DMing a couple of times.

The learning curve for this game and being a DM is pretty steep, so even though I’m an extremely new DM (like SUPER green, y’all), there are a few, basic things that I have learned about kicking off your first run as Dungeon Master (illustrated with Critical Role gifs, because obviously).

Do your homework

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This is a big game. While you don’t need to be an expert at the game, as DM–especially if you’re playing with an entire group of D&D first-timers like I was–your friends will look to you for answers. There is no way you’ll know the game inside and out before you start your first game, but there are plenty of resources to make sure you have a strong enough grasp on the game to make you feel less shaky when your friends ask you a question about the game. Geek & Sundry has a lot of great resources for DMs of all skill levels, and there is a great YouTube series by DM-extraordinaire Matthew Colville that can also help you get started. There are lots of books you can buy that are good for a DM to have, but if you’re just trying on the game and role of DM for size, I wouldn’t recommend buying more than the Players’ Handbook and downloading basic rules from Wizards of the Coast.

Keep your first campaign simple

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The thing about D&D is that it’s a really long game. If you end up buying the D&D starter kit, there is a pre-made campaign included with the kit. That’s a great one, but it could take you quite a while to work through it. Still, the thought of writing your own campaign might really freak you out. So don’t feel like you have to create your own, crazy campaign for your first experience with D&D. Instead, let yourself use some pre-generated campaigns. Use the starter kit campaign if you want (knowing you probably won’t finish it in your first session), or use another pre-generated campaign like the one Matthew Colville introduces in his Running the Game series. Just don’t let using a pre-generated campaign be an excuse for you to not read the campaign ahead of time. You’ll want to know the story as well as you can, even though you get to read as you go. Trust me.

You’re gonna mess up…just know that now

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It doesn’t matter how prepared you are, you’re going to mess up, and that’s okay. The good news is that because you’re running the game, it is possible that you can simply roll with it and the players might not even know. But even if you mess up in a noticeable way, just be cool. This game has a lot of rules and nuances, and it will take a while before you feel like you’re a “good” DM.

You’re not going to be Matt Mercer, but that’s good!

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We don’t need two Matt Mercers in the world. While he’s a great DM, and it’s awesome to aspire to his passion for the game and his creativity, you won’t be him. Don’t make your bar of being a “good” DM to become Matt Mercer. You’re going to be your own style of Dungeon Master, and that’s what is going to make you awesome. It will take you some time to find your DM style (I’m definitely still finding mine), but remember that you’re playing a game with your friends. As long as you’re having fun and getting into the game as much as your buds, you’ll be as awesome to your group as Matt Mercer is to Vox Machina. This is even more true if you and your friends are all playing for the first time. None of you knows what to expect, so just have a fun time without trying to be someone else!

Your friends will do something you weren’t expecting

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Like I’ve said, I’m a very, very new DM, but each time I’ve played my friends have made choices that have surprised me. While you can’t help but try to anticipate their reactions to the story you set before them, it’s inevitable that they’ll look at the story and see a solution you weren’t expecting. That’s what makes this game cool! So while it may throw you for a loop, and you might have to think about the best way to make your universe interact with that unexpected choice made by your players, roll with it! So long as they play by the basic rules of your world, let them try it and see what happens. Be flexible and willing to adapt your story based on how your friends perceive the story, even if it catches you off guard. Besides, those are usually where the coolest in-games stories come from!

This game can be an intimidating one to start, and an even more intimidating one to run. So the best piece of advice I can give is to play with a bunch of friends that you trust, and who will give you the grace and the space to figure out what being a DM looks like to you. And though it’s totally cliché, the best advice to remember when running your first game is to have fun. It’s just a game, so if you get so stressed out that the game isn’t fun for you, it won’t be fun for your friends either. Things might be messy when you guys first start playing, but just let yourself keep learning, improving, and having fun.

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Have you been a DM before? What are some tips that you have for newbies? What tips do you have for new D&D players, DM or not? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

An Update on the Blog

Hey, guys.

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So I’ve been doing a pretty crappy job of writing here. I’m going to be straight with y’all. I don’t always have the most free time to devote to this site. Plus, these past few months have been extremely hard for me personally (maybe I’ll explain that more in a blog someday, but today is not that day). However, I still have a lot of love for this site, and not writing on Distracted Blogger makes me sad. So I’m going to be writing more in the coming weeks, and officially re-dedicating myself to this site in 2017. I’m so excited and READY.

But if you want to keep up with what I’m writing elsewhere, you can always check out what I’m doing over at Nerdist and Geek & Sundry. I’ve been writing about The Walking Dead over at Geek & Sundry, so I’d love for you to come and chat about this CRAZY season over there. I’m also pretty active over on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. So if you’re not hanging out with me over there, you definitely should join in on the fun.

While that’s all awesome, what is in store for Distracted Blogger? Well, I’m planning a lot more content on books, writing/running a blog, conventions, movies, television, and gaming–specifically talking about my newest endeavor: being a Dungeon Master! So stay tuned, kids. I’ve been off my game lately, but it’s time to get back at it! Let’s do this!

Marvel Comics Collectors Editions Cell Covers

Guys. I drop my phone. A lot. So when I buy a cell cover, it’s a serious thing for me. The case has to be cute, first, but it also really needs to offer me a bit of protection–namely from accidental droppings and throwings (I once accidentally threw my cell when a wasp got all up in my grill). So when I got the chance to check out one of the Marvel Comics cell covers from SkinIt and Speck. I kinda rolled my eyes. Still, when I took a peek at the cell covers offered, and I had to admit they were kind of awesome.

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So I thought Sure, I’ll try your little cell cover for a bit, and then I’ll go back to my actual cell cover. I grabbed myself a Thor cover, and popped it on my phone. It was cute, I had to admit it, even in the midst of my skepticism. It also went with just about any outfit.

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Not too long after I got the cell cover, I had a medical emergency take over my life (I’m fine). But that meant I was in bed a lot. Which meant my cell phone didn’t get treated as carefully as it should have. It fell between cracks on the couch, it fell off my super tall bed, but the cover kept my phone safe. It’s rubbery with a nice bumper around the screen, so when it fell to the ground, it was protected. Now, yes, this isn’t some magical impenetrable case, but when you’re used to all cute cases offering no phone protection at all, it’s pretty freaking amazing when they do.

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Regardless of who your fave is, Thor, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, or more, they’ve got a SkinIt cover for you. The designs are exclusively for the iPhone 6/6s and iPhone 6/6s Plus, and they are a thing of beauty. So check them out today! Not sure which hero you want? Might I try to inspire you with the latest hero to enter the MCU on November 4?

Do you have a SkinIt Marvel Comics cover? Which one is your favorite? Tell me in the comments!