Zoe – Foodie and Photog

Zoe blogs at Z’s Cup of Tea where she writes about gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free foods in addition to Trend & chic and Writer’s Bone. She also does work with Pressgram; as a community manager, in Google+, and on Flipboard. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield ­ I’ve just read this book and it’s a definite keeper. Without putting it lightly, it is one of those books that does change your life. The basic principle of battling Resistance, as described in the book, can be applied to all parts of life, it isn’t just for  artists. It’s for everybody who’s ever had a dream of doing something but hasn’t for a variety of reasons, whether it was something in their life that happened or they rationalized themselves out of it. My favorite example is early in the book, when Pressfield describes, as a way of illustrating the power of Resistance, Odysseus sailing home and, with Ithaca in sight, decides to have a nap when he falls asleep, his men cut open a sack in which they believed there was gold but instead contained the adverse Winds, which proceeded to drive back Odysseus’s ships and therefore delayed his homecoming for years. As well, the book is full of passages that can be highlighted for reference. Afterward, I chanced across this post about how The War of Art came to be and it’s a very cool story!

The Element by Ken Robinson ­ This is a book about people discovering their passion, what
makes them tick, which is what Ken Robinson calls “the Element”. Full of stories about people,
famous and everyday, who found their Element, it is an inspiring and uplifting read and it’s a book I recommend to everyone. Many people who read this book were so inspired that they wanted to find their own Element and that eventually resulted in the sequel, Finding Your Element (which I’ve also read and recommend).

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden ­ Easy to read
with lots of graphics and short, succinct passages that drive the point home, Paul Arden’s book
is a great pick­me­up that can be read within a single sitting or read in small bites at a time.
There isn’t a single page that isn’t brilliant. It’s also great paired with his other book, and that I
think is considered a sequel, Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite.

Good things to watch.

RMR: The Rick Mercer Report. ­ Rick Mercer is a Canadian comedian, television personality,
political satirist, author, and host of the Rick Mercer Report, a show where he takes viewers to
different parts of Canada and explores all kinds of aspects of Canadian culture, often with a
hans­ome approach and always entertaining. You can watch clips from his show on YouTube
and he has also written two books based on his show.

BBC’s Sherlock. ­ I can easily create a list of British shows I watch, so I’ll keep it to just
one.Sherlock is a brilliant show and one that I’ve been watching since it started, so…long­term
fan here! While it would be easy to say I like it because of the two leads, that is only partially true
as I like ­ love ­ everything about its production, including its writing and cinematography (the
floating text on the screen was a stroke of genius and anything I watched afterward that showed
a cut to a phone’s screen so that the audience could read it seemed dated) and the production
design. I pretty much read/watch/listen to just about everything officially related to the show. Now eagerly awaiting series four….!

Unsung Hero.­ Spoken in Thai,with English subtitles, this video is so beautiful! Short but packs a punch: following a man who commits random acts of kindness for mere strangers, watching it, particularly the conclusion, has shed a tear or two. You wouldn’t even know it’s an insurance ad unless it said so at the end.

Good things to use.

Pressgram. ­ An iOS photo publishing app, version 2.0 was recently released that gives more
publishing options (no longer just WordPress) and features, including paid. I am a community
leader for the app, so I might be biased but I think it’s great and I use it for my own blogging with
ease.

Sleep Genius. ­ The first and only sleep app I really tried was the Sleep Genius app (available for
iOS and Android), developed by sleep experts for NASA to help astronauts sleep. Unlike the
majority of sleep apps available, this app is based on scientific research and, based on my own
personal experience, it does work. There are three different tracks (one comes free with the app,
the other two are in­ app purchases) to help you reach a deep level of sleep as well as one
specifically for a 29­minute power nap and you can eventually train yourself with the app to wake
up naturally and peacefully rather than jerking yourself out of sleep with the jangling of an alarm
clock.

SuperBetter­. This is an app (iOS) I’ve just started to use and that’s newer to me. Most of my
family downloaded it after watching Jane McGonigal’s inspiring and informative TED talk about
videogames and how playing a game, which became SuperBetter, saved her life. People with
health issues and life­threatening illnesses have used this app to get better, but you don’t need to
have a health problem in order to use it. You can use it to get better at anything, whether it’s
taking walks more often or even just practicing being grateful. It’s free to play online on their
website (https://www.superbetter.com), or you can purchase the app for $4.99 in the App Store.

Connect with Zoe on Twitter, @ZsCupofTea.

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Patrick Rhone – Writer

Patrick Rhone is a writer who lives in Saint Paul, MN with his wife and six-year-old daughter. He says, “Writing is how I try to make the world a better, friendlier, stronger place.” These are his good things.

Good things to read.

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp.  This is a must read for anyone who creates anything. Twyla is one of the greatest dancers and choreographers of all time and, here, she gives practical and inspiring advice on how to make creativity a exercisable habit. It’s full of personal anecdotes, wonderful quotes, wit, grace, and timeless wisdom. It is honest and raw.

On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.  I’ll be honest. I’m not a big fan of Stephen King’s fiction writing. The genre he normally trades in is just not my thing. That is why I resisted reading this for a long time. It was only last year that I, reluctantly, picked this book up. But, as soon as I started reading it, I found I could not put it back down. Because, at it’s heart, it is a really well written, honest, and compelling memoir. A unique and personal look into the history and life of one of modern literature’s foremost contributors. Sure, there’s lots of practical and “no-duh” writing advice to be found here. But the manner in which it is delivered is heartfelt, on the level, and born of the trial and error he details throughout. It would seem every writer must, at some point, write a book about the craft. I have read far too many. This one is the most human and my favorite.

Choose Yourself! by James Altucher.  A current fave. This latest book by James Altucher is a straight forward kick in the pants to anyone who needs it. It makes a very strong case for what many of us already know (and many others suspect) — that everything we used to rely on for safety (College, Employment, Retirement, etc) no longer can be relied on. No longer can we wait for someone to hire us, invest in us, or pick us. We have to choose ourselves. Parts of this will challenge you and likely piss you off. I like that he pulls no punches about the whats, hows, and whys of what he believes we all should do. But, I think even more important is that this is the first book of this type I have read that stresses personal health and well being as essential tools for choosing oneself. The idea that proper sleep, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are requirements for doing your best work. That these things are the first step to take in choosing yourself. Highly recommended.

Good things to watch.

Classic Albums: Aja by Steely Dan 1977 – YouTube.  All of the Classic Albums episodes are great. But, this one is fantastic. Steely Dan’s Aja is a deep look into the process of making a perfect hit record. The only “official” members of Steely Dan at the time the album was made were Donald Fagan and Walter Becker. So, they set out to find the best studio musicians available for each individual track. In other words, hand choosing specific artists for specific instruments on specific songs. Even going so far as auditioning several people for a single guitar solo until they found just the right one. What I like most is the sheer amount of artists and talent it took to execute such a singular vision. Listening to the album, you would never know the amount of collaboration by dozens and dozens of musicians it took to pull it off. And, ultimately, the reason it works so well is that they took their time finding exactly the right person for the task at hand. Truly remarkable. The thing I like most about the whole Classic Albums series is that it is the actual artists, engineers, and producers sitting down at the mixing board and taking you on a journey of the process. So. Much. Win!

Webstock ’13: Mike Monteiro – How Designers Destroyed the World. There is so much to unpack here I hardly know where to begin. This barn-burner of a talk not only applies to designers, it applies to everyone and everything. The main theme is that we all need to consider the full consequences of everything we put out into the world. We need to take ownership of the things we do and why it matters. And, most importantly, we need to stand up and defiantly say “no” when we are faced with something we don’t believe in or know to be wrong. This one literally left me giving a standing ovation in an empty room alone with my computer. It’s that good.

A sunset or sunrise. They happen every day yet how many of us go out of our way to see one. Let alone a really go one. You don’t need to wait for a vacation. Have a nice lake, or hill, or park in town? No matter where you live there just has to be a good place to catch one or the other. Wake up early or have dinner a bit late.Make this your new favorite happy hour spot. Whatever you do, make the time to enjoy one or the other every now and then.

Good things to use.

A good pen. Actually, consider two. One good one that you can enjoy using every day. And, one really good one that you use for special occasions. Like signing a bonus check, birthday card, or writing a letter to an old friend. I have far too many in both categories so I won’t recommend a specific one here. I will say that I keep a Uniball Signo 207 Micro on me at nearly all times. It’s a good pen that is inexpensive that I don’t mind losing and replacing.

Hobonichi Techo Planner. I’m a big fan of mine. I use it as a diary and daily log of my accomplishments. It is the only journal I have managed to use every day, consistently, for more than a few weeks. In fact, I have not missed a day since I started mine on December 16, 2013 (pretty proud of that). The main reason for this success is that it simply is a joy to use. The paper is, perhaps, the best I’ve ever written on. It’s well designed, functional, and has little bit of whimsy thrown in here and there. It just makes me unreasonably happy every time I use it.

My Dash/Plus System. OK, this one may be a bit self-promo, but hear me out. I designed this system for marking up and processing my notes and tasks. It allows me to concentrate on capturing first and sorting out where things belong later. It really helps me. Many, many, others have adopted it too. And if you are more of an “app” kind of person — there’s and app for it too. Every one who reports back about having used it reports that it really helps them. Perhaps it will help you too. I hope it does.

Connect with Patrick on Twitter, @PatrickRhone.

Andy Fossett – Builder

Andy Fossett is a “burger enthusiast” based in Honolulu who teachers martial arts, consults online businesses, and runs GMB Fitness. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson. Parts of this book are a little dated, but the general principles have been life-altering to me and everyone I’ve given a copy. Not for the easily-offended, PR lays out a theory of human potential along with practical advice for making the most of “reality.”

Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I tend to speed read a lot of non-fiction for learning and info, but I’m careful to balance it with a healthy dose of pure escapism. Stephenson is one of my favorites, and Anathem was well-paced and fun to read slowly and get absorbed into the story.

BrainPickings.org. There are so many good things on this site, it just ridiculous. I love the focus on finding parallels and links between different thinkers and artists, and Maria is a fantastic aggregator of interesting ideas and thoughts from more books than I could possibly hope to read.

Good things to watch.

Video of yourself walking and talking. Seriously, you’ll be surprised. This is how you appear to others. Do you move with poise and confidence? Do you express yourself clearly and persuasively? We’re largely unaware of our habitual patterns and ticks; noticing them is the first step to improving how others see us.

The ocean (or the trees). Just get out in the open air and spend a few minutes a day with whatever nature has to offer in your part of the world. Breathe in. Breathe out. Listen. Experience the passage of time. Repeat daily.

This video about possibility. Yes, the talk is nominally about Parkour, but the deeper message is of exploring the confines of our surroundings and responding in creative ways. I tend to watch it at least a couple of times a month for a little inspiration and motivation.

Good things to use.

Your body. It’s a bit of a cliche, but if you don’t exercise the limits of your body’s strength and mobility everyday, it slowly diminishes with age. Regular exercise for health sounds boring, so think of it as increasing your personal freedom of physical movement.

Lumosity. There’s a ton of tools for exercising the mind, but Lumosity is the one I’ve been able to stick with. It’s available on the web or as an app and makes it fun to sharpen your memory, reasoning, and creativity with various cognitive tasks cleverly disguised as games.

Notebooks. I like Moleskines, but there’s nothing magical about any particular kind. Just carry one and write down ideas and lists. Write them and rewrite them until they’re ready to make real.

Connect with Andy on Twitter, @AndyFossett.

Nicole Feldringer – Writer, Scientist

Nicole Feldringer is a writer and atmospheric scientist living in Los Angeles. Her short fiction is forthcoming from the Sword & Laser Anthology, out in May 2014. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. A big beautiful anthology featuring stories from science fiction writers who came to prominence in the current century. The handful of stories I’ve read so far (by authors such as Vandana Singh, Paolo Bacigalupi, and M. Rickert) have all been exceptional.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. It would have to take something pretty special to get me excited about a young adult vampire book, but Holly Black manages it. The story moves from a high-school party massacre to a walled-off vampire ghetto called Coldtown, as the main character tries to save her annoying ex-boyfriend from infection. This book reminded me of how much I enjoyed Robin McKinley’s Sunshine.

Gentleman Bastard series. Book 1, The Lies of Locke Lamora, is about an elaborate con game in a fantasy setting with shades of Renaissance Venice. Books 2 and 3 are out as well. With laugh-out-loud banter, outrageous situations, and great characters, this series by Scott Lynch makes you feel smart without having to work too hard at it.

Good things to watch.

Misfits. A BBC series about five delinquents sentenced to community service who get superpowers during a freak electrical storm. Between picking up trash and dealing with a series of probation officers, they must uncover the mystery of their powers, and who else was affected. One thing I love about this show is how each power gained is unique to that character–and is their own worst-case scenario. The shy awkward kid who is always ignored? Power of invisibility. I’m in season 2 now and just getting into the deepening of the show’s mythology.

Bob’s Burgers. Specifically, Tina Belcher. When I first attempted Bob’s Burgers, I have to admit I wasn’t sold on it, for all that I’m a huge fan of creator Loren Bouchard (of Home Movies) as well as actor H. Jon Benjamin (of Archer and Home Movies). To be honest, I think I was distracted by the pink bunny ears. In any case, fellow writer Kelly Lagor re-introduced me to Tina’s obsession with butts and erotic friend fiction, and I was hooked. Even when Tina is being a little … weird, the show celebrates that weirdness. She’s shy but never at a loss for one-liners (delivered in her characteristic monotone)–except for when she’s overloaded and just groans. She’s wonderful. “Bad Tina” the eighth episode in Season 2 is a great place to start.

Ip Man (2008). Martial arts biopic following the life of kung fu grandmaster Ip Man, who later taught Bruce Lee, during the Japanese invasion of China during World War II. One of the things I love about this film is that it combines WWII history with plenty of martial arts duels, and many of the fight scenes are between practitioners of different styles, including wing chun versus karate, which is great fun to watch. Though, I study wing chun so I may be a bit biased.

Good things to use.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. From the creator of the popular and eponymous blog, home cook Deb Perelman creates non fussy, tested recipes out of her tiny New York City kitchen. Her cookbook is a real winner, and every recipe I’ve tried has gone into our regular cooking rotation. Favorites include Eggplant and Three Cheese Calzone and Mustard Milanese with an Arugula Fennel Salad, among many others. Everyone I gift this book to gushes over how wonderful it is.

Strava App. Tracks and analyzes runs and bicycle rides. My favorite part is checking out the elevation profile post ride (whoa, that was a giant hill), and planning outings based on routes that other users have entered. The app also gives awards for personal bests, and there’s a social media component if you’re the competitive sort–but you can turn that off in the settings.

Farm box. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) offers a way to buy food directly from local farmers. Memberships come in a bunch of varieties, and it’s stupendous to have fresh fruits and veggies dropped off on your doorstep. Plus, it encourages creativity in the kitchen as you figure out what the heck to do with all that fennel.

Connect with Nicole on Twitter, @NicoFeld.

 

Katherine Vetrano – Writer

Katherine Vetrano is a Portland based writer. You check out her work at Daily Blender, Thrillist, and Serious Eats. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

Remember Me Like This (out May 13th, but I won an early copy on Goodreads!)

Bret Anthony Johnston’s first novel has all of the aspects that make his short stories memorable: gorgeous lyrical description, and deep, inspiring characters, with a dash of thrill, much like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl: you want to keep reading because you must know what happens. I can’t put this book down.

Grubstreet Diet column. This is a guilty pleasure of mine. Every Friday, Grubstreet (a site similar to Eater.com) posts a food diary from someone famous (almost always in NY). They’ve had comedians, musicians, fashion people, athletes, and actors. It’s fascinating to see people’s eating habits, what restaurants/delivery services they’re using, and more. I like to pull this up Friday morning and read it while I drink my tea.

LA-Screenwriter.com. I’ve seen a lot of writing craft books in my day, but I feel like this site has tangible, useful writing advice that is harder to find elsewhere. The site’s owner, Angela Guess offers a comprehensive guide to script writing (TV and film!) and everything that comes along with it, including real world advice like how to sell your script, several scripts from current films/shows, and inspiring quotes. Her newsletter gives me regular inspiration for my writing, scripts or otherwise.

Good things to watch.

Bridgetown Comedy Festival. This is a Portland only festival (sorry out of towners! But this is a good excuse to visit) that’s one of the pioneers of US comedy festivals. Amazing comics from all over (and some of our best locals) perform at a handful of venues all around town. Unlike other festivals, it’s very affordable, and has a really relaxed, community vibe to it. I’ve heard it called “summer camp for comedians” more than once.

This season’s’ SNL. I know. I know, you’re thinking, ” SNL from ____ year was so much better! It’s different now!” But when was the last time you watched this season? Kate Mckinnon and Aidy Bryant especially are out of this world funny. Be open minded!

Inside Amy Schumer. Can you tell I like comedy? This show is Amy Schumer’s sketch show that is unapologetic, inappropriate and wonderful. I’ve heard it’s On Demand right now so you can go catch up on both seasons.

Good things to use.

Can you use a podcast? Does that count? I use them to improve my commute…so here’s two I like:

Selected Shorts. This podcast, recorded in NYC at Symphony Space, is famous actors from television and film reading short fiction: both classic and current. I can’t think of a better way to get you inspired early in the morning than this.

Dinner Party Download. This is one of my favorites because I’m fascinated by its form. In a short amount of time (I think a little less than an hour?), they have brief segments that cover quirky history, food, music, a non-predictible interview with a famous guest, and a hilarious etiquette section.

I use this to-go cup to haul around my favorite green smoothie: protein powder, spinach, parsley, mango, lemon, raw rolled oats and Matcha powder.

Connect with Katherine on Twitter, @Kat707.

Kal Barteski – Artist

Kal Barteski is an artist and brush script painter. Sometimes called an illustrator and a poet, she’s a creative rogue. She cares deeply about intellectual property online. She is a TEDx speaker, a published author + winner of a Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award.  These are her good things.

Good things to read.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This is a visual feast. It’s overflowing with unshakable imagery that is beautiful and unforgettable. I love all things black and white – but this book is a bit of a bench mark for me, one of my all-time favourites.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. There’s never a bad time to read or reread this book. I feel enough shame and vulnerability to completely avoid books about shame and vulnerability, but Brené breaks things down into freeing reprieve for the heart. She has a way of shedding light – that is pretty much just magic. I reread this book every couple of months because it reminds me over and over again about the importance to living authentically and gently.

ONE and ZERO. These two illustrated childrens books by Kathryn Otashi are two of my favourite books. I love them for their simple, beautiful illustration jumbled up with poetic, profound stories. Every PARENT needs them for reading to every child. From bullying to loving yourself – these are messages that people of all ages need to hear.

Good things to watch.

It goes without saying that Blackfish was the most powerful documentary of the year.

The Whale. Narrated by Ryan Reynolds, this is a documentary about an orca who becomes separated from his pod and befriends a Canadian coastal town. It’s a beautiful look at rules and governments and how living creatures and heartfelt emotions override all of those kinds of things. It’s a powerful case for the connection and importance of nature.

Chasing Ice. Without a doubt some of the most fascinating footage of glacial ice and the changes happening in the Arctic. Striking footage, gorgeous landscapes, amazing foresight – this is a documentary that ends by planting a small seed of panic in your chest.

Crash Reel.  Clearly I like documentaries. I also really love winter. This doc is about Shaun White and Kevin Pearce and it’s cuts right to the heart of anyone who has ever been fueled by passion. Bring tissue.

Good things to use.

Shapeways. This is 3D printing on demand. You upload your files, pick your medium and in a few days you get a three dimensional print. It’s mind boggling and super exciting. Even if you’re not skilled at 3D file making (like me) you can take extrude line drawings for a very cool effect.

Square. Taking credit card payments on your iPhone? Yes, please. It’s got better rates than PayPal, it’s fast, seamless and business life-changing for an artist like me. Plus, it makes me feel like a Jetson when I plug a little gadget into the top of my phone and swipe a credit card. So cool.

Baking Soda. It’s not high tech, but there’s nothing this substance can’t improve. Throw it in your washing machine for whiter clothes. Throw it in your dishwasher. Use it to clean counters and carpets and everything in between. Use it instead of toothpaste.

Connect with Kal on Twitter, @KalBarteski, Instagram, and Facebook.

Deron Bos – Organizer

Deron Bos is a professional organizer, Apple tutor, and owner at Bos Organization in beautiful Culver City, California. He is also a produced and published playwright. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley and Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley. In graduate school I announced to a room full of creative writing students that these were among my favorite books and was met by a chorus of laughter. But these are amazing: my all time favorite fantasy is time travel and these books create a full sense of that: at the end of reading them, you’ll feel like you lived the day to day life of the King in 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Guralnick’s writing is atmospheric, incredibly detailed, intimate, and immersive storytelling. If every biography was written like these, I would read no other genres.

The Apostate and Lives of the Saints. Two of my favorite Instapaper reading experiences were these two articles by Lawrence Wright about two religions created in America. “Great, sprawling New Yorker shit” as Charlie Kaufman (the character) says in Adaptation.

Apartment Therapy: The Eight Step Home Cure. Most internet traveled folks have visited the AT blog at some point, but the book is less known and that’s a shame, because it’s one of my favorite references about residential organization. His approach of decluttering and simplifying your space as a means to make it a home and a place to enjoy with family and friends is a big inspiration for my life and my work with my clients. Great combination of philosophical with clear practical steps to reclaiming your space.

Good things to watch.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I’m not an alien, Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite Indy movie like the rest of humankind, but I’ve always liked this prequel much more than a lot of other people. Great set pieces like the raft out of the plane and the mine car chase, some vintage Harrison Ford humor, and the fact that it’s my four year old’s current favorite movie keeps it on my mind. (Parental advisors don’t fret: he skips the ripping from the heart scene.)

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: “ Alec Baldwin Just a Lazy Shiftless Bastard” I haven’t watched all of these, but this one I can’t get enough of, I’ve watched it over and over and each time I laugh my ass off and marvel at just how funny Baldwin can be. Favorite moment: the Burt Lancaster story: “I suppose you’re looking for this.”

I’m A Failed Writer and other videos by Yuvi Zalkow These were introduced to me by one of my favorite podcasts The Mac Power Users Very funny, insightful and helpful videos about getting out of your own way to get some writing done plus the tyranny of a New Yorker subscription.

Good things to use.

Scotch Tear by Hand Packing Tape. recommended by one of my organizing mentors and friends, the incomparable Fay Wolf, this stuff amazes everyone. I always make a mess of tape guns – but there’s no need for one now that God gave man the gift of this.

Rip’s Big Bowl I’ve been eating a plant based diet for a little less than a year now and this has become one of my favorite breakfast recipes.

iOS apps that have Mac companion apps and sync through Dropbox: including but not limited to 1PasswordText ExpanderDay One, and Fantastical.

Connect with Deron on Twitter, @DeronBos.

Diego Ramos – Artist

Diego Ramos was originally schooled in illustration at the California College of the Arts, and has always enjoyed writing fantasy and science-fiction stories. Rebel Hearts, the first part in his upcoming trilogy, is a sweeping New Age fantasy/steampunk adventure about a thief, an ancient soldier, and a rebellion to topple an empire. He has a blog at WritingFiction.co and these are his good things.

Good things to read.

Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany.  The book is a fantastic sci-fi. It’s set in a future earth where humans are no more, and other beings have taken over. As the beings evolved, they’ve adopted humanity’s legends and myths, reliving them. The way its written can be a little confusing at first, but once you dive into it, its a work of art. It was one of the most breathtaking experiences I’ve had reading. The way Delany wields words is masterful. It was like seeing a master paint before my eyes. This is one of his earlier works, and more controversial ones. You either really love it, or really hate it. But I love mind-bending, lush, abstract narrative experiences, so this book was perfect. When I dream about how I’d like to write someday, I think about Einstein Intersection.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.  What can I say about Sanderson that hasn’t been said before? The man is a writing machine, and his book Steelheart is a blast! I loved the concept of “Epics” (super-powered people) taking over cities and enslaving humanity. The story is about a young man who is on a mission to kill the strongest Epic, Steelheart. It’s such a cool twist on the superhero genre. The writing is fast-paced, action -packed, and smooth. Your eyes just roll from one sentence to another. You just can’t put the dang book down!

Any comic by Alan Moore. The Swamp Thing, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Batman: The Killing Joke. These are some of my favorites of his. Moore’s graphic novels are graphic novels in the purest sense of the word; they are novels, that happen to have pictures assisting. His stories are raw, dark, heart-wrenching, awe-inspiring, I could go on. The perfect blend of words and illustrations are never better represented than in an Allan Moore graphic novel. Many writers may dismiss comics as unrefined compared to novels, but I would challenge people to give them a shot. Moore’s creations are masterpieces, and can teach a writer a thing or two about telling an amazing story.

Good things to watch.

Dark City. One of the first movies that I could point to and say “In my top ten!” Dark City was made in 1998 but still holds up really well. Its a dark, sci-fi noir. The visuals are great, but its the story and psychological twists and turns that Murdock (the mc) goes though in the strange, hallucinatory Dark City that I love. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t be disappointing.

Beasts of the Southern Wild. This film is just all beauty and atmosphere. If the music of a child’s imagine could be seen, it would this movie. Set in a southern delta community, Wink, a little girl lives with her father. Her journey is filled with wonder, exploration, pain, and fantastical beasts. It’s hard to describe why I like this film. There is no definite plot, but sharing the experiences Wink has in the film, takes me into this other realm — something akin to being a child and seeing everything in wide-eyed wonder. Also, I love anything in the bayou. I love the geographical beauty of swamps and deltas (one of the reasons why I set my novel in one.)

Battlestar Galactica. I can safely say that Battlestar is one of the greatest sci-fi shows ever made. The story is epic and personal, the visuals are stunning, the characters real, and the music is to die for. The show is about humanity being attacked by Cylons (AI robots) and pushing the last fraction of survivors onto the Battlestar Galactica, a giant spaceship, to find a new home.

Good things to use.

F.Lux.  I’ve installed this great little program on my desktop and laptop. It takes the blue out of your screen steadily as the day passes, adjusting your device’s color to that of natural light. The blue in screens has been shown to create eye strain and activate the body’s impulse to stay away (the color mimics daylight). So F.Lux gradually fades that blue through the day, tinting the screen naturally, providing a relaxing viewing, and helping to regulate your sleeping patterns better! I love it. It helps me sleep and gives my eyes a break.

Springpad. This is the app I use to jot down all my ideas and notes. You can create different notebooks, write notes, catch webpages, images, articles, videos and more. Its simple and intuitive. I like it better than evernote, which confused me the second I started the app.

Chillingvibes.com.  This site has it going on! The site basically a giant music player, no installation is needed. It plays a random set of songs continuously, in browser! The songs are chill electronic/orchestral/vocal stuff. I love being surprised with each new song. The music gets me in the mood for writing, and is great ambient background music.

Connect with Diego on Twitter, @WritingFictionC.

Shanna Germain – Author

Shanna Germain is an author of poems, short stories, essays, and books, recipient of a few awards, and lover of words and games. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

Galveston.  If you liked True Detective, or even if you’ve never seen True Detective, but like gritty, southern-semi-noir novels with a strong voice, I’d suggest Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto. The language, the landscape, and the human truths of the novel break your heart and then put it back together before you can even take a single, hitched breath.

All the Windwracked Stars: The first of a trilogy by Elizabeth Bear, this book just blew me away with its wonderful language, its unique mixing and retelling of myriad mythologies, and its wonderful anti-hero, Muire. Science-fantasy with a post-apocalyptic, mythological bend? Yes, please.

Fallen Angel. I read a lot of comics, and this series continues to be one of my favorites. Created by writer Peter David and artist David López, it is a beautifully dark, sensual, powerful tale of a screwed up woman, a corrupt town, and a plethora of characters that you either want to make out with or junk punch (or sometimes both).

Good things to watch.

Upstream Color.  If you liked director Shane Carruth’s movie Primer (or if you like weird, narratively abstract, beautiful science-themed movies at all), I highly recommend Carruth’s second movie Upstream Color. I was physically shaking when I left the theater, that’s how strongly it affected me. I am afraid to rewatch it, in fact, although it’s been on my queue for a good long while.

True Detective.  I’ll admit, I thought long and hard about whether to put two items by the same writer on this list, but I had to do it. I think True Detective is some of the best TV we’ve seen in a long time (and I say that as someone who’s well aware that we’re in a feast-phase of great TV, with shows like Walking Dead, House of Cards, and Sherlock at our fingertips).

TED Talks. I don’t care which ones you choose — this fantastic one by Cameron Russell on how looks aren’t everything or this harrowing and heartbreaking one by Philip Zimbardo on the psychology of evil (NOTE: super graphic and awful images are in this TED Talk. Please be careful before you click, but find something that interests you and grows your mind.

Good things to use.

A Treadmill Desk.  As a writer, I sit too much. That is a serious truth of my life. So I have my computer set up on a regular old treadmill with a bar across the handlebars to hold my keyboard and mouse. I crank up the incline and go pretty slow, but I can do a couple of hours a day if I’m lucky. Sometimes I work while I’m on it — answering emails or editing. Other times, I game on it. It keeps me moving during the day, and keeps away whatever sedentary disease is creeping up on me and my writing-based lifestyle.

Don’t Starve. One of my favorite all-time past-times is gaming, and this adorable action-adventure game has everything that I appreciate in a game. Great characters, smart game play, interesting ideas, and just great fun. You can pick it up and play for a little bit, or you can waste long hours on the treadmill desk trying not to get eaten by giant spiders, frozen by winter, or starved by your own inability to cook something in a crockpot.

Your Body and Your Mind.  I know, it’s two things. But they’re so closely connected that I feel like they can be listed as a single entity. Work your body, work your mind. In whatever way is good for you. You only get it for so long. I try to remind myself never to waste these incredibly valuable resources that I have at my constant disposal.

Connect with Shanna on Twitter, @ShannaGermain.

Christine – Better Novel Project

Christine is the blogger behind BetterNovelProject.com, where she’s breaks down the key parts of three popular works of fiction and shares her findings. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

Matilda by Roald Dahl. As I work on my YA novel, I’ve been rereading my favorites from when I was little. It’s great to experience the wonder again, and at the same time, take the story off of the pedestal. You don’t realize as a kid how much you are filling in with your imagination. It’s a nice surprise to go back and see it’s just one word after another, not actual magic.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This is might be the best book for writers that is not about writing. Any creative pursuit is a real mental game, and this book gets you in the zone.

I signed up for Jeff Goins’s newsletters and read them as soon as they arrive in my inbox. I’ve learned a lot about honest marketing and connection this way. It’s geared toward writers and bloggers, but it’s mostly about self-promotion in a manner that adds value into the world instead of sleaze.

Good things to watch.

Hugo. Martin Scorsese’s film version of the Brian Selznick’s book, The Invention of Hugo Cabrey. This movie makes me want to clutch my hands to my heart and sigh. More than anything, it makes me want to be a better writer. The “everyday magic” is just lovely as a movie, especially when woven in with bits of real life film history.

Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers. I will read or watch anything concerning the hero’s journey. This DVD is especially worth it to see the bonus interview with George Lucas, who explains how myths inspired Star Wars.

Alice in Wonderland, The Disney Version. This will always be my favorite, and one of the only movies I can tolerate to put on “in the background” while I do other things I find it very soothing even on mute.

Good things to use.

Time Timer. This is my productivity must, because it doesn’t involve my phone, and unlike apps or my computer clock, I can put my my writing program into fullscreen and be distraction-free. As a bonus, it doesn’t make the annoying tick-tock like a normal kitchen timer.

Kikkerland Kraft Notes. I recently changed over to these notebooks, and I am hooked. The paper is really thin like onion skin, but somehow even inky pens don’t bleed through it. I love the natural brown color, and I feel less intimidated by the price that I am willing to write down all my ideas, instead of waiting for the good ones that are “worth it.”

Moleskine book light. Don’t go to sleep without an open notebook at your side! You might be more willing to force yourself out of that in between state and get your ideas down with this cute bendable book light.

Connect with Christine on Twitter, @BetterNovelProj.