Standalones Vs. Series

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing this bright and beautiful day? Things here are pretty annoying. WordPress seems to have tinkered with its editor, so now the text appears super tiny unless I zoom my screen in, but the preview for the final post looks perfectly normal. We’ll see. It also froze and lost the entire paragraph I just wrote despite supposedly autosaving it. It’s nowhere to be found. That’s always fun. Otherwise, things are good. Dad, the neighbor, and I are scheduled for our Covid boosters tomorrow. We got appointments at our preferred pharmacy, so we don’t have to run all over town. It’s been a pretty painless process so far. Hopefully the actual appointments will be just as easy. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Today, I’m here to ramble about standalone books versus series and which I prefer as a reader versus as a writer.

Me when I lost my supposedly saved work.

As a reader, I’m not usually picky about whether something is a series or a standalone. Series tend to offer better chances for character development and a deeper plot, but they also run the risk of dragging things out. I love getting to know the characters over multiple books and seeing how they grow, who gets redemption arcs and who doesn’t, etc. Series also provide a chance for world building that you don’t get so much of in standalones. They’re more immersive a lot of the time. Not always, but often. The biggest drawback of reading a series (for me) is that I feel compelled to finish them even if I don’t particularly like them. It’s like I haven’t given them a fair chance if I haven’t read everything. I know that’s ridiculous. And I have plenty of series that I gave up on, but it still feels awkward to me. Now, if I love a series, the hardest part is the wait between books. I try to find series that are completed or close to it, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. The waiting is the worst.

Standalones also have a lot to offer. They can be quick, fun reads, but they can also be in-depth and wonderful. On the other hand, a lot of them feel thin to me, lacking in the plot or the character development or both. It just depends on the book. I also think some genres lend themselves better to standalones than others. Horror, yes. Epic fantasy, not so much (but there are some gems). And some genres dance around the line between standalones and series like it doesn’t exist. Cozy mysteries. Most of those series are written as multiple standalone books, so even new readers can pick up any book in the series and not be lost. But from a reader’s perspective, as long as I like the story and the characters, I’ll read anything. Series or standalone.

Reading-wise. Get your mind out of the gutter.

As a writer, standalone novels are hard. I don’t think I’ve ever finished one. Short stories and stuff like that, I can do. The last standalone novel I tried to write decided it wanted to be a trilogy. I haven’t finished it (book one still needs major edits before I can even vaguely plot out book two), but the plot is too much for one book. I can’t find a middle ground between short story and multiple books. It’s really weird. I’d love to be able to write standalones, but for now, my brain is stuck in series mode. Maybe I’ll find a way one day, but today is not that day.

Ah well.

What about you? What do you prefer to read, standalones or series? Why? If you write, which do you gravitate towards? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages! See you next week for my monthly book review.

Progress, Not Perfection

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this week? Things are pretty much the same here. Got my flu shot last week. Should be eligible for a Pfizer booster soon. Other than that, I don’t have any reason to leave the house for the foreseeable future. I’m mostly okay with this. I should really buckle down and start writing steadily again. My slushing duties are basically done until the next submission period, so I have zero excuses to avoid writing. I just have to get back in the rhythm. NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. I’m not participating (I write far too slowly for that), but it’s always encouraging to see others’ progress. And progress is what I’m going to ramble about today.

I was watching NCIS the other night and Gibbs said something that I keep thinking about even though I’ve heard it before. “It’s about progress, not perfection.” I guess when Leroy Jethro Gibbs quotes a motivational poster, it just hits different. But actually, it’s not originally from all the self-help crap (like motivational posters) floating around. According to Google, the quote’s origins are from the AA book (something to do with focusing on spiritual progress rather than trying to achieve spiritual perfection), but it’s shortened version has spilled over into common use pretty much everywhere (exercise, writing, art, etc.).

As a perfectionist, it’s difficult for me to appreciate the idea of progress. That affects my writing. It took me years to accept that nothing I write will ever be perfect, to just say it’s the best I can currently do and toss it out into the world as is. And I still struggle to see progress from piece to piece, since everything is different. It also takes me forever to write because I’m one of those weirdos who edit as they go, especially on short pieces, so I don’t always get to see the progress of a story through multiple drafts. It’s part of the reason I’ve been avoiding writing lately. I’m mostly just annoyed that I don’t seem to be moving forward. I can handle rejection. It’s the feeling of being stuck that I’m having trouble with.

But I need to suck it up and get over it. In my head, I know this. Actually doing the sucking up and getting over is proving much harder in practice than in theory. However, if I have no words on the page, I’ll never see any progress. I won’t have anything to mold into something resembling perfection. I have to write. Creativity is hard. Ugh.

Even Chuck thinks so.

Okay, I’m done whining and rambling. I will strive to see my own progress instead of aiming for perfection. I’ll try not to let myself feel mired in mediocrity. A forward motion. That’s what I’ll try to achieve. Self pep talks (read that as pep talks in general) are not my forte, so I’m going to stop now.

Anyway, what are some words of wisdom that help motivate you? What doesn’t help? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages! I’ll try to think of something better to ramble about next week.

A Villanelle

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this fine day? Things here are about the same as always. I did write some words last week! They weren’t very good and there weren’t nearly enough of them, but it’s something. I’ll keep trying to write something this week as well. The story is there, I just have to pry the words from my brain and splatter them on the page. It’s just fighting me still. This blog post is also being a pain in the ass. I’ve gone through twenty lists of prompts, but nothing is sticking out and begging me to write it. Nothing is even producing an inkling of an idea. So, I decided to trudge through some of my old poetry that would otherwise never see the light of day and pick something to post here. This is a villanelle that I wrote for my Intro to Poetry Writing class back at SMU. In case it’s not obvious, I didn’t know what to write about back then either. Please excuse its suckiness. Poetry is fun, but not my first language. I get a lot of it wrong, especially back then. As always, feel free to share your comments or critiques or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Me while trying to decide what to post here.

Writer’s Block

I don’t know what to write.
The words just won’t come
And fill that void with the contrasting black and white.

Should it be about wrong versus right?
No, that idea fills my head with a monotonous hum.
I don’t know what to write.

How about the darkness and the light?
No, I just want the parts to equal the sum
That fills that void with the contrasting black and white.


Maybe I should just go grab a bite
To eat, maybe have some rum
Because I don’t know what to write.

Maybe music can lend me some insight.
Maybe the pounding of Yuki’s drums
Can help fill that void with the contrasting black and white.

That’s enough; this is it for the night.
I’m done trying because the words won’t come.
I just don’t know what to write
To fill that void with the contrasting black and white.

Thoughts on THE ORPHAN WITCH

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this week? It’s the last Wednesday of September, so you all know what that means. It’s book review time. This month, I wanted something more fantasy than anything. Just something a little different than all of the cozies I’ve been reading lately. I thought that might help me get excited about reading again. My search brought me to The Orphan Witch by Paige Crutcher. It was released yesterday (the 28th) from St. Martin Press’s Griffin imprint. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

A nice cover.

The Orphan Witch follows Persephone May as she drifts through life trying to find her place in the world and a family to share it with. Bad luck seems to follow her around until she’s invited to spend some time on Wile Isle, then everything goes from bad to worse. There’s a curse only she can break, people who keep attacking her for no reason, and lots of betrayal and deception. But throw in a hot librarian and maybe things aren’t so bad.

Sounds fun, right? It could be, but it’s not. The plot is far too convoluted. It honestly feels like an early draft where even the author is just going along and trying to figure out what’s happening. The beginning is slow and sparse on important details. Everything is crammed into the last half of the book, which makes it super muddled. And for an island that doesn’t let people come to it during certain times of the year, it sure seems to make a lot of exceptions. If the rules of the magic system are so easily ignored, it destroys all my faith in the system to begin with, which makes the loopholes Persephone and her cohorts exploit more annoying than exciting. There was a lot of potential for this story, but the execution was lacking.

I mean… it’s not a lie.

The characters were okay. Persephone was too naive a lot of the time. And her background could’ve been explored and utilized better, but she was an okay protagonist. Hyacinth was ridiculously manipulative and selfish, but it was (poorly) explained away as her being under someone else’s influence despite the fact that she was a horrible person all along. Moira, Ellison, and Ariel all had potential to be really interesting, but were largely undeveloped. They felt like afterthoughts, brought in to move the plot along. And Dorian could’ve used a lot more fleshing out.

You can probably guess how I feel about the pacing. Ugh. Aside from the beginning being slow and the end being rushed, there were so many spots that were just infodumps. Instead of spreading the background throughout the story naturally, there are huge sections of it unceremoniously scattered everywhere. I almost didn’t get past the first chapter because of it. But I pressed on.

The writing itself was average at best and subpar at other times. Mostly, the dialogue was the cringe-y bit. It was so stilted and a lot unnecessary things were said that were strictly for the benefit of the reader. I can’t think of a specific example from this book, but I mean like when characters are talking about someone the main character knows, but the speaker goes into ridiculous detail about great aunt Muriel with the glasses and saggy jowls or whatever. People don’t talk that way. It’s annoying. Just say “Aunt Muriel died,” then do a descriptive paragraph. Not everything belongs in dialogue.

Ultimately, The Orphan Witch didn’t live up to its potential. Luckily, it works just fine as a standalone, so I don’t even have to entertain the idea of sequels. It just wasn’t for me.

starstarstar outlinestar outlinestar outline

Overall, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. Well, one and a half, really. One star because it got published (which is hard to do and means someone liked it) and half of one because it had potential. If you’re interested in it, you might like it. If it just seems meh to you, you’re not missing anything by skipping it.

Shameless Self-Promotion: A Twofer

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing today? Everything here is about the same as usual. It’s going to be another pretty short post this week, I’m afraid. If you stalk me on social media, you probably know all of this, but I’ll post it here anyway. I have two announcements about publications I have stories in.

First, my flash fiction piece “The Water Horse” will be appearing in the silver volume of Dark Cheer: Cryptids Emerging! It’s coming out in February, but you can pre-order now at the links above. It will be an amazing collection. I also know at least one of the authors in the blue volume, so I think that one will be wonderful as well. Please feel free to spread the word!

Second, the ebook of Love Letters to Poe: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe is currently on sale until Friday! My flash fiction piece “Poisoned Honey and Pickled Pigs’ Feet” is in that one. There are some other neat things going on with this sale. I’ll share the details below. Reviews are encouraged if you have a few seconds. And again, feel free to spread the word!

For a limited time only, Love Letters to Poe: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe is on sale for 99 cents. The price will go up to $4.99 after this Friday, so make sure to snag your copy now! Here.

The editor teamed up with Literarily Illuminating for a special treat – purchase their Poe candles this week & get a complimentary copy of the anthology. Check out their Etsy store now before they sell out! Here.

Win Virtual Tickets to Poe Fest! Buy Love Letters to Poe: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe by this Friday and enter to win! Additional purchases (buy a copy for a friend!) will count as additional entries. IMPORTANT: Email your proof of purchase to loveletterstopoe@gmail.com to enter.

That’s the end of my announcements! I’ll be back next week with our regularly scheduled book review.

Wasting Time

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this week? Things are good here. Dad got a new toy (the big Kamado Joe, an egg-shaped smoker), so I got brisket and pulled pork. Yum! Other than that, everything is about the same as it has been. I’m lazy. All I’ve really done is review edits for a story coming out early next year (I’ll post about it after the official announcement, which is supposed to happen later this week), annoy people with shameless self-promotion (keep an eye on my social media for more of that next week for Love Letters to Poe), read, and slush (I’m an associate editor for PseudoPod, which is a fancy title for first reader). Otherwise, I’ve just been wasting time. I had no idea what to blog about, so I searched for ideas for September. One of the lists of ideas that I usually find helpful posed a question to answer in a post, so I decided to use that for today.

Agree or Disagree: “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

I both agree and disagree with this statement. Most of the time, I don’t really feel like I’ve wasted my time if I enjoy something, unless it eats away more time than it really should. Reading doesn’t count, because it’s actually work. At least that’s what I keep telling myself as I binge read webtoons/manga/manhwa. Okay, that’s not technically work, but it gives me stuff to think about when I can’t sleep, instead of having my brain home in on every stupid mistake I’ve ever made. Crocheting or drawing never really feels like wastes, because there’s actual proof that my time has been productive. Even just staring into space and thinking doesn’t feel like a waste of time, because that’s what writers do. It’s weird. But as long as it feels productive (even if it isn’t), I don’t feel like I’ve wasted time.

That said, watching more TV/movies than usual feels like wasted time. Playing mindless games for five minutes and realizing it’s an hour later feels like wasted time. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing these things, but there will always be the feeling that I should’ve been doing something else. I enjoy wasting time. I understand that taking time to do stupid things is important, especially when you’re feeling burnt out or whatever. That doesn’t mean it’s not a waste of time, it just means you needed or wanted a break. And that’s okay.

Oops.

So, do I agree that wasted time you enjoy isn’t wasted? Eh. Not entirely. But I do recognize that it’s an important part of self-care. I know that people are going to scoff and call me a capitalist and argue that not everything has to be productive. I’m not saying it does. I’m just saying that unproductive wasted time feels like an actual waste of time to me. That’s not a bad thing. Embrace the waste! (Please don’t hug your garbage). I accept it for what it is: a much needed rest.

I guess hugging human trash is okay, but why would you want to?

I just wasted time writing this. Apparently, it’s my 350th post. I’ve wasted your time with 350 posts. Anyway, what’re your thoughts on wasting time? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

The Best Weird Compliments

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this bright and beautiful day? Things are finally slowing down here, doctor appointment-wise, though Dad does keep bringing home more of them. At least the newest one is a month away. All of my doctors seem to be retiring. It makes me feel old, but that’s okay. Just means I get to meet people like Dr. Lucifer. Her name is actually Lussier, but the guy who left the message telling me she was my doctor didn’t enunciate and my ears heard what they wanted to, so she will forever be Dr. Lucifer. And since there’s a chance she could read this, I totally mean it in a Tom Ellis way, not a Mark Pellegrino (Supernatural) way. Anyway, I’m rambling and off topic. I’ve recently been thinking about weird compliments I’ve received. I even posted about it in a Facebook group in order to socialize a bit. But I thought I’d share a few of the ones I’ve received for you to laugh (or cringe) at.

1. So, I was hanging out with a friend and some of his friends when he stops mid-sentence, stares me in the eye, and says “I never noticed before, but your eyes are like blue crystal. I want to cut them out and hang them on my wall.” And, as you know, I appreciate all of the creepy things in life, so this was basically the best compliment ever. It inspired one of my serial killer stories (“Lying Eyes”). Who doesn’t love friendly serial killer-esque compliments from friends? To be fair, it came from the guy who also once told me that he keeps forgetting I’m creepy too after he apologized for some other weird remark. Creepy friends are fun.

2. Another time, I was texting a long-distance friend when I got bored and asked if he had any single friends. He told me that all of his friends were either married or assholes and he wouldn’t give me to an asshole. I still don’t know if that was weirdly sweet or just super unhelpful. I’m going with sweet just because it’s him, but I’m still single so it also wasn’t helpful at all.

3. During grad school, one of my fellow pop ficcers sent me the best feedback ever. He told me that my story had the potential for EVA-level mindfucks. Being the Neon Genesis Evangelion lover that I am, I admit I squeed. I squeed hard. I can only aspire to EVA-level mindfuckery, but to think someone had that much faith in me was super sweet.

I can probably think of other weird compliments, but this post is feeling a bit awkward. I’m not used to nice things. What are some of the weird things that have been said to you? Were you creeped out or did you think it was sweet? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Love Letters to Poe: Vol. 1

Hello, hello! It’s September 1st. Where has the time gone? How is everyone doing? Other than having to remember all of our doctor appointments, things here are good. This week’s post is just a short one. You remember when my story “Poisoned Honey and Pickled Pigs’ Feet” came out in volume 1, issue 8 of Love Letters to Poe? Volume 1 is coming out in its entirety (all 12 issues in one book) on September 20th. There will be both a print version and an ebook, so there’s something for everyone! Also, there will be a sale for the 20th through the 25th. Look forward to it on Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and other stores. For now, I’ll leave you with the recently revealed cover!

Wouldn’t that look lovely on your coffee table, desk, shelves, etc.?

Thoughts on MURDER IN THE VILLAGE

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday of August. Can you believe it? It’s basically 2022 already. Anyway, I don’t have to think of anything to ramble about because it’s book review time! I couldn’t figure out what I felt like reading this month, so I decided to fall back on the good old trusty genre of cozy mysteries. Murder in the Village is the first in Lisa Cutts’ new Belinda Penshurst mystery series. It was released today (August 25th) from Bookouture. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

Cute cover, but feels off. It’s not wrong for the book, but could be better.

Murder in the Village follows Belinda Penshurst as she tries to settle back into village life after a bad break up. She prides herself on knowing everything happening within Little Challham, but when she discovers a dead body and finds out there have been a series of potential dognappings in the village, she quickly realizes how little she actually knows. In order to solve both cases, she teams up with village newbie and ex-detective Harry Powell to investigate everything going on.

It’s pretty standard cozy mystery fare. A nosy lady (though she’s in her 40s instead of the usual younger protagonists) stumbles upon a murder scene and finds a reason to investigate. She’s trying to protect her brother, whose stupid ideas have gotten him in trouble in the past. Throw in Harry Powell who takes over both the best friend and potential love interest roles and things get more interesting. He and his dog food delivery job make the whole story more fun, but mostly because dogs make everything better. And Harry is basically a giant pupper in human form.

No wonder Harry and Colonel get along so well.

When it comes to the characters, I’m definitely more a fan of Harry than Belinda. He’s more down-to-earth and a little doofy and an all around interesting dude. Belinda is rich and very much expects things to go her own way without regard to what other people want, unless it’s her brother. She coddles the crap out of him which is probably why he’s such an idiot. I just didn’t connect with Belinda the way I like to with protagonists. But that’s just me. The rest of the characters were potentially suspects, so I didn’t even try to get attached to them in case I was wrong about what was going on.

My biggest complaint about this book is that I hate when bad guys are only mentioned in passing, then surprise! This person who was just thrown in as an afterthought did it! It’s annoying. Don’t get me wrong, the murderer in this story was fine and had a decent role. It was just the dognapper who sucked. When the big reveal came, I literally asked myself “who the hell is that?” And apparently the author figured that would happen because she immediately explained who it was. I don’t even remember if they ever actually talked to this person or what, but I was too lazy to go back and check. That always feels like a cheap trick that people use when they can’t figure out how to tie everything together. It’s just disappointing.

Me at the big reveal.

The writing itself was nice. Everything flowed pretty well. There were a couple of spots where the pacing slowed a bit too much for my liking, but it wasn’t something that really bothered me. And there were some cute lines sprinkled throughout.

Ultimately, Murder in the Village was okay. I probably won’t go looking for the sequels, but that’s just because I didn’t connect with the characters enough to care what happens to them. It wasn’t bad, though.

starstarstarstar outlinestar outline

Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. If you enjoy cozies and have time, check it out. You might like it. If you don’t have time, I don’t think you’ll be missing anything.

All The Small Things

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? August is on the wane. Next week is the monthly book review. Can you believe it? I have no idea where the time is going. But I do know that I’ve been feeling annoyed and angry and just generally blah. It happens every August. I don’t really know why. I mean, I’m annoyed most of the time, but I can usually pinpoint the reason. In August, I can rarely figure out why things get to me. I’m just irrationally upset a lot of the time. So, I’ve decided to try that self-help crap of writing about a few good things to try to improve my mood. I’m not doing it every day. Not that desperate. But here are some things that make me stupidly happy.

Watch it. You know you want to.

1. Daniel Radcliffe as a preacher doing the campiest drag rendition of She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain When She Comes that you will ever see. It’s from Miracle Workers: Oregon Trail. I cannot share this enough. I knew Harry Potter had a secret side, but this is just glorious. Watch it and you too can be stupidly happy for a minute and a half. If you haven’t seen it, you’re welcome.

2. Any book that mentions alcohol describes that slow burn as it travels down the throat, but what about when you’re drinking something icy cold? Like when you’re warm, verging on uncomfortable, and you take a long drink of something super cold. The iciness travels down your throat and blooms across your chest and you keep drinking and it gets colder until it’s almost unbearable. Then you stop and it’s gone. No? Just me? Well, that feeling makes me happy.

Enema of the State

3. Singing along to stupid pop-punk songs as loud as they’ll go. I haven’t really been in the mood for loud music the past couple of weeks, but when I do crank it up, it’s been for bands like Blink-182, Eve 6, and Lit. How can I not be momentarily happy when singing All the Small Things or Jet Pack or Zip-Lock. Yeah, yeah. A lot of those types of songs are immature and crappy, but they’re fun. Judge me all you want. My music tastes range from wtf? to awesome. It’s just the way I am.

4. The different shades of coffee. I don’t drink it too often because I like sleep, but I enjoy looking at it and how it changes colors as cream is added. The way the coffee and cream swirl together to form strange little galaxies in the cup. I mostly have to watch it in GIFs or whatever, since my thermos isn’t clear, but it’s still cool. One of those weird tiny pleasures in life. Except now I feel stupid for even sharing it. Whatever.

5. Looking at houses that cost millions of dollars and totally judging the owners’ interior design preferences. So much zebra print. And the higher the price, the more gaudy gold cherubs. It’s creepy. And they either paint all of the walls white or super dark jewel tones. There’s no in between. But there are occasionally really beautiful places with gardens and lots of wood in the house and fireplace mantles that aren’t monstrosities. I know. You’re not supposed to judge people and all that crap, but I do. And I enjoy it. It’s not my fault so many rich people have bad taste. But I normally keep my thoughts to myself or between myself and a few people who understand.

Now you know some weird little things that make me happy. What are some things that make you happy while the world is burning? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments or questions or whatever here or on my social media pages!