A Look Inside St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin

Hey there!  It’s been another week, so I suppose it’s time for me to start rambling again.  Instead of the usual, I’d say it’s about time to do another food review!  This month, I think I’ll give St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin over in Deep Ellum its due.  It’s on Commerce for all those familiar with the area.  Everyone else should check their website (linked above).  Now, I know I promised you something different in the last food blog, and it is different.  I swear it’s not JUST seafood.  They have all sorts of things.  At least it’s not another oyster bar.  Anyhoo, here’s your reminder of the rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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These stirrers used to say St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin, but I suppose times change. Still pretty neat!

As usual, let’s start with accessibility.  It’s a bit of a tight fit navigating the tables for larger wheelchairs (like my own), especially if the Dancing Marlin is packed.  We usually go on Sunday evenings or late afternoons during the week to avoid crowds.  Aside from that, the tables are a great height.  Most of them are rectangular, but they do have some round tables if those work better for you.  Occasionally, the floor feels like it’s going to give way (not technically an accessibility issue, but extra scary when you’re in a heavy chair), so it’s kind of an adventure!

The service.  The wait staff at the Dancing Marlin gets bonus points because they don’t normally act like I’m invisible.  That’s always a good thing.  The waiter today was attentive (kept our drinks full, answered questions, etc.), didn’t bring our food out too fast (we had time to finish things), and never once made us feel rushed.  The staff also consisted of people  who calmly dealt with someone who was sitting outside complaining about a fly in their drink (it’s summer in Texas and you’re drinking wine outside.  Put something over your glass if you don’t want flies in it. C’mon, now).  No complaints there.

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Calamari and me!

Now, the important stuff: food!  For an appetizer, we got calamari.  It was good.  Not too chewy.  Had a nice crust.  It wasn’t my favorite thing there, but it was tasty.  Now, if you like garlic half as much as I do, I definitely suggest the baked garlic appetizer.  Yes, they bake garlic.  For the not-so-garlicky people, there are other delicious choices as well.

As far as entrees go, they have a decent selection from pizzas to pastas, burgers to hot dogs.  The Dancing Marlin also has a tuna steak (it comes in a number of ways).  Dad got the grilled tuna salad (tuna steak on a salad) with grilled mushrooms, onions, and jalapeños.  They sure know how to cook a tuna steak!  Dad always gets it rare (how else would you eat it), so it’s pink and tender and delicious.  And the salad definitely wasn’t skimpy.  It was a real meal.

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Dad’s salad.

I usually get penne with red clam sauce (highly recommend it), but I decided to get something different this time.  I went with the F. B. Combo (catfish fillet and shrimp) with pasta salad instead of fries.  The fish and shrimp were crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside.  The breading wasn’t salty, but seasoned nicely.  And the pasta salad… I normally don’t like pasta salad, but I figured I’d give it a shot.  It was actually pretty yummy!  I was impressed.

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My meal.

Dessert.  The selection here is pretty strange.  Baklava, cheesecake, chocolate cake, and ice cream bars.  Personally, I suggest the baklava.  It’s a tiny serving, but super sweet, and a perfect little end to a wonderful meal.

And, of course, we must talk about price.  It’s actually not too bad.  It’s not often we look at a check expecting it to be a certain amount and have it turn out to be less.  It happens at the Dancing Marlin.

My overall rating:
MMMM

See you next week with more writerly randomness!

Word Count? Who Needs That?

Hello, hello!  It’s that time again.  Today, I want to talk a bit about word count.  It’s a subject that Lew Andrada suggested when I asked for questions and comments and all that.  It’s also a subject I struggle with, because it’s pretty arbitrary.  Anyone you ask seems to have a different answer when it comes to the correct lengths of things.

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We’ve all encountered a scenario like this one.  I actually kind of think that’s where the concepts of word counts really help (me at least).  It gives me a firm goal to keep in mind and work toward, that way I can have a more realistic idea of how long a project will take me to finish.

So, how do I approach word count?  I keep it simple!  I basically follow SFWA’s counts for the Nebula awards.  In other words, these rules:

Short Story: less than 7,500 words.
 Novelette: 7,500 words to 17,500 words.
 Novella: 17,500 words to 40,000 words.
 Novel: 40,000 words or more.

Adult

Now, I know that “novel” is an extremely broad category that can be broken down by genres or even target audience age.  In fact, the list above is just one example of many break downs you’ll find with a quick Google search.  No, none of them are the same.  Yes, it gets really confusing really fast.  On top of all that, you also have lists for middle grade, young adult, adult, and a relatively new category dubbed new adult.  It’s complicated.  I don’t like complicated things.

In other words, I don’t bother with all of that crap.  My goal is based on my story.  If I’m going for a flash fiction piece (<1000), I usually aim for 900 words.  A short story?  Around 5,000 words.  A novel?  It depends on what it feels like.  I tried for 70,000 to 75,000 for my first novel after tons of research on word count.  It is a supernatural YA, so on top of feeling like a good amount, it also turns out to be a fairly average count for that type of book.  The novel I’m currently working on is different.  I’m going more by my gut for this one.  My current aim is 80,000 to 90,000 just because that’s what it feels like it will need.  I’m sure my past research is playing some kind of unconscious role, but whatever.

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On the other hand, enforcing a word count can lead to fears of rambling.  Don’t worry!  You can fix all of that during edits.  That’s also another factor that goes into choosing my own word count.  I like to choose a middling number, just in case I need the wiggle room.  I have space to brutally cut out all of the nonsense if I need to, but I also have room to fix anything that’s not fleshy enough.

What I mean to say is that word counts are great tools, but don’t let them freak you out.  Let them help you establish a more concrete timeline for finishing your work, but don’t let them rule your work.  Keep it simple and fun, or it’s not worth doing.  At least that’s how I feel about it.  What are your thoughts on word count?

Inspiration! Does It Strike You?

Welcome!  Another question today.  My Minion (Joel Rede) asked me “What inspires you?”  Well, is “everything” an acceptable answer?  At least that’s the immediate answer that usually pops into my head.  However, the more I think about it, the more I go off on a tangent.  More often than not, I’m inspired by a multitude of things all playing off of each other, but sometimes I’m not feeling inspired at all.  So, while I’m going to talk about sources of inspiration for me, I’m also going to address what I do when nothing is striking me.

InspirationI’m easily inspired (it’s awesome, but it’s also a curse because I have SO MANY unwritten or forgotten stories).  I’d say that music has the biggest impact on my writing topics.  Sometimes, it’s a whole song that catches my attention.  A lot of the time, it’s a single line or even just a word that piques my curiosity.  I’ve written a screenplay based on a song, and I’ve written short stories that were inspired by a verse or less.  The mood of whatever music I listen to also has its fair share of influence on my writing.  It’s just one of those things.

Another source of inspiration is people.  I’m a people watcher.  If I’m obviously staring at you, chances are that you’re not even on my radar, but that guy arguing with a tree (or someone hidden by the tree) behind you definitely has my attention.  C’mon.  Who doesn’t want to know why the guy is yelling at the tree nymph?  Scenes like that, ones that probably have a completely reasonable explanation, are the best things ever!  Combine them with snippets of overheard conversations, and you’re golden.  It’s especially amusing if you’re somewhere like an anime convention where you have a lumberjack-looking guy dressed as Sailor Moon flirting with a furry.  I couldn’t make this stuff up.

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There are, not they are. Yes, I correct grammar on the Interwebz.

The world is full of inspiration if you’re open to it, but what about the days it fails you?  I write anyway.  I’m not a believer in writing only when inspiration strikes, because frankly (and I’ve said this before), the muse is a fickle bitch.  If you wait for her, you’ll never get anything done.  Yeah, you might get 5000 words written one day, but then you’ll hit a month long dry spell.  What’s the good in that?  On the other hand, I don’t advocate writing every single day, so if you’re consistently inspired five days out of the week, go ahead and take those other two days off guilt free.

If you’re like me, and some days the words just won’t come, write them anyway.  It usually happens when I’m between big projects or I’ve hit a spot that I haven’t quite decided how to work my way through.  On those days, I free write.  I let my mind go blank, then write whatever pops into it.  A lot of the time, I just end up writing a three page rant about why writing/certain characters/plotting/whatever sucks.  Sometimes, a sentence will pop into my head and lead to a three page description of a new story or novel.  So, even free writing can lead to inspiration!

Hand with Reflecting Sphere
M. C. Escher

 In other words, whether you find inspiration in music or people or art (another big one for me) or in nothing at all, keep creating.  Maybe one day, you’ll be the one inspiring people.  Maybe you already are and just don’t know it.  Keep it up!

No School! The Feels…

Hello there!  I think I’ll address another question/comment today.  Remember, feel free to send me questions or comments or whatever here or at Facebook or TwitterThis one is from Dallas FunkShe recently brought it to my attention that we aren’t preparing for a new semester, we aren’t panicking to finish up our last packets, and we aren’t getting ready to travel halfway across the country for ten days of writerly business and fun.  How does that make me feel?  Well…

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Actually, that’s only kind of right.  Sure, I’m sad, but I’m also a little excited and relieved and not as stressed (though I fully admit to facing new kinds of stress).  I mean, right about now is usually when I’d be starting to prepare for the residency and worrying over the drive that isn’t for another month (irrational fears FTW!) and all that.  Instead, I started writing a new novel this month while I wait for feedback on the other one.  I had been working on a collection of short stories, which was becoming tedious, so I switched projects.  The fact that I’m not working towards a thesis, and that I didn’t have to check with anyone first, made it much easier to convince myself that this kind of shift is okay.  The freedom, man!  The freedom!

I will definitely miss everyone, but this is what happens as we grow.  We lose touch with some and make new connections with others.  Also, I’d normally have a social buffer right around this time to make the transition easier.  A weekend out among other similar minded freaks (granted, these are anime lovers, not writers, but still).  Also known as A-Kon weekend.  But I’ve chosen to skip it this year (that was a dumbass move on my part).  I think that has me more sad than anything.  I knew school was a limited time thing going in, but this is the first time in thirteen years that I’ve skipped A-Kon.

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The Minion and I almost ready for the masquerade ball last year.

Don’t get me wrong, it is time for a break from A-Kon, but I kind of regret doing it the same year I finished school.  However, I am trying to stay a little social by going to readings and stuff.  Yeah… I guess that’s really the biggest “sad” part about not prepping for a new semester.  It’s just the lack of socializing that’s got me a little down.  That’s actually a pretty terrifying revelation for someone who never really cared about having a social life.  Gee thanks, Stonecoast!

I guess what all this boils down to is that I’m having feels about the situation, but none of them are really standing out.  Actually, I posted a Facebook status a few days ago that said “It feels weird to not be prepping for A-Kon or a new semester.  I shouldn’t have stopped both in the same year.  Sad Cyn is sad.  In other news, I decided to start a new novel tomorrow.  It’s a standalone.  Much more post-apocalypse (but not really) sci-fi than I’m used to writing.  I’m kind of excited.”  That was when a friend’s mom asked if I was bipolar (jokingly, of course) and I replied with “It’s a writer’s life!  Conflicting emotions are the norm.”  So, that there’s the short version of everything I just said.

Feels

A writer’s life… So many feels, bro.  So many feels.