A Look Inside Zenna

Hi again!  I haven’t done a restaurant review in quite a while, so I figured it was about time.  Dad and I tried Zenna, a relatively new Thai and Japanese restaurant in Mesquite (I have no experience with the other locations, just to be clear), again on Sunday.  We tried it once before when it first opened and the food wasn’t that good, but we usually give places a second chance unless something drastically bad happens, so here are my thoughts on our second try.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take any pictures, so you’ll have to deal with the couple I borrowed from their Yelp page.

A reminder of my 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.

o
The front.  It’s where Bikini’s used to be over by Kaze’s and Chili’s for those familiar with Mesquite.

 As usual, I’ll start with accessibility.  Other than the semi-tight squeeze to get out of the way so Dad could open the second set of doors (not unusual at all around here, thus the norm), it’s pretty easy to manuever around this place.  Where there are steps, there’s also a ramp.  They have some half-booths available so I could sit on the side with chairs and Dad could’ve had a choice, but we sat at a regular table instead.  Table height was perfect for me, but I did run into the central table leg.  It wasn’t a major inconvenience, though.  So, A+ for accessibility.

Service.  The waiter was pretty good.  He was a little iffy when it came to whether or not he thought he should talk to me, but after a couple of reminders that I could indeed order for myself, he seemed to get more comfortable.  He was good about not rushing things and brought everything we asked for in a timely manner.  Dad did have to ask for a refill on his seltzer, but that’s no big deal since the waiter was always nearby and quick to respond.  He did forget to ask us about the spice level we wanted, but after our first experience (my level two came out more like a level four), we were fine with adding the chili paste ourselves.

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The menu.

 And, of course, we must discuss the food.  This was where things went wrong on our first visit.  Everything was either bland or burn-your-taste-buds spicy.  This trip was much better.  We had the sashimi seaweed salad (the fish tasted fresh and the seaweed was weirdly delicious) and basil chicken wraps (definitely recommend) to start.  We also shared a bowl of Tom-Kah Kai.  This is one of those things that we have at every Thai place we go to and basically judge everything else based on our experience with this soup.  Some places have amazing Tom-Kah and some don’t.  We don’t usually go back to the ones without it.  Zenna’s Tom-Kah Kai is really good.  It’s not my absolute favorite, but it’s close to home and satisfying.

For entrees, Dad had the combination Sweet Basil and I had the chicken Pad See-Eew.  Both dishes were yummy and had really nice flavors.  Dad actually said his needed more vegetables.  MORE.  The carnivore that is my dad wanted more veggies.  That’s saying a lot.  Other than that, we enjoyed our meals both that night and the next morning with poached eggs on top.  We also split a Midnight Roll (smoked eel, cucumber, avacado, salmon, and some other stuff), which wasn’t bad, but if I want sushi and the like, I’d rather go a few restaurants over to a place called Kaze’s.

Dessert… Dad got the sticky rice with mango and I had the black rice with coconut custard.  Both were good in their own right, but not my favorite.  I’m used to the black rice being more of a pudding than this was, but otherwise it was tasty and I have nothing to really complain about.  It was simply not what I was expecting.

Lastly, the price.  It actually wasn’t too bad considering portion sizes.  Dad and I have easily dropped $100 on that amount of food.  This was about $70 (pre-tip.  Always remember to tip your servers.).  Not bad at all.

So, overall I was happy with this experience.  We’ll go back.  There are better Thai places, but they’re all a half-hour or so drive for us.  It’s nice to have a place ten minutes down the road.  My official rating:

MMMM

Craft Books And Why We Need Them

Hello, hello!  A few days ago, I was bored and skimming through Facebook when I came across a friend’s post about how she had finally gotten back to writing after a pretty long break.  Being bored makes me nosy, so I read through the comments and noticed someone who is admittedly new to writing ask for some tips on how to improve her writing beyond practicing each day.  Let’s be honest, practicing every day is great, but if you don’t know the basics and how to push yourself beyond your limits, you’re not going to get very far.  How do you learn the basics of writing?  Surprise!  There are instruction manuals for basically everything, including writing.  We just happen to call them craft books.

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If you’re like me, you despise craft books because all of your English professors made you read the most boring literary ones they could find.  When you just want to write about demons and serial killers (or dragons and fairies for the fantasy crew/aliens and far away galaxies for the sci-fi crew/etc.), these books get old fast.  So, here’s my quick list of crafty type books for genre writers.

1. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler.  It’s based around Joseph Cambell’s Hero’s Journey (the basic structure of Western mythology and the different archetypes of the characters and all that).  My favorite part is that it’s aimed specifically at genre writing, so you won’t run across any random derogatory remarks about your chosen field like I have in other craft books.

2. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss.  I don’t care if you’re the smartest grammar Nazi in the world, we all need a little help with punctuation sometimes.  If you like dry British humor and concise explanations, this is the punctuation rulebook for you.  Yes, there are certainly more comprehensive and technical books out there, but unless you’re an English professor or an academic writer, I don’t really find them necessary.

3. Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder.  Okay, so it’s not your traditional craft book, but it’s helpful with things like structure and dialogue.  Plus, it might just encourage you to try your hand at screenwriting.  It’s one of those books that explains a lot of the same things traditional craft books cover, but it comes at them from a different perspective.  So, if other books aren’t working for you, give this one a shot.

4. Danse Macabre by Stephen King.  This one is more of a history of horror than it is a craft book, but there’s a ton of useful information in here for horror writers.  I’ll also mention that On Writing by King is supposed to be a wonderful, more general craft book if you’re not looking for something specifically horror related.  I haven’t read the latter yet, but it’s on my to-be-read list.

5. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway.  I have no idea which edition I read (I believe it was the 8th), but I do know that she insinuates that genre fiction is common and lowbrow while lauding literary fiction.  Why would I suggest this book then?  Mostly because the writing exercises were worthwhile.  Plus the technical parts are short and to the point instead of super repetitive.  So, if you want a decent version of the undergrad go-tos, pick this one up, just be prepared for derogatory remarks toward genre fiction.

 I’m sure I forgot a lot of great craft books, and I’m definitely trying to forget a lot of bad ones, but I think this is enough to start with.  What about you?  Do you have any favorites that aren’t on this list?  Do you think they’re important to keep around even if you’re a seasoned writer?  I admit to selling most of my undergrad craft books, but I’ve kept all of the ones from Stonecoast (even the ones I hated), because there’s always something they can teach you.

Cripple Rant

Hi there!  So, you remember that post I made about three months ago, Murphy’s Law for CripplesWell, it’s been three months and nine visits later, and things still aren’t fixed.  They replaced the lift pump about a month after everything started (far too long), so that’s been working, but the new one is already clicking and catching and acting like it’s going to go out soon which doesn’t instill much confidence in the product.  But hey, at least they spelled “front” right this time!

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This will never cease to amuse me.

 The chair batteries, on the other hand, are still messing up, though not quite as bad as they were.  For the first month, month and a half, I couldn’t leave my room, let alone the house, because the batteries were dying so fast that I had to keep my vent plugged into the wall instead of the chair.  Originally, the excuse was that the company was using cheap batteries which they tried me on twice.  Batteries they KNOW don’t support a chair with additional functions (lay-back, vent support, etc.), but they use them to save money and because they have them in stock instead of having to order them.  But if you’re sending guys out to change them every couple of months instead of every couple of years, how is that saving anything?

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Then again, I’m not a business person, so what do I know?

 Eventually, they got the “good” batteries for me, but they still drained super fast.  Another check in revealed that the guy had wired my vent to them wrong (an honest mistake that he owned up to right away, so no bad feelings there).  The batteries were STILL draining, albeit not as fast, but faster than they’re supposed to, so they replaced them again figuring some of the cells had been damaged from the miswired vent.  Guess what happened?  Yup, the newest set are draining again!  But a least I can leave the house.  I did have to skip a few events because of the whole debacle though, so that didn’t make me very happy.

Anyway, this past week they decided to take the chair into the shop to tear it down so they could search for the real problem.  What did this mean for me?  Well, since my chair is one of the few things I don’t have a backup for (no place to store one), it meant that I stayed up all night on Thursday, slept all day Friday until they brought it back (they picked it up around nine, nine-thirty that morning and brought it back around six-thirty), then stayed up all Friday night and Saturday until around ten pm.  I haven’t done that crap since I was in my early twenties.  Needless to say, I am not twenty anymore.  But now, the problem is supposedly my motors.  They’re going out which is drawing more power from my batteries than usual.  Who knows how long it’ll take to get those changed out.  Hopefully not another three months.

But then, I woke up on Sunday, got on Facebook, and realized all my problems were insignificant.

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The Dallas skyline in support of Orlando.

Cozying Up With A Cozy

Howdy, howdy!  It’s currently Monday (June 6th) and, instead of being productive, I decided to watch one of the Garage Sale Mystery movies.  Yeah, Hallmark channel crap.  Don’t judge me.  Anyway, it got me wondering why a cozy is such an attractive thing.  I mean, I can’t really say I’ve read any.  And I have zero desire to write one.  But I do enjoy watching the movies and some of the TV shows within that genre.

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Cozy characters either have the worst luck or are the best serial killers ever.

 So, what exactly is a cozy mystery?  It’s a subgenre of crime fiction.  Some random lady (it’s usually a woman in my limited experience, anyway) in a small, close-knit town stumbles across a crime scene and takes it upon herself to solve the murder despite a fairly capable police force being present and numerous warnings not to get involved.  There’re usually subplots of romance or family drama.  And there’s almost always a BFF or creepily close sibling for the protagonist to bounce ideas off of and occasionally drag into some dangerous situation or another.  They’re cheesy, (usually) family friendly crime dramas.  Granted, some cozies break the rules, but this is the general set up.

What’s so appealing about this type of thing?  I really don’t know.  There tend to be dominant themes that link the movies together (baking, flowers, garage sale items, etc.), usually based around the protagonist’s career.  I prefer food related ones (because who doesn’t love food?).  I also know someone who writes a  grittier type of cozy that revolves around the music scene, which is cool (okay, so I have read at least part of a cozy).  It’s partly a matter of finding one with a theme you’re drawn to.  It also helps if you like punny titles.

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The first one was “Mum’s the Word.”  Punny.

 Personally, I think it’s mostly just the combination of a picturesque small town and a scarily naive protagonist who saves the day/solves the case and comes out of it all just as perky and unscathed as she started out.  Yeah, I know that’s not how it works in the real world.  I know most people who find a dead body would be scarred for life.  But this is fiction, by golly!  It’s a world where it’s possible to wrap everything up with a neat little bow in under two hours (or an hour if we’re talking TV shows) and have everyone end up happy.  Sometimes, we need to escape to a place where that stuff is possible.  Otherwise, reality gets depressing.

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Exactly!

 What about you?  Are you a fan of cozy mysteries?  Would you admit it if you were (because I know there are people who view the genre as “lowbrow,” and thus not worth their time)?  If you are a fan, what do you like about the genre?  Do you have any recommendations for movies or books or whatnot?  Better yet, what’s a genre you enjoy, but have no idea why?  Share your pleasures!  Share your guilty pleasures even.  And remember that this is a judgment-free zone.

Until next week!

Three Things Not To Say To A Writer

Hi again!  Lately, I’ve been seeing those lists of things that every writer supposedly hates to hear and decided to make my own.  It’s relatively short compared to the ten, fifteen, even thirty item lists I’ve noticed floating around.  This is mainly because 1) I don’t really pay much attention when I start to get annoyed by a conversation, and 2) people don’t generally ask me if I have a real job when told I’m a writer (I’m guessing that has something to do with the whole cripple thing, which I’m okay with), so I run into a lot less annoying people than the average writer.  So, here’s my very short list divided up into who shouldn’t be saying it.

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You wouldn’t be my first victim.

 1.  Publishers to writers (or any creative artists really) – “We won’t pay you, but you’ll definitely earn some exposure by being published here.”

If I wanted to work for exposure, I’d post my work on my blog.  I suppose that’s my “popular fiction” training talking.  We’re taught to start at the top (pro-paying publications) and work our way down (semi-pro, token, and as a last resort, exposure) until we receive an acceptance or run out of places to submit to, which makes sense to me.  Why not aim high?  The worst that can happen is a rejection.  I admit that I’ve submitted to non-paying things before, but they were special circumstances.  Even if I kind of understand it, I don’t really see the draw of “exposure.”  And I don’t know why we (creative artists) keep accepting it as if it’s a form of payment.

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This.

 2. Non-writers to writers – “You should write my life story! *proceeds in telling life story*”

Don’t get me wrong, there is probably some CNF writer somewhere who would be totally down for something like that, but I’m not that person.  Unless your life involves dragons or fairies or (literal, not figurative) demons, the chances of me writing about it are pretty slim.  So, maybe this one isn’t exactly a “don’t say it to any writer” thing as much as it is a “know your audience” type thing.  Ask us about the type of stuff we write, then if you’re actually interested in having your story told and that writer seems interested in telling it, go for it!  But, if it’s not something you’re truly interested in doing and/or the writer doesn’t write that type of stuff, it’s probably safer to not bring it up.

3.  Writer to writer – “You’re still working on that piece?”

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You really better be ill if you’re a writer and you’re asking me this.

 Yes, yes I am still working on that piece.  The question itself isn’t all that bad.  I don’t get bothered when non-writers ask it, because most people don’t understand what all goes into something like a novel or poem or short story.  But when a writer asks it, it comes across as rude.  I’m sorry I’m not as fast a writer as you.  I’m sorry I hold my work to higher standards.  Go worry about your own work and leave me to my process.

Those are my three big writerly pet peeves.  There are others, of course, but the annoyance levels all really depend on who says what when.  What are some questions or statements that grind on your writerly nerves?