It’s In The Bag…

Hello, hello!  Hoppy April!  Yes, I did the corny bunny joke since Easter is coming up later this month and I’ll probably forget about it that week.  Anyway, I had zero ideas what to blog about today, so I went to this post and convinced myself I would do the third thing on the list (because it’s the 3rd).  It seems pretty silly to me, but apparently people believe that what people carry around in their bags (purses, backpacks, fanny packs, whatever) can tell you a lot about them.  You probably won’t learn anything about me, but if you do, feel free to share it with me!

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Pretty.

First off, I don’t have a bag or purse or anything extravagant like that.  I have a pouch that Dad bought me from Thatcher’s Leather Artistry during one of our long ago trips to the Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival.  It’s small enough to tuck it away for short trips out of the house and, if we’re going to be out for the day, there’s a little loop on the back so we can hang it on my seatbelt where I don’t have to worry about it falling off somewhere.  It’s durable.  I can’t even remember how long I’ve had it and it’s still going strong.  But most importantly, it has a dragon on it and I love it.

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Be jealous. ^__~

As far as the stuff that goes in it, there isn’t much.  I keep a handful of my own business cards that I always forget about, thus never giving them away.  There were originally ten of the new ones and I’m pretty sure there still are.  I also have at least one of my old cards as well.  Plus a bunch of other people’s business cards that I collected along the way, though those get purged about once a year, whenever they get unruly.  There’s also a library card that I haven’t used in years and some other random cards.  But, of course, I always forget to toss the gift cards I’ve accumulated in there, so I never have one during my rare stops at Starshmucks or whatever.

There’s also a little baggy of pills hidden in its depths.  Don’t get excited, pouch thieves.  It’s just Dad’s diabetes pills in case we’re out for our first meal of the day and he hasn’t taken his meds yet.  Anyone who steals those won’t get high, but they might end up in a low sugar coma!  I suppose that could be fun.  But yeah, that’s in there.

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It’s a nifty little thing.

I also got this little card holder thing recently.  It holds the few semi-important things I have: my ID, etc.  If the sigil makes no sense, it’s from Supernatural, so don’t worry about it.  I mostly just got it because it was on sale and the colors match my pouch.

Other than that, I don’t keep anything in my pouch.  Not even change.  I might drop a lipstick in on the extremely rare occasion that I wear makeup and we’re going to be out all day, but that’s a once every five years thing.  What about you?  What does your bag say about you?  What does mine say about me?  Whatever it is, it’s probably wrong.  Feel free to comment here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on SEA WITCH

Howdy, howdy!  Due to the random sicknesses of the past couple of months, I forgot to request a book from NetGalley for March.  Luckily, I had a book on my to-be-read list that I’ve been looking for an excuse to read ever since it came out in July of last year.  My love of mermaids automatically drew me towards Sea Witch by Sarah Henning.  The fact that it sounded like a new take on the Little Mermaid (my favorite fairy tale) sealed the deal.  I had to read it.  But that’s enough of why I chose it, let’s get to the review.

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I love the cover.

Sarah Henning’s Sea Witch tells the story Evie, a peasant and a witch, who not only has to hide her power, but also has to put up with the townsfolk accusing her of not knowing her place just because she’s best friends with the prince (Nik) and close to his cousin (Iker), another prince.  When her other best friend, Anna, was taken by the sea, Evie’s whole life fell apart until she thrust herself into studying magic.  Evie and Nik never stopped mourning Anna, but when a mysterious stranger who resembles their dead friend appears, Evie finds herself a purpose: keeping her new friend on land.  Unfortunately, Evie has no idea what kind of magic it will take, nor does she understand the repercussions until it’s too late.

This isn’t some Disney-ified version of the tale with replicas of Ariel and Ursula and Erik.  These characters are mostly well-developed and have a nice balance between light and dark within them.  However, I do admit that Iker and Nik could have used a bit more personality.  Nik was an ideal prince through and through.  I wanted him to be a little selfish and at least make his desires known.  Iker, on the other hand, is a stereotypical playboy prince who turns his back on Evie when he thinks she’s a threat to him and his family.

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For some reason, Iker reminded me of this.  “Love me Evie! … from afar.”

As far as the plot goes, I have some issues with the reasoning behind Annemette’s whole revenge thing.  I just don’t believe someone who was always best friends with these people would blame them like that.  But I’ll say it was because of her lack of a soul.  I’m sure that would corrupt people and make them do weird things.  But other than that, I have no real qualms with the book.  In fact, I’m really happy the story didn’t take the happy ending route where friendship conquers everything.  That would’ve been far too sappy a climax and not a fitting tribute to the original Little Mermaid.

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Because we’re talking about writing next.

The writing is mostly smooth and enjoyable.  Most of the romance between Evie and Iker comes off as corny and more funny than I think it was supposed to, but I got a good chuckle out of it.  I also admit that a couple of the past sections confused me.  At one point, I’m not entirely sure if Iker or Nik is the main character for one of those parts.  It’s easy enough to figure it out after the fact, but during it, I was super confuzzled.

Ultimately, I’m glad I found this book.  A friend actually pointed out that a second one is coming out this year.  I will definitely be picking it up to see what Evie is up to next.

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Overall, I gave Sea Witch four out of five stars.  If you love mermaids or witches or both, this book is a worthy addition to your library.  Bonus points if you’re into fairy tale retellings!

Keeping Track

Hello, hello!  Thanks to my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum, Tony PisculliI actually have something halfway productive to talk about today.  After my last post, he asked me how I keep track of my submissions and gave me a couple of ideas for how to improve on it.  So, I’m going to ramble a bit about three options for keeping track of the things you submit and where you submit them.  The first two options are things I currently do, but the third is one that I hope to implement in the near future.

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As one should.

1. Duotrope.  This is a nifty website that offers a searchable database of magazines and anthologies looking for submissions.  It keeps track of acceptance rates and a bunch of other useful tidbits like what word count and genres these places accept.  Its information is fairly accurate, but always check the submission guidelines of each venue before you submit, just in case.  One of its main features is the ability to track what you’ve submitted where.  It’s currently my go-to way of keeping track of everything, but it is flawed in that some smaller venues aren’t listed, so I need a backup way of tracking those.  But for $50 a year, it’s a great tool for writers to invest in.

2. File names.  I learned a long time ago to use the date, the story title, and the name of the publication when I’m saving my work for submission.  Labeling the file something like 2019.03.20_story_publication keeps everything in a neat chronological order.  However, the more submissions you make, the more unruly this method becomes.  One thing Tony suggested to help improve this was to give each story its own folder, that way everything isn’t mixed together and it’s easier to scan through and see where you’ve submitted individual stories.  I plan on giving this a shot before I send out too many more submissions.

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3. Spreadsheets.  This is something I’ve been meaning to create for a while now, but I keep putting it off because it’s going to take at least a couple of days.  It has been a long time since I’ve made any kind of in-depth spreadsheet for anything, so I’ll have to teach myself all the ins and outs of it again.  But I would love to not only track where I’ve sent things, but where I want to send them in the future and when.  It’s difficult to keep track of which venues have open submission periods.  I’ve almost missed a number of windows because I didn’t write it down anywhere.  Plus, a spreadsheet would allow me to personalize the information I keep track of, like which venues encourage me to submit again or random encouraging words for a particular story to look at when I’m considering trunking something.  When I do get around to creating a spreadsheet, I’ll make sure to give you all a glimpse!

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Sure…

What about you?  How do you keep track of your submissions?  Do you have any tips or tricks to share?  Have you ever considered a spreadsheet?  What kind of information would you include if you created your own tracker?  Feel free to comment here or on my social media profiles!

Revised Goals

Howdy, howdy!  It’s mid-March, and as many of you know, I’ve been sick most of the year thus far.  I don’t want to jinx it, so I won’t say that I’m definitely better, but I think I’m on the right track.  Anyway, I thought I would take this week’s post easy and revise my goals for the year since everything is screwed up.  I’ll try to post something writerly or personal or worth reading next week.  Suggestions for topics or questions are always welcome.  For now, let’s get to it.

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This has been me for a while now.

So, yeah. Goals: revised.

1. Finish revising LR1.  I was hoping to get this done by early April, but that’s not happening.  All I’ve managed to do with this story is figure out I forgot to swap some scenes around as I was going through it.  So, I’m hoping I can get it done by late June or early July.  At least I’ll know where to start when I can dig back into this one!

2. Begin revising DS1.  I was hoping to get this novel polished up by the end of the year, but with all the work it needs, that’s a tall order.  I’ll be happy if I can get through a second draft and end up with something vaguely readable by the end of the year.  There’s always next year if I need more time.

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That’s also the secret to finishing second drafts!

3. Submit short stories/flash pieces (at least 2 subs a week).  I admit that I fell a few weeks behind on this while I was sick, but I did take a day to send a bunch out in order to catch up.  Now, I’m back to doing it regularly, so this is one goal that gets to stay the same.

4. Write 5 short stories/flash pieces.  I highly doubt I’ll get the story I wanted to get done by the end of March finished.  However, I still believe that five new short pieces is a reasonable goal.  It’s less than one per month.  Maybe I’ll also add some poetry, but I can decide that later.

5. Shop LR around to agents.  Still hoping to meet this goal.  If I can get it revised by July, I don’t see why this isn’t something I could accomplish.  It’s not like I’m saying I want to get it published or anything.  That’s more of a five year plan goal.

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6. Read 25 books.  This was originally 30 books, but I’ve lost a lot of time and don’t know if I can make it up.  I’m a slow reader.  But I’ve still got a long list of to-be-read books!

I should also throw it out there that I need to socialize more and write to people and take care of my health.  Hopefully, I can do all that plus get to everything on my list.  What about you?  Do you have any goals you need to rework this year?  Feel free to comment here or on my social media pages!

The Year of Pestilence

Hello, hello!  Apparently, 2019 has decided it wants to be the year of disease and crud and general unpleasantness in this house.  If I’m not sick, Dad is.  If he’s not sick, I am.  We don’t know where we’re getting sick or even what we’re sick with, but it seems like every time we feel better for a couple of days, something new pops up.  We keep blaming the dog (that’s what we have pets for, right?  To blame everything on them), but she doesn’t care as long as she gets her cuddles and food.  Anyway, this weekend it was my turn to get sick and I’m still in that post sickness haze where every time I feel halfway decent, I ask my body what kind of trick it’s pulling.  Needless to say, this post will probably be short and just a rant.

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Speaking of dogs, this is Lady after her bath.

I’ve been sick pretty much since January 22nd.  I’ll have days where I feel pretty good, but never enough in a row to get any significant amount of work done.  That means my goals for the year are all screwed up.  Once I get over whatever is going on with me, I’ll have to rework all my plans and see what’s salvageable and what I need to push back.  But, honestly, I’m at the point right now where I just don’t care.  All I want is to go more than a week without feeling like crap.  But I don’t want to complain, so I’ll just leave you with a little ditty that describes how I feel.

Warning: profanity.

Thoughts on SNOW WHITE LEARNS WITCHCRAFT

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of the month, which means it’s book review time!  Didn’t I just do this?  Seems like it, but that was just to make up for January.  February gets its own book.  This month, I’m going to talk about Snow White Learns Witchcraft, which is a collection of short stories and poems by Theodora Goss.  Technically, I received access to an advanced reader copy (ARC) through NetGalley, but they archived it without warning a few days after the approval and I hadn’t downloaded it yet.  Sadness.  Then, I realized it was releasing on February 5th, so I would have plenty of time to buy a copy and read it in time to review it.  Happiness!  Anyway, let’s get to it.

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A lovely cover.

Snow White Learns Witchcraft is a little misleading as a title for the entire collection because Snow White isn’t the only fairy tale revisited among these pieces.  Goss adds her own personal touch as she retells many beloved tales from Goldilocks to the Little Mermaid to Cinderella to some that I’m not even familiar with.  A mixture of poetry and short stories, this collection is sure to have something for all fairy tale lovers to get lost in.

I think I’ll start with the short stories.  My personal favorite was “Conversations with the Sea Witch,” but I admit that I’m biased because the Little Mermaid happens to be my favorite fairy tale.  It tells the story of an old crippled woman who has lived her happy life with her prince and is now awaiting death.  Each day her servants wheel her out on the balcony for fresh air and she has conversations with her friend, the sea witch who gave her legs.  We get to hear about the witch and how she ended up the way she is.  It’s a neat, quick story.  Most of the stories in this collection come at their mother fairy tales from new and interesting directions.  Some are set in olden times while others are in the present and many are somewhere between the two.  Many of the tales are quick reads, but some drag a little.  I think that’s why “A Country Called Winter” wasn’t as enjoyable as others for me; it felt slow.  It was one of the tales I wasn’t familiar with, but it was predictable enough that I wasn’t pulled along the way I would have been if I didn’t know what was going to happen.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked this story (and all the others), it simply wasn’t my favorite.

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She does get nasty.

The poetry in this collection was wonderful.  “The Ogress Queen” delights the senses as she ponders what delicacies Helios, Aurora, and their mother would taste like.  “Diamonds and Toads” offers up an amusing situation that leaves the reader with a number of potential lessons it could be trying to teach.  I’d like to believe it’s showing us that every bad situation has a potential upside if you’re willing to look for it.  Like all fairy tales, each poem leaves us with a lesson.  Some of these, the speaker comes right out and says, others we have to dig for.

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The writing in this collection is as varied as the stories and poems.  Goss captures each voice like she’s the sea witch.  As I said earlier, the pace changes from piece to piece, but all in all this was a fast and fun read.

Ultimately, I’m happy that I went ahead and bought Snow White Learns Witchcraft.  Fairy tales are some of my favorite reading material.  This book was worth adding to my collection.

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Overall, I gave this collection 4 out of 5 stars.  I wavered between four and five because I always expect to not enjoy some pieces as much as others when reading a collection like this, so I shouldn’t let that affect my decision, right?  But I settled on four because it seemed fair and true to how I felt about everything.  If you like fairy tales, check this book out!

That Didn’t Go Right

Hello, hello!  How is everyone doing this week?  I’m a bit annoyed at myself if I’m being honest.  I was going over my story’s timeline and looking at the revisions I’ve made when I realized I had made a stupid mistake.  There were two main plot points that I meant to reverse, but apparently in my zeal during my rewriting sessions, I forgot to switch them.  So, today, I’m going to ramble until I figure out some kind of solution for my dilemma.

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Me when I realized why something felt off with my story.

The more I think about it, I have a couple of solutions.  The easiest one would be to leave the story like it is and follow my original plotline.  I admit that I liked this section the way it was, but it drags a little in between scenes this way and there’s no good transition that will speed things up.  Slowness isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It gives the writer a chance to build up the setting or show the characters in different types of interactions.  All of that can give the story depth.  But, it can also cause the reader to put the book down and makes it easier for them not to want to pick it back up.  Which makes this option dangerous.

The other solution would be to go back and add the chapter I wanted to move in the first place.  This would require reading through what I’ve already rewritten and finding the best place to transition to the “new” material, then figuring out how to make that section flow into the old one.  Luckily, I haven’t gotten too far ahead of the switch, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to go back and find a place to insert the other plot point.  And it should speed up the pace of the story.  Plus, some of the scenes in that section would really benefit from appearing earlier in the novel anyway.  My main concern is that, while it sounds great in my head, it won’t work as well on the page and I’ll end up switching everything back to the original order in the next draft.

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Because I’m too lazy to think of any others right now.

Honestly, since my first instinct was to flip these two plot points when I was working out the timeline for the revision, that’s probably what I’ll end up doing.  It’ll be more difficult and time consuming because I’ll have to read through what I have thus far and find a good place to insert a chapter.  However, I think the potential benefits are worth the risk.  It’s not as if I’m on an official deadline or anything.  If it sucks, I have time to switch it back.

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Maybe not always, but enough to trust it.

Have you had any moments where you realized you made a stupid mistake in your creative work recently?  Did you decide to go back and do what you had originally planned or did you go with the flow?  Feel free to share your stories or comments or thoughts here or on my social media pages.

Writer’s Block AKA Stubborn Procrastination

Hello, hello!  I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day or Singles Awareness Day or Excuse for Chocolate Day or whatever you want to call Thursday.  I have no plans, but I do have chocolate.  Huzzah!  Anyway, that’s tomorrow.  Today is about confessions of a writerly nature.  Namely, I haven’t done anything productive since January 20th (the day before the sickness of doom took over).  Yeah, I can blame the illness for about two weeks worth of laziness, but what about the last week and a half?  I had no excuse for vegging out.  So, I thought I would talk a little about what some people call writer’s block and my plan to deal with it.

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This is true.

First off, I want to say that I don’t particularly like the term “writer’s block.”  It sounds like something that just happens, something you have no control over.  For some people, that might be true.  Other people might enjoy having the excuse, being able to say that their lack of writing time is out of their control.  Not me.  I fully acknowledge that when I’m not writing, I’m usually procrastinating.  It’s rare for me to run out of words, at least on fictional things.  Motivation is my biggest issue.  And sometimes, I admit that the procrastination bug digs deep and stubbornly refuses to let go.  It’s what’s happening right now.  My motivation is low due to an influx of rejections I’ve been expecting (because of my year-end submissions that are just now being looked at).  It’s hard to want to write and revise when you keep getting told “it’s not for us, but good luck elsewhere.”  So, when the opportunity to procrastinate presented itself, I didn’t bother fighting it.

However, it’s about time for me to get over myself and get back to writing regularly.  Before the sickness decided to knock out all my will to work, I was actually struggling back into a decent rhythm.  How?  I joined a sprint group and one of the leaders happens to write around the same time I do during the week (early evening).  So, I have the support of checking in after each sprint and being held accountable.  Even if the leaders aren’t doing sprints, I can still create my own sprints and see if anyone wants to join me.  It’s a super helpful group for me and I plan to get back into it this week.

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I feel this on a deep level.

Aside from the sprint group, I need to find other forms of motivation as well, otherwise I know I’ll eventually fall back into the procrastination pit.  The problem is that I don’t respond well to self-appointed rewards.  Mostly because I usually forgo the rewards.  I promise myself anime or manga and by the time I get everything done, I’m either too lazy to find something to watch/read or it’s time for dinner and TV with Dad.  I guess all I can do is keep trying different things until I find something that works for me.

What about you?  How do you battle writer’s block or the procrastination bug?  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on DEAD AS A DOOR KNOCKER

Howdy, howdy!  Since I missed last month’s book review, I figured I would go ahead and do it this week.  After all, I’m only a week late.  That’s not too bad, right?  For January, I picked up an advanced reader copy (ARC) of the first book in a new cozy mystery series.  Dead as a Door Knocker is the the first book in Diane Kelly’s House Flipper Mysteries.  As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for granting me access to this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, we might as well get to the review!

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Cover is relevant to the book, but the knocker is all wrong.  It’s supposed to be the Green Man.

Dead as a Door Knocker introduces us to Whitney Whitaker, a 28-year-old who enjoys helping her cousins remodel houses and harbors dreams of becoming a real estate guru.  She lives with her parents and her cat, Sawdust, in Nashville and works at a small mom-and-pop property management firm.  When the firm’s biggest client offers her a deal on a property that’s too good to be true, she jumps on it.  However, the guy is murdered on the site and everything goes haywire from there.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I didn’t like this book.  The story was the same as every other cozy, which could have been fine.  Combine it with the fact that the main character is extremely unlikable and not even the parts from the cat’s point of view could save it.  Why is Whitney unlikable?  First off, she’s 28 and acts like she’s 15.  If she doesn’t get her way, she pouts or throws a fit.  Second, she’s a bully.  She runs around questioning people like she’s a cop or something, ambushing people and even forcing her foot in doorways so people can’t close the door, then has the gall the get upset when she gets a glass of iced tea thrown in her face.  I had zero respect for her.

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My thoughts exactly.

The background characters were flat and only served to enable Whitney’s antics.  She dragged her cousin and her best friend around as bodyguards, neither of whom ever bothered pointing out when she was crossing boundaries.  The detective let her go based on weak arguments and tantrums.  I get that it’s a story and all, but it still needs to be believable.  None of these characters came across as actual people, especially the police.

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Basically.

As far as the writing goes, it was a tight, quick read.  Every other sentence seemed like a well-worn cliché or at least a play on one.  If the author was aiming to make Whitney sound like a 15-year-old, she was spot on.  But don’t go into it hoping for the 28-year-old we’re supposed to be getting.

Ultimately, I was super disappointed in this story.  I just couldn’t get past the characters.  It’s not a series I’ll be following.

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Overall, I gave Dead as a Door Knocker one star out of five.  Pretty sure this is a first for me.  I honestly feel bad.  I really wanted to like it, but nope.  If you’re okay with childish characters and unrealistic police officers, try it.  Otherwise, you’re not missing anything.

A Quick Explanation

Howdy, howdy!  Last week was a series of unfortunate events.  On Sunday (the 20th), I had a mishap and injured my knee.  Spent Monday in bed to baby it.  Got sick on Tuesday  with one of those illnesses no one wants to know about and have been struggling to recover ever since.  This past Monday, I got a shot and some amoxicillin.  I’m slowly on the mend.  But!  I haven’t been productive and I haven’t even finished reading my book that I was supposed to review this week.  Hopefully, I’ll be back next week to review that and get on track!  I think I’m going to go rest now.

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