Birthday Bragging

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing this week? I can’t believe we’re already in the down swing of January. Next week is my end of the month book review. Time just isn’t going to slow down anymore. But I’ve been writing. Still only a quarter of what I used to write, but it’s been steady and it’s getting easier to start each time, so hopefully I can work my way back up soon. Aside from that, I have nothing writerly to talk about. So, I thought I’d share my birthday swag with you.

Food and sharp things, you perverts.

For my birthday meal, Dad made a pastrami and smoked mac-n-cheese! Yum… And when I say he made a pastrami, it started out as a brisket. He corned the beef, then did the magic that makes it into a pastrami. I don’t know the technical details. It’s magic! And it includes smoking it for around 20 hours. With his new smoker, he should’ve been able to set it and mostly forget it, but the fan/billows thing decided it didn’t want to work properly, so he didn’t get much sleep that night since he had to check on it periodically. I don’t have any pictures, but there are five more bags worth of meat in the freezer (a couple of meals each). The mac-n-cheese had four different cheeses, totaling about two pounds. A panko breadcrumb topping. Some beer. Such cheesy. Much yum. You can be jealous. It’s okay.

Then, a couple of days ago, I got a box from Enza in the mail. It was the New Years in Kamakura box from Sakuraco! There’s a lovely set of chopsticks and a bunch of snacks and some tea. It’s from Japan, so of course all the labels are in Japanese. I know a little of the language, but not that much. I didn’t keep up with my studies (ごめんなさい, 先生). Luckily, a booklet is included that tells you what everything is, tells you a bit about the region everything comes from, and is very specific about how to make the tea. As of the time I’m writing this, I haven’t had a chance to try anything, but I’m looking forward to it!

Borrowed from the website.

Yesterday, a package arrived from the Ukraine. Dad got me my first axe! See, at least one person reads my posts. He started looking after he read this one. It’s beautiful and heavy and sharp. He bought it from ValhallaWorld on Etsy. Don’t be fooled by the cheaper versions. If you look closely at those shops, you’ll see the telltale signs of imposters. All of the descriptions are the same and slightly wonky. It’s weird. But my new axe is excellent. Now, I just have to figure out where I want Dad to hang it!

So, I had a lovely birthday week. Thank you again to Dad and Enza and everyone who sent me birthday love! I’m old. I know. As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Things I Should’ve Done Today

Howdy, howdy! What’s everyone been up to lately? Things have been quiet here. I was supposed to be productive today. But I wasn’t. What’s new there? Instead, I listened to loud music while Dad ran an errand. I played stupid games. And I wasted time being social. Kind of. The minion and one of his spawn came by to drop something off for Dad. I mostly listened to them ramble. That’s as social as I get. But it was good seeing them after so long. Stupid plague. Nothing else got done.

I mostly should’ve been preparing to write this post. I didn’t have anything lined up to write about anyway, but I probably could’ve come up with something better to ramble about if it weren’t already so late. Or I would’ve kept procrastinating and written this anyway. At least I can blame it on the minion this week.

The other thing I really should’ve done is read. I’m reading two books and they’re both pretty long. I need to get through about 20 pages a day of the book I’ll be reviewing this month in order to finish it in time. I built in a couple of lazy days just in case, but I should try to get it done anyway. It takes me about an hour. The other book is my pre-bedtime read. I try to get at least half an hour in each night. I’ll at least do that tonight.

I should probably also have written an email and scheduled a video chat, but they can wait. It’s just for my jailbird sister. I keep putting off scheduling the video chat because I have better ways to waste my time. But at least Dad can join in this time (if I have to suffer, so do you). I also need to write emails to a couple of other people, but it’s nothing time sensitive or even important. I should just check in with some people who aren’t on social media.

There are probably things I’m forgetting, but it doesn’t really matter. Today was supposed to be a blog day and reading day. Instead, it was a people-ing kind of day. But I’m going to leave this kind of short and go catch up on reading. What were you supposed to do today? Did you do it? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

End of Year Stuff

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Can you believe it’s already December? The year just slipped right on by. I’m still stuck somewhere back in March. But seriously, it wasn’t a very good year productivity-wise, as you very well know if you’ve been stalking me. I don’t really know what happened. I just got lazy and everything spiraled out of control. But I really need to get back on track for next year, so I’m just going to ramble a bit about my goals for this month. They aren’t much, but hopefully enough to get me back on track for being productive in 2022.

1. Read two books. This is pretty much the only thing I’ve kept up with this year. My goal was to read 35 books and I just started my 34th of the year. As long as I can finish that one and pick/finish a book to review by the end of the month, I’ll at least have my reading goal done. It shouldn’t be a problem.

2. Research publishing companies and how to query them. I’ve given up on finding an agent for the current book I was sending out, but I do want to try some publishers before I decide to put it away for a while. I just don’t know how different the querying process is for publishers vs. agents. So, I’ll have to do some Googling and/or pester people for advice.

3. Read through the current novel-in-progress. It’s already fully outlined and ready to be written (I believe it’s about halfway done, maybe a little less), so I need to at least finish the first draft. It’s the sequel to the novel I was querying, so I think I just got a bit discouraged and disgusted with the whole thing. But I still love these books and want to work on them, so hopefully I can drop back into that world and finish the draft. We’ll see how I feel after I re-read what I have.

4. Write words. It doesn’t have to be good words or even a lot of words, but I do need to get back in the habit of sitting here, opening a document, and writing something at least four days a week (five if you count blogging). I’m not even going to worry if it’s all part of the same story. Just practice for getting back into the novel-in-progress. When I start that, I’ll decide whether to focus on a specific word count or just time staring at the screen. And whether I want to establish a daily goal or weekly one.

That’s my plan for December. Nothing too demanding or exhausting. Just something to hopefully set me up for a better writing year in 2022. Forcing myself has failed miserably this year, so maybe easing myself into it will work better. But I really need to start trying again. Being lazy is only an excuse for so long before people start accusing you of being depressed. What about you? What are your plans for the last month of 2021? Are you wrapping up current goals or starting to plan for next year? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or questions here or on my social media pages!

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.

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.

5 Things I Should Be Doing

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Can you believe it’s August already? That means Christmas is some time next week, right? Time just won’t stop. But I did find out the world still exists. Had a doctor’s appointment, so I had to leave the house. I have to do it again later this month. There were people without masks. It was annoying. But I expected it. Anyway, I should be doing things besides worrying about the state of the world. And since I have nothing else to ramble about, I figured now was as good a time as any to try talking myself into being productive again.

1. Start writing again. I haven’t written much of anything aside from blog posts since mid-June. I know. Shame on me. I just have to decide whether I want to jump back into my last novel attempt or finish up some short stories. Probably the latter, so I have new stuff to submit. Just have to make myself do it.

2. Catch up on submissions. I’m three weeks behind, so I need to submit to six places on top of the two for this week. No idea why I started slacking on this. Yes, it’s getting more difficult to find paying markets to send these stories to, but not impossible. Also, writing a few new short stories or flash fiction pieces will help make submitting easier. I know this, yet I’m still lazy. Motivation is hard.

I haven’t had this happen yet, but I check at least ten times before I send anything and a couple of times after I send it. Just in case.

3. Query some more agents. I think I’ve waited long enough for the “only responds when interested” agents, so I can send out the last ten or so agent queries for DS1, then wait a while for replies before trying publishers. Or maybe I should just go right for the publishers? I don’t know. I’ll figure it out.

4. Get excited about reading again. I read every day, but it’s felt like a slog for the last month. It doesn’t seem to matter what I read. Nothing holds my attention for more than a few minutes. It’s weird. Maybe I’m just burned out. No idea. Hopefully something will grab my attention soon.

WIPs = works in progress.

5. Finish something. Anything. A story, the shawl, whatever. Sometimes, I think if I could just feel the accomplishment of finishing something, my creativity would start flowing again. I know that’s not how it actually works, but it’s how I feel. The biggest problem is forcing myself to do the thing.

There you go. Sorry I didn’t come up with anything better to ramble about. Blogging is even harder than writing stories. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments or questions or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on JUST ONE LOOK

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing on this lovely day? Can you believe it’s already the last Wednesday in July? That means it’s book review time. I wasn’t really sure what I felt like reading this month, so I just browsed through late July releases until I found something that seemed interesting. That happened to be a mystery/thriller called Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron. It was released on the 27th from Ballantine Books (an imprint of Random House). 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!

It’s pretty colors.

Just One Look follows Cassie Woodson who is trying to find her way back to normal after an epic break up with a coworker gets her fired and forces her from her upward trajectory in a prestigious law firm down into the basements of another firm with all the other temps just trying to scrape by. That’s where she finds the perfect man. Not in person, but via his emails which have mistakenly been included in a high profile case’s discovery files. Her job is to sift through that information for anything relevant to the case, not to snoop through personal emails. But he’s perfect and she’s in love. What could go wrong?

Characters: meh. The only one we really get any insight into is Cassie and she’s super unreliable. Don’t get me wrong. Unreliable narrators can be great as long as we can look back and see where they twist things and where the truth shines through. There is no truth with Cassie. She gets black out drunk just about every night and doesn’t remember doing creepy stalker things. And by the end, she hasn’t changed or evolved at all. The perfect guy ends up being a douchenozzle (who didn’t see that coming a mile away?), though I admit things escalate quickly and beyond what we’re set up for in the story. And the only dude with any potential at being a normal person ends up being the mystery death in this thriller. In other words, there wasn’t enough character development to make me feel one way or the other about any of them.

Me to everyone in this book.

Plot: about what you’d expect. I haven’t read many stalker stories, but they all seem pretty much the same. Girl falls for perfect dude despite never officially meeting him, finds ways to insert herself in his life, confirms/encourages the exit of any significant others, ignores all warning signs, finds out perfect dude is a douche. And if the story is a thriller, there’s usually some kind of murder or abuse involved. That’s what we have here. It gets boring fast, which is why I don’t read many books like it. But that’s just me.

Pacing: not great. The first two-thirds of this book are a slog. Sure, we get a ton of information, but no real progress. And the information we get doesn’t give any hint to the escalation in the last third of the book. If you don’t automatically assume people are asshats, there’s not really anything on the page to suggest things will go the way they do. It’s annoying. It also makes the last third of the story feel super rushed.

Yup.

Writing: nothing special. It was fine, but nothing that stood out. The problems with the pacing made it harder to read than anything. If it wasn’t for that, the writing itself could’ve made for a smooth, quick read.

Ultimately, Just One Look was okay, but not something I’ll ever think about again. I’m not mad I wasted time on it, I just wasn’t impressed by it. That’s all.

starstarstarstar outlinestar outline

Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. It was fine. People who are into the whole stalker thriller genre will probably enjoy it and should check it out. If that’s not your thing, you aren’t really missing anything.

Things I Should Be Doing

Howdy, howdy! It’s a blah day. Quite gloomy. And I have nothing to ramble or rant about. I’ve avoided the news for the most part, but I’ve already seen reports of anti-maskers threatening to call ICE at a Mexican restaurant that requires masks. It doesn’t matter that the mandate wasn’t even officially lifted until 10th. This is just how people behave. I, for one, think Biden chose the perfect word: Neanderthals. But I don’t want to be angry, so back to the subject at hand. What should I blog about? No idea. If there’s something you want me to ramble about next week, drop me a line. This week, I’m just going to make a quick list of the things I should be doing right now, then I’m going to do some of those things.

1. Writing. I haven’t written much besides blog posts and a couple of beginnings (nowhere near full stories) this year. I’m just lazy. I have no excuses. Everyone seems to be struggling with something or other right now, so it’s not really fair for me to blame the pandemic or the seasons changing or depression or anything. I’m just clinging to my laziness. I need to suck it up and write.

2. Recording myself reading a story out loud. My story “Poisoned Honey and Pickled Pigs’ Feet” is coming out in the May issue of Love Letters to Poe. On top of the magazine, they also have a podcast of the authors reading their work. I’ve been assured my phone should be fine for recording (it sounds better than my computer in the tests I did), but I hate my voice and dread having to listen to the recording for errors. I’ve been practicing and just have to bite the bullet and do the recording in the next day or two when I can find a quiet moment (it’s due the 18th). But yeah. Go subscribe to the newsletter and podcast so you can read/hear my story when it comes out!

3. Reading. I need to read at least one chapter a day in the book I’m going to review this month to be done on time, plus I got the ebook of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix from the library, so I have to read three chapters of that a day in order to finish before I have to return it. Yes, I can make Dad pull out my old hardcopy of HP5 if I don’t finish on time, but we’ve already established that I’m lazy. It doesn’t sound like a lot of reading, but it is when you read super slow. I miss the days when I was able to read a 1,000+ page book in a week. Getting old sucks.

I’m sure there are other things I should be doing, like writing letters and answering texts. I’ll do that stuff later. For now, I’m going to practice my story one more time, then read for a while. As always, feel free to share your thoughts or suggestions for blog post topics here or on my social media pages!

One Of Those Days

Hello, hello! How is everyone doing? January is chugging along and it seems like nothing is getting done even though I know we’ve been doing things. Our things have mostly been stuff for the neighbor and Dad taking Lady for her grooming (need to find a new one since our usual one sold out) and for her yearly check up (she has some bad teeth, so she has to go in on the 4th to get them removed). Dad’s grumpy because he hasn’t really started a new project yet. And I’m slowly getting back into writing. Nothing regular yet. But I do have two short stories (probably flash pieces but with the potential to be longer if they decide they need more space) that won’t leave me alone. Anyway, it’s a blah day and I’m seriously out of ideas for things to blog about, so I’m just going to ramble about things I’d rather be doing. It seems like I do this a couple of times a year, but no one has complained yet.

1. I’d rather be reading. I need to read a few chapters in a book I picked up for an extra review in February. They’re pretty short. It’s around 20 pages total, so I’ll do that after I finish whining here. But I also just got an ebook copy of HP and the Goblet of Fire from the library, so I want to dive into that for fun. I only have 14 days before I have to return it. I still have all of my hardback HPs, so if I don’t finish in time, I can always ask Dad to pull it out, but ebooks are just easier. All this is to say that I’d much rather be reading HP4 right now.

2. I’d rather be writing. Yes, I know this is technically writing, but I’d rather be working on my Yuki-onna story or my end of the world story. They both have been annoying the crap out of me. Keeping me awake at night. One is ready to be written. The bones are all there, it’s the flesh that needs some time to grow. That usually happens as I’m working with it on the page. But the other still needs to incubate a bit. The beginning is there, but I’m only just beginning to see the end and have no idea how to get there yet. In other words, it’s missing a spine. Sometimes, when a story is being difficult, I need to get the beginning on the page and the middle will grow more easily from there. That’s what I should be doing right now.

New Tricks

3. I’d rather be watching TV with Dad. I’ll be honest, if I weren’t writing this, I’d most likely be watching TV with Dad. We’d catch up on a couple of things that aired in the last couple of days, then watch a couple of episodes of our latest British mystery obsession, New Tricks. We’re running out of episodes though. I guess we need to start looking for other ones to watch. But that’s what I would actually be doing.

I think I’ll stop there and go do the reading I need to do, then probably eat and watch TV. What would you rather be doing right now? Or are you doing exactly what you want? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments or your own lists here or on my social media pages!

New Year, New Goals

Hello, hello! It’s another new year. We’re almost a week into it, so how’s 2021 treating people thus far? It’s been a mixed bag for me, but generally meh. I got some good news that I’ll share later. Aside from that, I started off the year with a rejection and am now up to three as I’m writing this (it’s just the 5th day of the year). Things have also been hectic for Dad because of some stuff with our neighbor that he helps out. So, yeah. I think meh is an apt description of 2021 so far. Anyway, since it’s the first Wednesday of the year and I have nothing to really ramble about, this is just going to be a yearly goal post.

I see a lot of people making vision boards and stuff like that for 2021, but I don’t really understand them, so I’ll just stick with written goals. But I think I’ll group them a little differently this year instead of just writing a random paragraph with multiple goals mushed together.

Writing Goals:

1. Write 3 short stories/flash fiction pieces. I need to replenish my stock of stories to send out into the slush void.

2. Finish the first draft of DS2. I lost steam on this one, but it’s not the story’s fault. I just need to suck it up and write words.

3. Dig out the sci-fi novel I stopped a few years ago because I couldn’t figure out how to fix it and see if I can rework it. I have a new idea that will require rewriting the whole thing, but it just might work. I’ll try, but I won’t force it if it fights me.

4. Pull out the “Lightning Bugs” novelette/novella that I haven’t worked on since Stonecoast (despite Nancy Holder’s cheerleading) and see if I can flesh it out and make it presentable. I’ve avoided it because, submission-wise, I don’t really know what to do with something of that length.

Shut up, Cass. I’m going to write. Soon.

Submission Goals:

1. Submit to two magazines or anthologies a week.

2. Query agents for DS1. I have about 10 to go on my list, but I’m at that point where I need to wait for responses before I can try other agents.

3. Query publishers for DS1. If I strike out with the agents, I have a few publishers I want to submit to before I debate trunking the book/series.

On my Kindle app, but yeah.

Reading Goals:

1. Read 35 books overall.

2. Of those 35, review at least 12.

3. Of those 35, I want at least 8 to be from my “want to read again” list.

Misc. Goals:

1. Finish the shawl of doom. This is entirely because I procrastinate too much, but I will finish the damned thing and move onto another project to procrastinate on.

2. Finish watching The Untamed. I don’t usually care about TV, but I’m behind on all of my foreign shows. It’s extremely rare for me to watch anything on my own (I’d rather read), but I will make time for at least The Untamed this year. I always need more adorable gay stuff in my life.

What about you? What are your goals for 2021? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media profiles!