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!

A to Z of Me

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this week? Things here are good. I’ve been writing and all of that fun stuff. Fingers crossed that I can keep it up! But, I’m not really here to talk about that right now. It’s my birthday tomorrow (actually today when this goes live), so I thought I’d do another “getting to know me” type post. Instead of 36 random facts about me, I decided to look for one of those A to Z questionnaire things. They’re shorter and I don’t have to think as much. I randomly found this one during a Google search, so here we go.

A… If you were an ANIMAL, what would you be?

Probably some kind of fish. One of those ugly deep sea fish with the little light lure thing on its head. An anglerfish, I think. That might be cool.

B… BOOKS: What’s on your reading list?

Right now, just the book for January’s review post and one I ended up with to review in mid-February. Otherwise, my list is mostly the same as the last time I posted about it, but I’m slowly chipping away at it and randomly adding new stuff. I’m sure I’ll run out of stuff to talk about and share a list soon enough.

C… COMPULSIVE about anything?

Far too many things. I have a few weird rituals that I do repeatedly throughout the week, mostly when I’m in my lift for an extended period of time. It’s stupid and does nothing, but it makes me feel slightly better.

D… DREAMS: Do you… dream in color? remember your dreams? keep a dream journal?

I don’t journal at all. And it’s rare for me to remember my dreams. They’re either super mundane or straight up nightmares, nothing in between. Almost always from my own perspective and in color.

E… EATING: What’s your usual snack?

I don’t really eat snacks unless Dad and I are having a lazy day. I guess chocolate mostly. I’ll have a piece before bed if that counts as snacking. Chips if we have them. Once in a while, popcorn. Or whatever leftovers are in the fridge.

F… A Few of your FAVOURITE Things?

Food. Animals. Books. I could go on, but you just asked for a few.

G… GIGGLES! What (or who) makes you laugh? Do you have a good sense of humor?

I basically have the sense of humor of a 12-years-old boy. It’s not hard to make me laugh. Dad jokes, puns, innuendo. I’m not picky with my humor. It ranges from actually funny to completely inappropriate.

H… Major HOT Button:

I don’t really have any. I know I should probably care about stuff more, but the truth is that people are going to think what they want regardless of what I say. The only reason I ever debate anything with people is because I’m bored, but then I just get annoyed, so I don’t see the point in it.

I… I am:

A cripple. A writer. My father’s daughter. And much more.

J… JOBS: What do you do? What have you done? What would you like to do?

I’m a writer. That’s about it.

K… Also KNOWN As: Aliases? Screen names? A non de plume perhaps?

Cyn, because my old screen name was cynicalcripple and my friends were too lazy to type it out. Sak or Sakura for basically the same reason. I also have a pen name, but I haven’t published anything using it yet. When I do, you’ll know.

L… I LOVE:

Dad. Jen. Danielle. Heather. And some other people.

M… How do you feel about MEETING people? Do it all the time? Rarely? Parties or 1-on-1?

Please don’t make me. I’m not good with people. If I have to, I prefer email or text.

N… What’s the story of your NAME? Were you named after anyone? Do you go by a nickname? Any aliases?

I was named after Sean Connery and Nichelle Nichols.

O… OBSERVANT: What’s around you right now? What do you see?

My desk and armoires and sticky notes and tins of peppermint bark. Darkness outside my window. I have the front camera on, so I see the vans and trailer and truck. The heat is currently on. I can’t really smell anything because allergies suck. My ventilator is whooshing. I’m too lazy to keep listing things.

Old picture, but similar set up.

P… Who are the special PEOPLE in your life?

Just Dad, really.

Q… Any Little QUIRKs About Yourself?

I have a lot of quirks, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head. What quirks do I have?

R… What do you like to do for RECREATION?

I read books or manga. I watch anime. And I play mindless games while blasting music as loud as it will go. I’m not an exciting person.

S… Do You SING in the Shower? In the car? For your friends?

I try to only sing when I’m alone or the music drowns me out. Sometimes I slip up. Ah well.

T… What’s at the Top of your TO DO list?

Writing. Need to get back into a rhythm.

U… Any UNUSUAL Experiences?

Far too many to talk about here. Maybe in a different post. But I did have a woman sing a full on gospel version of happy birthday to me in a dance club bathroom, then she told me I was beautiful and if anyone told me different she would slit their throat. I stopped letting my sister drag me into public bathrooms after that.

V… VEGAS, Vienna, Venice, Vladivostok: How far have you travelled? What’s your favourite City?

None of those places. I do remember stopping in or near Verona, New York. Pretty sure that was the place with the awesome La Quinta. I’ve been all over the eastern side of the U.S. and up into Canada. I’m partial to the northeast.

W… WINTER, Spring, Summer, Fall: What’s your favorite season? What makes it special?

I live in Texas. We get summer and a couple of weeks of winter. Summer is better.

X… EXes: They are ex for a very good reason.

I wouldn’t know. Don’t have any.

Y… Any secret/deep YEARNINGS?

Unless you count milkshakes as secret desires, no. Not really. I’m good.

Z… ZERO to ZENITH: Where are you in your life? Still growing? On an upward (or downward) curve? Just skating along?

Pretty much just skating along right now. I think that’s what most people are trying to do thanks to COVID. Hopefully things will eventually get better.

Out of Order

Howdy, howdy! It’s the first Wednesday of a new year. How is everyone doing so far? Is 2022 going to be your year? I basically just want to survive it without getting sick, same as the last two years. But I also want to start being productive again. I failed hard in 2021 with everything except reading and blogging. It’s officially time to suck it up and get back on track. I started writing again this week. I’m not diving back into my old standards, but I’m going to work my way up to them. Same schedule, just starting out with a lower word count. But as I was writing words this week, it got me thinking about my writing system.

I started working on one of the stories I began last year and gave up on. I always knew the beginning and I know the ending, my problem is connecting the two. But what I really noticed when I opened the file is that I never wrote the ending out. I couldn’t. I can’t. The idea of writing a story out of order makes my eye twitch. I don’t mean a story has to be linear. I have no problem jumping around timelines. But I have to start at the beginning and work my way to the end. Writing random scenes and pasting them together makes me feel icky. It’s kind of ridiculous.

One of the stories I gave up on last year flips back and forth between the present and the past. In my head, I had every present scene plotted out, but I didn’t write them down because I couldn’t work out the past bits that alternated with them. I don’t know why I’m like this. It’s not like it’s difficult to skip around and insert scenes wherever I want. I use Word. All I have to do is move the cursor. It’s not like I’m writing this stuff out by hand or even using a typewriter. I should be capable of doing this.

So many other writers I know actually enjoy writing scenes and putting them together like a puzzle. It sounds so freeing. Don’t know what to write? Skip ahead! Or go back to something else you skipped. Easy peasy. But no. I have to make my life difficult. Am I worried I’ll forget to include something? Nah. I’d be one of those people who put a giant boldly colored note to “insert scene here” or something. I’m probably just super anal. Definitely. I like control and order when I write, maybe some organized chaos. But not sheer mayhem.

What about you? Do you have to write a story in a certain order or do you jump all around? Were you one, then you became the other? Or do you mix it up and write both ways? Do you have any advice for becoming someone who can work out of order? As usual, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments or questions 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.

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.

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!

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!

Good News, Everyone

Hello, hello! How is everyone this beautiful day? Things are pretty much the same as they’ve been around here. Lots of slacking on all fronts. You know how it goes. Anyway, if you follow my personal Facebook, you already know this, but today’s post is just to let you know that my flash fiction piece “The Water Horse” will be appearing in Improbable Press’s forthcoming anthology. Right now, the only release details I have is that it’ll be coming in early 2022. I will post my usual shameless self-promotions when I know more. But I wanted to let everyone know that writerly things are still happening even though I’m slacking. I’ll be back next week with my usual end-of-month book review!