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!

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.

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!

Tricking Myself into Writing

Hello, hello! How is everyone doing today? It’s a gloomy Monday as I’m writing this and I don’t really feel like doing much of anything. So, I decided it’s as good a day as any to write my post for the week. The problem? I have nothing to ramble about. I should probably be working on an actual story or writing my May book review post or something, but I don’t want to. I can do that stuff tomorrow. But I am slowly starting to write again, thanks to the new computer. I guess I can ramble about that. It’s one of those weird cripple things, so be prepared to give me your best “huh?” look.

Yeah, that look.

When I first started using a laptop (actually, any computer), my typing options were to either figure out how to make the keyboard work for me or use Dragon Naturally Speaking (a dictation program). I tried the latter and it was horrible. No matter how much I trained it, at least every other word was wrong. It was more trouble editing stuff than it was worth. So, I decided to use a backscratcher in my right hand and my left index finger to make the hunt-and-peck method of typing work for me. And I was good at it too. Fast enough to keep up with multiple Yahoo chat conversations in a timely manner at least. And accurate enough that I rarely had to fix any typos. It was less hunting/pecking and more just my own form of two “finger” typing. But all good things must end.

After I went through a few different wheelchairs and just as many computers, I eventually reached a point where typing became more difficult than it was worth. Basically, each new chair changed the positions of my hands, the ease with which I could reposition my arms, etc. and each new computer positioned its keyboard and touchpad slightly differently until it all combined to screw with my typing (slowed it down and made the position I had to maintain uncomfortable) enough that I looked for alternatives. By that time, Microsoft had started getting into accessibility features and had added an on-screen keyboard. I’m certainly not as fast with it as I was at typing, but it works well enough. It got me through Stonecoast and has helped me write the majority of the stuff I’ve written since then, so I can’t complain.

Don’t feel bad. Losing stuff like the ability to type is a normal cripple thing.

When this computer arrived, I decided to try typing again. The keyboard is just too pretty not to touch. So, a couple of weeks ago, I started trying to type for 30 minutes at a time. The range of motion in my left arm is absolute shit, which is to be expected. I can’t even reach the E, R, and G keys enough to press them anymore. The number keys (I used to be able to press 1-4 with my left hand) are completely out of reach. And I have to nudge my hand with my backscratcher in order to reach the Q and W. But for some reason, I have a better reach with my backscratcher than I used to, so it compensates a bit for the lack of use in my left hand. Hopefully, with practice, I’ll at least get back enough range of motion for E, R, and G.

Don’t get too excited. I’ve only done this 5 times so far. It’s annoying getting my hands into position, but that should get easier over time. My muscles tire out well before the 30 minutes are up, but I push through and it’s already getting better. I started at 75 words in 30 minutes and have increased each time (reached 245 words when I did it today). I can do 350ish words in a half hour with the on-screen keyboard, so if I can break that, I’ll definitely keep it up. Hopefully, my arms and hands will keep cooperating with me. I don’t fully trust them yet.

Idle Hands. They have a mind of their own. Am I the only one who remembers this stupid movie?

Anyway, in order to practice typing, I needed something to write, so I started a short story. It’s already 1,500 words long because it starts out as typing practice, then I’m in a groove, so I write a little more with the on-screen keyboard. But yeah. All this post is meant to say is that I found a way to trick myself into writing even though I have no motivation. Wootwoot!

What about you? Do you have any weird ways you trick yourself into being productive? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments and questions here or on my social media pages!

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!