Writing Update: January 19, 2018.

writingupdateWow, it’s been six months since my last update. I seriously didn’t think I’d let it go that long. Ouch.

Okay, so it’s been a little hectic since then. Sithboy started college again and it all went downhill from there. No excuse, right? Except that if I don’t feel like writing, I don’t and that’s what happened.

I tried to do NaNoWriMo last year and didn’t get as far as I thought I would. Meh, I haven’t been able to keep up with that for a few years now. No big sweat and I don’t ever see my not completing it as a failure either. I got words done-check. I got into a schedule of writing every day-check. Those two things alone made what little I wrote for NaNo an accomplishment.

So, what do I have to update? Well . . .

 

WIP Novel #6: Down Finnegan’s Hollow (thriller)

This is a bust. I trunked this novel because I couldn’t get into the revisions. Whether it was removing excess characters (I took out several) or trying to mesh a new line of events, every time I thought I had it worked out, something would mess up. I finally threw up my hands and said fuck it. I’ve messed with this story for a good three years and each time I pick it up, I screw it up even more. All writers have those kinds of novels, and this is one of them for me. The other is The Possession of Mercy Moreau. Such a clusterfuck. I don’t even want to talk about it.

I have worked more on my plague zombie novel, SURVIVAL RULES. I keep coming back to this one. Maybe because it’s more of a dark story than the others. I am about 2/3 the way through at sitting at just over 50k. I know there are two other stories that go with this, but I’ll be happy if I can get just the first one done.

I’ve also poked at my Steampunk Detective novel, ARLINGTON CREED AND THE CASE OF THE MARINATED MARINER. Again, another one that keeps poking at me. I did come up with four other novels with these characters. Each a stand-alone, but together making up a larger story. Again me=procrastination Queen.

One thing that is exciting, I came up with a new four book series that is, get this-YA. I’m not even kidding. The MC is fourteen and starting high school during the 80’s and each book will be one year of school. Kinda like Harry Potter. The exciting thing about this is that I can connect this group of stories to my magical realism story I worked on earlier this year. Also, I can connect to another group of stories I started last year. Ugh, this never ends.

Anyway, I’m going to (try) and focus on the zombie plague and Steampunk for now.

What are your writing plans for 2018?

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From the Recipe Box: Quick and Tasty Chicken & Mushroom Dinner.

With the holidays over we can all use a break from the rich holiday foods or the processed dinners that seemed to dominate the season. I’ll admit that we ate a lot more processed food than I wanted, but between school and work, not to mention we had a couple heath issues that kept us immobile, it was a matter of connivance.

Now that the holidays are over and most of the goodies are gone, it’s time to get back into a better eating habits and making dinners that are quick, easy and tasty. That’s why I love this recipe for two reasons; first, you can cook this up all in one pan and second, it’s so quick and easy to make that anyone of any cooking skill level can prepare

INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp. oil (for browning)

1 Package of (12) skinless & boneless chicken breasts

1 whole garlic

1 cup of sliced mushrooms

1 cup chicken broth

 

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 250.

With your skillet on medium, fry up the chicken to a nice brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

On med-low heat fry garlic and mushrooms.

Add chicken broth and deglaze the pot. If you want a thicker sauce, add your choice of thickening agent (flour, corn starch, etc). Personally, I like potato starch.

When sauce has thickened add the chicken back to the skillet.

Place skillet in oven and let cook for 30 minutes.

*You can add herbs or other seasonings of your choice*

Serve with a side of your choice. I fried up homemade hash browns with onions and some veggies.

A Company of Writers: First pages be damned!

companyofwritersOpenings suck. Seriously, they do. You always hear “Don’t worry about the opening, just get the story out!”, but any writer will tell you that once the story is ‘out’, the opening line of your manuscript becomes the do-or-die moment. As a matter of fact, the whole damn first paragraph, page, chapter fall into this category as well.

No pressure. Really?

This is evident in a series of tweets I recently saw. If you’re on Twitter, I suggest you save the hashtag #tenqueries. Some agents ask for a first chapter sample with your query and every so often these agents will give their first impression of the subbed chapters. Their comments can be a real eye-opener, especially when the reasons for rejection are easily fixable.

I’ve beta-read a lot of first chapters. Sometimes that’s as far as I can get, and sometimes that’s as far as I want to get because I now the author will make the same mistakes throughout the entire novel, and if I’ve picked up on that, you can bet agents and publishers have too.

Many times, first chapter problems are a result of the writer’s over-enthusiastic prose. They want to ‘set the tone’ or ‘mood’ for their story, but instead, bore the reader with info-dump and back story that drives the reader away. I once read a chapter where the author wrote three pages on the political climate of an alien race to explain the reason the MC was making a brief stop at the planet. Nothing in those three pages had anything to do with the plot. All irrelevant backstory.

Another problem I’ve come across is this need to outline the MC’s entire day. What they did, wore, ate from the moment they got up. Unless there are elements of foreshadowing, it’s pointless to keep it in your story and they you will lose the reader’s interest. I’m not telling you to throw it out, just don’t put it in your story. All this information is useful to YOU, just not always useful for the reader. Back story can be used SPARINGLY; a brief glimpse into what may be motivating your character to take the action she or he does.

The first few pages must grab the reader; make them want to know why your MC is doing what they’re doing. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of explanation, just enough to pique the readers interest. Once they’re interested, they’re all yours.

Nail Art: The art of taking care of your nails.

DarkeBlogClipThe title might seem a big grandiose but one thing I’ve learned from the last year doing nail art and polish swatches is this; it’s all for naught if you don’t have a good base, and by base I mean nail base. Any good nail technician will tell you this too. When I was younger I had great nails and could grow them out long, but as I grew older this changed and until I found gel nails I didn’t risk growing them out.

Well, I’m a sucker for punishment.

I’m going to try to grow them out on my own again, but this time I’m going to pay extra attention to my nail beds. I don’t mind paying for gel nails, but to get them filled every two weeks is costly. I did a bit of research and learned that gel polish (with a led/uv light) might help me to keep the length. Gel polish lasts longer than normal polish, and I have seen a few videos where I can use gel top/base coat on normal polish.

First, the nails. I let my gel nails grow out and cut them back when they got too long. Suffice to say, the hangnails started almost immediately. As the gel bonds weakened, I was able to lift the remaining gel applications, and as you can see, my nail beds suffered for it.

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I don’t plan on doing anything but treating my nails for a couple of months; letting the damaged nail grow out and (hopefully) having a stronger, healthier nail. Then I will do the polish. This also gives me time to save for a UV light. I’m going to do research on lights and what they can and can’t do. I know UV is different that LED so I guess it depends on what brand I plan on using.

For treatments, I’ve been soaking my nails in grape seed oil with some essential oils. Since money is a factor I’ll use these up first. I need to do this twice a week, especially during the cold, dry months of winter. Even with a good hand cream, the cold conditions care brutal. Avocado and argon oil is two of the best oils, and Sephora has hand masks with both. At $8 they’re a little pricey, but considering how the oil is extracted, it’s to be expected. Anyhoo, because of this, I won’t be doing any polish swatches for a while, but I will keep you updated on my nail progress.

A Wiccan Journey: Books for beginners.

For those who don’t know, I am an eclectic, practicing Wiccan. I have traveled this path for close to twenty years. Sometimes not as faithfully as I’d like, but the Lord and Lady were always in my heart, mind and soul in every aspect of my life.

When I decided to follow the Wiccan path, the first thing I did was look into books that would help me on my spiritual journey. I had no idea where to even begin. We were a one-household family and I don’t drive (never have and don’t want to) so that meant that money was tight and I couldn’t drive to the local pagan meet-up as it was close to an hours’ drive. To be honest I could have gone; my husband offered several times to take me, but I felt very unworthy (for lack of a better word) to be in their company as I knew NOTHING of the path and I was afraid I would be shunned or mocked. I know differently now, but when you’re learning something knew there is always that fear of being rejected by those who are already ‘in the know’.

We had one metaphysical store in town (sadly it’s closed down), and the internet was still oh so new. I mean, we’re talking early 2000’s here. I managed to save up some money and headed to the one store that could help me. I must have scanned just about every book she had on paganism until I found one that appealed to me; Scott Cunningham’s LIVING WICCA; A GUIDE TO SOLITARY PRACTICIONERS . When I had enough money, I went back and bought another book by the same author. After a while I had several and understood all I could about Wicca. The next step was practicing.

I’m not sure how different it is to learn from a person compared to a book. I suppose there are little nuances and such, but if you can’t find a Coven or group, books are the next best thing. I bookmarked a site with many good books if you’re interested. This list is very comprehensive and gives a new searcher a wide range of possible paths. As someone who couldn’t be a part of a community (remember, this was pre-internet) books let me explore and find my path that was right for me, and not influenced by a single person or group.

https://wicca.com/forums/index.php?topic=400.0

Books were my first teacher and I still purchase them to learn. If there’s one thing I know for certain, learning about Wicca is an ongoing process because like all things, acquiring knowledge is a life-long experience.

Movie Night: Star Wars; The Last Jedi.

TheLastJediIMBd Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2527336/

Rating: PG-13

Tagline:  (n/a)

Genre: SciFi/Adventure

Synopsis: Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.

***

Review:

It’s been a few weeks now, and most of you have probably seen the movie or read other reviews, so there’s probably nothing more I can say; and I’m not going to try. Instead, I want to explore the plot of the movie.

The first thing I noticed was how much it reminded me of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. In both movies, our heroes are brought to the brink of despair with the enemy one strike away from destroying the rebels, but at the end of both you can feel a glimmer of hope about the future of the rebellion; the plan to get Han back and the persistence of the remaining resistance fighters. As The Force Awakens mirrored A New Hope, I thought TLJ was a wonderful second act. I can just imagine what the third movie will be like. We could be in for the movie ride of the decade.

Something my son and I were wondering, especially with the fight scene with Kylo and Rey, if rumours about Grey Jedi would ring true. Grey Jedi are those who use both the dark and light side of the force without the life-altering consequences that Jedi Masters constantly go on about. There were several GJ in the EU series of books and it was even hinted on YouTube that Luke could have been one himself. Actually it was hinted that Luke had turned to the dark side as the first trilogy progressed. Maybe he did and this could be the reason he saw the darkness in his nephew.

If Kylo Ren is defeated, is this the end of the Skywalker clan? Would that be such a bad idea? In The Phantom Menance Qui-Gon Jinn asked Shmi Skywalker who Anakin’s father was; denoting that only Jedi could pass on the sensitivity to the Force, but as we’ve seen in the stable boy and the broom, it doesn’t have to be that way, leading that even if all the Jedi were killed off the Force would still continue. This holds with the EU books as well as many of Luke’s recruits (some of whom are middle-aged) had no previous experience with the Force. This would be a bold move but a refreshing one as it seems Writer/Director Rian Johnson borrowed from the book franchise.

Like I said, we could be in for the movie ride of the decade.

 

5 out of 5

Adventures in Restaurants: The Lure of Mall Food Courts.

RestaurantLogoMalls have been a part of our shopping experience since the late 1950’s. The first enclosed mall was built in Minneapolis in 1956 (Association for Consumer Research, 1991, http://www.acrwebsite.org/search/view-conference-proceedings.aspx?Id=7196) and with them the food courts. These dozen or so small stores of food and drink can be a life saver when you’re out and need a bite to eat, especially with kids.

Food courts are a wonderful idea. If your family consists of a diverse taste (like mine), you can find just about anything to suit even the pickiest of eaters. Everything from fast food burgers to (if you’re lucky) a healthy alternative to all that cholesterol and trans fat. It may not be the quietest place to have dinner, but people aren’t looking for the comforts of the dinner table.

I can’t imagine a mall without a food court. They’ve pushed out restaurants as the number one place for mall shoppers to eat. I remember the first time I visited a food court. It was the late 1970’s and I was in grade seven. We used to sneak out from the gym (where we had lunch) and go to the Kingston Center. The high school kids used to go too and there’d be a wave of students from both schools running across the busy roadway. There were probably a half-dozen or so food places, but the one I remember the most (for several reasons neither of which are food-related) was the pizza one. We’d grab a slice and a drink and barely have time to finish before mall staff were rounding us up and herding us out the side door. Yeah, they didn’t like us there.

Food courts offer a wide variety but you have to remember that even the healthiest of food here can still be considered ‘fast food’, and during winter (especially here in Canada) the produce is barely ripe, but it’s good to have healthier(?) options, especially during the holiday season when people are over-eating high carb meals and sweets. It’s too tempting to go for a burger and fries instead of a salad or a heart-smart wrap, so we have to see it for what it is; a small divergence from the norm. Not many people I know eat fast food on a daily basis, so once in a while it’s a treat.

What do you think of food courts? Any interesting ones in your mall?

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