Posted in Making It Up As I Go, Project 2019

Project Salsa: the Beginning

Growing flowers requires pretty much no preparation. Got seeds? Got soil? Got a pot? Combine and then pop that sucker in sunlight (and remember to water it every couple days,) and it’s good to go.

Growing vegetables is a bit more complicated. At least it is when I’m looking to produce a usable amount of vegetables rather than having the occasional handful of cherry tomatoes to snack on. Vegetables require research and planning. What kinds of plants will do well on my patio? How much space do they need? And how many plants should I plant to get a usable yield (so I can actually make salsa)?

My research has given me an idea of what I should be doing, and I’ve come up with a list of what I want to plant. The next step is figuring out planter sizes and how to best utilize my patio space. Other than the garlic (which probably should’ve been planted in the fall), nothing needs to be planted until late March, which means I have time to figure those things out. And that’s good because I’ll be planting a lot of different seeds.

Here’s a rough list of what I’ll be planting this spring:

  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Carrots
  • Strawberries
  • Pumpkins
  • Watermelon
  • Cantilope
  • Marigolds
  • Red Sunflowers
  • Wildflowers
  • Forget-Me-Nots

And all of that will hopefully fit on my itty, bitty patio. It’s … going to be an adventure.

Posted in Making It Up As I Go, Project 2019

Screw Resolutions. Here are My Goals for 2019

I’m changing things up for 2019: I’m not making resolutions; I’m making goals. This is part of my plan to get my shit together, writing and having-a-life-wise.

So what are my goals for the coming year? And why did I decide on them? I know you didn’t ask, but I’m going to tell you anyway.

Sew My First a Quilt
I inherited a sewing machine when my parents moved from Massachusetts to South Carolina. And up until about a couple weeks ago, it had sat in a box and on the shelf in my closet since August. The instructions make almost no sense and if not for YouTube, I would’ve never figured out how to thread the bobbin (or what the bobbin is even for). Searching for sewing projects on Pinterest led me to the magical world of quilting, and I decided that I had to make one. Even if it was just to say that I’d done it.

Write & Post Serial Fiction
The idea of posting a piece of serial fiction has been on my mind for years, but I’ve always talked myself out it for one reason or another. That’s going to change, though. I want to post more regularly on here, and this is a way to do that. At least for the duration of the serial. Plus I’m working on a short story that’ll lend itself to the format. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get into a groove and make serials a regular thing.

Make Salsa with Veggies from the Garden
Last year, I took a risk and planted vegetables on my patio. Certain ones–like tomatoes and carrots–did surprisingly well. That’s encouraged me to refine my container garden, improving on the plant spacing and growing more root vegetables. Plus I want to make a recipe using veggies that I’ve grown myself. I mean, there’re few things tastier than eating ripe tomatoes right off the vine. But there’s a level of self-sufficiency in cooking with vegetables that I’ve grown myself.

Finish the Voss 1st Draft
I didn’t write much during 2018: a couple short stories but no novels or novellas. That’s something I want to change. I want to get myself into a writing routine and to complete the first draft of a full-length novel. An idea–that I’ve dubbed Voss–has been floating around my head since I watched the first few seasons of The Curse of Oak Island over last summer. It’s basically a treasure-hunting story with a bit of Haunting of Hill House thrown in to amp up the creepiness.

Tackle an Ambitious Knitting Project
I got back into knitting last year, and the projects I’ve tackled have been confidence-boosters. My garter-stitch hats and the garter-stitch baby blanket for my SO’s new nephew have kept me busy. I want to step up my game, though, and knit a pattern that’s more difficult. Like something with purl stitches (I haven’t figured those out yet) or where I have to count rows.

Visit Somewhere New
This one is more of a tradition than a new goal. Every year since 2013, I’ve made it my mission to visit somewhere that I’d never been. It can be somewhere a plane ride away or as simple as checking out a new town. I already have a couple places in mind: Asheville, Carrowinds Amusement Park, and the beach at Myrtle Beach. It’ll ultimately come down to logistics. And to be honest, I might even go after this goal more than once.

Accountability is a big part of meeting goals, so I’ll be posting regularly about my progress on each of these. Do you have any goals for 2019? What are they?

Posted in Books

My Favorite Books of 2018

With 2018 winding down, it’s time to take a look at the books that I read this year and decide on my favorites. Narrowing my favorites down to atop five is difficult, and feels unnecessary. Plus it means I don’t get to talk about all the pretty awesome books that I read this year.

So without further ado, here are my favorite books from the past year:

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Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
The tagline says it all: “A funny book about horrible things.” It’s a book about living with mental illness, about taxidermy animals, and about being furiously happy.

 

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Truly, Devious
by Maureen Johnson
A Sherlock Holmes-obsessed main character? An elite private school with an unsolved murder? Sign me up. I’ll be buying book 2 when it comes out.

 

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
by Jenny Lawson
I know, another Lawson book. I’ll ready anything she writes. This (mostly true) memoir is about the moments that make us.

 

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Jurassic Park 
by Michael Crichton
Yes, that Jurassic Park. The inspiration for that one series of dinosaur movies. I bought it on a whim and was on the edge of my seat more than once.

 

 

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Into the Drowning Deep
by Mira Grant
I LOVED seeing Grant/Seanan McGuire at ConCarolina this past summer, and this book was on sale. Plus killer mermaids? Yes, please.

 

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Discount Armageddon 
by Seanan McGuire
A cryptozoologist living in New York splits her time between the cryptozoological world and the world of ballroom dancing. Add a forbidden romance and a dragon, and I’m hooked.

 

 

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Lawless Lands 
edited by Emily Lavin Leverett, Misty Massey & Margaret S. McGraw
This is a Western speculative fiction anthology that I picked up at ConCarolina. Anthologies are my favorite way to find new (to me) authors.

 

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Clockwork Boys 
by T. Kingfisher
A dark, funny fantasy book where a crew of criminals (plus a scholar) are sent on a suicide mission? Totally worth reading. And worth picking up book 2.

 

I recommend checking out any/all of these books in 2019. They were certainly the best I read in 2018. What’re some books you read in 2018 that I should check out?

Posted in Writing

My Plans for NaNoWriMo 2018

On November 1st for the past 11 years, I’ve opened a new Word document on my computer, named it NaNoWriMo and the year, and set out to write 50,000 of a novel over the next 30 days. And I’ve failed every year except for one. I usually manage 5,000 or 10,000 words before school or work takes over the hours earmarked for writing.

(The only time I won NaNoWriMo was my senior year of high school. I remember only two things about that novel: it was 5,000 words short of 50,000, so I included a couple short stories at the end; and I modeled a character after Jesse James from West Coast Choppers.)

NaNoWriMo sparks anxiety in me and makes me set expectations really, really, really high.

I convince myself that this November is when I’ll finally write the story that’s been loitering in the periphery forever. And I’ll make the time to write, carving out a couple hours before bed and scribbling during my lunch. And eventually, I convince myself that this is my ONE CHANCE to write this particular story. If I don’t, then it’ll never get written.

Here’s the thing, though: that’s not true. There are still 24-hours in a day during November, and some of those hours are earmarked for things like working and homework and sleeping and showering and doing laundry. NaNoWriMo doesn’t magically add an extra hour for writing to my day (no matter how much I wish it did). I’m working with the same number of hours that I have the other eleven months of the year.

And that whole thing about having ONE CHANCE to write THIS story? Also crap. Stories don’t have expiration dates. My zombie apocalypse novella is still waiting patiently; the treasure hunt/ghost story I’m trying to work on now will be there next week and next year; even the trilogy of paranormal romance novellas is still going to be there when I get around to writing it.

So rather than stressing out about not joining the millions of other writers across the world as they draft their stories, I’ve decided that I’m going to focus on the long-term this November. That means figuring out a writing routine that works, whether that means sitting down at my laptop for an hour Saturday and Sunday mornings or taking a half hour after dinner to get words written.

Getting that routine down and consistently turning out words will be far more beneficial for me than trying to slam out 50,000 words in November. NaNo works for some writers, and that’s great. But it doesn’t work for all writers, and that’s okay.

Posted in Doing the Thing

Candy Corn Cupcakes

What happens when I start searching for Halloween-themed recipes on Pinterest? I find lots of cute ideas for desserts and start making elaborate plans for baking cupcakes and brownies and a cake and Rice Krispy Treats.
Then I dialed back on the whole “sugar up my partner and coworkers” endeavor. I decided to bake a cupcake a week, and that has since been dialed even farther back to just one cupcake because of time and trying to eat healthier.

I was still planning on four different cupcakes when I bought the ingredients for the first (and only) ones I made, so it just happened that the design turned out to be Candy Corn. The cupcakes weren’t Candy Corn flavored, just colored. I used this recipe for the vanilla cupcakes and this one for the vanilla buttercream. Then I divided the batter in half before adding food coloring. I was relatively proud of myself because I avoided mixing the colors too much when I poured them.

The orange ended up being a pale after baking; the yellow didn’t seem to show up at all. And the powdered sugar for the buttercream made a mess of my stand-mixer and counter. Plus the only cupcake liners in my cabinet had white and blue stripes.

But my Candy Cane cupcakes were still cute. And they tasted A-MAZ-ING. Like, that cake recipe is going in the recipe box amazing. The buttercream ended up being super sweet, which tasted best when I hadn’t gone too buttercream-crazy on a cupcake.

I’m really, really happy with how these cupcakes turned out. Especially since they’re probably going to be the only Halloween-themed desserts that I’ll make this year.

Posted in Making It Up As I Go

The One with the Exploding Dog Bed

Grace has settled into life in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. How do I know? Dog beds have started exploding.

At least “it exploded” was the excuse Grace gave for the tufts of brown stuffing all over the floor and her dog bed in tatters. She said that I had to believe her because she was the only witness (Sam was hanging with my dad at the time). Besides, she would never, ever, ever chew her bed. Lady Grace of Louisiana is much too good of a dog for that.

Posted in Books, Making It Up As I Go

The Pros & Cons of Reading on My Phone

There’s an old school Nook tucked between paperbacks my bookshelf; I can’t remember the last time I used it, and I’m pretty sure the battery is dead. I like it … though it’s not exactly the most convenient. Especially since the battery doesn’t hold a charge for long anymore. I’ve given thought to replacing it with a tablet of some kind, but that’s not in the budget right now.

So I decided to download the Kindle and Nook apps on my phone. After reading a handful of books on them, I’ve come to the conclusion that reading on my phone has both pros and cons.

Pro ~ It’s Convenient as Hell
My phone goes wherever I go. At the store? It’s in my pocket. Work? In my purse. At home? Probably within arm’s reach. That means instead of popping on Facebook or Twitter while I’m waiting for something or need to fill a bit of time, I can read. And there’s no need to make sure that I’ve packed a book or worry that said book hasn’t been bent and crushed by whatever else is in my bag. I just grab my phone, click on the app, and I can pick up right where I left off.

Con ~ I Can’t Hold the Book
Paperbacks and hardcovers have a certain feel to them. There’s the weight of all three hundred or four hundred pages; there’s the smooth feel of the cover and sometimes even the raised lettering; there are the lines of black text dimpled with the imperfections in the page; there’s even accidentally catching a glimpse of the last page and trying to figure out what those lines mean. That’s all missing with a reading app.

Pro & Con ~ So Many Books
I’ll admit that I haven’t read half of the books on my bookshelves. I happen across interesting-looking books for relatively cheap and bring them home. The difference with eBooks is that I don’t have to leave my couch to find a good deal. The positive side is that I can amass a plethora of books for a reasonable price. On the downside, I’m buying books faster than I can read them and now have a dozen books on my phone that I haven’t touched yet.

Ultimately, the convenience factor trumps all. I can read while lying in bed or while at my partner’s place or on my lunch break or while in a waiting room. All without needing to pack a book. I just need to remember my phone.

Posted in Doing the Thing, Making It Up As I Go

EXPLORE

Myrtle Beach never hit my list of places to visit, despite being bustling tourist destination four hours from my apartment. Come to think of it, that may be exactly why it was never on that list. Touristy can be fun. But I’d rather get my touristy-fix with a mouse in Florida.

Then my parents relocated this summer. To Myrtle Beach.

With two visits under my belt so far, I can say that I’m familiar with the traffic in Conway and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. I still haven’t hit the beach or the touristy destinations like the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. I’m sure that I’ll check out those places (and document the visits extensively) on a future trip.

Here’s the thing about wanderlust: it hits me when I least expect it and doesn’t require venturing off to an exotic venue.

During my most recent visit to Myrtle Beach, I satisfied my wanderlust by exploring the Tangier Outlets. Seriously. I took a quick trip to Ollie’s and scoured the book section, finding nothing. I couldn’t just go back to my parents’ place, so I searched for nearby bookstores on my phone and found the Book Warehouse at the Tangier Outlets.

It took several minutes of wandering through the pathways lined with the Nike store, Justice, Dress Barn, As Seen On TV, and others before I spotted the bookstore. I ended up not finding anything. So I decided to keep exploring. I spotted (and managed to stay out of) a fudge store. I also found a kitchen store packed to the gills with more kitchen gadgets than I’d ever seen. I managed to leave the Outlets without buying anything. Somehow.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve quelled the desire to EXPLORE by simply wandering around stores. It’s a good reminder, though, that I don’t have to spend a lot of money to get my wanderlust fix. All it takes is to find somewhere that I’ve never been and simply explore.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Brief Pause

The world is demanding sometimes, wanting more of me than I can spare. But I oblige because that’s how it works for me.

I put one foot in front of the other because that’s how problems get solved and bills get paid.

Contrary to popular thought, memorable stories don’t come from starving writers. So this writer is putting a pause on things this week and giving myself permission to sort life out.

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Posted in Writing

Baking & Writing

I’ve mentioned that baking has become my newest hobby, and I recently decided to venture from cupcakes and cookies to full-on cakes thanks to a Pinterest recipe. (It’s this cake for those wondering.) The experience was… an experience. Full of I’m just going to wing it and well shit, that didn’t work.

Turning out a freaking tasty lemon cake and too sweet frosting gave me surprising insight into another process: my writing process.

It sounds like a leap—I know, I know—but let me unpack it.

The cake on Pinterest is called a Raspberry Lemon Cake. Mine was a Strawberry Lemon Cake because the grocery store didn’t have fresh raspberries. The recipe is supposed to produce enough batter for three 6-inch cakes. I barely fit all my batter in a single 9 ½ inch cakepan. The cake should’ve had a meringue frosting. I said f-it because it was 8pm and there was no way I was going to make f-ing meringue at that time of the night, so I bought a tub of frosting from Food Lion.

Whenever I start a new piece of writing, I always have a plan in my head. It may not be complete or very detailed, but I have a rough outline. A has to happen before B happens and B has to happen before C happens.

But stories and characters like to go awry. Maybe A needs to be cut entirely and E should really happen between B and C rather than after D. Or maybe a certain character decides that he or she would rather go chasing a story on zombies than finding their best friend at the hospital. (No… I’m not talking from personal experience here. What would give you that idea?)

Baking and writing require flexibility. The ability to say well that’s not going to happen and then finding a way to make the bigger picture still work. Odds are that it’s not going to look exactly how I expected or planned. It may be better. Or it may need some tweaking in the next go-around.

I’m okay with either outcome. Especially when it means I get to eat cake.