Permission to Write

This post is just as much for me as for anyone who needs it.

You have permission to write whatever your heart desires.

Write a teenage character that swears, an over-the-top gory death scene, an asshole character with no redeemable qualities. Write and finish a crap story instead of rewriting one sentence over and over with the goal of perfection.

Write the story that scares you most. Write the story that’s just above your skill set. Write the story that isn’t “in” right now. Write the story that you want to see on your bookshelf. Write the story that you want to read.

Writing is work, yes. And there are times when it will feel like work. Keep writing anyway because you’ll hit that breakthrough moment where all this work is worth it.

Keep writing. Write whatever you wan to write, even if it’s rough around the edges or all over. There’ll be time to sand those out in the next draft.

More COOL THINGs at Goodwill

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of shopping at my local Goodwill because I occasionally happen upon COOL THINGs. But luck was on my side this because I found COOL THINGs two Goodwill trips in a row. (I often go three or four trips before something catches my eye).

So who did I come across this time? Well, there was Tommy the Turtle Teapot with his friend, Fishy. Then I spotted the Kitty Triplets who toed the line between cute and creepy. And finally, I saw Mr. Miner chilling in his barrel of what looked like alcoholic Mountain Dew.

I’m curious. Have you found any COOL THINGs while out and about?

Project Quilt: Two Steps Forward & One Step Back

Quilting is like any other big project: you really should prepare before jumping in with both feet. That means buying and preparing the fabric, learning to use my sewing machine, figuring out the parts of a quilt and how to put one together. (And holy crap, putting together even a throw-size quilt is going to be a project and a half.)

Since this is my first quilt project ever, I decided not to spend a lot of money on fabric. A yard of fabric at a craft store is at least $7; meanwhile, I can pick up a set of three sheets for no more than $10 at Goodwill. And those three sheets will be more than enough for the majority of the quilt. I may need a couple pillowcases or another sheet eventually, but those are easy enough to pick up.

Learning how to assemble a quilt has been eye-opening. On some level, I recognized that quilting is a project. However the realization of having to cut HOW MANY squares and all the measuring and probably getting stabbed with LOTS of pins hit me hard. I’m still going to make this quilt. I’m actually glad that I know how much work will be involved, so I won’t become disheartened when I’m not making progress as quickly as I’d like.

Everything seemed to be progressing apace. I even pulled the sewing machine off the shelf in my closet, chiseled the Styrofoam off it, and poured over the instructions (which made close to no sense). A couple YouTube videos later, and I successfully threaded the needle and the bobbin. I even used it to sew a pair of rice-filled ice packs. Then I decided to make a pair of handkerchiefs. I pinned the seams in place rather than iron them flat, and the needle on the machine hit the head of a pin and that little plastic pinhead bent the needle. I’m still not even sure how plastic won i that battle.

I replaced the needle but couldn’t pick up the bobbin thread. So the sewing machine is sitting in my living room until I have the time to re-thread the machine with hopefully better thread tension (because I heard that might fix it?). Until I figure that out, this project isn’t exactly on hold. I can still measure and cut fabric squares; I can figure out how the pattern should look. The pause button has just been hit on assembling everything.

COOL THINGs at Goodwill

Goodwill has become my go-to-destination for crafty inspiration. Finding what I’m looking for is a gamble (compared to shopping at Michaels or JoAnn’s Fabric), but I occasionally hit the jackpot and find a COOL THING tucked behind vases or miscellaneous holiday stuff.

In the spirit of full disclosure, my definition of COOL THING is what other people consider CREEPY-A-F. There’s a certain endearing quality to COOL/CREEPY-A-F THINGs. And while space, budget, and a territorial COOL THING already on my shelf limit what comes home with me, I always keep my eye out.

Just this week, I saw a couple COOL THINGs in the holiday section. Mr. Frankie from Target almost came home with me. His ear-to-ear grin with baby vampire teeth just drew me in, and I pictured him on my desk. He’d watch my back while I write. But then I took a look at his eyes. Big, beady eyes that would give me nightmares for the rest of the night if I caught them staring at me in the middle of the night.

Then there was Santa Claus, whose eyes seemed to follow me whenever I walked past. Few things creep me out more than eyes following me. So his ass stayed on the shelf; I didn’t even look at his price-tag.

 

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.

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?

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:

23848559

 

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.

 

29589074


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.

 

15808370


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.

 

40604658


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.

 

 

34523174


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.

 

11402002


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.

 

 

35381132


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.

 

36618062


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?

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.

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.

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.