This Is Just How It Goes Sometimes

It’s always good to hear from writers when things are going well: when a project has been picked up or published, when momentum is strong and daily word count is high, when there’s sage wisdom to impart. These posts give all of the rest of us hope that we’re not wasting our lives (and advice about what to do when we’re banging our heads on the desk, feeling like we are). These posts are necessary.

Also necessary are the posts that say, “Hey, writing is awesome. It comes with some great rewards, but a lot of the time it’s more like this.” Well…

Hey, writing is awesome. It comes with some great rewards, but a lot of the time it’s more like this:

Let’s talk about those works in progress.

I wasn’t quite done with 13 Morbid Tales when I started keeping notes for a novel. In fact, I often had to remind myself to focus on the task at hand; 13MT had a deadline and the novel did not. Nevertheless, I was chomping at the bit to start typing away at my new—clearly brilliant—idea. So, with 13MT finally finished and out, I sat down and began working on this wonderful new project…

…and it was just bad. It was hackwork wrapped in cliché, skipping down Redundancy Road. I put it aside until I could bring something new and fresh to the table and went back to the drawing board.

It was as if the new idea was already there. It was so much better, so much darker, than the dreck I’d just put aside. Chapter one flowed from my brain through my fingers to the page in record time. This was it! I was on fire! I was telling everybody about it!

Guess how long the cursor has been sitting on the first page of chapter two. Actually, no. Don’t. It’s embarrassing. Also, I think I hate chapter one. “It is not going well, friend. It is not going well,” I answered when a friend asked. I do, however, have some great notes—for a third freaking novel. Yeah.

I’m seriously starting to think that I have a fear of commitment when it comes to writing novels.

Let’s talk about that job search.

I’m still in pursuit of a full time writing job: firing off resumes, applications, and cover letters. In some instances, I’m taking writing tests. Now, I like writing tests. Writing tests are good. They keep me sharp and, since it was literally illegal for me to retain samples from my last writing job, they give me a chance to prove myself in the face of my relatively slim portfolio.

Keeping that in mind, it makes it sting all the more when the writing test doesn’t result in further interviews. I get that job hunts as a whole are full of rejection, hundreds of people applying for the same job. I get that the writing life as a whole is full of rejection, hundreds of manuscripts on the same desk. But holy crow! Combine the two, it’s like Rejection-palooza over here.

I can remind myself that, this is just how it goes sometimes, all day long. Eventually, the doubt sets in and I ask myself why in the world I chose to be a writer. Then I remember that thing I’ve said many times before and will say many times again, “I did not choose the writing life. The writing life chose me.”

And in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Marshmallow Peeps and S’mores

It all started when a former colleague posted this little gem on Facebook.

The Debate

Now, if you’re like me, you’re appalled that anyone eats these at all. Marshmallow Peeps, in my view, are Easter’s version of candy corn. Nobody in their right mind eats them when there are still chocolates and Starbursts to be had. I commented that, for this reason, I’d never actually eaten a fresh peep so I couldn’t properly weigh in on the fresh vs. stale debate. I may have also called peeps an abomination that could have only come from Hell to begin with.

However, as this very serious—ly hilarious debate continued, I started to get curious. I voiced the curiosity, stating that I wondered how peeps would be in s’mores made with peanut butter eggs.

And so here we are.

None of the companies represented have compensated me in any way. All opinions are my own.

None of the companies represented have compensated me in any way. All opinions are my own.

In case any of my readers have never been around a campfire, the recipe for s’mores is simple: toasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate pressed between two graham crackers.

I’m lucky enough to have a working fireplace in my apartment, so the microwave method of “toasting” peeps was out. If I was going to eat one of those sugary little bastards, I was going to toast it over a real fire.

Back! Back to the fiery hell from whence ye came, sugar demon!

Back! Back to the fiery hell from whence ye came, sugar demon!

As I unwrapped the peanut butter egg that I knew was already delicious enough on its own, I seriously considered abandoning the whole s’mores idea and just eating the damned egg, but since it was only one of four, and I truly was curious, I continued on.

Yes, I cleaned my counter first.

Yes, I cleaned my counter first.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth; salty snacks are my jam. As curious as I was, I brought that gooey, diabetic nightmare of a mini sandwich to my lips in slow motion. My curiosity did not equate to a belief that I would like it. In fact, I was hoping to write a scathing review of this atrocity.

Instead, I need to go buy more peanut butter eggs so hubby and I can finish the remaining peeps. Seriously, that s’more was that good. It was the kind of good that must really be evil because nothing truly good is ever that enjoyable.

It's safe to say that hubby also liked it.

It’s safe to say that hubby also liked it.

Of course, now that I know I like Marshmallow Peeps enough to make s’mores with them, now that they’ve proven themselves a useful holiday candy, I almost feel bad about toasting their cute little sugar-butts.

See? I have a heart.

I Got Some!

Snow, that is.

In my last post, I talked about how much I missed the snow. Readers are lucky; they only had to deal with my lamentations for the length of the post. My poor husband had to hear it all week, which made our Saturday plans pretty clear. Stop whining about it; get in the car, and make the drive to Mount Baker to go play in the snow.

The squee-ing started right about here.

The squee-ing started right about here.

It’s safe to say that I was in a bit of a funk last week. The writing life was not satisfying. The job hunt even less so (but I can type “motivated self-starter” in my sleep now; so that’s something). And we all know how jealous I was when I saw pictures of the east coast snow littering my social media feeds. Okay, maybe it was more homesickness than jealousy, but you get it.

Anyway, this cheered me considerably:

Snow Day

It also cheered me considerably that my car and its serious snow tires performed just fine. The roads were actually very well maintained and the weather conditions at the time were no worse than anything I’d faced driving in Pennsylvania or Connecticut. I guess I was being a bigger baby about that than I had to be.

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When Joe and I spend a day playing on any one of the seriously majestic mountains around here, it’s standard procedure for us to stop for dinner on the way home. It’s also standard procedure for us to order whatever the heck we want (diets be damned!), because it isn’t as if we spent the day on the couch. This Saturday was no different.

We stopped at a little place called Crave ‘N Burgers & Brew that has fried cheese curds so good that I will never eat a standard mozzarella stick again. Well, no. That’s not true. I will eat mozzarella sticks again because fried cheese of any kind is pretty delicious, but I will cry because nothing will ever stand up to the glory of Crave ‘N Burgers & Brew’s fried cheese curds. I’m not joking here. I enjoyed my burger and my fries and my brew too, but I will dream about that tasty, cheesy decadence.

I was certainly in a funk, but it seems all I needed was a day in the snow and some artery clogging, fried appetizer goodness to set me right again.

Look out world! I’m back to my usual bright, cheery…

Nope. I couldn’t even finish typing that with a straight face. We’ll just say I’ve been renewed and refreshed.

 

Yes, Actually, I DO Miss It

Back when Joseph and I were still living in Connecticut and merely considering our move to the gorgeous Pacific Northwest, I bombarded him with questions about the climate. He had lived in Washington previously while serving in the Navy and so he could tell me whether I would still see fall foliage (I would, but none nearly as lovely as I’d witnessed in Pennsylvania or in New England). He could tell me, when I asked about snow, that it would snow, but not enough to bother taking our snow shovels with us. I balked a bit at this, but was reminded that if I really wanted to see snow, I could drive to the mountains and there some snow would be.

Well, that’s just not the same. I’m going to say it loudly and with confidence: I miss the snow! Given that the vast majority of my friends and family are back east and under feet of snow right now, I can anticipate the responses of those currently snowed in. So before anyone gets the chance to impart collected snow-time proverbs, here are my collected snow-time proverb responses.

You wouldn’t be saying you miss the snow if you had to shovel it.

You talk like I‘ve forgotten. I assure you I haven’t. I mean, you can’t really forget this:

Waterford, CT; January 2011. I know; I know. It’s not me in that picture, but I assure you, I did some serious shovel time that day too.

Waterford, CT, January 2011
I know, I know. It’s not me in that picture, but I promise I did some serious shovel time that day too.

Approximately two weeks after that photo was taken, we left on our trip to Iceland where we not only got a break from the cold and the shoveling, but also sympathy from Icelanders about the harsh weather we’d been experiencing back home. Apparently, our weather made news there. Then we came back home to it.

No, I have not forgotten how annoying it is to finish shoveling just for it to start snowing again. I have not forgotten the floods of tears I cried when I finished digging out the mailboxes just to have the damn plow come by and cover them again. I have not forgotten about the expert maneuvers required to pull my car out of the shared driveway because the neighbors couldn’t be bothered to clear their side nearly as well as we cleared ours, opting instead for some seriously dicked up parking jobs.

I haven’t forgotten and I still have the audacity to miss it.

But you get the best of both worlds! You really could just drive to the mountains.

First, that’s not entirely true. Those mountain passes do get a lot of snow. That means that those mountain passes often close. While you can still get to the snow line (ski resorts depend on this), you’d better have the right vehicle. I can put snow tires and chains on my Charger all I want; it’s still rear wheel drive and not built for snow. I always laugh at those Dodge commercials that have Chargers just a rippin’ through the snow like it’s nothing. I hold my car in higher regard than I hold most people, but I’ve seen romantic comedies more realistic than those commercials. Not only that, but those mountains are a bit further away than they appear. I’d have to drive at least an hour just to get to the weather people avoid driving in. Point is, it’s actually much less convenient for me to get to the mountains than one might assume.

And again, it’s just not the same. Part of the joy of snow—yes, I said it—the joy of snow, is sitting by your own window with a hot cup of tea (spiked or not), watching said snow come down. I miss that. I also miss the, “Oh, hell no!” look in my cat’s eyes when his little black paw touches a big white drift. I miss posting the obnoxious but obligatory Facebook picture of the winter wonderland. And yes, I even miss bitching about how damn much shoveling I’m about to do.

I guess the “grass is always greener.”

Yeah. That’s sort of the problem. You know where that green grass should be? Under snow, damn it!

Not under this:

This was our courtyard the other day. If only the temperature had dropped enough for this to freeze…free ice time!

This was our courtyard the other day. If only the temperature had dropped enough for this to freeze…free ice time!

I’m sure a clogged drain had as much to do with that accumulation as the rate of rainfall did, and I love rain as much as the next guy. No sarcasm. I really do love the rain, but this is just so not what I think of when I think of winter. Ned Stark promised us that winter was coming. Well, screw that Stark honor! Ned’s a damn liar!

This section comes with a bonus proverb. “Just imagine if all of that was snow!”

Again, that’s sort of the problem.

I am imagining that all of it is snow, and I miss it. I really, really miss it.

Coloring Books for Grownups: I Endorse This Trend

When I told my husband I wanted coloring books and nice markers for Christmas, I think he thought my simple request was much too good to be true. But we were doing a modest holiday (the eventful year was also an expensive year), and the subject of adult coloring books was peppering my social media feeds with increasing frequency. With artists tweeting about the availability of their recently published coloring books, friends on Facebook talking about how they’d forgotten how much they just loved coloring, and my nostalgia for Saturdays spent under a blanket fort convincing myself that Wilma Flintstone may very well have had some purple lipstick, it was clearly time to suck it up and embrace the trend. “No, really!” I assured my husband. “Coloring books and nice markers are precisely what I want this year.” Then I added, “And socks. I definitely need new socks.”

What I did not know was that at that very moment (okay, probably not that very moment, but it sounded nice, right?), my mother was putting together a holiday box for me in which she dropped, among other things, coloring books, colored pencils, and an epic box of crayons I would have killed for as a kid. Between my mother and my husband, I ended up with this stack of awesome:

Seriously! What kid didn’t dream of that box of crayons?

Seriously! What kid didn’t dream of that box of crayons?

It occurred to me that with a haul like that, I had damn well better enjoy coloring as an adult.

I needn’t have worried.

Art as Therapy

Art as therapy isn’t a new concept, so I’m not going to go over it again here. I will simply say that there are all sorts of emotions I can work out on a canvas or a sketch pad or whatever I choose that day, save one. Frustration. As a creative person, I get frustrated when the picture on the page looks nothing like what I had in my head. So sure, I’m working out sadness or anger or whatever when I paint or draw, but I’m replacing it with frustration, which is no more pleasant. Coloring books solve that. The picture is already there. It’s somebody else’s art; I’m just coloring it in. There’s no real pressure to make it perfect. Peace restored.

That is not to say that I don’t shout an expletive or two when my hand slips out of a line, or I’ve made the wrong color choice, but coloring books cut the expletive output by a good 80% or so.

L, completed with crayon. R, in progress with colored pencil. Approx. 16% cussing total still to come.

L, completed with crayon. R, in progress with colored pencil. Approx. 16% of total cussing still to come.

Easier Than Meditation

Also frustrating for me is meditation. I can’t help it; my mind just wanders. It’s loud in my head and even guided meditations often can’t quiet things down. You know what does? You guessed it. Coloring. For me, it requires just enough attention that I can clear my mind of all of the noisy but inconsequential BS and make room for some real contemplation.

I’m aware, as I type this, of how cheesy it sounds, but it’s amazing how much I’ve learned about myself by doing no more than considering how I color: where on the page I start, what my favorite colors are, how boring the picture becomes when I rely solely on my favorite colors. Yeah.

I’m not actually a fan of yellow, and yet these are my faves.

I’m not actually a fan of yellow, and yet these are my faves.

It’s Just F***ing Fun, Okay?

Look, being an adult is freaking hard. Commutes, work, bills, random life crap that inevitably happens because, “That’s life.” The fact that adult coloring books have become a trend (hopefully one that sticks around for a while) tells me that I’m not the only one who sometimes longs for the days when the biggest thing on my mind was who had my red crayon because, damn it, I need my red crayon or Wilma Flintstone will have purple lips!

After a day of long commutes, solving problems at the office, and scrambling to pay the bill that was not in the budget–a result of some unexpected life crap, adults deserve a little childlike fun.

So yeah, I endorse this trend. I endorse the hell outta this trend! I won’t be putting my coloring books down any time soon; in fact, I expect to be through my current supply by the time the holidays roll around again. Just in time to request more.

And for those who were wondering, I also got those socks.

socks

Oh, Yeah…It’s 2016 Now

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It occurred to me that if I was going to capitalize on the New Year’s blog opportunity, I had better do it now or not do it at all. Since I actually really enjoyed 2015 and kind of felt like writing a post about it, I figured I’d better just sit down and write the damn thing. So, here I am, finally writing the damn thing (until I post it, of course).

A major highlight of 2015 was the cross country move from Connecticut to Washington. It is well documented (starting here), so I won’t recap, but I will say that the drive was a bucket list experience that I’ll never forget. The move was the right thing for us to do and we did it at the right time. Sure, I miss the east coast from time to time. The holidays reminded me that it’s no longer the matter of a long drive to my hometown, but rather that of a long flight. Still, I kind of love it here in the Pacific Northwest and the move was probably the crown jewel of 2015.

The next setting on the crown was finally publishing 13 Morbid Tales. I don’t know what to say about that that I haven’t gushed all over before, so I will simply reiterate that it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. I’m looking forward to publishing the next book, a novel this time (in progress).

And so, of course, a fruitful and exciting 2015 has me looking ahead to the goals I want to achieve in 2016. People who know me know that I’m not a fan of resolutions. I believe more in progress and momentum than declarations about how I’m going to be a better person at the drop of a ball.

The first and most immediate goal is finding full-time employment in a role I’ll enjoy at a company made up of really good people. I was blessed to be able to take time after the move to focus on publishing and promoting 13 Morbid Tales. I could not be more grateful for that time, but it’s time to get back to some more lucrative work…maybe even outside of the house…maybe even tossing ideas off of someone besides the cat.

While on the job hunt, I am still writing fiction. Once a position is landed, I will still be writing fiction. I would like to have a first draft of my novel completed by this time next year, with edits and rewrites being the goal for 2017. As I write this, it feels as though that’s plenty of time. Then I think of how long it took me to me to put together 13 Morbid Tales and I crack the hell up at that timeline, but we shall see.

Like many people, I would like to be healthier and lose some weight in 2016. This is not a resolution. I repeat: this is NOT a resolution. I’d actually done a decent job of that in 2015. I’d lost almost 20 pounds, but while I was finishing up and putting out the book, I started to let myself get a little out of shape. And I do mean a little: noticeable to no one but me. And then…oh, and then!  I denied myself not a single calorie over the month or so that makes up the holidays, and not once did I force myself to see the inside of the gym. It was the holidays, for Pete’s sake, and it was glorious! And I know I’m going to pay for that attitude in sweat and a diet of leaves, but I would like to point out that paying for my dietary indiscretions has been part of my routine since well before January 2, 2016. So there.

All in all, 2015 was such a great year it was hard to say goodbye to the old man. Hopefully, baby 2016 grows into a wonderful year and not a spoiled bully just itching to knock me down.

Guest Post: Review of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Thanks so much to the awesome folks over at 9th Circle of Horror for having me as a guest blogger!

Check this out…

Director: Scott Glosserman

Writers: Scott Glosserman, David J. Stieve

Starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englundbehind the mask poster

I’ll freely admit it. I’m a sucker for horror movies that poke fun at their own genre. I’ve always felt that movies that do this are sharing a little wink with the audience. From Jamie Kennedy’s character, Randy teaching us all how to survive a horror movie in Scream, to finally understanding how victims consistently fall into the same horror movie tropes in Cabin in the Woods, I enjoy being winked at.

Perhaps my favorite winking horror movie is Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. (Spoilers ahead.)

The mockumentary opens to a world where Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger are real serial killers stalking real killing grounds.  Budding documentarian Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) comes to the town of Glen Echo, Maryland to interview and film the town’s very own aspiring…

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