Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Checking in with 2021 Goals

This past January I set some SMART goals in my post SMART Goals for Writing, School, and Health, and I actually did really well sticking to them, which is the point in SMART goals (the acronym means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Constrained). While I'm not setting goals tonight, I did want to revisit my goals for 2021 and see how I did. Plus check in on how writing went this year.

School Goal: 

Complete 28 more credits by March 31, for a total of 48 in the first term.

Actual Achievement: 

I completed 40 by March 31. I then went on to finish, for a total of 84 credits, by the end of second term, which was September 30. I actually finished in mid-September and got my Bachelor's in Business Administration Management. 

Writing Goals: 

Short Stories - 2 3000-word stories by June 1

Novel - Get WIP to 50,000 words by June 1

Nonfiction - Outline craft book by June 1.

Actual Achievement: 

Short Stories - Met and exceeded. I just know I posted May 5 I'd written two short stories that week. Not sure how many more I'd written in the months before that. Probably only one or two because of school taking precedence.

Novel - Didn't touch it.

Nonfiction - Done. And at this point it's written, beta read, and nearing done on the edits. Plus, I've almost got a completed cover! So exciting!

Submission Stats Summary for the Year:

75 rejections

4 acceptances

Health Goals: 

Exercise - Complete at least 10 minutes of exercise each day through March 1

Weight - Lose 2 pounds by April 1

Diet - Get back on a keto diet by March 1

Mental Wellness - Meditate at least 5 minutes each day through June 1.

Actual Achievement:

Exercise - I highly doubt I made this. Withdrawal is hard. I'm still dealing with it (from a fibromyalgia medication--there's more information in my original linked post). I know I did my best to go for walks and do some yoga and tai chi, and I did it at least several days per week, but not daily. I also got out on several hikes. The below photo was of my last hike at Blodgett Peak. 

Weight - Didn't happen then. Turns out it's nearly impossible to lose weight on that fibromyalgia medication until the dose is low enough. I'm now down to about 3mg in the painfully slow taper I'm having to do, and have lost 9 lbs in the last few months.

Diet - Nope. Instead, pressed by school, we started doing Hello Fresh so the rest of the family could contribute and take some of my load off. Trying to add a restrictive diet to that wasn't going to happen and probably isn't going to happen until I'm completely off the fibromyalgia medication.

Mental Wellness - Mostly done, but I know I missed some days. A lot of times it was bedtime meditations with an app to help me sleep. 

I'm feeling great about my accomplishments in 2021. Are they perfect? Nope. But what I accomplished, I did despite major health issues. I FINALLY got my BS degree at 43 years old. I'm about to publish my first craft book on a topic I'm passionate about. I'm making progress in tapering from a horrific drug, despite the obstacles thrown up. I hiked more this year than I have since the health issues started. I fought to get my daughter diagnosed with autism, and she has thrived this new school year. I successfully finished two seasons of my podcast. And so much more.

Next year will be better. But this year I'm happy with what I did.

Did you set any sort of goals for 2021? Have you revisited them yet? How did you do? Did you accomplish anything you're proud of this year? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

C. Lee McKenzie Release - Shattered & Horror List Book Review - 1984

Well, hello!

First, I wanted to shout out C. Lee McKenzie's newest release from Evernight Teen: Shattered. Having read about her research for this book and important issues that were addressed, I'm intrigued and can't wait to read it!

Libby Brown is a topnotch down-hill skier, who is only a day away from qualifying for the winter Olympics and her shot at the gold, but someone's out to make sure she doesn't make the team. Two questions thread throughout. Who's responsible for Libby's "accident"? And will Libby's life be shattered forever?





I wanted to update an event that I'd put out incorrect information for. The Pikes Peak Writers Write Brain "A Horror Panel to Die For" is not free. It will cost $20 to attend it online. Write Brains are usually free, so I'd mistakenly assumed this one would be, too, and had shared that information out, so that's my mistake. My fellow panelists will be Carina Bissett, Sumiko Saulson, and Clay McCleod Chapman. The event is January 18, 6:15 to 8:15 PM, online.

For more information and to register, you can go to the event at the Pikes Peak Writers website or the Facebook Event page for A Horror Panel to Die For. There will be a gift card to Barnes & Noble given out to an attendee, and I'm working on a giveaway of my own, as well, to be announced at the event.

I'm looking for help in getting the word out about the release of my craft book The Business of Short Stories. This will not occur until January, but my last couple releases have been rushed, and I'm trying to do things better this time! You can sign up to help by clicking here to go to my Google Forms sign-up link. Thank you! I'm so excited about this book!

Okay, I think it's been since September that I did a horror book review. Holy cow! I meant to be doing one per month, but new books call to me and I heed those calls. What can I say?

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling andM.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)

This week I'm reviewing 1984, by George Orwell.

This one was a brain thumper, for sure. It took me a while to get through it, not because the writing was bad (it absolutely wasn't), but I often found myself floundering to feel like there was a point. That's probably not quite what I mean to say. I got the point. I got where it was going. But it took so long to get there that I got frustrated and felt like I was flopping around waiting for something interesting to happen. Then when it finally did, it went pretty quickly. The point, of course, was to show us what the MC's world was like so we could get a feel for the totalitarian state, and then very slowly show how he started questioning and thinking and investigating and doubting.

Now, George Orwell has a lovely, literary voice, and he had good descriptions. I felt like he'd gotten so excited and into his concept that he thought we'd all want to be in there with him. For example, there's a chunk that is actually you, the reader, reading a secondary manual in the form of a book within this book. 

Also, I'm not really sure how I felt about the characters. Especially Winston, the MC. I'm not sure I really liked him, so it was curiosity that led me forward, not so much caring for the character.

Here's the thing. I think Orwell was brilliant, and that he took in a lot of the things happening in his time (the late 40s, I believe) and actually foresaw things in the future with great clarity. There are specific things he mentions that did come to pass in a way, such as using the body against itself with lie detector tests. 

I don't think that reading this book when I was younger and didn't really care about politics would have given it the same impact it had on me reading it now. So I would recommend if you read it as a teen in school that it might be worth it to read again and measure your responses and how different it feels to you now. I think that would be a fascinating experiment, and I'm a little sad I can't do that. 

I think that people of all political stripes could read this and be absolutely horrified at the state in the book, but also how visionary Orwell was. I realize that many will read it and aim that against their opposing party, but I really feel that it's reflective of ALL parties and government in the U.S., though obviously to an extreme level. And, of course, in other countries, as well. Orwell wasn't American. This book wasn't about America. Not intentionally. It feels a bit like a warning that was ignored. Is it satire? Dystopia? Can an apocalypse be political? Are all forms of politics fated to become satires of themselves and exactly what their creators were trying to avoid?

I can definitely understand why this book made it on the top 100 horror books list by Nightmare Magazine. I'm trying not to get political, but I'm honestly not sure how to review this book without doing so. It is, in point-of-fact, political. 

In an interesting aside, I scrolled through the reviews on Amazon for this book after reading it to see what others were saying. Partly because I was having trouble deciding if I *liked* the book and I was also just trying to process it, which took some time. It's a lot. Anyway, the reviews completely confirmed for me that people in various countries felt the book applied to their government/country AND that U.S. reviewers were totally aiming it at the opposing party and the government (so recent reviews were basically either calling out the Biden administration or the Trump administration, and I'm willing to bet money that going backwards would yield the same results for previous administrations). I'm not really sure if I find that hilarious or disconcerting. Both, I'd say. To me, it's applicable to all politics in the U.S. these days. Isn't total buy-in to the totalitarian state exactly what the government wants in the book? Do as I say, not as I do.

War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength

This is repeated throughout the book. Disturbing.

I feel like I could write a book about this book and still not feel like I processed everything as completely as I'm trying to. Fascinating book. Just maybe have a second one on hand to take breaks until it gets to the good part. Also, if you can get the one with an afterword by Erich Fromm, that's worth a read.

Have you ever read 1984? Did you do so as a teen, as an adult, or both? Did it hit you differently at different ages? Have you picked up your copy of Shattered yet? Did you sign up to help with my book release?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

WEP - Beautiful Husk & Open Markets

 I haven't participated in WEP in forever, and felt like I needed a writing exercise since I've been working on nonfiction. Check out the WEP blog to read other entries or submit your own.

Beautiful Husk

Tagline: Some must bear witness, an echo only of the horrors they see.

He bends over the water as he has for what seems like forever, staring into his own eyes. From my outsider's view, he is quite beautiful. His hair falls in gentle waves to his shoulders, reflecting the sun with a golden sheen that almost burns the eyes. His jawline is sculpted and strong, standing out severely the more weight he loses. He has not eaten, nor bent to take a sip of the water which so entrances him. 

The closer I get, the more I see that he's not so beautiful after all. His skin is dry and flaking from his face and forearms, the only exposed areas visible to me. It drifts like snow to land upon the water, causing only the slightest ripple before dissolving and disappearing.

His lips, once so soft and full, have withered to a thin line of dull, wrinkled flesh. Once I would have kissed him. Now I wouldn't dare for fear his lips might crumble.

At first, he spoke, if only to his reflection, mumbling "You're beautiful."

I whispered back, "You're beautiful."

But now he stays silent, engrossed, immoveable. Cursed as I am to only repeat the words of others, I'm doomed to an equal silence, a watchful statue who cannot intervene.

This morning, I willed the morning dew to slide just right along his jaw to those wizened lips. It traced his cheekbone to the hungering hollow of his cheek...

     ...ran to the corner of his mouth...

                  ...traced the line between lip and chin...

                              ...slipped through the cleft...

                                        ...and splashed from the point of his chin to the water.

He has grown weak, his forearms shrinking from muscled to gaunt, his back bowing, spine pressing against the dirty white of his shirt. Still he stares, wasting away. His stomach stopped rumbling days ago.

As his head grows heavier, his neck slack, the reflection he loves so dearly gets closer and closer, drawing him in, an inch away from a kiss. Now a centimeter. Now...

In desperation, I step lightly onto the water and skate toward him. The fish and water bugs watch my approach, bubbles rising from gills and mouths. They have gathered beneath the surface, looking up at this strange, but handsome, man. They do not understand.

I do not understand.

I draw nearer and see that his crystal blue eyes are bloodshot, red pulsating through the white. The corners are crusted, as are the edges of his lips. Up close, the sun setting, his golden hair now looks drab and filthy. It hangs limply, frizzy strands punctuating his face. Blood encrusts his nose. 

Diving, I drift beneath his reflection. Looking up at him through the water, I see what he must see. The liquid hides the crust and flaking skin, the damaged hair, the bloodshot eyes. From here, he's as beautiful as when I first saw him...when he first saw himself. It smooths him, blurs the hard edges.

I fear shattering his reflection. If there's a spell, I may be drawn in. Still, I must do something. 

Kicking my feet, I rise.

He gets closer. The water grows warmer.

I break the surface in time to hear his final,



I can only echo the sound, tears running down my face to mingle with the water.

Lost within himself, Narcissus is no more.

554 words, NCCO (I'm treating this like a spontaneous prompt, so it's unedited)

Now for markets accepting submissions in the next month. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting.

Starry Eyed Press is seeking science fiction for their anthology One-Way Ticket to Epsilon Eridani. 2000 to 10,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline Spring 2022 (including this here since it will close once full).

Knight Writing Press is seeking your trunk stories that you think didn't get a fair shake for the anthology Particular Passages 2. Up to 7000 words. Pays in a royalty split. Deadline is January 1. (Side note: I know the owner of this press and he's an honest guy.)

Off Topic Publishing is seeking stories and poems for the anthology Wayward & Upward. Stories must be inspired by a track from the electrosymphonic album by the same name as the anthology, by Spinoza Gambit. 1500 to 3000 words. Payment is $100 CAD for stories, $50 CAD for poems. Deadline January 30.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking romances involving time travel for their anthology Everlast. 5000 to 20,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline January 31, 2022. (Note that they're still open for sexy fairy tales for Rogue Tales until December 31). 

Cloaked Press is seeking science fiction stories for Spring Into SciFi. 3500 to 9000 words. Pays $15. Deadline February 5.

Word Balloon Books is seeking short stories in the following themes/genres: Rockets & Robots/Science Fiction Adventure, Beware the Bugs/Fantasy or Science Fiction, Paradoxical Pets/Fantasy or Science Fiction. Under 3000 words preferred. Pays $.01/word advanced against royalties. Deadline February 11.

Qwerty is seeking fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and more. Current theme is Folklore & Fairy Tales. Up to 5000 words. Pays $10 CAD. Deadline February 15.

Have you visited the other WEPers? Have you tried participating? Any of these publications of interest? Anything to add?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

IWSG - Beta Reads & ShaNo Results

It's time for the December (holy cow!) Insecure Writer's Support Group post.

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG exists so writers can get and give support about their insecurities. Anyone can join. Simply click on Alex's name and put your blog on the linky list, then hop around to visit your fellow IWSG'ers.

This month's co-hosts are PJ Colando, Diane Burton, Louise – Fundy Blue, Natalie Aguirre, and Jacqui Murray!

The optional question this month is "In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?"

Editing probably stresses me out the most. Not so much line editing, but content editing and trying to tweak it to be better. I love the first draft, because I can just free flow my writing and write whatever comes out. The stress comes in reeling that in.

Speaking of which, my craft novel on the business of short stories is out to beta readers right this second, with today being the day I've asked them to get their comments back to me. As I posted on Facebook, it's nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. The first ones that have come in have been encouraging, so that's good. 

Keeping it brief today, so I'm going directly to my submission stats for November. Doing this each month keeps me on my toes.

8 submissions

9 rejections

1 story withdrawn with an assumption that it's rejected

1 story published

18 stories on submission, with several needing to be turned around

In terms of my ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo goals, I met the word goals for the current craft novel and completed it. However, I was too eager to get to initial edits, so didn't bother with the short story writing goals. With two appearances scheduled in mid-January, I'm trying to figure out how realistic it would be to move up my timeline on the craft novel release. If it isn't reasonable, I'll at least need to have some shwag available to get it out there since I have a signing mixed in there.

Did you meet your NaNo or other monthly goals in November? What are your insecurities? What stresses you out about writing? Did you submit anything this month?

May you find your Muse.