Wednesday, December 28, 2022

My Year in Books

 Although there are still a few days left in 2022, it's time to look back at what I've read this year. I set a fairly modest (for me) reading goal: 150 books. As of Monday, 12/26/22 (which is when I'm writing this post), I've read 187 books. (The link is to my Goodreads challenge.) I'll probably add another book or two before midnight on New Year's Eve. That's well over 45,000 pages. How do I read so much? I read a lot on my phone using my Kindle and Hoopla apps, I multitask and read (within limits), and I try to prioritize reading over games, TV, or other entertainment. I'm also a quick reader; I can easily finish a cozy mystery in a day or two. When I discover a series I really like, I chain-read it as fast as I can download the books.

Below is my breakdown by genre:

Science Fiction: 7

Fantasy: 32

Mystery: 108 (many of the cozy mysteries I read have fantasy elements, but I count them as mysteries)

Other Fiction: 8

Non-Fiction: 32

Here are some of my recommended books for the year:

Asian American Histories of the United States

A Sorrow Named Joy

The Library: A Fragile History

A Spindle Splintered

Plagues Upon the Earth

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

Meet Me in Another Life

For series, I particularly enjoyed Maria Grace's Jane Austen's Dragons and Gloria Oliver's Daiyu Wu Mysteries.

For 2023, I'll probably set a reading goal of 175 books. I'll continue to challenge myself to read at least one Diversity Book (written by someone of a different race, religion, or sexual orientation from me) each month. I recently joined a local book club, which is already challenging me to read books outside my usual genres. Hopefully I can also knock a few more books off my to-read lists.

What books did you read in 2022 that you would recommend? Feel free to list them in the comments.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Holiday Trees

 One of our family holiday traditions is seeing the decorated Christmas trees at the Museum of Science and Industry. If you're not familiar with them, each tree is decorated with motifs from a different country. (MSI also has displays honoring other holidays.) We went on Sunday, and my husband gave me permission to share some of his pictures of ornaments. (He's running a contest on his personal Facebook page to see who can correctly identify the most countries pictured here, so I'm not going to identify them in this post. (If I remember, I'll come back later to comment.)

No matter what holiday you celebrate, I hope you have a good one! I'll be back next week to summarize my reading for 2022.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Sale on Smashwords!

 Draft2Digital acquired Smashwords earlier this year, but they just recently made it possible for their authors to distribute their books to that site. If you're familiar with Smashwords, you may know that they also hold sales twice a year around the solstices. From tomorrow (December 15th) through January 1, 2023, my books will be available for free on Smashwords. (Please note that ebooks are available on Smashwords only in the EPUB format.) You can find a list of my titles on Smashwords through my author page. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

IWSG: Holiday Writing

Here we are at December's post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about them on their website and Facebook group.

Our hosts this month are Joylene Nowell ButlerChemist Ken, Natalie Aguirre, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine.

Our question for this month asks how the holidays affect our writing. Specifically, It's holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?

The holidays are festive, but it takes a lot of work to make them that way. For example, my husband and I have a tradition of sending treats to our friends every year. We've made over twenty different types of cookies, fudge, and other treats already and plan to send them out this week. I made the dough for some of my cookies ahead of time and froze it until I was ready to bake them, but there's still a lot of work involved, such as choosing recipes, shopping for ingredients, doing lots of dishes, and packing everything for shipment. Plus, there's also decorating the house, buying and wrapping gifts, extra social gatherings and traditional family activities, and preparing holiday meals. Although I will be using up some of my remaining vacation time to get these things done, I have less time to write during the holidays. (For example, between my company holiday party Saturday evening and doing lots of cooking and baking on Saturday and Sunday, I didn't have much writing time this last weekend.) Fortunately, I'm not facing any submission deadlines for short stories, so I can focus on the first draft of Bubble Tea and a Body for now. If I do end up with some free time after the holidays, hopefully I can finish revising Restaurants and Revenge.

No matter how you spend your holidays, I hope they're happy for you! We'll see the IWSG again in 2023.



Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Solarpunk and Star Wars

 I finally had a chance to start watching Andor this weekend. (This is the prequel to the Star Wars movie Rogue One, featuring the character Cassian Andor.) As I write this, I've only seen two episodes so far. While watching flashbacks to Cassian's childhood on Kenari, I was struck by how frequently the Star Wars universe likes to show preindustrial societies, especially showing them as innocent compared to the evil industrial Empire. Endor's moon with the Ewoks might be the most famous example, but there have been low-tech worlds shown in The Mandolorian. (I'm sure there are many more examples to cite, but I'd have to do a deep dive into Star Wars lore to find them all.) It's harder to think of worlds shown in the process of developing their own technology. What about worlds in balance with nature and technology? The two that come to mind for me are Alderaan and Naboo. The leaders of those worlds are there to serve their people, not the other way around. Alderaan was a planet known for beauty, and what we see of it shows they valued their environment as well. Naboo is also a world that protects its oceans, especially since it has an sapient indigenous species that lives in them. I would also say that the moisture farms on Tattooine could be considered solarpunk technology, but the inequality and crime keep it from being a solarpunk society.

I realize that Star Wars is known for its conflict, but the galaxy's big enough to contain all types of worlds, and I'd like to see more solarpunk featured in this fandom. Perhaps it's a matter of digging deeper into some of the books and comics. One would think Force-wielders in tune with their surroundings would want to protect the environment, though obviously those on the Dark Side seem indifferent or even hostile to solarpunk concepts.

Do you think Star Wars and solarpunk go together? Can you think of other worlds in the Star Wars universe that could be considered solarpunk? If so, feel free to share them in the comments.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


Just thought I'd share my social link for Mastodon:

I'm still getting the hang of it, since I usually don't have a lot of time to spend on social media. I'd love to follow more writers, so if you're on Mastodon, feel free to share your link in the comments. If you celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, have a happy one!

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Microfiction Contest

If you like to write flash fiction or even shorter stories, you might be interested in the 250-word Microfiction Challenge starting on Friday. Writers have twenty-four hours to complete a mini-story in an assigned genre with an assigned prompt. The stories are then judged, and winning writers proceed to the next round. There are a total of three rounds, and writers can win anywhere from $150 to $4,500. There is a registration charge, but part of the fee goes to a charity of the writer's choosing. (Personally, I think it's more efficient to donate directly to the charity.) I don't think I'll join this time since I'm busy with other projects, but it sounds like it would make a great writing exercise. If you do want to join, you'd better hurry; the deadline is tomorrow. It looks like the website hosts other contests, so it might be worth checking it out occasionally.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Solarpunk Markets

 Since some of the short fiction I've been working on lately falls into solarpunk, I was planning to post links to solarpunk markets today. Unfortunately, some of the ones I was watching have already closed. Here's what I did find:

Solarpunk Magazine: They just finished their first year of publication and will be running another fundraiser soon for year two. Here's their submission link.

Solar Flare: This anthology will be published by Zombies Need Brains. They are accepting submissions through the end of the year. You can learn more here.

I was unable to find any current markets specifically focusing on hopepunk or lunarpunk, but if something opens up, I'll pass it on.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

IWSG: National Novel Writing Month

Welcome to November! It's hard to believe another month has come and gone, isn't it? That means it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Learn more about the IWSG on their website and Facebook page. Our hosts this month are Diedre Knight, Douglas Thomas Greening, Nick Wilford, and Diane Burton.

Our question for November is about the most famous writing event associated with this month: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Have you ever participated? If not, why not?
I've done NaNoWriMo at least twice, once in 2007 (when my son was still a baby), and another time a few years later, possibly 2010. I managed to "win" both times by reaching 50,000 words, though neither project was ever completed. While NaNoWriMo definitely stretches my writing muscles, I wasn't satisfied with the quality of my writing. (It might work better for me if I was more of a plotter and had a better sense of what I wanted to put down.) I'm not planning to participate this year for two reasons: I currently have several other projects pending and need to complete them before starting something new (unless I get distracted by an anthology I want to submit work to, even though one of my current projects is for an anthology), and I unfortunately don't have enough daily writing time to make finishing a possibility. (I typically have about half an hour to an hour in the evening, which is barely enough time for me to write 500 words, let alone 1,667.) Good luck to everyone who's participating, though!

How do you feel about NaNoWriMo? Are you participating this year? Feel free to discuss it in the comments.


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Goodreads Challenge Complete!

I haven't posted much because I have a couple of hard deadlines for projects coming up in the next few weeks. However, I do have progress to report in another area: I've already completed my Goodreads challenge for the year! It was 150 books, and you can see the list here. Since I started tracking on Goodreads, my record for books read in a single year was 228, which I accomplished in 2013. I lowered my annual goals when I was really stretching to complete 200 books in a year. Perhaps for 2023 I'll aim for 175 books. In the meantime, I can read longer, more complex books if I want to without worrying about how it'll affect my goal. And now, back to writing....

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Imagine 2200 Climate Fiction Awards

One of my writer friends, Susan Kaye Quinn, recently won third place in Imagine 2200's climate fiction contest. You can read her story, "Seven Sisters," here. It's about a group of women who run a tea farm. Here's the link to the entire collection. Congratulations to all the winners!

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

IWSG: In Praise of Cozy Mysteries

Another month begins and brings with it the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.
Our hosts for this month are Tonja Drecker, Victoria Marie Lees, Mary Aalgaard, and Sandra Cox.
Our question for this month is simple: What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?
I'm going to use cozy mysteries for this answer since it's a niche genre. (The link provides a description of the genre if you're not familiar with it.) Cozy mysteries are rich in settings and descriptions. They can make me feel familiar with a place I've never been in real life. They can be educational and inspirational when it comes to hobbies; I've been inspired to try knitting after reading so much about it, though sadly I've made almost no headway with it. (Some books also feature recipes or craft patterns.) They can be funny and full of charm and quirks. They are also feminist, showing women as competent in their jobs/hobbies and in using intellect/social observation to solve mysteries. (I do feel obligated to point out that the heroines of cozy mysteries tend to be white, heterosexual, and middle-class, so the genre could use more diversity.) Women are often shown as working with other women and developing relationships with their communities, which is a healing message. Cozy mysteries are emotional balms that offer me respite from daily life and other, bigger issues. 

What's the best thing about your favorite genre? Feel free to share in the comments.


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Progress Report for September 2022

It doesn't feel like I made as much progress as I wanted to this month. (Of course, I can say that every month.) However, I did get a short story submitted to a new market, and I have more submissions planned for October, when more markets open. I have partial drafts of two solarpunk stories in progress. One of them is due by the end of October, so it's taking precedence for now. I have a sense of how to weave in a Filipino language subplot into Restaurants and Revenge, but I still need to figure out where to add the various mini-scenes. Good thing work is slowing down a bit so I can take my vacation time and hopefully get more writing done, along with my many other multiple projects.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Work-In-Progress: The Season Between

Since fall starts tomorrow here, I thought I'd celebrate by sharing some of my writing for The Season Between. This will be a short story collection set after Summon the Seasons, with each story featuring one of my four Season Avatars. This snippet features Ysabel, the Goddess of Fall's Avatar who is gifted with animal magic. Here she is investigating who's been interfering with Bittern Marsh, which is supposed to be a nature preserve:

“Ava. We are blessed to have you return to our humble home so soon.” Lady C’than’s voice was flat. However, the spread she offered was just as grand as before. Ysabel piled a couple of sandwiches and pastries on her too-small plate. She needed to give her body energy in case she needed to use her magic.

Lady C’than took only a cup of chocolate and a single cookie. “What brings you here, Ava?”

Ysabel polished off a sandwich before replying. “Bittern Marsh.”

“I beg your pardon?” The noblewoman’s dark eyebrows rose.

“I’ve discovered evidence someone has been harvesting cattails and trapping animals in the marsh, Lady C’than. That area belongs to the Four.”

“The Four do nothing with it,” Lady C’than retorted.

“That is exactly the point.” Ysabel set her cup down on the table so hard she chipped the bottom. She turned the mug so her hostess couldn’t see the damage. “The land is set aside for the wild creatures of Challen. It isn’t meant to be farmland or homes or anything else.”

“But it’s an eyesore, Ava! I’ve ridden through there several times and disliked it immensely.”

Ysabel sat up straight. “And what were you doing in the marsh, Lady C’than?”

She pressed her lips together.

“I need to know who’s been interfering in the marsh, Lady C’than,” Ysabel added. “Is it your family?”

“Of course not!” she replied a little too quickly. “It must be one of our tenants. I suggest you seek out Benjamin Maxham and his family. They’re always going where they don’t belong.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Allure of Anthologies

I've been posting here regularly about how slow my writing progress has been on my main projects: writing a Season Avatars short story collection, revising Restaurants and Revenge, and writing the first draft of Bubble Tea and a Body. As if I don't have enough to work on, I recently found out about a couple of anthologies that I want to submit stories too, but I don't have anything ready that I want to use. So now I'm busy drafting a new story that's due next month and thinking about two more anthologies that have December deadlines. 

Why do I do this to myself? I can think of several reasons. The themes are intriguing, and it's especially challenging to write to a specific topic under deadline. Sometimes it can be inspirational to work on a fresh topic for a while, especially when you're struggling with something else. Plus, if your work is accepted, there's a guaranteed payout and recognition from others for your achievement. (Self-publishing something is an achievement too, but not everyone sees it that way.)

If you like to write short stories, do you prefer to write for anthologies or magazines? What topics would you want to read about in an anthology. Feel free to answer in the comments. In the meantime, it's back to my current short story.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

IWSG: Ill-Fitting Genres

Happy September! It feels like the rest of the year is going to fly by now that my son is back in school and busy with activities. I hope you find some time to enjoy the rest of summer and the upcoming fall.

As has become tradition, let's start the month with a post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

Our hosts for this month are Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim (no link available), Michelle Wallace, and Louise-Fundy Blue.

Here's our question for September: What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

I used to read more widely in my youth, but these days, my fiction reading is mostly fantasy and mystery, with some science fiction and historical fiction mixed in. That means there are a lot of genres that I don't know very well. In particular, Westerns, thrillers, and horror hold no appeal for me, so they would be the worst ones for me to tackle. I know very little about the conventions and tropes in those genres. I'd probably create something featuring an eldritch cowboy pursuing a spy across the West to prevent a mass undead cow uprising or something like that.

Which genres are you least-prepared to write and why? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August Writing Update

 After a rough July, my writing seems to be back on track. I wound up finishing the rough draft of Kay's story (no title yet) for The Season Between collection. The only story for that collection that I still need to finish my rough draft for is Jenna's. I want to cut out a lot of the events that happen at the Fip palace and focus more on the crop issue (potato blight) Jenna needs to solve. However, I also need to reference the events mentioned in her son's story (Rob's Choice), so perhaps this will be more of a novelette than a short story. I plan to do some research on the Irish potato famine before returning to this story, so I have some time to mull it over before returning to it.

I've been holding off on Restaurants and Revenge because I felt it needed some more attention to Abigail's family and her interest in learning more about her Filipino heritage. I finally figured out a small sideplot to weave into the story. The beginning of this story is off to a good start, but I need to figure out where to place the remaining scenes. I've also returned to working on the first draft of Bubble Tea and a Body, though Restaurants and Revenge is a higher priority.

I have a couple of short stories that I feel would be a good match for a magazine or anthology--if I can find the right market. One of them is a flash fiction story, but the market I had in mind for it is closed for the indefinite future. I might try it elsewhere. I may also try writing something new for a themed anthology I recently learned about, but I haven't worked out the details yet. It may also depend on how much time I have now that the school year has started. In addition to taking my son to his athletic events, I'll be helping out with other school events.

I hope your writing is going well. See you next week for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post!

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

RenFaire 2022

One of our favorite annual family traditions is attending the Bristol Renaissance Festival in Wisconsin. Ever since my son was tall enough, he's been dueling my husband at the faire. They receive some basic training in fencing, don protective clothing and helmets, and go at each other with swords. The first one to pop five balloons tied to the other's helmet wins. Alex scored his first victory in 2019, and my husband bought him a stage combat dagger as a reward. Although Alex lost in 2021 (the faire was cancelled in 2020), he won again this year and received a stage combat sword. Here are a few photos to commemorate the occasion:



Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Can You Have Too Many Villians (and How Powerful Should They Be)?: Some Thoughts on Ms. Marvel

I don't have a lot of time for TV, so it took me a while to finish watching Ms. Marvel. Be warned; spoilers abound!



My feelings about the show are mixed. I liked the parts where Kamala interacted with her family and friends more than I liked the main story arc. I felt like the writers crammed too much into the short season. In particular, the two main villain groups (The Clandestines and the Department of Damage Control) felt like they weren't developed enough. In particular, the Clandestines went from being potential allies to enemies very quickly and without sufficient justification. The DODC's response to Kamala developing her powers was stereotypical and caused far more damage than it controlled. Perhaps they could have been saved for a second season of the show.

If the villain groups had a purpose in this show, it was (again, IMO) to bring enough firepower to the conflicts to challenge a superhero. We saw the DODC provide that in the finale. However, there was another villain in that show who had more potential. I'm referring to Kamran, who obtains Clandestine power from his mother. He has a backstory and a relationship with Kamala, which made their confrontation in the final episode emotionally charged and equally matched.

While villains should be powerful enough to make the protagonists struggle, there needs to be an emotional connection between the characters to make their story resonate. Otherwise, no matter how powerful an enemy is, dealing with them feels like cannon fodder. I'm currently drafting a story for The Season Between where Kay must deal with a heretic who doesn't have magic but is disruptive in other ways. The heretic has an unexpected connection to Kay that she has to confront. She can overwhelm him with magic, but ultimately she will have to find a different way to deal with this problem.

Would you rather have a story with lots of undeveloped villains or one evenly matched with the hero? Does story genre make a difference? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Aurelio H. Almazan, Jr., DVM: 1940-2022

Just a brief note that my father-in-law, Aurelio Almazan, passed away last Friday. He will be missed. You can read his obituary here. We will be attending his wake this coming weekend and the funeral next Monday, so I may take next week off from blogging.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

IWSG: Who Do You Write For?

How is it August already? It feels like July just started, but I've already started preparing for my son's return to school. (Of course, I normally start preparing for that as soon as school lets out.) Anyway, it's also time to prepare for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here's our question for August: When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

I have to be honest: part of the reason I write is because I can't always find the stories I want to read. The tropes that appeal to many readers don't always appeal to me. (For example, I personally don't care about physically attractive romantic interests who are controlling jerks. Once they make a poor first impression on me, they have a hard time winning me over. I prefer more equal relationships where the two people engage in banter.) However, I think whenever you write in a particular genre, you do need to meet certain criteria if you want to avoid reader rejection. For example, romances require a Happily Ever After or at least a Happy For Now ending. Genres like fantasy and science fiction certainly have their share of tropes, but originality has a place there. For example, the growing interest in genres like hopepunk and solarpunk show that many people are looking for stories that offer solutions to the problem of climate change, even if these solutions require changes in our way of thinking. Cozy mysteries do seem to have a more defined set of reader expectations: it's not just the mystery aspect, but there are also certain conventions about the setting, characters, and implied lifestyle that readers expect. I am trying to adhere a bit closer to genre conventions with my cozy mystery, but there are places within those parameters that offer me a chance to tell my version of these stories.

In general, I think most readers want to read the same types of stories many times. (I'm going through a similar phase in that I want to read cozy mysteries more than anything else.) They can offer comfort and predictability in an uncomfortable and unpredictable world. However, it takes something original to deal with an unpredictable world, and we all need to shake up our routines occasionally to change up our thinking. There's a need for writing original works and also for those that meet reader desires. Whenever someone offers you a dichotomy, seek a balanced, third way instead.

Where do you stand on the spectrum? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Writing Update

 I'm going to keep my blog post brief this week:

1. The main writing I'm doing is working on a short story featuring Kay for the The Season Between collection. I've had to start over a couple of times, but hopefully I'll be able to complete this draft (which is currently over 4,000 words).

2. I still have to finish editing the last several chapters of Restaurants and Revenge, but hopefully I can do that by the end of August.

3. I'm participating in an author takeover in a Facebook group this Friday. This is the first time I've done something like this. I've written several questions and planned a few giveaways, but I should probably take some pictures to include.

4. My submission to the library anthology was rejected. Apparently they had over 300 submissions, so they couldn't accept them all. I'll probably hold onto it for a while to see if I want to revise it or come across another market for it.

5. I was hoping to submit a flash fiction story this month, but the markets I originally targeted aren't open at the moment. I plan to watch another market and submit there if it opens. 

Hope all is going well with you and your writing!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Mid-Month Mysteries: Erin Johnson

It seems like July just started, but we're already heading into late July. Hopefully it's not too late for a Mid-Month Mysteries feature. Today I plan to spotlight Erin Johnson, who writes several magical cozy mystery series. I first found her work through her Spells and Caramels series. (The first book is Seashells, Spells, and Caramels.) This series features a young baker, Imogen, who discovers she's a witch from a magical kingdom. She becomes a royal baker while traveling to other magical kingdoms, having adventures with her baker friends, and developing a romance with a prince. Other series from Erin include ones featuring a pet psychic, a cursed renaissance fair, and a tea room in Bath run by a vampire. I have to admit I don't like the heroine of the pet psychic series, but I enjoy Erin's other works. They're light reads featuring things I enjoy, like renaissance fairs and afternoon teas. If that's your cup of tea too, I recommend checking out her work. I've linked to Erin's Amazon page above.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The Library: A Fragile History

If you like books, you're probably a fan of libraries as well. When I saw The Library: A Fragile History, by Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen, at my local library, I immediately borrowed it. Thankfully, my library grants automatic renewals, because this book took me a few weeks to finish.

The Library: A Fragile History starts with a disturbing premise: libraries aren't fixed, unchanging temples of knowledge, but are as prone to destruction and decay as any other human endeavor. (The specific example cited in the Prologue describes the ruin of a sixteenth-century Holy Roman Emperor's library as described by the newly appointed librarian.) However, libraries have adapted and changed throughout history, and it's this process the authors trace in this book. (This book is primarily focused on Western culture, with little or no mention of any libraries or their equivalent elsewhere.) They look at some ancient libraries in the first chapter, including (but not limited to) the library of Alexandria. From there, the authors discuss the evolution of libraries, from collections of religious scrolls stored in chest for easy transport to the modern library. One of the great themes of this book is how collections shift as people's interest change. For centuries, collectors focused on religious, classical, or other scholarly texts, for personal use or at a monastery or university. Librarians and collectors might acquire works from other collectors, but what one person valued might be considered waste material by someone else. (For example, some collectors kept copies of pamphlets and had them bound.) Old books aren't always seen as valuable or kept under conditions that might preserve them. As we advance toward the modern era, fiction becomes more popular, especially as libraries become more accessible to the common person. However, collections may be censored for religious or political purposes. 

Libraries have always had to adapt to their environments. Although books compete with plenty of other distractions in the twenty-first century, they will undoubtedly continue to evolve as long as readers and collectors exist.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

July IWSG: Any (Book) World That I'm Welcome To

 Here we are at the beginning of another month, so it must be time to encourage other writers with an Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook, or Twitter feed.

Our hosts this month are J Lenni Dorner, Janet Alcorn, PJ Colando, Jenni Enzor, and Diane Burton.

We have an interesting question this month: If you could live in any book world, which one would you choose?

If I'm allowed to pick my own work, I would choose the gaslamp country of Challen. The tech level is similar to late nineteenth century England, but the Four Gods and Goddesses of Challen have gifted Their Avatars with magic to heal people, help plants and animals, and control the weather. It's a feminist society that offers niches for people who don't want to marry or have children. I came up with this world and my "Fem Four" around 1996, and I wouldn't still be writing stories in this setting if I didn't care for it.

If I were to pick another author's world, I'd probably select Becky Chamber's A Psalm for the Wild Built. You could consider it a cozy science fiction book or part of the hopepunk genre. (I haven't had a chance to read the sequel yet.) It's set on a colonized moon, and the people are accepting of each other, know how to build cozy homes, and appreciate the calming power of a cup of tea. 

I'll end this post with Steely Dan's "Any World That I'm Welcome To."

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

June Writing Update

June was another slow month for me writing-wise. Part of that is because I still have so many household chores when I get home from work that I generally don't get to my computer until eight-thirty or nine at night. (These chores can involve preparing three different meals since everyone eats something different, washing and drying dishes, cleaning appliances as needed, making lunch for work, setting the table for breakfast, setting things out for evening smoothies, and cleaning up after the smoothies are made. That isn't a complete list.) By that point, it's hard to pants a plot into existence (since it's hard these days to pre-plot/think about stories in my head before getting to the laptop). However, I did manage to write and submit a short story (less than 3,000 words) for an anthology about librarians, so I wasn't entirely unsuccessful. We'll see how it goes. A couple of markets I'm eyeing for completed short works will open in July, so I plan to submit to them.

I've been mostly working on the Season Avatars short story collection. Currently, I've been working on a short story featuring Kay, but I find myself blocked and thinking I need to start over with a different plot.

I haven't done anything lately with revising Restaurants and Revenge. I don't feel that the ending quite works yet. Maybe I need to reread that part of the story (I should have some time for that over the holiday weekend), or maybe I should just find a couple of beta readers. I'm still looking for people who will finish the story and give me useful feedback on it. 

I hope your writing is going better than mine. Hopefully next month I'll have more to post.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Semiannual Reading Update

I usually post a semiannual reading update at the end of June, but I'll post it a little early this year so I can talk about writing next week. I track all books I finish in all formats. My challenge this year is to read 150 books, which is about what I read last year. With 82 books under my belt, I'm well ahead of schedule. (I tend to lose ground during the summer, so it's good I'm ahead for now.) How do I read so much? I make time for it, and I replace other activities (like watching TV) with reading. Cozy mysteries, my favorite genre lately, can be short and fast-paced, so some of them only take two or three hours to read. 

Here's the genre breakdown:

Fantasy: 10

Science Fiction: 4

Cozy Mysteries: 48

Other Fiction: 5

Non-Fiction: 15

Many of the mysteries I read have a paranormal element, but I count them as mystery instead of fantasy.

Here are a few of my favorites so far:

Meet Me in Another Life

The Dawn of Everything

A Spindle Splintered

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (a reread)

The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics

 What are your favorite books so far this year?

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Twenty Year Anniversary!

Sunday is a special day. Not only is it Father's Day, it's also my mother's 90th birthday. (I plan to visit her this Friday with my son.) It's also the twentieth anniversary of my start date with the company I work for. I started in R&D, was transferred to QC for a few years, and wound in QA, which is where I still am. (I tell new employees I hope I don't end up in Logistics or Sales next, since I'm not suitable for either of those departments.) Hopefully I'll be able to continue working there until I'm ready to retire!

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Mid-Month Mysteries: Author Nancy Warren

I decided to change the Mid-Month Mysteries blog series to focus on individual authors instead of books with specific subjects. Let's start with one of my favorite cozy mystery authors, Nancy Warren. She's a best-selling mystery and romance author who's currently writing several cozy mystery series. These series are typically set in England and feature a witch as heroine. I first discovered her work with The Vampire Knitting Club. The heroine, Lucy, runs a knitting shop that her grandmother used to own, even though Lucy is a terrible knitter. Vampires meet there weekly to knit and help her solve mysteries. Despite Lucy's struggles with knitting and witchcraft, I really liked her as a heroine and am disappointed that the series seems to have finished after thirteen books. The Vampire Book Club is set in the same fictional universe as the Vampire Knitting Club and follows the same general premise: a witch runs a shop and works with vampires to solve crimes. Quinn, the heroine of this series, is older and a more experienced witch who is banished to Ireland for misusing her magic. I admit I'm not as fond of her as I am of Lucy. Warren has two more cozy mysteries series that I've read: The Great Witches Baking Show and Village Flower Shop. The first series is set in a cozy village, which is described so well it makes me want to visit. This series is also complete. The Village Flower Shop is a new series (only one book out so far).

What I like about Warren's mysteries is her settings. She crafts inviting settings that you want to spend time in. Add in interesting mysteries and a touch of magic, and it's no wonder she's a best-selling author.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

June IWSG: When the Writing Gets Tough...


Here we are again at the beginning of another month and another post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter

Our hosts this month are SE White, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Joylene Nowell Butler, and Jacqui Murray

Here's our question for this month: When the going gets tough writing the story, how do you keep yourself writing to the end? If [you] have not started the writing yet, why do you think that is and what do you think could help you find your groove and start?

This is a tough question to answer because there are so many possible reasons for the writing not going well. For example, if I have a great idea for the opening of a story but don't know how it'll end, I'll soon start floundering around. Perhaps I don't know enough about a subject to know what details to include or if something is feasible. There could be personal distractions affecting my focus or simply a lack of time/energy for the story. If you can correctly identify the problem, then it's easier to figure out the solution. 

The wording of this story implies that the best solution for writing problems is to push through the writing. Sometimes, however, I feel it's better to set a story aside, at least temporarily. I admit I have a couple of half-completed works in my science fiction Catalyst Chronicles series that have been shelved for years. One of them is told by a Native American teen, and I don't feel I know enough about her background to do it justice. (Plus, I lost focus on the plot.) The other story meandered into side plots, and I felt stuck on it because I had planned to write the Native American teen's story first. It might be best for the series if I discard the first story (which was planned as a short story set between two novels) and tell the other one (the next novel and a major turning point in the series) anyway.

As far as the second question goes (not starting a story), I think that can have many causes. One thing I've noticed as I've continued to write is that there are three different series in three different genres that I want to work on, but I don't have enough time for all of them. Currently I'm trying to focus on editing my cozy mystery, Restaurants and Revenge, and finish drafting stories for a fantasy collection to be called The Season Between. These series are priorities for me because they're more marketable than the Catalyst Chronicles series and because I'm also internally driven to work on them. Inner drive or grit is part of the answer to both questions, as grit will help you overcome internal and external obstacles.

What causes your toughest writing problems, and how do you overcome them? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

May Writing Update

Due to unexpected events affecting my blogging schedule, I didn't post anything for Mid-Month Mysteries this month. I think I'm going to change the format for June so I can talk more about books/authors I'm familiar with.

I managed to finish my solarpunk story in time to submit it to a contest, and I also wrote a flash fiction fantasy story that I'm submitting to whatever markets I can find. Hopefully I won't be distracted anymore from revising Restaurants and Revenge or writing stories for The Season Between collection (stories set after Summon the Seasons.) I also hope that once we get our new dishwasher next week, it'll free up more time in the evenings to write. There's so many things I have to do every weeknight that I typically wind up with less than an hour to write and even less time to figure out what I'm doing. 

WisCon is this weekend, along with my son's birthday on Memorial Day. I still have to sign up for the virtual con, but since we're still not sure what we're doing, I've held off. Depending on what we do, I may not have much time for the online con.

Do you have any writing updates you'd like to share? Feel free to comment below.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Stories in Stories

Although the vast majority of my fiction reading these days is cozy mysteries, every now and then I like to shake it up. Earlier this month, I read Life of Pi. The first part of the book is, in my opinion, low stakes with little conflict, as Pi tells us about his early life. This is before the main action of the novel, so how does the author keep the reader engaged in this section?

There are a couple of ways the author keeps the reader interested. The first one is using a lot of solid details to bring the zoo to life. It's more than just invoking the senses; it's also the authoritative tone he uses to describe how to care for the animals. However, there's another technique to keep people reading. There are also miniature stories and anecdotes woven into this section of the book. The most dramatic of these is when Pi's father demonstrates to him and his brother exactly how dangerous the zoo animals are. Part of this involves making them watch a tiger hunting a goat. Other stories relate the kinds of things visitors feed the zoo animals (and unfortunately, how some of them are cruel to the animals). These stories add conflict and interest to prose that otherwise might be telling instead of showing.There are a few sections where the author stops the story to list things or the style becomes very simplistic; I admit I skimmed over those places. The first part of the book also contains italicized chapters written from the perspective of someone visiting Pi many years after the main events; I didn't think they added much to the story. But it's been instructive to observe how the author develops themes while providing us with background.

Have you read books that detail long passages of time where little happens story-wise? If so, what techniques kept you reading through those sections? Feel free to comment.

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