Short Stories

FYI: Fantasy Writers’ Week

I wanted to spread the word about an event that I learned about this morning!

ProWritingAid is hosting a week long Webinar series for Fantasy writers from February 28th to March 3rd. Two of my favorite authors, Tomi Adeyemi and Jenna Moreci, are participating in it and I’m so excited to learn about the craft from them!

If you want to save your seat to this free event, you should go to https://go.prowritingaid.com/fantasy/ to sign up.

I’m not quite sure if this is necessary (seeing as I’m small potatoes in the blogosphere and this isn’t Instagram or YouTube) but this isn’t sponsored. I’m just a fantasy writing nerd trying to reach out to other fantasy writing nerds!

Monday Musings: Writing on Empty

I love writing. It’s an essential part of my daily life and my life would be incomplete without it.

At the same time, it burns me out.

Starting in late September, I’ve experienced a writing high that I haven’t experienced in years. I had my mojo back. In between then and January, I completed two novel-length projects and started revisions on one.

That hasn’t been the case these last few weeks. There’s a frenetic energy that accompanies a first draft. You get caught up in a story first written, get excited by its potential, and it’s a precious thing that gives you purpose every day. The initial drafting is one of my favorite parts of the writing process.

With a revision, however, you’re forced to examine the flaws of the first draft up close and correct them. My process is rewriting whole chapters: expanding scenes, questioning dialogue and character motivation, throwing in more flashbacks, putting a little more effort in worldbuilding, and the like. It’s fun at times, soul-crushing at others.

And these last two weeks, I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle with motivation. My work has taken a toll on my energy after an extra-long week and, with the news being the news, my emotional reserves have been uniquely depleted as well. I have a schedule I’m trying to keep to maintain momentum but I’ve fallen behind. But I’m trying to be gracious with myself. I’ve learned that burnout is the mind’s way of telling you that it needs a breather.

Rather than force the issue, I take a break. I try to relax.

It’s easier said than done though. I fear not being able to pick up the pen again. I fear losing the momentum. I haven’t written like this in years (plural with an s!). That fear is always there. Even though I know from experience that a break is the best thing I can do for my creativity. Even though I know some of my best ideas come when I’m not thinking about my story. I recently read a Joan Didion quote that an author’s greatest fear after writing their first book is that they can’t write another and that this fear remains after the second, third, or fortieth book. It was more talking about ideas but I think it’s applicable here as well.

Regardless of my mood, I still try to write. Even on days I wake up and think that writing is the absolute last thing I want to do that day.

So here is what I do. I stick to my routine. I get up to dedicate my weekend mornings to writing. I open my story and see where I left off. I tentatively start writing something, give myself 25 minutes to find a groove. If I get into a rhythm (like on Saturday), I write until 1 and manage to crank out 2000 words (a win!). If I find myself unable to concentrate and looking for distraction (like on Sunday), I put the story away and promise myself I will try a little later after giving my head a rest.

The important thing is I never try to force it anymore. It shows in the work when I’m writing on empty. It’s painful to read and a nightmare to edit.

I’m trying to emphasize being kind to yourself when you lack the motivation or stamina to do things, especially when it comes to things you love. Breaks are a necessary component of the creative process. Never be afraid to indulge in them.

Thank you. I’ll step off my soapbox now.

Monday Musings: Voice in Writing

I spent some time contemplating voice. More specifically, I spent a lot of time contemplating my own voice in writing.

Writing through characters has always been easy for me. When coming up with a story, a character’s voice is the first that comes, then the premise, then how that premise might be executed. It develops the more I write it and evolves in ways I don’t expect. It’s very involved play-acting. The characters are my costumes and I interact with the world as they do.

As I describe this, my mind is brought back to the childhood stories I acted out with my sister. We spent countless hours in the day playing as our favorite Disney characters and inventing wacky scenarios that they had to puzzle their way out of. Writing helped fill that gap when we both grew out of it.

Writing as myself has always been a struggle. I’m a (near) daily diarist but when I push that voice to the public eye, it sounds awkward…not quite right. I’m not used to talking as me or the invented, highly polished version of me that I want to present to the world. Hence, why blogging is such a struggle. The voice stutters and falls flat.

I’ve had the idea, not for the first time, that I should come up with a character for this version of me. Surely, putting some artifice between myself and my writing persona would help me write as myself. It’s already there. After the retooling and editing, it’s baked in. The very act of effortless articulation a façade in its own right. You see that sentence before. I would never say that in real life.

It’s also possible I’m overthinking this like I do with most things. But a fair bit of practice goes into crafting a voice. It’s a patient endeavor. Historically, I’m not a very patient person but I can learn!

Creative Quarterly Goals: First Quarter

Yep! I’m going quarterly!

I wrote a lot in the last few months of 2021. I finished the first draft of a very old project given new life and nearly completed another. As of writing this, I’ll be finishing up the last chapter of the latter. Needless to say, I’ve been a writing speed demon. I’ve scared myself in how many words I’ve managed to throw on a page compared to the creative nadir that was 2019-2020. Guess I was storing it up.

But I’ll be honest. First drafts are easy for me, second only to the initial outlining phases. It’s during the revision process where writing projects lose a lot of steam. I’m determined to be more thoughtful in how to approach it this time around so that doesn’t happen. To do that, I’m putting the infrastructure in place to keep my mind focused on the task.

There are three major writing projects in the works and they’re all related to each other. The first is the still vaguely titled “Story 1” which is a young adult urban? fantasy novel and it is supposed to be the first in a series of indeterminate length. The latter is called “Divided Loyalties” (a better title than the former but I still kind of hate it) which is a dark fantasy that’s more adult in its leanings. It’s a prequel to Story 1. “Divided Loyalties” is getting two parts. I’m nearly finished with the first draft of part 1 and I want to begin the initial drafting stages of part 2. It’s the project that I’m focusing on currently.

I made a list of what I hope to tackle before my March 31st deadline. Not all of them are novel-related. I won’t finish all of these in 3 months but I hope to make significant progress. This will hopefully keep me on track!

  1. Finishing Part 1 of Divided Loyalties and begin drafting Part 2
  2. Starting the first round of revisions for both Story 1 and Divided Loyalties Part 1
    1. Come up with a better book title than Story 1
    1. Make a Wordbuilding rag for Divided Loyalties.
  3. Some sort of outline for Story 1 Part 2
  4. Having a consistent schedule of 2 blog posts per week (1 for writing, 1 for fun!)
  5. Maintaining an active social media presence for WordPress and Twitter
  6. Come up with 1 short story every 2 months
  7. Study your favorite books for why you like them and research writing genres
    1. Writing Genres:
      1. Dark Fantasy*
      1. Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction
      1. Young Adult

Ringing in the New Year: Better Late than Never

Hello 2022!

I hope the New Year has been treating you all well! On my end, it’s already had its fair share of twists and turns thanks to that ol’ pandemic strain that’s been plaguing us these last 2 years. A lot of people close to me have come down with it but they’ve all been mild cases luckily. I’ve been extremely lucky to dodge it (so far).

Every turn of the year makes me thoughtful. I reflect back on 2021 as a year that I grew more into myself; a year where I became more conscious of my needs and became a better advocate for them. It’s an ongoing process that I’m still learning each day.

I have mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions. I’m more of the opinion that an intention can be made whenever you want to make it: at every change of the season, every morning after breakfast, whenever. Yet still, I make plans, I set goals and they’ll change and evolve as time marches forward. I used the great flip of the calendar year to solidify and write some personal goals I want to carry over from last year.

Here are a few taken from the journal:

Physical:

Listen to your body uncritically and nurture accordingly. If you’re upset, listen without judgment. If you’re hungry, eat. If you feel sluggish, move around.

Mental:

Laziness is a blessing. It is the feeling that comes over you when your mind needs a break. Listen to it. Indulge in some unproductivity so you can better tackle the things you want to do.

Social:

Being social is really hard right now. It’s okay if you feel drained from your efforts. More okay if you make mistakes. Trying is what matters most and you shouldn’t be afraid to be seen trying.

Financial:

Be conscious of your impulse food purchases. Be conscious of anything you’re tempted to buy on impulse for that temporary dopamine hit.

Creative:

Creativity can’t thrive if you aren’t kind to yourself. Moments of growth and productivity need rest to nurture your mind. You can’t have one without the other. Burning yourself out will only make you hate the end result, whether or not it’s good. (Anything you put the time in is good. Tending to it makes it great).

Music Appreciation: “Hey Moon” by John Maus

I’m 10 years late to the John Maus train but there is something so enchanting about this song. I credit it in planting the first seeds of my “Divided Loyalties” WIP, which has expanded into a hefty fantasy enterprise.

The synth beats that underpin this track are hypnotizing. John Maus’ vocals echo and lull the listener into a trance as he sings his ode to the moon. I like to think of it as a love song. A love song to the night, to dreams, to the slow and sweet passage of time.

A moment bottled and forever relished.

Favorite Lyrics:

Hey moon, it’s just you and me tonight
Everyone else is asleep
Hey moon, if I was to fall
I won’t fall so deep
Though I doubt I’m gonna
You can wake me up if you wanna

I learned while routing for info that this is a cover! Sounds like I got some more music to listen to!

Short Fiction: Billie Jean Can Swing

Billie Jean let her feet tap, tap, tap to the rhythm of that rocking swing. With a holler, she hitched up her skirt and let the music have its way with her. She tapped, turned, and glided so smooth across the dance floor. She was the envy of all those who swung to that same beat.

I swallowed another pint of liquid courage and let the burn going down put some fire in my limbs.

I told the boys I’d join her on that dance floor today. I imagined I would come up on her so smooth and carry her off like the mac I thought I was. But Billie Jean ain’t no fool and she ain’t impressed so easy.

Several jive turkeys tried to strut up to her just to be shoved away by the power of those hips. Had the whole floor cackling and jonesing on those fools for love.

And here I am the biggest fool of all.

The sight of her ease on the dance floor cooled my resolve until I remembered that my mama didn’t raise no quitter. I take another swallow of fire but it goes down hard and makes me choke.

Old Sam behind the bar shook his head. “Take it easy, young blood.”

I waved pops off and turned around. Billie Jean was still cutting rags and rocking with the beat.

Now or never. Now or never.

I took my chance.

I hopped up to her with a twirl and a jig. In one deft motion in the knees, bowed and offered my hand.

She rolled her eyes and turned away.

But Mama ain’t raise no quitter.

I caught her elbow and rocked into her. Her eyebrow quirked as she called my bluff and leaned into me. I kept my feet in time with hers. Grabbed her hand and made her twirl with the swell of music.

The song ended and we were breathing hard, sweating, and staring at each other.

She smiled. “Not bad, country boy.”

Favorite Quotes From Reading (1)

From Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect”

“To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are on the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out–since our self-image is untenable–their false notions of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others is an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. […] At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us.”


I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, mostly memoirs and snapshots of certain historical moments. I’ve been tearing through Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem and I thought I share a quote that really spoke to me.

I hope you enjoyed.

Things That Help Me Write

(a completely subjective list in no particular order)

  • Rainy Days. In my part of the world, the last few days have been rainy so this list is brought to you by cloudy skies and pitter patter. I can’t tell you what about these kinds of days that put me in a creative mood. Could it be the fresh smell of grass? The patter of rain? The calm of a cloudy day? The creative potential that sounds in my head like a clap of rolling thunder?
  • Something caffeinated to drink. Most days I prefer teas that range from the maltiest of blacks, those with a kiss of citrus, to the refreshing greens.  I savor coffees socially or when I struggle to keep my head up.
  • Musical brainstorming to provide soundtracks to the plot and character reels I produce in my head.
  • Writing nonsense, feelings, and routine things to start off the day. I like giving my brain a running start when it imagines a roadblock.
  • Quiet sounds. The ticking of my desk clock. The chirping of birds and the sound of rustling leaves outside my window. The cars rushing past. The sound of my constant breathing. The slow hum of thought.
  • Staring up and away from the page to my plant shelf and the sepia world.
  • Not writing at all the time. I wouldn’t call myself the most dedicated of writes so this may seem counterintuitive to this list. But sometimes not writing gives me more ideas and more energy when I do decide to write. I bubbling with creative energy when I’m at work shuffling books, when I’m in the kitchen prepping vegetables, and even when I’m vegging out watching TV. Allowing rest times makes me come back more inspired and refreshed.

Mexican Gothic (A Book Review)

True to its name, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia at its heart is a gothic story.

Like most gothic stories, it centers on an old house and a family with secrets in all its dark, secret passage. The story starts when the protagonist, Noemi Taboada, gets a letter from her cousin Catalina who recently married into the Doyle family and moved to their residence in The High Place. But something is wrong and Noemi goes there in an attempt to figure out what it is—a perfect gothic set up filled with mysterious potential.

I’m not sure what I expected when stepping into the book. I boarded the hype train with this one and thought I would settle into an unsettling tale in an unfamiliar setting. I also grew up on Gothic novels so I had some trope expectations that I was ready to check off. Beyond that, I had no clear expectations.

What I noticed first about the story was the dreamy way it was written. Noemi has a strong voice in the narrative, but the prose lingers on its descriptions. It starts a bit slow as it establishes the setting, making High Place as much a character in the book as the people who occupy it.  It also loves the big words that litter the narrative that the reader can trip over if they’re not used to it. (My favorite is “mandibular prognathism.)

As the story picks up, I became entranced. Its dreaminess is what I ends up hooking me into the story. This book has some excellent horror writing in its dream sequences. They’re filled with flesh like walls and other sorts of grotesque imagery that I won’t spoil here. Most of its horror of this grotesque nature. When night falls in High Place, the house seems to breathe and twist with the monsters that lie beneath.

And the monsters all around. I won’t say much on this point other than the characters in this book are really well written. Even as you detest them and they transform in every which way, I appreciated how they added to the horror.  There is some commentary on sexism, racism, and colonialism woven into this book’s themes. There’s discussions of control especially as it relates to the story’s female characters. This story does take place in 1950s Mexico. I’ll let that speak for itself.

If you like gothic or horror, I really think you should give this book a read. It’s admittingly slow for the first 30-50 pages, but if you’re patient you’ll be treated to something really special. This is one of my favorite books from last year and upon reflecting on the story and it’s themes, I feel that way more and more.