Friday, April 29, 2011

Writing Revisited

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the fact that I’ve been posting regularly to this blog as long as I have is probably a record.  Thank goodness for the power to schedule posts because I don’t know if I could keep up the pace of blogging every day on top of everything else I’m working to accomplish.

In general, I think I’m doing pretty well. My AC articles have tapered off a little bit, but my other articles are getting done and published. In fact, I’ve turned out a few that didn’t need any rewrites.

I’ve begun to lag on keeping track of hours and payments.  With payments, I figure I can just access my stuff online when I need it. For hours, I usually just forget.  As long as I’m still producing in some form or another, I’m doing the job I want to do.  If it ever comes to the point where I am working from home doing freelance writing, I’ll have to be a little more diligent about it, but I think I’m still a long way from that.

Then there’s Script Frenzy. Tomorrow marks the halfway point of the month and I’m over halfway finished with my script as of today.  I’m not formatting as I write, which makes it go a lot faster, but if I keep up this pace, I’ll be relaxing easy at the end of the month. I’m writing a romantic comedy, and I’m finally getting to the point of some humor. Finally. If I’d planned to do something serious, the thing would have been hilarious from start to finish.

I’m also picking up other little things to help expand my writing.  I joined a new campaign through BzzAgent, which means I’ll get to write reviews on products I try out. I also applied to another gaming site to be a writer, though I haven’t heard back so they may have filled the position already.

In order to get more readers, I had a small drawing for new AC subscribers and will hold another one either the end of this month or next month. I gained quite a few readers in that time, so I’m at least on my way to reaching my 100 subscribers goal by the end of the year.

All in all, I’m giving myself an A for effort and a B for quality. I just have to keep the momentum going.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Selling HandKnit Items

At the time of this post’s conception,  I’m getting ready for a yard sale with some friends from work. Besides the massive amount of stuff we cleared out of our apartment, I’m also going to try to sell some of my hand knit items.

The plan is to lay them out and sell each at $5.00. To some, this may seem really cheap. Others probably wouldn’t spend a dollar on a hand knit item much less five.

I listed a bunch of stuff on Etsy, but only sold one thing, which I hear is fairly normal for Etsy newbies.  I could have relisted, I just got lazy. I’ll probably post things in the future as I make them, but we’ll see.  I’m getting rid of a lot of yarn at this sale and am now down to just two totes of the better yarn I have in my stash.  

I have some really cute stuff. I have some pretty scarves, nice hats, and even a pair of hand knit fingerless gloves I’m going to let go of. Not all of it is functional. Some of it is just to look pretty. Some of it is…in my opinion…complete junk.  I wasn’t even going to put it in the sale, but Jon made a good point.

You never know what people will find appealing.

It’s all going in, and then maybe I’ll have a better idea of what people like to buy.  What doesn’t sell will make great gifts and beyond that…I guess I’d better start preparing my own line of winter fashion.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Old Journals

Last weekend, Jon and I tackled our apartment full force with de-cluttering and cleaning. In two and a half days we managed to create more room, add curtains to our living room and get rid of all kinds of stuff that was taking up space. Yay for productivity.

One of the boxes we went through contained all my old journals. I haven’t handwritten anything in a journal in a few years, not since right after I moved to Oklahoma.  Online journaling and blogging have sort of filled that space. But I’ve kept my old ones out of a deep sense of sentimentality and the thought that someday I may want to go back and revisit my younger years.

I started keeping a journal in 3rd grade. My first journal says “Diary” on the front, has a puffy plastic cover and a lock for which I’ve long since lost the key.  I’m not sure if everyone else does this, but I make a distinction between a diary and a journal.  Diaries always seem to put limits on your writing:  Here are five lines…tell me about your day. A journal, on the other hand, gives you lots of free pages to write. I always had to use a journal…I was too long winded and angsty throughout junior high and high school to limit myself.

We cracked open my 3rd grade journal for the heck of it, and I laughed so hard I cried. Jon laughed, my mom…when I finally shared it with her…and my friends laughed. Because the writings of 3rd grade Amanda were hilarious.  They contained important things, like nicknames my classmates had for each other and the fact that my team (I was “red”) lost a basketball game. My favorite was probably the rant I did about my sister, which I intro’d with “I could probably write a whole page of bad stuff about my sister”  (if you’re reading this, Sister, sorry! I was only 8!) I then laid it out in business plan format.

“I could just give in and play with my sister. Complication: She would want me to keep playing with her even when if I didn’t want to.”

I’m proud of my younger self’s grasp of punctuation.

This was the only journal I opened. Maybe some time in the future I’ll look at some of my later ones, but I remember a lot of the bad stuff and I don’t know if, even knocking on the door of 32, I’m ready to relive some of it. I know there’s good stuff in there too…stuff that will give me warm fuzzies and take me back to an easier time.  

I think I’ll leave them packed away for now and read them the next time we clean the apartment.

Friday, April 22, 2011

In the Kitchen: Bubble Pizza

It seems like I posted this before, but I had a request for the recipe so I didn’t think it could hurt to share it again.

The original recipe can be found here

I love bubble pizza, though when I talk about it, I think people confuse it with bubble tea (which I’ve never had). I’m not a fan of a lot of veggies, so Jon and I just claim half each. I get meat on my side and he throws some mushrooms and olives on his.

The biscuit crust gives it a really good taste, and I found out this past week that it makes good leftovers. Unfortunately, I did come across a small part of biscuit that hadn’t baked, and I have a really hard time with raw biscuit dough. This doesn’t normally happen to us, though.

In the past, we’ve also substituted ground turkey for the ground beef. It’s one of those easy recipes that you can mix and match ingredients to make it more or less healthy.

Let me know if you make this one and what you think!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writing: Self Promotion - Creative Writing Edition

In order to manage my time a little more effectively, I'm already abandoning the Saturday and Sunday editions of this blog. This isn't to say I won't still be doing self promotion and sharing, but I'm just going to schedule them into the regular 3 day a week schedule.

Jon and I are doing some hardcore cleaning and purging of the junk in our house, and while going through some old notebooks, I found copies of the literary publication from college. "The Blurb" took art and writing from LSSU students and published them twice a year. A few weeks ago, my mom requested that I publish one of the short stories that had been published in The Blurb on AC so she could share it with some work friends.

I went ahead and republished the short story and two poems.

The Memorial - A woman goes through the motions of a having a memorial for her husband. It doesn't sound like much, but my mom requested it and it's not a bad story. I did make some changes from the original draft, but the point is the same.

Women's World - Though I don't think it was my original intention, this poem is pretty sapphic and saturated in lesbianism. However, I think it talks more to new experiences and the intense, uncomfortable feelings chance encounters can invoke. No matter which way you take it, I think this is some good writing.

Porn Industry - I don't have an issue with adult films. I do, in fact, think they have a valid niche in society. But I don't glamorize them the way some people do. This poem was meant to be a humorous take on what really goes on behind the scenes.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Goodreads: A Kiss in Time

A Kiss in TimeA Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book by Alex Flinn that I've read, the first being "Beastly," which I wanted to read before I saw the movie (I still haven't seen the movie, but I liked the book).

In this remake of "Sleeping Beauty," Flinn's heroine, Princess Talia of Euphrasia, is an unhappy teenager who's been sheltered her whole life in an effort to keep her away from the dreaded spindle that will cause her and her kingdom to fall into a deep sleep. On her 16th birthday, in her quest for the perfect dress, she comes upon an old lady guessed it...tricks her into touching a spindle.

Three hundred years later, while playing hooky from his European tour group, Jack finds the princess and kisses her awake. Jack is a teenage slacker who's parents have planned much of his life for him, so it's a shock to his system when he's thrown into the king's dungeon. Talia rescues him under the condition that he take her with him back to Florida.

The story is simple and sweet, and the retelling was well done. Talia and Jack both grow and develop as do most of the side characters, like Jack's parents and sister. One thing I particularly like about this book is that Flinn doesn't make her characters fall in love and spend eternity by each other's side. While this is acceptable (if somewhat unrealistic) in historical adult romance, I often find it annoying when the characters are only teenagers. Flinn avoids that trap while still allowing for the romantic element in the story.

A good book and a definite recommendation.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 15, 2011

In the Kitchen: Chili Dog Casserole

Before you gag, you should know that this recipe was actually really good! Not everyone likes hot dogs, but you could substitute sausages or turkey dogs too.

The basic recipe with reader tips can be found here.

I modified it by mixing ketchup and spicy brown mustard into the lower layer of chili and adding some cheese and chili in the tortillas before rolling them up. I would recommend using a good sized casserole dish and maybe getting a third can of chili. We also put some corn chips on the dish to give it some crunch.

I'm not a fan of beans, but we got the bean chili and I didn't really care that much. The whole meal cost about five dollars since we got everything but the cheese at Aldi and the cheese we got on sale at Hy-Vee.

If you've ever had Sonic's Frito Chili wrap, this is very similar, only with a hot dog in the center.

If you try this, comment and let me know how you liked it and what, if any, modifications you made.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Relevance of Puppets

Avenue Q made it to our little corner of the world a couple weeks ago, so Jon and I splurged on tickets. I couldn't pass up the opportunity considering this is one of the few productions on my "must see" list.

In junior high/high school, I had a love affair with the music from "Les Miserables," "Phantom of the Opera," "Cats," and "Miss Saigon." I got to see "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" on stage in Detroit and...haters gonna to see a scantily clad Donnie Osmond in the flesh (though I had little appreciation for it at the time).

While I still like listening to the music, and I'd go see "Les Miz" or "Phantom" in a heartbeat if it came to the area, many of the things I liked then lack relevance for me. "Avenue Q," on the other hand, was all sorts of relevant to my life. I hated that feeling of being out of college, yet not in a career and having no idea what the heck I was going to do. I've been broke (still am at times), I've been lonely, I've found comfort in the internet (though maybe not in the same way Trekkie Monster finds comfort in the internet),  and I've had that feeling that I'm "less" because I failed to live up to someone's expectations.

While the play is done in good, raunchy fun, it also makes valid points about life, and even though I'm past alot of the angst reflected in the show, it still reminded me that I'm not alone in what I went through and what I still sometimes go through. Alot of people have those times, and they don't really stop once you're out of your 20s.

Hard times come and go, and "Avenue Q" reminds us that the things we're going through are really and truly "just for now."

Monday, April 11, 2011

The “Fine” Art of One-Upping the Other Guy

The world is full of those people who, no matter what you’ve accomplished, have already done it and/or have done it better. One or two of these instances are generally overlooked, and it’s likely the person has no idea they’re doing it. But when it gets to the point when you can’t even have a conversation without feeling like nothing you do is good enough, it generally leads to a loss of communication, distance, and sometimes the end of friendship.

This trend is bad enough in real life, but I’ve noticed it online quite a bit recently, and while none of it is directed at me, I still find it annoying. Even if the offenders don’t actually mean anything by it, the only thing I read in their backhanded compliments is that they can’t stand that someone else might have done something better.

We all have our moments where we want recognition for what we did. I get in these moods where I’m all “Read my awesome writing because I’m awesome” (even though I know I’m not really all that awesome), and I like being recognized if I’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty to do something cool. But I can also congratulate others and share in their good news without having to feel the need to defend my place at the top of the –insert achievement here- dogpile.

Some people are raised different and to give them the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure they don’t realize they’re doing it. That's beside the point, however, when they’re coming across as self-absorbed and clueless.

There are certain times when it’s okay to bring your own story into the mix. In many friendly conversations I’ve had, the talk turns to a “you did this and I did this” discussion, but it’s rare that there’s any hostility or obvious attention whoring. Personal stories are a key in being empathetic to others. It’s not the “outdo” game, but a way to connect with someone else to let them know that you know how they feel.

Next time you feel yourself drawing someone else’s victory or accomplishment towards yourself, try to refrain and insert a simple “nice job” instead.

Final thought: If I tend to do this, I hope some of my readers will let me know. It’s always easier to note the annoying habits of others without seeing one’s own.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Productivity Vs. Depression

Sunday depression has normally been the conclusion of an otherwise pleasant weekend. I know it's back to work the next day and I dwell on what I didn't accomplish over the weekend.

Weekends are supposed to be for relaxing, which is good in theory. I, however, tend to over relax, then feel guilty because nothing was accomplished. Even though I'm lazy by nature, I still beat myself up about what I didn't get done.

These past couple weekends have brought forth no Sunday depression. If anything, I've been feeling good about Sunday. I'm not dreading Monday morning, nor am I lazing around wondering where the time went. In fact, the last couple Sundays have been pretty good to me.

The difference in my weekends is that I'm spending time on both days writing. Since I changed how I thought about it, I know feel like if I can get writing time in and articles submitted, I'm utilizing my time well. If I log several hours, I don't feel as if my weekend was wasted. I feel good and ready to tackle the coming week.

I wonder if this is a sign of being a workaholic, if people can't live without that sense of productivity. If maybe their depression is also linked to how much they do and so to avoid that depression altogether, they just never stop "doing."

For me, I don't think I'm to that phase. First off, I get joy out of writing, even when I have to research, revise, and take criticism. Second, I'm still lazy. I just took two nights off in a row to do nothing but watch movies and play video games...not a characteristic of a true workaholic.

As long as I have something that keeps the Sunday blues away, though, I'm going to continue to use it.

The extra income and notoriety are perks too.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Slowin' My Roll

I tend to get a little excited about things and take on more than I can handle. I remember doing this in high school and the first part of college. I'd fill my schedule then realize that I'd probably made a mistake in not scheduling a break here and there. Eventually I got lazy and stopped doing stuff, and now anyone who knows me knows I tend to be a homebody and don't always accept every invitation that comes my way. (I also call it laziness, but that's just semantics).

When it comes to hobbies, I've always been one to throw myself head first into them and gluttonize on whatever happens to hold my interest at that moment. I've gone through weekends where I'll do nothing but read for two days straight. Not long ago, I was having knitting marathons that left my hands swollen and sore at the end of the day. Back in college, I would do nothing but write, so much so that I'd be up all night long working on some story or another that I was feeling passionate about at the time.

The problem with turning writing into a part time job is that I can't immerse myself as completely all at one time. Because I burnout fast, I need to learn to pace myself or risk screwing up my chance to turn this into something lucrative. Take this past weekend for instance. I wrote all day Saturday, which I enjoyed. I got to sit at Hastings, drink coffee and write at my own pace. However, after submitting three articles, instead of holding off until I'd done my rewrites and knew I'd have to write the next weekend,  I started claiming titles like a madwoman.

Two days later, I realized there was no way I was going to do nine articles in a week while working a full time day job, visiting with friends at least one night, and keeping my sanity with an off night or at least some down time in the evenings.

The phrase "slow my roll" occurred to me in actual context, rather than the snarky way Jon and I use it most of the time. Luckily, both of my writing platforms allow me to release assignments, so that was the first thing I did. This made the dreaded re-writes about ten times easier and they went easier than I'd anticipated. With that under my belt, I took a break and played a video game...without feeling guilty.

While extra income is nice, it's not really worth losing my sanity or my love of writing. I've used the excuse for years that I haven't tried to make writing a job because I don't want to end up hating it. Now that I've taken that step, I need to also take steps to keep enjoying it. Article writing may not be the big rollercoaster at the local amusement park, but I want to be able to do it with a certain amount of motivation and enjoyment for the work I produce.

Plus, it would be nice to keep up the momentum for longer than two weeks.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Giving Up Pop

I’m on another mission to give up pop/soda/sugary carbonated beverages that offer no nutritional value whatsoever.  It’s hard though. At the time of writing this, I’m on my second pop-free day and I’m craving a Coke. Or a Diet Coke. Or a Diet Mountain Dew. Instead, I’m drinking coffee with only a little bit of creamer (eventually I’ll go back to drinking it black) and a bottle of water.

I know the healthier of the options is water, and I go through phases where I love water. I like the add-ins, I like it plain, I like it for tea. But I love my soda too.  I’ve been told that you can’t be “addicted” to pop, but if it’s a matter of it all being in your head, then I’ll admit…it’s in mine.

I drank diet pop for a long time, disregarding anything people told me about it being bad for me. My mom drank it for years and had no issues, and I felt less guilty drinking it instead of regular pop. I knew it had the tendency to make people crave sugar, but when I was watching what I ate, it didn’t seem to matter.

Last year, I gave up pop altogether for about two months. During that time, I realized that I wasn’t hurting as much and it eventually clicked that I really did have a bad reaction to diet soda. Instead of being smart and just sticking to my no-soda plan, I started drinking regular. My intentions were good. I’d only have one a day and I’d watch it in reference to my calorie intake.

Unfortunately, I have some health issues that require I take into account more than calorie intake. No matter how good my intentions were, regular pop wasn’t any better. The sugar content has been messing with my system and within just a couple days of drinking it, I felt “puffy.”  And yes, I’m puffy anyway, but this is sort of puffy that makes you feel like someone wrapped you in saran wrap (I’ve never been wrapped in saran wrap…I’m taking a guess).

I’m trying it again, because they say if you keep trying, you’re not really quitting. Or maybe I’m just saying that to help me feel better. There are a lot of things I love to drink that aren’t soda:  juice, tea, Powerade, milk,  coffee, and the occasional alcoholic beverage. So why the heck is it so hard to stay away from pop?

Just a couple days in and I’m feeling okay. I’m not 100% pain-free yet, but I’m working on it.  A friend on Facebook said the first week was the hardest, so if I can just power through it, I might be okay.

Here’s to hoping.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Self Promotion Saturday

Happy Saturday, my little band of blog readers. Hope the week was good, that dreams were made, eggs were broken (for delicious french toast, of course), and life made the lemonade for you.

It was a fast week for me, though I have to admit I fluffed off more than I probably should have. I took two nights off in order to watch Tangled and play "Saw" on the XBox, which isn't going so well since I can't seem to manuever in the dark or get through crazy closing blades.  But who doesn't need a night or two off, right?

"Sucker Punch": Sexy Images Make Up for Lack of Substance - We went and saw "Sucker Punch" last weekend. For a movie, it was just okay. Then again, maybe I was just tired since we went to the late showing. However, the scene with the giant Samurai set to Bjork's "Army of Me"? Epic.

Five Tips for Preparing for an Outdoor Wedding - I wrote this one around the time when I was actually planning for an outdoor wedding. I opted for the courthouse ceremony instead, but I think the tips are still valid. Maybe. Hopefully.

Six Sources for Creative Writing Material - Yesterday kicked off the start of Script Frenzy, so in honor of the 30 day event, this is an article I wrote a couple years ago when I was harnessing the power of my creative muse for some serious fiction. Or not so serious fiction, depending on how you look at it.

Also, Miss J. Peach was the winner of the Starbucks card! She doesn't have a Blogger account and so isn't a follwer here, but I lured her into my super scary cult of article followers. I plan to hold another drawing next month, so let me know if I can add you to the drawing bin.

Friday, April 1, 2011

For the Love (or Lust) of Words

The inspiration for today's post came from a caller on one of my favorite podcasts, The Savage Lovecast. This podcast talks about sexuality in all its various forms, including fetishes. The caller today from the podcast (it was an old podcast since I'm still catching up), had a fetish for words. Certain long, not often used words gave her an erotic thrill, and she enjoyed it when her lover read to her from the dictionary and gave her prompts to find new words.

Weird or not, I can understand the love of  good words. Now I don't always use them. In fact, I often go for quantity over quality because I tend to write like I talk (at least in the first draft). That doesn't mean I don't love the way certain words come together and flow off the tongue. I've always assumed this was something that writers and readers do, but thinking about it now, that thinking was a little narrow minded on my part.

Anyone can love words. It's this love that makes certain poems and lyrics appealing. It's what fuels many of us to quote movies and TV shows over and over again. Words are everything we are, yet because they're always there, we sometimes forget to appreciate them. It isn't until we hear a striking word or phrase that we remember just how beautiful words can be.

In the movie Donnie Darko, Drew Barrymore's character talks about how "cellar door" is perceived to be one of the most beautiful word combinations ever made. The lyrics of Tori Amos strike me as powerful and beautiful and memorable. Even single words can be lovely: zaftig, questionable, farther, and luminescent are all favorites of mine.

Not all of us take our love of words to the next level like the caller on the podcast, but "weird" or not (and in my world, "weird" is a very subjective descriptor), I find it oddly beautiful that someone out there can feel the beauty of our language so strongly. Or any language for that matter. that I mention it, I feel the need to go read a book.