Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Traffic and Other Circular Thoughts

I’ve spent a lot of time in the car in the place I lived before as well as the place I live now. The difference between the two is that I spent a lot of time driving in Montana because locations are so far apart. Here in San Diego, it’s not really about the distance. It’s about being stuck in traffic. But either way, most of the time I don’t really mind it. In Montana, you’re smack dab in the middle of fantastic natural settings. In the city, you’re simply smack dab in the middle of everything with tons of stuff to do.

I don’t really think of myself as rural- or urban-inclined. But I do know that I still hate suburbs. I grew up in suburbs where the scenery was middling and there was very little to do for fun. Oh, I’m sure other people had fun, but it was probably fun of the social kind. I was (and still am) a loner. I like fun stuff that I could do myself.

* * *

As another Labor Day Weekend is looming ahead, that means it’s the 3-Day Novel Contest again. I’m doing it unofficially this year. Sure, submitting gives you accountability, but with the massive move this month, I basically had zero time to plan anything except to come up with a genre and a setting.

I’ve pretty much decided to do an urban fantasy this time around. It will be set in San Diego. The great thing about doing that is that I can draw on my own experiences from living here. But since I’m still new, I will probably get things wrong. I could easily fact check by driving out to the place and changing it upon revision. But the “fantasy” part of it will give me an excuse to be lazy in the first draft. So “X” is completely different than what I describe it to be? Don’t blame me. It’s just an alternate universe.

Moving In, Sorta

I don’t know why I’m up at this atrociously early hour in the morning typing this up. All I want to do is to sleep in. I really haven’t had much sleep for the past month as I was prepping, packing, and moving to San Diego. Well, actually I do. I’m waiting for the property manager to drop by so he can secure the water heater in case of earthquakes.

Moving, I suspect, can make or break a person. Sure, I’ve talked to my parents on the phone to get their advice on things, but this is the first time I’ve done this big of a move by myself. (I did most of the move from Idaho to Montana myself as well, but that was a relatively simple four hour drive away. And my dad did visit to help me find an apartment…) My cousin lives here, at least, but she’s a pretty busy person and the only thing I can count on her for is to be stuck by needles as she’s a voodoo priestess…er…I mean acupuncturist.

A word of advice on apartment hunting in San Diego (or probably any large growing city)–be prepared for fierce competition from other potential renters. I guess I’ve been spoiled by living in small towns the past decade where you could see an apartment and then at your leisure, go back a day or two later and ask more questions. Here, it pays to be a bit aggressive because apartments can go off the market in hours. But don’t look desperate and take the first thing that comes along. I managed to nab a pretty nice apartment for a reasonable price (for the city). The only downside is that I will have to commute. However, even with all the gas and driving, I’ll still save money because the rents for apartments closer to work are almost twice as much.

This was also the first time I bought a car myself as well without anyone else tagging along. I think it helps to have a mindset that is not impulsive and not be dead set on a particular car even though you’ve done your homework and already have one in mind. And as for aggressive sales people, say “I need to think about that” and “No” frequently. Keep your poker face. The thing is, America has a kazillion cars. Even on a very limited budget, you can afford to be picky. Unlike apartments, there’s always supply.

As for the DMV, everyone recommends making the online appointment. But that’s only good if you can go two weeks (or later!) after you make that appointment. If you need stuff done as soon as possible, take the whole morning (or better, the whole day) off and go to the DMV two to three hours before it opens and wait. (And if you’re really prepared, take a folding chair. And maybe something to read. Personally, I passed the time by cramming for the driver’s written test.) Make sure you also look up the opening hours and possible unexpected closures online so you don’t get caught off guard. And above all, be zen. The San Diego DMV is nothing like the DMV in rural Montana. In Montana, you can just saunter in a little after opening hours and there’ll probably be only three or four people ahead of you.

The traffic here, as far as I can tell, is never good. It’s just either stuck or not stuck. Once the movers get here with my stuff (and my dedicated mp3 player), I’m going to load in podcasts and audiobooks to make the drive more amusing. If anyone’s gotten this far into this post, let me know your suggestions for podcasts and audiobooks! I’m pretty omnivorous on podcasts, but the narrator for an audiobook has to be pretty good for it to work for me.

And as for work, well, my co-workers seem like nice people. But I think they’re nuts for thinking they can have any meaningful scientific meetings with the boss on Saturdays. I have no problem meeting up with the boss to discuss science. I also have no problem going into lab on weekends to do an important experiment. But meetings? Weekdays only, please.

July 2014 Camp NaNo Prompts for Week 4

Oh man, this was probably the craziest week for doing @NaNoWordSprints because I was also packing and apartment hunting. I didn’t manage to finish Camp NaNo this month, but that’s okay. Sometimes life just gets in the way. But even so, I believe I’ve done the most sprints out of all the other sprint leaders. I guess for me, it wasn’t that big of a deal because I already had the sprint sessions planned in advance and I could multitask. Sometimes I sprinted as “the ghost” just so that it didn’t look like I was monopolizing the account, but I also have to point out that whenever the ghost sprinted, it wasn’t always me.

Anyways, here’s the last week of prompts archived here for the rest of time:

July 22, 8:30am-10:30am (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: Titles of Ghost Films

  • Beyond Tomorrow (30 min)
  • Field of Dreams (30 min)
  • The Sixth Sense (30 min)
  • Tormented (10 min)

July 22, 5:00pm-7:00pm (UTC -7)
Phrases Part 1

  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (15 min)
  • Break the ice (15 min)
  • Close your eyes and think of England (15 min)
  • Dog is a man’s best friend (30 min)
  • Ends of the earth (20 min)

July 22, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Action Girl Tropes

  • Lady of war (5 min)
  • Never mess with grandma (30 min)
  • Useless boyfriend (15 min)
  • Silk hiding steel (15 min)
  • Ninja maid (30 min)

July 23, 11:00am-12:00pm (UTC -7)

  • A gigantic pyramid of tomato soup mugs from Lincoln, Nebraska (10 min)
  • An “exotic” Canadian knife sold in Thailand (20 min)
  • Bad smelling cologne to be used for revenge (10 min)

July 23, 10:00pm-12:15am (UTC -7)

  • Point of no return (30 min)
  • As quiet as a mouse (30 min)
  • He has the heart of a lion (30 min)
  • You reap what you sow (30 min)

July 24, 8:30am-10:30am (UTC -7)
Villain Tropes

  • Adorable evil minions (10 min)
  • Bad is good and good is bad (20 min)
  • From nobody to nightmare (30 min)
  • Maniac monkeys (15 min)

July 24, 1:00pm-3:00pm (UTC -7)
Phrases Part 2

  • Feeding frenzy (15 min)
  • Greased lightning (15 min)
  • Hoist with your own petard (15 min)
  • It came like a bolt from the blue (30 min)
  • Jump on the bandwagon (20 min)

July 24, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Quotes from Columbo

  • Just one more thing… (10 min)
  • She almost hit me with a frying pan. (20 min)
  • I can’t swim. I don’t even like a deep tub. (30 min)
  • The problem is, he’s blocking traffic. (5 min)
  • There are a couple of loose ends I’d like to tie up. (30 min)

July 25, 10:00am-12:00pm (UTC -7)
Wombat Disaster Sprints

  • Monumental damage (5 min)
  • Ripped from the headlines (30 min)
  • Harsher in hindsight (30 min)
  • Stuff blowing up (30 min)

July 25, 4:00pm-7:00pm (UTC -7)
Drama Tropes

  • Hanging by the fingers (10 min)
  • Dangerous terrain (20 min)
  • A mysterious parent (15 min)
  • We used to be friends (30 min)
  • Unable to cry (10 min)
  • Sugary malice (15 min)
  • Golden moment (10 min)
  • Things get real (30 min)

July 25, 9:00pm-10:00pm (UTC -7)
Hand Idioms

  • All hands on deck (10 min)
  • The devil makes work for idle hands (20 min)
  • To be in safe hands (15 min)

July 26, 9:30am-2:00pm (UTC -7)
Plot Twist Tropes

  • Actually a doombot (10 min)
  • The cake is a lie (10 min)
  • Didn’t see that one coming (20 min)
  • Backstab backfire (20 min)
  • Easily overheard conversation (20 min)
  • Game changer (20 min)
  • Left for dead (15 min)
  • Prophecy twist (30 min)
  • The dog bites back (20 min)
  • Unreliable narrator (20 min)
  • Untwist the plot (30 min)

July 26, 4:30-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Food Triplets

  • Dill, ginger, saffron (10 min)
  • Cranberry, gooseberry, mulberry (20 min)
  • Kale, beet, avocado (15 min)
  • Baguette, hardtack, pancake (30 min)
  • Barley, wheat, rice (20 min)
  • Wafer, biscotti, animal crackers (5 min)
  • Bird’s nest soup, tomato bisque, clam chowder (10 min)
  • Milk, mint julep, orange juice (30 min)

July 26, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)

  • Original 501 (20 min)
  • Slim 511 (20 min)
  • Taper 508 (20 min)
  • Bootcut 527 (20 min)
  • Loose 569 (20 min)

July 27, 9:30am-1:30pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: Haunted Places

  • House (10 min)
  • Cemetery (20 min)
  • Asylum (15 min)
  • Ossuary (30 min)
  • Catacombs (20 min)
  • Museum (10 min)
  • Castle (15 min)
  • Desert (20 min)
  • Prison (20 min)
  • Hotel (30 min)

July 27, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Unsolved Mysteries

  • A mysterious manuscript (5 min)
  • Encrypted sculpture (15 min)
  • Hidden treasure (30 min)
  • An ancient disc with mysterious symbols (15 min)
  • Monument inscription (30 min)

July 28, 2:00pm-5:00pm (UTC -7)
Same Letter Triplets Part 2

  • Palindrome, plethora, pugnacious (20 min)
  • Subterfuge, schadenfreude, sonorous (20 min)
  • Bucolic, bibelot, bailiwick (20 min)
  • Enervate, eschew, esurient (20 min)
  • Lexicon, lascivious, lugubrious (20 min)
  • Commensurate, conflagration, crabwise (20 min)
  • Frisson, faction, finical (20 min)

July 28, 10:00pm-12:15am (UTC -7)
High Brow Tastes From 1949

  • Town and country (30 min)
  • A decanter from a chemical glass company (30 min)
  • A glass of red wine (30 min)
  • Greens and olive oil (30 min)

July 29, 8:15am-11:00am (UTC -7)
The Airport

  • Bags (10 min)
  • Cranky babies (20 min)
  • Incomprehensible announcements (30 min)
  • Uncomfortable seats (10 min)
  • Gates (20 min)
  • Tickets (5 min)
  • Expensive food (30 min)

July 29, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Conflicts in Literature

  • Man versus nature (10 min)
  • Man versus society (20 min)
  • Man versus technology (15 min)
  • Man versus man (10 min)
  • Man versus self (20 min)
  • Man versus reality (15 min)

July 30, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Titles from “The Shadow” Book Series by Maxwell Grant

  • The Living Shadow (10 min)
  • Hands in the Dark (20 min)
  • The Silent Seven (15 min)
  • Kings of Crime (5 min)
  • The Wealth Seeker (30 min)

July 31, 7:45am-11:00am (UTC -7)
S Words

  • Scandal (10 min)
  • Sprinkling (20 min)
  • Sneaky (30 min)
  • Sinking (15 min)
  • Shovel (15 min)
  • Speculate (30 min)
  • Sallow (10 min)
  • Silver (25 min)

July 31, 2:30pm-5:00pm (UTC -7)
T Words

  • Tremendous (25 min)
  • Terrible (10 min)
  • Trebuchet (10 min)
  • Tangle (25 min)
  • Trouble (15 min)
  • Taste (20 min)
  • Tussle (10 min)

July 31, 8:30pm-10:00pm (UTC -7)
U Words

  • Uncomfortable (20 min)
  • Utility (10 min)
  • Unfathomable (10 min)
  • Urn (10 min)
  • Unholy (10 min)

July 31, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Ending Tropes

  • All just a dream (25 min)
  • Bonus material (25 min)
  • Cataclysm (30 min)
  • Destroy the evidence (20 min)
  • Ray of hope (20 min)
  • Exit, pursued by a bear (30 min)

July 2014 Camp NaNo Prompts for Week 3

Summer has got to be the most miserable time to be writing. In this heat, I don’t want to do anything. Anyways, here’s the archived post for the Week 3 @NaNoWordSprints prompts for anyone who missed any of my previous sprint sessions.

July 15, 1:30pm-3:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: Bedsheets

  • Thread count (30 min)
  • Flat (15 min)
  • Cotton (30 min)
  • White (30 min)

July 15, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Unusual Pencil Brands

  • Lion (10 min)
  • Four star (20 min)
  • Yacht (30 min)
  • Acorn (20 min)
  • Exchange (15 min)

July 16, 9:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Mystery Tropes

  • Absence of evidence (5 min)
  • Eureka moment (15 min)
  • I never said it was poison (30 min)
  • Red herring (10 min)
  • The suspect is hatless (30 min)
  • Stakeout (15 min)
  • Public secret message (20 min)
  • Curtain camouflage (15 min)
  • The butler did it (30 min)
  • Hidden in plain sight (10 min)

July 17, 11:00am-3:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: The Crazy Sauce

  • Crazy survivalist (10 min)
  • Monster clown (20 min)
  • Genius ditz (30 min)
  • Mood swings (15 min)
  • Crazy cat lady (15 min)
  • Nervous wreck (30 min)
  • Mask of sanity (5 min)
  • Pyromaniac (15 min)

July 17, 6:00pm-7:00pm (UTC -7)
Types of Gears

  • Cage (10 min)
  • Magnetic (15 min)
  • Worm (10 min)
  • Skew (15 min)

July 17, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

  • He hadn’t meant to Fall. He’d just hung around with the wrong people. (5 min)
  • I think the maggots were a bit over the top, myself. (15 min)
  • Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft are written by men. (30 min)
  • You see, it’s not enough to know what the future is. You have to know what it means. (15 min)
  • There would be other summers, but there would never be one like this. Ever again. (30 min)

July 18, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Fake Band Names/Strange Cat Behavior Mashup

  • Blushing Agency/Sniffing your face (10 min)
  • Butterball Vampire/Kneading paws (20 min)
  • Pod Tentacles Keynote/Laying on your things (30 min)
  • Fabled National Bootleg/Twitching ears (15 min)
  • Roadblock card/Rolling in the street (20 min)

July 19, 10:00am-2:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Towns

  • Curry, Alaska (10 min)
  • Anchor, Louisiana (20 min)
  • Miner’s Delight, Wyoming (15 min)
  • Gold Hill, British Columbia (30 min)
  • Lost Channel, Ontario (5 min)
  • Snag, Yukon (10 min)
  • Broad Arrow, Western Australia (10 min)
  • Red Water/Czerwona Woda, Poland (5 min)
  • The Pyramid/Pyramiden, Norway (30 min)
  • Tide Mills, United Kingdom (5 min)
  • Deception Island (30 min)
  • Port Famine, Chile (10 min)

July 19, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Food Idioms

  • Acquire a taste for something (10 min)
  • Fine kettle of fish (15 min)
  • Make someone eat crow (30 min)
  • Turn beet-red (20 min)
  • Pie in the sky (20 min)

July 20, 2:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -7)
Anti-Hero Tropes

  • Gentleman thief (10 min)
  • Good is not nice (30 min)
  • Unfazed everyman (30 min)
  • Rebellious spirit (30 min)

July 20, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Seashells Used in Culture

  • Currency (5 min)
  • Musical instruments (30 min)
  • Tools (15 min)
  • Art (30 min)
  • Personal adornment (15 min)

July 21, 3:00pm-6:00pm (UTC -7)
Same Letter Triplets

  • Vanguard, viewfinder, vanity case (10 min)
  • Resident, robot, racket (20 min)
  • European, electronics, espionage (15 min)
  • February, farrago, floodgate (30 min)
  • Tango, tender, typical (20 min)
  • South, sharp, sardonic (10 min)
  • Inhibitor, irascible, ivory (5 min)
  • Blood, bowling, burgle (30 min)

July 21, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Rhymes with a Body Part

  • Foot, soot, caput (10 min)
  • Arm, charm, farm (30 min)
  • Head, shred, dead (5 min)
  • Eye, spry, pie (30 min)
  • Hair, pear, scare (20 min)

Pruning the Personal Library

Is anyone really ever excited about moving? The process itself, I mean. The prospect of living in a new place can be exciting, but all the mundane and stressful details that need to be overseen in order to make that happen? I could live without those.

For an inveterate bookworm like myself, pruning my personal physical library is one of those details. I would not be exaggerating if I said that my library is one of my treasured possessions. I couldn’t care less about furniture or clothes–those things don’t hold any sentimental value for me (it might be different if I had any antiques). Books are a lifestyle, a philosophy, a way of being. If I had any choice or had an impractical personality streak, I wouldn’t get rid of any of my books. I like the thought of having a sprawling collection of books, of books that I have read, have yet to read, and maybe will never read. I have slight book hoarder tendencies because I like the possibility a gigantic pile of books presents. Once in a while, I organize the book collection by author or by subject or by genre but they soon shuffle around, getting mixed up and piled up into a mini-labyrinth of words. Maybe that’s why I often dream of mazes. I’ve inadvertently created one of my own at home.

But I must prune that library as it would just be a pain to lug all those boxes across the country (from north to south, that is, not west to east). There are several types of books which I find fairly easy to get rid of–books that I’m pretty sure I will have no interest in, books I’m sure I’ll never read, books that I have read (or partially read) and did not like, novels that I sort of like but also already have an ebook copy. The books I have no problem putting in the “keep” pile include favorite authors, favorite books, book series I have been meticulously collecting, and any non-fiction and reference books I currently or will be using.

Where it gets angsty is my to-be-read pile. What should I prune? Should I keep all of them since I’ve planned to read them all at one point or another? Or should I donate/sell them all off with the philosophy that if I didn’t read them right away, they might not be interesting in the first place? My to-be-read pile isn’t just a handful of books. It’s huge. At the moment, part of my to-be-read pile is literally a pile, but before I started pruning, all these books were on the shelves adding mystery to my library–adventures waiting to be discovered. But now I’m stuck deciding which of these unknown adventures to take with me to my new real life adventure.

Due to genre or author or plot synopsis, some of the books in my to-be-read pile I suspect I will enjoy greatly once I get around to reading them. For those, I’ll probably pack away with the rest of my core keepers. There’s a subset of books I feel guilty about because someone had recommended the book to me or it was an advance reader copy from eons ago which I have yet to get to. Those I’ll also keep because eventually the guilt will become so great that I will read them after all (and possibly write a review for the trouble). And then there are those to-be-read books that I know I would have no trouble getting rid of once I’ve read them once. For this third group of books, I’ve set myself a goal of trying to get through as many as them as I can before I have to leave. And for the ones I don’t get through, I’d have no trouble giving them away. The remaining books make me feel ambivalent. They could be great books, but I simply don’t have enough information to know for sure.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been converting to ebooks for the past year. I have no doubt that if I had not started to do so, my book pruning situation would be even worse. In some ways, ebooks have enabled my book hoarding tendencies. Thousands of books could be stored in almost no physical room at all. Now, I don’t have to throw away any of those books. Instead, I can make backups of those books and have access to them whenever I wish.

If all of my books were in electronic form, I wouldn’t be having this angsty pruning process ahead of me. Then again, I doubt I would be having all these stronger feelings about these books either. There’s something intangible and unreplicable that comes with the physicality of books which ebooks lack. Of course, I feel that a novel can be fantastic in either physical or electronic form–when I read, it’s for the story, not the container that holds those words. And if I were a pure reader, I wouldn’t care about the paper and the pulp, I’d just ditch them all in favor of the electrons. But I’m not just a reader. I’m also a writer, a thinker, someone who has a significant internal life. The intangible thing that physical books possess is a state of mind, an atmosphere where I can just reach out and find something fascinating at random. It’s discovery. There’s not so much of that when you’re just pushing buttons on a device.

I’m not a die hard advocate of either side of the physical books and ebooks debate. I think there are merits to both sides and I suppose I will continue to keep both physical and electronic libraries. But unlike my electronic library which is bloated with everything and anything, the items in the physical library are deliberately curated. If the library is like an external brain, I would say that the electronic version archives the facts while the physical stores the emotions and the heart. That choice–of what I keep and what I give away–would become a conscious act of deciding what to remember and what to forget. And while the forgetting might not precisely hurt, there is the uneasy feeling that I’ve let go of something–an intangible creative spirit, perhaps–that could have been important.

July 2014 Camp NaNo Prompts for Week 2

Here’s the archived post for the Week 2 @NaNoWordSprints prompts. If there are any particularly prompt themes you’d like to see in the future, just let me know! (Or if there are any prompt themes you absolutely hate, also let me know so I don’t do them again.)

July 8, 10:30am-12:30pm (UTC -7)

  • Cold shoulder (10 min)
  • Fit as a fiddle (20 min)
  • Spill the beans (30 min)
  • Sleep with the fishes (10 min)
  • Take the cake (30 min)

July 8, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

  • She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me. (10 min)
  • To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding of either. (30 min)
  • And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody. (15 min)
  • Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion. (30 min)
  • We do not suffer by accident. (10 min)

July 8, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Victorian Headlines

  • Trying to steal a crocodile, extraordinary affair in Paris (10 min)
  • A stranded elephant (15 min)
  • A funeral without a corpse (30 min)
  • Shocking incident at a masked ball (15 min)
  • Cured by lightning (10 min)
  • Escape of a polar bear at Dundee (10 min)

July 9, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Gothic Novel Tropes

  • A murderous tyrant with scary eyes (10 min)
  • A character prone to fainting (20 min)
  • A spooky castle or stately home (30 min)
  • In the olden days (20 min)
  • Bad weather (15 min)
  • Something grotesque (10 min)
  • Creepy housekeeper (5 min)
  • Ominous chanting (30 min)

July 10, 11:30am-1:30pm (UTC -7)
Romance Cliches

  • Revenge (5 min)
  • A sham betrothal or marriage (30 min)
  • A reformed rake (15 min)
  • Boss and secretary (15 min)
  • Stranded in a cabin together (30 min)

July 10, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Pet Peeves

  • Noisy eaters (5 min)
  • Driving slow in the fast lane (15 min)
  • Stubbing your toe (30 min)
  • Paper cuts (15 min)
  • The hot water running out when you’re running a bath (30 min)

July 10, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Methods of Divination

  • Overheard words/cledonomancy (5 min)
  • Pearls/margaritomancy (30 min)
  • Chewing gum/styramancy (15 min)
  • Frogs/batrachomancy (30 min)
  • Wood/xylomancy (15 min)

July 11, 9:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Cake Folklore

  • Longevity/mooncakes (5 min)
  • A wake to honor the dead/dead-cakes (15 min)
  • Gingerbread/Johnny-Cake (30 min)
  • Tortoise/red tortoise cake (10 min)
  • Wheat/wheat cake (30 min)
  • Twins/Biddenden cakes (10 min)
  • Walk/Cakewalk (20 min)
  • Almond/Tarta de Santiago (20 min)
  • Evil spirits/apple cakes (15 min)
  • Coffee/coffee cake (30 min)

July 12, 12:30am-3:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: Stephen King Novel Titles

  • The Dark Half (10 min)
  • Misery (20 min)
  • Needful Things (30 min)
  • Insomnia (20 min)
  • The Talisman (30 min)
  • Firestarter (10 min)

July 12, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Speculative Fiction Tropes

  • Absurdly sharp claws (10 min)
  • Grey goo (30 min)
  • Portent of doom (10 min)
  • Blind jump (30 min)
  • Talking in your dreams (15 min)

July 13, 1:00pm-2:30pm (UTC -7)
Quotes from “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare

  • That was laid on with a trowel (5 min)
  • My pride fell with my fortunes (15 min)
  • Live a little; comfort a little; cheery thyself a little (30 min)
  • Let us make an honourable retreat (5 min)
  • He that wants money, means, and content, is without three good friends (15 min)

July 13, 6:00pm-7:00pm (UTC -7)
All About Watermelons

  • Moon and stars (5 min)
  • Sucking blood (10 min)
  • Snack (15 min)
  • Helmet (5 min)
  • Splitting (10 min)

July 13, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Neuromancer” by William Gibson

  • The damage was minute, subtle, and utterly effective. (5 min)
  • Not if I remember to take my pills. (30 min)
  • Iffy… It’s all looking very iffy tonight. (10 min)
  • He had began to play a game with himself, a very ancient one with no name, a kind of final solitare. (30 min)
  • An angel passed. (5 min)
  • Measure twice, cut once. (15 min)

July 14, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Darkness” by Lord Byron

  • The bright sun was extinguished (10 min)
  • Men forgot their passions in the dread (30 min)
  • Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea (10 min)
  • Shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands (30 min)
  • A chaos of hard clay (10 min)
  • And they were enemies (30 min)
  • An enormous city did survive (10 min)
  • The wild birds shrieked (30 min)
  • Immediate and inglorious (10 min)
  • Extinguished with a crash (30 min)

July 2014 Camp NaNo Prompts for Week 1

Yep, here’s the archived post for the Week 1 @NaNoWordSprints prompts. (The archive for all the previous prompts is located here.) If there are any particularly prompt themes you’d like to see in the future, just let me know!

June 30, 10:00pm-1:30am (UTC -7)
Opening Tropes (Handwritten)

  • Dramatic chase opening (10 min)
  • Boy meets girl (15 min)
  • Flashback (20 min)
  • A hero is born (15 min)
  • The magic comes back (20 min)
  • Morning routine (10 min)
  • It began with a twist of fate (10 min)
  • Naive newcomer (20 min)
  • Recruit some teenagers with attitude (15 min)
  • Main character is out of a job (30 min)

July 1, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Stolen Paintings

  • Poppy Flowers by van Gogh (10 min)
  • The Just Judges by van Eyck (10 min)
  • Girl in Front of Open Window by Gauguin (30 min)
  • The Boy in the Red Vest by Cezanne (15 min)
  • The Scream by Munch (30 min)

July 1, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Camping Disasters

  • Disaster (10 min)
  • An attack turns out to be fake (15 min)
  • A cheap device that breaks (30 min)
  • Someone disappears (10 min)
  • Supplies are lost (10 min)
  • It starts raining (15 min)

July 2, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
All About Fairs

  • Archaic (10 min)
  • Outrageous food (20 min)
  • Contests and competitions (20 min)
  • Public spaces (10 min)
  • Riots (30 min)

July 3, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Character Traits as Metro Stations

  • Fearless (10 min)
  • Drama queen (30 min)
  • Reluctant warrior (10 min)
  • Mad dreamer (15 min)
  • Bookworm (30 min)

July 3, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Unusual Words That Start With “T”

  • Tantalus (10 min)
  • Toran (15 min)
  • Tumescent (20 min)
  • Tetchy (30 min)
  • Thermoplagia (10 min)
  • Toft (10 min)

July 4, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Independence Day Film Quotes

  • “You can’t just drive up and ring the bell.” (10 min)
  • “Now that’s what I call a close encounter.” (15 min)
  • “You knew then! And you did nothing!” (30 min)
  • “All I’m saying is that they have people to handle these things.” (10 min)
  • “I have a confession to make.” (10 min)
  • “Didn’t I promise you fireworks?” (15 min)

July 5, 2:00pm-5:00pm (UTC -7)
Heroic Bloodshed Tropes

  • Blood brothers (10 min)
  • Disturbed doves (10 min)
  • Betrayal (30 min)
  • Spin, roll, and dive (5 min)
  • Blown across the room (15 min)
  • Hitman with a heart (30 min)
  • Honor before reason (15 min)
  • Sympathy for the devil (20 min)

July 5, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Chick Lit Tropes

  • The plucky office girl (10 min)
  • Makeover montage (20 min)
  • An accidental public confession (30 min)
  • Backhanded apology (15 min)
  • Little black dress, man in a kilt, and really bad puns (20 min)

July 6, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Fairy Tale Tropes

  • Wicked stepmother (15 min)
  • The big bad wolf (30 min)
  • Damsel or dude in distress (20 min)
  • An impossible task (30 min)
  • Be careful what you wish for (15 min)
  • Fairest of them all (10 min)
  • Secret identity (30 min)
  • When the clock strikes twelve (10 min)
  • Shapeshifter showdown (30 min)

July 7, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)

  • Learning your letters (5 min)
  • Posting a letter (15 min)
  • A red letter day (30 min)
  • The letter of the law (10 min)
  • Following instructions to the letter (10 min)
  • Love letter (20 min)

Writing, Reviewing, and Rambling about Women in Science

Yep, it’s the beginning of July and you all know what that means: Camp NaNoWriMo. I will be working on a novel project which I had already outlined in May. At the moment, I’m not particularly happy with the beginning. I want to keep the scene–it just needs to be rewritten. In any case, onwards. I’m still excited about the story, particularly with the puzzle-like nature of fitting the different time lines together. It’s been a while since a story idea has also engaged my more analytical side.

I’ve also been invited back to lead writing sprints over at NaNoWordSprints. I kicked it off with a handwritten tweet session which was partially inspired by the fact that I am currently conducting a week-long project on my personal Twitter account where I’m handwriting tweets for a week. Anyways, I don’t think I’ll be doing another handwritten tweet session for the sprints any time soon, especially since that kind of thing takes a while to set up. I will also be archiving all the prompts this month on this blog in case anyone has missed one of my sprint sessions.

And speaking of writing projects, I (possibly foolishly) made a bet to get a short story ready for submission in a month. Specifically for Fantasy & Science Fiction because they’re opening it up for electronic submissions. At the moment, though, I’m feeling pretty pessimistic. I’m still in that funk where I think all my ideas for short stories are crap. I don’t think my writing skills and craft and style are up to “professional” standards yet (where “professional” means “whatever the editors find awesome which could be anything”). It doesn’t mean that I won’t try, but I’ve had enough “close but no cigar” moments which have made me think that it’s pretty much a waste of time to hope for anything.

* * *

I have a book review out over at Smart Bitches Trashy Books on the paranormal romance novel Diamond Dust by Vivian Arend. I’ve been a long time follower/lurker of SBTB. I really like the blog’s snarky style and its serious commentary on a much maligned genre (the podcasts are highly recommended), so I thought it would be very cool to volunteer to do a book review for them.

* * *

Today, I found out the real reason why I had a really unpleasant episode many years ago which had royally screwed my career path for a while. At the time, I had thought the failure was my fault, but now I know it was probably something I couldn’t have done anything about.

It doesn’t make me feel any better about it, though. It just makes me feel sad. All I’m going to say is that even though there are constant cries for more women scientists, there are women scientists out there who do not like other women scientists because they think they are the only exception.

I personally think it’s better to nurture relationships with other female scientists (all scientists, actually) and to mentor students (of any gender) who have an interest in science. To do otherwise and burn bridges, well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that it’s a bad idea.

On Writing and the Wall of Magic

This is pretty much a brief, random post just to let anyone who is only following this blog that I’m still here. (If you follow me via Twitter, you know I’m always here.) I’m still writing, of course, but at the moment I’m not really ready to post any of it. (I’ve been doing a lot of handwriting lately and I’m too lazy to type everything up right away.)

I’m also in one of those weird, periodic self-loathing phases where I think all the ideas that I come up with are crap, so don’t expect me to talk too much about the writing process at the moment. Metaphorical head banging and hair pulling aren’t very interesting.

* * *

I found myself watching a couple of those Mental Floss list videos on YouTube. I’m probably the only person in this universe who thinks John Green is annoying, but there was one thing I found really mesmerizing about those videos–the Wall of Magic. Sure, it’s a giant shelf filled with geektastic stuff, but what it reminded me of was a cabinet of curiosities. I think it’s the sense of wonder and randomness and the fact that you’ll always discover something new in the collection that fascinates me.

I want a wall of magic and/or cabinet of curiosities of my own (combined with my library of books), but I suspect I’ll have to wait until I get a bigger place before I start thinking about something like this.

Storm Chasers – Entry #4

He’s a thunderbird with an attitude problem. She’s a soul eater with a sweet tooth. They fight supernatural crime!

(I’ve decided to do a series of short urban fantasy vignettes set in an alternate universe Vancouver to keep myself regularly writing and posting in this blog. This entry is based on this picture prompt at WriteWorld.)

* * *

As Taj reluctantly contemplated the shedu’s essence, now compressed into a small metal bead between her thumb and index finger, the background music to “My Heart Will Go On” blasted through a pair of crackling speakers. She and Ru had decided to retire to a sushi dive on the east side of Powell Street in order to regroup and plan for the next demon take down. Ru had said something about dinner. Which was easy for him to say. She had to eat a demon.

“Aren’t you going to eat that?” Ru ate a piece of tuna roll as a trio of drunk businessmen at the other end of the dive warbled about their hearts on static-y microphones.

“I don’t normally eat demons. But if this doesn’t give me indigestion, they certainly will,” she replied as one of the businessmen hit a high note. At least they were sitting in a back corner booth so the noise wasn’t so loud. Her ears were still recovering from the encounter with the shedu. She grimaced and then tossed the bead into her mouth. Swallowed. She reached for the sake a second later. The alcohol warmed her throat, but it did nothing to alleviate the heaviness in her stomach. It wouldn’t take long for the demon’s powers to augment her own. “I should have said no.”

“Said no? Said no to what?”

“To your suggestion for coming here,” she said, waving a hand to indicate the sushi joint. “If you really wanted sushi, we could have gone to that new restaurant down on Robson.”

“Too fancy,” he countered. “And too many normal people there. Besides, it would be impossible for us to talk about this.” He took out his phone and started playing the recording of the shedu hissing and roaring. Most of it was drowned out by the bad karaoke, but Taj reached over anyway to stop the playback.

“Don’t be so reckless. It’s a wonder you haven’t landed on the local tabloid before now with the humans writing stories about you having alien babies or something.” She poured herself another cup of sake before finally partaking some real food. She crunched on some shrimp tempura as she took in their surroundings. Dim yellow light lit the dive which consisted of a couple worn tables and booths populated mostly by casually dressed regulars. The only concession to décor was a couple of fake bonsai trees near the entrance. “Besides, I don’t see much difference. There are normal people here, too.”

“Sure, but nobody here will bother eavesdropping on us.”

“Uh huh. Well, what about her?”

Ru turned his head in the direction that Taj had wiggled her chopsticks. A short line of patrons stood against the wall, waiting for their turn at karaoke. One of the people in line was a slim, dark haired woman in a jean jacket and extremely short shorts. At that moment, she was staring in their direction with black eyes. Her skin was pale but with a greenish tinge that marked her as one of the sea people.

He scowled. “What is she doing here?” The light rain outside suddenly became a downpour.

“You know her? Who is she?”

Instead of answering Taj, he turned back to the table and muttered, “We need more sake.”

“No, we don’t. Who is she? Is she an ex-girlfriend?”

At her words, his lips curved into a snarl. “You’re fortunate you had some justification for that incident, even if it was a stupid reason,” he said, referring to the last time they met, before Vivian Long put them on the current case. “She almost killed my brother.”

“Your brother? I didn’t know you had a brother.”

“He’s in a coma thanks to her,” he spat. He gulped down some sake. Thunder rumbled outside and the lights briefly flickered, but none of the humans noticed. “I should have struck her down on the spot when I first found out.”

“Why aren’t you striking her now?”

“Contrary to what you think, I’m not an idiot. She’s a princess. If I struck her down, I’d have the sea gods breathing down my neck for the rest of my life.”

“A princess, huh? Strange that she’s slumming it down here today.” Taj pretended to concentrate on her food, but she was aware that the woman had peeled away from the karaoke line and was heading their way. When she got to their table, she struck a pose with a hand on her hip.

“Well isn’t it a sweet coincidence?” the woman said, her smoky voice forcing them to acknowledge her presence. Her voice had a compulsion to it, similar to the Dragon Queen’s, but it was weaker. Despite the fact that the woman was a siren, Taj found it easy not to fall into her thrall. “Fancy seeing you here, Birdie.” The siren glanced at Taj and then continued with a sniff, “She doesn’t seem like your type. She seems a bit…unconventional.”

Taj merely smiled at the barb and ate another tempura shrimp.

A muscle ticked in his jaw, but his words were cool and controlled. “I’m a regular here. You, however, don’t make it a habit to visit dives. I thought you had more…refined tastes. Did your latest rich boyfriend get tired of you?”

The siren gave a brittle laugh. “Oh, you know Dave. He’s pretty busy. I’m just amusing myself here.” She took a step back and wiggled her fingers in a mock wave. In the dim light, a ring with a large blue stone flashed. Taj found herself staring at the ring. Her fingers itched. “It was so good to see you. By the way, have you found your brother’s soul yet?”

Ru’s eyes glinted. A faint, almost imperceptible sliver of smoke rose from where he clutched his chopsticks. “No.”

“Too bad. It’s such a shame.” She turned and sauntered back to her place in the karaoke line.

“Bitch,” Ru growled.

The trio of businessmen began the final stanza of their song, their voices rising in a crescendo as the background music crackled and swelled from the speakers.

The itch in Taj’s fingers intensified. Instinct had her splaying her fingers. The effects of her demon meal finally revealed themselves. Her normally keen senses jacked up and she briefly lost control of her power which called out to any lost souls in the vicinity. She forced her hands to close back into fists and shoved a lid back on her abilities. But it was too late. Several things shattered inside the dive. A woman screamed. It was the siren, clutching a broken ring.

The humans in the sushi dive went silent for a moment before erupting into cheers. They thought the glass broke because of the power of their operatic voices.

Taj stared down at her hands. Faint bluish wisps gathered into her palm and reformed into a glittering, blue gemstone. “I think I just found your brother’s soul,” she said. She hated the fact that her hands were shaking. The power that she had absorbed from the shedu was far greater than she had expected. She shoved the stone into a pocket before anyone else in the dive could see.

Ru slapped some bills onto the table and scooted out of the booth. “Come on. Let’s go before she realizes the humans didn’t actually do anything.”


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