Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

NaNoWordSprints Prompts from July 2021 – Part 1

Wow, where has the time gone. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet my writing goals last month, but it’s been crazy busy. However, I did make some time for @NaNoWordSprints so I’ve included below the first week of the prompt tweets during the month of July.

July 1, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC-8)
March 2020 Book Titles – Part 1

10 minroyal heir
20 minundercover bromance
30 minway past mad
10 minprivilege
20 minthe pioneers

July 2, 2021, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC-8)
March 2020 Book Titles – Part 2

10 minthings that go away
20 minlost boy found
30 mina shadowed fate
10 minall the pretty things
20 minan ordinary day
30 minthe operator
10 minthe body double
20 minthings you can’t say
30 minlong range
5 minlost at sea

July 3, 2021, 10:30am-12:30pm (UTC-8)
March 2020 Book Titles – Part 3

10 minblue skies
20 minI believe I can
30 minthe safety net
10 minextinct
20 minfetch

July 3, 2021, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC-8)
March 2020 Book Titles – Part 4

10 minunspoken words
20 minchain of gold
30 minspindle and dagger
10 minnesting
20 minone little lie
30 mindo no harm
10 minall the invisible things
20 minsalty, bitter, sweet
30 minheartbreaker
5 minfierce competition

July 4, 2021, 12:00pm-2:00pm (UTC-8)
March 2020 Book Titles – Part 5

10 minare snakes necessary
20 mina forgotten murder
30 mingirl at the edge
10 minwhat matters most
20 mincount our blessings

July 4, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC-8)
March 2020 Book Titles – Part 6

10 minthe welcome wagon
20 minswish
30 minthreshold
10 minthe dating dare
20 minactress

July 5, 2021, 10:00am-2:00pm (UTC-8)
March 2020 Book Titles – Part 7

10 minthe night watchman
20 minlethal game
30 minhow to be a pirate
10 mindefy the sun
20 mincastaway resolution
30 minthe companions
10 minmy best friend
20 mina good neighborhood
30 mingone by midnight
5 minrunning out of road

July 5, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC-8)
James Bond Film Titles

10 minyou only live twice
20 mindiamonds are forever
30 minlive and let die
10 minfor your eyes only
20 minthe world is not enough

July 6, 2021, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC-8)
March 2020 Book Titles – Part 8

10 minevery reason we shouldn’t
20 minflight for freedom
30 minwhen we were magic
10 minrevenge is sweet
20 minshakedown
30 minonly mostly devastated
10 minthe final deception
20 minshine
30 minI can build it
5 mincenter of gravity

July 7, 2021, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC-8)
March 2020 Book Titles – Part 9

10 minthe wrong list
20 minthe return
30 minless than a moment
10 minman on edge
20 minyou are not alone
30 minthe breach
10 mindon’t forget to remember
20 minafter sundown
30 minwhat’s that noise?
5 minwhat the other three don’t know

NaNoWordSprints Prompts from April 2021

So yeah, I’ve been absent from the blog for the past month or so, but it’s been pretty busy with most of my writing time devoted to Camp NaNoWriMo. Below are the prompts I tweeted out on @NaNoWordSprints during the month of April. So consider these a belated record of what was going on last month.

April 1, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 1

10 minkith and kin
20 minthe heap
30 minblue moon
10 minfollowers
20 minbutterfly

April 2, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 2

10 minto the edge of sorrow
20 mina private affair
30 minlove her or lose her
10 minkittens in the kitchen
20 minthat’s what friends do

April 3, 2021, 2:00pm-6:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 3

10 mindream a little dream
20 mintrained to defend
30 minthe endgame
10 minthe secret guests
20 minonly forever
30 mina beautiful crime
10 minthe secret space station
20 minone snowy night
30 minfrom the grave
5 mincelebrations

April 4, 2021, 12:00pm-4:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 4

10 mina flicker of courage
20 minthe boundary fence
30 minhand in hand
10 minbring on the bad guys
20 minabsolute carnage
30 minget out and play
10 minbig lies in a small town
20 mina beginning at the end
30 minresurgence
5 minvoices in the snow

April 4, 2021, 6:00pm-8:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 5

10 minthe secret chapter
20 minhollow dolls
30 mindark truths
10 minthree things 
20 minsanctuary

April 5, 2021, 10:00am-12:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 6

10 minoasis
20 minfurious thing
30 minthe blaze
10 minthe twin switch
20 minstars beyond

April 5, 2021, 8:30pm-10:30pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 7

10 minthe tenant
20 min into the game
30 minhouse on fire
10 minhow quickly she disappears
20 minunder the stars

April 6, 2021, 10:00am-12:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 8

10 mingone by nightfall
20 minagency
30 minnot so pure and simple
10 mina dash of color
20 minheart of black ice

April 6, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 9

10 mindouble exposure
20 minthe case for temptation
30 mina love hate thing
10 mintoo close to home
20 minthe protective one

April 8, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 10

10 mindare to dream big
20 minwinter of despair
30 minresistance
10 minsweet temptation
20 minlet’s build

April 9, 2021, 9:30pm-12:00am (UTC-8)
“A” Stone Meanings

10 mindiscovery and truth
20 minmemories and healing
30 minovercoming feelings of loneliness or sadness
10 minclarity and confidence
15 minprotection and strength
30 minsharpening the mind

April 10, 2021, 12:00pm-2:00pm (UTC-8)
2021 Stamps

10 minDouble trouble
20 minNurturing instinct
30 minInvasion
10 minUnusual scent
20 minContemplation

April 10, 2021, 7:00pm-11:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 11

10 minenchanted castle
20 minburn the dark
30 minthe broken heavens
10 mininto the fire
20 minthe vanished birds
30 minhindsight
10 minevery other weekend
20 minthe hand on the wall
30 minthe better liar
5 minmagic quest

April 11, 2021, 11:00am-3:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 12

10 minthe strange ones
20 minwho will it be?
30 mina good man
10 minthe knock
20 minhidden pictures
30 minthe whispers of war
10 mina heart so fierce and broken
20 mina mysterious mix up
30 mindevil, darling, spy
5 mindanger in the deep

April 12, 2021, 11:00am-3:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 13

10 minruby red shoes
20 minnotorious
30 mina queen in hiding
10 minthe vanishing
20 minthe map from here to there
30 minthe end of the ocean
10 minthe best baker
20 minin a jar
30 mina rush of blood
5 minthe poison garden

April 12, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 14

10 minember
20 minthe gimmicks
30 minthe last witness
10 minjust breathe
20 mincome tumbling down

April 13, 2021, 11:00am-3:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 15

10 minone of us is next
20 minfirst cut
30 minlucky caller
10 minthe hollows
20 minrogue princess
30 minlone survivor
10 minjust like me
20 minall the feels
30 minyou were there too
5 minlost

April 14, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 16

10 minstrange exit
20 minthe wild one
30 mintopics of conversation
10 minthe seep
20 minspring

April 15, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 17

10 minthe old truck
20 mingoing the distance
30 minsecond sight
10 minmeeting my monsters
20 minalmost time

April 16, 2021, 9:00am-1:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 18

10 minsilent move
20 minlean on me
30 minsmart
10 minwe used to be friends
20 minmoral compass
30 minclean getaway
10 minthe monster in the lake
20 minthis vicious cure
30 minall the days past, all the days to come
5 minthe last journey

April 17, 2021, 11:00am-3:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 19

10 minlight changes everything
20 mincreatures
30 minworry
10 minall the ways we said goodbye
20 minchosen
30 mintrouble in mind
10 minpaper avalanche
20 minremembrance
30 mintreason
5 minwe wish you luck

April 18, 2021, 1:30pm-3:30pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 20

10 minthe deadly omens
20 minthe love we keep
30 minshow them a good time
10 minthe family next door
20 minconflicting evidence

April 19, 2021, 8:00am-12:00pm (UTC-8)
January 2020 Book Titles – Part 21

10 minhostile territory
20 minthe catch
30 minvexed
10 mindisruptive force
20 minthe circus
30 mincaught in a lie
10 minhome truths
20 mina mother’s secret
30 mincast in wisdom
5 minthen, now, always

April 20, 2021, 10:30am-2:30pm (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 1

10 minfalse value
20 minamnesty
30 minpostscript
10 minthe tempest
20 minyes no maybe so
30 minsolstice
10 minthe family business
20 minunder the sea and more
30 minif you take my meaning
10 minthe double cross

April 21, 2021, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 2

10 mina perfect explanation
20 minalone in the wild
30 minescape velocity
10 minbeginners welcome
20 minspring is here

April 22, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC-8)
Oracle Cards

10 minambition
20 minresonance
30 mindignity
10 minarticulation
20 minreason

April 23, 2021, 9:00am-1:00pm (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 3

10 minfollow me
20 minin for keeps
30 minrunaway witness
10 minthe regrets
20 mindreams of fear
30 minthe unwilling
10 minstraight on till morning
20 minright on time
30 minignite on contact
5 minindelicacy

April 23, 2021, 9:30pm-12:00am (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 4

10 minhonor lost
20 minthe initiate
30 mintwist
10 minthe chill
20 minin the shadow of the sun
30 minno bad deed

April 24, 2021, 12:00pm-4:00pm (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 5

10 minthe tea chest
20 minwithin plain sight
30 minbetween magic and dreams
10 minteach me
20 mintoffee
30 minunforgiven
10 minritual
20 minwhat am I?
30 minpush and pull
5 minloyal brave true
15 minbecause I’m smarter than you, that’s why
20 minthe haunting
30 minthe measure for malice
10 minpassion for fashion
20 minlittle but fierce

April 24, 2021, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 6

10 mina window breaks
20 minitch
30 minthere is confusion
10 minwe could be heroes
20 minfinally home
30 minunstoppable
10 minpromised
20 minentangled
30 minsilent redemption
5 minthe big lie

April 25, 2021, 8:30am-2:00pm (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 7

10 minperfect little children
20 minchocolate chaos
30 minguess who just moved in
10 minstorm from the east
20 minthe convert
30 minthe between
10 minbreak the fall
20 minthe resisters
10 minthe burn
30 minsplit
10 minthings in jars
20 minthe great unknown
30 minthe unspoken name
5 minbreaking silence

April 25, 2021, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 8

10 minthe shadows between us
20 minwhat I want you to see
30 minpretty as a picture
10 minwatching from the dark
20 minsurrender
30 minno true believers
10 minwhat makes a family
20 mindeep cover
30 minthe last best hope
5 minbehind every lie

April 26, 2021, 8:30am-2:00pm (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 9

10 mintwice the trouble
20 minthe trigger mechanism
30 minframed
10 minnoisemakers
20 mina mixture of mischief
30 minaccidental trouble magnet
10 minthe life below
20 minher quiet revolution
30 minthe holdout
10 minit started with a kiss
20 mintrouble is what I do
30 minthe last day
20 mincast away

April 26, 2021, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 10

10 minweather
20 minblindside
30 mina stranger watches
10 minif you only knew
20 minpitfall
30 minour dark secret
10 minthe lucky one
20 minthe fiercest enemy
30 minundone
5 minrule breaker

April 27, 2021, 10:00am-2:00pm (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 11

10 mintwisted fates
20 minpromises of the heart
30 minall the best lies
10 minhundred feet tall
20 minlovestruck
30 minthe absolution
10 minscammed
20 mincloak of night
30 minthe blunders
5 mingetting dirty

April 27, 2021, 7:30pm-12:00am (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 12

10 mintime warp
20 minred letter days
30 mina divided loyalty
10 minan everyday hero
20 minducks
30 minkiller insight
10 minthe lucky star
20 minwinning at life
30 minif for any reason
10 minall the pieces fit
20 minone little indiscretion

April 28, 2021, 6:30pm-10:30pm (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 13

10 minin search of truth
20 minverge
30 minsensational
10 minthe traitor
20 minevery bit a rogue
30 minthe right moment
10 minmysterious abduction
20 minbad apple
30 minthe backstabbers
5 mina promise to keep

April 29, 2021, 8:00pm-10:00am (UTC-8)
February 2020 Book Titles – Part 14

10 minthe best intentions
20 minthree’s a crowd
30 mincriminal alliance
10 mindead ringer
20 minbefore he vanished

Portable Stationery

Recently I came across this thread: What’s in your pencil case? Obviously, if you’re a postcard enthusiast who likes to travel, you want to make sure that you have all your essential writing utensils with you. The minimalist, of course, will just say that one pen is enough, but if you’re the sort of person who likes to make the back of a postcard visually interesting, you’ll need more than that.

Before the pandemic, I had a packed pencil case similar to the ones in that thread, but during the pandemic when I was trying to organize stuff at home, I decided to take everything out of the pencil case I had been using. However, whenever traveling becomes feasible again, I’ll repack a pencil case with what I consider essential postcard and journaling items:

  • A 0.7 mm black gel pen (with at least one backup),
  • A 0.5 mm black gel pen 
  • A fine or extra fine black ballpoint pen
  • A fine black sharpie
  • An extra fine black sharpie
  • Four 0.4 mm Stabilo pens of various colors, or equivalent
  • A mechanical pencil
  • A pair of scissors
  • A ruler
  • A couple rolls of washi tape (encompassing several themes)
  • A roll of clear tape
  • A variety of stickers
  • Around 10-20 postcards with various themes
  • A set of page flags
  • Some envelopes
  • Some postage stamps (if traveling within the US)

The trick is to try to pack as much of this stuff as one can in the smallest amount of space. I think I still have a ways to go to perfect that particular art.


I recently watched this on Youtube: Why Americans Including Asian Americans Have Issues with Foreign Accents. I agree that there are Americans who have some strange antipathy against people who don’t have standard accents, but this is also true in many parts of the world where certain accents have implications of ethnic groups, class, and socio-economic backgrounds. This just seems particularly prevalent in the US because, well, people are so vocal about it and it’s the most readily apparent because the US has many immigrants.

Perhaps other people have never noticed accents until they’ve ventured outside of their insular enclaves, but I’ve always been acutely aware of accents. It’s probably because I’m a child of immigrants–English is not my parents’ first language and even as a child, I’ve seen them discriminated against because they didn’t sound like a native speaker. (There have been times when I was a kid that I had to answer the phone because whatever crazy adult on the other end couldn’t handle my parents’ accents.) Technically English was not my first language either, but I learned it early enough that I mostly have “no accent” (or perhaps more accurately, the standard accent). If people do detect an accent in my speech, they would label it as Canadian.

I don’t really understand people who work themselves up into a frenzy because not everyone has a standard accent. Accents are an indication of someone’s background but it doesn’t indicate the true character of a person. I suspect some people use it as an excuse to divide the population into us and them because they are too lazy and too small-minded to try to get to know a new person. Unfortunately such people are still very pervasive in society and that’s why there are many who struggle to get rid of their own accents in order to get a job that would have been a no-brainer otherwise.

A Tentative Idea for Camp NaNo

With the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo just around the corner, this is basically the prime time for planning out some ideas for a new writing project. Unlike the November version, the April and July challenges are more relaxed and half the time, I don’t finish the challenge (I’m old school and keep my goals at 50,000 words–so even if I reach 25,000 and “fail”, I may have still written more than others who win with smaller goals.) I primarily use this time to test out ideas.

My thought was to play around with a written form that is usually not thought of as a straightforward storytelling device. Specifically, I want to tell interconnected short stories through entries in a fictional museum catalog. The museum and the artifacts within will be fictional. Through a curator’s voice, I want to hint that there’s something odd going on aside from the boring work of researchers and archivists through the stories and myths behind the objects on display.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been doing some pre-writing, trying to figure out what kind of narrative voice to take. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but I’m veering towards “apparently neutral yet deeply unsettling”. I have also been trying to get a firm visual in my head of the museum–I haven’t decided yet on whether to set it in some kind of historical palace or a modern building, but I definitely want to convey a sense of vastness, sort of like Borges’ The Library of Babel

And as for the artifacts populating the museum? I think they will come from all sorts of fictional times and eras and places and cultures. But mostly they will be MacGuffins, only serving as entryways into something else altogether.

Month of Letters: Day 28

Finally! The last day of this challenge. I think the intent was good, but it takes more time out of your day than what one might expect. I think this would be a great project for people who have more free time than I do. As I’ve mentioned before, after this I’m sticking to doing all my mail on the weekends. If I were to participate again next year, I may reduce it down to one postcard a day. Maybe two.

Anyways, this last batch. The first one is going to someone in Russia who likes local nature scenes–I think I got this one in a tiny convenience store I stopped in while driving around Marin County a while back. The second is going to Belgium to someone who like comics and food (hence the food stamps and decorations and the Superman postcard from the Vintage DC Comics postcard box set put out by Chronicle Books). The third is to an animal lover in France who particularly likes all the animals that I’ve managed to squeeze into this (the postcard is from a set called “The Art of Instruction”). And the fourth is to an old school postcard collector in Germany who had a, um, roundabout way of stating that they didn’t like anything but tourist postcards and no decorations at the back. I also took care to not place any of the stamps over the writing because they specifically didn’t want stickers over any writing. And, you know, all the US stamps are stickers now. They might still not like the stamps, though, because they don’t like art.

Month of Letters: Day 27

First up is a postcard from the Earth and Space postcard box going to someone in Italy for a space tag. The second postcard is one I actually purchased at the San Diego Zoo going to someone in Taiwan for a zoo tag. And the third is also going to someone in Italy who likes bridges. Well, bridges is actually one of their minor preferences. They actually collect postcards with naked ladies on them and since that’s a subject I have no interest in accumulating in my stash, I had to find something else. Also, this person specifically said no cute things–hence the lack of decorations on the back of this postcard. I had to use the plainer stamps because this person also didn’t like flowers. I suppose I could have gone for the ship stamps, but they’re not the specific type of ships this person likes.

Honestly, I feel that my interest in postcards and an old dude’s interest in postcards only intersects at a very technical level.

Month of Letters: Day 26

The first postcard today is going to someone in Germany who is having a postcard contest with their parent to see who will get the most cards with a specific theme. That theme is “mother and child” and fortunately, I had a gorilla postcard with a baby riding on its mother’s back. I knew that if I had any chance of finding a postcard matching that theme in my stash it would have to be animal related. The only reason I have any postcards with people on them are because those were on sale when I got them. (If I’m going to pay full price, it had better be something that I personally like a lot. And I’m not a fan of human baby pictures in general.) The second postcard is a special one I obtained when I had visited Yosemite; it’s going to another person in Germany, this time for a specialized amphibian “tag”. The third postcard is part of a book of postcards on Frank Lloyd Wright–it’s going to a Canadian for an architecture tag.

Month of Letters: Day 25

Seriously, I feel like everything is due this week–hence why I’m later than usual in posting this. The first postcard is going to an Alice in Wonderland fan in the Netherlands. This is actually from a smaller set published by Dover and not the giant 100 Alice in Wonderland set you may have seen floating around. (I don’t plan on purchasing that box set–I don’t know enough people who are fans of it to justify buying so many unless it’s on sale.) The second is an illustrated postcard of my favorite bookstore in San Francisco–Green Apple Books. It’s going to someone in Kazakhstan. And third is a tiger painting by Eugene Delacroix going to a tiger fan in Russia.

Month of Letters: Day 24

I’m going to reiterate again that I will be glad when this Month of Letters is over. I know the purpose of this is to slow down and communicate with people using a slower medium, but this only works if you unplug from everything else. There’s a reason why I leave writing postcards to the weekend–the rest of the week is just filled with work stuff that seems to multiply overnight.

Anyways, first postcard on this list is going to someone in France who likes Japanese stuff. I’ve also been to Tō-ji Temple before, I particularly remember the visit because it was one of the monthly flea market days and it was raining. The second postcard is to a person in Taiwan who likes butterflies. I had obtained this postcard at a rummage sale–it’s pretty old since the attraction it’s from no longer exists (according to Google, it was replaced with Legoland). And the third postcard is going to someone in Belarus who requested this sent in an envelope. To be honest, I found their profile a little confusing–I think they were requesting postcards that would match some kind of romantic coffeehouse aesthetic theme. I don’t have any coffee postcards on hand right now, so I just picked something else. Hopefully this random illustration will work.