Sending Out Good Writerly Vibes Into the Universe

Last month I submitted two pieces to two different contests. One was a 500 word story for a 500 word story contest. I revised a flash fiction piece I’d written during NaNo called “Haunted House”. It was originally over 1,000 words and kind of garbage. I cut it in half and I think that made a better story out of it.

The other piece was a poem that I submitted to Writer’s Digest’s Annual Story Competition. I’ve submitted all sorts of pieces to this contest over the years and I’ve place twice: 10th for genre short story and 5th for script. I’m really looking to reclaim my glory of placing second in a state poetry contest back when I was a sophomore in high school.

I wanted to submit an essay for this contest (it has a variety of categories), but it just didn’t work out for me. That’s something I need more practice on.

I was also going to submit a non-genre short story to another short story contest, but I changed my mind at the last minute. I think the story is fine, but I just have no confidence in my non-genre stories. I’m not a literary writer by any means and my few journeys into that territory have been less than stellar. That story -while not bad in my opinion- will never see the light of day.

To be honest, I don’t have the highest of hopes for either of my entries. I like them both and I think they’re good, but I’m not sure that they’re good enough, you know? But winning wasn’t the main point of me submitting to those contests anyway (thought it would be super swell if I did, don’t get me wrong).

I did it to cultivate good writerly vibes and to send those vibes out into the Universe.

I know how stupid that sounds. But as someone who’s been struggling to write consistently, let alone anything of quality, submitting something -anything- to anywhere is an act of defiance against the issues I’ve had. It’s an offering to the writer gods to show them that I’m still serious about this business, even though I haven’t been as enthusiastic or productive as I’ve been in the past.

It’s about putting those good vibes that I cultivate when I’m working on a piece and I hit that sweet spot groove that I yearn for out into the world and hope that I’m repaid in kind.

It’s an act of faith, in a way. That if I can submit something I’ve written to a contest today, then I can submit something else to an anthology or a magazine tomorrow. It’s a reminder to myself and to the Universe that I’m still game for this even on the days that I doubt myself the most.

It’s just another part of the craft that requires practice. Putting myself and my work out there, valuing my work enough to put it out there, requires repeated attempts until I get it right. Because eventually, I’ll be rewarded.

In the meantime, it’ll be worth the contest entry fees.

Writer’s Procrastination

It’s a well-known gag: a writer will clean their whole house to put off writing. And like any good joke, there’s a nugget of truth in there. It’s the getting started that can be the hardest part.

Some writers say it’s the intimidation of staring at the blank screen. That blinking cursor taunting them, daring them to type the first word.

For me, I think it’s my fear of commitment.

Once I start writing something, I can’t stop. I can’t quit until I’m finished. And I don’t mean that I have to write the whole thing in one go. I mean that I don’t quit on a piece until I get to the end, no matter how much I don’t like it or don’t want to write it. Even if I know that I’m not going to do anything with it. I have to finish it.

This has a tendency to make me hesitant to start. Do I want to commit to this idea? Is it good enough to carry me all the way? Or is this thing going to die halfway through and I’m going to have drag its corpse across the finish line? All valid questions, sure, but they make me put off starting, sometimes until it’s too late. The idea goes stale or the deadline passes and I never get a word down.

This fear of commitment has been complicated by my recent struggles with my writing. I already flail when it comes to starting a piece; the lack of productivity is just kissing a papercut with salt chapstick.

I’ve even been having trouble with my blog posts. Getting started or in some cases, finishing them. I’ll get off to a strong start and for whatever reason I have to finish it later, which will be my undoing. Starting where I left off should be easy, but instead I find myself procrastinating. I can’t bring myself to start writing even though I technically already started.

It’s a strange, frustrating thing.

Especially when I know that all I have to do is start. If I just get that first sentence out, the magic will happen. I know that. But the harder I try, the more I resist. It’s almost like a panic response. I sit down to get started on a piece and I turn into a Muppet flailing in the forest. Or a middle age woman playing endless games of solitaire and constantly checking Twitter until I give up.

I’ve only been revising things lately, which has helped with my productivity, but that reprieve won’t last. And as much as I like doing NaNo, I’d like to be able to write productively outside of the month of November.

There are several ideas that I’d like to be working on right now. Ideas that have been sitting in the fore of my brain for a couple of months. They are right there, ready to go.

I just have to get started.

“What’s Your Dream Job?”

Can you still have a dream job when you’re over 40? I don’t know. But I’m going to play at answering this question anyway.

In my younger days I had that all too common dream of becoming an actor or singer, but as it turns out, that requires talent and looks, of which I have neither.

When I was in junior high I had two dream jobs. I either wanted to be a meteorologist studying tornadoes or a shark biologist. What can I say? I prefer my science when it wants to kill me. Should be obvious that neither of those plans worked out, though I’m still fascinated by both fields.

By high school, I’d changed my mind yet again. I knew for sure that I wanted to be a writer. And in the three attempts at community college, I changed my mind the same number of times. Just another manifestation of my commitment issues.

I suppose you could say that my dream job is elusive. Or at least achieving it is.

Now that I’m middle-aged, I kinda haven’t given up on that whole dream job thing. I still want to find something that thrills me and I get paid well to do it. But instead of knowing what exactly that job is, I know more about what I don’t want it to be like.

It’s not customer service. Definitely not. It’s not working with coworkers that drain me, that are unreliable, that have agendas. Ideally, it’s something that limits my time in a bra and/or real pants. I mean, it is a dream job. I should ask for what a really want.

I want my dream job to be writing. I’ve dedicated years to it without much success, but it’s still very much my heart’s desire in many ways. But the difficulty I’ve had doing it in the last few years has led me to doubt it as my life’s calling. And that’s led me to an existential crisis of sorts because if it’s not my dream job, then what is? I know I’m still a writer, even if it’s not working out the way I planned and things are hard right now. Writing is a part of me whether it’s writing fiction like I want to do or blogging or even journaling. But if it’s not my dream job like I’ve wanted it to be, then what is?

Lately, I’ve really found some joy in podcasting. And not just Book’ em, Danno, either. I really enjoy doing episodes of the library podcast, particularly the history episodes. I like doing the research and writing the script along with the recording and editing. There is a lot of writing involved, even if it’s not my true love of fiction writing.

All of this thinking has led me to one solid conclusion about my dream job. I might not know what it is for sure, but I know what it feels like.

It feels like that sweet spot I hit when I get lost in what I’m writing, when I’m so in the groove that I lose myself in the words. It feels like that rush when the rabbit hole I head down during my research leads me to something new and brings that podcast script together perfectly. It feels like that buzz I get when I’m recording and the observations and jokes are flowing naturally. That’s what it feels like. It feels like I’m surfacing after being underwater for a while, coming out of a dream state and back into reality when I’m done.

That’s what my dream job is.

Also it pays super well.

Adios 2021

How do you send off a year that you’re not sorry to see go?

Gleefully and gratefully, I suppose.

Especially since I can’t remember most of it. It’s all just a pandemic blur to me. So, here are a few milestones I remember.

I finished Season 2 of Book ’em, Danno and started Season 3. For the first time since the very beginning of the podcast, I’m actually ahead of the game. I think I’m finding my rhythm. I haven’t gotten much quicker in my process, but being a few months ahead keeps the pressure off. So, that’s something.

I revamped Kiki Writes About and created AKA Kiki Writes to be the home of Book ’em, Danno and my Rerun Junkie content. One of the goals of this revamp was to blog more regularly, which I’ve done. Good job, me.

Murderville came to an end and I’ve got things in place for the next project. Writing, revising, recording, and editing an audio story has been an interesting challenge.

Despite my misgivings, I managed to win yet another NaNo, though I cheated like hell when it came to the actual projects. But I got a bunch of short stories done in addition to the audio story, so that’s more writing than I’ve done in a long time.

I had the joy of discovering that there are romance books that I do like. I was very sad that I couldn’t enjoy that genre, but success! If they’ve got fat folks and/or queer people, I am in. I also read a lot of poetry this past year, which I very much enjoyed and look forward to reading more of.

One of my dear friends and her family moved back to town earlier this year and it’s been a joy to see their faces more often.

I’ve discovered the goodness that is kimchi and I now make kimchi dip on the reg. And I further expanded my culinary skills by learning to make carne asada.

My patellar tendonitis that has been plaguing me for years is under control. I’m doing a lot better, though I’m still not at 100%. I still can’t squat down like I used to. My blood pressure remains too high despite the meds and diet changes and attempts to reduce stress. I just hope the inevitable stroke kills me.

I’m hoping that 2022 will be kinder to me and everyone else, but it’s already off to a dubious start. I had really wanted to go to Hawaii for my 42nd birthday in January, but with the latest Covid variant and the fact that tourists remain the selfish worst, I decided to postpone until a safer, more agreeable time. Hopefully, it’ll be before birthday number 43, but we’ll see what the Universe has in store.

Adios, 2021. You had an attitude.

2021 NaNo Winner!

Yes, I officially reached 50,000 words on November 29th, so that’s another win in the books.

This year was quite interesting given that I decided to approach NaNo in a different fashion while also dealing with a different library schedule that added a challenge to the already challenging situation of me struggling to write in general.

What resulted was quite a bit of productivity actually. Writing only 1,700 words a day every day helped keep the pressure off. Normally, I write between 2,000 and 4,000 words a day during NaNo. In comparison, 1,700 words is a piece of cake. For the most part, I was able to get my word count in before I went to work, another factor that kept the stress low. I was able to work on other things after my library shift knowing that I had NaNo done.

I finished the first draft of the audio story The Found Diary of Christina Essex in 15 days at 25,000 words, half of my needed word count and more than I anticipated doing on that story. Which was good. I wasn’t exactly sure if the story was going to work out until I hit a certain point and things suddenly came together. After that, it was pretty easy writing.

As for the rest of the month, I ended up using my word count to write four blog posts, five flash fiction stories, and four short stories, including one that topped out at 10,000 words. Not bad for someone who’s been struggling to write anything longer than flash fiction for months. I was also able to clear several story ideas out of my notebook. I don’t know yet what I’ll do with all of them now that they’re in first draft form, but they are ready and waiting to be revised.

As NaNos go, this one was quite different, but it also gave me a boost that I desperately needed when it came to getting my writing done. So much of why it’s fallen to the wayside is this feeling that I don’t have time to do it because I have all of these other impending projects to work on.

But the truth is, I do have time. It’s just a matter of finding it again.

Finding the energy…that’s another story.

But at least I know that I can still win when I want to.

New Patreon Project Announcement

Murderville ran for five years and at the end of it all, I wasn’t sure that I was going to do another Patreon project. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to come up with something else I wanted to do, especially given the fact that writing has been difficult for me lately.

And then of course I got the inkling of an idea, so let’s see if I can pull it off.

The new project will actually feature two separate projects and three tiers.

The $1 tier will be a general support tier. This tier will feature a post on the first of every month that will be a sort of round up of what happened in the previous month and a preview of what’s coming up. 

There are people who’d like to support what I do, but aren’t necessarily into whatever I write. There’s also the very real possibility that the projects I’m doing now won’t be something my current patrons are interested in, so I feel this is a good option.

The $2 tier will be the writing tier and starting in January it will feature the novel (Vampires) Made in America with a chapter going live on the 2nd Monday of every month. The first draft of this book was written during NaNoWriMo 2011 and I’ve been working on it off and on ever since.

In (Vampires) Made in America, elder vampire Andrei Carp dispatches three members of his inner circle -suave Nathan Vacek, beautiful Neda Kovar, and Stanley Ivanov, a former society outcast now in the inner circle just because he saved the world once- to Arizona to investigate the possible existence of vampires that were born in America, something once thought impossible.

The $3 tier will be the audio tier and starting in January it will feature the audio story The Found Diary of Christina Essex, which will go live on the 3rd Friday of every month. I’m actually writing this during NaNoWriMo this year and I look forward to the challenge of doing an audio story, something I’ve only dabbled in before.

The Found Diary of Christina Essex is the story of a woman compelled to read a diary she found in the attic of her new house which details the discreetly disturbing events of a woman named Christina Essex.

The more expensive tiers will have access to the content of the less expensive tiers and all three of the tiers have the potential to have more added to them later.

The biggest change with these new projects is that I’m moving from a per episode/chapter payment to a monthly payment. I’ll be making the switch at the end of December, so current patrons have plenty of time to change their tiers (or opt out, which I hope they don’t) and new patrons will be able to sign up before the January start dates. All patrons will be charged at the first of every month.

There will be more details as we get closer to January and I will have a new Patreon page encompassing all of my projects here on the blog, but unlike Murderville, there will be no teasers here. Everything Patreon will be on Patreon.

So don’t miss out! Become a patron!

NaNo 2021

Here we are once again. It’s NaNoWriMo time.

I wasn’t sure I was going to do NaNo this year. It seems that podcasting takes up most of my time these days, not that writing was coming easily anyway. I’ve written plenty about that, most recently in this post.

More than that -I didn’t really have anything I wanted to work on to the tune of 50,000 words in 30 days. Yes, I have ideas I could turn into first drafts, but nothing that compelled me.

And then I got an idea for a new Patreon project: The Found Diary of Christina Essex. Aside from the title and the basic premise -an unknown narrator reads a diary they found in the attic of their new house- I didn’t have much to start with, but I knew it would be good for a Patreon tier (more about this in a later post).

In order for me to have this new project ready for a January start date, it needs to be done soon -like now. Hello, NaNo project!

The one hitch in the giddyup is that this Patreon project is going to be an audio story. I can tell you right now, it probably won’t make 50,000 words. Not exactly ideal since that’s the goal of NaNo.

So, once again I’m going to cheat.

Much like the few years that I did two novellas instead of doing one whole novel, in this case I’m going to a novella and then other writing. Meaning, I’m not only going to count what I write on The Found Diary of Christina Essex, but I’m also going to count any other writing I do. Blog posts, short stories, flash fiction, whatever. I’m going to count it. The goal for this very special NaNo is for me to hit the NaNo goal of at least 1,667 words every day.

I am still struggling to find my writing joy. Will writing a significant amount of words for thirty days in a row help me reclaim it? I don’t know. But I felt a spark of magic when I wrote the last Patreon flash fiction bonus and I feel like it’s all right there, just teasingly out of reach. I know writing is work, but I want it to feel less like work. Because it didn’t always feel like the bane of my day. I used to look forward to exploring new ideas, even if it was just a blog post.

It’s sort of like being in love. I want to feel that way again. I want to feel that way always.

And who knows, maybe this will do it. And maybe I will hit 50,000 words on just the story.

Wouldn’t that be sweet?

They Tore Down the Zombie Car Wash

That old chestnut “write what you know” is one that I adhere to in a very broad way. I know the story. I know the characters. Anything I don’t know, I can learn later. Then I’ll know it for next time.

However, sometimes I take that advice more literally and write what I actually know. Like working in customer service. And I frequently set stories in my hometown. Now, the people who live here would probably argue that there’s nothing about this small town in the middle of a cornfield that’s worth writing about, but to the people who don’t live here, it’s an exotic locale.

Only a handful of people that I know who also know this town actually read my stories. In most cases, my friends who don’t read my work don’t read it because I don’t write what they like to read (a far from exclusive club since strangers feel the same way). So, there are only a few people who can actually pick out the real locations I’ve used in stories.

One of those locations is the Zombie Car Wash.

It wasn’t always called that, though.

It was an actual car wash (that I always used despite the other two in town) that happened to be down the street from the grocery store. There were only three stalls, two vacuums, and the back lot was lined with trees. Despite being able to see the rear lot of the grocery store right across the street and the house next door, it felt weirdly secluded. It was a great spot. I loved it.

I loved it so much that I made it the opening scene in my short story “Another Deadly Weapon”, which I published in the short story collection Yearly. I didn’t think much about it at the time until one of my friends, Natalie, read the story and it ended up scarring her for life.

You see, if you parked on the east side of the grocery store parking lot, you could see the car wash that I used in the beginning of the story. So, whenever Natalie went to the grocery store and would see the car wash, she’d half-expect to see a zombie stumble out of one of the stalls over there. She couldn’t not think of the story when she was there.

A compliment, indeed.

And it also led to us calling it the Zombie Car Wash.

So imagine my heartbreak when I turned down the road to go to the grocery store one day and saw the stalls down, the vacuums gone, and the lot empty. A landmark gone. It wasn’t just my preferred place to rinse the rural off of my vehicle; it was also a standing reminder that once upon a time I actually wrote something that someone couldn’t get out of their head.

At least the Zombie Car Wash will live forever in “Another Deadly Weapon”. So, if you haven’t read it yet, do so. And if you have read it, read it again.

In loving memory.

“How’s the Writing Going?”

Let’s be clear: asking me this question even in the best of times is assault. Because we all know that you don’t really care how the writing is going. You’re just being polite. It’s up there with “What are you working on?” You don’t care. It’s just a polite question you ask before launching into a long story about your much more interesting life.

However, in the current bad times, asking me this question is now felony assault. Because it ain’t going great. And I don’t want to talk about that with someone who doesn’t actually care.

I was struggling with my writing before this endless panini, before the routine exasperation of telling people to put their masks on, before the constant stress of being forever understaffed at the library. I’ve been struggling for a while and baby, it ain’t necessarily getting better.

Blogging consistently is a challenge. That I’ve managed to put out two blog posts a week for two different sites for the last couple of months is nothing short of a miracle. Writing 1,000 word flash fiction stories for Patreon has been the extent of my fiction writing outside of NaNo in the past few years. And this year’s NaNo is looming and I’m looking at it with dread because I don’t know if I can do it. I’ve tried everything to get my fiction flow back and the dam is still in place, only letting through a trickle.

I’m still getting ideas, though not at the same pace that I used to. Just the other day I got a random idea for something that would be a fun film script. I jotted it down and I hope that one day I find enough mojo to at least outline it.

I miss fiction writing. I miss that buzz, that sensation of getting lost in my work, surfacing an hour later like I’d been swimming with mermaids and that first gasp of air reminds me that I’m human and I’ve just done something incredible. I’ve had fleeting bits of that, but nothing like it used to be. It makes me sad.

It’s not like I’m not writing at all or that I don’t like the writing that I am doing. I like doing the blog posts. I’m rediscovering my joy in that. I like doing the Rerun Junkie posts over at aka Kiki Writes, even if they can be a bit involved. I’d love to do a pop culture book one day. I really would. And I like running off at the mouth here about whatever. I like doing the scripts for the library’s podcast. Podcasting in general has become a big way I spend my time now. There’s not as much writing involved in Book ’em, Danno, but there is some.

It’s not like I’m not living up to my name. Kiki is still writing. I’m just not writing what I thought I’d be writing. I’m not being KikiWrites the way I thought I’d be. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe this is all part of the evolution of my writing existence and one day I’ll get to come back to fiction writing as my main thing. But for now, it’s not.

So, how’s the writing going?

Not the way I’d planned.

But it’s going okay.

Welcome to Kiki Writes About

As the name implies, this is where I write about…whatever. Myself, life, writing, sexuality, weight, my random issues and obsessions, if it comes into my head, I may just put it into words here.

If you’re looking for my fiction, you’ll find everything on Read Me. Everything I’ve published (either traditionally or self) is there. If you’d like to be convinced that I’m worth your time and money, check out the Writing for Tips section. It’s all of my free short stories. However, if you read a few and decide you like them, feel free to buy me a coffee over on Ko-Fi.

Murderville is my Patreon project. It wrapped up in 2021, but watch this space. There could be a new project coming soon.

If you’re looking for my podcast ventures, like Book ’em, Danno, or my ramblings on reruns, you’ll want to check out aka KikiWrites.

So, kick back and enjoy some words.

They could be about anything.